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Dubrovnik (Italian Ragusa, population 43,770 in 2001) is a port and tourist resort on the Adriatic Sea coast in the extreme south of Croatia.

Dubrovnik was founded by joining two small towns: Laus (name comes from the Latin word for rock), which was on a small island off the southern Dalmatian coast, providing shelter for the Italic people who were refugees from the nearby Epidaurum; and Dubrava (comes from the word for oak), a settlement of the Slavic immigrants at the foot of the forested Srđ hill. The strip of wetland was later reclaimed as a landfill, unifying the city around the newly made plaza (today Placa or Stradun).

The city was fortified and two harbors were built on each side of the isthmus. Its maritime trade grew as it became the only eastern Adriatic city-state that rivalled Venice in the Middle Ages. Supported by its wealth and skilled diplomacy, the Latin/Slavic Ragusa/Dubrovnik achieved a remarkable level of development during the 15th and 16th century.

Dubrovnik was one of the centers of the development of the Croatian language, home of numerous poets and playwrights such as Ivan Gundulić and Marin Držić. Notable were also the painters Lovro and Vicko Dobričević, not to mention the scientist and diplomat Ruđer Josip Bošković.

The city was ruled by aristocracy, and marriage between members of different social classes was strictly forbidden. The superficial head of state was the Duke (Knez) or during Venetian suzerainty the Rector, but the real power was in the hands of two Councils (Vijeće) that were held by the nobility.

The government of Dubrovnik was, however, liberal in some other ways -- it abolished slave trade in 1418 and became the first state to recognize the independence of the newly formed United States of America.

The city's old flag has the word Libertas (freedom) on it, and the entrance to the Lovrijenac fortress just outside the city walls bears the inscription Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro, meaning 'Liberty is not sold for any kind of gold'.

The patron saint of the city is St Blaise (Sveti Vlaho in Croatian). His statues are seen around the city. It has a importance similar to that of St Mark Evangelist to Venice.

The old city is a World Heritage Site.


From its establishment in the 7th century AD, the town was under the protection of the Byzantine Empire. After the Crusades Dubrovnik came under the sovereignty of Venice (1205-1358), and by the Peace Treaty of Zadar in 1358 it became part of the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom. Having been granted the entire self-government, bound to pay only a tribute to the king and providing assistance with its fleet, Dubrovnik started its life as a free state (Ragusan Republic) that reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries.

In 1526 Dubrovnik acknowledged the supremacy of the Turkish Sultan (annual tribute was paid to the Sultan). A crisis of Mediterranean shipping and especially a catastrophic earthquake on the April 6 1667. that killed over 5000 citizens, including the Rector, leveling most of the public buildings, ruined the well-being of the Republic. With great effort the Republic recovered a bit, but still remained a shadow of the former Republic.

With the January 26, 1699 peace agreement, the Dubrovnik Republic sold/gave two patches of its coast to the Ottoman Empire so that the Venetians wouldn't be able to attack them from land, only from the sea. The northeastern land border, the small town of Neum, is still the only outlet of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Adriatic sea. (The southeastern border village of Sutorina later became part of Montenegro which has coastline to the south.)

In 1806, Dubrovnik surrendered to French forces, as that was the only way to cut a month's long siege by the Russian-Montenegrin fleets (during which 3000 cannon balls fell on the city). The French lifted the siege and saved Dubrovnik for the time being. The French army, led by Napoleon, entered Dubrovnik in 1806. In 1808 Marshal Marmont abolished the Dubrovnik Republic (est. 15th century).

In 1815, by the resolution of Congress of Vienna, Dubrovnik was annexed to Austria (later Austria-Hungary), and remained annexed until 1918. when it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia from 1929). At the very beginning of the World War II Dubrovnik was first part of the Independent State of Croatia. From April 1941 until September 1943 Dubrovnik was occupied by the Italian army and after that it was occupied by Germans. In October 1944 Partisans liberated Dubrovnik from the Germans. In 1945 Dubrovnik became part of the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia, later Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Following Croatia's independence in 1991, the city was under siege by the Serbian-Montenegrin forces from October 1991 until May 1992. The old city was shelled on the December 6 1991 and some buildings suffered some damage which has since been repaired.

External links

The music group The Dubrovniks owes its name to the origin of the father of one of the members.