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Useful Notes: Croatia

Croatia (Croatian: Hrvatska), officially known as the Republic of Croatia (Croatian: Republika Hrvatskanote ). The Croats were a Slavic tribe who probably came from somewhere in modern Poland and Ukraine before crossing over the Carpathian basin to settle in modern Croatia during the 600s, when that region had been devastated by nomadic raiders.

They organised the state into two dukedoms by the 9th century. Tomislav became the first king by 925 AD, 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 Peter 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.

Over the next few centuries, the lands that comprise modern Croatia were divided between the Habsburg (later Austro-Hungarian) Monarchy, the Republic of Venice, and the Ottoman Empire. These three cultures left an indelible mark on the country's cultural heritage. Unfortunately, Croatia also became a ground for military struggles between the three powers.

After a series of defeats, the fortunes of the war against the Ottomans began to change, and Croatia would slowly regain its lost territory, though the process would only end near the end of the 19th century.

But in the 19th century another important change began to gain momentum: the long-dormant national spirit of the Croats re-asserted itself in literature and learning. When the Hungarians rose up and tried to assert their rule over Croatia, the Croats sided with the Hapsburgs, but after Vienna restored control, they got nothing to show for it. Dalmatia was returned to Austria after the fall of Venice during the Napoleonic Wars, but the Austrian government refused to reunite it with the inland regions of Croatia right until the very end of the 19th century.

A second shock to the Austrian system in 1867 ended up created a Croatia that was divided between Austria and Hungary within their joint empire but also autonomous in culture and politics.

The bitterness of the Croats would show during WW1. While most were originally content to serve in the army, a series of Austo-Hungarian defeats and the worsening economic situation led to many Croats refusing to take up arms against their "brother" Serbs and Russians. In late 1917 the situation became dire as armed bands of deserters (the so-called "Green Cadre") plagued the countryside. It became even worse then PO Ws started returning from Russia (which had withdrawn from the war), telling the locals about Red October and the promise of a better future should they overthrow their semi-feudal overlords.

The Hapsburg monarchy fell apart and the Croats, in a rush of Yugoslavist enthusiasm, joined the new Yugoslav kingdom (though to be fair, they had little choice: had they refused, their state would have been torn apart as the victorious Serbs and Italians scrambled over the "spoils of war").

There were problems from the start, however. Croats wanted autonomy, but there was no clean dividing line between Serbs and Croats. As an answer to this and other pro-national movements, the Serb king put up a dictatorial regime, which lasted until he was assassinated by a violent terrorist outfit backed by Croatian nazi organization called the Ustaše ("Oostahshee"). His successor was more even-handed and, after long and tricky negotiations, a large autonomous Croatia was created in 1939. But soon after that Adolf Hitler began his campaign to conquer Europe...

The Yugoslav government stayed neutral at first, then joined the Axis under German pressure in 1941, but almost immediately there was an anti-fascist military coup in Serbia. Hitler would have nothing of it, and Germany, Italy, Hungary, Albania and Bulgaria invaded Yugoslavia and conquered it in 2 weeks.

The Germans and Italians put the Ustaše in charge of Croatia and the whole of Bosnia creating the "Independent State of Croatia," while Italy placed a large part of the Croatian coastland under its direct rule (and Hungary took a small part of northern Croatia). Without any prompting from Germany, they set out of destroy Serbs, Jews, Roma (usually called "Gypsies"), and "antifascists". The last covered mostly enthusiastic supporters of the communist Partisans and other opponents of the Ustaša regime. The Ustaše also hold the "distinction" of being the only non-German nation who ran their own extermination camps (First at Jadovno, then at Jasenovac) and the only nation to ran extermination camps specificaly for (Serbian and Jewish) children, which - while not all that large - were so incredibly brutal that even some Nazis were sickened at what they saw (though they did nothing substantial to stop it). Ustaše brutality was a major factor in driving people to join local resistance movements.

Soon after the German invasion of the USSR in 1941, two movements sprang up in Croatia (and most of the former Yugoslavia): the multinational and predominantly communist Partisans and the royalist and Serb-nationalist Četniks ("Chetniks"). The two movements soon realized their goals were incompatible and fought each other as well as the Axis forces. The Četniks soon made a non-attack agreement with the Axis forces (thinking the partisans were a greater threat), but despite all this the Partisans gained the upper hand by 1943. After Italy surrendered later in the same year, the partisans gained a lot of captured equipment, as well as aid from the British air force based in Italy and the Croatian islands.

The war was extremely bloody and brutal, with more than 1.1 million dead in the whole of Yugoslavia, out of a total population of around 16.5 million. The remnants of the Ustašhe and Četnik forces tried to surrender to the British troops in Austria and Italy, but were turned back, which led to many of them being summarily executed or left to die in prison camps. In addition, most German and some Italian and Hungarian residents were driven out of the country almost immediately after the war. Sadly, this was another episode in the long Balkan history of massacre and counter-massacre. And it was not the last.

Under Yugoslavia and its Glorious Leader Tito, Croatia enjoyed autonomy within boundaries fairly similar to those of 1938. This left many Serbs still in the country, and many Croats still in Bosnia, as the different peoples were all mingled together. In the 70s, Croatia gained more power under a decentralised constitution. Living standards in communist Yugoslavia were much better than in the Eastern Block, and the country was more open towards the West. That said, Yugoslavia was a prominent member of the Non-aligned movement and firmly refused to join either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. It did, however, reestablish relations with both German republics.

After the fall of many communist regimes in the early 90s, Croatia tried to follow the lead of Slovenia and leave crumbling Yugoslavia, but most areas where the Serbs were in the majority decided to secede from Croatia in the same way Croatia did from Yugoslavia, forming with Serbia's support the Serb Krajina ("Krayeena"). The desertion-plagued and badly motivated Serb-dominated Yugoslav People's Army intervened to officially stop the Croatian attempt to secede while in reality giving military assistance to the Krajina Serbs, but proved ineffective against the Croatian militias and volunteers due to low morale, sloppy to nonexistent strategies and outdated military doctrines - though brutal Serb paramilitaries did their best to make up for this by terrorizing the population. After a few initial successes, the Yugoslav People's Army got bogged down in brutal urban fighting, where it took heavy losses (high desertion rates were a big factor in this - tanks were often left without infantry support, for example). A ceasefire was agreed upon at the end of 1991, and the war in Croatia died down to a series of skirmishes, until the Croats eventually toppled the Serb Krajina in a series of offensives in 1995, killing and expelling around 60,000 Serbs from the area.

Meanwhile, however, the conflict had spilled over into Bosnia, resulting in the bloodiest conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Milošević reorganized the Yugoslav Army, purging it from almost all non-Serb and Serb officers he deemed not loyal enough and emphasizing Serbian nationalism among the troops. As the Serbs sought to ethnically cleanse large regions of Bosnia, the Croats also sought to bring an area of southwestern Bosnia (which they dubbed the Republic of Herceg-Bosna) under their control and conducted some ethnic cleansing of their own (though not on the same scale as the Serbs). Finally, the Croats and Bosniaks, under Western pressure, decided to ally against the Serbs. After Operation Storm (contrary to some opinions in the West, NATO bombing was ineffective, both militarily and politically - NATO did provide UA Vs, satellite imagery and advisers), a peace treaty was finally signed by all the participants in 1995. Eastern Slavonia was peacefully returned to Croatia in 1997.

The war ended with Croatia independent and much of its non-Croatian population either fled or were forcefully expelled, and Bosnia divided into a Serb zone and a joint Croat-Bosniak zone. The national borders almost exactly the same as they were in Yugoslavia.

Now Croatia is an independent state, but the population still remains bitterly divided over its troubled political past and current situation. In happier news though, in the summer of 2013 it became the 28th member of the European Union.

Croatia rarely appears in Western media, and when it does it often includes elements of Ruritania (typical pre-World War II portrayal, but is also present in Cold War era and Yugoslav Wars portrayals), Commie Land (less sympathetic Cold War-era portrayals) or an Expy of Republican Italy (when its summer tourism appeal is emphasized - this portrayal was almost as common during Tito's time as it is today). Sometimes it is even presented as a bizarre mix of the above settings. However, Croatians, when seen in contemporary works of fiction, have usually been touched by the Civil War in some fashion.

Some miscellaneous info on Croatia
  • Croatian mercenaries, some of who were rather famous in their time, gave the world the cravat (though the original version looked rather different than the modern one).
  • Some of the world's first fountain pens came from Croatia.
  • Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia.
  • The Croatian language has three major dialects, identified by three different words for "what" ća, kaj and što.
  • The chequerboard design on the coat-of-arms (and flag) is echoed on most of their sports uniforms, and Croatia are the only national team to play in checks. Their football team has been very successful since independence - they came third in the World Cup in 1998, their first appearance.
  • World heritage sites in Croatia include: Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, Old City of Dubrovnik, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč, Historic City of Trogir, The Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik, The Stari Grad Plain on the island of Hvar.
  • Croatia became a member of NATO in 2008, and a member of The European Union in 2013.
  • Mira Furlan, aka Babylon 5's Ambassador Delenn, is Croatian; the accent she uses is her native accent. Delenn's scathing What the Hell, Hero? to the Grey Council in the episode "Severed Dreams" was infused with Furlan's own rage against the European powers who failed to come to the aid of the Balkans in the early nineties, just a few years before the episode first aired.
  • Other famous Croats in modern times include actor Goran Višnjić (Luka Kovač in ER), basketball players Dražen Petrović and Toni Kukoč, and tennis players Goran Ivanišević and Marin Čilić.note 
  • Many Austro-Hungarian naval bases were located in Croatia. The prototype of the world's first self-propelled torpedo was built in one of them.
  • Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music, was born in the Croatian city of Zadar.
  • Renowned TV chef Lidia Bastianich (and mother of Masterchef's Joe Bastianich) was born in what is now the Croatian realm of Istria. At the time of her birth, Istria was a part of Italy, but was annexed by the former Yugoslavia after World War II.

The Croatian flag
The flag combines the colors of the flags of the Kingdoms of Croatia (red and white), Slavonia (white and blue) and Dalmatia (red and blue) — historic constituent states of the Kingdom of Croatia — and also coincide with the Pan-Slavic colors. At the center is the coat of arms, consisting a red-and-white checkerboard (chequy in heraldic language) shield, "crowned" with the coats-of-arms of Croatia's five historic realms (left to right): Croatia, Dubrovnik, Dalmatia, Istria and Slavonia.

BulgariaUsefulNotes/EuropeCyprus
Costa RicaImageSource/MapsCuba

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