History – An Outline of Croatian History
Croats are one of the oldest peoples in Europe. They have been living for more than thirteen and a half centuries now within the present borders of Croatia, between the Adriatic Sea in the south and the rivers Drava and Danube in the north. After settling in a region that was then claimed by two large countries, Byzantium and Franconia, the Croats initially recognized their sovereignty. However, they gradually emancipated themselves and established an independent state. The Croats adopted Christianity quite early on, largely during the pontificate of Pope Agaton (678 – 681). As a Catholic nation, they have remained faithful to their religion and to the Vatican to the present day.
The Croats lived in clans and zupas (basic administrative units) and began to unite in an attempt to found an independent state. As early as in the last decade of the 8th century they established two principalities: Primorska Hrvatska on the Adriatic coast and Posavska Hrvatska in inland Croatia. Croat princes ruled from 791 to 924. The year 925 marks the beginning of the Croatian kingdom which lasted until 1102, when Croats were forced to enter into a union with Hungary and to recognize the Hungarian king as their own. Several hundred years later both Hungary (1526) and Croatia (1527) formed a state union with Austria for better protection against the Turks. From that time the Austrian emperors were also crowned as kings of Hungary and Croatia. This arrangement lasted until 1918.
Having been united first with the Hungarians and then with the Austrians, Croats were determined to regain their independence. In the 19th century, the old nation–building aspirations of the Croats were found an especially strong impetus in the ideology and political activities of the Croatian Party of Rights.
In 1918, shortly after the collapse of the Austro–Hungarian monarchy and as a result of a number of unfortunate circumstances, Croatia formed a union with most of the other South Slavic peoples. In the new state, initially called The Kingdom of the Serbs, the Croats and the Slovenes and subsequently the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, ruled by a king of the Serbian Karađorđević dynasty, the Croats were subjected to Serbian hegemony, exploited and deprived of their rights. Upon the capitulation of the odious Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1941, Croats established the Independent State of Croatia, consisting of Croatia and Bosnia–Hercegovina. That state’s great misfortune was that it had to recognize the authority of the occupying forces, Germany and Italy. With the Italian regime on its knees the Independent State of Croatia put all its cards on Germany and thus collapsed along with it in 1945.
Many Croats took part in the anti–fascist war of 1941 to 1945. During the war they founded the Federal State of Croatia (1944), as a member state of the second Yugoslavia which had already been proclaimed. Since the second Yugoslavia, which in the late autumn of 1945 changed its original name from the Federal Democratic Yugoslavia to the Federal National Republic of Yugoslavia and eventually in 1963 to The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, became a socialist country with a communist dictatorship, the Croats were bound to experience all the hardships of the communist one–party idology. They found it particularly difficult to come to terms with the centralism of the federal state, the curbing of their ethnic rights, Serb hegemony and the stifling of human rights.
Chronology until 1990
The Creation of the Independent and Sovereign Republic of Croatia
Chronological Outline 1991 – 1998
The second, socialist Yugoslavia, was also doomed to perish; it was bound to fall apart both because of its nonviable socialist political system and because of a lack of national equality among its nations. Furthermore, Yugoslavia consisted of two quite incompatible worlds, differing in religious, cultural and civilizational terms: the Orthodox one east of the Drina river with Serbia as its main exponent, and which for centuries had been orientated towards the Orthodox eastern Europe; and the Catholic one west of the Drina, represented primarily by Croatia, which for centuries had been orientated towards the Catholic west.
At the time of Tito’s death Yugoslavia was experiencing a serious economic and political crisis. One of the effects of the crisis was a large–scale economic and political emigration, especially from Croatia. Both in Yugoslavia and abroad there were people who believed that the Yugoslav crisis could be solved by economic and political reforms. It was in that spirit that Ante Marković, the last Prime Minister of the Yugoslav federal government, tried to reform the country. However, as it turned out, the days of the Yugoslav Federation were numbered and it could be neither reformed nor repaired.
As the process of disintegration was progressing, each of the six republics was making plans for the future. The most anachronistic and unacceptable, and the least viable ideas for the future of the Yugoslav state came from Serbia. Serbian communist politicians were committed to the preservation of Yugoslavia so that “all Serbs could live within the same state”. In order to achieve that goal they advocated the principle of “one person – one vote”. Used to having hegemony both in the first (royal) and in the second (communist) Yugoslavia, the Serbs did not want to relinquish their privileged position. Knowing that they were the single most populous Yugoslav nation they cunningly used the “one person – one vote” model as a trick that was meant to secure their supremacy. Obviously, other Yugoslav republics could not accept Serbia’s proposal. Realizing that their plans might be thwarted, the Serbs threatened the use of force, building their threat on a strong position in the Yugoslav federal army in which Serbs occupied most of the commanding posts.
Serbian expansionism was instilled into Serbs in Serbia and those living in other republics by Serbian propaganda which was orchestrated from Belgrade. After the 1990 democratic elections in Croatia Serbian propaganda began instigating a rebellion amongst Croatian Serbs against the new, non–communist Croatian government. From the beginning of their rebellion the Serbs were armed and aided by the Serbicized Yugoslav army. Since it was still a constituent element of the SFRY, Croatia could not establish an army of its own. Hence, it beefed up its police force, which was within its legal right, in order to protect law and order and improve security. Soon afterwards, the Croatian government took advantage of its legal right to found the Zbor narodne garde (Croatia’s national guard) as a form of territorial defense. Throughout that time Croatia was under threat of attack by the Yugoslav army.
Shortly after Croatia proclaimed its independence and sovereignty in 1991, Croatian Serb rebels, along with infiltrated volunteer units from Serbia and the Yugoslav army, supposedly the Yugoslav People’s Army, as its name read, openly attacked Croatia, perpetrating the most atrocious crimes, including genocide. The Croats, helped by their diaspora, organized a defensive patriotic war and prevented the Serb expansionist aggressor from realizing its ultimate goals.
In 1992 Croatia was internationally recognized as an independent and sovereign state. That year the UN sent its peacekeeping mission to the Croatian territory that had been occupied by the Serb aggressor. Neither the Croatian government nor the displaced persons were satisfied with the peacekeepers’ efficiency. On top of providing for its own displaced persons, Croatia was heavily burdened with refugees from neighbouring Bosnia and Hercegovina, which also came under Serbian attack in 1992. Since the peace talks sponsored by the international community with the Serbian expansionist agressor failed to produce either a stable truce, a reintegration of the occupied Croatian territory or the return of Croatian displaced persons, the Croatian Army was forced to take several liberating actions in spite of reprimands by the UN Security Council. Thus, in 1992 the Croatian army broke the siege of Dubrovnik and liberated the village of Miljevci. In 1993 it liberated the Zadar hinterland from Zemunik to Maslenica, the area around the Peruča power plant and the Medak pocket. In 1995 it liberated the occupied areas of western Slavonia, northern Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun and Banija. The Washington Agreement (1994) and the Dayton Peace Accord (1995) were largely made possible thanks to Croatia’s contribution to the peace process. Committed to peace, Croatia agreed to wait for a peaceful reintegration of the territory that was still under the occupation of the Serb expansionists, i.e. eastern Slavonia, western Srijem and Baranja.
Following are the most notable events that marked the creation and international affirmation of the independent and sovereign Republic of Croatia.
9. Irritated by a debate that preceded the vote on the disarmament of illegally armed units in Croatia, Stipe Mesić, Croatian representative in the federal presidency, demonstratively walks out of the session. By simple majority the presidency orders the reserve units of the Croatian police to hand over their arms to the Yugoslav People’s Army (the JNA).
This order prompts a session of the Croatian Council for the People’s Defense and Protection in Zagreb. Under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic, Franjo Tuđman, the Council concludes that illegally armed groups in Croatia can be disarmed only by the Croatian Ministry of the Interior and that the JNA should under no circumstances be transformed into a police force lest it be used to topple the democratically elected government. Hence, Croatia will use all available resources to prevent interference by the JNA in the affairs of the Croatian Ministry of the Interior. The Council also concludes that there are no illegally armed groups in Croatia other than those in Knin and some other municipalities under the influence of the Chetnik leaders from Knin. The Croatian Ministry of the Interior, the Council points out, would be able to disarm those terrorist Chetnik groups were it not for opposition by some influential individuals from the Serbian and federal governments and, of course, the JNA. / 25. In a prime time slot the Croatian TV, inter alia, airs the film “The Truth About the Armament of the Croatian Democratic Union in Croatia” shot at the instructions of the JNA Intelligence and Control Service. The film, largely forged, was meant to be used as a pretext for armed intervention by the JNA in Croatia. / 26. People from all over Croatia and Croatian expatriates send telegrammes of support to the Croatian leadership pledging determination and readiness to defend the Croatian homeland in case of an attack. On the same day a rally of support in Zagreb’s Ban Jelačić square attracts 100,000 people.
21. The Croatian Parliament amends the constitutional law to the effect that as long as Croatia remains a member of the SFRJ it will recognize only those federal laws and provisions of the federal constitution that do not run contrary to the laws and Constitution of the Republic of Croatia.
16. Several hundred Croats from Kijevo, Kruševo, Lovinac and other places arrive in Zagreb to complain to the Croatian leadership about worsening harassment at the hands of Serb rebel bandits. / 31. Catholic Easter. A special unit of the Croatian Ministry of the Interior arrives in Plitvice to restore law and order disrupted by a Serb terrorist attack. Serb terrorists, armed by weapons from a JNA storage facility, ambush the Croatian policemen, killing Josip Jović, the first Croatian policeman to die in the defense of the constitutional order of the Republic of Croatia.
6. Belgrade TV programmes openly discuss Serbian expansionist plans for the creation of a Greater Serbia. The topic is broached in an evening propaganda programme by Vojislav Šešelj, a Chetnik leader and president of the Serbian Radical Party. He describes the rationale of his party as the creation of a Greater Serbia whose western border would run along the line Virovitica–Karlovac–Karlobag. / 11. Once again, the presidents of the six Yugoslav republics fail to reach an agreement on how to arrange their future relations. The Serbian president, backed only by the Montenegrin president, advocates a federation based on the “one person – one vote” model. The Croatian and Slovene presidents propose a confederation. The other two presidents of Bosnia–Hercegovina and Macedonia want a union with elements of both federation and confederation. On 6 April they conclude that by the end of May they will call a referendum on the options that have been tabled – the one proposed by Croatia and Slovenia (a union of sovereign states) and the one proposed by Serbia and Montenegro (preservation of the federation).
19. A referendum is held in Croatia. The turnout is 83.56%, with 94.17% voting for Croatia as a sovereign and independent state that can form a union of sovereign states with other Yugoslav republics. / 28. At a parade at the stadium of the Zagreb soccer club in Zagreb the Zbor narodne garde (Croatian national guard) takes an oath of allegiance.
25. Acting in accordance with the popular vote manifested by the referendum of 19 June, the Croatian Parliament passes both a declaration proclaiming the Republic of Croatia a sovereign and independent state and a constitutional act that makes that sovereignty and independence effective. (The Republic of Slovenia also declares sovereignty and independence). / 27. The JNA flexes its muscle. Its tanks roll over four cars in the city of Osijek, opening fire on the citizens. In Ormož, Slovenia, the JNA clashes with the Slovene territorial defense. The clash flares into a full–blown war.
1. Stipe Mesić, Croatia’s representative in the SFRJ collective presidency, is finally elected president. His term would have started already on 15 May had it not been opposed by Serb representatives. / 7. The SFRJ presidency meets on the islands of Brijuni. Also present are the federal prime minister, the president of the Republic of Croatia, the president of the Republic of Slovenia and three representatives of the European Council of Ministers. (Also invited was the president of the Republic of Serbia but he turned down the invitation). The conference ends with the Brijuni Declaration calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Slovenia, a three–month–long moratorium on Slovenia’s and Croatia’s sovereignty and independence, a negotiated resolution of the Yugoslav crisis and the sending of a EU monitoring mission to Slovenia and possibly to Croatia./ 10. Serb terrorists burst into the eastern Slavonian village of Ćelije. Houses are pillaged and burned and the villagers are forced to flee. JNA jets attack a Zbor narodne garde barracks in Ilok. Throughout western Srijem, Slavonia, Baranja, Banija, Kordun, Lika and northern Dalmatia Serb terrorists and the Serbicized “JNA” openly collaborate. / 19. War rages in Croatia. The Serbian expansionist aggressor attacks not only Croatian police stations and Zbor narodne garde barracks but also Croatian villages and towns. / Non–Serbs flee from the ranks of the “JNA”, which has become an aggressor in the service of Serb expansionism. 85 conscripts and officers in Osijek flee from the local JNA barracks.
18. The Serbian expansionist aggressor seizes the town of Okučani. / 27. The President of the Republic of Croatia, Franjo Tuđman, orders municipal crisis management committees to be founded and a state crisis management headquarters to be set up. / 28. The Croatian leadership decides to pool all human and material resources for the defense of the homeland. It declares an all–out mobilization. / The government of Croatia founds an office for displaced persons. The office is authorized to found regional diplaced persons offices if and when the need arises.
4. The Serbian expansionist aggressor stages fierce attacks on Vukovar. Croats heroically defend the town. The aggressor suffers severe losses. / 7. The Peace conference on Yugoslavia opens in The Hague. The Ministerial Council of the EU appoints the former British Foreign Minister Lord Carrington to be coordinator of the Conference. / 10. EU monitors witness the devastating effects of the most recent shelling of the town of Osijek. / 14. Pursuant to a decision by the President of the Republic, Croats start besieging all “JNA” barracks and institutions in Croatia. The operation proves to be a great success. Many barracks surrender. The Croatian Army seizes a large quantity of arms of all kinds.
The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Croatia appeals to all conscripts and officers to leave the aggressor’s army and to join the Croatian one. / 17. The JNA air force fires rockets at the Croatian TV transmitter on Mount Medvednica in order to prevent the transmission of information to the general public. / 18. The aggression of Serbian expansionists against Croatia intensifies. Vukovar, Osijek, Vinkovci, Gospić, Šibenik, Zadar and many other towns are shelled.
1. Serbs and Montenegrins launch an attack on the Dubrovnik region. / 3. The aggressor’s jets attack a bridge on the island of Pag and an airport on the island of Krk. / 5. The president of the Republic of Croatia, Franjo Tuđman, addresses all Croatian citizens during a prime–time TV news programme. He ends his appeal for the defence of the homeland with these words: “Let us unite in the struggle for the freedom of our Croatian homeland, of our sea and of the sky above our only and immortal Croatia.” / 7. “JNA” jets attack Banski dvori, the presidential palace in Zagreb. / 8. The three–month–long moratorium on the constitutional decision on the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Croatia expires. The truce has not been holding. The Serbian expansionists have stepped up their attacks on Croatia.
The Parliament of the Republic of Croatia decides to put into effect its decision on the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Croatia and to sever all constitutional relations with the SFRJ.
18. The Serbian expansionist aggressor razes Vukovar to the ground. The town is now defenceless. Members of the attacking force take away a large number of Croats found in the town, including wounded defenders and other patients from the Vukovar hospital, and kill many of them.
6. An unprecedentedly ferocious attack by the Serbian aggressor on Dubrovnik.
2. In Sarajevo representatives of the “JNA” and the Republic of Croatia sign an agreement on cessation of all hostilities in Croatia. The agreement is sponsored by Cyrus Vance, a special envoy of the UN Secretary General. / 13. The Holy See recognizes Croatia as an independent and sovereign state. / 15. Members of the EU recognize Croatia as an independent and sovereign state. Many countries throughout the world follow suit.
21. The UN Security Council passes a resolution announcing the deployment of a peacekeeping mission in Croatia (short: UNPROFOR). According to a plan drafted by Vance, the mission will be stationed in four different sectors.
22. The Republic of Croatia is admitted to the UN.
31. As a result of the Serbian expansionist agression against Bosnia–Hercegovina which started in April 1992, more and more refugees pour into Croatia. By now Croatia has accommodated 260,705 displaced persons from its occupied areas and 402,768 refugees. The refugees arrive primarily from Bosnia–Hercegovina, but also from Serbia and Montenegro, where ethnic Croats face harassment and persecution.
22. The Parliament of the Republic of Croatia constitutes the House of Counties (the upper chamber). Thus, pursuant to the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, the Parliament becomes a bicameral legislative body.
30. By now the sovereign and independent Croatia has been recognized by 102 countries, 78 of which have established diplomatic relations with it.
1. The Washington Agreement is signed calling for the establishment of a Bosnian–Croat federation in Bosnia–Herzegovina. The federation will cooperate with the Republic of Croatia. / 29. Serbian expansionists occupying some areas of Croatia repeatedly violate the 1992 Sarajevo ceasefire agreement by shelling Šibenik, Zadar, Osijek, Vinkovci, Sisak and Gospić. They first proclaim the occupied areas “Serbian autonomous districts”, then proceed to establish links between them, eventually declaring an independent state, the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina, with the seat in Knin. The international community considers the occupied areas to be legitimate Croatian territory and insists that they should be peacefully reintegrated with the rest of Croatia. The Croatian Government and Serbs from the occupied areas sign a ceasefire agreement in Zagreb together with an agreement on the separation of forces. This agreement will also be frequently violated by the Serbs.
10. and 11. Pope John Paul II visits Croatia.
2. The Croatian Government and Serbs from the occupied areas sign an international–community–brokered economic agreement on the reopening of the motorway, railways, and pipeline, and on continuing water and power supply. The agreement is signed separately in Zagreb and in Knin.
1. and 2. In violation of the ceasefire and economic agreements, Serbs from Okučani cause a number of incidents, including robbing and killing motorists travelling on the Zagreb–Lipovac motorway. This provokes an operation by the Croatian police and the Army. Within two days Operation Flash liberates the occupied areas of western Slavonia.
2. In Split the highest–ranking officials of the Republic of Croatia and of Bosnia–Hercegovina sign a declaration of a joint defense against Serbian aggression. Pursuant to the declaration, Croatia intervenes militarily against the Serbian aggressor in Bosnia, to the great benefit of the Croatian Defense Council and the BH Army.
Marko Križevčanin is canonized a saint.
3. Following the recomendations of the international community, the Croatian government and the Serbs from the occupied areas meet in Geneva to try to reach a settlement on the third stage of the peaceful reintegration of the occupied areas. The Serbian delegation turns down all Croatian proposals, insisting that “Republika Srpska Krajina” is a state that wants to be united “only with other Serb lands”. It is evident that they want to secede from Croatia and become a part of a Greater Serbia. / 4 – 7 After all attempts to convince the Serbs to accept a settlement proposed by Croatia and supported by the international community fail, the Croatian Army and the police launch Operation Storm. Within four days the occupied areas of Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun and Banija are liberated.
12. An agreement is signed separately in Zagreb and in Erdut (eastern Slavonia) by the Croatian Government and the Serbs from the remaining occupied areas, stipulating that western Srijem, eastern Slavonia and Baranja will be gradually and peacefully reintegrated with the rest of Croatia under the monitoring of the international community. / 21. Under the auspices of the USA, the highest–ranking officials of Croatia, Bosnia–Hercegovina and Serbia sign in Dayton a peace agreement for the territories of Croatia and Bosnia–Hercegovina.
The agreement is signed at a ceremony held in Paris on 14 December.
15. The UN Security Council establishes the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), based in Vukovar.
26. Relations between the Republic of Croatia and the FR Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) are normalized. By agreeing to normalize relations Serbia has virtually acknowledged the failure of its expansionist plans.
6. The Republic of Croatia becomes the 40th member of the Council of Europe. / 21. About 100,000 people rally in Zagreb’s Ban Jelačić Square to protest the decision by the Telecommunications Council not to renew Radio 101’s operating license.
13. Croatia submits to the UN Security Council a "Letter of Intent Concerning the Completion of the Peaceful Reintegration of the Croatian Danubian Area".
13. Elections for the House of Counties and local government and self-government bodies are held.
15. and 22. In presidential elections Franjo Tudjman wins 64 percent of the vote, defeating two other candidates.
12. The House of Representatives adopts amendments to the Constitution.
15. The reintegration of the Croatian Danubian area into the Croatian constitutional and legal system is completed.
(Croatian Almanac 1998/99)