Thursday, 20 April 2023

Neretva Valley Archaeological Discovery Stalls Expensive Project

April the 20th, 2023 - An interesting Neretva Valley archaeological discovery has seen the pause button pressed on a long awaited project worth half a billion kuna.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, for almost a decade in the very south of Dalmatia, more precisely in the Neretva Valley, residents been waiting for a systematic and long-term solution to the problem of salty sea water that penetrates upstream and slowly kills agricultural production, the main (and extremely important) economic activity of that region of the country.

A glimmer of hope appeared with the National Project of Irrigation and Agricultural Land Management, within which the Lower Neretva was selected as a pilot project.

EU funds

The value of the venture was estimated to stand at more than half a billion kuna, and its envisaged realisation spanned two phases, firstly the physical barriers to the penetration of salty water coming in from the sea, and then in the second phase, the construction of a distribution network system to arable agricultural areas. EU funds would drive the project forward.

However, during the preparations, a problem arose that suddenly stopped this undertaking, which is crucial for the preservation of production in the entire wider Neretva region. The site chosen for the construction of the barrier, more specifically between Komin and Opuzen, turned out to be a place hiding a very valuable archaeological site.

During the surveying of the terrain and the underwater part of the research which was carried out back in 2021 by Hrvatske vode (Croatian waters), under whose authority the project was prepared, it was determined that the remains of two wooden vessels were buried in the riverbed. In addition to them, ancient amphorae and fragments of Roman ceramics and processed wood were also found, and last year, they had five underwater archeological probes investigate within this narrow zone and fragments of processed wood were found that probably belong to the ship's construction, while part of the amphora was laid in a row, indicating that this is the old ship's cargo.

It was concluded that this Neretva Valley archaeological discovery was the remains of a shipwreck from the Roman period, all of which were found at the location intended for the construction of the bulkhead, where part of the cargo and possibly the ship's structure were probably preserved. Based on data from Croatian waters, it is estimated that the vessel dates from the period from the end of the 1st century BC.

The valuable artefacts were partially or completely buried in sand and mud and were documented by sounding, and now, before starting any activities on the project of installing a dam and building an irrigation system, Croatian waters is hiring experts who will carry out underwater research and conservation/restoration works.

Conservators from Imotski

A contract has just been concluded with the Institute for Maritime Heritage Ars Nautica from the island of Pasman near Zadar, which won the rights to the job in a public tender at a price of 600,000 euros and for which it has four months from the start of the work.

The Conservation Department in Imotski will decide where the exhibits from this Neretva Valley archaeological discovery will end up showcased. After that, activities with the project to save production in the Neretva Valley will continue as they were until now. The project of setting up a mobile barrier and creating a pool of desalted water that would be transported to agricultural areas through a pressure distribution network system would enable salt to be washed from the surface layer of the soil and ensure quality water for the cultivation of agricultural crops.

The next step for Croatian waters will be to prepare everything so that it can finally start investing, which will require 73.5 million euros in total.

For more, check out our news section.

Monday, 20 February 2023

Exploring the Croatian Language - The Buzet Dialect

February the 20th, 2023 - If you're into linguistics, you've more than likely heard of Chakavian, which is one of the main dialects of standard Croatian as we know it today, and which was officially declared a language back in 2020. What about a dialect of Chakavian itself, such as the Buzet dialect, however?

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously. That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian

The Buzet dialect is just one of a multitude of dialects and subdialects spoken in and around the region of the Istrian peninsula, which was dominated by Italian for a very long time owing to the formerly powerful Venice. Contrary to popular belief (and what the bilinguial signs across Istria might have you believe), there is far more than just Italian spoken alongside standard Croatian in this part of the country. Istro-Venetian, Istriot, Istrian-Albanian (now extinct), Istro-Romanian... the list goes on. All of these dialects, which some linguists consider to be languages in their own right, showcase the sheer amount of culture and foreign influence that has come and gone in Istria throughout the many centuries gone by, and as you can see - it stretches far beyond the realms of Italian and the former Venetian Empire.

A brief history of the Buzet dialect

The Buzet dialect, a dialect of the much more widely spread Chakavian, is particularly interesting as it is believed to represent the transition of Chakavian towards the dialects spoken nearby, just across the border in neighbouring Slovenia. It is precisely this linguistic relationship which provides the Buzet dialect with (in many cases) very obvious Chakavian-Kajkavian dialectological features.

Owing to the presence of these transitional features of Kajkavian (and not only Chakavian), which actually represent a transitional line between the Chakavian and several Slovenian dialects, numerous linguists once thought that this separate part of the Kajkavian dialect had found itself in the northern part of Istria and in Buzet from the wider region of Gorski kotar. It was even considered to be a marginal Slovenian dialect in the past. This is now deemed to have been a mistake made by the Slovenian linguist Fran Ramovs.

Who was Fran Ramovs?

Born in the Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana, this prominent linguist studied and explored the various dialects of the Slovenian language in Vienna. 

Where is the Buzet dialect spoken?

Well, the name likely gives it away. It is spoken in and around the area of Buzet, but it spreads considerably across the northern part of Istria as well.

The background of this dialect now considered to undoubtedly be Chakavian, there are still some features that make it stand out it from the rest of the Chakavian dialects spoken in the modern day, and one of those features are its consonants and how they've developed. Delving a little deeper, even the Buzet dialect, which is a dialect of Chakavian (which was also once considered a dialect!) can be divided into two separate subdialects; the southeastern subdialect, which is an apparent transition towards North Chakavian, and then the rest of it which is more widely spoken and which doesn't show as many North Chakavian transition points.

In the wider division of Chakavian into its northwestern and southeastern dialects, the Buzet dialect is considered to be northwestern.


For more on the Croatian language, from its dialects, subdialects, history and even learning to swear, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section. An article on language is published every Monday.




Monday, 16 January 2023

Exploring The Croatian Language - The Shtokavian Dialect

January the 16th, 2023 - We've looked into many a dialect, but what about what's known as a ''prestige dialect''? of the modern (standard) Croatian language? A look deeper into the Shtokavian dialect, part of the wider family of South Slavic dialects.

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously.

That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian. Shtokavian is far less obscure than the majority of the above, with the exception of Kajkavian and Chakavian, and forms the basis of the Croatian language standard as we know it today.

If you're not a linguist and you hear the words Shtokavian, Kajkavian or Chakavian, you're probably thinking ''what?!''. Did you know that the question of ''what'' is so valid in this context that it makes up the beginning of each of these names? In the parts of the country where the Western Shtokavian dialect is dominant, the Croatian word for ''what'' is ''shto'', and for the areas of the country where Kajkavian is used, the word for what changes to ''kaj'', and - you guessed it - for Chakavian, people typically say ''cha''.

Where is the Shtokavian dialect used?

In the modern day, Shtokavian is used in much of Croatia, as well as in Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and even in parts of Austria (more precisely in Burgenland).

A brief history of the Shtokavian dialect

For the sake of this article not turning into a book, I'll be focusing on the use of the Shtokavian dialect solely in the Croatian sense, and we first see it appear way back in the 12th century, then splitting off into two zones; Eastern and Western - one encompassed Serbia, the more eastern parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and further south in Montenegro, while the other was dominant in Slavonia and in most of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We can read early texts written in the Shtokavian dialect which are dated as far back as the 1100s, one of the most important of them all being the regulation of commerce between Dubrovnik and Bosnia, called the Ban Kulin Charter. Other legal documentation also boasts the dialect from across Dalmatia during the pre-Ottoman era, and Dubrovnik stands out quite a lot in this regard. Another important text written in the Shtokavian dialect is the Vatican Croatian Prayer Book which was published before the year 1400 in Dubrovnik.

Are there different dialects within the wider Shtokavian dialect?

In short - yes. There are a great many dialects (or subdialects) of the Shtokavian dialect which are or were spoken in different areas of not only Croatia but within the wider region. As I said before, for the sake of this article not becoming a book, I'll focus only on Shtokavian spoken in Croatia, and as such draw your attention to Slavonian (old Shtokavian), Bosnian-Dalmatian (neo Shtokavian), Eastern Herzegovian (neo Shtokavian) and the Dubrovnik subdialect (neo Shtokavian).


Meet Podravian/Podravski and Posavian/Posavski (just when you thought this couldn't possibly get any more needlessly complicated). This form of speech is spoken primarily by Croats from Baranja, Slavonia and areas of the wider Pannonian plain. The aforementioned subdialects (Posavian and Podravian) are the northern and southern variants of the dialect, and there are ethnic Croats who speak it outside of Croatia's modern borders in parts of northern Bosnia, as well. The two subdialects boast two accents, Ikavian and Ekavian. 


This dialect is sometimes referred to as Younger Ikavian and most people who speak it are ethnic Croats from a wide range of modern Croatia - spanning from Dalmatia all the way to Lika and Kvarner. Outside of Croatian borders, you'll also find people who speak it in Subotica (Serbia) and in Herzegovina, and to a much lesser extent in areas around Central Bosnia. Unlike with Slavonian, the only accent heard in the Bosnian-Dalmatian pronunciation of the wider Shtokavian dialect is Ikavian.

Eastern Herzegovian

This is the most widespread subdialect of the Shtokavian dialect of all, encompassing vast areas of Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Of all of the subdialects of the Shtokavian dialect, Eastern Herzegovian (or Eastern Herzegovinian) has the largest number of speakers. 

The Dubrovnik dialect (Ragusan)

You can read more about the Dubrovnik dialect (or subdialect) by clicking here.

Standard Croatian is based on the neo Shtokavian dialect, but despite that, it took over four centuries for this dialect to gain enough ground and eventually prevail as the basis for modern Croatian, with other dialects (including Kajkavian and Chakavian) falling short primarily owing to not only historical reasons but because of usually turbulent political issues.


For more on exploring the Croatian language, as well as the numerous dialects and subdialects spoken in different areas across the country, and even a look into endangered and extinct languages, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 2 January 2023

Exploring Croatian - The Oldest Known Slavic Alphabet - Glagolitic

January the 2nd, 2023 - Did you know that Croatia once used the oldest known Slavic alphabet? The Glagolitic script can still be seen in various parts of the country, and souvenirs sold across Croatia still bear it to this very day.

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously. That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian. What about Glagolitic?

A (very) brief history

To start off, it's worth noting that the origins of the Glagolitic alphabet are disputed to an extent. This can be said for most ancient languages and linguists are known to squabble over such things, but it is generally accepted that the script was created back during the ninth century by a monk from Thessalonica (today's Thessaloniki in Greece) called Saint Cyril, as well as to Saint Methodius, his brother. The very first observed mention of the word ''Croatia'' in the Glagolitic script dates back to around 1100 AD.

Another interesting fact about Glagolitic is that the precise number of letters in its original form is entirely unknown, but what we do know is that it is likely that Saint Cyril and his brother Methodius created the script in order to facilitate the introduction of the Christian faith, and we can assume with some level of certainty that the initial number of letters would have close to a Greek model. That said, there are elements of a variety of different languages within Glagolitic.

Over the many years, Glagolitic evolved with the population of its users and the tumultuous times they faced. It is certain that during the twelfth century, as Glagolitic in its original form (even with its non-Greek sounds) began to lose its grip, more and more Cyrillic influence could be found. As the centuries rolled on, more and more original Glagolitic letters were dropped, seeing the original number of letters drop to less than thirty in the Croatian recensions of what was called the Church Slavic language. 

The use of the Glagolitic script in Croatia

The first Croatian Glagolitic book to be printed was Missale Romanum Glagolitice from 1483, and if you somehow managed to obtain a fully functioning time machine and took a quick trip back to the twelfth century and landed anywhere in Kvarner, Istria, Dalmatia, or even in Medjimurje, you'd have come across the Glagolitic script more or less everywhere. It's true that Glagolitic was mostly found in the coastal parts of the country, with notable areas being islands such as Krk (the Kvarner area) and the Dalmatian islands which sit just off the Zadar mainland, but traces of it stretched to Medjimurje (far inland), Lika, and even in parts of modern Slovenia.

For a very long time, it was accepted that the Glagolitic script was used solely in the aforementioned areas, but when 1992 rolled around and Croatia was engulfed in some extremely difficult times in its fight for independence and against Serbian aggression, some fascinating discoveries were made in old churches situated along the Orljava river in Eastern Croatia (Slavonia). This rather remarkable discovery blew previous theories about the locations in which this ancient script was used out of the water, and proved that it was also indeed used in Slavonia, something that was simply not even considered before.

While the twelfth century was in some ways a form of peak for the old Glagolitic script in Croatia, it did survive beyond that as the nation's main script, and for some time, but after a while, the development (or indeed decline) of this script was very poorly documented for a variety of reasons. Just before the marauding Ottomans began sniffing around the area, and before the Croatian-Ottoman wars truly began, the use of Glagolitic was at its very peak, and in today's measure, the amount of people using it back then would correspond to the amount of people in Croatia who use the Chakavian and Kajkavian dialects (two of the main dialects which make up modern standard Croatian) today. 

The Ottoman wars and the decline of Croatian Glagolitic

The Ottomans and their invasions in the surrounding areas sounded the death knell for Croatian Glagolitic, and its stability in the region began to slip severely, with more damage being done to the use of this old script in areas more devastated and culturally altered by the Turkish forces. While the Ottomans certainly laid the heaviest of the groundwork to put the nails in Glagolitic's coffin, the real blow which set the wheels in motion for Glagolitic to meet its fate came much, much later, more precisely in the seventeen century, and by a bishop from Zagreb, no less. 

The Zrinski-Frankopan conspiracy, the west and the Italians

You've likely never heard of this conspiracy, as it's known in Croatia by this title, but to others it is simply called the Magnate conspiracy. In short, this conspiracy was an organised attempt to remove foreign influences (read Habsburg) from both Croatia and neighbouring Hungary during the seventeeth century. This left the Glagolitic script entirely without secular protection, and its use was severely limited, seeing it used only in the coastal region of modern Croatia. One century later, in the very late part of it, western influence saw to it that Glagolitic was to be no more. The culture and the script crumbled under secular pressures from the west, and it relied solely on printed material. By the time the twentieth century had rolled around and Fascist Italy did its bit in many part of modern Croatia, the areas in which the Glagolitic script had managed to cling on to existence suffered tremendously, and these areas were scaled back even more.

Glagolitic in modern day Croatia

Many ancient buildings, such as churches, still bear the Glagolitic script to this day, and of course, items bearing it can also be purchased across the country. The brand new Croatian euro coins with national motifs on them also proudly bear this ancient script, and it can be found on the 2 and 5 cent coins minted here. The 1992 discoveries in Eastern Croatian churches also shed light on the script, and those churches are in Lovcic and Brodski Drenovac. Some of the oldest stone monuments with the Glagolitic script engraved on them have been found in Istria and on the island of Krk, and in February each year, Croatian Glagolitic Script Day is marked in an attempt to preserve the rich and rather mysterious history of this script for generations to come.

For more on the modern Croatian language, dialects, subdialects, extinct languages, and learning Croatian, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Dubrovnik Marks Anniversary of its Defence, Honours its Defenders

December the 6th, 2022 - The 6th of December 1991 is a date which has burned itself into the eternal memory of the City of Dubrovnik and has become as much a part of its long history as Saint Blaise or Marin Drzic.

What do you think of when you think about the 90's? Maybe you think of the then mobile phone giant Nokia and the phones that could break concrete if dropped, or Haddaway's eternal question about what love is. For many it was a happy time, a time of good music, technological advancement and anticipation of the turn of a brand new century. For others, it was a time of fear, death, oppression and destruction, and for those of us who come from Europe, it was shocking to see such a thing occurring on our doorstep - once again.

The Serbs and their hangers on, the Montenegrins, pressed on with their imperialistic style regime through unfathomable attempts at mass murder, butchering innocent civilians in Srebrenica, in Vukovar, in Skabrnja. Children killed, women raped, men slaughtered and buried in pits, given no more dignity than diseased livestock. Europe had not seen such bloodshed and brutality since Adolf Hitler and his army of black-shirts had reigned. For most people from outside of the former Yugoslavia, the reasons for Serbian aggression were shrouded in mystery, for many, they still are.

It's known to most that both Croatia and neighbouring Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia (SFRJ) in 1991 following numerous attempts at gaining political distance and finally through a referendum. The formerly Socialist Republic of Croatia became the Republic of Croatia, an independent state of its very own after what seemed to many like an eternity under a cruel and unyielding Yugoslav thumb. That was about as much as those lucky enough not to be involved knew about the situation which led to the above.

On the 6th December 1991, Dubrovnik was viciously attacked by the JNA (Yugoslav Peoples Army), it was the culmination of a siege which sought to raze the globally adored UNESCO World Heritage Site to the ground. A similar and unfortunately successful action was seen much more recently in Palmyra at the hands of ISIS. The horrific bombardment of Dubrovnik resulted in international condemnation of the JNA and rightly became a public relations disaster for Serbia and Montenegro, contributing to and furthering their diplomatic and economic isolation and winning them powerful enemies across Europe and the rest of the world. It was a shot in the foot from which the still-estranged Serbia has hardly ever recovered in the eyes of the international community, and rightly so.

To go into it a little more deeply, the JNA was composed primarily of Serbian nationals, and it was no accident that they targeted a location which had been totally demilitarised back in the 1970's to try to prevent it from ever becoming a war casualty. The JNA's barbaric attack on the beloved UNESCO city of Dubrovnik was met with international condemnation and political outcry, resulting in the aforementioned isolation of Serbia. Threats to Serbia from numerous powerful European politicians echoed around the globe, the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously stood defiantly by Croatia, claiming publicly that had it been up to her, she would have bombed Belgrade immediately.

The attack lasted seven long months, the heaviest attack took place on this day, the 6th of December (now celebrated as the Day of the Defenders in Dubrovnik), killing 19 people and wounding another 60. Artillery attacks on Dubrovnik damaged 56% of its buildings, and the Old City was the innocent victim of 650 shells. Neighbouring Montenegro grew ever hostile, led by President Momir Bulatovic and Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic who rose to power following the popular anti-bureaucratic revolution, the nation was allied to the fanatical Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. It was declared that Dubrovnik would not remain in Croatia, with both of these nations who have since failed miserably in comparison to Croatia falsely claiming that it had never been a part of Croatia at all. The war ended with Croatian victory, earned with blood, with the siege lifted in May 1992. The Croatian Army liberated Dubrovnik and its surroundings, but the danger of sudden attacks from the internationally villified JNA remained a threat for a further three years.

The cruel and unjustified siege and naval blockade by the JNA and the Yugoslav Navy resulted in the direct deaths of between 82 and 88 civilians and 194 Croatian military personnel. By the end of the bloody year of 1992, when the entire region was recaptured by the HV, 417 Croatian Army (HV) troops were dead. Approximately 19,000 refugees were displaced. 11,425 buildings suffered varying degrees of damage, numerous homes, businesses, and public buildings were torched and property was looted by the JNA and their Montenegrin counterparts. In 2000, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic apologised for his country's part in this utterly devastating attack, prompting anger from his political rivals and feelings of betrayal from the still very much isolated and globally condemned, small nation of Serbia.

Today, Dubrovnik is known across the world as an enviably successful tourism giant which has to do very little but lie on its laurels. A far cry now from a war zone without running water and electricity, outside of the summer months, the Pearl of the Adriatic sits relatively silenty in its peace, with only mere calls of seagulls and anchors of ships cutting through that hard-earned silence. It has won many titles since that awful day, and gained many nicknames, from the fictional Kings Landing and Naboo, to the non-fictional Pearl of the Adriatic. A lifetime has passed since those dark says, and the costly mask the city so perfectly wears would never reveal its wounds, its pain or its suffering to the untrained and naive eye.

Following the war, damage was repaired adhering to UNESCO guidelines between 1995 and 1999. The ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) issued indictments for the JNA Generals and officers involved in the disgraceful siege of Dubrovnik, with the architect of the attack, General Pavle Strugar sentenced for his role. Strugar passed away in 2018, and while one shouldn't speak ill of the dead, it doesn't seem appropriate to hope his rest is a peaceful one.

For more on Croatian history, keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 5 December 2022

A Brief History Of The Extinct Istrian-Albanian Language

December the 5th, 2022 - Ever heard of Gheg (or sometimes Geg) Albanian? It's one of the two main varieties of the Albanian language, the other being Tosk. Spoken in the Northern and Central parts of Albania, as well as in Kosovo, parts of Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia, it has over three million native speakers. What does that have to do with Istria, you may ask? Let's get to know the now extinct Istrian-Albanian language a little better.

We've looked into the three main dialects which make up modern standard Croatian as we know it today, Shtokavian, Kajkavian (and Northwestern Kajkavian) and Chakavian. We've delved into dialects and subdialects such as Ragusan (the Dubrovnik subdialect), old Dalmatian, and some very sparsely spoken languages such as Istriot, Zaratin, Istro-Romanian and Istro-Venetian. Istrian-Albanian is now unfortunately entirely extinct, and there isn't that much known about it.

First of all, I should explain that the Istrian-Albanian language ''died'' in the nineteenth century, having arrived on the Istrian peninsula with the ethnic Albanians who moved there  between the thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries. The Albanians who spoke this Northern Gheg form of Albanian were primarily settled there by Venice, which had an enormous amount of power at the time and of course then ruled over Istria, in an attempt to combat the increasing issue of depopulation of the wider area.

Of course, other ethnicities and nationalities also moved (or were moved) there by the then mighty Republic of Venice, and they also brought their various languages and dialects with them. This is part of Istria's very long and freckled history which makes it so diverse and rich. If any part of Croatia can be (and has more or less always been) considered to be multicultural, then it is the Istrian peninsula. The sheer amount of ethnicities present there is a testimony to the history of that part of the country.

The various languages and dialects spoken by the settlers of that time eventually saw the evolution of the Istrian-Albanian language, with the only known surviving text written entirely in Istrian-Albanian having been written by the Italian priest, inventor and historian Pietro Stancovich/Petar Matija Stankovic (1771-1852) in the 1830s.

Most sources claim that it was spoken in the very small settlement of Katun (close to Porec) until the nineteenth century, especially given the fact that the very name ''Katun'' draws its origins from Albanian, but there is very little known or officially recorded other than that. The reason for that could be similar to what has been observed with the Istro-Romanian language, in that many of its speakers were peasants who had little to no access to education, leading to the language simply being left to the often cruel hands of time. That said, we do know that the ''original'' version of the Istrian-Albanian languages was spoken in the wider Bar region in neighbouring Montenegro, as well as in and around Skadar in Albania. 

Little is left in the modern day in regard to the extinct Istrian-Albanian language, as preservation attempts were never really a motive for anyone, which thankfully isn't the case for languages like Istro-Romanian, with both the Croatian and the Romanian governments attempting to keep it alive.

For more on the Croatian language, as well as the many dialects and subdialects spoken across the country, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 7 November 2022

Dalmatian-Venetian Languages - A Brief History of the Zaratin Dialect

November the 7th, 2022 - Have you ever heard of the Zaratin dialect (Zaratinski dijalekt)? Unless you're a linguist or you just happen to be from the part of the wider Zadar area which spoke it, it isn't likely.

For such a small country geographically speaking, there are so many dialects, subdialects and even ways of speech which border on a language of their own spoken across Croatia. There are words specific not only to certain areas, but in many cases to specific islands, and in some cases, to specific places on those same specific islands. Having looked into the main dialects which make up the standard Croatian language as we know it today, Shtokavian, Kajkavian and Chakavian, as well as old Dalmatian and Ragusan (the Dubrovnik subdialect), let's get a little bit more obscure and delve a little into the Zaratin dialect from Zadar (or should I say Zara, given that we're talking about the Venetians).

The Zaratin dialect came to be from mixing Venetian speech with both the Croatian and Jadertine languages and was used by Italians from Zadar for centuries. The horrors which played out across Europe during World War Two are often blamed for kickstarting the beginning of the end for the Zaratin dialect, more specifically the bombing of the City of Zadar.

This tragic event saw a huge number of Zadar locals leave this part of Dalmatia and seek refuge and better lives elsewhere. Most of those people were actually Italians from Zadar who spoke in the Zaratin dialect, and censuses taken during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth show that a significant number of locals living in Zadar spoke in the Zaratin dialect (then listed as Italian for all intents and purposes) - over 60 percent to be more precise.

There were of course other dialects spoken in Zadar, most of which were heavily influenced by the Venetians and as such their language. As stated, up until the outbreak of the Second World War, the Italian influence in Zadar was strong and ethnic Italians living in Zadar were numerous, and as such their various ways of speaking. Following the bombing of Zadar and the aforementioned exodus of around 20,000 or so Italian Zadar residents, the Zaratin dialect (and others) suffered a decline in the amount of people left there who spoke it. The tragedy for this dialect didn't stop there, as Italian property was either handed over to relatives or confiscated by the state in Yugoslavia, and the ethnic Croatian influence began to grow, replacing the traces of the ethnic Italians from Zadar.

By the time the war ended and the 1950s rolled around, a heavily damaged Zadar was reconstructed by Croats, and the standard Croatian language began to gain a stronghold. The demise of the Zaratin dialect was then in full force. In this day and age, with many local dialects and subdialects across the Republic of Croatia unfortunately dying with the very last generations to speak them, very few elderly people in Zadar still speak in the Zaratin dialect and have it as their mother tongue.

While not all of them spoke in just the Zaratin dialect, the Dalmatian Italians were once a fundamental part of the way life was woven in Zadar and across the rest of Dalmatia, and it seems that even today the true amount of Italian Dalmatians is unclear, with just a few hundred individuals declaring themselves ethnic Italians in official censuses. It has been more or less accepted that the census carried out in Croatia back in 2001 underestimated the sheer number of Italian Dalmatians there are, as many people simply chose not to express their actual ethnic identity for a variety of reasons, from disputes over property ownership rights to not having adequate representation or protection as a minority.

Today, there are numerous Dalmatian Italian Associations, and the one in Zadar is called the Italian Community of Zadar (Comunita Italiana di Zara), which boasts 500 members and was founded back in 1991. It is responsible for launching the first Italian courses after Italian schools were all shut down in 1953.

If you want to hear the Zaratin dialect, one song which was once very popular and is worth listening to is El muto zaratin (Zadarski mulac), written back at the end of the nineteenth century by Luigi Bauch.

For more on Croatian language and history, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 16 September 2022

Roman Era Harbour Equipment Discovered in Istrian Waters

September the 16th, 2022 - A remarkable find in the Istrian waters as important and obviously ancient Roman era harbour equipment is discovered and archaeological research is now being carried out.

As Morski writes, a team from the Archaeological Museum of Istria in the City of Pula is currently conducting underwater archaeological research in the area of ​​the old Barbariga beach, more precisely at the location of the Roman port. The leader of the research is Dr. Ida Koncani Uhac.

What is of great interest to this team of underwater archaeologists are the remains of an ancient pice of harbour equipment lying in the waters of Barbariga bay, which most likely served the nearby ancient oil mill as part of the operational piece of coast for loading and transporting oil by sea. Back during the 1950s, archaeologist Stefan Mlakar from the Pula AMI researched the site of the Barbariga oil mill.

In the Barbariga cove, located under the sea, a team of archaeologists and divers have established a monumental structure spanning an impressive length of 57 metres, preserved in situ in three rows of stone blocks, and the foundation block was also established by probing. The width of the structure is from 16 to 24 metres, with an L-shaped protrusion. The port device is built of stone blocks measuring 3.1 metres by 2.6 metres in total.

The results of this research so far are another confirmation that the area of ​​the town of Vodnjan was known for the production of high-quality olive oil even back during ancient times. The locality of Barbariga - an oil mill in the hinterland of the bay, once boasted 20 presses, which made it the largest oil mill in all of Istria, and probably beyond. The site is dated to the 1st century. At the nearby Punta Barbariga, there are also the remains of a Roman peristyle villa. According to estimates, an oil mill of that size processed olives planted on an area of ​​240 to 300 hectares, and the size of the entire property is estimated to span around 900 hectares.

Large quantities of building ceramics, fragments of tableware and kitchenware, and amphorae were also found in these Istrian waters. Among the findings, amphorae stand out. Most of the findings can be quite easily dated back to the 1st century, which corresponds to the nearby site of an ancient oil mill.

This interesting research is being carried out as part of the "Istrian Underwater/Istarsko podmorje" project, which involves the documentation, listing and topography of all underwater sites related to Roman history.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Pasman Venetian Wreck Surprises Investigating Archaeologists

September the 4th, 2022 - A Pasman Venetian wreck has investigating archaeologists scratching their heads in surprise, with an international team working on the discovery which could tell us more than we knew before about Venetian shipbuilding.

As Morski/More/HRT/Ana Marusic writes, back at the beginning of the sixties, just south of the island of Pasman, the wreck of a wooden Venetian ship was first discovered. After it was searched by many divers for various reasons, it finally had some proper scientific research put into it, which revealed a lot.

This Pasman Venetian wreck has revealed many surprises since being found. This is the wreck of a large merchant ship that once travelled the maritime route between Venice and the Orient during the late Renaissance. Back during the early 1960s, it was came upon by fishermen and local divers from the island of Murter, as reported by HRT.

Since such discoveries can't remain a secret for very long, and illegal activities are usually organised faster than scientific ones, without a doubt the site was significantly depleted before the first official insights into its potential could begin. Despite all that, it remains an extremely rich old wreck, and the first legally extracted finds were discussed by several experts.

Although work has been done on the Pasman Venetian wreck since the second half of the 1960s, only during the last decade was systematic research actually properly carried out, which brought is new exciting insights.

''For a long time, we suspected that this site was still extremely valuable. Back in 2013, we started researching a part of the site that was thought to be the bow, as if the ship had sunk on its keel and only its lower part was preserved. We realised very quickly that the ship had actually sunk on its starboard side,'' explained the head of this research, Irena Radic Rossi, PhD,.

''With enough funds, it would be possible to complete the research in a year or two, but there's no talk of that yet. The work on the site could last ten years, if we'll be able to finance it,'' added Radic Rossi. Currently, there is money for research lasting a maximum of one month only.

''In addition to the Pasman Venetian wreck's overall structure, which is fantastically preserved, which we're gradually discovering, and thanks to which we'll be able to reconstruct Venetian shipbuilding from the end of the sixteenth century - we also discovered some small finds that made us happy. We even found a seal of the Doge of Venice,'' said Radic Rossi.

Such seals reveal whose goods traveled on this vessel, raw materials for the production of paints, previously unknown forms of glassware, and various small objects were also found, and they all speak about the ship, but also the cargo and the people it once transported all that time ago. Many experts have made a valuable contribution in the international team researching the Pasman Venetian wreck, including a well known Japanese expert in photogrammetry, who has been participating in such research for years.

''We don't know much about Venetian shipbuilding, so this wreck is very important for us, in order to understand how they built vessels that carried them around the world and thus spread their power and brought wealth to the Republic of Venice,'' said Kotaro Yamafune.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 25 July 2022

Rab Hotel Construction Site Reveals 14th Century Wooden Vessel

July the 25th, 2022 - A Rab hotel construction site has revealed no less than the remains of an impressive fourteenth century wooden vessel, which is now under archaeological investigation.

As Morski writes, archaeological supervision is being carried out by archaeologists at the excavation pit of a construction site (located in the area of ​​the former Hotel Istra, owned by the company Cilika d.o.o. from Zagreb). Wooden elements that were found to be parts of a fourteenth century ship's structure have been discovered.

The remains of the ancient wooden ship (which bears the working name RAB 1) were found in the extreme eastern corner of the cadastral parcel intended for the construction of a new hotel.

Part of the RAB 1 ship structure enters the excavation profile of the construction site, which is now secured by AB columns, as a result of which it is unfortunately partially damaged and unavailable for research.

It has since been learned from the experts that the ship's structures are located in a layer of sandy-silty material mixed with malacological remains, organic material and original sandstone rocks. In the layer above the ship, a small amount of modern ceramic fragments was found. Most of them are tableware, and the shapes are those of bowls, containers and jugs, all with different types of coating, which, according to the manner in which they're decorated, more than likely originate from the area of ​​Venetian ceramic workshops.

In the area of ​​the archaeological probes investigated across the ship, the existence of eleven ribs with associated rib extensions was determined. The ribs in the central part above the plates have a small groove in them, the so-called a drain for the passage of the sea water. On the widest part, it was established that there are ten plates that make up the boat's full formwork.

At the current stage of investigation, it has been established that the boat didn't have a keel, but only a wider central keel plate. The ribs and the rib extensions are connected to each other with wooden nails, and at the northern end of the boat, the foundation of the mast resting on two ribs has been preserved.

The length of the visible ship structure RAB 1 is about 6.5 metres, and the width is 2.2 metres, while its original length can be roughly estimated at about 8 metres in total.

Radiocarbon analysis dates the time of wood cutting for the construction of the boat to the beginning of the fourteenth century, which makes the boat discovered at this Rab hotel construction in question a unique opportunity for researching late medieval vessels on the Adriatic Sea.

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