Christmas Uprising, 1919

On Orthodox Christmas, January 7, 1919, Montenegrins staged a national uprising against the decision of the "Grand National Assembly" (Podgoricka skupstina) for annexation to Serbia. This event was the best kept secret of the subsequent historical literature during the time of the first and second Yugoslavian states. The topic of the Christmas Uprising was so taboo that only during the past several years have original documents reporting on this major historical event, its tragic dynamics and consequences for the Montenegrin people, become public for the first time since the early 1920s.

The Christmas Uprising resulted in a war of Montenegrins against the Serbian occupation that lasted until 1926. This uprising might have taken a different course had King Nikola not been deceived by the Great Powers, who promised (a promise never fulfilled) to reestablish the sovereign state of Montenegro by diplomatic means if he would stop supporting the uprising. Based on this promise, he issued a proclamation in January 1919 asking for a stop to the resistance. Although the core of the resistance was crushed in a severe, comprehensive military campaign in 1922-23, guerrilla resistance continued in the highlands for several more years. An estimated three thousand Montenegrins lost their lives, and another three thousand were wounded; several thousand homes were burned and destroyed. The already large emigration, particularly to the United States, accelerated. At that time, Montenegro was a country of only 300,000.

The Christmas Uprising, about which new historical documents are now being published for the first time since the 1920s, shows that Montenegro's entry into Yugoslavia was forced and illegitimate, in a fashion similar to the Soviet annexation of the three Baltic states.

For a better understanding of this subject, refer to the newspaper article "Serbs Wipe Out Royalist Party in Montenegro" published in the Chicago Tribune on September 4, 1919, as well as the Memorandum of Protest presented by the Royal Government of Montenegro on the 8th November 1920 to the Governments of the Great Powers.

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