Croatian coat of arms
The Croatian coat of arms consists of six smaller coat of arms, where five of them crown the main coat, the so-called šahovnica (checkerboard or chequy).
The šahovnica consists of 13 red and 12 silver (white) fields. The red/white checkerboard has been a symbol of Croatian kings since at least the 10th century, ranging in size from 3×3 to 8×8, but most commonly 5×5, like the current coat.
The oldest source showing this coat is a genealogy of the Habsburger, dated from 1512 to 1518. Maybe it is of an even older origin. 1525 it was used on a votive medal.
The crowning coats are added in 1991, and represent the historical regions, from which Croatia originated. They are, from left to right:
- the oldest known Croatian coat of arms: a golden six-pointed star (representing the daystar) over a silver moon on a blue shield. It represents the capital city Zagreb and central Croatia in general.
- an older coat of arms of the Republic of Dubrovnik: two red stripes on a dark blue shield, given to Dubrovnik by the Arpad dynasty who were Croato-Hungarian kings in the 15th century.
- the coat of arms of Dalmatia: three golden, crowned lions, two over one, on a blue shield. Some sources speak of leopards, but most pictures show lions. This coat was Dalmatian since the 13th century and probably originates from the Anjou ruling dynasty.
- the coat of arms of Istria: a golden goat with red hooves and horns, on a dark blue shield.
- the coat of arms of Slavonia: two silver stripes on blue shield (representing rivers Drava and Sava that mark northern and southern border of Slavonia), between them on a red field a black, running marten (kuna), above a six-pointed, golden star. This coat was assigned to Slavonia by king Wladislaw Jagiello in 1496.
Unlike the majority of countries, symbols of Croatian identity are more frequently derived from it's coat than from Croatian flag
The issue of the coat-of-arms became a political dispute during the 1990's:
- Some right-winger Croats claimed that the colour of the top left square is a mark of whether Croatia is independent or ruled by foreigners, white or red respectively. However, this is a red herring because only the short-lived Nazi puppet state "Independent State of Croatia" had the upper left square white with such an intent. Croatia's currently independent and the first square is red.
- Some groups representing Holocaust survivors of the Ustaša WWII regime claimed the symbol had racist connotations. Some British groups were particularly vociferous during the 1996 European Soccer (UEFA) Championship in England. This is another red herring since the same symbols represented Croatia much before the Second World War.