History of Zagreb and Croatia

Zagreb Cathedral

The history of Zagreb and Croatia is hard to summarize in a brief way, but our tours are the perfect way to relive the past through the places shown and stories told by our tour guides. There are numerous archeological sites around Zagreb that prove continuity of life in this part of Croatia throughout first centuries of our era, but year 1094 is celebrated as the year Zagreb was founded. Back then Hungarian king Ladislaus I established the Zagreb Diocese on the Kaptol (capitollium) hill and placed it under the jurisdiction of the Hungarian archbishop at Ostrogon. That act also announced the new period of Zagreb and Croatia’s medieval history where the rule of Hungarian royal dynasty was accepted in a form of a personal union. As a bishopric center, Kaptol developed rapidly. Soon the canon’s residences, monasteries and churches were built, turning Kaptol into the center of Croatia’s Catholic Church.

13th century is known as a century when Tatars, subjugated by the Mongol Empire, invaded this part of Croatia, destroying everything along the way. Besides the invasion, 13th century is also of great importance because the other historical part of today’s Zagreb, Gradec, was first mentioned in the records. Gradec received numerous privileges and became the center of Croatia’s aristocracy, tradesmen, craftsmen and immigrants from neighboring countries. Those privileges were written in the royal charter named Golden Bull and given to Gradec by a Hungarian king Bela IV. From that point on started the development of Gradec as a free royal town, responsible directly to the king.

Hungarian royal dynasties ruled Croatia for more than 4 centuries, but they didn’t manage to defeat mighty Ottoman Empire that already conquered Bosnia and eastern parts of Croatia heading this way. The last Hungarian king, Louis II, didn’t survive the crucial battle on the Mohač (Mohach) field in 1526, so Croatian aristocracy decided to become part of the powerful Austrian dynasty – the Habsburgs. Croatia stayed within the Habsburg Empire, later named the Austro – Hungarian Monarchy, until the end of the World War One. Influence of the Habsburg period can be seen in this part of Croatia and Zagreb on daily basis, especially in culture, language and architecture. Although being a part of the Habsburg Empire had its advantages, there were also some disadvantages, such as a struggle to protect Croatian culture and use of Croatian language. That is why 19th century is known as a revolutionary century with various fights for Croatian political and cultural rights, while for Zagreb it is known as a century when Kaptol and Gradec united, which brought peace to the city.

After the end of WW1, Croatia joined a union of South Slavs announced already in first half of 19th century. After a few weeks of independence, new formed State of Slovenians, Croats and Serbs merged with Kingdom of Serbia into a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians led by Serbian House of Karađorđević (Karageorgevich or Karadjordjevic). In 1929 king Alexander introduced a personal dictatorship renaming his kingdom into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

The 4 years of WWII in Zagreb and Croatia were years of Independent State of Croatia, which was a Nazi puppet state. Zagreb was liberated in May 1945 by a Croatian anti- fascists led by Josip Broz Tito, born in a little village of Kumrovec, just an hour North of Zagreb. He was the founder and later president of communist Yugoslavia consisting of 6 Socialist republics making Croatia one of them.

In 1991 Croatia finally became an independent republic. Unfortunately, during that period, Croatia, led by President Franjo Tuđman, was involved in a dreadful 4-year war protecting its territory from ambitions of Serbian president at the time – Slobodan Milošević (Miloshevich).

Today, Zagreb is the capital city, political, cultural and educational center of Croatia. The Republic of Croatia is a member of NATO alliance and has been the 28th member of the European Union since 1 July 2013.