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Istria - different views

Ethnological collections of Istria using Austrian-Croatian dialog     12.04.2002 - 31.10.2002






 April 12th 2002. – October 31st 2002. in Ethnographic Museum of Istria in Pazin
May 27th 2001. – October 14th 2001. in the Ethnographic Museum of castle Kittsee
October 26. 2001. – January 13 2002. in the Austrian Ethnographic Museum in Vienna


 ISTRIA- the Naval Base Harbour, Austrian Tourism Riviera, Site of Ethnographer Passion


karteTourism started to expand noticeably as early as in the 1880s in the health resort Opatija/Abbazia, one of the reasons being the opening of the railway line that ran trough Istria to Pula. The harbour for the warships of what was the Austrian Empire was built in Pula, the most southern Istrian town. This led to the first collection of Istrian ethnographic objects, which was kept for almost an entire century at the Austrian Ethnographic Museum in Vienna. During the period at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, a series of texts about Istrian traditional life were published in Austrian professional journals.

vaga Attracted and preoccupied primarily by lovely, picturesque objects and themes such as the “Istrian kitchen” (that were on exhibition at the Vienna museum for some forty years), traditional textiles, and the diverse ethnic groups that made their home in Istria, collecting and research by Austrian ethnographers gave a partially incomplete image of Istrian traditional culture.
Nonetheless, apart from being the oldest, their collection of Istrian ethnography contains a series of objects that have disappeared from use in Istria in the meantime, and ethnographers have not always recognized them later as being characteristic for and representative of Istrian culture.





“Of the 100 Crowns which went to Vienna, 104 came back”

željeznicaThe components of the myth about Austria, while glorifies the era of Austrian presence in Istria, are still maintained in many examples today. The building and introduction of the railway system provided employment for the domestic population, and brought with it to Istria diverse technical innovations. Large quantities of iron were processed for secondary use (one third transformed into heath trestles, breaks were used as makeshift anvils, etc). Austrian tools and equipment used in various branches of craftsmanship are still highly respected today among Istrian artisans.


grupaInstruments (and repertoire) were introduced into traditional music-making and were speedily disseminated and diffused, thanks to brass bands. Their instruments included clarinet, trumpet, and drums, followed by the diatonic accordion. Austrian innovations particularly left their mark in Istrian agriculture and viniculture.
For the men of Istria, their service in the Austrian Army was often crucial in enriching their experience of life and their conception of a wider world.




“The People and their Folklore”

suvenir As a consequence of the political context, in the period after World War II (following on from some twenty years of Italian rule, during which the significance of Croatian and Slovenian culture in Istria was reduced and even rejected), the “autochthonic” and “ancient” cultural components with Slavic origins were identified and emphasized, while culture which contained “more recent” and “foreign” influences was virtually ignored. These factors defined the ethnomuseographic approach from the 1950s right up until the 1980s, and oriented the interest of ethnologists almost exclusively towards the villages as it had been in the past.



Souvenirs and Identity: the goat and the boškarin, the kažun and sopele

The symbolic and preservation of identity in the production of the Istrian souvenirs, in the context of folklorisation of sorts of the region, have such characteristics that they are bought not only by tourists but also by the inhabitants of Istria themselves.
After several decades in which the souvenirs sold in Istria originated, in fact, from eastern parts of what was then Yugoslavia, there has been a strong emphasis in recent times on “authentic Istrian” souvenir production depicting the boškarin (the Istrian long-horn ox), the kažun (the circular stone mortar-free field shelter), the sopele (the Istrian long flute) and wall clocks and other products with geographic shape of Istria. These souvenirs embody the modern construction of Istrian identity and reflect an “internal” view.


 The exhibition is organized in cooperation with:



Additional happenings:

Dva pogledaTwo Views – photographic dialogue
Brigitte Breth & Renco Kosinožić


Collection of papers: Istria: Various Viewpoints