Historical importance in Croatia

Although Croatia has developed under the influence of many European cultures, it has made its unique contribution to the history of European civilization.

Amphitheatre in Pula, Istria, Croatia, photo by Matko M. Švarc
Amphitheatre in Pula, Istria, Croatia, photo by Matko M. Švarc

In its tumultuous past, Croatia and its parts were part of a series of states and empires that roamed the stage of European history – Hungary, Austria, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, Italy, Yugoslavia, and many others. Even before all of them, an indelible mark was left by the ancient Romans and the Slavic tribes who immigrated to present-day Croatia in the 7th century. All of them have left a mark on the development and culture of the country.



After World War II, Croatia was led by Tito. After his death in the early 1980s, a new political system was introduced in the country that resulted in the collapse of the economy in the late 1980s.

King's Tomislav Square, Zagreb,(header) photo by Matko M. Švarc
King’s Tomislav Square, Zagreb,(header) photo by Matko M. Švarc


Like many Western European countries, Croatia was founded on the ruins of the Roman Empire. Croatia is certainly unique not only because of its crystal blue sea but also because of its millennial cultural tradition. Croats are believed to be Slavic people who migrated from Ukraine and settled in the area today during the 6th century. Croatia borders Slovenia in the northwest, Hungary in the northeast, Serbia in the east, Montenegro in the southeast, and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the south. The Adriatic coast owes its appearance and characteristics to karst processes. The Adriatic coast with its numerous islands, peninsulas, and bays is one of the most indented in the world.

The Adriatic is the cradle of ancient civilizations in this area.

Short lines to help you better understand Croatian history the course of events, rulers, and influences.

Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Ivan Vuković Vuka
Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Ivan Vuković Vuka


Croatia in the Stone and Iron Age

Traces of human life in the territory of present-day Croatia go back to the Stone Age. On a European scale, the site of a Neanderthal man in the Hušnjakova cave near Krapina is important, which is named after it in the scientific literature – Homo krapiniensis.

Hušnjakovo, archaeological finding,nowdays, photo credit by archives of Museum MKN
Hušnjakovo, archaeological finding, nowadays, photo credit by archives of Museum MKN

The remains of cultures from the Early Stone Age, Neolithic, were found around the Sava, Drava, and the Danube rivers, while during the Copper Age, the famous Vučedol culture developed along the Danube river not far from the town of Vukovar. The remains of beautiful ceramics, the most famous of which is the dove of Vučedol, are preserved from it.

DUBROVNIK, photo by Matko M. Švarc
DUBROVNIK, photo by Matko M. Švarc




From the Iron Age, however, the remains of Illyrian tribes were acquired; Liburna, Japod, and Delmata from Istria to Dalmatia and Herzegovina. In the 4th century BC, the Celts also left their marks on Croatian soil. At the same time, the ancient Greeks made their mark on the Adriatic islands and river mouths – they had colonies on the islands of Vis (Issa) and Hvar (Pharos), the present-day city of Trogir (Tragurion), and elsewhere.

Augustus temple, Pula







Diocletian's Palace, Split, Croatia, photo by Croatian Attractions
Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia, photo by Croatian Attractions

Roman times


Two centuries after the Greeks, the Romans came to the east coast of the Adriatic, but the Croatian territories conquered only at the beginning of the first century AD. They founded the provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia while annexing Istria to the Italian province (Venetia et Histria). In Roman times, trade and traffic were developing rapidly, roads and ports were being built, and numerous cities such as Pola (Pula), Parentium (Poreč), Jadera (Zadar), Scardona (Skradin), and Narona at the mouth of the Neretva were being built. In the continental part of present-day Croatia, Siscia (Sisak), Cibalae (Vinkovci), Sirmium (Mitrovica), Mursa (Osijek) and many other cities are being built, which still exist along the former Roman roads and waterways.

Ston wall, archives of Tourist Board of Ston
Ston wall, archives of Tourist Board of Ston




The arrival of the Croats

In the centuries after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476, the mass settlement of new inhabitants in the Roman provinces began. The Croats, a Slavic warrior tribe that performed in alliance with the Avars, mainly came to present-day Croatia. They systematically conquered and settled the area of the former Roman Illyria, first Pannonia and then Dalmatia. In 582. they conquered the city of Sirmium, in 614. Salona, and then Epidaurum (Cavtat). Arriving in these areas, Croats gradually mix with the natives and receive Christianity. They soon established their state, which lasted for almost five hundred years. It was the time of the rule of Croatian princes and kings, strongly marked by a series of wars with the Franks, Venetians, Arabs, Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Byzantines.

Split, Diocletian Palace, photo credit by Croatian Attractions
Split, Diocletian Palace, photo credit by Croatian Attractions


The first Croatian rulers

The first known Croatian ruler was Prince Branimir from the end of the 9th century, while the first Croatian King Tomislav, crowned in 925, reigned until 928. King Tomislav of the Trpimirović dynasty created a medieval Croatian kingdom that reached its peak during the time of King Petar Krešimir IV. from 1058 to 1074. At that time, the Dalmatian cities committed the king to give him a third of the port revenue, a tribute of peace and assistance with his ship during the war. All such income strengthened the kingdom.


Ban Josip Jelačić, photo by Matko M. Švarc
Ban Josip Jelačić, in Zagreb, Croatia, photo by Matko M. Švarc


The Habsburg Monarchy and the Venetian Republic

The Croat-Hungarian kingdom survived until 1526 until the Battle of Mohacs with the Turks. This historical period was marked by internal wars between the Croatian and Hungarian nobility for position and power, as well as constant conflicts with the Turks.

Thanks to the constant internal struggles for power on the Croatian-Hungarian throne, Venice took the opportunity in 1409 and bought “his right to Dalmatia” for 100,000 ducats from the defeated pretender to the throne, Ladislav of Naples.

When the Ottomans began to conquer Europe, Croatia found itself on the border with the Turkish Empire and became the patron saint of Christianity in Europe in the 16th century. Despite the constant fighting, Croatia was losing more and more of its territory. The Battle on the field of Mohač in 1526 marked the culmination of the conflict between Croats and Hungarians on the one hand, and the Turks on the other.

Turkish forces were victorious, marking the end of the Hungarian kingdom’s power, but failed to conquer Croats and Hungarians. Both countries are part of the Habsburg Monarchy, while the coastal part of Croatia belonged to the Venetian Republic.

Venetian rule over Croatian lands lasted until 1797. when the Venetian Republic disappeared under the onslaught of the French army, and the Venetian eastern Adriatic coast came under Austrian rule, except for the Dubrovnik Republic, which was then still spared from occupation.


Knin fortress, Croatia, photo by Matko M. Švarc
Knin fortress, Croatia, photo by Matko M. Švarc


The wars with the Turks continue, and after the victory at Sisak in 1593, the Croatian people began to regain their territory, though some of it was lost forever. In the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire was forever suppressed from Hungary and Croatia, and central control is again taken over by the Habsburg Monarchy, also known as the Austrian Empire.

The power of the Viennese Court

Since the Viennese court implemented centralization and Germanization, Croats continue to fight for their state status. Also, Dalmatia was under Italian influence during the Venetian centenary administration.

With the fall of the Venetian Republic at the end of the 18th century, the coast and Dalmatia fell under the rule of the Viennese court.

Porta Terraferma, Zadar


Croatian revival


The centralist aspirations of the Austrian Empire led to the intensification of tensions and the struggle against Germanization, Hungarianization, and Italianization that culminated in the first half of the 19th century. This era is called the Croatian National Revival. Among the greatest successes of the period was the reintroduction of Croatian as the official language. It is also a time of the strong rise of Croatian culture and literature.




The Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Independent State

St. Mark's Square, Zagreb, Croatia, photo by Matko M. Švarc
St. Mark’s Square, Zagreb, Croatia, photo by Matko M. Švarc

Croatia was part of Austria-Hungary until the end of World War I, 1918 when the Monarchy dissolved and Croatia entered the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians, which was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. After World War II, Croatia became part of Yugoslavia as one of the six republics, and with the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, it continued to exist as an independent state.

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