The following is an overview of Serb clans, a general term referring to what are known as plemena (племена) and bratstva (братства) in Serbian. The terms are traditional territorial and political units still used in Dinaric regions such as Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Organisational principles similar to bratstvo and pleme are also characteristic for Serbs in Herzegovina, Boka Kotorska, the Brda (Highlands) and Gheg Albanians who live in Montenegro, Northern Albania, and Serbia.
English translations of terms 'Pleme' and 'Bratstvo' is very inconsistent, varying from source to source, therefore references to clans
should be treated as only approximate.
: плeмe, pleme
, plural: плeмeна, plemena
) is a traditional territorial and political unit in Montenegro
. The Plemena
enjoyed especially large autonomy in the period from the second part of 15th century till the middle of 19th century. The first mention of a tribe was in the 13th century in Herzegovina. In fact most of the tribes in were formed in the period between the 13th and 15th centuries. Following the Ottoman occupation and dissolution of the Serbian Empire
, the formation of tribes filled the gap with tribes forming local self-governing units.
In 1853 Danilo II Petrović Njegoš was elected the first secular ruler of modern Montenegro and the Highlands, becoming Knjaz (Prince) Danilo I. Subsequently, the role of the central state was gradually increased and plemena lost their political independence as well as influence. The territorial subdivision of Montenegro was based on territorial clan regions. During the 1960s, the Communist Yugoslav state reorganized the whole Yugoslavia territorially and Montenegro's opštine crossed former tribal borders. However, some old tribal borders still persist, for example, Plužine still reflects the tribal borders of Piva minus the village of Mala Crna Gora (Žabljak opština).
: Братство, Вratstvo
, plural: Братства, Вratstva
) is a patrilineal
kin group in Montenegro and Eastern Herzegovina
. Bratstvo counts its descendance from a particular male (but sometimes also female) ancestor. Names of bratstva are derived either from the first name or nickname or profession of the ancestor. Some authors speculate that ancestry of the oldest bratstva goes down to old pre-Slavic Illyrians . During time a bratstvo can split in smaller subdivisions and acquire a separate name. Surnames of contemporary Montenegrins most usually reflect these subdivisions of a larger bratstvo. Bratstvo
is supposed to share the same blood and therefore marriage inside one bratstvo is in most cases prohibited regardless of the biological distance between the would-be spouses. Montenegrin families tend to guard their family/bratstvo history and many are able to recite the line of ancestors to the originator of the bratstvo.
Relationship between the two terms
Although it is sometimes suggested that plemena consist of bratstva, relationship between pleme and bratstvo is loose. At times of autonomy of plemena, bratstva usually lived concentrated in the same place for long time and therefore formed a part of the pleme. Different bratstva living on the territory of one pleme were often not related to each other. A new bratstvo could be established (and often was) if a stranger sought a refuge (usually because of conflict with Ottoman authorities or because of a blood feud) on the territory of a pleme. Local military force of a pleme consisted of units composed on the basis of local bratstvos. Bratstvo is a kin group, but pleme - territorial one.
Today representatives of different bratstva are dispersed not only throughout Montenegro but also globally. While bratstvo membership has remained comparatively important, membership to a pleme is becoming less and less important.
The Montenegrin clans were an important institution in Montenegro throughout its modern history and state creation. Every tribe had its Chief, and they collectively composed a "Gathering" (Serbian: Збор, Zbor). The elders remained influential political figures up to the incorporation of Montenegro into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Later - Kingdom of Yugoslavia) in 1918. Before the collective unification of Montenegro under the House of Petrović-Njegoš, the Gathering of the Elders was the sole governing body in Montenegro.
In 1904 Prince Nikola Petrović reordered Montenegro into "captainies", each organized on a tribal level. Every nahija (compare with Nahiya) had its own Elder (from the corresponding tribe). The tribal assemblies were attended regularly by all grown men from the corresponding clan. The "General Montenegrin Assembly" was the highest political body and a mediator between the Montenegrin people and the Ottoman authorities. It was composed of chiefs of all tribes in Montenegro.
A list of tribes and clans
Jovan Cvijić (1865 - 1927) has enlisted 21 plemena on the territory of the Old Montenegro, 7 plemena in the Highlands , 16 in Eastern Herzegovina and 2 on the Montenegrin coast. The list below contains also many groups which should be classified as bratstva. Note that the territory of contemporary Montenegro consists of several historic regions (Old Montenegro, Highlands and the Coast) as well as territories that were added to Montenegro comparatively recently (e.g., parts of what used to be Austrian Herzegovina). Old Montenegro in turn used to be divided into four districts (nahija). None of these regions and districts are reflected in official territorial division of contemporary Montenegro.
Tribes of Old Montenegro
- Riječka nahija
- Dobrsko Selo
- Katunska nahija (Katun province)
- Lješanska nahija
- Crmnička nahija (Crmnica)
- Gluhi Do
(Seven Serbian Brda)
Tribes and clans of the Coastland
- Bijele Nikšićke Rudine
- Oputne Rudine
- Nikšićka Župa
- Gornje Polje
- Korito Drobnjačko
- Pivljani or Piva
- Gornje Gacko (Golija i Duga)
- Donje Gacko
Dispersed ancestral clans and tribes
As corporate groups below mentioned used to exist in history and some people still trace their descent from them.
- Trebješani (Nikšići)
Specific references and footnotes: