Croatia is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe. Its land area is 56,594 km2 and according to the 2001 census it has a population of about 4.5 million. Croatia is located between the Mediterranean, Central and Southern Europe (the Balkans). It contains four macro regions: Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka and Split. The eastern and central parts of Croatia are lowlands, while the western part is mountainous. The highest point is Dinara at 1831 meters, located in Southern Croatia. Croatia is one of the few countries with a rich and diverse forest fund, which covers 37% of the total territory. The Croatian coast of the Adriatic Sea is 783 km long and stretches northwest -southeast. Croatia has 8 national parks (Brijuni, Kornati, Krka, Plitvice lakes, Paklenica, Mljet, Risnjak and Northern Velebit) and 11 nature parks (Kopački Rit, Papuk, Lonja field, Velebit, Učka, Medvednica, Telašćica, Žumberak–Samobor hills, Vrana lake, Biokovo and Lastovo islands).
In addition to the capital Zagreb and the major cities of Split, Rijeka and Osijek, Croatia also has 123 smaller cities.
Croatia has a demanding educational system and a university level in natural and technical sciences, corresponding to international standards. Universities are located in seven major cities: Dubrovnik, Osijek, Pula, Rijeka, Split, Zadar and Zagreb. The largest and oldest among them is the University of Zagreb, founded in 1669. In recent years, the Croatian universities enrolled about 80,000 students. One of the most important guardians of Croatian culture is the Parent Body of Croatia, which is a major publisher of books and journals in Croatia, operating since 1861. The Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences promotes and organizes scientific research, publishes results of scientific research and artistic creativity, and gives suggestions and opinions for the advancement of science and arts in the areas that are of particular importance for Croatia. Croatia has produced three Nobel prize laureates (Lavoslav Ružička, Ivo Andrić, Vladimir Prelog), and Nikola Tesla was also born in Croatia. Many inventions have been attributed to Croatia, most notable of which are the fountain pen and the necktie (whose original name, "cravat", was derived from the word "Croatia").
Croatia with its sports facilities was an exemplary host to various international sporting events (1987 Universiade, 1990 European Athletics Championships, 2nd World Military Games in 1999, 2009 World Handball Championship etc.). Croatian athletes achieve remarkable results in tennis, skiing, athletics, handball, water polo and other sporting events.
The official language in Croatia is Croatian, which has three dialects: Kajkavian, Chakavian and, the most widespread, Shtokavian. Croatian oldest records date from the 11th century, when the official language of all Slavic nations was Old Slavic (Church Slavic). Croatian was the only European language to have records in three different alphabets: angular Glagolitic (from the 9th century), the Western Cyrillic (12th century) and Latin (from the 14thcentury). Over time, the Latin script prevailed, but there are records in Glagolitic dating up to the 19th century.