Budva, a popular tourist resort on Montenegro’s Adriatic Coast and known as a nightlife hot spot, has a newly appointed honorary consul for Russia, none other than the man who served as honorary consul to Ukraine, before the outbreak of war and the division between Moscow and Kiev.
Boro Djukic, a Montenegrin citizen, will now represent Russians. He is one of 15 such people to hold the title of honorary consul, which is not an official Montenegrin position but which is described as that of an economic diplomat and which carries diplomatic immunity.
Djukic’s crossover adds to Russia’s growing presence and interest in the country, where many Russians have summer homes. Budva itself already has a Russian radio station and the first Russian school for students from 7 to 18.
Djukic’s installation bore little resemblance to his installation as honorary consul for Ukraine in March 2013, attended by Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Slusarenko and US Ambassador to Montenegro, Sue K. Brown.
This time, the public was not informed of the consulate’s opening and no dignitaries were present until the recent blessing by the Metropolitan of the Christian Orthodox church in Montenegro.
Asked to explain the low-key opening, Djukic gave an equally casual answer:
“It has been opened some time ago, last year in January, but there was no need for it to work because the [tourist] season in Montenegro starts in May or June and Russians permanently settled in Montenegro have my contact information and they can call me if needed."
At the blessing ceremony of the new, first-ever Russian consulate, which took place in the Hotel Avala on April 27, symbolism was a mix of formality and Djukic’s casual approach.
There were a map of the world with the inscription “MIR” (Peace), a wine barrel shaped like a canon and a representation of the Metropolitan hugging a fiddle (a traditional instrument of the Balkans that became notorious for its use for songs celebrating nationalism, religious intolerance and anachronism), suggesting the Metropolitan’s reputation for his nationalism and anachronistic speeches.
In contrast, there was a teenager in a Marilyn Monroe T-shirt kissing the hand of an Orthodox church official.
Djukic was asked why he had changed titles. He said: “I was an Honorary Consul of Ukraine until everything happened – the change in authorities and all.”
What about Ukrainians in Montenegro who might still think he represents them?
Djukic was reassuring: “An Honorary Consulate of Ukraine also exists in Budva, and if Ukrainian citizens approached me, I would send them there. The Russian Consulate was legally established as a service to Russian citizens. Of course, I will not turn down anyone [who asks for help], especially not our brothers, historical and traditional friends – Russians, Belarussians and all other people, or from Serbia – when they come and know our language, our rules and laws.”
There have been no official Montenegrin reactions to Djukic’s switch of countries, but the question was raised at a press conference of the Montenegrin Democratic Union (CDU).
“If the goal is to ease the lives of our nationals from Russia who are permanently settled here, we agree with it. But, we do not have sufficient information and we would like to refrain from any comment,” said CDU leader Mijo Cucka.
There is no official data on the number of Russians living in Budva throughout the year, although the Russian language is heard everywhere. Many say they are here as tourists, because they do not need visas to visit Montenegro.
Djukic says that Russians currently own some 30,000 units of real estate on the Montenegrin coast, and one fourth of those owners are permanently settled in the country. The Statistical office of Montenegro, asked for the official number of Russian and Ukraine owners of real estate in Montenegro said they had no figures for that..
Djukic said: “I do not know the exact number of Russians living on the coast, but there are some 30,000 registered real estate owners. That should be multiplied with a number of members of an average family(4). But not all of them are here throughout the year; some 80 percent of them live in Russia and they only come during the summer, while some 20 percent are permanently settled here.”
His first step as honorary consul, he said, will be to initiate relationships between twin coastal towns, such as those on Montenegro’s Adriatic coastwith similar Russian cities, such as St. Petersburg or Sochi.