Petar Komnenić (1895 – 1957)

Petar Komnenić was born in 1895 in the village of Pilatovci, near Nikšić. His father was Todor Komnenić, an Orthodox priest and captain, an officer of the local government in the Dukedom, later Kingdom, of Montenegro. Petar finished primary school in his home region, and went to a grammar school in Belgrade. Afterwards he studied a History degree in Belgrade.

Komnenić served the military during the Balkan wars. During WW1 he fought in the Serbian Royal army. He was arrested and spent part of the war in a Hungarian prisoner of war camp (Boldogasszony) which he managed to escape and go to Switzerland.

After the forming of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, he joined the Yugoslav Communist Party in 1919. He was considered an exceptional intellectual, and worked as a History teacher in various Yugoslav cities. In 1941 he was drafted into the Royal army and was a battalion commander at the time of the capitulation.

After the collapse of the Yugoslav army he returned to his village and became one of the main organisers of the uprising against the occupying Axis Powers, leading the Banjsko-Vučedolska Partisan unit. At the end of 1941 he took part in the Battle of Pljevlja and became the leader of the Lovćen Partisan Unit in 1942. He fortified the National Liberation Struggle and formed the Fifth Montenegrin Proletarian Brigade, which earned him the position of the commander of the Third Battalion. During the war days of 1942 and 1943, he became firm friends with the poet Ivan Goran Kovačić, who dedicated his poem ‘Our Liberty’ to Komnenić. He became the commander of many important Partisan units in Bosnia and Hercegovina, but his greatest role was as a member of the first meeting of the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ). He was rewarded for his dedication with a governing position in the Montenegrin Antifascist Council of the National Liberation (CASNO).

After the liberation of Montenegro, he became vice president of the Federal Government of Montenegro in 1945 and 1946, and the minister for social politics. He was president of the statute forming council in 1946 and president of the People’s Council of Montenegro in 1947, until 21 January 1949, when he was arrested for his support of the Cominform Resolution.

He was one of the early prisoners in Goli Otok. Komnenić was sent to the ‘work site’ or ‘Camp 101’, a complex intended for the ‘elite of the Yugoslav Cominform supporters.’ During one questioning session, the guards told him that he was in an educational and corrective work camp because he had to revise his views. Petar said that the camp was no working site, but that it was ‘a mere hole’. It is still considered that it was Petar’s comment that gave the locality the name ‘Petar’s Hole.’

Komnenić was released in 1954 and returned to Nikšić, to his wife and son who had been isolated from their community during the years he had been in prison. He died on 18 December 1957, aged 62, of pulmonary disease in the Brezovik hospital for lung disease, near Nikšić. There is a street in Nikšić named after Petar Komnenić.