The country is set to conduct a contentious census on December 3, raising concerns about potential ethnic tensions and divisions. Authorities anticipate that over 50% of citizens will identify as Serbian, potentially leading to the reintroduction of the Serbian language in schools and official use.
With a population of just over 600,000 people, Montenegro has a significant ethnic Serbian community comprising 28%. However, there are apprehensions that pro-Russia forces may manipulate the census results to inflate the number of individuals identifying as Serbian.
Nikola Rakočević, a Member of Parliament for the Montenegrin Nationalists party, expressed concerns about external influences, citing a statement by the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, who emphasized the census’s significance for Serbia’s vital interests. This has sparked unease, as such statements could be perceived as interference in Montenegro’s internal affairs.
Originally scheduled for November 1, the census was postponed due to technical issues and the potential boycott by opposition parties. Montenegro gained independence from Serbia in 2006, and the census has become a focal point for pro-Serbian parties aiming to influence the constitutional-legal status of the Serbian language and nationality.
The ethnic divide between Serbs and the rest of the population is not always clear-cut, as some Montenegrin nationalists are native Serbian speakers. Miroslav Doderović, a professor of philosophy at the University of Podgorica, suggests that pro-Serbian parties are pushing for the census to bolster their arguments and impact the constitutional-legal status of the Serbian language and nationality.
Montenegro, under a new coalition of pro-European and pro-Serb parties that came to power in 2023, is working towards European Union membership, adding an additional layer of complexity to the ongoing census dynamics.