One of the things about living in the UK is that its relatively easy to map out what Winston Churchill described as A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, the Celts who populated these islands were joined by the cosmopolitan militia and auxiliaries of the Roman Empire, who were in turn pushed aside by migrating Angles and Saxons, interfered with by pillaging Vikings, and then subjugated by the French when Harold Godwinson saw off the Norwegian threat but not the Norman.
And that’s pretty much it until we began empire-building and found that people from our colonies arrived here to join our population, but throughout our racial intermingling one thing remained constant; Britain. Being an island race our borders have remained largely unchanged other than when the Republic of Ireland achieved independence. Yes the kingdoms that made up Britain have pulsated as battles were fought over demarcation lines between England and Scotland or Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex and the other Anglo-Saxon lands, but the inhabitants are nevertheless seen as British.
Contrast this with Croatia. Their declaration of independence from Yugoslavia was a bloody one, but why were they so adamant that they were different? Yugoslavia was a 20th Century construct, but one that the Croatians originally signed up to. Why do they see themselves as different to the Serbs? Or Bosnians? My first introduction to the tribal nature of the region was Alistair MacLean’s Force 10 from Navarone; a fun read for a teenage boy but I doubt it can be considered reliable source material!
The divisions go back a long way. Those who settled in this area in the period following the end of Roman influence had a choice of influences between Rome to the West and Byzantium to the East. The Croats chose Rome and Catholicism, the Serbs chose the Orthodox Christian tradition. Bosnia went its own way and chose an independent Bosnian church. Religious divisions are nothing new.
Like the inhabitants of the UK, the Croats may well have their roots elsewhere, with some theories pointing to Iran, whilst historical records suggest a group of “Red Croats” living in Dalmatia (the Adriatic Coastline of what was Yugoslavia) with “White Croats” migrating in from lands further north between Czechia and Poland. The red and white chequerboard on their coat of arms is coincidental in this respect, though a fitting symbol if the nations is built from the merging of these two groups.
Add in the impact of rule from the Venetian Republic, Austria-Hungary, Communists and Fascists and you can see why the politics of this beautiful coastal region has been so confused over the years.
This then will be my first posting based on my experiences of a brief visit to the country and there’ll probably be about a dozen so I’ll put them up monthly. They’ll be full of my usual ignorance, curiosity and prejudice and hopefully a decent picture or two. They’ll also be coloured no doubt by centuries of changing identity.