Reaching the Nations

Montenegro

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area: 13,812 square km.  One of the smallest former Yugoslav republics, Montenegro borders Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia, and the Adriatic Sea.  Rugged mountains cover most the terrain which includes some of the highest peaks in the region.  Close proximity to the ocean creates a Mediterranean climate for most areas, with dry, hot summers and snowy, cold winters.  Major water features include Lake Scutari which straddles the Albanian border and several rivers which flow northward such as the Piva, Tara, and Lim.  Earthquakes are natural hazards and water pollution in coastal areas is an environmental concern.  Montenegro is divided into 21 administrative municipalities.

Population: 666,730 (July 2010)

Annual Growth Rate: -0.777% (2010)

Fertility Rate: N/A

Life Expectancy: N/A

Peoples

Montenegrin: 43%

Serbian: 32%

Bosniak: 8%

Albanian: 5%

Other: 12%

Montenegrins are a South Slavic ethnic group with close ties to Serbs but claim a separate cultural identity.  Montenegrins primarily populate central and southern areas of the country.  Serbs consist of Montenegro natives who identify as Serbs or Serbs who arrived over the past several centuries from Serbia.  Serbs populate northern, central, and coastal areas.  Bosniaks reside in the extreme northeast whereas Albanians populate several border regions along the Kosovo and Albanian borders.  Other ethnicities include ethnic Muslims, Croats and Roma. 

Languages: Serbian (63.6%), Montenegrin (22%), Bosnian (5.5%), Albanian (5.3%), unspecified (3.7%).  The official language is Montenegrin, a Serbo-Croatian dialect which is mutually intelligible with Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian.  The government has pushed for the development of a separate Montenegrin language, which has included the introduction of new letters in the alphabet and the use of a modified Latin script as opposed to the Cyrillic used by Serbian.[1]  These language issues appear primarily intended to establish a more unique culture and national identity separate from Serbia.   

Literacy: N/A

History

The name Montenegro first came into use in the 15th century as a Venetian term meaning "black mountain" based on the Southern Slavic designation Crna Gora of the same meaning.  Unlike much of the Balkans and Southeastern Europe, Montenegro was an independent state between the 16th and 19th centuries governed by bishop princes until 1852 when a secular government was established.  The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes which later became Yugoslavia absorbed Montenegro following World War I.  Upon the independence of many of the Yugoslav republics in the early 1990s, Montenegro maintained ties with Serbia and remained unified under the name Yugoslavia until 2003 when the nation changed its status between the two political entities and was renamed Serbia and Montenegro.  During the Milosevic era, relations with Serbia were strained and Montenegro established separate economic jurisdiction.  In 2006, Montenegro voted for independence from Serbia which occurred in June 2006.  In the late 2000s, Montenegro was pursuing NATO and European Union membership. 

Culture

Due to its geographic location between Central and Southeastern Europe and access to the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro has historically received strong cultural influences from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires as well as seafaring merchant states such as Venice.  Podgorica is an important Montenegrin cultural center.  Cuisine consists of Mediterranean dishes.  Many Western European and American sports are popular. 

Economy

GDP per capita: $9,800 (2009) [21.1% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.834

Corruption Index: 3.9

In addition to limited economic development and infrastructure, Montenegro's small size and population make it sensitive to the economic climate of the region.  Unemployment, which was 14.7% in 2007, remains a concern for European Union membership.  Aluminum exports and the tourist industry are important sectors of the economy.  68% of the workforce labors in services whereas 30% are employed in industry.  Agriculture employs only 2% of the population and products include tobacco, potatoes, fruit, olives, and sheep.

Perceived corruption rates compare to former Yugoslav republics and European Union member nations in Southeastern Europe such as Greece and Bulgaria.  Issues which have perpetuated corruption and prevented its reduction include the lack of anti-corruption legislation, organized crime, and alleged corruption ties to some political figures.  The government stepped up its interest in fighting corruption in 2009.

Faiths

Christian: 77.7%

Muslim: 17.7%

Other: 0.6%

Unspecified: 3%

Atheist: 1%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Orthodox  494,714

Catholic  22,000

Jehovah's Witnesses  214  4

Latter-Day Saints  less than 20  1

Religion

Most Montenegrins are Orthodox and form the majority in all administrative municipalities except for a few municipalities along the eastern and southern borders.  Orthodox denominations include Montenegrin Orthodox and Serbian Orthodox.  Muslims constitute the majority in extreme northeastern areas and in patches along the Kosovo and Albanian borders.  Most inhabitants between Podgorica and Albania are Catholic.

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by the government and local laws.  Abuse of religious freedom is not tolerated.  There is no state religion and the government observes Orthodox Christmas and Easter.  Religious communities must register with the local police within 15 days of arrival.  Societal instances of abuse of religious freedom have been sparse and mainly connected to the ownership and operation of older religious buildings.[2]

Largest Cities

Urban: 60%

Podgorica, Niksic, Pljevlja, Bijelo Polje, Cetinje, Bar, Herceg-Novi, Ulcinj, Tivat, Dobrota.

Cities listed in bold do not have an LDS congregation

None of the 10 largest cities has an LDS congregation.  44% of the national population lives in the 10 largest cities. 

LDS History

There has never been an LDS Church presence in Montenegro.  In 2000, Montenegro was assigned to the Europe East Area.  Sometime in the 2000s, Montenegro was transferred to the Europe Area.  Montenegro pertained  to the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission until May 2010 and now is under the jurisdiction of the Europe Area Presidency. 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: less than 20 (2009)

Missionaries serving in the late 2000s reported that at least one active member in Montenegro traveled to Serbia for Church meetings.   Some foreign members may live in the country. 

Congregational Growth

Branches: 1

In May 2010, the Church organized the Montenegro Branch, an administrative branch under the Europe Area.  The few members in Montenegro may meet as a group in Podgorica. 

Activity and Retention

No missionary work has been initiated.  Local members likely joined the Church in Serbia or elsewhere.  As the Church has yet to establish an official presence, there may be several unknown inactive members in Montenegro. 

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Serbian, Albanian, Croatian

All LDS scriptures are translated in Croatian.  Only the Book of Mormon is available in Serbian.  The Church has translated several unit, temple, Priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School, young women, primary, missionary, Church proclamations, and family history materials in Croatian and Serbian.  Many CES materials are translated in Croatian.  The Liahona has one Croatian issue per year.

Meetinghouses

Any church meetings likely occur in members' homes. 

Humanitarian and Development Work

The Church has not conducted any humanitarian or development work specifically for Montenegro, although some earlier assistance to Serbia may have also benefited Montenegrins prior to independence. 

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

Montenegro enjoys full religious freedom and no legal obstacles appear to have prevented the LDS Church from establishing an official presence.  Missionaries proselyte freely and religious groups generally register with local police without opposition.

Cultural Issues

The long standing cultural connection with Orthodox Christianity will likely be a challenge for the Church to locate receptive individuals, help investigators and members attend church regularly, and withstand societal pressures to engage in practices against LDS Church teachings.

National Outreach

Montenegro's small geographic size allows the nation to be potentially reached with few mission outreach centers.  If a congregation was established and missionaries assigned to Podgorica, a quarter of the national population could potentially receive mission outreach.  As only Niksic and Pljevlja are the only other cities with over 20,000 inhabitants, outreach in smaller towns and rural areas will be challenging and will likely not occur for many years following the official establishment of the Church. 

The small size of the population in comparison to the other former Yugoslav republics has reduced its priority for mission and area leadership to begin missionary work and outreach initiatives.  The Church usually does not place missionaries in a country for the first time when there is no nucleus of local members to build upon and provide fellowshipping for potential converts.  However, this mindset contributes to the continued absence of the Church in many unreached nations which enjoy full religious freedom, and presents a dilemma of circular logic as local people have no opportunity to learn about the Church and become members without some initial investment of missionary manpower and resources.  The Church could make considerable progress in establishing a small group of local members and leaders by placing of even one senior missionary couple and one set of young full-time missionaries. 

The reassignment of Montenegro to the Europe Area from the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission in May 2010 and the establishment of an administrative branch specifically for Montenegro may indicate the Church's intentions to prepare for formal missionary activity.  The Europe Area likely has greater resources to begin this process and reassignment to a nearby mission may occur once missionaries are stationed in Montenegro.

Member Activity and Convert Retention

No converts appear to have been baptized in Montenegro and any native members have likely joined the Church elsewhere and returned. 

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The Church may experience challenges integrating Serbs and Montenegrins into the same congregation due to recent Montenegrin nation-building campaigns which are politically driven.  However, these two groups share many cultural similarities.  Any ethnic integration issues resulting in reduced mission outreach efficacy in would most likely arise from extending outreach to ethnic Albanians and Bosniaks in predominantly Serb and Montenegrin congregations due to cultural and linguistic differences. 

Language Issues

Serbian and Croatian LDS language resources can be utilized as both these languages are mutually intelligible with Montenegrin.  However increased Montenegrin nationalism - which considers Montenegrin as a separate language - may make some reluctant to use Serbian and Croatian language materials.

Missionary Service

As of 2010, there were no reports of full-time missionaries serving from Montenegro.

Leadership

The lack of any current native Priesthood holders challenges the development of self sustainability for any prospective congregations.  Foreign members or full-time missionaries will most likely serve as branch presidents or group leaders until several men join the Church, receive the Priesthood, and remain active.

Temple

In mid-2010, Montenegro was not assigned to a temple district.  Members most likely attend the Freiburg Germany, Frankfurt Germany, or Bern Switzerland Temples.  Travel to the temple is time consuming, costly, and infeasible for regular temple attendance.  Prospects are low for any closer temple in the foreseeable future.

Comparative Growth

Montenegro remains one of the only European nations which do not have an official Church presence.  Other nations with over half a million inhabitants without an official Church presence with include Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo.  In May 2010, the Church organized administrative branches - a new category of congregation which facilitates tracking and assisting Church members in nations without an official Church presence, but does not necessarily imply regular organized church meetings - in each of these nations.  Montenegro and Bosnia are the only European nations with over half a million inhabitants with only a couple of known native members.

Protestant Christian groups have a very small presence in Montenegro.  The Orthodox majority has been relatively unreceptive to proselytism efforts and many missionary-minded groups appear to have devoted few resources. 

Future Prospects

Montenegro's recent independence, small population, and distance from established mission outreach centers have made it a lesser priority for missionary work in Europe.  Other nations in the Balkans without an official Church presence have larger populations and have had several individuals requesting additional information about the Church whereas Montenegrins have not shown such interest, although there has been little opportunity for them to do so.  Even the placement of one senior missionary couple may greatly help the development of the Church in Montenegro.  Prospects for official Church establishment are uncertain.  The Church has limited missionary resources for the region, yet the creation of an administrative branch in May 2010 may indicate greater interest in Montenegro by regional Church leadership and mission planners.


[1]  "Montenegrin Language," Wikipedia.org, retrieved 31 December 2010  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montenegrin_language

[2]  "Montenegro," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127327.htm