Sekula Drljević

Sekula Drljević

Sekula, historically more notable as Sekule Drljević (Montenegrin Cyrillic: Секулa or Секуле Дрљевић), (1884 – 1945) was a Montenegrin politician, lawyer, and author. Originally a proponent of Serb unification, he ranged across founder of the pro-Greens Montenegrin Federalist Party that supported Montenegrin sovereignty during the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to head of the creation of a Montenegrin Axis puppet state. Sekula later served for the fascist Ustashi, tried for war crimes and Nazi collaboration after WWII, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

He is most notable for writing the lyrics for a Montenegrin national anthem, "Eternal Our...", that was adopted by the ruling DPS-SDP coalition of Milo Đukanović for national anthem of modern Montenegro on 12 July 2004 under the name "Oh, Bright Dawn of May", although some offensive lyrics where altered due to popular demand.

Early life

Drljević was born in Ravni, Morača, Princedom of Montenegro in 1884, into the Morača Serb clan. He finished basic education in his village and then went to Sremski Karlovci in Austria-Hungary, finishing his secondary studies at the famous Karlovci Gymnasium. He then moved on to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia-Slavonia (also a part of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy), where he enrolled in University of Zagreb's Faculty of Law, very soon earning a PhD.

Career in politics

Montenegro

Appointed for Minister of Justice of the Princedom of Montenegro on 2 April 1907, he permanently moved to Montenegro in 1909 starting his political career and becoming one of youngest Montenegro's political leaders. Sekula held the post until 24 January 1910. He was in 1909 named the Minister of Justice by the cabinet of the True People's Party, as well as the representative of Education & Church Ministry in the Montenegrin government. From 6 June 1912 to 25 April 1913 he was both a Minister of Finance and Construction in the national unity government. After that at the '13 elections, he was elected into the Serbian National Assembly of the Kingdom of Montenegro as an independent. An outspoken enemy of the Ottoman Empire and supporter of closer relations and union with the Kingdom of Serbia, he was a chief proponent and planner of Serb unification after the kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro got a common border after the Balkan wars since 10 February 1914. In the eve of the First World War, he was a representer of the more radical current demanding immediate and outright war with Austria-Hungary after it declared war on Serbia, opponent to the Monarchy ever since it annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, which had a Serb majority. In his "The Struggle for Monetary, Martial and Diplomatic Union of Montenegro and Serbia" work from '14, he drew first plans in detail for a paceful unification of Montenegro with Serbia.

After Essad Pasha surrendered the city of Skadar to Montenegrin-Serbian forces in April 1913 at the end of the First Balkan War, Sekula paid a visit to Belgrade in an honorary diplomatic initiative and held a speech at the manifesto, he reminded of "..the blackest of the Turkish tyranny over the Serb people in the times when the Serb people had to celebrate Easter of its Serbian God and its Serbian Birth in caves.." and "..the epic of the fame of Serb weaponry in the great war, the epic of the victories at Kumanovo, Bitolj and Jedrene." "It need not be proven that this sweet new proof of the fame of Serb weaponry and Serb heroism...To Serb heroes and to the people its the foundations of its heroism, and let those foundations be the basis of a great union, the one so long wanted, which will be the groundwork of a greater Serbian state"

On 19 July 1914 in the Serbian National Assembly of the Kingdom of Montenegro MPs discussed the declaration of war of Austria-Hungary to the Kingdom of Serbia and decided that Montenegro immediately stood aside Serbia, for which Sekula voted. Sekula's speech: "To make a statement of solidarity with Serbia would mean insulting of the unity of Serb Kingdoms, the united defense of Serb interests. The Monarchy is not only attacking Serbia, but through its attacking the unification of Serb lands into a single Serb state. Both Serb kingdoms are now one and the Montenegrin people shall fulfill its duty, sacrificing everything for the fatherland and for the salvation and unification of Serbdom...I only regret that that Law has not yet created such article, which defines that the declaration of war to Serbia automatically draws upon a declaration of war from Montenegro. But, here the Serb kingdoms are now one, and the Montenegrin people shall fulfill its duty, sacrificing everything for the fatherland and Serbdom..."

After Montenegro fell to the Central Powers in January 1916, he was arrested amongst all other politicians who didn't flee or refused to collaborate. At the last parliamentary session he attacked HRH Nicholas who fled the country in secret, blaming him for leading the country into the horrible situation. He was interned in the Karlstein Austro-Hungarian internment camp. There in the prison he organized with other detainees from Montenegro plans to unify Montenegro and Serbia into a single Serb nation-state, electing a special Board for Unification that he presided. It was supposed to prepare and act for expelled King Nicholas I's in case of his return to occupied Montenegro. Its work served as a basis for the Great People's Assembly of the Serb People in Montenegro elected in November 1918 that declared unification with Serbia.

Yugoslavia

Upon the war the royal government secured his release. He joined the Serbian Radical People's Party and moved to Belgrade, where he was assigned to the Ministry of Justice in Stojan Protić's government. However, only three months after he resigned and left the party, disappointed by the low positions and jobs he got, since he considered his role in the unification deserved more position. He opened a lawyer's office in April 1919 in Zemun, Croatia-Slavonia territory and worked at the politically motived trials. He was most famous for successfully defending brigadier Radomir Vešović in 1921.

Disappointed in the centrist policies by Belgrade, after Montenegro was renamed to "Zeta Area", he founded the Montenegrin Federalist Party in 1922, which aimed for decentralization of the Kingdom and preservation of the historical entities abolished in favor of unification. His party didn't attain much attraction from the electorate at the 1923 election, but he managed to get elected into the Serb-Croat-Slovene parliament in 1925. An outspoken Serb nationalist, he covertly supported the Montenegrin Army in Exile and the aggressive Serb extremist Greens that favored guerrilla resistance in Montenegro against the royal centralist regime and open independence. He opposed the way Serbia presented into the kingdom its own hegemony through the unification, the printing of books in Serbian ekavian and not Serbian ijekavian in precise. He complained on poor investments into Montenegro, and that retributions by the government needs to be repaid for the damages done in the civil fights that occurred in Montenegro between the Whites and the Greens after the unification.

Ridiculed by the public and hated by depicted as a "separatist", "cooperator with the Croats who wants to breakup Yugoslavia" and "traitor", he was also prosecuted. During his visit to Kolašin a Montenegrin by the name of Blažo Bošković from the police attempted an assassination on him. His cousin of same name was killed in Peć, where an Albanian Dukadjin (Serbian: Metohija) press worked in support of Sekula's aims, accused for separatist tendencies. In 1920 it was falsely put to the public that he has died in an accident, all under pressure from Belgrade.

Sekule's speech in the royal parliament on 16 February 1926, during the discussion on the army: "This tradition in our army, is given by none other than one army, until the unification of the independent states Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Montenegro, that is the two independent Serb states, and that army is the army of the Serb people...By the understanding of our people there were only heroic Montenegrins and heroic Šumadians, that is only the heroic Serb people..." and on 26 March the same year on the Montenegrin question: "The Serb people was in one historical momentum entirely united, but united in slavery under the Turks. Montenegro repulsed that unification and separated from the Serb people by keeping in its firm haiduk hand the Kosovo Cross-Banner of Boško Jugović and the statist thought on that chain of the karst mountains hanging under Lovćen like a closter on a stalk..."

The conceiver of the idea to unite the other historical entities to stand opposed to Serbia, he worked with Croat Federalists doctors Ivan Lorković and Ante Trumbić for some time. He cemented his ideas when he allied with Stjepan Radić and his Croatian Republican People's Party, being elected as their MP in Županja. Joining too with the Independent Democratic Party, he was reelected into the parliament as a member of the Peasant-Democratic Coalition in 1927.

In 1929 King Alexander Karageorgevich introduced dictatorship. His party like all were originally banned, but it wasn't excessed so Sekule continued his political activity. In 1930 he went to Zagreb to take part in the process against Vlatko Maček, with whom he continued cooperating after Radic's death, but as many major political opponents, he was arrested for act of treason against the state and interned in Sokobanja. He was released shortly after an appeal, promising to give up on a policy of secession. In the 1930s Drljevic cooperated with the underground banned Montenegrin Communists.

After Alexander was assassinated in Marseilles in 1934, former imprisoned rebel Novica Radović joined Drljevic's "Montenegrin Peasants' Federalist Movement" and shaped its ideological beliefs that turned extremely Serbian and Montenegrin nationalistic and the two returned into politics, ever more determined to create an independent Montenegro, pointing out that Serbia in a most cruel way annexed and betrayed Montenegro thanks to the Allies and that Montenegrins are superior and "true, pure Serbs", and not the Serbians and distancing from cooperation with the Serbian opposition, closing by to the ultranationalist Croatian Party of Rights. Since most of the population were peasants, it reshaped its electoral aims to achieve support.

In 1937 Sekula came to touch with the pro-Croatian Montenegrin activist Savić Marković Štedimlija and rewrote the lyrics for a Montenegrin folk song, removing references to Serb identity as a mark of protest against Serbia and designated it to be the national anthem of all Montenegrins, "Our Eternal..." ("Vječna naša..."). The song celebrated cleansing of Muslims from Montenegro and centered on Montenegrin patriotism, calling forth for his plans of a Greater Montenegro. Though a member of the 1938 Unified Opposition, Sekula eternally stayed in opposition even after the Cvetković-Maček Agreement of 1939 that put a temporary end to most Yugoslavian problems because of his demands for an independent Montenegro, losing all support and disappearing from the political scene.

World War II

During April 1941, Axis forces occupied the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Montenegro fell under the control of fascist Italian regime led by Benito Mussolini. Drljević quickly gathered his separatists and formed the "Interim Administrative Committee of Montenegro" on April 17, 1941, the very same day the Royal Yugoslav Army capitulated, elected its President. He was preparing organize an independent Montenegro that would collaborate with the Kingdom of Italy. Up to some time in May, the Committee had formed a "Kingdom of Montenegro" inviting successor prince Michael Petrovic-Njegos to take the throne. He refused however, on the argument that the "Black Latins" (Црнолатинаши, "Crnolatinaši") as Sekula's men were called, are traitors of the Serb people. Subsequently the Nazis interned Michael. However, the plans of a Greater Montenegrin state have proved fruitless as most of Herzegovina was taken by the Independent State of Croatia, the Bay of Kotor was under direct Italian control and a fascist Greater Albania took not only Metohija, but also even eastern parts of Montenegro. The only achieved expansion was towards the northern Serbian part of Sanjak.

On 12 July 1941 Sekula Drljević came to Cetinje, the Montenegrin capital, and held a speech on the "Saint Peter's Council" that proclaimed the "Independent State of Montenegro" under Italian protectorate. On the following 13 July Conte Serafino Mazzolini nominating him the first Prime Minister of the collaborationist government as a reward. However, Sekula's governance lasted below 24 hours, as the recently-raised Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland (Chetniks) raised a national rebellion along with Partisan assistance opposing the Saint Peter's Council's separatist decisions. By October 1941 the Italians understood that Sekula enjoyed no support in Montenegro and saw that they have no use of him, so they imprisoned him in Sanremo through a decree by Alessandro "Pirzio" Birolli, Fascist Italy's main representative in Montenegro. He was soon released, but he was banned from leaving Italy, which was imprinted in his passport. However, he also acquired the passport of NDH through his Ustaša friends and managed to go to his home town Zemun, now in NDH. Sekula's Black Latins collapsed into two fronts, the more extremist one that attempted to raise rebellions with the Partisans in the Bay of Kotor and the more moderate one that together with certain Greens collaborated with the Italians and since 1943's Italian collapse, Germans.

During his stay in Zemun, Sekula was assigned to the Sajmište concentration camp in occupied Serbia outside Belgrade during, an instrument of the Holocaust in exterminating Jews from Serbia, subsequently including also Serbs and Roma.

In 1944 the Axis started losing the war rapidly to the Allies and Sajmiste was closed. That spring, as Tito's Partisans were about to liberate Belgrade, Sekula moved further into the country for security to Zagreb, capital of the NDH. The Ustashas provided him residence and introduced him into the political life of the Independent State of Croatia, so he joined the Ustashi and became an associate of "poglavnik" Ante Pavelić. Believing in Adolf Hitler's promises of a renewed offensive against the Allies, he formed from prominent remaining Black Latins the "Montenegrin State Council", roughly speaking a Montenegrin Government in Exile dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Montenegrin sovereignty. Among other prominent figures, Stedimlija was appointed to Sekula's cabinet. Sekula proclaimed "Eternal our..." as the national anthem of Montenegro. The anthem would, with slight changes, be adopted as the modern Montenegrin anthem in 2004.

Adopting Stedimlija's research of Montenegrin individuality as a nation separate from the Serbs and by origin Red Croats, he propagated an anti-Serbian union of Montenegrins with Croats and Albanians. He published his pamphlet in Zagreb in 1944 "Who are the Serbs?" (Tko su Srbi?) speaking of the Serbs as a degenerate race and blaming all of Balkan's modern and past problems in the Serbian nation and its aggressive policies, as well as referring to their similarity to the Jews, whom Axis world's ideology blamed for most of world's problems. A such proponent, he attempted to form a Montenegrin Orthodox Church but found no support for it, satisfying with Stedimlija's Ustasha-styled Croatian Orthodox Church.

Guaranteeing protection of tens of thousands of people from Montenegro Sekula cooperated with the Ustashas transferring them in April 1944 to the Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška concentration camps were most of them met gruesome deaths in Ustashas' extermination plans. While in NDH he also worked in the Frontiersmen (Graničar) paper, propagating against uprisings in Axis-occupied territories and especially depicting the Partisans as cruel and violent bringers of retribution. On 15 February 1945 the Yugoslav Partisan Military court sentenced Sekula Drljevic to death penalty for the crimes committed in Sajmište and for propaganda against the national liberation fight, after the State Commission for Establishing the Crimes of the Occupiers and Their Helpers finalized its research on him. On 24 February 1945 the Croatian Federal State Commission established his crimes and collaboration in NDH further and confirmed the sentence.

Seeking a personal army, he met with the embattled divisions of Chetniks that broke off from the main course of Draža Mihailović retreating in Bosnia worn out from the fights with the Partisans in the civil war and negotiated with their leader Pavle Đurišić. Pavle recognizing the switch from the Allies to the Axis and the Montenegrin State Council as its own sovereign, became leader of the self-styled "Montenegrin People's Army". On 22 March 1945 the deal was struck in Doboj and Sekula became the Supreme Commander of the 8,000 strong Chetnik Force. He promised safe passage across the German border in a planned massive evacuation to Nazi Germany as a result of growing Allied successes at the Eastern Front. Never actually fully submitting to collaboration with the Ustashas, Sekula cooperated with Ante Pavelić as a means of slowly levelling and defeat them.

However only weeks later, on 8 April 1945, Đurišić tried to move his troops northwestwards without Sekula, so they were assaulted by the Ustashas and heavily defeated at the Battle on Lijevča field. The three remaining Chetnik units were reorganized into the Montenegrin Army and instructed under direct Croatian Home Defender forces control to act around Karlovac. Đurišić was now in an even weaker position than before; on the run in Banja Luka vicinity where he got tracked down by Ustasha colonel Vladimir Metikoš whom he knew well from their time together in Royal Yugoslav Army. Metikoš relayed another offer from Drljević of negotiations in Stara Gradiška, which Đurišić and his remaining officers fatally accepted. Upon arriving to Gradiška, their weapons were taken away and they were sent to Jasenovac where their lives were ended. Sekula knowingly never even showed up for the supposed negotiation meeting.

On 6 May 1945 the Ustaše started a massive evacuation and a northwest retreat. Sekula was fleeing into Nazi Germany (itself in its last throes) and his rearguard was protected by the remaining fringes of the Chetnik Montenegrin People's Army against the attacking Partisans. After the chaotic retreat, Drljević and his wife were in a hotel when their throats were slit in Judenburg, Germany on 10 November 1945 by the very last fled Chetnik members of his own Montenegrin People's Army that had safeguarded him.

Political author

In 1914 Sekula explained how Serbia and Montenegro should be unified in his "The Struggle for Monetary, Martial and Diplomatic Union of Montenegro and Serbia" ("Borba za carinsku, vojnu i diplomatsku uniju izmeðu Crne Gore i Srbije")

Several of Drljević's books were published. He gathered his Yugoslav parliament speeches and published them as "Centralizam ili federalizam" (Централизам или федерализам) in 1926.

During the World War II, his book "Balkanski sukobi 1905-1941" (Балкански сукоби 1905-1941) was published.

In 1944 in Zagreb he published a nationalist pamphlet known as "Who are Serbs" ("Tko su Srbi?").

References

* Montenegrins on Themselves ("Crnogorci o sebi"), Batrić Jovanović
* Sekula Drljevic, All His Faces - Facts and Interpretations ("Sekula Drljević, sva njegova lica - fakti i interpretacije"), Veseljko Koprivica

External links

* [http://www.arhiv.sv.gov.yu/a1205c09.htm Montenegrin Front's electoral propaganda pamphlet from 1936]


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