Will Montenegro unshackle from Serbia?

The people are bitterly divided as they prepare to vote in referendum on independence for the Balkan state

Is Montenegro a Mafia state ridden by Albanian racketeers, where everything is up for sale and independence will mean severing the people from their Serbian cousins? Or a place of fabulous potential, fatally hobbled by the Serbian placemen who will continue to dominate if they are not thrown out?

Today Montenegrins vote in a referendum on unshackling the state from Serbia. A majority of 55 per cent is needed for the "yes" side to win, and the people are bitterly divided.

In Kolasin, a pretty resort in the middle of this jewel of a state, the issues posed by the referendum are thrashed out in the bars that line the main street. The town is so small - population about 3,000 - that the green mountains rear up at either end of it.

By day the "philosophers" of Kolasin (the stereotyped view of Montenegrins among other southern Slavs is that they are as loquacious as they are idle) debate independence over coffee and Coke and beer. By night, however, they let their fists do the talking. "We've had fights every night for the past 10 days," said Snezhana Nicovic, 21, a bartender in the Dell Mar pub, "and they are getting more violent every night. Friday night the front door was torn off its hinges and windows were broken, and one guy needed hospital treatment." Last night she predicted would be even worse, so the staff were closing the bar at 9pm.

When they pour out of the pubs and cafes they drive wildly round the town, shouting slogans for and against independence, often crashing their cars, she said. But yesterday afternoon, independence enthusiast Luka Bulatovic, 27, was sweetly reasonable. He wore a red sweatshirt, the colour of the pro-independence movement led by 44-year-old Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, emblazoned with CRNA GORA (Montenegro) and the state's symbol, a double-headed eagle. "I am a Montenegrin, and I will vote for Montenegro, because there is no other state for me," he said.

Luka works in the tourist business, which should be the town's moneyspinner. It is developing fast, but without the anti-independence people in the local government, it would do much better, he believes. He says the number of employees in the town council has ballooned in the past 20 years, but they are more inefficient than ever. "They are afraid of losing their jobs if Montenegro gets independence," he claimed. "The town council employees are the core supporters of union."

One bar along, a journalism student called Daniel Rakocevic, 19, claimed supporters of independence had been bribed to vote for it, while opponents had had their identity documents confiscated so they could not vote. "I hate Djukanovic," he said. "Everything that's happened here is his fault. He's been involved in smuggling, he's building a railway line to Albania, he wants Montenegro to become more like Albania than Serbia." A student in Belgrade, he had come back specially to vote.

But perhaps Montenegro is so beautiful that it doesn't really matter who wins. Five minutes' walk across town, past a sprawling concrete behemoth housing a sports centre, Kolasin's future is already taking shape. Bianca, a resort and spa built by Yugoslavia's Communist authorities decades ago, has been lavishly rebuilt by a British company at a cost of €9m (£6m), and now claims to be Montenegro's finest hotel. The company, Beppler and Jacobson, is on the verge of buying a nearby ski resort.

"To us, frankly, it doesn't matter who wins," said Jim Costa, the American general manager. "People on both sides speak according to rumours, and I believe about 5 per cent of what I hear."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried