Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1832 Montenegrin vladika
Subjectvladika bishop, priest, mercenary
Culture: Montenegrin
Setting: Balkans 19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Boehm 43 p1984 p43-45
"In addition to ... very old Illyrian or Serbian clans, the majority of a typical tribe was composed of more-recent Serbian clans, patrilineal kin groups that had been founded by men who had fled to Montenegro from adjacent Serbian regions for political reasons. There were chiefly two sets of circumstances that made people relocate in this way. One was feuding, since in an unequal blood feud the only means of clan survival might be to flee quickly and to resettle elsewhere anonymously. The other derived from problems with the Ottoman lords who subjugated the Christian Serbs and Albanians all around Montenegro. When a particularly headstrong Serb could no longer stand Islamic insults directed at his faith (or at his women or at his honor), he might kill his tormentor and quickly flee with his family to Montenegro. Since some tribe was always ready to crown in one more warrior so as to increase its fighting strength, Montenegro became known far and wide as a hospitable refuge area. The prices that one paid for settling there were the rocky, mountainous terrain and the risky life of a refuge-area warrior.
      "The tribal area that first became autonomous was Old Montenegro, near the Adriatic coastline. By 1820, most of the tribes of the Brda had also become independent. ...
      "Earlier, it is likely that the Montenegrins maintained an unusual degree of local autonomy as Serbian mountain pastoralists living under the Medieval Serbian lords. The latter controlled their area for centuries before the Ottoman Turks invaded and subjugated the Serbs. Very little is known about the tribesmen before the seventeenth century, but it does appear that these mountaineers played the role of a political buffer between the Venetian and Ottoman empires and paid taxes regularly to the Turks, even though they were not obliged to serve in the Ottoman army like other Christian serfs. By 1600, Montenegrins under the military leadership of their Eastern Orthodox bishops (vladikas) had begun to resist Ottoman taxation by force of arms, and by the late 1600s, major Ottoman military expeditions were being sent periodically to subjugate Montenegro, with varying degrees of success.
      "For the next one hundred and fifty years a pattern was repeated: Montenegrin tribes paid token taxes when Ottoman forces nearby were strong, but if local Moslem lords were called away to fight for their empire or if they developed rivalries among themselves, the aggressive tribes quickly took advantage. They stopped paying taxes; intensified their raiding for livestock, heads, and women; and sometimes tried to prod their passive Serbian or Albanian neighbors into rising up and throwing off the Moslem yoke. When Ottoman power in the area reconsolidated and when the empire's other problems were not too distracting, local Ottoman lords would gather large armies and threaten to devastate Montenegro unless tribute was paid.
  "Over a period of one hundred and fifty years many such campaigns were mounted. A handful resulted in severe devastation, with a goodly portion of the tribal population being killed or led off to be sold into slavery and with ensuing famines and epidemics. However, after a major military defeat the tribesmen simply operated in small guerilla bands, making it impossible for their territory to be occupied for more than a few weeks. By burning crops and hiding away livestock and by cutting off the enemy's supply lines, they made certain that their rugged natural fortress could not be occupied permanently except at an exorbitantly high cost. As a result, this tribal thorn in the side of one of the world's mightiest empires persevered for a number of centuries: the Montenegrins lived a locally autonomous life while their neighbors remained in bondage."  [references omitted]

* Secret Museum of Mankind v4
"MEMBER OF THE CHURCH MILITANT  Montenegrin parish priests belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Communion wear the national costume, carry arms, engage in warfare, and lead the working life of the peasants, from whom only their beards distinguish them.  As a class they are poorly educated[.]"

* Hoskins ed. 1996 p35-36 (Janet Hoskins, "Introduction: Headhunting as practice and trope" p1-49)
"The Montenegrin highlanders of the former Yugoslavia had a tradition of feuding and headtaking that was finally suppressed in the nineteenth century ...."  [references omitted] 


* Secret Museum of Mankind v4
"MASCULINE DIGNITY BRED IN THE MOUNTAINS Immense muscular strength and almost feline elasticity of movement distinguish the men of Montenegro. Their great stature and manly bearing are admirably set off by the rather theatrical national costume -- baggy knee-breeches, crimson waistcoat embroidered with gold or black braid, and long open tunic fastened in round the waist by a brilliant cummerbund, stuffed with weapons[.]"

* Elgood 2009 p156-158
"The type of toka associated with Montenegro has embossed plates set with stones on the upper chest, below which there are two panels of raised metal links reaching to the waist.  These are separated by a distinct horizontal gap in which are two rows or large round metal buttons, one of which appears to be purely decorative.  On the upper part of each panel is a metal hemisphere, like a pair of diminutive breasts.  Each has three suspended chains with ornate flat metal ends."


* Elgood 1995 p98
"Weapons were an integral part of the national costume of a Montenegrin man, due to the continuous fighting that took place between the indigenous peoples and against the Turks.  Weapons became a necessity and a mark of status and freedom and were ornamented extensively to reflect their importance and that of their owner.  It was usual to wear a brace of silver pistols [CONTRA Elgood 2009 p96-97 below], called ledenica [pl. ledenice] or kubura; and a yataghan and to carry a long rifle, either the type called a dzeferdar (a word of Turkish origin) or an arnautka, the latter referring to the name 'Arnaut' by which these men were known as mercenaries throughout the Ottoman East.  The Montenegrins were particularly noted for their ability in hand-to-hand conflict with the yataghan."

* Elgood 2009 p147
"The yataghan blade takes two forms, straight or recurved, both single edged.  In Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina the word hanxhár is found, clearly a transliteration of khanjar, and therefore one might suppose a dagger.  However, Durham states that 'the short heavy hanzhar' was used for head taking among the Montenegrins, Turks and Albanians, 'never for stabbing.  An expert severed the head at one blow.'  Knight met a man who had taken twenty-three heads in one battle in the recent war and received a medal.  Durham describes how she 'bought a fine old handzhar, and one of the elders of Njegushi came to see it.  The old man sat down cross legged, unsheathed it, drew his fingers tenderly along the blade, and chanted softly to it: 'O my handzhar, how much blood hast though [sic] drunk? -- Turkish blood.  How many heads hast though cut off? -- Turkish heads.'
    "... The Montenegrins ... took heads, the bishop prince or vladika paying for each: 
In the good old times, if you paid a friendly call on the late Metropolitan, a kindly old gentleman, it was quite a common thing to have your conversation interrupted by the unceremonious entrance of some wild fellow staggering under the weight of a heavy sack.  'Ah!  Good, good, my son!' the old prelate would say, with sparkling eyes.  'How many of them?'  The man would then empty the bag on the floor.  Its ghastly contents would be numbered, and the price of blood paid over.  The heads would be raked up again and carried off to the tower, then the conversation would be quietly resumed where it left off."


* Elgood 2009 p96-97
"In Montenegro it was common to see a man with a single pistol in his silah, unlike the rest of the northern Balkans, where a pair of pistols was usual.  If they did not possess a silah or were not wearing one, the Montenegrins hung their pistol and yataghan on the belt carrying their cartridge case.  There was no prohibition in Montenegro as there was in the Ottoman Empire against carrying guns, and everyone was obliged by the prevailing anarchy to do so when working outside, even for trips to the well or to collect firewood.  Male children started carrying arms at about the age of ten.  Guests in friends' houses kept their weapons, unlike the custom in Albania, where they were put aside.  Priests regularly fought against the Turks and carried firearms, taking them off only during religious services, and even monks carried arms: they explained that all their monasteries, with the exception of Riječka Nahija, were vulnerable to Turkish attack, being situated along the frontier.  Balkan monasteries had signalling cannon to call for assistance when attacked and many had armouries and employed an armourer.  Because arms were so highly regarded it was considered a huge disgrace to submit to highway robbery and lose them or one's clothes.  Robbery also afflicted Boka Kotorska.  Montenegrins visitng coastal towns under Venetian rule had to leave their arms at the town gate, but in the 1840s Vuk Karadžić noted in the countryside that men habitually carried arms, and in Risan the shopkeepers sat in their shops wearing pistols, with a long gun hanging on the wall."

* Elgood 1995 p98
"The pistols are decorated overall with silver sheet, to which is applied plaques of niello, or coral in settings.  The bulbous butts are cast with baroque decorative detailing, and silver filigree and granulation is usually employed.  These pistols are made with vestigial ramrods since it was the practice to carry a separate and ornate ramrod on a cord for actual use."


* Elgood 1995 p98
"The dzeferdar rifles are decorated with mother-of-pearl plaques over the wooden stock.  Locally produced barrels are decorated with a zigzag line engraved on the barrel.  These represent lightning or snakes, in either case adding to the potency of the weapon while also serving to ward off the evil eye.  The arnautka rifles are sometimes entirely sheathed in silver metal and end in the characteristic T-shaped butt.  The ramrod is called arbija.  In the 1890s Liège produced a large revolver copied from the Austrian Gasser, known in the gun trade as the 'Montenegrin.'"