In the mid 19th and after the downfall of feudalism, industry, trade and banking experienced boom times. However, the position of workers, peasants and craftsmen deteriorated. Peasants and craftsmen were hardly granted loans and the interests were deemed as usurious. In order to improve their position, they started to found cooperatives: peasant established agricultural cooperatives, craftsmen craft cooperatives, workers consumers’ and purchase-sales cooperatives. The first cooperative in Europe and in the world was established as a consumers’ cooperative in England in 1844. Since then, cooperatives have been founded in other European countries. The origin of cooperative associations in Croatia refers to the establishment of Croatian-Slavonian Economic Society in Zagreb in 1841. The society was aimed at promotion of various branches of economy and economic education. The central cooperative appearing as the professional and business headquarters of respective regional cooperatives emerged from the association of peasants’ economic cooperatives and cooperative communities of the same kind. The members of the central cooperative belonged to one of the following categories: credit, purchase, consumers’ and various cooperatives. Credit & savings cooperatives, which are very popular today, are first mentioned in Croatia in 1862. The first cooperative of such was founded in a village located in the Drava region called Pitomača by local farmers and small craftsmen who had been previously associated through three guilds:

1st guild was constituted of blacksmiths, cart wrights, carpenters, turners, coopers, cabinetmakers, tinsmiths, locksmiths and tinkers.
2nd guild was constituted of tailors, twisters, barbers, confectioners, potters, bakers, millers, butchers and house-painters
3rd guild was constituted of shoemakers, boot makers, belt makers, upholsters, hatters, furriers, curriers and chimney sweepers.

The first cooperative on the Croatian territory was founded in Pitomača in 1862. It was a craft cooperative entitled ’’Pitomačka zanatnička zadružnica (Craft Cooperative of Pitomača)’’. This cooperative has exited ever since then and now it is called ’’Prva obrtnička štedno-kreditna zadruga (the First Craft Savings & Credit Cooperative)’’. ’’Pitomačka zanatnička zadružnica (Craft Cooperative of Pitomača)’’ was founded to promote crafts and trade and to enable people with a surplus of money to deposit their money for the purpose of lending it to emerging entrepreneurs. The rights and liabilities, life and work of cooperative members were regulated by the 1863 Rules ratified by the General Command on 20 June 1864. Not a long time before, in 1847, Raiffeisen and Schulze/Delitzsch established the first cooperatives for mutual farmer assistance in Weyerbusch/Westerwald, which was to result in the first statute of savings & credit cooperatives in 1864. This confirms the familiarity of the ideas of cooperative associations in Central and Western Europe of that time.
At the beginning of the 20th century, cooperatives turned into a very influential economic system which developed on Croatian territories under the influence of the European cooperative practice. At that time, there were more than 1,500 cooperatives with about 250,000 cooperative members.
During the world wars, cooperatives made significant progress. Croatian peasants’ cooperatives operated through the Central Federation of Croatian Peasants’ Federation in Zagreb, economic cooperatives within the framework of the Croatian-Slavonian Economic Society in Zagreb and cooperatives of economic concord via the Federation of Cooperatives of Economic Concord.
In the 1940s, it came to collectivization following the example from the former Soviet Union and cooperatives lost their original features. In the 1950s, cooperatives rose again and cooperative and cooperative-business alliances and particularly, cooperative-type saving and banking became popular among people. In the following decade, political and legal measures aimed at abolishment of cooperative alliances, cooperative-type banking and cooperative land were adopted. Such a situation had prevailed until the 1990s when there app. 200 agricultural cooperatives.
After the democratic changes and establishment of the independent Croatian state in 1990, the new government did not treat cooperatives affirmatively and they were regarded as institutions of the former socialist system. The Parliament of the Republic of Croatia adopted the Cooperative Act in 1995 (and subsequent amendments) which represent a foundation for existence and development of cooperatives in Croatia

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