The traditional Sinjska Alka, which commemorates the victory over the advancing Ottoman Turkish administration in the 18th century, took place for the 308th time yesterday in the southern Croatian town of Sinj.
The event, which symbolises bravery, unity, and victory, gathered numerous guests from Croatia and abroad and was attended also by the President of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, and President of Hungary, Katlin Novák.
As the patron of the event, President Milanović presented the winner, Ivo Zorica, with a sword and a golden ring adorned with the Croatian coat of arms, congratulating him on his victory. In his concluding speech after the competition, President Milanović emphasised the importance of the Sinjska Alka as a symbol of Croatian identity and history.
He reminded the crowd of the historical context in which the Croatian state and nation emerged in inaccessible areas and highlighted the strength and uniqueness of that historical development.
Regarding the Sinjska Alka, he pointed out that it symbolizes the victory over the Ottoman army in 1715 and underlined its symbolic significance as a story of conflict between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, Christianity and Islam.
“There have been greater battles, but the Battle of Sinj is so symbolic, special, and speaks volumes about us and our dealings with the world and our role in it. This region was empty for years, for 150 years, during the Ottoman Empire, there were very few people living here. Only from 1687 onwards, streams of people started settling in this area,” he said.
President Milanović also recalled the challenging historical periods in which the Croatian people defended their interests, sometimes serving others’ interests out of necessity and bravely confronting threats. “All that was done to control the territory, a territory that the Croatian people and state have only seriously managed in the last hundred years, and in its entirety, only in the last 20 years since the victory brought by the Croatian army,” he emphasised, adding that only a small number of good people achieved this.
Sinjska Alka sees various horsemen attempt to aim their lances at a hanging metal ring, known as the Alka, at full gallop. The ring, or Alka, consists of two concentric iron circles joined by three bars so that the distance between the circles is divided into three equal parts.
The central circle, which is the smallest one, is worth three points (punat), the upper field two points, and two lower fields one point each.
Only men born in Sinj and surrounding villages are eligible to take part in the event and with it comes considerable prestige. The costumes worn by the Alkar men are the same that were worn by the warriors in the 18th century.
Sinjska Alka was inscribed in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010.