Croatia is an independent nation in Southern Europe. With the capital city of Zagreb, Croatia 2020 population is estimated at 4,105,278 according to countryaah. Most of Croatia was for a long time part of larger state formations, and for centuries, mainly obeyed Hungarian and Austro-Hungarian supremacy. At the end of the First World War in 1918, a new South Slavic kingdom was formed, which was eventually renamed Yugoslavia. The Croatians opposed Serbian domination in the new empire. During World War II, Croatian fascists cooperated with Nazi Germany. When the fascist regime fell, Croatia again became part of Yugoslavia, which from the end of the war in 1945 became a socialist republic.
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Today’s Croatia was inhabited by Illyrian tribes when the Romans laid it down and formed the province of Illyricum. In the 500s, the Croatian Slavic ancestors left their settlements in present-day Ukraine and sought the lower reaches of the Danube Valley. They settled in the area now under the Byzantine (East Roman) emperor of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). But the influences from the west were also strong, and the Croats have been Catholics at least since the 7th century. For Croatia political system, please check computerminus.
During the 800s, there were two Croatian principals, Dalmatian Croatia on the coast and Pannonian Croatia inland. This division has come back over the centuries – the coastal areas have largely a different history than the Croatian inland.
In the 9th century, an independent Croatian kingdom was founded between the river Drava and the Adriatic. During Petar Krešimir’s reign as king (1058–1074), the borders were expanded and Croatia was at the peak of its power. Krešimir cut ties with Östrom and strengthened relations with the Pope in the West. However, at the end of the 11th century, the last Croatian king fell and Östrom regained control of Dalmatia while Hungary conquered northern Croatia. Large parts of Croatia would then, with some interruptions, remain under the first Hungarian and later Austro-Hungarian influence until 1918. Only in 1991 was an independent Croatian state re-established.
Croatia becomes the border between Christian and Muslim
In the latter part of the 1400s, the Ottoman Empire (with its center in today’s Turkey) began to conquer parts of Croatia from the Hungarians. In 1529, the Hungarian territory was divided between the Turks and the kingdom governed by the Habsburg family, which later became the Austria-Hungary empire. Northern Croatia became part of the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary, while southern Croatia, like most of Slavonia, fell under Ottoman rule. Croatia thus became the borderland between the Christian West and the Muslim world in the East. During the 16th and 16th centuries, many Serbs fled from the Turks’ conquests to Croatia’s border areas against Ottoman Bosnia. The area was designated Military Frontier (Vojna Krajina, or Krajina). This move brought about the great Serbian minority that came into conflict with the Croatian government in the early 1990s.
The conquests of the Turks continued, but in the early 1600s a small part of Krajina came into the hands of the Habsburgs. By the end of the century, the Habsburg monarchy had ruled all of Croatia except the Venetian territories of Dalmatia and Istria, as well as the independent city state of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). At the Vienna Congress in 1815, Austria received Istria and Dalmatia.
During the Illyrian movement of the 1830s, a South Slavic national romance came to life. In the 1880s Croatia gained some autonomy, but among the Croats the demand for full independence grew stronger. When, at the end of the century, Habsburg Hungary again tried to introduce Hungarian customs into its Slavic areas, protests grew. The strongly anti-Serb trade policy that began in 1904 caused the old rivalry between Croats and Serbs to be transformed into a South Slavic, Yugoslav solidarity (Yugo means South in Croatian and Serbian).
Since Austria-Hungary collapsed in the First World War, in 1918, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was proclaimed under the reign of Serbia’s Aleksandar Karađorđević (Karadjordjevic). However, the situation was tense in the new state. Croats and Slovenes wanted a loose federation within the kingdom, while the Serbs wanted a centralized state. 1928 was a civil war close. King Aleksandar disbanded the parliament in 1929, put the constitution out of order and made himself a dictator in the state which was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. A period of economic depression and political violence followed. In Croatia, the newly formed fascist organization Ustaša grew in strength. In 1934, King Aleksandar was murdered during a visit to France. Croatian extremist nationalists are suspected of being behind the murder.
Occupation during the Second World War
During World War II, in April 1941, Yugoslavia was attacked by German, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian forces. In Croatia, a German sound state was formed with the fascist Ustaša leader Ante Pavelić at the head. The so-called Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) also covered most of Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of Serbia. The Ustašar regime became notorious for barbaric persecution and murder of hundreds of thousands of Serbs and tens of thousands of Roma and Jews.
Two rival resistance groups fought the Nazi invaders and the Ustašar regime: the royal faithful četnici (Chetniks) and the national liberation army under Yugoslav Communist Party leader Josip Broz, aka Tito. Tito’s party forces were most successful in this fight. The fascist regime in Croatia fell in 1944.
After the end of the war in 1945, the memory of the fascist regime in Croatia was fresh. This meant that the Communist-led Yugoslav regime, with Josip Broz Tito as president, could stamp any expression of Croatian nationalism as fascism.
Rapidly growing tourism on the Dalmatian coast meant that Croatia soon became much richer than the southern and eastern parts of Yugoslavia. In fact, the Croats (and the Slovenes) subsidized the other parts of the country through the transfer of tax money. This contributed to the growth of Croatian nationalism again in the 1960s. The nationalist movement was supported both by non-communists and by some communists in the Croatian state government. Belgrade Federal Government directives were defied.
The protests culminated in the “Croatian spring” in 1971, but were defeated by the central government in December of that year. The Croatian protests, however, contributed to the new constitution of Yugoslavia in 1974, which gave the republics much greater autonomy.
Newly awakened nationalism
Tito’s death in 1980 opened the door for new nationalist currents in several Yugoslav republics. In the late 1980s, communist regimes began to falter in Eastern Europe. At the same time, Yugoslavia was experiencing a deep economic crisis. In Croatia, Franjo Tuđman (Tudjman) – historian, former general of Tito’s liberation army and twice imprisoned for Croatian nationalism – now emerged as a leader figure. In 1990 he formed the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which quickly became the main opponent of the ruling Communist Party.
When the multi-party was held in May 1990, HDZ won an overwhelming majority of votes. The now reformed Communist Party came in second place. Tuđman was elected Croatian President. However, in the border areas, Krajina, where Serbs were in the majority, a Serbian nationalist party with close ties to Serbia’s President Slobodan Milošević prevailed.
Soon Croatia stopped paying its contributions to the federation. An amendment to the Constitution of the Sub-Republic was prepared so that Croatia would have full sovereignty and the right to leave the Yugoslav Federation. This created concern among Croatia’s nearly 600,000 Serbs, who were over-represented in the power apparatus. In July 1990, the Serbian National Council was formed in Krajina. The Council organized a referendum on the independence of the Croatian Serbs and gained a large majority for its cause. Serbian health workers attacked police stations and military transports to seize weapons. In October, the Serbs in Knin, Dalmatia, declared an autonomous territory. Other Serbian-dominated areas followed suit. The Serbs declared themselves resolved to leave their territories within Yugoslavia or to join a Greater Serbian state.
Tensions between Croatia and the Belgrade Central Government increased in December 1990 when Croatia adopted the new Constitution. The situation came to a head when Croatia refused to obey an order to disarm all Croatian semi-military groups. For the Serbs, the new constitution meant that they were deprived of their status as a “nation” within Croatia and degraded to a “minority”. In March 1991, the Serbs in Krajina declared that the area had broken out of Croatia. They later proclaimed the Serbian Republic of Krajina.
In a referendum organized by the Zagre government in May, 94 percent of the voting proposal supported Croatia’s independence. The majority of Serbs boycotted the vote.