The central national body responsible for the safeguarding of cultural heritage, including intangible cultural heritage, is the Ministry of Culture and its Directorate for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, with 19 local safeguarding departments throughout Croatia. A dedicated Service for Movable and Intangible Cultural Heritage was established within the Directorate in 2004. Earlier, in 2002, a special Advisory Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage was established within the same Ministry. The Committee is composed of seven experts from various scientific and expert institutions, who cover specific types of intangible heritage, with the purpose of encouraging its legal and practical safeguarding and promotion, both at the national and international levels. Alongside the ratification of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, these developments have contributed to the achievement of more effective and organized activities for safeguarding intangible heritage in the Republic of Croatia.
Training in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is provided primarily at universities and institutes. These include the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, as well as the Departments for Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Zagreb and the University of Zadar, respectively. The Croatian Cultural Congress organizes courses and seminars for the further training and equipping of expert leaders of amateur cultural associations (choir directors, choreography directors, etc.) and include subjects relevant to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in their research and teaching activities. Museums (especially the Ethnographical Museums in Zagreb, Pazin and Split, the Museums of Slavonia Osijek, and the Centre for Intangible Culture at the Istrian Ethnographical Museum) and cultural centres also provide important training services.
These same institutions are responsible for the documentation of intangible cultural heritage, which is typically made available to visitors with advance notice. A Reference Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage is being established with the aim of bringing together all institutions in Croatia and cooperating institutions overseas that hold relevant documentation or scientific material and information. This will represent an extremely valuable resource for researchers, students, artists, teachers, tourism employees, local communities, cultural associations, tourist associations, local business-people etc.
The inventorying of intangible cultural heritage is conducted in the context of a comprehensive heritage inventory: the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia. The 1999 Act on the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Goods defines intangible cultural heritage as comprising ‘a variety of forms and phenomena of spiritual creativity’ transmitted inter-generationally or through other methods. The Register of Cultural Goods consists of three Lists: the List of Registered Cultural Goods (107 ICH elements); the List of Cultural Goods of National Significance; and the List of Cultural Goods under Preventive Protection (six intangible cultural heritage elements). The inscription procedure involves an initial application (usually by the local community and non-governmental organizations), an expert evaluation (the Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage and various experts), followed by a formal decision by the Minister of Culture.
The criteria for inclusion are that: the element belongs to one or more categories of intangible heritage, according to Article 9 of the Act; the element is in accordance with international human rights instruments, requires mutual respect between communities and is in harmony with sustainable development; the community has identified the element as part of its cultural heritage; the element gives the community and individuals a sense of identity and continuity; the element is part of the community and is transmitted and constantly recreated; the element contributes to the diversity of the intangible cultural heritage in the Register, testifying to cultural diversity and human creativity; and the consent of the community concerned is accompanied by appropriate documentation and feasible safeguarding measures. Community and non-governmental organization participation is high. In evaluating elements for inclusion on the Register, the Committee consults closely with relevant communities and bearers also cooperate with experts in researching a particular element when it is submitted for entry on the Register. A range of stakeholders may be involved in describing intangible cultural heritage elements and, in addition, the final entry is usually checked by the community concerned before it is entered on the Register. Non-governmental organizations also provide detailed descriptions of the elements, often describing how they have changed over time and their significance for the community.
With regard to promoting the function of intangible cultural heritage in society, the Ministry of Culture actively cooperates with other ministries to include intangible cultural heritage in local- and state-level strategic programmes and plans (culture and tourism, supporting craftsmanship, encouraging creativity and new ideas on traditional values and skills) with a view to ensuring their sustainability. This is also reflected in the 2011-2015 Strategy for the safeguarding and the sustainable commercial use of the cultural heritage of Croatia. This is designed to achieve more efficient and successful safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage elements while also encouraging and strengthening its commercial potential for development.
Many awareness-raising activities are organized (festivals, exhibitions, workshops, open days, education in schools and universities, research, media etc.) for the general public and schoolchildren in particular. The mass media have also played an important role in raising public awareness through newspapers and magazines, radio, television and websites. The national television company has a Section for Folk Culture, which makes documentaries about intangible cultural heritage and explains how the tradition fulfilled certain functions in the past and does so today. Local communities, associations, societies and individuals also put out a great deal of information on intangible cultural heritage on their own web pages and blogs.
As far as education is concerned, intangible cultural heritage is included in extra-curricular activities, including workshops on intangible heritage linked to the school’s local area (e.g. lace-making in Lepoglava). Children’s toy makers also organize workshops in cooperation with schools where children work alongside artisans. Programmes are offered by different governmental bodies, non-governmental organizations and experts, to promote traditional craftsmanship and arts in community centres and other regional centres spread across the country. These include programmes at Kumrovec Old Village Museum (making wooden toys and gingerbread), and various workshops on safeguarding programmes in different parts of Croatia (lace-making, ojkanje singing). Participation is open to the general public. The communities and bearers of intangible cultural heritage elements inscribed are involved in the direct transmission of knowledge (through workshops, lectures and individual work), the presentation of intangible cultural heritage (local events, exhibitions, participation in fairs, etc.), the documentation of practices (videos, photos), as well as the publication of various materials (leaflets, books and web pages). Educational workshop programmes are also provided in museums; these are based on permanent exhibitions as knowledge resources, presentations and demonstrations of traditional crafts in theme-oriented exhibitions (which require the input of an experienced artisan), and practical classes, again in the presence of traditional artisans.
Bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation takes the form of a number of agreements with neighbouring countries and institutions and non-governmental organizations which operate in them. These cover the exchange of experiences and the promotion of cooperation in safeguarding natural and cultural heritage. In terms of bi-lateral cooperation (communication, academic activities, exhibitions and performances) Croatia has hosted working visits by intangible cultural heritage experts from the Ministries of Culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo and an elected institution from the Republic of Slovenia. During these meetings, issues concerning the preparation of nomination forms and new knowledge and information from experiences of listing intangible cultural heritage were exchanged. Regional cooperation has also occurred through the participation of representatives from the Croatian Ministry of Culture in South-East European Experts’ Seminars on Intangible Cultural Heritage and active involvement in the category 2 centre for the South-East Europe region in Bulgaria.
Croatia reports here on nine elements inscribed on the Representative List, namely: the Annual carnival bell ringers’ pageant from the Kastav area (2009); the Festivity of Saint Blaise, the patron of Dubrovnik (2009); Lacemaking in Croatia (2009); the Procession Za Krizen (‘following the cross’) on the island of Hvar (2009); the Spring procession of Ljelje/Kraljice (queens) from Gorjani (2009); Traditional manufacturing of children’s wooden toys in Hrvatsko Zagorje (2009); Two-part singing and playing in the Istrian scale (2009); Gingerbread craft from Northern Croatia (2010); and the Sinjska Alka, a knights’ tournament in Sinj (2010).
One notable feature of intangible cultural heritage in Croatia is the central role played by associations of practitioners (including the Brotherhoods and the General Assembly of the Alka Company) in its safeguarding and continued viability. Such associations act in conjunction with local municipalities, museums, the Church and Benedictine convents, educational institutions, private businesses and tourist promotion organisations. Croatia’s intangible cultural heritage elements also demonstrate the impact of inscription. For instance, this has given greater social status to the gingerbread-making craft, which has further stimulated the bearers to work since the public has displayed an increasing interest in their products, range and sales outlets. In the case of the Kraljice from Gorjani, inscription has significantly increased the local community’s awareness of the value of this element of intangible cultural heritage and has increased residents’ participation in safeguarding the custom in their environment. There are, however, challenges. The viability of the lace-making tradition faces difficulties in terms of safeguarding its production (distinguishing poor copies from high-quality original lace products) and adequate market placement. Partial protection of lace products has been achieved by issuing a label of authenticity and displaying their geographical origin. The biggest problem facing the Kraljice element is that the Cultural Association, the tradition bearer, lacks adequate premises for practice and training purposes, and for storing and protecting their costumes and instruments, although the municipality of Gorjani has provided the use of a former mill that could be refurbished for this purpose.