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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Europe diary: Montenegro mood
25 May 2006

In his diary this week, BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell reports on the mood in Montenegro as it votes for independence, and tries some of the fiery local liquor.

The diary is published every Thursday.

SERBIAN SYMBOLS

Radisav Rachich twists his traditional cap in his hands as he explains its symbolism. It's a circular hat which he has proudly taken out of its box and put on his head before we begin an interview on why he voted "No" in Montenegro's referendum on independence.

Men give three-fingered salute
Thee-fingered salutes, and a flag with four 'C's
The black around the edge, he explains, is mourning for the loss of Kosovo. This could be the battle the Serbs lost against the Turks in 1389, or the one they lost against Nato rather more recently. The red felt top is for the blood spilt. The cross with a Cyrillic "C" (equivalent to our "S") in each of the squares, I am familiar with, it stands for: Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava, Only Unity will Save the Serbs. The six yellow lines on the red stand for the six centuries of Turkish domination.

Too much history, too many symbols. But there are more. When I ask him if they will win the referendum he jumps up shows the three fingered Serbian salute and elaborately crosses himself with three fingers.

CLOSE RELATIONS

Montenegro is very different from the other countries that have broken away from Serbia. There is no Serb minority here: in one sense, the majority of people are Serbs. From both sides one hears that Montenegrins and Serbs are brothers, or cousins.

I suppose it is a bit like asking Scots whether they are Scottish or British: it's a matter of cultural and political choice, not a question of ethnicity.

Which is why I think this break up will hurt Serbia more deeply than many realise. Not that it will lead to riot or reprisal. But it's a conscious rejection of a relationship that has always been close, like telling an old school friend that they're living in the past and should grow up.

BALKAN HILLBILLIES?

One of the well noted habits of this region is still slightly alarming when encountered at 9am, straight after breakfast. The first thing that happens as we meet Radisav is that a bottle of home made rakija, clear grape brandy, is plonked on the table. I'm not adverse to a drink or eight, but this is going it some. I insist I will wait until after the interview before I accept a shot.

It's really very good: fiery and strong but very smooth and fruity as well. It's probably because of the drink that instead of concentrating on the intricacies of Montenegrin politics I fall into a reverie about why people in this region never put their brandy into wooden casks, and why the French did and what difference it would have made if they hadn't.

Then, humming Hayseed Dixies' "Corn Liquor", I muse whether their love of firearms, strong home brew and independence means the Balkans should be twinned with the American Appalachians.

WILD JOY

Independence is declared in several stages spread over a couple of days, each greeted with a burst of celebration.

Celebrations in Podgorica
Deliriously happy people in Podgorica
The most intense is the first, as the rumour of victory spreads. Cars roar up and down at ridiculous speeds honking and hooting. A six-year-old child sits on the roof of one. A man crouches on the bonnet of another, waving a massive red and gold flag.

The red flag bearing a golden eagle is ubiquitous. Young girls lean out of windows at impossible angles like some circus troop. Then fireworks join the cacophony. Then pistol shots. Then several burst of automatic fire. The mood seems very wild.

Much later I break away from the tyranny of live broadcasting to mingle with the crowds dancing outside the government building. The mood by now is gentle and joyous.

One of the constant irritations of being a TV reporter is people thinking it is clever to insert themselves or an object between you and the camera, while you are talking. But I don't mind as deliriously happy people drape the flag across my face for the third time. The crowd turn solicitous, and a girl arranges my hair with her fingers as we prepare for the final take.

BRANDY AND BULLETS

The last live broadcast out of the way at 2am, we retire to a trendy bar. Oversized wicker chairs lounge on a decking veranda which overlooks the river.

Gun in Montenegro celebration
Celebration in the Montenegrin style... plus the ubiquitous eagle
This is usually the bar that irony forgot, the speakers pumping out Bryan Ferry and Sade and the Eagles without a technobeat in earshot. But tonight is independence night and beefy men in expensive shirts sway to live music from a traditional singer.

But as the large flat screen TV in the corner starts to show pictures of the prime minister approaching the stage, the singer stops and a crowd gathers round.

As he announces they have won and urges people to celebrate there is stillness. Then a heavy tumbler is thrown to the floor. A brandy balloon follows. One man rushes to the side and pulls a revolver out of his trousers and fires, a look of intensity on his face. Another rushes past, his expression almost one of pain. After he has fired several shots he returns slowly, a look of intense physical relief on his face.

Please send us your comments on issues raised in the diary, using the postform below.


Sad, very sad for 186,000 declared Serbians in Montenegro. I am Serbian from motenegro-boka kotorska. Do you know that local officals are taking/stealing land inheritance, by theft as a daily routine. It is a clan society, ruled by relatives,where justice and legal system does not exist. It will be worse. EU will start praising corrupt goverment, with no care for basis civil liberties. Do not be fooled by self determination slogan. It is false
Peter Milovich, San Diego, CA

I congratulate Montenegro on its independence vote. I'm just wondering with huge albanian birth rate will "montenigrins" be a minority in their own country in 20 years? remember where you heard the phrase "greater albania" first.
nikola , london uk

Honestly, the result of the referendum is a disappointment. I would've liked it better if we'd carried on as one state but I don't think Serbia has lost much. I do, however, seriously doubt that the democratic process has been honoured here. We still have no clue what the official tally is; there have been numerous reports on irregularities at the polling centres, etc. Not to mention that the municipality of Plav had 12,500 voters cast their ballot - and the total population of Plav is around 13,000. I mean, come on!

Many in Montenegro will wake up to an ugly reality once the hangover is gone. No health care, no public services, substandard education, etc. The independence will benefit the Montenegrins in that they will realize that pretty much none of their hardships had been caused by Serbia. Good luck, brothers & sisters.
Mile, Zrenjanin, Serbia

Philip Davies don't mix religion with politics. If you do so, you'll burn a church or a mosque. Let me tell you something, all destructions done in Kosova were done by criminals, and if you want my opinion I tell you that only few churches were destroyed, in compare with every single destroyed mosque in Kosova. so don't put good, politics and crime in one sack.
B.Shala, Pejë, Kosovë

Serbia has behaved itself very well during the referendum and Boris Tadic, President of Serbia has congratulated Montenegro as have most people in Serbia. I do not however agree here where your reporter says "This will hurt Serbia". In Serbia (even though media put it on front page) most people did not talk about the referendum, as people just want to relax from politics. Also many cable news networks have not noted that Serbia provides 90% of funding for Montenegro and they will suffer and economic set back after the break up. Serbia / Montenegro can now go their separate ways with Serbia (maybe) becoming a kingdom in the near future. I'm happy both our teams will stay together to play their first and final world cup.
Mina, Belgrade

Incredible how much hate is still running in the Balkans, oops, sorry in the South-Eastern Europe, to be politically correct. Symbols? What else but tribalism, nourished by our shared communist part where collective symbols were all you got to construct your personal identity. The Battle of Kosova? Although not mentioned here, Albanians too did contribute to this (Serbian) craddle forming event that happened thousands, oops, sorry again, hundreds years ago! But, in the centuries, other things happened worth remembering.

What about our shared balads, legends and epic tales? What about our shared songs, poems and knights? What about our shared rivers, coasts and lakes? They were there when our grandpas fought to each other, they are still there now that we throw our hate like stones and rocks on each other shoulders, and they will continue to be there even when new deads will fill in the heroic graves in new (God forbid) battles! As for myself, I would rather go for the red beaujours (the flowers) of the Fusha e Kosoves (Kosovo Polje / the Kosovo Field) than for the red spots of blood in the Kosovo earth. A globalist hug,
Ledia, Tirana, Albania

Montenegro's referendum was one of the most controlled in Europe. We voted for independence fair and square. To those who (in their posts here) state that votes "were stolen" I would reply that your reasoning is ill informed and borderline pathetic. Were you in Montenegro? EU observers were. This is so typical of some Serbs to always (and I mean always) play a "victim" and always see "conspiracies against Serbs" everywhere they turn. And you wonder why we want no part of such thinking?
Dino P, New York, USA

If we go on in this rate soon I will have my independent state too. This is ridiculous. I don't understand why people cheer and encourage division while they don't tolerate this in their homeland, an independent Scotland, an independent Bavaria, an independent Basque, an independent Britanny? Difference is the flavour of life and if you encourage ethnic or religious divisions soon we will see more trouble in Europe. The big capitalist four (UK, Germany, France and Spain) encourage these movements to be bigger and stronger in Europe.
Dean T., UK

D. Asllani - I'll think you will find a substantial proportion of Montenegro's population is Serbs. Serbs, the Montenegrins will still have to live with when the independence is implemented. I don't think they will try the Kosovo solution and try to force them out and burn the churches.

jonathan - S&M will still complete in the World Cup as they qualified as such and the independence has yet to be formalised. From the end of the year Montenegro will have to join bodies such as FIFA and UEFA while Serbia will retain the place of S&M.

To all those still talking of a "Greater Serbia" - Milosevic forced the prosecution at his trial to accept that there was no such plan, though it still seems to exist in the minds of many non-Serbs.
Philip Davies, Macclesfield

L.S. Niseteo, I love your comment. It is true that ex-YU and ex-USSR countries give each other votes, similar to the way the Scandinavians did it back in the 80s. It is ridiculous and the system needs to be changed. As for Montenegro, it's a beautiful country, but nobody mentions how deeply divided it is - it will be a great source of political instability. Its leadership is corrupt and blames Serbia for much of its failures, similar to UN-run Kosovo. It is hard to imagine that they would really do much better alone than with Serbia. But if any country in the ex-Yugoslavia is entitled to independence, it is Montenegro (and Serbia). Good luck to them. We in Serbia will finally be able to take care of our own problems. With Kosovo and Mladic issues out of the way, it will be much better.
Boris Petrovic, Belgrade, Serbia

Several comments from Turkey and the Balkans show how the information gets filtered through historical books. The Battle of Kosovo is not about the Turks, it's about the Serbs and the fact that the Asian invader destroyed the Christian kingdom and led to 300 years of occupation. During that time, millions were killed and converted. Many resilient Serbs moved to Montenegro and successfully resisted the Turks. Yes, Serbian nationalism is unfortunately partially based on the ages of Turkish oppression. That does explain some irrationalities of the Bosnian war - but the other side wasn't much nicer. At any rate, the talk only about "Greater Serbia" in the contect of the Yugoslavia's breakup is a dangerous simplification. Those who burnt 120 Serbian churches in Kosovo since 1999 know that well, but hide behind conventional truths.
Oliver Kamban, Seattle, Wasington, USA

The only thing that the West is good at is congradulating newly independent states. Why? because by breaking from the old sphere of influence, the West can now step in and "introduce" the new one. It wasn't nationalism that did this to Serbia, it was the pressure and bullying from the West. And as Montenegro will soon learn, independence is not always a good thing. Just take a look a little north at Ukraine. Their wonderful, magical Orange Revolution has split the country down the middle, is destroying the economy and is going nowhere fast. Bravo to Serbia for having the intestinal fortitude to at least try to stand up for themselves.
Alex, Brooklyn, NY

A huge congratulations to Montenegro, the home land of my husband and parents for their democratically voted Independence! The news brought tears to my eyes. Tears of joy for those who live by the breath-taking coastline and on the stunning green mountains, and tears of saddness for those who perished in the Croatian, Bosnian and Kosova wars. Finally the steel ball that has kept Montenegro from moving forward has been removed and Montenegrins can now take their first free steps towards their own fate.
Indira G, Australia

Maybe now, the Basques in Spain will seperate. Corsica will become a country free from French rule. The Muslims in Paris may get there own country. The Mexicans in the southwest USA will opt for independence. Quebec will finally seperate from Canada. The Kurds will get there own country in the middle east. So on, and so forth, you get my point.
Z Premcevic, Detroit, USA

Well,this is finaly over,and I am happy to see Montenegrins backs at last! I am not nationalist,but people in Serbia are sick and tired over this issue in Montenegro... It is like having a wife which tells you every day for 5 years that she will live you - so finaly you tell her "leave, please, just let me continue my life in peace, normaly."
Igor, Belgrade

Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia. What next? Independent Kosovo? Serbian Bosnia and Muslim Bosnia, Albanian Macedonia? Will the result be 29 countries with a few hundred thousand people each? This break up process is the outward projection of a culture where you are defined by who you don't tolerate. Its tribalism and cultural immaturity and will lead them nowhere. What next? Monte and Negro?
Ross Larsen, London

Minister for Europe, Geoff Hoon applauds that the people of Montenegro have expressed a desire for an independent state. Does his government offer the same opportunity to Scotland? Or is this a case of double standards?
M, Bedford

As two separate countries, can they still officially participate in the World Cup next month or not together as Serbia & Montenegro? If so then perhaps England could combine with Brazil to make the best team in 2010?
jonathan, alicante , spain

Finally! Imposed by lot of proud and honour, I have a country named as Montenegro. Ignoring many relations with Serbia, I choosed the only one, beleiving it brings me a light, better and safer future. Having in mind we had had the independent country before, we deserve it again. History is repeatting, definitely. As comments to many of voters for ex-union, I am sure we have a better relations than now. Finding here a wide range of world, please feel emotions from capital of Montenegro. Welcome to everybody!
Igor, podgorica

I was in Montenegro for the referendum, and I am very impressed with the civic maturity of the montenegrian people and the strenght of their democracy. Montenegro as an independent state has much to bring to the rest of europe, as a small coutry that knows what it wants to be as a community. it is an example do the other small and medium coutries. as for serbia, separation from montenegro is also very important, in order to overcome the dreams of greater serbia, wich have been turned into nigthmares. but I am not optimistic about serbia, because of the destructive role of its elites. please note that I am in belgrade now, I speak the language and know both countries. belgrade is a very pleasant, warm city that could be a great city if this country would cut with nationalism and embraced full democracy.
sarah franco, Lisbon, Portugal (currently in Belgrade)

I am happy to see Montenegro get their Independence if that is what they want. But I also agree with the notion that the West only supports independence for other contries. They would love to see any country fall apart and break into pieces as long it is not them. I am sure the west would love to see countries like China or Rusia break apart into more little countries, but how about the UK losing Scotland, Northern Island and Wales to independence or Spain loosing Catalonia or Beligium loosing Flandra or even the US loosing some states to Mexicans who now are becoming majorities in some states. How would they like that. The west dose not care but for it's self and dose not care about anybody especially from Eastern Europe.
Eduard, Arlington Heights IL

The Battle of Kosova took placa in 1389 and the Ottoman Empire managed to destroy the last shield that protects Christian world. However, the Ottoman occupation provided a large tolerance for non-muslim communities including Jews. All non-Muslims were allowed to perform their religious duties that we cannot say the same situation for Muslims in Spain and Europe in that age. Ottomans did not assimilate Serbs, they aimed integration of non-Muslim communities. They had their churches and Patriarches, that is ok for Ottomans as long as they pay their taxes to the empire. Yes, it is true that Ottomans destroyed existing Feudal system, but later Feudal lords took their place as Ottoman executives.
Serdar Tabakoğlu, Istanbul

Is this separation better solution for Montenegrins, it's up to them to prove. I believe they will do better than to have an iron ball of deflated Serbian nationalism tied up to their legs. Negativity breeds negativity. I'm a Bosnian Serb. I've seen the life and values in the former Yugoslavia as well as damage inflicted by Serbia proper to other Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Krajina. Probably soon, in Kosovo. Sticking heads in the sand, repeatedly chant boring stories of not so glorious recent past, and buy everything that uneducated clerics of the Serbian Ortodox Church are selling, will never lead to prosperity or a fullfilement of a impossible dream of a "Greater Serbia." Today's Serbia is as great as it realistically deserves.
Buja, Canada

WOW, If Montenegrians cannot stand to live with Serbs, what makes you think Albanians can live with them since they have nothing in common.
D.Asllani, Pej/Kosova

Finally Serbia paid the price of their aggressive politics, they lost the last ally. Kosova is next to gain the independence and that would be the final stage of Milosevic and SANU (Serbian Academy of Science and Art) politics. As an Albanian Kosovar, I am very happy to see the Montenegro finally gat their statehood back and they will be in control of their destiny. As far as their feature and economy they will be just fine, they already start integrating their business with their neighbors Croatia, Albania and Kosova, and they have beautiful coastline with little marketing they will be able to pump considerable money to their economy. Good portion of Greece economy relays on tourism why not a Montenegro with tiny population of 650,000.
Afrim K, New York, USA

Looks like the nationalistic dream of a greater Serbia has backfired and achieved exactly the opposite of Milosevic's dream. If matters continue to progress as they have, the Serbian state will eventually be reduced to Beograd and its outskirts. The Montenegrin referendum just gave Kosovo the green light to make a final run at independence, and rightfully so. The international community must set an example that ethnic hatred will only lead to broken dreams and economic ruin. In today's global environment, the ideas of nationalism and isolation are inextricably intertwined. The rest of the former Yugoslavia has grasped this concept long ago and made efforts to integrate. Slovenia is already an EU member and the newest member of the Euro-zone. Croatia is on its way to membership in 2009. When will Serbia get on board?
Tomislav, Zagreb, Croatia

I find it interesting to see how much the comments of those foreigners who actually visited Serbia-Montenegro differ from the comments of those who have never set foot in the region. The latter base all their information on one-sided news reports and yet think that they are authorities on the subject. For that reason, I URGE all people of good will to come and visit Serbia and see for themselves what fun and good times they can have in Belgrade. Many of my friends from abroad who came to visit Serbia asked me at first: "But is it safe there?" That just shows the amount of misinformation that they have. Upon arriving in Belgrade they quickly see that this place is one of the safer big European capitals, in which foreigners are welcome and shown great hospitality. I don't feel as safe as they do when I visit London or Paris.
Sima, Belgrade

It is time to forget about borders and independence in the former Yugoslavia. There are still people who are southern slavs, speak the same language and should be ending their divisions and recriminations. Serbian politicians please wake up to the new realities of modern politics before Serbia becomes a minor state in the Balkans. There should be no more division of Serbia and its people have suffered enough under Milosevic and the current inadequate regime.
Michael , London Uk

I was born in Sarajevo (Bosnia). The fact is, the West supported total destruction of Yugoslavia since we had an excellent system during Tito. One strong, socialist, state was no good to New Globalists. Now, they can start selling their hamburgers (or shall I call it "Democracy) to disorganised, mini Balkan states. They need to become united, in some way, very soon or they will just get "swallowed" by bigger powers. One more thing, since the West fully supported the breakaway of my country (with the support of local war lords), I fully support any calls for independence in UK, Spain, France, Canada, etc...got my point?
Alex , London, Ex-Yu

I know the referendum is principally about Montenegro, but I want to make some comments along Serbian lines. I have close ties with some slavic people (mainly Serbs) here in Perth Australia. The majority (all I've spoken to) carry a heavy heart; they're upset by the referendum result. As a combined nation Serbia i Montenegro has a lot to offer: from the fertile agricultural plains in Vojvodina, to the mountains and wonderful coastline of Montenegro. As a divided nation, I am a little concerned about whether those in power in Belgrade will hold grudges against Montenegrins, and If they do, how Montenegro will cope. Hopefully 'brotherly' ties will keep the two countries close. Whatever happens, please don't starting shooting each other. It's such a beautiful part of the world. I wish for everyone to take a visit to the Balkans some day. The region has so much potential, and thinking about the past bloodshed brings me to tears; how magnificent this region could be, and hopefully will be. Just so readers don't take me as being pessimistic, I'll quote E F Schumacher "Small is beautiful". Good luck Montenegro.
John M, australia

For those who do not know: Milosevic is from Montenegro, Radovan Karadzic is from Montenegro, Ratko Mladic is form Republika Srpska and many other war-time leaders are not from Serbia proper. So why you keep blaming Serbia for? Is it because we stand up by our historical heritage and our identity? Is it because we stand by our brothers in Montenegro, Republika Srpska, Kraina, Kosovo and elsewhere? Yes, if that is wrong, we are guilty of standing of for our brothers, even if that means that our brothers are irresponsible and partly want to have their 'ego-state' or something else. Even under this circumstance we will continue to supporting them unconditionally. Also for those who do not know, Kosovo is deeply ingrained in Serbian identify as reflected in 4000 churches and monasteries all over the Kosovo, centuries of literature, art and music. This is not some fairy tile or pub-talk. Asking us to give up our feeling about Kosovo is like asking Catholics to accept DaVinci Code.
Zvezdan, Prolom, Serbia

i feel i have also to say a few words as i originate from ex-yugoslavia. having a croat father and a serbian mother i still feel very much pro-yugoslavian. what annoys me is that the west and our former yu republics tend to have a very short memory. the croats still have not said ''sorry'' for 250 thousand serbs expelled,their property devastated or taken away.the slovenians have neither returned the money taken from ex-republics byt their ljubljnaska banka. however, the serbs have apologised and are eager to turn a page, yet europe and others won't have them. why do they prefer nationalist like the croats, cigarette smugglers like montenegrins, i do not know. i know that every time i visit serbia i have had the best time of my life - their hospitality and food are something to die for! perhaps only sarajevo in ex-yugoslavia equalled it.
mila, london, uk

I really have difficulty to understand how Kosovo war of 1389 ( we call it "SirpSindigi") is so fresh on the Serbian minds... Ask to an ordinary person or even to a student in Turkey and no one will even remember this war or even if they remember, there is no importance of this war for Turks.Howeever, what we remember very well as the memories are still fresh, Serbs in Bosnia were killing Turkish origin Muslims by putting "Fes" on their heads and stating they were getting the revenge of Kosova war of 1389. Nevertheless, current Turkey is the descendent of the Great Ottoman Empire and we do not have much complex of what happened in the past. Lastly, congrats Montenegro and wishing you all to clean your ethnic hatres off your minds.
Tuna Tanoglu, Istanbul, Turkey

A reply to Tuna Tanoglu from Istanbul. It is really nice of you to congratulate Montenegro on its independence and wish it good luck. I do too. And I also wish the Kurdistan becomes an independent state. Peoples should have their right to self-determination.
Jana, Belgrade

The fact of the matter is that Montenegro and Serbia have been a "Union of two states". The only thing this referendum changes is a seat in the UN and other int'l organizations. Another point that I would like to stress. Individuals gain self-awareness through a reflection of themselves in other individuals or objects. It is simply WRONG to always emphasize the nationalistic and hillbilly aspect of some parts of Serbian society. A few days ago we had a report on Neo-Nazis in Germany in relation to the world cup. But is the overwhelming feeling that all Germans are Neo-Nazis? No. One must take into consideration the fact that western European states have a long tradition of democracy. Serbia doesn't. The people who make choices are not necessarily a reflection of the general will of the people, since it is not a democracy with a long and stable tradition. People want to rule and they use all means to stay in power. The general opinion of all the Westerners who come to Serbia that I have met is that there is much less xenophobia and nationalism in Serbia than in their own countries. Please focus on portraying more the progressive segment of Serbia's population and the Serbs will see this reflection of themselves in Western media and this progressive part of the population will grow rapidly, just as it decreased rapidly with the negative portrayal.
Filip, Sliema, Malta

I am not totaly sure what part of Montenegro will the serbs miss the most. They will always be wellcome in indepent Montenegro, but the idea of great serbia never again! All those who do not believe in the prosperity of Montenegro as a small independent country will simply have to wait and see. It would be usefull to read about small countries in Europe, you can learn a lot. E viva Montenegro, at last!
Dragan, Podgorica, Montenegro

The Montenegrin vote for independence was a natural answer to the past 15 years of trouble in the region. Most interesting is the fact that Serbia itself has paradoxically become independent. No one seems to talk about the Serbian independence. What is even more paradoxical about this is that Serbia didn't want its independence, it's rather the Montenegrins who decided for their 'brothers' and 'cousins', as they emotionally call each other. The issue of the 1389 battle of Kosovo is a typical case of 19th or 20th century-style propaganda. Do the Norwegians have painful memories about some war they have lost to the Swedes, anf after which they have been occupied for centuries? I think it's just the way one people (rather, its leaders) chooses to handle its history. As for Montenegro, I think it has the potential of becoming a small prosperous state within the EU.
Andrei Egli, Bucharest, Romania

It is really sad to keep on hearing the same misconceptions time and time again.Firstly, Montenegrins are not any "closer" to Serbs than they are to Croats, Bosnians and other ex-YU nations (as an example, most of people brought up in the coastal, mediterranean region of Montenegro have more in common with Dalmatians in Croatia than they do with someone from Belgrade). We all speak the same or very similar languages and have similar cultures but so do the Swedish, Norwegians and Danish, still no one ever questiones their right to live in separate states.Secondly, the traditional everyday cap used to be red and black with no embroidery on it whilst the the one for special occasions had golden lines and either initials of the owner or of Nikola I on it. Its "connection" to Kosovo battle and four "C" were imposed in 1918 when Montenegrins lost their independence. Thirdly and least importantly,just for Mark Mardell's information),the most exclusive and expensive brandy in Montenegro is made of grapes so next time I recommend he asks for "Prvijenac".
Jelena, oxford,uk

So, more or less, Montenegro has won its independence. Never mind the stolen votes, it is in the EU's interest to accept the preliminary results and congratulate itself on the job well done. And, of course, promote Lajcak to a more important position. But I truly hope the current government changes its course now and REALLY starts working for the better of the whole population, rather than for the chosen few. A very near future will tell if this really is a better option for Montenegro and its people.
marija, London

The era of big centralised states is well and truly over. It is SO twentieth century!! The independence of the Montenegrin state is just fine, but there is no Montengrin nation or language. Montenegro was always a part of the Serbian nation and its history, an independent state won't change this.
Goran Jelisavac, Zurich, Switzerland

The future belongs to small flexible states operating within confederal systems (such as the EU and Switzerland, and perhaps one day NAFTA).
Stephen, Australia

Independence is all very well, but will they have a decent football team that could compete at the highest level??
Andrew Martin, Dublin, Ireland

The first Battle of Kosovo Polje 1389 was a pyrrhic victory for the Turks who forced tribute from the Serbs after it, and shortly after the Second Battle of Kosovo (1448) the Ottomans finally annexed Serbia (1459). However the Battles of Kosovo have a certain place in the psyche of the Serbian people and this has resonated over the centuries, much like Culloden for the Scots, one has to feel some sympathy for the Serbs who must feel that even their friends are betraying them.
Andy, UK

Every nation should have a right to be independent. And I don't agree that Montenegrins are really Serbs. If they feel like Montenegrins, then how can anybody tell them what they are? In fact, exactly that - telling somebody what he/she was a major reason for wars in the world.
Vanco, Auckland, NZ

I find it quite just that in the strugle for a greater Serbia, the supernationalist's ( deeds and repercussions) are now pushing their own "brothers" away, and ever creating a lesser Serbia.
javid , Chicago Illinois

Another small european state gets independence, joins the EU and then gets billions of euros in aid, how many more before we go bankrupt?
roger smith, Birmingham

To Roger from Birmingham: Who is "we" who will go bancrupt? Out of all the cities in the UK Birmingham is one that got a lot of EU aid. It is time to give some to those less fortunate. And another thing, I bet Birmingham is full of immigrants who are working like mad and thus supporting your economy, so again I say, give some back to the countries they originate from.
Maja, London,UK

Next year we are the winners of Eurovision. More neighbours means more 12 points... So, at least Serbia will always be in finals... And just count how many Serbs live in Austria, Germany, Sweden... I expect 12 points from these countries, as well as from Montenegro! Best regards from Bosnia!
Pedja, Bosnia

As a foreigner having lived in Croatia Bosnia & Serbia & Montenegro I feel I can speak about former Yugolsavia. The Serbs & Montenegrins are a wonderful warm un-xenophobic people, with a great sense of humour great flair for business with a very well educated population. They Serbs have been demonsied for so long, it is time to bury the hatchet. Independence will be diffiult for Montengro with their huge corruption problem, not only in the private sector, but rampant in the Public sector, and their thoughts which are of the here and now and not how things will be for them in 5 years, let alone 10 or 20. There is no public health system to speak of, seriously ill patients are flown to Belgrade, you have to bribe to get proper care. Average wages are 230 euros a month, when in reality you need 800-1000 for a family of 4. No wonder there is corruption. Good luck to SErbia and Montenegro going their seperate ways. I just hope that the Yes voters in Montenegro remember that an awful lot of people voted NO........
Susan, Paris

I am happy for Montenegro and their independence. However I would like to congratulate Serbia on becoming an independent state once again. The proud country, once a kingdom, is one of the oldest in the Balkans and in its hayday was the wealthiest country in the region. It would be great to restore the monarchy in the country and celebrate everything that is Serbian. The Serbs have suffered for long enough, and the great resilliance of the nation throughout history, both ancient and recent deserves to be respected and applauded.
Branko Zoric, Dublin, Ireland

Seven hundred thousand people are barely enough for a decent sized city. Now half want to call themselves a country. They might be a "people" or "culture" but really. Just because the area was nominally an independent country for a time doesn't mean that that is the natural or appropriate condition for all time, or for this time. What about the sub-parts that don't want this division? Do they also get to vote for separation, or union with Serbia instead of union with Montenegro? If not today, how about tomorrow? Bits of Europe are unifying while other bits are dissolving good marriages over differences that should bring strength. One more "country" and lots of pain ahead. What a massive waste of time, energy and money. Oh woe, oh woe, oh woe.
Chris, Vienna, Austria

I would like to congratulate Serbia on indenpendence. It happened finally, and it should happen long time ago. Serbia lost a lot of time trying to keep Serbs in one country together, and obviously is going to pay highest price. But we shouldn't forget that Serbia has strong resources and potencial to succeed in future due to many factors. One don't need to be strong analyst to come to conclusion that Montenegro will be bigger loser than Serbia. But if their cousins feel better that way so be it. Montenegrin indenpendence will probably influence positively on Serbian people to relly on themselfs in future and start to build their own country, a modern Serbia.
Ross V., Sydney

I applaud the way the Montenegrins achieved their independence. The issue of ethniticity is not valid. Think of all the principalities in Europe, is ethnics an issue with them? No. So why bring it into the debate about independance. As for the Scots issue well we all know we the English are paying over the top for the Union Scotland gets a better deal from the treasury than any other region. Could it be that the majority of Politicians in the government are of Scots descent. Myself as an English man can see no useful reason for the Union. The sooner we sue for independance and have our own parliment and politicians the Better. Vote for English Independance.
L Cooper, Nottingham UK

1389? England was in the Hundred Years War with France, roughly halfway between the battle of Poitiers (where the English beat the French and captured their king) and the battle of Agincourt (where the English beat them again). It was a few years after the Peasants Revolt in England in the time of Richard II. It is interesting but not really relevant to the modern world.
David, Worthing UK

Montenegrins are different from Serbs by geography and history, no different from Ausrians and Germans. Just as Hitler was from Austria, Milosevic and Karadzic were both from Montenegro. Montenegrins are the Serbs of the rugged Black Mountains that the Ottomans could not conquer. In that respect, they are the purest of the Serbian people untainted by the Turkish legacy and culture. The independence vote was the result of EU breaking off talks with Serbia, the swing Albanian and Muslim vote, and a one-side TV and radio propagandaa in Montenegro engineered by Djukmanovic and his cronies in order to promote their own personal ambitions. This is a tragedy for people on both sides of the new international border.
George C. Thomas, Belgrade, Serbia Montenegro

I am happy that Montenegro will be independent soon. Having many countries in Balkans creates some difficulties for the moment, but with all of them joining Europian Union soon, these difficulties will be removed in no time. The main reason for all the past wars in Balkans has been the negative foreign influence and the horrible treatment of the ethnic minorities and neighbours. Now with all the Balkan nations having their own countries, it will be less ethnic problems and less trouble in Balkans. We as albanians will have only benefits from a friendly and independent Montenegro. Kosovo will be independent soon and the page of albanian sufferings caused from their neighbours, especially the serbs, hopefully will be closed for good. Best luck to everyone in Balkans. See you all in EU.
Admir Elezaj, London U.K.

I wish all the best to the Montenegrins, be they Serbs, Bosnians, Albanians or else. I am certain that its independence will serve to bring peace and prosperity in the Balkans. I also support a comment made here earlier, that the Serbs wrongly use the Battle of Kosovo as a holy event. It was indeed a battle called for by the Serbs, but do not forget that Hungary, Albania and other countries send their troops there. It was not just a battle of Serbs, but a battle of Europeans against Ottoman occupation.
Eneid, Tirana, Albania

Serbia was denied talks about entry to the EU as they did not manage to bring Karadzic and Mladic to the Hague. Now 'Montenegro' has gained 'independance', should they not take responsibility as they have closer ties with Montenegro then with Serbia? I doubt it, as the west would not allow it.
Stevo, London

I am from a part of the world where a million people would constitute a small town with a Mayor as the chief. I am curious as to how a country of 650,000 people or so could be a viable nation?
C P Madhusudan, Chennai, India

I am Serb from Serbia, and I would like to say that regardless of political status of Montenegro, there will always be a "brotherhood" link between us. I also feel Montenegro had more rights to be a state than any other in former YU as neither Slovenia nor Croatia ever had state before except for Natzi Croatia during WWII. As to future relationship I believe we will always be more than friends and we will support each other as we always did.
Danijela, Beograd

Montenegro wanted to be free. Maybe this didn't have all that much to do with Serbia to begin with, I kind of thought THAT was the point of the vote.
Stella, USA

The breakaway of Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia etc can be pardoned. However that of Montenegro is unrealistic and myopic. Future developments will prove it out. The Serbs and Montenegrims are the same people by etnogenesis among other mores...
Wole Akinyeye, Ibadan, Nigeria

I am very pleased for the Montenegrins and want to congratulate them on an orderly and well organised referendum. They have achieved their dream of statehood and independence. Good luck to them! I do hope when the hangover clears and the haze of celebration with too much rakija has lifted they are as optimistic about their new state as they are today!
Marko, London, UK

I commend Mardell for comparing Serbia and Montenegro to Scotland and Britain, though he stumbles a bit . He says that being Scottish or British is a cultural or political choice, implying that Scots and the English are ethnically the same. No Scot, from the most unionist Orangeman, Labour politican or aristocrat in the House of Lords will deny they are Scottish by ethnicity, nationality or whatever (I am afraid the words have totally confused meanings in UK usage). All Scots know they are not English (or Welsh, or Irish), though as you say, some choose to be British as well, while others do not.
Richard, Edinburgh, UK

Your article uses Scotland as a comparison for Montenegro. This is a very unsuitable comparison for various reasons (we are separate in terms of race, religion, legal system, life attitude etc. from England) but perhaps most importantly we will never be afforded the chance of a reforendum on our separation. I know that the easy argument against this is that I am just a nationalist nutter but I actually think that countries should be coming together and dropping their boundaries and borders. I just do not want to be a part of the misguided and oppresive ever more pro-american, right wing state that Britain is becoming.
Andy Whyte, Glasgow, Scotland

The Serb people are capable of great things, good and bad, much like the Germans. It is in the interest of its neighbors to have Serbia intergated into the E.U. Demonising and alienating the Serbs will only produce harm.
Aris , Greece

As someone who has just returned from Belgrade, I agree with the point made that Serbia and also Montenegro should no longer be punished for the breakup of Yugoslavia, other countries also played a role. In my humble opinion Serbia has suffered enough, if people want peace and security in the Balkans then Serbia has to be brought in from the cold and brought closer and closer to normality. Otherwise a lot of these ongoing wounds will never be healed and war will resume. Membership of the EU is a long way off but it has to happen someday to give the Serbs hope. What was more striking for me while in Belgrade was the interest in Eurovision. Even though Serbia & Montenegro withdrew there was a lot of support for the Bosnia entry and people would be very happy if the Eurovision were won by a country in the region.
ky, The Hague, The Netherlands

Montenegro is just a tiny micro state and it is simply untrue that it is able to have economic boost without Serbia.In fact, nowdays Montenegro is known as craddle of smugglers,organized crime and coruption.Last but not least, montenegrin prime minister mr.Djukanovic is authoritarian leader and he controls everything in Montenegro, especially secret police services.
B. Van Buren, Amsterdam

The Montenegrins are under the quant illusion that the EU are going to throw Euros at them. Soon they will wake up from their dream and realise that they are a tiny, impoversished back water, and that Solana has forgotten that they exist.
David, Bristol, UK

When was the Kosovo war? 1389? Thatīs a hell of a long time since then.Whatever the reason,at one point in time one should say that was then and this is now.Donīt forget but forgive.Donīt carry a grudge, and even hatred ,from generation to generation.People should learn to live with each other, maybe I would say, in accordance with the diversity of this planet.The tendency as seen in the example of ex-Yugoslavia is to look for the common denominator which sets apart one group from the other, through war or a referandum so that in the end the group stands out as homogenous as possible.What will be the consequences?
DrStyles, Germany

One of your readers noted how Serbs hated their neighbours.That is totally untrue and a very shauvinistic statement.People of different nationalities visit Serbia and I don't remember that any of them complained recently.For example I don't remember when was the last time some Croat who visited Serbia was attacked physically by someone. I'm just tired of BBC propaganda about Serbs.Can't you just leave us alone.You always point out how Serbs live by myths such as Kosovo battle.You would be surprised to see how many people here actually support Kosovo's independece.Also you always claim that Ratko Mladic is a hero for most of Serbs.Most of people just can't wait to see him arrested and sent to Hague tribunal.Serbs just want a chance that other European nations got,a chance to become a part of United Europe.We deserve this after long years of suffering and fighting against Milosevic.We should be shown some respect for it.
Vladimir Mihajlovic, Jagodina,Serbia

The independence of Montenegro means that Djukanovic won't be able to blame Serbia for anything anymore. Montenegro also risks cutting off its biggest source of tourist income as it comes from Serbia, free education and the specialist healthcare available to it in Serbia. Other than Slovenia, none of the ex-Yugoslav republics have made much progress since 1991. Slovenia had the advantage of a fairly homogenous population and being located next to Italy and Austria. What happened in Macedonia in 2001 should serve as a warning.
Philip Davies, Macclesfield, UK

A minor point but one I feel strongly about! Rakija is traditionally made of plums. Other fruits and grains are used too, but then it'll be specified that it is not plum. It is usually accompanied by a shot of strong, black Turkish coffee, and there's no better way to start the morning!
Aleksandra, Edinburgh

It's always pleasure to see another nation exercising the right of self-determination.
Ritvars Eglājs, Riga, Latvia

There's a wonderful line in Ursula K.LeGuin's novel "The Other Wind" which sums up this situation very well, "What was divided is divided." Montenegro and Serbia used to be divided; they were separate, independent countries. Now they are so again In reality, this is not as important as it might once have been. Both will eventually be in the European Union, and both will be expected to conform to that organization's rules and standards. It is strongly likely that Serbia and Montenegro will quickly come to a workable accommodation with each other. So, this is an outcome which gives pride and dignity to Montenegro, but which will not ultimately harm Serbia at all. RCS
RCS, Oakon, USA

The dismemberment of Serbia started with the NATO bombings to help the inevitable secession of Kosovo {made more bitter by it being the cradle of the Serbian Nation} and the 'independance' of Montenegro was just a matter of time. Even if the result were a "No", one is sure that Montenegro would, in one way or the other eventually 'part ways' with their northern cousins,since Europe demands it. The whole picture is, Europe and America have focused so much on the 'historical crimes' of Serbia that the results now do not make economic sense. The whole World is 'uniting' Why should dismemberment be praised here? I would still say "hand off Serbia" for once.
Christopher Muwanga, Kampala, Uganda

1389 battle of Kosovo was not lost by Serbs. It is unbelieveable how when you repeat certain point over time, such as Serbs talking about the battle of Kosovo, everyone takes it to be true. The battle of Kosovo featured in addition to Serbs, other Slav people of the region, Germanic people, Hungarians and many others who went out to meet Turks in the biggest battle of the time. It is unfortunate that the Serbs use battle of Kosovo as their excuse to start wars and hate their neighbors, where they were involved in that battle with all their neighbors whom they hate so much. I wish for all Yugoslavs that one day they find it in their hearts to forgive each other, for their sake and for the sake of the entire Europe.
Ned Flanders, Brussels, Belgium

Battle of Kosovo is not lost by the Serbs (in reply to Ned Flanders). It was kind of a draw were both armies were massacred and both Kings dead. Being much larger Ottoman Empire easily reorganised an by the time took all of Serbia. You are also right that there were other countries involved by sending a military help to a Serbian army (Croatia, Bosnia, Hugary) but that was under Serbian command and insignificant to an entire Serbian army that was involved. Difference between Montenegro and Serbia is that Montenegro was the only Serbian land that Turks couldn't occupy in five century of their Balkan domination.
Kimberley Golubovic, Edinburgh

In spite of close ties between Montenegro and Serbia, the latter has so badly handled the breakdown of Yougoslavia that it is now in the dock, and seems to achieve nothing positive in the eyes of the international community. Serbia's past history dominates their thinking, creating misguided nationalism and bad decisions; its establishment is so impregnated by this mentality even to the point of protecting war criminals. Serbia is a long way from admitance to the European Union and so, there is no point for Montenegro to remain shackled politically that of a difficult Sebian cause, hence the vote for independence.
Mariusethi, Brussels

The symbolism of the Montenegrin cap as explained in your article is from the Serb point of view and experts on the subject, which I don't claim to be one, could tell you a very different story. This cap in its present design is centuries old, so to say that six yellow lines represent six cenuries of Turkish occupation, which ended just over a century ago, proves that some people are very relaxed with historical facts when they want to prove their point. The destinies of Montenegro and Serbia have been linked in many ways over the centuries, but Serbia's brotherly hug has on more than one occasion been a bit suffocating. Montenegro has a lot longer history of statehood than most present day countries, so to deny it its right to exist as a nation is not an act of love.
Milan Velasevic, London, U.K.

Watching the TV coverage in Belgrade (I am an expat Brit working here since 2003) one politician asked why Montenegro didn't settle for devolution like Wales and Scotland. What has Montenegro got, he asked, that Wales hasn't? If you take away the hype and the rakija fuelled jubillation, the answer in truth is nothing. They had very little to sustain independence and growth to start with. Now they have the cold wind of isolation to add to their troubles.
David Randall, Belgrade, Serbia

In response to David Randall, after spending the last 14 years working in the Balkans, and quite some time in Montenegro, this small country has one thing no other of its neighbours have. Put simply, it is the desire to shrug off the violent and oppresive past and look to the future. Its people and politicians have made great strides in the past few years and no doubt will continue to do so. It is a wondeful country - good luck for the future!
Nigel Moore, Chepstow, UK

As one who has been living in SW France for a dozen years, I appreciated your musing about the possible effect of putting brandy into oak casks. I believe, in fact, to have noticed a definitely beneficial, somewhat sedative effect in Armagnac as opposed to Cognac, which may be due to a different kind of wood in the two cases. On the other hand, the scientist within me strongly reminds me that the effect xould also be cuased by the different methods of distillation used. Perhaps you can have some extended tests run to determine tha matter.
Thomas Dunskus, Faleyras, France

As Mark says the Serbs and Montenegrins are essentially cousins but what should be said is that the Montenegrins don't want, along with Serbia, to be punished for the break up of Yugoslavia. If talks for Serbia to join the EU were still on the table the vote could have been different. Serbia is obviously going to remain in poverty for a long time while the Montenegrins have a new identity and a beautiful coastline for tourist development.
Francesca long, barcelona, Spain

Perhaps 30 million of Southern Slavs if united could mean something on European and World arena. Now, we have 5, perhaps 6, states that could be bought by Microsoft. The answer whose interests it serves is yours. Just a note: Slobo and the Serbs did not handle the matter thaey should. I hope my Slavic brothers learn the lesson. perhaps, there is a place in this world for a strong Southern Slavic state, or at least lobby.
Dr. Roma Zaroff,

To Dr. Roma Zaroff, In the era of globalisation and capitalism there is NO BROTHER. Your Slavic bothers (especially southern ones) got separated at huge costs in order to join some distant cousins (EU). Poles, Czechs and Slovaks "betrayed" their brothers, both Eastern and Southern Slavs and went to EU. I am sure your idea of creating a Southern Slavic state again, will be received with very much anger by those southern slavs who paid a heavy price jut to be free of each other.
Isa, Prishtina, Kosova

to dr Roma Zaroff: You have Southern Slavic lobby and it works, see Eurovision song contest!
L.S. Niseteo, Brussels, Belgium

hurray for montenegro. hurray for independence.
brett cox, indianapolis, indiana, usa

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