History of Croatia

Drapeau de Croatie

Croatia is a unique country, characterised not only by its crystal-clear turquoise waters, but also by its millennia of history during which different cultures have succeeded one another, some of which have been assimilated into the different regions of the country we know today.

The checkerboard on the Croatian flag

The Croatian flag is closely linked with the country’s history. Croatia’s coat of arms, made up of 25 squares (the famous checkerboard), came into force in this form on 21 December 1990. It is also called “šahovnica” (chessboard in Croatian, from šah meaning chess). It is crowned by five escutcheons representing the country’s historic regions: Illyria (Old Croatia), Dubrovnik (Ragusa), Dalmatia, Istria and Slavonia.

Croatia in prehistoric times

The Adriatic Sea is not only a deep trench of the Mediterranean that crosses the European continent, creating the most economic trade route between Europe and the East, but is also the cradle of ancient civilisations, those of the Adriatic caves. The eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea has been inhabited since the beginning of the Stone Age. There is also evidence that most of the islands were also accessible and inhabited (archaeological finds in caves near the islands of Hvar and Palagruza, etc.).

cirque romain de Pula
Amphitheatre of Pula

Thanks to the favorable geographical features of the Croatian coast, with its numerous bays, coves and coves, the coastal belt has always had an important mercantile and nautical value.

Roman Croatia

Later, the Romans arrived, built palaces and summer residences but also spent a lot of time on the sea. Numerous underwater discoveries between Pula and Cavtat attest to these facts. The objects found are mainly amphorae, which were at the time commonly used to store foodstuffs such as wine, wheat, oil but also perfumes.

Wherever you choose to dive, you will find wrecks of ancient ships and their cargoes. One of the most precious finds from this period is that of the remains of pithos or dolia, large pottery vases (capacities can reach 1200 liters or even 2500 liters) which were built on boats and used to transport bulk goods (wheat , etc.). Such sights can be found near Cavtat, and others in the surroundings of Murter.

Medieval Croatia, Republic of Ragusa and Venice and the Habsburg Empire

A new era began with the arrival of the Slavs, a period marked by a constant struggle for supremacy, marked also by a defense against the various enemies of Dubrovnik, the eminent in its position as a republic and which played a leading role in culture and commerce. The shipwreck in the 17th century bears witness to these times: a galley equipped with cannons which sailed from Venice, carrying Murano glass, window glass and other valuables, sank near the island of Olipe, off the coast of Dubrovnik, during a storm.

croatie, dubrovnik
Battlements of Dubrovnik

18th century Croatia and early Yugoslavia

In the 18th century, Napoleon ruled for a short time, then he was replaced by the Austrian monarchy. Over the next hundred years, Italy and Austria fought against each other for dominance of the East Coast, culminating in the Battle of Vis in 1866. The Austrian fleet, led by Admiral Tegetthoff, who commanded the battleship Erzherzog Ferdinand Max, faced Admiral Persano, commander of the Italian fleet. In the battle, Persano, on his battleship Re d’Italia, was badly beaten by Tegetthoff, and the Italian fleet retreated in defeat. We can find testimonies of these glorious times on the continent but also at the bottom of the sea, with the wrecks of large ships.

Croatia and the Second World War

The time of Austro-Hungarian domination then began. Ports were built and fortified, trade and shipbuilding flourished. During the two world wars, the Adriatic was one of the most important battle zones. Numerous shipwrecks dating from these periods have also been recorded. Near Pula, for example, which at the time was a strategic point, around twenty shipwrecks were recorded, including a number of submarines and torpedo boats.

Recent Croatia

The last war is recent. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Yugoslavia fell apart. Croatia declared itself independent in 1991 and ethnic conflicts appeared with the Serbs and Bosniaks.

The Dayton Accords of 1995 put an end to the fratricidal war. Since then, the country has been rebuilt even if the scars of the last war are still visible (mined areas, munitions impacts on buildings, wounds still vivid in memories).