The Croats put the Glagolitic script into print in the very earliest period of European printing, in the 15th century, and five incunabula were printed in Glagolitic. The incunabulum, Glagolitic Missal, was published on 22 February 1483, in Croatian Church Slavonic, only 28 years after Gutenberg’s Bible. It is the first ever missal in Europe to have been printed in a non-Latin script, and the perfection of the letters and the beauty of the typesetting and printing make it an absolute masterpiece of the printer’s art.

Croatia in Europe through the ages

Historical and cultural relations

In their early cultural history, the Croats appear as the “nation of three scripts”. Along with Latin, in different variations, they also used two Slavic scripts, Glagolitic and Cyrillic. Both appeared in the 9th century and were linked to the educational activities of the “Solun brothers”, Cyril (Constantine) and Methodius, who were Greek by origin, but who had learned the language of their Slav neighbours, which ranged in several related variations from the southeast to the north of Europe. Both Slavic scripts were used in the Croatian region, and were subject to a specific kind of Croatian revision. The Croatian form of Cyrillic script was known as hrvatica, arvatica, bosančica, etc. It is thought that the earliest recorded writings were in Glagolitic, although science does not agree on which script is the older. From the 16th century on, Cyrillic was increasingly suppressed in Croatia, while Glagolitic was maintained in certain areas for religious use up to the 19th century, particularly in the north coastal regions.

Similar to its position regarding scripts, Croatia was located on the dividing lines between West and East, the Slav, Romance and German worlds, the border of Western and Eastern Christianity, then the border between Christianity and Islam, and finally on the conflagration point of the battle between Communism and Western democracy. Croatia has always gravitated culturally towards the West, although its political paths have often led in the opposite direction. All these previously divisive factors, following the achievement of Croatian state independence, may prove to be bridges to wider European understanding and cooperation, in which Croatia may find an active role.

The cultural relationships between Croatia, Croatians and other European nations and countries have a long tradition, dating back to the establishment of the first Croatian duchies. The later development of individual national cultures led to the proliferation of such relationships, while today, they are part of European and world culture, particularly globalised, mass culture. In the overview which follows we will attempt to single out some of these cultural relationships, particularly those which have left deeper traces, though in this sense the larger European nations and stronger cultural centres which form the European Union assume a certain priority.