Religious freedom prevails and the church is separate from the state. Three-quarters of the Montenegrin are Orthodox Christians and most of them are members of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Nearly one fifth of the population is Muslims (mainly Sunni), including most of the Albanian minority.
In Sandžak in the northeast, in the border area between Montenegro and Serbia, there is also a significant Slavic Muslim minority. There are also some Catholics and hundreds of Jews in the country.
A small part of the Orthodox had in 1993 re-established the independent Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which in 1920 had dissolved and joined the Serbian Orthodox. However, no other Orthodox Church has recognized the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
The powerful Serbian Orthodox Church has great influence in society but has a dispute with the Montenegrin Orthodox Church on legitimacy and property issues. Among other things, the Serbian Orthodox Church has been accused of confiscating and changing Montenegrin cultural heritage to strengthen its position. It has also been criticized for commenting and acting politically. For example, the Church took an active stance against the separation of Montenegro and Serbia in 2006 and was a strong opponent of a Montenegrin NATO membership (which nevertheless became a fact in 2017).
The Serbian Orthodox Church has also sharply distanced itself from the government’s proposal for a new religious law, which would mean that all churches and monasteries erected before 1918 joined the state and were seen as part of the Montenegrin cultural heritage. In addition, only Montenegrin citizens would be taught religion and religious communities would be forced to pay taxes. All this would mainly affect the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Leading Montenegrin politicians have expressed the hope that the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro will break with the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbia, with which it has close contacts, and perhaps even a joint Orthodox Church could be created in Montenegro. However, it is said to remain so far from pious hopes, as the Serbian Orthodox Church opposes both.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Montenegro, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
Top politician arrested
Former President of the now disbanded Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marović, is arrested in connection with the comprehensive corruption investigation in his hometown of Budva (see August 2015). He is the highest ranking politician arrested so far.
Quiet pride parade
13th of December
Hundreds of LGBTQ activists march through the streets of Podgorica in the country’s third pride parade. A large police raid means that no incidents occur as in previous years.
Invitation to NATO membership
At a meeting of the NATO defense ministry NATO’s foreign ministers in Brussels, Montenegro receives an official invitation to start negotiations on membership of the alliance. The political opposition in Montenegro, which conducted extensive demonstrations against the government in the autumn, demands that the country’s people be allowed to vote in a referendum. Russia is reacting strongly to the forthcoming NATO enlargement and is threatening with countermeasures.
Tear gas against protesters
The protests against the government that have been going on since the end of September take a violent turn as the police use tear gas against protesters in Podgorica to get them to leave their tent camp in front of Parliament. The government is answering for the first time the demands that it resign with its being legally elected and therefore intends to remain. Interior Minister Duško Marković says he has proof that the protesters have support from Russia and from nationalist circles in Serbia (the Serbian government would not be involved, however) with the aim of preventing a Montenegrin membership in NATO and the EU.
Visit by the Chief of NATO
In the midst of nationwide demonstrations against the government, NATO Chief Minister Jens Stoltenberg comes to Podgorica to try and assess on the spot whether Montenegro is ripe to join the defense alliance, including how far the country has come in the fight against corruption and in its security work. Prime Minister Ðukanović is convinced that Montenegro will receive an invitation to join at the end of the year. However, opposition to NATO is great in Montenegro, not least among the country’s large Serbian minority who still remember how NATO bombed Serbia during the 1999 Kosovo war.
Peaceful protests against the government
Thousands of people gather outside the Podgorica parliament building in a peaceful protest against Prime Minister Ðukanović and his government, accusing them of widespread corruption, undemocratic rule and electoral fraud. Behind the protests lies the Democratic Front, which brings together the largest opposition parties. The front calls for Ðukanović’s departure and calls on all members of the opposition to boycott parliamentary work until it has achieved its goal: free, democratic elections. It is also declared that peaceful protests will take place every day at 6.30 pm. Eventually, tent camps are being built outside the parliament building and demonstrations are being held in several locations in the country.
Montenegro on Russia’s black list
Russia places Montenegro on the list of countries from which it refuses to buy food in response to Montenegro supporting EU sanctions on Russia. However, Montenegro, which has had good relations with Russia, has very little trade with the country.
Mayor among several arrested for corruption
Police arrest Lazar Radjenović, the mayor of Budva’s tourist resort, for abusing his office and causing damage worth seven million euros on the city’s budget through corruption. Along with him, several of his associates, including a brother and daughter of the former President of the now disbanded Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marović, are arrested. As one of the requirements for entering into membership negotiations with Montenegro, the EU has the power to take action against corruption and organized crime. Many see the arrests as a step on the road, while others believe that it is primarily a power struggle within the ruling Democratic Socialist Party. In September, another high ranking member of DPS is arrested: Žarko Pavićević, who until 2014 was mayor of the city of Bar.