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The Croats ( Croatian Hrvati , Sg. Hrvat ) are a South Slavic ethnic group . They are the titular nation of Croatia , where they form the majority of the population with 90.4% (2011), and are defined in the Croatian constitutional preamble of 1990 as the state people of Croatia.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina they are one of the three “constitutive peoples” and a recognized autochthonous minority in the Serbian autonomous province of Vojvodina .

Because of the emigration that took place over the centuries, many people of Croatian descent live in Western Europe , North America , South America and Oceania . Many of them refer to themselves as Croats in the diaspora, regardless of their nationality .

The majority of the Croatians are of the Roman Catholic denomination. They mostly speak the Croatian language , a standard Serbo-Croatian variety . Croatian speakers can easily communicate with Serbian and Bosnian speakers .

The ethnonym

Origin of name

The etymology of the ethnonym Croat (in the self-designation Hrvat ) has not yet been conclusively clarified, but it does not seem to have any Slavic roots.

The modern form Hrvat (Sg. Older also Hrvatin , Pl. Hrvati , older also Hrvate ) goes back to a reconstructed , ancient Slavonic form * chъrvatъ or * chъrvatinъ .

According to the most widespread assumption today, the Slavic root * chъrvat- can be explained by an Iranian etymology. However, various hypotheses exist about the details of such an Iranian etymology. The oldest evidence of such a form is two grave inscriptions in Greek script from the 2nd / 3rd centuries. Century AD, which were found in Tanais on the Sea of ​​Azov and which contain the names ΧΟΡΟΑΘΟΣ ( Horoathos ), ΧΟΡΟΥΑΘΟΣ ( Horouathos ). According to this theory, it is an Iranian ethnonym from the Scythian region north of the Black Sea, which was also used as a personal name in the case of the grave inscriptions, and which was later adopted by the neighboring Slavs to the northwest . The contacts between Slavic and Iranian-speaking groups in this area are evidenced by loanwords of Iranian origin in Slavic.

According to Max Vasmer , * chъrvat- should go back to an old Iranian * (fšu-) haurvatā "cattle keeper" to haurvati "herds". According to a more recent etymology by Oleg N. Trubachev, which was adopted by Alemko Gluhak, * chъrvat- is based on an Iranian form * harvat- , which in turn derives from the root Iranian * har- , older Indo-Iranian * sar- "woman" and an adjective suffix * -ma (n) t- / -va (n) t- . The form * harvat- is therefore etymologically identical to the name of the Sarmatians , which is traced back to * sar-ma (n) t- . * harvat or Sarmatians originally referred to a matriarchal people who are ruled by women, as reported for the Sarmatians of antiquity in Greek texts.

According to another hypothesis, the Croats name is not due to one of the Iranian borrowed into Slavic ethnonym, but to the name of a group within the leadership of the Avar . A proposal for an etymology that is tenable from a linguistic point of view does not yet exist within the framework of this hypothesis.

The ethnonym appears in the oldest surviving sources in the forms Hrъvate, Hrvate (Church Slavonic), Χρωβάτοι (Hrobatoi) (Greek) and Chroati, Croati or Crauati (Latin). It is also mentioned in various sources in the case of western and eastern Slavs, i.e. outside the settlement area of ​​today's Croatians. For example, some sources mention a strain of the Chorvaten in Bohemia, others speak of Croats and White Croats (Белые Хорваты) between the Prut and Dniester (z. B. the Primary Chronicle ). Kroatengaue are mentioned in Carinthia around the 10th century .


The name of the garment “ tie ” goes back to the name of the Croatian people. The Croatian horsemen wore a similar piece of clothing around their necks in the 17th century, a collar with fringes, which made them easy to distinguish. The word “cravate” is mentioned for the first time in the French encyclopedia in the 17th century when Croatian soldiers were staying at the court of Louis XIV in Paris.

The name of the magician Krabat from the Sorbian legends of Lusatia also goes back to the name given by the Croats (formerly also Krabaten ).



The ethnogenesis of the Croatians has not yet been conclusively clarified scientifically. Evidence only exists that in the area of ​​today's Croatia in the 6th / 7th century a settlement of Slavs and Avars took place. Before that, Greeks , Illyrians and Romans lived in what is now Croatia .

In the 7th century AD, the area of ​​today's Croatia probably belonged to the periphery of the Avar Empire .

Arrival of the Croats on the Adriatic Sea ( historicizing painting by Oton Iveković , 1905)
Arrival of the princes Kluk, Lobel, Muhlo, Kosenc, Hrvat and their sisters Tuga and Buga in Dalmatia ( historicizing painting by Ferdinand Quiquerez, 1870)

In his written records (called “De administrando imperio” by humanists ) Constantine VII. Porphyrogennetos reports that a Croatian people in the 7th century were protected against the Avars by the Byzantine emperor Herakleios from their homeland on the Vistula (so-called White Croatia ) was called into the country. According to this, some of the Croats should have advanced to Dalmatia and Pannonia and within a few years defeated the Avars and drove them to the area northwest of the Danube . Some historians interpret this message in such a way that the Croatians were settled by the Byzantine emperor as federates in Dalmatia.

Both the credibility of Konstantin Porphyrogennetus' report and the question of who exactly the Croats he mentions were and how they relate to today's Croatians are controversial in research.

The first reliable reports about a Croatian principality in what is now northern Dalmatia date from the 9th century .

In its current area of ​​distribution in the southern Slavic region, the term Croats is first used in writing in a deed of donation from Prince Trpimir I , who ruled from approx. 845 - approx. 864. In this document Trpimir is referred to as dux Chroatorum .

In 879 Pope John VIII designated Prince Branimir as ruler of Regnum Croatorum ("Kingdom of Croats").

In the period up to the 10th century, the name Croats only referred to the inhabitants of a limited area, which corresponded to the territory of the then Croatian state and which included the Lika , the Krbava, the westernmost part of today's Bosnia to the Pliva River and the hinterland the Dalmatian cities of Zadar , Trogir and Split , but not these cities themselves. Only in the course of time did the scope of the Croatian self-designation expand to other areas in which self-designations such as Slovinci , Slovenci had previously been in use, which go back to * Slověnьce , a form of the common name of the Slavs .

The plural form Hrvati, Hrvate originally denoted not only the inhabitants, but also the country. Later until the 18th century the term hrvatska zemlja ( Croatian land ) was in use, since then simply Hrvatska ( Croatia ).

The term Croatian has had its current meaning and scope since the time of the Croatian national revival in the 19th century.


In the course of time, a large number of Croatians left their old homeland for economic or political reasons. Today's Croatian diaspora goes back to this .

The first major emigration of Croats occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries at the beginning of the Ottoman conquests in what is now Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. At that time, people fled to safer areas within Croatia, but also to other areas of the Habsburg Empire at that time (to the area of ​​today's states of Austria , Slovakia and Hungary ). The Burgenland-Croatian minority with around 60,000 people goes back to this hike , and today they are counted among the autochthonous minorities due to their centuries-old settlements in their current settlement area.

At the end of the 19th / beginning of the 20th century , a large number of Croatians emigrated overseas, mainly for economic reasons, including to North America , South America (especially Chile and Argentina ), Australia and New Zealand .

Emigration to the United States began in Dalmatia between 1850 and 1870, and in Croatia-Slavonia from 1873. Most emigrants from Croatia-Slavonia came from Lika-Krbava County (since the 1880s) and the area around Zagreb , later also from other parts of the country. There were individual cases of Croatian emigration to South America as early as the 1850s. The emigration from Dalmatia to Chile began in the 1860s. In the 1880s, emigration from Dalmatia, especially from the Dalmatian islands, to North and South America became a mass emigration.

The main reason for emigrating from Dalmatia was the economic situation, in particular the indebtedness of the rural population as a result of the decline of the colonial system and the transition to the monetary economy. Especially for the wine-growing regions such as the island of Brač , there was also the crisis in viticulture as a result of the "wine clause" of the Austro-Italian customs agreement of 1891 and the spread of phylloxera . At the same time, the spread of steamships also ruined sailing shipping . In addition, young men in particular emigrated in order to avoid the enforcement of general conscription by the Austrian authorities since the middle of the 19th century. In the wine-growing areas around Zagreb , the destruction of viticulture by the phylloxera was also one of the reasons for emigration.

The number of Croatian emigrants to the United States rose to around 20,000 a year in the first decade of the 20th century. The total number of Croatian emigrants in the United States was estimated at around 280,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, including 160,000 from Croatia-Slavonia , 80,000 from Dalmatia , 20,000 from Bosnia and 15,000 from Herzegovina . With 80,000 to 100,000, the largest group lived in the state of Pennsylvania (especially in Pittsburgh ), 45,000 in Illinois (especially in Chicago ), and 35,000 in Ohio (especially in Cleveland ).

Advertisement for the crossing via Hamburg to South America (1930s)

The number of Croatian emigrants in Chile at this time cannot be precisely determined due to a lack of reliable statistics; for around 1914 there are estimates between 5,000 and 25,000 for the whole of Chile. Most of the Croatian emigrants in Chile came from Dalmatia, especially from the island of Brač , as well as from the area around Omiš as well as from Hvar , Vis and the Dubrovnik area . The Croatian emigrants settled mainly in the south of Chile in what is now the Magallanes region and in the mining areas of northern Chile in what is now the regions of Antofagasta and Tarapacá . In 1914, 3,200 Croatian emigrants were counted in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas alone .

Another major wave of emigration - this time for political reasons - took place immediately after the end of World War II . It was mainly members and collaborators of the Ustasha regime and monarchists who fled .

In the second half of the 20th century , many Croatians went as guest workers , mainly to Germany (especially Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria ), Austria or Switzerland, largely due to difficult economic living conditions . In addition, some emigrants came for political reasons, especially after the end of the Croatian Spring . This migration made it possible for the then communist Yugoslavia to reduce unemployment and at the same time created an enormous source of foreign currency income through the remittances of the emigrants to their families .

Sections of the Croatian diaspora repeatedly participated actively in the politics of their country of origin during the 20th century. Most recently, during the Croatian War in the first half of the 1990s , Diaspora Croats collected significant amounts of relief supplies and provided financial support (in particular through donations through Gojko Šušak , from whom weapons were bought despite the existing embargoes ) for the country affected by the war.


Today's settlement areas

The Croatians make up the vast majority of Croatia's population . In the 2011 census, 3,874,321 people (90.42% of the population) gave their “nationality” as Croatians .

The Croatians in Bosnia-Herzegovina are one of the three constitutive peoples of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina . In the 2013 census, 553,000 people (14.6% of the population) gave their nationality as Croatians .

Croatian minorities in Europe

Autochthonous (long-established) Croatian minorities live in several states in Central and Southeastern Europe .

  • In Serbia , Croatians live mainly in Vojvodina . There they have been recognized as a national minority since 2002. Most of them live in the Batschka , also in Syrmia and some places in the Banat ; the Šokci and Bunjewatzen in the Batschka see themselves partly as Croatians, partly as separate ethnic groups.
  • In Hungary , 15,597 people declared in the 2001 census that they belonged to the nationality (ethnic group) of Croatians. According to an expanded definition, according to which a member of one of the long-established and officially recognized ethnic minorities is counted as someone who has a clear answer to one of the questions about nationality, affinity to cultural values ​​or traditions of a nationality, mother tongue or language when dealing with family members or friends 25,730 people were counted as belonging to the Croatian minority in Hungary. The majority of them lived in western and southern Transdanubia , of which 7,294 in Baranya County , 3,836 in Zala County , 3,481 in Győr-Moson-Sopron County , 3,124 in Vas County and 1,504 in Somogy County . In addition, there were 3,215 Croatians in Bács-Kiskun County and 1,525 in Budapest .
  • In Montenegro , Croatians live mainly in the Kotor Bay area ; the inhabitants of this region are also known as Bokelji , regardless of nationality and religion . In the 2011 census, 6,021 people (0.97% of the population) identified themselves as Croatians in the territory of the Republic of Montenegro.
  • In Austria , the Burgenland Croats live in Burgenland and also in Vienna .
  • In Romania , the majority of the members of the Kraschowans in the Kraschowa area in the Banat today call themselves Croatians. Around 10,000 members of Croatian nationality live in the Karasch-Severin district, in the villages of Karaschowa and Lupac. After the coup in 1989, an agreement was signed between Croatia and Romania, according to which this minority will also receive Croatian citizenship and passport. Some people use this to study or work in Croatia. Every 4 years, if there is an election in Croatia, the Croatian citizens are also called upon to cast their votes. For this purpose, 2 polling stations were set up in Karaschowa and Lupac.
  • In the Czech Republic , the Moravian Croats lived together in three villages in the south of Moravia until 1948 , and since then they have been scattered in different places. The 2001 Czech census showed 1,585 people of Croatian nationality, although it is not stated how much of them is due to immigration in the 1990s.
  • Among the Molises Slavs in the Italian region of Molise , the Croatian side advocated belonging to Croatianism, which is largely accepted in Montemitro ( Mundimitar ), but is not fruitful in Acquaviva Collecroce ( Kruč ).
  • In Slovakia , a Croatian minority , who are counted as Burgenland Croats in the broader sense, lives in five villages in the vicinity of Bratislava .
  • In Kosovo , Croatians live in the villages of Janjeva / Janjevo (the Janjevci ) and Letnica (the Letničani). In the 1991 Yugoslav census, 8,062 people in Kosovo gave Croatian under “nationality” .

Diaspora in Europe and overseas

Memorial to Croatian emigrants in the port of Hamburg (Ljubica Matulec, 1989)

Numerous people of Croatian origin who themselves or their ancestors left their old homeland in the 19th or 20th century for economic or political reasons live in North America , South America , Western Europe (especially in Germany , Switzerland and Austria ) and Oceania . Many people of Croatian origin describe themselves as Croatians in the diaspora , regardless of their nationality .

In the United States of America , 374,241 people (0.1% of the population) gave Croatian as one or only one of two origins in the 2000 census as “ancestry or ethnicity” . The most important organization of the Croatian diaspora in the United States is the Hrvatska Bratska zajednica ( Croatian Fraternal Union / Croatian Fraternal Union ).

In Canada 58,165 people in the census gave in 2001 in "ethnic origin" Croatian to further 38,880 people gave Croatian as one of several origins.

In Chile the 1992 census live to be about 140,000 people of Croatian origin, accounting for approximately 1% of the population. Most of today's Chileans of Croatian origin are descendants of third, fourth or fifth generation emigrants. There are still a large number of Croatian organizations in Chile, but only a very small proportion of Chileans of Croatian origin speak the Croatian language.

There are also smaller groups in Argentina , Bolivia , Peru , Brazil , New Zealand , Australia and South Africa .

Croatian supplementary schools offer the children of Croatian emigrants in most of the larger places in Europe and overseas opportunities to cultivate and develop the Croatian mother tongue as well as further training.

See also: Croatians in Germany


The dialects spoken by Croatians belong to West-South Slavic and can largely be assigned to the three dialect groups Kajkavian , Čakavian and Štokavian . Kajkavian and čakavian dialects are spoken almost exclusively by Croats within the Serbo-Croatian subgroup, while štokavian dialects are spoken by a large proportion of Croats as well as the majority of Serbs , Bosniaks and Montenegrins . The Janjevci and Letničani in Kosovo and the Kraschowans in the Romanian Banat are the only Croatians to speak dialects of the Torlak dialect group.

In the functions of a standard language , most Croatians use a standard variety called the Croatian Standard Language or the Croatian Standard Variety of Serbo-Croatian (Croat-Serbian, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian) . The other Serbo-Croatian standard varieties are also used by Croats living outside the Republic of Croatia . The Burgenland Croats use their own Burgenland Croatian standard variety.

A nationally uniform Croatian standard variety has only existed since the 19th century. Before that, different written language varieties based on Čakavian , Štokavian and Kajkavian as well as the Croatian variant of Church Slavonic were used from epoch to epoch and from region to region . In addition, a large part of the literature in the period up to the 19th century was not written in South Slavic, but mainly in Latin , in the coastal area also in Italian , in the Habsburg interior also in German .

The Croatian standard variety, the Croats spoken and mostly from the standard variety covered South Slavic dialects, as well as the older South Slavic written language varieties in its present distribution area and Burgenland Croatian is today generally in the public discourse in the Republic of Croatia as Croatian language conceptualized. At the time of the Yugoslav state , they were and in part they are still today, especially outside of Croatia, conceptualized together with the standard varieties used by Serbs , Bosniaks and Montenegrins and the South Slavic dialects spoken by them as Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian language .

Arts and Culture

View of the old town of Dubrovnik with its unique architecture
Baška tablet found on the island of Krk (Croatia)

After conquering the territory of today's Croatia, the Croatians quickly adopted the ancient culture. The first buildings were built in Zadar , among others . The two-storey round church of St. Donatus in Zadar is considered the most representative Croatian architectural monument from early Christian times. Other impressive monuments of Croatian art and culture are the cathedral in Šibenik by Juraj Dalmatinac from the 15th century and the cathedral of St. Dominus in Split . The city of Dubrovnik was one of the centers in the history of the development of the Croatian language and literature. Numerous important poets, artists, scholars, mathematicians and physicists come from this city. Nowadays Dubrovnik can also be described as a cultural center of Croatia. The Baška tablet is one of the oldest and most famous cultural monuments of the Croatian language and history. It comes from the St. Lucija chapel in Jurandvor near Baška on the island of Krk and is dated to the year 1100. It is a testimony to the Croatian language and culture in north-west Croatia (Istria and Kvarner).


Croatian woman from Bosnia with the usual tattoos (drawing, 19th century)

Until about the middle of the 20th century, blue tattoos were widespread among Croatian Catholic women in Bosnia on the hands, forearms, chest and, more rarely, on the forehead. The motifs consisted primarily of Christian symbols and Stećak ornaments, which mostly depicted the cross as the central motif. The tradition can be traced back to the conquest of Bosnia by the Ottomans in 1463 and lost its importance due to the lower status of religion in the former socialist Yugoslavia .

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Holm Sundhausen : The contrast between historical rights and self-determination rights as a cause of conflicts: Kosovo and Krajina in comparison . In: Philip Ther, Holm Sundhausen (Ed.): Nationality Conflicts in the 20th Century. A comparison of the causes of intra-ethnic violence. Wiesbaden 2001, p. 25.
  2. a b c d e f g h i Alemko Gluhak: Hrvatski etimološki rječnik . Zagreb: Cesarec, 1993. pp. 267-270 sv Hrvat
  3. a b Etimologičeskij slovar 'slavjanskich jazykov: praslavjanskij leksičeskij fond . Pod red. ON Trubačeva. Vol. 8: Cha - jьvьlga. Moskva: Nauka, 1981. pp. 149-152 sv * xъrvat (in) ъ
  4. Max Vasmer: Russian etymological dictionary . Vol. 3: Sta - Y. Heidelberg: Winter, 1958. (Indo-European library: 2nd series, dictionaries). P. 261 sv хорват
  5. Otto Kronsteiner: Was there a Croatian ethnic group among the Alpine Slavs? In: Wiener Slavistisches Jahrbuch, 24, 1978, pp. 137–157.
  6. Andreas Tietze: Croats a Turkish ethnonym? In: Wiener Slavistisches Jahrbuch, 25, 1979, p. 140; Otto Kronsteiner: Answer to A. Tietze , ibid, pp. 140-142;
    K. Menges : Avars, Croats, Kyrgyz, Bulgarians: A short revision course . In: Wiener Slavistisches Jahrbuch, 35, 1989, pp. 125–142.
  7. Radoslav Katičić: Filološka razmatranja uz izvore o začecima hrvatske države . In: ders .: Uz početke hrvatskih početaka: filološke studije o našem najranijem srednjovjekovlju . Split: Književni Krug, 1993. (Biblioteka znanstvenih djela; 70), pp. 37-50. (German version: Radoslav Katičić: The beginnings of the Croatian state . In: The Bavarians and their neighbors : Reports of the Symposium of the Commission for Early Medieval Research October 25-28, 1982, Zwettl Abbey, Lower Austria. Vol. 1. Ed. von Herwig Wolfram, Vienna: Verl. D. Österr. Akad. D. Wiss., 1985. (Memoranda / Austrian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class; 179) (Publications of the Commission for Early Medieval Research; 8), pp. 299–312. )
  8. Lujo Margetić: "Dolazak Hrvata": "Arrival of the Croats" . Split: Književni Krug, 2001 (Biblioteka znanstvenih djela; 119).
  9. a b c Keyword The Slavs in America. III. Croatians in: Catholic Encyclopedia (1917)
  10. a b c d e f Marina Perić Kaselj, Simona Kuti: Croatian Immigrants in Chile . In: AEMI Journal , Vol 4-5, 2006–2007 ( Memento of the original from January 31, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Pp. 93-106. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. ^ Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] - Office of Russian and European Analysis (ed.): Balkan Battlegrounds: A Military History of the Yugoslav Conflict . tape 2 . Washington DC 2003, Annex 4 - The Arming of the Croatian Government Forces, May 1990 – August 1991, pp. 53 .
  14. ^ Hungarian Central Statistical Office. Population Census 2001. Population by mother tongue, ethnic minorities and sex, 1900-2001
  15. ^ Hungarian Central Statistical Office. Population Census 2001. 24: Ethnic minorities
  16. ^ A b Hungarian Central Statistical Office. Population Census 2001. Population by national / ethnic groups
  17. Results of the 2011 census in Montenegro (PDF; 375 kB)
  18. Euromosaic study. Other languages ​​in the Czech Republic. 2. Croatian ( Memento of the original from June 6, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. Walter Breu: Moliseslawisch ( Memento of the original from July 22, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 119 kB). In: Lexicon of Eastern European Languages , edited by M. Okuka. Klagenfurt: Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, 2004. pp. 315-317, 315. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  20. State Report Submitted by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Pursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities , 2002 pdf ( Memento of February 5, 2009 in the Internet Archive ).
  21. ^ Ancestry: 2000. Census 2000 letter. US Census Bureau, 2004. (pdf; 480 kB)
  22. 2001 Census Profile Canada pdf ( Memento from January 17, 2010 on WebCite ), p. 10: Ethnicity - single and multiple origins .
  23. ^ A b Radoslav Katičić: The Making of Standard Serbo-Croat . In: Aspects of the Slavic Language Question . Ed. by Riccardo Picchio, Harvey Goldblatt. Vol. 1. Church Slavonic, South Slavic, West Slavic . New Haven: Yale Concilium on Intern. and Area Studies. (Yale Russian and East European publications; 4a). Pp. 261-295.
  24. ^ Josip Lisac: Hrvatska dijalektologija . 1. Hrvatski dijalekti i govori štokavskog narječja i hrvatski govori torlačkog narječja . Zagreb: Golden Marketing - Tehnička Knjiga, 2003. pp. 141–153.
  25. Ivo Banac: Main Trends in the Croat Language Question . In: Aspects of the Slavic Language Question . Ed. by Riccardo Picchio, Harvey Goldblatt. Vol. 1. Church Slavonic, South Slavic, West Slavic . New Haven: Yale Concilium on Intern. and Area Studies. (Yale Russian and East European publications; 4a). Pp. 189-259.
  26. Ćiro Truhelka: The tattooing among the Catholics of Bosnia and Hercegovina , Carl Gerold's son, 1896 - 16 pages
  27. Tattooing of Croatian Women In Bosnia-Herzegovina ( Memento April 7, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) , accessed on March 30, 2013
  28. The Croatian Tattoo Grandma Cult , Vice , accessed on March 30, 2013