Ottoman Empire (dark green) from 1699 published in Austrian catalog "Turks near Vienna" (129 Kb)
After the last Crnojevic, the next 180 years Montenegro was ruled by their Vladikas or Bishops. Vladikas were elected by popular assemblies. In this period, Vladikas came from different families.
"The Vladika is an exemplary Montenegrin, as were the first Vladikas, and he cannot be but a born Montenegrin from one of the best Montenegrin families." (St.Petar Cetinjski). The Vladikas were true spiritual and popular leaders of the Montenegrin people. "The Vladika was a guardian of the people's spiritual strength and self-awareness, based on faith and the tradition of heroism and glorious ancestors...the Vladikas governed not by brute force but by purely moral influence, persuasion and prayers. And they all recognized the supreme authority of the Faith and the Church in which the Vladikas and the people were one. It was a special kind of spiritual brotherhood " (Rovinski, Crna Gora u proslosti i sadasnjosti, 1989, Cetinje, 352-3).
The institution of the theocratic sovereign and the individuals who occupied it through the centuries were key to Montenegro's independence, the Montenegrin national identity and unity, against the backdrop of tribal divisions. Surrounded by the Ottoman empire, nestled in the highlands around the Mount Lovcen, Montenegro kept its sovereignty through the leadership of the Vladikas. In the seventeenth century, Montenegrins increasingly fought against the Turkish armies. Winning battle after battle against the most powerful army of the time, Montenegrins kept their independence and progressively reasserted their sovereignty over neighboring territories beyond the Montenegrin highlands.
Detail of above map. Light color identifies Montenegro as a free territory (117 Kb)
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www.montenegro.org Last updated on 25 April 1997