Land, People, and Economy
Situated at the southern end of the Dinaric Alps, Montenegro is almost entirely mountainous, with a small coastline along the Adriatic. It consists of two regions: the barren karst of Montenegro proper, on the west, is separated by the Zeta River and its plain from the higher Brda region, on the east, which has forests and pastures. Lake Scutari, the nation's largest lake, is at the southern end of the karst and forms part of the Albanian border. In addition to the capital, principal cities are Cetinje, Nikšić, and Kotor, the only Adriatic port.
The Montenegrin people, who make up less than half of the population, share a language, many customs, and an Orthodox faith with the Serbs; nevertheless, they are a separate ethnic nationality with a distinct history. Serbs make up about a third of the population. Of the roughly 70% of the population that is Orthodox, 70% are members of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the rest members of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (a newly established body that is not recognized by other Orthodox churches). Other minorities include Bosniaks, who are largely Muslim and live mainly in the Sanjak, or Sankžak, region (which straddles the border with Serbia), and Albanians, also largely Muslim. The official language under the constitution adopted in 2007 was defined as Montenegrin (formerly considered the Ijekavian dialect of Serbian). Standard Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, and Croatian are also spoken and are officially recognized languages.
Historically, the raising of sheep and goats have been important occupations in Montenegro. Agriculture, mainly in the Zeta valley and near Lake Scutari, is poorly developed, with only about 6% of the country cultivated. Grains, tobacco, potatoes, citrus, olives, and grapes are grown. Industry is also relatively underdeveloped, except for agricultural processing and steel and aluminum mills. Montenegro has significant deposits of bauxite, iron, and petroleum. There is also significant tourism along the coast. In the 1990s, smuggling is said to have supplied about a third of the government's revenues. There is high unemployment, and the country has a severe trade deficit. Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Hungary, and Germany are the main trading partners.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.