MONTENEGRO’S GULF OF KOTOR AS A HISTORICAL BORDER REGION: POLITICAL RIVALRY, CULTURAL COMPETITION, AND LOCAL CO-EXISTENCE IN A LONG-TERM PERSPECTIVE
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This essay argues that Boka Kotorska, Montenegro’s Gulf of Kotor region, can be conceptualised as a political, cultural, and religious border region where ‘East’ and ‘West’, the Orthodox and Catholic worlds, encountered each other and overlapped over a long period of time. There were various political and economic actors involved in this historical process of rivalry and co-existence, including Byzantium, Venice, Serbia, the Ottoman Empire, and Montenegro and its predecessors Duklja and Zeta. The Gulf of Kotor became a region where a large number of Catholic and Italian-influenced settlements sprung up, although the Orthodox population appears to have constituted a majority of the population even in Venetian and Austrian-controlled territory between the Late Middle Ages and the early twentieth century. Patterns of co-existence in the town of Kotor and elsewhere did not prevent the emergence of religious and political conflict on many occasions. But these contradictory aspects of rivalry and co-existence balanced each other during most of the long period that the Gulf of Kotor region had a certain political, economic, and cultural importance. This may contribute to our understanding of the dynamics of larger and smaller European border regions and of European history as a whole. In a micro-region like Boka Kotorska destructive confrontation and constructive interpenetration can be observed as a long-term process.
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