History of Zelenika and Kuti

Early history of Kuti
Zelenika is one of the youngest settlements in the Bay of Kotor. It originated as a hamlet of much older Kuti. It consists of valleys and slopes of the coastal hills of Lalovina and Zmijica, behind to the foot of Trojica, as well as Zelenika, and the villages of Sasovici, Kuti, and Presjeka.
Long before the road to the sea was built, settlements in the hills of Zelenika were established. Kuti in particular stands out for its antiquity. Traces of life dating back to the Illyrian period can be found here. “Mounds” or burial “tumuli” are typical for the hills of the Bay of Kotor in general. In Kuti, one such “tumulus” has been systematically explored in the hamlet of Glogovik. This tumulus was constructed entirely of broken stone. Only cremated remains without grave structures were found here. The grave inventory is richer: in addition to several types of ceramics, bronze jewelry, amber necklaces, glass paste, and ceramics were found, as well as several iron fragments that belonged to knives and arrows (Ilija Pušić, Glogovik, Kuti, Hereg Novi, Ilirska gomila, Arheološki pregled 4, 1962, pp. 76-78, Vol. 11). Some mounds date back to 2000 BC. Judging by the series of settlements that stretch from Vrbanj to Bijela, it is quite possible that an ancient road once passed through this area.

(Foto: Zelenika – Kuti)

There is no mention of Kuti in Roman sources, although it is known that Dalmatia was under Roman rule almost from the beginning of the new era. Dalmatia was divided into three conventus juridicus: Scardona, Salona, and Narona. The Bay of Kotor was within the boundaries of the Narona conventus. Roman oppida were built to spread Roman cultural influence. Although this cannot be archaeologically confirmed at this time, it is possible that the area of Kuti belonged to the Risinium oppidum, which was the most developed oppidum on our coast at that time. Along the entire coast of Herzegovina, there are traces of ancient architecture. Specifically, in the Zelenika Bay, there are traces of ancient architecture and ceramics at the Lalovina site (I. Pušić – Arheološki lokaliteti i stanje arheološke nauke u Boki Kotorskoj, Zbornik Boka, Herceg Novi, 1969, p. 14). Kuti is mentioned again in sources only as part of the county of Dračevica, which was first mentioned by the Byzantine emperor and historian Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the first half of the 10th century. The county was named after the Slavic word drač (small, thorny shrub). It belonged to the parishes of Travunija and was divided into three fields: Sutorina, Kameno Polje, and Kutsko Polje. It was precisely Kutsko Polje (Kuti field) that was the center of the parish.

Although the territory of Dračevica was under the supreme authority of Byzantium at that time in a wider context, local princes ruled it directly. Thus, Dračevica was under Prince Stefan Vojislav, Dragomir’s son. Vojislav, whom Byzantine sources call a Serb, Travunian, and Doclean, is known for the resistance he offered to Byzantium. His uprising will ignite a series of uprisings on the Balkan Peninsula. He is the founder of the Doclean ruling dynasty, although it is not certain that he himself originated from Doclea. The territory of Dračevica will remain under Vojislav’s son Michael, later a king, and his son Konstantin Bodin. However, the state begins to weaken already during Bodin’s reign. After him, the dynasty gave several rulers of lesser significance. The only extensive source about them is the semi-legendary “Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja”, whose claims about this period cannot always be taken seriously.

After the Bay of Kotor became a part of the Serbian state under the Nemanjić dynasty, Nemanjić successor princes were often appointed as the rulers of Duklja. However, while Dragutin and Milutin, were kings of Serbia, Jelena Anjou ruled over the Bay of Kotor.

 After the Nemanjić dynasty, one of the most powerful Serbian noblemen and a contender for the Serbian throne, Nikola Altomanović, ruled over the county of Dračevica. In September 1373, the united forces of Tvrtko Kotromanić, Prince Lazar, and the Hungarian army under Ban Nikola Gorjanski launched an action against Altomanović. The action ended with his capture in 1374. Dračevica was briefly taken over by Đurađ I Balšić, but by 1377 it had passed into the hands of Tvrtko I Kotromanić, who built the city of Sveti Stefan beneath Dračevica in 1382. The city would later come to be known as Herceg Novi.

After Tvrtko’s death in 1391, the city became part of the state ruled by Sandalj Hranić. Sandalj was the nephew of Vlatko Vuković, the most famous military commander of Tvrtko and the founder of the Kosača family. After Sandalj’s death in 1435, he was succeeded by his own nephew, Stjepan Vukčić. In 1448, Stjepan Vukčić assumed the title of Herzog and the lands he ruled were named Herzegovina. The city of Novi also adopted this title and became known as Herceg Novi.

At this time, the Kuti are only mentioned in various agreements, in which one of the contracting parties or their heirs is stated to be from Kuti.

During the rule of Duke Vlatko, exactly 100 years after the foundation of Herceg Novi, the city fell under Ottoman rule. The Novi district with the sub-district of Dračevica was established within the Herzegovina Province.

(Foto: King Tvrtko – Herceg Novi)

During the Ottoman period, the residents of Dračevica were required to send one armed horseman for every ten households during times of war. Muslims constituted 11.4% of households in the mid-16th century (according to Dr Goran Komar, Kuti – selo u Boko Kotorskoj, Herceg Novi, 2002). There are remains of a mosque in Kuti from the Turkish era, and in Sasovići, in addition to the remains of another mosque, several chardaks can also be found.

 The renowned Ottoman travel writer Evliya Çelebi referred to Kuti when discussing the defensive capabilities of Herceg Novi, stating that “seven large-caliber (baljemez) cannons do not allow even a bird to pass on the southeastern side at a distance of two hours’ walk towards the village of Kutina.” He also described Kuti as “a highly developed village of five hundred houses, wonderful like an earthly paradise.” (both quotes according to the translation by Hazim Šabanović – Svjetlost, Sarajevo 1967).

It is likely that the present-day name of the settlement – Zelenika, was first used during the Ottoman period. Dr Zoltan Magyar, in his book “Zelenika”, mentions that the name probably comes from the Turkish word for flood, due to the frequent flooding of the Zelenika streams. It should be noted that Priest Savo Nakicenovic, a native of Kuti, believed that the origin of the name was different. In his anthropogeographic study “Boka,” he stated that the name Zelenika comes from the abundance of greenery in this area. Some people believe that the town was named after the plant “zelenika” (eng. common holly, lat. ilex aquiflium), but this theory cannot be proven.

The present-day center on the coast was not inhabited for a long time due to the danger of pirates. While in the wider area of the Bay of Kotor, or rather Herceg Novi, the in the second half of the 16th century and the 17th century, the authorities often changed, and at times, Spaniards (in two short periods) and Venetians ruled there, from Igalo to Zelenika, the Turks managed to maintain their dominance.

The Venetians took over Herceg Novi in September 1687.

From 1718, Zelenika was under the administration of the Topaljska komunitad, which had significant autonomy under the Venetians. Four people from Kuti were captains and judges of the Komunitad, namely: Vukoje Vukov Ozegovic (1752), Marko Ozegovic (1759), Simo Kocetanovic (1766), and Jakov Nakicenovic (1774). (Dr Goran Komar, Kuti – selo u Boko Kotorskoj, Herceg Novi, 2002). At this time, there were many mills in Kuti, especially in Presjeka and Lastva. Oil mills were particularly important due to the terrain suitable for the development of olive growing.

Saint Cyril and Methodius Spiritual Center

After decades of decline in its power, Napoleon Bonaparte conquered the Republic of Venice on May 27, 1797. However, by the Campo Formio peace treaty on October 17 of the same year, he relinquished most of the former Venetian territories to the Habsburg monarchy. The Topaljska komunitad was abolished under their rule. The French regained control of the territories eight years later, although their authority was not stable until 1807.

During their brief rule, the French managed to establish a court in Herceg Novi and build the first carriage roads in Montenegro. One of these roads passed through Zelenika and stretched from Dalmatia to Đenovići. It is likely that this road contributed to the emergence of the settlement of Zelenika shortly after the departure of the French.

Herceg Novi was liberated on October 29, 1813. However, Austria reoccupied the Bay of Kotor in the summer of 1814, and this decision was confirmed the following year by the great powers. The rule of Austria, later under the name Austro-Hungarian Empire, lasted for some time after this event.

The oldest known school in Kuti was founded in the home of the priest Toma Nakicenovic. Two grades of elementary education were taught there. The school existed until 1836, when a new four-year school was opened in the former monastery house next to the Church of St. Andrew. Although the students were mostly boys, for the first time, a few girls were enrolled in the school.

In 1861, a school was established in Zelenika, mostly for the benefit of children from Kumbor. However, the school did not last long because it was practically funded by Lushtica parish priest Dimitrije Mustur alone.

The Great School in Kuti was opened in 1908. In 2019, the spiritual center “St. Cyril and Methodius” was erected on its remains.

The main economic activities were olive growing and wine making, although wine making experienced a strong setback in the 1880s due to the phylloxera epidemic. The Krivosije Uprising that occurred a decade earlier (1869/70) had already shaken the economy and led to significant price increases. It was during this time of insecurity that on January 25, 1882, the most famous resident of Kuti, Priest Savo Nakicenovic was born. His book “Boka” was published by the Serbian Academy of Sciences in 1913 and is a significant contribution to the geography, ethnology, and history of this area. At the turn of the century, construction of a railway and a harbor pier for docking large ships began. This finally marked Zelenika as a center of the region and an important place in its own right, rather than just a hamlet of Kuta.

In the last decade of the 19th century, the horse captain Dr. Antal Magyar, who came from Budapest, turned his villa on the coast into the “Pansion na Zelenoj Plaži” (Pansion on the Green Beach) in 1902, later known as the “Hotel Plaža”, the first hotel in the Bay of Kotor. The pansion became a significant vacation spot, but also a meeting place for the more prominent local gentry. From there, land and sea excursions were organized, allowing guests to explore many famous places in the surrounding area. The center of the settlement slowly filled up with taverns and craft shops.

„Hotel Plaža“, first hotel in Boka

During this period, the problem of floods, caused by occasional river and stream flooding and which, as Nakicenovic wrote, primarily endangered crops, was largely solved through the construction of embankments and obstacles.

During World War I, Zelenika was a base for the Second Austrian Fleet, and the entire garrison of Boka was supplied from there. The headquarters of the Austrian army, prepared for an offensive on Lovćen, was located in the “Pansion na Zelenoj plaži”.In 1933, a school was opened in Zelenika so that children wouldn’t have to go to Kuti for school. For this purpose, a merchant named Pestorić provided one floor of his house. The school offered a four-year elementary education, and for further education, students had to go to Herceg Novi to complete an eight-year education. Children traveled to school in Novi by a small train, a maneuvering locomotive with 1-2 vagons. It’s worth noting that the train was not only for students but could be used by anyone traveling to Herceg Novi. People could also go to Novi by boat.

On October 6, 1934, Yugoslavian King Aleksandar Karadjordjević sailed from the port of Zelenika on the destroyer “Dubrovnik” to Marseille, where he was assassinated.

Not long after that the World War II began,The bombing on April 6, 1941, resulted in several fatalities and material damage in Zelenika. The bay was under Italian control from spring 1941 to autumn 1943. In an effort to win over the population, the Italians initially provided good supplies to the Bay, but in the second year of the war, shortages occurred.

The command of the region was housed in the Dunđerović Hotel, which was probably the most modern hotel in the Bay of Kotor at that time.

The Orjen Battalion operated in the mountains of the entire present-day municipality, so boats with troops and war material began to arrive in the port. In March 1942, Radoštak was bombarded from the Zelenika Battery. Sasovići and Kuti were set on fire. After that, the Germans handed over the fight against the resistance movement to local quislings.

Allied planes during the day and partisan squads at night made the occupier’s position insecure. The Germans dismantled the battery. They succeeded in shooting down one English plane from Obostnik. In November 1944, the Germans finally left Zelenika. When leaving, they blew up their base, the luxurious Dunđerović Hotel. Thanks to sabotage, their attempt to destroy the pier was unsuccessful.

On April 1, 1964, an eight-year (now nine-year) elementary school “Ilija Kišić” was founded, so that students from Zelenika no longer have to travel to Herceg Novi to complete their eight-year primary education. Ilija Kišić (1916-1943) was a war hero and teacher in Kuti. His bust is located in the schoolyard, and a monument to fallen fighters from World War II is located in the center of Zelenika. The folklore group “Ilija Kišić”, founded in 1936 under the name “Polet”, and it bears its current name since 1968. The folklore group is the recipient of the October Award of Herceg Novi. Some of the early concerts for the Mimosa Festival were organized in the school premises.

Zelenika’s tourism suffered a major blow in 1968 when the railway was dismantled and traffic was redirected to the Adriatic Highway. Prior to this, in 1960, the “Plaža” hotel had already ceased operations. It was replaced by a Sarajevo children’s vacation resort. A municipal camp was established on the Baterija, and an auto camp was founded on the remaining estate of the Magyar family, near the new tunnel. Unfortunately, with the closure of “Plaža,” Zelenika was reduced to a mere regional warehouse, with its significant role as the “birthplace of Montenegrin tourism” completely disregarded. 

And the pier was also empty, only Tito’s boat “Galeb” is docked there sometimes, during his visits to Herceg Novi.

In late 1966, the “Bokelji” ensemble was founded. They held their first concert in the park of the former “Plaža” hotel. They participated in many festivals, performed with Tereza Kesovija and opera singer Olga Milošević, and also performed abroad.

In the catastrophic earthquake, the pier suffered huge damage. Over 3000 m² of space with a larger part of the southern pier, together with the construction material storage, sank. (Dr Zoltan Magyar – Zelenika – istorijski pregled, 2020).

Herceg Novi was left completely without drinking water after the earthquake, while Zelenika, thanks to Opačica and its own pumping station, had an abundance of water. (ibid) Zelenika was thus the only supplier of drinking water from Topla to Đenovići. Of course, water restrictions were introduced to make this happen. The pier was renovated only in 1987 by the efforts of the “Mješovito” company, but Zelenika remained a regional warehouse. The port, the second largest in Montenegro, remained underutilized. Another significant enterprise that had a base in Zelenika in this period was the Belgrade “PKB”.

Today, Zelenika is home to several significant companies, including Intersport, Idea Cash and Carry, Okov, Smokvica – vehicle technical inspection, Radojicic driving school, and Tehnomax.

 Zelenika is slowly becoming a significant tourist destination again. In addition to the center with well-arranged beaches, beach bars, and various shops, the preserved villages in its hinterland are a particular beauty of Zelenika, offering stunning views of the its panorama. Two viewpoints that are especially noteworthy are Gomila above Rujevo and the viewpoint above Obalica. Additionally, the Sopot stream, with dozens of waterfalls, becomes a suitable terrain for ice climbing when frozen over during the winter, attracting mountaineers and extreme sports enthusiasts. The river Opačica also rises in these hills, which is of exceptional importance for supplying the city with clean water.

One of the significant events in Zelenika is the Zelenika Summer Games, which were established in the 1980s, inspired by fun competitive games that originated from France in the early 1960s. Due to the events in Yugoslavia, the games stopped for a while, but they were renewed in 2014. The first games after the renewal were held at the „VPK Galeb“ swimming pool, near the old hotel, and later on the Zmijice beach. The games are competitive and feature inventive and interesting disciplines that are not always the same. Some of the popular disciplines over the years include tug of war, basketball in the water, flying water polo, sack race, carrying crates on the beach, diving, egg race on pontoons, fish swinging, wheelbarrow race, and wrestling in the water. The most successful competitors receive cash prizes. The event is also accompanied by a music program.



– Ilija Pušić, Glogovik, Kuti, Hereg Novi, Ilirska gomila, Arheološki pregled 4, 1962

–  I. Pušić – Arheološki lokaliteti i stanje arheološke nauke u Boki Kotorskoj, Zbornik Boka, Herceg Novi, 1969.

– Dr Goran Komar, Kuti – selo u Boko Kotorskoj, Herceg Novi, 2002

– Evlija Čelebija – Putopisi, Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1967

–  Dr Zoltan Magyar – Zelenika – istorijski pregled, 2020

– Pop Savo Nakićenović – Boka (antropogeografska studija), Srpska kraljevska akademija, Beograd, 1913