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- This article is about the Croatian island of Korčula. For the town of the same name, see Korčula (town).
|Highest point||Klupca 568 m|
|Largest city||Korčula (5,889)|
|Population||16,182 (as of 2001)|
Korčula (Greek Κορκυρα Μελαινα, Latin Corcyra Nigra, Korkyra Melaina, Old-Slavic Krkar, Venetian and modern Italian Curzola) is an island in the Adriatic Sea, in the Dubrovnik-Neretva county of Croatia. The island has an area of 279 km² — it is 46.8 km long and on average 7.8 km wide — and lies just off the Dalmatian coast. Its 16,182 (2001) inhabitants make it the second most populous Adriatic island after Krk. 96.77% of the population are ethnic Croats, 1.8 others (declared ethnicity, none over 1%), 1% others (undeclared)..
The island of Korčula belongs to the central Dalmatian archipelago, separated from the Pelješac peninsula by a narrow strait of Pelješac, between 900 and 3,000 meters wide (illustration, right). It is the sixth largest Adriatic island with a rather indented coast. The highest peaks are Klupca (568 m) and Kom (510 m). The climate is mild; an average air temperature in January is 9.8 °C and in July 26.9 °C; the average annual rainfall is 1,100 mm. The island is largely covered with Mediterranean flora including extensive pine forests.
The island also includes the towns of Vela Luka and Blato and the coastal villages of Lumbarda and Račišċe, and in the interior Žrnovo, Pupnat, Smokvica and Čara. The main road runs along the spine of the island connecting all settlements from Lumbarda on the eastern to Vela Luka on the western end, with the exception of Račišċe which is served by a separate road running along the northern coast. Ferries connect the city of Korčula with Orebić on the Pelješac peninsula and Drvenik on the mainland (near Makarska). Another line connects Vela Luka with Split and the island of Lastovo. Fast passenger catamarans connect those two ports with Split and the islands of Hvar and Lastovo. The main Adriatic ferry line connects Korčula with Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Rijeka and in summer there are direct ferries to Italian Adriatic ports.
Korčula is the most populous Adriatic island with almost 20,000 inhabitants, although their number has slightly dropped between the censuses of 1991 and 2001. The island is divided into Korčula, Smokvica, Blato and Lumbarda municipalities.
The island was part of the Roman province of Dalmatia until the Great Migrations. In the early 7th century, the Avar invasion is thought to have brought the Slavs into this region. As the so-called barbarians began settling on the coast, the Romanised local population had to take refuge in the islands. Along the Dalmatian coast the Slavic migrants pouring in from the interior seized control of the area where the Narenta (Neretva) River enters the Adriatic, as well as the island of Korčula (Corcyra), that protect the river mouth. Christianizing of the Slavs began in the 9th century, but the early Slavic rural inhabitants of the island may well have fully accepted Christianity later. Accordingly, the population of the island in the early middle ages was described as being in the same group as the Neretvians of the coastal Serb Principality of Pagania (the land of the Pagans).
It is apparent that piracy on the sea emerged as the settlers of the coastal delta of the Neretva river quickly learnt maritime skills in their new environment. At first Venetian merchants were willing to pay annual tribute to keep their shipping safe from the infamous Narentine (Neretvian) pirates of the Dalmatian coast (predating the Uskok pirates based further north in Senj). After the 9th century, the island became a part of the Serbian realm. After that, the island was briefly under nominal Byzantine suzeiranity as a part of the theme of Serbia. In 998 the Principality of Pagania came under direct Venetian control, but was returned to home control, this time by the Grand Principality of Zahumlje.
In the 12th century, Korčula was conquered by a Venetian nobleman, Pepone Zorzi, and incorporated it briefly into the Republic of Venice. Around this time, the local Korčulan rulers began to exercise diplomacy and legislate a town charter to secure the independence of the island, particularly with regard to internal affairs, given the presence of its more powerful neighbors.
The brothers of Stephen Nemanja Miroslav and Stracimir launched an attack on the island on 10 August 1184, raiding its fertile western part. The island's inhabitants called the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) for help, which in turn captured all of Stracimir's galleys.
The Statute of Korčula was first drafted in 1214. This legal document is the second oldest example of legislation among Slavs, with only the Russkaya Pravda of 11th and 12th Century Russia predating it. It guaranteed the autonomy of the island, apart from her outside rulers - Grand Principality of Rascia, semi-independent (Grand) Principality of Zahumlje and the Republics of Ragusa and Venice. Captainies were created for every one of the 5 island's settlements for organized defense. Korčula had less than 2,500 inhabitants back then.
Doge Pietro II Orseolo assumed the title Dux Dalmatinorum ("Duke of the Dalmatians"). During the 12th century the hereditary Counts of Korčula were loosely governed by the Hungarian crown and from the Republic of Genoa in turn, and also enjoyed a brief period of independence; but, in 1255, Marsilio Zorzi conquered the island's city and razed or damaged some of its churches during the process, forcing the Counts to return to Venetian supreme rule. According to a local tradition, Marco Polo was born at Korčula in 1254 to an established family of merchants, although there is no irrefutable proof of this claim. What is more definite however is that the Republic of Genoa defeated Venice in the documented Battle of Korčula off the coast of Korčula in 1298 and a galley commander, Marco Polo, was taken prisoner by the victors to eventually spend his time in a Genoese prison writing of his travels. However some Italian scholars believe that he may have been captured in a minor clash near Ayas (in sources from those times: Laiazzo).
After the writings of Pope Martin IV in 1284 and Pope Honorius IV in 1286 to the Ragusan Archbishop, the Archbishop implaced a certain Petar as Bishop of Ston and Korčula - stacnensis ac Crozolensis. In 1291, Ivan Kručić was in Korčula's city as the Bishop of Korčula. Bishop Ivan contested his overlord, the Archbishop of Hvar, and wanted to unite Ston with his church domain. In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII finally founded the Korčula Bishopric under the Archbishopric of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). In 1333, as the Republic of Ragusa purchased Ston with Pelješac from the Serbian Empire, the suzeiranity of Ston's Roman Catholic Church with the peninsular was given to the Bishopric of Korčula.
Curzola, as the Venetians called it, surrendered to the Kingdom of Hungary in 1358 according to the Treaty of Zara, but it surrendered to the Bosnian-Serbian King Stefan Tvrtko I in the Summer of 1390. However the Kingdom of Hungary restored rule of the island. and in December 1396 Croatian-Hungarian King Sigismund gifted it to Đurađ II Stracimirović of the Balšić dynasty of Zeta, who kept it up to his death in 1403, when it was returned under the Hungarian crown. In 1409 it again became a part of the Venetian Republic, purchased by the neighbouring Republic of Dubrovnik in 1413-1417, it still declared itself subjected to Venice in 1420. In 1571 it defended itself so gallantly against the Ottoman navies at the Battle of Lepanto that it obtained the designation Fidelissima from the Pope. From 1776 to 1797 Curzola succeeded Lesina as the main Venetian fortified arsenal in this region. According to the Treaty of Campoformio in 1797 in which the Venetian Republic was divided between the French Republic and the Habsburg Monarchy, Korčula passed on to the Habsburg Monarchy.
The French Empire invaded the island in 1806, joining it to the Illyrian Provinces. The Montenegrin Forces of Prince-Episcope Peter I Njegoš conquered the island with Russian naval assistance in 1807 during his attempt to construct another Serbian Empire. However, the Great Powers decided to return the island to a the Austrian Empire in 1815, and it accordingly became a part of the Austrian crown land of Dalmatia. From 1867, Korčula was in the Cisleithanian part of Austro-Hungary.
During the First World War, the island (among other territorial gains) was promised to the Kingdom of Italy in the 1915 Treaty of London in return for Italy joining the war on the side of Britain and France. However, after the war, Korčula became a part (with the rest of Dalmatia) of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs in 1918. It was ruled by Italy in 1918 - 1921, after which it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1929. In 1939, it became a part of the autonomous Croatian Banate.
During the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia from 1941, the Ustaše regime gave the island, together with most of Dalmatia, to Fascist Italy. After the Armistice between Italy and the Allied powers in 1943, it was briefly held by the Yugoslav partisans who enjoyed considerable support in the region. Korcula was then occupied by the German Nazis and finally liberated in 1944. With the liberation of Yugoslavia in 1945, the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia was formed, and Korčula became a part of the People's Republic of Croatia, one of the six Yugoslav Republics. The state changed name to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1953, and so did the Republic into Socialist Republic of Croatia. After 1991, the island became a part of the independent Republic of Croatia, recognized in 1992.
The economy, besides tourism, is based on agriculture, namely the cultivation of grape vines, olives and fruit, and fishing and fish processing. Shipbuilding still exists although it was once more important to the local economy. Summer tourism has a long tradition on the island. Nautical and village agro-tourism have recently been developed.