Women in the Republic of Ragusa, forerunner of Dubrovnik, Croatia
A Brief History of Dubrovnik
The Early Years: Republic of Ragusa
Dubrovnik was originally established as the Republic of Ragusa in the 7th century by people fleeing the nearby city of Epidaurus from the Slavic invasions. A parallel theory, the "Greek Theory," advances the possibility that the city was founded by Greek sailors as the approximate halfway point between the ancient Greek settlements of Budva and Korčula. In any case, the independent city-state of Ragusa quickly became part of the Byzantine Empire. After the Crusades, in 1205, it came under the sovereignty of Venice, and in 1358 it became an independent vassal state of the Kingdom of Hungary. From the the 14th to the early 19th century, Ragusa remained an independent state, with its thalassocracy rivaling that of Venice and the other Italian maritime republics of the day. During this period, too, in 1418, the city's flag, "Libertas," was adopted and slavery was abolished; and in 1544, Jews from Spain and Portugal, who remain an integral part of the community, were drawn to the city.
In 1806, the city fell to Napoleon, after the Russian-Montenegrin fleets laid siege, with 3,000 cannonballs falling on the city and Napoleon declaring that the French were friends of the Ragusans (the city's inhabitants). In 1808, Marshal Marmont abolished the Republic of Ragusa, incorporating it into Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy and later on into the Illyrian Provinces under French dominion.
The Kingdom of Dalmatia
In 1815, at the culmination of the Congress of Vienna, the Hapsburg Empire gained possession of these Adriatic provinces that included Ragusa, and integrated them into the newly-established Kingdom of Dalmatia. A bureaucratic administration was ushered in and a period of chaos ensued. Centralization strategies largely failed, and new movements developed along national lines. The Kingdom of Dalmatia was thus ruled by a centralizing, German-speaking Habsburg monarchy, and Croatian- and Italian-speaking elites who dominated the population at large. The composition of the population was predominantly Catholic Croatian, with a Serb Orthodox minority.
20th Century: Dubrovnik is Born
In 1918, with the fall of Austria-Hungary and the Hapsburg Empire, Ragusa was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the forerunner of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and Ragusa was officially renamed Dubrovnik.
World War II
During World War II, Dubrovnik became part of the Independent State of Croatia, controlled by the Nazis and occupied first by the Italian army and then, from 1943 to 1944, by the German army. In October 1944, however, Marshall Tito's Partisans entered Dubrovnik and took over the city, and absorbed it into Communist Yugoslavia.
Declaration of Independence
In 1991, Croatia and Slovenia, republics within Yugoslavia, formally declared their independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Croatia, for its part, was renamed the Republic of Croatia.
War with Serbia
However, in the aftermath of Croatia's declaration of independence and despite the demilitarization of the city in the early 1970s, Dubrovnik was attacked by the Serbian-Montenegrin remnants in the city, labeled the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), with no fewer than 650 rounds of artillery fire, sustaining damage to an estimated 56% of the city. Montenegro, in alliance with Serbia, claimed that Dubrovnik was historically part of Montenegro, rather than Croatia. In May, 1992, the Croatian Army liberated Dubrovnik, although attacks on the city continued for three more years.
By 2005, however, following the war, damage to Dubrovnik's Old Town was largely repaired, adhering to strict UNESCO guidelines. A chart at the city gate pinpoints with precision the hits suffered by the Old Town, and the brightly-colored replacement rooftops bear testament to the assault. General Pavle Strugar, who led the attacks on the Old Town of Dubrovnik, was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Dubrovnik now has a population of nearly 50,000, and is the foremost tourist destination in Croatia.
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