History of Croatia

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This article is part of
the History of Croatia
Origins of the Croats
Before the Croats
Medieval Croatian state
Kingdom of Croatia
Union with Hungary
Habsburg Empire
First Yugoslavia
Independent State of Croatia
Second Yugoslavia
War of independence
Croatia since 1995

This is the history of Croatia.


[edit] 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, Vinča, Sopot, Vučedol and Hvar cultures were scattered around the region. The Iron Age left traces of the Hallstatt culture (proto-Illyrians) and the La Tène culture (proto-Celts).

In recorded history, the area was inhabited by the Illyrians, and since the 4th century BC also colonized by the Celts and by the Greeks. Illyria was a sovereign state 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. Forebears of Croatia's current Slav population settled there in the 7th century.

[edit] Medieval Croatian state (until 925)

Oton Iveković, The Croats arrival at the Adriatic Sea
Oton Iveković, The Croats arrival at the Adriatic Sea

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.

The inscription of duke Branimir, around 888.
The inscription of duke Branimir, around 888.

[edit] Kingdom of Croatia (925-1102)

Main article: Kingdom of Croatia

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 mediæval 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).

[edit] 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).

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

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 assembley. 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 km² 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 17411748 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.

[edit] First Yugoslavia (1918–1941)

Shortly before the end of the First World War in 1918, the Croatian Parliament severed relations with Austria-Hungary as the Entente armies defeated those of the Habsburgs. Croatia and Slavonia became a part of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs composed out of all Southern Slavic territories of the now former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy with a transitional government headed in Zagreb. Although the state inherited much of Austro-Hungary's military arsenal, including the entire fleet, the Kingdom of Italy moved rapidly to annex the state's most western territories, promised to her by the Treaty of London of 1915. An Italian Army eventually took Istria, started to annex the Adriatic islands one by one, and even landed in Zadar. After Srijem left Croatia and Slavonia and joined Serbia together with Vojvodina, which was shortly followed by a referendum to join Bosnia and Herzegovina to Serbia, the People's Council (Narodno vijeće) of the state, guided by what was by that time a half a century long tradition of pan-Slavism, joined the Kingdom of Serbia into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The Kingdom underwent a crucial change in 1921 to the dismay of the Croatian political leadership led by the Peasant Party of Stjepan Radić. The new constitution abolished the historical/political entities, including Croatia and Slavonia centralizing authority in the capital of Belgrade. The Croatian Peasant Party boycotted the government of the Serbian Radical People's Party throughout the period, except for a brief interlude between 1925 and 1927, when external Italian expansionism was at hand with her allies, Albania, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria that threatened Yugoslavia as a whole.

In 1928, Radić was mortally wounded during a Parliament session by Puniša Račić, a deputy of the Serbian Radical People's Party, which caused further upsets among the Croatian elite. In 1929, King Aleksandar proclaimed a dictatorship and imposed a new constitution which, among other things, renamed the country into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The territory of Croatia was roughly composed out of the Sava and Littoral Banates.

In 1934, King Aleksandar was assassinated abroad, in Marseilles, by a coalition of two radical groups: the Croatian Ustaše and the Macedonian pro-Bulgarian VMORO. The Serbian-Croatian Cvetković-Maček government that came to power, distanced Yugoslavia's former allies of France and the United Kingdom, and moved closer to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the period of 1935-1941. A national Banovina of Croatia was created in 1939 out of the two Banates, as well as parts of the Zeta, Vrbas, Drina and Danube Banates. It had a reconstructed Croatian Parliament which would choose a Croatian Ban and Viceban. This Croatia included a part of Bosnia (region), most of Herzegovina and the city of Dubrovnik and the surroundings.

[edit] World War II (1941–1945)

The Axis occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941 allowed the Croatian radical right Ustaše party to come into power, forming the so-called "Independent State of Croatia", led by Ante Pavelić, he was styled (Führer-like) Poglavnik Nezavisne Drzave Hrvatske (i.e. Leader of the Independent State of Croatia). His fascist puppet regime enacted racial laws, formed eight concentration camps and started a campaign to exterminate Croatia's ethnic minorities (Serbs, Romas and Jews in presice) and remove the "enemies of the state". Up to 200,000 persons are estimated to have been killed in this campaign, most notably in the Jasenovac concentration camp. This complex of internment and concentration camps was one of the larger sites of mass murder in occupied Europe.

The communist anti-fascist partisan movement emerged early in 1941, under the command of Josip Broz Tito, spreading quickly in the other parts of Yugoslavia. Serbian royalist guerilla Četnici were also formed, but acted mainly against partisans rather than occupying fascist forces.

By 1943, the communist Partisan resistance movement had gained the upper hand and in 1945, with the help of the Soviet Red Army, expelled the Axis forces and local supporters. The ZAVNOH, state anti-fascist council of people's liberation of Croatia, functioned since 1943 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 sympathisers (soldiers and civilians) attempted to flee in the direction of Austria where they were 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.

[edit] 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, himself a Croat, 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 WWII, went through industrialization and started developing tourism.

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 197071, 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 ethnic 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. As communist hegemony was challenged throughout Central and Eastern Europe calls for free multy-party elections were becoming louder.

[edit] 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, led by Franjo Tuđman General of Croatian WW2 antifascist movement, the Partisans. HDZ's intentions were to secure more independence for Croatia, contrary to the wishes of part of ethnic Serbs in the republic and official politics in Belgrade. The excessively polarized climate soon escalated into complete estrangement between the two nationalities and even sectarian violence.

In the summer of 1990, Serbs from the mountainous areas where they constitute a relative majority rebelled and formed an unrecognized "Autonomous Region of the Serb Krajina" (later the Republic of Serbian Krajina). Any intervention by the Croatian police was obstructed by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), mainly consisting of Serbs. The conflict culminated with the so-called "log revolution", when the so-called Krajina Serbs blocked the roads to the tourist destinations in Dalmatia.

After the Croatian government had declared independence from Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991, the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) began military actions. Many Croatian cities, notably Vukovar and Dubrovnik, came under the attack of the Serbian forces. 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, while thousands of Serbs moved towards it. In many places, masses of civilians were forced out by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), which 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 the Bosnian War was just about to start. During 1992 and 1993, Croatia also handled estimated 700,000 refugees from Bosnia, mainly Bosnia's Moslems.

Armed conflict in Croatia remained intermittent and mostly on a small scale until 1995. In early August, Croatia started Operation Storm and quickly reconquered most of the so-called "Republic of Serbian Krajina", leading to a mass exodus of the Serbian population. An estimated 200,000-400,000 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links