Historical overview

Prehistoric and Ancient time

The basic characteristics of housing at that time were fortified forts on elevations, and for the purpose of cattle breeding they used large pastures, thickets and forest areas. Due to the marshland and many primeval forests, Drava Valley was most suitable for exploitation and therefore Kalnik, Bilogora and the higher positioned areas of the plain represented the primeval settlement area. Numerous prehistoric archaeological sites are a proof for early human presence in the Kalnik area. All sites are located besides water flaws and drinking water springs. The oldest site is in Gornji Brezovljani by Sveti Ivan Žabno. Already at that time paths from Drava Valley led through the Križevci area. The Illyrian tribe Jasi lived here at the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age

The Ancient period (1st till 5th century) marked the economic transformation not just for this region. In this period there aren’t so many archaeological proofs on life. The County area was divided in two parts: Panonia Superior and Panonia Savia. The Romans built a road network and the road Poetovio – Mursa passed through the contact area between Drava valley and Bilogora. The contours of the Roman road are still visible in the springtime. Romanization and the building of a network of cities marked this period. It is assumed that the station Lentulus was located next to Virje, and Louta, Sunista (Kunovec Breg) and Ad Piretis (Farkašić) next to Kloštar Podravski. The inhabitants were engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding; they cultivated fruits and vegetables; the Romans also brought grapevines to this area. Hence, areas suitable for agriculture were intensively used. During the late Roman Empire realignment took place and this entire area became a part of Panonia Savia. The first barbarian invasions occurred already in the 2nd century and in the 3rd and 4th century the Goths and Huns arrived.

Middle Ages

We can only guess what was happening in this region from the Early Medieval period after the fall of the Western Roman Empire all until the 13th century since the first written documents date from the 13th century. The Goths, the Gepids, the Lombards passed through this region in the 5th and 6th century. The first groups of Slavs arrived in the 6th century together with the Avars. The lack of traces and information on Early Mediaeval centres of parish territorial units and, most importantly, the lack of church centres give evidence that characteristics of a territorially not organized Slavic area prevailed for a long time, and this is also proven by the name Slovinje used for this area. The christening of Croats on this area began already in the 4th century. Armies constantly passed through these parts leaving a wasteland behind them, for example in 1242 the Tatars, who didn’t succeed in conquering Veliki Kalnik. Two Crusader armies also rumbled through these parts at the beginning of the 13th century.

Since the Middle Ages the basic local self-government unit of Croats was the Parish (County). The tribal structure in the Middle Ages is most closely associated with the regional division in counties. Each county, regardless of its size, constituted one regional unit. Parishes were named after rivers, valleys or fortresses around which a parish developed. The prefect, appointed by the king, was the head of the county. During the reign of king Sigismund (14th century) a realignment of parishes took place. Smaller territorial units than parishes were districts and municipalities. Every village was a municipality. Hungarian kings donated the majority of the parish area to individuals (squires) for their loyalty and military duty towards the king. These estates – donations to noblemen were exempted from the authority of prefects who reigned the areas outside the donations. Exempted from the authority of prefects were church estates and free royal cities (Križevci i Koprivnica). The medieval Križevci County covered a much wider area than the present Koprivnica Križevci County and it was one of the largest counties in northern Croatia. At that time Croatia was ruled by powerful aristocratic families.

The first half of the 13th century was marked by the strengthening of cities in this region. The Town of Križevci has a continuity of inhabitation since the antique and it is mentioned for the first time in 1193 when the prefect was mentioned in the charter of Bela III. The city was divided in the Lower Town (crafts centre, younger inhabitants), south of the fortress and the Upper Town, north of it. In 1252 Upper Križevci became a free royal town. Križevci was the place where Parliament sessions were organized and the regular residence of the ban and the prefect. Throughout the Middle Ages Križevci maintained the status of a free royal town. The event from 1397 that made the town famous was the Bloody Parliament Session of Križevci when King Sigismund liquidated his opponents.

Koprivnica received the privileges of a free town in 1356. Due to its favourable location, it has always been a trade, crafts and administrative centre. Crafts and trade guilds date as far back as the 14th century.

Đurđevac was built in the middle of a swamp on elevated “baulks”. It was mentioned for the first time in a document from 1267 as a village ( villa sancti Georgii ). It was the deed of gift by the Croatian and Hungarian king Bella IV from 1267, which was confirmed and with borders presented by Bella’s son, the king. In the 14th century the Koprivnica and Đurđevac area belonged to the Prodavić estate owned by Ban Mikac. In the 14th century Ban Mikac founded Prodavić, today’s Virje.

Sveti Ivan Žabno was mentioned as far back as 1201 and Rasinja in 1248. In the Middle Ages most settlements were mentioned in the register of parishes of the Diocese of Zagreb dating from 1334.

Modern Era

In the second half of the 15th century the Ottoman threat appeared (Križevci were burnt down in 1476). A military garrison arrived in Križevci in 1533.

The border with the Ottomans was approximately twenty kilometres away from the town which was in a crisis. The Ottoman threat endangered the Drava Valley as well. Therefore in 1548 Zrinski persuaded the king to entrust the defence of Drava Valley to captain Luka Sekelj. He positioned his regiment in Koprivnica, Virje and Đurđevac. At that time the Koprivnica captaincy was established within the Slavonian Military Frontier which was, in fact, the beginning of the Military Frontier in the Drava Valley. Đurđevac was the most eastern stronghold that warded off all Ottoman assaults and this was the origin of the “Legend of Picoki”. The fortress Veliki Kalnik in Križevci region resisted all Ottoman attacks and defended the Kalnik region from enemies for the second time. In the 16th and 17th century a large number of displaced residents from devastated regions populated the hilly area under military command.

After the Ottoman incursion, the Kingdom of Croatia was reduced to its remains. A part of the area was under direct military command and the remaining parts consisted of just 3 counties: Zagreb, Varaždin and Križevci County which included the north and west part of the Križevci region. The County existed merely formally in the 16th and 17th century and in reality it was united with the Zagreb County.

The Drava valley and the Prigorje region became somewhat safer after 1606 when the Ottoman sultan concluded the first real peace treaty with King Rudolph. Bit by bit the population began to return to the devastated regions. By the decision of king Rudolph dating from 1578 the Croatian border area towards the Ottoman Empire was put under direct jurisdiction of the Styrian Archduke Charles, and thus all commanders of border fortresses were under his command, meaning that the Military Frontier de facto was no longer under jurisdiction of the Croatian Parliament. In 1630 the entire Military Frontier was fully exempted from competences of highest Croatian bodies by the so called Statute Valachorum.

After the Karlovac peace treaty in 1699, even though the Ottoman threat ceased, the Military Frontier remained under military jurisdiction, in order for the monarchy to be able to continue using the local population for its warpaths across Europe. In 1731 the Varaždin military district headquarters moved from Varaždin to Koprivnica. During the reign of Maria Theresa – 1746 – the Military Frontier was reorganized. The Varaždin military district headquarters got two regular regiments with a shared area and in 1756 these named themselves Đurđevac and Križevci regiment. With the new organization from the same year and with the goal of an easier and more successful governance, each regiment was territorially divided in 12 military districts and each military district consisted of several administrative units that were positioned in villages and they were called watches or guards (municipalities). From the region of today’s Koprivnica Križevci County a part of the Đurđevac regiment were the following military districts: Đurđevac, Virje, Novigrad, Peteranec and Sokolovac. The frontiersmen of the Đurđevac regiment were called Đuroki. The Križevci regiment: in 1765 Koprivnica was exempted from the Military Frontier and received a status of a sub-county centre; thus the town could develop faster.

Due to its restless flow, the river Drava not only took away space but it also conquered it. Thus the Koprivnica Križevci County at the beginning of the 18th century was added the settlement Legrad – it used to belong to Međimurje until it was separated from the same by a strong torrent.

Till 1758 the Đurđevac regiment headquarters were located in Đurđevac and then they were relocated to Bjelovar, which was founded for that purpose and in 1765 it became the headquarters of the Varaždin military district. Since 1759 Križevci County was fully independent.

The establishment of settlements in the border area of the Military Frontier, which was deserted during the Ottoman era, began immediately after the liberation of Virovitica in 1684. The population hiding in the wild area surrounding the river Drava returned and established new or restored former settlements. Military authorities decided on the place, shape and way of building settlements. Roads were built in accordance with the requirements of the Military Frontier authorities.

Commencing with 1763, military authorities began to settle craftsmen. By the patent of Empress Maria Theresa from 1764 the breeding of silkworms began in Varaždin military district. The production of silkworms represents the beginning of manufacturing production in the entire area. Silk originating from Croatia and the Military Frontier was famous on the international market. It was always exquisite and shiny but the demand was high due to its strength, top quality and beauty.

Koprivnica was a free royal town and outside the Military Frontier, as opposed to its surrounding area.

In 1752 Maria Theresa succeeded in uniting the Lower and Upper Town Križevci.  The beginnings of higher education reach back to 1860 when the Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry was founded in Križevci.

Marko Križevčanin

Marko Križevčanin was born in Križevci around 1580. He studied in Vienna, Graz and Rome at the Collegium Germanicum. He was a priest in the Zagreb diocese and since 1616 he was a professor and rector of the seminary Trnava and after that the canon at the church in Ostrogon. Together with the Jesuits Stjepan Pongrácz and Melhior Grodziecki, Marko Križevčanin was executed as a martyr on September 7th 1619 in Košice. The three priests were beatified on January 15th 1905 by Pope Pius X. Marko Križevčanin was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II on July 2nd 1995 in Košice.

In 1852 colonel Čivić became the commander of the Đurđevac regiment. During his mandate a hard road, roadway was built from Old Graz through Đurđevac till the border of Frontier Croatia.

By the construction of the railway in 1870 Križevci and Koprivnica were connected with Zagreb and Budapest. The railway Osijek-Virje-Đurđevac was constructed in 1909 and the extension of the railway to Koprivnica in 1912. The direct connection to Koprivnica, Zagreb, and Vienna was of utmost importance for this region. It was easier to distribute agricultural products throughout the monarchy.

Contemporary period

The elimination of the Military Frontier (1871), its demobilization (1873) and annexation to Ban’s Croatia (1881) had a huge impact on the lives of people. Križevci and Bjelovar Counties were established around the area of the former Križevci regiment, the area of Đurđevac regiment was annexed to Bjelovar County and Koprivnica to Varaždin County.

By the new territorial structure from 1886 the Bjelovar and Križevci Counties were merged into a single Bjelovar-Križevci County. Outside the newly established unit was the area of the western Koprivnica Drava Valley which remained in the Varaždin County. The cities Koprivnica and Križevci remained outside the county system up to 1895. Counties as self-government units existed up to 1922 when they were abolished and provinces were introduced. Zagreb province included Križevci district and Osijek province the districts Koprivnica and Đurđevac. In 1939 district Đurđevac was abolished and Đurđevac became a part of the Koprivnica district. The post-war development was characterized by a high degree of centralization. The entire area became a part of the Bjelovar province (divided in districts and municipalities) and the province was abolished in the early 50-ties. The number of municipalities gradually decreased to three: Križevci, Koprivnica and Đurđevac. The negative side effect of this mono-centric development in that period was the depopulation of the rural area.

In the 19th century first manufactures and origins of industry were set up. In 1858 Koprivnica was among the first cities to open a steam-powered mill. Before World War II Koprivnica had a huge chemical industry (sulphuric acid and super-phosphate) and an oil factory. The opening of the chemical factory “Danica” in 1907, in fact, marks the transition from agrarian to industrial society for the Koprivnica economy. The factory was closed in 1937. Smaller manufactory sawmills also played an important role and the beginning of industry was connected with coal mining in Kalnik and Bilogora which developed intensively from the sixties of the 19th century all up to 1971. Handicraft reached its peak in the thirties. The reason for that was the farmers’ high demand for handicraft services since industrial products weren’t sufficiently available.

Today’s industry of Koprivnica, Križevci and Đurđevac began to develop after World War II. Along with workplaces in cities, service functions developed as well. Cities became attractive for the population and they recorded continuous growth in the number of inhabitants. The influence of cities on the deagrarization and industrialisation of the County was immense. Food industry became the leading industrial branch and it employed a huge number of industrial workers. With its food processing (Podravka), pharmaceutical (Belupo), wood (bilokalnik) and footwear industry (Sloga) Koprivnica is presently one of the leading industrial centres in the north-western part of Croatia. The biggest industrial plant is Podravka. Koprivnica is the biggest settlement with more than 25.000 inhabitants, with the most advanced infrastructure, the biggest production facilities, the highest social and cultural standard; it is the traffic junction and the political-administrative centre of the County. Today Križevci is also a strong industrial centre with an advance food (Mlinar), construction (Radnik) and wood industry. In Đurđevac wood (Bilo) and food processing (PZ Đurđevac) industry developed. Drava Valley and the area around Sveti Ivani Žabno are a cattle breeding area.

Oil exploitation began in 1970 and gas exploitation in 1973 in the field Ferdinandovac. Gas was discovered in Molve in 1974 and the exploitation began in 1980 and then, due to discovering new gas deposits and the insufficient capacity, in 1984 PS Molve II was opened. The production cycle was finished in 1993 when the state of the art and technologically best equipped CPS Molve III was put into operation.

Counties as units of local government and self-government in Croatia were set up after the seventies. Thus the Koprivnica-Križevci County was set up in 1993 as a new political-territorial unit. The County consisted of 2 towns and 18 municipalities. This territorial division is in line with the poly-centric development that should be pursued. In January 1997 3 new municipalities were established in the area of Koprivnica-Križevci County: Kalinovac, Kalnik and Novo Virje and Đurđevac got the status of a city. In November 1997 the municipality Podravske Sesvete was established and in 1999 the municipality Gornja Rijeka.  Thus Koprivnica Križevci County presently includes

Cities: Koprivnica, Križevci and Đurđevac.

Municipalities : Drnje, Đelekovec, Ferdinandovac, Gola, Gornja Rijeka, Hlebine, Kalinovac, Kalnik, Kloštar Podravski, Koprivnički Bregi, Koprivnički Ivanec, Legrad, Molve, Novigrad Podravski, Novo Virje, Peteranec, Podravske Sesvete, Rasinja, Sokolovac, Sveti Ivan Žabno, Sveti Petar Orehovec and Virje.