White Croatia (also Chrobatia) is the ill-defined area "somewhere in Central Europe, near Bavaria, beyond Hungary, and next to the Frankish Empire" from which the White Croats crossed the Carpathians and migrated in the 7th century into Dalmatia (modern-day Croatia). In the Slavic tradition, the colour white designates "north", thus the name of the region means "Northern Croatia". The area to the west of White Croatia was known as White Serbia.
In his work "De Administrando Imperio", Constantine Porphyrogenitus mentions the White Croatia (originally Βελοχρωβάτοι i Χρωβάτοι) as the place from which, in the 7th century, part of Croatian tribes started their journey to the Balkans (more specifically, today's Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) after they were invited there by the Byzantine Empire (emperor Flavius Heraclius Augustus) to protect its borders. This migration was described by Adam Naruszewicz in his work "The History of Polish Nation":
- "The Chrobats were known even in the 9th century under Constantine Porphyrogennetos rule, who describes them in his work De Administrando Imperio in these words: The Chrobat lived in that times (meaning, times of emperor Heraclius) close to Babigorea where Belo-Chobat family is now, while others, those who went to Dalmatia living close to France, called Belo-Chrobat, belo meaning white, as they had their own Prince. They pay hommage to Otto the Great, the ruler of Franks also being Saxon. Being pagans they ally with Turks. Those Chrobats who in Dalatia reside, derive from the non baptized ones, ones allied Turks living near Franks and with Serbians bordering." Then he also states: "[...] the great Chrobatia which as the white is called, till this very day baptised is not, same as their neighbours Serbians. Cavalry and infantry has it as much as Christian Chrobatia, all for frequent Franks' invasions."
According to Nestor the Chronicler, White Croats were progenitors of Lendians. In his work from 1113 AD called "The Primary Chronicle" Nestor describes how in the early Middle Ages White Croats, Serbians and Karantans (most likely part of the tribes) were forced to leave their lands due to Italian invasion. After that they settled along the river Vistula, calling themselves Lendians, and later dividing into Polans, Veleti, Masovians and Pomeranians.
- "After many years had passed, Slavic people settled on the Danube, where Hungary and Bulgaria are now. From those Slavic tribes they spread to many lands, calling themselves with many names which were from grounds they stayed on. And so, leaving on the Morava river, they called themselves Moravians, and anothers as Czech. Yet another Slavic people were White Croatians, and Serbians, and Korantans. Those, when oppressed by Italians who invaded that grounds, embarked towards Vistula and stayed there calling themselves Lendians, and later Polans, Veleti, Masovier and Pomeranians."
Other authors from those times are not calling Croatians as "White". The Bavarian Geographer does not mention them either (same as Polans) (845 AD).
- "To the north-east of the Moravians are the Dalamensae; east of the Dalamensians are the Horithi (White Croats), and north of the Dalamensians are the Servians; to the west also are the Silesians. To the north of the Horiti is Mazovia, and north of Mazovia are the Sarmatians, as far as the Riphaean mountains."
Nestor in his "The Primary Chronicle" mentions Croatians (but not calling them "White") as one of the Russniak tribes. In 907 AD they allied with Oleg of Novgorod and took part in his military expedition against Byzantium. It is also mentioned there that Vladimir I of Kiev fought Croatians in 992 AD. In addition, the names "chrowati et altera chrowati" is mentioned in so called Prague document from 1086 AD as the frontier of the Prague diocese. That statement was used as the propaganda to justify the annexation of Galicia during the partitions of Poland.
Cosmas of Prague in his Chronica Boëmorum describes the territory of the Prague diocese in these words: "[...] The border of which towards the West are as following: Tuhośt, which stretch from the middle of Chamb river, Siedliczanie, Leczanie, Dieczanie, Litomierzyć, Lemuzi, until the forest which the Chech border is. Next, the northern borders, are: Pszowianie, Croatians and other Croatians, Ślęzanie, Trzebowianie, Bobrzanie, Dziadoszanie, up to the middle of the forest which the Milczanie are surrounded. From there to the East the rivers of Styr and Bug are its borders, together with Kraków and its land name of which is Wag and all the lands belonging to the mentioner Krakow. Then it stretches along Hungarian marches up to the mountains which are called Tatras. Next, in the part which stretches towards the South, when joined with Moravian lands, it reaches Wag river and then Mure, being the name of the forest and the river bordering Bavaria." In the 12th century, Presbyter Diocleas in his "History of the Kingdom of the Slavs" uses the term White Croatia with reference to North Dalmatia.
Wincenty Kadłubek in his "Polish Chronicle" (book II, chapter 12), describes the deeds of Bolesław I the Brave who "conquered Selencja, Pomerania, Prussia, Rus, Moravia, Czech, which he has left his successors as fiefdoms. The city of Prague was called the second capital of his kingdom. He ruled many tribes of Huns, Hungarians, Croatians and Mards."
Dispute about location of White Croatia
The location of White Croatia which was established by Constantine is a bone of contention among historians. We can learn from the text by Constantine that it was under the rule of Otto I the Great and it was located somewhere between Bavaria, Hungary and White Serbia. Constantine describes the White Croatians as pagans, their territories must have been located out of reach of the Christian world.
Nestor Claims that the White Croatians settled down on Vistula bank. At this point, Constantine says about march northwards, while Nestor about marching southwards – probably the facts being distant in the time. So White Croatians of Nestor and Constantine may have nothing common with each other.
On account of establishing the north border of Great Moravia difficulty, it is hard to explicitly interpret the notes of Alfred the Great. It can be interpreted on the ground of information that Vistulans used to occupy to the east of Moravia. However, interpretations of Prague Document point at location in the northern Czech or in Silesia.
Popular Encyclopedia by Samuel Orgelbrand from 1864 provides information that the name of Croatian comes from Carpathian Mountains: Croats (Krroat, Kroata), in fact Croatians in Czech: Charwati, in Croatian: Herwati (Hrwati) is the name of numerous Slavic tribes which partly is still keeping up. All tribes’ the oldest headquarters are lands of the Tatras called (by Constantine Porfyrogenita) the Great or White Croatia, coming from Carpathian Mountains […] The momento of them has kept up in some local names in the eastern Halicz (Chrewi, Charwin, Charzewice) and folk name of the Carpathians: Horby (Chryby, Cherby). Adam Szelągowski (after Paweł Józef Szafarzyk) also draw their name from word chrb (a mountain) and added: today still in eastern Galicia the name for the Carpathians (Chorby)
Historians often point at the north part of Czech, Silesia, Lesser Poland or Ukraine as the places where White Croatia happened to be located.
- Chrobats around Cracovia and south of Poland R. Lane Poole Atlas.
- Map 992 AD.
- Map 8th - mid 9th century.
- CZY JESTEŚMY CHORWATAMI? (Polish)