Montenegro has had a long and interesting struggle in its quest for full independence and many of our articles here document this fascinating journey. Over the years Montenegro has been governed by several countries and this has resulted in a cosmopolitan population that today calls Montenegro home. However, this struggle and determination to be independent continues and today the language spoken, although created out of a dialect of Serbian, is called Montenegrin and that is the only language that is officially recognized by people and country.
Let’s learn more about the people that make up Montenegro today. Keep in mind that these figures are estimates and derived from world population registers on the internet which don’t always agree with each other. The 2017 figures on some sites are a snapshot of the situation as at 1 January while others estimate the current population based on the last known accurate figures and the trends. Others attempt to give an accurate figure at a date. The margin for error is therefore ± 1 000 people and ± 2%.
As at April 2017 there are 627 292 people living in Montenegro of which 49.1% is male and 50.9% is female. At present the births exceed the deaths which means that there is a natural increase in the population. However, due to migration Montenegro is losing people. In other words, more Montenegrins leave to live elsewhere than people permanently moving to Montenegro from foreign countries. The population density is 45.4 people per square kilometer. The total square kilometer of Montenegro is 13 810 km²
The life expectancy and population pyramid is indicative of countries with a long life expectancy, a high level of education and good health care. The life expectancy averages 74 years although it is made up of male life expectancy of 71.6 years and female life expectancy of 76.5 years. The literacy rate in Montenegro is estimated at 99%. However, on the healthcare side the country is lacking facilities with too few hospitals and doctors.
The major ethnic groups in Montenegro are as follows:
- Montenegrins 45%
- Serbs 29%
- Bosnians 8.6%
- Albanians 4.9%
- Roma 1%
- Croats 1%
- Serb-Montenegrins or Montenegrin-Serbs 0.6%
- Egyptians 0.3%
- Unspecified 9.6%
In addition, you’ll encounter small groups of people identifying as Yugoslavs, Russians, Macedonians, Hungarians, Italians and Germans.
Of course people referring to themselves as Yugoslav, Montenegrin, Serbian, Serb-Montenegrins, or Montenegrin-Serbs have a lot to do with the history of Montenegro and its break-away from Serbia and the break-up of Yugoslavia. These figures change as people form new identities with a country or refuse to be parted from a country they once belonged to. In addition, people identifying as Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian and Albanian may have found themselves living in Montenegro by accident and not by design as their countries lost or gained ground in the numerous struggles. Certain areas can be predominantly one group of people for example Ulcinj is predominantly inhabited by Albanians.
In terms of religion 72% consider themselves to be Orthodox Christians, 19.1% Muslim, 3.4% Catholics and the rest are atheists or unspecified.
As mentioned the official language is Montenegrin, however, Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian are all commonly spoken and those languages are similar enough that people can understand each other. The other language spoken there is Albanian which is different from the other languages and as a minority language it is no longer allowed in Montenegrin schools as a primary teaching language.
Commonly, the second language of Montenegrins will be English and it is widely spoken in tourist areas and in the capital city of Podgorica. However, German and French are also taught in schools as second languages. Montenegro does have a lot of tourists especially in the summer months. It’s been said that in peak tourist season the population of Montenegro doubles. Montenegro has few refugees with the last count being just over 3 000.
The cultural diversity of Montenegro is also displayed in its cuisine with influences of Italy, Turkey, Hungary and even Croatian traditions making up what today would be considered Montenegrin specialities. An interesting custom is that Montenegrins enjoy strong liquor and will ply the tourists with the same, however, they frown on open displays of drunkenness; don’t say we didn’t warn you! There is a mix of liberal and conservative people where nudity, or semi-nudity on specific beaches will be tolerated but proper attire that covers your body is expected when visiting a church or cathedral. This same mix of liberal and conservative extends to homosexuality where there is still a lot of room for improvement in Montenegro with regards to fully embracing and accepting this lifestyle. The taboo of smoking that has taken over the rest of the world has not yet reached the shores of Montenegro either, therefore it will still be common to see people of all ages that smoke in Montenegro.
It’s the best policy not to discuss the history of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro, the surrounding areas and the currently disputed areas with the local people in Montenegro as there are as many diverse views on it as there are diverse people and their differing views are strongly and passionately held.