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Cover of the Italian weekly La Tribuna Illustrata from 1919, titled "Fighting near Podgorica between Montenegrin rebels and Serbian army"
Kingdom of Italy
Montenegrin Whites |
Kingdom of SCS
|Commanders and leaders|
Krsto Popović |
Đuro Drašković (sr)
Savo Raspopović (hr)
Marko Daković (sr) |
|Estimates vary from 1,500 to 5,000||As few as 500 to about 4,000|
|Casualties and losses|
|98 killed and wounded||30 killed|
The Christmas Uprising or Christmas Rebellion (Serbian: Божићна побуна, Božićna pobuna or Божићни устанак, Božićni ustanak) refers to an uprising led by the Zelenaši, in response to the Podgorica Assembly's claim of authority to unite the Kingdom of Montenegro with the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The uprising reached a climax in Cetinje on 7 January 1919, the day of Orthodox Christmas.
The catalyst for the uprising was the decision of the controversial Grand People's Assembly in Montenegro (The Podgorica Parliament) for unconditional unification of Montenegro with the Kingdom of Serbia. Following a questionable candidate selection process, unionist side (in favor of unification with Serbia) outnumbered the party favouring the preservation of Montenegrin statehood and a unification with the peoples of Yugoslavia in form of a confederation. The uprising was named after the Orthodox Christmas of January 7, 1919, because it erupted on the previous day, on Christmas Eve. The Unionists, with support from the Serbian Army, defeated the Greens near Cetinje. Many homes were destroyed, and a number of participants in the uprising were tried and imprisoned. Part of the rebels fled to Italy, while others retreated to the mountains, continuing a guerrilla resistance under the banner of the Montenegrin Army in Exile which lasted until 1929.
The military leader of the uprising was Krsto Zrnov Popović and its political leader was Jovan S. Plamenac. After it occurred, the dethroned King Nicholas I was forced to issue a call for peace, but several groups of rebels continued to resist until 1929, most notably the militia of Savo Raspopović.
Multiple historians acknowledge that a majority of Montenegrins supported the unification with other Southern Slavs on a federal basis after the World War I. However, support for unification did not involve the same degree of support for the Podgorica Assembly, since many of those who supported unification wanted Montenegro to join the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes as an autonomous entity, ultimately in a confederation rather than a centralized Serbian kingdom.
On December 22, 1918, Krsto Popović wrote a list of requests to Serbian general Dragutin Milutinović, asking for the termination of resolutions by the Podgorica Assembly. Milutinović replied to him the next day, alleging that he was responsible for his troops in Montenegro, but also promised to bring Popović's requests to the government in Belgrade.
On December 23, 1918, Milutinović's troops ended a smaller uprising in Rijeka Crnojevića and stopped an attack by the Greens on Nikšić. The next day, about 250 Serbian troops and 850 volunteers from nearby Montenegrin clans fought a formation of approximately 1,500 to 2,000 rebel Greens in Cetinje. On January 6, 1919, the Greens initiated a siege on Cetinje, killing some members of the Great National Assembly and killing some Whites. After that, the Greens experienced severe factionalism, in addition to facing the militarily stronger Whites.
International influence and reactions
As a result of the Podgorica Assembly, King Nicholas was exiled to the Kingdom of Italy, from which the uprising enjoyed substantial support. King Nicholas's Ministers asked for the Italian Expedition Corps in Albania to enter Montenegro, "in order for it to be liberated solely by Italian troops". A committee organized by Italian ethnographer Antonio Baldacci supported the Greens until at least 1921.
In late November 1918 during the Podgorica Assembly, Italian troops attempted to take control of the coastal areas of Montenegro under the guise of Entente troop movement, but got prevented from doing so.
In the spring of 1919, the United States sent Charles W. Furlong as an envoy from the Peace Commission to Montenegro. Furlong reported to The New York Times in an interview published on June 15, 1919, that the electors in the Podgorica Assembly acted as carpetbaggers did in the United States.
An initiative called the Inter-Allied Commission of Investigation monitored the Podgorica Assembly and the Bjelaši after the uprising. It included Louis Franchet d'Espèrey, as well as lieutenants from the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy. They recorded that there were as few as 500 unionist troops in Montenegro, and that they were not exclusively Serbian but from other constituents of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The commission also concluded from interviewing Greens held as prisoners that the uprising had been "caused by agents of King Nicholas I and supported by some emissaries from Italy."
Later in the twentieth century, the Christmas Uprising was subject to ideological emphasis in Montenegrin nationalism. In World War II, one of the earliest leaders of the Zelenaši, Sekula Drljević, invited the Italian occupation of Montenegro and collaborated with the Independent State of Croatia in order to break away from Yugoslavia.
Since Montenegro declared independence from Serbia in 2006, the Christmas Uprising has been memorialized on polar opposite ends of the Montenegrin historical conscious. In 1941, a memorial on the burial site of unionist Bjelaši was destroyed by the Italian occupation of Montenegro in Cetinje. As of 2017, a walkway was paved on the same burial site in Cetinje without any recognition to the Bjelaši. On 7 January 2008, on the 90th anniversary of the uprising, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Đukanović revealed a memorial statue for the Greens who were killed in the insurrection.
- Pavlović, Srđa (2008). Balkan Anschluss: The Annexation of Montenegro and the Creation of the Common South Slavic State. p. 166.
- Novak Adžić (January 6, 2018). "Portal Analitika: Božićni ustanak crnogorskog naroda 1919. godine (I)" (in Serbian). Retrieved May 15, 2018.
- Woodhouse, Edward (1920). Italy and Jugoslavia. The Gorham Press. p. 111.
- Živko Andrijašević. Istorija Crne Gore. (in Serbian) July 2015. p. 262.
- Novica Đurić (March 20, 2017). "Politika: Šetalište skriva grobnicu branilaca ujedinjenja sa Srbijom" (in Serbian).
- Predrag Tomović (January 7, 2010). "Radio Slobodna Evropa: Božićni ustanak izaziva kontroverze na 90. godišnjicu" (in Serbian). Retrieved May 15, 2018.
- Živko Andrijašević. Istorija Crne Gore. (in Serbian) July 2015. p. 261.
- Kenneth Morrison. Montenegro: A Modern History. I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd (2009). p. 44.
- Živojinović, Dragoljub: Pitanje Crne Gore i mirovna konferencija 1919 [The Issue of Montenegro and the 1919 Peace Conference], Belgrade 1992, p. 7. See Rastoder, Šerbo: Crna Gora u egzilu [Montenegro in Exile], Podgorica 2004.
- Srđan Rudić, Antonello Biagini (2015). Serbian-Italian Relations: History and Modern Times : Collection of Works. p. 146.
- Woodhouse, Edward (1920). Italy and Jugoslavia. The Gorham Press. p. 110.
- "Christmas uprising causing controversy on its 90th anniversary". Danas. Retrieved 27 January 2010.