The Republic of Croatia is a crescent-shaped country in Europe bordering the Mediterranean to the South, Central Europe to the North and the Balkans to the South East. Its capital is Zagreb. In recent history, it was a republic in the SFR Yugoslavia, but it achieved independence in 1991. It is a candidate for membership of the European Union.
Croatia is situated between central, southern, and eastern Europe. It has a rather peculiar shape that resembles a crescent or a horseshoe which helps account for its many neighbours: Slovenia, Hungary, the Serbian part of Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Montenegro part of Serbia and Montenegro, and Italy across the Adriatic. Its mainland territory is split in two non-contiguous parts by the short coastline of Bosnia and Herzegovina around Neum.
Its terrain is diverse, containing:
� plains, lakes and rolling hills in the continental north and northeast (Central Croatia and Slavonia, part of the Pannonian plain);
� densely wooded mountains in Lika and Gorski Kotar, part of the Dinaric Alps;
� rocky coastlines on the Adriatic Sea (Istria, Northern Seacoast and Dalmatia).
Croatia has a mixture of climates. In the north and east it is continental, Mediterranean along the coast and a semi-highland and highland climate in the south-central region.
The Croats are largely Slavic people who lived in an area of what is today Galicia (in northwestern Ukraine and southern Poland). From there they migrated further south to present-day Croatia during the 7th century. Nominally under East Roman and then Frankish authority, Croatia eventually became a strong independent kingdom under king Tomislav in 925, but in 1102 the Croatians ended a decade-long dynastic struggle by agreeing to submit themselves to Hungarian authority.
By the mid-1400s, the Hungarian kingdom was gravely hurt by the Ottoman expansion as much of the mountainous country now known as Bosnia and Herzegovina fell to the Turks. At the same time, Dalmatia became mostly Venetian. Dubrovnik was a city-state that was firstly Byzantine (Roman) and Venetian, but later, unlike other Dalmatian city-states, it became independent as Republic of Dubrovnik, even if it was often under the suzerainty of neighboring powers.
The Battle of Moh�cs in 1526 led the Croatian Parliament to invite the Habsburgs to assume control over Croatia. Habsburg rule eventually did prove to be successful in thwarting the Ottomans, and by the 18th century, much of Croatia was free of Turkish control. The odd crescent shape of the Croatian lands remained as a mark, more or less, of the frontier to the Ottoman advance into Europe. Istria, Dalmatia and Dubrovnik all eventually passed to the Habsburg Monarchy between 1797 and 1815.
Following World War I, Croatia joined the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (comprising what is today, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia). Shortly thereafter, this joint state in turn formed a union with Serbia to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (which eventually became Yugoslavia in 1929). Yugoslavia was invaded during World War II and Croatia was turned into a fascist puppet-state named Independent State of Croatia. When the Axis powers were defeated, Yugoslavia became a federal socialist state.
Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, which triggered the Croatian War of Independence. The Serbs living in some areas of Croatia revolted and proclaimed their own state - Republic of Serbian Krajina. They were assisted by the Yugoslav army. In 1995, the Croatian Army successfully launched two major offensives to retake the rebel areas by force, leading to a mass exodus of the Serbian population. A few months later, as a result, the war ended upon the negotiation of the Dayton Agreement. A peaceful integration of the remaining Serbian-controlled territories was completed in 1998 under UN supervision.
Croatia is currently in the process of joining the European Union, accession negotiations started in December 2005.
Croatia is divided into 20 counties (Croatian: �upanija) and the city district of the capital, Zagreb:
1. Zagreb county (Zagreba�ka �upanija)
2. Krapina-Zagorje county (Krapinsko-zagorska �upanija)
3. Sisak-Moslavina county (Sisa�ko-moslava�ka �upanija)
4. Karlovac county (Karlova�ka �upanija)
5. Vara�din county (Vara�dinska �upanija)
6. Koprivnica-Kri�evci county (Koprivni�ko-kri�eva�ka �upanija)
7. Bjelovar-Bilogora county (Bjelovarsko-bilogorska �upanija)
8. Primorje-Gorski Kotar county (Primorsko-goranska �upanija)
9. Lika-Senj county (Li�ko-senjska �upanija)
10. Virovitica-Podravina county (Viroviti�ko-podravska �upanija)
11. Po�ega-Slavonia county (Po�e�ko-slavonska �upanija)
12. Brod-Posavina county (Brodsko-posavska �upanija)
13. Zadar county (Zadarska �upanija)
14. Osijek-Baranja county (Osje�ko-baranjska �upanija)
15. �ibenik-Knin county (�ibensko-kninska �upanija)
16. Vukovar-Srijem county (Vukovarsko-srijemska �upanija)
17. Split-Dalmatia county (Splitsko-dalmatinska �upanija)
18. Istria county (Istarska �upanija)
19. Dubrovnik-Neretva county (Dubrova�ko-neretvanska �upanija)
20. Me�imurje county (Me�imurska �upanija)
21. Zagreb (Grad Zagreb)
Croatia has an economy based mostly on various services and some, mostly light industry. Tourism is a notable source of income. The estimated Gross Domestic Product per capita in purchasing power parity terms for 2004 was USD 11,200 or 41.6% of the EU average for the same year.
The Croatian economy is post-communist. In the late 1980s, at the beginning of the process of economic transition, its position was favourable, but it was gravely impacted by de-industrialization and war damages.
Main problems include massive structural unemployment followed by an insufficient amount of economic reforms. Of particular concern is the gravely backlogged judiciary system combined with inefficient public administration, especially involving land ownership.
The country has since experienced faster economic growth and has been preparing for membership in the European Union, its most important trading partner.
In February 2005, Croatia implemented the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU and is advancing further towards full EU membership. The country expects some major economic impulses and high growth rates in the following next years (currently Croatia suffers most from its high export deficit and considerable debt). Some big trading companies have already taken advantage of the liberalization of the Croatian market. Croatia is expecting a boom in investments, especially greenfield investments.
The population of Croatia has been stagnating over the last decade. The 1991-1995 war in Croatia had previously displaced large parts of the population and increased emigration. The natural growth rate is minute or negative (less than +/- 1%), as the demographic transition has been completed half a century ago. Average life expectancy is approximately 75 years, and the literacy rate is 98.5%.
Croatia is inhabited mostly by Croats (89.6%). Minority groups include Serbs (4.5%), Bosniaks (0.5%), Hungarians (0.4%), Italians and others. The predominate religion is Catholicism (87.8%), with some Orthodox (4.4%) and Sunni Muslim (1.3%) minorities.
The official and common language, Croatian, is a South Slavic language, using the Latin alphabet. Less than 5% of the population cites other language as their mother tongue.
Croatian culture is based on a thirteen century long history during which the country has attained many monuments and cities, which gave birth to a good number of brilliant individuals. The country includes six World Heritage sites and eight national parks. Three Nobel prize winners came from Croatia, as did numerous important inventors and other notable people � notably, some of the first fountain pens came from Croatia.
Croatia also has a place in the history of clothing as the origin of the necktie (cravat). The country has a long artistic, literary and musical tradition. Of particular interest is also the diverse cuisine.
Tourism in Croatia is a well-developed industry as Croatia is an attractive tourist destination, particularly its extensive coastline. Several companies run flotillas of yachts along different stretches of the coastline, which is also popular with divers.
The interior of the country, with the exception of the capital Zagreb, has fewer tourist attractions. Eight areas in the country have been designated national parks, and the landscape in these areas is afforded extra protection from development.