Croatia's history begins with Illyria, a landscape on the
Balkan Peninsula that included today's Croatia. This area
was colonized by the Greeks from the 7th century before our
time, and later by the Romans. Around 600 according to our
time, Slavic tribes immigrated. The area was Christianized
in the 8th century.
Croatia was an independent kingdom from 910 to 1091.
Thereafter it was subject first to Hungarian, later
Austro-Hungarian rule between 1102 and 1918. From 1918 to
1992, Croatia was part of Yugoslavia. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Croatia.
The oldest known population in the area that is today
Croatia was the Illyrians from 1200 BCE, who later mingled
with the Celts. The Greeks created colonies along the
Dalmatia coast from the 7th century BCE. and the Romans from
the 4th century BCE.
The Adriatic coast made up the Roman Illyrian province,
later the province of Dalmatia, while the province of
Pannonia encompassed the interior of the country at Sava and
the Danube. Testimony of Roman culture is the Amphitheater
in Pula, Diocletian's Palace in Split and Forum in Zadar.
Early Middle Ages
Around 600 possibly immigrated Slavic and Avaric tribes.
It is believed that the Croats may have been an Iranian
tribe (the name is not Slavic) who subjugated the slaves and
mixed with them. Eventually, the former Romanesque
population along the Adriatic gradually rose in the Slavic -
like the Romanesque city of Ragusa, which became the Slavic
The Croatians were Christianized from the west in the 8th
century. In 845, the Croatian prince Trpimir founded a
Croatian state and a dynasty that ruled for 250 years. First
Branimir (879–892), titled Dux Croatorum, created a
diocesan seat in the town of Nin by Zadar. First
Tomislav (910–928) extended the kingdom to Slavonia, Istra
and Dalmatia, and in 924 took the title king.
The empire was weakened through battles with Venice, but
experienced a new high during King Petar Krešimir 4
(1058–1074). In 1091, the Trpimirović dynasty died out, and
in 1102 Croatia was defeated by the Hungarian king Koloman.
Hungarian rule (1102–1918)
The union of workers with Hungary, Pacta Conventa, in
effect meant that Croatia was subject to Hungarian supremacy
for the next 800 years (until 1918). However, Croatia
retained its political identity. "The Kingdom of Croatia,
Slavonia, Dalmatia" (Regnum tripartium) had a
governor, Ban, who heads. The power lay with the
great feudal lords, who led the parliament, Sabor, and who
were also represented in the Hungarian parliament.
From the 13th century, Dalmatia came under Venetian rule.
During the Renaissance a flourishing Croatian culture arose
in Dalmatia (cities such as Zadar, Šibenik, Split, Hvar) and
the Dubrovnik urban republic, influenced by the Italian
Renaissance. Shipping and trade made Dubrovnik a rich city
where culture flourished in the 1400s-1600s.
Subject to house Habsburg
From the mid-1400s, when Bosnia came under Turkish rule,
Croatia resisted Turkish attacks on the Hungarian defeat of
Mohács in 1526. For 150 years, parts of Croatia-Slavonia
were under Turkish rule, along with Hungary. The rest of
Croatia, the Zagreb area, became subject to the Habsburg
house in 1526, when the nobility chose the Habsburg
Ferdinand 1 as king.
In 1578, the "Military Frontier" was established as an
Austrian buffer zone against the Turks, and many Serbian
refugees settled here as border soldiers (later Krajina).
The Turks were expelled from the Croatian territories by the
Karlowitz peace in 1699, and for over 200 years the whole of
Croatia-Slavonia was part of the Habsburg Empire. Dalmatia
was under Venice until 1797, then part of Napoleon's
Illyrian provinces, and from 1815 under Austria.
At the beginning of the 19th century, opposition to
Hungary's pressure and Croatia's inferior position within
the Habsburg monarchy grew. The national movement, also
known as the "Illyrian Movement" (1830-1848), created a
common Croatian written language. The movement was both
Croatian nationalist and oriented towards South Slavic (Pan-
Slavic). The revolution of 1848 meant the end of this
business. Croatia's governor (ban) Josip Jelačić
helped the emperor defeat the revolutionary Hungarians, but
Croatia gained no autonomy.
Croatia became an Austrian krone country, and the period
1849-1860 was characterized by a reactionary Austrian
policy. After 1860, Parliament, Sabor, began to function
again. A spokesman for the National Party that wanted
Croatian autonomy in union with Hungary, was Bishop
Strossmayer, who championed the Yugoslav (South Slavic) idea
and created a science academy in Zagreb in 1866 under the
name of the Yugoslav Science Academy.
A more Croatian nationalist direction was represented by
the leaders of the Justice Party, Ante Starčević and Eugen
Kvaternik, who wanted territorial unification and autonomy
for Croatia and opposed Serbian expansion plans.
After the double monarchy of Austria-Hungary was
established in 1867, Hungary and Croatia signed a similar
agreement (nagodba) in 1868. In reality, Croatia's
autonomy was very limited, and the influence of the Croats
in budget and tax matters was minimal. However, under
Croatian governor Ivan Mažuranić (1873-1880), Croatian
culture was strengthened. Following Austria-Hungary's
occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878, the Croats wanted
a collection of the South Slavic areas within the empire, as
a counterbalance to Hungarian influence. The emperor
refused, and the anti-Austrian atmosphere grew.
Towards the end of the 19th century, under the rule of
the Hungarian governor of Croatia, Khuen-Hedervary
(1883-1903), the Hungarian pressure became stronger. After
anti-Hungarian riots in 1903, and regime change in Serbia
the same year, the idea of a collaboration with the Serbs
gained greater support.
In 1906, the Croat-Serbian coalition won the elections
and remained in power until 1918. Cooperation with Serbia
was seen as a counterbalance to Hungary and Austria.
Croatian exile politicians, including Ante Trumbić and Frano
Supilo, were active during the First World War in the
Yugoslav Committee, which advocated a common South Slavic
state after the war. Towards the end of the war, Croatian
fears of Italian expansion made this idea more relevant.
Croatia in Yugoslavia (1918–1992)
On October 29, 1918, the Croatian Parliament broke with
Austria-Hungary, declared Croatia independent, and
transferred its authority to the National Council, an
association of South Slavs in the Habsburg Parliament. In
November, the National Council decided to join forces with
Serbia in a new state. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia ("South
Slavia") was proclaimed on December 1, 1918.
The merger was met by the most important Croatian
politician of the interwar period, Stjepan Radić, who in
1904 had formed the Croatian peasant party with his brother
Antun. Soon, many Croats were disappointed with the new
state, which was heavily centralized and dominated by the
Serbs. Sabor, the Croatian parliament, was repealed. Parts
of the Croatian territory were subject to Italy; including
the cities of Rijeka and Zadar, the Istra Peninsula and
several islands in the Adriatic.
Stjepan Radić came into strong opposition to the Belgrade
regime, and on June 20, 1928, he and two other Croatian MPs
were shot down in the Belgrade Parliament. Radić died a
month later. The attack on Radić, the most popular
politician in Croatia, led the Yugoslav king Aleksander to
impose dictatorship in 1929.
Ustasja and the fascist regime
The Croatian exile organization Ustasja was involved in
the assassination of King Alexander in Marseille in 1934.
Under the reign of Prince Paul, the regime was made easier,
and in 1939 the head of the Croatian Peasant Party, Vladko
Maček, and Prime Minister Cvetković entered into a
compromise on Croatia's extended autonomy within Yugoslavia.
The so-called Banatet Croatia covered Croatia and parts of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the outbreak of the Second
World War meant that this solution did not last long.
Following Germany and Italy's conquest of Yugoslavia in
April 1941, the independent state of Croatia was proclaimed,
with Ustasja leader Ante Pavelić leading. The Ustasja regime
carried out a brutal ethnic cleansing of the Serbian
population, especially in Bosnia; over 300,000 Serbs lost
their lives in the Croatian fascist state. Notorious was the
Jasenovac concentration camp. But also resistance to fascism
was considerable in Croatia, and in 1943 Croatia's
anti-fascist liberation council was formed.
Croatia under Tito
In 1945, Croatia became one of the six sub-republics of
Josip Tito's communist federal state. Many Croatian soldiers
and civilians, as well as prisoners in Slovenia and Austria,
were killed by Tito's partisans just after the liberation.
The archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac, was sentenced
in 1946 to 16 years in prison, accused of cooperating with
the Ustasja regime. Of the Croats, this was seen as an
anti-Croatian move by Tito, who was himself a Croat, but who
deposed and liquidated the Croatian communist leader Andrija
Hebrang in 1948-1949.
In the post-war period, Croatia, which from ancient times
belonged to the richer part of Yugoslavia, experienced an
economic expansion. Tourism on the Adriatic Sea provided
Yugoslavia with 50 percent of foreign exchange revenues. But
many Croats believed that too much of the surplus
disappeared from the Republic, even after Yugoslavia became
strongly decentralized in the 1960s and 1970s. Many Croats
had to go abroad, especially Germany, as foreign workers.
In the 1970s, a Croatian national movement emerged among
intellectuals, who in 1970-71 received wide popular support
and support from the Liberal Party leadership in Croatia.
After student demonstrations in Zagreb, "the Croatian
spring" was defeated by Tito in December 1971, and there was
From 1972 to 1990, a dogmatic Communist Party ruled in