Montenegro Order of Freedom ('Christmas Uprising') | Špiro Vranješ
History of Montenegro
The Armistice of 11 November 1918 is, it might be said, a convenient way for historians to draw a line under the events of the Great War. However, the fighting barely halted in some places. One reminder is this Montenegrin Order of Freedom, founded near to Orthodox Christmas Day, which itself was on 7 January 1919, according to the new-style Gregorian calendar, when it began, and which was established by the exiled Montenegrin King Nikola, with the decoration to be awarded to those who fought to restore Montenegro to its pre-war, independent state, along with the monarchy. His supporters and Italian sponsors didn't want Montenegro to be absorbed into the new, post-war Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which would later become the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Over the next decade, thousands were killed, though the intensity of the actions eventually petered out over this period. The Italians, who would later give money, training, weapons, and other material support to the IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation) and Ustashi terror movements, had an interest, virtually an international policy, albeit low profile, in destabilising the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to weaken it and sow disunity, and gave their backing to this Montenegrin movement, also known as the Greens, and, underlining this, the decoration was manufactured in Italy. King Nikola initially supported the Christmas Uprising, as it was also known, but later asked for his supporters to cease fighting, a request which was only partially successful. Montenegro's position was weakened in early 1916 by the attempt by King Nikola to achieve a secret peace deal with Austro-Hungary separate to the strategic interests of the other Allies, and also the dissolution of the Montenegrin Army, and what would eventually turn out to be the permanent exile of the King. This all combined to reduce Montenegrin influence with the Allies. The Order of Freedom itself has the Montenegrin coat of arms, featuring an eagle, on both sides, surrounded by a wreath. On one side, there is the Cyrillic text 'ЗА ПРАВО ЧАСТ И СЛОБОДУ ЦРНЕ ГОРЕ', which transliterates to 'Za Pravo Cast I Slobodu Crne Gore', and which translates to 'For the Right, Honour, and Freedom of Montenegro'. On the other side, there is the date '21 XII 1918', which is the old style, Julian calendar date, and which is the same as 3 January 1919 on the new style, Gregorian calendar, and whose proximity to Christmas Day gives it the name, the Christmas Uprising. This decoration acts as a marker that shows, despite the official end to hostilities less than a couple of months before, and even ahead of the start of the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919, dissatisfaction with a new situation brought about by the end of the Great War could manifest itself as violence and killing, even if it this in itself wasn't considered a war.