A regulated religious life in Montenegro has made public debate mostly focus on the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.
The Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral (MPC) is an institution that, according to many public opinion surveys, the citizens of Montenegro trust the most. For this reason, the attention of the public is conditioned by the attention of the political parties, which are aware that a large number of the electorate constitutes of the SPC’s believers in Montenegro.
The Government and the ruling parties are the representatives of the first narrative, which moves to two directions based on two arguments. First is the legal one, and it refers to the regulation of proprietary and other relationships with religious communities. The second argu- ment is the political one, and it has reached its peak during the parliamentary debate when they discussed more identity issues than the very purpose of the Law
The Democratic Party of Socialsts (DPS) has strongly defended in its statements the adoption of the Law, but the Law also gain support from several Montenegrin nationalistic circles, close to one part of the government, and the opposition, such as the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro (SDP). They have been covered in the media close to the government. Maybe the most extreme example of such a narrative was an article by Milorad Pustahija in the form of an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Markovic. In his article, he made an analogy between the today’s situation in Montenegro and the Bloody litany in Belgrade, which occurred before World War II when the police beat up on the clergymen who protested against The Concordat Between the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Vatican. However, the most visible articulation of discontent with the whole atmosphere created by the litanies was a march in Cetinje, where the song celebrating Quislings’ formations from WWII was sung. In this situation, the ruling regime in Montenegro directs the attention to foreign meddling, with the most visible one from Serbia. Thus, most of the reactions do not refer to those who protest in Montenegro, but to the destructive role of primarily official Serbia, and then its nationalistic opposition.
This narrative has also two directions of arguments – the legal and the political ones. The first points out to the unlawfulness of the Law which undermines the Constitution, because, according to this narrative, it introduces an administrative procedure as a replacement to regular judicial proceedings. This argument’s line resonated internationally, particularly in the West, because they are not immune to the topic of nationalization of private property, as the supporters of the Church explained the adoption of the Law. The political arguments represent the culmination of the open issues of the Montene- grin identity and the politically divided majority of the Orthodox community in Montenegro.
Endangered Serbian people. Serbian national interest. Traitorous nature of the regime in Montenegro. These are the main messages of the Church and its political logistics from the Democratic Front party and Serbia. The narrative is supported by the media such as IN4S and Borba, as well as almost all dailies in Serbia, with the religious issue in Montenegro dominating the front pages. Protest marches in the form of litanies have been held one in every several days.
Apart from religious symbols, services, and other religious songs, different slogans can also be heard at the litanies, but the most frequent one reads Milo, you thief, we don’t give you shrines, which has gone around the world as a massive Internet activity. Likewise, a video from a Chinese school circulates online, in which a professor from Serbia manipulated the children to shout the mentioned slogan. Also, it is chanted Milo, you Shqiptar (a derogatory term for Albanians) we don’t give you shrines and Only Unity Saves the Shrines, as a sort of paraphrase of a famous nationalistic catchword. This narrative follows the clear negation of the Montenegrin nation through messages that Montenegro is a Serbian Sparta, the crown of Serbhood, and so on… The social media have been flooded with groups, such as Srbska cast (Serbian Honor), Crnogorski vremeplov (Montenegrin Time Machine), as well as posts of activists Marko Milacic and Vladislav Dajkovic, who have bigger support in Serbia than in Montenegro. Particularly are visible their connections and cooperation with popular Serbian right-wing activists, who have organized protests all over the region. Even though we talk about political marginal players in Montenegro, they have succeeded to move a certain number of citizens for action. Likewise, a flash mob of drawing tricolor around Montenegro, initiated by them, has had a great resonance.
It presents the current situation as a perfect storm created by Serbian and Montenegrin government for the electoral campaign. It is supported by a part of the Montenegrin opposition (The Democrats and URA) and inde- pendent media in Montenegro.
The third narrative has been unexpectedly supported by a part of the MCP, due to a present political division in Serbia and the Serbian Church, occurred from different approaches to resolving the Kosovo issue. One part of the Church, headed by Metropolitan Amfilohije, strongly opposes any dialogue with Kosovo, which may lead to the recognition of independence on the part of Serbia. The conflict was spread to the situation in Montenegro when the Metropolitan and people close to him thwarted the plan of the President of Serbia to visit believers and protestors in Montenegro on Christmas Eve. This gave birth to a new narrative among a part of the public in Serbia, which accuses Metropolitan Amfolohije of backdoor negotiations with the Montenegrin government on some sort of crawling independence and autocephaly.
The third narrative attempts to present the litanies as a movement of rebellion, which does not have an ethnic sign. Certain Montenegrin symbols stand out, while some Serbian symbols try to be present as Montenegrin ones. The narrative is personalized by father Gojko Perovic, rector of the Seminary of Saint Peter of Cetinje.