The Vasojevići (Serbian Cyrillic: Васојевићи, pronounced [ʋâso̞je̞ʋit͡ɕi]) is a historic Montenegrin Highland tribe and a territorial unit in northeastern Montenegro, in the region of Brda ("the Highlands"). It is the largest of the historical tribes, occupying the area between Vjetarnih Lijeva Rijeka in the South and Bihor under Bijelo Polje in the North, Mateševo in the West to Plav in the East. The tribe (pleme) is one of seven Highland tribes (Vasojevići, Moračani, Rovčani, Bratonožići, Kuči, Piperi and Bjelopavlići). Vasojevići is also the name of the region inhabited by the Vasojevići. Most of the tribe's history prior to the 16th century has naturally been passed on through oral history.
Although the unofficial center is Andrijevica in north-eastern Montenegro, the tribe stems from Lijeva Rijeka in central Montenegro. The tribe was formed by various tribes that were united under the rule of the central Vasojević tribe. These tribes later migrated to the Komovi mountains and the area of Lim. The emigration continued into what is today Serbia and other parts of Montenegro.
Though sense of tribal affiliation diminished in recent years, is not a thing of a past. Tribal association and organizations still exist (e.g. Udruženje Vasojevića "Vaso"). It could be clearly seen during the 2006 Montenegrin independence referendum with the Vasojevići united opposition.
The oldest mention of the Vasojevići dates to 1444, where it is described as not a tribe, but as an ethnic group (a people). The Ragusan Senate report filed by Ragusan merchants dating to October 29, 1444, speaks of the Vasojevići (and their leader Vaso), living near Medun, in Rikavac, having together with the Bjelopavlići and Piperi attacked Ragusan merchants, doing material damage. According to some historians, the fact that the Vasojevići were not mentioned in the 1455 document, points to them having migrated from Upper Zeta. According to the 1485 defter, the Vasojevići and Bratonožići were not yet established tribes.
In 1658, the seven tribes of Kuči, Vasojevići, Bratonožići, Piperi, Klimenti, Hoti and Gruda allied themselves with the Republic of Venice, establishing the so-called "Seven-fold banner" or "alaj-barjak", against the Ottomans. In 1689, an uprising broke out in Piperi, Rovca, Bjelopavlići, Bratonožići, Kuči and Vasojevići, while at the same time an uprising broke out in Prizren, Peć, Priština and Skopje, and then in Kratovo and Kriva Palanka in October (Karposh's Rebellion).
Documents, especially the letter of Ivan Radonjić from 1789, show that the Montenegrins were identified as Serbs, and that the Banjani, Kuči, Piperi, Bjelopavlići, Zećani, Vasojevići, Bratonožići were not identified as "Montenegrins" but only as Serb tribes. They were all mentioned only in a regional, geographical, and tribal manner, and never as an ethnic category.
In the 18th century the folklore of the tribe was influenced by the Orthodox millenarianism that had developed during the mid Ottoman era. According to one such folk legend, an elder of the Vasojevići, Stanj, foretold Greek priests the advent of a Serbian messiah, a dark man (crni čovijek) who would liberate the Serbs from the Turks. These myths as part of the official Serbian Orthodox doctrine provided both a de facto recognition of Ottoman rule and the denial of its legitimacy.
During the Second World War, the Vasojevići were divided between the two armies of Serb Chetniks (royalists) and Yugoslav Partisans (communists) that were fighting each other (vojvoda Pavle Đurišić formed the most successful Chetnik units out of mainly Vasojevići). As a result, the conflict spread within the tribal structures.
In May 2006, Montenegro gained independence after a referendum on the future of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. However, 72% of voters in Andrijevica municipality, the unofficial centre of the Vasojevići region, voted against Montenegrin independence. It was the second highest result against breaking the state union with Serbia (after Pluzine municipality).
The People's Assembly of Vasojevići stated many times that, apart from being Montenegrin, all Vasojevići are Serb and, thus, strongly oppose and have always opposed Montenegrin secession from Yugoslavia. The Montenegrin census of 2003 revealed that 89,81% of the Vasojevići declared themselves as Serb while 9,43% declared themselves as Montenegrin.
It is a tradition of all brotherhoods to show respect to ancestors by knowing precisely genealogy and the history of the tribe and a family. This also allows members of the clan to be unite, to act together and always to recognise kin.
According to a folk myth, the founder of the tribe was Vaso. According to one myth Vaso was a descendant of the medieval Serbian Nemanjić dynasty. Vaso's great-grandfather was Stefan Konstantin, the rival King, who was defeated by his half-brother Stefan Uroš III in 1322. Stefan Konstantin had a son, Stefan Vasoje, who was brought up at the court of Dušan the Mighty. Stefan Vasoje participated in the battles of Dušan, and when he had received sufficient experience, he was put by the Emperor as voivode at Sjenica. Stefan Vasoje had a son, Stefan Konstantin II (1342–1389, known as Vojvoda Vasojević Stevo in folklore), who participated in the Battle of Kosovo (1389), where he died. is believed to be either the grandfather or great-grandfather of Vaso. The legend further alleges that Vaso, one of five sons of Stefan Konstantin II (all brothers are founders of clans), moved to Lijeva Rijeka. After the fall of Smederevo fortress (1459) and the subsequent fall of the whole Serbian Empire, Serbs from Kosovo, Metohija and Šumadija fled from the incoming Turks to Bosna and, after its fall (1463), into Herzegovina. Vaso, the founded of the tribe, fled along with these waves of refugees. In 1465 he moved from Herzegovina to Lijeva Rijeka in Zeta (modern day Montenegro).
Thus, they formed the largest tribe (pleme) of all seven highland tribes of Montenegro (i.e. Vasojevići, Moračani, Rovčani, Bratonožići, Kuči, Piperi and Bjelopavlići). In modern Montenegro the area of Vasojevići falls into following municipalities: Berane, Podgorica, Kolašin, Plav and Bijelo Polje (around 15% of Montenegro). One of the highest mountains of the modern day Montenegro is named after the tribe: Kom Vasojevićki (2461 metres) and the whole area inhabited by the tribe is frequently called "Vasojevići".
Part of the tribe that stayed free from the Turkish occupation lives in the area of Lijeva Rijeka and Andrijevica (Upper Nahija) – they are all called Upper Vasojevići. Lower Vasojevici (or Lower Nahija) inhabited the area of Berane. Most of the Lower Vasojevići were within the Turkish reign until Balkan Wars in the 20th century.
Tribe members were perceived as noblemen and rarely mingled with common folk – people who did not have a common ancestor. Vasojevići called them Ašani (earlier also Asa and Hasa) and today this term has come to denote Vasojevići of other origin.
In a book "Pleme Vasojevići" written in 1935, R. Vešović describes the structure of the Vasojevići. The list of families was exhausting when the book was completed but since then new families may have developed. Sometimes, with the very distant genealogy, slight variations of names, chronology and relationships exist concurrently but there is no doubt among the Vasojevići members which family belongs to which brotherhood, branch and sub-branch. Never has any family questioned the structure depicted below. The brotherhoods of Vasojevići stem from different tribes, of no common kinship and ancestry, which were united under the rule of a central tribe that extended its name to the other clans.
All people of the Vasojevići are descendants of three Vaso sons: Rajo, Novak and Mioman. Hence the three great clans (bratstva) of the Vasojevići:
The local legend has it that Vaso had a fourth son, by the name of Đuro, who left home and settled in Crmnica, where he founded the brotherhood of Đurovići. The legend also recounts how after the Second Battle of Kosovo, defeated Janos Hunyadi (Sibinjanin Janko in Serbian epic poetry) along with his wounded (according to some traditions already dead) nephew Banovac Sekula retreated to the safety of the high Komovi mountains. There he was received by Vaso and his sons, who all gave him a gift respectively: Rajo a sword, Novak a horse, and Mijoman a gun. However, suddenly there was a shout to the arms as the enemy was approaching, and both Novak and Mijo took their gifts back. Rajo, on the other hand, did not want to, so he equipped himself with another weapon. Hynadi blessed him for this, and predicted that he and his brothers will be great heroes, as well as their descendants, but that his own will always be the largest and that they will always be the leaders of the tribe.
Rajevići is the biggest branch. It is in turn divided into three branches
Families that descend from Lopaćani are:
Families that are descendants of Dabetići are:
Families of Kovačevići branch are:
Novakovići is the second biggest branch.
All the families of Novakovići brotherhood are as follows:
Miomanovići is the smallest brotherhood of the Vasojevići. The families are:
By the beginning of the World War II there were more than 3600 Vasojevići “houses” in Polimlje and Lijeva Rijeka. Many notable Serbs (or people with Serbian roots, vide Milla Jovovich) are Vasojevići by origin, e.g.:
... да Бан>ани, Дробн>аци, Кучи, Пи- пери, Б)елопавлићи, Зепани, Васо^евићи, Братоножићи нијесу Црно- горци. Они су сви поменути само као регионални односно географски и племенски појмови а никако као етничка категорща, при чему се ш^му Црна Гора не даје никакво преимућство над другима, осим што ^е Црна Гора ставлена на прво мјесто.