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Croats ( ) are a South Slavic ethnic group mostly living in Croatiamarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker and nearby countries. There are around 5 million Croats living in the southern Central Europe region, along the east bank of the Adriatic Seamarker and an estimated 9 million throughout the world. Due to political, social and economic reasons, many Croats have since migrated throughout the world, and established a notable Croatian diaspora. Large Croat communities exists in a number of countries, including The United Statesmarker, Germanymarker, Chilemarker, Australia, Argentinamarker, New Zealandmarker and South Africa. Croats are noted for their culture, which throughout the ages, has been variously influenced by both Western world and the the Eastern world. The Croats are predominantly Catholic and their language is Croatian.


Croatiamarker is the nation state of the Croats, while in the adjacent Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker they are one of the three constituent peoples.

Autochthonous Croat minorities exist in or among:

The population estimates are reasonably accurate domestically: around four million in Croatia and nearly 600,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or 15% of the total population.


A large number of Croats were forced over the course of the time for economic or political reasons to leave their traditional homeland, thus today there exists quite a large Croat diaspora outside of their traditional homeland of the southern Central Europe.

The first large emigration of Croats took place in the 15th and 16th centuries, at the beginning of the Ottoman conquests in today's Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. People fled into safer areas within today's Croatia, and other areas of the Habsburg Empire (today's Austria and Hungary). This migration resulted in Croat communities in Austria and Hungary.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, larger numbers of Croats emigrated, particularly for economic reasons, to overseas destinations. Some destinations included North America, South America (above all Chilemarker (Croatian Chilean) and Argentinamarker), Australia and New Zealand.

A further larger emigration wave, this time for political reasons, took place immediately after the end of the Second World War. Here fled both collaborators of the Ustaša regime, and refugees who did not want to live under a communist regime. It is estimated that during and immediately after the Second World War (from 1939 to 1948) about 250,000 Croats had to leave the country. .

In the second half the 20th century numerous Croats, to a large extent due to difficult economic living conditions, left the country as immigrant workers particularly to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In addition some emigrants left for political reasons. This migration made a lowering of unemployment for communist Yugoslavia possible at that time and created at the same time by the transfers of the emigrants to its families an enormous foreign exchange source of income.

The last large wave of Croat emigration occurred during and after the Yugoslav Wars, when many people from the region (not only Croats but Serbs, Bosniaks and others as well) had to leave as refugees. Migrant communities that were already established in countries such as Australia, the USA, and Germany grew as a result.

Abroad, the count is only approximate because of incomplete statistical records and naturalization, but (highest) estimates suggest that the Croatian diaspora numbers between a third and a half of the total number of Croats. The largest emigrant groups are in Western Europe, mainly in Germany, where it is estimated that there are around 450,000 people with direct Croatian ancestry.

Overseas, the United States contains the largest Croatian emigrant group (544,270 in the 1990 census; 374,271 in the 2000 census), mostly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California, with a sizable community in Alaskamarker. Then followed by Australia (105,747 according to 2001 census, with concentrations in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth) and Canada (Southern Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland). Croats have also emigrated in several waves into Latin America mostly to South America: chiefly Chile, Argentina, and Brazil; estimates of their number wildly vary. There are also smaller groups in Mexico, Peru, New Zealand and South Africa. The most important organization of the Croatian diaspora are the Croatian Fraternal Union, Croatian Heritage Foundation and the Croatian World Congress.


The origin of the Croatian tribe before the great migration of the Slavs is uncertain. According to the most widely accepted Slavic theory of the 7th century, the Croatian tribe moved from the area north of the Carpathiansmarker and east of the river Vistula (referred to as White Croatia) and migrated into the western Dinaric Alps. White Croats formed the Principality of Dalmatia in the upper Adriaticmarker. Another wave of Slavic migrants from White Croatia subsequently founded the Principality of Pannonia. However, some scholars doubt the above theory, which is based primarily on De Administrando Imperio, a tenth century work by Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. The doubt is primarily on archaeological and historiographical grounds. D.A.I. states that the Croats arrived during Heraclius' regnal years (610-640 AD). However, there is little archaeological supporting such a migration. Moreover, it is unlikely that any political entity such as White Croatia ever existed. Instead, Curta points to some burial assemblages in the northern Dalmatia region, which he dates to 800 AD. Here, there are some exceptionally rich burials showing Byzantine, Avar, Frankish and Slavic material elements, perhaps representing a "community of Croats". That is, Curta suggests that the Croats emerged as some kind of an elite caste of Slavic-speaking warriors, consequently spreading their influence, thus their name, over much of Dalmatia and parts of Pannonia. Subsequent papal recognition ensured the evolution from a prominent tribe to a medieval kingdom.

According to the Gothic theory,Croats would be descendants of Ostrogoths/eastern Goths. This theory is based on a historic chronicle from Thomas the Archdeacon called 'Historia Salonitana' where he mentions Croats as Goths. Also, Slavs in area of today Croatia are equated to Goths in Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja.

According to the autochthonous model, mostly promoted by the Illyrian Movement in the 19th century and abandoned by the mid-19th century, the homeland of Slavs is actually in the area of southern Croatia, and they spread northwards and westwards rather than the other way round. A revision of the theory, developed by Ivan Muzić argues that Slav migration from the north did happen, but the actual number of Slavic settlers was small and that the Illyrian ethnic substratum was prevalent for formation of Croatian ethnicity.

The Iranian theory suggests that the Croats are a tribe from Arachosia, this theory is based solely on linguistic evidence and spread of the Old Croatian ethnonym *xъrvatъ, which is almost certainly a borrowing into Slavic. The earliest claimed mention of the Croatian name, Horouathos, can be traced on two stone inscriptions in the Greek language and script, dating from around the year 200 AD, found in the seaport Tanais on the Azov seamarker, located on the Crimeanmarker peninsula (near the Black Seamarker). Both tablets are kept in an archaeological museum in Saint Petersburgmarker, Russia. Whilst not impossible, such a theory is solely based on the disputable premise that the term Horouathos is actually related to the Croat ethnonym. The two words may have separate origins. This theory became popular amongst some Croatian scholars during the Homeland War of Independence from SFR Yugoslaviamarker.

Genetically, on the Y chromosome line, a majority (>85%) of Croats belong to one of the three major European Y-DNA haplogroups -- Haplogroup I (45%), Haplogroup R1a (27%) and Haplogroup R1b (13%) . All three groups migrated to Europe during the upper paleolithic around 30,000-20,000 BC.

Later, neolithic lineages, originating in the Middle East and that brought agriculture to Europe, are present in surprisingly low numbers. The haplogroups J, E and G constitute together about 15% - significantly lower than other populations in the region.Furthermore the dominant presence of haplogroup I is rather interesting. This group exists in Europe only and is fairly widespread, but in relatively small percentages. Its frequency in the Balkans is high, but the only populations that have similar levels of the I group are the Scandinavians. Haplogroup I among Croatians is divided in two major subdivisions - I2a(33%),typical for the populations of the Balkans and eastern Adriatic, and I1(8%),typical for north-western Europeans.Haplogroup I is believed to have weathered the last glacial maximum in the western Balkans, migrating north as the ice sheets retreated.

There are a number of relevant conclusions that can be drawn from the genetic data.

First of all it gives strong support to the theory that the region of modern day Croatia served as a refuge for northern populations during the last glacial maximum (LGM). Eastern Adriatic coast was much more to the south, northern and western parts of that sea were steppes and plains, while modern Croatian islands (rich with the archeological sites from Paleolithic) were hills and mountains. After the LGM, the offspring of these survivors repopulated much of central-eastern and southeastern Europe. Those who remained in the Balkans are the ancestors of about 45% of modern day Croatian men in Croatia.

The second conclusion that can be drawn is that the theory of an Iranian origin has little genetic support. Modern-day Iranians have a significantly different haplogroup distribution, although Iranic speaking communities have lived in eastern Europe. However, Moldovamarker on the border of Ukraine, which in the beginning of our era was dominated by the Iranian-speaking Alans also has a high frequency of haplogroup I so that theory might be true after all. The low frequency of Anatolian haplogroups suggests that agriculture spread into the region of Croatia primarily by way of cultural contact.

And the third conclusion from the genetic evidence points to the fact Croats are genetically heterogeneous, pointing to a high degree of mixing of the newly arrived medieval migrant tribes (such as Slavs) with the indigenous populations that were already present in the region of the modern day Croatia. Hence, most modern day Croats are descended from the original European population of the region and have lived in the territory by other names, such as Illyrians and their forebears. These original inhabitants also served an important role in re-populating Europe after the last ice age.


[[File:Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro religious demographics map, 1901.png|thumb|300px|right|Map of demographic distribution of main religious confessions in Croatia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, Serbiamarker and Montenegro in 1901:

A Croat from Central Bosnia (1901)
Bosnian Croats celebrating a religious Mass (1901)

The earliest Croatian state was the Principality of Dalmatia. Prince Trpimir of Dalmatia was called Duke of Croats in 852. In 925 Croatian Duke of Dalmatia Tomislav of Trpimir united all Croats. He organized a state by annexing the Principality of Pannonia as well as maintaining close ties with Pagania and Zahumlje.

Since the creation of the personal union with Hungarymarker in 1102, the Croats were at times subjected to forceful Germanization and Magyarization, especially from the 17th century onward. The ensuing Ottoman conquests and Habsburg domination broke the Croatian lands into disunity again, with the majority of Croats living in Croatia proper and Dalmatia. Large numbers of Croats also lived in Slavoniamarker, Istriamarker, Rijekamarker, Herzegovina and Bosniamarker. Over the centuries ensued a wave of Croatian emigrants, notably to Molise in Italymarker, Burgenlandmarker in Austriamarker and eventually the United States of Americamarker and Western Europe.

After the First World War, most Croats were united within the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker, created by joining South Slavic lands under the former Austro-Hungarian rule with the Kingdom of Serbia, Croats became one of the constituent nations of the new kingdom. The state was transformed into the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker in 1929 and the Croats were melted into the new nation with their neighbour fellow – South Slavs-Yugoslavs. In 1939, the Croats received a high degree of autonomy when the Banovina of Croatia was created, which united almost all ethnic Croatian territories within the Kingdom. In the Second World War, the Axis forces created the Independent State of Croatiamarker, led by the fascist Ustaše movement, which sought to create an ethnically clean Croatian state. In response, many Croats joined the anti-fascist supra-ethnic partisan movement, led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. After the war, between 40,000 and 200,000 Croats lost their lives.

Post-war Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker became a federation consisting of 6 republics, and Croats became one of two constituent peoples of two – Croatiamarker and Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker (in the latter one of the three since 1968). Croats in Serbiamarker, in autonomous province of Vojvodinamarker never reached that status. Following the democratization of society, accompanied with ethnic tensions that emerged in the post-Tito era, in 1991 the Republic of Croatia declared independence, which was followed by war with its Serb minority, backed up by Serbia-controlled Yugoslav People's Army. In the first years of the war, over 200,000 Croats were displaced from their homes as a result of the military actions. In the peak of the fighting, around 550,000 ethnic Croats were displaced altogether during the Yugoslav wars.

During the Bosnian War, which followed the one in Croatia, the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats proclaimed their own autonomous region inside Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Croatian Community/Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, but subsequently joined into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Post-war government's policy of easing the immigration of ethnic Croats from abroad encouraged a number of Croatian descendants to return to Croatia. The influx was increased by the arrival of Croatian refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker. After the war's end in 1995, most Croatian refugees returned to their previous homes, while some (mostly Croat refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Janjevci from Kosovo) moved into the formerly-held Serbian housing.

Culture and traditions

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The area settled by Croats has a large diversity of historical and cultural influences, as well as diversity of terrain and geography. The coastland areas of Dalmatia and Istriamarker were subject to Roman Empire, Venetianmarker and Italianmarker rule; central regions like Likamarker and western Herzegovina were a scene of battlefield against the Ottoman Empire, and have strong epic traditions. In the northern plains, Austro-Hungarian rule has left its marks.

In spite of foreign rule, Croats developed a strong, distinctive culture and sense of national identity, a tribute to the centuries in which they remained distinct, avoiding assimilation of the overlords' population. The most distinctive features of Croatian folklore include klapa ensembles of Dalmatia, tamburitza orchestras of Slavoniamarker. Folk arts are performed at special events and festivals, perhaps the most distinctive being Alka of Sinj, a traditional knights' competition celebrating the victory against Ottoman Turks. The epic tradition is also preserved in epic songs sung with gusle. Various types of kolo circular dance are also encountered throughout Croatia.

The Croatian language has the longest written tradition of all South Slavic languages, with documents like Baška Tablet dating as early as 1100. The modern standard language is based on ijekavian shtokavian dialect. There are two other dialects, chakavian (spoken in Istria and Dalmatia) and kajkavian, (spoken in Zagorje and wider Zagrebmarker area), which to an extent have been influenced and superseded by the standard, yet they still color the respective vernacular speeches. Despite that diversity, Croats take their language as a strong issue of national consciousness and are fairly negative towards foreign influences.

Croats are vastly Roman Catholic, and the church has had a significant role in fostering of the national identity. The confession played a significant role in the Croatian ethnogenesis.

Dubrovnik Republic and Dalmatia are the homeland of Croatian literature. It was developed largely in the renaissance period, with works of Dalmatian and Ragusamarker authors like Marko Marulić and Marin Držić, and continued through baroque with Ivan Gundulić, romanticism with Ivan Mažuranić and August Šenoa up to the modern days.


In the 7th century the Croats, with other Slavs and Avars, came from Northern Europe to the region where they live today. The Croats were open to roman art and culture, and first of all to Christianity. First churches[10852] were build as royal sanctuaries, and influences of Roman art was strongest in Dalmatia where urbanization was thickest, and there was largest number of monuments. Gradually that influence was neglected and certain simplification, alteration of inherited forms and even creation of original buildings appeared.The largest and most complicated central based church from 9th century is St Donatus in Zadarmarker. From those times, with its size and beauty we can only compare the chapel of Charlemagne in Aachenmarker.Altar enclosure and windows of those churches were highly decorated with transparent shallow string-like ornament that is called Croatian pleter (meaning to weed) because the strings were threaded and rethreaded through itself. Sometimes the engravings in early Croatian script – Glagolitic appeared. Soon, the glagolic writings were replaced with Latin on altar boundaries and architraves of old-Croatian churches.

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joining the Hungarianmarker state in the twelfth century, Croatia lost its independence, but it didn't lose its ties with the south and the west, and instead this ensured the beginning of a new era of Central European cultural influence.Early Romanesque art appeared in Croatia at the beginning of 11th century with strong development of monasteries and reform of the church. In that period many valuable monuments and artefacts alongside Croatian coast were made, like Cathedral of St. Anastasia, Zadarmarker (natively - St. Stošija) in Zadar (13th century).In Croatian Romanesque sculpture we have a transformation of decorative interlace relief (Croatian pleter) to figurative. The best examples of Romanesque sculpture are: wooden doors of Split cathedral done by Andrija Buvina (c.1220) and Stone portal of Trogir cathedral done by artisan Radovan (c. 1240).Early frescoes are numerous and best preserved in Istriamarker. On them we can evidence the mixing of influences of Eastern and Western Europe. The oldest miniature are from 13th century – Evangelical book from Split and Trogir.

The Gothic art in 14th century was supported by culture of cities councils, preaching orders (like Franciscans), and knightly culture. It was the golden age of free Dalmatian cities that were trading with Croatian feudal nobility in the continent. Largest urban project of those times was complete building of two new towns – Small and Large Stonmarker, and about a kilometre of wall with guard towers between them (14th century). After Hadrian's wallmarker in Scotlandmarker, the longest wall in Europe.Tatars destroyed Romanesque cathedral in Zagreb during their scourge in 1240, but right after their departure Zagreb got the title of a free city from Hungarian king Bela IV. Soon after bishop Timotej began to rebuild the cathedral in new Gothic style.

Zadarmarker was an independent Venetianmarker city. The most beautiful examples of gothic humanism in Zadar are reliefs in gilded metal as in Arc of St Simon by artisan from Milanmarker in 1380.Gothic painting is less preserved, and finest works are in Istria as fresco-cycle of Vincent from Kastv in Church of Holy Mary in Škriljinah near Beram, from 1474.From that times are the two of the best and most decorated illuminated liturgies done by monks from Split, – Hvals’ Zbornik (today in Zagreb) and Misal of Bosnian duke Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić (now in Istanbulmarker).

Cathedral of St James in Šibenik from 1555, UNESCO World Heritage
In 15th century, Croatia was divided between three states – northern Croatia was a part of Austrian Empiremarker, Dalmatia was under the rule of Venetian Republicmarker (with exception of Dubrovnikmarker) and Slavonia was under Ottoman occupation. Dalmatia was on the periphery of several influences so religious and public architecture with clear influence of Italian renaissance flourished. Three works out of that period are of European importance, and will contribute to further development of Renaissance: Cathedral of St. Jamesmarker in Šibenikmarker, in 1441 by Juraj Dalmatinac; chapel of Blessed John from Trogir in 1468 by Nikola Firentinac; and Sorkočević’s villa in Lapad near Dubrovnik in 1521.

In northwestern Croatia, the beginning of the wars with the Ottoman Empire caused many problems but in the long term it both reinforced the northern influence (by having the Austrians as the rulers).With permanent danger by Ottomans from east, there was modest influence of renaissance, while fortifications thrived, like fortified city of Karlovacmarker in 1579 and fort of Ratkay family in Veliki Tabor from 16th century.Some of the famous Croatian renaissance artists lived and worked in other countries, like brothers Laurana (natively - Vranjanin, Franjo and Luka), miniaturist Juraj Klović (also known as Giulio Clovio) and famous mannerist painter Andrija Medulić (teacher of El Greco).

In 17th and 18th century Croatia was reunited with the parts of country that were occupied by Venetian Republicmarker and Ottoman Empire. The unity attributed to sudden flourishing of Art in every segment.Large fortifications with radial plan, ditches and numerous towers were built because of constant Ottoman threat. The two largest ones were Osijekmarker and Slavonski Brodmarker. Later they become large cities. Urban planning of Baroque is felt in numerous new towns like Karlovacmarker, Bjelovarmarker, Koprivnicamarker, Viroviticamarker etc.Cities of Dalmatia also got baroque towers and bastions incorporated in their old walls, like the ones in Pulamarker, Šibenikmarker or Hvarmarker. But biggest baroque undertaking happened in Dubrovnikmarker in 17th century after catastrophic earthquake in 1667 when almost entire city was destroyed.Wall painting experienced flourishing in all parts of Croatia, from illusionist frescoes in church of Holy Mary in Samobormarker, St Catherine in Zagrebmarker to Jesuit church in Dubrovnik.An exchange of artists between Croatia and other parts of Europe happened. The most famous Croatian painter was Federiko Benković who worked almost his entire life in Italy, while an Italian – Francesco Robba, did the best Baroque sculptures in Croatia.

In Austrianmarker countries on the beginning of 19th century Romantic movement in Croatia was sentimental, gentle and subtle.At the end of 19th century architect Herman Bolle undertook one of the largest projects of European historicism – half-kilometer long neo-renaissance arcade with twenty domes on Zagreb cemetery Mirogojmarker. At the same time the cities in Croatia got important urban makeover.Pseudo building that emphasizes all three visual arts is former building of Ministry of Prayer and Education (so called "Golden Hall") in Zagreb (H. Bolle, 1895). Vlaho Bukovac brought the spirit of impressionism from Parismarker, and he strongly influenced the young artists (including the authors of “Golden Hall”). On the Millennium Exhibition in Budapestmarker they were able to set aside all other artistic options in Austro-Hungary.

The turbulent twentieth century re-oriented Croatia politically on many occasions and affected it in many other ways, but it couldn't significantly alter its already peculiar position at the crossroads of many different cultures.


The grb (traditional shield).

The Flag of Croatia consists of a red-white-blue tricolor, and in the middle is the Coat of Arms of Croatia. The red-white-blue tricolor was chosen, as it was the colors of Pan-Slavism, popular in the 19th Century.

The coat of arms consists of the traditional red and white squares or "grb", which simply means 'coat of arms'. It has been used to symbolise Croats for centuries; some speculate that it was derived from Red and White Croatia, historic lands of the Croatian tribe. The current design added the five crowning shields which represent the historical regions from which Croatia originated.

The red and white checkerboard has been a symbol of Croatian kings since at least the 10th century, ranging in size from 3×3 to 8×8, but most commonly 5×5, like the current coat. It was traditionally conjectured that the colours originally represented two ancient Croat tribes, Red Croats and White Croats, but there is no generally accepted proof for this theory. The oldest source confirming the coat as an official symbol is a genealogy of the Habsburgs, dated from 1512 to 1518. In 1525 it was used on a votive medal. The oldest known example of the šahovnica in Croatia is to be found on the wings of four falcons on a baptismal font donated by king Petar Krešimir IV of Croatia (1058–1074) to the Archbishop of Split.

Unlike in many countries, Croatian design more commonly uses symbolism from the coat-of-arms, rather than from the Croatian flag. This is partly due to the geometric design of the shield which makes it appropriate for use in many graphic contexts (e.g. the insignia of Croatia Airlines or the design of the shirt for the Croatia national football team), and partly due to the fact that neighbouring countries like Sloveniamarker and Serbiamarker use the same Pan-Slavic colours on their flags as Croatia.


File:Hrvatske etnije.gif|Croats in CroatiaFile:DemoBIH2006aa.PNG|Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2006)File:Vojvodina south slavs.png|Croats in Vojvodina (2002 census)File:South slavs romania.png|Croats in Romania

See also


  1. Hrvati u svijetu , Croatian Radio Television archive
  2. Croatian Heritage Foundation Većeslav Holjevac in his book Hrvati izvan domovine estimates the number of Croatian emigrants in South America at 180,000 in 1932.
  3. Croatian Emigrant Adresary places the total number of Croats in South America as high as 500,000
  4. O porijeklu Hrvata, Radoslav Katičić, re-published on website
  5. Florin Curta. Southeastern Europe in the early Middle Ages
  6. Ivan Muzić, O hrvatskoj historiografiji i autohtonosti u Hrvata, foreword to the book "Hrvati i Autohtonost"
  7. Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe ,Battaglia et al.
  8. Semino et al., The Genetic Legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in Extant Europeans, Science Vol290, 2000
  9. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Genes, Peoples and Languages (2001)
  10. Steve Olson, Mapping Human History (2003)

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