Identification. Historical references to Croats in the Holy Roman Empire date back to the ninth century. Stories connect the name "Croat" ( Hrvat ) with a powerful military chieftain in the early Middle Ages and an Alan word for "friend." Regional cultures are considered variations on the larger category of "Croatian," including the cultures of Dalmatia, Istria, Slavonia, and Zagorija. These regions are characterized by differences in geography, traditional economy, food, folkloric tradition, and dialect. Croats share an overall sense of national culture; people often feel strongly about regional identities and local cultural variations, particularly food and language.
A small percentage of non-Croat groups identify with a different culture. Serbs usually identify with Serbian culture. Slovenes, Muslims, Jews, Albanians, and Roma (Gypsies) generally identify with their own national groups and cultures.
In two cases non-Croats constitute a significant minority in a local population and have maintained group identities as non-Croats. In Istria, an Italian minority prefer the Italian language, and identify strongly with Italian culture. In Slavonia, along the Hungarian border, ethnic Hungarians (Magyars) prefer the Hungarian language and identify with Hungarian culture. This is not generally true of non-Croat and non-Slav populations in other regions, such as Italians in Dalmatia and Hungarians in Zagreb.
Before the recent war (1991–1995), there was a large Serb population in the region known as the Military Frontier ( Vojna Krajina ) who did not identify with Croatian culture. As tensions built between Croats and Serbs in the late 1980s, Krajina Serbs began to express animosity toward the Croatian culture and language. In 1991, Croatia lost political control of this region (and 30 percent of its land); in 1995, it regained legal and political control. In 1997, when the region was restored to Croatian administration, most Krajina Serbs left for Serbia, where many now live as refugees.
The Roman Catholics of Herzegovina identify with the Croatian national culture. Herzegovinans generally believe that they should be part of Croatia, not linked to Bosnia. Croats in the diaspora are represented in the national parliament.
Location and Geography. Croatia was one of the six republics of the former Yugoslavia. It shares borders with Italy, Slovenia, and Hungary to the north and with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia) and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the east and south. Croats think of themselves as more closely linked with Austria than with the other territories and cultures of the former Yugoslavia. They do not refer to themselves as a Balkan country but as a European one.
Croatia occupies approximately 21,825 square miles (56,540 square kilometers). The region along the Adriatic coast has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot, dry summers. The inland region has a continental climate with very cold winters, hot, humid summers, and spring and autumn seasons that are often rainy. Seventy percent of the land is farmland. The largest portion of the country consists of the Pannonian plain, a flat, fertile agricultural region that extends into Hungary and Serbia. The Drava and Sava rivers drain into the plain, making it an excellent region for agriculture. Cultural variations, particularly regional cuisine, are related to geographic variations within the country; traditional economies are also linked to geography. The capital, Zagreb, is centrally located but was not chosen for that reason. It is the largest city, and historically the political, commercial, and intellectual center.
Demography. The population was approximately 5 million in 2000. Croats make up 78 percent of the population and are the dominant ethnic group. Serbs account for 12 percent, and the remaining 10 percent includes Bosnians, Hungarians, and Slovenes as well as a very small number of Jews and Kosova Albanians. The religious makeup of the nation reflects this ethnic breakdown. Roman Catholics constitute 77 percent of the population; Serbian Orthodox, 11 percent; and Muslims, 1 percent. The Serb population has decreased since Croatian independence from Yugoslavia and the war that began in 1991. In 1981, Serbs accounted for approximately 17 percent of the population.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Croatian language has three major dialects, identified by three different words for "what"—sto, kaj, and ca. From 1945 to 1991, the official language was Serbo-Croatian. Even under socialism, Croats often referred to their language as Croato-Serbian (instead of Serbo-Croatian) or as Croatian. Croatian and Serbian variants of the language were always recognized as different dialects, and had different alphabets. Since independence, Croatian and Serbian have been declared separate languages. The government has been working to establish an official Croatian language, resurrecting vocabulary that fell out of general usage under socialism.
Croatian and related Southern Slav languages are modern versions of the languages of the Slavic peoples who moved into the lands of the former Yugoslavia around 500 C.E. Today, language is an important part of personal and group identity, but historically the Croatian language was not always spoken by a majority of Croats. Under the Hapsburgs, urban Croats spoke German, and Latin was the official language of government. A national reawakening in the nineteenth century focused on the establishment of a national language.
The dialects reflect not only regional variation but contact with and domination by different peoples. Thus, Istrians speak a Croatian influenced by Italian, while the people of Zagreb speak a Croatian strongly influenced by German. Regional dialects, such as Dalmatian, are sometimes regarded as provincial or indicative of less education and exposure to high culture. There is a counter tendency, however, to regard the regional dialects as more authentic forms of Croatian than those spoken by urban, cosmopolitan populations.
Symbolism. The newly independent state has had to recreate a national culture by drawing from history and folk culture. In this sense, Croatia is an imagined community. The modern national identity draws on its medieval roots, association with Viennese "high culture," culturally diverse rural traditions, and Roman Catholicism.
Croats use the metaphor of a single related people with shared blood to describe themselves as a nationality. Religion is probably the most powerful symbol of national identity today. Most Croats consider themselves Roman Catholic whether they practice their religion or not. Language and history are also important symbols of identity. Croat language and its regional dialects are much spoken of by Croats themselves. Feelings about ancient ties to a territory and a direct link to the independent Kingdom of Croatia are part of the modern Croatian national identity.
The most important national symbol is the flag, which has three bands of color: red on top, white in the middle, and blue on the bottom. This flag was first used in 1848 under Austro-Hungarian rule. Under socialism, a red star was added in the center. The present-day flag has a coat of arms in the center that includes a symbol of each of the five parts of the country on top of a red and white chessboard shield. The chessboard dates to the Middle Ages but was also used by Croatian fascists (Ustasha) during World War II. Serbs saw the resurrection of this symbol as provocation.
In the nineteenth century, Croats rediscovered their folk traditions. Folk songs, folk dances, and village customs were taken as symbols of national pride. This interest in village culture went along with a quest for a stronger national identity under Hapsburg rule. Rural people were romanticized and taken to represent the soul of the country and the character of particular regions. The word narod means both "folk" and "nation." The symbols of regional culture are costumes, dances and songs, and village customs. These folk traditions were appropriated and modified by the middle classes in the nineteenth century and celebrated as well under socialism. Folklore performances that drew from regional cultures throughout the former Yugoslavia highlighted Yugoslav "brotherhood and unity."
Important culture heroes are symbols of the long history of Croat people. Two prominent figures are King Tomislav, the first king, and Ban Josip Jelacic, a noble military leader under Austro-Hungarian rule. Foods, both national and regional, and language are important symbols of national and regional identity.
Emergence of the Nation. Croats as a people and a country trace their history to the medieval Kingdom of Croats. Through much of their history, Croats were ruled by another political body, but there were movements to establish national recognition or independence.
Slavic peoples migrated into the Balkans and along the Dalmatian coast in the sixth century. They displaced or absorbed the Illyrians, who may be the ancestors of modern Albanians. These Slavs encountered other nomadic peoples, primarily from the Middle East, including the Avars, Alans, and Antes. The mixture of these peoples produced the southern Slavs. The various southern Slavs remained disparate tribal groups with no clear identity as Croats or Serbs until the ninth century.
The Kingdom of Croatia had been established by the tenth century. In 1102, the Croats came under Hungarian rule. Croatia agreed to follow the king of Hungary but retained its own governmental body, the Sabor, and its own governor, or Ban. Through the years of Hungarian rule, the relationship shifted back and forth from more or less equal partners in
Since the twelfth century, Croatia has been largely under the domination of others. The Ottoman Empire took a portion of the country for approximately 100 years, after the mid-sixteenth century. Croatia then asked the Austrian Hapsburgs for help against the Turks. This may have been the start of a Croatian preference for the Austrians and dislike for the Hungarians. The Hapsburgs established the Military Frontier creating a buffer zone between Croatia and Austria to the north, and the Ottoman empire to the south. It also created a large pocket of non-Croat people within Croat lands. Orthodox Slavs who fled Bosnia were moved into the Military Frontier to serve as resident soldiers and were given free title to land.
Croatia remained under Hapsburg rule until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when Napoleon conquered Croatia in 1809. The so-called Illyrian Empire lasted until the fall of Napoleon, and Croatia returned to Austro-Hungarian rule. In 1840 a Croatian National Party was formed. Croats began to search for a national identity, including a Croatian language, literature, and history. Rural populations were believed to be the curators of "authentic Croatian culture." Croats also began to look to Serbs and other southern Slavs as people with whom they shared a linguistic and cultural affinity. After World War I, Croatia joined other southern Slavs in the first Yugoslavia. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) was born out of the Treaty of Versailles. At first, Croats welcomed the union but soon resented the Serbian monarch and the fact that the seat of government was in Belgrade, the Serbian capital. In 1928, the Ustasha Party was formed with the goal of winning independence. Italy and Germany supported this movement and its terrorist activities. In 1941, when the Axis powers occupied Yugoslavia, the Ustasha Party became the ruling faction in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). It is not clear, however, that a majority of Croats supported or identified with the Ustasha Party. Modern Croats generally disclaim association with the NDH.
Fascist Croatia was responsible for the extermination of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies. In the recent war (1991–1995), Serbs used the term "Ustasha" as a very negative term to refer to any Croat. This term, and the Croat term "Chetnik" for Serbs, also harking back to the time of World War II, served to distance the Serbs and Croats from each other, and remind both sides of a time when atrocities were committed.
During World War II, there was also a war in the Yugoslav territories for internal control of the region By then the first Yuboslavia had come apart. Josip Broz (Tito) was the leader of the Partisans; he was born and raised in Croatia. Many Croats joined the Partisans. Eventually Partisans prevailed. Modern Croats claim they were the dominant national group in the Partisan army, though Serbs and Bosnians make the same claim.
Under socialism, a Yugoslav identity was promoted and nationalism was suppressed. Singing Croatian songs said to be nationalistic could lead to a jail term. Maspok, or the "Croatian Spring," the only large-scale nationalist movement under Tito's regime, was put down in 1971. It was led by important Croatian communists and was based on economic disagreement with the Serb elite in Belgrade.
Economic and political problems escalated after Tito died. Some of the socialist leaders recast themselves as nationalist leaders. Croats began to express resentment against the Yugoslav government and the favoritism they believed Serbs received in government jobs. Many believed themselves to be economically superior and able to stand alone. Economically, the entire country was in a crisis, but Slovenia and Croatia had some advantages, including proximity to western Europe and a tourist industry on the Dalmatian coast. The first free elections were held in Slovenia and Croatia in 1990. The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) was formed, and Franjo Tudjman, a former communist and nationalist, rose to power.
In the late 1980s tension began to build between Croats and Serbs in the former Yugoslavia. Violent incidents began to erupt in Croatia in February 1991. Croatia declared independence from socialist Yugoslavia in 1991. War broke out in 1991 with Yugoslav National Army (JNA). At the end of 1991 there was full-scale war in Croatia. The war was between the Serbs, in what had been the Republic of Serbia in the former Yugoslavia, and Croats in the newly independent Croatia. The reasons for the war are very complex. Very simply, while Croatia wanted to separate from Yugoslavia, Serbs were largely unwilling to allow this to happen, probably largely for economic reasons.
The first president of the new democratic Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, died in 1999. The HDZ no longer controls the parliament, and young people feel that the country is becoming a democratic and modern European nation.
Architecture reflects the influence of the bordering nations. Austrian and Hungarian influences are visible in public space and buildings in the north and central regions. Large squares named for culture heroes, well-groomed parks, and pedestrian-only zones, are features of these orderly towns and cities. Above-ground trams provide excellent transportation. Muted colors prevail, especially tones of yellow and gold.
Zagreb, the largest and most important city, includes an upper city (Gornji Grad) and a lower city (Kaptol). The heart of the city is the Square of Ban Jelacic. In 1848, the Austrian government presented Jelacic with a bronze statue of himself that was placed in this central square. Croatian names for streets and squares were often replaced with socialist names after 1945, only to be returned to their original names in 1991.
The University of Zagreb was established in 1669. Its faculties are spread around the central portion of the city. Important public buildings include the Sabor as well as ministries, embassies, and government offices. One of the most important public buildings is the Gothic cathedral of Saint Stefan. Inside the cathedral, there is a carved stone inscription in Glagolithic, the alphabet first used in Croatia. The Dolac is the large central farmer's market. Perhaps the most important public place in daily life is the café, and in Zagreb there are many. People rarely meet in their homes, which are small and crowded. When visitors do enter a private home, they are usually invited only into a parlor or living room area, or the kitchen. Whether in a café or a home, people generally socialize around a table. In public spaces, people maintain privacy by avoiding conversation or using formal terms of address.
In the suburbs beyond the older, central section of Zagreb, there are apartment buildings and a smaller open market. There is almost always a Catholic church. The most remote suburbs of New Zagreb have high-rise Soviet-style apartment blocks.
The rural areas of Zagorija and Slavonia still have some traditional houses that are mostly built of brick or stone. In cities, houses are built right up to the street. An inner courtyard sometimes provides space for a small garden. Modern houses in cities and villages usually have two or three stories with masonry and stucco. Many people build their own houses, beginning with a simple bedroom–living
Along the coast, the architecture is Mediterranean. Houses usually are made of stucco and painted white, and have red tile roofs. Cities and towns still have the characteristic open markets, squares, and Catholic churches, but are less likely to be laid out in a neat grid.
Food in Daily Life. The main meal of the day is a late lunch. In the north and inland, the majority of the foods has an Austrian or Hungarian flavor. A typical lunch includes chicken or beef soup, cooked meat (often pork), potatoes, and bread. Greens with vinegar and oil are served in the spring and summer, and pickled vegetables in the winter. Along the coast, a meal usually includes fish and pasta, risotto, or polenta. Lamb is common in the Dalmatian highland region. Breakfast is simple, usually consisting of strong coffee and bread with jam. The traditional dinner typically consists of leftovers from lunch, cold meats, and cheese with bread. People usually eat in their own homes, although they also eat snacks on the streets. Restaurants are usually very formal and expensive. A variety of fast foods are available, including foods typical of ethnic minorities. While people rarely eat in restaurants, almost everyone has coffee in cafés on a regular basis.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. For holidays or special occasions, there are larger quantities of food, particularly meat. Roast pork with the skin ( pecenka ) is popular in Zagreb and Slavonia. Special cakes are also prepared. Fried cheese, octopus salad, spicy grilled meats, and dishes made with phyllo reflect different cultural influences. Large quantities of alcohol are part of any celebration. In Slavonia, this is usually a plum brandy; in Zagreb and on the coast, grape or herb brandies are popular. Whenever people get together, they usually drink together. Strong Turkish-style coffee and espresso are important symbols of hospitality. Men usually are offered an alcoholic drink.
Basic Economy. People no longer produce food primarily for their own consumption; although, during the war from 1991 to 1995 people depended on kitchen gardens and subsistence fishing, particularly on the coast. Agriculture, however, remains an important industry. Steel manufacture, chemical production, and oil refineries are also important, as are textiles, shipbuilding, and food processing.
Land Tenure and Property. Since the end of socialism, the country has been in the process of transferring property to private ownership. There have been difficulties in the cases of apartments and houses that were confiscated under socialism, and have been occupied for many years by families other than the original owners. The inhabitants of government-owned apartments have been given opportunities to buy their homes. The transformation of industries from government to private ownership is largely complete.
Division of Labor. Division of labor in the workplace is based largely on skill and educational level. Individuals whose families are professional are likely to enter the professions, while working-class families largely produce working-class children. Under socialism, family connections could help one achieve a position. This was consistent with the national culture and was not necessarily a product of socialism. Communist Party membership increased one's potential for good employment. It is not uncommon for people to retire to help care for a grandchild, while younger men and women continue to work after becoming parents.
Classes and Castes. An unofficial class system is based on one's family name and professional status rather than wealth. Communist Party membership challenged this class system, although it was not uncommon for prominent families to join the party. In more recent years, Croats increasingly became discontented with the socialist government, particularly people who were well educated, professional, and from prominent families.
Symbols of Social Stratification. Economic indicators of high social status include style of dress, material wealth such as a house or apartment in a city, an automobile, a vacation house, and international travel. Less obvious indicators are educational level and occupation. Most high-status individuals speak English well and are likely to speak one other European language. Dialect is also an indicator of social status. People from a city have higher status than people from villages, though many urban dwellers have village family connections. High-status individuals are usually Croats. They may be of mixed ethnicity but are members of a predominantly Croatian family. Jewish families are likely to be of relatively high status. Ethnic Albanians are usually at the bottom of the social system, and Gypsies are completely outside it.
Government. Croatia is a democratic republic with a parliamentary government based on a constitution established in 1990. The parliament (Sabor) has a House of Representatives and a House of Counties. The latter is advisory only and has equal representation from every region. Seats are set aside in the House of Representatives for ethnic minorities and Croats in the diaspora. Representatives are elected for four-year terms.
Leadership and Political Officials. The president of the republic is elected for a five-year term and may only serve two consecutive terms. There is also a prime minister.
There are thirteen parties with representatives in the government. The dominant party since 1991 has been the HDZ. Some of the smaller parties formed a coalition and won the elections after Tudjman's death.
Social Problems and Control. Since the war of 1991–1995, there is increased crime, particularly of a petty nature. There are more beggars visible on the streets. Most of the individuals are people who are displaced or refugees, or otherwise left out of the current system as a result of war and political change. Some elderly people, for example, had pensions that were paid in another of the republics of the former Yugoslavia. Others who had money in banks outside Croatia may have lost their savings. For the most part, however, people are coping with the help of family. Croatia and non-governmental organizations provide some safety net for refugees.
Military Activity. In the former Yugoslavia, all men were required to serve one year of military duty, either right after high school, or if they went on to university, during or at the end of their university education. Usually people served their military duty in a republic other than the one in which they were born and lived. Beginning in 1983, women could voluntarily join the military. The new Croatian Army grew out of a para-military established originally as Croatia began to feel threatened and vulnerable before the outbreak of war in 1991. As tensions built in the former Yugoslavia, Croats began to refuse to serve in the Yugoslav Army. During the war, all young men were expected to register for military service. Generally men from the same village or locality served together during the war, even though this meant that a village could lose a number of its young men in one battle. Because the different sides spoke the same language (more or less), and dressed more or less the same, regional dialects, and actually knowing one's comrades in arms became important. In the new state of Croatia, young men are now required once again to register for a year of military duty.
Social problems since independence, include the needs of refugees and other victims of war. There is a School of Social Welfare in the University of Zagreb. There is a very small social welfare system. In the former Yugoslavia, there was little unemployment or welfare, though a social security system existed. However, if one did not have a job, one
Active programs of change pertain primarily to the shift to democracy and free-market capitalism, including related issues such as intellectual property rights.
Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) came to the country during and just after the Serb-Croat war (1991–1995). They included international relief organizations such as the International Red Cross, church-based organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and Caritas (Care), and other private voluntary groups, including Doctors without Borders. Some of these groups attempted to address problems in Croatia, while others used Croatia as a base of operations to carry out work in Bosnia. United Nations peacekeeping forces were a visible presence just after the war.
Division of Labor by Gender. Traditionally, a loose division of labor allocates housework and child care to women and outside work to men. But women have long been part of the labor force. Before socialism, rural women worked alongside men in fields and on the farm. They also prepared meals and processed food for storage, kept the house, did laundry, and minded the children. Under socialism, women were encouraged to join the workforce. Today, most women expect to have a job or career.
When women work for wages, men share some of the duties at home. Grandfathers traditionally spend time with grandchildren, and fathers take a fairly active role in raising children. Men are less likely to clean, do laundry, cook, and to think of domestic work or child care as their responsibility.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Croatia is portrayed as a patriarchal society, but women have fairly equal status with men. Men enjoy more privileges and have a higher status and many families prefer sons to daughters. Women are represented in most professions, politics, and the arts and are not likely to take a secondary role in public life. Women are as likely as men to pursue higher education. Status differences are as marked between older and younger people, and between professional or working-class individuals, as they are between the genders. Gender differences are more pronounced among farmers and the working classes than among professionals.
Marriage. Couples arrange their own marriages. Young people usually meet in school, through friends, or at work. They often begin to spend time together in the company of a larger group of friends. A young man and woman usually have a serious relationship before they meet each other's families. Individuals theoretically have a great deal of choice about marriage partners, but Croats tend to marry people of the same nationality and religion and with the same educational level and social status. Most men and women marry in their early 20s. Monogamous marriage is the rule. Divorce is increasingly common, although it is still considered undesirable. Pregnancy before marriage is not uncommon, but is not usually the sole reason for getting married.
Domestic Unit. In the past, three-generation households were the norm. A married couple usually lived with the husband's parents. Today young people are ambivalent about living with their parents or grandparents after marriage. There is still a cultural preference for extended families, but young people tend to want privacy.
Young married couples usually live with one set of parents or a grandparent because of a shortage of housing. There is also a preference for keeping small children in the care of resident grandparents and for caring for the elderly at home. Young children are often placed in day care or kindergarten. Increasingly, elderly people spend some time in a nursing home, which usually creates a huge financial burden for their families.
Inheritance. The most important property passed from one generation to another is a house or apartment. Usually one child in a family inherits a residence, which he or she occupies. Family wealth, however, ideally is distributed equally among all the sons and daughters. In the past only sons inherited, and in some regions, only eldest sons. Daughters usually were given a dowry; in rare cases, this might include some land.
Kin Groups. Croats practice bilateral kinship. In principle they favor the father's side of the family. Couples traditionally resided with the husband's parents after marriage, and were expected to have more to do with the husband and father's relatives. Traditional kinship terms reflect this, with different terms for the husband's parents and the wife's parents, and for the two mothers-in-law. In practice, however, many families have resided with or near the wife's parents. Whether a couple live with or are closer to one set of parents or another depends to some extent on personal preference, and also on economic matters (who has room in their house for the couple, who is likely to leave a house or apartment to the couple).
Infant Care. Infants are cared for at home, primarily by the mother. They usually are swaddled tightly in blankets when they are very small. As toddlers, they are dressed in multiple layers of clothing to protect them against the cold. Infants stay close to their caretakers, usually sleeping with their parents or in the same room. They often are breast fed, although bottle feeding is not uncommon. Women do not breast feed in any public settings. Infants and toddlers are supervised very closely and are not encouraged to explore or move about on their own. Mothers or other adult caretakers feed children, dress them, and perform routine physical care well into the young childhood years.
Child Rearing and Education. Family members are the preferred caretakers for children. Young children are placed in day care when they are not taken care of by their parents or grandparents. Kindergartens
Higher Education. People value higher education, although families that have been working class through the generations tend to expect their children to stay in that class. The University of Zagreb is the largest of the five universities. There are fifty one schools and colleges (faculties) associated with the universities. Zagreb has a central National and University Library, which all citizens may use. Individuals who do not attend university usually attend a secondary school to prepare for work. Secondary curricula include gymnasium (college preparatory general education), technical education (mechanical training), and specialized education (bookkeeping or office skills).
People stand close to one another and talk loudly. Strangers stare openly at one another. Formality is maintained in language and behavior when people do not know each other well. Strangers nod their heads in passing. In stores, offices, and places of business, people use formal language for greetings and good-byes. Failure to greet someone in a context that requires a greeting and an overly familiar greeting are serious breaches of etiquette. People who are on friendly terms greet each other more informally and usually kiss on both cheeks. Men and women kiss, women and women kiss, and men kiss other men who are family members or very close associates. Young people are expected to offer the first greeting to older people, and women to men. The formal "you" is used unless people are age mates, good friends, or coworkers or have reached a stage where the dominant person invites the person of lesser status to address him or her informally.
Religious Beliefs. For many people, Catholicism is a symbol of nationality even though they may not attend mass or participate in other religious activities or ceremonies. Most young people are baptized, and most marriages are conducted in a church. Other religions include Eastern or Serbian Orthodox, Islam, Judaism, and Protestantism. Since the war, there has been a more visible presence of Protestant missionaries, including members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and Jehovah's Witness. There is some interest in Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, among young adults.
Religious Practitioners. Catholic priests and nuns are the most visible religious practitioners in Croatia. There are ministers of a few Protestant sects (particularly the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists), and religious leaders for some of the minority ethnic and religious communities. Likewise, there is evidence of some interest in non-Western religions, particularly in Zagreb. (Zagreb has a restaurant run by Hari Krishnas, for example). Since Croatian independence, however, Catholicism is more visible and more significant in Croatian daily life.
Rituals and Holy Places. Most families now observe Catholic rites of passage, including Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and Marriage ceremonies in the Church. Funerals complete with a Funeral Mass are also important. Christmas and Easter are once again important national holidays, and are widely celebrated. Churches and cemeteries are important places in most peoples' lives. Many people have made pilgrimages to nearby Medjugorje in Herzegovina. This is a site where five young people claim to have seen repeated apparitions of the Virgin Mary, and where many people claim to have been cured of debilitating illnesses.
Death and the Afterlife. Most Croats hold to a Roman Catholic vision of death and resurrection of the soul. Interestingly, all Saints' Day (Day of the Dead) is the only Catholic holiday that was celebrated by most of the ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia. It is still a very important observance in Croatia. Families wash and prepare graves, and decorate them with candles, flowers and photographs. People often make several trips to graveyards during the days just before and after All Saints' Day.
Under socialism, all citizens had access to medical care, and this is still the case. Physicians begin training at the start of their university education. The usual period of training for a physician is six years.
Secular holidays include New Year's Day, International Labor Day (1 May), Croatian Statehood Day (30 May), Antifascist Uprising Day (22 June), and the Day of National Gratitude (5 August). International Women's Day (8 March) is still popularly observed.
Support for the Arts. The arts are generally well supported in Croatia, including literature, fine arts, graphic arts and performance arts. Folk art, music and dance are also important, and part of the Croatian national identity. In the former Yugoslavia, all these activities were supported directly by the state. This is no longer entirely true, although the state is still involved in support of the arts, and the general Croat population pays attention to and appreciates many forms of art.
The Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences oversees all research and activities in science, the humanities, the social sciences and the fine arts. It is considered the successor organization of the Yugoslav Academy of Arts and Sciences. Twenty research institutes are associated with this academy. There is a new National and University Library in Zagreb.
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—M ARY K ATHERINE G ILLILAND