Petar II Petrovic-Njegos

Portrait of Petar II Petrovic-Njegos

Petar II Petrovic-Njegos the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro was a poet and philosopher. He is widely known simply as Njegos. He was born in Njegusi, Motenegro on 13th November 1813 and died in Cetinje, Montenegro on 31st October 1851 aged 37.

Major Works

Glas Kamenštaka” (The Voice of a Stone-Cutter) (1833)
Ogledalo Srpsko” (The Serbian Mirror) (1835)
“Luca Mikrokozma” (The Ray of the Microcosm) (1845)
“Gorski Vijenac” (1847) (The Mountain Wreath – sometimes published in English as “The Sabre and the Song”
Lažni car Šćepan Mali” (The False Tsar Stephen the Small) (1851)

Biography Timeline

Petar II Petrovic-Njegos (born Rade” Petrović) was born on November 13th 1813 in Njeguši, Montenegro. His father, Tomislav Petrović was a member of the Njeguši tribe and a regional official. His mother was Ivana Proroković and was the daughter of captain Lazo Proroković. Rade was the middle of five children. He spent his childhood helping herd his father’s livestock.

1825: He is taught to read and write by monks at the Cetinje Monastery and Italian at the Savina Monastery. 

1826: He learns Russian and French at the Topla Monastery.

1827: In October the poet and playwright Sima Milutinovic, the official secretary to his uncle Petar the First, teaches him poetry and Serbian folktales as well as shooting and swordsmanship.

1829: Petar the First had chosen Mitar M. Petrović, the son of his eldest brother Stjepan, to be the new ruler (Vladika) but he died and his second choice Dordije rules himself out by joining the army.

1830: At the death of his uncle Petar the First on 30th October Rade becomes the Vladika, or Prince-Bishop, of Montenegro and takes the title of Peter the Second. The succession went from uncle to Nephew as Orthodox Prelates were required to be celibate and have no issue. Many of the chieftains however disagreed with giving it to someone so young. Radonjić, in particular, opposed his succession and argued that Đorđije was Petar I’s true heir but as his family had long been enemies of the Njegoš’s Petrović clan this was seen as a political move but even he agreed in the end. In late November Radonjić asks the Austrians to try and remove the new ruler from the throne. Njegoš hears about the plot and is furious and calls the Council together. On 29th November they decide Radonjić is guilty of treason and he is condemned to death by firing squad in January 1832. This is not carried out however and he goes into exile. Meanwhile Njegos writes his first poetry and tries to rule his poor and largely illiterate country.

1831: The teenage Njegoš is consecrated as an Archimandrite at the Kom Monastery and becomes officially known as Petar II Petrović-Njegoš. 

1832: Njegoš abolishes the office of Guvernadur, formerly held by Radonjić. The state is still seen as a part of the Ottoman Empire but the Russians are also powerful and insist on the establishment of the Praviteljstvujuščiji Senat (Governing Senate of Montenegro and the Highlands) to control the new ruler. He has no official army or police force to enforce the rule of law and the tribes on the borders refuse to obey him. He launches an attack against the Muslim tribes of Podgorica but his force is defeated and has to retreat. Resid Mehmed Pasha then attacks many Montenegrin towns and villages hanging those citizens he catches. 

1833: He is consecrated as a Bishop. New taxes are introduced so that the country does not have to rely on Russia for its independence but these are controversial and do not raise enough. He sets of to meet Tsar Nicholas the First in St Petersburg. On his way he meets the Serbian language reformer Vuk Stefanovic Maradzic in Vienna who is greatly impressed with him. The Tsar gives him some money as well as theological books and icons for the Cetinje Monastery and he is now able to establish new schools in the country. He introduces the periodical “Grlica” (The Turtledove) and uses it to print some of his poems, including “Glas Kamenštaka” (The Voice of a Stone-Cutter) as well as those of others. It continues in print until 1839.

1834: He arranges for the canonisation of the late Petar I in order to please his deeply religious people. He writes “Lijek Jarosti Turske” (The Cure for Turkish Fury).

1835: He writes “Ogledalo Srpsko” (The Serbian Mirror). 

1836: In August Ali Pasha Ridvanoglu attacks Grahovo on the northern border whose inhabitants are refusing to pay the Ottoman poll tax on non-Muslims. Njegoš sends a force led by his teenage brother Joko and his nephew Stevan to rescue the hostages and they engage in a pitched battle. However Grahovo’s inhabitants had gone to the Austrian territory on the Adriatic coast and been refused sanctuary and are then forced to return and swear an oath of allegiance to the Sultan.

1837: He makes a second visit to Saint Petersburg but is received coolly by the Tsar and the Russians complain about his “unmonkish” behaviour, particularly his fondness for women. Despite this, Russia increases its annual subsidy and provide wheat for Montenegro’s starving people.

1838: He plays host to the Saxon King Frederick Augustus the Second who comes to the country to study the flora. Due to the lack of space he orders the construction of a royal palace and seat of government near the Cetinje Monastery.

1839: He sends a delegation to Bosnia to find out the exact amount that the people of Grahovo will be paying the Sultan but after first treating them well Ali Pasha has them all arrested.

1841: He reaches an agreement with the Austrians on defining the Austro–Montenegrin border which requires the Montenegrins to give up two historic monasteries Podmaine and Stanjevici.

1842: He and Ali Pasha meet in Dubrovnik Palace to negotiate peace which is signed before representatives of Austria and Russia. 

1843: Osman Pasha invades southern Montenegro and captures the islands of Vranjina and Lesendro. Njegos refuses to admit their sovereignty over Montenegro and attempts to retake the islands by force.

1845: He writes “Luca Mikrokozma” (The Ray of the Microcosm). 

1846: He spends time in Vienna overseeing the publication of his epic poem “Gorski Vijenac” (The Mountain Wreath) and is away when a severe drought strikes the country.

1847: A major famine hits the country.

1848: The situation on Montenegro’s southern border has begun to stabilise. He assists the pan-Slavist Bam Josip Jelacic to resist the implementation of Hungarian as the official language of Croatia. In April he secretly hosts Serbian emissary Matija Ban in Cetinje and discusses plans for instigating an uprising in Bosnia, Herzegovina and “Old Serbia”.

1849: He begins having a persistent cough and a doctor from Kotor diagnoses tuberculosis.

1850: He travels to Kotor in the spring and composes his will intending to prevent the power struggle at his own accession. 

1851: He travels to Italy in January and visits Venice, Milan, Genoa and Rome. He visits the ruins at Pompei with the Serbian writer Ljubomir Nenadovic. On his way home, he has his photograph taken in Vienna by Anastas Jovanovic which is the only known likeness in existence. He arrives back in Cetinje in August. He writes one of his most famous epic poems “Lažni car Šćepan Mali” (The False Tsar Stephen the Small) 

Petar II Petrovic-Njegos died of tuberculosis on 31st October 1851 in Cetinje, Montenegro. He had asked to be buried on Mount Lovcen in a chapel he had designed but was interred at the Cetinje Monastery until 1855 when he was removed there. (During the First World War in 1916 Montenegro was occupied by Austria-Hungary and a monument to Emperor Franz Joseph was placed on Mount Lovcen and they demanded that his remains were taken back to Cetinje. In 1925 the chapel was rededicated and his remains were reburied yet again).

Further Information

List of works by Petrovic-Njegos.

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