Anto Gvozdenović

Anto Gvozdenović

Anto Gvozdenović (Serbian Cyrillic: Анто Гвозденовић; 26 January 1853 – 2 September 1935) was a Montenegrin, Russian, and French general, a member of the Imperial Russian Privy Council, and a diplomat and statesman. He was the ambassador of Montenegro to the United States of America and was the President (Prime Minister) of the Government-in-exile of Montenegro for two terms and the Regent to King Michael I.

In his last years, General Gvozdenović returned to Montenegro, where he rebuilt his home in the village Vuči Do, Ćeklići. He died at his home in 1935, aged 82.



The Gvozdenović family descended from knez Rade Gvozdenović (1672–1750) who was elevated following his heroism at the battle of Tsarev Laz in 1712, of which a number of famous ballads were written and references made by the literary figure Vuk Karadžić. From Rade came the surname Gvozdenović (gvozden meaning "iron"). Anto's grandfather was knez Dumelja Gvozdenović (1813–1866), who was married to Maria Petrović-Njegoš (her second marriage). Maria was the aunt of King Nicholas I of Montenegro through brother Grand Duke Mirko of Montenegro. The heroism and exploits of Grand Duke Mirko and Dumelja were recorded in accounts of the famous Battle of Grahovac.

Anto Gvozdenović's nephew, Peter Gvozdenović married Joka Vukotić, niece of Queen Milena of Montenegro and the granddaughter of the Montenegrin hero, serdar Janko Vukotić. Peter Gvozdenović was one of the leaders of the 1918 Christmas Uprising against the decisions of the Podgorica Assembly that decided to merge Montenegro into the Kingdom of Serbia.

Early life

Gvozdenović was born in 1853 in the village of Vuči Do at the time part of the newly created Principality of Montenegro (now Montenegro). As a youngster, his godfather Nikola sent him to St. Petersburg to enroll in the Russian Military academies. He finished the Cetinje Seminary, after which he joined the Imperial Russian Army and, under the command of General Skobelyev, took part in the expedition against Turkmenistan. Gvozdenović returned to Montenegro as soon as he had free time.

Montenegrin-Ottoman War

In 1876, while studying medicine at the Moscow University, he heard the news of war with the Ottoman Empire, thus returned to Montenegro to participate in the defence of its freedom. While in school, he was a student representative at congresses in Berlin and London, owing to his "exceptional personality and intelligence". An intellectual and polyglot, Gvozdenović was assigned as an interpreter to V. Stillman, an English publicist, painter and journalist, correspondent for the The Times.

At the time Great Britain, in tune with its Bosphorus policy, was on the side of the Ottomans in the war. However, Stillman's reports, articles and books, written under the great influence of Anto Gvozdenović, were filled with admiration for Montenegro, its history and its just battle for freedom. Stillman's texts greatly contributed to turning British public opinion in favour of Montenegro in her efforts to free the subjugated Balkan peoples. Even W. E. Gladstone spoke in favour of Montenegro, while A. Tennyson wrote his Ode to Montenegro, regarded one of the most beautiful poems devoted to the state.

Russo-Japanese War

In 1904, Gvozdenović went to Manchuria to serve in the Russo-Japanese War. He was honored with the Russian Order of St. Stanislas with swords; and he received the rank of General of the Imperial Army.

Russian elite

Two of King Nicholas's daughters went on to marry Russian Grand Dukes, and Anto Gvozdenović played a role in affairs leading to the marriage of these kinsmen. In particular he remained close to Princess Anastasia with whom he had often played as a child at the Royal Palace in Cetinje. Princess Anastasia's marriage to Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievitch came in 1907. The Grand Duke was the Uncle of Tsar Nicholas II and younger brother of Tsar Nicholas I and during the first World War Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Russian Armies.

General Gvozdenović remained close to the Imperial family and had large estates in the Crimea, he was a noted soldier, having fought in eight wars and was awarded with the Russian Imperial Military Order of the Holy Great Martyr George the Victorious (St George); a Military Order awarded to officers for outstanding gallantry on the field of battle, and with the Russian Order of the Saint Apostolic Prince Vladimir (St Vladimir) awarded to those who had saved others from mortal danger; to persons who had achieved great distinction‚ while the bow on the sword indicated exceptional accomplishment while serving in the army.

The Tsar appointed General Gvozdenović to the Imperial Russian Privy Counsel before his retirement and return to Montenegro. Here he kept a suite of rooms at the Grand Hotel, Cetinje, and rebuilt and renovated a family property in Vući Do. Anto Gvozdenović kept an apartment in Rome and a permanent suite at the Hotel Maurice in Paris for some time.

First Balkan War

Although already at a relatively advanced age, the news of the First Balkan War again saw the General return to Montenegro to fight for its freedom as a volunteer.

World War I

During World War I, after exile from Montenegro, General Gvozdenović was enlisted by France to be the Deputy Chief of its Medical Corps. During the battles that raged on the Western Front, carrying the insignia of the French Army, Gvozdenović stood in the front ranks. In the later stages of this war, General Gvozdenović once again placed himself at the disposal of King Nicholas, in the role of adjutant, ADC and personal adviser.

Following Montenegro's capitulation, General Gvozdenović remained permanently at King Nicholas's side and accompanied him on many diplomatic missions to European courts and to Allied front lines.

Government-in-exile of Montenegro

From 7 March 1921 to 16 March 1923 General Gvozdenović became co-Regent of the Kingdom of Montenegro with Queen Milena while King Michael I was still a minor. Between 17 March 1923 and 14 September 1929 he was Regent following Queen Milena's death.


General Anto Gvozdenović died on September 2, 1935 in the house he had built for himself in the grounds of his ancestral home in Vuči Do. It was recorded that his last words were, "So, I am packing! Traveling off," as he twirled his gold pendant with four engraved aces, he said, "This is my only memento of Monte Carlo, where I played as a champion of the Russian Tsar. All has passed and all passes."


General Anto Gvozdenović is undoubtedly among the most prominent people that Montenegro has produced, an exceptional historical personality of the mid-19th and the early 20th century.

Among the numerous exhibits of exceptional value held in Montenegro's National Historical Museum, prominent position is given to a suit of Persian armour that belonged to General Gvozdenović . This rare work of art dates from a time when art flourished in the East. The lettering and rich ornamentation indicate that the armor was made in Persia, during the period before the use of the gun. The exquisitely worked gold decoration, the richness of the ornamentation and the beauty of the craftsmanship undoubtedly show that the armour to have been the property of a high Eastern feudal lord or ruler. The armour, along with the Order of St. Vladimir with crossed swords, were presented to General Gvozdenović in 1881 by General Skobelyev, in a citation that read 'for courage, intrepidness and military skill displayed in wars in Bulgaria and Turkmenistan'.


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    Preceded by
    Jovan Plamenac
    Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Montenegro in Exile
    1 March 1921 – 13 January 1922
    Succeeded by
    Milutin Vučinić
    Preceded by
    Milutin Vučinić
    Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Montenegro in Exile
    13 February 1922 – 13 July 1922
    Succeeded by
    position abolished
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