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