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Croatia ( ; ), officially the Republic of Croatia (Croatian: Republika Hrvatska ), is a country in central and southeastern Europe, at the crossroads of the Pannonian Plain, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean Seamarker. Its capital (and largest city) is Zagrebmarker. Croatia borders Sloveniamarker and Hungarymarker to the north, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker to the southeast, and Serbiamarker and Montenegromarker to the east.

The Croats arrived in the early seventh century in what is Croatia today. They organized the state into two dukedoms. The first king, King Tomislav was crowned in AD 925 and Croatia was elevated into the status of a kingdom. The Kingdom of Croatia retained its sovereignty for almost two centuries, reaching its peak during the rule of Kings Peter Krešimir IV and Demetrius Zvonimir. Croatia entered a union with Hungarymarker in 1102. In 1526, the Croatian Parliament elected Ferdinand from the House of Habsburg to the Croatian throne. In 1918, Croatia declared independence from Austria–Hungary and co-founded the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker. After World War II, Croatia became a founding member of the Second Yugoslaviamarker. On 25 June 1991, Croatia declared independence and became a sovereign state.

Croatia is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, NATOmarker, the World Trade Organization, CEFTA, and is an elected member of the UN Security Council for the 2008–09 term. The country is a candidate for European Union membership and is a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean. Croatia is classified as an emerging and developing economy by the International Monetary Fundmarker and a high income economy by the World Bank.

History

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 Krapinamarker and Vindija. More recent (late Mousterian) Neanderthal remains have been discovered in Mujina pećina near the coast.

In the early Neolithic period, the Starčevo, Vučedolmarker and Hvar cultures were scattered around the region. The Iron Age left traces of the Hallstatt culture (early Illyrians) and the La Tène culturemarker (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 Hvarmarker. In 9 AD the territory of today's Croatia became part of the Roman Empire. Emperor Diocletian built a massive palace in Splitmarker 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 Dubrovnikmarker was founded by those survivors.

Kingdom of Croatia



The Croats arrived in what is today Croatia probably in the early 7th century. They organized 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 Christianization 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 recognized 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's stated that Tomislav's state extended from the Adriatic Sea to the Drava river, and from the Raša rivermarker to the Drina rivermarker, 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 Bulgariamarker 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).

Union with Hungary

Following the extinction of the Croatian ruling dynasty in 1091, Ladislaus I of Hungary, the brother of Jelena Lijepa, the last Croatian queen, became the king of Croatia. Croatian nobility of the Littoral opposed this crowning, which led to 10 years of war and the recognition of the Hungarian ruler Coloman as the king of Croatia and Hungary in the treaty of 1102 (often referred to as the Pacta conventa). In return, Coloman promised to maintain Croatia as a separate kingdom, not to settle Croatia with Hungarians, to guarantee Croatia's self-governance under a Ban, and to respect all the rights, laws and privileges of the Croatian Kingdom. During this union, the Kingdom of Croatia never lost the right to elect its own king, had the ruling dynasty become extinct. In 1293 and 1403 Croatia chose its own king, but in both cases the Kingdom of Hungary declared war and the union was reestablished.

For the next four centuries, the Kingdom of Croatia was ruled by the Sabormarker and Bans appointed by the Hungarian king. The Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia remained a legally distinct constitutional entity, but the advent of a Hungarian king brought about other consequences such as: the introduction of feudalism and the rise of native noble families such as the Frankopans and the Šubićs. The 1273 Congregatio Regni tocius Sclavonie Generalis, the oldest surviving document written by the Croatian parliament, dates from this period. Subsequent kings sought to restore some of their previously lost influence by granting certain privileges to towns.
The first period of personal union between Croatia and Hungary ended in 1526 with the Battle of Mohácsmarker and the defeat of Hungarian forces by the Ottomans. After the death of King Louis II, Croatian nobles at the Cetingradmarker assembly chose the Habsburgs as new rulers of the Kingdom of Croatia, under the condition that they provide the troops and finances required to protect Croatia against the Ottoman Empire.

Republic of Ragusa



The city of Dubrovnikmarker/Ragusa was founded in 7th century after Avar and Slavic raiders destroyed the Roman city of Epidaurum. The surviving Roman population escaped to a small island near the coast where they founded a new settlement. During the Fourth Crusade the city fell under control of the Republic of Venicemarker until the 1358 Zadar treaty when Venice, defeated by the Hungarian kingdom, lost control of Dalmatia and the Republic of Ragusa became a tributary of that kingdom. Through the next 450 years the Republic of Ragusa would be a tributary Republic protected by Ottomans and Habsburgs until the Napoleon abolished in 1808. During this time the republic became rich through trade.

The republic became the most important publisher of Croatian literature during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Aside from poets and writers like Marin Držić and Ivan Gundulić, whose works were important for Croat literature development, the most famous person from the Republic of Dubrovnik was the scientist Ruđer Josip Bošković, who was a member of the Royal Society and the Russian Academy of Sciencesmarker. The republic would survive until 1808 when it was annexed by Napoleon. Today the city of Dubrovnik features on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list and is a famous tourist destination.

Ottoman wars

150 px
Shortly after the Battle of Mohácsmarker, the Habsburgs unsuccessfully sought to stabilise the borders between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Croatia by creating a captaincy in Bihaćmarker. However, in 1529, the Ottoman army swept through the area and captured Buda and besieged Vienna; an event which brought violence and turmoil to the Croatian border areas (see Ottoman wars in Europe). After the failure of the first military operations, the Kingdom of Croatia was split into civilian and military units in 1553. The latter became Croatian Krajina and Slavonian Krajina and both eventually became parts of the Croatian Military Frontier which was directly under the control of Vienna. Ottoman raids on Croatian territory continued until the Battle of Sisak in 1593, after which the borders stabilised for some time. The kingdom of that time became known as the Reliquiae reliquiarum olim inclyti Regni Croatiae ("The remains of the remains of the once famous Kingdom of Croatia"). An important battle during this time was the Battle of Szigetvármarker (1566), when 2,300 soldiers under the leadership of ban Nikola Šubić Zrinski held back for two months 100,000 Ottoman soldiers led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, fighting to the last man. Cardinal Richelieu was reported to have called the event "the battle that saved civilization."

During the Great Turkish War (1667-1698), Slavoniamarker was regained but hilly western Bosnia, which had been a part of Croatia until the Ottoman conquest, remained outside Croatian control and the current border, which resembles a crescent or a horseshoe, is a remnant of this historical outcome. The southern part of the 'horseshoe' was created by the Venetianmarker conquest following the Siege of Zara and was defined by the 17-18th century wars with the Ottomans. The de jure reason for Venetian expansion was the decision of the king of Croatia, Ladislas of Naples, to sell his rights on Dalmatia to Venice in 1409.

During more than two centuries of Ottoman wars, Croatia underwent great demographic changes. The Croats left the riverland areas of Gackamarker, Likamarker and Krbavamarker, Moslavina in Slavoniamarker, and an area in present day north-western Bosniamarker to move towards Austria where they remained and the present day Burgenland Croats are direct descendants of these settlers. To replace the fleeing Croats, the Habsburgs called on the Orthodox populations of Bosnia and Serbia to provide military service in Croatian and Slavonian Krajina. Serbian migration into this region, which had started in the 16th century, peaked during the Great Serb Migrations of 1690 and 1737-39. The rights and obligations of new populace of the Military frontier were decided with the Statuta Valachorum in 1630.

National revival

National revival in Croatia started in 1813 when the bishop of Zagreb Maksimilijan Vrhovac issued a plea for the collection of "national treasures". At the beginning of the 1830s, a group of young Croatian writers gathered in Zagrebmarker and established the Illyrian movement for national renewal and unity of all South Slavs within the Habsburg Monarchy. The most important focus of the Illyrians was the establishment of a standard language as a counter-weight to Hungarian, and the promotion of Croatian literature and official culture. Important members of this movement were Count Janko Drašković, who initiated the movement by writing a pamphlet in 1832, Ljudevit Gaj who received permission from the royal government of Habsburg for printing the first newspaper in the Croatian language, Antun Mihanović, who wrote the lyrics for the Croatian national anthem, Vatroslav Lisinski, composer of the first Croatian language opera, "Ljubav i zloba" ("Love and Malice", 1846), and many others.

Fearful first of Hungarian and then Habsburg pressure of assimilation, the Kingdom of Croatia had always refused to change the status of Latin as its official language until the middle of the 19th century. Only on 2 May 1843 the Croatian language was first spoken in parliament, finally gaining official status in 1847 due to the popularity of the Illyrian movement.

Even with a large Slavic (Croatian) majority, Dalmatia retained large Italian communities in the coast (in the cities and the islands, largest concentration in Istriamarker). According to the 1816 Austro-Hungarian census, 22% of the Dalmatian population was Italian-speaking. Starting in the 19th century, most Dalmatian Italians gradually assimilated to the prevailing Croatian culture and language.

Austria–Hungary

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The Croatian answer to the Hungarian revolution of 1848 was a declaration of war. Austrian, Croatian and Russian forces together defeated the Hungarian army in 1849 and the following 17 years were remembered in Croatia and Hungary for the policy of Germanization. The eventual failure of this policy resulted in the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and the creation of a monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empiremarker and the Kingdom of Hungary. The treaty left unanswered the question of the status of Croatia. The following year the Croatian and Hungarian parliaments created a constitution for union of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia and the Kingdom of Hungary.

After the Ottoman Empire lost military control over Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, Austria-Hungary abolished Croatian Krajina and Slavonian Krajina, restoring the territories to Croatia in 1881. During the second half of the 19th century pro-Hungarian political parties played Croats against Serbs with the aim of controlling the parliament. This policy failed in 1906 when a Croat-Serb coalition won the elections. The newly created political situation remained unchanged until the advent of World War I.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia

On 29 October 1918, the Croatian Sabormarker (parliament) declared independence, creating the new State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbsmarker. Pressured by the Italian army, which was entering its territory from south and west, the National Council (Narodno vijeće) started expedient negotiations with the Kingdom of Serbiamarker and on November 23, 1918, a delegation was sent to Belgrade with the aim of a proclamation of union. The National Council delegation delivered 11 points which needed to be fulfilled for the creation of a future state. The most important of these points was the first, which referred to the need of a constitution for the new state, a proposal that was passed with a two thirds majority. Eventually, a constitution for a centralized state was passed with a majority of 50% + 1 vote and caused the end of state autonomy. On 1 December 1918, the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenesmarker, colloquially known as Kingdom of Yugoslavia, was created. This decision created public outcry among Croats, which started a political upheaval for the restoration of state autonomy by the leadership of the Croatian Peasant Party.
The unhealthy political situation in Yugoslavia became much worse after Stjepan Radić, the president of CPP, was killed in the Yugoslav parliament building in 1928 by Serbian ultranationalist Puniša Račić.

The ensuing chaotic period ended the next year when King Alexander abolished the Constitution, prorogued the Parliament and introduced a personal dictatorship. The next four years of the Yugoslav regime were described by Albert Einstein in 1931 as a "horrible brutality which is being practised upon the Croatian People". During the dictatorship, Vladko Maček, leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, was imprisoned, only becoming free after king Alexander was killed in a plot organized by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. Upon Maček's release, the political situation was restored to that before the murder of Stjepan Radić, continuing Croatian demands for autonomy. The Croatian question was solved only on August 26, 1939 by the Cvetković-Maček Agreement, when Croatia received autonomy and an extension of its borders and Maček became Yugoslav vice-prime minister. The ensuing peace was terminated by the German invasion of 1941.

World War II

The German invasion of 6 April 1941 achieved victory over the Royal Yugoslav Army in little more than ten days, ending with the unconditional surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on April 17. The territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region of Syrmiamarker became a puppet state of Nazi Germany called the Independent State of Croatiamarker. Istriamarker, the port city of Rijekamarker, and a portion of Dalmatia up to Split were occupied by Italy. Baranja and Medjumurje were occupied by Hungary. Although the recently returned exiled Ustashe was in charge of the new regime, the Axis occupiers initially offered the state leadership to Vladko Maček, the leader of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS), but he refused. Only one day after entering Zagreb, on April 17, 1941, Ante Pavelić proclaimed that all people who offended, or tried to offend against the Croatian nation were guilty of treason — a crime punishable by death. The Ustashe regime introduced anti-Semitic Nuremberg-style laws, and also conducted massacres of mostly Serbs and other non-Croats, as well as running concentration camps such as the one at Jasenovacmarker and Stara Gradiska where opponents of the Ustashe regime and other 'undesirables' were held. Catholic priests who were involved in the Ustashe movement, particularly the notorious Father Miroslav Filipović were defrocked. However, others such as the Archbishop of Zagreb Alojzije Stepinac not only condemned Ustashe crimes in his sermons but also offered refuge and protection to persecuted Serbs and Jews. The Jewish Virtual Library estimates that between and Croatian Serbs were killed at Jasenovac and that between and Serbs were victims of the entire genocide campaign.

The remnants of the Royal Yugoslav Army, later reorganized into the predominantly Serbian Chetniks, offered resistance to the Nazi occupation and their Ustashe collaborators, but the Yugoslav Royalist Chetniks soon started collaborating with Nazis and Fascist Italy. Civil war broke out. Later, in response to Hitler's surprise "Operation Barbarossa" attack on the Soviet Union, a massive uprising began on June 22, 1941 with the creation of 1st Sisak Partisan Detachment. The leadership of the Yugoslav partisan movement was in the hands of Croat Josip Broz Tito, whose policy of brotherhood and unity would in the end defeat not only the Axis occupiers, but also their various collaborators in the armed forces of the Independent State of Croatia and other quislings (which could be found in every Yugoslav social and national group). The victory of Tito's partisans against the Nazi occupiers and their allies resulted in the massacres of those Croatian Domobran (Home Guard) and Ustashe who were repatriated from Austria by the British 8th Army. In the decade after World War II, up to 350,000 ethnic Italians left Yugoslavia.

The number of World War II victims in Yugoslavia remains a source of much controversy amongst Serb and Croat nationalist academics and historians on the one side, and independent researchers, mostly notably Vladimir Žerjavić (a Croat) and Bogoljub Kočović (a Serb), on the other.

Socialist Yugoslavia

Modern Croatia was founded on AVNOJ anti-fascist partisans' principles during the second world war, and it became a constitutional federal republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker. A Communist dictatorship was established but, because of the Tito-Stalin split, economic and personal freedom were better than in the Eastern Bloc. From the 1950s, the Socialist Republic of Croatia enjoyed an autonomy under the rule of the local Communist elite, but in 1967 group of influential Croatian poets and linguists published a Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Standard Language. After 1968 the patriotic goals of that document morphed into a generic Croatian movement for more rights for Croatia, greater civil rights and demands for the decentralization of the economy. In the end the Yugoslav leadership interpreted the Croatian Spring as a restoration of Croatian nationalism, dismissed the movement as chauvinistic and arrested most important leaders. In 1974, a new Yugoslav federal constitution was ratified that gave more autonomy to the individual republics, thereby basically fulfilling the main goals of the Croatian Spring.

Independent Croatia

Nationalistic sentiment, which would bring an end to the Yugoslav federation, had been widespread among various ethnicities for some years. Albanian demands in 1981 for Kosovomarker to be removed from Serbia and transformed to a constituent republic within Yugoslavia led to riots, and similar attitudes surfaced among other nations with the Serbian SANU Memorandum in 1986; Croatia and Slovenia also responded negatively in 1989 after Serbia's leader Slobodan Milošević organized coups in Vojvodinamarker, Kosovo and Montenegromarker to install authorities who would be loyal to his cause.

Under the influence of Slobodan Milošević's propaganda, the importance of who won the first Croatian multi-party elections in 50 years was diminished. Allegedly, Serbs had influenced both Croatian nationalist leader Franjo Tuđman and communist leader Ivica Račan. The electoral win of Franjo Tuđman further inflamed the situation. Croatian Serbs left the Croatian parliament and created the Association of the Municipalities of Northern Dalmatia and Likamarker in Kninmarker. This was later to become the Republika Srpska Krajina. On the events of 1990-92, Milan Babić, president of Republika Srpska Krajina, was later to declare that he had been "strongly influenced and misled by Serbian propaganda". These events culminated in the full scale Croatian War of Independence between 1991 and 1995. The conflict ended with Operation Storm (known in Croatian as Oluja) in the summer of 1995. The events of August 1995 remain the subject of several cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslaviamarker, regarding the conduct of the victorious Croatian Army and the exodus of ethnic Serbs.

Croatia was internationally recognized on 15 January 1992 by the European Union and the United Nations. During that time, Croatia controlled less than two thirds of its legal territory. The first country to recognize Croatia was Icelandmarker on 19 December 1991.

Geography

An old map of Croatia


Croatia is located between South-Central Europe and Middle Europe. Its shape resembles that of a crescent or a horseshoe, which flanks its neighbours Serbiamarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker and Montenegromarker. To the north lie Sloveniamarker and Hungarymarker; Italy lies across the Adriatic Seamarker. Its mainland territory is split in two non-contiguous parts by the short coastline of Bosnia and Herzegovina around Neummarker.

Its terrain is diverse, including:

Phytogeographically, Croatia belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the Central European and Illyrian provinces of the Circumboreal Region and the Adriatic province of the Mediterranean Region. According to the WWF, the territory of Croatia can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Pannonian mixed forests, Dinaric Mountains mixed forests and Illyrian deciduous forests.

The country is famous for its many national parks.Croatia has a mixture of climates. In the north and east it is continental, Mediterranean along the coast and a semi-highland and highland climate in the south-central region. Istra has a temperate climate, while the Palagružamarker archipelago is home to a subtropical climate.











Insular Croatia consists of over one thousand islands varying in size. The largest islands in Croatia are Cresmarker and Krkmarker which are located in the Adriatic Sea. The Danube, Europe's second longest river, runs through the city of Vukovarmarker. Dinaramarker, the eponym of the Dinaric Alps, is the highest peak of Croatia at 1,831 metres above sea level.

There are 49 caves deeper than 250 m in Croatia, 14 of them are deeper than 500 m and three deeper than 1000 m (the Lukina jama-Trojama, Slovacka jama and Velebita cave systems). The deepest Croatian pits are mostly found in two regions - Mt. Velebit and Mt. Biokovo.

Counties

Croatia is divided into 20 counties (županija) and the capital city of Zagreb:

Anglicized name Native name 1 Zagrebmarker Zagrebačka 2 Krapina-Zagorjemarker Krapinsko-zagorska 3 Sisak-Moslavinamarker Sisačko-moslavačka 4 Karlovacmarker Karlovačka 5 Varaždinmarker Varaždinska 6 Koprivnica-Križevcimarker Koprivničko-križevačka 7 Bjelovar-Bilogoramarker Bjelovarsko-bilogorska 8 Primorje-Gorski Kotarmarker Primorsko-goranska 9 Lika-Senjmarker Ličko-senjska 10 Virovitica-Podravinamarker Virovitičko-podravska 11 Požega-Slavoniamarker Požeško-slavonska 12 Brod-Posavinamarker Brodsko-posavska 13 Zadarmarker Zadarska 14 Osijek-Baranjamarker Osječko-baranjska 15 Šibenik-Kninmarker Šibensko-kninska 16 Vukovar-Srijemmarker Vukovarsko-srijemska 17 Split-Dalmatiamarker Splitsko-dalmatinska 18 Istriamarker Istarska 19 Dubrovnik-Neretvamarker Dubrovačko-neretvanska 20 Međimurjemarker Međimurska 21 City of Zagrebmarker Grad Zagreb


World Heritage Sites



Government and politics



Since the adoption of the 1990 Constitution, Croatia has been a democracy. Between 1990 and 2000 it had a semi-presidential system, and since 2000 it has a parliamentary system.

The President of the Republic (Predsjednik) is the head of state, directly elected to a five-year term and is limited by the Constitution to a maximum of two terms. In addition to being the commander in chief of the armed forces, the president has the procedural duty of appointing the Prime minister with the consent of the Parliament, and has some influence on foreign policy. His official residence is Predsjednički dvorimarker. Apart from that he has summer residences on the islands of Vanga (Brijunimarker islands) and the island of Hvarmarker.

The Croatian Parliamentmarker (Sabor) is a unicameral legislative body (a second chamber, the "House of Counties", which was set up by the Constitution of 1990, was abolished in 2001). The number of the Sabor's members can vary from 100 to 160; they are all elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The plenary sessions of the Sabor take place from January 15 to July 15, and from September 15 to December 15.

The Croatian Government (Vlada) is headed by the Prime minister who has two deputy prime ministers and fourteen ministers in charge of particular sectors of activity. The executive branch is responsible for proposing legislation and a budget, executing the laws, and guiding the foreign and internal policies of the republic. Government's official residence is at Banski dvorimarker.

Law

Croatia has a three-tiered judicial system, consisting of the Supreme Courtmarker, County courts, and Municipal courts. The Constitutional Court rules on matters regarding the Constitution. Law enforcement in Croatia is the responsibility of the Croatian police force, which is under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. In recent years, the force has been undergoing a reform with assistance from international agencies, including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe since its mission to Croatia began on 18 April 1996.

Demographics

Croatia is inhabited mostly by Croats (89.6%), while minority groups include Serbs (4.5%), Bosniaks, Hungarians, Italians, Slovenes, Germans, Czechs, Romani people and others (5.9%). For most of the 20th century, the population of Croatia has been rising from 3,430,270 in 1931 to 4,784,265 in 1991. The natural growth rate of the population is currently negative with the demographic transition completed in the 1970s. Average life expectancy is 75.1 years, and the literacy rate is 98.1 percent. During recent years, Croatian government is pressured each year to add 40% to work permit quotas for foreign workers and in accordance with its immigration policy it is trying to entice emigrants to return [526]. The main religions of Croatia are Roman Catholic 88%, Orthodox 4.4%, other Christian 0.4%, Muslim 1.3%, other and unspecified 0.9%, none 5.2%.

During the last decade of the 20th century the population of Croatia has been stagnating because of Croatian War of Independence. During the war, large sections of the population were displaced and emigration increased. In 1991, in predominantly Serb areas, more than 80,000 Croats were either removed out of their homes by the Croatian Serb forces or fled the violence. During the final days of the war in 1995, more than 120,000 Serbs, and perhaps as many as 200,000 fled before the victory by Croatian forces. Only a small fraction of Serbs have returned to their homes since 1995, according to the Human Rights Watch. Croatia's remaining Serbs do not live in the highlands and inland of Dalmatia but in the Croatian heartland and major cities. Serbs have been re-settled by the Croatian Government in the regions they previously inhabited.

Economy

Privatization and the drive toward a market economy had barely begun under the new Croatian Government when war broke out in 1991. As a result of the war, the economic infrastructure sustained massive damage, particularly the revenue-rich tourism industry. From 1989 to 1993, GDP fell 40.5%. With the end of the war in 1995, tourism and Croatia's economy recovered moderately. However, corruption, cronyism, and a general lack of transparency stymied meaningful economic reform, as well as much-needed foreign investment.

Croatia's economy turned the corner in 2000 as tourism rebounded. The economy expanded in 2002, stimulated by a credit boom led by newly privatized and foreign-capitalized banks, some capital investment, most importantly road construction, further growth in tourism, and gains by small and medium-sized private enterprises.

Croatia has a high-income market economy. International Monetary Fundmarker data shows that Croatian nominal GDP stood at $58.585 billion, or $13,205 per capita, in 2007. The IMF forecast for 2008 is $69.357 billion, or $15,633 per capita. In purchasing power parity terms, total GDP was $78.824 billion in 2007, equivalent to $17,767 per capita. For 2008, it is forecast to be $82.407 billion, or $18,575 per capita.

According to Eurostat data, Croatian PPS GDP per capita stood at 63 per cent of the EU average in 2008. Real GDP growth in 2007 was 6.0 per cent. The average gross salary of a Croat during the first nine months of 2008 was 7,161 kuna (US$ 1,530) per month In 2007, the International Labour Organization-defined unemployment rate stood at 9.1 per cent, after falling steadily from 14.7 percent in 2002. The registered unemployment rate is higher, though, standing at 13.7 percent in December 2008.

In 2007, 7.2 percent of economic output was accounted for by agriculture, 32.8 percent by industry and 60.7 percent by the service sector. According to 2004 data, 2.7 percent of the workforce were employed in agriculture, 32.8 percent by industry and 64.5 in services.

The industrial sector is dominated by shipbuilding, food processing and the chemical industry. Tourism is a notable source of income during the summer, with over 11 million foreign tourists in 2008 generating a revenue of €8 billion. Croatia is ranked as the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world. In 2006 Croatia exported goods to the value of $10.4 billion (FOB) ($19.7 billion including service exports).

The Croatian state still controls a significant part of the economy, with government spending accounting for as much as 40% of GDP. Some large, state-owned industries, such as the country's shipyards, continue to rely on government subsidies, crowding out investment in education and technology needed to ensure the economy's long-term competitiveness.

Of particular concern is the backlogged judiciary system, combined with inefficient public administration, especially issues of land ownership and corruption. Another main problem includes the large and growing national debt which has reached over 34 billion euro or 89.1 per cent of the nations gross domestic product. Because of these problems, studies show that the population of Croatia generally has negative expectations of the country's economic future.

Croatia has so far weathered the global financial crisis reasonably well, but faces significant challenges in 2009 largely due to an expected downturn in Croatia's top export commodity, tourism. Croatia's external imbalances and high foreign debt present risks as well, as continued access to foreign credit in 2009 may be severely limited.

The country has been preparing for membership in the European Union, its most important trading partner. In February 2005, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU officially came into force.

Infrastructure

The highlight of Croatia's recent infrastructure developments is its rapidly growing highway network, of which plans were drawn and work commenced in the 1970s, but was realised only after independence because of the (then) Yugoslav Governmentmarker plans of road projects of 'national' importance.

Croatia has now over 1,200 km of highways connecting Zagreb to most other regions. The best known highways are A1, connecting Zagreb to Splitmarker and A3, passing east-west through northwest Croatia and Slavoniamarker. Most highways are tolled, except the Zagreb bypassmarker and sections of A3, A7, B8 and B9. There is also a smaller and more obscure network of expressways connecting to the highways. One of the most used is the B28 expressway, connecting A4 near Zagreb to Bjelovarmarker, but also serving as the main shunpiking alternative to the A3. The Croatian highway network is considered one of very good overall quality and excellent security, winning several EUROTAP awards.

Croatia has an extensive rail network, although because of historical circumstances, some regions (notably Istriamarker and even more so Dubrovnikmarker) are not accessible by train without passing through neighbouring countries. Serious investment is needed in the rail network over the coming decades to bring it up to European standards in both speed and operational efficiency. All rail services are operated by Croatian Railways ( ). The inter-city bus network (operated by private operators) is extensively developed, with higher levels of coverage and timetables than the railways.

Croatia has three major international airports, located in Zagrebmarker, Splitmarker and Dubrovnikmarker. Other important airports include Zadarmarker, Rijekamarker (on the island of Krkmarker), Osijekmarker, Bolmarker, Lošinjmarker and Pulamarker. Croatia Airlines is the national airline and flag carrier. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Croatia’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Croatia’s air carrier operations. An extensive system of ferries, operated by Jadrolinija, serves Croatia's many islands and links coastal cities. Ferry services to Italy are also available.

Education

University of Zagreb
Primary education in Croatia starts at the age of six or seven and consists of eight grades. In 2007 a law was passed to increase free but not compulsory education until eighteen years of age. Compulsory education consists of eight grades ( Elementary School )Secondary education is provided by gymnasiums and vocational schools.

Croatia has eight universities, the University of Zagrebmarker, University of Splitmarker, University of Rijeka, University of Osijek, University of Zadar, University of Dubrovnik the University of Pula and Dubrovnik International University.The University of Zadar, the first University in Croatia, was founded in 1396 and remained active until 1807, when other institutions of higher education took over until the foundation of the renewed University of Zadar in 2002. The University of Zagreb, founded in 1669, is the oldest continuously operating University in Southeastern Europe. There are also polytechnic and higher education institutions.

Culture



Croatian culture is the result of a fourteen century-long history which has seen the development of many cities and monuments. The country includes seven World Heritage sites and eight national parks. Croatia is also the birthplace of a number of historical figures. Included among the notable people are three Nobel prize winners and numerous inventors.

Some of the world's first fountain pens came from Croatia. Croatia also has a place in the history of clothing as the origin of the necktie (kravata). The country has a long artistic, literary and musical tradition. Also of interest is the diverse nature of Croatian cuisine and the famous Croatian Traditional gift Licitar.

Sport

Croatia has a reputation of producing gifted athletes in a diverse range of sports. The most popular sports in Croatia are football, handball, basketball, water polo, tennis, and skiing.

The Croatian national football team won a bronze medal in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Davor Šuker won the Golden Boot as the top goal scorer. The national football team has also played in the quarter-finals of the 1996 European Championships and the 2008 European Championships. The team is currently ranked 10th in the FIFA World Rankings (as of November 2009). The most popular football players are Luka Modrić, Darijo Srna, Ivica Olić and Eduardo.

The Croatia national handball team is a two-time Olympic Champion (1996 and 2004). The team also won a gold medal at the 2003 World Men's Handball Championship, and silver medals in the 1995, 2003 and 2009 World Championships. Croatia won bronze medal in 1994 European Championships and silver in 2008. RK Zagreb was a 1992 and 1993 European champion and 4 times a runner-up (1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999). Croatian players Ivano Balić, Igor Vori and Domagoj Duvnjak are currently among the best handball players in the world.

The Croatian national basketball team won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic basketball tournament, bronze medal at the 1994 FIBA World Championship and bronze medals at EuroBasket 1993 and EuroBasket 1995. Croatian basketball clubs were Euroleague champions 5 times: KK Split three times (in 1989, 1990 and 1991) and KK Cibona in 1985 and 1986. Croatian basketball players such as Dražen Petrović, Krešimir Ćosić and Toni Kukoč were amongst the first foreign players to succeed in the NBA in the United Statesmarker.

The Croatia national water polo team won a gold medal at the 2007 FINA World Championships and bronze medal in 2009. The team also won a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic water polo tournament and silver medals in the 1999 and 2003 European Championships. Croatian water polo clubs were 13 times LEN Euroleague champions. HAVK Mladost from Zagreb was a seven time European Champion (in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1990, 1991 and 1996) and was awarded the title Best Club of the 20th Century by the LEN. VK Jug from Dubrovnik and VK Jadran from Split were both three time European champions.

The Croatian Davis Cup team (Ivan Ljubičić, Mario Ančić and Ivo Karlović with coach Nikola Pilić) won the 2005 Davis Cup tournament and reached semifinals in 2009 tournament (Marin Čilić and Ivo Karlović with coach Goran Prpić). The tennis player Goran Ivanišević is one of the country's most popular sportsmen. Ivanišević won the 2001 Wimbledon Men's singles title and reached number 2 spot in ATP Rankings in July 1994. Ivan Ljubičić reached number 3 spot in ATP Rankings in May 2006. Iva Majoli won the 1997 Roland Garros Women's Singles title. Currently the best Croatian tennis player is Marin Čilić ranked 14th as of November 16, 2009.

Janica Kostelić is the most successful female alpine ski racer in the history of the Winter Olympic Games. She is the only woman to win four gold medals in alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics Alpine skiing events (in 2002 and 2006), and the only woman to win three alpine skiing gold medals in one Olympics (2002). She also won two slilver medals in 2006. Janica was the World Cup overall champion in 2001, 2003, and 2006. On February 5, 2006 Janica became the second female skier to win all five disciplines in one season. She also holds the record for the highest number of points in one World Cup season. In 2006 she won Laureus World Sports Award for Sportswoman of the Year. Her elder brother Ivica Kostelić is 2003 slalom World Champion and 2006 Olympic silver medalist in combined.

Blanka Vlašić is the best-known Croatian track and field athlete who specialises in the high jump. She is 2007 and 2009 World Champion. Blanka is also 2008 World Indoor Champion and 2008 Olympic silver medalist. Her personal best is 2.08 m (which is only 1 cm less than the world record) set in Zagreb at August 31, 2009.

Croatia women's national volleyball team won silver medals three times at European Volleyball Championship in 1995, 1997 and 1999.

Other Croatian well-known athletes are Duje Draganja, Gordan Kožulj, Sanja Jovanović and Đurđica Bjedov in swimming, Zoran Primorac, Dragutin Šurbek, Antun Stipančić and Tamara Boroš in table tennis, Filip Ude in gymnastics, Siniša and Nikša Skelin in rowing, Martina Zubčić and Sandra Šarić in taekwondo, Snježana Pejčić in shooting, Matija Ljubek in canoeing, Željko Mavrović and Mate Parlov in boxing, Branko Cikatić and Mirko Filipović "Cro Cop" in kickboxing and UFC fighter Goran Reljic.

See also



References

Further reading

  • Agičić et al., Povijest i zemljopis Hrvatske, priručnik za hrvatske manjinske škole (History and Geography of Croatiamarker, a handbook for Croatian minority schools), Biblioteka Geographica Croatica, 292 pages, Zagreb:2000 (ISBN 953-6235-40-4)
  • Branka Magaš. "Croatia Through History: The Making of a Modern European State" Saqi. November 2007, 680pp.
  • Ivo Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics Cornell University Press, 1984.
  • Mirjana Kasapović (ed.), Hrvatska politika 1990.-2000. Zagreb: Hrvatska politologija 2001.
  • Pavol Demes and Jörg Forbrig (eds.), Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe. German Marshall Fund, 2007. ISBN 978-80-969639-0-4
  • Sharon Fisher, Political Change in Post-Communist Slovakia and Croatia: From Nationalist to Europeanist. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006 ISBN 1 4039 7286 9


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