The Croats are believed to be a purely Slavic people who migrated from
Ukraine and settled in present-day Croatia during the 6th century. The
name Croatia is derived from that of a people called Croats (Hrvat, Chrobatos)
i.e. "the nation ready to defend its home and rights", whose migration
from Southwestern Russia and Galicia of to-day then known as "White Croatia"
or "Great Croatia" (Velika Hrvatska) towards the old Illyricum and Dalmatia
began in the early part of the fifth century.
There were several migrations
at different times. The people settled during the first half of the sixth
century in Pannonia Inferior, now Lower Hungary, and on the eastern banks
of the Danube. Here they struggled for their very existence against the
Avars, a bloodthirsty people, and then crossed the Drave to Pannonia Superior
and Dalmatia, provinces of the Roman Empire, to which they gave the name
of Croatia. From 610 to 641 the Croats established their settlements on
a firm basis. From that time forward they suffered various vicissitudes
owing to the constantly changing political life. The provinces occupied
by the Croats were already peopled by Illyrian and Celtic tribes as Roman
domains. Friendly terms were maintained, however, and together they made
war against the common enemy, the Avars, conquered them and finally established
their own state.
The executive head of the Croats was the "ban" a title
still in use, and he had unlimited power as leader and governor of the
people. Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor, was compelled to abandon his
provinces in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. At that time the
Croats occupied the following provinces: Illyricum Liburnia, Pannonia,
Dalmatia, and a part of Histria, now known respectively as Croatia, Slavonia,
Dalmatia, Istria, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their kinsmen, the Serbs, settled
in Montenegro, Northern Albania, Old Servia, and the western part of the
Servian Kingdom. The cities of Zara (Zadar or Jadera), Trau (Trogir or
Tragurion), Spalato (Spljet), and Ragusa (Dubrovnik), on the Dalmatian
coast, and the islands Veglia (Krk) and Arbe (Rab or Absorus), in the Adriatic,
remained Latin in character. Elsewhere, however, the assimilative power
of the Croats was stronger and the Latin race disappeared.
After a period of self-rule, Croatians agreed to the Pacta Conventa
in 1091, submitting themselves to Hungarian authority. In Sigismund's time,
Croatia was severly tried by the wars with Venice, and those against the
Turks, who invaded Croatian territory in 1414-15. From that until 1838,
when the Turks were finally repulsed at Cetin, the struggle was continuous.
The Bans Nicholas and John Frankopani and Matko Talovac were the first
in the field against the Sultan Murad II. Sigismund was succeeded by his
son-in-law Archduke Albert of Austria, who died in 1439 at a critical period.
His wife, though civil war was raging, took control of the Government in
1439, and her son, Ladislaus Posthumus was nominal ruler until 1457. After
the fall of Constantinople (1453) and the occupation of Bosnia ten years
later by the Turks, the Turks were repulsed on the Croatian frontier and
Western culture was saved to posterity.
The following centuries show bloody
records of constant struggles against the Turks. Yakub, Pasha of Bosnia,
eager to enslave Catholic Balkan, invaded Croatia in 1493. He was met by
the Croatian forces under Ban Derenchin on the field of Krbava. The Croats
were defeated and left the flower of their nobility on the field. In 1513,
however, the Turkish army was defeated by the Ban Bishop Peter Berislavich,
and Leo X, upon receiving the news of victory, sent the warrior-bishop
a blessed saber. Bishop Berislavich's appeal to Charles V was unheeded,
and the former was killed in the battle of Korenica (1520). His death was
a terrible blow to the Antemurale Christianitatis, as the pope and emperor
styled the Croats in their letters. Then followed the conflicts of Jajce
(1521, 1525), Kllis (1524), Mohacs (1526), and Vienna (1529) which Solyman
II atempted to take. He was badly defeated, however, and returned to Constantinople
with thousands of Christians, who became either slaves or soldiers (Janizaries).
The pashas in Bosnia in retaliation for the defeat, pillaged the country
and slew the Christians.
By the mid-1400s, concerns over Ottoman expansion led the Croatian Assembly
to invite the Habsburgs, under Archduke Ferdinand, to assume control over
Croatia. Habsburg rule proved successful in thwarting the Ottomans,
and by the 18th century, much of Croatia was free of Turkish control.
In 1712 the Croatian Sabor accepted the Pragmatic Sanction, by which
Charles VI secured the succession to his daughter Maria Theresa. In the
Thirty Years War and the Seven years War between Maria Theresa and Frederick
the Great the Croats took a prominent part. During the reign of Leopold
I (1658-1705) hundreds of families of the Schismatic Greek Church had entered
Croatia as refugees from Turkish rule. Jealousy existed between the Catholics
of the country and the newcomers because the rulers did not favour any
but the Catholic religion. In 1777 Maria Theresa secured the erection of
a diocese for the Uniat Greeks, with the Eastern Rite and the Old Slavonic
Liturgy. She hoped in this way to bring about union with Rome, but the
breach was only widened. Education reached a high standard in the sixteenth
century under the Hermits of St. Paul. Later on the Jesuits became their
co-workers in the field. They established an excellent institution in Zagreb.
The Croatian youth also attended the universities at Rome, Padua, and Bologna.
The absolutist, Joseph II (1780-90), who succeeded Maria Theresa, failed
in his reforms, though he stopped at nothing in his attempts to carry them
out. In Croatia he suppressed religious orders, confiscated monasteries
and seminaries, and hampered the progress of education. To save the mother-tongue
a reaction against Latin began in 1835, and the native speech was revived
in church, university, and street. In 1809 Napoleon, having conquered Croatia,
set up the Kingdom of Illyria, a union of all the Croatian provinces, under
French control. In the first half of the nineteenth century, as an outgrowth
of the revival of the language, a vigorous nationalizing movement began
under Louis Gaj. Representatives of the people, 300 in number, demanded
of the king the same rights for Croatia as those possessed by Hungary:
independence under the king; the election of the ban by the people and
his presentation for the king's approval; the ban was to be ex-offficio
president of Croatian cabinet and responsible to the Sabor, at its annual
meeting; the Croatian army with its head was to take an oath of fidelity
to the king; the military Frontier to be abolished; and Croatian made the
official tongue. The only point gained was the appointment , as ban, of
Joseph Jellachich. In 1848 the revolution broke out. Jellachich saved the
throne for the Hapsburg family, but further enslaved his country in doing
so. The Croatian Generals Davidovich and Vukasovich distinguished themselves
in the war against Italy in 1866. In 1878 Generals Francis and Ivan Philoppovich
occupied Bosnia with Croatian regiments.
In 1868, Croatia gained domestic autonomy while remaining under Hungarian
authority. Following World War I and the demise of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, Croatia joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (The
Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes became Yugoslavia in 1929). Yugoslavia
changed its name once again after World War II. The new state became the
Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and united Croatia and several
other states together under the communistic leadership of Marshall Tito.
After the death of Tito and with the fall of communism throughout eastern
Europe, the Yugoslav federation began to crumple. Croatia held its first
multi-party elections since World War II in 1990. Long-time Croatian nationalist
Franjo Tudjman was elected President, and one year later, Croatians declared
independence from Yugoslavia. Conflict between Serbs and Croats in Croatia
escalated, and one month after Croatia declared independence, civil war
The United Nations mediated a cease-fire in January 1992, but hostilities
resumed the next year when Croatia fought to regain one-third of the territory
lost the previous year. A second cease-fire was enacted in May 1993, followed
by a joint declaration the next January between Croatia and Yugoslavia.
However, in September 1993, the Croatian Army led an offensive against
the Serb-held Republic of Krajina. A third cease-fire was called in March
1994, but it, too, was broken in May and August 1995 after Croatian forces
regained large portions of Krajina, prompting an exodus of Serbs from this
area. In November 1995, Croatia agreed to peacefully reintegrate Eastern
Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Dirmium under terms of the Erdut Agreement.
In December 1995, Croatia signed the Dayton peace agreement, committing
itself to a permanent cease-fire and the return of all refugees.
The death of President Tudjman in December 1999, followed by the election
of a coalition government and president in early 2000, brought significant
changes to Croatia. The government, under the leadership of Prime Minister
Racan, progressed in implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, regional
cooperation, refugee returns, national reconciliation, and democratization.
On November 23, 2003, national elections were held for parliament. The
new government, headed by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, took office in December
Croatian History Bibliography
* Portions of this text are from the print edition of the 1907 Catholic