January 30th, 2018

Dubrovnik - A Short History

Dubrovnik

Dominic Tidey, EuRA C.O.O.

Dubrovnik has a long, impressive but also turbulent history.  Originally known as Ragusa, the earliest archaeological evidence goes back to the 8th century with the discover of 2007 of a large Byzantine Basilica and was likely under the protection of the Byzantine Empire until the Crusades, when Dubrovnik fell under the sovereignty of Venice, adopting it’s customs and institutions, but a devastating fire in 1296 destroyed the city.  By 1358 the newly rebuilt, planned city was relatively independent though a vassal state of the Kingdom of Hungary.  In 1382 Dubrovnik became a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire, establishing itself as an important trade hub for the region.  However, the city state had free rule even if it paid for protection of the sultan.  Very much ahead of its time, Dubrovnik pioneered modern laws and civic bodies.  It was the first state to introduce a mandatory quarantine system to prevent the spread of disease.  Given its importance as a trade hub, the numbers of people coming to the city by sea created a threat that was well understood in the aftermath of the Black Death and the original quarantine hospital, the Lazaret is beautifully preserved.   Europe’s first pharmacy was opened and is still open today. 

In 1667 a devastating earthquake hit the city killing 5,000 people and levelling many buildings.  In 1699 as a result of continued economic decline, the state was forced to sell two mainland parts of the country to the Ottomans preventing a clash with Venice.  This is the reason why today, Croatia is split in two as Bosnia still has access to the coast between the two Ottoman territories.  

In 1806 Napoleon conquered the city and French forces blockaded the harbour despite earlier assurances of an alliance.  In 1814 the city fell to British and Austrian forces and the Hapsburg Empire annexed the city and its provinces in 1815 establishing the Kingdom of Dalmatia.  A succession of Austrian mayors came to an end with the election of Rafael Pucic as mayor and the formation of a semi autonomous parliament.  In 1918 the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and the city was incorporated into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  During the second world war, the city became part of the Nazi controlled Independent State of Croatia occupied first by the Italians and then the Germans from 1943.  In 1944 Yugoslav Partisans took control and a communist leadership was established.  Under the soviet system, Dubrovnik became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia where it remained until 1991.  Croatia and Slovenia, both states within the Federal Republic, declared their independence in 1991 and Dubrovnik became part of the Republic of Croatia.  Between 1992 and 1995 a terrible conflict consumed the region as a result of the break up of Yugoslavia.  The conflict resulted in the sieges of Dubrovnik and Mostar.  During the assault on Dubrovnik not one building was left undamaged.  The International Court of Justice ruling of 2007 cited that Serbia had failed to prevent genocide.  In 2005 the United States Congress passed a resolution declaring "the Serbian policies of aggression and ethnic cleansing meet the terms defining genocide”.  The BBC  series “The Death of Yugoslavia”  documents the collapse of the country and its descent into the most terrible conflict in Europe since the war.  The full series is available on YouTube.

Today the city is totally revitalised with tourism a huge part of its economy.  The people of Croatia are incredibly welcoming and kind, and are so proud of their country and the peace and prosperity that it now enjoys.