/div>Country, west-central Balkans, southeastern Europe. Area: 21,831 sq mi (56,542 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 4,431,000. Capital: Zagreb
. The people are mainly Croats, with a large Serbian minority. Language: Croatian (official). Religions: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic [Croats]; also Eastern Orthodox [Serbs]); also Islam. Currency: kuna. Croatia includes the traditional regions of Dalmatia
, and Croatia-Slavonia. Istria and Dalmatia, in the west and south, cover the rugged Adriatic coast. The central mountain belt contains part of the Dinaric Alps. The northeast is a fertile agricultural area; cattle breeding is important. The central mountain belt is known for fruit, and the farms of Istria and Dalmatia produce grapes and olives. The most important industries are food processing, wine making, textiles, chemicals, and petroleum and natural gas. Croatia is a multiparty republic with a unicameral legislature; its head of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The Croats, a southern Slavic people, arrived in the 7th century and came under Charlemagne
's rule in the 8th century. They converted to Christianity soon afterward and formed a kingdom in the 10th century. Croatia retained its independence under native kings until 1102, when the crown passed into the hands of the Hungarian dynasty. Nonetheless, even under dynastic union with Hungary, institutions of separate Croatian statehood were maintained. The area associated with the name Croatia shifted gradually north and west as its territory was eroded, first with the loss of Dalmatia to Venice by 1420 and then as a result of Ottoman conquests in the 16th century. During the 16th century the remainder of Croatia came under the rule of the Austrian Habsburgs. In 1867 it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with Dalmatia and Istria ruled by Vienna
and Croatia-Slavonia a Hungarian crown land. In 1918, after the defeat of Austria-Hungary
in World War I, Croatia joined other southern Slavic territories to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes
, which was renamed Yugoslavia
in 1929. In World War II an independent state of Croatia was established by Germany and Italy, embracing Croatia-Slavonia, part of Dalmatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina; after the war Croatia was rejoined to Yugoslavia as a people's republic. Croatia declared its independence in 1991, sparking insurrections by Croatian Serbs, who carved out autonomous regions with Yugoslav army help; Croatia took back most of these regions by 1995 and regained full control of its territory in 2002. The country joined NATO in 2009.