Historical facts about Dubrovnik

The establishment of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik was founded in the first half of the 7th century by a group of refugees from Epidaurum (today's Cavtat). They established their settlement at the island and named it Laus. Opposite of that location, at the foot of Srđ Mountain, Slavs developed their own settlement under the name of Dubrovnik (named by "Dub" - type of wood). The settlements were separated by a channel which was filled in 12th century, present Placa or Stradun, and since than the two settlements have been united. At that time the city walls started to be built as a protection from different enemies ( Arabs, Venetian, Macedonians, Serbs, etc.), who wanted to conquer Dubrovnik.

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The government of Dubrovnik Republic

The Republican Constitution of Dubrovnik was strictly aristocratic. The population was divided into three classes: nobility, citizens, and artisans or plebeians. All effective power was concentrated in the hands of nobility. The citizens were permitted to hold only minor offices, while plebeians had no voice in government. Marriage between members of different classes of the society was forbidden. The administrative bodies were the Grand Council (supreme governing body) and the Small Council (executive power) (from 1238.) and the Senate (from 1253). The head of the state was the Duke, elected for a term of office for one month.

Grand Council (Veliko viječe) consisted of exclusively members of the aristocracy; every noble took his seat at the age of 18. Small Council (Malo viječe) consisted first of 11 members and after 1667 of 7. The Small Council was elected by the Knez or Rector. The Senate (Viječe umoljenih) was added in 1235 as a consultative body. It consisted of 45 invited members (over 40 years of age).

While the Republic was under the rule of Venice the Rector was Venetian, but after 1358 the Rector was always a Ragusan.

The length of the Rector's service was only one month and a person was eligible for reelection after two years. The rector lived and worked in Rector's Palace but his family remained living in their own house.

The government of the Republic was liberal in character and early showed its concern for justice and humanitarian principles, e.g. slave trading was abolished since 1418.

The History of Dubrovnik from the End of Dubrovnik Republic until today

In 1809 Dubrovnik become part of the Ilyrian Provinces. In 1815, by the resolution of Vienna Congress, 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. In 1929 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and was divided into 8 districts. Until 1939 Dubrovnik was part of Zetska district and then was included in Banovina of Croatia. 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. In 1963 the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia changed its name into Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and was consisting of 6 republics. Dubrovnik was part of the Socialistic Republic of Croatia. In 1990 the republics of the Socialistic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia reached their independence. The Socialistic Republic of Croatia was renamed into Republic of Croatia.

On October 1, 1991 Dubrovnik was brutally attacked by the Serbo-Montenegrin army. The Serbo-Montenegrin siege of Dubrovnik lasted for seven months, and in May 1992 the Croatian Army liberated Dubrovnik and its surroundings, but the danger of Serbo - Montenegrin sudden attacks lasted for another three years. Today, Dubrovnik is a free and safe town, worldly known, and the most popular tourist destination in Croatia.

The History of the Dubrovnik Republic

From its establishment the town was under the protection of the Byzantine Empire that helped Dubrovnik in the wars against Saracens(886- 887), Bulgaro-Macedonians (988), and Serbs (1184). 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 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 6th of April 1667 that killed over 5000 citizens, including the Rector, levelling 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. 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 Russian-Montenegrin fleets and saved Dubrovnik for the time being. The French army, led by Napoleon, entered Dubrovnik in 1806 In 1808 Marshal Marmot abolished the Dubrovnik Republic.

The Origin of the Name Dubrovnik

The today's name of Dubrovnik is derived from the Croatian word Dubrava, which means oak woods as, in the past, oak trees surrounded Dubrovnik. The Latin name Ragusa - Rausa, in use until the 15th century, originated from the rock (lat. Lausa - meaning rock) where the first settlement was established.

The Statute of the Republic of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik got its own Statute as early as 1272 and , among others, codified Roman practice and local customs. The Statute included the town planning and regulations of quarantine (hygienic reasons). The Republic of Dubrovnik was very inventive regarding laws and institutions that were developed very early:

  • - medical service was introduced in 1301.
  • - the first pharmacy (still working) was opened in 1317
  • - a refuge for old people was opened in 1347
  • - the first quarantine hospital (Lazarete) was opened in 1377
  • - slave trading was abolished in 1418
  • - the orphanage was opened in 1432
  • - the water supply system (20 kilometers) was constructed in 1436

The Territory of Dubrovnik Republic

As it had good relations with its neighbours, Dubrovnik was allowed to trade, trading both in the Orient and the Mediterranean. With numerous countries and towns it had special agreements and was not paying taxes on goods sold or transported trough some country's. During several centuries Dubrovnik grew into the most powerful economic centre in the south of the Adriatic and it developed a powerful fleet of merchant and war ships. Dubrovnik had over 200 merchant ships called Argosy.

At the Golden Period of Dubrovnik the territory of the Republic extended from Klek-Neum in the north to Sutorina (Boka Kotorska) in the south and a few kilometres inland. It included the islands of Šipan, Lopud and Koločep (after 1080), Mljet (1141) and Lastovo (1216), the town of Ston (1298) and the Pelješac Peninsula (1399). The coastal territory of the Republic without islands was approximately 120 kilometres in length.

Dubrovnik Republic also ruled Korčula, Brač and Hvar for a brief period (1414-1417), but was forced to release them to Venice.

Last update: 12.5.2023
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