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  2. What Are Katuns?
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  4. History of Katuns

History of Katuns

Katuns have developed as a necessary activity that follows cattle breeding, as the need of herders to feed their cattle. And cattle breeding has always been the basic economic activity of the population in rural, mountainous parts of Montenegro. The most important areas related to the movement of herders in Montenegro are Prokletiije, Pester, Komovi, Kucke mountains, Durmitor and Sinjajevina.

Katuns were first mentioned in historical documents sometimes in XII century, but archaeological sites found high in Dinara mountains testify that the herders lived there since the time when man-hunter became the man-breeder of livestock, and livestock movement toward the mountains in various periods of history has not been interrupted neither by Roman, nor Slavic, nor Venetian, nor Turkish, nor any other colonization. Although cattle breeding in these areas was not technologically developed, the wealth of the family was reflected by the size of the herd, and practically all rural families have kept cattle. Lack of their own pastures for grazing has pushed herders to move their herds towards high mountainous regions, which would happen usually in May and they would stay there until snow. The pastures in villages were used for collection of hay, for feeding their cattle during winter time. However, in those times, the far greater number of local residents were cattle farmers, and the need for quality grazing was far greater. Therefore, the katuns were passionately guarded, defended, and real battles were fought for pasture lands. In many katuns in Montenegro you can still find old-times headstones that witness how important pastures and katuns were at those time. And another fact goes further to confirm this – those clans that were particularly successful in certain country battles were awarded with pastures in katuns by rulers of Montenegro, in certain mountains that they have never used before. It sometimes occurred, and there are such examples nowadays as well, that the katuns were so distant from the villages of farmers that it would take them couple of days of walking to reach them. However, this distance was not as important as it was important to have quality pastures for their herds, and even such remote katuns were vehemently defended.

When forming katuns, people would choose sites that are hidden from wind, as summer storms in mountains can be cruel and harsh. They would pick spots that have water nearby, since water, just as pasture, was worth as gold. If water was lacking, they would make snow wells – they would pick deep caves and fill them with snow during winter, and in summer they would slice and melt this snow to make water. Katun huts, which are called differently in different parts of Montenegro – stan, glada, savardak, dubirog – were constructed near each other. This was primarily done as a defense mechanism, so that herders could defend better together, from people and from wild animals. Practically whole villages were moving into the mountains, and the whole social life would temporarily move to katuns, and out there, in completely new circumstances, it would change and adapt and whole new customs and traditions were created.