is a Central European and Mediterranean
country, bordering Slovenia in the west, Hungary
in the north, Serbia (Yugoslavia) in the east,
Bosnia and Herzegovina in the south, and has a
long maritime border with Italy in the Adriatic
Sea. These borders are 2,028 km long .
Croatia has a strange shape (similar to a croissant), like no
other country in the world, which comes
as a result of five centuries
of expansion by the Ottoman (Turkish) empire towards Central Europe
(although Croatia was never
conquered by the Turks).
|Croatia has an amazing 5,835km
4,057km of which belongs
to islands, cliffs
and reefs. There are 1,185
islands in the
Adriatic, but only about
70 are populated.
The largest island is Krk
(near Rijeka) at
462 square km.
Croatia covers a land area
of 56,691 square
kilometres with a population
of about 4.8
Over 90% of the population is Croat (the majority of whom
are Roman Catholics), but there are also Serbian, Bosnian, Hungarian
and Italian minorities.
The main population centres are Zagreb, the capital (with a population
of just over one million),
Osijek in the northwest, and the ports of Rijeka, and Split in the
south. The official language is
Croatian, written in the Latin script.
The climate is Mediterranean along the Adriatic coast, meaning warm
dry summers and mild winters,
with 2,600 hours of sunlight on average yearly - it is one of the sunniest
coastlines in Europe! In the
interior of the country, the climate is continental with hot summers
and cold, snowy winters.
Slavic Croatian tribes settled in the area in the early 7th century
(arriving from present day Poland),
accepting Christianity in around 800 A.D., and soon establishing their
own state ruled by princes or
dukes. In 925, Croatia became a kingdom under the rule of King Tomislav.
In 1102 the country
formed a union with Hungary which lasted until 1918. After the end
of the First World War, Croatia
joined Serbia, and Yugoslavia (the land of South Slavs) was formed,
until its demise in 1991. The
first Yugoslavia (1918-1941) was ruled by the Serbian royal family,
Karadjordjevic, which naturally
favoured the Serbs and caused enormous resentment in Croatia. The country
was invaded by Nazi
Germany in April 1941, which gave Croatia independence under the fascist
dictator Ante Pavelic.
This regime was known for its harsh rule and for committing numerous
atrocities, and therefore many
Croats (over 200,000) actively joined the resistance movement under
Tito which liberated the country
in May 1945. (Winston Churchill was so impressed with the Croatian
resistance that in 1944 he sent
his son Randolph and the writer Evelyn Waugh to Croatia as his personal
emissaries.) Croatia became
one of the Yugoslav republics ruled by the communist government until
1991 when Croatia declared
its independence, prompting Serbian invasion. Almost all Croats rose
to defend their country under the
leadership of its first president, the late Franjo Tudjman (who died
in December 1999), and after five years the country was liberated.
The country is now a parliamentary democracy. In January 2000, the centre-right
party which had
governed Croatia since its independence, the HDZ (the Croatian Democratic
Union), lost the election.
The centre-left coalition between the socialist SPD and the liberal
HSLS governed the country, with
the leader of the SPD, Ivica Racan, as Prime Minister. Due to squabbling
between the coalition parties,
mainly the SPD and the HSLS, Prime Minister Racan resigned in July
2002. However, the President,
Stipe Mesic, will ask him to form a new government again.