Satellite image of Vis and Bi?evo
|Area||89.72 km2 (34.64 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||587 m (1926 ft)|
|Largest settlement||Vis (pop. 1,920)|
Vis (pronounced [?î:s]; Ancient Greek: ?; Latin: Issa, Italian: Lissa) is a small Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. It is the farthest inhabited island off the Croatian mainland. Once known for its thriving fishing industry in the late 19th and early 20th century, having gained considerable notoriety for its isolation during the times of Yugoslavia, the main present-day industries on the island are agriculture and tourism.
The farthest inhabited island off the Croatian mainland, Vis had a population of 3,617 in 2011. Vis has an area of 90.26 square kilometres (34.85 square miles). Its highest point is Hum, which is 587 metres (1,926 feet) above sea level. The island's two largest settlements are the town of Vis on the island's eastern side (the settlement for which the island was originally named) and Komi?a on its western coast.
Vis was inhabited by the time of the Neolithic period. In the 4th century BC, the Greek tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius the Elder, founded the colony Issa on the island. Later, it became an independent polis, and even minted its own money and founded its own colonies, the most notable of which was Aspálathos (the modern-day city of Split).
In the 1st century BC, the island was held by the Liburnians. Its importance in the region ended with the first Illyro-Roman war (229-219 BC). Having sided with Pompeus during the period of civil struggles in Rome, became an "oppidum civium Romanorum" in 47 BC.
Until 1797, the island was under the rule of the Republic of Venice. During this time large settlements developed along the coastline (Comisa (now Komi?a) and Lissa (now Vis)). Administratively, the island of Lissa was for centuries bound to the island of Lesina, now named Hvar. The Venetian influence is still recognizable in architecture found on the island, and some vocabulary of the Croatian dialect spoken locally is Venetian in origin.
After the short-lived Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, with Italian as the official language, the island was ruled by the Austrian Empire from 1814. It maintained its Italian name of Lissa. After the end of World War I, it was under Italian rule again in the period from 1918 to 1921, according to the provisions of the 1915 Treaty of London, before it was ceded to Kingdom of Yugoslavia as part of the 1920 Treaty of Rapallo.
The sea to the north of the island was the location of two battles:
Vis was at one point the site of the general headquarters of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the leader of the Yugoslav Partisan resistance movement. It was occupied by Italy between 1941 and 1943, then was liberated by the Partisans and held by a British flotilla in 1943-44. At the end of World War II the island returned to Yugoslavia. During the war the island was mined. Allied fighter planes were based at a small airfield that was also used for emergency landings of Allied bombers, including an American B-24 flown by George McGovern. No. 6 Squadron RAF extensively used the airfield as a forward operating base, flying Hawker Hurricane Mk IV fighter aircraft, from May 1944 to February 1945.
During World War II, a crate of the Armed Services Editions of paperback books was dropped by parachute along with other supplies on to Vis Island off the coast of Yugoslavia. The books were then read aloud to the partisans by English speaking soldiers who translated the books as they read them.
Early in July 1944, the novelist Evelyn Waugh flew with Randolph Churchill from Bari, Italy, to Vis as part of the British military mission to Yugoslavia. There they met Marshal Tito. Waugh and Churchill returned to Bari before flying back to Yugoslavia to begin their mission, but their aeroplane crash-landed, both men were injured, and their mission was delayed for a month.
During WWII the island was also home to 1435 Squadron of the RAF flying Mark IX Spitfires in ground support of allied troops fighting in Italy.
After the war, the Yugoslav People's Army used the island as one of its main naval bases until abandoning the base in 1989. After Croatia became independent in 1991, its navy did not reclaim most of the facilities, and the many abandoned buildings are being used for civilian purposes and tourism, including tunnels, bunkers and a secret submarine base. In 2008, 34 mines left over from World War II were cleared from the island.
Vis town and Komi?a are seats of separate administrative municipalities which cover the entire island and nearby islets, which are both part of Split-Dalmatia County.
Around 20% of the island's arable land is covered with vineyards. Autochthonous vine species cultivated on the island are Plavac Mali, Kurtelo?ka, and Vugava (the indigenous grape of what is now known as viognier).
The sea around Vis is rich with fish, especially blue fish (sardine, mackerel and anchovy). Komi?a fishermen of the 16th century developed their own type of fishing boat, the falku?a, which was used until the second half of the 20th century because of its excellent features.