OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Croatia
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary Democracy
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Croatian
AREA: 21,621 square miles (56,594 square kilometers)
MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Dinaric Alps, Biokovo
MAJOR RIVERS: Drava, Danube
Map of Croatia
Located in southeast Europe, Croatia is geographically diverse. The crescent-shaped country features low mountains and highlands near the Adriatic coastline, flat plains that hug the Hungarian border, and a multitude of islands.
In mountainous regions, winters are cold and snowy and the summers are mild. The country's coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot, sunny summers and mild winters. Over a thousand islands are found off this coastline. Many are major tourist areas including the Dalmatian coast.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Several different ethnic groups can be found in the republic. Croats are by far the largest ethnic group in Croatia. Serbs make up the largest minority group; however, their numbers fell after the 1990s war of independence—from more than one-tenth of the population before the war to less than half that many in 2001.
In addition to the Croats and the Serbs, there are small groups of Bosnian Muslims, Hungarians, Italians, and Slovenes, as well as a few thousand Albanians, Austrians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Germans, and other nationalities.
Croatia's varied geographic regions—plains, mountain forests, and coastline—are reflected in its varied animal life.
Rabbits, foxes, boars, wildcats, and wild sheep are found in the plains areas, while wolves and even bears can be found in the inland forests. Sea life in the Adriatic is rich as well, with many coral reefs and underwater caves serving as habitats.
Photograph by Ivan Smuk, Shutterstock
GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY
The Croatian president is elected by popular vote to a five-year term and is head of state. The prime minister is head of government. The president appoints the prime minister, who must also be approved by parliament. Croatia's parliament consists of a 151-seat House of Representatives.
The 1991-95 civil war between Croats and Serbs caused massive damage to cities and industries. War halted the tourist trade and drastically cut industrial output, including a lucrative ship-building business. Since the war, Croatia has progressed politically and economically. In July of 2013 it was accepted into the European Union though it still retains its own currency, the Kuna.
The first Croats settled in the area that is today called Croatia around A.D. 500. They ruled themselves for many years, but decided to become part of the Hungarian Empire in 1091. When the Ottoman Empire began to expand in the 15th century, they became concerned they would be taken over by the Ottomans, so they asked Archduke Ferdinand if they could join the Austrian Habsburg Empire.
In 1868 Croatia again went under the rule of Hungary. This lasted until World War II when it became part of Yugoslavia. The war brought terrible hardships on the country under German and Italian rule. When it ended, the Communist Party took control over the country of Yugoslavia.
In the early 1990s, communism collapsed throughout Eastern Europe. Yugoslavia became a place of much turmoil as different ethnic groups began to fight for power and independence. Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia and civil war erupted. War raged for many years between the Croatians and the Serbians. In December 1995, the Dayton Agreement was signed, bringing peace to the area at last.