Note: Dubrovnik in 1667 // Platz in Dubrovnik // Marmont
Coat of arms
Today the coat of arms of Ragusa, in its red and blue version, can be seen in the coat of arms on the Croatian flag as it constitutes a historic part of Croatia.
Vekaric (1998) used tax evidence from the Dubrovnik littoral (Croatian: Dubrovačko Primorje) and a census to find that the Republic of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) had a population of nearly ninety thousand by 1500. From then to 1700 the population declined: in the first half of the 16th century it had more than 50,000 inhabitants; in the second half of the 16th century, between 50,000 and 60,000; in the 1630s, about 40,000; and in 1673–74, only 26,000 inhabitants. In the second half of the 15th century, due to Turkish expansion, Dubrovnik received a large number of Christian refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, offering them the less fertile land. Numerous epidemics, the Candian War of 1645–69, the 1667 earthquake, and emigration greatly reduced the population levels. The population of the republic never again reached its previous levels.
The republic was a polyglottic society. The official language until 1472 was Latin. Later, the Senate of the Republic decided that the official language of the Republic would be the Ragusan dialect of the Romance Dalmatian language, as opposed to the Slavic vernacular (Serbo-Croatian or Croatian), which was also forbidden for use in senatorial debate. The aristocracy (gospari) slowly lost their Dalmatian language over the centuries.
Although Latin was in official use until 1492, by the end of the 14th century inhabitants of the republic were mostly native speakers of Croatian. Dalmatian was also spoken in the city. Italian, official since 1492, as spoken in the republic, was heavily influenced by the Venetian language and Tuscan dialect. Italian took root among the Dalmatian Romance-speaking merchant upper classes as a result of Venetian influence.
There is still some debate over whether Shtokavian or Chakavian was the oldest vernacular in Ragusa. The oldest Slavic documents and the earlier prose was Shtokavian, while 16th-century poetry was Chakavian.
When Ragusa was part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, between 1808 and 1810, the Italian language was still in official use.
Ragusan literature, in which Latin, Italian and Croatian languages coexisted, blossomed in the 15th and 16th centuries.
According to Graubard:
During the Renaissance era, Venetian-ruled Dalmatia and Ragusa gave birth to influential intellectuals – mostly minor aristocrats and clergymen, Jesuits especially – who kept alive the memory of Croatia and the Croatian language when they composed or translated plays and books from Italian and Latin into the vernacular. No matter that the dialects of Dalmatia and Dubrovnik were different from each other ... and both these dialects were somewhat different from the dialect of Zagreb, capital of the Habsburg-ruled north. They still thought of it as Croatian. ... The Dubrovnik poet Dominko Zlatarić (1555–1610) explained on the frontispiece of his 1597 translation of Sophocles' tragedy Elektra and Tasso's Aminta that it had been "iz veće tudieh jezika u Hrvacki izlozene," "translated from more foreign languages in Croatian.
Croatian was normally spoken among lower classes, Italian among the upper. Ragusans were in general bilingual, speaking Croatian in common day-to-day duties and Italian in official occasions or mixing both. Literary works of famous Ragusans were written in both Croatian and Italian. Among them are the works of writers Džore Držić, Marin Držić, Ivan Bunić Vučić, Ignjat Đurđević, Ivan Gundulić, Šišmundo (Šiško) Menčetić, and Dinko Ranjina.
The Croatian language works from the Republic of Ragusa had a large role in the developing of Croatian literature and the modern Croatian language. Writers from the 16th to the 19th century (before the Age of Romantic National Awakenings) that were explicit in declaring themselves as Croats and their language as Croatian included Vladislav Menčetić, Dominko (Dinko) Zlatarić, Bernardin Pavlović, Mavro Vetranović, Nikola Nalješković, Junije Palmotić, Jakov Mikalja, Joakim Stulli, Marko Bruerović, Peter Ignaz Sorgo, Antun Sorkočević (1749–1826), and Franatica Sorkočević (1706–71).
The inhabitants of the Republic of Ragusa were Catholics and spoke the local variant of the Shtokavian dialect, the same dialect upon which modern Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin and Serbian are all based. Among the modern South Slavic nations, Ragusans are mostly attributed to Croats. However, discussions on the subject of Ragusan ethnicity are mainly based on revised concepts which developed after the fall of the Republic; in particular, the time of Romantic Nationalism resulting from the French Revolution. Before this, states in general were not based on the contemporary unifying concepts such as nation, language or ethnicity; loyalty was chiefly to family, city, and (among Catholics such as the Ragusans) the Church. There was a Serb-Catholic movement in Dubrovnik.
The great cartographer Muhammad al-Idrisi in 1154 considered Dubrovnik a part of Croatia (Grwasiah) and mentions it as the last Croatian coastal city in his book Nuzhat al-Mushataq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq (English: Joy for those who wish to sail over the world).