Croatia declares independence

Croatia declares independence

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On April 10, 1941, the German and Italian invaders of Yugoslavia set up the Independent State of Croatia (also including Bosnia and Herzegovina) and place nationalist leader Ante Pavelic’s Ustase, pro-fascist insurgents, in control of what is no more than a puppet Axis regime.

The Ustase began a relentless persecution of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and antifascist Croats. As many as 350,000 to 450,000 victims were massacred, and the Jasenovac concentration camp would become infamous as a slaughterhouse.

Croatia’s Serbs gave sporadic resistance, but it was the communist partisans, led by Josip Broz Tito (a Croat himself), who provided antifascist leadership. By 1944, most of Croatia—apart from the main cities—was liberated from Axis forces, and Croats joined partisan ranks in large numbers. As the war neared its end, however, many Croats, especially those who had been involved with the Ustase regime or who had opposed the communists, sought refugee status with the Allies. But British commanders handed them over to the partisans, who slaughtered tens of thousands, including civilians, on forced marches and in death camps.

History of Yugoslavia

  • M.A., Geography, California State University - Northridge
  • B.A., Geography, University of California - Davis

After the fall of the Austria-Hungary empire at the conclusion of World War I, the victors established a new country out of six ethnic groups: Yugoslavia. Just over seventy years later, this piecemeal nation disintegrated and war broke out between newly independent states.

Yugoslavia's history is hard to follow unless you know the whole story. Read here about events that transpired to make sense of the fall of this nation.

Balkans war: a brief guide

The former Yugoslavia was a Socialist state created after German occupation in World War II and a bitter civil war. A federation of six republics, it brought together Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Slovenes and others under a comparatively relaxed communist regime. Tensions between these groups were successfully suppressed under the leadership of President Tito.

After Tito's death in 1980, tensions re-emerged. Calls for more autonomy within Yugoslavia by nationalist groups led in 1991 to declarations of independence in Croatia and Slovenia. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav army lashed out, first in Slovenia and then in Croatia. Thousands were killed in the latter conflict which was paused in 1992 under a UN-monitored ceasefire.

Bosnia, with a complex mix of Serbs, Muslims and Croats, was next to try for independence. Bosnia's Serbs, backed by Serbs elsewhere in Yugoslavia, resisted. Under leader Radovan Karadzic, they threatened bloodshed if Bosnia's Muslims and Croats - who outnumbered Serbs - broke away. Despite European blessing for the move in a 1992 referendum, war came fast.

Yugoslav army units, withdrawn from Croatia and renamed the Bosnian Serb Army, carved out a huge swathe of Serb-dominated territory. Over a million Bosnian Muslims and Croats were driven from their homes in ethnic cleansing. Serbs suffered too. The capital Sarajevo was besieged and shelled. UN peacekeepers, brought in to quell the fighting, were seen as ineffective.

International peace efforts to stop the war failed, the UN was humiliated and over 100,000 died. The war ended in 1995 after Nato bombed the Bosnian Serbs and Muslim and Croat armies made gains on the ground. A US-brokered peace divided Bosnia into two self-governing entities, a Bosnian Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation lightly bound by a central government.

In August 1995, the Croatian army stormed areas in Croatia under Serb control prompting thousands to flee. Soon Croatia and Bosnia were fully independent. Slovenia and Macedonia had already gone. Montenegro left later. In 1999, Kosovo's ethnic Albanians fought Serbs in another brutal war to gain independence. Serbia ended the conflict beaten, battered and alone.


Geographically, the NDH encompassed most of modern-day Croatia, all of Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of modern-day Serbia, [24] and a small portion of modern-day Slovenia in the Municipality of Brežice. It bordered Nazi Germany to the north-west, Kingdom of Hungary to the north-east, Serbian administration (a joint German-Serb government) to the east, Montenegro (an Italian protectorate) to the south-east and Fascist Italy along its coastal area. [24]

Establishment of borders

The exact borders of the Independent State of Croatia were unclear when it was established. [25] Approximately one month after its formation, significant areas of Croat-populated territory were ceded to its Axis allies, the Kingdoms of Hungary and Italy.

  • On 13 May 1941, the NDH government signed an agreement with Nazi Germany which demarcated their borders. [26]
  • On 19 May the Rome contracts were signed by diplomats of the NDH and Italy. Large parts of Croatian lands were occupied (annexed) by Italy, including most of Dalmatia (including Split and Šibenik), nearly all the Adriatic islands (including Rab, Krk, Vis, Korčula, Mljet), and some smaller areas such as the Bay of Kotor, parts of the Croatian Littoral and Gorski kotar areas.
  • On 7 June the NDH government issued a decree that demarcated its eastern border with Serbia. [26]
  • On 27 October the NDH and Italy reached an agreement on the Independent State of Croatia's border with Montenegro.
  • On 8 September 1943, Italy capitulated and the NDH officially considered the Rome contracts to be void, along with the Treaty of Rapallo of 1920 which had given Italy Istria, Fiume (now Rijeka) and Zara (Zadar). [27]

German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop approved the NDH acquisition of the Dalmatian territories gained by Italy at the time of the Rome contracts. [27] By now, most such territory was actually controlled by the Yugoslav Partisans, since the ceding of those areas had made them strongly anti-NDH (more than one third of the total population of Split is documented to have joined the Partisans). [28] By 11 September 1943, NDH foreign minister Mladen Lorković received word from German consul Siegfried Kasche that the NDH should wait before moving on Istria. Germany's central government had already annexed Istria and Fiume (Rijeka) into the Operational Zone Adriatic Coast a day earlier. [27]

Međimurje and southern Baranja were annexed (occupied) by the Kingdom of Hungary. NDH disputed this and continued to lay claim to both, naming the administrative province centred in Osijek as Great Parish Baranja. This border was never legislated, although Hungary may have considered the Pacta conventa to be in effect, which delineated the two nation's borders along the Drava river. [ citation needed ]

When compared to the republican borders established in the SFR Yugoslavia after the war, the NDH encompassed the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with its non-Croat (Serb and Bosniak) majority, as well as some 20 km 2 of Slovenian (villages Slovenska vas near Bregana, Nova vas near Mokrice, Jesenice in Dolenjsko, Obrežje and Čedem) [29] and the whole of Syrmia (part of which was previously in the Danube Banovina).

Administrative divisions

The Independent State of Croatia had four levels of administrative divisions: great parishes (velike župe), districts (kotari), cities (gradovi) and municipalities (opcine). At the time of its foundation, the state had 22 great parishes, 142 districts, 31 cities [30] and 1006 municipalities. [31]

The highest level of administration were the great parishes (Velike župe), each of which was headed by a Grand Župan. After the capitulation of Italy, NDH were permitted by the Germans to annex parts of the areas of Yugoslavia previously occupied by Italy. To accommodate this, parish boundaries were changed and the new parish of Sidraga-Ravni Kotari was created. In addition, on 29 October 1943, the Kommissariat of Sušak-Krk (Croatian: Građanska Sušak-Rijeka) was created separately by the Germans to act as a buffer zone between the NDH and RSI in the Fiume area to "perceive the special interests of the local population against the [I]talians" [32]

Influences on the rise of the Ustaše

In 1915 a group of political emigres from Austria-Hungary, predominantly Croats but including some Serbs and a Slovene, formed themselves into a Yugoslav Committee, with a view to creating a South Slav state in the aftermath of World War I. [35] They saw this as a way to prevent Dalmatia being ceded to Italy under the Treaty of London (1915). In 1918, the National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs sent a delegation to the Serbian monarch to offer unification of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs with the Kingdom of Serbia. [36]

The leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, Stjepan Radić, warned on their departure for Belgrade that the council had no democratic legitimacy. But a new state, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, was duly proclaimed on 1 December 1918, with no heed taken of legal protocols such as the signing of a new Pacta conventa in recognition of historic Croatian state rights. [37] [38]

Croats were at the outset politically disadvantaged with the centralized political structure of the kingdom, which was seen as favouring the Serb majority. The political situation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was fractious and violent. In 1927, the Independent Democratic Party, which represented the Serbs of Croatia, turned its back on the centralist policy of King Alexander and entered into a coalition with the Croatian Peasant Party. [39]

On 20 June 1928, Stjepan Radić and four other Croat deputies were shot while in the Belgrade parliament by a member of the Serbian People's Radical Party. Three of the deputies, including Radić, died. The outrage that resulted from the assassination of Stjepan Radić threatened to destabilise the kingdom. [ citation needed ]

In January 1929, King Alexander responded by proclaiming a royal dictatorship, under which all dissenting political activity was banned and renaming the state the "Kingdom of Yugoslavia". The Ustaša was created in principle in 1929. [40]

One consequence of Alexander's 1929 proclamation and the repression and persecution of Croatian nationalists was a rise of support for the Croatian extreme nationalist, Ante Pavelić, who had been a Zagreb deputy in the Yugoslav parliament, He was later implicated in Alexander's assassination in 1934, went into exile in Italy and gained support for his vision of liberating Croatia from Serb control and racially "purifying" Croatia. While residing in Italy, Pavelić and other Croatian exiles planned the Ustaša insurgency. [41]

Establishment of NDH

Following the attack of the Axis powers on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1941, and the quick defeat of the Royal Yugoslav Army (Jugoslavenska Vojska), the country was occupied by Axis forces. The Axis powers offered Vladko Maček the opportunity to form a government, since Maček and his party, the Croatian Peasant Party (Croatian: Hrvatska seljačka stranka – HSS) had the greatest electoral support among Yugoslavia's Croats – but Maček refused that offer. [42]

Slavko Kvaternik, deputy leader of the Ustaše proclaimed the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH – Nezavisna Država Hrvatska) on 10 April 1941. Pavelić, who was known by his Ustaše title, "Poglavnik" returned to Zagreb from exile in Italy on 17 April and became the absolute leader of the NDH throughout its existence. [ citation needed ]

Acceding to the demands of Benito Mussolini and the Fascist regime in the Kingdom of Italy, Pavelić reluctantly accepted Aimone the 4th Duke of Aosta as a figurehead King of the NDH under his new royal name, Tomislav II. Aosta was not interested in being the figurehead King of Croatia: [43] Upon learning he had been named King of Croatia, he told close colleagues that he thought his nomination was a bad joke by his cousin King Victor Emmanuel III though he accepted the crown out of a sense of duty. [44] He never visited the NDH and had no influence over the government, which was dominated by Pavelić.

From a strategic perspective, the establishment of the NDH was an attempt by Mussolini and Hitler to pacify the Croats, while reducing the use of Axis resources, which were more urgently needed for Operation Barbarossa. Meanwhile, Mussolini used his long-established support for Croatian independence as leverage to coerce Pavelić into signing an agreement on 19 May 1941, under which central Dalmatia and parts of Hrvatsko primorje and Gorski kotar were ceded to Italy. [45]

Under the same agreement, the NDH was restricted to a minimal navy and Italian forces were granted military control of the entire Croatian coastline. After Pavelić signed the agreement, other Croatian politicians rebuked him. Pavelić publicly defended the decision and thanked Germany and Italy for supporting Croatian independence. [46]

After refusing leadership of the NDH, Maček called on all to obey and cooperate with the new government. The Roman Catholic Church was also openly supportive of the government. According to Maček, the new state was greeted with a "wave of enthusiasm" in Zagreb, often by people "blinded and intoxicated" by the fact that the Nazi Germany had "gift-wrapped their occupation under the euphemistic title of Independent State of Croatia". But in the villages, Maček wrote, the peasantry believed that "their struggle over the past 30 years to become masters of their homes and their country had suffered a tremendous setback". [47]

On 16 August 1941, the Ustasha Surveillance Service was established, consisting of four departments, the Ustasha Police, the Ustasha Intelligence Service, Ustasha Defense, and Personnel, for the suppression of activities against the Ustasha, the Independent State of Croatia, and the Croatia people. The Service was eliminated as a separate agency in January 1943 and functions were transferred to the Ministry of Interior under the Directorate of Public Order. [48]

Dissatisfied with the Pavelić regime in its early months, the Axis Powers in September 1941 asked Maček to take over, but Maček again refused. Perceiving Maček as a potential rival, Pavelić subsequently had him arrested and interned in the Jasenovac concentration camp. The Ustaše initially did not have an army or administration capable of controlling all the territory of the NDH. The Ustaše movement had fewer than 12,000 members when the war started. While the Ustaše's own estimates put the number of their sympathizers even in the early phase at around 40,000. [49]

To act against Serbs and Jews with genocidal measures, the Ustase introduced widespread measures that Croats themselves were victim to. Jozo Tomasevich in his book, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia: 1941-1945, states, "never before in history had Croats been exposed to such legalized administrative, police and judicial brutality and abuse as during the Ustasha regime." Decrees enacted by the regime allowed it to get rid of all 'unwanted' employees in state and local government and in state enterprises. The 'unwanted' (being all Jews, Serbs, and Yugoslav-oriented Croats) were all thrown out except for some deemed specifically needed by the government. This left a multitude of jobs to be filled by Ustashas and pro-Ustasha adherents and led to government jobs being filled by people with no professional qualifications. [50]

Italian influence

Mussolini and Ante Pavelić had close relations prior to the war. Mussolini and Pavelić both despised the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Italy had been promised, in the Treaty of London (1915), that it would receive Dalmatia from Austria-Hungary at the end of World War I. The peace negotiations in 1919, however, influenced by the Fourteen Points proclaimed by US President Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), called for national self-determination and determined that the Yugoslavs rightfully deserved the territory in question. Italian nationalists were enraged. Italian nationalist Gabriele D'Annunzio raided Fiume (which held a mixed population of Croats and Italians) and proclaimed it part of the Italian Regency of Carnaro. D'Annunzio declared himself "Duce" of Carnaro and his blackshirted revolutionaries held control over the town. D'Annunzio was known for engaging in passionate speeches aimed to draw Croatian nationalists to support his actions and to oppose Yugoslavia. [51]

Croatian nationalists, such as Pavelić, opposed the border changes that occurred after World War I. Not only was D'Annunzio's symbolism copied by Mussolini but also D'Annunzio's appeal to Croatian support for the dismantling of Yugoslavia, as a foreign policy approach to Yugoslavia by Mussolini. Pavelić had been in negotiations with Italy since 1927 that included advocating a territory-for-sovereignty swap in which he would tolerate Italy annexing its claimed territory in Dalmatia in exchange for Italy supporting the sovereignty of an independent Croatia. [52]

In the 1930s, upon Pavelić and the Ustaše being forced into exile by the Yugoslav government, they were offered sanctuary in Italy by Mussolini, who allowed them to use training grounds to prepare for war against Yugoslavia. In exchange for this support, Mussolini demanded that Pavelić agree that Dalmatia would become part of Italy if Italy and the Ustaše successfully waged war on Yugoslavia. Although Dalmatia was a largely Croat-populated territory, it had been part of various Italian states, such as the Roman Empire and the Republic of Venice in prior centuries and was part of Italian nationalism's irredentist claims.

In exchange for this concession, Mussolini offered Pavelić the right for Croatia to annex all of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had only a minority Croat population. Pavelić agreed. After the invasion and occupation of Yugoslavia, Italy annexed numerous Adriatic islands and a portion of Dalmatia, which all combined to become the Italian Governorship of Dalmatia including territory from the provinces of Split, Zadar, and Kotor. [53]

Although Italy had initially larger territorial aims that extended from the Velebit mountains to the Albanian Alps, Mussolini decided against annexing further territories due to a number of factors, including that Italy held the economically valuable portion of that territory within its possession while the northern Adriatic coast had no important railways or roads and because a larger annexation would have included hundreds of thousands of Slavs who were hostile to Italy, within its national borders. [53]

Italy intended to keep the NDH within its sphere of influence by forbidding it to build any significant navy. [46] Italy only permitted small patrol boats to be used by NDH forces. This policy forbidding the creation of NDH warships was part of the Italian Fascists' policy of Mare Nostrum (Latin for "Our Sea") in which Italy was to dominate the Mediterranean Sea as the Roman Empire had done centuries earlier. Italian armed forces assisted the Ustaše government in persecuting Serbs. In 1941, Italian forces captured and interned the Serbian Orthodox Bishop Irinej (Đorđević) of Dalmatia. [54]

Influence of Nazi Germany

At the time of the invasion of Yugoslavia by Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler was uneasy with Mussolini's agenda of creating a puppet Croatian state, and preferred that areas outside of Italian territorial aims become part of Hungary as an autonomous territory. This would appease Nazi Germany's ally Hungary and its nationalist territorial claims. Germany's position on Croatia changed after its invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941. The invasion was spearheaded by a strong German invasion force which was largely responsible for the capture of Yugoslavia. Military forces from other Axis powers, including Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria made few gains during the invasion. [ citation needed ]

The invasion was precipitated by the need for German forces to reach Greece to save Italian forces, which were failing on the battlefield against the Greek armed forces. Upon rescuing Italian forces in Greece and having conquered Yugoslavia and Greece almost single-handedly, Hitler became frustrated with Mussolini and Italy's military incompetence. Germany improved relations with the Ustaše and supported the NDH claims to annex the Adriatic Coast in order reduce Italy's planned territorial gains. Nevertheless, Italy annexed a significant central portion of Dalmatia and various Adriatic Islands. This was not what had been agreed with Pavelić prior to the invasion Italy had expected to annex all of Dalmatia as part of its irredentist claims.

Hitler sparred with his army commanders over what policy should be undertaken in Croatia regarding the Serbs. German military officials thought that Serbs could be rallied to fight against the Partisans. Hitler disagreed with his commanders, but pointed out to Pavelić that the NDH could create a completely Croat state only if it followed a constant policy of persecution of the non-Croat population for at least fifty years. [46] The NDH was never fully sovereign, but it was a puppet state that enjoyed greater autonomy than any other regime in German-occupied Europe. [55]

As early as 10 July 1941, Wehrmacht General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau reported the following to the German High Command, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW):

Our troops have to be mute witnesses of such events it does not reflect well on their otherwise high reputation . I am frequently told that German occupation troops would finally have to intervene against Ustaše crimes. This may happen eventually. Right now, with the available forces, I could not ask for such action. Ad hoc intervention in individual cases could make the German Army look responsible for countless crimes which it could not prevent in the past.

The Gestapo report to Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, dated 17 February 1942, states:

Increased activity of the bands is chiefly due to atrocities carried out by Ustaše units in Croatia against the Orthodox population. The Ustaše committed their deeds in a bestial manner not only against males of conscript age, but especially against helpless old people, women and children. The number of the Orthodox that the Croats have massacred and sadistically tortured to death is about three hundred thousand.

According to reports by General Glaise-Horstenau, Hitler was angry with Pavelić, whose policy inflamed the rebellion in Croatia, thwarting any prospect of deploying NDH forces on the Eastern Front. [56] Moreover, Hitler was forced to engage large forces of his own to keep the rebellion in check. For that reason, Hitler summoned Pavelić to his war headquarters in Vinnytsia (Ukraine) on 23 September 1942. Consequently, Pavelić replaced his minister of the Armed Forces, Slavko Kvaternik, with the less zealous Jure Francetić. Kvaternik was sent into exile in Slovakia – along with his son Eugen, who was blamed for the persecution of the Serbs in Croatia. [57] Before meeting Hitler, to appease the public, [ clarification needed ] Pavelić published an "Important Government Announcement" (»Važna obavijest Vlade«), in which he threatened those who were spreading the news "about non-existent threats of disarmament of the Ustashe units by representatives of one foreign power, about the Croatian Army replacement by a foreign army, about the possibility that a foreign power would seize the power in Croatia . " [58]

General Glaise-Horstenau reported: "The Ustaše movement is, due to the mistakes and atrocities they have committed and the corruption, so compromised that the government executive branch (the home guard and the police) shall be separated from the government – even for the price of breaking any possible connection with the government." [59]

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler is quoted characterizing the Independent State of Croatia as "ridiculous": "our beloved German settlements will be secured. I hope that the area south of Srem will be liberated by . the Bosnian division . so that we can at least restore partial order in this ridiculous (Croatian) state." [60]

The Ustaše gained German support for plans to eliminate the Serb population in Croatia. One plan involved an exchange in 1941 between Germany and the NDH, in which 20,000 Catholic Slovenes would be deported from German-held Slovenia and sent to the NDH where they would be assimilated as Croats. In exchange, 20,000 Serbs would be deported from the NDH and sent to the German-occupied territory of Serbia. [54] On the meeting with Hitler on 6 June 1941 in Salzburg, Pavelić agreed to receive 175,000 deported Slovenes. The agreement provided that the number of Serbs deported from NDH to Serbia could exceed the number of Slovenes received by 30,000. During the talks, Hitler stressed the necessity and desirability of deportations of Slovenes and Serbs, and advised Pavelic that NDH, in order to become stable, should carry on ethnically intolerant policy for the next 50 years. [61] The German occupation forces allowed the expulsion of Serbs to Serbia, but instead of sending the Slovenes to Croatia, they were also deported to Serbia. In total, about 300,000 Serbs had been deported or fled from the NDH to Serbia by the end of World War II. [54]

The atrocities committed by the Ustaše stunned observers, Brigadier Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Chief of the British military mission to the Partisans commented, "Some Ustaše collected the eyes of Serbs they had killed, sending them, when they had enough, to the Poglavnik ['head-man'] for his inspection or proudly displaying them and other human organs in the cafés of Zagreb." [62]

The Nazi regime demanded that the Ustaše adopt antisemitic racial policies, persecute Jews and set up several concentration camps. Pavelic and the Ustaše accepted Nazi demands, but their racial policy focused primarily on eliminating the Serb population. When the Ustaše needed more recruits to help exterminate the Serbs, and the state broke away from Nazi antisemitic policy by promising honorary Aryan citizenship, and thus freedom from persecution, to Jews who were willing to fight for the NDH. [63] As this was the only legal means allowing Jews to escape persecution, a number of Jews joined the NDH's armed forces. This aggravated the German SS, which claimed that the NDH let 5,000 Jews survive via service in the NDH's armed forces.

German anti-Semitic objectives for Croatia were further undermined by Italy's reluctance to adhere to a strict antisemitic policy, which resulted in Jews in Italian-held parts of Croatia avoiding the same persecution facing Jews in German-held eastern Croatia. [64] After Italy abandoned the war in 1943, German forces occupied western Croatia and the NDH annexed the territory ceded to Italy in 1941. [ citation needed ]

Partisan resistance

On 22 June 1941, the Sisak Partisan Detachment was formed in Brezovica forest near Sisak this was to be celebrated as the first armed resistance unit formed in occupied Europe during World War II. Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks, and citizens of all nationalities and backgrounds began joining the pan-Yugoslav Partisans led by Josip Broz Tito. The Partisan movement was soon able to control a large percentage of the NDH (and Yugoslavia) and before long the cities of occupied Bosnia and Dalmatia in particular were surrounded by these Partisan-controlled areas, with their garrisons living in a de facto state of siege and constantly trying to maintain control of the rail-links. [ citation needed ]

In 1944, the third year of the war in Yugoslavia, Croats formed 61% of the Partisan operational units originating from the Federal State of Croatia. [65] [66] [67]

The Federal State of Croatia also had the highest number of detachments and brigades [ citation needed ] among the federal units, and together with the forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Partisan resistance in the NDH made up the majority of the movement's military strength. Partisan Marshal Tito, was half Croatian, half Slovene. [ citation needed ]

Relations with the Chetniks

After the 1941 split between the Partisans and the Chetniks in Serbia, the Chetnik groups in central, eastern, and northwestern Bosnia found themselves caught between the German and Ustaše (NDH) forces on one side and the Partisans on the other. In early 1942 Chetnik Major Jezdimir Dangić approached the Germans in an attempt to arrive at an understanding, but was unsuccessful, and the local Chetnik leaders were forced to look for another solution. Although the Ustaše and Chetniks were ideological opposites, they found a common enemy in the Partisans, and thwarting Partisan advances became the overriding reason for the collaboration which ensued between the Ustaše authorities of the Independent State of Croatia and Chetnik detachments in Bosnia. [68]

The first formal agreement between Bosnian Chetniks and the Ustaše was concluded on 28 May 1942, in which Chetnik leaders expressed their loyalty as "citizens of the Independent State of Croatia" both to the state and its Poglavnik (Ante Pavelić). During the next three weeks, three additional agreements were signed, covering a large part of the area of Bosnia (along with the Chetnik detachments within it). By the provision of these agreements, the Chetniks were to cease hostilities against the Ustaše state, and the Ustaše would establish regular administration in these areas. [69] [70] The main provision, Article 5 of the agreement, states as follows:

As long as there is danger from the Partisan armed bands, the Chetnik formations will cooperate voluntarily with the Croatian military in fighting and destroying the Partisans and in those operations they will be under the overall command of the Croatian armed forces. . Chetnik formations may engage in operations against the Partisans on their own, but this they will have to report, on time, to the Croatian military commanders. [69]

The necessary ammunition and provisions were supplied to the Chetniks by the Ustaše military. Chetniks who were wounded in such operations would be cared for in NDH hospitals, while the orphans and widows of Chetniks killed in action would be supported by the Ustaše state. Persons specifically recommended by Chetnik commanders would be returned home from the Ustaše concentration camps. These agreements covered the majority of Chetnik forces in Bosnia east of the German-Italian demarcation line, and lasted throughout most of the war. Since Croatian forces were immediately subordinate to the German military occupation, collaboration with Croatian forces was, in fact, indirect collaboration with the Germans. [69] [70]

End of the war

In August 1944, there was an attempt by the NDH Foreign Minister Mladen Lorković and Minister of War Ante Vokić to execute a coup d'état against Ante Pavelić so as to separate from the Axis and align with the Allies. The Lorković-Vokić coup failed and its conspirators were executed. By early 1945, the NDH army withdrew towards Zagreb with German and Cossack troops. They were overpowered and the advance of Tito's Partisan forces, joined by the Soviet Red Army, caused a mass retreat of the Ustaše towards Austria and effectively an end to the Independent State of Croatia. [ citation needed ]

In May 1945, a large column composed of NDH Home Guard troops, Ustaša, Cossacks, some Chetniks and the Slovene Home Guard, as well as numerous civilians, retreated from the Partisan forces heading northwest towards Italy and Austria. The German Instrument of Surrender was signed on 8 May, but the Germans put Pavelić in sole command of NDH forces, and he ordered to continue fighting as the columns tried to reach the British forces to negotiate passage into Allied-occupied Austria. The British Army, however, refused them entry and turned them over to the Partisan forces, starting the Bleiburg repatriations. [ citation needed ]

Meanwhile, Pavelić had detached from the group and fled to Austria, Italy, Argentina and finally Spain, where he would die in 1959. Several other members of the NDH government were captured in May and June 1945, and sentenced to death or long-term imprisonment in the trial of Mile Budak. The end of the war resulted in the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Yugoslavia, which later became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with the Constitution of 1946 officially making the People's Republic of Croatia and the People's Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina two of the six constituent republics of the new state. [ citation needed ]


Although far right movements in Croatia inspired by the former NDH reemerged during the Croatian War of Independence, the current Constitution of Croatia does not officially recognize the Independent State of Croatia as the historical or legitimate predecessor state of the current Croatian republic. [71]

Despite this, upon declaring independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the Republic of Croatia rehabilitated the Croatian Home Guard, whose veterans have since received state pensions. [72] [ improper synthesis? ]

German soldiers who died on Croatian territory were not commemorated until Germany and Croatia reached an agreement on marking their grave sites in 1996. [73] The German War Graves Commission maintains two large cemeteries, in Zagreb and Split.

The absolute leader of the NDH was Ante Pavelić, who was known by his Ustaše title, Poglavnik, throughout the war, regardless of his official government post. From 1941 to 1943, while the country was a de jure monarchy, Pavelić was its powerful Prime Minister (or "President of the Government"). After the capitulation of Italy, Pavelić became the head of state in the place of Aimone, Duke of Aosta (also known as Tomislav II) [ citation needed ] and retained the position of Prime Minister until September 1943, when he appointed Nikola Mandić to replace him. [74]


Upon the formation of the NDH, Pavelić conceded to the accession of Aimone, the 4th Duke of Aosta, as a figurehead King of Croatia under his new royal name, Tomislav II. Tomislav II was not interested in being the figurehead King of Croatia, [43] never actually visited the country and had no influence over the government. In the summer of 1941, Tomislav II declared that he would accept his position as King, only if certain demands were met:

  1. that he should be informed about all Italian activities on NDH territory
  2. that his reign should be confirmed by the NDH Croatian State Parliament and
  3. that politics should play no part in the Croatian armed forces. [75]

The demands for German and Italian military departures were obviously impossible to be met by the Italian and German governments, and Tomislav II thus avoided taking up his position in Croatia. Aimone initially refused to assume the crown in opposition to the Italian annexation of the Croat-majority populated region of Dalmatia, however he later accepted the throne upon being pressured to do so by Victor Emmanuel III however he never moved from Italy to reside in Croatia. [3]

Following the dismissal of Mussolini on 25 July 1943, Tomislav II abdicated on 31 July on the orders of Victor Emmanuel III. [76] [77] [78] [79] Shortly after the armistice with Italy in September 1943, Ante Pavelić declared that Tomislav II was no longer King of Croatia. [80]

Tomislav II formally renounced his title, "King of Croatia, Prince of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Voivode of Dalmatia, Tuzla and Knin, Duke of Aosta (from 1942), Prince of Cisterna and of Belriguardo, Marquess of Voghera, and Count of Ponderano", [ citation needed ] in October 1943 after the birth of his son, Amedeo, to whom he gave, amongst his middle names, the name 'Zvonimir'. [81]


The NDH Parliament was established by the Legal Decree on the Croatian State Parliament on 24 January 1942. [82]

The parliamentarians were not elected and meetings were convened just over a dozen times after the initial session in 1942. Its president vas Marko Došen. This decree established five categories of individuals who would receive an invitation to be a member of parliament from the Ustaše-appointed government: (1) living Croatian representatives from the Croatian Parliament of 1918, (2) living Croatian representatives elected in the 1938 Yugoslavian election, (3) members of the Party of Rights prior to 1919, (4) certain officials of the Supreme Ustaše Headquarters and (5) two members of the German national assembly. [82] The responsibility for assembling all eligible members of parliament was given to the head of the Supreme Court, Nikola Vukelić, who found 204 people to be eligible. [82] In accordance with the decree, Vukelić ruled that those who had received the position of senator in 1939, had been part of Dušan Simović's government, or had been part of the Yugoslav government-in-exile forfeited their eligibility. [82] Two hundred and four people were declared eligible for the parliament, with 141 actually attending parliamentary meetings. Of the 204 eligible parliament members, 93 were members of the Croatian Peasant Party, 56 of whom attended meetings. [82]

The Parliament was only a deliberatory body and was not empowered to enact legislation. However, during the eighth session of the parliament in February 1942, the Ustaše regime was put on the defensive when a joint Croatian Peasant Party-Croatian Party of Rights motion, supported by 39 members of parliament, questioned about the whereabouts of the Peasant Party's leader Vladko Maček. [82] The following session, Ante Pavelić responded that Maček was being kept in isolation to prevent him from coming into contact with Yugoslav government officials. In less than a month, Maček was moved from the Jasenovac concentration camp and put on house arrest at his property in Kupinec. [82]

Maček was later called upon by foreigners to take a stand and counteract the Pavelić government, but he refused. Maček fled the country in 1945, with the help of Ustaše General Ante Moškov. After its February 1942 session, the Parliament met only a few more times, and the decree was not renewed in 1943. [ citation needed ]

Court system

The NDH retained the court system of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, but restored the courts' names to their original forms. The state had 172 local courts (kotar), 19 district courts (judicial tables), an administrative court and an appellate court (Ban's Table) in both Zagreb and Sarajevo, as well as a supreme court (Table of Seven) in Zagreb and a supreme court in Sarajevo. [83] The state maintained men's penitentiaries in Lepoglava, Hrvatska Mitrovica, Stara Gradiška and Zenica, and a women's penitentiary in Zagreb. [84]


The NDH founded the Army of the Independent State of Croatia (Serbo-Croatian: Hrvatsko domobranstvo) and Navy of the Independent State of Croatia in April 1941 with the consent of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht). The task of the armed forces was to defend the state against both foreign and domestic enemies. [85] The Army included an air force. The NDH also created the Ustaška Vojnica (Ustaše Militia) which was conceived as a party militia, and a gendarmerie. [ citation needed ]

The Army was originally limited to 16 infantry battalions and 2 cavalry squadrons – 16,000 men in total. The original 16 battalions were soon enlarged to 15 infantry regiments of two battalions each between May and June 1941, organised into five divisional commands, some 55,000 men. [86] Support units included 35 light tanks supplied by Italy, [87] 10 artillery battalions (equipped with captured Royal Yugoslav Army weapons of Czech origin), a cavalry regiment in Zagreb and an independent cavalry battalion at Sarajevo. Two independent motorised infantry battalions were based at Zagreb and Sarajevo respectively. [88] Under the terms of the Treaties of Rome (1941) with Italy, the NDH navy was restricted to a few coastal and patrol craft, which mostly patrolled inland waterways.

When established in 1941, the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia (Serbo-Croatian: Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske) (ZNDH), consisted of captured Royal Yugoslav aircraft (seven operational fighters, 20 bombers and about 180 auxiliary and training aircraft) as well as paratroop, training and anti-aircraft artillery commands. During the course of World War II in Yugoslavia, it was supplemented with several hundred new or overhauled German, Italian and French fighters and bombers, until receiving the final deliveries of new aircraft from Germany in April 1945. [89]

The Croatian Air Force Legion (Serbo-Croatian: Hrvatska Zrakoplovna Legija), or HZL, was a military unit of the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia which fought alongside the Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front from 1941 to 1943 and then back on Croatian soil. The unit was sent to Germany for training on 15 July 1941 before heading to the Eastern Front. Many of the pilots and crews had previously served in the Royal Yugoslav Air Force during the Invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941. Some of them also had experience in the two main types that they would operate, the Messerschmitt 109 and Dornier Do 17, with two fighter pilots having actually shot down Luftwaffe aircraft. [90]

During operations over the Eastern Front, the unit's fighters scored a total of 283 kills while its bombers participated in some 1,500 combat missions. Upon return to Croatia from December 1942, the unit's aircraft proved a strong addition to the strike power of the Axis forces fighting the Partisans right up to the end of 1944. [91]

Because of low morale among army conscripts and their increasing disaffection with the Ustaša regime as the war progressed, the Partisans came to regard them as a key element in their supply line. According to William Deakin, who led one of the British missions to the Partisan commander-in-chief Josip Broz Tito, in some areas, Partisans would release army soldiers after disarming them, so they could come back into the field with replacement weapons, which would again be seized. [92] Other army soldiers either defected or actively channelled supplies to the Partisans—particularly after the NDH ceded Dalmatia to Italy. Army troop numbers dwindled from 130,000 in early 1943 to 70,000 by late 1944, at which point the NDH government amalgamated the army with the Ustaše army and was organised into eighteen divisions, including artillery and armoured units. [93] Despite these difficulties, the army, along with the German-commanded XV Cossack Corps, was able to assist the Wehrmacht to hold its lines in Syrmia, Slavonia and Bosnia against the combined Soviet, Bulgarian and Partisan offensives from late 1944 to shortly before the NDH collapse in May 1945.

The Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia provided some level of air support (attack, fighter and transport) right up until May 1945, encountering and sometimes defeating opposing aircraft from the British Royal Air Force, United States Air Force and the Soviet Air Force. The final deliveries of up-to-date German Messerschmitt 109G and K fighter aircraft were still taking place in April 1945. [94]

By the end of March 1945, it was obvious to the Croatian Army Command that, although the front remained intact, they would eventually be defeated by sheer lack of ammunition. For this reason, the decision was made to retreat into Austria, in order to surrender to the British forces advancing north from Italy. [ citation needed ] The German Army was in the process of disintegration and the supply system lay in ruins. [95]


The NDH currency was the Independent State of Croatia kuna. The Croatian State Bank was the central bank, responsible for issuing currency. [ citation needed ]


The NDH formed the Croatian State Railways after the Yugoslav Railways was dissolved, and Serbian State Railways in Serbia was devolved. [96] [97]

From 1941 to 1943, territory of the Independent State of Croatia was divided into German and Italian zones, sometimes described as zones of influence [98] [20] [99] and sometimes as occupation zones: [100] [101]

  • The German zone, which included the northeastern part of NDH, bordering Hungary in the north, German-occupied Serbia in the east, the Italian zone in the south, and Nazi Germany in the north-west. [102] There, the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) exercised de facto control.
  • The Italian zone, which included the southwestern part of the NDH, bordering the German zone in the north-east, Italian-occupied Montenegro in the east, and Yugoslav territories annexed by Italy in the south-west. [102]

After the capitulation of Italy in 1943, the Italian zone of influence was abolished and the German zone of influence was expanded to the whole Independent State of Croatia. At the same time, the NDH acquired control of northern Dalmatia (Split and Šibenik). [ citation needed ]

Under the Independent State of Croatia all parties but the Ustaše party were banned. [103]

Foreign relations

The NDH was granted full recognition by the Axis Powers and by countries under Axis occupation, it was also recognized by Spain. [104] The state maintained diplomatic missions in several countries, all in Europe. Embassies of Nazi Germany, Italy, Tiso's Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, Spain, and Japan, as well as the consulates of Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Argentina and Vichy France were located in Zagreb. [105] [106]

In 1941, the country was admitted to the Universal Postal Union. On 10 August 1942 an agreement was signed at Brijuni which re-established the Society of Railways Danube-Sava-Adriatic between the Independent State of Croatia, Germany, Hungary and Italy. [107] After the 11 December 1941 declaration of war by Germany against the United States, the Independent State of Croatia declared war on the United States and the United Kingdom on 14 December. [108]

The Croatian Red Cross was established in 1941, with Kurt Hühn serving as its president. [109] [110] The NDH signed the Geneva Conventions on 20 January 1943, [111] after which the International Committee of the Red Cross named Julius Schmidlin as its representative to the country. [110]

Historian Irina Ognyanova stated that the similarities between the NDH and the Third Reich included the assumption that terror and genocide were necessary for the preservation of the state. [112] Michael Phayer explained that the genocide in Croatia began before the Nazis decided to kill Europe's Jews, while Jonathan Steinberg stated that the crimes against Serbs in the NDH were the "earliest total genocide to be attempted during the World War II". [113]

On the first day of his arrival in Zagreb, Ante Pavelić proclaimed a law that remained in effect during the entire period of the Independent State of Croatia. The law, which was enacted on 17 April 1941, declared that all people who offended, or tried to offend, the Croatian nation were guilty of treason—a crime punishable by death. [114]

One day later, on 18 April, the first Croatian antisemitic racial law was published. This law did not create panic among the Jewish population, because they believed it was merely a continuation of the antisemitic laws of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which were proclaimed in 1939. [115] However, the situation quickly changed on 30 April, with the publication of the Aryan race laws. A notable part of the racial legislation was the religious conversion laws, the implications of which were not understood by the majority of the population when they were published on 3 May 1941. The implications became clear following the July speech of the minister of education, Mile Budak, in which he declared: "We will kill one third of all Serbs. We will deport another third, and the rest of them will be forced to convert to Catholicism". Racial laws were enforced until 3 May 1945. [114]

The NDH government cooperated with Nazi Germany in the Holocaust and exercised their own version of the genocide against ethnic Serbs living within their borders. State policy regarding Serbs was first declared in the words of Milovan Žanić, the minister of the NDH Legislative council on 2 May 1941: "This country can only be a Croatian country, and there is no method we would hesitate to use in order to make it truly Croatian and cleanse it of Serbs, who have for centuries endangered us and who will endanger us again if they are given the opportunity." [116]

An estimated 320,000–340,000 Serbs, 30,000 Croatian Jews and 30,000 Roma were killed during the NDH, including between 77,000 and 99,000 Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats, Jews and Roma killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp [117] [118] while approximately 300,000 Serbs were forced out of the NDH.

Although the Ustase's main target for persecution were Serbs, it also participated in the destruction of the Jewish and Roma populations. The NDH deviated from Nazi anti-Semitic policy by promising honorary Aryan citizenship to some Jews, if they were willing to enlist and fight for the NDH. [69]

Croatian historian Ivo Goldstein estimates that 135,000 Croats were also killed in the NDH, mostly as actual or suspected collaborators (killed by the Partisans) with 19,000 perishing in prisons or camps and 45,000 killed as partisans. [119]

According to the 1931 and 1948 census, the Serb population declined in Croatia and increased in Bosnia:

Serbs Croatia Bosnia and Herzegovina [120] Srem, Serbia [121] Total
1931 Census 633,000 1,028,139 210,000 1,871,000
1948 Census 543,795 1,136,116 unknown [121] [note 3] 1,672,000+

Serbs in the NDH suffered among the highest casualty rates in Europe during the World War II. [122] The political scientist Rudolph Rummel placed the NDH as one of the most lethal regimes in the 20th century in his book on "democide". [123] However, the historian Tomislav Dulić, in a critical analysis of Rummel's estimates for Yugoslavia, said that they are in contrast with Yugoslav demographic research and are too high. [124]

Historian Stanley G. Payne claimed that direct and indirect executions by NDH regime were an "extraordinary mass crime", which in proportionate terms exceeded any other European regime beside Hitler's Third Reich. [125] He added the crimes in the NDH were proportionately surpassed only by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and several of the extremely genocidal African regimes. [125]

The economic system of NDH was based on the concept of "Croatian socialism". [126] The main characteristics of this system, which followed the one of Nazi Germany, were the principles of a planned economy, with high levels of state involvement in economic life. [127] The state reportedly aimed to place the means of production in the hands of the peasants and create a psychic unity among all classes and estates to work for the greater good of the national community, which was seen as more important than individual rights. Croatian socialism contended that work was not a private matter, but the source of all economic worth and the property of the community. [126] [128]

The Ustaše leaders argued that the ordinary Croatian workers and peasants were neglected and exploited in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. [126] Thus, when they came to power, the Ustaše promised a social revolution, tackling social injustice and poverty. Their anti-bourgeois pre-war rhetoric continued after the establishment of NDH, as well as the strong rejection of a liberal capitalist system. [129] The International Workers' Day on 1 May was specially marked in honor of labour, social justice and solidarity of workers. [130] The regime soon began the mass construction of homes and settlements for Croatian workers. However, their availability was based on social and ideological conformity. [131]

The goal of creating a social utopia and an economically just system went alongside the regime's program of economic expropriation of its national enemies, primarily Jews and Serbs, whose property was nationalized, justified by the regime as a means to help the poorest and equalize class differences. [132] [133] All large companies were placed under state control and at the end of 1941 all trade unions were merged into one main syndicate called "Main Alliance of Syndicates" (Croatian: Glavni savez staliških i drugih postrojbi). [134]

At the beginning of 1942 the government introduced compulsory work service for all citizens between the age of 18 and 25. [135] Up to that time around 7.55 billion Yugoslav dinars were replaced by the NDH kuna at an exchange rate of 1 dinar for 1 kuna. The government kept printing money and its amount in circulation was rapidly increasing, resulting in high inflation rates. By the end of 1943 there were 43.6 billion kunas in circulation and in August 1944 76.8 billion. [136] Constant money printing was a way of financing huge government spending, that could not be covered by increased taxation and long-term borrowing. [137] The NDH inherited 42% or 32.5 million reichsmarks of the total debt which Yugoslavia owed to Germany. [138] According to official data, the total debt of NDH on clearing accounts at the end of 1944 amounted to 969.8 million kunas. [139]

Economic branches of which NDH had most revenue (collected through direct and indirect taxes) included industry, trade and crafts. Around 20% of state's industrial enterprises accounted for wood industry. However, as the war progressed, industrial production in the territory of NDH was constantly decreasing, while inflation continued growing. [140]

In 1942, 80% of NDH exports went to Germany (including Austria, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the Polish General Government) and 12% to Italy. Germany covered 70% of imports, while Italy covered 25%. Other trade partners included Hungary, Romania, Finland, Serbia and Switzerland. Exports from NDH mainly consisted of lumber and wood products, agricultural products (including tobacco), livestock, ore, and strategically important bauxite. NDH mostly imported machinery, tools and other metal products, textiles and fuel. [139]

Influences of Nazi Germany

In the Independent State of Croatia, which Nazi Germany formally treated as a sovereign state, most, if not all, industrial and economic activity was either monopolized, or given a high priority for exploitation, by Germany. Agreements between the two governments in mid-1941 regulated foreign trade and payments and the export of Croatian labour to Germany. Germany already controlled a large number of industrial and mining enterprises in Croatia that were owned in part or in full by German citizens or citizens of German-occupied countries. Many other enterprises in Croatia, especially in the bauxite mining and timber industries, were leased to the Germans for the duration of the war. The Germans also held large interests in Croatian commercial banks, exercised either directly by banks in Berlin and Vienna, or indirectly, by German banks that had large interests in Prague and Budapest banks. [141]

From the beginning, the Germans showed great interest in the high-quality iron ore mines of Ljubija in northwest Bosnia, in the industrial complex (steel, coal and heavy chemicals) in the Sarajevo–Tuzla–Zenica triangle in northeast Bosnia, and in bauxite. As the war advanced and German military involvement in Croatia expanded, more and more Croatian industry was put to work for the Germans. The bauxite mines in Hercegovina, Dalmatia and western Bosnia, were in the Italian zone of occupation, but their total production was earmarked for German needs for the duration of the war under the German-Italian agreement of 1941. [142]

Other Croatian industrial assets utilized by the Germans included the production of brown coal and lignite, cement (major plants in Zagreb and Split), oil and salt. Crude oil production, from fields to the east of Zagreb developed by the American Vacuum Oil Company, only started in November 1941 and never reached a high level, averaging 24,000 barrels (3,800 m 3 ) a month in mid-1944. The most important commodities manufactured in Croatia for German use were prefabricated barracks (utilizing the large Croatian timber industry), clothing, dry-cell batteries, bridge construction parts and ammunition (grenades).

The Vareš iron ore mine supplied the steel mill at Zenica, which had a capacity of 120,000 tons of steel annually. The Zenica mill, in turn, supplied the state arsenal in Sarajevo and the machinery and railroad car factory in Slavonski Brod, both of which produced various items for the Wehrmacht during the war, including grenades and shell casings. Some Vareš iron ore was also exported to Italy, Hungary and Romania. [143]

Italian influence

The region of the NDH controlled by Italy had few natural resources and little industry. [ dubious – discuss ] There were some important timber stands, several cement plants, an aluminium plant at Lozovac, a carbide and chemical fertilizer plant at Dugi Rat, and a ferromanganese and cast iron plant near Šibenik, ship building operations in Split, a few brown coal mines supplying fuel to railways, shipping and industry, and rich bauxite fields. [144]


According to data calculated by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the creation of the state, the population was approximately 6,285,000 of which 3,300,000 were Croats, 1,925,000 were Serbs, 700,000 were Muslims, 150,000 Germans, 65,000 Czechs and Slovaks, 40,000 Jews, and 30,000 Slovenes. Croats comprised slightly over half of the population of the Independent State of Croatia. With Muslims treated as Croats, the Croat share of the total population was still less than two-thirds. [117] [145]

Displacement of people

A large number of people were displaced due to the internal fighting within Yugoslavia. The NDH had to accept more than 200,000 Slovenian refugees who were forcefully evicted from their homes as part of the German plan of annexing parts of the Slovenian territories. As part of this deal, the Ustaše were to deport 200,000 Serbs from Croatia military regions however, only 182,000 had been deported when German high commander Bader stopped this mass transport of people because of the uprising of Chetniks and partisans in Serbia. An estimated 120,000 Serbs were deported from NDH to German-occupied Serbia, and 300,000 fled by 1943. [146] [147]

Internal colonization to the region of Slavonia was encouraged during this period from Dalmatia, Lika, Hrvatsko Zagorje and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The state maintained an Office of Colonization in Mostar, Osijek, Petrinja, Sarajevo, Sremska Mitrovica, and Zagreb. [148]

Soon after establishment of the NDH, the Yugoslav Academy of Science and Arts in Zagreb was renamed the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The country had four state theatres: in Zagreb, Osijek, Dubrovnik and Sarajevo. [149] [150] The Croatian State Theatre in Zagreb played host to the Berlin Philharmonic and the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma in the 1941–42 season. [151] Volumes two to five of Mate Ujević's Croatian Encyclopedia were published during this period. The Velebit Publishing House (Nakladna knjižara "Velebit"), named for the Velebit uprising, published pro-Axis works, including Japanac o Japanu [A Japanese on Japan] by the Japanese chargé d'affaires, Kazuichi Miura. [152] The NDH was represented at the 1942 Venice Biennale, where the works of Joza Kljaković, Ivan Meštrović, Ante Motika, Ivo Režek, Bruno Bulić, Josip Crnobori, Antun Medić, Slavko Kopač and Slavko Šohaj were presented by Vladimir Kirin. [ citation needed ]

The existing University of Zagreb was renamed the Croatian University (Serbo-Croatian: Hrvatsko sveučilište), and was the only university in the NDH. The university established a pharmaceutical faculty in 1942, [153] and a medical faculty in Sarajevo in 1944. [154] It also opened the University Hospital Zagreb, which later became one of the largest hospitals in Croatia.

The state had two secular holidays the anniversary of its establishment was commemorated on 10 April and the assassination of Stjepan Radić was commemorated on 20 June. [155] In addition, the state granted holidays to several religious communities:

  • The Catholic community celebrated New Year's Day, Epiphany, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the feast of Saint Joseph, Easter, the feast of the Ascension of Jesus, Pentecost, the feast of Corpus Christi, the Assumption of Mary, the feast of All Saints, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas. [155]
  • The Eastern Orthodox community celebrated New Year's Day, the Epiphany, the feast of the Annunciation, Easter, the feast of the Ascension of Jesus, Pentecost, the Assumption of Mary, and Christmas, all according to the Roman calendar. [155]
  • The Evangelical community celebrated New Year's Day, Holy Friday, Easter, the feast of the Ascension of Jesus, Pentecost, Reformation Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas. [155]
  • The Muslim community celebrated Islamic New Year, Mevlud (Mawlid), Ramadan, and Kurban-Bajram (Eid al-Adha). [155]

The state film institute, Hrvatski slikopis, produced many films, including Straža na Drini and Lisinski. [156] The Croatian cinema pioneer Oktavijan Miletić, was active during this period. [157] [158] In 1943, Zagreb hosted the I. International Congress for Narrow Film.

On 29 April 1941 the Decree on building Croatian workers' family homes was issued which resulted in the development of so-called Pavelić neighbourhoods in the state's larger northern cities: Karlovac, Osijek, Sisak, Varaždin, and Zagreb. [159] The neighbourhoods were largely based on similar workers housing in Germany. [160] They are characterized by their wide avenues and lots, and for largely being made up of semi-detached homes. [161]


The official publication of the government was the Narodne novine (Official Gazette). Dailies included Zagreb's Hrvatski narod (Croatian Nation), Osijek's Hrvatski list (Croatian Paper) and Sarajevo's Novi list (New Paper). The state's news agency was called the Croatian News Office "Croatia" (Hrvatski dojavni ured "Croatia"), which took on the role formerly performed by the Avala news agency in Yugoslavia. [162] After the war's end, out of 330 registered journalists in the state, 38 were executed, 131 emigrated, and 100 were banned from working as journalists in the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. [163]

The state's main radio station was Hrvatski Krugoval, known before the war as Radio Zagreb. [164] The NDH increased the transmitter's power to 10 kW. [164] The radio station was based in Zagreb, but had branches in Banja Luka, Dubrovnik, Osijek and Sarajevo. It maintained cooperation with the International Broadcasting Union.


The most popular sport in the NDH was football, which had its own league system, with the highest level known as the Zvonimir Group, with eight teams in 1942–43 and 1943–44. [165] Top clubs included Građanski Zagreb, Concordia Zagreb and HAŠK. The Croatian Football Federation was accepted into FIFA on 17 July 1941. [166]

The NDH national football team played 14 "friendly" matches against other Axis nations and puppet states between June 1941 and April 1944, winning five. [167]

The NDH had other national teams. The Croatian Handball Federation organized a national handball league, and a national team. [168] Its boxing team was led by African-American Jimmy Lyggett. [169]

The Croatian Table-Tennis Association organized a national competition as well as a national team which participated in a few international matches. [170] The Croatian Olympic Committee was recognized as a special member of the International Olympic Committee, with Franjo Bučar acting as its representative. [171]

The Croatian Skiing Association organized a national championship, held on Zagreb's Sljeme mountain. [172] A national bowling competition was held in 1942 in Zagreb, which was won by Dušan Balatinac. [173]

Post-war Croatia

1996 - Croatia restores diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia. Croatia joins Council of Europe.

1997 - Tudjman re-elected as president. The EU decides not to invite Croatia to start membership talks, criticising the Tudjman regime's authoritarian tendencies.

1998 - Croatia resumes control over the fourth UN area, Eastern Slavonia.

1999 - Franjo Tudjman dies.

2000 January - Parliamentary elections see Franjo Tudjman's HDZ party defeated by a coalition of social democrats and social liberals and Ivica Racan becomes the new prime minister.

2000 February - Stjepan Mesic of the liberal Croatian People's Party is elected president.

2001 February/March - After two weeks on the run during which nationalists organise demonstrations in his support, General Mirko Norac - charged with killing Serb civilians in 1991 - gives himself up to a Croatian court on the condition that he will not be extradited to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. An unofficial class system is based on one's family name and professional status rather than wealth. Communist Party membership challenged this class system, although it was not uncommon for prominent families to join the party. In more recent years, Croats increasingly became discontented with the socialist government, particularly people who were well educated, professional, and from prominent families.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Economic indicators of high social status include style of dress, material wealth such as a house or apartment in a city, an automobile, a vacation house, and international travel. Less obvious indicators are educational level and occupation. Most high-status individuals speak English well and are likely to speak one other European language. Dialect is also an indicator of social status. People from a city have higher status than people from villages, though many urban dwellers have village family connections. High-status individuals are usually Croats. They may be of mixed ethnicity but are members of a predominantly Croatian family. Jewish families are likely to be of relatively high status. Ethnic Albanians are usually at the bottom of the social system, and Gypsies are completely outside it.

Croatia timeline

1918 - Croatian national assembly votes to join the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

1921 - A unitary consitution abolishes Croatian automony. The main Croatian Peasant Party campaigns for its restoration.

1929 - The Kingdom is renamed Yugoslavia, and the system of government is further centralised under a royal dictatorship.

1939 - The Croatian Peasant Party negotiates a partial restoration of Croatian autonomy.

1941 - Nazi Germany invades. A "Greater Croatia" is formed, also comprising most of Bosnia and western Serbia. A fascist puppet government is installed under Ante Pavelic.

The regime acts brutally against Serbs and Jews as it seeks to create a Catholic, all-Croat republic. Hundreds of thousands lose their lives.

1945 - After a bitter resistance campaign by Communist partisans under Tito, Croatia becomes one of the six constituent republics of the Yugoslav socialist federation.

1967 - Croatian writers demand greater linguistic autonomy, prompting a movement for political, economic and cultural liberalisation.

1971 - Protestors demand greater autonomy in a movement known as the "Croatian Spring". The Yugoslav authorites denounce it as nationalism, arrest students and activists and purge the Croatian Communist Party.

1974 - A new Yugoslav federal constitution meets some of the demands for Croatian autonomy.

1980 - Tito dies. The slow disintegration of Yugoslavia begins as individual republics assert their desire for independence.

1989 - Collapse of communism in eastern Europe leads to rise in support for parties with a nationalist programme.

1990 - First free elections in Croatia for more than 50 years. The communists lose to the conservative, nationalist HDZ led by Franjo Tudjman.

1991 - Croatia declares its independence. Croatian Serbs in the east of the country expel Croats with the aid of the Yugoslav army. By the end of the year, nearly one-third of Croatian territory is under Serb control.

1992 - The UN sets up 4 protected areas in Croatia, with 14,000 UN troops keeping Croats and Serbs apart. Croatia also becomes involved in the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina (1992-5), supporting the Bosnian Croats against the Bosnian Serbs, then against the Bosniaks (Muslims). Franjo Tudjman is elected president of Croatia.

1995 - Croat forces retake three of the four areas created by the UN. Croatian Serbs flee to Bosnia and Serbia. Tudjman is one of the signatories of the Dayton peace accords ending the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

1996 - Croatia restores diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia. Croatia joins Council of Europe.

1997 - Tudjman re-elected as president. The EU decides not to invite Croatia to start membership talks, criticising the Tudjman regime's authoritarian tendencies.

1998 - Croatia resumes control over the fourth UN area, Eastern Slavonia.

2000 - Parliamentary elections in January see Tudjman's HDZ party defeated. The social democrats and social liberals win at the head of a coalition. The new prime minister is Ivica Racan. In February, Stjepan Mesic of the Croatian People's Party wins the presidency. He says he wants Croatia to join Nato and the EU.

2001 February/March - After two weeks on the run during which nationalists organise demonstrations in his support, General Mirko Norac gives himself up to a Croatian court on the understanding that he will not be extradited to face the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He is charged with killing Serb civilians in the Croatian city of Gospic in 1991.

2001 July - Prime Minister Racan survives confidence vote in parliament brought by nationalists opposed to his decision to comply with a request from The Hague tribunal for the extradition of generals Ademi and Gotovina. General Ademi becomes the first person from Croatia to face charges in The Hague by voluntarily appearing before the tribunal. General Gotovina goes into hiding.

2001 September - The Hague tribunal indicts former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the war in Croatia in the early 1990s.

2001 December - Yugoslavia returns art works, including Orthodox icons, looted after the fall of the city of Vukovar 10 years earlier.

2002 April - Foreign Minister Tonino Picula visits Belgrade for talks with his Yugoslav counterpart, the first such visit since independence.

2002 July - PM Racan resigns as infighting within the coalition paralyses economic reform. President Mesic asks him to form a new government.

2002 September - Under pressure from nationalists, government declines to hand over retired Gen Janko Bobetko, indicted for war crimes by The Hague tribunal. Health grounds are cited.

2003 February - Croatia submits formal application for EU membership.

2003 March - Gen Mirko Norac, seen by many Croats as a war hero, sentenced to 12 years for killing of several dozen Serb civilians in 1991.

2003 April - Death of Gen Bobetko ends controversy surrounding his extradition to The Hague.

2003 October - Croatian parliament votes to create ecological zone in Adriatic prompting objections from Slovenia.

2003 December - Ivo Sanader of the right-wing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) becomes prime minister in a minority government following his party's success in elections the previous month.

2004 June - Wartime Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic jailed for 13 years by Hague tribunal for his part in war crimes against non-Serbs in self-proclaimed Krajina Serb republic where he was leader in the early 1990s.

2004 December - EU agrees to start accession talks with Croatia in March 2005.

2005 January - Incumbent President Stjepan Mesic wins second term.

2005 March - EU delays talks on Croatia's membership because of failure to arrest Gen Ante Gotovina, who is wanted by the Hague tribunal on war crimes charges.

2005 October - Green light given for EU accession talks to go ahead again even though Gen Gotovina remains at large.

Croatia calls for international mediation after Slovene parliament declares ecological zone in the Adriatic with rights to protect and use sea bed.

2005 December - Fugitive Croatian General Ante Gotovina, sought by the Hague tribunal on war crimes charges, is arrested in Spain.

2006 November - European Commission publishes report critical of Croatia's progress towards EU membership. It says more needs to be done to tackle corruption and intolerance of non-Croats.

2007 October - Work begins on coastal Peljesac bridge which will allow motorists to skirt Bosnian territory, drawing criticism from Bosnia.

2007 November - Parliamentary elections. Ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) wins the most seats but needs coalition partners to secure a majority.

2008 January - Parliament approves Prime Minister Ivo Sanader's new HDZ-led coalition government. Includes first Serb in key position: deputy PM Slobodan Uzelac.

2008 March - Croatian ex-generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac go on trial at Hague war crimes tribunal on charges of killing Croatian Serbs in 1990s. They deny the charges.

2008 April - NATO summit in Bucharest invites Croatia to join alliance. Final status expected in 2009.

2008 October - Government announces major drive against organised crime following a series of killings linked to the mafia.

2008 November - European Commission says Croatia is likely to end accession talks by 2009 and become a member by 2011, but demands tougher action against corruption and organised crime.

2009 February - Slovenia threatens to block neighbouring Croatia from joining the EU in a continuing dispute over borders.

2009 April - Croatia officially joins NATO.

2009 June - The European Union cancels the next round of EU membership talks with Croatia, citing a lack of progress in resolving a long-standing border row with neighbouring Slovenia.

2009 July - In a surprise move, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader announces that he will resign and withdraw from active politics. Parliament approves Mr Sanader's deputy, Jadranka Kosor, as prime minister.

2009 November - Slovenia lifts block on Croatia's EU membership talks after the two countries sign deal allowing international mediators to resolve their border dispute. Croatian EU membership talks resume.

2010 January - Ivo Josipovic of the opposition Social Democrats wins presidential election.

2010 June - Slovenia votes in a referendum to back international arbitration on the border dispute.

2010 July - Visit of President Josipovic to Belgrade signals thawing of relations with Serbia.

2010 November - Zagreb court convicts six men for mafia-style murder of investigative journalist Ivo Pukanic in October 2010.

In what is seen as significant act of reconciliation between Croatia and Serbia, Serbian President Boris Tadic visits Vukovar, where he apologises for 1991 massacre of 260 Croat civilians by Serb forces.

2011 April - Two senior Croatian generals - Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac - are convicted for war crimes against Serbs in 1995 by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.

2011 June - Croatia successfully completes EU accession negotiations, putting it on track to become the 28th member state in mid-2013.

2011 July - Goran Hadzic, commander of Serb rebel forces during Croatia's 1991-1995 civil war, goes on trial on war crimes charges at The Hague.

2011 November - Trial of former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on charges of corruption begins in Zagreb. Mr Sanader denies the charges against him.

2011 December - Parliamentary elections. Centre-left opposition bloc led by Social Democrats ousts the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which has been in power since 2003.

Croatia signs EU accession treaty paving the way for it to achieve full membership on 1 July 2013.

2012 January - Croatian voters back joining the European Union in a referendum by a margin of two to one, albeit it on a low turnout of about 44%.

Slovenia, Croatia declare independence from Yugoslavia

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The Yugoslav government, proclaiming independence decrees by the republics of Croatia and Slovenia void, Wednesday said it will ensure the normal workings of the ethnically divided nation brought to the brink of civil war.

After more than four hours of talks, the government of Prime Minister Ante Markovic said the Slovenian and Croatian decisions taken Tuesday were 'unilateral acts taken without the agreement with other constituent members (republics) of Yugoslavia, and therefore are illegal and illegitimate, and all consequences of these acts are void.'

Slovenia and Croatia declared independence despite warnings from Western countries and the federal government.

In a symbolic act, the government empowered federal troops and police to replace local officers and take over control of Slovenia's frontiers. Under the independence declaration passed Tuesday, Slovenia was to post its own troops and police to man international borders.

To save Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, the government said it 'has taken indispensable decisions and orders which should ensure normal functioning of the Yugoslav state, ensure its existing (external) state and internal frontiers and fulfill its international obligations.'

Political observers said the federal government planned to direct the military and police to enforce Yugoslavia's internal borders, but no confirmation to this claim could be obtained.

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told Zagreb Radio Tuesday night the 'federal government has no authorization to use the armed forces, and I do not believe in such a move.'

A government announcement published after 2 a.m. Wednesday by the national news agency Tanjug did not elaborate on these decisions and orders.

The government, which went into an emergency session at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, asked the feuding leaders of the six republics to 'continue without delay their talks on solving the constitutional crisis and the future order of Yugoslavia with consent from all of them.'

It urged the republics of Serbia and Montenegro to lift the blockade on the election of the Yugoslav eight-member state presidency that has left the country without its formal head of state since May 15. Stjepan Mesic of Croatia was to be named president for a one-year term in Yugoslavia's leadership rotation system but Serbia and Montenegro refused to agree, accusing Mesic wants to dissolve the federation.

The federal government 'calls and obligates all the citizens of Yugoslavia to peace, to avoid violence and to respect the Constitution and laws of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.'

Tuesday in Zagreb, the Croatian Assembly passed a package of four decrees that invalidated the federal constitution in the republic. The legislature's chairman, Zarko Domljan, said Croatia is now 'a sovereign and independent state.'

In Ljubljana, the Slovenian Assembly passed virtually identical independence decrees that also would strip the Communist red star from the republic's flag and its coat of arms.

In Zagreb, Domljan said Croatia and Slovenia should 'form the alliance of two independent, sovereign states' and with all the other Yugoslav states which respect each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The two republics also said they would seek international recognition.

Leaders of both republics emphasized that their declarations of independence did not amount to secession but the beginning of a dissolution of the tight Yugoslav federation into a looser alliance.

Slovenian Assembly Chairman France Bucar told the legislature, 'We are not against co-existence with peoples who live in this area. Cooperation is in our own interest. Our new Slovenian state is not an end to our efforts, but only the beginning of a new life in co-existence with other peoples.'

And Tudjman acknowledged that the process of dissolution will take quite some time, 'for some things it may take days, for some things months and for some things years to separate Croatia from the federation.'NEWLN: 1stadd stands

At the same time, the Slovenian Assembly in the republican capital of Ljubljana, 350 miles west of Belgrade, went into session Tuesday evening to pass independence decrees stripping the red star from its national flag and the coat of arms, officials said.

And in Belgrade, the federal government of Prime Minister Ante Markovic convened an emergency session later in the evening after the Federal Chamber of the Yugoslav Parliament decided that that all the federal bodies, including the military and police 'are obliged to undertake measures to prevent the re-cutting of Yugoslavia and changing its borders.'

The Federal Chamber urged the Slovenian Assembly to begin discussing the future order of Yugoslavia and condemned a unilateral secession.

Both Slovenia and Croatia announced they would withdraw their deputies from the Federal Chamber but would keep deputies in the Chamber of Republics and Provinces of the Yugoslav parliament.NEWLN: more

Slovenia and Croatia announced they would now ask for international recognition.

In Zagreb, Domljan said Croatia and Slovenia should 'form the alliance of two independent, sovereign states' and with all the other Yugoslav states which respect each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Croatian and Slovenian officials said their independent republics have now opened the process of dissolution from the federation and could immediately begin talks with the other Yugoslav republics.

Addressing the assembly, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said, 'With this act the Republic of Croatia begins the process of dissolution from the other republics and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. At the same time we begin a campaign for international recogntion of the republic of Croatia.'

Tudjman criticized the federation and Serbia, saying they 'heavily, deliberately and permanently violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the republic of Croatia or support activities against its interests.'

He said the 'ruthless' blockade of the work of the Yugoslav eight- member state presidency and the election of Croatia's Stjepan Mesic as the federal head of state for a one-year tenure was such an example.

The Breakup of Yugoslavia, 1990–1992

Issued on October 18, 1990, National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) 15–90 presented a dire warning to the U.S. policy community:

Yugoslavia will cease to function as a federal state within a year, and will probably dissolve within two. Economic reform will not stave off the breakup. [. ] A full-scale interrepublic war is unlikely, but serious intercommunal conflict will accompany the breakup and will continue afterward. The violence will be intractable and bitter. There is little the United States and its European allies can do to preserve Yugoslav unity.

The October 1990 judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, as Thomas Shreeve noted in his 2003 study on NIE 15–90 for the National Defense University, “was analytically sound, prescient, and well written. It was also fundamentally inconsistent with what US policymakers wanted to happen in the former Yugoslavia, and it had almost no impact on US policy.” By January 1992, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ceased to exist, having dissolved into its constituent states.

Yugoslavia—the land of South (i.e. Yugo) Slavs—was created at the end of World War I when Croat, Slovenian, and Bosnian territories that had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire united with the Serbian Kingdom. The country broke up under Nazi occupation during World War II with the creation of a Nazi-allied independent Croat state, but was reunified at the end of the war when the communist-dominated partisan force of Josip Broz Tito liberated the country. Following the end of World War II, Yugoslavian unity was a top priority for the U.S. Government. While ostensibly a communist state, Yugoslavia broke away from the Soviet sphere of influence in 1948, became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, and adopted a more de-centralized and less repressive form of government as compared with other East European communist states during the Cold War.

The varied reasons for the country’s breakup ranged from the cultural and religious divisions between the ethnic groups making up the nation, to the memories of WWII atrocities committed by all sides, to centrifugal nationalist forces. However, a series of major political events served as the catalyst for exacerbating inherent tensions in the Yugoslav republic. Following the death of Tito in 1980, provisions of the 1974 constitution provided for the effective devolution of all real power away from the federal government to the republics and autonomous provinces in Serbia by establishing a collective presidency of the eight provincial representatives and a federal government with little control over economic, cultural, and political policy. External factors also had a significant impact. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, the unification of Germany one year later, and the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union all served to erode Yugoslavia’s political stability. As Eastern European states moved away from communist government and toward free elections and market economies, the West’s attention focused away from Yugoslavia and undermined the extensive economic and financial support necessary to preserve a Yugoslav economy already close to collapse. The absence of a Soviet threat to the integrity and unity of Yugoslavia and its constituent parts meant that a powerful incentive for unity and cooperation was removed.

Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s president from 1989, took advantage of the vacuum created by a progressively weakening central state and brutally deployed the use of Serbian ultra-nationalism to fan the flames of conflict in the other republics and gain legitimacy at home. Milosevic started as a banker in Belgrade and became involved in politics in the mid-1980s. He rose quickly through the ranks to become head of the Serbian Communist Party in 1986. While attending a party meeting in the Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo in May 1987, Serbians in the province rioted outside the meeting hall. Milosevic spoke with the rioters and listened to their complaints of mistreatment by the Albanian majority. His actions were extensively reported by Serbian-controlled Yugoslav mass media, beginning the process of transforming the former banker into the stalwart symbol of Serbian nationalism. Having found a new source of legitimacy, Milosevic quickly shored up his power in Serbia through control of the party apparatus and the press. He moved to strip the two autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina of their constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy within Serbia by using mass rallies to force the local leaderships to resign in favor of his own preferred candidates. By mid-1989 Kosovo and Vojvodina had been reintegrated into Serbia, and the Montenegro leadership was replaced by Milosevic allies.

The ongoing effects of democratization in Eastern Europe were felt throughout Yugoslavia. As Milosevic worked to consolidate power in Serbia, elections in Slovenia and Croatia in 1990 gave non-communist parties control of the state legislatures and governments. Slovenia was the first to declare “sovereignty” in 1990, issuing a parliamentary declaration that Slovenian law took precedence over Yugoslav law. Croatia followed in May, and in August, the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina also declared itself sovereign. Slovenia and Croatia began a concerted effort to transform Yugoslavia from a federal state to a confederation. With the administration of George H. W. Bush focused primarily on the Soviet Union, Germany, and the crisis in the Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia had lost the geostrategic importance it enjoyed during the Cold War. While Washington attempted during the summer of 1990 to marshal some limited coordination with its Western allies in case the Yugoslav crisis turned bloody, Western European governments maintained a wait-and-see attitude. At the same time, inter-republic relations in Yugoslavia spiraled out of control. Slovenia overwhelmingly voted for independence in December 1990. A Croatian referendum in May 1991 also supported full independence. Secretary of State James Baker traveled to Belgrade to meet with Yugoslav leaders and urge a political solution to no avail. Slovenia and Croatia both declared formal independence on June 25, 1991.

Timeline: The Former Yugoslavia

By Borgna Brunner and David Johnson

As an outcome of World War I, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes is formed. Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina had been part of the fallen Austro-Hungarian empire Serbia and Montenegro existed as an independent state (Macedonia was then part of Serbia).

The monarchy's name is changed to Yugoslavia.

After World War II, the monarchy becomes a communist republic under Prime Minister Tito, now called the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. It was composed of six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Montenegro, as well as two provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina.

Tito's tight rein on Yugoslavia keeps ethnic tensions in check until his death in 1980. Without his pan-Slavic influence, ethnic and nationalist differences begin to flare.

Slovenia and Croatia each declare independence. With 90% of its population ethnic Slovenians, Slovenia is able to break away with only a brief period of fighting. Because 12% of Croatia's population is Serbian, however, rump Yugoslavia fights hard against its secession for the next four years. As Croatia moves towards independence, it evicts most of its Serbian population.



Bosnia and Herzegovina declares independence. The most ethnically diverse of the Yugoslav republics, Bosnia is 43% Muslim, 31% Serbian, and 17% Croatian (according to the 1991 Yugoslavian census). Ethnic tensions strain to the breaking point, and Bosnia erupts into war. Thousands die and more than a million are displaced. By the time a tenuous peace is achieved in 1995, the country has been partitioned into three areas, with each region governed by one of the three ethnic groups. Each enclave is now made up of roughly 90% of its own ethnic group.


Serbia and Montenegro form the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with Slobodan Milosevic as its leader. This new government, however, is not recognized by the United States as the successor state to the former Yugoslavia.


Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia sign the Dayton Peace Accord to end the war in Bosnia.

In the southern Yugoslavian province of Kosovo, the militant Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) begins attacking Serbian policeman.


Milosevic sends troops to Kosovo to quash unrest in the province. A guerrilla war breaks out.


After peace talks fail, NATO carries through on its threat to launch airstrikes on Serbian targets.


In the face of trade sanctions from the U.S. and other nations, the Serbian economy continues to deteriorate and dissent spreads. Montenegro discusses separating from Serbia.


Opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica wins elections held Sept. 24. Milosevic refuses to release the complete results, demanding a runoff election.


A popular uprising begins. A general strike is called and one million people flood Belgrade. Mobs attack Parliament building, security forces join them or retreat. Milosevic support crumbles, he steps down. Kostunica takes office. U.S., European Union begin to lift economic sanctions, offer aid.


Milosevic is arrested by Yugoslavian authorities and charged with corruption and abuse of power.

Milosevic is turned over to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.


The UN Security Council lifts its arms embargo against Yugoslavia, abolishing the last remaining sanction by the international community.


Slobodan Milosevic begin his trial at the UN International Criminal Tribunal on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, as well as for committing genocide in Bosnia. He is the first head of state to face an international war-crimes court.


The nation agrees to form a new state, replacing Yugoslavia with a loose federation called Serbia and Montenegro. The new arrangement was made to placate Montenegro's restive stirrings for independence, and allows for a referendum on independence to occur in three years' time.

March 12

The prime minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, a reformer who helped bring about the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, is assassinated. A period of deep national mourning follows. Extreme nationalists, organized crime, and Serbia's own police and security services were implicated.

December 28

Parliamentary elections saw a resurgence of ultra-nationalists. Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist party received 7% of the vote, and the Radical party, whose leader, like Milosevic, is an indicted war criminal jailed in the Hague, received 27% of the vote.

March 17

Mitrovica, in Kosovo, experiences the worst ethnic violence in the regions since the 1999 war. At least 22 people are killed, and another 500 are injured. NATO sends in an extra 1,000 troops to restore order. The violence began after Serbs claimed a Serb teenager was the victim of a drive-by shooting and ethnic Albanians blamed Serbs for the drowning of several Albanian children.

In May, Montenegro held a referendum on independence, which narrowly passed. On June 4 the federal president of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, announced the dissolution of his office, and the following day Serbia acknowledged the end of the union. The EU and the United States recognized Montenegro on June 12, and it became the 192nd member of the UN on June 26.

Watch the video: Croatia: A Story of Socialist Failure? (May 2022).