History of Dalmatia

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Part of a series on the
History of Dalmatia
Coat of Arms of Dalmatia
Antiquity
Illyria
Dalmatae
Roman Province
Middle Ages
Duchy of Croatia
Paganija, Zahumlje, Travunija
Theme of Dalmatia
Kingdom of Croatia (925–1102)
Kingdom of Croatia (1102–1526)
Early modern period
Republic of Ragusa
Republic of Poljica
Hvar Rebellion
Republic of Venice
19th century
Illyrian Provinces
Kingdom of Dalmatia
20th century
Littoral Banovina
Banovina of Croatia
Governorate of Dalmatia
Croatian War of Independence
In northern Dalmatia
In central Dalmatia
In southern Dalmatia

The History of Dalmatia concerns the history of the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea and its inland regions, stretching from the 2nd century BC up to the present.

The first mention of Dalmatia as a province is through its foundation in the Roman Empire. Dalmatia is ravaged by barbaric tribes beginning in the 4th century. The Slavs settle the area in the 6th century, the semi-mythological White Croats and White Serbs divided Dalmatia in two in the 7th century, the Croats ruling north of the Neretva river while the Serbs ruling the south.

The Republic of Venice had the maritime lands several times in history, also, Dubrovnik has a rich history as being the seat of the Republic of Ragusa.

In 1527 the Kingdom of Croatia becomes a Habsburg crown land, in 1812 the Kingdom of Dalmatia is formed. In 1918, Dalmatia is part of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after World War II, Dalmatia became part of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in SR Croatia.

Classical antiquity[edit]

The Roman province of Dalmatia (pink color) in the Western Roman Empire

The history of Dalmatia began 180 BC when the tribe from which the country derives its name declared itself independent of Gentius, the Illyrian king, and established a republic. Its capital was Delminium (current name Tomislavgrad); its territory stretched northwards from the river Neretva to the river Cetina, and later to the Krka, where it met the confines of Liburnia.

Roman domination[edit]

Main article: Roman-Dalmatae Wars

The Roman Empire began its occupation of Illyria in the year 168 BC, forming the Roman province of Illyricum. In 156 BC the Dalmatians were for the first time attacked by a Roman army and compelled to pay tribute. In AD 10, during the reign of Augustus, Illyricum was split into Pannonia in the north and Dalmatia in the south, after the last of many formidable revolts known as the Great Illyrian Revolt had been crushed by Tiberius in AD 9. This event was followed by total submission and a ready acceptance of the Latin civilization which overspread Illyria.

The province of Dalmatia spread inland to cover all of the Dinaric Alps and most of the eastern Adriatic coast. Its capital was in the city of Salona (Solin). Emperor Diocletian made Dalmatia famous by building a palace for himself a few kilometers south of Salona, in Aspalathos/Spalatum. Other Dalmatian cities at the time were: Tarsatica, Senia, Vegium, Aenona, Iader, Scardona, Tragurium, Aequum, Oneum, Issa, Pharus, Bona, Corcyra Nigra, Narona, Epidaurus, Rhizinium, Acruvium, Olcinium, Scodra, Epidamnus/Dyrrachium.

Roman Dalmatia was fully Latinized by 476 AD when the Western Roman Empire disappeared, according to scholar Theodor Mommsen in his book "The Provinces of the Roman Empire".

The Roman Emperor Diocletian (ruled AD 284 to 305) reformed the government in the late Roman Empire and established the Tetrarchy. This new system for the first time divided rule of the empire into the Western and Eastern courts, each headed by a person with the title of Augustus. Each of the two Augusti also had an appointed successor, a Caesar, who administered about half the district belonging to his own Augustus (and was subordinate to him). In Diocletian's division, Dalmatia fell under the rule of the Eastern Court, headed by Diocletian, but was administered by his Caesar and appointed successor Galerius, who had his seat in the city of Sirmium. In AD 395, the Emperor Theodosius I permanently divided Imperial rule by granting his two sons the position of Augusti separately in the West and the East. This time, however, Spalatum and Dalmatia fell under the Western Court of Honorius, not the Eastern Court.

In 468 Flavius Julius Nepos became the ruler of the Province of Dalmatia. Four years later, in the spring of 472, the Western Emperor Anthemius was murdered by his Germanic general Ricimer; the appointment of his successor legally fell to Emperor Leo I the Thracian of the Eastern Court. Leo however tarried in his appointment. Ricimer, along with his nephew Gundobad, appointed Olybrius and then Glycerius as their puppet emperors in the West. This was not recognized by Leo I and the Eastern Court, who considered them usurpers. In 473 Leo appointed Flavius Julius Nepos, the ruler of Dalmatia, as the legal Western Emperor. In June 474, Nepos sailed across the Adriatic, entered Ravenna (the seat of the Western court), forced Glycerius to abdicate, and secured the throne. However, next year his Magister militum Orestes forced Nepos to flee back to Salona (on 28 August 475). Romulus Augustulus, the son of Orestes, was proclaimed Emperor within a few months, but was deposed the following year after the execution of his father. Odoacer, the general who deposed Romulus Augustulus, did not appoint a puppet emperor, but instead, for his part, abolished the Western court altogether. Julius Nepos, however, continued to rule in Dalmatia until 480 as the sole legal Emperor of the West (Dalmatia still being de jure a part of the Western court's administration).

After the death of Julius Nepos in AD 480, the Empire was formally reunited under the rule of a single throne, that under Emperor Zeno in Constantinople. Dalmatia continued on as a Roman possession, ruled from Constantinople, and was thus part of the state referred to in historiography as the Byzantine Empire (although historically it continued to be known as the "Roman Empire" throughout its existence). The collapse of the Western Empire left this region subject to Gothic rulers, Odoacer and Theodoric the Great, from 476 to 535, when it was added by Justinian I to the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire.

Around AD 639 the hinterland of Dalmatia fell to the invasion of Avars and Slavs, and the city of Salona was sacked. The majority of the displaced citizens fled by sea to the nearby Adriatic islands. Following the return of Byzantine rule to the area, the Roman population returned to the mainland under the leadership of the nobleman known as Severus the Great. They chose to inhabit Diocletian's Palace in Spalatum, because of its strong fortifications and more defensible setting. The palace was long-deserted by this time, and the interior was converted into a city by the Salona refugees, rendering Spalatum the effective successor to the capital of the Province.

Throughout the following centuries, effectively until the early 13th century and the Fourth Crusade, Spalatum would remain a possession of the Byzantine emperors, even though its hinterland would seldom be under Byzantine control, and de facto suzerainty over the city would often be exercised by Croatian, Venetian, or Hungarian rulers. Overall, the city enjoyed significant autonomy during this time, due to the periodic weakness and/or preoccupation of the Byzantine Imperial administration.

Middle Ages[edit]

Following the great Slavic migration into Illyria in the first half of the 6th century, Dalmatia became distinctly divided between two different communities:

  • The hinterland populated by Slavic tribes, besides the Romanized Illyrian natives (and Celtic in the north), roughly Croats to the north and Serbs to south; separated by the Cetina river.

These towns remained powerful because they were highly civilized (because of their connection with the Byzantium) and also fortified. The Slavs were at the time barely in the process of becoming Christianized. The two different communities were frequently hostile at first.

Croatian Dalmatia[edit]

The Slavs that migrated soon formed their own realm, the Principality of Littoral Croatia, ruled by Slavic princes. A separate tribe called Guduscani lived in the northwestern part of Roman Dalmatia. Borna of Croatia (803-821) was one of the earliest recorded rulers of the Principality of Littoral Croatia. In 806 the Principality of Dalmatia was temporarily added to the Frankish Empire, but the cities were restored to Byzantium by the Treaty of Aachen in 812. The treaty had also slightly expanded the Principality of Dalmatia eastwards.

The establishment of cordial relations between the cities and the Croatian dukedom seriously began with the reign of Duke Mislav (835), who signed an official peace treaty with Pietro, doge of Venice in 840 and who also started giving land donations to the churches from the cities.

Dalmatia's Croatian Duke Trpimir (ruled 845–864), founder of the House of Trpimir, greatly expanded the new Duchy to include territories all the way to the river of Drina, thereby including entire Bosnia in his wars against the Bulgar Khans and their Serbian subjects.

The Saracens had raided the southernmost cities in 840 and 842, but this threat was eliminated by a common Frankish-Byzantine campaign of 871.

Duke of Croats Tomislav had created the Kingdom of Croatia in 924 or 925, crowned in Tomislavgrad after defending and annexing the Principality of Pannonia. His powerful realm extended influence further southwards to Zachlumia slightly.

As the Littoral Croatian Duchy became a Kingdom after 925, its capitals were in Dalmatia: Biaći, Nin, Split, Knin, Solin and elsewhere. Also, the Croatian noble tribes, that had a right to choose Croatian duke (later the king), were from Dalmatia: Karinjani and Lapčani, Polečići, Tugomirići, Kukari, Snačići, Gusići, Šubići (from which later developed very powerful noble family Zrinski), Mogorovići, Lačničići, Jamometići and Kačići. Within the borders of ancient Roman Dalmatia, the Croatian nobles of Krk, or Krčki (from which later developed very powerful noble family Frankopan) were from Dalmatia as well.

Meanwhile the Croatian kings exacted tribute from the Byzantine cities, Tragurium, Iadera and others, and consolidated their own power in the purely Croatian-settled towns such as Nin, Biograd and Šibenik. The city of Šibenik was founded by Croatian kings. They also ascertained control over the bordering southern duchies. Rulers of the medieval Croatian state who had control over the Dalmatian littoral and the cities were the dukes Trpimir, Domagoj, Branimir, and the kings Tomislav, Trpimir II, Krešimir I, Stjepan Držislav, Petar Krešimir IV and Dmitar Zvonimir.

Southern Dalmatia[edit]

Pagania, Zahumlje, Travunia, and Duklja were located in the southern part of the former Roman province of Dalmatia.

In De Administrando Imperio, a work by Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos from around 950, the southern Dalmatia was ruled by Serbs, in small principalities (royal domains of the Serbian Principality) called Pagania, Zahumlje, Travunia and Duklja, settled by White Serbs.

Pagania was a minor duchy between Cetina and Neretva. The territories of Zahumlje and Travunia spread much further inland than the current borders of Dalmatia. Duklja (the Roman Doclea) began south of Dubrovnik and spread down to the Skadar Lake.

Croatian Dalmatia was only to the north of Pagania, in the so-called Littoral Croatia, which had been settled by White Croats.

Pagania[edit]

Main article: Pagania

Pagania was given its name because of their paganism, when neighbouring tribes were Christian.

The pirate-like people of Pagania/Narenta (named after river Narenta) expressed their buccaneering capabilities by pirateering the Venetian-controlled Adriatic between 827 and 828, while the Venetian fleet was off-broad, in the Sicilian waters. As soon as the fleet of the Venetian Republic returned, the Neretvians fell back. The Neretvians were also known as Pagans, because by the time of their Christianization, all Serbs already accepted Christianity. One of their leaders was baptised in Venetia. As soon as the chances were good, the Neretvians would immediately embark on new raids. In 834 and 835, they caught and killed several Venetian traders returning from Benevent. To punish the Neretvians, the Venetian Doge had launched a military expedition against them in 839. The war went on together with the Dalmatian Croats, but a truce was signed very soon, although, only with the Dalmatian Croats and some of the Pagan tribes. In 840, the Venetians had launched an expedition against the Neretvian Prince Ljudislav, but utterly failed. In 846, a new operation was launched that raided the Slavic land of Pagania, destroying one of her most important cities - Kaorle, although this did not end the Neretvian resistance, as they continued to mercilessly raid and steal from the Venetian occupators.

Neretvia was subjected to Serbian rulers like Petar Gojniković throughout the 9th century. Neretvians then aligned themselves with King Tomislav of Croatia in the first half of the 10th century. After King Trpimir's death, Pagania was eventually incorporated directly into the Serbian Realm of Prince Časlav I from the House of Vlastimir in 927-931. The Serbian period marked Neretvia's Golden Age. In 945 King Krešimir of Croatia died, and Civil War erupted. The Neretvians used Prince Časlav's annexations of Croatian territories and took Kaz, Vis and Lastovo; also managing to defend their own islands of Mljet, Korčula, Brač and Hvar. In 948, Venetian Doge Peter of Crete dispatched 33 galleys against the Neretvians, but the military attempt ended so drastically, that since that moment Venetia had to pay taxes regularly to the Neretvian princes and their supreme rulers.

The Venetian Doge Peter II Orseolo finally crushed them in 998 and assumed the title duke of the Dalmatians (Dux Dalmatianorum), though without prejudice to Byzantine suzerainty. In 1050, the Neretvians agreed to join the Kingdom of Croatia under King Stjepan I. The arisal of Duklja, and its reconstruction of the Serbian realm to the east would bring the occupation of Pagania, and eventual incorporation as a part of Zahumlje.

Zahumlje[edit]

Main article: Zahumlje

Zahumlje got its name from the mountain of Hum near Bona, where the river of Buna comes out. It included two old cities: Bona and Hum. The region was part of the realm of Vlastimir of Serbia, and its first mention as a greater entity was in 869, when Mutimir of Serbia sends the fleets of the maritime regions to battle the Saracens. In the early 10th century it had the following Župania: Stantania, Papava, Yabsko, Luca, Vellica, Gorimita, Vecenike, Dubrava and Debre.

Zahumlje's first known ruler was Michael Višević, who originated from the Visla-region. Michael ruled briefly through connections with the Croats and Bulgarians, when he died, the rule was restored to the Serbian Prince. It was annexed with the rest of Serbia in the early 11th century, in the meantime, Duklja prospers. A Byzantine strategos, Ljutovid, had the nominal rule of Serbia, but he was defeated by Stefan Vojislav in the 1040s, and Zahumlje and the rest of Serbia is united in Vojislav's domain. In 1166, Serbia becomes a Grand Principality of Stefan Nemanja, Hum is ruled by Miroslav of Hum, which marks the height of the region.

In 1198 Andrew II of Hungary becomes the Duke of Croatia. He headed for the Holy Land but ended up taking the west of Neretva, parts of Zahumlje. The whole of Hum is restored under Petar then Andrija. The first mention of Hum in a Croatian monarchs' title was in 1311, when Mladen II Šubić of Bribir styles himself "Lord of Hum".

Travunia[edit]

Main article: Travunija

Travunia was initially a town, present-day Trebinje, that was promoted to a fief during the rule of Vlastimir of Serbia, when he marries his daughter to nobleman Krajina Belojević. It is ruled by this family until the next century, when Boleslav Petrović, the son of Predimir rules Serbia. At this time it had following Župania: Libomir, Vetanica, Rudina, Crusceviza, Vrmo, Rissena, Draceviza, Canali, Gernoviza. It is annexed during the rule of Pavle Branović.

Dragomir Hvalimirović restores the title of Travunia, but is murdered in the 1010s, and the maritime lands are annexed by the Byzantines, and then Serbia. Grdeša, of unknown geneaology, is given the rule of Travunia under Uroš II Prvoslav. It is part of Serbia until 1377, when Bosnian Ban Tvrtko takes the area.

Duklja[edit]

Main article: Duklja
Border area Duklja and Travunija in the Bay of Kotor and churches from the ninth (red) and 10th-11th century (white)

Duklja was initially a Roman town (birthplace of Diocletian), which later was ruled by the strategos of Durrës. It was inhabited by Serbs, but is first mentioned as a greater entity after the annexation of Rascia. It had the territories of the Zeta River, Skadar Lake and the Boka bay and bordering with Travunia at Kotor. Parts 11th-century Duklja was in the Principality of Serbia as early as the 7th century, while the south was under direct rule of the Byzantine Empire.

Petrislav Hvalimirović is mentioned as the first "arhont of Dioklia", just after the annexation of Rascia. Its history as the seat of the Serb realm starts with Stefan Vojislav, who restores Časlavs lands, unifying respective principalities. After a century, Doclea is incorporated into the unified Serbian state, where it remained until its last remains' falling to Ottoman hands.

Republic of Venice and the Kingdom of Hungary[edit]

Map of the Venetian Republic, c. 1000. The republic is in dark red, borders in light red.

As the Dalmatian city states gradually lost all protection by Byzantium, being unable to unite in a defensive league hindered by their internal dissensions, they had to turn to either Venice or Hungary for support. Each of the two political factions had support within the Dalmatian city states, based mostly on economic reasons.

The Venetians, to whom the Dalmatians were already bound by language and culture, could afford to concede liberal terms as its main goal was to prevent the development of any dangerous political or commercial competitor on the eastern Adriatic. The seafaring community in Dalmatia looked to Venice as mistress of the Adriatic. In return for protection, the cities often furnished a contingent to the army or navy of their suzerain, and sometimes paid tribute either in money or in kind. Arbe (Rab), for example, annually paid ten pounds of silk or five pounds of gold to Venice.

Hungary, on the other hand, defeated the last Croat king in 1097 and laid claim on all lands of the Croatian noblemen since the treaty 1102. King Coloman proceeded to conquer Dalmatia in 1102-1105. The farmers and the merchants who traded in the interior favoured Hungary as their most powerful neighbour on land that affirmed their municipal privileges. Subject to the royal assent they might elect their own chief magistrate, bishop and judges. Their Roman law remained valid. They were even permitted to conclude separate alliances. No alien, not even a Hungarian, could reside in a city where he was unwelcome; and the man who disliked Hungarian dominion could emigrate with all his household and property. In lieu of tribute, the revenue from customs was in some cases shared equally by the king, chief magistrate, bishop and municipality.

These rights and the analogous privileges granted by Venice were, however, too frequently infringed. Hungarian garrisons were being quartered on unwilling towns, while Venice interfered with trade, the appointment of bishops, or the tenure of communal domains. Consequently the Dalmatians remained loyal only while it suited their interests, and insurrections frequently occurred. Even in Zara four outbreaks are recorded between 1180 and 1345, although Zadar was treated with special consideration by its Venetian masters, who regarded its possession as essential to their maritime ascendancy.

The once rival Romanic and Slavic population eventually started contributing to a common civilization, and Ragusa (Dubrovnik) was the primary example of this. By the 13th century, the councilmen from ragusan names were mixed, and in the 15th century the ragusan literature was even written in the Slavic language (from which Croatian language is directly descended), and the city was often called by its Slavic name, Dubrovnik. Only in 1918 Ragusa was called officially "Dubrovnik", with the creation of Yugoslavia.

The doubtful allegiance of the Dalmatians tended to protract the struggle between Venice and Hungary, which was further complicated by internal discord due largely to the spread of the Bogomil heresy, and by many outside influences.

The cities of Zara (Zadar), Spalato (Split), Trau (Trogir) and Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and the surrounding territories each changed hands several times between Venice, Hungary and the Byzantium during the 12th century.

In 1202, the armies of the Fourth Crusade rendered assistance to Venice by occupying Zadar for it. In 1204 the same army conquered Byzantium and finally eliminated the Eastern Empire from the list of contenders on Dalmatian territory.

The early 13th century was marked by a decline in external hostilities. The Dalmatian cities started accepting foreign sovereignty (mainly of the Republic of Venice) but eventually they reverted to their previous desire for independence. The Mongol invasion severely impaired Hungary, so much that in 1241, the king Bela IV had to take refuge in Dalmatia (in the Klis fortress). The Mongols attacked the Dalmatian cities for the next few years but eventually withdrew.

The Croats were no longer regarded by the city folk as a hostile people, in fact the power of certain Croatian magnates, notably the counts Šubić of Bribir, was from time to time supreme in the northern districts (in the period between 1295 and 1328).

In 1346, Dalmatia was struck by the Black Death. The economic situation was also poor, and the cities became more and more dependent on Venice.

Stephen Tvrtko, the founder of the Bosnian kingdom, was able in 1389 to annex the Adriatic littoral between Kotor(Cattaro) and Šibenik, and even claimed control over the northern coast up to Fiume (Rijeka) except for the Venetian-ruled Zara (Zadar), and his own independent ally, Ragusa (Dubrovnik). This was only temporary, as the Hungarians and the Venetians continued their struggle over Dalmatia as soon as Tvrtko died in 1391.

An internal struggle of Hungary, between king Sigismund and the Neapolitan house of Anjou, also reflected on Dalmatia: in the early 15th century, all Dalmatian cities welcomed the Neapolitan fleet except for Dubrovnik (Ragusa). The Bosnian duke Hrvoje controlled Dalmatia for the Angevins, but later switched loyalty to Sigismund.

Over the period of twenty years, this struggle weakened the Hungarian influence. In 1409, Ladislaus of Naples sold his rights over Dalmatia to Venice for 100,000 Ducats. Venice gradually took over most of Dalmatia by 1420. In 1437, Sigismund recognized Venetian rule over Dalmatia in return for 100,000 Ducats. The city of Omiš yielded to Venice in 1444, and only Ragusa (Dubrovnik) preserved temporarily its freedom.

Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) before 1808

The rule of Venice on most of Dalmatia will last nearly four centuries (1420 - 1797).

Early modern period[edit]

Republic of Venice (1420 - 1796) and the Dalmatian language[edit]

The Republic of Venice in 1560 and the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik)

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Illyrian towns on the Dalmatian coast continued to speak Latin and their language evolved relatively independent from other Romance languages, progressing towards a regional variant and finally to a distinct neo-Latin language called Dalmatian (today extinct). The earliest reference on the language dates from the 10th century and it is estimated that about 50,000 people spoke it at that time along the eastern Adriatic in the Dalmatian coast from Fiume (Rijeka) as far south as Kotor (Cattaro) in Montenegro (according to the linguist Matteo Bartoli).

The Dalmatian speakers lived mainly in the coastal towns of Zadar, Trogir, Split, Dubrovnik and Kotor (Zara, Traù, Spalato, Ragusa and Cattaro in Italian and in Dalmatian), each of these cities having a local dialect, and also on the islands of Krk, Cres and Rab (Veglia, Cherso and Arbe)

Almost every city developed its own dialect, but the most important dialects we have information on are the Vegliot a northern dialect, spoken on the island of Krk (Veglia in Italian, Vikla in Dalmatian) and the Ragusan', a southern dialect, spoken at Dubrovnik (Ragusa in both Italian and Dalmatian).

The dialect of Zara disappeared merging with Venetian because of the strong and long lasting influence of Republic of Venice, as did the two other dialects even to the assimilation by Slavic language speakers.

We know about the Dalmatian dialect of Ragusa from two letters, from 1325 and 1397, and many medieval texts, which show a language influenced heavily by Venetian. The available sources include hardly 260 Ragusan words. Surviving words include pen (bread), teta (father), chesa (house) and fachir (to do), which were quoted by an Italian, Fillipo Diversi, the head of school of Ragusa in the 1430s.

The Republic of Ragusa had at one time an important fleet, but its influence decreased. We know that the language was in trouble in the face of Croatian expansion, as the Ragusan Senate decided that all debates had to be held in Lingua veteri ragusea (ancient Romance Ragusan language) and the use of the lingua sclava (Croatian) was forbidden. Nevertheless, in the 17th century, Ragusan fell out of use and became extinct.

Other languages influenced the Dalmatian language, but without erasing its Latin roots (superstrates): the Slavs, then the Republic of Venice. Several cities of the regions have Italian names, and other mostly the romanized Illyrian ones (like Zara, Spalato, etc.)

The oldest preserved documents written in Dalmatian are some 13th century inventories, in the Ragusan dialect. A letter of the 14th century from Zara (Zadar) shows strong Venetian influence, which was also the cause of its extinction soon after.

The Christian schism was an important factor in the history of Dalmatia. While the Croatian-held branch of the Catholic Church in Nin was under Papal jurisdiction, they still used the Slavic liturgy. Both the Latin population of the cities and the Holy See preferred the Latin liturgy, which created tensions between different dioceses. The Croatian population preferred domestic priests, who were married and bearded, and held masses in Croatian language, so they were understood.

The great schism between Eastern and Western Christianity 1054 further intensified the rift between the coastal cities and the hinterland, with many of the Slavs in the hinterland preferring the Eastern Orthodoxy. Areas of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina also had an indigenous Bosnian Church which was often mistaken for Bogomils.

The Latin influence in Dalmatia was increased and the Byzantine practices were further suppressed on the general synods 1059-1060, 1066, 1075–1076 and on other local synods, notably by demoting the bishopric of Nin, installing the archbishoprics of Spalatum (Split) and Dioclea (Montenegro), and explicitly forbidding use of any liturgy other than Greek or Latin.

In the period of the rise of the Serbian state of Rascia, the Nemanjić dynasty acquired the southern Dalmatian states by the end of the 12th century, where the population was mixed Catholic and Orthodox, and founded a Serb Orthodox bishopric of Zahumlje with see in Ston. The Nemanjić Serbia controlled several of the southern coastal cities, notably Kotor (Cattaro) and Bar (Antivari).

In the 13th century the Republic of Venice took definitive control of the Montenegro coast and created the Albania Veneta.

Dalmatia never attained a political or racial unity and never formed as a nation, but it achieved a remarkable development of art, science and literature. Politically, the neolatin Dalmatian city-states were often isolated and compelled to either fall back on the Venetian Republic for support, or tried to make it on their own.

The geographical position of the Dalmatian city states suffices to explain the relatively small influence exercised by Byzantine culture throughout the six centuries (535-1102) during which Dalmatia was part of the Eastern empire. Towards the close of this period Byzantine rule tended more and more to become merely nominal, while the influence of the Republic of Venice increased.

The medieval Dalmatia had still included much of the hinterland covered by the old Roman province of Dalmatia. However, the toponym of "Dalmatia" started to shift more towards including only the coastal, Adriatic areas, rather than the mountains inland. By the 15th century, the word "Herzegovina" would be introduced, marking the shrink of the borders of Dalmatia to the narrow littoral area where was spoken the Dalmatian language (that was being assimilated into the venetian language).

Ottoman and Venetian rule[edit]

During the Venetian rule in Dalmatia from 1420 to 1797 the number of Orthodox Serbs in Dalmatia was increased by numerous migrations.

An interval of peace ensued, but meanwhile the Ottoman advance continued.

Hungary was itself assailed by the Turks, and could no longer afford to try to control Dalmatia. Christian kingdoms and regions in the east fell one by one, Constantinople in 1453, Serbia in 1459, neighbouring Bosnia in 1463, and Herzegovina in 1483. Thus the Venetian and Ottoman frontiers met and border wars were incessant.

Dubrovnik sought safety in friendship with the invaders, and in one particular instance, actually sold two small strips of its territory (Neum and Sutorina) to the Ottomans in order to prevent land access from the Venetian territory.

In 1508 the hostile League of Cambrai compelled Venice to withdraw its garrison for home service, and after the overthrow of Hungary in 1526 the Turks were able easily to conquer the greater part of Dalmatia by 1537, when the Siege of Klis ended with the fall of the Klis Fortress to the Ottomans. The peace 1540 left only the maritime cities to Venice, the interior forming a Turkish province, governed from as the sanjak of Klis, part of the Eyalet of Bosnia.

Christian Croats from the neighbouring lands now thronged to the towns, outnumbering the Romanic population even more, and making their language the primary one. The pirate community of the "uskoks" had originally been a band of these fugitives, esp. near Senia; its exploits contributed to a renewal of war between Venice and Turkey (1571–1573). An extremely curious picture of contemporary manners is presented by the Venetian agents, whose reports on this war resemble some knightly chronicle of the Middle Ages, full of single combats, tournaments and other chivalrous adventures. They also show clearly that the Dalmatian levies far surpassed the Italian mercenaries in skill and courage. Many of these troops served abroad; at the Battle of Lepanto, for example, in 1571, a Dalmatian squadron assisted the allied fleets of Spain, Venice, Austria and the Papal States to crush the Turkish navy.

The Ottomans resettled Orthodox Serbs from Bosnia into the desolated areas of the Kninska Krajina and Bukovica, while Boka Kotorska received constant Serb migrations from Herzegovina and Montenegro. The Serbs formed a significant part of the population of Dalmatia in the 16th century, with absolute majorities in the Kninska Krajina, Bukovica and Boka Kotorska.[citation needed] A great portion of this population fled to Venetian land and gladly fought against the Ottomans. The number of Serbs in Venetian Dalmatia rapidly increased during the War of Candia in 1645 - 1669 and the Great Turkish War in 1683 - 1699, after which the peace of Karlowitz gave Venice the whole of Dalmatia as far south as Ston, as well as the region beyond Ragusa, from Sutorina to Boka kotorska. After the Venetian-Turkish war 1714-1718, Venetian territorial gains were confirmed by the 1718 Treaty of Passarowitz.

The Venetian Republic promised the peasant population of the hinterland freedom from feudal bounds in return for their military service.

The Roman Catholic Church, as the religion of both the Venetians and the Croats, exerted the majority influence over the region. The Serb Orthodox Church in Dalmatia built several monasteries in the hinterland such as the early 14th-century Krupa, Krka and Dragović.

Dalmatia experienced a period of intense economic and cultural growth in the 18th century, given how trade routes with the hinterland were reestablished in peace.

Because the Venetians were able to reclaim some of the inland territories in the north during the Turkish wars, the toponym of Dalmatia was no longer restricted to the coastline and the islands. The border between the Dalmatian hinterland and the Ottoman Bosnia and Herzegovina greatly fluctuated until the Morean War, when the Venetian capture of Knin and Sinj set much of the borderline at its current position.[2]

This period was abruptly interrupted with the fall of the Venetian republic in 1797.

Modern era[edit]

Dalmatia in the Napoleonic Era[edit]

The Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy from 1806 to 1810 included the Dalmatia that had belonged to Venice until 1797
Dalmatia as a part of the Illyrian Provinces in 1811

Later in 1797, in the treaty of Campo Formio, Napoleon I gave Dalmatia to Austria in return for Belgium. The republics of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and Poljica retained their independence, and Ragusa grew rich by its neutrality during the earlier Napoleonic wars.

By the Peace of Pressburg in 1805, Istria, Dalmatia and the Bay of Kotor were handed over to France.

In 1805 Napoleon created his Kingdom of Italy around the Adriatic sea, annexing to it the former Venetian Dalmatia from Istria to Cattaro (Kotor).

In 1806, the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) finally succumbed to foreign (French) troops under general Marmont, the same year a Montenegrin force supported by the Russians tried to contest the French by seizing Boka Kotorska. The allied forces have pushed the French to Ragusa. The Russians induced the Montenegrins to render aid and they proceeded to take the islands of Korčula and Brač but made no further progress, and withdrew in 1807 under the treaty of Tilsit. The Republic of Ragusa was officially annexed to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy in 1808.

In 1809, the War of the Fifth Coalition broke out, and French and Austrian forces also fought in the Dalmatian Campaign (1809). In the summer, Austrian forces retook Dalmatia, but this lasted only until the Treaty of Schönbrunn, when Austria ceded a number of additional provinces north of Dalmatia to France, so Napoleon removed Dalmatia from his Kingdom of Italy and created the Illyrian Provinces.

The major part of the Dalmatian population was Roman Catholic.

Habsburg Austrian rule[edit]

In the course of the War of the Sixth Coalition, the Austrian Empire declared war on France in 1813, restored control over Dalmatia by 1815 and formed a temporary Kingdom of Illyria. In 1822, this was eliminated and Dalmatia was placed under Austrian administration.

Dalmatia within Austria-Hungary

After the revolutions 1848 and particularly since the 1860s, in the age of romantic nationalism, two main political factions appeared in Dalmatia. The first was the pro-Croatian or unionist one, led by the People's Party and the Party of Rights, which advocated for a union of Dalmatia with the remaining part of Croatia that was under Hungarian administration. The second was the autonomist, pro-Italian, called the Autonomist Party.

The Habsburg Empire had its own agenda in Dalmatia, that opposed the formation of the Italian state in the Revolutions 1848 in the Italian states, but supported the development of Italian culture in Dalmatia, maintaining a delicate balance that primarily served its own interests.[3] At the time, the vast majority of the rural population spoke Croatian while the city aristocracy spoke Italian. The Italian-leaning high society promulgated the idea of a separate Dalmatian national identity under the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian monarchy (not necessarily unified with Italy), which, coupled with a property census that gave them disproportional political representation, tended to maintain their social status.[3]

The number of ethnic Italians in Dalmatia was reduced at the end of the 19th century to a few thousand, living in the main cities and islands, from nearly 200,000 during Napoleon times.[citation needed]

The 1880 Austrian census gives the following data for Dalmatia: 371,565 Croats, 78,714 Serbs and 27,305 Italians.

The Croatian faction won the elections in Dalmatia in 1870, but they couldn't go through with the merger with Croatia due to Austrian intervention.

The political alliances in Dalmatia shifted over time. At the beginning, the unionists and autonomists were allied together, against centralism of Vienna. After a while, when the national question came to prominence, they split. A third splintering happened when the local Orthodox population, few of whom were nationally conscious Serbs, heard of the ideas of unification of all Serbs through of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which acted as Serbia's agit-prop agency abroad. As a result, Serbian Orthodox population started to side with the autonomists and irredentists rather than the unionists.

20th century[edit]

First half of the 20th century[edit]

In World War I, Austria-Hungary was defeated and it disintegrated, which helped solve the internal political conflict in Dalmatia.

Under the Treaty of London 1915, Italy was to attain the northern Dalmatia (including the cities of Zadar, Sebenico (Šibenik) and Knin), but after World War I Italy obtained only a reduced area. After the war, Dalmatia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after negotiations, only Zadar (officially called "Zara" in Italian) and the islands of Cherso (Cres), Lussino (Lussinj) and Lagosta (Lastovo) remained part of the Kingdom of Italy.

When the Croatian Banate was in 1939 formed, the biggest part of Dalmatia was in it.

The "venetian" areas of Montenegro

In April 1941, during World War II, the Axis powers invaded and conquered Yugoslavia. A month later, large sections of Dalmatia were annexed by the Kingdom of Italy (in the Governatorato di Dalmazia), the rest being formally left to the Independent State of Croatia, but in reality occupied by Italian forces which later supported Chetniks in Serb-populated areas.

Many Croats from Dalmatia joined the resistance movement led by Tito's Partisans, while others joined the fascist Croatia of Ante Pavelić. The result was a terrible guerrilla war that ravaged all Dalmatia.

In September 1943, following the capitulation of Italy, large sections of Dalmatia were temporarily controlled by Partisans, only to be reoccupied, this time by the German Wehrmacht. In later stages of the war, many Dalmatian Croats went in exile, in fear from Third Reich's vindictive actions, especially after strong rumours that a second front would be formed and that there would be an invasion on the Croatian coast. In the second of half 1944, Partisans, supplied by the Allies, finally took control of all Dalmatia. The Italian population of Dalmatia, concentrated in Zara, suffered huge civilian losses due to allies bombardments in 1944.

After 1945, most of the remaining Italians fled the region (350,000 Italians escaped from Istria and Dalmatia in the istrian exodus). They were treated as remnants of the occupation force and were given an option to leave for Italy. Some died in the so-called foibe massacres, although this was more common in Istria and elsewhere than in Dalmatia. The "disappearance" of the Italian speaking populations in Dalmatia was nearly complete after World War II. The linguist Matteo Bartoli calculated that the Italians were 33% of the Dalmatian population during the Napoleonic wars, while currently there are only 300 Italians in the Croatian dalmatia and 500 Italians in coastal Montenegro.

After the World War II, Dalmatia was divided between three republics of socialist Yugoslavia - almost all of the territory went to Croatia, leaving Cattaro Bay of Kotor to Montenegro and a small strip of coast at Neum to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Breakup of Yugoslavia[edit]

For a complete account of the war in Croatia, see: Croatian War of Independence

In 1990, when Yugoslavia began to disintegrate, Croatian leadership announced their intention to declare independence, which they would indeed declare in 1991. The first Dalmatian battlefields of what would later be called the Homeland war (Domovinski rat) appeared in sections of northern Dalmatia, where there lived a significant population of Serbs. They rebelled, under encouragement and with assistance from a variety of Serbian nationalist circles, and organized their own SAO Kninska Krajina and started the so-called Log Revolution. The center of this restive area was in the northern Dalmatian town of Knin.

This Serb-held region later morphed into the SAO Krajina, and later yet it would become the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK), combined with other Serb-held regions across Croatia. The establishment of the RSK was helped by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), as well as paramilitary troops that came from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The Serbian forces had a prevalence in equipment and munitions because of JNA support, and they proceeded to commit various acts of terrorism, including shelling attacks on civilian targets.

The Yugoslav People's Army operated from their barracks, that were mostly positioned in bigger cities and strategically important points. In some bigger cities JNA had built large residential blocs, and in the opening stages of the war it was believed that those buildings would be used by sharpshooters or for reconnaissance purposes. This widespread belief, although justified in few cases, served mostly as an excuse for various Croatian paramilitary and vigilante groups to forcibly evict members of JNA families from their homes, rob their property and sometimes even subject them to torture, rape and murder.[citation needed]

The battle for the control of Dalmatia during the Croatian War of Independence was fought on three main fronts:

First attempts to take over JNA facilities occurred in August in Sinj and failed, but the major action took place in September 1991. Croatian Army and police were then more successful, although most of the objects taken were repair shops, warehouses and similar facilities, either poorly defended or commanded by officers sympathetic to the Croatian cause. Major bases, commanded by die-hard officers and manned by reservists from Montenegro and Serbia, became the object of standoffs that usually ended with JNA personnel and equipment being evacuated under supervision of EEC observers. This process was completed shortly after the Sarajevo armistice in January 1992.

All non-Serb population was ethnically cleansed from controlled areas, notably the villages of Škabrnja (Škabrnja massacre) and Kijevo (siege of Kijevo). Croatian refugees, tens of thousands of them, found shelter in many of the Dalmatian coastal towns where they were placed in empty tourist facilities.

On 2 May 1991, the 1991 anti-Serb riot in Zadar happened, in which 168 Serb-owned shops were looted by Croatian civilians.

By early 1992, the military positions were mostly entrenched, and further expansion of the RSK was stopped. The Serbian forces continued terrorist actions by way of random shelling of Croatian cities, and this continued occasionally over the next four years.

Besides the northern hinterland that bordered with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Yugoslav People's Army also occupied sections of southern Dalmatia around Dubrovnik, as well as the islands of Vis and Lastovo. These lasted until 1992.

The United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was deployed throughout the UNPA zones, including those in northern Dalmatia, as well as on Prevlaka.

Operation Storm restored Croatian control over northern Dalmatia.

The Croatian government gradually restored control over all of Dalmatia, in the following military operations:

  • September 1991: September War for Šibenik - successful defence of Šibenik from JNA onslaught and takeover of JNA bases in the area.
  • May and July 1992: Operation Tiger, JNA was forced to retreat from Vis, Lastovo, Mljet and areas around Dubrovnik.
  • July 1992: Miljevci Heights in Šibenik hinterland, near Drniš, were liberated in the Miljevci Plateau incident
  • January 1993: Operation Maslenica, Croatian forces liberated Zadar and Biograd hinterland.
  • In August 1995 Croatian forces conducted Operation Storm, ending Krajina and restoring Croatian sovereignty to international recognised borders.

During Operation Storm a majority of Serb population from Krajina left their homes, while minority of those who stayed - mostly elderly people - were occasionally subjected to acts of murder. Homes left by ethnic Serbs were taken over by ethnic Croatian refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina with the help and encouragement of Croatian authorities. Through the past decade, number of ethnic Serb refugees have returned and gradually reverted demographic results of war in certain areas, although it is very unlikely that their proportion in region's population will ever reach pre-war levels.

21st century[edit]

The war suffering in Dalmatia was among the highest compared to the other Croatian regions, particularly in the Dalmatian hinterland, where much of the infrastructure was ruined. The tourism industry - previously the most important source of income - was deeply affected by negative publicity and didn't properly recover until the late 1990s.

Dalmatian population in general suffered dramatic drop in living standard which created chasm between Dalmatia and relatively more prosperous northern sections of Croatia. This chasm reflected in extreme nationalism enjoying visibly higher levels of support in Dalmatia than in the rest of Croatia, which embraced more moderate course.

This phenomenon manifested not only in Dalmatia being reliable stronghold for Croatian Democratic Union and other Croatian right-wing parties, but also in mass protests against Croatian Army generals being prosecuted for war crimes. Indictment and against General Mirko Norac in early 2001 drew 150,000 people to the streets of Split - which is arguably the largest protest in the history of modern Croatia.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Medieval Latin cities of coastal Dalmatia (in Italian)
  2. ^ Nazor, Ante (February 2002). Inhabitants of Poljica in the War of Morea (1684-1699) (in Croatian) 21 (21). Croatian Institute of History. ISSN 0351-9767. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  3. ^ a b Đinđić, Mirko; Cipek, Tihomir (June 2010). "Politički identiteti dalmatinskih Talijana 1860.-1882." (PDF). Journal of Contemporary History (in Croatian) 42 (1) (Zagreb: Croatian Institute of History). pp. 219–238. ISSN 0590-9597. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 

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