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City of Vukovar
Grad Vukovar
Vukovar Street scene.JPG
Flag of Vukovar
Coat of arms of Vukovar
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Grad Heroj (Hero City)
Grad Vukovar-Град Вуковар.jpgNaselje Vukovar-Насеље Вуковар.jpg
Location of Vukovar within Croatia
Vukovar is located in Croatia
Location of Vukovar within Croatia
Vukovar is located in Vukovar-Syrmia County
Location of Vukovar within Vukovar-Srijem County
Coordinates: 45°21′00″N 19°00′12″E / 45.35000°N 19.00333°E / 45.35000; 19.00333
Country Croatia
County Vukovar-Srijem
 • Mayor Ivan Penava (HDZ)
 • City 100.26 km2 (38.71 sq mi)
Elevation 108 m (354 ft)
Population (2011)[1]
 • City 27,683
 • Density 280/km2 (720/sq mi)
 • Urban 26,468
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 32 000
Area code(s) 032
Vehicle registration VU
Vukovar's main street with obvious damage from the shelling during the Croatian War of Independence
Franjo Tuđman Square

Vukovar (Croatian pronunciation: [v̞ûkɔv̞aːr]; Serbian Cyrillic: Вуковар[Note 1]) is a city in eastern Croatia. It has Croatia's biggest river port, located at the confluence of the Vuka River and the Danube. Vukovar is the seat of the Vukovar-Srijem County. The city's registered population was 26,468 in the 2011 census, with a total of 27,683 in the municipality.[1]


The name Vukovar means 'town on the Vuka River' (Vuko from the Vuka River, and vár from the Hungarian word for 'fortress'). The name of the Vuka River itself originates from the Slavic word 'vuk', meaning 'wolf'. In other languages, the city in German is known as Wukowar, in Hungarian as Vukovár or Valkóvár, and in Serbian as Вуковар. In the late 17th century, the medieval Croatian name Vukovo was supplanted by the Hungarian Vukovár.[2]


It is located 20 km (12 mi) northeast of Vinkovci and 36 km (22 mi) southeast of Osijek, with an elevation of 108 m (354 ft). Vukovar is located on the main road D2 Osijek—Vukovar—Ilok and on the Vinkovci—Vukovar railway (and road D55).

The city is spread out along the Danube River. Vukovar proper is in the southeast while Borovo Naselje forms a distinct unit in the northwest.

Municipal area[edit]

The administrative municipal area of the city contains the following settlements:[1]

In SFR Yugoslavia, the municipalities were generally larger, and the Vukovar municipality spanned the region from Vera and Borovo in the north, Ilok in the east and Tovarnik in the south, but it was since divided into several municipalities.


Early history[edit]

Slavic tribes settled in this area in the 6th century. In the 9th century the region was part of the Slavic Balaton Principality ruled by prince Pribina, part of the Principality of Pannonian Croatia ruled by prince Ljudevit, and part of the Bulgarian Empire. In the 11th–12th century, the region was part of the Kingdom of Croatia; from the 13th to 16th century part of the Kingdom of Hungary; and between 1526-1687[3] under Turkish domination.

Vukovar was mentioned first in the 13th century as Volko, Walk, Wolkov (original Croatian/Slavic name of the town was Vukovo). In 1231, Vukovo obtained its first privileges and later the right to levy taxes on passages along the Danube and the Vuka.[4] During administration of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, the town was a seat of the Valkó (Croatian: Vuka) county, which was located between the Drava and Sava rivers, while during Ottoman administration it was part of the Sanjak of Syrmia. At the end of the 17th century, the town's population numbered about 3,000 inhabitants.

Habsburg Monarchy and Yugoslavia[edit]

Delegates of the Second Congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

Since the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, Vukovar was part of the Habsburg Monarchy, Slavonia (Transleithania after the compromise of 1867), and soon after in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, created when the Kingdom of Slavonia and the Kingdom of Croatia were merged in 1868.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Vukovar was the seat of the Syrmia County of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia.

In 1918, Vukovar became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (Yugoslavia in 1929). Between 1918 and 1922, Vukovar was administrative seat of Syrmia (Srijem) county, and between 1922 and 1929 it was the administrative seat of Syrmia oblast. In 1920, the formative congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was organized in the town. After 1929, Vukovar was part of the Sava Banovina, and beginning in 1939 it was part of the Banovina of Croatia. Between 1941 and 1944, Vukovar was part of the Independent State of Croatia. During World War II the city was bombed by the Allies. In 2008 an unexploded bomb was found in the city from this period.[5] From 1945, it was part of the People's Republic of Croatia within new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

After the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and in the wake of communism gaining popularity throughout Europe, Vukovar became the location where in 1920 the Socialist Labor Party of Yugoslavia (Communists) (Socijalistička radnička partija Jugoslavije - komunista) was renamed the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (Komunistička partija Jugoslavije).

Croatian War of Independence[edit]

The water tower in Vukovar, 2005. Heavily damaged in the battle, it has been preserved as a symbol of the town's suffering.

Vukovar was heavily damaged during the Croatian War of Independence. Approximately 2,000 self-organised defenders (the army of Croatia was still in an embryonic stage at that time) defended the city for 87 days against approximately 36,000 JNA troops supplemented with 110 vehicles and tanks and dozens of planes. The city suffered heavy damage during the siege and was eventually overrun. It is estimated that 2,000 defenders of Vukovar and civilians were killed, 800 went missing and 22,000 civilians were forced into exile.[6]

The damage to Vukovar during the siege has been called the worst in Europe since World War II, drawing comparisons with the World War II–era Stalingrad.[7][8] To draw the World's attention on the suffering and exile of Vukovar people, on 20 November 1991 a group of Croatian expatriates changed the signs on a Paris metro station Stalingrad into Vukovar. The signs remained all day before they were removed.[citation needed] The city's water tower, riddled with bullet holes, was retained by city planners to serve as a testimony to the events of the early 1990s.

On 18 November 2006 approximately 25,000 people from all over the country gathered in Vukovar for the 15th anniversary of the fall of the city to commemorate those who were killed during the siege. A museum dedicated to the siege was opened in the basement of a now rebuilt hospital that had been damaged during the battle.[9] On 27 September 2007 the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia convicted two former Yugoslav Army officers and acquitted a third of involvement in the hospital massacre.[10]

As a result of the conflict, a deep ethnic divide exists between the Croat and Serb populations.


Historical population
of Vukovar
Year Pop. ±%
1857 8,162 —    
1869 9,453 +15.8%
1880 10,234 +8.3%
1890 11,205 +9.5%
1900 11,557 +3.1%
1910 12,149 +5.1%
1921 12,116 −0.3%
1931 12,738 +5.1%
1948 18,994 +49.1%
1953 20,616 +8.5%
1961 25,763 +25.0%
1971 38,830 +50.7%
1981 41,959 +8.1%
1991 46,735 +11.4%
2001 31,670 −32.2%
2011 27,683 −12.6%
Source: Naselja i stanovništvo Republike Hrvatske 1857–2001, DZS, Zagreb, 2005 & Popis stanovništva 2011
Vukovar municipality within Vukovar-Syrmia County, 2001

In the years from 1948 until 1991 Vukovar's population increased quickly due to industrial development. Primarily it was immigration that fed the growth in the Vukovar region and in the town particularly. The region's population distribution changed notably too when the town of Ilok became the second largest town in the region.

National structure of the population of Vukovar:[11][12][13]
Year Total Croats Serbs Germans Hungarians Others
2011 27,683 15,881 57,37% 9,654 34,87% 58 0,21% 347 1,25% 1,743 6.30%
2001 31,670 18,199 57.5% 10,412 32.9% 58 0.2% 387 1.2% 2,614 8.3%
1990 44,639 21,065 47.2% 14,425 32.3% 94 0.2% 694 1.5% 8,361 18.8%
1971 30,222 14,694 48.6% 9,132 30.2% 60 0.2% 835 2.8% 5,501 18.2%
1948 17,223 10,943 63.5% 4,390 25.5% 54 0.3% 913 5.3% 923 5.3%
1931 10,242 5,048 49.6% 1,702 16.6% 2,670 26.1% 571 5.6% 215 2.0%
1910 10,359 4,092 39.5% 1,628 15.7% 3,503 33.8% 954 9.2% 183 1.8%

The most significant change is the forced displacement and internment of the German civilian population after World War II. The confiscated houses and properties were then given to Croat and Serb colonists during Yugoslavia.

National structure of the population in the municipality of Vukovar:[clarification needed]
Year of census total Croats Serbs Others
2001 31,670 18,199 (57.46%) 10,412 (32.88%) 3,059 (9.66%)
1991 84,024 36,910 (43.93%) 31,910 (37.98%) 15,204 (18.09%)
1981 81,203 30,157 (37.14%) 25,146 (30.97%) 25,903 (31.89%)
1971 76,602 34,629 (45.21%) 28,470 (37.17%) 13,593 (17.09%)
1961 54,707 24,527 (44.83%) 22,774 (41.63%) 7,406 (13.54%)

The Croats were in the majority in most villages and in the region's eastern part, whereas the Serbs dominated in northwest. Vukovar's population was ethnically mixed and had 28 ethnic groups before the war.

Circle frame.svg

National structure (2011)

  Croats (57.37%)
  Serbs (34.87%)
  Others (7.76%)

Since the boundaries of the municipality have changed a few times, there are significant differences in the population census between '61 and '71, and '91 and '01.

Particularly since the war in Croatia, much of the native Croat population has moved to other areas of Croatia or emigrated to Western Europe (notably Germany or Austria) and many Serbs have either moved to Serbia or to Canada and Western Europe.

Fifteen years after the war, in 2006, the city's ethnic makeup shows equal percentages of Croat and Serb residents.[14] The city remains very divided, as a deeper sense of reconciliation has failed to take root. The ethnic communities remain separated by mistrust, divided institutions and disappointment. Separate schooling for Croat and Serb children remains in place. Incidents involving Croats and Serbs occur regularly, and public spaces have become identified not by the services they offer but by the ethnicity of those who gather there. Even coffee shops are identified as Croat or Serb.[15]

In 2013, the government’s intention to implement in Vukovar the Constitutional Law on the Rights of Ethnic Minorities in Croatia that allowed for minorities, where they made up more than a third of a city’s population, to be entitled to have their language used for official purposes,[16] provoked considerable popular opposition.[17]

Minority languages[edit]

Further information: Serbs of Vukovar

According to the 2011 Croatian census, the Serbian population of the city has exceeded one third, which is the legal prerequisite for the Serbian (Cyrillic) name of the city to became co-official. In 2013, this has re-ignited a political discussion on the matter, continuing on the 2009 local promulgation of Serbian Cyrillic as available for public use.[18]


Vukovar is the largest Croatian town and river port on the Danube. Its economy is based on trade, farming, viticulture, livestock breeding, textile and food-processing industry, footwear industry and tourism.

Following the end of the war, much of the infrastructure in Vukovar remains unrestored and unemployment is estimated to stand at 40 percent. [15]

Cultural heritage[edit]

Among a number of attractive buildings, severely damaged in the recent war, the most interesting are the Eltz Manor of the Eltz noble family from 18th century, Baroque buildings in the centre of the town, the Franciscan monastery with the parish church of Sts. Philip and James, the water tower, the birth house of the Nobel prize winner Lavoslav Ružička, the Orthodox church of St Nicholas, the palace of Syrmia County etc. Since 1998 and peaceful reintegration under Croatian control, many buildings have been rebuilt, but there are many ruins still in the town.

Outside the town, on the banks of the Danube toward Ilok, lies a notable archaeological site, Vučedol. The ritual vessel called the Vučedol Dove (vučedolska golubica) is considered the symbol of Vukovar. Vučedol is also a well-known excursion destination, frequented by anglers and bathers, especially the beautiful sand beach on Orlov Otok (Eagle's Island).

Sports and recreational opportunities are provided at the attractive confluence of the Vuka River into the Danube, on the promenades along the Danube and maintained beaches. Bathing is possible in the summer months. Angling is very popular both on the Vuka and the Danube (catfish, European perch, carp, pike, sterlet).

The siege of Vukovar is an important part in the background of the novel The Redeemer by popular Norwegian crime-writer Jo Nesbø, in whose plot traumatized survivors of the siege arrive in Oslo and play a major role in the murder mystery which Inspector Harry Hole must solve.

Great Vukovar Synagogue was built in 1889, it was demolished by the communist regime of SFR Yugoslavia.


Vukovar is the seat of several local organizations and institutions such as Vukovar-Srijem County, Polytechnic Lavoslav Ružička Vukovar, Gymnasium Vukovar, etc. It is also the seat of several organizations and institutions of Serb minority in Croatia such as Joint Council of Municipalities, Association for Serbian language and literature in the Republic of Croatia, Independent Democratic Serb Party, Party of Danube Serbs as well as the seat of the Consulate General of Republic of Serbia in Vukovar.


Vukovar has seven primary schools and five high schools, including one gymnasium (Gymnasium Vukovar) and one music school. The city is also home to the Lavoslav Ružička polytechnic, which offers study opportunities in the fields of economics and trade, law and kinesitherapy. Additionally, the University of Split runs dislocated studies in information technology, economics and law in Vukovar. Similarly, the University of Osijek offers programmes in economics and law.

Notable people[edit]

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Vukovar is twinned with:


  1. ^ The official use of Serbian Cyrillic in Vukovar is subject to a dispute involving the local and national authorities, and is the source of a current political controversy. See #Minority languages.


  1. ^ a b c "Population by Age and Sex, by Settlements, 2011 Census: Vukovar". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. December 2012. 
  2. ^ Treasures of Yugoslavia, p.249.
  3. ^ Treasures of Yugoslavia, published by Yugoslaviapublic, Beograd, available in English, German and Serbo-Croatian, 664 pages, 1980
  4. ^ Treasures of Yugoslavia, p.249
  5. ^ "Bombs from the II World War found in Vukovar" (in Croatian). Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  6. ^ Tucker, Spencer (2010). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LLC. p. 2617. ISBN 978-1-85109-667-1. 
  7. ^ President after meeting with Del Ponte: Someone has to match what turned Vukovar into Stalingrad (Croatian)
  8. ^ Seeney, Helen (22 August 2006). "Croatia: Vukovar is Still Haunted by the Shadow of its Past". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 18 November 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2009. 
  9. ^ "Tens of thousands gather for 15th anniversary of Vukovar siege 1991 – 2006". Croatian World Network. AFP. Archived from the original on 18 November 2010. Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "Two jailed over Croatia massacre". (BBC NEWS). 27 September 2007. Archived from the original on 18 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  11. ^ "Stanovništvo grada Vukovara" (in Croatian). Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  12. ^ "SAS Output". Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  13. ^ "Državni zavod za statistiku Republike Hrvatske". Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  14. ^ Vukovar: Day of remembrance, B92, 18 November 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  15. ^ a b Vukovar still divided 15 years on, B92, 27 November 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  16. ^ Croatia plans Cyrillic signs for Serbs in Vukovar BBC, 3 January 2013.
  17. ^ 25,000 protest against Cyrillic signs in 'Croatian Stalingrad' RT, 8 April 2013.
  18. ^ Drago Hedl (2013-02-01). "Ekskluzivna reportaža iz Vukovara - Ćirilica će nevidljivi zid koji dijeli Hrvate i Srbe pretvoriti u betonski". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  19. ^ "Bač". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  20. ^ Grad Vukovar (2011). "Gradovi prijatelji". Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  21. ^ Sporazum o prijateljstvu i suradnji između Grada Mostara i Grada Vukovara – Službene stranice Grada Mostara.


  • Cresswell, Peterjon; Atkins, Ismay; Dunn, Lily (10 July 2006). Time Out Croatia (First ed.). London, Berkeley & Toronto: Time Out Group Ltd & Ebury Publishing, Random House Ltd. 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SV1V 2SA. ISBN 978-1-904978-70-1. Retrieved 10 March 2010. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°21′N 19°00′E / 45.350°N 19.000°E / 45.350; 19.000