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The people here are like a broth made of many known and unknown ingredients. The prevailing theories tell us that predominantly Slavic waves splashed onto the shore between the fifth and seventh centuries, eventually reaching the Adriatic Sea, merging with and gradually absorbing the local Celtic-Illyric-Thracian tribes. It took them a bit more time to fully penetrate the well fortified cities along the Adriatic coast, the well organized population of Roman origin of the island of Rab resisting the longest. It took them even longer to fully integrate with the other sophisticated urban dwellers, let alone conquer the hearts of the refined womenfolk: even today most beauty contests are won by tall, slender, dark-haired girls from the South of Croatia, who are born with a special grace.

Additional flavours were added by the migration of Vlachs from Romania, of Hungarians, Italians, both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, Czechs, Slovakians, Austrians and Germans (mainly farmers from Schwaben , who came down the Danube on rafts!), Slovenians, and, who knows, perhaps some Mongolian warriors who didn’t spend all their time on horseback …….. So, there’s not much point in looking for a ‘typical’ Croatian appearance: they could be tall, short, slim, stocky, dark or fair-haired, with hazel, green or sky-blue eyes.

That might also be one of the reasons why there is such an amazing difference between the styles of the traditional folk costumes proudly displayed at folklore festivals and, increasingly (in original or stylized form), on formal occasions.

Should you by any chance be looking for the origins of our sometimes excessive national rhetoric, you’ll discover that, as often happens, past expatriates are also to blame. For one reason or another – very often it was an irresistible Croatian beauty – they fell in love with the country and its people and adopted them as their own.

Recent advances in genetics, investigations of y-chromosome in particular, may soon solve the mysteries of the origins and composition of every nation.

On second thoughts, though, what’s that all about? Why should anybody, except scientists and possibly doctors, be seriously interested in any nation’s origins?

Nation's origin

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How to survive in and even enjoy Croatia - a guide for smart foreigners © Jakov Buljan, 2006
Illustrations: Dubravko Mataković     Language editor: Francesca Brizi