Montenegro emerged as a sovereign state after just over 55% of the population opted for independence in a May 2006 referendum.
The vote heralded the end of the former Union of Serbia and Montenegro - itself created only three years earlier out of the remnant of the former Yugoslavia.
The EU-brokered deal forming it was intended to stabilise the region by settling Montenegrin demands for independence from Serbia and preventing further changes to Balkan borders.
The same deal also contained the seeds of the union's dissolution. It stipulated that after three years the two republics could hold referendums on whether to keep or scrap it. Montenegro opted for the latter.
Montenegro, which means "Black Mountain", borders Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo and Albania. About half of it is covered in thick forest.
The tiny republic encompasses an Adriatic coastline, lowlands and high mountain ranges. The Tara River canyon is the deepest and longest in Europe.
Republic of Montenegro
Administrative capital: Podgorica
Area 13,812 sq km (5,333 sq miles)
Major languages Serbian, Montenegrin
Major religions Christianity, Islam
Life expectancy 73 years (men), 77 years (women)
President: Milo Djukanovic
Milo Djukanovic was sworn in as president in May 2018 after winning the April 2018 presidential election.
He has dominated politics in Montenegro for a quarter of a century, having served as prime minister six times and president from 1997 to 2002.
He became the youngest prime minister in Europe, aged 29, when he assumed the post for the first time in 1991. At the time his mentor was Serbian politician and convicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic.
Under Djukanovic's leadership, Montenegro participated in the attack on Dubrovnik and the war in Bosnia, but by 1997 Djukanovic had distanced himself entirely from Milosevic.
Prime minister: Dusko Markovic
Dusko Markovic replaced close ally and longtime leader Milo Djukanovic as prime minister in November 2016.
Parliament voted for Mr Markovic despite a boycott by opposition parties, who complained of election irregularities .
He has the support of a narrow majority in parliament made up of his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and parties that represent national minorities.
Mr Markovic is expected to continue his predecessor's policy of moving towards further integration with the West, in particular Montenegro's accession to NATO and its membership of the European Union.
Newspapers, the public broadcaster RTCG and commercial TVs and radios operate in a crowded media market.
Outlets from neighbouring Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia operate in the country.
Internet penetration stands at around 74%. Facebook is the most popular social network.
Some key dates in Montenegro's history:
1918 - Following First World War, Montenegro becomes part of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which is later known as Yugoslavia.
1991 - Montenegro supports union with Serbia as Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia break away.
1992 - Montenegro joins Serbia in Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
2002 - Yugoslav, Montenegrin and Serbian leaders sign EU mediated accord to set up new state, to be called Serbia and Montenegro, in place of Yugoslavia.
2006 - Montenegro holds an independence referendum. Just over the required 55% of voters say yes.
2013 January - The European Parliament says that Montenegro is on track to achieve EU membership, but calls on it to do more to protect media freedom, women's rights and gender equality.