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."

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
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

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?