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Zadar & Ravni Kotari: brief overview
Policnik: brief overview
16th century fort in Policnik - Exhibit 1
16th century map of Ravni Kotari - Exhibit 2
Green Oak tree: ‘Zeleni Hrast’ - Exhibit 3
Chivalry in Ravni Kotari - Exhibit 4
Ivan of Palisan - Exhibit 5
Sale of Ravni Kotari & Islands - Exhibit 6


Policnik has one of the most breathtaking views of the Velebit mountains in Croatia. Situated nearly 100 meters above sea level on a karst ridge, Policnik’s climate is Mediterranean.
In Policnik the atmosphere is abundant with negative ions due to the weather conditions caused by nearby warm seas and snow-capped mountains. After a few days in this region you begin to feel more invigorated. Given its geography, natural resources such as spring water, and local tradition of self-sufficiency it’s not surprising that the homemade persut, or cheeses and wines are comparable in quality to the better-known products of Pag or Benkovac.
Policnik is now an important municipality within Zadar County. For centuries however Policnik was cut-off from the city of Zadar due to rival foreign invaders and occupation. To understand the history of Policnik therefore it will help to put it into the context of Zadar's history and defense.

Zadar & Ravni Kotari: Brief Overview

America was able to benefit from rivalry between European colonial powers in the 19th century. America doubled its size in 1803 after purchasing Louisiana from the French for $15.million dollars, and Alaska from the Russians in 1867 for $7.2 million dollars. In contrast, Croatia loses territory whenever European rivalry causes war. For example, in 1409, one occupying power Hungary, sold Zadar and part of Dalmatia including Policnik to another occupying power Venice, for 100,000 ducats. The situation is comparable to today as we witness the high cost of the defense of Zadar at the Hague Tribunal.
No study of European diplomacy is complete without knowledge of the European rivalry over the possession of Zadar and its hinterland. Since the 9th century the rivalry over Zadar has existed between the Franks, Rome, Hungary, and Venice, and more recently the Italians and the Serbs. Croatian people have been caught in this European-made vice for over a millennia.
In the 9th century the patriotic Croatian Duke Domagoj was dubbed by Venice as the “worst Duke” because he took the side of the Franks against Venice, in the defense of Zadar. The 10th-century Croatian Bishop Grgur Ninski strongly opposed the use of Latin in the Roman Catholic church in Croatia, and introduced the Croatian language in its place. (Note, in the city of Zadar today the Catholic church is still administered directly from the Vatican.) In 1102 Zadar, along with the rest of Croatia, was forced to recognize the suzerainty of the Hungarian kings. In 1202, Venetian ships full of crusaders attacked and destroyed Zadar and slaughtered Croatian inhabitants, a precursor to the siege of Constantinople. In 1409 the rival Hungarian monarch, of the Anjou dynasty, sold Zadar, and its rights to Dalmatia, to Venice for 100,000 ducats. After the sale of Zadar the town became oppressed from within by Venice, and attacked up to its outside walls in 1571 by the Ottoman Turks. The local Croatian population had organized several uprisings over the centuries, occasionally successful for brief periods, but throughout the long Venetian occupation Zadar remained underdeveloped and at times cut off from the hinterland.
In 1944 the American Allies bombed the city of Zadar in order to force out the Italian fascists. However one oppressor was traded for another. In place of the fascist Italian occupation of Zadar, came the occupation by Serbian communists. Even today in history books Croatian defenders are referred to as ‘pirates’ or ‘slavs’ instead of Croats, and the reason for this is that European rivalry over Zadar continues.
For example, the defence of Zadar and Zadar county from Serbian bombardment during the early 1990s has been classified as a ‘criminal enterprise’ by the Hague Tribunal. There has been a miscarriage of justice. For example, the following quotation from a UN report was not included in any ‘statement of the facts’ in the original indictments. The Yugoslav Army-backed Serbs “have engaged in the deliberate and systematic shelling of civilian objects in Croatian towns and villages. Between April 1992 and July 1993, Serbian shelling resulted in a total of 187 civilian deaths and 628 civilian injuries. During the period between 1991 and April 1993, an estimated total of 210,000 buildings outside of the UNPAs were either seriously damaged or destroyed, primarily as a result of (Serbian) shelling.”
Fortunately, a couple of authors have unknowingly contradicted European foreign policy and the Hague indictments.
“Zadar had been seriously shelled--there were signs of damage everywhere, and it was obvious that it had been hit from up close and vindictively:. The Serbs had set up machine-guns and Howitzers in a nearby park, where they were dug in … Zadar was a town which had been besieged and then abandoned. But the enemy was only a few miles away. Refugees had fled here, and no one really knew where they were or what was coming next … The Serbs had made their presence felt almost to the edge of the shore, and even many coastal towns had been shelled or invaded .There are just a few hotels and they are full with refugees. The Serbs were in ships, right there, shelling us.” (Paul Theroux, in ‘The Pillars of Hercules A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean’.)
“Zadar wasn’t a town you would want to stay in for a bit of peace and quiet. Splintered glass and bullet casings littered the road, as staccato bursts from automatic weapons, crackling like a Chinese dragon dance, echoed endlessly in the narrow alleys. We could see shadowy figures, armed to the teeth, crouching behind burned-out cars as our lorry lumbered through the side streets on the way into the centre of town.. A sudden whoosh and the air was sucked away as a rocket screamed over our heads. Seconds later, an explosion came from behind us and debris filled the air from a gaping hole in the town’s library.” (Keith Cory-Jones, ‘War Dogs’.)

In summary It would appear that the defense of Zadar and Zadar County is unacceptable to Europe. Over the centuries it has been acceptable for Croatian recruits to fight in religious wars for Europe, or to man Venetian galleys. Or, it is acceptable for Croatian soldiers to fight in the French Foreign Legion in French-occupied colonies. It seems however that it is unacceptable for Croatian people to defend their own coastal towns, their hinterland, their own churches, and their own homes.

Policnik: A Brief Overview

One of the main towns in the Zadar County’s hinterland is Policnik. Policnik was known as Polis during the pre-Roman times, and its name has changed many times over the centuries. Historically, feudal occupiers of this area have changed hands often but there has been a constant relationship between Croatian people and this region since the Roman occupation.
Policnik is located on the main ‘Magistrala’ highway approximately half way between Zadar and Posedarje in the centre of a peninsula. The latitude is 44.1° and the longitude is 15.3. Policnik is also situated the same short distance away from the Zadar Airport at Zemunik and is a few minutes drive to the Adriatic Sea, the Velebit Canal and mountains, or the Karin Sea on the other three sides. Its rocky fields which cover the ancient karst landscape, are in the centre of the plains known as Ravni Kotari. Underground karst springs (Golubinka Spring) have been a valuable source of water over the centuries, and several old wells dot the terrain. During the most recent homeland war these natural springs and wells were a valuable source of water for survival because the main source of water to Zadar had been cut-off by the Serbian invasion.
Policnik has one of the most breathtaking views of the Velebit mountains in Croatia. Situated nearly 100 meters above sea level on a karst ridge, Policnik’s climate is Mediterranean. In Policnik the atmosphere is abundant with negative ions due to the weather conditions caused by nearby warm seas and snow-capped mountains.
After a few days in this region you begin to feel more invigorated. Given its geography, natural resources such as spring water, and local tradition of self-sufficiency it’s not surprising that the homemade persut, or cheeses and wines are comparable in quality to the better-known products of Pag or Benkovac. Policnik is also an ideal central base from where you can make day trips to the various historical highlights in Zadar County.
There are over 4500 people living in the greater Policnik municipality, with that number increasing substantially during holiday seasons, as family members who work in Europe or overseas return to live there for a few weeks or months. The vast majority of people who live there are of Croatian background.
The main religion in Policnik is Catholicism and the Catholic church and cemetery there are part of the Zemunik dekanat within the Zadar Diocese (Zupanija). The parish priest lives in the Policnik church residence and serves the nearby smaller villages such as Lovinac.
In the past an eastern rite Orthodox church was situated within Policnik’s old boundaries and at one time the whole area was occupied by the Ottoman Turks. The chivalric orders of the middle ages also could be found in this region.
Over the centuries the population growth in the Zadar County including Policnik has always been a problem. The past recruitment to a foreign army, being refugees from attack, political discrimination, the European ‘guest worker’ scheme, ‘chain migration’ or migration agents in Croatia all contribute to a population decline.
Between 1991 and 1993 the town of Policnik was bombed by Serbian terrorists who were backed by the Yugoslav Army, commandeered by Ratko Mladic until 1992. The local defense of Policnik by its inhabitants is legendary because its outlying fields became a barrier to Serbian advance. The frontline at Policnik was bombed from three sides but the brave local defenders prevented total occupation of the Ravni Kotari and the main highway (the Magistrala).
Policnik is briefly mentioned in the book ‘War Dogs’ as the writer leaves Zadar on his way towards Zagreb.
“… On the outskirts (of Zadar), things became quieter … as we approached Murvica. Even the buildings weren’t as badly damaged as those we had recently passed. But there were no people … anywhere … We were back on the main E65 (Magistrala)now, heading north-east for a while through the slightly damaged towns of Policnik and Posedarje … .“
It is likely that the writer of ‘War Dogs’ passed Policnik some time in late 1991 or early 1992 when all the elderly, and the women and children had to be evacuated due to the barrage of incoming Serbian fire. And from the main highway the buildings wouldn’t seem as “badly damaged” because they were being defended, a story virtually unknown to the outside world, even today.
Also the writer of ‘War Dogs’ wouldn’t have seen much of the severely damaged part of Policnik because when the main highway he mentions was built in 1958 the municipal centre of Policnik was by-passed by blasting through tonnes of rock. During this blasting valuable archeological material from all periods of history was lost.
In addition to historical losses, Policnik’s inhabitants lost many lives and their livestock trying to cross the main highway. The government offices and post office served the greater area, much of which was across the highway, clogged with tourists driving at high speeds during summer months. Since independence Policnik has built a much needed car and foot bridge over the busy highway and paved all main roads.
But a new problem replaced the old problem and more lives have been lost due to land mines. Recently a project has been created to clear the outlining fields from mines and unexploded ordinance put there by the Serbian paramilitaries, when the civilians of Policnik, Murvice, and many other places in Zadar’s hinterland were forced to flee to the coast.
Policnik has experienced improved economic development in recent years. Policnik has a new entrepreneurial zone and spring water now supplied to residents for the first time on tap. In fact more development occurred in Policnik in the 1990s since Croatian independence was declared than during the previous hundred years existence of Yugoslavia and Italian occupation.
In summary Policnik has more to offer than breathtaking views and a healthy climate. The Municipality of Policnik boasts having municipal offices, a medical and ambulance centre, a new mortuary, a grocery shop, several small businesses, ‘pubs’, a primary school and new indoor sports centre, along with a post-office and coffee bar and restaurant, and the Catholic church center. Nearby is a newly built industrial zone and an old people’s home project is underway. There is the annual fair of St. Ivan in late summer with music, folklore and stalls enjoyed by all the locals and towns-people around. In the 21st century Policnik will continue to grow as an important historical, strategic and entrepreneurial centre and it will likely evolve into a prosperous ecotourism base complete with a museum in the future.


A drawing of the 16th century fort (Trvdjava) in Policnik - Exhibit 1

The fort lies on the northwest of the strategic hill where the village of Policnik is situated, 100 meters above sea level. Policnik was called by many other names over the centuries, such as Polizan, Polisan, Polesan, Briga or Brixi, and others. This fort was once the site of an ancient Roman hill-fort, and before that probably an Illyrian wall could have been found. Under occupation by the Venetians and Ottoman Turks, Policnik was linked to Nin or Zadar at various times. Due to the increasing number of raids and plunder by the Ottoman Turks, in 1504 a design for the fort was drawn up as commissioned by the Venetians. Work was contracted with the estate owner (owner, Pavao Pecaric) and building started (builder, Martinom Pavlovicem) in 1508 and the wall was finished by 1518. In 1571 the Ottoman forces succeeded in taking over the fort in Policnik, and this fort and region remained occupied by the Ottomans until 1647, when local Croats under the Venetian Foscolo re-occupied it. Unfortunately, the Venetian policy in 1647 was to allow the locals to destroy the Policnik fortress, as was also the Venetian policy for the destruction of Nin in the same year.
Sources: Zupa Policnik, Kevric I., Znanstvena Knjiznica Zadar,
2006; & The Changing Face of Dalmatia, Eds. Chapman J, Sheil R,
Batovic S, Leicester University Press, 1996

A map of ‘Zadar and surroundings’ - Exhibit 2

‘Zadar and surroundings’ is a map from Camocio’s isolario, Isole famose (National and University Library NSK Zagreb). This etching is based on work of M. Rota Kolunic from 1570, called ”il vero ritratto di Zarra et di Sebenico …”. The map of Camocio shows more detail than the map of Rota about the war situation in this area in 1570, at the time of the Cyprus War. The dotted line represents the border of the battlefield between the Turks and Venetians. The Ottomans had entered Ravni Kotari from Nin and from Zemunik and from Pakostani. Calvary and infrantry battles are shown on the map.
Source: Five Centuries of Maps and Charts of Croatia, Novak D.,
Lapaine M., Mlinaric D., Ed’s., Skolska Knjiga, Zagreb,
2005, pages 296—298.

‘Green Oak’ tree known, in Croatian, as ‘Zeleni Hrast’ - Exhibit 3

A symbol of Croatian survival and heritage, Zeleni Hrast is located in Ravni Kotari, a region formerly known as “Hrvati” in the middle ages (Kevric). This world-famous rare green oak tree is the topic of local Croatian folklore. In earlier centuries this landmark was part of Policnik’s history because historical boundaries have changed often.On the Jadran Highway (‘Jadranska magistrala’), near boundaries of Posedarje and Policnik municipalities, a park sign identifies it: ‘Pojedinacno Stablo Zeleni Hrast’. This single specimen hybrid green oak tree is between 200 and 250 years old and rises over 20 meters. 'Zeleni hrast' is the object of continuing world scientific study about its origins due to its un-seasonal flowering (Borzan & Stabentheiner). Beside this tree a plaque was erected to honour Croatian victims of the Serbian-led former Yugoslav army occupation. In 1991 the ‘green oak’ survived an attempt by the Serbian-led Yugoslav Army to vandalize it (see photograph 2), and during WWII it also survived Italian fascists attempt to fell it.
Source: Photograph 1: A. Marinovic at Zeleni Hrast,
A. Marinovic, 1994
.Source: Photograph 2 protection around Zeleni Hrast,
A. Marinovic, 1994.

Chivalry in Ravni Kotari - Exhibit 4

At Vrana in the Ravni Kotari the Benedictine order of St. Gregory was established in the 11th century under King Zvonimir, then administered by the Knights Templar until 1312. In 1290 the Hungarian crown was claimed by the Anjou dynasty and much of Dalmatia, including the Ravni Kotari, joined this faction. Eventually the Templar’s demise led to the transfer (by King Charles of Anjou dynasty) of their estate at Vrana to the Order of St. John Hospitallers in 1328 (originally of Benedictine rule). Vrana held up to 40 other monasteries in the region. During the middle ages the famous  priors of  Vrana in the  Ravni Kotari held  the main role of administration. Ravni Kotari including Knin, Nin, Biograd, Sibenik, Zadar, Vrana, etc. formed the central part of the old Croatian sovereign kingdom. The Croatian aristocratic families owned estates in Ravni Kotari to be close to the Croatian ‘sabor’ or parliament.

Source: note: several websites & books mention the chivalric orders in Croatia and Hungary, too many to list.

Ivan of Palisan – Exhibit 5

In 1380 King Louis I of Hungary (‘Louis the Great’ of the Anjou dynasty) granted Vrana administration to the most famous Prior of the Knights of St. John, ‘Ivan of Palisan’. [also spelled Palizan, Palizna, etc.] ‘Ivan of Palisan’ was from one of those aristocratic landowners in Ravni Kotari from Policnik, also known by various other names such as Polis, Polizan, Palizan, Polisan, Palisan, Polesan, Briga, Brixi, etc. [for example: in 20th century pre WWII maps Policnik appeared as ‘Polesnik’.]
The history in the middle ages was complicated by rivalry over the Hungarian Crown, by the ‘Great Schism’ when there were two rival Popes, and all this conflict occurred against the backdrop of a Europe devastated from Mongol invasions and the Bubonic Plague in the early 14th century.

The gallant Ivan of Palisan held various titles including ‘Hospitaller Prior of Vrana’ and ‘Ban of Dalmatia Croatia & Slavonia’. Ivan of Palisan took sides with King Tvrtko and King Ladislus of Naples (of the Anjou dynasty) who were declared enemies of the sacred crown of Hungary by Sigismund. The year 1387 marked the beginning of a 25 year Croatian struggle against Sigismund which ended in ultimate defeat and the loss of much of Dalmatia to Venice. Ivan of Palisan was also one of the commanders at the Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, and died in 1391.

Source: Zupa Policnik, Kevric I., Znanstvena Knjiznica Zadar, 2006; also note: several websites & books mention Ivan of Palisan, & the Hospitaller knights, too many to list.


Zadar & Dalmatian Towns & Islands sold to Venice – Exhibit 6

Zadar, Novi Grad, Pag & Vrana in the Ravni Kotari, and the Dalmatian islands of Rab, Cres & Losinj were ‘sold’ to Venice in 1409 for 100,000 ducats by the defeated King Ladislas who also sold his ‘rights’ to all of Dalmatia. 2009 marks the 600th anniversary. Another sale occurred in 1437 when the Hungarian King Sigismund agreed to ‘recognize’ Venetian conquests over all Dalmatia in exchange for 10,000 ducats.

Thus, Policnik’s future was to take a different course from the early 15th century because Hungarian occupation was replaced by Venetian occupation. The alliance between King Tvrtko in today’s Bosnia and the famous Knight of Vrana, Ivan of Palisan (of Policnik) had unintentionally laid the foundation for future change. Tvrtko and John Palisan & the Horvat Brothers had been supporting the reign of Ladislas, until their deaths in the late 14th century. In 1408 Croatian and Bosnian nobles lost the battle waged against them by Sigismund & his anti-Cathar ‘crusaders’ at Dobor and then Sigismund was responsible for the Dobor massacre of 200 Croatian nobles & their families. King Ladislas had lost his support on the Croatian side of the Adriatic and he accepted Venice’s offer of 100,000 ducats on 9 July 1409. By 1420 Venice controlled most of Dalmatia again, until the Ottoman invasions of the following centuries.

Source: note: countless books, websites & encyclopaedias discuss the rivalry over the Hungarian crown, and the sale of Dalmatia.
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