Due to its geographical location, Croatia represents a mixture of four different cultures. Since the division of the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire, it has been a crossroads of influences from Western and Eastern culture, as well as from Central European and Mediterranean culture. The Illyrian movement was the most significant period in the national cultural history, as the nineteenth century proved decisive for the emancipation of the Croatian language and saw unprecedented development in all areas of art and culture, producing a number of historical figures.
The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia is responsible for the preservation of the nation’s cultural and natural heritage and for monitoring its development. Other activities that support the development of culture are carried out at the local government level. There are seven sites in Croatia on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The country is also rich in intangible culture and has ten of the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Masterpieces, which surpasses all European countries except Spain, which has the same number of listed objects. One of Croatia’s cultural contributions to the world is the necktie, derived from the headscarf originally worn by Croatian mercenaries in 17th century France.
In 2012, there are 60 professional theatres, 17 professional children’s theatres and 60 amateur theatres in Croatia, which are visited by more than 1.8 million spectators per year. The professional theatres employ 1,121 artists. There are 23 professional orchestras, ensembles and choirs in the country, attracting 294,000 spectators annually. There are 162 cinemas with an attendance of more than 4 million spectators. Croatia has 175 museums, which were visited by almost 2.2 million people in 2009. There are also 1,731 libraries with 24.5 million volumes and 18 archives.
In 2009, more than 7,200 books and brochures were published, as well as 2,678 magazines and 314 newspapers. The country also has 146 radio stations and 21 television channels. In the last five years, film production in Croatia has produced up to five feature films and 10 to 51 short films, in addition to 76 to 112 television films. In 2009, there are 784 amateur cultural and artistic associations and more than 10,000 cultural, educational and artistic events organised every year. The book publishing market is dominated by a few large publishing houses and the flagship of the industry, Interliber, held annually at the Zagreb Fair.
Croatia has established a high level of human development and gender equality in relation to the Human Development Index. It promotes the rights of persons with disabilities. Recognition of same-sex partnerships in Croatia has gradually improved over the last decade, leading to the registration of civil partnerships in July 2014, which grant same-sex couples equal inheritance rights, tax deductions and limited adoption rights. However, in December 2013, Croats voted in favour of a constitutional referendum supported by conservative groups that defined marriage as a “life covenant between a woman and a man”.
Art and literature
The architecture in Croatia reflects the influences of neighbouring countries. Austrian and Hungarian influence is visible in the public spaces and buildings in the northern and central regions, while the architecture on the Dalmatian and Istrian coasts shows a Venetian influence. Large squares named after cultural heroes, well-kept parks and pedestrian zones are characteristic of these orderly towns, especially where large-scale Baroque urban planning took place, for example in Osijek (Tvrđa), Varaždin and Karlovac.The later influence of Art Nouveau is reflected in contemporary architecture: along the coast the architecture is Mediterranean, with a strong Venetian and Renaissance influence in large urban areas, exemplified by the works of Giorgio da Sebenico and Niccolò Fiorentino, such as the Cathedral of St James in Šibenik. The oldest surviving examples of Croatian architecture are the 9th century churches, the largest and most representative of which is that of Donatus of Zadar.
In addition to architecture, which comprises the oldest works of art in Croatia, there is a long history of artists in Croatia dating back to the Middle Ages. The stone portal of Trogir Cathedral was made by Radovan at the time and is the most important monument of Romanesque sculpture in medieval Croatia. On the Adriatic coast, the Renaissance had the greatest influence, as the rest of Croatia was embroiled in the hundred-year Croatian-Ottoman war. With the decline of the Ottoman Empire, Baroque and Rococo art flourished. The 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of many Croatian craftsmen, supported by some patrons such as Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer. Croatian artists of this period who achieved world fame are Vlaho Bukovac and Ivan Meštrović.
The Baška tablet, a stone with the Glagolitic alphabet found on the island of Krk and dated to 1100, is considered the oldest preserved prose in Croatian. The beginning of a more vigorous development of Croatian literature is marked by the Renaissance and Marko Marulić. In addition to Marulić, the playwright of the Mariner Renaissance Držić, the Baroque poet Ivan Gundulić, the poet of the Croatian National Revival Ivan Mažuranić, the novelist, playwright and poet August Šenoa, the poet and writer Antun Gustav Matoš, the poet Antun Branko Šimić, the expressionist and realist writer Miroslav Krleža, the poet Tin Ujević and the novelist and short story writer Ivo Andrić are often mentioned as the greatest figures of Croatian literature.
Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are guaranteed in the Croatian constitution. Croatia is ranked 62nd in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2010. The state news agency HINA operates a news service in Croatian and English on politics, the economy, society and culture.
Nevertheless, despite the provisions enshrined in the Constitution, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Croatia has been rated as partially free since 2000 by Freedom House, the independent non-governmental organisation that monitors press freedom worldwide. The country was ranked 85th (out of 196 countries). Freedom House’s 2011 report noted an improvement in relevant legislation reflecting Croatia’s EU accession, but also pointed to cases of attempts by politicians to obstruct investigative journalism and influence the content of reporting, difficulties in public access to information, and the fact that most of the print media market is controlled by the German Europapress Holding and the Austrian Styria Media Group. Amnesty International reports that in 2009 there was an increase in the number of physical attacks and killings of journalists in Croatia. These incidents were mainly perpetrated against journalists researching war crimes and organised crime.
As of October 2011, there are nine free-to-air DVB-T television channels nationwide, two of which are operated by Croatian Radio and Television (HRT), Nova TV and RTL Televizija, and the other three by the Croatian Olympic Committee, Kapital Net d.o.o. and Author d.o.o.. In addition, there are 21 regional or local TV channels in DVB-T. HRT also broadcasts a satellite television channel. In 2012, there were 146 radio stations and 25 television channels in Croatia. Cable and IPTV networks are on the rise in the country, with cable TV networks already serving 450,000 people, or 10% of the country’s total population.
There are 314 newspapers and 2,678 magazines published in Croatia. The print media market is dominated by Europapress Holding and Styria Media Group, which publish their flagship dailies Jutarnji list, Večernji list and 24sata. Other influential newspapers are Novi list and Slobodna Dalmacija. In 2013, 24sata was the daily with the highest circulation, followed by Večernji list and Jutarnji list.
The Croatian film industry is small and heavily subsidised by the government, mainly through grants awarded by the Ministry of Culture, with films often co-produced by HRT. The Pula Film Festival, the national film awards ceremony held annually in Pula, is the most prestigious film event showcasing national and international productions. The greatest achievement of Croatian filmmakers was made by Dušan Vukotić when he won the Oscar for the best animated short film for Ersatz (in Croatian: Surogat) in 1961.
Traditional Croatian cuisine varies from region to region. Dalmatia and Istria draw inspiration from the culinary influences of Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines, which include various seafood, cooked vegetables and pasta, and spices such as olive oil and garlic. Continental cuisine is heavily influenced by Hungarian, Austrian and Turkish cooking styles. Meat, freshwater fish and vegetable dishes predominate in this region.
There are two distinct wine-growing regions in Croatia. The mainland region in the north-east of the country, especially Slavonia, is capable of producing high-quality wines, especially white wines. Along the northern coast, wines from Istria and Krk resemble those from neighbouring Italy, while further south, in Dalmatia, Mediterranean-type red wines are the norm. Annual wine production exceeds 140 million litres. Croatia was almost exclusively a wine-consuming country until the end of the 18th century, when more massive beer production and consumption began. In 2008, annual beer consumption was 83.3 litres per capita, which placed Croatia 15th among countries in the world.