The Subdepartment of Geography at the University of Zagreb was founded in 1883 within the Faculty of Philosophy, which means that it is even older than the well-known geography departments in Heidelberg (founded in 1895) or Chicago (the oldest in North America, founded in 1903). Its founder and first professor was Dr Petar Matković. In 1922, the head of the Subdepartment at the time, Dr Milan Šenoa, founded the Division of Geography. Five years later, Prof Artur Gavazzi takes over the Subdepartment of Physical Geography and establishes the autonomous Division of Physical Geography. The Division of Geography then dealt with socio-geographical topics, while the Institute of Physical Geography dealt with geomorphology, hydrography, and climatology. Gavazzi also launched the oldest geographic scientific journal in Croatia, Hrvatski geografski glasnik, which is still published today.
After 1946, the two institutes merged into a single Institute of Geography as part of the newly established Faculty of Science in Zagreb. Geography began to evolve as a scientific discipline with a defined object and methodology of research. The pioneers of this evolution were academician Josip Roglić, who was primarily focused on the study of karst geomorphology and was the first to present theses on litoralization in Croatia, and Prof Ivo Rubić, a renowned anthropogeographer who focused his scientific work on the study of Croatian islands and coastlines primarily from a historical point of view, and played an important role in the development of the regional and economic geography and theoretical approach to geography. Certain branches were developed within physical and social geography, whereas agrarian geography, population research, and Croatian regional geography issues received stronger affirmation. More intense research resulted in the foundation of the Institute of Geography within the Faculty of Science in 1961 (from 1968, the Institute of Geography of the University of Zagreb). Although the Institute had been active for only fifteen years (until 1975), it had a very important role in the development of domestic science (a large number of research projects), and especially in the strengthening of international cooperation.
The Department of Geography today
Since 1997, three divisions operate within the Department of Geography: the Division of Physical Geography, the Division of Social Geography, and the Division of Regional Geography and Methodology, and alongside them the Central Geography Library of the Faculty of Science, which dates back to 1910, and the newly-established Laboratory for Geospatial Analytics and Visualizations.
Currently, the scientific activity of the Department of Geography is carried out through several research groups by means of numerous theoretical and applied studies, very often within the framework of domestic and international scientific projects, whose results are constantly published in domestic and leading world geographic and natural sciences journals. Of particular value to the scientific development of the geographical profession at the Department of Geography is the remarkable international cooperation with many researchers, research groups, and institutions from abroad, which has contributed to our international reputation and added to the quality of the research conducted by our scientists.
The research activity of the Department of Geography is based on a synergy between longstanding and contemporary research topics in accordance with the needs of the society and the rapid development of science, taking note of the physico-geographical and socio-geographical research conducted within eight basic research groups. Climate, hydrological, and geomorphological changes in the environment, as well as changes in land use, are the subject of research by the two groups within physical geography. Particularly prominent are studies on the occurrence, evolution, and recent dynamics of karst in terms of geomorphology and paleoenvironment, the impact of climate change on karst processes, research on the climate of cities and development of methodology, and the inventory and evaluation of the hydromorphological status of running waters. Socio-geographical research is conducted by six research groups focused on planning and evaluating demographic and economic resources in an area and exploring the cultural landscapes, processes, and changes in urban and rural areas as part of local, regional, and national spatial identities. These groups are also involved in the study of cognitive processes in geography teaching and the organisation of primary, secondary, and tertiary education.
For the purposes of basic and applied research, the Department of Geography relies on various computer applications to process and analyse remotely collected data as well as on geographic information systems used for spatial analyses and visualizations of spatial data. Within the framework of the aforementioned research, very successful inter-institutional cooperation has been established nationally (Ruđer Bošković Institute, Hrvatske vode, Zagreb City Office for Strategic Planning and Development, etc.) and internationally (Grenoble Alpes University, University of Bucharest, Jean Moulin University in Lyon, University of Primorska, Austrian Academy of Sciences, etc.).