A Short History of a Great Carnival
“Krepat, ma ne molat!” (Die but never give up) - is the motto that summarizes all the best that Rijeka Carnival represents. Despite its long history, a cheerful, stubborn, uncontrollable but also critical Carnival spirit shows no tiredness, but thrives from year to year, growing through a new generation of Carnival participants, feeding the events with new ideas equal to those of its long tradition. And this tradition is actually much longer than first thought.
There is evidence of a Carnival in this region going back many years, which is not strange considering its critical spirit. There is a prohibition document from 1449 – a provision of the City Council that prohibits the covering of the face with a mask (with the exception of guests of the masked ball in Kaštel), which at that time was severely punished. The aim of that provision was to maintain public order and prevent a free criticism of the government. But history testifies that the Carnival has overcome all the obstacles, and has become the festival of joy, and humour that it is today, but often critically commenting on current events, and a possibility for anyone to be, at least for a short period, what he wants.
1982 is a special year for the Rijeka Carnival because in that year, for the first time, under the organization of the Municipality of Rijeka Tourist Alliance, 3 carnival groups (Lako ćemo, Pehinarski feštari and Halubje Bellringers) did a “walk” under masks. It was a driving spark but also an indication that the world under masks is ready for something much bigger. The rest is history – the Carnival that grew up with a tradition of masks in the littoral region over the years of its existence has become the most important carnival event in the Republic of Croatia, but its reputation overflows far beyond the borders of our country. And what really makes the Rijeka Carnival special is the “fifth season” it has created, that period of the year when all the values are different and when the Carnival becomes the way of life of the people of this area.
The number of participants in the Rijeka Carnival has grown together with the number of visitors. From those first 3 groups, today it counts over 100 groups with a five-figure number of participants. The real number of spectators is not possible to count accurately because, as well as those following the parade in person, a great number follow it in front of their televisions. Direct internet transmission has brought the Rijeka Carnival closer to the whole world. The result of all these activities led to the acceptance of Rijeka as a full member of the Federation of European Carnival Cities (FECC) in 1995. The Rijeka Carnival has been added to the list of the 500 most important events in Europe - Top 500 European Events, and the Sunday Times declared it one of the most exotic world events, included in the book “501 must be there events” whilst the Rijeka Tourist Board won the “Golden Tourist Heart” prize as the organizer of the best tourism event in south-eastern Europe in 2009.
After many years of various organized and spontaneous masked parties, chequered carnival moments, famous and historical figures, natural disasters… Rijeka Carnival continues to rumble on without stopping and without fear that it will ever be forgotten – the best evidence is the Children Carnival Parade that follows in the footsteps of the “big” parade and is from, year to year, more numerous and more fanciful, a real nursery garden of new carnival participants who will continue this tradition. At the end of the story, what remains is the invitation, because the best way to experience the Rijeka Carnival is to come here and live it with all your senses – Be what you want! Come to the Rijeka Carnival!