Ethnic Distance in Montenegro 10 Years after Gaining Independence
In this paper, we present a longitudinal research study examining ethnic distance in Montenegro. The research is based on measuring ethnic distance at two points in time: in 2013 and 2018. This research was carried out using the nine-level Bogardus social distance scale.
There are some important notions considering the significance of measuring ethnic distance in Montenegro. First, this is a multi-ethnic country where Montenegrins, as the main ethnic group, have a relatively small majority. Second, this was the last country to leave former Yugoslavia, gaining independence in 2006. Third, the main political and social cleavage in this society is based on ethnicity. Fourth, there has been no change in the ruling elite of Montenegro since the beginning of the transition from socialism to liberal democracy.
The main hypothetical argument regarding the expected changes in inter-ethnic distancing is, therefore, political. During the process of gaining independence, there was an informal alliance among Montenegrins and non-Serbian minorities, since Serbs as an ethnic group wanted Montenegro to remain in a common state with Serbia. This caused clear and pronounced political division in Montenegrin society. Of course, this kind of social cleavage has historical precedents in the Balkans.
Prior to the independence issue, which was raised in the late 1990s, Montenegrins and Serbs, as the combined ethnic majority, were in favour of Serbia and Montenegro remaining united. However, after gaining independence, Serbs, who had been a majority in their own country, suddenly become a minority in Montenegro.
Since almost any politics in the Balkans is ethno-politics, we examined inter-ethnic distance across two reference periods in order to identify the trends in inter-ethnic distancing. The results showed that the overall inter-ethnic distance in Montenegro increased during that five-year period. We argue that the temporary alliance between Montenegrins and non-Serbian minorities resulted in good inter-ethnic relations among these groups, while they were striving to achieve a common political goal. However, after independence was achieved, it was to be expected that inter-ethnic relations would deteriorate.
We provide evidence to support this thesis. The results of our research show that overall inter-ethnic distance increased in the five-year period surveyed. In particular, we saw a dramatic increase in the ethnic distancing of Albanians away from all other groups. In addition, ethnic Bosnians are distancing themselves from Montenegrins and Serbs more so than they were in 2013.
On the other hand, we found that there was no change in ethnic distancing between Montenegrins and Serbs. Additionally, item analysis showed that the distance between Montenegrins and Serbs is very small, and is not in fact an issue of ethnicity, but rather one of politics. This was evidenced by the fact that the only sensitive issue between Serbs and Montenegrins was for a member of the other ethnicity “to have a leadership position in my country”. In all other regards, we measured a low inter-ethnic distance between Serbs and Montenegrins.
We conclude that increase in ethnic distance is caused by political variables and overall regional context. As Montenegro is a multi-ethnic country, the deterioration of ethnic relations could seriously jeopardize the country’s overall political stability.
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