History of Croatia

Croatia first appeared as a duchy in the 7th century and then as a kingdom in the 10th century. For the next ten centuries, it remained a distinct state with its ruler (ban) and parliament, but it obeyed the kings and emperors of various neighboring powers, primarily Hungary and Austria. The period from the 15th to the 17th centuries was marked by bitter struggles with the Ottoman Empire. After being incorporated in Yugoslavia for most of the 20th century, Croatia regained independence in 1991.

The History of Croatia has been divided into a series of separate historical articles navigable through the list to the right. For information on today's Croatia, see Croatia.

Croatian lands before the Croats (until 7th c.)

The area known as Croatia today has been inhabited throughout the prehistoric period, since the Stone Age. In the middle Paleolithic, Neanderthals lived in Krapina. In the early Neolithic period, the Starčevo, Vučedol and Hvar cultures were scattered around the region. The Iron Age left traces of the Hallstatt culture (early Illyrians) and the La T?ne culture (Celts).

In recorded history, the area was inhabited by the Illyrians, and since the 4th century BC also colonized in the north by the Celts and along the coast by the Greeks. The Southern Illyrian kingdom, Illyris, was a sovereign state in modern day Montenegro and northern Albania until the Romans conquered it in 168 BC. The Western Empire organized the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia, which after its downfall passed to the Huns, the Ostrogoths and then to the Byzantine Empire. The forebearers of Croatia's current Slav population settled there in the early 7th century.

Medieval Croatian state (until 925)

The Croats arrived in what is today Croatia in the seventh century. They organized into two dukedoms; the duchy of Pannonian Croatia in the north and the duchy of Littoral Croatia in the south. The biggest part of Christianization of the Croats ended in the 9th century.

Croatian duke Trpimir I (845–864), founder of Trpimirović dynasty, fought successfully against Bulgarians, and against Byzantine strategos in Zadar. He expanded his state in east to the Drava River. The first native Croatian ruler recognized by a pope was duke Branimir, whom Pope John VIII called dux Chroatorum in 879

Kingdom of Croatia (925-1102)

The first King of Croatia, Tomislav (910–928) of the Trpimirović dynasty, was crowned in 925. Tomislav, rex Chroatorum, united the Pannonian and Dalmatian duchies and created a sizeable state. He defeated Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I in battle of the Bosnian Highlands. The medi?val Croatian kingdom reached its peak during the reign of King Petar Krešimir IV (1058–1074).

Following the disappearance of the major native dynasty by the end of the 11th century in the Battle of Gvozd Mountain, the Croats eventually recognized the Hungarian ruler Coloman as the common king for Croatia and Hungary in a treaty of 1102 (often referred to as the Pacta conventa).

Personal union with Hungary (1102–1526)

The consequences of the change to the Hungarian king included the introduction of feudalism and the rise of the native noble families such as Frankopan and Šubić. The later kings sought to restore some of their previously lost influence by giving certain privileges to the towns. The primary governor of Croatian provinces was the ban.

The princes of Bribir from the Šubić family became particularly influential, asserting control over large parts of Dalmatia, Slavonia and Bosnia. Later, however, the Angevines intervened and restored royal power. They also sold the whole of Dalmatia to Venice in 1409.

As the Turkish incursion into Europe started, Croatia once again became a border area. The Croats fought an increasing number of battles and gradually lost increasing swaths of territory to the Ottoman Empire (Battle of Krbava field).

Habsburg Empire, Venice and the Ottomans (1527–1918)

Ban Josip Jelačić.The 1526 Battle of Mohács and the death of King Louis II meant the end of Hungarian authority over Croatia, replaced by the Habsburg Monarchy signed by Croatian nobles at Cetingrad assembly. The Ottoman Empire further expanded in the 16th century to include most of Slavonia, western Bosnia and Lika.

Later in the same century, large areas of Croatia and Slavonia adjacent to the Ottoman Empire were carved out into the Military Frontier (Vojna Krajina, German Militaergrenze) and ruled directly from Vienna military headquarters. The area became rather deserted and was subsequently settled by Serbs, Vlachs, Croats and Germans and others. As a result of their compulsory military service to the Habsburg Empire during conflict with the Ottoman Empire, the population in the Military Frontier was free of serfdom and enjoyed much political autonomy unlike the population living in the parts ruled by Hungary.

After the Bihać fort finally fell in 1592, only small parts of Croatia remained unconquered. The remaining 16,800 km? were referred to as the remnants of the remnants of the once great Croatian kingdom. The Ottoman army was successfully repelled for the first time on the territory of Croatia following the battle of Sisak in 1593. The lost territory was mostly restored, except for large parts of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Croats have participated in the Thirty Years' War. They were remembered by brutality throughout the Protestant world. One Protestant church in Aachen still has a saying about Croats as they were remembered in common prayers of German people from that time: "God save us from hunger, Croats and plague!".

By the 1700s, the Ottoman Empire was driven out of Hungary and Croatia, and Austria brought the empire under central control. Empress Maria Theresia was supported by the Croatians in the War of Austrian Succession of 1741–1748 and subsequently made significant contributions to Croatian matters.

With the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, its possessions in eastern Adriatic became subject to a dispute between France and Austria. The Habsburgs eventually secured them (by 1815) and Dalmatia and Istria became part of the empire, though they were in Cisleithania while Croatia and Slavonia were under Hungary.

Croatian romantic nationalism emerged in mid-19th century to counteract the apparent Germanization and Magyarization of Croatia. The Illyrian movement attracted a number of influential figures from 1830s on, and produced some important advances in the Croatian language and culture.

Following the Revolutions of 1848 in Habsburg areas and the creation of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, Croatia lost its domestic autonomy, despite the contributions of its ban Jelačić in quenching the Hungarian rebellion. Croatian autonomy was restored in 1868 with the Hungarian–Croatian Settlement which wasn't particularly favorable for the Croatians.

Civil War (1941–1945)

The Axis occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941 allowed the Croatian radical right Ustaše to come into power, forming the "Independent State of Croatia", led by Ante Pavelić, who assumed the role of Poglavnik Nezavisne Drzave Hrvatske (i.e. Leader of the Independent State of Croatia). Following the pattern of other fascist regimes in Europe, the Ustashi enacted racial laws, formed eight concentration camps targeting minority Serbs, Romas and Jewish populations. The biggest concentration camp was Jasenovac in Croatia. The NDH had a program, formulated by Mile Budak, to purge Croatia of Serbs, by “killing one third, expelling the other third and assimilating the remaining third”. The first part of this program began during WWII with a planned genocide in Jasenovac and other locations in the NDH The main targets for persecution, however, were the Serbs. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs are estimated to have been killed in this cycle of violence.

The all-Yugoslav communist anti-fascist partisan movement emerged in Croatia early in 1941, under the command of Yugoslav Josip Broz Tito, spreading quickly into the other parts of Yugoslavia. As the movement began to gain popularity, Tito's partisans came to encompass Serbs, Bosniaks, Slovenes and Macedonians who believed in a unified Yugoslav state.

By 1943, the Partisan resistance movement had gained the upper hand, against the odds, and in 1945, with help from the Soviet Red Army (passing only through small parts such as Vojvodina), expelled the Axis forces and local supporters. The ZAVNOH, state anti-fascist council of people's liberation of Croatia, functioned since 1944 and formed an interim civil government.

Following the defeat of the Independent State of Croatia at the end of the war a large number of presumed Nazi supporters, known as Ustaše, and civilians supporting them (ranging from sympathisers, young conscripts, anti-communists, and ordinary serfs who were motivated by Partisan atrocities) attempted to flee in the direction of Austria hoping to surrender to British forces and to be given refuge. They were instead interned by British forces and then returned to the Partisans. A large number of these persons were killed in what has come to be called the Bleiburg massacre.

Second Yugoslavia (1945–1991)

Croatia became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945, which was run by Tito's Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Tito adopted a carefully contrived policy to manage the conflicting national ambitions of the Croats and Serbs.

Croatia was a Socialist Republic part of a six-part federation. Under the new communist system, private property was nationalized and the economy was based on a type of planned market socialism. The country underwent a rebuilding process, recovered from World War II, went through industrialization and started developing tourism.

The country's socialist system also provided free apartments from big companies, which with the workers' self-management investments paid for the living spaces. From 1963, the citizens of Croatia - like those of the rest of Yugoslavia - were allowed to travel to almost any country because of Yugoslavia's neutral politics. No visas were required to travel to eastern or western countries, capitalist or communist nations. Such free travel was unheard of at the time in the Eastern Bloc countries, and in some western countries as well (eg. Spain or Portugal, both dictatorships at the time). This proved to be very helpful for Croatia's inhabitants who found working in foreign countries more financially rewarding. Upon retirement, a popular plan was to return to live in Croatia (then Yugoslavia) to buy a more expensive property.

In Yugoslavia, the people of Croatia were guaranteed free healthcare, free dental care, and secure pensions. The older generation found this very comforting as pensions would sometimes exceed their former paychecks. Free trade and travel within the country also helped Croatian industries that imported and exported throughout all the former republics. Students and military personnel were encouraged to visit other republics to learn more about the country, and all levels of education, especially secondary education and higher education, were gratis.

The economy developed into a type of socialism called samoupravljanje (self-management), in which workers partially shared profit in state-run enterprises. This kind of market socialism created significantly better economic conditions than in the Eastern Bloc countries. Croatia went through intensive industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s with industrial output increasing several-fold and with Zagreb surpassing Belgrade for the amount of industry. Factories and other organizations were often named after Partisans who were declared People's Heroes. This practice also spread to street names, names of parks and buildings and some more trivial features.

Tito meets with Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi in 1975.Before World War II, Croatia's industry was not significant, with the vast majority of the people employed in agriculture. By 1991 the country was completely transformed into a modern industrialized state. By the same time, the Croatian Adriatic coast had taken shape as an internationally popular tourist destination, all coastal republics (but mostly SR Croatia) profited greatly from this, as tourist numbers reached levels still unsurpassed in modern Croatia. The government brought uprecedented economic and industrial growth, high levels of social security and a very low crime rate. The country completely recovered from WW2 and achieved a very high GDP and economic growth rate, significantly higher than the present-day Republic.

The constitution of 1963 balanced the power in the country between the Croats and the Serbs, and alleviated the fact that the Croats were again in a minority. Trends after 1965, however, led to the Croatian Spring of 1970–71, when students in Zagreb organized demonstrations for greater civil liberties and greater Croatian autonomy. The regime stifled the public protest and incarcerated the leaders, but this led to the ratification of a new Constitution in 1974, giving more rights to the individual republics.

In 1980, after Tito's death, economic, political, and religious difficulties started to mount and the federal government began to crumble. The crisis in Kosovo and, in 1986, the emergence of Slobodan Milošević in Serbia provoked a very negative reaction in Croatia and Slovenia; politicians from both republics feared that his motives would threaten their republics' autonomy. With the climate of change throughout Eastern Europe during the 1980s, the communist hegemony was challenged and calls for free multy-party elections were becoming louder.

Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995)

In 1990, the first free elections were held. A people's movement called the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won out by a relatively slim margin against the reformed communist Party of Democratic Change (SDP), led by Franjo Tuđman (former general in Tito's Partisan movement) and Ivica Račan (former president of Croatia's League of Communists, the SKH ) respectively. However, Croatia's British-style first-past-the-post election system enabled Tuđman to form the government relatively independently. The HDZ's intentions were to secure independence for Croatia, contrary to the wishes of a part of the ethnic Serbs in the republic, and official politics of Belgrade. The excessively polarized climate soon escalated into complete estrangement between the two nations and even sectarian violence.

In the summer of 1990, Serbs from the mountainous areas where they constituted a majority rebelled and formed a new entity, the Autonomous Region of the Serb Krajina (later the Republic of Serbian Krajina); neither were recognised by a single country outside of their proposed borders. Any intervention by the Croatian police was obstructed by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), now containing a significantly larger percentage of Serbs. The conflict culminated with the log revolution, in which the Krajina Serbs blocked the roads to the tourist destinations in Dalmatia.

After the Croatian government had declared independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) began military actions. Many Croatian cities, notably Vukovar and Dubrovnik, came under a joint attack from joint Yugoslav forces and Serbs local to the region. The Croatian Parliament cut all remaining ties with Yugoslavia on October 8, 1991.

The civilian population fled the areas of armed conflict en masse: generally speaking, thousands of Croats moved away from the Bosnian and Serbian border areas, while thousands of Serbs moved towards it. In many places, masses of civilians were forced out by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), who consisted mostly of conscripts from Serbia and Montenegro, and irregulars from Serbia, in what became known as ethnic cleansing. Ethnic Serbs in Croatian-dominated parts of Croatia were similarly forced out by the Croatian army and irregular forces.

The border city of Vukovar underwent a three month siege — the Battle of Vukovar — during which most of the city was destroyed and a majority of the population was forced to flee. The city fell to the Serbian forces on November 18, 1991. Some historians believe that the city could have been spared and defended, but was left to "fend for itself" to gain sympathy from the west.

Subsequent UN-sponsored cease-fires followed, and the warring parties mostly entrenched. The Yugoslav People's Army retreated from Croatia into Bosnia and Herzegovina where a new cycle of tensions were escalating: the Bosnian War was to start. During 1992 and 1993, Croatia also handled an estimated 700,000 refugees from Bosnia, mainly Bosnian Muslims.

Armed conflict in Croatia remained intermittent and mostly on a small scale until 1995. In early August, Croatia embarked on Operation Storm, and quickly reconquered most of the territories from the Republic of Serbian Krajina authorities, leading to a mass exodus of the Serbian population. An estimated 90,000-350,000 Serbs fled shortly before, during and after the operation. As a result of this exodus, a few months later the war ended with the negotiation of the Dayton Agreement. A peaceful integration of the remaining Serbian-controlled territories in Eastern Slavonia was completed in 1998 under UN supervision. Most of the Serbs who fled from the former Krajina have not returned.

From an economic view, the Republic (as well as the remainder of Yugoslavia) experienced a serious depression. President Tuđman initiated the process of privatization and de-nationalization in Croatia, however, this was far from transparent and fully legal. The fact that the new government's legal system was inefficient and slow, as well as the wider context of the Yugoslav wars caused numerous incidents known collectively in Croatia as the "Privatization robbery" (Croatian: "privatizacijska pljačka"). Nepotism was endemic and during this period many influential individuals with the backing of the authorities acquired state-owned property and companies at extremely low prices, afterwards selling them off piecemeal to the highest bidder for much larger sums. This proved very lucrative for the new owners, but in the vast majority of cases this (along with the separation from the previously secured Yugoslav markets) also caused the bankruptcy of the (previously successful) firm, causing the unemployment of thousands of citizens, a problem Croatia still struggles with to this day. This was all helped, not just by the (allegedly purposeful) inadequacy of legal restrictions, but also by the apparently active support of the new Croatia's authorities, ultimately controlled by Tuđman from his strong presidential position. In the end this shed an increasingly negative light, and cast a shadow on his notable successes as a strategist and wartime statesman. Excluding the mostly rural rebel-occupied areas (the so-called Republic of Serbian Krajina), in the last two years of Tuđman's first tenure the detrimental effects of "wild" and unrestricted capitalism had become strikingly visible, with more than 400,000 unemployed citizens, and a significant drop in the GDP per capita, problems Croatia struggles with to this day.

Modern Croatia (after 1995)

President Tuđman died in late 1999. In February 2000, Stjepan Mesić was elected president, ending the HDZ's rule. The country underwent many liberal reforms beginning in 2000. An economic recovery as well as healing of many war wounds ensued and the country proceeded to become a member of several important regional and international organizations. The country has started the process of joining the European Union, but a perceived lack of co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia concerning the tracking down of the indicted general Ante Gotovina long formed difficulties. After Gotovina's capture on 8 December 2005 negotiations with the aim of Croatia joining the EU have begun, although no sooner than 2009.