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Zadar on the Crossroad of Nationalisms in the 20th Century

  • Magaš, Damir1
  • 1 Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Geography, O.K, Kresimica IV, 2 Zadar, 23000, Republic of Croatia (E-mail
Published Article
Kluwer Academic Publishers
Publication Date
Jun 01, 1999
DOI: 10.1023/A:1007098213067
Springer Nature


Zadar, the ex capital of Dalmatia (South Croatia), within the borders of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, reached the 20th century as a well developed administrative and governing centre. It is a city situated on the eastern (Croatian) Adriatic coast, with an almost 3000 years old tradition and rich cultural and art heritage. After the disintegration of Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was proclaimed (later: the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). Zadar, as a separate enclave (in Italian named Zara), was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. It was the result of the Treaty of Rapallo, by which Zadar was separated from its region. This alienated enclave covered 57 km2 and there were about 20,000 inhabitants. In this way, the normal regional function of Zadar was interrupted which lasted untill the end of WW II. It was a period of isolation, economic stagnation, smuggling, political marginality and military-strategical importance. Zadar became not only one of the symbols of the failure of Croats to create their independent state after Austro-Hungarian disintegration but also a symbol of the realisation of nationalistic aspirations of the Kingdoms of Italy and Serbia. In the first place Zadar lost its function as a leading governmental and strong economical centre of South Croatia (Dalmatia). The great majority of Croatian inhabitants had to leave the city. Thousands of Italians immigrated, which led to a complete change in the ethnic structure. The most disastrous consequence was the air-raid destruction of Zadar during WW II., in which about 5000 people died. After the destroyed town had been returned to the motherland Republic of Croatia, the restoration took a long time. The borders of Zadar district were often changed, its territory reduced or increased. Since Croatia gained independence, the role of this geographic area has become politically extremely important. Today, Zadar numbers 80,000 inhabitants. The recent NATO intention of installing a logistic basis near it (1998) also proves that strategic and geopolitical interests, regarding this city and its region, continue.

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