Croatia History

Croatia History

Antiquity to the Middle Ages

The history of the Croatian territory was shaped in ancient times by the fact that it was in the border area between Europe and the Mediterranean region or on the border between the Byzantine and Franconian-Roman empires. Croatia was thus a Roman Catholic outpost also with regard to Islamic expansion movements towards Central Europe.

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168 BC Croatia became part of the Roman province of Illyria. After an uprising was quelled, the territory was divided into two parts, Pannonia and Dalmatia. After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Illyria came to the Western Roman Empire, but came under Eastern Gothic rule in 476 and fell to Byzantium in 537.

In the 6th and 7th centuries AD Croatian Slavs immigrated from the north and settled along the Adriatic Sea and its hinterland. They mingled with the largely latinized population living in this area and adopted the Roman Catholic faith. The area was from 641 to 800 under Byzantine, then under Frankish sovereignty. In 925, however, the Croatian Duke Tomslav succeeded in gaining royal dignity, gradually conquering Slavonia and then bringing the Dalmatian cities under Croatian sovereignty. However, Croatian domination did not last long. The period of Hungarian domination began at the end of the 11th century and did not end until the end of the First World War in 1918.

Modern times

In addition to the Hungarians, the second neighboring power, Venice, also claimed power and conquered 1202 parts of Dalmatia in the 15th century all of Dalmatia (with the exception of the port city of Dubrovnik), but only temporarily. Croatia emerged as a noble state under Hungarian rule and in 1527 Ferdinand I of Habsburg became King of Hungary-Croatia. The Habsburgs kept the crown until 1918, so that Germans and Croats had a common head of state until 1806, Austrians and Croats even until 1918.

The Croatian approval of the king’s election was the hope that this would give them support against the Ottomans. In fact, in the 16th and 17th centuries, according to AbbreviationFinder, the Ottomans could be pushed back to the area south of the Una (a tributary of the Sava). Napoleon conquered Dalmatia in 1797, and until 1814 the Croatian region south of the Sava was one of the Illyrian provinces of Napoleonic France.

As early as the end of the 18th century, Habsburg centralism had created increasing resistance in Croatian aristocratic circles, and in the first half of the 19th century a new national feeling awakened, which was initially expressed in the area of ​​language. In 1848 it also became politically effective and the revolution came. The Croatians under Josip Jelacic tried to unite the Croatian parts of the country by turning away from the Hungarians and entering into an alliance with the Austrian ruler. In 1849, the crown land of Croatia was created without the coastal landscape of Istria as a reaction and in 1867 it was subordinated to the Hungarian crown in the course of a settlement. In contrast, Dalmatia came to the Austrian half of the empire.But the attempt to re-Hungarianize the crown land at the end of the 19th


The First World War ended 700 years of Hungarian domination and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes came into being. However, in the joint declaration of intent by Corfu between Croatians and the Serbian government in exile, it remained unclear whether the new state would become a federation of equal partners or a Serb-dominated central state. At the same time, Croatian forces declared the unification of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia an independent Croatian state and delegated its leadership to a national committee of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs founded in Zagreb.

However, the centuries-long separate development of cultures, particularly Serbs and Croats, turned out to be a heavy burden for the young state. In addition, the resulting kingdom quickly developed into a Serb-dominated state. The Croatian leader and founder of the successful peasant party S. Radic, who advocated an independent Croatia, opposed this state. Despite great support from the Croatian population, a new constitution was adopted in 1921, which installed a strong central government in Yugoslavia against these intentions. In 1928 Radic and four other Croatian MPs were shot in the parliament in Belgrade by a Montenegrin MP. The following year, a state led by dictatorial means emerged under the new name “Kingdom of Yugoslavia”.New internal country borders should make the historical division of the member states forgotten. In 1934 Croatian separatists murdered the dictator Alexander. They were supported by the Italian fascist Benito Mussolini, who tried to initiate a fascist coup in Croatia with the help of the Ustascha organization. In 1938, more than 80% of Croatian voters voted for the Macek peasant party, and after negotiations with the central government, Croatia was granted extensive autonomy within Yugoslavia.

Despite the Yugoslav declaration of neutrality, Croatia was occupied by German troops in 1941, and Italy and Germany declared the Ustascha state in Croatia under the leader Ante Pavelic. The radical fascist Ustasha, who had already carried out the attack on King Alexander, installed a violent and cruel terror regime in the country, which by the end of the war had killed over 400,000 anti-fascists, Serbs, Jews and Sinti.

Resistance came primarily from the communist partisans led by Croatian-born Josip Tito. In 1944 the majority of Croatia was in the hands of the partisans and towards the end of the war there was a cruel revenge on those parts of the population which the partisans held up collaboration with the fascists. Thousands of people were murdered as part of the “purge”.


On November 29, 1945, the “Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” was proclaimed under the leadership of Prime Minister Tito (who was also President from 1953-80). Already in 1948 there was a break with the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia subsequently sought its own socialist path. In 1971, Croatian students and opposition figures, together with the Croatian party leadership, tried to achieve more democracy and independence through demonstrations. However, their efforts were violently suppressed by the Yugoslav government. The so-called “Zagreb Spring” ended in violence and until the death of Tito in 1980, the central government tried to reduce tensions between the ethnic groups through federal offers.


The transformation processes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s also opened the way for Croatia to a democracy based on a multi-party system. In the first free parliamentary elections, Franjo Tudjman won an absolute majority. In the same year a new constitution was passed and in June 1991 Croatia and Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia.

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Shortly after the declaration of independence, a civil war began, which started with heavy fighting between the Croatian National Guard and Serbian guerrillas, with the Serbs being supported by the (Serbian-dominated) Yugoslav army. The Serbian minority in the country declared an autonomous area of ​​Serbian Krajina and in Slavonia a Serbian autonomous area, neither of which was recognized by Croatia. Around 700,000 people fled the war zones, and several thousand died in the course of the civil war. A turning point brought about a ceasefire mediated by the UN (Vance Peace Plan) and the recognition of the Republic of Croatia by numerous European countries.In early 1992, a UN peacekeeping force was stationed and Germany and other EU countries established diplomatic relations with Croatia. The struggle between Croatians and Serbs continued: in spring the siege and shooting of the port city of Dubrovnik by Serbian troops followed, followed by the Croatian attack in the hinterland of Zadar in early 1993. The so-called Washington Agreement initiated the establishment of a Bosnian-Croatian Federation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Armed conflicts between Croats and Muslims already occurred there in April. In September 1993, Croatia launched a large-scale offensive, which resulted in a normalization agreement with the rest of Yugoslavia in 1994 and an armistice with the Republic of Serbian Krajina. But already in the summer of 1995, Croatia recaptured the Serb-controlled Krajina and West Slavonia in a lightning campaign, whereupon the Serbs living there fled to the neighboring countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. This was followed by the Dayton peace agreement in December 1995 and the signing of a second normalization agreement between Croatia and the rest of Yugoslavia in August of the following year. Croatia was admitted to the Council of Europe a few months later. The 1997 elections confirmed Tudjman in office. The UNTAES mandate ended in 1998; it was followed by the reintegration of Eastern Slavonia, Baranjas and Western Syrmiens into the Croatian state association.

After Tudjman’s death in December 1999, Stipe Mesic became Croatia’s new president in February 2000. Croatia has been a stable parliamentary democracy since the constitutional reform in 2001. The primary objective of the changes was to shift the President’s powers to the government and parliament. The government pushed ahead with western integration through reforms (including economic privatization). Croatia was finally admitted to NATO in April 2009 and to the EU in July 2013. The Social Democrat Ivo Josipović has been President since 2010.

Croatia President