Near the end of the 19th century, the first Croatian specialized associations and professional organizations were founded, and the first scientific and cultural institutions were founded for archiving, librarianship, galleries, museums, preservation and restoration activities. The idea of protecting monuments was made concrete by founding the  Royal Central Commission for the Investigation and Preservation of Historic Buildings in Vienna. The experts for protecting monuments appointed in Croatia were: Vicko Andrić for Dalmatia, P. Kandlera for Istria and Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski for northern Croatia, and he also initiated the organization of Croatian institutions and associations. The initiative resulted in founding the ‘Association for history and antiquities’. The establishment of the basic principles of protecting monuments was adopted from the Vienna School of Art History, and Đuro Szabo and Ljubo Karaman had the main role. Their work was later continued by Cvito Fisković, the diligent expert mostly responsible for protecting the Benedictine abbey complex on the islet of St. Mary on the Great Lake of the Mljet National Park.


Nature protection in Croatia started by founding the Croatian Society for Natural Sciences in 1885, by publishing science and popular journals which have lasted until today. In their own way, these journals contributed to the positive societal attempts at protecting, preserving and maintaining the nature. The efforts at protecting the nature in Croatia were also encouraged in the Austrian Empire in 1910, and in 1914 the Croatian Society for Natural Sciences began its activities at nature protection in practice. Josip Pančić, botanist and professor of natural sciences, who suggested the embodiment and conditionality of natural life and human existence, contributed to preserving the Picea omorica and the overall forest nature, whereas the scientist Stjepan Đurašin did the same for birds who are an important regulator of damage in natural and cultivated areas. The decree on preserving the masterpieces of nature, important scientifically or aesthetically, was provided in 1910 when the Croatian Royal State Government first made possible the protection of plants, songbirds, mountain plants etc. In 1922, the Croatian Society for Natural Sciences made a list of endangered living and non-living objects via the Committee for the Protection of Natural Monuments, which later resulted in the legal regulations on nature protection. Two years later, on the 50th anniversary of the Croatian Mountaneering Association, it was indicated that there was a need for adopting acts on the protection of nature and mountain plants.

The researcher Branimir Gušić defended his doctoral thesis on the topic of anthropogeographic research of the settlements of the island of Mljet in 1928, and this coincided with the adoption of the Forest Act and the protection status of many locales in Croatia, with the lakes of Mljet among them. In the middle of 1938, the Decree on National Parks was adopted, and in 1945, the Act on the Protection of Monuments of Culture and Cultural Heritage was adopted too. Based on the Constitution of FNRJ, in 1946 the General Act on Protecting Monuments of Culture and Natural Heritage was adopted, and later national acts on the same topic were adopted later based on that act. The councils of the national institutes for nature protection and scientific research of natural rarities indicated in 1953 the necessity of a comprehensive nature protection and the activities of both the professionals an of the entire society. Better nature protection required a special act on nature protection. One year later, the Decree on the National Parks of Croatia was adopted, and the State Bureau for Nature Protection was founded. Thirteen years after the aforementioned act from 1946, nature protection is separated from the protection of cultural monuments by acts of separate laws. The existing national laws were amended and new ones were adopted for all countries in the republic. The Mljet National Park was founded as the fourth national park of Croatia, after Plitvice, Paklenica and Risnjak, on 11 November 1960. It was the first national park founded according to the new Nature Protection Act from 13 May 1960. Through societal development, the new Constitution harmonized all national laws as activities of general societal interest in 1965. By establishing Kornati as a national park in 1980, the new wave of protection started, including the Brijuni National Park in 1983, and the Krka National Park in 1985. The activities that occurred until the war broke out in 1990, served before 1999 for adopting the Spatial Plans for special purpose/characteristics areas, the additional protection of the entirety of the National Park by including the sea and changing the NP’s borders, adopting the Ordinance on internal order in the National Park, establishing non-profit activities, and establishing the professional service for the protection of nature and natural and cultural monuments in the NPs that have those monuments. In 1999, the Northern Velebit National Park was founded as the ninth national park in Croatia.

ORDER OF THE FORMATIVE EVENTS of the Mljet National Park:

  • Deed of donation for the Benedictines in the 12th century
  • 1793, re-settlement outside the Monastery walls
  • Cancelling the Benedictine order in 1808
  • 1910 – 1915, establishing the Austrian project of protecting the lakes, sealife and forests of Mljet, titled “NATURSHUTZPARK MELEDA”
  • 1920 – 1929, Branimir Gušić visits and does scientific research on the island of Mljet and defends his doctoral thesis on the subject of Mljet.
  • 1928 – 1948, Marijana Gušić gathers and organizes the local population, researches and gathers the ethnographic data of the island of Mljet (3 August 1948 – 30 August 1948, and 26 November 1948)
  • 27 February 1948 – Decision on establishing the lake and its surroundings on the island of Mljet as protected natural rarity – National Institute for Protecting Natural Rarities of NRH
  • 7 March 1949 Report – answer to Branimir Gušić from the Ministry of Science and Culture of FNRJ on the marine biological station on Mljet
  • 16 June 1957 Goveđari – establishing the borders of the protected area
  • 15 November 1957 – meeting of the Commission for Karst of JAZU in Zagreb – Branimir Gušić’s initiative for protecting the area of the lakes on the island of Mljet
  • 17 February 1958 summon from the Department of Conservation of the Republic of Croatia to JAZU to send its experts regarding the Mljet National Park
  • 18 February 1958 letter from JAZU, the chairman Andrija Štampar for Branimir Gušić, preliminary draft and elaboration on the Act on establishing the western part of the island of Mljet as a national park
  • 16 April 1958 the Tourism Organisation of the Dubrovnik region, delivery of the Action programme for tourism organization of Mljet for JAZU, Branimir Gušić
  • 18 October 1958, the Department of Conservation of NRH, draft of the previous study for producing the General development plan for the protected area of the Mljet lakes, Ratko Kevo and Dragutin Alfier
  • 10 December 1958 Study on producing the general organization basis for the protected area of the Mljet lakes
  • 30 March 1959 the Department of Conservation of NRH for the Executive Council of the Parliament, Proposal to establish the western part of the island of Mljet as a national park
  • 11 November 1960 – the NRH Parliament adopts the Act on Establishing the Mljet National Park
  • 30 May 1961 Decision on establishing the administration of the Mljet National Park, municipality of Mljet Babino Polje
  • 1 June 1961. NP “Mljet” opens.
  • 3 November 1962 Decision IV of the NRH Parliament, establishing the borders of the Mljet National Park
  • Mljet National Park: Spatial plan for special purpose area, 1985 – 2001 adopted in 1986, published in 1987
  • 24 January 1997 – the RH Parliament adopts the Act on Expanding the Mljet National Park to the Marine and Submarine Area
  • The Spatial Plan for Special Purpose Area, Mljet National Park, RH Parliament (OG 23/01)

And so, the work of academician Branimir Gušić (1901 – 1975), Cvito Fisković (1908 – 1996), Marijana Gušić (1901 – 1987), Dragutin Alfier and Ratko Kevo that spanned over half a century, along with the work of numerous other experts, resulted in a national, organized and institutional protection of the area of the northwestern part of the island of Mljet as the first marine island National Park.