Vukovar is a city and the largest Croatian river port on the Danube, in the Croatian part of Srijem. It is also the administrative, educational, economic and cultural center of Vukovar-Srijem County.
Early history and antiquity
The population of the Vukovar area has been monitored for five thousand years in a continuous sequence through numerous archeological sites.
The settlement was home to 2,000 people and was among the largest in that part of the world. They went from the Danube to the Adriatic, the Vrbas and the Neretva, to get salt (which they used to salt meat), and they lived in houses with three rooms, a bedroom, a pantry and a living room and kitchen. The total area was on average between 25 and 40 square meters, and the largest had up to 80.
Food scraps were buried in holes in the ground so as not to attract predators and rats. Agricultural tools were made of bones and horns, axes were produced "serially", they had molds into which they suddenly cast metal for several of them. The boats were made of one piece of wood. They put glowing stones in the trunk to dig it out, burning it slowly, and then "fixed" it with tools.
They followed the stars, had a calendar and knew about the leap years. They made 25 dishes of different shapes from pottery and each had its own from which to eat. The famous "Vučedol dove" was actually a partridge and was used for drinking. The people of Vučedol were the first to make beer on European soil. It was not very sparse and clear but mushy, and they drank it through reeds from the Danube.
Significant cultures of the Late Stone Age (Neolithic) are the Starčevo, Vinča and Sopot cultures. They were based on a sedentary lifestyle and the construction of permanent housing. Polished stone tools are in use, the production of ceramics has been perfected.
Migration trends and the arrival of new ethnic groups of Indo-European origin also introduce new technologies. The Copper Age (Eneolithic) period begins with the Baden, Kostolac and Vučedol cultures. New forms of production, burial and belief, and more complex social relations among people are emerging. The way of building houses and cult objects testify to the connection with the Mediterranean cultural circle.
The Vučedol culture is especially important for the Vukovar region. It was named after the locality of Vučedol, which is located five kilometers from Vukovar, downstream, on the Danube. The site has been systematically explored, copper processing workshops, characteristic houses (megaron) and beautiful ceramics have been discovered, which are especially characterized by white stylized ornaments on a black background.
There are numerous archeological sites from the Bronze, Old and Young Iron Ages in the Vukovar area, which testify to the life of the Illyrians and Celts. The necropolis of Illyrian graves on Lijeva bara in Vukovar proves that there was a large settlement here.
The Romans broke out on the Danube in conquests in the last decades before Christ. They built numerous fortifications, as a border (limes) towards barbarian tribes. In the Vukovar area, the Roman sites of Cornacum (Sotin), Cuccium (Ilok) and Ulmo (Tovarnik) are important. An important Roman road ran along the Danube. Roman civilization in these areas influenced the improvement of the economy, wetlands were drained and the first vineyards were planted.
Settlement of Croats
After the collapse of Roman civilization, the great migration of peoples and the Avar-Slavic expansion from the sixth century onwards led to great changes. The confluence of the Danube and the Sava is the scene of great conflicts and interests of the powerful states of that time. At that time, Croats settled here.
The beginnings of today's Vukovar should be sought very early, which is confirmed by archaeological data. The exceptional topographic position of the high bank of the Danube at the mouth of the Vuka was an important defensive point. Here is the center of the whole region at a time when Prince Pribina, as a Frankish vassal, got a hundred villages along the river Vuka in the middle of the 9th century. In the first half of the 10th century, it was recorded that the Hungarians looted the fortress of Vukovo. A large cemetery with numerous finds belonging to the Bjelobord culture was explored at Lijeva bara in Vukovar. The dating of these finds to the 10th or 11th century best confirms that there was a large settlement in the neighborhood. This is the time of Croatian national rulers, when, especially for kings Tomislav and Petar Krešimir IV, all Croatian lands from the Drava to the Adriatic Sea were united.
In preserved written documents, Vukovar is mentioned as early as the beginning of the 13th century as Volko, Walk, Wolkov, or Croatian Vukovo. Since the 14th century, the Hungarian name Vukovar has been used more and more. At that time, Croatia was in a state union with Hungary. Vukovar, as well as the neighboring Ilok, in that period were the guardians of the Croatian identity in the Danube-Sava interfluve.
Vukovar Fortress was firmly built on the high bank of the Danube.
The town was inhabited by craftsmen, merchants and peasants. As
early as 1231, Vukovar was among the first in the Croatian lands to
receive the status of a free royal city. The charter of Duke Koloman
confirmed the privileges that protected the inhabitants of Vukovar.
Vukovar was then the seat of the great Vukovar County, which stretched between the Danube and the Sava. The Vukovar area was then densely populated, with numerous forts and peasant villages. In terms of the church, Vukovar County is under the Catholic Archdiocese of Pécs. Several church orders have their monasteries here, and the most influential is the Franciscan order.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Vukovar area was ruled by numerous noble families. Towards the end of this period, the most influential were from Ilok, when Nikola was proclaimed the title king of Bosnia and minted his own money. Ilok was a significant settlement and fortress at that time, and since 1525 it has had its city statute and coat of arms.
Turkish rule - 16th and 17th centuries
One hundred and fifty years of Turkish rule brought great changes to the Vukovar area. During their campaign in 1526, under the leadership of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, they captured all the fortifications along the Danube, including Ilok and Vukovar, and then won a great victory in the battle of the Mohács field. Vukovar lost its strategic significance, but remained a significant trade and craft place on an important traffic route. It had several city districts, places of worship, baths, lodgings and schools. Towards the end of Turkish rule, it had up to 3,000 inhabitants.
At the same time, Ilok is a significant Turkish administrative and military center. It is predominantly inhabited by Muslims.
At that time, the indigenous Catholic Croatian and Hungarian populations were badly damaged, retreated into the woods or were killed. During the Turkish rule, the Franciscans worked here, gathering the Catholic people. Orthodox Vlachs are coming to the deserted area as auxiliary Turkish troops, but they will withdraw together with the Turkish army. Vukovar was liberated in 1687, and Ilok in 1688.
Resettlement - 18th and 19th centuries
About fifty houses remained inhabited in Vukovar. The indigenous and newly settled Croatian population, mostly from Herzegovina, is returning to the devastated Vukovar area. Orthodox Serbs are settling in some deserted places, which are accepted by the Viennese court out of the need for labor. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a significant number of Germans, Hungarians, Jews, Ruthenians, Slovaks and Ukrainians also settled there. Thus, this Croatian area becomes a multinational ethnic composition. Croatian lands are now part of the Habsburg Empire. In 1745, Empress and Queen Maria Theresa restored the Slavonian counties, which were under the administration of the Croatian Parliament and the ban, but under pressure from the Hungarians. Vukovar is the seat of the great Srijem County, which stretched between the Danube and the Sava, in the east all the way to Zemun, in the west to Osijek, except for the area of the Military Border.
Large estates in Slavonia were acquired or bought by feudal lords. The Counts of Eltz, who belong to the German nobility, come into the possession of the Vukovar manor. In 1736, Philip Karlo Eltz, Archbishop of Mainz and German prince-elector, bought this huge estate with 35 settlements. Over the following centuries, land areas were reduced by agrarian reforms. The entire development of the Vukovar region until 1945 was closely connected with the Vukovar manor of the Counts Eltz.
At the same time, the Ilok manor was held by the Italian princes Odescalchi. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Vukovar had the characteristics of an administrative, economic, traffic and cultural center. Contemporaries consider it the "capital of Srijem".
Already at the beginning of this period, half of the population of Vukovar were craftsmen and merchants. The population is extremely hardworking flourishing crafts, trade, silkworm, shipbuilding. Goods are shipped to the Danube countries. Numerous guild organizations were established early on to protect artisans. Vukovar is the center of trade for the whole of western Srijem.
The Vukovar region has excellent conditions for agricultural production. As early as the end of the 19th century, almost 80% of the population lived from agriculture. The estate of the Counts of Eltz improved production, which also affected small farms. In addition to basic grain production, viticulture is an important industry. Vukovar and Ilok quality wines are recognized at world economic exhibitions. The best dairy breeds are introduced into cattle breeding, and here are also famous horse stables known on a world scale.
Since 1840, Vukovar has been involved in permanent steamship
traffic on the Danube. From 1878 it was connected to the railway.
The port of Vukovar is the largest transshipment port in the
Croatian region. As in other Croatian regions, especially in
Slavonia, industry in Vukovar developed slowly. More intensive use
of steam engines was in the second half of the 19th century, more in
agriculture than in industry. The slow development of the industry
is affected by a lack of capital. The Savings Bank in Vukovar was
founded in 1861. The first large industrial company Vukovarska
kudjeljara started operating only in 1905. Vukovar has been
receiving electricity from these plants since 1909.
The slow development of the industry is affecting a small increase in the city's population. According to the 1900 census, 1/4 of the population of the Vukovar district lives in Vukovar. Vukovar then had 10,400 inhabitants, of which by nationality: more than 4,000 Croats, 3,500 Germans, about 1,600 Serbs, 950 Hungarians, and others.
Significant industrial facilities were the basis in the period between the two world wars. The "Bata" factory in the footwear and rubber industry was founded in 1931. At the same time, significant plants of the textile industry began to operate in Vukovar. Industrialization has affected the growth of the city's population, so that Vukovar has more than 17,000 inhabitants according to the 1948 census.
Development of science and culture
In accordance with its position in economic and administrative terms, Vukovar has developed into an educational, cultural and health center. In the 18th and 19th centuries, people in Vukovar lived in the European way.
In the 18th century, ranchers were already active in Vukovar, and some Franciscans were also involved in treatment. The first medical graduate has been active since 1763, and the pharmacy was opened in 1791. At the end of the 18th century, a great Srijem plague reigned here. The first small hospital was opened only in 1857.
As early as 1730, Vukovar had a developed public education. The elementary school in Stari Vukovar developed from a Franciscan school. Novi Vukovar has its own school. There were also confessional schools for children of the Orthodox and Jewish faiths, as well as schools in German and Hungarian. The apprentice school was founded in 1886, and the grammar school in 1891.
A printing house was founded in Vukovar in 1867 and published the first Vukovar newspaper in German, Der Syrmier Bote. Later, several printing houses operated, and among the numerous newspapers, Sriemski Hrvat and Sriemske novine stood out, which were published for almost three decades at the turn of the 20th century.
Due to the lack of space for social events in the city, Vukovar landowner from one of the oldest and most prominent Vukovar families, Aleksa Paunović gives to build "Hotel Grand", this building is the most famous work of monumental historicist architecture in the city. It was built on the site of the so-called Swiss houses designed by Senj architect Vladimir Nikolić, from 1894 to 1897. In addition to catering facilities, the Grand Hotel also had a theater hall. The hotel was leased, and in 1918 it was sold to a new owner, Misha Gottfried. At that time, the labor movement in Vukovar was rapidly strengthening and the workers wanted to build a workers' home. As the Grand Hotel was offered for sale again in 1919, the workers founded the Workers 'Home Cooperative and, by selling cooperative shares, raised funds, bought the Grand Hotel and turned it into the Workers' Home.
In gratitude to its fellow citizen, on the occasion of the renovation of the stagecoach post office building, the former Bauer Gallery, the city of Vukovar placed a plaque with the name of Aleksa Paunović written in golden letters in Cyrillic on the front of the building.
The oldest literary works in this area originate from the pens of the Franciscans of Vukovar and Ilok. The most famous writers from this area are Nikola Andrić, Julije Benešić, Antun Gustav Matoš, Zaharije Orfelin, Pavao Pavličić and Zoran Bognar.
Numerous artists worked in Vukovar. Among the older ones are Josip Franjo Mücke, Franjo Ksaver Giffinger, and in the 20th century high school teachers Dragan Melkus, Dragutin Renarić, Marijan Detoni, and Mato Kovačević - Eskaviljo and others.
Vukovar has its Nobel laureate, Lavoslav Ružička. He was born in Vukovar in 1887, and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1939.
Vukovar had a developed social life modeled on European
understandings. In the period until the First World War alone, there
were about 30 societies. Singing, reading, sports and supporting
societies had their own reading rooms, organized concerts and
parties. Societies were often organized on a national basis. The
first play in the Croatian language was held in 1821, it was a play
by the guardian of the Franciscan monastery Grga Čevapović. The most
influential Croatian society is the Danube Singing Society. In 1922,
the Croatian Home was opened in Vukovar, the meeting point of all
Vukovar in Yugoslavia
In the period between the two world wars, within the Yugoslav state, the Vukovar area, as well as other Croatian regions, was under pronounced expansionist pressure from Belgrade. Territorial divisions into areas and banovinas systematically divided the Croatian territory. The interventions of the Belgrade authorities changed the composition of the population. The areas obtained by the agrarian reform are distributed to Thessaloniki volunteers and the general population from the Serbian regions. But Serbs and partly Croats from poor rural areas of Croatia: Lika, Kordun and Dalmatia also immigrated. Employment in factories was skillfully used to change the Croatian significance of the Vukovar area.
At the beginning of this period, there was a very strong workers' movement in Vukovar, which found its foothold in the unresolved social and national issue in the then Yugoslav state. This is especially emphasized by the holding of II. Congress of the Socialist Workers' Party of Yugoslavia in 1920, which at that congress received a new name - the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (although the state itself took the Yugoslav name only in 1929). Despite all the pressures of the expansionist policy of Belgrade at that time, there were almost no interethnic tensions in Vukovar until the end of the 1930s, and the Croatian national consciousness was preserved and the establishment of the Banovina of Croatia in 1939 was welcomed with relief.
Unfortunately, the tragic events of World War II follow. Interethnic conflicts caused before the war are now intensifying in Vukovar as well. The city did not suffer major destruction. The composition of the population changed significantly, especially with the persecution of Jews, Serbs and anti-fascist Croats, and the persecution, killing and emigration of Vukovar Germans ("Donauschwaben") towards the end and after the war.
After 1945, in the new Yugoslav state, the district of Šid was separated from the Croatian lands. The rest of Srijem, which is not part of today's Croatia, was separated even earlier on the occasion of the founding of the Banovina of Croatia. Unlike the pre-war "mutilation", in exchange for the Sid district, which had already been mostly inhabited by Serbs, Croatia got Baranja, which had never been in Croatia before. The Vukovar-Ilok region, which remained part of Croatia, administratively made up the municipality of Vukovar.
In accordance with the Law on Agrarian Reform and Colonization from 1945, the nationalization of goods was carried out and turned into state property. The two richest Vukovar families, Eltz and Paunović, are left without the entire property, which has been partially returned to its owners by the Republic of Croatia in recent times. After 1948, the split with the USSR and moving in a new direction, state ownership became social (which is de facto identical to workers' shareholding, without precise ownership in the form of shares). In the Vukovar area there is a rapid industrialization, above average compared to other parts of Croatia. Unfortunately, the industry is narrowly specialized, unattractive with mass employment of labor. At the same time, agricultural production is autarchic. In 1990, out of the total number of employees in the economy of the Vukovar region, about 60% worked in industry, and only 12% in agriculture, in the social sector.
Some events from the time of Ranković's reign of terror in
Yugoslavia were indicative of Serbia's conquest 30 years later. An
architecturally inappropriate project removed a building of Croatian
attribute designed by the great Croatian architect Aleksandar
Freudenreich, the Croatian Home in Vukovar. At the place where the
historical architectural corpus of the Croatian Home complex was
defined, which lasted until the early 1960s, the old classicist
hotel "K lavu" was demolished, and not long after, the baroque
facade of the Croatian Home was demolished. As early as 1966, an
architecturally unsuitable building was built on the site, an annex
to the "Cultural Center", which was entered from the newly formed
"square", in other words, the historic part of the Croatian home was
removed and the Rococo-style theater hall remained on the Danube
side. which still exists today. The construction remains of the old
hotel "K Lavu" were stolen and it was then recorded that two people
were criminally responsible for the unpleasant event. While in the
back, next to the hall on the site of the old Hotel "K Lavu", an
inappropriate modernist building of the new Hotel "Lav" was built.
In the war of 1991, the hotel was damaged, but it was not rebuilt
but demolished and a new building was built in its place in
accordance with the needs of the city in modern times.
Vukovar in the Homeland War and today
With the independence of Croatia in 1991, there was an open aggression of Serbia against Vukovar and Croatia. After the majority of the Serb population (all Serb children) fled the city, the Battle of Vukovar began, in which Croatian forces defended the city against the JNA army, Serb Chetnik and other paramilitary units, and the Serb army, which had enormous human superiority and techniques. Serbian shelling razed the city to the ground. After three months of bitter fighting, Vukovar fell into Serb hands on November 18, 1991.
In the 1991 aggression on Vukovar, the JNA and Serb paramilitaries killed at least 1,739 people.
After the liberation actions in other parts of Croatia in 1995, negotiations began on the return of Vukovar to Croatian rule. The local self-government in Vukovar began operating in mid-1997.
On June 8, 1997, the Peace Train arrived from Zagreb to Vukovar. It consisted of 21 wagons from all Croatian counties, and included the highest political officials, church dignitaries, members of the diplomatic corps, numerous dignitaries from the public, cultural, scientific and economic life of Croatia, and about 2,000 exiled Vukovar citizens who were preparing to return. . He marked the return of Croatia to Vukovar, to the Croatian Danube region, to its eastern borders. President Tudjman called the Train of Peace a symbol of the return of refugees and the offering of a hand to those who did not bleed their hands. Addressing the gathered people, President Tudjman called for forgiveness "because the winner who does not know how to forgive, sows the seeds of new evils, and the Croatian people do not want it, nor did they want it."
The Croatian Danube region was peacefully reintegrated into the Republic of Croatia on January 15, 1998. Since then, a lot of work has been done on the reconstruction of the city and the return of all residents and reconciliation, and the revival of cultural and other aspects of city life.
At the beginning of November 2020, new sculptures were placed at the road entrances to Vukovar, which show all passengers that they are entering Vukovar - a place of special patriotism. They were made according to the conceptual design of Boris Ljubičić. Four sculptures have been set up, and the rest will be set up in the coming months. One is to be at the entrance to Bogdanovci from the direction of the Marines. They are 587 cm high and consist of steel cubes in red, white and blue and the capital letter V and the symbol of the cross. The letter V was chosen because it is the initial letter of the name Vukovar and the letter V, for which Croatian defenders pointed out during the Homeland War with a closed fist, forefinger and middle finger in the shape of the letter V as a sign of victory. The cross symbolizes the Christian faith, and the squares in the colors of the Croatian tricolor represent the Croatian historical coat of arms. All together they are structurally connected by an X-shaped supporting structure and illuminated by floor reflectors.