Croatia is pretty:
And according to a 2008 copy of In-Style Magazine, Angelina Jolie thinks it’s the new hip spot to beach-vacation (she also set up a Croatian Food Festival for all her UNICEF cronies with the top ten Croatian chefs serving. 192 countries were represented).
And Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000 from Outcast), owns a tee-shirt with the Croatian flag (for an unknown reason):
As does Snoop Dogg:
There were tribes and kingdoms and stuff.
In 1102 the country united with Hungary, which lasted until 1918.
After the end of WWI, Croatia joined Serbia, and Yugoslavia was formed, until its demise in 1991.
The first Yugoslavia (1918-1941) was ruled by the Serbian royal family, Karadjordjevic, which naturally favored the Serbs and caused enormous resentment in Croatia. This figures in to their language A LOT.
The country was invaded by Nazi Germany in 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 he sent his son Randolph and the writer Evelyn Waugh (whose novel, btw, became a movie a couple months ago – Brideshead Revisited – haven’t seen it) 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. Croatia is now a member of the United Nations, and is also a candidate for membership of the European Union and a NATO acceding member. Croatia is expected to formally join NATO in April 2009, making it the second former Yugoslav nation to join the military alliance following Slovenia. In 2005, presidential elections were held. The incumbent, President Stipe Mesic, was re-elected to another five year term. Presidential powers in Croatia are limited, but he is still influential in making domestic and foreign policy issues.
Done and done.
As far as language is considered, Croatian is the official spoken word (written in the Latin alphabet with German, Hungarian, Italian and Turkish words), but it’s a long and complicated story of how it arrived there… which I’ll try and sum up (correctly, I hope):
In 1850 five “men of letters,” and three philologists got together and unified the Serbian language (which at the time was a mix of Church Slavonic and Russian-Slavonic) and the Croatian language, creating Serbo-Croatian. Now, this has a lot to do with the creation of Yugoslavia, which Croatia is formerly a part of, and where the government tried to “Serbianize” the national language. A lot of Croats had a problem with this. Writers and Universities got together and issued the "Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Standard Language," asking for four literary languages: Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, and Macedonian. They didn’t so much lose the argument as it just didn’t get resolved.
This dispute went on as long as communism did – and many writers’ writings were banned for using Croat language during this period. Then, with Croatia’s Independence in 1991, when all the political stress was taken off of Croats, many once Serbian-named descriptions were returned to their original Croatian. Now there’s a good mix of both. But it’s still confusing… there were never any standardized dictionaries, etc. made of Croatian and there still isn’t a regulatory body for the language. Furthermore, Serbo-Croatian has continued to have two different subtypes - the Eastern standardization (spread in Montenegro, Serbia and partly in Bosnia and Herzegovian), and Western-standard that is common in Croatia and partly in Bosnia and Herzegovia. Some characteristics of Western-standard are translating of foreign words (some poets refused to do this), as well as some morphological aspects such as the construction of future tense: radicu (Eastern-standard for "I shall work"), radit cu (Western-standard).
Despite - or because of - repeated invasions over the centuries and amalgamation with other countries, Croatians have maintained a strong, distinctive culture. Croatians depict their daily life through folklore. Songs, dances and costumes exist for every occasion in all parts of the country. Soon after the printing press was invented, Croatian literature entered the European scene. The Croatian nobility was deeply involved in literature, leaving much by way of poetry and translations. The famous playwright Marin Drzic (1508-67) helped raise the language to a high literary level. The 20th century has seen a strengthening of Croatian writing.
In the opening years of the 20th century, poetry was the dominant genre, much of it influenced by the Aestheticism movement (definition coming below) and concerned with the inner struggle of modern humans with their world and the search for meaning in individual existence.
Here’s the definition of Aestheticism: followers maintain that the Arts should provide refined sensuous pleasure, rather than convey moral or sentimental messages. They believed that Art did not have any didactic purpose; it need only be beautiful. The Aesthetes developed the cult of beauty, which they considered the basic factor in art. Life should copy Art, they asserted. They considered nature as crude and lacking in design when compared to art. The main characteristics of the movement were: suggestion rather than statement, sensuality, massive use of symbols, and synaesthetic effects—that is, correspondence between words, colors and music.
These common Western themes were modified by specifically Croatian concerns with the county's lack of development and political subjugation (to Hungary at this point). Between the wars, avant-garde poetry continued to be expressed in the verse of poets, invoking the horrors of war while retaining classical elegance. In the less-restrictive atmosphere that followed Yugoslavia's break with the Soviet Union (1948), topics began spreading and morphing, including more cosomopolitan themes, experimental autobiographies that played with the boundaries between autobiography and biography, feminism, and, always, folklore.
Famous writers in depth:
Mark Marulic – poet, died 1524, humanist/religious writer, wrote in Latin, Croatian and Italian (Croatia shares a border with Italy).
Marino Darza – 1508-1567, is considered the finest Croatian Renaissance playwright and prose writer. He was born rich, became a priest despite his family wishes, wasn’t good in school and started hanging out with some “outlaws” getting work where he could and traveling through Italy. He thought his home town was governed by "a small circle of elitist aristocracy bent to tyranny." His wors cover many field: lyric poetry, pastorals (still highly regarded), political letters and pamphlets, and comedies (rated some of the best in the European Renaissance). Since its independence, Croatia has awarded a "Marino Darza Award" for dramatic work. 2008 was also declared the Year of Marino Darza, for his 500th birthday.
Ivan Gundulic, 1589-1638, the most celebrated Baroque poet from Croatia. Religious poetry, dealt with vanity, etc. He also wrote "Dubravka" which is a major city in Croatia and whose first verse in the unofficial slogan for the city. See first stanza below in Croatian (without accents, sorry), and then English:
Olijepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo,
dar u kom sva blaga visa nji nam bog je do,
uzr oce istini od nase sve slave,
uresu jedini od ove Dubrave,
sva srebra, sva zlata, svi ljudcki zivoti
ne mogu bit plata tvsoj istoj lipoti.
O beautiful, o beloved, o sweet freedom,
God has given us all the treasures in you,
you are the true source of all our glory,
you are the only decoration of this Dubrave.
All silver, all gold, all human lives
cannot repay your pure beauty!
Ivo Andric, 1892-1975, was a novelist, short story write and winer of the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize. His novels, e.g. "The Bridge on the Drina" and "Bosnian Chronicle" dealt with life in his native Bosnia under the Ottoman Empire. His works have recently resurfaced as a source of anti-Muslim prejudice.
Andric is claimed as a hero by the Croats, Serbs and Bosnians (he was born to a Bosnian Croat family, later identified himself with Serbs, and lived and wrote mainly about Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Miroslav Krleza, 1893-1981, ofren been proclaimed as the greatest Croatian writer of the 20th Century. His collected works number more than 50 volumes and cover all parts of imaginative literature: poetry, drama, short story, novels, essays, diaries, polemics and autobiographical prose.
Vladimir Nazor - 1876-1949, was the first President of the People's Republic of Croatia. He was also a famous writer, translator and communist politician. He wrote a lot of folk legends, he wrote over 500 sonnets. One of the poets we are reading this week, Delimir Resicki won the 2006 nation Vladimir Nazor award for best literary work.
I heart poetry,