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History of Croatia
 
 
 

Early History

The area known as Croatia today was inhabited throughout the prehistoric period. Fossils of Neanderthals dating to the middle Paleolithic have been unearthed in the area of Krapina and Vindija. More recent (late Mousterian) Neanderthal remains have been discovered in Mujina pećina near the coast.

In the early Neolithic period, the Starčevo, Vučedol and Hvar cultures were scattered around the region. The Iron Age left traces of the Hallstatt culture (early Illyrians) and the La Tène culture (Celts).

Much later the region was settled by Liburnians and Illyrians, and Greek colonies were established on the islands of Vis (by Dionysius I of Syracuse) and Hvar. In 9 AD the territory of today's Croatia became part of the Roman Empire. Emperor Diocletian built a massive palace in Split where he retired from politics in AD 305. During the 5th century the last Roman Emperor Julius Nepos ruled his small empire from Diocletian's Palace before he was killed in AD 480. The early history of Croatia ends with the Avar invasion in the first half of the 7th century and the destruction of almost all Roman towns. Roman survivors retreated to strategically better defended points on the coast, islands and mountains. The modern city of Dubrovnik was founded by those survivors.

The Croats arrived in what is today Croatia probably in the early 7th century. They organised into two dukedoms; the duchy of Pannonia in the north and the duchy of Littoral Croatia in the south. Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus wrote that Porga, duke of the Dalmatian Croats, who had been invited into Dalmatia by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, sent to Heraclius for Christian teachers. According to Constantine, at the request of Heraclius, Pope John IV (640-642) sent Christian teachers and missionaries to the Croatian Provinces. These missionaries converted Porga, and also a great many of the clan that was under his immediate authority, to the Christian faith in 640. The Christianisation of the Croats was mostly complete by the 9th century. Both duchies became Frankish vassals in late 8th century, and eventually became independent in the following century.

The first native Croatian ruler recognised by the Pope was duke Branimir, whom Pope John VIII called dux Croatorum ("duke of Croats") in 879. Duke Tomislav of Littoral Croatia was one of the most prominent members of the House of Trpimirović. He united the Croats of Dalmatia and Pannonia into a single Kingdom in 925. Traditionally it is stated that Tomislav's state extended from the Adriatic Sea to the Drava river, and from the Raša river to the Drina river, but the precise borders are unknown. Under his rule, Croatia became one of the most powerful kingdoms in Medieval Europe. Tomislav defeated the invasions of the Arpads in battle and forced them across the Drava. He also annexed a part of Pannonia. This included the area between the rivers Drava, Sava and Kupa, so his Duchy bordered with Bulgaria for a period of time. This was the first time that the two Croatian Realms were united, and all Croats were in one state. The union was later recognised by Byzantium, which gave the royal crown to Stjepan Držislav and papal crown to king Zvonimir. The medieval Croatian kingdom reached its peak during the reign of Kings Petar Krešimir IV (1058-1074) and Zvonimir (1075-1089).

The Kingdom of Croatia existed from its foundation in 925 until the end of World War I, initially as an independent kingdom and later as a crown in multiethnic empires such as the Kingdom of Hungary, the Habsburg monarchy and Austria-Hungary.

Personal Union with Hungary

The consequences of the change to the Hungarian king included the introduction of feudalism and the rise of the native noble families such as Frankopan and Šubić. The later kings sought to restore some of their previously lost influence by giving certain privileges to the towns. The primary governor of Croatian provinces was the ban.
The princes of Bribir from the Šubić family became particularly influential, asserting control over large parts of Dalmatia, Slavonia and Bosnia. Later, however, the Angevins intervened and restored royal power.

Separate coronation as King of Croatia was gradually allowed to fall into abeyance and last crowned king is Charles Robert in 1301 after which Croatia contented herself with a separate diploma inaugurale. The reign of Louis the Great (1342-1382) is considered the golden age of Croatian medieval history. Sigismund of Luxemburg also sold the whole of Dalmatia to Venice in 1409. In 1490 the estates of Croatia declined to recognise Vladislaus II until he had taken oath to respect their liberties, and insisted upon his erasing from the diploma certain phrases which seemed to reduce Croatia to the rank of a mere province. The dispute was solved in 1492.

As the Turkish incursion into Europe started, Croatia once again became a border area. The Croats fought an increasing number of battles and gradually lost increasing swaths of territory to the Ottoman Empire.

The 1526 Battle of Mohács and the death of King Louis II meant the end of Hungarian authority over Croatia. The Hungarian parliament elected János Szapolya as the new king of Hungary. An other Hungarian parliament elected Ferdinand Habsburg as King of Hungary. On the other side, the Croatian parliament, sitting at Cetin on January 1, 1527, unanimously elected Ferdinand Habsburg of Austria as King of Croatia. Few years afterward both crown will be again united in Habsburgs hands and union will be restored. The Ottoman Empire further expanded in the 16th century to include most of Slavonia, western Bosnia and Lika.

Later in the same century, Croatia was so weak that its parliament authorized Ferdinand Habsburg to carve out large areas of Croatia and Slavonia adjacent to the Ottoman Empire for creation of Military Frontier (Vojna Krajina) which will be ruled directly from Vienna military headquarters. The area became rather deserted and was subsequently settled by Serbs, Vlachs, Croats and Germans and others. As a result of their compulsory military service to the Habsburg Empire during conflict with the Ottoman Empire, the population in the Military Frontier was free of serfdom and enjoyed much political autonomy unlike the population living in the parts ruled by Hungary.

After the Bihać fort finally fell in 1592, only small parts of Croatia remained unconquered. The Ottoman army was successfully repelled for the first time on the territory of Croatia following the battle of Sisak in 1593. The lost territory was mostly restored, except for large parts of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina.


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