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Montenegrin’s – Their Albanian Origin

Slavic invasions certainly decreased the enormous territory of Illyria, which according to
APPIAN (The Foreign Wars Ill. 1.1) extended from Istri (modern Danube) to as far
as Chaonia and Thesproti (precisely, Ambracia bay). A large portion of the
northern Illyrian population shifted farther south in the rocky mountains of
northern Albania, where their culture and ethnic identity survive today, an Illyrian
identity which is represented by the modern Albanians.

As Prince Nicholas of Vasoyevich states in his notes:

‘... High Albania is a perfect natural Fortress that no power has ever been able to
subdue or Conquer ‘. However, a considerable number of the Illyrian population did not
move, but stayed in their territories for centuries. This population came to withstand
Slavization up to the last few centuries. This includes the population of Herzegovina
and Montenegro, who even are linguistically Slavic, although in many
anthropological and ethnological aspects they still retain the old substance of their
ties with Albanians (the last Illyrians not assimilated) and the evidence is more than

Medieval chronicles speak of a Albanian nation stretching from highlands of

Herzegovina and up to Aetolia in south. A large number of foreign geographers have
specified that the border of Albania touched present day Herzegovina. Thus, the
prominent Danish geographer Condrad Malte Brun (1755-1826) writes that: “No
geographer has determined the extent of Arnaoutlik, a country that borders on
Rascia, Macedonia and Bosnia”.

‘The country now called Albania is difficult of definition. It was at first confined to
the little district of Albanopolis,* (now Albassan) in Southern Illyricum, afterwards
called New Epirus….so that in the present day it borders to the N. upon Bosnia, to
the E. upon Macedonia and Thessaly, to the S. upon Acaruania and the Ambracian
Gulf, to the W. upon the lonian Sea and the Adriatic‘, says Thomas S.Hughes.
Meanwhile, James Henry Skeene gives almost the same line description:

‘Their country extends from the frontier of the Austrian territory of the
Montenegro Cattaro round, Which may be considered an independent state, and,
following the ridges Which Unite to Mount Scardus it, it reaches the Herzegovina,
while it is bounded on the south by the river DRINO ‘.

These geographers that underline the fact that Albania’s borders stretched until
Herzegovina have not done only geographical level descriptions. The basis of these
claims, have been supported by the fact that culturally, the population of these countries
(Montenegro and Herzegovina) are equivalent with Albanians.

Robert Elsie & Janice Mathie-Heck in their book ‘Songs of the frontier warriors‘
underline the epic character of these legendary songs of Northern Albania, an epic which
also characterizes the populations (today Slavicized) of Montenegro and Herzegovina.
Not only this, but also other aspects of collective behavior of Montenegrins are similar to
those of Albanians. Edmund Spencer says:

‘In personal appearance the mountaineers of Tchernegora rather resemble their

neighbors in Albania, than their brethren in Servia; there is the same nervous, lofty
form, animated expression, and a certain degree of saucy audacity in their manners
and bearing; they have also imbibed from their neighbors many of their customs and
manners, particularly the belief in retributive justice, and that blood can only be
expiated by blood, consequently sanguinary conflicts frequently break out between
different tribes‘.

Even, one of the typical Albanian dances, the Sword Dance (which stems directly from
ancient Pyrrhic dance that has its roots in Albanian Epirus. See the related article: also played in Montenegro and Bosnia.
Spencer continues:

‘The Athenian dance described by Homer, although somewhat modified, is still the
dance of this people— the ” Kolo.” Even the ” Pyrrhic” may be seen danced here, as
well as in Tchernegoria, Bosnia and Albania.‘

The marked distinction between the Serbs and the Montenegrins was pointed out by Prof.
Savo Birkovic in a recent work: ‘0 postanku i rasvoju Crnogorske nacje, Graficki
Zavod, Titograd, 1980. M.E. Durham (1863-1944), who traveled widely in Albania and
Montenegro and devoted much time to the study of Montenegrin and Albanian tribes,
came to the conclusion that the Montenegrin is not so much a Slav as a Slavicized
descendant of the older inhabitants, i.e., of Vlachs, and Albanians (see Some Tribal
Origins, Laws, and Customs in the Balkans, London, 1928, PP. 13-59). That the
Montenegrin tribes were originally Albanian tribes was already indicated by K. Jirecek,
“Albanien in der Vergangenheit,” Illyrisch-Albanische Forschungen, (Munchen und
Leipzig 1916, p. 69).

Perhaps of particular importance is the anthropological aspect of similarity between

Albanians and Montenegrins (Slavicized Albanians). Carleton Coon (1904-1981)
president of the ‘American Association of Physical Anthropologists’ underlines the
fact that:

‘The Montenegrins, who are the tallest people in Europe … are linguistically Serbs,
but there can be no question that they are to a large extent Slavicized Albanians; the
Cultural Continuity between the two Peoples is striking, the only real differences
being those of language and religion ‘.


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1. Appian, The Foreign Wars
2. Nicolay, Prince of the Vasoyevich: ‘Brief Information on the Tribes of High Albania,
in particular on the Independent Mountains’
3. Condrad Malte Brun ‘Universal geography: or A description of all parts of the world’
4. Thomas Smart Hughes ‘TRAVELS IN GREECE AND ALBANIA’ 1830
5. James Henry Skeene ‘The Albanians’ 1848
6. Edmund Spencer ‘Travels in European Turkey, in 1850: through Bosnia, Servia,
7. Savo Birkovic ‘0 postanku i rasvoju Crnogorske nacje, Graficki Zavod, Titograd, 1980
8. Edith Durham ‘Some Tribal Origins, Laws, and Customs in the Balkans’, London,
9. K. Jirecek, “Albanien in der Vergangenheit,” Illyrisch-Albanische Forschungen,
(Munchen und Leipzig 1916, p. 69).
10. Carleton Stevens Coon ‘The races of Europe’ 1939