Why is Croatia shaped like a boomerang?
Almost everyone who looks at Croatia on a map is struck by its unusual shape. It definitely looks like a boomerang or a croissant and there is no other country in Europe with such a bizarre shape. Why does it have this shape? Well, all the countries in the Balkan region have long, complicated histories and we could dedicate hundreds of pages to Croatia’s own turbulent past. So to cut a very long story short, Croatia looks like a boomerang for one simple reason: war.
A COUNTRY FORGED IN WAR
Up to around 15th Century, Croatia had been at various points an independent kingdom, had consisted of several duchies, or had been part of the Hungarian and Venetian Empires.
However, the period that was responsible for really hammering Croatia into its present shape was the arrival of the Ottoman armies from Turkey from around 1493 onwards. These Turkish forces had expanded their Empire westwards, conquering European countries such as Greece, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria and crucially, Bosnia-Herzegovina. If you look at the map above, you can see that Bosnia forms an arrow-shaped wedge into Croatia, effectively forming the military frontier and frontline of the Ottoman surge into central Europe.
After briefly consolidating gains in Bosnia, the Ottomans attacked Croatian territory and experienced their first major defeat in 1593, which delayed their plans for trying to capture Vienna. They eventually lost the Battle of Vienna to Christian forces (made up of armies from the Holy Roman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire and others) in 1683 and the line between Bosnia and Croatia became the border between the Ottoman East and Christian West.
Huge swathes of Croatia and Bosnia became military frontiers or buffer zones between the Hapsburgs and Ottomans and the present-day borders are more-or-less based on how that frontier had settled by 1867.
FROM BOOMERANG TO DRAGON
While the most common association with the country’s shape is a boomerang, it seems there has been a new development!
Youtuber Zackabier has published a video on his channel in which he talks about what certain European countries remind him of, specifically their shape. It looks like the hit show Game of Thrones has introduced a new perspective: with the country’s connection to the famous series, Croatia’s form has recently been compared to that of a dragon. Here is the illustration: