Tuesday, 29 July 2014

croatia week: the matter of hvartska

There were relics of past empires scattered all over Croatia, and not as if that rich heritage and string of influences was not something cherished and celebrated, but it was a challenge at times to see the sites without the filter of the past. The land now known as Dalmatia was a part of the Kingdom of the Illyrian’s until this part of the Balkan Peninsula became a Roman protectorate, and the people were fully romanised in language and culture—evidenced by many ruins.
With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, its successor, the Byzantine Empire, incorporated Croatia. During the Middle Ages, Slavic people (regarded as contemporary Croats) migrated to the area, eventually displacing the romanised Illyrian population.
After a short inter- lude as an independent kingdom (the country had several though not enduring flirtations with soveignty but always quickly fell back into foreign contol), Croatia came under the influence of Italy again with the sale of the country to the thalassocracy of the Republic of Venice.
The Venetians were eager to maintain control of the coastal areas of the Adriatic with the encroachment of the Ottoman Empire to the north and east—with the exception of Dubrovnik and its holdings, which was then known as the city-state of Ragussa and rival maritime power that endured until the Napoleonic Wars.
The icon of the Lion of St. Mark is visible on many old structures, attesting to the Venetians’ presence.
As the incursions of the Ottomans grew bolder, Croatia entered into a personal union with the Empire of the Hapsburgs (Austro-Hungary) surrendering its autonomy in exchange for protection—even allowing vast areas of the country to be governed directly by the Viennese military command, as a buffer-zone in case of attack.

Until the end of WWI, Croatia remained part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before forming the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with other Balkan states during the interbellum period.  The Treaty of Rapallo ceded much of Istria and the Dalmatian islands to Italy.
The aftermath of WWII saw the creation of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia—with quite a few mementoes of this time as well.  Driving through the mountains near Motovun, we could spy some concrete beams that spelled out TITO to aircraft overhead.
While a part of the Eastern Bloc and governed by an authoritarian figure during this last phase, it was no dictatorship and differed greatly from other satillite states, significantly with the freedom of movement—something which no other residents behind the Iron Curtain enjoyed, and with a progressive industrial and diplomatic stance.  Uniting six disparate states until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the region broke into a violent war for independence following the break-up of Yugoslav into its constituent parts, which lasted from 1991 to 1995.