Identification. Croatians are a Slavic people. They began to form as a distinct group in the seventh century as part of a process completed during the modern national integration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At various times, the Croatian name has been used not only for the contemporary Croats but also for two other Slavic tribes (in the vicinity of Krakow, Poland, and in northeast Bohemia). It was used for the first time as a personal name (Horóathos, Horúathos) in the second to third centuries in Tanais on the river Don and on some historic monuments (Trpimir, dux Chroatorum; Branimir, dux Cruatorum) from the ninth century. Science has not yet solved the question of the origin and meaning of the name "Croat(ian)."
Location. Croatia encompasses 56,538 square kilometers and is located between 42° 23′ and 46° 32′ N and 13° 30′ and 19° 26′ E. The north plain—the biggest, most populated, and economically most active part of the country—is separated from the coastal part in the south (east coast of the Adriatic Sea) by the central mountainous region. Considering its location, Croatia is a Pannonian and Adriatic region, at the juncture of the central Danubian Plain and the Mediterranean. The climate in the north is continental, in the central region mountainous, and in the south Mediterranean.
Demography. The majority of Croats (3.5 million) lives in Croatia itself; an additional million live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Slovenia. It is estimated that Croatian emigrants in western Europe, the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand number more than 3 million. Although the number of live births exceeded by 3 percent the number of deceased persons between the censuses of 1971 and 1981, there were 100,000 fewer Croatians because they identified themselves as Yugoslavs.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Croatian language is a South Slavic language and encompasses three major dialects (Štokavian, Čakavian, and Kajkavian). Literary Croatian, developed since the twelfth century on a South Štokavian base (with some influence of other dialects) was accepted in the first half of the nineteenth century as the national language. Since then it has been standardized and has become the uniform means of communication in professional, scientific, and artistic expression. The alphabet is Latin (twenty-five consonants and five vowels). In the past, Slavic alphabets were employed, including glagoljica , which was used in some areas around the Adriatic until the nineteenth century.