Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia, has long been a point of contact between different worlds and cultures situated between Eastern and Western Europe. It is a fascinating country with great ethnic, historical, and architectural diversity as well as varied topography. Here are some interesting facts about Croatia.
Facts about Croatia
1. Croatia is quite small.
Croatia is the 124th largest country in the world and has a total area of 56,594 km² (21,851 sq mi), which makes it slightly smaller than the size of the US state of West Virginia.
2. Croatia has over 1000 islands.
Croatia has 1246 to be precise. Out of these, only 78 are actually proper islands (or 79, depending on the source); 525 are islets, while 642 are rocks and reefs. Only 48 of the islands are actually inhabited. The five biggest islands of Croatia are Cres, Krk, Brač, Hvar, and Pag.
3. For a small country, Croatia has a long coastline.
Due to its sheer number of islands, Croatia’s craggy coastline extends for 5,835 km (3,626 mi) along the Adriatic Sea.
4. Croatia shares a land border with five countries.
Croatia borders Slovenia (600 km/373 mi) to the northwest, Hungary (348 km/216 mi) to the northeast, Serbia (314 km/195 mi) to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina (956 km/594 mi), and Montenegro (19 km/12 mi) to the southeast.
5. The tallest peak in Croatia is Dinara.
Located in the Dinaric Alps, Dinara is the tallest peak in Croatia and rises to an elevation of 1,831 m (6,007 ft).
6. The national currency of Croatia is named after a member of the weasel family.
One of the most fascinating facts about Croatia is how its currency derives its name from a rodent. The national currency of Croatia is the “Croatian Kuna” (HRK).
The word kuna means “marten” in Croatian, referring to the forest mammal whose highly prized skin was used to pay taxes in the Roman provinces of Croatia. The marten is also the national animal of Croatia. The kuna has only been the currency of Croatia since 1994, succeeding the Yugoslav Dinar after the breakup of Yugoslavia.
7. Croatia is a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Croatia has been a member of the European Union since 2013 and a member of NATO since 2009.
8. Croatia’s population is decreasing.
Croatia’s population has been steadily declining since 1991 when the country’s population was at its highest (4.78 million). It is now one of several countries in the former Eastern Bloc that’s grappling with a shrinking population and rural depopulation because of low birth rates and emigration to more prosperous regions (primarily in Western Europe).
Croatia also hasn’t been successful in attracting immigrants like Western Europe. It’s predicted that at the current rate the country’s population is projected to decline to 3.36 million by 2050.
9. Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia.
Nikola Tesla, the brilliant engineer and scientist known for designing the alternating-current (AC) electric system, which is the predominant electrical system used across the world today, was born in the village of Smiljan, Croatia, on 28 June 1856.
Although Tesla was an ethnic Serb, Croatians take a lot of pride that he was born in Croatia. The country is even home to the Tesla Birthplace Museum, located in the town of Podostra that includes renovated original buildings, a playground, and a multimedia center with hands-on science exhibits.
10. Zagreb is the capital of Croatia.
Located at the center of continental Croatia, Zagreb lies between the slopes of Mount Medvednica to the north and the Sava River to the south. Zagreb is also the political, economic, and cultural epicenter of the country.
11. The Dalmatian dog breed gets its name from a region of Croatia.
The Dalmatian is a medium-sized dog that is famous for its unique white coat marked with black or liver-colored spots. Though the Dalmatian’s true origins are shrouded in mystery and up for debate, it is known that the breed was once used as a sentinel, guarding the borders of the historical region of Dalmatia along the Adriatic coast in Croatia, the region is responsible for giving the Dalmatian dog its name.
12. The popular TV show Game of Thrones was filmed extensively in Croatia.
One of the most well-known facts about Croatia is that several locations around the country were used for filming the hit-TV show Game of Thrones. The most popular Game of Thrones filming location in Croatia is the Old Town of Dubrovnik, which was used to represent King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros.
Other Game of Thrones locations in Croatia are Trsteno Arboretum near Dubrovnik (Palace Gardens of King’s Landing), Jesuits Staircase in Dubrovnik (Steps of the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing), Diocletian’s Palace in Split (Daenerys’ Throne Room), Fort Lovrijenac in Dubrovnik (Red Keep), Pile in Dubrovnik (Blackwater Bay) and Klis Fortress near Split (City of Meereen).
13. Croatia has been governed by many empires and dynasties.
Croatia passed through many empires and dynasties. At some point in its history, it was being ruled by Illyrians, Celts, Greeks, Romans, Avars, Slavs, Hungarians, Venetians, Ottomans, and the Austro-Hungarians.
14. Croatia was part of Yugoslavia for over seventy years.
In 1918, following World War I, Croatia joined the South Slav Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (soon renamed Yugoslavia). At the end of World War II, Croatia was reunited into a single state as one of the six constituent republics of the newly reestablished Socialist Yugoslavia. Croatia remained part of Yugoslavia until Croatia declared independence on 25 June 1991 when it announced its independence.
15. During World War II, Croatia was ruled by a Nazi puppet regime.
When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Croatia became a Nazi puppet state and the State of Croatia (NDH) was proclaimed by the Ustaše. The Ustaše were Croatian fascists, and an ultranationalist and terrorist organization.
Between 1941–1945, 22 concentration camps (including the notorious Jasenovac) existed inside the territory controlled by the Independent State of Croatia. The fascist regime was notorious for targeting minority Serbs, Jews, and Roma as part of a large-scale campaign of genocide, as well as anti-fascist or dissident Croats and Bosnian Muslims.
16. The Croatian War of Independence lasted from 1991 to 1995.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, a majority of Croats wanted Croatia to leave Yugoslavia and become a sovereign country, while many ethnic Serbs living in Croatia, opposed the secession and wanted Serb-claimed lands in Croatia to be in a common state with Serbia.
Leaders of Croatia’s Serbian community declared the Republic of Serbian Krajina, a self-proclaimed Serb proto-state within Croatian territory. With the backing of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), the Serb faction developed a plan to “ethnically cleanse” eastern Croatia of any Croats living there.
A civil war was imminent under such conditions and hostilities broke out in 1991. During the violence, cities such as Vukovar and Osijek suffered heavy damage, thousands of Croatians were forced to leave their homes, and thousands more were killed. A fifth of Croatia fell to Serb soldiers, and the city of Dubrovnik was held under a seven-month siege.
In 1995, Serbian Krajina was liberated by the Croatian army. Fearing reprisals, the Serbian population into Serbia proper. The Erdut Agreement (1995) sanctioned reunification, although the disputed territory of eastern Slavonia was overseen by the UN until 1998.
The war came at a great cost to Croatia, approximately 21–25% of Croatia’s economy was ruined, with an estimated 37 billion USD in damaged infrastructure and refugee-related costs. Over 20,000 people died as a result of the war, and refugees were displaced on both sides.
17. About 90% of Croatia’s population is ethnically Croat.
Ethnic Croats constitute about nine-tenths of the Croatian population. Serbs make up the largest minority group (≈4-5%). The remainder of Croatia’s population is made up of Bosniaks, Italians, Albanians, Roma, Hungarians, Slovenes, Czechs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, and other nationalities.
18. Croatian was originally written in Glagolitic, the oldest known Slavic alphabet.
Croatian, the official language of Croatia, is written exclusively using the Latin alphabet (Gaj’s Latin alphabet). However, Croatian was originally written in Glagolitic, the oldest known Slavic alphabet, which originated in the 9th century and was used in Croatia up until the 19th century.
Standard Croatian is based on the Shtokavian dialect, while the two other main dialects – Chakavian and Kajkavian, are distinguished by their lexicon and syntax.
19. Christianity is the most popular religion in Croatia.
Approximately 90% of Croatia’s population identifies as Christian. There has traditionally been a close correlation between ethnic identity and religious affiliation. The Croats are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and more Western-influenced than the Serbs, who are overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox. The remainder of the Croatian population is either irreligious or belongs to other religions.
20. Croatia has been the birthplace of many inventions.
One of our favorite facts about Croatia is that it has been the place where some important things were conceived. Some of the most important things to have originated in Croatia are the cravat (a precursor of the modern necktie), the first tested parachute, the torpedo, the electric light-bulb with a metal filament (tungsten), the mechanical pencil, and the first successful MP3 player.
The cravat may be Croatia’s most successful export. Its origins go all the way back to the 17th century, when Croatian mercenaries fought for the French in the Thirty Years’ War, bringing their distinctively knotted neckwear along with them.
21. Football is the most popular sport in Croatia.
Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Croatia. The Croatian men’s national football team has competed regularly at the FIFA World Cup, even finishing runners-up in the 2018 edition and third place in the 1998 edition. Some of the most notable Croatian footballers include Davor Šuker, Zvonimir Boban, Luka Modrić, Ivica Olić, Robert Prosinečki, and Mario Mandžukić.
22. Besides footballers, Croatia has produced some world-class sports stars.
Football isn’t the sport that Croatians enjoy and are good at. Basketball, tennis, alpine skiing, water polo, and handball are some of the popular sports in Croatia. Some of the most famous Croatian sports stars are tennis players Goran Ivanišević, Marin Čilić, and Iva Majoli; basketballers Toni Kukoč and Dražen Petrović; javelin thrower Sara Kolak; and skier Janica Kostelić.
23. The iris croatica is the national flower of Croatia.
Although there are several species of iris growing in Croatia, the iris croatica is the national flower of Croatia.
24. The national dish of Croatia is Zagorski Štrukli.
The Croatian dish called Zagorski Štrukli or simply Štrukli from the northern region is loved throughout the country. Štrukli is a pastry and cheese dish that can be described as a cross between cheese soufflé and lasagne. It consists of large parcels of dough filled with cottage cheese and various types of filling (sweet or savory) which can be either boiled or baked.
25. More than 40% of Croatia is covered by forests.
Well over 40% of Croatian territory is covered by forests which also includes wildlife areas of particular importance. Today, there are 8 national parks, 2 strict reserves, and 11 nature parks in Croatia.
26. The Croatian Parliament is known as the “Sabor”.
The Sabor is the unicameral legislature of Croatia that is composed of 151 members elected to a four-year term on the basis of direct, universal, and equal suffrage by secret ballot.
27. The Zinfandel grape, one of the most sought-after and appreciated in the world, originated in Croatia.
The Zinfandel is a variety of black-skinned wine grapes that produces light-bodied red wine with high acidity and moderate tannins. It was thought to have originated in the US but DNA tests have shown the Zinfandel originated in Croatia. However, in Croatia, the grape is called Crljenak Kaštelanski, not Zinfandel.
28. There are ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia.
Some of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia are Plitvice Lakes National Park, the Old City of Dubrovnik, the Historic City of Trogir, and the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian.
29. Croatia is home to the oldest ultras group in Europe.
Ultras are the fans who are undoubtedly the wackiest, the most extreme, the most fanatically passionate, and quite often, the most violent. One of the most obscure Croatia facts is that the country is home to the oldest ultras group in Europe.
Founded in 1950, Torcida Split is an ultras group of football club HNK Hajduk Split. Travel anywhere throughout Dalmatia, and you’re likely to come across plenty of walls and any other available surface daubed with Torcida or Hajduk graffiti.
30. Croatia is home to one of the six largest Roman amphitheaters existing today.
With its outer wall almost entirely intact, the magnificent Pula amphitheater is one of the best-preserved amphitheaters in the world. When first built, the amphitheater could hold 23,000 spectators and had about 20 entrances. Today, operas, ballets, and plays are put on here during the summer season.
31. In 2003, Croats elected Josip Broz Tito as the Greatest “Greatest Croatian” in an open-access poll.
In 2003, an open-access poll conducted by the Croatian weekly Nacional declared the Yugoslav communist revolutionary and statesman Josip Broz Tito as the “Greatest Croatian”. Tito was the principal architect of the “second Yugoslavia,” a socialist federation that lasted from World War II until 1991.
Born in present-day Croatia to a Croat father and a Slovene mother and most famously married to a Serb, Tito seemed to embody his vision for a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. With a blend of charisma and coercion, Tito held Yugoslavia’s diverse peoples together for almost 40 years until his death in 1980. Without him, the federation lasted just a decade longer before fracturing along ethnic lines in wars. Many streets and squares in Croatia continue to bear Tito’s name.