MON, 31 JAN 1994 18:22:28 GMTInterview: The Prince Nikola Petrovic Njegos
Summary: The Montenegrin heir to the throne speaks about his work in Montenegro, the war, Europe and Yugoslavia, Montenegro and Serbdom...
The first and (so far) last king of Montenegro was named Nikola. He ruled from 1860 to 1918. Practically, he ruled to 1916 when he fled to France where he died in 1921, and by the decisions of what is known as the Assembly of Podgorica when Montenegro was annexed to Serbia, he and the dynasty were forbidden to return to the country and all their property was confiscated. Seventy years passed before Montenegro remembered Nikola again. At the beginning of 1990 his mortal remains were transferred from San Remo and buried at Cetinje. Montenegro then learned that it also had a heir to the throne, Nikola II Petrovic Njegos, a likeable and unconventional architect from Paris. In contrast to most princes from the former communist countries, this one expressed no desire to assume the throne - he remained outside the sphere of politics and established a Biennial of Fine Arts in Cetinje. Everything was conceived at the European level, but then the war came... During the Montenegrin invasion of Dubrovnik he wrote a letter of protest to Bulatovic and the republican leadership which he has not been forgiven for to this very day. In Paris, he established a federation, the "Izbor" ("Choice") for extending legal assistance to refugees from the territory of the former SFRY and recently, in Podgorica the humanitarian organization "Montenegro", with an already secured cargo of medicaments worth DM 800 thousand. We met at the headquarters of the Biennial in Cetinje. He immediately asked about the media, the "Monitor", "Vreme", "Borba"... From his briefcase he took out a photostat copy of the front page of the "Feral" on which Tudjman and Milosevic are naked and embraced, commenting with a smile: "Right in the bull's eye?"...
AIM: The road you have traversed from artistic to humanitarian involvement in Montenegro symbolically reflects the essence of what befell the territory of the former Yugoslavia in that period. How did it affect you?
PRINCE NIKOLA: I didn't come here with any political project, but only with the wish to renew links with my homeland. My only motive was to find my roots, my ancestors. It is a story of love for Montenegro which had been cut off for all those decades. I have renewed those links, primarily cultural and humanitarian ones, because I am not a politician. As I have reiterated on a number of occasions - I am not interested in politics. I search for things which unite people and not those that separate them. My involvement is simple. Since the beginning of the war a destructive process has been in play. Certain groups in power have divided the country as they could not divide the power. They have divided the country and caused the war which has taken hundreds of thousands of human lives, mostly civilians, women and children of all nationalities.
That is an unforgivable crime and those who have provoked it have to answer for it. Having in mind this destructive process I tried to do something quite contrary - to work for construction, peace and dialogue. The message I wish to take from Montenegro is a message of openness to others, a message of humaneness and culture. I am preoccupied with the current complex situation, shocked at the madness and horror which we are constantly being showered with. I have realized that my duty is to try to oppose that disaster. That is the reason for my decision to continue with my cultural and humanitarian engagement, as such communications with people are food for every society.
AIM: How do you, as a European, not only by birth and place of residence, by also by sensibility, see the role of the "old lady" in the Yugoslav drama?
PRINCE NIKOLA: I will say only two words, words that are often used and express the general feeling of the whole of Europe - an impotent observer. All of us who have that "European feeling", and I know that many people here, in the former Yugoslavia also have it, we all, therefore, suddenly realize that the so praised and dreamed of Europe lacks logical behaviour, harmony and struggle. All great and beautiful things of civilization have come into being through struggle and it has to be so this time also. A lot of energy, time and dedicated men will be needed, men who will fight for it in order to create it . Europe will not be born in an office in Strasbourg - it will be born because the people who live there want it. I believe in this and do not think that Europe as such is an end unto itself. This is the way for mankind, little by little, to face the problems which are the problems of the entire planet. We are at the threshold of the 21th century and cannot confine ourselves only to what is going on in our own back yard. The idea of Europe is to surpass all those borders, geographical, religious, racial, national ones ....
AIM: While the old Yugoslavia , the SFRY, existed, you declared yourself as a Yugoslav. Do you still feel one, now, when that name is associated with a much narrower space, not only in territorial terms?
PRINCE NIKIOLA : Yes, I am a Yugoslav, in that spiritual sense, in the sense of the idea of Yugoslavism. That is the idea of cooperation among people who speak the same language, who practically have a symmetrical history, who have known painful and hard times. In my opinion, the history of the Yugoslav peoples is not a thing of the past - it is still ahead, it has to be created in its every part. I think that this Yugoslavia of today is false, because it is based on a nationalistic project. It is quite different from the Yugoslavia which based its idea on the link between the South Slavs, deeply respecting all their differences - cultural, religious and traditional ones. For me, that was the real Yugoslavia, and what represents it best are all these mixed marriages and the people who are hardest hit by this situation. Also, the people in Sarajevo who are defending themselves, who are defending their desire and need to live together.
AIM: Judging by the ever more frequent indications from Belgrade, Pale and Knin, this latest Yugoslavia will not last long either - it is only, they say, a transitional stage in the creation of an alliance of Serbian states. How does in your opinion, Montenegro figure in all this?
PRINCE NIKOLA: As far as the status of Montenegro is concerned, only the Montenegrins themselves can answer that question. Only they know their identity. I personally think that Montenegro should not be an accomplice of the policy pursued in the name of Serbia. The connexions between Montenegro and Serbia are old and traditional. Many Montenegrins have relatives in Belgrade, and many citizens of Belgrade are Montenegrin by origin. I was not referring to that. I differentiate between Serbdom, Serbian dignity, its freedom - loving traditions and the present regime which I can call nothing but an "ethnic mafia". It has legalized sick nationalism as the only measure of values so that all who have remained outside that clan have found themselves in an unbearable situation. It is my opinion that the integration of Montenegrins into Serbdom is unfeasible, as I don't know a single Montenegrin who would be willing to sacrifice his own state.
Federations may be created, Yugoslav or Balkan ones, even European ones, but they have to respect the rights of the Montenegrins, their traditions and history. If we proceed from this I see no reasons for the Montenegrins to join any federation that would negate their very existence. This is the essential issue for me, and no matter how much I am in favour of a democratic federation which would reciprocally respect rights, I am just as opposed to the Alliance being prepared, which is based on force and violence.
AIM: The divisions around the nation, church, state, which are shaking Montenegro are arousing fear in many people of possible war in this piece of ex-Yugoslavia too. What do you think about this?
PRINCE NIKOLA: As far as I know Montenegrins, the possibility of a civil war seems impossible to me. I do not see how we could kill one another. I think that extremism on both sides should be avoided. This is also true of what is going on in Bosnia. Is there anything worse: newly-drawn borders, destroyed communities, people shut up in cities... Yes, that is the worst. Therefore, the most important thing for Montenegro is to avoid a disaster. The citizens of Montenegro must exhibit solidarity. They must not allow this solidarity to fall short on the pretext that someone is a Catholic, a Moslem, etc. It is important for all those who consider Montenegro their homeland and see themselves as belonging to it, to know that it will bring much good to them, if they know how to preserve it. That is the main thing - the rest is politics. I hope that the majority of the citizens of Montenegro will take the road of peace and democracy, and that is what I pray for to God every day.That is the only way for Montenegro to survive.