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History of Istira – the guide to Istrian history

History of Istria

In order to understand the events in present-day Istria more easily, first we need to look back - into the history of Istria. 
As EugenKvaternik once said, "The future cannot be built without knowing the past." As if by a time machine, through a couple of short paragraphs we will take you back to the history of Istria, distant and rich, full of great events which left remains of cultural and historic monuments from different cultures and historical periods. 

Through the ages, due to its specific geographical position, Istria was a land which both attracted and repelled at the same time. Thanks to its strong defensive position, it repelled the peoples who in the past often went down the land routesfrom Pannonia to Italy, and it attracted other peoples and groups of peoples, to whom it became a permanent residence. Attracted by fresh water, in the 11th century BC, the members of the Illyric tribe of Histri inhabited the areas between the river Timavaon one side and the mountainUčka and the river Rašaon the other side - Istria was later named after these areas. 

Numerous conquerors tried to conquer Istria and for this reason it can often be said that the entire European history was concentrated in Istria through the interaction of three European civilizations - Romance, Germanic and Slavic.

The Roman Era was marked by spreading ofthe Roman authority to the East.In this period,the fortress of Aquileia (Oglej) was built, in orderto protect the Empire’s East borders and to enable its further advancementto the East. Having realised the danger threatening their country, the Histri tried to interfere with the construction of Aquileia, but they failed, and after that the Romans took over the authority over the area of today's Istrian peninsula. 

At the time of the construction of Aquileia, towns already existed in Istria. Many of these towns still exist today and bear the same names, only modified according to the language rules of the inhabitants that came later, first the Romance and then the Slavic peoples. Present-day Plomin originated from the ancient Istrian Plomona (Latin: Flanona, Italian: Fianona), Labin from Albona, Pola - Pula, Tergeste - Trst, Tarsatica - Trsat, the capital city of the Histri - Nesactium - is today's Vizače, and many more remain for you to discover.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Istria was conquered by the Byzantine Empire in 539, which left numerous historical and cultural monuments.  According to Pope Gregory I’s testimony, during the Byzantine period, at the beginning of the 7th century there were intrusions of the Avars and the Slavic peoples, and the Croats settled in these areas, inhabiting the central Istria and the town borders in the Southern and Western parts of the peninsula. 

In the Middle Ages, in 789, Istria became a part of the Kingdom of the Franks, but later, in the 10th and the 11th century, Istria fell into the hands of various rulers, except for its Eastern part, which belonged to Croatia. In this relatively peaceful period, Istrian coastal towns became more and more independent of the Aquileian patriarch's authority, they developed trade business and gained more autonomy, and they acquired wealth, especially during the Crusades. 

The periods of Venetian and Habsburg rule began in the middle of the 15th century, when the Aquileian patriarch's authority was abolished. The Republic of Venice got Istria, and the Habsburgs came into possession of Pazin County and the Eastern part of the Istrian coast. In this way Istria was divided between the administrative and political powers of Germanic Austria and Romance Venice.
After the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797, Istria got under Napoleon's authority - in 1809 the entire Istrian territory was annexed to Napoleon’s Illyrian Provinces. This was the first time that the central part of Istria belonged to Croatia - i.e. to the Napoleon's province of Civil Croatia.

Following Napoleon's defeat on the world stage, the Austrian Empire got Istria back and it started to build a unique public administration system there. New crops wereintroduced,especially potatoes and corn, and Istria registered a high population growth.

The Istrian people were mobilised for the First World War as soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and after the war’s end and the monarchy’s collapse Istria was occupied by the Kingdom of Italy. During the Second World War, the Istrian people organised a resistance movement against the fascism of Benito Mussolini, and after the war Istria became a part of Yugoslavia, which lasted until the state’s collapse at the beginning of the 1990s, when the Istrian peninsula’s territory was divided between Croatia and Slovenia.