Colliding Western Balkan Neighbors: Serbia and Montenegro in Post-Yugoslav Context – Identity and Interest Representation

This research seeks to examine the development of relations between Serbia and Montenegro after 2006, In the context of insufficient acceptance of a distinct Montenegrin identity by the Serbian state, elite, and public. The authors argue that, unlike elsewhere in the post-Yugoslav space, where inter-republic cooperation had decreased during the country’s breakup, Serbo-Montenegrin relations have mostly deteriorated “only” since Montenegrin independence. The authors attribute such developments to local identity politics, arguing that Montenegrin and pro-Serbian political actors manipulate identarian symbols both to strengthen their own positions and differentiate said positions from their political rivals. Identarian aspects (like state symbols, language and religion) are used not solely to underline one’s ethnic affiliation, but also for ideological distancing from opponents. These populist activities have caused a deep polarization in Montenegrin society for at least two reasons. Firstly, the use of aforementioned state symbols further strengthened the political divisions even at the inter-state level, resulting in the homogenization of the national and electorate corps. Secondly, ethnic affiliation has been influenced by geopolitical elements, namely, Russophile tendencies in the Serbian political actors and pro-Western tendencies among Montenegrin actors. The authors apply the ‘situational nationalism’ approach to show that the outcomes of the still-ongoing nation-building process in Montenegro correlate with both domestic policies (institutional top-down approach) and external factors (cross-border effects, including the geopolitics).

Vladimir Vučković

Vladimir Vučković

Vladimir Vučković is a lecturer in the Department of International Relations and European Studies at the Masaryk University, Czechia with a research interest focusing on the European Union, populism in Europe, and Western Balkan political and socio-economic developments. He has held a visiting fellowship at the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz (2021/22) and Department of Political Science at the University of Stockholm (2017/18).

Miloš Petrović

Miloš Petrović

Miloš Petrović is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies, Institute of International Politics and Economics in Belgrade, Serbia and a Visiting Lecturer at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade, where he previously obtained his PhD in domain of International and European Studies, He holds an LL.M. degree from Europa-Institut, University of Saarland, Saarbrücken, Germany. His research interests include the Europeanization processes in SEE and the post-Soviet space (spanning both the EU enlargement and neighborhood policies), as well as contemporary political historical developments and democratization processes in CEE.

1. What is meant by the term “situational nationalism,” and whether the national project in Montenegro depends on national struggles within and outside national borders?

2. How does competition between the titular (represented by Montenegro) and the alternative identity (proclaimed by Serbia) lead to a gradual erosion of Montenegrin national self-awareness?

3. To what extent do the domestic political elites in Serbia and Montenegro manipulate Montenegrin identarian aspects (such as state symbols, language, and religion) in order to strengthen their power?

4. What kind of populist mechanism do these elites use to further homogenize their national and electorate corps?

5. To what extent do the issues of Montenegrin statehood and national identity affect improvement of (already) broken inter-state relations between Serbia and Montenegro during the post-referendum period?


Southeastern Europe