An Introduction to Dubrovnik’s History
Dubrovnik-one of world’s top tourist destinations
Tourism is a major industry in the region of Dubrovnik, that’s why I have been observing millions of tourists for years. Yes, I know; the view of Dubrovnik’s narrow streets, churches, city walls and fortresses leaves no one indifferent … Many cultural sites, combined with beautiful landscapes and pleasant climate, are the winning combination for tourists. All this makes me feel grateful and proud. However, we should remember that cities are made up of people, not just buildings and streets.
Dubrovnik-one of world’s top tourist destinations
Tourism is a major industry in the region of Dubrovnik, that’s why I have been observing millions of tourists for years.
Yes, I know; the view of Dubrovnik’s narrow streets, churches, city walls and fortresses leaves no one indifferent … Many cultural sites, combined with beautiful landscapes and pleasant climate, are the winning combination for tourists.
All this makes me feel grateful and proud. However, we should remember that cities are made up of people, not just buildings and streets.
Story of Ragusa, a little but very progressive state
So, let me tell you the story of these people who deserve credit for Dubrovnik’s fame in modern times.
Once upon a time there was a little independent state called Ragusa. It was situated on the eastern Adriatic coast, on the territory of today’s southern Dalmatia.
The population of the capital Ragusa (today’s Dubrovnik) was between 5000-10 000 and in the territory of the whole Republic around 40 000.
Still, we can say that „size doesn’t matter“ because Ragusa was very prosperous maritime state, especially during the 15th and 16th century.
To be honest, the citizens of Ragusa were very smart people. Many of them were skilled and wise sailors, merchants, innovators, artists, politicians…Their cultural, technical and scientific achievements leave many today’s people breathless.
For example, old citizens of Ragusa aka Dubrovnik built almost 2 kilometers long defensive city walls that today represent one of the most famous European cultural attractions. Still in the Middle Ages they intoduced sewage system, quarantine for travelers, pharmacy, orphanage and many other innovations that were unthinkable in rest of Europe.
In many respects, Ragusans were the first and the most special, but it’s impossible to mention all their achievements in this post. In a nutshell, unlike today’s people, Ragusans have not sought solutions in Europe (or somewhere else), but have created and imposed trends for themselves and many other countries.
Smart and wise Ragusan politicians, diplomats and spies (it’s not a joke)
I don’t have a high opinion of modern politicians because many of them lie, they usually prize money over people and they seem to polarize people rather than bringing them together. However, I like the politician profile in Ragusa because it was pretty different from today.
Like in other European countries, the political power in Ragusa was concentrated in the hands of the aristocracy. The organization of the government was based on the Venetian model: the head of the state was the Rector (Duke) and there were three the administrative bodies (the Great Council, the Small Council and the Senate).
This little Republic of Ragusa managed to survive the vicinity of greatpowers, such as the Ottoman Empire and Venetian Republic. During Venetian rule (1204–1358), the duke was Venetian; but after 1358 the elected Rector was always a local nobleman elected by the Grand Council.
First of all, the government of Ragusa has created very skillful diplomacy and spy network, which became its most powerful tool to maintain independence. While many European states were making wars, Ragusa stayed away from these conflicts.
Secondly, the government didn’t destroy the economy (as is the case today). On the contrary, politicians from that time enhanced economic development of this little state.
Ragusa owes its prosperity in the 15th and 16th century to a very successful diplomacy (supported by local government), which resulted in good relations with many great powers (with the exception of Venice). The crucial moment was the agreement with the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire (in 1458) which made Ragusa a tributary of the sultan. Moreover, Ragusa was obliged to pay annual tribute to the Ottoman sultan.
In return, Ragusa maintained its independence and gained the right to trade in the entire Ottoman Empire.
Some would say that Ragusa aka Dubrovnik was not really independent but it was rather a puppet state of Ottoman Empire. In a sense, it was true but still, Dubrovnik achieved something that other countries on the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegowina, Serbia, Bulgaria…) could not. Ragusans maintained significant degree of independence (cultural identity, political system, free trade with many countries) while other countries conquered by Ottomans were mostly just vassals without any authonomy.
Our present and future
In short, old Ragusans did their best to keep independence but they lost battle at the beginning of the 19th century. Such is life, sometimes you win, sometimes you loose, new states are formed and old ones disappear. Everything is relative, so is the future of Dubrovnik as tourist destination, the future of Croatia and Mother Earth.
What matters is that we can learn a lot from the past. You need to adapt to the times we live in, otherwise time will run you down. This is exactly what happened to the Republic of Ragusa and many other former states. Also, we can’t just enjoy the old glory, as is the case in modern citizens of Dubrovnik. It is time for some new visions and trends to come from Dubrovnik again.
Nowe you may say I’m a nostalgic for a past. In a sense, you’re right but I also focus on living in the present. My mission is to make my hometown a better place to live. I’m still at the beginning, but I hope I will succeed one day.
P.S. I know that this post might be very confusing, but it’s just impossible to summarize the history of Dubrovnik in one post. That’s why I offer guided walking tours in Dubrovnik and day tours from Dubrovnik. My next topics will be modern lifestyle, today’s successful people of Dubrovnik, many new details of Ragusa and its inhabitants… Of course, your feedbacks and questions will inspire me, too.
Have fun and see you next time!
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