Zadar (see historical names) is a city in Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. It is the centre of Zadar County and the wider northern Dalmatian region. Zadar is a historical center of Dalmatia as well as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Zadar.
The district of present day Zadar has been populated since prehistoric times. The earliest evidence of human life comes from the Late Stone Age, while numerous settlements have been dated as early as the Neolithic. Before the Illyrians, the area was inhabited by an ancient Mediterranean people of a pre-Indo-European culture. They assimilated with the Indo-Europeans who settled between the 4th and 2nd millennium BC into a new ethnical unity, that of the Liburnians. Zadar was a Liburnian settlement, laid out in the 9th century BC, built on a small stone islet and embankments where the old city stands and tied to the mainland by the overflown narrow isthmus, which created a natural port in its northern strait.
The Liburnians were known as great sailors and merchants, but also had a reputation for piracy in the later years. By the 7th century BC, Zadar had become an important centre for their trading activities with the Phoenicians, Etruscans, Ancient Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples. Its population at that time is estimated at 2,000. From 9th to 6th century there was certain koine - cultural unity in the Adriatic Sea, with the general Liburninan seal, whose naval supremacy meant both political and economical authority through several centuries. Due to its geographical position, Zadar developed into a main seat of the Liburnian thalassocracy and took a leading role in the Liburnian tetradekapolis, an organization of 14 communes.
The people of Zadar, the Iadasinoi, were first mentioned in 384 BC as the allies of the natives of Hvar and the leaders of an eastern Adriatic coast coalition in the fight against the Greek colonizers. An expedition of 10,000 men in 300 ships sailed out from Zadar and laid siege to the Greek colony Pharos in the island of Hvar, but the Syracusan fleet of Dionysus was alerted and attacked the siege fleet. The naval victory went to the Greeks which allowed them relatively safer further colonization in the southern Adriatic.
In the middle of the 2nd century BC, the Romans began to gradually invade the region. Although being first Roman enemies in the Adriatic Sea, the Liburnians, mostly stood aside in more than 230 years of Roman wars with the Illyrians, to protect their naval and trade connections in the sea. In 59 BC Illyricum was assigned as a provincia (zone of responsibility) to Julius Caesar and Liburnian Iadera became a Roman municipium.
The Liburnian naval force was dragged into the Roman civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey in 49 BC, partially by force, partially because of the local interests of the participants, the Liburnian cities. Caesar was supported by the urban Liburnian centres, like Iader (Zadar), Aenona (Nin) and Curicum (Krk), while the city of Issa (Vis) and the rest of the Liburnians gave their support to Pompey. In 49 BC near the island of Krk, the "Navy of Zadar", equipped by the fleets of a few Liburnian cities and supported by some Roman ships, lost an important naval battle against Pompey supporting the "Liburnian navy". The civil war was prolonged until the end of 48 BC, when Caesar rewarded his supporters in Liburnian Iader and Dalmatian Salona, by giving the status of the Roman colonies to their communities. Thus the city was granted the title colonia Iulia Iader, after its founder, and in the next period some of the Roman colonists (mostly legionary veterans) settled there.
The real establishment of the Roman province of Illyricum occurred not earlier than 33 BC and Octavian’s military campaign in Illyria and Liburnia, when the Liburnians finally lost their naval independence and their galleys and sailors were incorporated into the Roman naval fleets.
The new religion Christianity did not bypass the Roman province of Dalmatia. Already by the end of the 3rd century Zadar had its own bishop and founding of the Zadar Christian community took place; a new religious centre was built north of the forum together with a basilica and a baptistery, as well as other ecclesiastical buildings. According to some estimates, in the 4th century it had probably around ten thousand citizens, including the population from its Ager, the nearby islands and hinterland, an admixture of the indigenous Liburnians and Roman colonists.
Early Middle Ages
During the Migration Period and the Barbarian invasions, Zadar underwent a stagnation. In 441 and 447 Dalmatia was ravaged by the Huns, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, in 481 Dalmatia became part of the Ostrogothic kingdom, which, besides Italy, already included the more northerly parts of Illyricum, i.e. Pannonia and Noricum.
In the 5th century, under the rule of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, Zadar became poor with many civic buildings turning into ruins due to its advanced age. About the same time (6th century) it was hit by an earthquake, which destroyed entire complexes of monumental Roman architecture, whose parts would later serve as material for building houses. This caused a loss of population and created demographic changes in the city, then gradually repopulated by the inhabitants from its hinterland. However, during six decades of Gothic rule, the Goths saved those old Roman Municipal institutions that were still in function, while religious life in Dalmatia even intensified in the last years, so that there was a need for the foundation of additional bishoprics.
In 536 the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great started a military campaign to reconquer the territories of the former Western Empire (see Gothic War); and in 553 Zadar passed to the Byzantine Empire. In 568 Dalmatia was devastated by an Avar invasion; although further waves of attacks by Avar and Slav tribes kept up the pressure, it was the only city which survived due to its protective belt of inland plains. The Dalmatian capital Salona was captured and destroyed in the 40s of the 7th century, so Zadar became the new seat of the Byzantine archonty of Dalmatia, territorially reduced to a few coastal cities with their agers and municipal lands at the coast and the islands nearby. The prior of Zadar had jurisdiction over all Byzantine Dalmatia, so Zadar enjoyed metropolitan status at the eastern Adriatic coast. At this time rebuilding began to take place in the city.
Zadar's economy revolved around sea, fishing and sea trade in the first centuries of the Middle Ages. Thanks to saved Antique ager, adjusted municipal structure and a new strategic position, it became the most important city between the Kvarner islands and Kaštela Bay. Byzantine Dalmatia wasn't territorially unified, but an alliance of city municipalities headed by Zadar, and the large degree of city autonomy allowed the development of Dalmatian cities as free communes. Forced to turn their attention seawards, the inhabitants of Zadar focused on shipping, and the city became a naval power to rival Venice. The citizens were Dalmatian language speakers, but from the 7th century Croatian language started to spread in a region, becoming predominant in the inland and the islands to the end of the 9th century.
High Middle Ages
At the time of the Zadar medieval development, the city became a threat to Venice's ambitions, because of its strategic position at the centre of the eastern Adriatic coast.
In 998 Zadar sought Venetian protection against the Neretvian pirates. The Venetians were quick to fully exploit this opportunity: in 998 a fleet commanded by Doge Pietro Orseolo II, after having defeated pirates, landed in Korčula and Lastovo. Dalmatia was taken by surprise and offered little serious resistance. Trogir was the exception and was subjected to Venetian rule only after a bloody struggle, whereas the Republic of Ragusa/Dubrovnik was forced to pay tribute. Tribute previously paid by Zadar to Croatian kings, was redirected to Venice, a state of affairs which lasted for several years.
In the meantime Venice developed into a true trading force in the Adriatic and started attacks on Zadar. The city was repeatedly invaded by Venice between 1111 and 1154 and then once more between 1160 and 1183, when it finally rebelled, appealing to the Pope and to the Croato-Hungarian throne for protection.
Zadar was especially devastated in 1202 after the Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo used the Crusaders, on their Fourth Crusade to Palestine, to lay siege to the city. The crusaders were obliged to pay Venice for sea transport to Egypt. As they were not able to produce enough money, the Venetians used them to initiate the Siege of Zadar, when the city was ransacked, demolished and robbed. Emeric, king of Croatia and Hungary, condemned the crusade, because of an argument about the possible heresy committed by God's army in attacking a Christian city. Nonetheless, Zadar was devastated and captured, with the population escaped into the surrounding countryside. Pope Innocent III excommunicated the Venetians and crusaders involved in the siege.
Two years later (1204), under the leadership of the Croatian nobleman Domald from Šibenik, most of the refugees returned and liberated the city from what remained of the crusader force. In 1204 Domald was comes (duke) of Zadar, but the following year (1205) Venetian authority was re-established and a peace agreement signed with hard conditions for the citizens. The only profit which the Communal Council of Zadar derived from this was one third of the city's harbour taxes, probably insufficient even for the most indispensable communal needs.
The population of Zadar during the Medieval period was predominantly Croatian, according to numerous archival documents, and the Croatian language was used in liturgy, as shown by the writings of cardinal Boson, who followed Pope Alexander III en route to Venice in 1177. When the papal ships took shelter in the harbour of Zadar, the inhabitants greeted the Pope by singing lauds and canticles in Croatian. Even though interspersed by sieges and destruction, the time between 11th and 14th century was the golden age of Zadar. Thanks to its political and trading achievements, and also to its skilled seamen, Zadar played an important role among the cities on the east coast of the Adriatic. This affected its appearance and culture: many churches, rich monasteries and palaces for powerful families were built, together with the Chest of Saint Simeon. One of the best examples of the culture and prosperity of Zadar at that time was the founding of the University of Zadar, built in 1396 by the Dominican Order (the oldest university in present day Croatia).
From 15th to 18th century
After the death of Louis I, Zadar came under the rule of Sigmund of Luxembourg and later Ladislaus of Naples, who, witnessing his loss of influence in Dalmatia, sold Zadar and his dynasty's rights to Dalmatia to Venice for 100,000 ducats on July 31, 1409. Venice therefore obtained control over Zadar without a fight, but was confronted by the resistance and tensions of important Zadar families. These attempts were met with persecution and confiscation. Zadar remained the administrative seat of Dalmatia, but this time under the rule of Venice, which expanded over the whole Dalmatia, barring the Republic of Ragusa/Dubrovnik. The Venetians restrained the political and economical autonomy of Zadar, which, nevertheless, remained a prosperous city. During that time Giorgio da Sebenico, a renaissance sculptor and architect, famous for his work on the Cathedral of Šibenik, was probably born in Zadar. Other important people followed, such as Luciano and Francesco Laurana, known world-wide for their sculptures and buildings.
In contrast to the insecurity and Ottoman sieges and destruction, an important culture evolved midst the city walls. During the 16th and the 17th century the activity of the Croatian writers and poets became prolific (Jerolim Vidolić, Petar Zoranić, Brne Karnarutić, Juraj Baraković, Šime Budinić). Also noteworthy is the painter Andrea Meldolla  (c. 1510/1515–1563), nicknamed Andrea Schiavone, known in today's Croatia with the name of Andrija Medulić.
During the continuous Ottoman danger the population stagnated by a significant degree along with the economy. During the 16th and 17th century several large-scale epidemics of bubonic plague erupted in the city. After more than 150 years of Turkish threat Zadar was not only scarce in population, but also in material wealth. Venice sent new colonists and, under the firm hand of archbishop Vicko Zmajević, the Arbanasi (Catholic Albanian refugees) settled in the city, forming a new suburb. Despite the shortage of money, the Teatro Nobile (Theater for Nobility) was built in 1783. It functioned for over 100 years.
19th and 20th century
After the fall of Venice in 1797 and with the Treaty of Campo Formio, Zadar came under the Austrian crown and was united with the rest of Croatia. In 1806 it was briefly given to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, until in 1809 it was added to the French Illyrian Provinces. In 1813, all of Dalmatia was reconquered and brought back under the control of the Austrian Empire. After the Congress of Vienna (1815) until 1918, the town (bilingual name ZADAR - ZARA ) remained part of the Austrian monarchy (Austria side after the compromise of 1867), head of the district of the same name, one of the 13 Bezirkshauptmannschaften in Dalmatia. The Italian name was officially used before 1867. It remained also the capital of Dalmatia province (Kronland).
Although during the first half of the 19th century the city population stagnated due to low natural increase, the city started to spread from the old center; citizens from the old city created the new suburb of Stanovi in the north.
During the second half of the 19th century, there was constant increase of population due to economical growth and immigration. This somehow altered the ethnic structure that previously had a Slavic Dalmatian majority. Under the pressure of the population increase, the city continued to spread to Voštarnica and Arbanasi quarters, the bridge in the city port was build. Except being the administrative center of the province, agriculture, industry of liqueurs and trade were developed, many brotherhoods were established, similar to the Central European trade guilds. The southern city walls were torn down, new coastal facilities were build and Zadar became an open port. As the city developed economically, it developed culturally. A large number of printshops, new libraries, archives, theatres, etc., sprung up. At the end of the 19th century there was also stronger industrial development, with 27 small or big factories before the WWI.
After 1848, Italian and Slavic nationalism became accentuated and the city became divided between the Croats and the Italians, both of whom founded their respective political parties.
There are conflicting sources for both sides claiming to have formed the majority in Zadar in this period. The archives of the official Austro-Hungarian censi conducted around the end of 19th century show that Italian was the primary language spoken by the majority of the people in the city, but only by a third of the population in the entire county. On the other end, the Italian presence in the city has to be considered autochthonous as it is the result of the original mixture between the locals, mostly Illyrian populationus, and the Roman settlers. This, in turn, created the original language spoken in the entire Dalmatia, the Dalmatian, before the advent of the Venetian rule which culturally heavily influenced the local culture with its form of Italian language.
During the 19th century, the conflict between Zadar's Italian and Croatian communities grew in intensity and changed its nature. Until the beginning of the century it had been of moderate intensity and mainly of a class nature (under Venetian rule the Italians were employed in the most profitable activities, such as trade and administration). With the development of the modern concept of national identity across Europe, national conflicts start to mark the political life of Zadar.
During the second part of the 19th century, Zadar was subject to the same policy enacted by the Austrian Empire in South-Tyrol, the Austrian Littoral and Dalmatia and consisting in fostering the local German or Slavic culture at the expense of the Italian and Ottoman. In Zadar and generally throughout Dalmatia, the Austrian policy had the objective to reduce the possibility of any future territorial claim by the Kingdom of Italy.
In 1915 Italy entered World War I under the provisions set in the Treaty of London. In exchange for its participation with the Triple Entente and in the event of victory, Italy was to obtain the following territory in northern Dalmatia, including Zara, Sebenico and most of the Dalmatian islands, except Krk and Rab. At the end of the war, Italian military forces invaded Dalmatia and seized control of Zara, with Admiral Enrico Millo being proclaimed the governor of Dalmatia. Famous Italian nationalist Gabriele d'Annunzio supported the seizure of Dalmatia, and proceeded to Zara in an Italian warship in December 1918.
During 1918, political life in Zara intensified. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy led to the renewal of national conflicts in the city. With the arrival of an Italian army of occupation in the city on 4 November 1918, the Italian faction gradually assumed control, a process which was completed on 5 December when it took over the governorship. With the Treaty of Versailles (10 January 1920) Italian claims on Dalmatia contained in the Treaty of London were nullified, but later on the agreements between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes set in the Treaty of Rapallo (12 November 1920) gave Zara with other small local territories to Italy. The Zara enclave, a total of 104 km², included the city of Zara, the municipalities of Bokanjac, Arbanasi, Crno, part of Diklo (a total of 51 km2. of territory and 17,065 inhabitants) and the islands of Lastovo and Palagruža (53 km², 1,710 inhabitants). The territory was organized into a small Italian province.
World War II
Germany, with limited Italian assistance, invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. Zadar held a force of 9,000 that after limited fighting reached Šibenik and Split on April 15, a mere 2 days before surrender, with civilians having previously been evacuated to Ancona and Pula. Occupying Mostar and Dubrovnik, on April 17 they met invading troops that had started out from Italian-occupied Albania. On April 17 the Yugoslav government surrendered, faced with the Wehrmacht's overwhelming superiority.
Within a few weeks, Benito Mussolini required the newly formed Nazi puppet-state, the so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH) to hand over almost all of Dalmatia (including Split) to fascist Italy under the Treaty of Rome.
Under fascist reign the Slavic population was subjected to a policy of forced assimilation. This created immense resentment among the Yugoslav people and the Yugoslav Partisan movement (which was already successfully spreading in the rest of Yugoslavia) did not take root here since more than 70% of population of Zara was Italian.
After Mussolini was removed from power on 25 July 1943 and arrested, the government of Pietro Badoglio signed an armistice with the Allies on 3 September 1943, which was made public only on 8 September 1943, and the Italian army collapsed. However, just four days later on 12 September 1943, "Il Duce", was rescued by a German military raid from his secret prison on the Gran Sasso mountain, and formed the Nazi-puppet Italian Social Republic in the north of the Country. The NDH proclaimed the Treaty of Rome to be void and occupied Dalmatia with German support. The Germans entered Zadar first, and on September 10 the German 114th Jäger Division took over. This avoided a temporary liberation by Partisans, as was the case in Split and Šibenik where several Italian fascist government officials were killed by an angry crowd.
The city was prevented from joining the NDH on the grounds that Zadar itself was not subject to the conditions of the Treaty of Rome. Despite this, the NDH's leader Ante Pavelić designated Zadar as the capital of the Sidraga-Ravni Kotari County, although its administrator was prevented from entering the city. Zadar remained under the local administration of the Italian Social Republic. Zadar was bombed by the Allies, with serious civilian casualties. Many died in the carpet bombings, and many landmarks and centuries old works of art were destroyed. A significant number of civilians fled the city.
In late October 1944 the German army and a significant amount of the civilian population abandoned the city. On October 31, 1944, the Partisans seized the city, until then a part of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic. At the start of World War II, Zadar had a population of 24,000 which was mostly Italian and, by the end of 1944, this had decreased to 6,000. Formally, the city remained under Italian sovereignty until September 15, 1947 (Paris Peace Treaties). The Italian exodus from the city continued and in a few years was almost total. The last stroke to the Italian presence was made by the local administration in October 1953, when the last Italian schools were closed and the students forced to move, in one day, into Croatian schools, putting an end to the Romance identity of the city. Today the Italian community counts only a few hundreds people, gathered into a local community (Comunita' degli Italiani di Zara).
SFR Yugoslavia (1947-1991)
After the bombing, the city progressively recovered and became once more an important regional city in the newly established Democratic Federal Yugoslavia. During this period Zadar underwent intensive reconstruction and revitalisation, followed by a large increase in both population and economic power. The Federal government sponsored numerous public works to this end, including the Adriatic Highway (Jadranska magistrala) which provided a modern road connection to the rest of the country. Besides the local infrastructure, the SFRY government initiated the industrialization of the city and nearly all its factories were either built or significantly revitalized and modernized in this period. In the 1970s Zadar particularly enjoyed a high standard of living as international tourism came to Dalmatia.
However, during this period the city lost its status as the capital of the region, with Split overwhelmingly surpassing Zadar in population numbers, which, though increasing throughout the 20th century, boomed in the new, post-WWII, Yugoslavia.
All in all, by the 1990s the city had not only been rebuilt after the Second World War, but had emerged as a modern and completely industrialized regional centre, with as yet unsurpassed tourist numbers, GDP and employment rates, which were, surprisingly, significantly higher than the present day's. After the death of Tito, Yugoslavia rapidly began to destabilize.
Croatian War of Independence (1991 - 1995)
In the early 1990s the Yugoslav wars broke out. Zadar became a part of the new Republic of Croatia. Its economy suffered greatly at this time not only because of the war but also due to the shadowy and controversial privatization process, which caused most of its prosperous companies to go under.
In 1990, Serbian separatists from the Krajina region of Croatia just inland from Dalmatia sealed roads and effectively blocked Dalmatia from the rest of Croatia. A number of non-Serbs were expelled from the area and several Croatian policemen were killed resulting in the Dalmatian anti-Serb riots of May 1991. Serbs at that time accounted for about 15% of the population.
During the Croatian War of Independence, Krajina rebels and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) (at the time under Slobodan Milošević's control) converged on the city and subjected it to artillery bombardment during Operation Coast-91 in which they tried to take control of northern Dalmatia. Along with other Croatian towns in the area, Zadar was shelled sporadically for several years, resulting in damage to buildings and homes as well as UNESCO protected sites. A number of nearby towns and villages were also attacked, the most brutal being the Škabrnja massacre in which 86 people were killed.
Connections with Zagreb were severed for over a year. The only link between the north and south of the country was via the island of Pag. The siege of the city lasted from 1991 until January 1993 when Zadar and the surrounding area came under the control of Croatian forces and the bridge link with the rest of Croatia was reestablished in Operation Maslenica. Attacks on the city continued until the end of the war in 1995.
Some of the countryside along the No. 8 highway running north east is still sectioned off due to land mines.