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European Kingdoms

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Feature Croatia (Slavs)

The documented history of Croatia began with Greek settlements along the Dalmatian coast beginning in the fourth century BC. The interior was then dominated by tribal peoples, with the Celts and native Elyrs (modern Kosovars and Albanians) most significant just before the Roman conquest. The Celtic Norican kingdom, which covered modern Austria, Slovenia and part of northern Croatia, briefly survived the conquest as a Roman tributary. Parts of Croatia were incorporated into the province of Pannonia, which was subjugated by the Huns and Ostrogoths in the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Slavic migrations reached Croatia beginning in the sixth century.

According to some modern theories, the Croatian name can be traced back to Persia, although in reality this claims merely involves words which are similar to both branches of these Indo-European groups. A more sound footing for the origins of the Croats comes with the earliest mention of the name as Horovathos (modern Hrvatske/Hrvat or Hrvati/Horvat) which can apparently be traced on two stone inscriptions in Greek, dating from around AD 200. These were found at the former seaport of Tanais on the Sea of Azov (now part of Crimea). One of the confluents to the River Don near the region of Azov is still called Horvatos. This area is close enough to the proto-Slav homeland in what is now Ukraine to make a proto-Croat presence feasible.

The Croatian name can also apparently be traced to various sites in Ukraine, again not impossible. One group, known as the the White Croats, followed a migratory path which seems to have left other name traces around Krakow in Poland, in Bohemia, and in Austria. Around AD 800-819, Croatian rulers established separate states along the Adriatic coast and inland in Slavonia (former Roman Pannonia). The ruler was entitled 'ban, banovi' (the equivalent of 'king'), a word found only in Croatia which is presumed to have Indo-European roots.

By the ninth century the Carolingian Frankish empire controlled almost all of Europe, but when Charlemagne's death divided it, Croatia's ruling duke revolted and formed an independent state - the earliest such state of any duration in the Balkans region. This previous contact with the West and Croatia's ideal location on the coast of the Adriatic enabled the state to develop more rapidly than some of its inland neighbours. The title of 'Ban' was relegated to the equivalent of viceroy, but often the serving Ban would later be elevated to king.

(Additional information by Željko Buzov.)

c.626 - c.641

Klukas, Lobel, Kosjenc, Muhlo, Hrvat & Tuga, Buga

Five brothers and two sisters.

c.626 - c.641

The seven siblings lead the Croats from the area around Krakow in Poland into the Balkans. They are invited by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to help him fight the Avars. The Croats receive their present-day lands to settle as a reward. This is a typical Roman foedus relationship, illustrated by tenth century Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenet: 'De Administrando Imperio' (On Ruling The Empire), Chapter 31). Unfortunately, the Slav presence in Dalmatia and Istria leads to the destruction of churches, and Pope John IV, a Dalmatian, is forced to pay large sums of money to free prisoners. The relics of some of the more important Dalmatian saints are interred in Rome.

c.641 - c.689

Radoslav

c.641 - c.689

Radoslav is a strong ruler. His name is preserved after his long reign in people's memory and folk ballads up to the twentieth century as 'Old-Man Radoslav'. The introduction of Christianity is made under his rule (according to other sources the Croats were already Christianised when they arrived in the Balkans).

c.689 - c.800

A period in which the activities of the Croats remains undocumented.

Dukes of Croatia
c.AD 810 - 925

The Croatian ruler rejected Frankish authority after the death of Charlemagne, declaring an independent duchy.

c.800 - c.810

Visheslav

First independent duke.

c.810 - 821

Borna

In Dalmatia. Carolingian vassal.

c.810

The later Croatian royal court is modelled very closely on these contemporary Carolingian court practices, churches are constructed in the Carolingian style, as are arms and armour.

Map of the Frankish Empire in AD 800
Under Charlemagne's leadership, the Franks greatly expanded their borders eastwards, engulfing tribal states, the Bavarian state and its satellite, Khorushka, and much of northern Italy, with the Avars now an eastern neighbour (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.814

Borna rejects Frankish authority following the death of Charlemagne. Instead, he declares Croatia to be an independent duchy.

817 - 823

Ljudevit / Ludevit Posavski

Nephew of Borna. Ruler of Pannonia (Khorushka).

819 - 823

From 819 Ljudevit is ruler of the Slav principality of Khorushka. Posavski means 'of river Sava'. Ljudevit successfully resists seven Frankish raids during this period before his forces are finally overwhelmed. Finally defeated, he escapes via Serbia to his Uncle Borna in Croatia who places him in a dungeon to please the Carolingians. Ljudevit dies in captivity.

821 - c.835

Vladislav

c.835 - c.845

Mislav

c.845 - 864

Trpimir I

Founder of the Trpimirpvich dynasty.

864

Zdeslav

864 - 876

Domagoj

876

Iljko

876 - 879

Zdeslav

Restored.

879 - 892

Branimir

892 - 910

Mutimir / Muncimir / Mucimir

910 - 925

Tomislav

Elevated to king.

Kingdom of Croatia
AD 925 - 1918

In 924, Duke Tomislav was elevated to king of Dalmatian Croatia by the Pope and united it with Slavonia to create the first permanent kingdom in Eastern Europe. He stopped the Hungarian advance on the river Drava (which even today forms the boundary between Hungary and Croatia, and was possibly the first stable boundary in Europe). Also, Tomislav aided the Serbian ruling nobility, offering them shelter and stopping the Bulgarian advance at the river Drina (today's boundary between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina). He founded the castle of Vishegrad on the left bank of river Drina as his summer residence to emphasise Croatia's borders to the Bulgarians. 'Croatia' was used to define the inland parts including western Bosnia, while Dalmatia defined the ex-Greek coastal regions (and modern Herzegovina).

After his death civil wars weakened the state and some territory, including that of Bosnia, was lost. Lack of a suitable heir in 1089 resulted in the crown eventually being passed into Hungarian ownership, leaving its day-to-day running in the hands of local rulers.

925 - 928

Tomislav I

Crowned by Pope John X (925).

928 - c.935

Trpimir II

c.935 - c.945

Kresimir I

c.945 - c.949

Miroslav

c.945 - c.969

Michail Kresimir II

962

With the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I the Elder is restored in Flanders, and the March of Austria is formed from territory already captured from Hungary (around 960).

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern the territories shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases, most notably in the five great stem duchies, many of which were attempting to expand their own territories outside the empire, creating the various march or border regions to the east and south (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

c.969 - 997

Stjepan Drzislav

997 - 1000

Svetoslav Mucimir

997 - 1030

Kresimir III

997 - 1020

Goislav

1030 - 1058

Stephen I

Ban (pre-1030?) - not all sources agree on this.

1058 - 1074

Petar Kresimir IV

Restored kingdom to Tomislav's level.

1074 - 1075

Slavich

Enslaved by Venetians.

1075

Slavich is captured by Venetians during a walk by the seaside and is taken in slavery.

1075 - 1091

Dimitar Zvonimir

Ban (1070-1073). Only heir died in childhood.

1089

Dimitar marries Princess Helena Illona Lijepa, daughter of King Bela I of Hungary. Helena's brother is St Ladislas I of Hungary.

1088 - 1091

Helena / Ilona Lijepa ('Beautiful')

Joint ruler.

1089 - 1090

Stephen II

Dalmatian opponent to Helena.

1091 - 1093

Almos

1090 - 1093

Slavac

Dalmatian opponent to Helena and then Almos.

1093 - 1097

Peter Svachich

Ban (1074). Considered to be the last king of Croatian blood.

1097

Ladislas of Hungary's successor, Koloman (supported by Pannonian Croats), defeats his Croatian-Dalmatian opposition at Gvozd Mountain (modern Petrova Gora). Croatia maintains its autonomy but confirms Koloman as its king, and crowns him King of Croatia & Dalmatia in Biograd. Croatia is now governed on behalf of the Hungarian king by the continuation of the office of Ban (viceroy) and the Sabor (parliament, literally, 'a gathering of people'). Anything the Hungarian king wishes to enact in Croatia has to be passed through the Sabor first.

1102

The Pacta Conventa ('the conditions agreed upon') is signed by a group of Croatian nobles (who form a 'House of Lords'). This concedes the throne to the person of the Hungarian king, Ladislas, in exchange for guaranteed autonomy. This respects the principle 'Regnum regi non prescribit leges' (literally, 'the kingdom doesn't prescribe laws to another kingdom'). This is opposed by some Croatian elements, but essentially ensures the two kingdoms are separate while sharing the same ruler.

1397

King Sigismund of Hungary & Croatia calls for the Sabor in city of Krizhevci. On 20 February he organises the killing of the Croatian Ban Stjepan Lackovich and his followers for supporting the opponent king candidate Ladislaus of Naples. Croatian law is that no one should enter the Sabor with arms, so Ban Lackovich and his supporters leave their arms in front of the church. The Hungarians are already in the church, fully armed. The event is known as 'Bloody Sabor of Krizhevci'.

1527

The Cetingrad Convention of Croatian Nobility is drawn up on the 1 January. This allows a financially poor Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand to replace the destroyed Hungarian nobility as king of Croatia. The invitation is conditional on him providing defence against the advancing Turkish forces. He is as good as his word.

1810

Following a further Austrian defeat in 1809, at the Battle of Wagram, Bavaria agrees to grant the Tyrol to Italy, while Istria, Dalmatia and Ragusa are incorporated into the new Illyrian Provinces.

1809 - 1811

Auguste de Marmont

First French governor-general.

1811 - 1812

Henri Gatien Bertrand

1812 - 1813

Jean-Andoche Junot

1813

Joseph Fouché

Between Jul-Aug.

1847

Croatian is proclaimed as the official language, replacing Latin (for use in the Sabor and with diplomacy especially).

1848

The Croatian Ban, Josip Jelachich, ends all relations with Hungary and appoints the Sabor as Croatia's independent government.

1868

The Sabor accepts the Croatian-Hungarian settlement according to which Croatia is part of the Hungarian crown lands, but with its own legal system and autonomous government for certain state affairs. The Croats lose their Crown sovereignty for some time (viewed by modern Croatians as one of the state's worst mistakes).

1918

With the collapsed Austro-Hungarian empire being dismantled, Croatia (with Bosnia, Slovenia and Voyvodina) establishes the State of Serbs, Croats & Slovenes. This union is offered to the Serbian king in the same way that the crown had earlier been offered to the Hungarians (1097) and Austrians (1527). This time, the Serbs fail to honour the agreement, pulling Croatia into the new Yugoslavian kingdom.

Stjepan Radic
Stjepan Radić played a major role in Croatian politics during the post-war years, but his assassination soured relationships between Croatia and Serbia

1928

Alexander II of Serbia changes the name of the combined kingdom from the kingdom of Serbs, Croats & Slovenes to the kingdom of Yugoslavia.

1934

The dictatorial, and anti-fascist, Alexander is assassinated in Marseille by a Croatian, at least partially in revenge for the Serb killing of the Croatian parliamentary leader, Stjepan Radić, in 1928, but probably also because of his resistance to fascism.

1941

The kingdom of Yugoslavia is ended by Italian and Nazi German occupation. Aimone of Spoleto is placed on a Croatian throne as Mussolini's 'Paglliacio' (literally 'nobody'), elevated to king. The office is a fascist mockery of the millennium of the Croatian kingdom (which had been celebrated only sixteen years earlier) to show the Croats who rules the Dalmatian territories (ie. fascist Italy). Aimone's son, Prince Amedeo of Savoy, later claims to be head of the House of Savoy and claimant to the hereditary throne of modern Italy.

This tiny, extreme fascist quisling clique, known as the Ustashas, is installed in power in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. It begins a campaign of terror and genocide which is directed especially at the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia.

1941 - 1943

Aimone of Spoleto

Puppet king of Croatia.

1941 - 1945

The NDH (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska - Independent State of Croatia) is formed which includes Bosnia. It is a pro-Nazi regime led by Doctor Ante Pavelich. Ministers Vokich and Lorkovich travel to London in 1943 to negotiate the transition of the NDH to the Allies but they are eliminated after returning to Zagreb. The basis of the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia is eventually established.

1945 - 1963

In 1945, the Federal State of Croatia is established. The following year, the People's Republic of Croatia is established as part of communist-governed Yugoslavia, essentially a 'second Yugoslavia'. Croatia is governed by a single-party Socialist parliament, but enjoys a degree of autonomy within Yugoslavia.

1963 - 1990

The Socialist Republic of Croatia is established as part of communist-governed Yugoslavia. A growing movement for independence results in the Croatian Spring of 1971, which is suppressed by the authorities. The 1974 Yugoslav constitution does provide its federal divisions with more autonomy. In the 1980s the situation becomes more unstable, with nationalist sentiment being fanned by the Serbian SANU Memorandum in 1986 and then the 1989 coups in Kosovo, Montenegro, and Vojvodina.

1990

The growing divisions within communist Yugoslavia finally fracture along national lines. A democratically-elected Sabor is re-established in Croatia on 22 December.

Modern Croatia
AD 1991 - Present Day
Incorporating Serbian Krajina & Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, & Western Syrmia

Having freed itself from the Serb-dominated federal Yugoslavia in 1991, the modern republic of Croatia (Republika Hrvatska) is a fully independent parliamentary democracy. A country of striking natural beauty with a stunning Adriatic coastline, after years of warfare and destabilisation Croatia is also very popular once again as a tourist destination. With its capital and largest city of Zagreb in the northern-central inland area of its territory, it is neighboured to the north by Slovenia and Hungary, to the east by Serbia, to the south by Bosnia and Herzegovina, and across the Adriatic Sea to the west by Italy.

The documented history of Croatia began with Greek settlements along the Dalmatian coast beginning in the fourth century BC. The interior was then dominated by tribal peoples, with the Celts and Elyrs (modern Kosovars and Albanians) most significant just before the Roman conquest. Parts of Croatia were incorporated into the province of Pannonia, which was subjugated by the Huns and Ostrogoths in the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Slavic migrations reached Croatia beginning in the sixth century. By the ninth century the Carolingian Frankish empire controlled almost all of western and central Europe. When Charlemagne's death divided it, Croatia's ruling duke revolted and formed an independent duchy of Croatia, the earliest such state of any duration in the Balkans region. This previous contact with the west and Croatia's ideal location on the Adriatic coast enabled it to develop more rapidly than some of its inland neighbours.

Croatia in the nineteenth century was still joined to the crown of Hungary, and both nations were within the Austrian empire until 1918. The chance of full independence as the First World War drew to an end was replaced with the artificial kingdom of Yugoslavia, a state of 'Southern Slavs'. This in turn was destroyed by Italian and German occupation in the Second World War, and communist control afterwards. It was only with the collapse of communism in the late eighties and early nineties that true independence was gained, although even that needed a war against the remaining Serbian-controlled Yugoslav rump state to cement it.

The isthmus of Istria was taken by Croatia as it departed Yugoslavia, causing a mass emigration of its largely Italian populace. Since securing independence, Croatia initially struggled with endemic corruption, a dictatorial government, and a third of its territory under occupation. The opening two decades of the twenty-first century have seen great improvements, however.

The republic of Serbian Krajina was a self-proclaimed creation of the early days of the Croatian War of Independence in late 1991. The name means 'Serbian Frontier', a reference to Serbian desires to maintain an extended federal Serb-led state in the Balkans. Now facing north and west towards the Croatian lines, the territory was partially a recreation of the Austro-Hungarian military frontier zone of the same name which had faced south and east towards the Ottoman-occupied territories. Existing until the nineteenth century, this had predominantly been Serb-settled territory. The late twentieth century version largely hugged the northern and western border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it collapsed in 1995 and was reintegrated into Croatia.

Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Syrmia formed the very eastern slice of Croatia, occupying a thick north-south band along the border with Serbia. This was occupied by Serb-dominated forces from 1991 to 1995 as a detached portion of Serbian Krajina. Following the collapse of that self-proclaimed 'state' in 1995, it was preserved until 1998 as the Syrmia Baranja Oblast under UN administration. Largely integrated back into Croatia in 1998, Serbia still holds two Danubian islands at the edge of the region which Croatia claims: Šarengrad and Vukovar.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Željko Buzov, from The Collapse of Yugoslavia, 1991-1999, Alastair Finlan (Osprey Publishing, 2004), from The Death of Yugoslavia, Laura Silber & Allan Little (Penguin Books, 1996), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Refugees stuck in Serbia (The Guardian), and Tens of thousands migrate through Balkans (The Guardian), and At least seven dead after strong earthquake strikes central Croatia (The Guardian), and Nation-Building in Croatia and the Treatment of Minorities: Rights and Wrongs, Antonija Petricusic (L'Europe en Formation, 2008/3-4, No 349-350, available via Cairn.info).)

1991

On 25 June, Croatia, Istria, Macedonia, and Slovenia leave the federal republic of Yugoslavia and declare themselves independent republics. The declaration is implemented in Croatia on 8 October, following a three-month delay under the terms of the Brioni (Brijuni) Declaration which commands the Serb-dominated remnants of Yugoslavia's army to leave Slovenia. However, Croatia will not be abandoned so lightly, triggering the Croatian War of Independence, or Croatian War.

Vukovar, Croatia, in 1991
One of the first casualties of war was the infrastructure of areas of southern and south-eastern Croatia which were occupied by Serbian-dominated militia groups and rebels, with Vukovar being especially heavily bombed

An initial attempt is made by Serb-dominated forces to sweep across Croatia to occupy it entirely. This fails when Croatian defence proves to be quite capable and stubborn. Even so, by the end of the year Croatia has lost approximately one third of its entire territory, with ethnic Croats in the occupied zone being subjected to a reign of terror. Much of the occupied zone is quickly reorganised into the self-proclaimed republic of Serbian Krajina.

1991 - 1992

Milan Babić

Elected leader of Serbian Krajina. Deposed.

1992 - 1995

The situation in Serb-led Krajina gradually declines. Entirely dependant upon Serb-dominated Yugoslavian aid to support its infrastructure, including its army, it also manages to import rampant Yugoslavian inflation. Newly-rearmed and retrained Croatia inflicts a notable territorial loss on it at the start of 1993 around Maslenica, and another in September when the Medak pocket in southern Krajina falls. By 1994 it has ninety-two percent unemployment, little operable industry, and subsistence-level agriculture.

1992 - 1995

Goran Hadžić

Elected leader of Serbian Krajina. Later arrested.

1995

Operations 'Flash' and 'Storm' finally bring an end to Krajina. Croatian forces quickly overrun the remainder of the territory. The war ends on 5 August 1995, with Croatia having secured a decisive victory, a day which is still celebrated. Both Babić and Hadžić are later arrested and sent to the Hague where they are tried for war crimes. Babić seemingly commits suicide in his cell in 2006. Hadžić dies of terminal brain cancer in 2016, his trail abandoned because of its diagnosis.

Goran Hadžić in 1993
Goran Hadžić is seen here in 1993, during his time as leader of Serbian Krajina, but having fled during the teritory's fall in 1995 he was arrested in 2011 and tried for war crimes

1995

With the Serb-led 'republic' of Serbian Krajina gone and its Serbian population largely evacuated, its detached but associated eastern Croatian territory up against the Serb border - Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Syrmia - becomes a UN-managed entity until it too can be reincorporated back into Croatia in 1998.

Croatia's remaining occupied territory is returned to it by the Erdut Agreement of November 1995, with Croat refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina being allowed to settle the Krajina region along the Bosnian border. Unfortunately, Croatia spends the remainder of the decade governed by the authoritarian nationalism of President Franjo Tudjman.

1999 - 2000

President Tudjman's death in December 1999 leaves the country in a parlous state. Its citizens suffer from government-backed attacks on their civil and political rights. The governing party, the HDZ, is mired in corruption, and the economy is in severe difficulties. Presidential and parliamentary elections at the beginning of 2000 usher in politicians who pledge commitment to Croatia's integration into the European mainstream.

The constitution is changed to shift power away from the president towards parliament. Croatia joins the World Trade Organisation and pledges to open up its economy. However, organised crime and associated violence continue to be a major concern, and the government has to demonstrate that it is serious about tackling the problem so as not to jeopardise its EU membership bid.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Croatia's Adriatic coast and the medieval port of Dubrovnik continue to draw large numbers of tourists now that the economic crisis of 2008 - severe in Croatia - has eased

2003

By now Croatia has made enough progress in shaking off the legacy of the 1990s to be able to apply for EU membership, becoming the second former Yugoslav republic after Slovenia to do so.

2012 - 2013

A referendum on 22 January 2012 regarding the question of whether to join the European Union sees a majority of voters in favour, although turnout is relatively low. Croatia officially joins the union on 1 July 2013.

2015

In mid-October Hungary fences off its border with Croatia in an attempt to halt the flow of refugees heading into Europe from the military conflict zones in Syria and Afghanistan. The effort pushes the flow westwards so that it cuts directly through tiny Slovenia. In November it too is forced to fence off the migration path on the Croatian border. The Balkans migration trail subsequently sees a large drop in numbers, with smugglers and other routes becoming preferred instead.

2020

Central Croatia is struck by an earthquake which measures 6.4 magnitude at a depth of ten kilometres. The quake's focus is the town of Petrinja, forty-six kilometres to the south-east of Zagreb. At least seven are killed - six of those in a nearby village which is virtually flattened - and dozens injured while the town suffers extensive damage. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, travel away from the region is forbidden, but many do so anyway.

Petrinja, Croatia, in 2020
The town of Petrinja was almost immediately over the focus of the earthquake of 2020 in Croatia, although only one death was reported for the town itself, the majority of casualties coming from a nearby village