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Split is the largest and most important city in Dalmatia, the administrative center of Croatia's Split-Dalmatia County and is the second largest city in Croatia. It is situated on a small peninsula on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea.
Although the beginnings of Split are usually linked to the building of Diocletian's Palace, there is evidence that this area was inhabited as a Greek colony even earlier. The area's urban tradition is, thus, many thousands of years old, not least due to the proximity of Salona, the capitol of the entire Dalmatia province during the time of the Roman Empire.
Diocletian was a Roman emperor who ruled between AD 284 and 305 and was known for his reforms and persecution of Christians. He ordered the work on the palace to begin in 293 in readiness for his retirement from politics in 305. The palace faces the sea on its south side and its walls are 170 to 200 m (570 to 700 feet) long and 15 to 20 m (50 to 70 feet) high, and it encloses an area of 38,000 m² (9½ acres). This massive structure was long deserted when the first citizens of Split settled inside its walls.
At the beginning of the 12th century Split was led by nobility of Kingdom of Croatia-Hungary. The city however maintained independence, as in 1312 it issued statues and had currency of its own. The Venetian Republic took control of Split in 1420, when the population was almost exclusively Croatian. The autonomy of the city remained, though somewhat reduced: the highest authority was a prince-captain who was always of Venetian birth.
During the Middle Ages and under Venetian rule Split developed into an important port city with trade routes to the interior through the nearby Klis pass. Culture flourished as well, Split being the hometown of Marko Marulic, a classic Croatian author. Marulic wrote Judita (1501) in Split, and published it there (1521). It is widely held to be the first modern work of literature in Croatian.
Still, all those achievements were reserved mostly for aristocracy, illiteracy rate was extremely high, because Venetian ruler showed no interest in educational and medical facilities.
Venice held Split until its own downfall in 1797. The city fell to Austria-Hungary after a brief period of Napoleonic rule (1806–1813). Big investments were undertaken during that time; some new streets were built, as well as some old fortification objects were removed.
Under Austria, however, Split stagnated. But, that stagnation was still much bigger growth and development, compared to Venetian rule. The general upheavals in Europe starting in 1848 gained no ground in Split.
After the end of World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the province of Dalmatia, along with Split, became a part of The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (which in 1929 changed its name to Yugoslavia). After both Rijeka and Zadar, the two other large cities on the eastern Adriatic coast, were annexed by Italy, Split became the most important port in Yugoslavia.
After WWII, Split became a part of Croatia, itself a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It continued to grow and develop as an important commercial and cultural center. The city drew a large number of rural migrants who found employment in the newly built factories, a part of a large-scale industrialization effort. In the period between 1945 and 1990, the population tripled and the city expanded, taking up the whole peninsula.
When Croatia declared independence in 1991, Split had a large garrison of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), as well as facilities and the headquarters of the Yugoslav Military Navy (JRM). This led to a months-long tense stand-off between the JNA and Croatian military and police forces, occasionally flaring up with various incidents.
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