A brief history of Croatia

From past to present

A brief history of Croatia

Croatia has had a tumultuous past, however its shift towards the tourism industry in recent years indicates a transformation in the country becoming Europe’s ‘it’ destination.

A visit to the Croatian Natural History Museum would indicate that the area now known as Croatia, has been inhabited since the mid-Palaeolithic age (a vague era known to be from roughly 2,500,000 to 200,000 years ago) as neanderthal traces have recently been uncovered. The country was divided into two dukedoms by the 9th Century, and with Tomislav being named as the first king in 925 AD, the country’s status was elevated to that of a kingdom.

Croatia has a past saturated with wars and conflict. Their tumultuous past began with their Roman rule (from 9AD - roughly the 7th Century) and their joining of the Roman empire, and can be seen to have ended only twenty years ago when the country came out of a violent civil war following the declaration of its independence in June, 1991. Croatia’s past involves Mongol invasion in the 13th Century, conflicts with the Ottoman empire in the 16th Century, and even rule by the Napoleonic empire.

However perhaps its most important period was that between WWI and the present day. Sensing they would once again be pawns to the great powers, in 1918, Croatia decided to join a kingdom made up of Croats, Slovenes and Serbs. This effectively saved the country from Italian invasion although it also lost some of its identity in the process, having to move all governmental rule to Belgrade, Serbia. The Croats effectively had to choose between being ruled by Serbia or Italy. They chose Serbia. The joining of these countries immediately produced a negative impact on Croatia as Serbia enforced currency reforms that benefited Serbia and made the situation worse for the Croats. 

Any aim at political stability was also inhibited as the politician promoting democracy, threatening the regime, Stjepan Radic, was assassinated in 1928. WWII saw the rise of the Ustase Croatian Liberation Movement , which tragically followed the Nazis in its anti-semitic views. The Ustase, from the years 1941-1945 contributed to sending roughly 500,000 Jews, Serbs and Roma to their death through either Nazi concentration camps or by other means. Following WWII, with ally backing, the anti-fascist, ultra communist leader, Josip Broz Tito took charge of the Croatian government and it became a single party socialist federal unit of the SFR Yugoslavia. After growing tensions during the 1980s in Yugoslavia, Croatia once again became an independent state, leading to yet more conflict that eventually ended in 1995. Croatia is currently, therefore, a unitary democratic parliamentary republic with Ivo Josipovic the current president of the Republic.

As a result, Croatia’s eclectic past contributes to the varying architecture present throughout the country and a vast number of the architectural monuments have become UNESCO world heritage sites. Due to Croatia’s geographic location in the centre of Europe, it has benefited from Eastern and Western influences and this is reflected in the various styles. These are mainly, Western Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Mitteleuropa and Mediterranean culture.

Further reading

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