The name Vukovar means 'town on the Vuka River' (Vuko from the Vuka River, and vár from the Hungarian word for 'fortress'). The river was called "Ulca" in antiquity. Its name might be related to the name of the river "Volga". Folk etymology has connected it to the Croatian word "vuk", meaning "wolf". In other languages, the city in German is known as Wukowar and in Hungarian as Vukovár or Valkóvár. In the late 17th century, the medieval Croatian name Vukovo was supplanted by the Hungarian Vukovár.
The administrative municipal area of the city contains the following settlements:
In SFR Yugoslavia, the municipalities were generally larger, and the Vukovar municipality spanned the region from Vera and Borovo in the north, Ilok in the east and Tovarnik in the south, but it has since been divided into several municipalities.
Historically, Vukovar was divided into the Old Vukovar, New Vukovar and former workers' Bata village with Bata Shoes (now Borovo) factory, today known as the Vukovar suburb Borovo Naselje.
Vukovar is located in the Eastern part of the Republic of Croatia and is the centre of the Vukovar-Syrmia County. Its location places it at the border of historical provinces Eastern Slavonia and Western Syrmia.
The city is positioned on important transport routes. Since time immemorial transport routes from the northwest to the southeast were active in the Danube Valley through the Vukovar area.
After steam ships were introduced in the mid 19th century, and with the arrival of present day tourist ships, Vukovar is connected with Budapest and Vienna upstream and all the way to Romania downstream. The Vukovar harbour is an important import and export station. The Danube has always been and remains the connection of the people of Vukovar with Europe and the world.
Vukovar is located 20 km (12 mi) northeast of Vinkovci and 36 km (22 mi) southeast of Osijek, with an elevation of 108 m (354 ft). Vukovar is located on the main road D2 Osijek—Vukovar—Ilok and on the Vinkovci—Vukovar railway (and road D55).
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 Principality of Pannonian Croatia ruled by prince Ljudevit, and part of the Bulgarian Empire. In the 11th–12th century, the region was part of the Kingdom of Croatia; from the 13th to 16th century part of the Kingdom of Hungary; and between 1526-1687 under Turkish domination.
Vukovar was mentioned first in the 13th century as Volko, Walk, Wolkov (original Croatian/Slavic name of the town was Vukovo). In 1231, Vukovo obtained its first privileges and later the right to levy taxes on passages along the Danube and the Vuka. During administration of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, the town was a seat of Valkó (Croatian: Vuka) county, which was located between the Drava and Sava rivers, while during Ottoman administration it was part of the Sanjak of Syrmia. At the end of the 17th century, the town's population numbered about 3,000 inhabitants.
After the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, Vukovar was part of the Habsburg Monarchy, Slavonia (Transleithania after the compromise of 1867), and soon after in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, created when the Kingdom of Slavonia and the Kingdom of Croatia were merged in 1868.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Vukovar was the seat of Syrmia County of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia.
In 1918, Vukovar became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (Yugoslavia in 1929). Between 1918 and 1922, Vukovar was the administrative seat of the county of Syrmia (Srijem), and between 1922 and 1929 it was the administrative seat of Syrmia oblast. After 1929, Vukovar was part of the Sava Banovina, and beginning in 1939 it was part of the Banovina of Croatia. Between 1941 and 1944, Vukovar was part of the Independent State of Croatia. During World War II the city was bombed by the Allies. In 2008 an unexploded bomb was found in the city from this period. From 1945, it was part of the People's Republic of Croatia within the new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and in the wake of communism gaining popularity throughout Europe, Vukovar became the location where in 1920 the Socialist Labor Party of Yugoslavia (Communists) (Socijalistička radnička partija Jugoslavije - komunista) was renamed the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (Komunistička partija Jugoslavije).
Vukovar was heavily damaged during the Croatian War of Independence. Approximately 2,000 self-organised defenders (the army of Croatia was still in an embryonic stage at that time) defended the city for 87 days against approximately 36,000 JNA troops supplemented with 110 vehicles and tanks and dozens of planes. The city suffered heavy damage during the siege and was eventually overrun. It is estimated that 2,000 defenders of Vukovar and civilians were killed, 800 went missing and 22,000 civilians were forced into exile.
The damage to Vukovar during the siege has been called the worst in Europe since World War II, drawing comparisons with Stalingrad. The city's water tower, 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 to commemorate those who were killed during the siege. A museum dedicated to the siege was opened in the basement of a now rebuilt hospital that had been damaged during the battle. 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.
As a result of the conflict, a deep ethnic divide exists between the Croat and Serb populations.
In the years from 1948 until 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 became the second largest town in the region.
The most significant change was the forced displacement and internment of the German civilian population after World War II. The confiscated houses and properties were given to Croat and Serb colonists during the years of Communist Yugoslavia.
The Croats were in the majority in most villages and in the region's eastern part, whereas the Serbs dominated in the 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.
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 Austria) 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 showed equal percentages of Croat and Serb 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 Croat or Serb.
In 2013, the government's intention to implement in Vukovar the Constitutional Law on the Rights of Ethnic Minorities in Croatia that allowed for minorities, where they made up more than a third of a city's population, to be entitled to have their language used for official purposes, provoked considerable popular opposition.
According to the 2011 Croatian census, the Serb population of the city has exceeded one third, which is the legal prerequisite for the Serbian Cyrillic script to become co-official. In 2013, this re-ignited political discussion on the matter, which had already arisen in 2009 after the local promulgation of Serbian Cyrillic as available for public use.
Vukovar is the largest Croatian town and river port on the Danube. Its economy is based on trade, farming, viticulture, livestock breeding, textiles, the food-processing industry, the footwear industry and tourism.
Vukovar port is situated on 1,335 kilometres (830 miles) of the downstream flow of Danube river, on its right coast, and is the biggest official concessioner in the Vukovar region. The Company focuses its business on the transshipment of general and bulk cargo. The Port (850m long and 45m wide) is conveniently situated on the main current of the river, enabling navigation throughout the whole year regardless of water level. The Port recorded productivity growth and increase in cargo transshipment from 123,570 tons in 2009 to 295,199 tons in 2011. The majority of transshipment was in the category of bulk cargo (237,119 tons in 2011), while packaged goods and heavy cargo accounted for a total of 58,080 tons.
However, the port infrastructure in Vukovar, only partly reconstructed, still does not meet the requirements of the market. The layout of the port area, particularly the access to railway tracks and the quay operational area, are technologically inappropriate and not compatible with market standards. There is also a lack of warehouse capacity. Altogether, it affects the quality of the service provided in the Port and thus decreases the port competitiveness.
Borovo, a manufacturer of footwear located in Vukovar, ended up devastated and demolished in 1991 during the war. In its prime it employed 24,000 employees and tried to break into foreign markets with innovations in the manufacture of footwear, but today there are fewer than 1000 employees. The Business Innovation Centre BIC-Vukovar is a rounded concept for the support of innovative, technologically-oriented entrepreneurship independent of the size or maturity of the company. The goal of this centre is to attract or provide incentives for the creation and growth of technologically-oriented companies in all phases of their life-cycle and provide them with a complete package of services to support their businesses, from workspaces, support for innovations, growth and export, as well as various intellectual and administrative services
Since the end of the war, much of the infrastructure in Vukovar has remained unrestored and unemployment is estimated to stand at 40 percent.
Among a number of attractive buildings, severely damaged in the recent war, the most interesting are the Eltz Manor of the Eltz noble family from the 18th century, Baroque buildings in the centre of the town, the Franciscan monastery with the parish church of Sts. Philip and James, the water tower, the birth house of Nobel prize winner Lavoslav Ružička, the Orthodox church of St Nicholas, the palace of Syrmia County etc. Since the peaceful reintegration under Croatian control in 1998, many buildings have been rebuilt, but there are many ruins still in the town.
Outside the town, on the banks of the Danube toward Ilok, 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).
Great Vukovar Synagogue was built in 1889, it was devastated in 1941 and completely demolished by the communist regime of SFR Yugoslavia in 1958.
Vukovar Municipal Museum was founded in 1948 by a donation of Roman money, furniture, weapons, and paintings given to his city by Dr. Antun Bauer. The museum started in the Coach Post Building in the old baroque centre, but was moved to Castle Eltz in 1966. Up until 1991 the Museum had about 50 thousand exhibits in four separate divisions:
The Heritage Museum displayed the history of Vukovar from prehistory to modern times and some of its most important collections included the items excavated at the archaeological site Vučedol and the Culture and History Collection, which contained documents, furniture, and pieces of art, and provided an authentic display of the life of the citizens of Vukovar and the Eltz family.
The Bauer Collection contained the most complete overview of modern Croatian art from the end of the 19th and the early 20th century with special emphasis on the period between the two world wars. Among more than one thousand pieces of art the Collection contained the works of Vlaho Bukovac, Mato Celestin Medović, Ico Kršnjavi, Ivan Meštrović, Fran Kršinić, Emanuel Vidović, and many others.
Memorial Museum of the Nobel Prize Winner Lavoslav Ružička, located in the house where he was born, it displayed original documents and medals from the life and work of the famous Nobel Prize winner, who received this prestigious award in 1939 for chemistry.
Memorial Museum of the 2nd Congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was located in the Workers' Hall building, former Grand Hotel, where the congress was held in 1920. The materials connected to the development of the labour movement and the founding of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was exhibited and presented here.
During Croatian War of Independence, Castle Eltz suffered significant damage and the collections which were kept there were also damaged: some of the exhibits were completely destroyed, some have disappeared and cannot be recovered, and some of them were taken to Serbia. After years of effort and diplomatic activity by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia that part of the collection was returned to Vukovar on 13 December 2001. In the period from 1991 to 1997 the Vukovar City Museum was operating in the Mimara Museum in Zagreb.
Near the end of 1992 a collection was founded with the name Vukovar Museum in Exile which began the creation of a collection of donations by Croatian, and soon after also European, artists for the City of Vukovar. To this day that collection has gathered over 1400 pieces of modern Croatian and European art. This collection represented the beginning of the cultural restoration of Vukovar and it is displayed at the restored Castle Eltz today, along with other museum collections which are part of the permanent collection of the Museum.
Now that it is renovated, the Castle Eltz complex represents a unique museum and gallery, science, and multimedia centre, which preserves and presents cultural heritage as an element of national identity and the continuity of life in this area.
In 2013 the Vukovar City Museum won a prestigious Anton Štifanić Award for special contributions to the development of tourism in the Republic of Croatia and in 2014 won the Simply the Best award.
Vučedol Culture Museum is open on the tenth of June 2015. Is one of the most modern museums in Croatia. In addition to the specificity and uniqueness which the Museum is drawing from its contents, the attractiveness of the Museum is guaranteed by its location and architectural design.
Namely, the Museum is positioned on one side almost at the very Danube riverbank and on the other side, on four floors, in the hill, while its flat green roof is a promenade which leads to the archaeological site. As for the content, the permanent exhibition is displayed in 19 rooms on almost 1200 square meters. In addition to using state of the art technologies, multimedia and interactive content, the way of life on Vučedol culture localities, spreading through 12 European countries, is displayed.
In Vukovar during the year there are many cultural events. Certainly the most important is the Danube region Vukovar Film Festival.
Vukovar is the seat of several local organizations and institutions such as Vukovar-Srijem County, Polytechnic Lavoslav Ružička Vukovar, Gymnasium Vukovar, etc. It is also the seat of several organizations and institutions of the Serb minority in Croatia such as the Joint Council of Municipalities, the Association for Serbian language and literature in the Republic of Croatia, the Independent Democratic Serb Party, the Party of Danube Serbs as well as the seat of the Consulate General of Republic of Serbia in Vukovar.
In accordance with its position in the economic and administrative terms of Vukovar developed in educational, cultural and health center. For the 1730th Vukovar has developed popular education. From the Franciscan School has developed elementary school in Old Vukovar. New Vukovar has its own school.
They worked and denominational schools for children and Orthodox Jewish religion, and schools in the German, Serbian orthodox and Hungarian. Apprentice school was established in 1886. year, a gymnasium 1891st.
Printing was opened 1867th when they first came out and Vukovar in German newspaper "Der Syrmier-Bote".
Vukovar has seven primary schools and five high schools, including one gymnasium (Gymnasium Vukovar) and one music school. The city is also home to the Lavoslav Ružička polytechnic, which offers study opportunities in the fields of economics and trade, law and kinesitherapy. Additionally, the University of Split runs dislocated studies in information technology, economics and law in Vukovar. Similarly, the University of Osijek offers programmes in economics and law.
Major sports facilities in the city of Vukovar are: Borovo Sports Hall (capacity 3,000 spectators) opened for maintenance International Table Tennis Championship of Yugoslavia, (Borovo 1978), stadium FC Vukovar '91, sport and recreation center "Lijeva Bara" with a hall for martial arts, swimming pools Borovo Naselje, Borovo naselje Tennis Center, Sports Center "Hrgović" - tennis courts and horse riding, firing range, "Hill-7" as well as several football stadiums including Vukovar City Stadium and the FC Vuteks Sloga Stadium.