Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia, is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southern Europe, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb.
Croatian Society and Culture
The majority of the population are Croats. Minorities include Serbs, Hungarians and Gypsies. The population is predominantly Roman Catholic, although there are Christian Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish minorities, mostly living in Zagreb.
The Catholic Church plays a large role in Croatian society. Historically, the clergy played a pivotal role in the country’s education and culture. Under Communist rule The Church had difficult relations with the authorities, constantly remaining loyal to Rome. Between 1945 and 1952, many priests were shot or imprisoned.
After communism was defeated, the church slowly started to re-create its once prominent role in people’s lives. Croatians are especially devoted to the Blessed Virgin (called “Gospa”). There are sanctuaries throughout the country built in her honour. Each village and town has a patron saint and that saint’s feast day is celebrated with a procession and church ceremony. Some villages still have a traditional bonfire on their patron saints’ day. Many professionals also have their own patron saint.
Croats are extremely proud of their heritage and culture and are thus staunch nationalists. They call their country “Our Beautiful Homeland” (“Lijepa naša”), which is also the title of the national anthem.
The sense of nationalism comes both from their long and rich culture as well as a legacy of foreign invasion and control.
Folklore plays a key role in preserving the culture. Life experiences are translated into verse, poetic songs, melodies, fairy tales, symbolic rituals, music, dance, costumes, and jewellery. Folksongs and poems often attest to the sentiment and regard between family members.
A Family Orientated People
The family is still the basis of the social structure. The extended family is the norm and relatives remain quite close with both the mother and the father’s sides. The family provides its members with a social network and assistance in times of need. Even though it is becoming increasingly common for the nuclear family to have its own house, Croatians will take in elderly parents rather than send them to a nursing home. Weekends are considered family time. Few Croatians will allow business concerns to interfere with this important part of their lives.