White Croatia

White Croatia
White Croats
Heiliges Römisches Reich 1000.PNG
White Croats (Chrobatia) on a map of the Holy Roman Empire around the year 1000. According to the map the land called Chrobatia is inhabited by the Vistulans and Lendians, and/or near to Adriatic sea - Kingdom of Croatia
Regions with significant populations
part of Silesia
Lesser Poland


The Map of Poland from the times of Bolesław I Chrobry, presenting one of the hypothesis of where White Croatia could be located

White Croatia (also Chrobatia) is a vaguely defined area, said to lie somewhere in Central Europe, near Bavaria, beyond Hungary on south of Poland and west of Ukraine, and adjacent to the Frankish Empire from which the part of White Croats crossed the Carpathians and migrated in the 7th century into Dalmatia (modern-day Croatia). The term white designates west, thus the name of the state means Western Croatia.



The Slavnik family had its coins with inscription Mulin Civitas, issued by Prince Soběslav, the oldest son of Slavnik. This confirms that the fortress of Mulin near Kutna Hora (west of Prague in Bohemia) was a part of their territory. It is assumed that the Slavnik's were the leading tribe of the Croats in the 10th century in that region. Their main seat was in the town of Libica, west of Prague (near Kutna Hora). Thus we had two parallel Croatian states in that period: White Croatia in Central Europe and Littoral Croatian Duchy near the Adriatic Sea. In 995, when White Croatian troops led by Soběslav were defending their Princedom from pagan tribes, White Croatia was suddenly attacked by the Czech prince Premysl, destroying their capital Libice and killing most of the Croatian population. There are some conjectures that several noble families in Poland (like Paluk's) are descendants of White Croats, as well as the family of Rožmberk (which seems to be related to the town of Ružomberok in Slovakia). Soběslav was killed in 1004 on a bridge over Vltava river in Prague, when Polish troops tried to occupy the city.

Written sources

In his work "De Administrando Imperio", Constantine Porphyrogenitus mentions the White Croatia (originally Βελοχρωβάτοι i Χρωβάτοι) as the place from which, in the 7th century, part of Croatian tribes started their journey to Balkans (more specific, today's Croatia) after they were invited there by the Byzantine Empire (emperor Flavius Heraclius Augustus) to protect its borders. This migration was described by Adam Naruszewicz in his work "The History of Polish Nation": "The Chrobats were known even in the 9th century under Constantine Porphyrogennetos rule, who describes them in his work De Administrando Imperio in these words: The Chrobat lived in that times (meaning, times of emperror Heraclius) close to Babigorea where Belo-Chobat family is now, while others, those who went to Dalmatia living close to France, called Belo-Chrobat, belo meaning white, as they had their own Prince. They pay hommage to Otto the Great, the ruler of Franks also being Saxon. Being pagans they ally with Turks. Those Chrobats who in Dalatia reside, derive from the non baptized ones, ones allied Turks living near Franks and with Serbians bordering." Then he also states: "[...] the great Chrobatia which as the white is called, till this very day baptised is not, same as their neighbours Serbians. Cavalry and infantry has it as much as Christian Chrobatia, all for frequent Franks' invasions."

According to Nestor the Chronicler, White Croats were progenitors of Lendians. In his work from 1113 AD called "The Primary Chronicle" Nestor describes how in the early Middle Ages White Croats, Serbians and Karantans (most likely part of the tribes) were forced to leave their lands due to Italian invasion. After that they settled along the river Vistula, calling themselves Lendians, and later dividing into Polans, Veleti, Masovians and Pomeranians. "After many years had passed, Slavic people settled on the Danube, where Hungary and Bulgaria are now. From those Slavic tribes they spread to many lands, calling themselves with many names which were from grounds they stayed on. And so, leaving on the Morava river, they called themselves Moravians, and anothers as Czech. Yet another Slavic people were White Croatians, and Serbians, and Korantans. Those, when oppressed by Italians who invaded that grounds, embarked towards Vistula and stayed there calling themselves Lendians, and later Polans, Veleti, Masovier and Pomeranians." Other authors from those times are not calling Croatians as "White". The Bavarian Geographer does not mention them either (same as Polans) (845 AD).

North of the Great Moravia is where Alfred the Great states as Croatian lands (890 AD). In his "Geography of Europe" relaying on Orosius, Alfred the Great says: "To the north-east of the Moravians are the Dalamensae; east of the Dalamensians are the Horithi (White Croats), and north of the Dalamensians are the Servians; to the west also are the Silesians. To the north of the Horiti is Mazovia, and north of Mazovia are the Sarmatians, as far as the Riphaean mountains."

Nestor in his "The Primary Chronicle" mentions Croatians (but not calling them "White") as one of the Russniak tribes. In 907 AD they allied with Oleg of Novgorod and took part in his military expedition against Byzantium. It is also mentioned there that Vladimir I of Kiev fought Croatians in 992 AD. In addition, the names "chrowati et altera chrowati" is mentioned in so called Prague document from 1086 AD as the frontier of the Prague diocese. That statement was used as the propaganda to justify the annexation of Galicia during the partitions of Poland.

Cosmas of Prague in his Chronica Boëmorum describes the territory of the Prague diocese in these words: "[...] The border of which towards the West are as following: Tuhośt, which stretch from the middle of Chamb river, Siedliczanie, Leczanie, Dieczanie, Litomierzyć, Lemuzi, until the forest which the Chech border is. Next, the northern borders, are: Pszowianie, Croatians and other Croatians, Ślęzanie, Trzebowianie, Bobrzanie, Dziadoszanie, up to the middle of the forest which the Milczanie are surrounded. From there to the East the rivers of Styr and Bug are its boarders, together with Kraków and its land name of which is Wag and all the lands belonging to the mentioner Krakow. Then it stretches along Hungarian marches up to the mountains which are called Tatras. Next, in the part which stretches towards the South, when joined with Moravian lands, it reaches Wag river and then Mure, being the name of the forest and the river bordering Bavaria." In the 12th century, Presbyter Diocleas in his "History of the Kingdom of the Slavs" uses the term White Croatia with reference to North Dalmatia.

Wincenty Kadłubek in his "Polish Chronicle" (book II, chapter 12), describes the deeds of Bolesław I the Brave who "conquered Selencja, Pomerania, Prussia, Rus, Moravia, Czech, which he has left his successors as fiefdoms. The city of Prague was called the second capital of his kingdom. He ruled many tribes of Huns, Hungarians, Croatians and Mards."

A dispute about location of White Croatia

Location of White Croatia which was established by Constantine is a bone of contention among historians. We can learn from the text by Constantine that it was under the rule of Otto I the Great and it was located somewhere between Bavaria, Hungary and White Serbia. Constantine describes the White Croatians as pagans, their territories must have been located out of reach of the Christian world.

Nestor Claims that the White Croatians settled down on Vistula bank. At this point, Constantine says about march northwards, while Nestor about marching southwards – probably the facts being distant in the time. So White Croatians of Nestor and Constantine may have nothing common with each other.

On account of establishing the north border of Great Moravia difficulty, it is hard to explicitly interpret the notes of Alfred the Great. It can be interpreted on the ground of information that Vistulans used to occupy to the east of Moravia. However, interpretations of Prague Document point at location in the northern Czech or in Silesia.

Popular Encyclopedia by Samuel Orgelbrand from 1864 provides information that the name of Croatian comes from Carpathian Mountains: Croats (Krroat, Kroata), in fact Croatians in Czech: Charwati, in Croatian: Herwati (Hrwati) is the name of numerous Slavic tribes which partly is still keeping up. All tribes’ the oldest headquarter are lands of the Tatras called (by Constantine Porfyrogenita) the Great or White Croatia, coming from Carpathian Mountains […] The momento of them has kept up in some local names in the eastern Halicz (Chrewi, Charwin, Charzewice) and folk name of the Carpathians: Horby (Chryby, Cherby). Adam Szelągowski (after Paweł Józef Szafarzyk) also draw their name from word chrb (a mountain) and added: today still in eastern Galicia the name for the Carpathians (Chorby)

Historians often point at the north part of Czech, Silesia, Lesser Poland or Ukraine as the places where White Croatia happened to be located. There also exists a hypothesis that the center of White Croatia was near present village named Stilsko in the mikołajewski area in Lviv district.

Despite the fact that the relation of Constantinople reminding of Frank control over White Croatia, it would be demanding to look for it rather in Czech and Silesia and a hypothesis that Croatians with time moved the occupied territory cannot be excluded – what is, looking at Vandal’s much more far migration, not a surprise.

The White Croats and the Vistulans

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It is possible that in Bavarian Geographer the Croats exist under the name of the Vistulans. Probably the Moravians, who used to call other tribes according to their settlement instead of their proper names, provided such a name. As the result of intense trading contact between the Great Moravian merchants and East Francia in the 9th century, the names of Slavic tribes were sent to the West, where German-speaking scribes used to write them down. Later, the names could be found in the list of the tribes of Central-Western Europe (Bavarian Geographer), created by Louis the German. A confirmation of this thesis might be the fact that in Primary Chronicle Nestor lists most of the tribes settled on Polish land (including Croats), but he never mentions the Vistulans, who constituted as one of the centres of early Polish state. However, Alfred the Great’s report, in which he mentions both tribes, negates the thesis about the adequation of the White Croats and the Vistulans.

The White Croats and the Lendians/Lechites

The modern-day opinion states that those tribes should be associated with the Lendians. In Nestor’s chronicle from 11th century the name “Lachy” does not refer only to the Lendians, where it derives from, but to all West Slavs except for the Czech and Slovakians.

In the 970s the Lendians were probably incorporated into the state of Mieszko I. Conquered by Rus’ in 981, around 1018-1031 they became a part of Piast state as a result of Bolesław I the Brave’s (Polish: Bolesław Chrobry) campaign to Kiev, as well as in 1077-1086, when with the agreement of Kiev monarchs, Bolesław II the Bold (Polish: Bolesław Szczodry) annexed their lands. The outcome of activities of Eastern Church after 1054 was making the Lendians dependent on Ukrainian culture and religion. Another indication of Ukrainian influence on the Lendians’ lands were deportation actions similar to the activities done by Yaroslav I the Wise in 1031. After the incorporation of Lendian lands to Rus’, he resettled some citizens close to Ros River (Dnieper Ukraine), where they kept their ethnic autonomy for a long time.


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