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Varaždin County

  • Location: North-western Croatia
  • Surface Area: 1261.29 km2 (2.23% of the Republic of Croatia’s total surface area)
  • Area: 3rd smallest Croatian County
  • Population: 175,951
  • Population Density: 139.42 inhabitants/km2
  • Number of Settlements: 302
  • Towns: 6
  • Municipalities: 22

Varaždinska županija,
Franjevački trg 7,
42 000 Varaždin
OIB: 15877210917
MB: 2628210
Privredna banka Zagreb d.d.
IBAN: HR20 2340 0091 8000 0500 7

The Oldest Croatian County

According to its first recorded mention Varaždin County is amongst the oldest Croatian Counties and was one of the first that was organised as an administrative territorial unit. It was mentioned on 20th August 1181 in the Charter of the Croatian-Hungarian King Bela III, together with Varaždin County Prefect Belec, who had been made mention of since 1131. Throughout most of its history Varaždin County included much of what is today Krapina-Zagorje County and parts of Koprivnica-Križevci and Međimurje Counties. Until 1848 the County was divided into four judicial-administrative districts, and in 1925 it was comprised of the following districts: Ivanec, Klanjec, Krapina, Ludbreg, Novi Marof, Pregrada, Varaždin and Zlatar with 35 operating municipalities. According to the first systematic census of 1785/1787 Varaždin County had 87,000 inhabitants.

Politics – a Model County

Following the accession to the personal union between Croatia and Hungary in 1102, the Counties became the ruler’s institutions and County Prefects were appointed to govern as the ruler’s representatives. Later, with the development of the higher nobility and their interest in organising the Counties politically, Varaždin County was an example of increasing independence in the management and administration of almost all affairs across the region in relation to the central government. The County Assembly, in which the nobility would choose their delegates led by the County Prefect, monitored economic and social opportunities, including the announcement of all state duties and military recruitment. The Assembly also selected the most important officials for certain areas of administration: the Deputy Prefect, Great Notary Public, Registrar, Archivist, Cashier, Judges, Surveyors… Following the revolution of 1848 and abolition of feudalism, the County was organised according to the principals of a civil state which remained in place until 1925.

Varaždin – the County’s Historic Seat and the Seat of National Government

The City of Varaždin is one of Croatia’s oldest cities and has always been the County’s administrative, cultural and educational seat. In 1209 Varaždin was the first to gain the status of a Free Royal City. With its Baroque core, rich sacral architecture and exceptionally valuable art inventory it was inevitable that its name features throughout the whole of Croatian history: its location at the crossroads of Europe lead to it proudly being the capital city of the Croatian Kingdom for about ten years (from 1767 to 1776) when it held 30 sessions of the Croatian Parliament! This was when the first Croatian Government was formed – the ‘Bansko vijeće’ (The Governor’s Council).

Varaždin County’s Golden Age

The golden age of Varaždin County began with the liberation of Slavonia and Srijem all the way to Zemun, as a result of the peace pact entered into by the Austrian and Turkish Kingdoms in 1718. Empress Maria Theresa led the modernisation of public administration; in 1763 she bestowed Varaždin County with the grant of arms (litterae armales) and in 1770, initiated by the County Prefect Ivan Nepomuk I Erdödy, she approved designs for the construction of a new County Palace at Franjevački trg 7. In addition to the nobility, numerous merchants from different parts of Croatia and other countries of the Great Austrian Empire arrived at the City. By the second half the 18th Century Varaždin already had 264 tradesmen engaged in different professions that were organised into powerful guilds. There were around 5,000 inhabitants in the City which, at the time, was almost the same as Zagreb.

Seat of the Slavonian Border

Throughout all the wars, starting from the Turkish and Napoleonic wars, Jelačić’s military role in 1848 and the subsequent wars of later and recent history, Varaždin County has made an important contribution by organising early defensive organisations such as the City’s militia, guards, Hussar Regiments and other units. From 1595 Varaždin was the seat of the Slavonian Border and later the Varaždin Military Command.

County Palace, Coat of Arms and Flag

On former land of the Varaždin Military Command in the City’s very centre, the two-storey County Palace hosting the seat of the County Prefect was built between 1770 and 1772. The County Palace was built by the Master Mason Jacobus Erber in accordance with the plans sent from Vienna that were then adapted to Varaždin’s circumstances and requirements. In 1763 Varaždin County was awarded the right to use a coat of arms by Maria Theresa, which was actually the coat of arms assumed from the Varaždin’s hereditary County Prefects, the Erdödy Family. Aside from this in 1778 the County received a further feature of its visual identity which was the first known County Flag. This was ordered by County Prefect Ivan Nepomuk I. The County’s Flag was made of red and white silk with the County’s Coat of Arms in the centre. On the obverse side there is an image of the Virgin Mary with the infant Christ in her hands. These features of the County’s visual identity have been preserved to this day. The original County’s grant of arms is kept in the National Archives in Varaždin and the flag is on display at the Varaždin City Museum.

Historical Pioneers

In terms of military and political fields, 1848 was one of the most turbulent in Croatian history and Varaždin County in particular. A powerful nationalist movement for the first time significantly shook the foundations of the Habsburg Monarchy. County’s Registrar Stjepan Car was one of the first Croatian Delegates in Vienna. He submitted Varaždin County’s appeal to unify Croatia and Slavonia with Dalmatia. Volunteers trained in the County and national guards and military forces were organised. Throughout August and into September, all the Croatian soldiers at this time gathered in Varaždin County, and on 11th September .the Governor (‘Ban’) Josip Jelačić returned Međimurje to Croatia.

A Key Role in the Homeland War of Independence

In recent history Varaždin County has played one of the key roles in the Homeland War of Independence. By taking over the military facilities, warehouses and powerful military equipment and arms of the 32nd Corps of the Yugoslav National Army in 1991, the status of forces on Croatian battlefields turned to their benefit. Varaždin Units: Varaždin Police Department, 104th Brigade of the Croatian Army and 7th Guard Brigade, the legendary Pumas, participated in, fought and died on all Croatian battlefields.

Cultural Heritage

The cultural heritage of Varaždin County are eternal and priceless. Traces of prehistoric inhabitants, the foundations of Roman forts on the Drava lime and the roads that connected the eastern borders with the centre of the Roman Empire, the ruined Romanic remains, Gothic church towers, fragments of frescoes on the remaining walls of Medieval fortresses, renaissance prints on façades and finally the Baroque influences have permanently changed a landscape with a fine lineage of architectural art and special natural beauty.

The First Public Croatian Primary School, Public Grammar School and the Faculty in Croatia

Over the centuries the region of Varaždin was also known for its City of schools and pupils. In the field of education and general enlightenment, the area has made a significant contribution to the development of the whole of Croatia. The primary school was established on Kaptol property in Varaždinske Toplice in 1840, making it the first in Croatia and South-eastern Europe. The Lepoglava Pauline Monastery was also a focal point of culture and education in this part of Croatia from the 17th Century onwards. Across Europe it was known that the Pauline – ‘the White Friars’ – in 1503 founded a public Gymnasium, the first in Croatia that was attended by public students. These initiated a study of philosophy and theology and, following the decree made by Emperor Leopold I in 1687, the school developed into the Royal Academy with the right to award doctorates. One of the most beautiful and significant lexicographic books – the Belostenčev Gazofilacium – is an encyclopaedic dictionary on a European level. Philosophy, ethics and speech studies at the Remetinec Monastery near Novi Marof took place between 1649 and 1783. In 1777 the Ursuline Nuns founded the first Croatian all-girls’ school in Varaždin, and for a short while, the Political and Cameral Studies operated here was the first secular higher education institution in any Croatian state. After the Great Fire the Cameral Study was moved to Zagreb and, together with the Zagreb Royal Academy of Science, they would go on to become the University of Zagreb. From the end of the 16th Century onwards valuable books in the Croatian/Kajkavian languages were printed in these areas: the ‘Trojstrančani pismotvor’ by the Lawyer Ivan Pergušić and ‘Postila’ by the Priest Antun Vramec.

Varaždin County in the 20th Century

During the period of the Independent State of Croatia on the territory of the former Varaždin County the ‘Velika župa Zagorje’ (‘Greater Zagorje Parish’) was established as a state administrative unit but without any powers of self-governance. The County system would go on to be restored with Croatian independence in the 1990s. On the basis of the 1993 Local Self-government Act the Varaždin County’s borders were re-established. The territory is considerably smaller than those of the old Varaždin County, as it no longer encompasses the area of Croatian Zagorje. Today Varaždin County stretches between the Drava River in the north, the slopes of the Slovenske gorice and Macelj hills in the west and Kalnik and its slopes in the east and south-east. It encompasses an area of 1,228 km2 and is both one of the territorially smallest and most densely inhabited Croatian Counties.

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