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Croatia

1998 Croatia

According to Countryaah, Turkish domination changed Panonia's population composition. Many Croats moved north; some reached all the way to Austria, while the Turks allowed Germans and Hungarians to settle in the area and even gave way to Serbian refugees from the Balkans.

When the Turks retreated in the 17th century, Austria sought to limit the state rights of Croatia and Hungary, thus being able to convert them into Austrian provinces. The united Hungarian and Croat nobles first protested and then formed an independence movement, but the attempt failed. The Croatian leaders were executed and their lands distributed among foreign nobles.

After annexing Rijeka, Fiume, in the 1770's, Hungary tried to introduce the Hungarian language, but it met strong resistance from the Croats. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, which spread to Dalmatia, Panonia and the area south of the Sava River, inspired the Croatian nationalists. With Napoleon's fall, relations between Hungary and Croatia became extremely tense. In April 1848, the Hungarian Parliament imposed severe restrictions on Croatians' self-determination. The Croatian Parliament declared the country independent of Hungary and introduced the League for all citizens. The war against the Croats, whose troops managed to invade Hungary, helped to weaken the Hungarian revolution in 1848 and made it easier for the Habsburgs to regain power.

The Croatian parliament was dissolved in 1865 and with the split within the royal house two years later the Hungarians and Germans became influential nations in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Hungary in 1868 accepted a union formation between Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, but Austria continued to have control over Dalmatia.

The Croatian nationalists intensified in the early 20th century. their actions. The "Rijeka Decision" was adopted by a federation of Croats and Serbs; on the basis of this action plan, the election was won in 1906. At the same time, the Croatian Peasant Party began a political mobilization of the peasants; the response from the crown was a sharpening of the reprisals.

In 1915, Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian leaders in Paris founded the Yugoslav Committee, which was in favor of a detachment from Austria-Hungary, replaced by an affiliation with independent Serbia. The Austro-Hungarian defeat of the World War accelerated the establishment of the Yugoslav kingdom in 1918.

The Serbian dynasty sought to implement a «fusion policy» that was in conflict with the Croatians' wishes for independence and autonomy, and they demanded the establishment of a Yugoslav federation. From 1920 the peasant party led by Stjepan Radic was the leader in the opposition. The murder of Radic and several other opposition politicians led to a serious crisis.

The road to independence

Croatia wanted independence from the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, which was established in 1945. In 1989, the Yugoslav Communist Party got a reform-friendly leadership, but the party disbanded in January 1990. Prior to the first multi-party, the Communist Party introduced an election law that awarded the largest party. The elections were held in the spring of 1990, and the Nationalist Party of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) received just over 40 percent of the vote and 2/3 of the seats in the National Assembly. HDZ's leader, Franjo Tudjman, was appointed president on May 30. He spoke out about establishing a Croatian nation-state and wanted a Greater Croatia, which was a threat both to the neighboring Republic of Bosnia and the Serbs in Croatia. But he agreed that the Serbs should have a Serbian cultural autonomy and that the Vice President should be Serbian.

Relations with the Serbs - who lived in fairly concentrated areas - were a difficult issue in Croatia. The new government felt that the Serbs were over-represented in the state and local government, and therefore removed many Serbs from such offices. It was also justified that the new democratic state had to get rid of communist officials. Also Serbs in police forces in Serbian areas were replaced with Croats. Some of these police forces constituted Croatia's army during the 1991 civil war.

The Serbian-dominated areas remained hostile to Tudjman's Croatian nationalism. Among other things, in the summer of 1990, a Serbian national council was established based in Knin, Krajina. The Council organized a referendum among the Croatian Serbs in August and September; this provided an overwhelming majority for Serbian autonomy. The results were published in October, and Krajina was then proclaimed an independent Serbian area. The Belgrade regime supported the Croatian Serbs and also believed that if Yugoslavia disbanded, the borders of the republic would have to be considered. Serbia then had to be expanded with areas both from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The Croatian authorities were not intimidated by this, but became even more convinced of Croatian independence.

Croatia declares its independence

The situation became tense in January 1991 when the Croatian authorities refused to yield to an order from the Yugoslav presidency to disarm paramilitary groups and arrest the defense minister. The Croatian authorities also boycotted the negotiations for the future of Yugoslavia. At the end of February 1991, Croatia declared that the state constitution and laws were superior to Yugoslavia, announcing conditions for the republic's participation in a confederation. Then Krajina called for detachment from Croatia and incorporation into Serbia.

From August 1990 onwards there were several serious armed clashes between the groups. The Serbs marked their separatism, among other things, by blocking roads and preventing Croatian local authorities from functioning. Weapons were taken, and semi-military groups emerged. Throughout the spring of 1991, there were more and more clashes in areas with both Serbian and Croatian population. The Yugoslav army sometimes intervened on the Serbs' side.

Croatia now realized that it was not possible to enter a confederation and agreed to dissolve Yugoslavia. In May 1991, the Croatian Serbs held a referendum which gave an overwhelming majority for accession to Serbia. Shortly thereafter, the Croats held a vote that gave 92 per cent majority for independence.

In December 1990, the National Assembly passed a new constitution that opened for an independent Croatia. The Constitution changed the status of the Serbs; they were now granted minority status. The Croatian Serbs refused to accept this status.

Croatia independently declared itself the Republic of Croatia on 25 June 1991. President Franjo Tudjman appointed a coalition government that was dominated by HDZ and which worked for international recognition. After the brutal war during the civil war, the international community had lost interest in keeping Yugoslavia together. Several countries therefore agreed to recognize Croatia as an independent state. Germany was the driver, but Austria was also involved. The United Nations warned against going too fast, which the United States and several EU countries also agreed on. But Germany recognized Croatia in December 1991. The rest of the EU - following, among others Norway - recognized the state in January 1992. The United States waited until April.

 

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