Russia and Montenegro have centuries-old friendly ties and common cultural traditions. Close contacts between countries have been established under Peter the Great in 1710. For several hundred years, Russia has helped Montenegro economically and culturally, listing grants, assisting churches and monasteries, developing education. Thanks to Russia, the country gained independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Not surprisingly, Montenegrins love Russians and Russian culture very much. There are no place in the world where live so many Russophiles as in this tiny Balkan country.
After the collapse of Yugoslavia Russia became a major economic partner of Montenegro. Large Russian companies have heavily invested in steel industry and hotel construction. One-third of all foreign enterprises in the country had been belonged to Russians. In 2006, a free trade zone with Russia was created, further improving bilateral relations.
Russians have taken 80 percent of the real estate market in Montenegro, having invested more than two billion euros. Tens of thousands of Russian citizens moved to the country.
Everything changed after 2010, when the government of Milo Đukanović leaned Montenegro towards NATO membership. A key condition of the West was sweeping the country from any kind of Russian influence. Attitude to Russians from governmental structures started worsening.
First, Russian investors were forced to sell Zeljezara Niksic steel mill. Later, the Montenegrin government seized by force the largest enterprise in the country, Aluminium Plant Podgorica, from Oleg Deripaska and handed it over to local criminal Veselin Pejović.
Immediately after the construction of Alava, the most luxurious hotel in the country, it had been taken away of the co-owners and handed over to a criminal organization. In addition, the state confiscated the half-built by Sergei Polonsky "city club" Astra Montenegro.
The results of this policy are obvious. Large investments from Russia stopped, and there is nothing in the country to attract Europeans. Real estate market have fallen too because the state has ceased to protect rights of Russian owners.
Not surprisingly, the economy is falling dramatically; prices of basic necessities are rising. Hence, mass protests has been going on in Podgorica for a few months.
One-third of the national budget is the proceeds of Russian tourists. During 2014 the country was visited by about 400 thousand of them. However, in 2015 this number fell by almost a third. EU tourists are in no hurry to travel to Montenegro because of too undeveloped infrastructure.
After joining NATO Republic will receive even more problems. Currently the Russian government is discussing the issue of charter flights termination to Montenegro, which will lead to the complete cessation of the tourist flow from Russia.
Most Montenegrins are against the policy of Đukanović. Knowing this, the dictator, who rules the country for twenty-five years, wants to bring the republic into NATO with decision of parliament that is absolutely controlled by him. Therefore, the most important demand of the opposition — a referendum on NATO membership. This is the only way that can save the economy from collapse and its people out of poverty.