History


Prehistory and antiquity


The area known as Croatia today was inhabited throughout the prehistoric period. Fossils of Neanderthals dating to the middle Palaeolithic period have been unearthed in northern Croatia, with the most famous and the best presented site in Krapina. Remnants of several Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures were found in all regions of the country. The largest proportion of the sites is in the river valleys of northern Croatia, and the most significant cultures whose presence was discovered include Starčevo, Vučedol and Baden cultures. The Iron Age left traces of the early Illyrian Hallstatt culture and the Celtic La Tène culture.


Greek and Roman rule


Much later, the region was settled by Liburnians and Illyrians, while the first Greek colonies were established on the islands of Korčula, Hvar and Vis. In 9 AD the territory of today’s Croatia became part of the Roman Empire. Emperor Diocletian built a large palace in Split when he retired in AD 305.
During the 5th century, one of the last Emperors of the Western Roman Empire, Julius Nepos, ruled his small empire from the palace. The period ends with Avar and Croat invasions in the first half of the 7th century and destruction of almost all Roman towns. Roman survivors retreated to more favourable sites on the coast, islands and mountains. The city of Dubrovnik was founded by such survivors from Epidaurum.

Middle Ages

According to the work De Administrando Imperio written by the 10th-century Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII, the Croats had arrived in what is today Croatia in the early 7th century; however, that claim is disputed and competing hypotheses date the event between the 6th and the 9th centuries. Eventually two dukedoms were formed—Duchy of Pannonia and Duchy of Croatia, ruled by Liudewit and Borna, as attested by chronicles of Einhard starting in 818. The record represents the first document of Croatian realms, vassal states of Francia at the time.
The Frankish overlordship ended during the reign of Mislav two decades later. According to the Constantine VII Christianization of Croats began in the 7th century, but the claim is disputed and generally Christianization is associated with the 9th century. The first native Croatian ruler recognised by the Pope was Duke Branimir, who received papal recognition from Pope John VIII on 7 June 879.
Tomislav was the first ruler of Croatia who was styled a king in a letter from the Pope John X, dating kingdom of Croatia to year 925. Tomislav defeated Hungarian and Bulgarian invasions, spreading the influence of Croatian kings. The medieval Croatian kingdom reached its peak in the 11th century during the reigns of Petar Krešimir IV (1058–1074) and Dmitar Zvonimir (1075–1089). When Stjepan II died in 1091 ending the Trpimirović dynasty, Ladislaus I of Hungary claimed the Croatian crown in name of his sister Helena, wife of King Dmitar Zvonimir. Opposition to the claim led to a war and personal union of Croatia and Hungary in 1102, ruled by Coloman.
For the next four centuries, the Kingdom of Croatia was ruled by the Sabor (parliament) and a Ban (viceroy) appointed by the king. The period saw increasing threat of Ottoman conquest and struggle against the Republic of Venice for control of coastal areas. The Venetians gained control over most of Dalmatia by 1428, with exception of the city-state of Dubrovnik which became independent. Ottoman conquests led to the 1493 Battle of Krbava field and 1526 Battle of Mohács, both ending in decisive Ottoman victories. King Louis II died at Mohács, and in 1527, the Croatian Parliament met in Cetin and chose Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg as new ruler of Croatia, under the condition that he provide protection to Croatia against the Ottoman Empire while respecting its political rights. This period saw the rise of influential nobility such as the Frankopan and Zrinski families to prominence and ultimately numerous Bans from the two families.

Habsburg Monarchy and Austria-Hungary (1538–1918)


Following the decisive Ottoman victories, Croatia was split into civilian and military territories, with the partition formed in 1538. The military territories would become known as the Croatian Military Frontier and were under direct Imperial control. Ottoman advances in the Croatian territory continued until the 1593 Battle of Sisak, the first decisive Ottoman defeat, and stabilisation of borders.
During the Great Turkish War (1683–1698), Slavonia was regained but western Bosnia, which had been part of Croatia before the Ottoman conquest, remained outside Croatian control. The present-day border between the two countries is a remnant of this outcome. Dalmatia, the southern part of the border, was similarly defined by the Fifth and the Seventh Ottoman–Venetian Wars.
The Ottoman wars instigated great demographic changes. Croats migrated towards Austria and the present-day Burgenland Croats are direct descendants of these settlers. To replace the fleeing population, the Habsburgs encouraged the Christian populations of Bosnia and Serbia to provide military service in the Croatian Military Frontier. Serb migration into this region peaked during the Great Serb Migrations of 1690 and 1737–39.
The Croatian Parliament supported Emperor Charles’s Pragmatic Sanction and signed their own Pragmatic Sanction in 1712. Subsequently, the emperor pledged to respect all privileges and political rights of Kingdom of Croatia and the empress Maria Theresa made significant contributions to Croatian matters.
Between 1797 and 1809 the First French Empire gradually occupied the entire eastern Adriatic coastline and a substantial part of its hinterland, ending the Venetian and the Ragusan republics, establishing the Illyrian Provinces. In response the Royal Navy started the blockade of the Adriatic Sea leading to the Battle of Vis in 1811. The Illyrian Provinces were captured by the Austrians in 1813, and absorbed by the Austrian Empire following the Congress of Vienna in 1815. This led to formation of the Kingdom of Dalmatia and restoration of the Croatian Littoral to the Kingdom of Croatia, now both under the same crown. The 1830s and 1840s saw romantic nationalism inspire the Croatian National Revival, a political and cultural campaign advocating the unity of all South Slavs in the empire. Its primary focus was the establishment of a standard language as a counterweight to Hungarian, along with the promotion of Croatian literature and culture. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 Croatia sided with the Austrians, Ban Josip Jelačić helping defeat the Hungarian forces in 1849, and ushering a period of Germanization policy.
By the 1860s, failure of the policy became apparent, leading to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and creation of a personal union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. The treaty left the issue of Croatia’s status to Hungary, and the status was resolved by the Croatian–Hungarian Settlement of 1868, when kingdoms of Croatia and Slavonia were united. The Kingdom of Dalmatia remained under de facto Austrian control, while Rijeka retained the status of Corpus separatum introduced in 1779.
After Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina following the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, the Croatian Military Frontier was abolished and the territory returned to Croatia in 1881, pursuant to provisions of the Croatian-Hungarian settlement. Renewed efforts to reform Austria-Hungary, entailing federalisation with Croatia as a federal unit, were stopped by advent of World War I.


Yugoslavia (1918–1991)


On 29 October 1918 the Croatian Parliament (Sabor) declared independence and decided to join the newly formed State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which in turn entered into union with the Kingdom of Serbia on 4 December 1918 to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The Croatian Parliament never ratified a decision to unite with Serbia and Montenegro. The 1921 constitution defining the country as a unitary state and abolition of Croatian Parliament and historical administrative divisions effectively ended Croatian autonomy. The new constitution was opposed by the most widely supported national political party—the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) led by Stjepan Radić.
The political situation deteriorated further as Radić was assassinated in the National Assembly in 1928, leading to the dictatorship of King Alexander in January 1929. The dictatorship formally ended in 1931 when the king imposed a more unitarian constitution, and changed the name of the country to Yugoslavia. The HSS, now led by Vladko Maček, continued to advocate federalisation of Yugoslavia, resulting in the Cvetković–Maček Agreement of August 1939 and the autonomous Banovina of Croatia. The Yugoslav government retained control of defence, internal security, foreign affairs, trade, and transport while other matters were left to the Croatian Sabor and a crown-appointed Ban.
In April 1941, Yugoslavia was occupied by Germany and Italy. Following the invasion the territory, parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the region of Syrmia were incorporated into the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a Nazi-backed puppet state. Parts of Dalmatia were annexed by Italy and the northern Croatian regions of Baranja and Međimurje were annexed by Hungary. The NDH regime was led by Ante Pavelić and ultranationalist Ustaše. The regime introduced anti-semitic laws and conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide against Serb and Roma inhabitants of the NDH, exemplified by the Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška concentration camps.
It is estimated that out of 39,000 Jews in the country only 9,000 survived; the rest were either killed or deported to Germany, both by the local authorities and the German Army itself. Croatian and Serbian sources disagree on the exact figures.
Furthermore, a significant number of Serbs were killed by the Ustaše on the territory of the NDH during the war. According to Midlarsky, the number of Serbs killed by the regime was at least half a million, but the figure is contradicted by Bogoljub Kočović and Vladimir Žerjavić. Kočović estimated total number of Serbs killed throughout Yugoslav territory in various circumstances at 487,000, while Žerjavić put the figure at 530,000. Žerjavić indicated that 320,000 Serbs were killed in the NDH, including 82,000 killed among the Yugoslav Partisans, 23,000 killed as Axis collaborators, 25,000 victims of typhoid epidemic, 45,000 killed by Germans and 15,000 by Italians. Kočović’s and Žerjavić’s total Yugoslav losses are in agreement with estimates made by Mayers and Campbell of the United States Census Bureau. The number of Croats killed in the NDH is estimated to be approximately 200,000, either by the Croatian fascist regime, as members of the armed resistance, or as Axis collaborators Several thousand of these were killed by the Chetniks; most Croatian historians place the number of Croats killed by the Chetniks on the territory of modern-day Croatia at between 3,000 and 3,500. Croatian estimates for the number of Croats killed by Chetniks in the whole of Yugoslavia range from 18,000 to 32,000 (both combatants and civilians).
A resistance movement soon emerged. On 22 June 1941,[58] the 1st Sisak Partisan Detachment was formed near Sisak, as the first military unit formed by a resistance movement in occupied Europe. This sparked the beginning of the Yugoslav Partisan movement, a communist multi-ethnic anti-fascist resistance group led by Josip Broz Tito. The movement grew rapidly and at the Tehran Conference in December 1943 the Partisans gained recognition from the Allies.
With Allied support in logistics, equipment, training and air power, and with the assistance of Soviet troops taking part in the 1944 Belgrade Offensive, the Partisans gained control of Yugoslavia and the border regions of Italy and Austria by May 1945, during which thousands of members of the Ustaše, as well as Croat refugees, were killed by the Yugoslav Partisans.
The political aspirations of the Partisan movement were reflected in the State Anti-fascist Council for the National Liberation of Croatia, which developed in 1943 as the bearer of Croatian statehood and later transformed into the Parliament of Croatia in 1945, and AVNOJ—its counterpart at the Yugoslav level.
After World War II, Croatia became a single-party socialist federal unit of the SFR Yugoslavia, ruled by the Communists, but enjoying a degree of autonomy within the federation. In 1967, Croatian authors and linguists published a Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Standard Language demanding greater autonomy for Croatian language. The declaration contributed to a national movement seeking greater civil rights and decentralization of the Yugoslav economy, culminating in the Croatian Spring of 1971, suppressed by Yugoslav leadership. Still, the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution gave increased autonomy to federal units, basically fulfilling a goal of the Croatian Spring, and providing a legal basis for independence of the federative constituents.
Following the death of Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito in 1980, the political situation in Yugoslavia deteriorated, with national tension fanned by the 1986 Serbian SANU Memorandum and the 1989 coups in Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro. In January 1990, the Communist Party fragmented along national lines, with the Croatian faction demanding a looser federation. In the same year, the first multi-party elections were held in Croatia, with Franjo Tuđman’s win raising nationalist tensions further. Some of Serbs in Croatia left Sabor and declared the autonomy of areas that would soon become the unrecognised Republic of Serbian Krajina, intent on achieving independence from Croatia.


Independence (1991–present)


As tensions rose, Croatia declared independence on 25 June 1991; however, the full implementation of declaration only came into effect on 8 October 1991. In the meantime, tensions escalated into overt war when the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and various Serb paramilitary groups attacked Croatia. By the end of 1991, a high-intensity conflict fought along a wide front reduced Croatia to control of only about two-thirds of its territory. The various Serb paramilitary groups then began pursuing a campaign of killing, terror and expulsion against the non-Serb population in the rebel territories, killing hundreds of Croat civilians and forcing a further 170,000 from their homes.
On 15 January 1992, Croatia gained diplomatic recognition by the European Economic Community members, and subsequently the United Nations. The war effectively ended in August 1995 with a decisive victory by Croatia. This was accompanied by the exodus of about 200,000 Serbs from the rebel territories, whose lands were subsequently settled by Croat refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The remaining occupied areas were restored to Croatia pursuant to the Erdut Agreement of November 1995, with the process concluded in January 1998. Croatia became a World Trade Organization (WTO) member on 30 November 2000. The country signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union in October 2001. Croatia became a member of NATO on 1 April 2009, and joined the European Union on 1 July 2013.

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