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.
borders are 2,028 km long altogether. 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 covers a land
area of 56,691 square kilometres with a population of about 4.8 million people.
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.
has an amazing 5,835km of coastline, 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.
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