Primary Documents - Lazare Muskovitch on Montenegro's Conduct of the War, 13 January 1916

King Nicholas of Montenegro Reproduced below is an account given by Lazare Muskovitch, the Montenegro Prime Minister, of his country's experiences having taken the decision to enter the war on the side of the Entente Powers.

In particular Muskovitch was at pains to state that at no point did his country seek to negotiate a secret treaty with Austria, but that she fought to the bitter end.

Click here to read a brief summary of Montenegro's role in the war.

Lazare Muskovitch on Montenegro's Entry into the War

When Montenegro entered the war on the side of the Allies she was promised everything necessary for the army, and also for the civil population, because even in ordinary times they imported wheat.

Russia and France were to furnish supplies, but, unfortunately, this promise could not be carried out.  They did what they could, but it was much less than Montenegro needed, alike in arms, artillery, and munitions, and, above all, in food.

Montenegro was given the task of protecting the rear of the Serbian army, and its battalions defended the Sandjak frontier with such success that on this side the Serbians were given time to retire.

But when the Serbians were unexpectedly obliged to fall back on Montenegro and Albania, their arrival precipitated events.  The Montenegrins had still some supplies, but with 120,000 to 130,000 mouths to feed, and with soldiers as well as civil population arriving in the country famished and denuded of everything, it was necessary to provide for their subsistence.

Many times the Montenegrin soldiers did not receive food for a whole week, and when they did the ration was only half a pound a day, for the most part maize flour, and not baked bread.  They were very dejected, discontented, and fatigued.  Montenegro had already informed the Foreign Ministers that it would be attacked, and counted upon an Allied Fleet attacking the Austrian Fleet, but it did not arrive.  Shells from the Austrian Fleet came over the mountain almost as far as Cettinje.

Five or six days' march was necessary for the arrival of reinforcements at Lovcen, and to gain time for the arrival of forces from the other fronts the Montenegrins were obliged to demand an armistice of six days.

Reinforcements were thus brought up from the Sandjak front to the number of twelve battalions, who fought very well on the Lovcen front.

We have, therefore, used this expedient in the pourparlers for no other purpose than to gain time, since their conditions were not acceptable, namely, that men from sixteen to fifty must all be interned in Austria, with the occupation of our country, the laying down of arms, to submit to requisitions, to administer the country themselves, to give them passage through the country to Albania, to deliver up all the members of the Royal Family having a command in the Army.

It was impossible to accept those conditions, and it was, therefore, a peace absolutely impossible.

The King left his son behind in order to organize the resistance, and the Montenegrin army had received orders to retire towards Scutari behind the Serbian army, and to follow it in the direction of Durazzo.

The King had barely time to escape.  He sent the following order to his troops from Brindisi:

To General Vukovitch, commanding the Montenegrin Army:

I order you anew to resist the enemy in the most energetic way possible.  In the event of a retreat, follow the direction of the Serbian army towards Durazzo.  The Serbian commanders have been informed of this.  I hope that you will obtain food supplies at Medua and farther on.

Prince Mirko and all the other Ministers who have remained cannot in any case open negotiations with any one whatever.  The French Government have promised our retreating army all possible facilities, such as they have given to the Serbian army.  Prince Mirko and the other Ministers must in no case remain, but make every possible effort to escape.

The newspapers had spoken of a secret treaty with Austria.  It can be said now that Montenegro had been crushed by Austria under conditions the most difficult for her.  If she had a secret treaty, the conditions imposed by Austria must have been much more favourable than those actually proposed.

I do not understand how any one can any longer be in doubt as to what we have done.  We have the right to demand that our Allies should respect our honour in not lending faith to the inaccurate statements of any Austrian origin.

I can affirm again that the soldiers of no European army could have resisted more than the Montenegrins, neither at Lovcen nor on any of the other fronts, with the equipment, the supplies, the arms and the munitions at the disposal of our soldiers.

The so-called "surrender" of Montenegro was hailed with much rejoicing in Berlin and Vienna.  "Surrender will follow," said a German newspaper, "till every one of the Allies has yielded, and the last will pay the piper."

There was, indeed, little to justify the fantastic joy of the people, the event had no significance whatever as regards the outcome of the War, and the rejoicing was quickly damped down when it became known that there was no unconditional capitulation after all of this, the weakest and the smallest of all the countries at war.

Montenegro refused to bow the knee, and the Government was transferred to Lyons and decided to continue the struggle.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A "blimp" was a word applied to an observation balloon.

- Did you know?

Primary Docs