Creeping fascism threatens Balkan state

Jason Gold on the forgotten tribulations of Montenegro

Developments in the small Balkan state of Montenegro are a signifier of creeping fascism across the wider region, orchestrated by the pro-Putin Vučić regime in Belgrade but largely ignored by European governments. The General Election on August 30th 2020 was seen by the international community as a victory for democracy when the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists lost power after nearly 30 years. A 70% turnout in the middle of a pandemic resulted in a relationship between a new right-wing, populist, pro-Serb coalition government and the sitting Democratic Socialist President without tensions or violence. This was the narrative promoted by the EU and wider international community. 

One year on and nothing could be further from the truth, with the new government undermining civil society and the multicultural and multi-confessional essence of Montenegro on a daily basis. The influence of clerical fascism from the hard-line Serb Orthodox Church (SOC) permeates every level of government, including the appointment of Zdravko Krivokapić as Prime Minister. Seasoned observers living in the Balkans warned of dangers in late 2019 when the SOC openly took a political position by attacking the then progressive government. The implementation of the ‘Freedom of Religion’ law in early 2020 was weaponised by the SOC, who viewed it as a declaration of hatred and oppression. In fact the new ‘law’ was viewed as a positive development by the Venice Commission. It brought the SOC in line with other religions in Montenegro, decreeing that all religious institutions would be seen as equal, must register ownership of property and land, and would be subjected to relevant taxes and obligations to the state.

For a century the SOC had avoided paying taxes and refused to prove or register ownership of churches it stole in 1919 when it subjugated the Montenegro Churches and took over their ownership. This was a year after the Kingdom of Montenegro was subsumed into the Kingdom of Serbia/Slovenes and Croats at the end of WW1. In the months prior to the 2020 election the SOC organised huge demonstrations for its followers, effectively advising its flock to vote ‘For the Future of Montenegro’, a coalition of pro-Serb parties who intended to roll back the progress on independence which has been in process since a referendum in 2006 saw Montenegro break with Serbia.

Coalition partners with ‘The Future of Montenegro’ include the Democratic Front, whose main party is the PzP led by Nebojša Medojević. In 2019, PzP founded Steve Bannon’s ‘Movement’ with Lega and the Brothers of Italy. A smaller coalition partner is led by URA (United Reform Action), whose leader, Dritan Abazović, is a strong supporter of the Serb Orthodox Church. The main positions in the new government are Prime Minister Krivokapić, a devout follower of the SOC and, as deputy PM, Abazović, who claims that his party are green and grassroots despite being financed by the Vijesti newspaper, which is partially owned by the right-wing Austrian media company Styria. A third important government position is held by Aleksa Bečić, President of Parliament. Bečić’s party is called the Democrats, but he is known to be both pro-Serb and pro-SOC despite rebranding himself in recent years. All of these political appointments were ordered by the late Amfilohije Radović (head of the SOC) before he succumbed to Covid-19. At Radović’s funeral all Covid safety measures were ignored and thousands of mourners, led by Krivokapić, Medojević and Bečić, did not observe social distancing or mask wearing. 

It should be noted that all current ministers are devout followers of the SOC. Vesna Bratić, the minister for education, culture, sport and science, is from Srpska Republic (in Bosnia Herzegovina) and only took Montenegrin citizenship a few years ago. She declared herself to be a Chetnik (who were infamously WW2 Nazi collaborators) and praised the SOC’s role during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. She has fired most directors of education institutes, universities and schools and replaced them with people loyal to the SOC. Bratić is also changing the school curriculum and encouraging the teachings of the SOC doctrines. 

Human rights and civil society activists have been threatened or detained for questioning by the police, and right-wing news portals such as In4S (a radical Serb outfit) make death threats to anyone asking questions of the government. Vile anti-Montenegrin graffiti has become so commonplace that the media no longer reports it. Many NGOs say nothing about what the government is doing, although criticism of the last administration was frequent and public. President Vučić of Serbia has often spoken publicly about a ‘Serb World’ – a triangle of Banja Luka (Srbska Republic), Podgorica (Montenegro) and Belgrade (Serbia ) – where Serbs will be ‘protected’. This is reminiscent of Milošević’s chilling ideal of the 1990s.

The international community is either guilty of turning a blind eye to recent developments or is ignorant of the facts. Montenegro was far from perfect under the last regime, but it did stay true to its multi-ethnic, secular anti-fascist principals. The most important national day is July 13th when, in 1878, the Berlin Congress recognised Montenegro as a sovereign state. It also marks the beginning of the People’s Partisan Uprising against the Nazi occupiers in 1941. At this year’s 80th anniversary of that uprising, President Milo Đukanović addressed a huge crowd of thousands of people including foreign dignitaries – and not a single government official took part. History may be in the process of being rewritten along with a repeat of the ethnic violence that led to unspeakable crimes against humanity.


Written with the support of Julie Ward

25 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Jason Gold did an excellent analysis. Clerical fascism is the reality of today’s Montenegro. Unfortunately, the UK, led by Mrs Karen Maddocks, British Ambassador to Montenegro, significantly helped in its installation. I hope that the UK will see the mistake and oppose Vučić’s forces in dismantling the multicultural society in Montenegro

  2. SOC Serbian Orthodox Church is directly responsible for the wars i Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. We Are witnessing history repeated.

  3. This person did an excelent propaganda article, but it remains far from truth. SOC is 800 years old, and is present in Montenegro ever since. The religious law stipulated the nationalization of churches effectively putting it under the control of hybrid regime. More than half of the population took part in rallies, not because they are religious fanatics, but because the SOC was the last institution not controled by the corrupt ex-communist regime. If the regime can subdue the Church, it can take everyones property and no one is safe. SOC was dragged into politics for the first time, for the reasons of self preservation. The Church did not support a single coaltion but three of them. The Church excommunicated the ruling party MPs and called for everyone to vote to their liking for anyone but DPS. In order to openly get involved in the election where 70% of population are members of SOC, the Church asked for a new person to be a leader, who could unite disunited liberals, democrats, greens, conservatives, socialists, rightwing and keftwing actora all who just wanted a decent secular country, not a mafia quazistate Thanks to all of thia the voter turnout was hig enough to overcome the inbuilt rigging that gave 12% advantage to the ruling party for decades (dead people voting, voter supression, blackmailing, buying votes etc), amd the floodgates that kept thr corrupt hybrid regime, that is actually just a renamed former communist party, were open. SOC, like many other entities in Montenegro represent decent part of society that wanted a mafia boss out of office.

    • No way! SOC has its own agenda and that is – all (ortodox) Serbs in the same country, they even have a name for it “Serbian world”, and this agenda has been present in SOC for many years, while they have been well organized and worked on getting to this goal. We have seen what happens when SOC tries pushing its agenda in Croatia, Bosnia etc where world waited for 6 years before opposing Slobodan Milosevic. Now Vucic is apparently new Slobodan M, but agenda of SOC is the same… see the pattern?! People change, idelology stays the same. The problem is not in political party, it is the SOC agenda!!! This in Montenegro is history repeating. Hope Montenegrins will have more luck, and some more help from EU and US before first bloodshed happens

    • This is exactly what is the truth and what was/is happening in Montenegro. The whole article is even bad propaganda…

    • this is a great analysis of injustice and chaos happening right now.Ifind really alarming lack of reaction coming from the UK and blindness of its leaders when it comes to rise of Nazism in Balkans under false umbrella of religious rights.Its very painful for us to see utterly incompetent ambasador of UK in Montenegro for whom I am sure in future to be subject of bribery investigation.Taking a money from people whose hands are already soiled with blood of 200 000 killed in Wars following decay of former Yugoslavia

    • For clarification sake, the Serbian Orthodox Church, in the shape that it is in today, is present in Montenegro since 1909, when it was founded for the region of modern day Montenegro. While that does make it the ‘oldest canonical church’ as Serbs like to put it, it is by no means present for 800 years, not even in the Serbian constitution. It inherits the churches that the autonomous Montenegrin church (not to be mistaken with the one today) had in its and state ownership (as Montenegro happened to be a theocracy for centuries).
      As for everything else that you had mentioned in the comment – it is all rumour, gossip, and conspiracy theories that can hardly be proved by anything. Not to mention that it is false.

  4. A great analysis that put this week-ends attack by the ” STATE ORGANS” of Montenegro on the peaceful citizens of Cetinje in context. On Sunday the 5th Sept police and army fired over 200 CS Gas Canisters and FlashhBang grenades as well as rubber bullets at a peaceful demonstration by the citizens of Cetinje ( the old Royal Capitol of Montenegro) including women ‘children pensioners,opposition Political leaders and Civic activists. The demonstration was in response to Serb Orthodox Church enthroning it’s new head Bishop in the Monestary of St. Peter of Cetinje, which is for Montenegrins the very heart and soul of their cultural identity. As observers to the Wars in Bosnia and Kosovo in the1990s we at Montenegro International Alliance had a terrible sense of Deja Vu…

  5. This is exactly what’s going on in Montenegro! As a citizen, I am extremely worried about our country’s future. The tensions are growing because people are opposing to the fascism that’s spreading here. I am sure we will be able to get over this, but we need the world’s help. Thank you from for writing and publishing this article!

  6. This article is everything you need to know about what’s ACTUALLY happening in Montenegro. Do not belive the propaganda of SOC. They’re doing it just like in the 90’s. If the world doesn’t see this…The progressive Balkan side will be destroyed.

  7. Complete thruth and greath in-depth analysis of Mr. Gold.
    Since last year election,montenegrin goverment established by SOC try to surpressed anyone who suport Montenegrin independency.
    Human rights are undermined,so we are not free to state our nationality,religion and language.
    Our goverment took fascism like system and try to surpress any free thought.
    Lots of threats are given to the people who dare to speak anti-goverment and anty-Serbian pres. Vucic.

  8. Great analisys of MR.Gold.
    We urge for EU, Britain and USA not to be so ignorant on the flammable situation in Montenegro. The same pattern and scenario written in Belgrade in the 90’s is repeating and yet so ever, no one is detecting it!

    We have brutal violation of the basic human and civil right in Montenegro. We have unprecidented repression by the clero facsist governement. They are exposure of the Belgrade intentions..to make Montentenegro look like an unreliable partner in Nato,so Nato could amputate us .( they are doing it by controling all the institutions).
    10 of thousands of people are discharched and fired from Goverment institutions where they put only the ones who declare as Serbs. Classic ethnic cleansing.Futher in their agenda is a change of Constitution , as by theone we have we are a State of the citizens, not nations, so they can made it as another country of Serbs.
    They want compensation for Kosovo.
    They are discriminating our MontenegrinOrthodox Church, by overtaking all the property from the State. By stealing it , and now presenting themself as victims.
    They have resources , they have media and propaganda with huge power, and money from Serbia. Ladt year they make themself look like they are victims. The same scenario was in Bosnia, 3 years they had procession in the name of serbian church, and we all knowhow that ended
    They have help from your Embassy and the other onesdon’t understand the core of the oroblem
    Will you let fire to burn al the Balkan or will you do something to stop this sparkle ?
    We are on the edge of the civil war.
    As Montenegrins we ll not accept this treatment ever . Equality, stability and sincere democracy is what we ask for.
    Before few days in Cetinje we were 5 hours under police force, 5 hours under chemichal weapens, shoc bombs…days after our children in the town couldn’t breath .
    Their priests and followers are threating us with new Srebrenica, nazi speech is all oversocial media with no control! We have all documented.

    The reason of our protest was our deny of the inforce enthronement of the mitropolit of Church of Serbia, which is occupator in Montenegro since 1920.
    Without help from you, and all the Western world and our NATO allies, we ll be in a war soon.
    And it wikl not be just a question of Montenegro anymore.
    We will be just a first DOMINO in a row.
    Mind my written english.
    And take our voice as a cry for help.
    Regards from wounded Montenegro

  9. Thank you Mr Gold for the excellent analysis! Great Britain should be aware od the fascism happening in MNE! They should know about Vucic’s (with the help of Serbian Orthodox Church) sinister intentions towards Montenegro and its people and hopefully help prevent a possible Bosnian scenario from the ‘90.

  10. Thank You for this great truth, I hope that world will finally understand that we are still under occupation since year 1918. Montenegrins in own country has no rights in the last year since we have Goverment from Serbian Ortodocs Church. Goverment wanted war few days before, we saw scenes like from movies, priests in military helicopter, represion of police… This, what someone writes that SOC is 800 years old is lie, this is new propaganda from Serbia. SOC is first named in 1921. year, church of Montenegro is older than Serbia. SOS Montenegro, we are people without rights.

  11. Fantastic article by Mr Gold explaining current dire situation in Montenegro. Due to the current crisis globally because of Covid, problems within EU, Afghanistan etc our situation in the country has been largely ignored by the international community. Change of government sparked unwanted nationalisms from pro Serb parties now within the government and the country is on the brink of war! We need action from the USA and the rest of the world. Ghost of the 90’s is back and it wont go quietly. Montenegro is it’s latest victim.
    Thank you for publishing this article.

  12. At the moment when the Serbian Orthodox Church shrank from its spiritual discourse and became the collapse of Serbian nationalisms in Montenegro, and not Christ and Christianity, there were spiritual breaks in the people.

    Hope EU help Montenegro.

  13. This article is pure propaganda probably financed by dirty money from President of Montenegro who is mafia boss. Hope that current Government will put him in the jail for long long period…

    • Montenegrotruthteller what a pity you did not use your name. Perhaps out of fear of ridicule? Or fear of being sued for slander.? I am not in anyone’s payroll , especially from Montenegro. If you had bothered to read the entire piece you would see that I am an Elected official of the British Labour Party , a non paid official incidentally. So everyone here knows a lot about me but what do they know about you? Your syntax and vocabulary may give people an idea of what you are but who you are is anyone’s guess. You could be President Vucic himself.

  14. Everyone who deal with politics in any capacity, knows that in theory and real world also – there are few main pillars of one state’s integrity as a sovereign teritorial entity capable for self-sufficiency: detemined territories, social agreement, ethnic identity, well defined and capable 3 branches of Government and well established, non-medling Church as a representative of religious institutions.

    Currently, in Montenegro, we do not have either one of these respective conditions. Ok, yeah, we are not territorialy impaired (at least not yet), but the SPC (SOC) and Serbia directly are a threat to that specific condition. All of the others aforementioned factors are in danger. We DO NOT posses the functional Government or Parliament or either of the other governing instituions in this moment. And ethnic identity of the countrie’s majority i.e. the Montenegrins – is in danger and it’s all because of the medling Church which is NOT (NOT being the operative word) – the legally established Church of Montenegro. SPC (Srpska pravoslavna crkva) or SOC (Serbian Orthodox Church) is in the eyes of the law a mere NGO organization, believe it or not. But, when you add a direct lines of funding from president Vucic from Serbia alongside with the para-military support of the propeling ideology – you end up with this European version of talibans.

    So, Europe – if you know what’s best for you – you will come to stop this terrific organization that is falsely presenting it self for a religious instituion. Even if you are not being aware that SPC (SOC) directly led to every single of the Balkan’s war conflicts in the last 30 years, even if you shut your eyes in front of a fact that they used a massive weapon arsenal including the NATO helicopter (how?!) for the violent enthronment of the Joanikije (which has not been seen in a 2000 years of Christianity) – you simply cannot deny the fact that mere name of that organization is not in correspondence with the principles of Montenegro’s sovereignty.

    In one hand you have Montenegro and its multicultural, multiethnic community, and on the other hand you have a Trojan horse – Serbian Ortodix Church. The mere name is a tell sign – Montenegro is not the part of Serbia and it will never be again. It is quite simple to resolve this.

    Otherwise, if the roles are reversed, in that hypothetical situation, please alow me to ask you one simple question : would the UK citizens somehow allow India to control their whole country with the Hinduism religious supreme institution of some sort?

    I think not. So, there you go. We from Montenegro are urging the international community to fairly address this attempt of this attempt of a direct attack on the sovereignty and borders of a country that lies in the heart of Europe, a country that is foremost the NATO member and one of the first established democracies in the world, alk that since the Berlin Congress of 1878.

    With all the love and respect,
    Greetings from Montenegro

  15. The SOC has proved on the fifth of September that all of the churches, monasteries, and religious performances that they do are a mere facade to (lately not so) silent fascism, ethnophyletism, chetnik (Nazi WW II collaborating movement) revisionism and territorial ambition of Belgrade and official Serbia. The fact that they had hundreds of armed men, mercenaries and soldiers within the Cetinje monastery, that they were not only ready but willing to put Montenegro in the state of civil war for the sake of doing a ceremony that is according to them a tradition – not a holy, but merely a human one, and that ethnic and religious discrimination towards others in the region is far from novelty, makes the Serbian Orthodox Church the most dangerous project in the Balkans ever to have been created. All the while hiding behind Christianity and giving people a hope of salvation, the followers of the SOC have become a dangerous, militant group of mindlessness and idolatry. To a crucial extent, this is a consequence of bad policies by the former government, which, despite being pro-western and despite sharing European values, did not do as good of a job with making the country of Montenegro as prosperous as it could have been. Of course, the new government did even worse – inflation in Montenegro when it comes to everyday items rose by a staggering 30% during the past year, and unemployment hit its all time high ever since independence. Guess where those people are going to find salvation, and what this government’s ultimate plan is?

  16. It is, unfortunately, a good analysis of what is going on in Montenegro, beneath the radar of international community (so far)… Noise and counter narratives are doing a good job in that regard, which is obvious even here, while the country is being subverted by “Serbian World”. Pressure on minorities in the north of the country is still increasing. Regards from Podgorica

Leave a comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.