Dispatch from Crna Gora
posted by Andrew Gryf Paterson on 23 January 2024

Andrew Gryf Paterson was selected as one of the Rewilding Cultures Mobility Conversation grant receivers in spring 2023. They are travelling from Finland to Montenegro, exploring potential future routes of human climate migration in reverse. During their travel, Paterson will keep a travel diary on the Bioart Society website. This is the fourth and final blog entry. You can access all the previous blog entries on our website: first blog entry here, second blog entry here and third blog entry here.

The overnight train from Beograd to Bar emerges from mountain tunnels with increased frequency from around 06:30 am and as the light rose that 22nd of October morning, I could see the landscapes shift passed with increasing frequency and diverse vegetation. By the time the renowned classic train journey reaches the Adriatic coastline at Sutomore, turning left to follow along the coastline for the last remaining kilometres to it’s terminus, a fabulous end populated with sub-tropical and Mediterranean vegetation on the rail and road side.[1] This was the penultimate and most southern destination of my travel all the way from the Helsinki-Tallinn ferry, a journey that was spread over two and a half weeks. A huge psychogeographical distance travelled across land from the Boreal north.

22.10.2023: Left – Overnight sleeper cabin; Middle – View from open window in southern Montenegro; Right – Arrival in Bar

I arrived to Crna Gora, Црна Гора. Black Mountain. Known internationally by the loan word translation from Serbian into English and Italian as Montenegro, by neighbouring Albanians as Mali i Zi, after Mount Lovćen on the Southwestern area of the country, and the colour of dark forest heights covering over this mountainous landscape of limestone and dolomite. The territory of Crna Gora is split between two different biogeographic areas—Mediterranean and the other, Alpine in the north interior—so along with it’s latitude of 42°06', and an Adriatic coastal length of almost 300km , it is renowned for it’s high level of ecological biodiversity, a ‘hot spot’ in Europe as well as internationally.[2]

Recommended by Sergey Dmitriev, who was inspiration for the whole travel southwards from Finland, I was given several contacts in Bar, namely eco-philosopher & pedagogue Igor Polskiy, and a few others in the capital Podgorica that he had got to know from April 2022 onwards.[3] I will elaborate on my own meetings, as a culmination of the ‘Rewilding Cultures’ Mobility Conversations travel award blog-post series,[4] with the wholehearted hope that it will be a conversation and location that I will continue in the future.

22.10.2023: Top – Overview to the sea from balcony in Šušanj neighbourhood; Bottom – Table at ‘North’ Restaurant

On arrival to Bar in the early morning, with limited internet connectivity after leaving coverage of my Serbian pre-paid SIM card, a downloaded offline map to the smartphone, and large rucksack and bags weighing me down, I walked as far as I could. Towards Šušanj neighbourhood, whereby a café appeared during the way to stop for coffee and breakfast: ‘North’ (!) in the South East European port city. Tania & her family, recent emigré from London, who moved to Bar to get involved in the Montelibero movement came to meet me. More of that later, but this friendly start carried me to the Russian community of 7 families who live in a cluster of neighbourly apartments in Šušanj village, which is a northern suburb of Bar. Šušanj sprouted in unregulated urban development during the 1990s between the sea, railway tracks and the scrub hillsides of Gbavac, but is now known for it’s beach restaurants and bars, tourist apartment and guest hostels.[5] I was pulled immediately to join them on a grape-gathering forage, and I stayed with this community of families for 2 days and nights.

22.10.2023: Left – Grapevine foraging; Middle – View from car dashboard over Bar municipality; Right – Afternoon hospitality

22.10.2023: Top – Commune presentation room, set up for Paterson to present related projects; Bottom – Evening hospitality

Igor Polskiy, Irina Sardarova, and their children moved from Russia, as part of a lifestyle and social-cultural change in 2020, documented in the book ‘Pilgrim: Diaries of the End of the World’,[6][7] which ended up eventually arriving in Crna Gora (Montenegro) in 2020, first to Budva, and then setting up a new educational  centre SchoolGarden Compass in Bar in 2022.


23.10.2023: Top – Education centre mural of Montenegrin women in early 20th Century dress; Bottom – Education centre lobby

When we met in Bar those days, the school in Bar was 1 year old, as a result of the influx of immigrant families from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, for childen of 6-15 years old. The teachers from those countries, plus USA and Montenegro, and the classes are taught in Russian, with typical classes in mathematics, arts and craft, information technology, Russian & Ukrainian language, as well as English and Montenegrin language classes. Atypically psychological classes are included in the schools’ learning environment. This was deemed important due to the traumatic flight background of many families, who left their homes, towns and cities swiftly and without much plans. Some families travelled by car from Russia via Caucasus, Turkey and Bulgaria. Montenegro for many was seen as a favourable location not just for the climate, and because there was an established Russian-speaking community present, some may have travelled previously to the seaside resorts on holidays, but also due to the perceived lack of social conflict (maybe in comparison to Georgia or Armenia).

The social-ecological model of the  school around a ‘garden’ is both metaphor and literal, in ambition, with the ambition to develop the natural environment surrounding the school, and follows an eco-philosophical model for a desired integration of social, ecological, cultural and economical spheres.[8] However, it was emphasised by Polskiy that it was important to create a safe space for learning not just for the pupils, but also for the parents’ expectations, something familiar but slowly elaborate the school environment in a different way than is typical (in Russia, Ukraine or Belarus). The building that the School Garden is based is new, only a few months old when I visit. Standing at one of the balconies, overlooking an abandoned industrial gardening area next door, we agree that it would be good to get our hands dirty with planting, composting, growing next door in practice, not just pedagogy. Maybe the annual cultural festival can lead the way with the families, locals and international workshop-leading guests.

23.10.2023: Left – Igor Polskiy at SchoolGarden education centre in Bar; Right – Looking down onto SchoolGarden internal courtyard.


agryfp · Rewilding Cultures: Dispatch From Crna Gora - Igor Polskiy part 01

23.10.2023: New construction area near SchoolGarden education centre, with abandoned industrial agricultural site in mid-ground.

The next day we meet again, Igor Polskiy and I, to continue our conversation, this time sitting on the floor of his family apartment with a pot of tea. Sun is shining outside, and we discuss the influence of ecologist Fedor Lazutin  (1966-2015), who is known for philosophy and practical organising in the Russian back-to-land movement, and bee-keeping in particular.[9][10] Polskiy is also involved in a collaborative initiative in the North Montenegrin mountains, 30 minutes drive from Mojkovac, which is inspired by similar ‘back-to-the land’ experiences in Russia, called 'Mountain Land', as elaborated below.


agryfp · Rewilding Cultures: Dispatch From Crna Gora - Igor Polskiy part 02

The collective ambition is to develop a longer-term process of working sustainably within the means of the local ecosystem at cooler habitat away from the summer heat of the coastline. It is this project that is at the centre of our conversation, and raises interesting questions about appropriate ways to settle on a land, in respect of local inhabitants, communities, ecosystems. The ambition is laid out "to create a place of experiment to find answers to the challenges of our time, guided by the approach of nature-friendliness in our practices and solutions”, based on the following project values:

“EXPLORING: We explore and learn through the world around us. Observation is our key to development

PRESERVATION: We care for and protect nature, supporting its biodiversity

REGENERATION: We strive for practices to heal and revive the lost

TRUST: We learn to trust each other and negotiate through self-reliance methods

LOCALISATION: We are trying to grow our own food and establish an internal exchange of resources

CREATION: We weave. Our presence and activities are careful and considerate.” [11]

Mountain Land project is a collaborative, experimental and mutualist initiative developed with ‘dragon dreaming method’, adopts principles of Sociocracy,[12] and blockchain leger technologies, to assist in decision making and register documents in the process, working iteratively investing and developing the land. In Winter-Spring 2024, they are seeking further co-founders of the project, raising capital towards the third payment on the land. It is not surprise to learn that ‘Forest University’ fellows are investors in the project from Serbia, and there is the potential of future exchange and shared learning between both land-based projects. There is an English-speaking co-founders circle and participants not only from Russia, Montenegro and Serbia, but also from the Netherlands. The project is open for international participation and cooperation.

24.10.2023: Walking with Ira in Šušanj neighbourhood, Bar.

However, Mountain Land is not even the only initiative in Crna Gora or even Bar municipality to develop new settlement projects which aim at addressing the potential of combining blockchain and alternative land-based communities, albeit with a more libertarian ideology. The Montelibero project, introduced by Tania [@butanka] on my first and last day in Bar, is another locally-based project with international connections to develop a commune which follows example from the Europe and US-based libertarian capitalist model, that promotes living autonomous, tax-free residence, in a subscription-based model of community, promoting “freedom, non-aggression, and self-organisation.” [13]

24.10.2023: Top – Overview to sea from upper Šušanj neighbourhood; Bottom – Private bee-keeper’s yard.

It is understandable that the recent migrating communities of middle-class professionals from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, displaced by conflict, political opposition, or avoiding conscription draft, are naturally attracted to where persons have already settled, where language communities are in common, or where historical governmental relations have assisted with migratory developments in times of crisis. Serbia and Crna Gora (Montenegro) have sought to develop their economies in recent years by making it easier for those of the above passports to invest and set up businesses--especially in Information Communications Technology (ICT) companies, digital nomad passports, or facilitate alternative money transfer networks, including crypto-currencies. Digital and remote (net)work culture, boosted by the mass work patterns adopted during the Global Pandemic, have meant that this part of South East Europe has become a popular place to re-settle. These places have become a receiving shore for what Eva Rapoport has called the “shock wave of Russian emigration”,[14] and there is much I argue to learn what is happening there on the meeting place of world cultures and powers.

24.10.2023: Assemblage of food items at breakfast combining Russian, Serbian & English words.

Social networks are critically important in the process of re-settling after displacement, demonstrated on numerous occasions on my own travel. In meeting Sergey Dmitriev, and the contacts that he had honed over several years, I was introduced to others who had gathered around other spirited individuals, families and collectives. Dmitriev had shared their own learnings in nomadism, developing a peer-learning.[15] Others can follow. In Fruška Gora, the Šumska1 eco-lodge benefited from performing arts and ecological-sustainable home building enthusiast networks; Forest University’s connections were based on art or academic networks. In Bar, the Russian-language eco-village and alternative ecological networks already introduced individuals and families to each other, who shared an interest and activism towards a new ecological or symbiocenic lifestyle.[16] Slowly the community grows, and re-entwining with locality slowly follows. Teachers teach. Buildings are made by handcraft skill. Urban planners engage with urban waste. Cultural heritage traditions re-new. Dreams are made.

24.10.2023: Leaving Šušanj neighbourhood towards Bar railway station and the capital Podgorica.

The important reminder that I will take away from the mountains is to think more about what one is bringing to a new place after displacement. How can this new social community contribute positively to the new locality without exploitation of local resources, cultures and ecosystems, integrates as much as possible, rather than creating autonomous gated communities? Climate and conflict migrants of the future, if they are like the positive examples I met on my Rewilding Cultures mobility to Serbia and Montenegro, and in concord with the conclusion of Gaia Vince in Nomad century: How to survive the climate upheaval,[17] they will ideally set best practice examples of how to live and work in symbiocenic harmony with our new and changing environments.


[1] Rosenau, S. (January 10, 2024). Minimalist Journeys: Bar Belgrade Railway. Website. Accessible from https://www.minimalistjourneys.com/bar-belgrade-railway/

[2] Convention on Biological Diversity. (n.d.). Montenegro – Biodiversity facts. Website. Accessible from https://www.cbd.int/countries/profile/?country=me

[3] Dmitriev, S. (May 13, 2022). Выходцы из советских республик в сельской Черногории. Blog-post. Accessible from https://sergeydmitriev.medium.com/%D0%B2%D1%8B%D1%85%D0%BE%D0%B4%D1%86%D1%8B-%D0%B8%D0%B7-%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%85-%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%BF%D1%83%D0%B1%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BA-%D0%B2-%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B9-%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B8-d16f7827335d

[4] Bioart Society (2023). Rewilding Cultures – Mobility Conversations. Website. Accessible from https://bioartsociety.fi/projects/rewilding-cultures/posts

[5] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Šušanj. Website. Accessible from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0u%C5%A1anj

[6]  Польский, И. (2020). Пилигрим. Дневники начала конца света (Pilgrim: Diaries of the Beginning of the End of the World). Moscow, Russia: Bombora.

[7] Igor Polskiy was a participant in the ‘Apostlahästa på Gotland’ project (2017) by Mexican artist Juanma Gonzalez, at the Baltic Art Center, Gotland, Sweden, which was inspired by the role of a pilgirm, originally from Latin 'peregrinus' meaning foreigner, wanderer, exile and traveller, newcomer.. "The participants.. discovered the island [of Gotland, Sweden] beyond the conventional tourist perspective through the temporary role of the pilgrim. By wandering through the cultural heritage and natural environment of Gotland they explored the past of the island to understand our present and visualize our future". Accessible from https://juanmagonzalez.com/apostlahastarpagotland/pilgrims/ |

[8] This is presumed to be the based on learnings in the Russian and European eco-village movement, and the Russian Anastasia / Ringing Ceders movement. Although we did not share or use these references together, the integration of social, ecological, cultural and economic spheres in relation to pedagogy, reminded me afterwards of United States anarchist philosopher Murray Bookchin (1921-2006)’s ideas of social ecology.

[9] Польский, И. (2022). Человек, который обогнал время (The man who was ahead of time). Moscow, Russia: Ассоциация естественного пчеловодства России (Association of Russian ecological beekeepers). Accessible from https://book.fedorlazutin.ru/

[10] Dmitriev, S. (August 23, 2022). A book about the most advanced Russia ecovillage’s founder. Blogpost. Accessible from https://sergeydmitriev.medium.com/here-is-a-recent-book-about-fedor-lazutin-the-founder-of-one-of-the-oldest-20-years-and-one-47096bf341ef

[11] Mountain Land project (2023-). Mission. Website. Accessible from https://digital-shrooms.com/mountain-land | In English: https://digital-shrooms.com/mountain-land-en

[12] “Sociocracy 3.0 (S3) is social technology for evolving agile and resilient organizations at any size, from small start-ups to large international organizations. Using S3 can help you to achieve your objectives and successfully navigate complexity. You can make changes one step at a time, without the need for sudden radical reorganization or planning a long-term change initiative.” Quoted from https://sociocracy30.org/

[13] Montelibero project (n.d.). Concept of strategy (in English). Website. Accessible from https://montelibero.org/

[14] Rapoport, E. (2024). Shock Wave of Russian Emigration and Self-Reflection of Its Representatives. Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research, 33–45. https://doi.org/10.25285/2078-1938-2023-15-3-33-45

[15] Dmitriev, S. (Sept 12, 2022). Social slow travel: Lowcost & Zerowaste. Blogpost. Accessible from https://sergeydmitriev.medium.com/social-slow-travel-lowcost-zerowaste-1d8b16b11c94  

[16] Polskiy, I. (2024). Ecophilosophy on the edge: Reflections upon the bases, deep ecology, research and transformation of culture. Chișinău: Moldova: Eliva Press. Selected texts accessible from https://futuref.org/on_the_edge_ecophilosophy

[17] Vince, G. (2022). Nomad Century: How to survive the climate upheaval. Milton Keynes, England: Allan Lane.