IN MEMORIAM: STANISLAV CANO KOPRIVICA

Stanislav Ćano Koprivica je rođen 1929. godine u Koprivicama, kod Nikšića.

A man of his time

The well-known businessman and philanthropist, one of the leaders in the movement for the revival and emancipation of modern Montenegro, died in Moscow on Saturday 17th February 2002.

Guided by its inspiration, Cano left position of manager in a large company and founded the company Montex "Montenegroeksport”. I watched Cano performing a miracle; in Montex he created a company that had an annual income of more than a billion dollars, the largest financial empire in Montenegrin history.

Montex has invested in all parts of Montenegro, its branches have sprouted up everywhere: in Banjani, Golija, Vraćenovići, Vilusi, Čevo, Petrovici ... Montex regional offices are open in many parts of the world: in New York, London, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, Moscow, St. Petersburg, in South Africa and Asia. Before Montex 1% of Montenegro's GDP came from foreign trade, and at the peak of Montex’s success it was 11%.

People have wondered what the secret of Cano’s success is. As a matter of fact, the first thought was that it was his establishment in the revolutionary-party guard, because Ćano was a partisan and from a partisan family. Once he was Party official, when by the decision of CKCG (Central Committee of Montenegro) in 1949, he was temporarily withdrawn from his studies in Belgrade to become president of the Control Commission of the Communist Party in Niksic. But when he returned to Belgrade and completed his studies at the Faculty of Economics in 1954, he was not involved in the work of the Party any more. Three years after he founded Montex, in 1983, he left the Party of which he had been a member of Union of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia since 1944. Actually, Cano did not have proper support from the authorities for what he did.

Over time, I realized the secret of Ćano’s success: Ćano was talented man with vision, and except the gift of looking at or having an intuitive feeling for a predicament, he had a gift for action and organization, and without that it would not have been possible to realize his own vision. He had creative and civic courage, which many gifted Montenegrin do not possess.

Without any difficulty he decided on matters of wide-ranging consequences, as it was a game. He was less interested in the secrets of Gordian Knots which he encountered, than in how to resolve them, or even better, how to eliminate them. Sometimes I saw in him that ten-year-old boy who, in Niksic, was called "Count Ćano", when in 1937 he came from his native Velimlje dressed in a coat with a velvet collar, similar to the coat which Count Cano wore, and offered his friends luxury filter cigarettes, secretly taken from his father's cigarette case. And when he easily sacrificed for people, I remembered the story about his father Todor, who immediately surrendered to the Italians when they threatened to shoot fifty people with the surname Koprivica if he did not appear. He was killed a few days before 13th July 1942.

Ćano was a creator of extraordinary dynamism and imagination. Once during a long business conversation he could not convince his partners of the value of his idea. When they parted late in the afternoon without coming to an agreement, Cano found two architects and worked with them all night to make a model of his solution. The model was hung up at the entrance to the room where the next day he was supposed to have meetings about other business. When the partners saw it, the same day Ćano got a business deal worth $70 million.

Ćano felt happy when he was in a position to make others happy. Ćano and Montex helped schools, hospitals, churches, poor villages, built roads, helped sportsmen, artists, film workers, and the sick and injured. With the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Besmertnikh, he formed the Russo-Montenegrin Cultural Fund in Moscow, in order to fund cultural workers and projects. Ćano helped hundreds of people in small and large matters. When he was once approached by a young man whom he did not know, and asked to help him treat an ailing kidney, Ćano made it possible to pay for a very expensive kidney transplant. When, with the Milosevic coup in 1989, there came a kind of external and internal occupation of Montenegro, Ćano played a priceless role in the organizing of the Montenegrin opposition. At the intersection of two historical epochs, where communism disappeared, Montenegro did not recognize in which direction the historical powers were acting and reversed against them. Instead of broadening the limits of freedom, they went towards a restriction of freedom and participation in crime. Montenegrin intellectuals began to create institutions of intellectual resistance: PEN, "Monitor", the Organization of Independent Writers, the Organization of Independent Journalists, Matica Crnogorska, etc.

In Montenegro, without private property, with the authorities serving anti-Montenegrin interests, it was hard to get funds for publishing activities, international activities and the like. The newspaper "Monitor", in fact, was declared bankrupt after only a few issues. I used all my influence and great effort in order to give it another six months. When I thought it would all be in vain, I visited Čano and told him: "Remember what Lenin said of the Bolshevik newspaper Iskra (spark): "Iskra was the spark of our revolution." "Monitor" could play the same role in Montenegro." Ćano blinked, impatiently stood up and ordered that Monitor get regular support, which lasted until the inevitable slackening of Montex. This assistance encouraged journalists and co-workers to endure poverty and torture, enforced by the regime. That is why Ćano is credited in the "Monitor" impressum as one of the two founders of the newspaper. Ćano played a similar role in other projects that I have mentioned, and in dozens of others that I did not. He assisted in the publication of books about "the dark sides of our history", without which spiritual revival was not possible, helped anti-war movies, anti-war action and the international anti-war activities of the Montenegrin opposition...

We should not think that Ćano was the sole financier of the resistance. The movement would not have been possible if it was borne only on Ćano’s shoulders. But, Ćano has become synonymous with hope. His participation in a certain project was enough to make people endure. And, maybe his help might have been several times lower than expected but it caused those projects to be realized.

Ćano’s contribution to the rising of Montenegro from the ashes in the early nineties was so huge that without Ćano, it seems to me that the flame of Montenegro would have been temporarily snuffed out.

Ćano Koprivica had a full and interesting life. He was always on the side of freedom and justice. A participant and not observer. He loved his family, the immediate and extended one, and they loved him. Ćano was a reliable friend and awarded with deep friendship. He was aware that God had bestowed him with strength of spirit and raised him above many people. In the sphere of business, he launched processes the like of which creators in the field of culture, his comrades, made a modern departure from epic discourse. Only one tenth of his ideas and achievements would fill an entire creative life. His projects in the fields of business, which were ahead of their time and outside the context of the epoch, have become basic tenets today.

It would be good if Cano were alive now when we are faced with the threat of stopping at the threshold of the final goal and compromising everything that this generation has done for the emancipation of Montenegro. He believed that the process of the emancipation of Montenegro was irreversible, and that any slowdown was only temporary. He actively contributed to his last breath, and until his last moment.

Ćano’s deeds have found their way into a number of books and lexicons. We will keep him in our hearts, with the hope that the building we formed together will be completed.

Dr Miodrag PEROVIĆ

5 years since the death of Cano Koprivica (2007) - Montenegrin/Serbian only
The Road of Cano Koprivica - 2007 - contribution by Dragan Dragović - never released by Monitor - given to us by kind permission of Veseljko Koprivica

  • ➤ Put Ćana Koprivice - 2007