- George Bernard Shaw
From History To Beyond...
The very favourable geographical position of Dubrovnik made its development based on maritime and merchant activities very successful
through its history. From the entrance to the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is the first port protected by islands on the maritime route
to the West, and by way of the Neretva Valley, it has the fastest connection with its hinterland. New archaelogical excavations in the
foundations of the present City prove that a settlement existed in the 6th century or even earlier. It was enlarged by the arrival of the
Croats after the destruction of the ancient Epidaurum (modern day Cavtat) in the 7th century. The intensified traffic between the East
and the West during and after the Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries heralded the prosperity of maritime and merchant centres in the
Mediterranean and Adriatic of which Dubrovnik was one. Liberation from the Venetian influence which Dubrovnik achieved by the Zadar Treaty in
1358, was crucial for its later successful development.
The other Dalmatian towns did not succeed and they finally came under the rule of the Venetian state in 1420. During the 14th and in the 15th centuryies, Dubrovnik, along with Venice and Ancona, became the most significant seafaring and merchant centre at the Adriatic. By agreements and land-purchasing Dubrovnik enlarged its territory from Klek in the north and to Sutorina at the entrance of the Bay of Boka including the islands Mljet, Lastovo, Elaphites and Lokrum. In the 16th century the legal status of the Dubrovnik Republic - panoramic view on old city's core - was completely established which meant the independent election of the rector and councillors,its own currency and the flag with its patron St. Blasius, the independed legislature and the right to establish consulates abroad. On the basis of the aristocratic social order the permanent supreme power was vested in the Great Council, which consisted of members of aristocratic families. It elected members of the Senate and of the Small Council which was the executive body of the Great Council.
The Rector was elected for a period of a month only as a nominal symbol of power. As early as in the 15th century the Dubrovnik authorities had a very successfully organised transit trade with the Balkans hinterland. Under pressure from the aggressive expansionism of the Turks in the Balkans the Dubrovnik Republic accepted Turkish patronage on payment of an annual tribute in 1525 but, in return it obtained a licence for free trade throughout the entire Turkish Empire with payment of only 2% customs. The small state,deprived of its army, brough its defensive system to perfection by skilful diplomacy and wide consular activities. Non-interference in international conflicts and the patronage of great states, particularly of Spain and the Vatican, enabled the Republic to uphold its sovereignty. The only permanent rival and enemy of the state was the Venetian Republic. The golden age of the Dubrovnik Republic was in the 16th century when the splendour and power of the Venetian Republic declined. The basis of prosperity was seaborne trade. The Dubrovnik merchant navy in the 16th century reached the highest level of quality and nautical skills with some 180 to 200 vessels in its fleet. Shipbuilding developed with larger ships of different types - galleys, trabacolas and navas - and they sailed on distant and more dangerous journeys along the Mediterranean, Black Sea and the open oceans to the northern ports of England and Germany as well as to India and the Americas.
Dubrovnik seamen became well-known and sought after as cargo transporters with widespread maritime interests and trade. Material prosperity and a feeling of security and freedom formed the basic of the culture of living in a humanistic way and stimulated a creative spirit. Dubrovnik reached a magnificent stage in its urban and architectural development which has been sustained to the present time. Famous names in literature and poetry are Marin Držic, Ivan Gundulic, Ruđer Boškovic in science and there are many more in the arts and culture. A general crisis in maritime affairs at the Mediterranean in the 17th century struck the Dubrovnik mercantile trade as well. The disastrous earthquake in 1667 forced the Dubrovnik Republic to fight for its exsistence and the protection of its political sovereignty. In the 18th century Dubrovnik found an opportunity for economic revival in the seaborne trade under a neutral flag until the arrival of Napoleon and the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic in 1808. At the Congress in Vienna in 1815 Dubrovnik region became a part of Dalmatia and Croatia and it has shares the same political destiny with them ever since. Following the declaration of the independence of the Republic of Croatia and the subsequent aggression of Serbia agains Croatia, Dubrovnik was attacked in October 1991 with extreme force by the Serbs and Montenegrans who intended to burn and destroy the whole territory completely. The Dubrovnik region was occupied and devastated and the City itself was totally encircled for eight months, bombarded many times and brutally destroyed particularly on the 6th of December 1991. Today the cultural and historic heritage of Dubrovnik, barbarously damaged in the war, has been mostly restored. Reconstructed hotels, and the valuable assets of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival as well as the other cultural events are essential elements for the development of modern tourism.
Dubrovnik is rich in cultural and historical monuments and is included in UNESCO World Heritage List. Dubrovnik Summer Festival is held annually here, and the city is also the venue for scientific, scholarly and literary conferences (PEN in 1933 and 1993) and world tourist congresses (ASTA, FUAAV, DRV, SNAV, etc.). Nature lovers can find here a true Mediterranean landscape. Sailors will find Marinas and blue sea.
At the beginning of the XXI century, Dubrovnik is the jewel in the crown of one of the new secure modern democracies to emerge from the dramatic upheavals of the last decade.
... A Visitors Impressions
- Dubrovnik is a gorgeous city. The first night there we were walking inside the perimeter of the city and saw a door through the wall that led out onto the cliffs, where a tiny bar was set up on a patio built into the rocks. With just a couple of other tourists, we watched one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen in a place that is as close to paradise as I've ever come......
Oliver Morwinski, Croatia (Jan 2000)
- The Placa, Dubrovnik's wonderful pedestrian promenade, runs from the city bus stop outside Pile Gate to the clock tower at the other end of town. Just inside the Pile Gate, the Franciscan Monastery houses a pharmacy which has been operating since 1391. At the other end of the Placa stands St Blaise's Church, a lovely Italian baroque building, and the Gothic Rector's Palace, built in 1441. The palace is now a museum with furnished rooms, baroque paintings and historical exhibits. Opposite is a bustling morning market......
- Dubrovnik's city walls were built between the 13th and 16th centuries, and are still intact today. Arguably the finest city walls in the world, they are over 2km (1.2mi) long and 25m (82ft) high, with 16 towers. You can't beat the view from here, and a walk along the walls will probably be the highlight of your visit to Dubrovnik......
- One thing not to miss in Dubrovnik if you like to hike and swim, is a 10 minute ferry ride out to the Lokrum Island. When we got there, we walked around through the trees and splashed around in the ocean. It's very peaceful and beautiful. If you feel like a spell in the sun, you could stretch out on Dubrovnik's city beaches, but a better bet is to take the ferry to Lokrum Island. This island, besides it's beauty is a national park, with a rocky nudist beach, a botanical garden and the ruins of a medieval Benedictine monastery......
Don George, Croatia (July 2001.)
University of Zagreb
Centre for Advanced Academic Studies
Don Frana Bulica 4
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Vlasta Brunsko, B.A.
Head of Office of the Centre for Advanced Academic Studies
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