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It is impossible to provide an entire ‘cycle of knowledge’ about Croatia, but it is worth mentioning that the concept describing such knowledge – the encyclopaedia – found its place in the title of a work by Croatian humanist Pavao Skalić as early as in 1559, from where it spread to all languages of the world. In a similar fashion, the neck tie (cravat), which first appeared as part of the Croatian military uniform in the form of a picturesque adornment around the necks of Croatian soldiers in the Thirty Years War, was also accepted as a mark of elegance throughout the world. Thanks to the Croatian computer programmer Tomislav Uzelac, MP3 Players have become an essential part of our everyday life. Venetian explorer Marco Polo was born too early to possess such a player, but, according to some researchers, he is connected to Croatia by his family’s place of origin – the island of Korčula. The Dalmatian dog, the best known indigenous Croatian canine breed, without which the famous Disney cartoon 101 Dalmatians would never have been made, also originates from the same part of Croatia. In this chapter, you will find out many more interesting facts about Croatia...
The tie (cravat), today an essential fashion accessory for men and women, was named after an item in the uniform of Croatian soldiers during the Thirty Years War. As part of their uniform, they tied an eye-catching length of fabric around their necks. The Parisians noted this Croatian custom and adopted it as their own fashion detail, wearing neck ties ‘à la croate’, now forming the root of the French noun ‘la cravate’. Croatia is still proud of this historical gem, and the Croatian Sabor has declared 18 October Cravat Day.
The Dalmatian dog, also known as the Dalmatinac or Dalmatiner, is the most famous indigenous Croatian canine breed, named after the Croatian historical province of Dalmatia, where it was bred in the past.
According to one theory, the ethnic name Croats has Iranian (Sarmatian) origins. The theory is based on the etymology of the name Horoathos and ancient writings, of which the oldest are two second-century tablets found at the mouth of the River Don (Tanais).
According to legend, the founder of San Marino in the early 4th century was a stonemason, Marin, from the island of Rab.
Marco Polo, a 13th century Venetian explorer of the Far East, was born on the island of Korčula, according to one claim. There is no direct evidence for the claim, but research has shown that a Venetian trading family, the Polos, did in fact come from Korčula.
The surname Horvát or Horváth, which literally means ‘Croat’, is one of the most common surnames in Hungary and among the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. Of course, not all Hungarians with the surname are of Croatian origin, but the fact that the name is so widespread is an indication of the hundreds of years of connections between Croatia and Hungary and the migration of populations in the past.
The Dubrovnik Republic forbade trading in slaves, according to regulations dated 1413 and 1416, while a law was passed in 1466 ‘against those who sell people’.
The Dubrovnik Republic was divided politically between two aristocratic camps, the Sorbonezi (older noble families) and Salamankezi (newer noble families). The names, however, have nothing to do with where the Dubrovnik patriarchs sent their sons to study, though they allude to the famous universities of Salamanca and the Sorbonne. Most of the Dubrovnik nobles studied in Padua, and the names are pure word-play, derived from Italian, but twisted to make them terms of mockery: Salamankezi means ‘lacking salt’ (i.e. wits), while Sorbonezi means ‘dry as a sorb tree’.
Among the most prominent people at the court of the Ottoman Sultans there were several Islamised Croats. Several of their names included the epithet Hirwat (Croat), such as Mahmoud Pasha Hırvat, Pyale Pasha Hırvat, Siyavuş Pasha Hırvat, and others. The most famous was Rustem Pasha Hırvat, a Grand Vizier during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, whose daughter he married.
The Croatian polymath and humanist, Pavao Skalić, used the word ‘encyclopaedia’ in its modern meaning as early as 1559, in the title of one his works.
The Croatian writer Marko Marulić is credited with the first ever use of the word ‘psychology’ (in the title of his work Psichiologia de ratione animae humanae), meaning the science of the soul.
Dante Alighieri, in The Divine Comedy (Paradiso, cantata XXXI), mentions a Croat. A Croatian pilgrim is described as being deeply moved by the imprint of the face of Christ on Veronica’s veil. It is thought that Dante made reference here to a personal friend, Bishop Augustin Kažotić. Also interesting is that Dante’s great-grandson Niccolo ran an apothecary’s shop in Zagreb.
The Irish writer, James Joyce, while searching for work in Europe, found a job in Pula in the autumn of 1904. He went there with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle. They stayed for four months, during which time Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School for Austro-Hungarian Officers.
The French writer, Jules Verne, placed his novel Mathias Sandorf, published in 1885, in Istria. He was attracted by the picturesque gorge of the River Pazinčica, with Kaštel above it. He was not the only one – this scene has often inspired the imagination.
The Vienna Natural History Museum houses a meteorite which fell to earth in 1751 in Hraščina, north of Zagreb. The meteor’s fall was witnessed by a large number of spectators, and an expert report was written about it. The meteor was nicknamed the ‘Zagreb Iron’.
The Italian travel writer Alberto Fortis, compiling Viaggio in Dalmazia (1774), included the Croatian folk ballad Hasanaginica, which Goethe later recast in verse. Johann Gottfried Herder put it in his Volkslieder, and it was translated by Charles Nodier, Prosper Mérimée, Gérard de Nerval, Walter Scott and Niccolò Tommaseo, Alexander Pushkin and others, having a direct impact on European literature (e.g. the novel Corinne, by Madame de Staël).
The Croatian mariner, Ivan Visin, was the sixth mariner after Magellan to sail around the world. Captain Visin, with a crew of nine, set sail from Antwerp in 1852 on the Splendido, sailing under the Habsburg flag, on a voyage around the world. He reached Trieste in 1859
Two Croatian artists were praised for their excellence by the authors of the works they appeared in. The Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini, said of the Croatian singer Milka Trnina that ‘no other Tosca can compare with her’. The American playwright Tennessee Williams thought that the Croatian ballerina Mia Čorak-Slavenska was the ‘greatest Blanche Dubois’ in the ballet A Streetcar Named Desire.
Miners from Labin in Istria, supported by the local population, revolted in 1921 and took over the mine, declaring the Republic of Labin. The revolt was caused primarily by the difficult position and working conditions of the miners, but was sparked by a violent raid by Italian Fascists on the Chamber of Labour in Trieste. Although the Fascists only came to power in Italy in 1922, the Istrian miners’ revolt is considered to be the first anti-Fascist rising ever.
Among the 1,052 volunteer soldiers from Yugoslavia who fought in the International Brigades on the side of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, 528 were Croats.
One of the three battalions formed on the island of Rab on 11 September 1943 by survivors of the Italian concentration camp in Kampor, one was composed entirely of Jews, the first Jewish unit in occupied Europe.
Over one hundred Croats have received a medal and been declared Righteous among the Nations by the state of Israel, for saving Jews during the Holocaust.
Hum in Istria is the smallest town in the world. This fortress town, partly enclosed by defence walls, and partly by conjoined house walls, and which is entered by a town gate, has 52 residents according to the 2021 census (30 residents in 2011).
The largest truffle in the world, weighing 1.3 kg, was found in 1999 near the village of Livada in Istria, and was entered in the Guinness Book of Records in 2000.
There is an organ in Zadar powered by sea waves. It was built in 2005 by the architect Nikola Bašić, assisted by Ivica Stamać (sound) and Vladimir Andročec (hydraulics), while the calculations for articulating the sound were provided by the Heferer organ-making studio. Bašić’s installation Greeting the Sun is close by.
There is a crater in the middle of the visible side of the Moon named after the Croatian scientist Ruđer Bošković. Around the Boscovich Crater are seven satellite craters, also named after him. The first heavenly body to be given a Croatian name was the asteroid Croatia, discovered in 1906 by the observatory in Heidelberg and named to mark the foundation of the observatory in Zagreb.
The MP3 player, which has enhanced the lives of many music lovers, was based on an invention by the Croatian programmer Tomislav Uzelac. In 1997, he developed AMP software for listening to music files, which American students then adapted for Windows and called ‘WinAmp’.