MiroslavLuketić, PhD, historian *

Budva – through the centuries

What a great number of changes Budva has seen in its past, both known and unknown – from ancient times to the present day: it was conquered, destroyed and rebuilt by different invaders, the forces of nature, and rebuilt again by local people – and it has lasted for over three thousand years. What gives this town such a long life, why are Budva citizens so attached to it, why is it the most visited summer destination on the Montenegrin coast?

Nature was very generous in bestowing beauty upon this region and excellent living conditions: this has been true since times past; the same is true now and will remain so in the future. The generations of inhabitants have replaced each other and intermixed: Illyrians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and others –until the Slavic population finally prevailed in the middle ages. That is why there have been so many historical finds from different cultures belonging to different nations here, and its wealth and diversity, combined with the natural beauty and mild climate, give a special Mediterranean note to this landscape, which belongs to one of the oldest urban settlements on the Adriatic coast.

We can find testimonies of the ancient period of Budva in the written records of Greek and Roman writers, starting from Sophocles, who identified it as “an Illyrian town”; Pliny the Elder, who said that it was a town of “Roman citizens”, all the way to Stephen the Byzantine and others, who connected its foundation with Cadmus, the founder of Thebes – a famous figurein Greek mythology. Yes, Budva was present in these old Greek and Roman works, but it was not before the discovery of the Budva necropolis in 1937 that the knowledge of the ancient history of the town received some scientific evidence. Many pieces of golden jewellery, ceramics, glass, stone and metals, which all who visitBudva can, and should, see at the Archaeological Museum in the Old Town.These exhibitions radiate the beauty of form, remarkable artistic skill and craftsmanship of the old masters, and testify to the life of its citizens, trade and other relations with the ancient world.

The middleages brought turbulent changes to Budva: after the breakupof the Roman Empire in 395 and the division of the church in 1054, Budva stood at the border between the Western and Eastern empires– between Catholic Rome and Orthodox Byzantine Constantinople.

Which are the most important dates from that period of its history? In 841, in an invasion from the sea, it was destroyed and plundered bythe Saracens; then ruled for a long timebyByzantium; and was, for a period of time, part of the Doclean state, followed by the rule of Serbian monarchs from the Nemanjic dynasty in the late 12th century. In that period, which lasted approximately two centuries, it saw significant economic development, becoming an export port, a major salt market, having its own fleet, a small shipyard, monetary currency, and a Statute whichdetailedthe self-government of the town. After the breakdown of the Serbian state, there was an unstable period in its history – the feudal rulers of Budva come after one another: the Balsics, the Crnojevics, Sandal Hranic, StevanLazarevic, DjuradjBrankovic, followed by the rule of the Venetian Republic, starting in 1442 and lasting for over three centuries, until is breakup in 1797. Together with a separate municipality (komunitad) of thePastrovici – it remained, all this time, an important defence bastion, protecting the Venetian estates on the South Adriatic, and especially the Bay of Kotor, from Turkish aggression. It often suffered great damage in that period, especially from the Turks in 1571 and from a great earthquake in 1667.

In the more recent history of Budva, the situation changed thanks to the will of great powers, which prevented establishing theconnection with the hinterlands of Montenegro. Austria ruled Budva for the first time between 1797 and 1806; the Russian-Montenegrin rule lasted in Budva from 1806 – 1807, while after Napoleon’s victories it was ruled by France between 1807 and 1813.After that, Budva and the Bay of Kotor were ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire for over a hundred years. In that period, the town and its surroundings were economically underdeveloped, as wasits social and cultural life and there was great emigration of its citizens, mainly to America, Russia and Turkey.

World War I, during which over a thousand soldiers from this area fought for the allies – the Montenegrin and Serbian army – brought freedom from several centuries of foreign rule. The Serbian army liberated Budva on 8 November 1918.

In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Budva belonged, together with the Bay of Kotor, to the Zeta Banate, which was seated in Cetinje. In the period between the two wars, the development of tourism started and gradually became the main economic sector responsible for the progress of this region. The opening of the Cetinje – Budva road in 1931 was important, as it finally connected Budva with the hinterland.

The construction of the castle of the Karadjordjevic royal family in Milocer, near Sveti Stefan, in 1935 contributed to the promotion of all the charms of the sandy beaches, sunny climate, blue and clear sea, and the friendly hosts of Budva and Pastrovici among both the international and local public. This encouraged the construction of the first modern hotel, “Avala”, in 1939, followed by the hotel Lucice near Petrovac and the development of local tourist accommodations.

World War II brought with it a great deal of suffering and sacrifice to the people of this region. The Italian army occupied Budva on 17 April 1941. After the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, this region was occupied by the German army.

The freedom-loving people of this region could not accept occupation. During the insurrection which started on 13 July 1941, the Montenegrin people rose up against fascism and the fight was led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, with Tito at its helm. Many soldiers from this region participated in this battle, and more than two hundred of them died for freedom. On 22 November 1944, the First Kotor Bay Brigade liberated Budva from the fascist oppressors.


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*Miroslav Luketic was born on 3 August 1927 in Budva. He graduated from the military academy and the faculty of philosophy. He is a senior scientific adviser and publicist. He participated in the National Liberation War. He is the author of several books andmagazine articles. He studies Montenegrin history and explores the past of Budva and thePastrovici. He is a winner of the November Award of Budva and several other recognitions.