Ban Josip Jelačić Square in Zagreb, capital of Croatia. Zagreb, which has about 700,000 inhabitants, is home to one in six inhabitants of Croatia.

Geography and population

Croatia in brief

Croatia in the European Union
Croatian coat of arms
Croatian flag

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Official name Republic of Croatia
Capital city Zagreb
Surface area land 56,594 km², coastal waters (inland and territorial waters) 31,067 km²
Neighbouring countries and length of borders Slovenia 668 km
Hungary 355 km
Serbia 318 km
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1,011 km
Montenegro 23 km
Length of coastline mainland 1,777 km, islands 4,058 km
Highest peak Dinara 1,831 m
Language Croatian
Population (2011 census) 4,284,889
Largest cities (2011 census) Zagreb 688,163
Split 167,121
Rijeka 128,384
Osijek 84,104
Zadar 71,471
Pula 57,460
Slavonski Brod 53,531
Karlovac 46,833
Varaždin 38,839
Šibenik 34,302
Sisak 33,322
Vinkovci 32,029
Velika Gorica 31,553
Dubrovnik 28,434
Political system unitary democratic parliamentary republic
Head of state President of the Republic
Membership of international organisations United Nations from 1992
NATO from 2009
European Union from 2013
Gross National Product (2012) HRK 334 billion (EUR 45 billion)
Gross National Product per capita EUR 10,205
Exports EUR 9.6 billion
Imports EUR 16.2 billion
Currency kuna (HRK)
Statehood Day June 25
International country code HR
Telephone prefix 385
Internet domain .hr
Time zone UTC+1

Position

Croatia has been present on the contemporary international political stage since its independence from the Yugoslav Federation, i.e. for a little over two decades,   but in terms of history and culture, it is one of the oldest European countries. The present-day territory of Croatia and its borders were formed over a long period of history, during which the Croatian nation, whether independent or incorporated within other states, constantly displayed its own subjectivity in national and political terms.

The geopolitical situation of Croatia is determined, therefore, by the convergence and influence of different ethnic, religious, economic and political factors. With respect to the complex position of the country, Croatian authors usually define it as Central European and Mediterranean.

Video
Fairy tale Croatia

According to the predominant historical orientation of most of the present-day territory, which gravitated towards Vienna and Budapest, and according to the geographical characteristics of its continental interior, Croatia is a Central European country. On the other hand, its exceptionally long sea front which, with the immediate inland region, fell under the historical influence of the powers of Venice, make it a Mediterranean country. In the hinterland of the Adriatic coast, in a triangle formed by the towns of Nin, Knin and Šibenik, the seeds of the first medieval Croatian state were sown. The general shift of economic centres of gravity to the north in Europe, and Croatia’s entry into a state connection with Hungary, moved the centre of gravity of the Croatian state towards Zagreb.

In the wider context of the Croatian region, several powerful political, economic and civilisational centres developed through the ages (the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Franks, the Hungarians, the Ottomans, and the Venetians). Their influences permeated the region of Croatia, and were often in conflict with each other. In the division caused by the schism in Christianity, Croatia leaned to the Western faction, at the same time forming the far eastern border of Western Christianity. Long periods of conflict between mighty powers, punctuated by occasional times of peace, meant that the survival of Croatia was constantly jeopardised and national development hindered. Several times, foreign powers organised their military defence systems on Croatian land (e.g. the Frankish Eastern Line and the Austrian Military Border). Croatia was also on the route of the deepest incursions made by the Ottoman Empire into Central Europe, which led to the contraction of the Croatian state and the shrinking of the Croatian ethnic area to the west. The final consequence of this situation meant that Croatia was shaped along the unusual contours of its modern state territory, arching widely around neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. The location of the country has brought it into contact with different cultures, traces of which can be found in various kinds of tangible and spiritual heritage, which today, alongside the original Croatian tradition, have been incorporated into the national identity and recognised in the European community of nations.

The direct consequence of belonging to different political centres throughout history was the long and drawn-out period during which the Croatian lands, today’s historical regions, were not united. Under these circumstances, the political genesis of Croatia was slow and protracted. After several centuries of political links with the Central European countries of Austria and Hungary, in 1918 Croatia became part of the Yugoslav state, whose centre of gravity was further east, so that through most of the 20th century, Croatian interests were subordinated to Yugoslav ones. Nonetheless, within the framework of Yugoslavia, Croatia continued to develop its own potential and, occasionally, to express its own political goals. In this situation of limited independence, Croatia succeeded after the Second World War in integrating most of its ethnic regions, then, during the disintegration of Yugoslavia, to mount a military defence and, after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, to win the fight for international recognition. Croatia’s sovereignty and western orientation have been affirmed by entry into the European Union, and, once again, the country is in the position of being a border, which places it in a unique position to participate in the process of extending the European Union to non-member countries, by showing its special interest in them, and also its understanding of them.

National symbols

Our beautiful homeland,
Ever so fearless and gracious,
Our fathers' ancient glory,
May you be blessed forever.

You are our only glory,
You are our only one,
How we love your plains,
How we love your mountains, too.

Sava, Drava, keep on flowing,
Danube, do not lose your vigour,
Deep blue sea, tell the world,
That a Croat loves his homeland.

Whilst his fields are kissed by sunshine,
Whilst his oaks are whipped by wild winds,
Whilst his dear ones go to heaven,
Whilst his vibrant heart beats.

 

Anthem. The national anthem is Lijepa naša domovino (Our Beautiful Homeland). It first appeared during the period of national revival in the early 19th century. The words were written by the poet Antun Mihanović and set to music by Josip Runjanin. From 1891 onwards, it was the unofficial national anthem, and a monument to it was erected by the River Sutla in Croatian Zagorje in 1935. It was declared the official anthem of the Socialist Republic of Croatia in 1972, and confirmed by the Constitution in 1990.

Flag. The official Croatian flag has three colours, red, white and blue, with the state coat of arms in the centre, and has been in use since 1990. The tricolour dates back to 1848, under the influence of the French Revolution, and was adopted as a means of linking the traditional heraldic colours of the historical Croatian lands. The Croato--Hungarian Settlement of 1868 prescribed the use of the tricolour, and it continued to be prominent in the 20th century, right up to the declaration of state independence.

Coat of arms. The coat of arms has also been in use since 1990. It is a historical Croatian coat of arms in the shape of an escutcheon divided into 25 red and white (silver) fields. Five smaller escutcheons in the crown above have historical roots and are (from left) the oldest known Croatian coat of arms, then the coats of arms of the Dubrovnik Republic, Dalmatia, Istria and Slavonia.

The historical Croatian coat of arms has appeared on different occasions from the 15th century on. An example of it with 8 rows of 8 fields is found in the 1527 document which ratified the election by the Croatian Sabor of Ferdinand I of the Habsburgs as King of Croatia. It later formed the basis for later Croatian coats of arms within the Habsburg Monarchy. It was a component of the official coat of arms of the Socialist Republic of Croatia up to 1990.

National holidays. Statehood Day is celebrated on 25 June, the date on which the Croatian Parliament (Sabor) declared the independence of the Republic of Croatia in 1991. Other official national holidays are Independence Day (8 October), Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Day of Homeland Defenders (5 August), Anti-Fascist Struggle Day (22 June), International Workers’ Day (1 May) and New Year’s Day (1 January). Some church holidays (Gregorian Calendar) are also non-working days: Epiphany, Easter Day, Corpus Christi, the Assumption, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day). Christmas Day according to the Julian Calendar is a non-working day for those of the Orthodox faith, Ramadan Bayram and Kurban Bayram for those of the Moslem faith, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for those of the Jewish faith.

Geography

Croatia has more than a thousand islands and islets, and its Adriatic shoreline is the third longest in Mediterranean.

Croatia is shaped like a horseshoe, stretching from Vukovar in the northeast, past Zagreb in the west, and to Dubrovnik in the far south. It gained most of its present-day contours at the end of the 17th century. With a surface area of 56,594 km², it is 19th among the European Union countries according to size, falling between Latvia and Slovakia. In terms of relief and climate, it is extremely diverse. The territory includes extensive plains in the continental region between the River Drava and River Sava (Slavonia), mountainous areas in the centre (Lika and Gorski Kotar), and in the west and south, a long, indented, sunny coastline with over a thousand islands (Istria and Dalmatia). Croatia belongs to the Danube Basin and the Adriatic Sea and forms the Mediterranean front of Central Europe, positioned favourably in terms of geography and communications at the meeting point of important European corridors, while its harbours are used as sea exits by the neighbouring countries to the north. Croatia is the third richest country in Europe in terms of natural water resources, and boasts a particularly well-preserved ecological environment, with hundreds of endemic plant and animal species. Almost 10% of the country is protected within 11 nature parks, 8 national parks and two strict nature reserves. › More

Did you know? Mt. Velebit is included in the world network of biosphere reserves (UNESCO’s scientific programme Man and the Biosphere), while five areas are on the list of wetlands of international importance, particularly as ornithological habitats: Kopački Rit, Lonjsko Polje, the Neretva Delta, Crna Mlaka and Lake Vransko.

History

Coats of arms of the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia and of the City of Zagreb on the roof of coloured tiles of the St. Mark’s church in Zagreb.

Contemporary Croatia, which gained independence in 1991, is the successor of the 9th century Croatian medieval prinicipalities established in the marches of the Carolingian Empire, followed by the Kingdom of Croatia, founded in 925 by King Tomislav. Soon after the death of the last great Croatian king, Dmitar Zvonimir, Croatia entered into a personal union with Hungary, and in the 14th century, the throne belonged to the French Anjou dynasty. After the Ottoman invasions in the 16th century and the loss of large tracts of land, Croatian dignitaries elected Ferdinand Habsburg as monarch in 1527, and the country remained within the Austrian Empire until 1918. The first half of this period was marked by constant wars with the Ottomans and Venetian encroachment upon greater and greater areas along the coast (Istria and Dalmatia), apart from the far south, where the independent Dubrovnik Republic developed free trade in the Mediterranean between 1358 and 1808. After the defeat of Venice and a short period in which southern Croatia was incorporated in Napoleon’s province of Illyria (1809–1813), all the Croatian lands were brought together within the Habsburg Monarchy, though they were still separate entities. They were united briefly in 1848, during the Croatian national revival. After the First World War, Croatia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which was transformed after 1945 into a Communist federation, in which Croatia was one of six republics until 1991. Although recognised as an independent state by the international community on 15 January 1992, Croatia was forced to defend its independence by armed struggle until 1995, when the occupied territories were liberated. In 1992, Croatia became a member of the United Nations, in 2009, of NATO, and on 1 July 2013, of the European Union. › More

Did you know? Croatia was acknowledged for the first time in history on 7 June 879, when Pope John VIII granted Duke Branimir the title dux Croatorum.

Political organisation

The Sabor is one of the oldest diets in Europe.

Croatia is a parliamentary democracy and is organised as a unitary republic. The social state, freedom, equality, equal rights and the rule of law are among the highest values of the constitutional order. The political system is based on the principle of the division of power into three branches: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. In the Croatian parliament, or Sabor, which has a single house and has inherited many centuries of parliamentary tradition, its members are elected for four years. The President of the Republic, who is elected by general, direct election for a period of five years, represents the country abroad, cooperates with the Government in shaping and implementing foreign policy and commands the armed forces. The Government proposes laws and the State Budget, leads foreign and internal policy, and directs and monitors the work of the state administration. Croatia is divided administratively into 20 counties and the City of Zagreb. Alongside the judiciary, the institute of the Ombudsperson promotes and protects the legal rights of citizens. There are also Ombudspersons for Children, Gender Equality, and Persons with Disabilities. › More

Did you know? The oldest surviving record of a session of the Sabor dates back to 1273. Until the 16th century, the Slavonian and Croatian Sabors sat separately, and from 1681, the Sabor of the Kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia held sessions. The official language was Latin, but this was replaced by Croatian in 1847.

Population

Life expectancy in Croatia is 80 years for women and 73 years for men.

With a population of 4.3 million, Croatia ranks 21st in the European Union, between Ireland and Lithuania. About 60% of the population live in urban centres occupying less than 15% of the territory of the country, and of these, one in four lives in the capital, Zagreb. As life expectancy has risen, almost a quarter of the population of Croatia is over 60 years of age, while about 15% is under 15. In terms of nationality, Croats comprise 90% of the population. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious confession (86%), followed by the Orthodox (4.4%; mostly Serbs, who also form the largest national minority), Muslims (1.5%) and Protestants (0.3%). Croats also live in neighbouring countries as indigenous inhabitants, mostly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Croatian diaspora worldwide, from Australia to North and South America and Western Europe, comprises over two and a half million people. › More

Did you know? Some of the most recent archaeological finds, which date back to approximately 6300 BC, indicate that Vinkovci (Slavonia) is the oldest European town, with an urban continuity of over 8,000 years.

The economy

Croatia Airlines, the national airline, founded in 1989, is a member of Star Alliance since 2004.

Since service industries comprise about two-thirds of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and agriculture accounts for less than 5%, the structure of the Croatian economy is similar to that of the countries of the European Union. The main economic branches in the country are determined by natural resources, but also by technology and industry (shipbuilding, construction, petrochemicals, the food industry). The most important branch of the economy is tourism, with 10 million foreign guests per year, contributing 15% to GDP. As in many European countries, the greatest problem facing the Croatian economy in the current period of crisis is the relatively high level of unemployment. Croatia has a developed infrastructure, and in the last 15 years, 1,000 km of modern highways have been built, which has contributed significantly to linking the countries of the European Union. In fact, Croatia conducts almost two-thirds of foreign trade with these countries, primarily Italy, Germany, Slovenia and Austria, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are also important trading partners. › More

Did you know? Taking the surface area of the country and the number of inhabitants into account, Croatia leads the countries of Southeast Europe in terms of highways, and is ahead of many other members of the European Union.

Education and science

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), a pioneer of modern alternating current electricity supply system. His name was given to the tesla unit of magnetic induction.

In alignment with European standards, Croatia’s higher education system has adopted the best features of the Bologna Process, contributing to the growing integration of science and scientists in Europe. The modern Croatian education and science system is based on a tradition founded in 1396, when the first public university opened in Zadar. The University of Zagreb, which is today the largest, dates back to 1669. Among Croatian scientists and inventors, many have made particular contributions to international knowledge, especially Ruđer Bošković (1711–87) and Nikola Tesla (1856–1943). The former was a Jesuit mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, diplomat and poet, came to prominence by producing an atomic theory and was one of the most renowned physicists of his day. One of the craters on the Moon is named after him. The modern system of transmitting electrical energy would have been unthinkable without the inventor Nikola Tesla, who created the first hydroelectric plant on the Niagara Falls, and invented the electric motor which we find today in almost all household appliances. Other inventions which are now part of daily life, such as the tie, the parachute, the solid-ink fountain pen, the airship, the MP3 player and fingerprint identification techniques, are numbered among the products of Croatian creative minds. Scientific excellence is best recognised through the Nobel Prize, and two Croatian chemists, Lavoslav Ružička (1939) and Vladimir Prelog (1975), have been awarded it. › More

Did you know? The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts is the oldest in Southeast Europe (1866) and has up to 160 full members (academicians).

Culture

Antun Augustinčić: Peace Memorial in New York (1955)

Always part of central European and Mediterranean cultural circles, or to be more precise, the meeting-point of Western civilisation and the East, the richness of Croatian culture testifies today to the links Croats have had with key European cultural epochs. Among the visible traces of this are six monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage List: the untouched land division (parcelisation) of an Ancient Greek field in Stari Grad on Hvar, the Classical heart of Split with the palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian, the early Christian Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč, the Romanesque centre of the town of Trogir, the early Renaissance Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik, and Renaissance Dubrovnik. Among great artists and writers, Marko Marulić (1450–1524), the “father of Croatian literature”, whose works were read throughout Europe, deserves special mention. Juraj Dalmatinac (15th century) was the greatest Croatian Renaissance sculptor and architect, Julije Klović (1498–1578) the greatest Renaissance miniaturist, Luka Sorkočević (1734–89) the first Croatia composer of a symphony, Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić (1874–1938) the “Croatian Andersen”, Ivan Meštrović (1883–1962) the most famous sculptor, and according to Rodin “the greatest phenomenon among artists”, Milka Trnina (1863–1941) the greatest opera diva, and Miroslav Krleža (1893–1981), an encyclopaedist, was in many ways the greatest Croatian writer of the 20th century. Among modern artists, Branko Lustig (1932), the producer of the Oscar-winning films Schindler’s List and Gladiator, the piano virtuoso Ivo Pogorelić and the duet 2Cellos are prominent. › More

Did you know? A portrait of the Croatian miniaturist Julije Klović, dated 1570, is the earliest surviving portrait by the great Spanish painter and sculptor of Greek origin, El Greco. It was painted as a token of thanks for the help and recommendations Klović gave the then young, unknown painter.

Society and way of life

Klapa multipart a capella singing of Dalmatia has been inscribed on the List of Intangible World Heritage.

The traditional way of life in Croatia is characterised primarily by community, which is reflected in customs, crafts and folklore, and also in eating habits, with regional cuisines becoming more and more available to foreign guests as part of the tourist range of services. Croatia is particularly proud of its top quality olive oil and selected indigenous wines. The community spirit is also seen in sports and recreation – popular ways of spending leisure time. In this sense, and due to the success of top sportsmen and women, Croatia is considered to be one of the top sporting countries of Europe. Our sportspeople have often been high profile representatives of the country; among them are the basketball player Dražen Petrović, the footballer Davor Šuker, the tennis player Goran Ivanišević, the skiers Janica and Ivica Kostelić, and the national waterpolo and handball teams. › More

Did you know? Janica Kostelić, the Croatian skier who won four gold and two silver Olympic medals, is the best Alpine woman skier in the history of the Winter Olympic Games.

Croatia in Europe through the ages

Countess Jelena Zrinski (1643-1703) reportedly dubbed "the most courageous woman in Europe" by French king Louis XIV.

Bearing in mind the specific features and influences which were interwoven in it, being as it is on the border between Eastern and Western civilizations, the root and expression of Croatian culture has always been unambiguously European. Cultural relations of Croatia and Croats with other European nations and countries have a long tradition, dating back to the founding of the first Croatian duchies (9th century). Those relations were multiplied with the later development of specific national cultures, and are today, especially in the framework of modern globalization processes, being fitted into worldwide culture, however retaining their recognizable identity. Within today's European Union, several cultural circles can be identified – Central European, German, Italian, French and British – with which Croatia has had rewarding contacts through its history. › More

Did you know?

Croatia is the homeland of the cravat. The largest tie in the world was installed in 2003 around the Roman amphitheatre in Pula by Marijan Bušić.

It is impossible to provide an entire “cycle of knowledge” about Croatia, but it is worth mentioning that the concept describing such knowledge – the encyclopaedia – found its place in the title of a work by Croatian humanist Pavao Skalić as early as in 1559, from where it spread to all languages of the world. In a similar fashion, the neck tie (cravat), which first appeared as part of the Croatian military uniform in the form of a picturesque adornment around the necks of Croatian soldiers in the Thirty Years War, was also accepted as a mark of elegance throughout the world. Thanks to the Croatian computer programmer Tomislav Uzelac, MP3 Players have become an essential part of our everyday life. Venetian explorer Marko Polo was born too early to possess such a player, but, according to some researchers, he is connected to Croatia by his family’s place of origin – the island of Korčula. The Dalmatian dog, the best known indigenous Croatian canine breed, without which the famous Disney cartoon 101 Dalmatians would never have been made, also originates from the same part of Croatia. In this chapter, you will find out many more interesting facts about Croatia... › More