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The Paris Peace Conference

The Paris Peace Conference-Council of Ten
The Paris Peace Conference Volume IV pg. 207-211

Paris, 6th march 1919
Following Marshal Foch, General Gvozdenovic then read the following Statement 
on behalf of the King of Montenegro.

King Nikola I and Gen Anto GvozdenovicGentlemen, we consider it our duty to speak here, as we think we are entitled to address you behalf of Montenegro. Notwithstanding the intrigues and wiles of our adversaries (who are alas! allies and brothers) we are the only official, legal and legitimate Government of the Country.

Moreover, our existence is not denied by you, but rather clearly recognised seeing the Great Powers continue to accredit diplomatic representatives to the Royal Government and that the Federal Republic of the United States recently approved the creation of a Royal Legation in Washington.

As a legitimate Government recognised by the Allies, the Royal Government considers that it has claims on your goodwill. Can you forget that it was its Head who, from the very beginning, wished to fight side by side with the Entente?

But, despite its heavy sacrifices and cruel sufferings during the war, Montenegro is the only one of your Allies - and even of your enemies against whom the doors of the conference have been closed.

The Royal Government has not been asked to name a representative for the seat reserved for it, because in your opinion the position of our country required explanation.

May we be permitted to say that its position is neither obscure nor confused? A perfidious propaganda has tried t make you believe that our country as a whole wished to be absorbed by Serbia, and Serbia has tried to do this by one audacious and forcible coup. But Montenegro opposed this arbitrary 
annexation. She cried aloud despite the gag; her defenceless hands smote the fresh oppressors armed with the weapons you had given them against a common enemy. That is the outline of what occurred. However telling it may be, permit us to add some details thereto.

The scheme of an official Serbia (which is only a part of the Imperialistic dreams of certain politicians) has long been in preparation, and in their haste since 1916 to carry them into effect gave rise to the amazing Corfu Agreement [The text of the Corfu Agreement is printed by HWV Temperley, A 
history of the Peace Conference of Paris, Vol v (London 1921) pg.393], which, without a single Montenegrin being consulted disposed of montenegro from July, 1917 onwards.

This agreement was not only opposed to the laws of every age and country, but was also an insult to the high principles which the Allies have made their own.

In France, where the Royal Government received hospitality, in Italy, in England, in the whole of America, a fierce campaign was waged against us, our deeds and our persons — a campaign so false and mean that it stooped to any means of injuring us.

The word treason was repeatedly used. Without compunction King Nicholas was reproached for asking for Peace in 1915 (in obedience, so it was said, to certain secret engagements). We state clearly that this rumour was the work of Serbian Agents. Such insults can be best answered by an authentic 
document. From the beginning of the war, the King decided to entrust command of the montenegrin armies to Serbian Staff Officers; their Chief, the Serbian Colonel Pechich, was the real Commander-inChief of our troops.

When Austrians advanced and the lack of food and ammunition made it impossible for our soldiers to hold their positions, Colonel Pechich proposed asking for an armistice. When the Supreme Austrian Command answered this request with the utmost harshness and cruelty, Colonel Pechich advised the 
King to make peace.

In our memorandum you will find the text of this letter, written on 31st December 1915, (13th January 1916) and received by King Nicholas the same day at 7:00am

The two most important passages are: -

‘Sire, the Officers in Command of the Army on the Western Front declare that 
our Army is so demoralised that the enemy can no longer be resisted.......

‘Having shown you the true state of affairs in the army, I have the honour to 
point out to Your Majesty that it is utterly impossible to carry on the 
struggle under such conditions, and that, without delay and as quickly as 
possible we must (1) ask to make peace with the enemy, since he would not 
accept the proposal for an armistice made two days ago by the Royal 

Peace was asked for, or, to be more exact, King Nicholas resigned himself to 
sue for it at the pressing request of his Government and of the Serbia 
Colonel Peter Pechich. The reply of the Austrian Government is well known, it 
was of such a nature that the Montenegrin Government decided to break off 
negotiations, the King preferring exile to dishonour.

Serbia, in her desire to forget the part she had played in this affair, has 
continually tried to distort the fact, to alter texts and destroy all memory 
of the sacrifices and the heroism of Montenegro. She made unscrupulous use of 
calumny in order to further the secret design which she was pursuing and 
which events soon permitted her to bring about.

In October 1918, after the evacuation of Albania by Austrian troops, the 
Eastern Army advanced towards Montenegro, and the Serbian troops which formed 
part thereof rapidly poured over our territory. Our compatriots, glad to meet 
men of their race, greeted them joyfully; their welcome however met with no 

The Serbs immediately assumed the attitude of conquerors, over throwing 
established institutions and imposing their own authority by means of 
intimidation and bribery. They were dealing with a starving population, whose 
consciences it was not hard to corrupt.

The Serbian Government considered that the time had come for the annexation 
it had premeditated. By means of bribery a number of persons of all 
descriptions were suborned and persuaded to act as an artificial ‘Skupchina' 
(Parliament). It will be remembered that at the very first meeting, the 
illegal assembly at Podgorica, after making a pretence of deliberation 
proclaimed the union of Montenegro with Serbia and the abolition of the 

Mere villages had been permitted to elect four deputies, while entire 
districts had only sent one or two representatives. Out of fifty of the 
King's former Ministers, only two voted against him. Not a single officer or 
priest voted for the abolition of the Dynasty. Out of the 56 Deputies elected 
by the people to the Parliament of 1914, only 5 declared against Nicholas I.

Events had developed too far and too rapidly. Such shameless juggling with a 
regularly established Kingdom could not be accepted by an intelligent 
population, proud of its history and traditions and conscious of its 
individuality and need for liberty. Discontent rapidly developed into 
indignation, which indignation manifested itself both against Serbian troops 
and Montenegrins in the pay of Serbia.

In Paris, the Royal Government protested to the Allies against the violence 
done to our country, against this contempt of all rights. Our complaint has 
hitherto met with no response. The Serbs are still in Montenegro, pursuing 
their aims by armed force. Martyrs fall each day; but it has at any rate been 
proved before the whole world that the will of Montenegro has not been freely 

We most earnestly desire that our protests shall not be misinterpreted. We 
will not permit Montenegro to become a Serbian province and ruled by princes 
neither of her own choice nor her own royal line. It affords us satisfaction 
to consider that our country has firmly resisted such brutal and humiliating 
annexation. We are conscious, however, of all that we owe to our race and our 
people. We will not set our faces against a confederation of the Jugo-Slav 
countries, the States constituting which league would retain full and 
complete autonomy. Thus it is evident that we are merely claiming for 
Montenegro a right which is now recognised as legitimate for all people - 
that of self determination. If this right is to be exercised, an end must be 
made to the rule of terror and despotism from which our country has suffered 
so much. After investigation by you, the serbians must be asked to evacuate 
Montenegrin territory at once. Their gold and their bayonets must affect us 
no longer.

Then the task which it has consoled us to think of during the defeat and 
exile can be fulfilled; Montenegro can be restored, as we have been solemnly 
and repeatedly promised by the great Allied statesmen, Mr Lloyd George, Mr 
Poincare, Mr Briand, Mr Asquith, Mr Orlando and Mr Wilson, the President of 
the United States, whose eloquent telegram, dated July 1918, we here beg to 
record: - 

‘I thank Your Majesty sincerely for the courteous greetings you so kindly 
despatched to me on July 4th, [Official US Bulletin, July 12, 1918, pg.6] 
which I value highly. I deeply sympathise with Your Majesty in the calamity 
which has overtaken Montenegro by the invasion of ruthless force. I trust 
that Your Majesty and the noble and heroic people of Montenegro will not be 
cast down, but will have confidence in the determination of the United States 
to see that in the final victory that will come, the integrity and rights of 
Montenegro shall be secured and recognised.'

The logical result of this restoration is the return to Montenegro of its 
lawful Government, which would ensure the working of its constitution and 
restore the Country to normal conditions. We venture to hope that you will 
help us in this peaceful task.

Montenegro would then be free to express its aims, through the Parliament 
provided by the Constitution, but for the present we can make known to you 
its fair and moderate claims.....

The Meeting was then adjourned by M.Clemenceau

General Gvozdenovic in his uniform as an Imperial Russian General (later a 
member of the Imperial Privy Council of Tsar Nicholas II), With the Imperial 
Military Order of the Holy Great Martyr George the Victorious (St George); a 
Military Order awarded to officers for outstanding gallantry on the field of 
battle, and with the Order of the Saint Apostolic Prince Vladimir (St 
Vladimir) awarded to those who had saved others from mortal danger; to 
persons who had achieved great distinction — and the bow on the sword 
indicates exceptional accomplishment while serving in the army.

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