Montenegro was the only country in the Balkans that remained independent during the Ottoman rule. It was also recognised as an independent nation at the Berlin Congress in 1878. But even so, Montenegrin ethnicity was not always included in the country’s travel documents.
Montenegro’s first passport dates back to 1751 during the rule of prince-bishop Sava Petrović Njegoš. The passport was in a letter form and was written for two Montenegrins who were travelling to Sicily. The letter, amongst other information, stated that both men were Montenegrin nationals. During the reign of Petar I Petrović Njegoš, citizens who wanted to travel abroad where issued with the document simply called the Passport, removing the mention of Montenegrin nationality. This changed slightly when Petar II Petrović Njegoš, Montenegro’s most famous ruler, came to power in 1830. Rather than the Passport, Njegoš would grant a special Bill of Passage to those who wished to travel. But the nationality remained excluded. One of such documents – dating back to 1837 – is on display in Biljarda palace in Cetinje (see photo). The Bill of Passage was issued by Njegoš and was printed by his own printers. After 1843 the document changed again and Montenegro was added to its name – it became the Montenegrin passport and it was issued by the Senate.
After independence, Montenegro quickly gains recognition
Under the rule of Nikola I Petrović Njegoš, in 1878, the Berlin Congress recognised Montenegro’s independence and a number of major European powers began establishing diplomatic relations with the country. In total, 13 embassies and consulates were set up in the then capital Cetinje. Those included: Russia; Italy; France; Austria-Hungarian empire; England; Bulgaria; Serbia; Spain; Greece; Belgium; Germany; as well as Turkey and USA.
However, Nikola I, the only King of Montenegro, again removed nationality from the country’s passport, even though all the major powers recognised Montenegro as an independent nation. Montenegro was annexed by what used to be Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918 and would not have its own national passport until the break-up of Yugoslavia and its separation from Serbia in 2006.
In terms of power, Montenegrin passport today comparable to Russian
Today, the Montenegrin passport ranks in the top half of world travel documents with most power. In the world rankings, compiled every year by Arton Capital, Montenegrin passport takes 36th place, together with the passports of the Russian Federation and Tonga. This means that Montenegrins can travel without visa requirement to 71 countries, while in 41 countries they can obtain visa upon entry. There are, however, 81 countries that require Montenegrin citizens to obtain visa before travelling. The strongest passport among the countries of the Western Balkans in 2018 is Slovenian (6th place), followed by Croatian (10th place), Serbian (28th place), Macedonian (35th place), passport of Bosnia and Herzegovina (39th place) and Kosovo passport (78th place).
The best passports, with which one can travel without visa to most countries in the world, is Singaporean, followed by German, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Luxembourg, Norwegian, Dutch, South Korean and US passports.