Dubrovnik’s history – the short(er) version!

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Dubrovnik, a magnificent town in the south of Croatia, bears a long and epic history. The fortified old fortresses of this UNESCO heritage site hold centuries of stories in its walls, nooks and crannies. Read on for more info!
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The Free Republic of Ragusa

Dubrovnik Old Town

Dubrovnik Old Town

Learn more about the short(er) version of history of Dubrovnik in Croatia! The history of the city was probably founded back in the 7th century under the name Ragusa. First it was a Byzantine Empire protectorate, after which it fell under the sovereignty of the Republic of Venice. However, one little region of Croatia remained independent after all of its provinces were conquered by Austria, the Venetians, and the Turks: the Republic of Ragusa.

Between the 14th and 19th centuries the free Republic of Ragusa (friendly suggestion – do read more on the link!) was in rule. Generally, it was an example to great world powers in every way – economical, cultural and scientific.

The Success of the Republic

View of the Old Port in Dubrovnik

View of the Old Port in Dubrovnik

The oldest sewer system, one of the first pharmacies and a widespread network of spies are only some of the things that made the Republic one of the most developed countries of its time. Historically, the city’s wealth was founded on maritime trade. Its merchant trade was the fourth strongest in the world! Furthermore, it traded with both the East and the West. In order to secure its freedom, the Republic relied on its wealth and paid annual tribute. For centuries, the Republic of Ragusa was well known for its prosperity, skilled diplomacy and glorious freedom.

A Latin inscription that reads “Forget private affairs, deal with state affairs” is located over the entrance to the Great Council of the Dubrovnik Republic, which commemorates the 450 years that this free, and autonomous state existed.

The First Quarantine in the World

Sea View of the lazarettos in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Sea view of the lazarettos

Interestingly, the first quarantine in the world was a Dubrovnik invention! During the Middle Ages and diseases like the plague and malaria sweeping the world, Ragusa issued a special decree in 1377.

Anyone from outside the country was required to spend 40 days on an island nearby before entering the city. Only after it was proved that the person was healthy, could they enter the city. Special buildings called lazarettos were built in the 17th century. It is a long, thin structure with high walls surrounding 10 naves (narrow, parallel halls, resembling church halls), which are divided by five courtyards. The function of lazarettos was to provide a place for all travelers while being in quarantine before entering the city.

Dubrovnik lazarettos

Dubrovnik lazarettos

As it is known, it was a first decision made anywhere in the world. Therefore, the quarantine is now thought to have originated in Dubrovnik.

Lazarettos are still standing today. However, they serve a nicer purpose today. In other words, they present the city’s creative hub. You can visit them for various events, such as exhibition, concerts or small parties!

From Napoleon to the Austrian Empire

After a devastating earthquake in 1667, the history of the Republic started changing. One of the most prominent historical emperors, Napoleon Bonaparte, also cast an eye on Ragusa. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Republic of Ragusa came to an end. It surrendered peacefully because it was rationally decided it could not stand a chance against Napoleon’s armies. In other words, it became a part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, later on, The Illyrian Provinces.

After the French rule, Dubrovnik fell under the Austrian empire in the early 19th to early 20th century. It was a part of Austrian’s Empire crown land called The Kingdom of Dalmatia. After years of foreign rule, Croatian national revival movements started emerging. In the early 20th century, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia state was created and Dubrovnik became a part of it.

Into the Tumultuous 20th Century

Croatian Flag over Dubrovnik Old Town

Croatian Flag over Dubrovnik Old Town

During the 20th century, Dubrovnik steered from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to Banovina of Croatia, an autonomous province (banovina) of the mentioned kingdom. The 20th century was a tumultuous period, both for the world and Dubrovnik itself.

During World War II, it was part of the Axis puppet state Independent State of Croatia. After that, Dubrovnik was reincorporated into Croatia in SFR Yugoslavia. Later on, until the end of the century, it was a part of The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In 1991, Croatia declared independence, and the War of Independence was fought until 1995. It was also fought on the territory of Dubrovnik. That was the first time in history the city had to defend itself. Unfortunately, the city was besieged and suffered significant damage. However, it was successfully defended and wrote a new page of its glorious history. Up until today, Dubrovnik has stayed a part of the Republic of Croatia.

If interested in that part of Croatian’s and Dubrovnik history, visit the Museum of Croatian War of Independence, located in one wing of Fort Imperial on the magnificent Mount Srđ above Dubrovnik in Croatia.

In conclusion, it doesn’t do Dubrovnik justice  to sum up the centuries-old history of this magnificent city in a few of paragraphs. From the glory days of the free Republic of Ragusa, up to today’s Croatia, Dubrovnik stands proud and well-known.

Its fascinating medieval walls and fortresses, standing full of honor about the blue Adriatic sea, tell the story much better. In the end, one is unable not to be fascinated with this grandiose town!

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Bloggers, journalists, tourist guides, artists, entertainers and all kinds of hospitality experts and enthusiasts have gathered under the ValamArtists handle to lovingly bring you the best out of the Croatian holiday experience. Enjoy the ride!
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