The Croatian people (or Croats) today are located mainly in Croatia, as well as in nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nonetheless, they are also recognized as official minorities in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia. The Croatian diaspora can also be found reaching into the United States, Canada, Chile, and Argentina, as well as many Western European countries. The Croatian people is a South Slavic ethnic group with a long history, whose roots can be dated back to the 7th Century. They were originally from Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean. They speak the Croatian language, which is the official language of Croatia, and one of the official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Croatian architecture has a long history, and its evolution can be traced back to its origins in the 7th Century CE. Much of Croatia's constructions bear traces of various dominant European architectural styles. When Croatians first moved to present day Croatia in the 7th Century, they were influenced by Roman art and culture, especially that associated with the rise of Christianity. In the following centuries, grand cities were built along the country's coastlines. The famous Cathedral of St. Anastasia was built in the 13th Century, which reflected growing Gothic influences. Newly built towns in the 14th Century had strong Gothic features as well, characterized by high towers in the shapes of square prisms. During the Renaissance era, Baroque and Rococo styles of buildings and cathedrals were built. In the 19th Century, increased urbanization was accompanied by greater Austrian influences from that period, marked by Romanticism and Historicism. Unlike many other areas, a good deal of the Croatian populace has always lived in urban areas throughout much of the country's history.
Croatian cuisine is very diverse, varying greatly according the nation's different regions. While in coastal regions the cuisine is largely influenced by Roman, Greek, and Mediterranean cuisines, using olive oil, herbs and spieces such as cinnamon, clove, rosemary, sage and bay leaf, cuisine in the mainland regions bear traces of early Slavic influence and, more recently, influences from Hungarian and Turkish cuisine. The latter favor the regular use of lard and such spices as garlic, paprika, and black pepper for cooking. Commonly used ingredients include various kinds of meat, seafood, meat and vegetarian stews, pastas, soups, and cheeses. Famous dishes include bean stew, fish stew, mushroom soup with buckwheat, sausage and potato casserole, and walnut rolls. There are not many dietary restrictions in general, other than those associated with certain Roman Catholic traditions.
Croatian culture is unique in its diversity of cultural, geographical, and historical influences. Located in south-central Europe and having a rich historical legacy to its name, Croatian culture has absorbed a diverse array of influences. While the northern plains bear traces of Austria and Hungry, the coastal areas were highly influenced by Roman and Mediterranean cultures, and the central hinterland regions bear influences of Turkish culture. The nation tolerates difference, celebrates integration, and encourages innovation. It does not assume a singular form, but instead embraces its diverse past and envisions an openness between cultures into the future. It adapts to change, but at the same time knows well where it came from. Association football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Croatia, and much of today's Croatian pop music is heavily influenced by past folk music elements. The country has a burgeoning film industry as well, and the people and their government place a high emphasis on education, which is often available at little to no cost, even up to the post-secondary level. The vast majority of Croatians are Roman Catholic, with a notable minority of Eastern Orthodox adherents being found there as well..
After gaining independent status in 1991, following the disband of former Yugoslavia, Croatians have increasingly developed their own unique identities. Folklore, music, and dance form an integral part of Croatian identity, and are celebrated by Croatian people in general. Also, Croatia has seven sites on the World Heritage List, as well as numerous customs placed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritages. Each of these must be carefully preserved and protected. The state in general places a great deal of emphasis on efforts in preserving Croatian culture and heritage. Although Croatia is a small country surrounded by many world powers, and is by no means a dominant culture, Croatian culture is flourishing and has become an important modern European culture nonetheless.
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