Montenegro emerged as a sovereign state after just over 55% of the population opted for independence in a May 2006 referendum.
The vote heralded the end of the former Union of Serbia and Montenegro - itself created only three years earlier out of the remnant of the former Yugoslavia.
The EU-brokered deal forming it was intended to stabilise the region by settling Montenegrin demands for independence from Serbia and preventing further changes to Balkan borders.
The same deal also contained the seeds of the union's dissolution. It stipulated that after three years the two republics could hold referendums on whether to keep or scrap it. Montenegro opted for the latter.
A narrow majority voted to dissolve the union with Serbia
Montenegro last experienced independence nearly 90 years earlier. It was absorbed into the newly-formed Yugoslavia at the end of World War I.
There were fears that the 2006 independence vote could lead to unrest in the areas of Montenegro where ethnic Serbs, who make up roughly a third of the population, formed the majority and strongly opposed separation from Serbia. There was backing for independence from most ethnic Montenegrins and ethnic Albanians living in Montenegro.
The pro-independence camp led by Prime Minister Djukanovic argued that the association with Serbia was holding the republic back, not least with its bid for EU membership.
As the successor state to the union, Serbia inherited its seat at the UN and other international organisations. The newly-independent Montenegro has since been admitted to the UN in its own right.
The country officially applied to join the EU on 15 December 2008.
Another important milestone on Montenegro's path to EU membership was reached towards the end of 2009, when Montenegrin citizens were granted the right to visa-free travel within the Schengen zone.
Montenegro took another major step forward in full membership of the international community when it agreed terms in December 2011 that should allow it to join the World Trade Organisation the following year.
Montenegro, which means "Black Mountain", borders Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo and Albania. About half of it is covered in thick forest. The tiny republic encompasses an Adriatic coastline, lowlands and high mountain ranges. The Tara River canyon is the deepest and longest in Europe.
- Full name: Republic of Montenegro
- Population: 632,000 (UN 2011)
- Administrative capital: Podgorica
- Area: 13,812 sq km (5,333 sq miles)
- Main religions: Christianity, Islam
- Languages: Serbian, Montenegrin
- Life expectancy: 73 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: euro
- Main export: Aluminium
- GNI per capita: $6,750 (World Bank 2010)
- Internet domain:.me and .cg.yu
- International dialling code: (+382)
President: Filip Vujanovic
Filip Vujanovic, a pro-independence candidate and an ally of the prime minister, has been president since May 2003. He was re-elected in April 2008.
Prime minister: Igor Luksic
Igor Luksic was appointed to the post of prime minister in December 2010, replacing Milo Djukanovic, who had led Montenegro for almost 20 years.
Igor Luksic is expected to continue Milo Djukanovic's pro-Western course
Mr Djukanovic had resigned abruptly several weeks earlier, saying he had fulfilled his task of bringing Montenegro closer to membership in the European Union and NATO. He insisted the move was not related to international pressure over his alleged criminal past.
Mr Djukanovic said he would remain at the helm of his ruling Democratic Party of Socialists.
A close ally and protege of Mr Djukanovic, Mr Lukic was finance minister in the previous government.
Presenting his cabinet, he said his government's priority would be to seek "full European integration". His appointment as PM came only weeks after the EU decided to grant Montenegro formal status as a candidate country.
Milo Djukanovic led Montenegro through the turmoil of the 1990s Balkan wars and the postwar quest for independence from Serbia, which was finalized in a referendum in 2006.
Veteran leader Milo Djukanovic
In February 2008 he returned to politics from a two-year retirement to become PM for a fifth time, replacing ally Zeljko Sturanovic, who resigned on health grounds. He was re-elected by a landslide in parliamentary elections in March 2009.
Mr Djukanovic announced a series of reforms aimed at gaining rapid EU accession, as well as plans to push for membership in Nato
Previously, the 45-year-old Mr Djukanovic was in power without a break - as prime minister or president of Montenegro - between 1991 and 2006, and he spearheaded Montenegro's successful campaign for independence.
His retirement from active politics in October 2006 came as a surprise, coming only months after a referendum vote in favour of breaking Montenegro's union Serbia that was widely seen as Mr Djukanovic's personal achievement.
Press freedom is guaranteed and media laws provide for the transformation of state-funded RTCG into a public broadcaster. But some media watchdogs have pointed to ongoing political influence over editorial policies.
In 2004 the killing of Dusko Jovanovic, the editor of the opposition daily Dan, sparked an outcry. Demonstrators accused the authorities of complicity.
Overseas donors have encouraged the growth of independent media. But commercial operators compete for a small pool of advertising revenue. The market - with dozens of private radio and TV stations - is said to be saturated.
By June 2011 there were 303,480 internet users (Internetworldstats).
- TV Montenegro - state-funded, operates two networks and a satellite channel
- TV IN - private
- ntv Montena - private
- TV Elmag - private
- Pink M - Montenegrin offshoot of Belgrade-based network
- MNNews - private, English-language pages