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Jovan Stefanov Balević

Short historic-geographical
description of Montenegro


Courtesy of "Serb Land of Montenegro"

Preface: Jovan Stefanov Balevic of Bratonozic clan was born in Pelev Brijeg between 1725 and 1728. He was educated in Sremski Karlovci and afterwards at the University of Halle where he submitted philosophical thesis on canonical law and history of Christianity. It was the first philosophical thesis among Serbs and its main theme was dedicated to the history of the Crusades. After return to Sremski Karlovci he worked as a sindicus of magistrate and later become a chief of the city police. Nevertheless, Balevic soon fled from Austrian authorities into Russia where he joined the army becoming firstly captain, and later Russian major. He wrote his work "A brief and objective description of the present state of Montenegro" in St. Petersburg in 1757, but it was not published until 1884 in Cetinje. Professor Rastislav V. Petrovic had translated Balevic's work from Russian and edited it as an addition to his book "Bishop Danilo and bishop Sava (1697-1781)", published in Belgrade in 1997. This English electronic edition translated by Stefan Branisavljevic is based on Rastislav V. Petrovic's Serbian translation.

A brief and objective description of the present state of Montenegro

1. Montenegro is a part of Zetan Dukedom in Lower Albania, near Adriatic sea. It is surrounded by high mountains. It is separated on the few clans where exist thirty and more villages in each.

2. Montenegro borders from the east with Podgorica Sanjakat, from the west with Venetian Dalmatia, from the south with Skenderia, and from the north with Herzegovina.

3. Montenegro's length is: from Venetian fortress in Kotor to Niksic area, 12 German miles straight line; and it is wide 8 miles: from Budva and Boka Kotorska to Podgorica Sanjakat.

4. All inhabitants of Montenegro are ethnically Slav-Serbs and confessionally Greek-Orthodox. As they are incompetent in some skills it is because of their lack of school, but they are naturally capable, especially with weapons.

5. Many Montenegrins earn their living by arms, attacking, either Turkish, or Venetian citizens. Raiding vicinity to feed themselves, they do not consider robbery as a sin, but as a great honour. Their neighbours hate them because of that and they are always in state of war with each other.

6. In many occasions Turks have tried to conquer Montenegrins, but God has not allowed it, although they (Turks) subordinated large part of Montenegro under rule of their sultan.

7. The number of Montenegrin warriors who live free on the peaks of Montenegro, called by Turks disobedient, does not get over 5000.

8. In Montenegro does not exist any fortress, but it is mighty because it is stony and waterless, surrounded by impassable mountains. Thus it exists 387 (368) years after the destruction of Serb empire. Turks have never conquered it.

9. Montenegro is very devastated by permanent Turkish attacks and because of that Montenegro is unpopulated. The land is fertile and could be more populated.

10. There are no artisans and schools in Montenegro except at the Cetinje monastery, within archbishop's residence, where priests learn reading and writing in Slav-Serb language, which is paid by archbishop.

11. Montenegrins consider themselves freemen. Turks call them rebels and when they capture Montenegrin they decapitate him or they put him on the pale alive.

12. Montenegrins count among themselves neighbouring Slav-Serbs of different provenience: Kuci, Bratonozici, Donji and Gornji Vasojevici, Piperi, Rovcani, Moracani, Bjelopavlici, who are Serb-Orthodox but Ottoman citizens. They, also, count Roman Catholics: Hoti, Klimenti, Grudi, Tuzi, Skrivali, Huzi, Maltezi, Kastrati and others who outnumber Montenegrins.

13. Mentioned peoples are mostly settled within bishopric of the holy Montenegrin metropolitans and they are subordinated to their Orthodox church as well.

14. There are no secular authority and rule in Montenegro, although present archbishop Vasilije tries to impose them. Their greatest hero, well known, he is the first and is becoming the leader against foes, although within Montenegro exist enough old noble Slav-Serb families who together with other Montenegrins serve military bravely.

15. Archbishop rules in Montenegro, having his residence at Cetinje and enjoying great respect.

16. During the ancient times of Serb emperors Montenegro was run by Zetan dukes of whom Ivan Crnojevic here established his residency and built up wonderful monastery which was later destroyed by Turkish vizier Cuprilic.

17. Montenegrin Christians, inspired by their archbishop, erected on the same place new, famous and always mentioned monastery dedicated to Holy Virgin Mary. The emperor Petar I ordained annual income to monastery that is still received by archbishops.

18. The Pec Patriarch ordains Montenegrin bishop who is spiritually submitted to him.

In St. Petersburg
July 29, 1757.

Jovan Stefanov Balevic, Albano-Montenegrin of Bratonozic clan, wrote this brief historical and geographical survey.

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