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History and culture

Croatia is a unique blend of different cultures that have replaced each other and sometimes combined in this part of the world for thousands of years.  The Adriatic sea is not only a deep gulf in the Mediterranean cut into the Continent of Europe thereby creating a most economical trade route between Europe and the East, it is also the cradle of ancient civilizations.  The east coast of the Adriatic was inhabited as early as the beginning of the early Stone Age, suggesting that most of the accessible islands were inhabited.  Thanks to the coast's numerous bays, inlets and coves, it has been a significant mercantile and nautical route for centuries.  Archaeological findings show that in the 6th century BC the ancient Greeks traded with the Illyrians by sea, and that they founded their colonies along the Adriatic, at Pharos (now Starigrad on Hvar) and on the island of Vis.

Later on, the Romans came and built palaces and summer residences.  There are plenty of underwater findings between Pula and Cavtat which testify to their presence. Many amphorae have been found that were, at the time, commonly used for storing everything from wine to wheat, oils and perfumes.  Wherever you choose to go diving, you will find the remains of antique ships and their cargoes.  Some of the most precious findings from that time are remains of pythos or dolias, large pottery vessels that were built into ships and used to transport bulk cargo.  One such site is near Cavtat, and another near Murter.  A new era dawned with the arrival of the Slavs.  Dubrovnik, eminent in its position as a republic, played a leading role in culture and trade.  A 17th-century shipwreck bears witness to those times - a galley which sailed from Venice carrying muran glass, window glass, and other valuable objects, and was fitted with cannons.  But during a storm it sank near the island of Olipe, off the coast of Dubrovnik.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, Napoleon ruled for a short period of time, after which he was replaced by the Austrian monarchy.  During the next hundred years, Italy and Austria fought each other for supremacy 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, was opposed by Admiral Persano, commander of the Italian fleet. In the battle, Persano, on his flagship the battleship Re d'Italia, was roundly trounced by Tegetthoff, and the Italian fleet withdrew in defeat.

Evidence of this struggle can be found not only on the mainland, but also under the sea in the shape of shipwrecks and the detritus of great ships.
The period of Austro- Hungarian rule commenced thereafter until 1918.  During this period ports were built and fortified, trade and shipbuilding flourished.

After the end of the first world war, Croatia joined Serbia, and Yugoslavia was formed, until its demise in 1991.  The first Yugoslavia was ruled by the Serbian royal family which naturally favoured the Serbs and caused enormous resentment in Croatia.  The country was invaded by Germany in 1941which gave Croatia independence under the fascist dictator Ante Pavelic.  This regime was knows for its harsh rule resulting in over 200,000 Croats to join the resistance movement under Tito which liberated the country in May 1945.

Croatia became one of the Yugoslav republics ruled by the communist government until 1991 when Croatia declared its independence, pronpting Serbian invasion.  Almost all Croats rose to defend their country under the leadership of its first president, the late Franjo Tudjman (died December 1999), and after five years of hostilities the country was liberated.

Croatia Today

Croatia is a parliamentary democracy.  Negotiations for entry into the EU are well underway, with experts predicting that it will join in 2011.  It is also a member of NATO.

Croatia today is a thriving country with patriotic citizens.  Tourism plays a very important role, being one of the top activities generating income for the country.  Massive investment in infrastructure including new highways, expansion to major airports and air routes, is proving to  increase the number of visitors  year on year.

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