Cultural Center of Balkans


The capital and largest city of the Republic of Croatia emerged from two medieval settlements that for centuries budded in the neighboring hills and, at the same time, Croatia’s political, economic and cultural center. Zagreb is city of contrast - at once it’s old and young, in the morning busy - in the evening relaxed, remembered by its pleasant atmosphere and friendly residents.

Near Zagreb, which is located in the southern piedmont of Zagreb hill (at the altitude of 123-156 meters), in Roman period there was resort Andautonia (now known as Šćitarevo). During the 7th century, Slavic tribes, including the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, inhabited the South-Eastern Europe. During the period from 09th till 11th century, the powerful Croatian state was created under Kings Tomislav, Petar Kresimir the Fourth and Zvonimir. However, in 1091, last Croatian king died childless, leaving his vine obliterated. Ladislav the First, the King of Hungary took over Croatian throne and founded the diocese of Zagreb in 1094. That was the first time that the name of the city was mentioned in the historical records. The residents of this settlement built today’s Upper town.

In the 12th century, there were two settlements in Zagreb - Capitol, that was canonical, and Gradec, which was fortified and trade - craft settlement. After the Mongol invasion in 1242, those settlements got completely destroyed. Bela the Fourth, the Croatian-Hungarian King, re-established them and declared Gradec as free royal city. Both settlements were surrounded by high walls and towers whose remains have been preserved until today. Clashes between Capitol and Gradec date back to the 13th century and in the 14th they got united under the common name of Zagreb. The last of the great mass conflicts between the inhabitants of Gradec and the Capitol took place in 1667, after which the situation in the city calmed and Zagreb began to rise sharply.

During the Turkish invasions in Europe, from the 14th to the 18th century, Zagreb was an important frontier fortress. In 1526, it became part of the Habsburg monarchy. From the 15th century, Zagreb was the capital of Slavonia and Croatia and the center of the Croatian viceroys. In 1776, it became the center of Croatian royal government.

In the 17th and 18th century, the Baroque reconstruction changed appearance of Capitol and Gradec. In order to build sumptuous palaces, monasteries and churches, most of the old and ancient houses were demolished. The town was settled by wealthy aristocratic families, royal officials, churchmen and wealthy merchants from all over Europe. To the city wealth contributed trade fairs, incomes from properties and lots of craft workshops. In addition, more schools and hospitals were opened and the cultural manners of European capitals got accepted, which confirmed Zagreb as the cultural, administrative and political center of this country.

But, in this period, Zagreb was often destroyed by fire (in 1645, 1674, 1706 and 1731), plague (in 1647 and 1682) and earthquakes (in 1880). The Zagreb Cathedral was badly damaged in the earthquake, which led to its rebuilding in a fine neo-gothic style by Herman Bole. The renovation and modernization of many shabby neighborhoods and buildings was initiated due to this earthquake; prestigious buildings were erected, fountains and parks arranged and public transport and utilities organized.

Thus, in the 19th century, Zagreb was the center of the Croatian Renaissance. Ludwig Gay (Ljudevit Gaj) led the national intellectuals, who started publishing "Morning Star" („Danica“) in 1835 - this newspaper was created to promote the wider use of the Croatian language. In 1848, the revolution that broke out across the Habsburg monarchy led to the elections in Croatia and to the appointment of Count Josip Jelačić to Croatian Ban. He helped the Habsburgs to win the Hungarians, but the Croatian’s loyalty to the crown wasn’t rewarded with additional autonomy.

Since the Habsburg monarchy was on the losing side after the First World War, it started to divide and lose territory in 1918. Croats took advantage of the current situation and, as well as Slovenia, declared independence. After that, those two joined to neighboring Serbia creating the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later renamed to Yugoslavia.

During the period from 1941 till 1945, Nazi Germany occupied Croatia. Zagreb was among the most important centers of the labor movement. On April 10th 1941, Zagreb decided to continue the resistance to the aggressor if the Army of Yugoslavia collapsed. Zagreb was a constant source of partisan staff. During the war against the occupiers and quislings over 15 000 locals got killed. In the final part of the war, Zagreb got released on May 8th 1945, and was declared the city - hero on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the liberation.

In 1971, Zagreb was in the center of the so-called Croatian Spring - the people's movement for greater freedom of cultural and political autonomy. The spring turned into winter when the president Tito enforced order in this movement, afterword followed by decades of political stagnation. After the death of Tito, in 1980, a slow process of political disintegration started.

Croatia's first free elections were held in 1990. The statue of national leader Ban Jelačić built in the 19th century and dismantled by the communists finally returns to the main square of Zagreb after 1945.

Ivo Josipović was elected for the third Croatian President in 2010. The Republic of Croatia joined the NATO alliance in 2009 and the European Union in 2013 - with Zagreb as its capital.