The first data on ethnical communities that lived in this area originate from 2000 – 1500. year BC. At the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century Slavic tribes, ancestors of contemporary population of Montenegro, began to settle on this territory. The first state established by Slavic tribes on the Montenegrin territory dates back to the 9th century. Its name was Duklja, derived from the denomination for the area these tribes inhabited.
The first ruler of the Duklja state was duke Vladimir (990 – 1016.). His successor was duke Vojislav, who is considered the founder of Vojislaveljević dynasty, the first Montenegrin dynasty. One of Vojislav's sons, Mihailo, who ruled over Duklja from 1050. to 1081, succeeded in being admitted as a king. Vojislavljević dynasty ruled over Duklja until the end of the 12th century, when Duklja state was conquered by Serbian ruler Stefan Nemanja. The area of Montenegro was under rule of Serbian lords until the beginning of the second half of the 14th century, when local dynasty – Balšići – regained power. They represent the second Montenegrin dynasty.
After Balšići, Montenegro is ruled by Crnojevići (1451- 1496) – the third Montenegrin dynasty. In this period, Montenegro is increasingly exposed to the attacks of the Ottoman empire, which conquered it in 1496. Montenegro was the last of the Balkan states to lose its independence. Only several decades later, Montenegrin people start their struggle for freedom, which resulted in success in late 17th century. Montenegro became first independent state on the Balkans. Thus began the new era of Montenegrin history, marked by struggle to keep independence and efforts toward state building.
At first, head of the state was religious leader – metropolitan, and later on the state was governed by secular ruler, both from the dynasty Petrović-Njegoš. Seven rulers of Montenegro originate from this dynasty. Petrović-Njegoš is the fourth Montenegrin dynasty (1697-1918.). Montenegro, as a free and independent state was proclaimed principality in 1852. Its independence was admitted by all great powers, except for the Ottoman Empire and the Great Britain. However, not before 1878. at the Berlin Congress, the independence of Montenegro was accepted by all the states that haven’t done it before. Thirty-two years after the Berlin Congress, Montenegrin duke Nikola I Petrović proclaimed the kingdom of Montenegro, in 1910.
Montenegro joined the World War I siding with the Entente Powers, suffering great victims and devastation. After the war ended, the Kingdom of Montenegro was, with the consent of the great powers, adjoined to the Kingdom of Serbia, and its dynasty was dethroned. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians was created, which, in 1929. became Kingdom of Yugoslavia, with Montenegro being part of it. This new state did not recognize neither Montenegrin identity or its historical heritage. Montenegro didn’t even exist as a geographical denomination, being part of so called Zeta Banovina, within broader administrative borders.
Montenegro and Montenegrins were reaffirmed during the World War II, when this area becomes one of the strongest pillars of antifascist resistance in Europe. In 1941, in Montenegro, the most numerous people’s uprising in occupied Europe happened. Montenegrins were also significant part in overall Yugoslav antifascist movement. After the 1945, and the creation of socialist Yugoslavia, led by Josip Broz Tito for over three decades, Montenegrin state and national identity was fully recognized. This was the time of the greatest socio-economic and cultural progress in the history of Montenegro by that time.
During the time Yugoslavia was dissolving (1991.) Montenegrins decided to continue to live in federation with Serbia, which soon proved to be unsustainable and dysfunctional. For this reason, from 1997 onwards, the process of alienation from the Belgrade regime and reaffirmation of Montenegro’s independence started, followed by strong dedication to democratic reform, good cooperation with neighbors and European and Euroatlantic integration. Montenegrin government, headed by Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, on the basis of the Belgrade agreement which created State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, with the help of the European Union, succeeded in creating conditions to organize a referendum on state independence in 2006.
Referendum was held on May 21st 2006, and the absolute majority of Montenegrin citizens (55.5%) upheld the idea of reaffirming Montenegrin independence. At the time, the European Union set up unique referendum conditions, so far unknown to the democratic praxis of Europe. Montenegro thus became the first country in long history of the Balkans created in peaceful, democratic manner, according to the highest European standards.