Delicious food, breath-taking Adriatic coast, hospitality and leisurely lifestyle – those are the things that best describe the smallest Balkan country with a total population of around 600,000.
As a truly wonderful place, Montenegro is mostly inhabited by Montenegrins and Serbs. The biggest minority are the Albanians, but you might run into Croats and Italians, as well.
Beautiful, old, and mysterious, Montenegro has a lot to be proud of.
The whole country is adorned with mountains, coastal regions, historical cities, and of course: famous Montenegrins.
Its territory is not an “island paradise”, but rather a mountainous land with a beautiful coast.
There is a stereotype created around Montenegrins, that paints them in a negative light. That stereotype revolves around Montenegrins being lazy, which is a topic of many jokes and stories.
However, spending time with the locals will teach you the opposite (in fact they are anything but lazy!).
They do enjoy relaxing over a beverage during the summer (yeah, and who doesn’t?). Sitting next to the water and enjoying the seaside with a friend (or a family member) is probably one of the best things in the world.
In the day-time, they usually drink espresso with milk, which goes under the name of “Deutsch”, (for some reason).
At night, the tables are filled with smoked meat, usually accompanied by some sort of alcohol, (rakija for example).
In this article, I’ll share with you some information about some of the most well-known Montenegrins of all time!
By the end of it (I hope), you may feel inclined to visit this amazing and culturally rich part of the world!
1. Petar Petrović Njegoš
Seems fair to start the list with the most well-known person from Montenegro, Petar Petrović Njegoš (or simply known as Njegoš).
He played an important role in the history and the creation of the modern state of Montenegro, while also leaving behind notable works (in the fields of literature and philosophy).
Njegoš comes from the noble Montenegrin family Petrović-Njegoš, which ruled Montenegro for about three centuries until 1916.
The Montenegrin Prince-Bishop (“Vladika”) Njegoš ruled close to 2 decades (in the first half of the 19th century).
Njegoš was determined to modernize the small state often described as primitive by German and other western newspapers (back in those days).
During his reign, he erected the famous “Biljarda” fortress in the former capital of Cetinje, named after his favorite game – billiards (pools). The Vladika dedicated a whole room just for one pool-table.
He approached politics with Pan-Serbian and Pan-Slavic ideology, plotting to unite the Serbian countries and liberate them from the Ottomans.
He had close ties with Russia, to which he paid a visit to (on a couple of occasions), and where he got inspired to modernize his homeland.
He persuaded the Montenegrins to stop wearing the fez ( traditional Turkish cap) and introduced the kapa, whose design portrayed motifs from Serbian culture. The kapa was common among the citizens of the coastal city, Kotor.
He still is an inspiring figure for people in Montenegro and Serbia (even more than a century later).
Vladika’s political and literary work shows his affiliation to the Serbian state. His work in literature is also admired by literary critics.
“Mountain Wreath” (Gorski Vijenac) inspired a number of Serbian revolutionaries, such as Gavrilo Princip, who according to some sources, knew this piece by heart.
Lots of people still quote Njegoš (on a daily basis) in Montenegro.
2. Dejan Savićević
Dejan Dejo Savicević is a name that provokes mixed emotions in every football fan across the former Yugoslavia.
The former football player was quick on the football field, he was a great technician, and he was also a joker in front of the TV cameras.
He was born in the capital city of Podgorica. He first started playing for his local team “Budućnost Podgorica” (“Future Podgorica”).
He was part of the “Red Star” team (from Belgrade), which won both the Champions’ League and the International Cup in 1991 .
He then played some 6-7 years in Milan, Italy, after which his career came to an end.
The football player spent some time as a coach of the national team of Serbia and Montenegro (Montenegro voted for independence from the Union in 2006 and became well, independent).
3. Vlado Georgiev
Vlado Georgiev may be one of the most distinguished musicians in the Balkans. He has a very “interesting” background.
Vlado was born in Croatia to a Bulgarian father from Serbia and a Serbian mother from Bosnia (that’s what I meant by interesting).
The family moved to a beautiful town on the Adriatic coast, Herceg Novi when he was just a baby.
Vlado grew up there and finished high school, after which he went to Belgrade (capital of Serbia) to continue his musical career.
Now, he is considered to be one of the best pop singers in the whole Balkan Peninsula.
He released his first album in 2001, then another one in 2003. After the second album he waited a decade before publishing his third and a final one.
Even though he only published 3 albums, he did extensive work as a producer.
Furthermore, he was a very harsh opponent to the Milo Djukanović regime and was recently prohibited from entering Montenegrin territory due to several disputes with public officials (he was saying negative stuff about politicians that he views as corrupt).
4. Mima Karadžić
When you think about films made in Montenegro, Mima is probably the first person most people think about.
Mima Karadžić plays a major role in the Montenegrin and Yugoslav cinematography (he has played over 100 characters).
Mima worked on several personal projects, such as the monodrama “First Wedding Night” (“Prva bračna noć”). He also did some commercial films such as “The Pearl of Bojana” (“Biser Bojane”).
Born in Bijelo Polje, in the north of the state, the Montenegrin actor spent most of his youth in Nikšić.
He soon went to study Dramatic Arts in Serbia, where he built his career. That is why many people also consider him to be a Serbian actor.
An interesting and very versatile actor, Mima is popular among all generations.
He has never been married and he is now 65. Because of this, fans and media often refer to him as the eternal bachelor.
5. Milo Đukanović
The current president of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic is a story in itself, as his time in the office feels like a period in history (He’s been in charge of Montenegro since 1991).
You can probably find dozens of articles about him, as his career is marred by major controversies, ups and downs, protests, and so on.
The latest one (erupting in 2019) resulted in his defeat in the elections. He lost power after being actively present in the government for 3 long decades.
The only reason he just has to be on this list is due to his omnipresence in Montenegrin day-to-day life (He has been present in it for the last 3 decades!).
He is considered to be the father of Montenegrin neo-nationalism and separatism from Serbia, which was a traditional form of governing in the Adriatic state.
Milo led the referendum for independence in 2006 when Montenegro left the union with Serbia.
Even though he lost the elections, he still serves as the President (he lost the elections for the Montenegrin parliament) .
6. Mirko Vučinić
The former football player started his career in his hometown football club Sutjeska (in Niksić, where he lived), from where he was transferred to Lecce, kicking off his career in Italy.
He got to spend 14 wonderful years living and playing in Italy. He played for some of the biggest clubs in the world (including Roma and Juventus).
After a while, he took off to the UAE, signing an undisclosed contract with the football club Al Jazeera.
He retired at the age of 35 to pursue his career in golf. He is part of the golf club Princess Milica of Montenegro, based in Tivat, Montenegro.
He played for the youth national team of Serbia and Montenegro and was unable to play for the senior squad due to an injury at the World Cup 2006.
He is still one of the most well-known football players of Montenegrin descent.
7. Sava Kovačević
Even though Sava Kovačević is a Yugoslav, he is also a Montenegrin national hero and one of the most significant figures in the history of Montenegro.
However, it was only after his death that he was proclaimed the People’s Hero of Yugoslavia, (the second highest military award).
Sava joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia when he was very young, and with time became one of the most prominent communists in Montenegro.
He fought bravely during the Second World War, leading the uprising against the Italian fascist army which had occupied the Montenegrin land. He also served as a division commander during that time.
His life is accompanied by all kinds of stories, funny and heroic. The famous revolutionary was involved in a myriad of activities that could have gotten him arrested.
He often gave headaches to the Party because he never saw the Montenegrins as a separate nation from the Serbs, a very unpopular position for a communist party member.
8. Predrag Mijatović
The retired football player gave almost every Serbian and Montenegrin a heart attack in 1998 when he hit the bar at the World Cup (held in France).
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) played the Netherlands when Mijatović had the chance to score from a penalty kick.
He hit the crossbar so hard, that half of the population started to cry while the bar was still shaking.
The nation still laughs about that penalty shot, saying that the crossbar may still be shaking.
He made a decent international career, playing for Valencia, Real Madrid (where he scored 29 goals). He started his career in the Montenegrin team “Budućnost”.
The Montenegrin led Real Madrid to its first Champions League title after more than 3 decades, defeating Juventus (He was the sole goal scorer in that game).
9. Slavko Vraneš
Slavko Vraneš is an astounding former basketball player of remarkable proportions.
He was quite a sight to behold with his 7.6 feet (231 cm) in height as he was one of the tallest players in the world.
He was a decent player, big and quiet, with his height being (by far) his strongest attribute.
After spending most of his career in the Montenegrin and Serbian league, he had his chance to play in the big league – the NBA. The Knicks drafted him but waived him goodbye after a couple of months. He then had a 10-day contract with Portland, but that was it.
Soon he went to Serbia and played for “Red Star” for a while. He also played for the national team of Montenegro.
10. Danka Kovinić
Danka Kovinić is a Montenegrin tennis player, born in Cetinje, a small place that used to serve as the royal capital (“prijestonica”), and which is the present official residence of the President of Montenegro.
Her career-high was being the 46th best player in the world. The tennis player takes active participation in the grand slam tournaments like US Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon, French Open.
She has booked two wins in her career against top 10 players, Roberta Vinci from Italy and Belinda Bencic representing Switzerland. She has made around 1.7 million dollars in her tennis career.
11. Katarina Bulatović
Katarina Kaća Bulatović is a retired handball player, a real international team leader who has won a plethora of trophies and awards.
She was born in Serbia, where she also started her career.
She played for the national team of Serbia and Montenegro, then for Serbia (for two years) after which she decided to switch sides and wear the Montenegrin national team jersey.
Her player career with the Montenegrin team was very successful. The girls won the 2012 European Handball Championship (that year the Championship was held in Serbia).
They also took second place in the 2012 Summer Olympics. In both deciding games, Bulatović took the ball in her hands and scored 56 and 53 goals, respectively.
Katarina has five EHF Championship titles.
12. Who See
The most well-known rappers, the hip-hop duo “Who See” comes from the beautiful coastal city of Kotor.
The guys (Dedduh and Noyz) are not only famous in their own state. Their music is extremely popular across the whole Balkan region.
They started their career in 2008 when they performed at the opening of a local festival.
The group was formed earlier, in 2000, when Dedduh and Noyz recorded their first demo – “Puff by Puff” (“Dim po dim”).
They are active in their solo careers and collaborate with Serbian rappers, as well as others.
They represented Montenegro in the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden, back in 2013 .
Their last album came out in 2017.
13. Veljko Bulajić
Veljko Bulajić is another inspiring person of Montenegrin descent. He is one of the best film directors that Yugoslavia had to offer, especially when it came to making films about Partisans.
These movies were very popular in Yugoslavia, depicting the heroic battles of the South Slavs for their liberty and creation of a joint state.
He and his brother co-wrote the best film of that time, “The Battle of Neretva” (“Bitka na Neretvi”) . The film starred Orson Walles, as well as some other prominent actors.
“Kozara” is another great film created by Veljko Bulajić.
He was born in a village near Nikšić, in central Montenegro, and had joined the Partisan resistance movement against Italy at the age of 15.
Soon, he and his family would get wounded in battle (and later imprisoned). After the war, he was situated in Zagreb, Croatia, where he found his passion for film.
His brother, famous screenwriter Stevan Bulajić, was imprisoned at Goli Otok (a political prison island in Yugoslavia) after publishing an article criticizing the communist government for their consumerist behavior.
Famous People Who Are Of Montenegrin Descent
The Montenegrins hold special bonds with the family, their origin, or how they like to say: their roots. Almost every family has a very detailed family tree going back generations.
Due to their special family bonds, the Montenegrins consider those who descend from the state equally Montenegrin as the ones living in the state. They cherish each member of the tribe equally.
Here is a list of famous personas descending from Montenegro who are still alive in 2020:
- Mila Jovovich (Jovović, American actress);
- Gregg Popovich (Popović, NBA coach);
- Novak Djoković (Serbian tennis player);
- Marina Abramović (Serbian artist).