Area 22,000 square mi (56,542 square km)
Population 4.236 million 2014
Highest Point Dinara 604 ft (1,830 m)
Lowest Point 0 m
GDP $57.22 billion 2014
Primary Natural Resources oil, coal, bauxite, hydropower.
CROATIA IS AT once one of the oldest and newest states in Europe. There has been a Croatian state of some kind, with varying degrees of independence, since the 9th century. Croatia was one of the first to break away from the disintegrating Yugoslav Federation in 1990 and is today one of the more successful economies in the Balkans. Unlike Serbia and many of its other neighbors, Croatia has had closer ties to the West for centuries, as Catholics rather than Orthodox, and as subjects of Western rulers rather than Turkish sultans like their neighbors to the south and east. Today, Catholicism is regaining importance in Croatian national identity.
The physical shape of Croatia is reminiscent of a croissant, the symbol of defiance to Turkish invaders in the 17th century: The inland (or Pannonian) region consists of Croatia proper (with the capital, Zagreb) and Slavonia to the east. The coastal region consists of Istria and Dalmatia, extending along the ADRIATIC SEA coast for nearly 1,200 mi (2,000 km). The coast is dominated by inlets and over a thousand islands, creating a coastline of 3,618 mi (5,835 km). Only 69 of the islands are inhabited, the largest being Krk, Brac, and Cres. The interior consists of flat plains along the Hungarian border and the river valleys of the Drava and Sava (tributaries of the DANUBE to the east), and low mountains. The climate here is continental, differing sharply from the Mediterranean climate along the Adriatic. High mountains divide these two regions, extensions of the Julian and Dinaric Alps that run north to south from Istria to Montenegro. Croatia borders a number of countries, mostly former members of Yugoslavia: SLOVENIA to the northwest, SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO to the east and south, and BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA to the east. HUNGARY lies across the Drava to the north.
Much of Croatia’s history is dominated by Hungary, first in a personal union between the Croatian and Hungarian royal families dating from 1102, followed by outright incorporation within the Hungarian kingdom from the 18th century. Croatia formed the highly militarized frontier between the Hapsburg and Ottoman dominions for several centuries. The coastal provinces of Dalmatia and Istria had a different history, however, falling under the administration of the Venetian Republic from the early 15th century. The famous maritime republics of Ragusa and Spalato were founded by Venetians and today (as Dubrovnik and Split) remain two of the most famous tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. At the end of World War I, Croatia and Dalmatia joined together as a component state within the new kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia.
Today’s Croatian economy is split evenly between agriculture and industry. The best farmland is in the far northeast, where corn, wheat, and fruits are grown. Timber is also a significant resource in this area. Industry is mostly light, concentrating on chemicals and plastics, plus some extractive products such as coal, petroleum, and bauxite. Privatization delays and unemployment are Croatia’s biggest issues today, as it works toward full membership in the EUROPEAN UNION. Tourism is on the rise as the region becomes more secure and is currently Croatia’s biggest source of revenue. The Dalmatian coast is sunny and warm year-round, and is called the Riviera of the Adriatic. Dubrovnik was heavily damaged during warfare in the early 1990s but has been rebuilt under its status as a United Nations World Cultural Heritage Site.