Montenegro's Flying Serbia

Montenegro.  Picture from

Niall has drawn my attention to the declaration of the result of Montenegro's recent referendum on independence. The Montenegrins have voted "yes" narrowly, which effectively makes both Montenegro and Serbia independent countries. The two countries formed Serbia-Montenegro, the now short-lived name for what was left of Yugoslavia. Following Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia, Montenegro has decided to make its own way in the world.

Leaving aside any in-depth analysis of the impact this will have for the Balkans, I'm much more interested in what happens to our country competition. Niall and I are trying to see who can visit the most countries, and Serbia-Montenegro is on both our lists from our travels in 2001 when we passed through both Montenegro itself and Kosova (an autonomous province of Serbia, which I'd also visited in 1999). My full list is here, and Niall is barely one or two behind.

Niall argues that we should now have two countries on our list – Serbia and Montenegro – on the grounds that the places we visited back then are now going to be two separate countries. And then there's Kosova, which most observers expect to secede from Serbia within the next few years. But I pointed out to him that we went there when it was Serbia-Montenegro and we can only count countries we've actually been to: neither of us have ever set foot in the independent states of Serbia or Montenegro and shouldn't claim we have done.

Niall emailed me in response, suggesting:

But now Monte is independent and let's imagine Kosovo becomes so too. There are now three countries but by your argument we have visited none of them, instead having visited some place that no longer exists. Now we return and go through all three countries again. Hurray, +3 to our totals. Do we now claim we have visited four countries? Even though there are only three and was only one? Four countries from three? Imagine the three countries amalgmated with Macedonia to make one new country, and we revisit it. What chaos now ensues? Then they break up again into something else…

To be honest, I'm a bit confused. What counts as a country you have visited – the territory at the time, or the state of affairs in the current day? How do you count the ones you've been to when they break up, merge or otherwise change their boundaries or indeed entire existences?

What do you all think? Some impartial advice would be gratefully received!

11 thoughts on “Montenegro's Flying Serbia

  1. You have both visited one country, the now (almost) defunct ‘Serbia and Montenegro’. If you were to visit the soon to be independent Serbia or Montenegro again, then, and only then, would you have visited those countries.

    Whilst this leads to the situation where it would be possible to have a visited tally greater than the number of countries currently in existence, they existed when you visited. It is a historic thing.

    That also makes it more difficult for people to catch up as they cannot add defunct countries to their tally!

    Cue “Chewin’ the Fat” style “Yiv teakn thaat tae faaar!”

  2. I think it depends on semantics.

    I have visited “Serbia and Montenegro” (one country)

    I have been to “Serbia” and “Montenegro” (two countries)

    Because I have never visited a separate Serbia or Montenegro, but I have still walked upon these lands, breathed in the air and eyed up the women.

    If I had travelled through Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania when they were still part of the USSR, is that three countries of just one?

    In my opinion, my tally goes up one, mainly because I want it to. But in my list I would put an asterix to indicate the state of the nations when visited.

  3. If you had visited Moscow in the 1980’s, you would have said you visited the USSR. I would personally change my list to now say thast you had visited Russia.

    If you visited areas which will be in both Serbia and Montenegro, then I would say that you had visited Serbia (formerly Serbia and Montenegro) and Montenegro (formerly Serbia and Montenegro). If you only visited an area which will end up being solely in Serbia, I would declare it to be Serbia (formerly Serbia and Montenegro) on the list. You should then have to vist Montenegro to qualify that (new) country, you couldn’t after all claim to have visited al the former USSR countries because you once visited Moscow.

    Or have I got myself confused there?

  4. Westy, you are not confused; you are exactly correct. Simon and I visited Montenegro and Kosovo five years ago when it was all one nation. Now Montenegro is separate I think we have visited two countries. However, if Kosovo formally separates from Serbia we have still only visited two – because we never actually visited Serbia itself.

    It all boils down to: do we judge a place by what it was then, or do we judge it as it is now?

  5. I reckon that the last 2 comments are right: it has to be about what the countries are now. The current world map is everyone’s frame of reference for countries, so you should talk about it in those terms. Someone who was in Rhodesia 30 years ago would confuse lots of people if he didn’t say “I travelled to Zimbabwe 30 years ago”; likewise in 30 years “Serbia and Montenegro” may well be a distant memory. You should include places on your list as they are now, but maybe with a disclaimer like “Montenegro (then part of Serbia and Montenegro)”.

  6. Hi, i am from Montenegro and to tell you, i am just as confused as you are about it :S and i believe that if you have been in a place before, and then that place splits up into 2, that you still have been in that place, but technically now you have been to 2 places. 🙂

  7. HI!
    I’m really interested in visiting montenegro.
    can someone please tell where is the place at the photo above?

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