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Formal Name
Republic of Croatia

Local Name

Local Formal Name
Republika Hrvatska

Location: Europe

Status: UN Country

Capital City: Zagreb

Main Cities: Split, Rijeka, Osijek

Population: 4,760,000    Area []: 56,540

Currency: 1 kuna = 100 lipa

Languages: Croatian, Serbian

Religions: Roman Catholic, Serbian Orthodox, Muslim

Croatia (Croatian Hrvatska), republic in southeastern Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula, bounded on the north by Slovenia and Hungary, on the east and south by Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the east by Serbia (one of the republics of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro). The area around the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, located at the tip of the republic's southernmost coastal stretch, has a short border with Montenegro. The Adriatic Sea forms the republic's long western boundary. Formerly a constituent republic of Yugoslavia, Croatia declared its independence in 1991. Civil war then broke out in the republic as ethnic Serbs, backed by the federal Yugoslav People's Army, battled with Croats for territory; Serbs controlled about 20 percent of Croatia's territory in mid-1995. Croatia has an area of about 56,538 sq km (about 21,829 sq mi). Zagreb is the republic's capital and largest city.

Land and Resources

Croatia's diverse territory includes flat plains, low mountains, a coastline extending 1778 km (1067 mi), and offshore islands. The Pannonian Plains in the east are a low-lying, fertile, agricultural region drained by the Drava and Sava rivers. Both rivers flow into the Danube River, one of the most important waterways in Europe. The historical area of Slavonia lies in this part of the republic. In the west, Dalmatia is a narrow, barren strip of land within the Dinaric Alps that slopes down to the Adriatic Sea. The Dinaric Alps consist of several parallel ranges of mountains. The coastal range is partially submerged, a phenomenon that accounts for the republic's numerous bays, gulfs, inlets, and more than 1000 offshore islands. The historical area of Istria, a peninsula that stretches out into the Adriatic from Slovenia, lies to the north and west of Dalmatia.

A continental climate predominates throughout the republic with hot summers and cold winters. Towns along the coast, however, enjoy a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. The average temperature in Zagreb is 0 C (32 F) in January and about 24 C (about 75 F) in July, while in Dubrovnik the average is about 9 C (48 F) in January and 25 C (77 F) in July. Annual precipitation along the coast is about 760 mm (about 30 in).

Petroleum, coal, bauxite, low-grade iron ore, and china clay are the most abundant natural resources found in Croatia. In certain regions calcium, natural asphalt, silica, mica, and salt can also be found.

Deciduous forests predominate on the plains and in much of the mountainous areas. Beech and oak trees are common. The Karst, a barren limestone plateau, dominates the Croatian landscape in some areas; the island of Pag consists almost entirely of karst terrain. There are 50 types of protected plant life in Croatia. Wildlife in Croatia includes hare, fox, lynx, weasel, otter, gray bear, deer, marten, boar, wildcat, wolf, and moufflon (wild sheep).


 The total population of Croatia according to the 1991 census was 4,784,265; it was estimated in 1993 at 4,694,398. Ethnically, Croats constituted about 78 percent of Croatia's population according to the 1991 census; war, however, has taken a toll on the population since then.

Serbs make up the largest of the republic's other ethnic groups (about 12 percent). Many of the Serbs live in the Serb-held enclaves of Krajina (in western and central Croatia) and eastern Slavonia (in northeastern Croatia); others live in Zagreb, which is under the control of the Croatian government. Other ethnic groups living in Croatia include Muslims (0.9 percent), Hungarians (0.5 percent), and Slovenes (0.5 percent).

Croatian, a language that is closely related to Serbian, is the republic's official language. Following the commencement of war with Serbia, many Croats sought to differentiate Croatian from Serbian, resurrecting archaic Croatian words and stressing the existing difference in script. Croatian is written in the Latin alphabet, while Serbian utilizes the Cyrillic alphabet used by a number of other Slavic languages. Croats also reject the 1954 Novi Sad Agreement, which declared Serbo-Croatian to be one language with two scripts (see Serbo-Croatian Language). A further difference between the two ethnic groups is religion. While most Croats are Roman Catholic, the majority of Serbs belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. Only a small percentage of Serbs practice their religion, however.

Slightly more than half of Croatia's population lives in urban areas, particularly in the republic's largest cities. These include Zagreb, the republic's primary industrial center, with a population (1991) of 703,799; Split (189,444) and Rijeka (167,757), two important seaports; and Osijek (104,553), an industrial center. The remainder live in smaller towns and villages.

Free preschool, elementary, and secondary education is available to all citizens. Children between the ages of 6 and 15 are required to attend school, while secondary education is optional. Approximately 94 percent of the population over the age of 10 can read and write. The republic has four universities (in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, and Osijek) and three polytechnic institutes for students wishing to earn higher degrees.


Once one of the most prosperous of the six republics of Yugoslavia, Croatia's economy declined rapidly with the outbreak of war. In 1990 Croatia's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was about $5205, a figure comparable to that of Portugal and well above the Yugoslav average. Nearly two-thirds of the republic's land was cultivated, and sugar beets, wheat, and maize were the principal agricultural products. Croatia is rich in mineral resources, and mining was one of the most productive of the republic's industries. Other industries included petroleum refineries, iron and steelworks, shipyards, and plants producing chemicals, foodstuffs, machinery, cement and concrete, metal products, and textiles. Many of these industries were destroyed or damaged during fighting in 1991, although Croatia has been able to repair much of them since then. Much of the petroleum-extraction industry is located in areas seized by Serbian forces.

Since the beginning of hostilities with Serbia in early 1991, industrial output has declined considerably. In 1991 economic activity fell by one-third. In addition, the republic's GDP entered a deep downward spiral, falling from $13.5 billion in 1990 to $7.5 billion in 1992. Inflation soared as high as 122.6 percent in early 1992 before being controlled, and unemployment topped 17 percent in 1993. The war also inhibited the republic's once highly profitable tourist trade, destroyed critical infrastructure, and saddled the government with the costs of more than 600,000 refugees.

Croatia began a partial and slow economic recovery in 1993. By the end of the year the government had built up $1.5 billion in foreign reserves, privatized almost half of the country's businesses, and increased agricultural production by 20 percent over 1992, despite periodic fighting. The tourism industry also began to rebound. However, poverty and unemployment remained widespread among the Croatian population, and shortages of many goods persisted.

In May 1994 Croatia changed its currency from the dinar to the kuna. The latter currency had been used in medieval times and had been revived by the Fascist Ustaše government that controlled Croatia from 1941 to 1945 during World War II. In 1995, 5.08 kunas equaled U.S.$1. Croatia's most important trading partners are Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Great Britain, and the United States. Exports include machinery, transportation equipment, chemicals, and foodstuffs.

Important energy sources for Croatia include offshore oil wells, coal, and the Krško nuclear station. The latter is located in Slovenia and is in the process of being decommissioned under an agreement between the two countries. In the early 1990s Croatia had 23,633 km (14,686 mi) of roads, including 291 km (181 mi) of highways, and more than 800,000 motor vehicles, most of them private passenger cars.


On December 22, 1990, the government of Croatia promulgated its first democratic constitution while still a republic of Yugoslavia. Under the constitution, the president of the republic is the head of state. The president is elected by direct popular vote to a five-year term, and then calls elections for the legislature. The president also appoints a council of ministers, including the prime minister.

The Croatian Assembly, or Sabor, consists of the Chamber of Representatives, which adopts all laws, and the Chamber of Municipalities, which can only propose or request reconsideration of laws. Members of both chambers are elected to four-year terms by direct popular vote. Members of the Chamber of Municipalities are elected in groups of three by the citizens of their respective cities. Croatia is divided administratively into 21 counties. Croatia's principal political parties are the Croatian Democratic Union, the Croatian Social-Liberal party, and the Istrian Democratic Assembly.

The Supreme Court is Croatia's highest court. All judges are appointed by the Chamber of Municipalities, at the recommendation of the Chamber of Representatives. There is also a Constitutional Court as well as various trial and appellate courts.

A state-subsidized health care system is available to all citizens of Croatia. In the early 1990s there were 11,000 physicians and 2500 dentists in Croatia.

In June 1993 the Croatian armed forces numbered 103,300 on active duty and 180,000 in the reserves. The active duty personnel consisted of 95,000 in the army, 4000 in the navy, 4000 in the air defense force, and 300 in the air force. There are also 40,000 armed military police in Croatia. Under Croatian law, ten months of military service is compulsory for all men, though periods of war usually require longer service.

Croatia became a full member of the United Nations (UN) in May 1992, and is also a part of the Central European Initiative, a group promoting regional political and economic cooperation. Croatia was admitted to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1993, and it has special guest status on the Council of Europe, with an application pending for full membership.


Croatia formed part of the province of Pannonia during the reign of the Roman Empire. Pannonia was conquered by the Avars, a Mongolian people, in the 6th century AD. During the 7th century, the Croats conquered the Avars; subsequently the Croats were conquered by the Franks. Later the region was made into the duchy of Croatia and Slavonia. In 925 Croatia became an independent kingdom, which lasted until the end of the 11th century, when a period of political anarchy led to intervention by Hungary. Except for periods of occupation by the Ottomans and French, Croatia was an autonomous kingdom under Hungarian rule from 1102 until the Hungarian revolution of 1848. Croatia and Slavonia were then made a separate Austrian crown land. In 1867 the Austrians and Hungarians created the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, and Croatia was assigned to Hungary. Shortly after this, Croatia gained autonomy from Hungary, and was eventually united with Slavonia. Hungarian manipulation of Croatia, however, ultimately led to mutual hostility which was carried forth into World War I (1914-1918).

During World War I, Croats and Serbs mostly fought together, hoping to create a kingdom that would unite all the South Slavic peoples. On December 1, 1918, following the overthrow of the monarchy of Austria-Hungary at the close of the war, Croatia became part of the independent Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes under the Serbian monarchy of Alexander. When conflict between Croats and Serbs led to greater national tensions, Alexander tightened control over the country, and in 1929 he renamed the kingdom Yugoslavia ("Land of the South Slavs"). Tensions between the two ethnic groups continued, however, and the postwar history of the state was marked by a struggle by the Croats for greater political autonomy. Croatian and Macedonian extremists assassinated Alexander in 1934, and Fascist movements began to garner support among the Croats and Serbs. In 1939 the approximate present boundaries of the republic were defined and the area was named Croatia.

In 1941, as Yugoslavia became entangled in World War II, a new Croatian state was formed. The new state was created as a result of the invasion and dismemberment of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers. Italy approved the pro-Fascist puppet state called the Ustaše regime, which encompassed much of Croatia and Bosnia and was headed by nationalists in Croatia. Yugoslavs fought against each other during the remainder of the war; in particular, the forces of Josip Broz Tito, a Croatian Communist, fought against the Italian-backed Ustaše regime. At the end of the war, Tito reconciled all the various parts of Yugoslavia and created a Yugoslav federation with Croatia as one of the constituent republics. By the terms of the peace treaty with Italy in 1947, most of Istria, formerly part of Italy, was included in Croatia. During the 1960s and 1970s Croatia's beautiful Adriatic coastline attracted tourism, which contributed to Yugoslavia's economy. Croats began to agitate for greater autonomy as they saw their tourist revenues being used to stamp out Croatian nationalism. Following Tito's death in 1980, tensions between Croatia and the Serb-dominated Yugoslav government worsened.

By the end of the 1980s demands for autonomy had been superseded by demands for independence from Yugoslavia. Croatian dissidents, including Franjo Tudjman, became more prominent among the Croatian populace. Tudjman created the Croatian Democratic Union (CDU) in 1990, after the Communist government began to allow political parties to participate in the governmental process. Tudjman began campaigning for the ensuing election, promoting the expansion of Croatia's borders. This touched off protests by Serbs, but the CDU prevailed in the May 1990 elections, winning a majority of the seats in the Assembly. Tudjman was elected as president. Despite an attempt to make concessions for the Serbs, Tudjman quickly alienated the Serbs living in Croatia. They organized themselves and called a referendum later in the year on whether or not a separate state should be created for Croatian Serbs. The majority of Serbs voted for autonomy, and as a result, Serbs began creating Serbian Autonomous Regions (SARs) throughout Croatia. Tudjman's government did not recognize the SARs, and when the rest of Croatia voted for independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991, the ethnic Serbian minority of about 600,000 stood firmly in opposition. By October three SARs had been established: Krajina, Eastern Slavonia, and Western Slavonia. A savage civil war soon began, broken by frequent, short-lived cease-fires. By the end of 1991 nearly one-third of the republic's territory had been taken over by the Serbs, with backing from the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). By December both the European Community (EC, now called the European Union) and the United Nations were involved in mediation efforts in Croatia, and the three SARs had united to declare a "Republic of Serbian Krajina."

In January 1992 an unconditional cease-fire was signed by the JNA and the Croatian National Guard. The UN sent in 14,000 peacekeeping forces in February to ensure the withdrawal of Serb forces and the demilitarization of Croatian territory; the UN troops, however, proved ineffectual. Serb forces remained in control of much of Croatia, forcing out non-Serbs and starting a second round of armed conflicts despite the UN presence. Internal problems in Croatia led to a clampdown on democratic freedoms. The government suppressed certain newspapers and began arresting so-called extremists in June 1992. Elections held in August 1992 enacted some of the provisions of the new constitution adopted in 1990. Voters reelected President Tudjman and gave a majority of the seats in the legislature to the CDU. In October 1992 Croatia also began supporting Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who had seized one-third of Bosnian territory and created a breakaway Croat state, called the Republic of Herceg-Bosna. Some of the nationalist members of this state advocated joining Croatia.

By mid-1993 it became clear that the Vance-Owen peace plan, proposed by Lord Owen of the EC and Cyrus Vance of the UN, had failed. Negotiations continued, however, and a bilateral accord between Croatia and Serbia was signed in January 1994, pledging the restoration of communication and transportation links between the two republics. Nevertheless, Serbs still occupied 25 to 30 percent of Croatian territory, and President Slobodan Miloševi of Serbia refused to include a mutual recognition clause in the agreement, which would have solidified Croatia's claim to the Krajina region and the other SARs. In March 1994 the Bosnian government and Bosnian Croats signed a charter for a new federation, linking the remaining territory of Bosnia controlled by the two groups. At the same time, the new federation signed an agreement with Croatia to facilitate economic cooperation. The tense stand-off between the Croats and the Croatian Serbs continued throughout the year, held in place chiefly by the UN peacekeeping forces occupying the region. The so-called Z-4 peace plan presented by U.S. and Russian ambassadors in November proposed restoring the original boundaries of Croatia to the Croatian government, but giving Serbs local autonomy in the Serb-dominated regions. However, both sides rejected this plan.

The uneasy peace in Croatia was threatened by Tudjman's efforts in early 1995 to end the UN's mandate in his country and force out the troops, whose presence the Croatians feared was solidifying the Serbs' hold on the Krajina region. Tudjman finally agreed to let a smaller UN force remain in Croatia through November, but he insisted that the name of the force be changed to reflect Croatia's independent status and that the number of troops occupying Croatia be reduced by about one-third. Then, in early May 1995, Croat forces crossed UN lines and attacked a Serb-held enclave in Western Slavonia; the Serbs immediately responded by bombing Zagreb. The Serbs were eventually forced to evacuate the region, giving the Croatian army a victory and considerably reducing the Croatian territory controlled by the Serbs. It was the largest Croatian offensive since 1991 and, coming just days after the end of a four-month cease-fire in Bosnia and Herzegovina, sparked fears of a renewed region-wide conflict in the former Yugoslavia.