Serbo-Croatian War / Homeland War
The deepest and oldest national rivalry in Yugoslavia was the one between the Serbs and Croats, who despite their shared language possessed different social and value systems and political cultures. Two sayings illustrated these animosities and the essential difference in the inherited political styles of both peoples. The first says: "The very way of life of a Serb and Croat is a deliberate provocation by each to the other." The second, a self-complimentary Serbian stereotype, holds that in a conflict with authority "the Serb reaches for the sword and the Croat for his pen." The Serbian stereotype refers to the tradition of the hajduk, the idealized mountain renegade who responded violently to the oppressive anarchy of the Ottoman Empire during its last two centuries; the Croatian stereotype reflects the cultural influence of responding through the legal system to the Habsburgs' highly bureaucratized infringements on national and individual freedoms in Croatia.
The Serbo-Croatian conflict has its roots in the Austrian Military Frontier (1578-1881) or Vojna Krajina, which was founded by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in order to block further expansion of the Ottomans from the south. The Austrians knew that the Serbs hated the Ottomans so Vienna gave free land to the Serbs if they would agree to serve as a vanguard against Constantinople.
The history of the Serbs belongs to the East of Europe, that of the Croatian people is knit in with the fortunes of the West. The Croatians were first converted to Christianity from Rome, the Serbs by the Greek missionaries Cyril and Methodius. The Croatians use the Latin alphabet, the Serbs the Cyrilian letters. Croatia was not included in the great Serb empire of Stephen Douchan in the fourteenth century.
From a very early period of history Sclavonic races were settled in the district which, roughly speaking, lies between the Adriatic and the river Drave. Brought under subjection at various periods by the Avars and the Bulgarians, they got rid of their conquerors in the middle of the seventh century, and founded, amongst other principalities, the kingdom of Croatia. For a brief period the empire of Charles the Great comprised a large portion of the territories of this kingdom within its limits, but in the time of his descendants they recovered independence. The two kingdoms of Sclavonia and Croatia, which included Dalmatia, then sprang into existence, the latter of which conquered the former in the eleventh century. Such was the position of things when the tide of Magyar invasion, which had crossed the Carpathians at the end of the ninth century, after rolling over the great plain between those mountains and the Danube, crossed that river and reached the Drave. The struggle was brief. Croatia submitted between 1088 and 1102 to Ladislas L, who gave his son Alum* the title of duke of these countries, in much the same way that, two centuries later, an English king gave his eldest son the title of Prince of Wales.
In the days of Maria Theresa the separate Croatian Chancellery at Agram was abolished, and the administration of the country centralized at Pesth. Fiume and the adjacent Littoral were claimed as an integral portion of the dominions of the crown of St. Stephen; the territories adjacent to the Save were placed under a special government, known as that of the "military frontier," and intended as a barrier against the Turks, while the administration of Dalmatia was transferred to Vienna. Much was not accordingly left of the triune kingdoms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Sclavonia. The memory, however, of earlier greatness and liberty did not perish. Distance rather lent enchantment to the view. To re-unite the Littoral, the Military Frontier and Dalmatia, and to have a real Diet sitting at Agram became the day-dream of Croatian patriots.
The Austrian military frontier system was intended as a line of defence to resist the incessant attacks of Turkey. The first Military Code dates from 1754, and having been proved in Varasdin was afterwards, with some modification of detail, applied to other frontiers. In 1807, the military frontiers were divided into four commands, each including a military and civil jurisdiction. The first of which, the head-quarters was at Agram, had under it, the regiments of Banat, Varasdin and Carlstadt. The second at Peterwardein, superintended the Sclavonian regiments. The third, at Temeswar, had under it the regiments of the Banat; and the fourth, at Karlsbourg, commanded all Transylvania. On a peace footing, this gave for eight regiments of Croats, three regiments of Sclavonia, and the two regiments of the Banat, together with hussar and other special corps, 51,662 men ; and on a war footing, 99,995 men. In 1849, some alterations were made, three frontier regiments having been converted into regiments of the Line.
The conditions of service consisted in the grant of land, instead of pay, to military frontier colonists enrolled for service within and without the country. Each grant passed in hereditary succession to the sons of soldier-colonists, to the exclusion of females, and each inheritor was bound to military service. In default of a direct heir, the land reverted to the Government, and was apportioned again. Oflicers combatant and non-combatant alike were forbidden to cultivate.
The colonists were subject both to a civil and military jurisdiction. It would appear from the testimony of independent witnesses, that the Austrian frontier system was, to a certain extent, a success. General de Courtegis spoke most highly of the frontier men, both with regard to their patriotism and their devotion to and respect for their oflicers. He says: “Their faces light up with pleasure when they see their superiors ; a very different thing from the usual look on the Austrian soldier's face, under similar circumstances.”
By the Ausgleich of 1868 it was agreed that Croatia was recognised as belonging to the category of lands subject to the Hungarian crown, and accordingly acknowledged the agreement of 1867 between Hungary and Austria as binding on herself. The territory of Fiume was recognised as belonging to Hungary, and bound to send her deputies direct to Pesth. Nothing was said about Dalmatia or the Military Frontier. In the Croatian elections of 1871, , the National party gained an easy majority, and claimed Fiume as an integral portion of the Croatian territory, and demanded the incorporation of the Military Frontier with the country. On 09 June 1872, a Royal Hungarian Proclamation appeared directing the necessary steps to be taken for the incorporation of the Military Frontier into Croatia.
The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, that would become the basis for Yugoslavia, was in a perilous situation from its begining, as a Croatian leader who demanded autonomy was shot and killed in parliament. By 1929, Serbian King Alexander Karageorgevic I proclaimed the foundation of Yugoslavia with the Serbs dominating the authoritarian monarchy. The Croats, who along with the Serbs were the main ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, resented King Alexander I's measures and anti-Serb feeling began to grow as well as calls for independence. Croats began to fear that Yugoslavia as a means to an end for a "Greater Serbia" that included Slavonia (what is now the eastern part of Croatia between the Sava and Drava rivers), as well as Vojvodina, most of Bosnia, the Banat, and what is now the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In 1932, King Alexander I was assassinated in Marseilles by a member of a Macedonian rebel group.
Croatia gained autonomy in 1939 and in 1941 Croatia joined World War II on the side of the Axis Powers and staged a military coup that made Ustashe leader Ante Pavelic leader of Croatia. This left Croatia as essentially a Nazi puppet state that allowed Germany to invade Yugoslavia. As part of Nazi efforts to re-draw the borders, Bosnia and Herzegovina were awarded to Croatia. With the Ustashe in control, atrocities occurred on a massive scale as thousands of Serbs were killed in concentration camps. While there was a shadow government was established in London by the son of the late King Alexander I, the main opposition to the Ustashe were the royalist Serbian Chetniks and the multi-ethnic socialist Partisans led by Josip Broz Tito.
The Nazis withdrew from the area in October 1944 and Croatia was reconstituted as part of the new Yugoslavia, now a socialist republic under Tito's leadership. Croatia became one of the six constituent republics of Yugoslavia (the others being Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia). During Tito's reign nationalist sentiments were repressed, especially among the Croats. A decentralization program went into effect in 1970 but it did little to pacify Croats. With Tito's death in 1980, Croat demands for independence only increased but it was not until the fall of the Berlin Wall that things began to come apart.
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