In preparing for an article about Zagreb for my postcard blog, I realized that I hadn’t yet profiled the current Republic of Croatia (Republika Hrvatska) for A Stamp A Day. A previous ASAD article dealt with the short-lived (1941-194x) German and Italian puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, or NDH). The current Constitution of Croatia does not even officially recognize the NDH as the historical or legitimate predecessor state of the current Croatian republic which achieved independence in 1991. This nation, situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe on the Adriatic Sea, has Its capital at Zagreb which forms one of the country’s primary subdivisions along with its twenty counties. Croatia has a total area of 21,851 square miles (56,594 square kilometers) and a population of 4.28 million, most of whom are Roman Catholics.
The Croats arrived in the area of present-day Croatia during the 6th century AD. They organized the state into two duchies by the 9th century. Tomislav became the first king by 925, elevating Croatia to the status of a kingdom. The Kingdom of Croatia retained its sovereignty for nearly two centuries, reaching its peak during the rule of Kings Petar Krešimir IV and Dmitar Zvonimir. Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary in 1102. In 1527, faced with Ottoman conquest, the Croatian Parliament elected Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg to the Croatian throne. During the early 19th century, parts of the country were split into the French Illyrian Provinces, and Austria-Hungary occupied its Bosnia and Herzegovina side–a dispute settled by the 1878 Treaty of Berlin. In 1918, after World War I, Croatia was included in the unrecognized State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs which seceded from Austria-Hungary and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. A fascist Croatian puppet state backed by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany existed in World War II. After the war, Croatia became a founding member and a federal constituent of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a constitutionally socialist state. On June 25, 1991, Croatia declared independence, which came wholly into effect on October 8 of the same year. The Croatian War of Independence was fought successfully for four years following the declaration.
Today, Croatia is a republic governed under a parliamentary system and a developed country with a very high standard of living. A middle power in international relations, it is a member of the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe, NATO, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean. As an active participant in the UN peacekeeping forces, Croatia has contributed troops to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and took a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008–2009 term. Since 2000, the Croatian government has constantly invested in infrastructure, especially transport routes and facilities along the Pan-European corridors.
The service sector dominates Croatia’s economy, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture. International tourism is a significant source of revenue during the summer, with Croatia ranked the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world. The state controls a part of the economy, with substantial government expenditure. The European Union is Croatia’s most important trading partner. Internal sources produce a significant portion of energy in Croatia. Croatia provides a social security, universal health care system, and a tuition-free primary and secondary education, while supporting culture through numerous public institutions and corporate investments in media and publishing.
The name of Croatia derives from Medieval Latin Croātia (“Duke of the Croats”) attested in the Branimir Inscription — the oldest preserved monument containing an inscription defining a Croatian medieval ruler as a duke of Croats, Dux Cruatorum. The inscription was originally a part of templon of a church built by Duke Branimir, who ruled Croatia from 879–892. The origin of the name is uncertain, but is thought to be a Gothic or Indo-Aryan term assigned to a Slavic tribe. The oldest preserved record of the Croatian ethnonym *xъrvatъ is of variable stem, attested in the Baška tablet in the style zvъnъmirъ kralъ xrъvatъskъ (“Zvonimir, Croatian king”).
The first attestation of the Latin term is attributed to a charter of Duke Trpimir from the year 852. The original is lost, and just a 1568 copy is preserved, leading to doubts over the authenticity of the claim. The oldest preserved stone inscription is the 9th-century Branimir Inscription found near Benkovac, where Duke Branimir is styled as Dux Cruatorvm. The inscription is not believed to be dated accurately, but is likely to be from during the period of 879–892, during Branimir’s rule.
After World War II, Croatia became a single-party socialist federal unit of the SFR Yugoslavia, ruled by the Communists, but enjoying a degree of autonomy within the federation. In 1967, Croatian authors and linguists published a Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Standard Language demanding greater autonomy for Croatian language. The declaration contributed to a national movement seeking greater civil rights and decentralization of the Yugoslav economy, culminating in the Croatian Spring of 1971, suppressed by Yugoslav leadership. Still, the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution gave increased autonomy to federal units, basically fulfilling a goal of the Croatian Spring, and providing a legal basis for independence of the federative constituents.
Following the death of Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito in 1980, the political situation in Yugoslavia deteriorated, with national tension fanned by the 1986 Serbian SANU Memorandum and the 1989 coups in Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro. In January 1990, the Communist Party fragmented along national lines, with the Croatian faction demanding a looser federation. In the same year, the first multi-party elections were held in Croatia, with Franjo Tuđman’s win raising nationalist tensions further. Some of Serbs in Croatia left Sabor and declared the autonomy of areas that would soon become the unrecognized Republic of Serbian Krajina, intent on achieving independence from Croatia.
On December 21, 1990, a new “Christmas Constitution” was passed, that adopted a liberal democracy. The constitution defined Croatia as “the national state of the Croatian nation and a state of members of other nations and minorities who are its citizens: Serbs… who are guaranteed equality with citizens of Croatian nationality….” The status of Serbs was changed from an explicitly mentioned nation (narod) to a nation listed together with minorities (narodi i manjine). This constitutional change was also read by the majority of Serb politicians as taking away some of the rights that the Serbs had been granted by the previous Socialist constitution, and it fuelled extremism among the Serbs of Croatia. This was not based on the literal reading of the former Constitution of SR Croatia, which had also treated solely Croats as a constitutive nation, saying Croatia was “national state” for Croats, “state” for Serbs and other minorities.
On February 21, 1991, Croatia declared its Constitution and laws supreme to that of the SFRY, and the Parliament enacted a formal resolution on the process of disassociation (razdruženje) from SFR Yugoslavia and possible new association with other sovereign republics.
Over two hundred armed incidents involving the rebel Serbs and Croatian police were reported between August 1990 and April 1991.
On May 19, 1991, the Croatian authorities held the Croatian referendum on independence. Serb local authorities called for a boycott of the vote, which was largely followed by Croatian Serbs. In the end, a majority of Croatians endorsed independence from Yugoslavia, with a turnout of 83.56% and the two referendum questions answered positively by 93.24% and 92.18% of the total number of votes.
On June 25, 1991, the country declared its independence from the SFRY, finalizing its effort to end its status as a constituent republic. That decision of the parliament decision was partially boycotted by left-wing party deputies.
The European Economic Community and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe immediately urged both Croatia and Slovenia that they would not be recognized as independent states because of a fear of a civil war in Yugoslavia. By mid-1991, the Croatian War of Independence had already started. Serb-controlled areas of Croatia were part of the three “Serb Autonomous Oblasts” later known as the Republic of Serbian Krajina, bulk of which would not be under Croatian control until 1995, and the remaining parts in 1998.
Croatia was first recognized as an independent state on June 26 by Slovenia, which declared its own independence on the same day as Croatia. By June 29, the Croatian and Slovenian authorities agreed to a three-month moratorium on the independence declaration, in an effort to ease tensions. The Brijuni Agreement was formally signed in a meeting of the European Community Ministerial Troika, the Yugoslav, Serbian, Slovenian and Croatian authorities on July 7. Lithuania was the sole state that recognized Croatia on July 30.
The Badinter Arbitration Committee was set up by the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community (EEC) on August 27, 1991, to provide legal advice and criteria for recognition to former Yugoslav republics. The five-member commission consisted of presidents of constitutional courts in the EEC.
On October 7, the eve of expiration of the moratorium, the Yugoslav Air Force attacked Banski dvori, the main government building in Zagreb. On October 8, 1991, the moratorium expired, and the Croatian Parliament severed all remaining ties with Yugoslavia. That particular session of the parliament was held in the INA building on Pavao Šubić Avenue in Zagreb due to security concerns provoked by recent Yugoslav air raid. Specifically, it was feared that the Yugoslav Air Force might attack the parliament building. This decision was reached unanimously in the Parliament, and the only parliamentary deputies missing were some from the Serb parties that had been absent since early 1991.
On January 15, 1992, Croatia gained diplomatic recognition by the European Economic Community members, and subsequently the United Nations. The war effectively ended in August 1995 with a decisive victory by Croatia. This was accompanied by the exodus of about 200,000 Serbs from the rebel territories, whose lands were subsequently settled by Croat refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The remaining occupied areas were restored to Croatia pursuant to the Erdut Agreement of November 1995, with the process concluded in January 1998.
Following the end of the war, Croatia faced the challenges of post-war reconstruction, the return of refugees, advancing democratic principles, protection of human rights and general social and economic development. The post-2000 period is characterized by democratization, economic growth and structural and social reforms, as well as problems such as unemployment, corruption and the inefficiency of the public administration. In 2000, collation of six liberal parties led by Ivica Račan won parliamentary and liberal Stjepan Mesić presidential elections.
Croatia became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 30 November 2000. In November 2000 and March 2001, the Parliament amended the Constitution changing bicameral parliament back into historic unicameral and reducing the presidential powers. Furthermore, Croatia joined Partnership for Peace program in May 2000 and signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union in 2001, submitted a formal application for the membership in 2003, was given the status of candidate country in 2004, and began accession negotiations in 2005. On April 1, 2009, Croatia joined NATO.
Croatia completed EU accession negotiations in 2011 and joined the European Union on July 1, 2013.
Croatia is located in Central and Southeast Europe, bordering Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast, Montenegro to the southeast, the Adriatic Sea to the southwest and Slovenia to the northwest. It lies mostly between latitudes 42° and 47° N and longitudes 13° and 20° E. Part of the territory in the extreme south surrounding Dubrovnik is a practical exclave connected to the rest of the mainland by territorial waters, but separated on land by a short coastline strip belonging to Bosnia and Herzegovina around Neum.
The territory covers 21,851 square miles (56,594 km²), consisting of 21,782 square miles (56,414 km²) of land and 49 square miles (128 km²) of water. It is the 127th largest country in the world. Elevation ranges from the mountains of the Dinaric Alps with the highest point of the Dinara peak at 6,007 feet (1,831 meters) near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the south to the shore of the Adriatic Sea which makes up its entire southwest border. Insular Croatia consists of over a thousand islands and islets varying in size, 48 of which are permanently inhabited. The largest islands are Cres and Krk, each of them having an area of around 156 square miles (405 km²).
The hilly northern parts of Hrvatsko Zagorje and the flat plains of Slavonia in the east which is part of the Pannonian Basin are traversed by major rivers such as Danube, Drava, Kupa, and Sava. The Danube, Europe’s second longest river, runs through the city of Vukovar in the extreme east and forms part of the border with Serbia. The central and southern regions near the Adriatic coastline and islands consist of low mountains and forested highlands. Natural resources found in the country in quantities significant enough for production include oil, coal, bauxite, low-grade iron ore, calcium, gypsum, natural asphalt, silica, mica, clays, salt and hydropower.
Karst topography makes up about half of Croatia and is especially prominent in the Dinaric Alps. There are a number of deep caves in Croatia, 49 of which are deeper than 820 feet (250 m), 14 of them deeper than 1,640 feet (500 m) and three deeper than 3,281 feet (1,000 m). Croatia’s most famous lakes are the Plitvice lakes, a system of 16 lakes with waterfalls connecting them over dolomite and limestone cascades. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from turquoise to mint green, grey or blue.
Because of its geographic position, Croatia represents a blend of four different cultural spheres. It has been a crossroad of influences of the western culture and the east—ever since division of the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire—as well as of the Mitteleuropa and the Mediterranean culture. The Illyrian movement was the most significant period of national cultural history, as the 19th-century period proved crucial in emancipation of the Croatian language and saw unprecedented developments in all fields of art and culture, giving rise to a number of historical figures.
The Ministry of Culture is tasked with preserving the nation’s cultural and natural heritage and overseeing its development. Further activities supporting the development of culture are undertaken at the local government level. The UNESCO’s World Heritage List includes ten sites in Croatia. The country is also rich with intangible culture and holds fifteen of UNESCO’s World’s intangible culture masterpieces, ranking fourth in the world. A global cultural contribution from Croatia is the necktie, derived from the cravat originally worn by the 17th-century Croatian mercenaries in France.
Since 2002, October 8 is celebrated as Croatia’s Independence Day, while June 25 is the Statehood Day. May 30, marking the day when the first democratic parliament was constituted in 1990, used to be commemorated as the Statehood Day.
Although it is not a public holiday, January 15 is marked as the day Croatia won international recognition by Croatian media and politicians. On the day’s 10th anniversary in 2002, the Croatian National Bank minted a 25 kuna commemorative coin.
Scott #597 was released by Croatian Post (Hrvatska pošta) on November 4, 2005, as part of a set of four stamps honoring famous Croatians. The 1-kuna stamp bears a portrait of Baltazar Adam Krčelić, a Croatian historian, theologian and lawyer. It was designed by Orsat Franković and Ivana Vučić, of Zagreb. The firm of Zrinski d.d., Čakovec, printed 200,000 copies of the stamp using the offset process, comb perforated 14.
Krčelić was the canon of Zagreb and rector of the Collegium Croaticum Viennense in Vienna. He wrote in Latin and in the Kajkavian dialect, and his major works were dedicated to Church history of Zagreb. His yearbook Annuae 1748–1767 is a precious source for the history of the period. After Vitezović, he was the most prominent figure in the Croatian cultural life of the time.
Adam Baltazar Krčelić was born in Šenkovac near Zaprešić, on a small landed gentry’s estate on February 5, 1715. He was educated by the Jesuits in Zagreb, and continued his education at the bishopric gymnasium. Having distinguished himself by his talent, diligence and smartness, he was sent to the Croatian college in Vienna and afterwards to the Illyrian college in Bologna where he stayed for four years. He completed his studies by achieving a Ph.D. in philosophy and theology, and he was well-educated in both ecclesiastical and secular law. When he returned to Croatia he was first appointed chaplain of St. Martin’s church below the mountain of Okić, and later he was made parish priest in Sela near Sisak, a parish that can boast of a fine baroque church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, admittedly built after his stay in the parish.
Soon afterwards, he was appointed prefect of the Zagreb junior seminary and then he was made canon. In 1747, Bishop Branjug appointed him rector of the Croatian college in Rome. When Franjo Ksaver Klobušicki came to the bishop’s throne he appointed him, as his nearest collaborator, to be his assistant head. However, the arrival of Franjo Thauszy to rule the Zagreb bishopric marked the beginning of hard times for Krčelić. The new bishop proved to be a disruptive element regarding his scientific work, his promotion in ecclesiastical services, in the reception of honorrs and income. This is why in his testament Krčelić left his rich library to the Royal Academy which nowadays constitutes the fundamental part of the University and National Library in Zagreb.
Krčelić died on the March 29, 1778. He was an ardent follower of enlightened absolutism and considered that it was necessary to restrain the influence of the Church and the religious orders upon the social and political life of the society. He was a Court’s man which gained him numerous enemies in Croatia. He was strongly attacked but he retaliated in full measure. All this can be easily interpreted from his memoirs Annuae sive Historia (Yearly records or History). The work remained in manuscript form, and after a certain period that had to pass before it could be read, a special committee read the manuscript and on some twenty pages used thick ink to cover those placed that could scandalize readers. What had been written there can still not be read nowadays.
The work was first published in Latin in 1901, and it was translated by Veljko Gortan into Croatian and published in 1952. Krčelić wrote books in Latin and Croatian. The first was the widely designed and only partly completed Historium cathedralis ecclesiae Zagrabiensis (History of the Zagreb Cathedral). Using the inheritance of the Zagreb canons Toma Kovačević and Juraj Marcelović, he added and supplemented their work on ecclesiastical history, while in the area of political ideas he followed Pavao Ritter Vitezović.
His second great work was De regnis Dalmatiae, Croatiae, Sclavoniae notitiae praeliminares (Preliminary notes on the kingdoms of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia), in which he wanted to prove that the inheritors of the Hungarian crown, i.e. the Hapsburgs, were entitled to the crown (and, naturally, to the power) in Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia, but also in Bosnia and Serbia. Using the pseudonym Adalbert Barits, in Varaždin he published a booklet in Latin about the Croatian writers of the period from the 14th century to the end of the 17th century, from Bishop Augustin Kažotić to Pavao Vitezović. He wrote a booklet in Croatian about the Zagreb bishop Augustin Kažotić, Živlenje blaženoga Gazotti Augustina, zagrebačkog biskupa (‘The Life of the blessed Gazotti Augustin, the Zagreb Bishop’), (1747). For the third edition of Vitezović’s Kronika (‘Chronicle’) Krčelić wrote Pridavek Kronike iliti Spomenka pripečenj od leta po narodjenju Kristuševom 1744 do leta 1761 (‘Annex to the Chronicle or In memory of the years 1744 to 1761 A.D.’), (1762). August Šenoa read the manuscript of the Annuae and, based on its material, wrote his novel Diogenes. Josip Tomić made ample use of the news from the manuscript for his novels Za kralja – za dom (‘For the king – for the home’) and Udovica (‘Widow’).