In 1900, Montenegro, which was about the size of Yorkshire, consisted of some thirty plemena or tribes. A small core, mainly Cetinaajes, Nyegushi, Rijeka and Kchevo formed old Montenegro. To this was added the Brda group, which joined Montenegro voluntarily in the eighteenth century, in order to fight against the Turks. These are mainly of Albanian blood and were all Roman Catholics at the time of their annexation, but have since been converted to the Orthodox Church and Slavized. It is noteworthy that they are now strenuously resisting annexation by Serbia. Thirdly, came the extensive lands, some of them wholly Albanian, annexed to Montenegro in 1878 under the Treaty of Berlin, much of which, in spite of the efforts of the Montenegrin Government, is by no means Slavized.
Certain other small districts have also from time to time been joined to Montenegro at different times, e.g. Grahovo. Each of the Montenegrin tribes has a distinct tradition of origin from an individual or family. They tell almost invariably of immigration into their present site in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. Thus Nyegushi in 1905 told me of descent from two brothers Jerak and Raiko, who fled from Nyegushi in the Herzegovina fourteen generations ago. The Royal family, the Petrovitches, traces descent from Jerak. If we take thirty years as a generation this gives us 1485. The Turks had then begun to overrun Bosnia and the Herzegovina.
Ivan Tsrnoievitch, chief of the tribes of the Zeta, was so hard pressed by the oncoming Turks that he burnt his capital of Zhablyak and withdrew to the mountains, where he founded Cetinje in 1484. Tradition thus corresponds closely with historic fact. The strength of Turkish influence is shown by the fact that even to-day the peasant speaks of Ivan as Ivan Beg.
The oft-repeated tale that Montenegro was founded by the refugees from Kosovo is thus we see mythical, as Kosovo was fought a century earlier in 1389. Lineally, the Montenegrins are Bosnians, Herzegovinians and Albanians rather than Serbs of Serbia. Bosnia and the Herzegovina were independent of the old Kingdom of Serbia, which explains much of the reluctance of Montenegro to be to-day incorporated by the Serbs.
Twenty Years Of Balkan Tangle by M. E. Durham (First published 1920):