(The author of this blog entry is not an English native speaker. Do not hesitate making suggestions or proposing language corrections. A French version is available here.)
Croatia will join the Eurozone on January 1st 2023; this July it started minting its Euro coins. For the occasion, Andrej Plenković, the Prime Minister has declared: “In 1993, the Croatian Mint was founded as the Croatian Monetary Institute and was one of the significant foundations of establishing national identity. It’s been almost 30 years since its organization, the Croatian Mint will create Croatian euro coins. At the same time, it will promote Croatian symbols across Europe and partake in Croatia’s historical process in entering the European Union.”1. In February 2022, he had made similar comments: “We wanted these coins to carry the history and the political identity of Croatia, of our sovereignty, our coins’ tradition, as well as the animals, the language, the culture, the literature, the great representatives of our culture, of science, of creativity and innovation, in other words display tradition and modernity.”2.
Here are the different coins3 :
- 2 € : a map of Croatia (designer: Ivan Šivak). This seems to be a novelty for coins of Croatia. It represents a powerful image of independence, considering the recent history of the country and its borders disputes with neighboring states.
- 1 € : a marten (designers : Jagor Šunde, David Čemeljić and Fran Zekan)4. The old coat of arms of Slavonia has a marten; this animal also used to be represented on the coat of arms of Croatia between 1868 and 1918. kuna is the Croatian word for the marten; it is also used to designate the current national currency, as this animal’s pelt used to be a money unit in the Middle Ages. The marten was also represented on “banovac” (or “banski denar”or, in Latin, denarius banalis), 13th and 14th century Croatian coins5. The marten was also represented on coins struck by the Independent State of Croatia between 1941 and 1945.
- 50, 20 et 10 cents : Nikola Tesla (designer : Ivica Družak)6. Nikola Tesla was born in the Austrian Empire, in a region that is now part of Croatia. His parents were ethnic Serbians, and his portrait is also used on 100 dinars Serbian banknotes7. Before reaching the age of thirty, he settled in the United States. In 1957, 14 years after his death, his ashes were moved to Belgrade, in Serbia. In 2021, Serbia launched a protest against Croatia’s use of Tesla’s image to the European Union8 9. Between 1970 and 2002, different portraits of Telsa have been used on Yugoslavian banknotes. His youth and the dynamic design of his portrait on the euro coins offer a different image from these old banknotes. There are many monuments commemorating Tesla in Croatia, starting with the surroundings of his birth house; in 1993, a Croatian postage stamp portrayed the inventor10.
- 5, 2, 1 cents : HR, or ⰘⰓ ( or Kher Rtsy), in Glagolitic script (designer : Maja Škripelj), an abbreviation for Croatia. I do not know of any other use of this writing system on coins.
To summarize, the new Croatian euro coins display two new potent symbols of identity with the map and the Glagolitic script, and a modern and dynamic version of two old coin images, borrowing the character of Tesla and the marten from Yugoslav and Slavonian heritage.
The Croatian euro coins also follow the misogynistic pattern of euro coins11: was it absolutely necessary to repeat three times Tesla’s portrait? Why couldn’t Croatia use one of its coins to show a woman, the role women played in its history and culture?
Images: Croatian National Bank, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=120407542 ; https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=120407537 ; https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=120407539 ; https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=120407538.
- Minting of Croatia Euro Coins Begins, European Views (July 19, 2022). [↩]
- “Nous souhaitions que ces pièces soient porteuses de l’histoire et de l’identité politique croates, de notre souveraineté, de notre tradition monétaire, ainsi que de la faune, de la langue, de la culture et de la littérature, des grands noms de la culture et de la science, de la créativité et de l’innovation, bref de la tradition et de la modernité.” ((Balkans. Le scandale de la “martre plagiée” sur la future pièce de 1 euro croate, Courrier International (13 février 2022). [↩]
- For the selection process, see: Croatian National Bank, Press release. Croatian citizens to participate in selecting motifs for the national side of euro coins (1/7/2021) ; Press release. Croatian checkerboard, geographical map of Croatia, marten, Glagolitic script and Nikola Tesla – the motifs proposed to be featured on the Croatian side of euro coins (21/7/2021). [↩]
- A plagiarizing issue arose after the presentation of a first design, later to be scrapped : J. Schneider, Croatian Euro Coin Design Scrapped After Photographer Cries Foul, PetaPixel (February 9, 2022) ; Croatian National Bank, Press release. New tender to be launched for the concept and design for the national side of the Croatian euro coins bearing the marten motif (8/2/2022). [↩]
- For some nice coins, see CNG. Filip Šplajt, Banski denari (Zadar, 2018) is profusely illustrated. [↩]
- The coin design looks like a copy of a 1890 photography of Tesla by Napoléon Sarony. [↩]
- Le choix de la Croatie pour l’effigie de son euro crée la polémique, Le Point (August 25, 2021). [↩]
- Elise Delève, Incident diplomatico-historique entre la Croatie et la Serbie autour de la nationalité de l’inventeur Nikola Tesla, franceinfo (July 27, 2021). [↩]
- It seems that Tesla wrote in 1936: “I am equally proud of my Serbian origin and my Croatian fatherland.”. (I cannot guarantee the authenticity of this quote although you can find it on serious-looking websites. Any help on this issue would be welcome). [↩]
- https://teslauniverse.com/nikola-tesla/images/1993-republika-hrvatska-croatia-nikola-tesla-250-kuna-postage-stamp [↩]
- A. D’Hautcourt, Très peu de femmes, beaucoup de patrimoine et un peu d’optimisme. Analyse comparative des iconographies de l’euro et du yen, CETIC 9 (2020). [↩]