The History of Vukovar
Vukovar is located in the Eastern part of the Republic of Croatia and is the centre of the Vukovar-Syrmia County. Its location places it at the border of historical provinces Eastern Slavonia and Western Syrmia. The city is positioned on important transport routes. Since time immemorial transport routes from the northwest to the southeast were active in the Danube Valley through the Vukovar area. After steam ships were introduced in the mid 19th century, and with the arrival of present day tourist ships, Vukovar is connected with Budapest and Vienna upstream and all the way to Romania downstream. The Vukovar harbour is an important import and export station. The Danube has always been and remains the connection of the people of Vukovar with Europe and the world.
The Vukovar area has always been an intersection of roads, the place where different cultures meet, but also a battleground in wars. The continuity of population in the Vukovar area can be followed for five thousand years through numerous archaeological sites. The Vučedol Culture, which was named for the location Vučedol, located five kilometres downstream on the Danube, holds particular importance for this area. The Vučedol Dove, found in 1938, became the symbol of the city. Also, the Orion from Vučedol, which is considered to be the oldest calendar in Europe, has equal importance.
There are numerous archaeological sites in the Vukovar area, they date from the Bronze Age and early and late Iron Age and they tell us about the lives of Illyrians and Celts. The Romans reached the Danube in their conquests during the final decades B.C. They constructed numerous fortifications as part of their border (limes) with the barbarian tribes. The Roman civilization in this area has brought the improvement of agriculture: marshes were drained and the first vineyards were planted. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Migration Period and the Avar and Slavic expansion from the sixth century onward, brought about significant changes. The area between the rivers Danube and Sava became the site of great conflict and interest of powerful states of that time. At that time Croats begin to inhabit this area. The preserved documents mention Vukovar in the early 13th century under the name “Volko”, “Walk”, “Wolkow”, and finally under the Croatian name “Vukovo”. From the 14th century onward the more Hungarian version of the name, Vukovar, is more commonly used. At that time Croatia was in a union of states with Hungary. Vukovar, as well as the neighbouring Ilok, became the guardians of Croatian identity in the area between the rivers Danube and Sava during that period. In 1231, as one of the first cities in the state, Vukovar gained the status of a royal free city proclaimed by the Charter of Duke Koloman. Vukovar then became the centre of the great Vukovar County which included the area between the Danube and Sava.
After the Ottoman dominion (16th and 17th century) a large part of the Vukovar area was bought by the German counts of Eltz, who will have a significant influence on the economic and cultural life of Vukovar in the following two centuries. At that time immigrants of German, Hungarian, Jewish, Rusyn, Slovak, and Ukrainian descent begin to arrive. In this process this Croatian area became multinational and in 1745 Vukovar became the centre of the great Syrmia County. After World War II Vukovar developed to become a powerful centre of textile and food industry and as such became one of the most highly developed cities in the former country, Yugoslavia. The dominant layer of style in the historic Vukovar is certainly the rounded baroque element with numerous architectural monuments of exceptionally high visual artistic and ambient value.
And then came 1991. The beginning of the armed assault on Vukovar happened on May 2nd, 1991 when 12 Croatian policemen were killed in Borovo Selo. The attack on Vukovar began on August 24th, 1991 and the city was under siege for three months after that. On November 18th, 1991 Vukovar lost the battle and succumbed to military occupation. The population of non-Serbian descent (about 22 thousand people) were driven out of the city and more than 6 thousand residents of Vukovar were taken to numerous camps in Serbia. Many of them were abused and some of them never left the camps alive. The city was destroyed in 1991. The approach to restoration was that the city’s most recognisable features should be restored – the old streets and squares – which will provide the City on the Danube with its recognisable Western European, baroque feel. In 1997 the process of peaceful reintegration began. The City Administration achieved the conditions for the reinstitution of services and the return of the exiled population, and from that moment onward Vukovar is regaining its former identity with each passing day. Vukovar is a symbol of resistance, invincibility, and persistence. At the same time Vukovar is a symbol of peace, to which the courage, sacrifice, and greatness of its defenders grant an exalted place in the process of creating the independent Republic of Croatia.
Danube and Vuka
Rivers have always represented life and since antiquity people have inhabited the valleys of great rivers. Vukovar has the privilege of having two rivers: Danube and Vuka. Even though Danube is the second longest river in Europe and our connection to Europe and the world, the love that the people of Vukovar feel for Vuka is just as great. It is a small, capricious river where local fishermen arrive during the summer, and is used as a skating rink by the people of Vukovar during the winter.