Paris Peace Conf. 184.01802/14

Lieutenant Colonel Sherman Miles to the Secretary General of the Commission to Negotiate Peace (Grew)

Report No. 23

Subject: Political conditions in Montenegro.

In compliance with your telegraphic instructions of April 22,3 I went to Montenegro and cooperated in investigating conditions there with Count de Salis, British Minister to the Vatican.
In November 1917 the so-called elections of Podgeritea were held. It is very probable that the result of this election was influenced, as politics have always been in Montenegro, by the military power back of the winning party. In any event, the pro-Serb party won the election, assembled the Government, and imprisoned the leaders of the opposing parties. Even this did not apparently satisfy the Government at Belgrade, and about the 20th of April, 1918, the Serbians executed a quiet coup d’état and ejected all the Montenegrin officials. The country is now nominally under a civil “Minister-Delegate” from Belgrade, who happens to have been born a Montenegrin but who was educated and has lived all his life in Serbia. Under him are five prefects in the five districts of the country—all Serbians. There is also at Cettinje a Serbian Major-General, who intimated to me that he was under the real Governor of Montenegro. The country is certainly [Page 739]under Serbian military control, and I suspect that the General exercises the real power.
In the neighborhood of Antivari there are small bands of Montenegrin royalists, aided by local Albanians, who are opposing in a feeble manner both the Serbian Government and the Allied troops on the coast. Aside from this, the country is quiet. The Montenegrin civilians, who have always habitually borne arms, are being disarmed by the Serbians. There are a few hundred Montenegrin youths under Serbian military training.
It would be absolutely impossible to ascertain the real political wishes of the Montenegrins except under a British or American occupation of the country. Even then, a plebiscite would have to be taken under conditions which would permit the people to understand very clearly exactly what they might expect from union with Serbia, union with Yugo-Slavia or from independence, and under what guarantees. As this would appear to be practically inadmissible, I consider that the best solution of the Montenegrin problem is the recognition by the Great Powers of the inclusion of Montenegro in the Yugo-Slav State, under guarantees from Yugo-Slavia that local autonomy will be granted and maintained in Montenegro. It is practically certain that even under these conditions the Serbians would use means of repression for political control in Montenegro; but, on the other hand, severe measures of repression will never repay the Serbians, because they are dealing with a warlike, mountainous [sic] people. I believe that in a comparatively short time the Montenegrins would reach their natural political level, and that the country as a whole would profit by the protection gained through inclusion in Yugo-Slavia and by direct contact with the higher civilization of the other Yugo-Slav States.
There are two other solutions. One is to abandon Montenegro wholly to Serbian control, which would be a political crime. The other is to reconstitute Montenegro as an independent state. I think this latter solution would be almost as great a mistake as the former, both because the barren mountainous district called Montenegro is geographically unfitted for self-sustained independence, and because there is no possible Government for an independent Montenegro except the dynasty of King Nicholas. It is, of course, impossible, without a plebiscite, to know what the Montenegrin people really think of King Nicholas, but all indications seem to show that he is discredited and despised by a majority of his people. At best his dynasty was loyally upheld by only the “Five Tribes” around Negusei and Cettinje. He himself has been a notorious intriguer throughout his career, and he will never be forgiven by the Montenegrins for the loss of Lovcen, and the subsequent Austrian capture [Page 740]of Montenegro. Worst of all, he is an old man and his sons are degenerates, utterly unfit to rule.
The incorporation into Montenegro of the Albanian territory of Ipek by the Treaty of Bucharest in 19134 has led to massacres and deportations of the Albanians, and will be, if not rectified, a continuous source of trouble in the future. The Albanian and the Southern Slav are so totally different in all racial characteristics, and their racial animosity is of such long standing that it is impossible for them to live together peacefully within the same political boundaries. The drawing of a just nationalist boundary between Montenegro and Albania, as well as between Albania and the other states bordering on it, is a prime necessity for the future peace of the Balkans.
I would, therefore, suggest that the solution of the Montenegrin question be the inclusion of Montenegro into Yugo-Slavia, under Yugo-Slav guarantees of autonomy and of political rights, which should be, in proportion to the Montenegrin population, equal to each of those of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. I would also strongly recommend that the political boundary between Montenegro and Albania be defined carefully along the lines of long standing nationality, modified where necessary by geographic considerations, but never by favor to one people or the other for the part they may or may not have played in the war.
Sherman Miles
  1. Quoted in note printed supra.
  2. Signed July 28 (August 10), 1913, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cvii, p. 658.