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Croatia - History

Neanderthal's lived on the territory of Croatia about 130,000 BC. In 1899, the Croatian paleontologist Dragutin Gorjanovic Kramberger found the buried remains of 23 prehistoric humans - Neanderthals and an abundance of stone and bone tools and weapons. The site is one of the most important Paleolithic sites in the world. The findings are today kept in the Croatian Natural Sciences Museum in Zagreb, whilst actual size replicas of prehistoric humans and animals have been placed in front of the village of Hušnjakovo.

During the Eneolithic or Copper Age, many ethnic communities and different cultures lived on the territory of Croatia. The most recognised and widespread is the Vucedol culture, so named after the Vucedol locality near Vukovar, where rectangular houses with two rooms were discovered. Apart from the use of metal-copper, ceramics decorated with incrustations were characteristic of the Vucedol culture, usually used for religious purposes. A ritual vessel in the form of a bird - probably a dove or partridge - the most recognised item or symbol of the 'Vucedol' culture. It was from this hollow figure, decorated with notches and the image of a double edged hatchet (labrisa), the symbol of sacrifice and fertility, that cereal grains were scattered as a sacrifice to the gods.

The Croats are believed to be a Slavic people who migrated from Ukraine [didn't everyone??] and settled in present-day Croatia during the 6th century. After a period of self-rule and the establishment of an independent kingdom, Croatians agreed to the Pacta Conventa in 1091, submitting themselves to Hungarian authority. 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. The Austrian monarchy also acquired control over Dalmatia at the close of the Napoleonic wars following centuries of rule by the Venetian Republic.

Croatia Map - Historical ControlIn 1868, Croatia gained domestic autonomy 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). During World War II, German and Italian troops invaded and occupied Yugoslavia and set up a puppet, Fascist regime to rule a nominally-independent Croatian state. This regime, under the hard-line nationalist Croatian Ustasha party, was responsible for the deaths of large numbers of ethnic Serbs, Jews, Roma, and other civilians in a network of concentration camps. It was eventually defeated by the Partisans, led by Josip Broz Tito, in what was essentially a civil war as well as a struggle against the Axis occupiers. The pro-Yugoslav Partisans included many ethnic groups, including a large number of Croatians, and were supplied in large part by the United States and the United Kingdom. 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 republics together under the communist leadership of Marshal Tito.

After the death of Tito and with the fall of communism throughout eastern Europe, the Yugoslav federation began to unravel. Croatia held its first multi-party elections since World War II in 1990. Long-time Croatian nationalist Franjo Tudjman was elected President, and 1 year later, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Conflict between Serbs and Croats in Croatia escalated, and 1 month after Croatia declared independence, the Yugoslav Army intervened and war erupted.

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 self-styled "Republic of Krajina." A third cease-fire was called in March 1994, but it, too, was broken in May and August 1995, after which Croatian forces regained large portions of the Krajina, prompting an exodus of Serbs from this area. In November 1995, Croatia agreed to peacefully reintegrate Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium under terms of the Erdut Agreement, and the Croatian government re-established political and legal authority over those territories in January 1998. 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 then-Prime Minister Racan, progressed in implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, regional cooperation, refugee returns, national reconciliation, and democratization.

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Page last modified: 10-01-2012 19:23:14 ZULU