The devastating effects of mass emigration from communities in Dalmatia are documented in a new article published in the Hrvatskog iseljeničkog zbornika
, published by the Croatian Heritage Foundation, according to a report in Slobodna Dalmacija
on March 10, 2012.
The research, which focuses on the small inland village of Dol on the island of Hvar, was conducted by Professor Ivica Moskatelo from the village, and Mathias Lisandro Pavicich in Argentina, whose grandfather was born in Dol.
Moskatelo, who is a founding member of local association, Tartajun, which is working hard to revive old traditions and documents the village's history and heritage, has documented the decline in population of the village, due to several adverse economic factors, such as the phylloxera attack on the vines of Dalmatia and the harsh economic climate, particularly after the Second World War.
According to statistics published by Tartajun
from the national census, village life was at its peak in 1900 when Dol had 942 inhabitants. There has been a steady drain away as the farmers of the village have sought better economic opportunities elsewhere. By 1971 the population had dropped to 497, to a 2011 all-time low of 310, which includes a 10% decline over the last ten years.
While the statistics are depressing, they do not tell the whole story and mask the current renaissance of the village, which lies 3km from the oldest town in Croatia, Stari Grad. With the resurgence of Croatian tourism after the recent conflict in former Yugoslavia, the island of Hvar has become one of the trendiest destinations on the Adriatic, with Lonely Planet naming it their number 5 destination for 2012.
While much of that interest is focused on the coast and in the main party town of Hvar Town, there has been a trickle-down effect to the outlying villages such as Dol. Garnered by the efforts of Tartajun and other local initiatives, Dol is now emerging from the shadows and an interesting alternative artistic community is emerging. Foreigners have bought several properties in the village, and several have settled there full-time.
New businesses which have emerged in the last ten years, despite the population decline, include two yoga centres (one British and one American) and a Slovenian art studio. An eco-restaurant, Kokot, is thriving and attracting diners away from its more fashionable competition on the coast with its organic and home-produced fare, while the edible dormouse festival, now entering its fifth year, is one of the highlights of the local calendar.
Far from stagnating, there is a new energy about the inland villages of Hvar, with several local traditions being revived, including a lavender festival in Velo Grablje, a nearby stone village with a current population of just five, despite it once being the centre of lavender production for all Dalmatia.
In addition to the renewed tourism interest, one of the driving forces for the emigration - the failure of the wine harvest - is also experiencing growth. Hvar's wines are attracting international attention, with the Svirce Cooperative
the latest gold medal winners on the international stage, this time for their organic reds in Germany. There is plenty of new planting of vines as well, including a project which will be the largest single island vineyard
in the Mediterranean, from the Plancic winery.