September the 20th, 2023 – Croatia abounds in myths and folktales. Have you ever heard the legend of the curse of King Zvonimir?
Croatia’s past is a tumultuous one. Passed from pillar to post in terms of ruling bodies, this country has had residents who were born, lived their entire lives and died in the country, yet were citizens of multiple states. From the marauding Ottoman invaders to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from communism to fascism and from socialism to independence and EU membership, Croatia’s history has trauma weaved deeply into it.
Such a history, while traumatic, provides excellent ground for tall tales to emerge. Legends and myths as to why this small but mighty nation ended up being so constantly shoved between a proverbial rock and a hard place are one thing which has sprung from a turbulent past. One such legend, which just happens to be among the most popular of all, is the curse of King Zvonimir.
What exactly did King Zvonimir do?
Let’s dive back in history in order to understand exactly who Zvonimir was. Back during the 11th century, King Zvonimir, or Demetrius (Dmitar) Zvonimir of Croatia, if we’re going to use his full title, ruled over the country. In those times, things were going relatively smoothly for the nation. Well, to be frank, they were about as smooth as they could be for that period in European history. The Byzantine ruler of the time and the Pope allegedly then asked King Zvonimir to get his nation together and, in the name of Jesus Christ, have them go on a mission or campaign of sorts.
Of course, missions and campaigns back in those days were typically buzzwords used in the name of ”fight’ or ”war”. It wasn’t long after King Zvonimir agreed to the requests made that his people cottoned onto the true idea behind the whole ”campaign in Jesus’ name” thing. As was usually the case, it turned out that they were actually being rallied up to go off and fight in a foreign war they likely would never return home from. Feeling betrayed and lied to by King Zvonimir, the Croatian people revolted. King Zvonimir naturally wasn’t best pleased at this turn of events.
King Zvonimir places a 1000-year curse on the Croatian people…
Shocked at the violent uprising of his people against him, King Zvonimir vowed to retaliate. The circumstances around his premature death in 1089 have never been properly clarified, and rumours surrounding the mystery still circulate to this day. His less than glamorous end as the ruler of Croatia saw him place a 1000-year curse on the Croatian nation. The curse made it so that for the following 1000 years, the country which he felt had betrayed his wishes wouldn’t be ruled by a native Croat as an independent kingdom.
Anarchy and constant turbulence dogged Croatia following the placement of the curse of King Zvonimir…
Maybe it’s a mere legend, a myth based on nothing but old wive’s tales and folk stories, but it is ironic that for the many years that followed, Croatia faced constant anarchy, war, invasions, and takeovers by foreign empires and governments. Did the curse of King Zvonimir really take effect over the destiny of Croatia as a nation? Perhaps…