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Montenegrin Prince Nikola Petrovic and
Serbian King Aleksandar Obrenovic, Belgrade's railway station, 1896
Savo Vukmanovic, Ph. D.

Visit of Montenegrin Prince Nikola Petrovic to Belgrade on St. Vitus Day, 1896

excerpt from the book:
Nikola I Petrovic Njegos - Biographic notes, Cetinje, 1990

translated by Stefan Branisavljevic

In the time of prince Nikola and prince Mihailo was made agreement between Montenegro and Serbia (1866). But after Mihailo's death, who was famous exponent of liberation of Balkan nations, during reign of his successor, king Milan, who had perpetually feared for his crown and for whom interests of dynasty were on the first place, between Montenegro and Serbia arose opened dissension and mutual denunciation about question of Serb unity. This state of affair had improved a bit during regime of Aleksandar Obrenovic, but Montenegrin political emigrants in Serbia still worsen it.

Despite all those controversies and dynastic rivalry, by initiative of prince Nikola, came in 1896 re-establishment of closed ties between Montenegro and Serbia. In that time began also "deed of approach and accord of Balkan states about sphere of national aspirations and division among  them lands of European part of Turkey in which live peoples of this states somewhat changed". Prince stressed from the very beginning his "old wish" to visit king Aleksandar in Belgrade, although it was difficult to him that "gray-haired lord pays a visit to young king". But when Serbian government stated that king Aleksandar by himself wants to make journey on Cetinje, he immediately decided to travel, insofar as it was advice of competent Russian political circles.

Before he visited king Aleksandar, prince Nikola went to Moscow on coronation of tzar Nikolaj. From Moscow he traveled to Belgrade accompanied with its retinue whom in Vienna joined deputy Djordje Simic. On the road to Serbia prince had become more and more "in pompous and enthusiastic mood". In Novi Sad he was greeted by delighted crowd of citizens whom Hungarian authorities forbad to enter on station. Only Aleksandar Sandic, poet and famous public worker, was allowed to come nearby train and he saluted this eminent traveler. During the trip prince concerned about everything and asked his minister of Education, duke Sima Popovic, who was born in Srem. And when he landed on Serbian soil, on which, by his personal request and previous warning, informed deputy Simic, he stridently exclaimed: "Caps down!!!" Then he himself took of cap, kneeled and crossed.

Facsimile from Belgrade daily
Vecernje Novosti, 15 June 1896,
St Vitus Day (Julian Calendar)
On the Belgrade station king Aleksandar, army and huge crowd received prince. Serbians emerged from all sides to see by own eyes "Serb light". Arrival of prince was more magnified because it befell on St. Vitus Day - symbolic day of people's glory and Serb unity. Meeting of two Serb rulers was very touching. People raptly chanted to them. Prince hugged and kissed king. This scene so filled Belgrade's public with joy as they have attended to some great patriotic play. According to Slobodan Jovanovic "it seemed as unification of Serbia and Montenegro was accomplished long time ago".

More ovations prince Nikola experienced when this same day was in Cathedral on dirge of Kosovo victims. After held rite and patriotic speech delivered from metropolitan Mihailo, in church, "completely crimped in black", he, wearing golden Montenegrin attire and with Nemanjic sword on belt, "kneeled, kissed ground and wept. Here on all spectators wept with him". And when poet of anthem "Onamo, 'namo" (There, Over There) put silver wreath on grave of prince Mihailo and went out, citizens of Belgrade glorified and carried him on arms. He passed through streets of Belgrade and was cheered as a new Obilic".

Coming of prince Nikola in Belgrade and time he spent there gained "significance of the pan-Serb feast". People transformed this days in global happiness and delightfulness. Prince, also, was hilarious and in good mood. He everywhere, among people, army, in schools and in all institutions, who he visited, experienced only honor and respect. King named him commander of IX infantry regiment and Serbian Academy of Arts elected his favorite poet Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj, who read one beautiful patriotic song "Prince Marko and the triple-head Arab":

"From Avala, from Lovcen
one trumpet blares;
Avala is nearing
to kiss Lovcen..."

Somewhere chorus sings poem "Onamo, 'namo" which everybody present accepts and continues. Prince was very impressed by achievements and cultural progress of Serbia. After this he intimately and in privacy tells Sima Popovic that he will not allow anybody before him and in his country to criticize Serbians.

On festal meal, who was held  in court, prince warmly thanked king on hospitality. In toast which he had on that occasion, he displayed his political and national program. "I came from home to home!" said prince after all ..."And I came on St. Vitus Day! Why I chose that day, day which is rather baleful for our Serb tribe? I chose it therefore our people not spend this day in sadness like till today. Since Lazar on this day it reminds them on all their hardships, sufferings and captivities. Neither outnumbered, nor born bravery of destroyers of our fatherland were not so fatal for its survival as our own disunion.

Majesty! Providence marked two of us as rulers and leaders of Serb nation. Inspired by this holy mission and most ardent wish to observe it in accordance with God' s will, we are obliged to do everything for our noble and dear Serb people which longings for unit. Therefore only in home united people is powerful and respected from others.

And today on St. Vitus Day uprisings, my dear brother, and before face of our dear Serbdom, I offer expression clear as first ray which lightness from peak of my Lovcen, expression of that blessed unity and love which people admire to exist among us. Embraced and connected by unity our good Serb people, divided, with three religions, will bless; spirits of fallen Serb martyrs will also bless us; Serb slavery will bless us. It will follow our example, and united all will believe in one faith, redeeming faith, faith of nationality.

Today entire Serbdom is spiritually with us, and what it wants we both want, and our task is to lead it to direction of its intentions. Our people is aware and just. It does not want foreign; it wants only own and none instead, because of that is said: Stolen - cursed! Owners of everything we are responsible to be eager compatriots of other happier peoples on field of progress, growth and civilization...

I rise up this glass for your good Majesty, and for sake of Serb people!"

Prince Nikola's visit and his words said there "made strong", rightly "epochal impression" on Serb people. "Since this approach and fraternization of Serb rulers and states, Serbdom had expected its better days and believes that sad advents from previous relationships definitely disappeared". Prince Nikola had believed the same when he left Belgrade very pleased and with great honors. In his heart he still carried idea of cousinhood with young king through his daughter Ksenija, because his mother, queen Natalija, very often asked about her. Thence he, consequently, expected his prompt visit.

"Really, next 1897, on Saint George Day, baptized name of Petrovic, king Aleksander visited Cetinje, although king Milan from Vienna used all possible means to hinder his plans for trip, fearing him that "will die immediately after arrival on Montenegrin soil". When he was far away from him, young king had known to disobey father's will, so he did not listen . "All country was excited to receive guest of prince best as possible". King was in very good mood and spoke latter that he "has never felt better "than on Cetinje and that days spent there will be the most beloved in life". But when ministers of both governments, Serbian and Montenegrin, Mihailo Vujic, Djordje Simic and Gavro Vukovic, announced that they made accord on separation of Sandzak and Macedonia, which they had to liberate from Turks together, he vehemently refused to give Prizren to Montenegrins. Also, he did not show will nor in matter of marriage princess Ksenija, although his ministers, Vujic and Simic, made serious attempts through Vukovic. In politics king Aleksander was under influence of king Milan and in love his heart conquered Draga Masin, court lady of his mother. This two moments broke plan on accord between Serbia and Montenegro, and by return of king Milan in fatherland began misunderstandings and secret friction between two Serb countries that continued, with short interruptions, until death of king Aleksandar (1903). This state of affairs and generally non-national policy of Obrenovic dynasty, prompted their fall. But in that time, when Serbia had stronger and stronger sweep, prince Nikola, who was considered as the greatest bearer of Serb national thought, began to lose from his great popularity.

Quotes from works of Simo Popovic ("In Belgrade and on Cetinje"), Gavro Vukovic ("Serbia and Montenegro") and Slobodan Jovanovic ("The Personal Memories", "The Memory of Stojan Novakovic")