Where are we?
Slavonia and Baranja is a historical and geographical region in the eastern Croatia that borders with Hungary in the north, Bosnia and Herzegovina in the south, and with Serbia in the east. The region consists of five counties: Brodsko-posavska , Osječko-baranjska , Požeško-slavonska , Virovitičko-podravska and Vukovarsko-srijemska . The history of the region dates back in the time of Roman Empire, when the region was a part of Roman province Pannonia, over the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and over Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, to independent Republic of Croatia.
Geographical location of Slavonia and Baranja
The population of the region is about 600 000 inhabitants who live mostly around major cities: Osijek, Slavonski Brod, Vinkovci, Vukovar, Đakovo, Požega, Virovitica, Našice, Županja, Nova Gradiška and Beli Manastir.
Osijek-baranja County, where Osijek (the city with most inhabitants in the region) is situated, was considered one of the most developed areas in Croatia until the war in 1991. Consequences of war devastation were serious: thousands of dead, wounded, missing, and exiled; disrupted system of values, demographic changes, and devastation of properties – all these decreased social wealth and contributed to slow economic and social development.
Tvrđa (fortress of Osijek)
According to last census from 2011, as administrative, economic and university centre, Osijek had 107 784 residents. Situated on the right bank of river Drava, the city is rich with green parks, diverse architecture, and cultural heritage. Besides being administrative centre of Osijek-baranja County, Osijek is also the centre of the region when it comes to important areas of life. Although, lagged behind other Croatian regional cities, in the last few years Osijek records increased investments, improvement of infrastructure, and introduction of new social events.
Osijek seen from the left bank of Drava
Important characteristic of Slavonia and Baranja is ethnic diversity of population. There are members of 22 ethnic minority groups: Serbs, Hungarians, Albanians, Germans, Slovaks, Bosniaks, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Slovenians, Roma, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Czechs, Jews, Austrians, Poles, Romanians, Italians, Bulgarians, Turks, and Vlachs. But, what was once considered as a social wealth, in war and post-war period was often a cause of mistrust and obstacle to development. However, long tradition of multi-ethnicity and hospitality, as a basic characteristic of this region's charm, represents a positive challenge and an inspiration for perpetual optimists and activists.
Putting an effort into re-building trust, improving relations between people, and into strengthening responsibility towards community is a main mission of numerous civil society organizations that are active in this region and mostly concentrated in larger cities – Osijek and Vukovar.
Translation to English: Igor Nedić, volunteer