Vukovar is a city and municipality in eastern Croatia, and the biggest river port in Croatia located at the confluence of the Vuka river and the Danube. Vukovar is the center of the Vukovar-Srijem county. The city's registered population was 30,126 in the 2001 census, with 31,670 in the municipality.
Slavic tribes settled in this area in the 6th century. In the 9th century, the region was part of the Slavic Balaton Principality ruled by prince Pribina, part of the Pannonian Croatia ruled by prince Ljudevit, and part of the Bulgarian Empire, while in the 11th-12th century, the region was part of the Kingdom of Croatia, while from the 13th to 20th century was part of the Hungarian Kingdom.
Vukovar was mentioned first in the 13th century as Volko, Walk, Wolkov (original Croatian/Slavic name of the town was Vukovo). Since the 14th century, the most common name used for the town was Vukovár. In the Hungarian Kingdom, Vukovár was a seat of the Szerém (Syrmia) county, which was located between rivers Drava and Sava. In the 16th-17th century, the town was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. In the end of the Ottoman rule, its population numbered about 3,000 inhabitants.
Since the end of the 17th century, Vukovar was part of the Habsburg Monarchy and was included into Kingdom of Slavonia, a Habsburg province that formally was part of both, the Kingdom of Croatia and the Kingdom of Hungary. During this time, Vukovar was a seat of the Syrmia county. Since 1868, when the Kingdom of Slavonia and the Kingdom of Croatia were joined into the single Kingdom called Croatia-Slavonia, Vukovar was part of this kingdom. In 1910, the population of Vukovar numbered 10,359 people, including 4,092 (39.50%) Croats, 3,503 (33.80%) Germans, 1,628 (15.70%) Serbs, 954 (9.20%) Hungarians, and 183 (1.80%) others.
Since 1918, Vukovar was part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later known as Yugoslavia). Between 1918 and 1922, Vukovar was administrative seat of Syrmia (Szerém) county, and between 1922 and 1929 administrative seat of Syrmia oblast. Since 1929, it was part of the Sava Banovina, and since 1939 part of the Banovina of Croatia. Between 1941 and 1944, Vukovar was part of the Independent State of Croatia, and since 1945, it was part of the People's Republic of Croatia within new socialist Yugoslavia.
Vukovar was completely devastated during the Croatian War of Independence. The town had for months warded off the JNA-supported Serb military attacks on the city. 2,000 self-organised defenders (the army of Croatia was still in an embryonic stage at that time) defended the city for approximately 87 days when it was eventually overrun, with the city destroyed almost beyond recognition. It is estimated that 2,000 defenders of Vukovar and civilians were killed, 800 went missing and 22,000 were forced into exile. Vukovar is notorious for the devastation it suffered, the worst in Europe since World War II, whilst the defence of Vukovar is famous among military analysts with comparisons made to the Battle of Stalingrad, although Vukovar was on a much smaller scale. The watertower riddled with bullet holes, was retained by city planners to serve as a testimony to the events of the early 1990s.
On 18 November 2006 approximately 25,000 people from all over the country gathered in Vukovar for the 15th anniversary of the fall of the city, where they commemorated those who were killed. A museum dedicated to the siege was opened in the basement of the hospital that was attacked, which has now been rebuilt.
On 27 September 2007, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia convicted two former Yugoslav Army officers and acquitted a third of involvement in the hospital massacre.
In the period 1948-1991 Vukovar's population increased quickly due to industrial development. Primarily it was immigration that fed the growth in the Vukovar region and in the town particularly. The region's population distribution changed notably too when the town of Ilok (Újlak) became the second largest town in the region.
The Croats were in the majority in most villages and in the region's eastern part, whereas the Serbs dominated in northwest. Vukovar's population was ethnically mixed and had 28 ethnic groups before the war.
Since the boundaries of the municipality have changed a few times, there are significant differences in the population census between '61 and '71, and '91 and '01.
|Year of census||total||Serbs||Croats|
|1961||54,707||22,774 (41.63%)||24,527 (44.83%)|
|1971||76,602||28,470 (37.17%)||34,629 (45.21%)|
|1981||81,203||25,146 (30.97%)||30,157 (37.14%)|
|1991||84,024||31,910 (37.98%)||36,910 (43.93%)|
|2001||31,670||10,412 (32.88%)||18,199 (57.46%)|
Particularly since the war in Croatia, much of the native Croat population has moved to other areas of Croatia or emigrated to Western Europe (notably Germany) or Australia and many Serbs have either moved to Serbia or to Canada and Western Europe.
Fifteen years after the war, in 2006, the city's ethnic makeup shows equal percentages of Serb and Croat residents. The city remains very divided, as a deeper sense of reconciliation has failed to take root. The ethnic communities remain separated by mistrust, divided institutions and disappointment. Separate schooling for Croat and Serb children remains in place. Incidents involving Croats and Serbs occur regularly, and public spaces have become identified not by the services they offer but by the ethnicity of those who gather there. Even coffee shops are identified as Serb or Croat.
Following the end of the war, much of the infrastructure in Vukovar remains unrestored and unemployment is estimated to stand at 40 per cent.
Outside the town, on the banks of the Danube toward Ilok (Újlak), lies a notable archaeological site, Vučedol. The ritual vessel called the Vučedol Dove (vučedolska golubica) is considered the symbol of Vukovar. Vučedol is also a well-known excursion destination, frequented by anglers and bathers, especially the beautiful sand beach on Orlov Otok (Eagle's Island).
Sports and recreational opportunities are provided at the attractive confluence of the Vuka river into the Danube, on the promenades along the Danube and maintained beaches. Bathing is possible in the summer months. Angling is very popular both on the Vuka and the Danube (catfish, European perch, carp, pike, sterlet).