Dubrovnik Republic

Dubrovnik Republic

 

(Dubrovacka republika), a city republic on the Adriatic coast that played an important role during the Middle Ages. It included the city of Dubrovnik, a section of the coast northwest of the city, and a number of islands, such as Mljet and Lastovo.

The center of the republic was the city of Dubrovnik. Until 1205 the republic was in vassalage to Byzantium, and from 1205 to 1358 it was ruled by Venice. Arts and crafts were well developed in the Dubrovnik Republic (shipbuilding and working in wood, stone, leather, cloth, and jewelry); there were guilds (brotherhoods). The Dubrovnik Republic carried on trade with Italy, southern France, Spain, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and several other countries, as well as with western Asia and North Africa. In the second half of the 13th century the republic was an aristocratic republic led by the members of a few patrician clans. The patricians (known in Latin sources as the nobles and in Slavic sources as potentates) made up the Great Vece, which had all legislative power; their representatives also belonged to the Small Vece and the Senate, to which all executive power belonged. A prince (called a rector beginning in 1358), who was the nominal head of the entire urban administration, was elected from among them. In addition to the patricians, an important position in the economic life of the Dubrovnik Republic was occupied by the gradjane —the big merchants, owners of manufactories, workshops, and the highest stratum of the seafarers (the captains and pilots). However, they were deprived of all participation in the administration. The basic population was composed of the pučane (common people)—small-scale merchants, craftsmen, and sailors.

The 15th and 16th centuries saw the Dubrovnik Republic’s highest economic development, in spite of the fact that it was a vassal state of Hungary from 1358 to 1526. In the 15th to 17th centuries the Dubrovnik Republic was the most important cultural and scientific center in the Balkans (the “Slavic Athens”). Beginning in the second half of the 17th century there was a decline in the economic and cultural importance of the republic, which was in vassalage to Turkey from 1526 to 1806; in 1667, Dubrovnik was heavily damaged by an earthquake. In 1806 the Dubrovnik Republic was occupied by France, which abolished the republic in 1808 and made it part of the Illyrian Provinces.

The rise of a Dubrovnik literature in Latin and Italian dates from the period of the Renaissance and is associated with the activity of the 14th-century Italian humanists on the Dalmatian coast. In the second half of the 15th century poets who wrote in Croatian began to appear. M. Marulić (1450-1524), a native of Split, began to write in the idiom of the common people. The citizens of Dubrovnik Š. Menčtić (1457-1527) and Dž. Držić (1461-1501) were well acquainted with Slavic folksongs, and they composed songs that were close to folklore. Well-known literary figures of the 16th century included A. Cubranovic (years of birth and death unknown), the probable author of the first Dubrovnik carnival narrative poem, The Gypsy Woman (1599); H. Lucić (c. 1485-1553) the author of lyric poems and the drama The Slave Girl;, and Nikola (Mavro) Vetranović-Čavčić (1482-1576), poet, playwright, and philosopher, who responded in a lively manner to the events of his times.

By the mid-16th century Croatian had replaced Latin as the literary language of Dubrovnik. P. Hektorovic (1487-1572) was the author of the idyllic narrative poem The Fishermen (1556, published in 1569), in which he depicted the work and customs of fishermen. In addition to highly developed satire, there appeared drama, which attained its greatest development in the works of M. Držić (1508-67), the author of the Renaissance plays Uncle Maroje and Tirena. By the beginning of the 17th century the literature of Dubrovnik was characterized by an abundance of genres, as well as by themes of the struggle of the Yugoslav peoples against foreign domination. The problem of Slavic unity in the struggle against the Turks is set forth in the epic poem Osman by the greatest Dubrovnik poet, I. Gundulic (1589-1638). Themes from the history of Dubrovnik were reworked in the dramas of D. Palmotic (1607-57).

During the 18th century, in connection with the decline of the Dubrovnik Republic, there was also a noticeable decline in literature. The most important poets of this period were I. Djurdjević (1675-1737) and A. Kacić-Miošić (1704-60). By the beginning of the 19th century the literature of Dubrovnik had merged with Croatian literature.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, architecture and fine arts flourished in the Dubrovnik Republic. City fortifications, as well as the public and residential buildings of Dubrovnik, which were an integrated and harmonic architectural ensemble, were constructed. Venetian Gothic and Renaissance motifs were altered in the architecture of the Dubrovnik Republic in the spirit of the local building traditions. The structures of Dubrovnik are characterized by equilibrium and a certain ponderousness of proportions and by a sharpness and richness of color in decorative details (tracery work on windows, carved capitals and portals, and arcade galleries) that contrasts with the integral smoothness of the walls, made of meticulously cut square blocks of stone. During the 15th and 16th centuries outstanding major local architects (Juraj the Dalmatian, P. MiliĎević, and P. Andrijić), who also worked in other cities of Dalmatia, became known.

Painting, drawing, and sculpture in the Dubrovnik Republic began to develop extensively in the mid-15th century; freedom from medieval canons was gradually achieved (the icons of M. Juncic and L. Dobricevic). This art reached its peak in the early 16th century in the works of the painters N. Bozidarovic and M. Hamzic, who to a considerable extent had mastered the painting devices of the Italian Renaissance and added to the religious images a lifelike appearance and a soft, lyrical spirituality. During the 17th and 18th centuries, in connection with the beginning of the emigration of the local masters and the influx of artistic groups from Italy, the art of the Dubrovnik Republic gradually lost its original traits.

In the mid-14th century theatrical productions began to occupy a prominent place in the public life of the Dubrovnik Republic. In the 15th century adaptations of Latin and Italian theatrical plays began to appear, along with mystery and miracle plays by local authors. The 16th century saw the beginning of secular drama written in Croatian, an art form that came to be called Dubrovnik dramaturgy. Its principal representative was M. Držić. Later, I. Gundulic’s play Dubrovka (1628), which told of Dubrovnik’s struggle for independence, enjoyed particular popularity. Theatrical presentations were staged on the main square in front of the Prince’s Palace (in the open) or in the hall of the Great Vece; beginning in 1682 theatrical presentations took place in the arsenal. The activity of the Dubrovnik theater was influential in the formation of Yugoslav theatrical culture and the development of the traditions of realistic playwrighting.

Science flourished in the Dubrovnik Republic in the 15th and 16th centuries. Scientists of Dubrovnik included the mathematician Getaldić (Ghetaldi), the physician Galeoti, and the historian Banduri; they became famous even beyond the borders of the republic. Some of them (Galeoti and the philosopher Georgi of Dubrovnik) taught at universities in Italy. During the 18th century the astronomer, mathematician, and physicist R. Boskovic, an emigré from the Dubrovnik Republic, acquired great fame.

REFERENCES

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Sakuzov, I. Stopanskite vruzki mezhdu Dubrovniku i bulgarskite zemi prez’ 16 i 17 stolutiia. Sofia, 1930.
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G. V. RAEVSKII (historical survey; prepared from his article “Dubrovnik” in the Soviet Historical Encyclopedia ), V. K. ZAITSEV (literature), N. M. VAGANOVA (theater), and L. S. ALESHINA (architecture and art)

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Above the shield, there is a crown with five smaller shields bearing historical Croatian coats-of-arms representing (from left to right): the oldest known Croatian coat-of-arms, the Dubrovnik Republic, Dalmatia, Istria, and Slavonia.