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CROATIA

The Republic of Croatia is a European country situated along the Adriatic Sea and its hinterland. It stretches from the slopes of the Alps and deep into the Pannonian Valley to the banks of the Danube and Drava rivers.In 1918, the Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes formed a kingdom known after 1929 as Yugoslavia. Following World War II, Yugoslavia became an independent communist state under the strong hand of Marshal TITO. Although Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, it took four years of sporadic, but often bitter, fighting before occupying Serb armies were mostly cleared from Croatian lands. Under UN supervision the last Serb-held enclave in eastern Slavonia was returned to Croatia in 1998.

According to its natural characteristics, as well as its cultural and historical development, Croatia can be divided into three geographically distinct zones: the Coastal region, the Mountain region, and the Pannonian region. The area of Croatia is 21,830 sq. miles (56,538 sq km), approximately the size of West Virginia. Croatia's population, which totals 4,784,265 according to the 1991 census, is predominantly Roman Catholic. The capital of Croatia is the city of Zagreb.  The city of Dubrovnik is a popular tourist destination.

In the cultural geography of Europe, Croatia holds a unique position. It is a border and at the same time a link between four cultural areas: the north-central European, the southern Mediterranean, the west European, and the east European, and thus Croatian culture encompasses influences of all these cultural regions. Attracting tourists and visitors since the early 14th century, the country has since become one of the leading central European tourist attractions. Croatia offers the world a long and scenic coastline, many nature reserves, hot summer weather, and a rich historical and cultural heritage. The country has seven national parks, of which the most famous is Plitvice Lakes, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage trust. Other tourist attractions include Croatia's more than 1,000 islands, and many towns dating from the Roman or medieval eras. Dubrovnik, named the "pearl of the Adriatic" by English poet Lord Byron, is one of Croatia's main tourist attractions, and one of only three European cities ranked as a World Heritage Site of zero category by UNESCO in 1977.

Slavic Croatian tribes settled in the area in the early 7th century (arriving from present day Poland), accepting Christianity in around 800 A.D., and soon establishing their own state ruled by princes or dukes. In 925, Croatia became a kingdom under the rule of King Tomislav. In 1102 the country formed a union with Hungary which lasted until 1918. After the end of the First World War, Croatia joined Serbia, and Yugoslavia (the land of South Slavs) was formed, which lasted until 1991. The first Yugoslavia (1918-1941) was ruled by the Serbian royal family, Karadjordjevic, which naturally favoured the Serbs and caused enormous resentment in Croatia.

The country was invaded by Nazi Germany in April 1941, which gave Croatia independence under the fascist dictator Ante Pavelic. This regime was known for its harsh rule and for committing many atrocities, and therefore many Croats actively joined the resistance movement under Tito (over 200,000) which liberated the country in May 1945. (Winston Churchill was so impressed with the Croatian resistance that in 1944, he sent his son Randolph and the writer Evelyn Waugh as his personal emissaries.) Croatia became one of the Yugoslav republics ruled by the communist government until 1991, when Croatia declared its independence, prompting Serbian invasion. Almost all Croats rose to defend their country under the leadership of its first president, the late Franjo Tudjman (who died in December 1999), and after five years the country was liberated. It is now a parliamentary democracy. In January 2000, the centre-right party which governed Croatia since its independence, the HDZ (the Croatian Democratic Union), lost the election. The centre-left coalition between the socialist SPD and the liberal HSLS will now govern the country, with the leader of the SPD, Ivica Racan, the new Prime Minister.

(courtesy "Visit Croatia")


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