Croatia Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Croatia is a country located in Southern Europe. With the capital city of Zagreb, Croatia has a population of 4,105,278 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. After the end of World War II, Croatia became one of six sub-republics in Communist Yugoslavia. As the federation began to crack in the throes, nationalism was given new leeway. The Nationalist Party HDZ came to power in 1990 and the following year Croatia was declared independent. But when the Croatian Serbs did not want to cut ties with Serbia, war broke out and collapsed between 1991 and 1995. From 2000, Croatia has developed in a more democratic direction and since 2013 the country is an EU member.

On June 25, 1991, Croatia (like Slovenia) adopted a declaration of independence. Fighting broke out immediately in Slovenia, but they were over after ten days. Then the Federal Yugoslav Army (JNA) shifted its focus to Croatia, where it fought alongside Serbian groups against Croatian forces. When the Civil War broke out, President Franjo Tuđman formed a coalition government with the former Communists.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Croatia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

In November 1991, JNA and Croatian Serb forces had taken control of close to a third of Croatia. The Serbs besieged Vukovar for three months. At least 1,000 people were killed in the defense of the city and over 200 were killed in a massacre when Vukovar fell. Ethnic cleansing was carried out in the Serbian areas: Croats were driven away to make the areas entirely Serbian. Since then, Vukovar has a strong symbolic charge in Croatia.

Germany chose to recognize Croatia in December 1991, despite opposition from the United States and the United Kingdom, among others. Other EU countries followed suit in January 1992 and in May Croatia joined the UN. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Croatia.

On January 2, 1992, the 15th ceasefire was concluded, which, unlike the previous ones, held. By that time, 6,000 people had died and 400,000 had fled. Peacekeeping UN troops were deployed in the Serbian-held areas of Croatia, and JNA began to withdraw. However, the fighting did not end completely. The UN only partially succeeded in disarming the Serbian forces and completely failed to allow displaced Croats to return home.

When war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the spring of 1992, Croatia supported the government there against Serbian forces. The Croatians in western Herzegovina were directly assisted by the Croatian army and Croatia received many refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Rolling victory for Tuđman

Before the elections in Croatia in August 1992, the President and HDZ were accused of authoritarian methods. They were accused of using the media for their own purposes and to run over Parliament. Tuđman and HDZ also won a superior rolling victory.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, war also broke out during the autumn between Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats, who had previously formed a front against the Serbs. Now the Zagreb government supported the Bosnian Croats against the Bosniaks. The UN and the EU criticized Croatia’s involvement. In February 1994, Tuđman changed his attitude and concluded in Washington an agreement on a Bosnian-Croatian federation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In the spring of 1995, Croatia had armored itself militarily and, in an offensive, was able to regain a small Serb area in central Croatia. In August of that year, Croatia attacked the largest Serbian-held area – the real Krajina with the self-proclaimed Serb capital of Knin. “Operation Storm” took only three days and the Croats were guilty of significant violations of the laws of war. Knin was subjected to terrorist fire with artillery, similar to that used by Serbian forces before. Hundreds of hundreds were killed and up to 200,000 Serbs – almost the entire civilian population – fled to Serbian-owned parts of Bosnia or Serbia.

Authoritarian rule

After Operation Storm, almost all of Croatia was back under Zagreb’s control, only eastern Slavonia remained in the hands of the Serbs. In the autumn of 1995, an agreement was signed that led to the administration of the area by the UN until Croatia regained it in January 1998.

Tuđman’s authoritarian rule emerged more clearly when the war was over. A law introduced in 1996 made it virtually impossible for the media to punish the president and government members without penalty.

Before the June 1997 presidential election, there was no one who seriously challenged Tuđman, and he was re-elected with a good margin for a second five-year term. At the same time, the protests against the increasingly poor living conditions in the country increased.

Tuđman died in December 1999 after a period of illness. It meant the end of ten years of government characterized by corruption, slanderous politics, discrimination against non-Croats (mainly Serbs) and lack of cooperation with the UN War Criminal Tribunal in The Hague (see also Political system).

Social Democratic victory

The fact that the Croats were also tired of the policy that was made clear in the parliamentary elections in January 2000, when HDZ lost power for the first time. The opposition with the Socialist Party of Croatia (SDP) in the lead won big. A coalition government with six parties was formed. SDP leader Ivica Račan, former chairman of the Croatian Communist Party, was elected prime minister.

In the presidential election that month, Stjepan (“Stipe”) defeated Mesić, who was Yugoslavia’s last president. He had joined HDZ when Yugoslavia was divided but left the party in 1994 in protest against Tuđman.

With the new government, Croatia’s relations with the outside world improved. Not least, the government focused on Croatian membership in the EU. Media freedom was strengthened and the liberalization of the economy accelerated. Several constitutional changes were adopted, including the president’s powers being limited. However, the increased cooperation with the UN War Criminal Tribunal in The Hague was a sensitive issue. Four ministers left the government when a decision was made in July 2001 to extradite the ex-general Ante Gotovina, the most wanted of suspected war criminals from Croatia.

HDZ returns

In the autumn 2003 elections, HDZ regained its power. Many now feared a return to Croatian nationalism of the 1990s. But under the new party leader Ivo Sanader, HDZ had developed into a more traditional conservative party, closer to the middle of politics. Sanader became prime minister and formed a government with the support of two small parties. The new government stuck to the goal of leading Croatia into the EU and the NATO defense alliance.

A number of EU countries considered that Croatia had not cooperated sufficiently with the War Criminal Tribunal, especially as Gotovina was still on the loose. But after two other generals, Mladen Markač and Ivan Čermak, and several other suspected war criminals were handed over to The Hague, the EU in June 2004 gave Croatia status as a candidate country. However, Croatian hopes for rapid membership negotiations and entry into the EU at the same time as Bulgaria and Romania as early as 2007 came to shame. New complaints from the UN tribunal on lack of cooperation from Zagreb delayed the process. The issue of extradition of suspected war criminals was sensitive to domestic politics, as many Croats felt that the accused had only done their duty and defended the country. The EU also demanded action against organized crime, corruption and weaknesses in the justice system.

In January 2005, President Stipe Mesić was re-elected for a new term in office.

At the end of the year Gotovina was arrested in the Canary Islands and brought to The Hague (see also Democracy and Rights).

On the way to the EU

HDZ again became the largest party in the 2007 parliamentary elections and, after extended negotiations, was able to form a government with two small parties.

In the summer of 2009, Sanader unexpectedly resigned as head of government. The reason was unclear, but his dropout caused the HDZ riot. Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor took over. Croatia thus got its first female head of government. Kosor re-furnished the government and advocated an investigation into allegations that high-ranking HDZ members were involved in corruption in state corporations.

The split in HDZ helped put the party’s candidate in third place in the December 2009 presidential election. In the second round of elections held in January 2010, Social Democrats candidate Ivo Josipović prevailed.

Josipović was seen as a “pure” politician in a corrupt political and economic environment. He made a historic visit to Serbia in July and later received his Serbian colleague Boris Tadić in Croatia, despite protests from nationalists. The improved relations with the arch-enemy Serbia helped strengthen Croatia’s EU chances.

corruption Scandals

Two former HDZ ministers were sentenced in late 2010 to prison for corruption. Former Prime Minister Sanader was also mentioned more and more frequently in the context of corruption. When Parliament was about to revoke his prosecution immunity in December, he quickly left the country, but was immediately arrested in Austria. Sanader was extradited to his home country in July 2011 and charged with abuse of power and corruption (see also Democracy and Rights).

Negotiations on EU membership were completed in 2011, which was a feather in the hat for Prime Minister Kosor. However, her party HDZ was still heavily employed by internal contradictions and corruption accusations that affected people even in the absolute party top. The consequences of the international financial crisis and the growing debt crisis in Europe also came to mind. Like neighboring countries, Croatia faced the risk of being forced to apply for emergency loans from abroad.

The scandals in HDZ and the economic crisis contributed to the loss of the right-wing government in the December 2011 parliamentary elections. HDZ made its worst result since the party was formed in 1990. Kukuriku promised to stop the corruption, continue on the road to the EU and improve relations with the outside world. Social Democrat Zoran Milanović became new prime minister.

Yes to the EU

Two-thirds of voters voted yes when a referendum on the EU Treaty was held in February 2012, which was a higher proportion than expected. But fewer than half of the electorate participated in the referendum.

In November 2012, the UN War Criminal Tribunal released Ante Gotovina and another general, who the previous year was sentenced to long prison sentences for war crimes in a lower court. When the two acquaintances arrived in Zagreb, they were met as war heroes by tens of thousands of cheering and flag-waving Croats, who sang patriotic songs and scanned “Vukovar”, the symbol of the Croats’ struggle against the Serbs in the 1990s war.

The government was forced to deal with growing nationalist and anti-Serb sentiments. In 2013, large Croat nationalist demonstrations were held against plans for street signs with Cyrillic writing (alongside Latin, see Population and languages) to be erected, mainly in Vukovar. Minorities are legally entitled to use their languages ​​in public contexts where they make up at least one third of the population, but the protesters demanded an exception for Vukovar because of the Serbian destruction of the city during the war. On several occasions signs were torn down and clashes with police occurred.

War veterans protest

At the end of the year, war veterans collected over half a million signatures to get a referendum on the issue, but the Constitutional Court ruled in 2014 that restrictions on minority rights were not compatible with the Constitution.

During the winter of 2014–2015, war veterans held a protest camp outside the war veterans office in Zagreb, demanding better financial support and more appreciation from the government.

Prime Minister Milanović accused the opposition party HDZ of undermining nationalism in order to improve its failing electoral base.

The government encountered resistance on several issues. A name-gathering led to a referendum that gave strong voter support for a ban on same-sex marriage in the Constitution, in a protest against the government’s attempt to liberalize family law. Plans to privatize freeways also had to be abandoned, after widespread protests.

At the same time, the government was struggling to cope with the economic crisis with shrinking gross domestic product and industrial production but rising unemployment (not least among young people) as well as growing foreign debt and budget deficits. The attrition was also great within the government coalition and by the beginning of 2015 eight ministers resigned.

Croatia Modern History