Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Croatia (Hrvatska)

Capital : Zagreb (Agram)


Size: 21 800 sq m Popn: 4 784 000


This area was part of the province of Pannonia in Roman times. Slav tribes who became known as the Croats had completed their south-west migration and arrived on the Dalmatian coast by AD 600. Like the Serbs, who speak a similar language, they may have had some Iranian blood. They conquered and absorbed the existing population of Christian Romanized Illyrians and remained largely pagan for the next three hundred years. The first Croatian king, Tomislav, was recognised by Byzantium in AD 910, partly to prevent further expansion by the Venetian empire which was to control much of the Dalmatian coast and Istrian peninsula at various times until the C18th. Roman Catholicism was adopted in 1054.

The threat from Venice meant that the Croatian kings became closer to the kingdom of Hungary to the north, and when the line died out in the late C11th, the Pacta Conventa was agreed, leading to the king of Hungary becoming king of Croatia and Slavonia in 1102. (Croatia was to remain under Hungarian control until 1918.) The country remained a separate political entity, with the nobility keeping their titles and their own assembly or 'Sabor', but it never had equal power. Croatia was divided into five areas, three under the control of the Habsburg monarchy, and two (Istria and Dalmatia) under Venetian control. The whole country came under the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1524 but returned to the Hungarian crown after the Peace of Karlovitz in 1699. Civil Croatia and Slavonia were separated by the Croatian Military Border which originated when the Bosnian Serb refugees from Ottoman advances came under Habsburg command in 1553. The Serbs settled in family groups and developed a patriarchal community called a 'zadruga'. These were recognised as legal entities by the Habsburg statute of 1630 which drafted all males over sixteen for military service. There were Croats among the border settlers or 'Grenzer' but over half of them were Serbs who were resented by the Croatian nobles because they did not have to pay feudal dues. Croatia was much poorer than Civil Croatia and trade was reduced further by the Habsburg 'Sanitats Kordon' which was established along the Ottoman border in 1770 to prevent the spread of plague and stock diseases.

The Habsburgs made the Military Border their legal property in 1754 but although they later promised agricultural reform, the area remained poor. There were no large towns (only 3000 people lived in Karlovac, the largest) and emigration had left many rural settlements deserted. Serbs and Croats seem to have been peaceful neighbours and served together in the military without any problems. There were far fewer Serbs in Civil Croatia (total population only 650,000 at the end of the C18th) and Slavonia and most of the landlords were Croats with 90% of the Croats north of the Military Border registered as serfs in the census of 1784. Further constraints against Croatian unity were the many Italians living in Dalmatia, but a Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia was suggested by the Dalmatian nobleman, Pavao Ritter Vitezovic in the C17th. Dubrovnik (then called Ragusa) in Dalmatia remained an independent city state and was recognised as a republic.

In the C19th, the first suggestions that there could be a single South Slav nation were made. France under Napoleon revived the old name for the area, Illyria, and created the Illyrian provinces from 1809-13. The idea of unity was supported by a few Croatian noblemen and their leader, Ljudevit Gaj, tried to unite the South Slavs during the 1830s. Following the work of the Slovak, Jan Kollar, Gaj amalgamated the various Slavic dialects to form one Croato-Serbian or Illyrian language based on the most common 'stovakian' dialect which he hoped would overcome Catholic and Orthodox religious differences. Slovenians and Bosnians felt that it was too different from their own languages and did not support the movement in any great numbers but Hungarian reforms reducing the power of the Croat nobility encouraged them to adopt the new language in government.

The 1848 Hungarian revolt against Habsburg rule led to the suppression of Serbian and Croatian activities and a much more authoritarian Austrian regime was imposed although nationalist and liberal elements survived. Croatia was briefly an Austrian crown land in 1849. In 1861, Ante Starcevic and Eugen Kvaternik founded the Party of Right to campaign for the rights of the state. Starcevic (half Serb, half Croat) believed that all the Bosnian and Military Border Serbs were really Croats and would want to join his Croatian nation. Vuk Karadzic, a Serbian linguist, believed that all Stovakian speakers (most of the Croats) were Serbs whatever religion they followed. In 1863, the Croatian National Party split into two groups, one wanting to co-operate with Hungary and one with Austria in order to gain autonomy. In the Sabor elections, they and the Unionists or Magyarones (who wanted integration with Hungary) all won more seats than the Party of Right and the Independent National Party under Ivan Muzuranic had a majority by 1871. Croatia became a Hungarian crown land in 1868.

In 1883, resentment of Hungary led to a peasant revolt which began as a Croatian nationalist protest in Zagreb and several new nationalist parties were formed around the turn of the century. The Serbian victories in the Balkan Wars encouraged Croatians to join the campaign for a Yugoslav state and the Croatian-Serbian coalition was strengthened although some Croatians wanted a Croatian led state which would absorb Serbia. Representatives of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia met in Belgrade after the First World War and proclaimed the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes under the Serbian ruler, Alexander Karadjordjevic. From 1929, it was known as Yugoslavia and lasted until WWII when the monarchy was deposed. The Nazi puppet state of 'Greater Croatia' was established under Ante Pavelic in April 1941. The regime tried to establish a 'pure' Croatian Catholic republic and as many as 500 000 Serbs and 55 000 Jews were killed.

The second Yugoslavia was founded after further Balkan conflict in 1945-6 as the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito, a Croatian. There were six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro, and two autonomous regions, Kosovo and Vojvodina. Cultural complaints had been made by Croatian intellectuals since the 1960s and there were demands for more Croatian elements in the Serbo-Croat language which tended to favour Serbian variants. The Roman Catholic hierarchy of Croatia had begun to hold public meetings in which Croatian nationalist symbols were displayed in 1975. Although Croatians formed 30% of the Yugoslav population, in 1981 they had only 20% of the communist party membership (possibly due to the low birth rate and many Croatians working abroad).During the 1970s, resentment of Serb domination of the Yugoslav Federation led to a violent separatist movement gaining support and as living standards fell due to the rise in inflation, there was increased industrial unrest after 1987.

The Communist state, against expectation, outlasted the death of Tito in 1980 but there was much rivalry amongst the various Communist parties of the different republics. The Croatia League of Socialists (communists), later the Party of Democratic Renewal, adopted an increasingly anti-Serb line from the mid 1980s in reaction to Slobodan Milosovic's Serb chauvinism. Following the example of Slovenia, it allowed rival parties to form from 1989 and was heavily defeated in the multi-party elections of April-May 1990 by the right-wing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) under Franjo Tudjman, who became president. In February 1991, the Croation assembly and that of neighbouring Catholic Slovenia, issued a proclamation calling for secession from Yugoslavia and the establishment of a new confederation that did not include Serbia and Montenegro. An independent Croatian army was formed and Serb militants, worried at how they would be treated in an independent Croatia, declared the secession of the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina which contained 250,000 Serbs. In May 1991, a referendum in Krajina was 90% in favour of staying within what remained of Yugoslavia, now only Serbia and Montenegro. The next week, Croatia voted overwhelmingly for independence within a loose confederation of Yugoslav sovereign states.

In concert with Slovenia, the Croation government issued a unilateral declaration of independence in June 1991 but agreed to suspend implementation for three months. Conflict with the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army and civil war within Croatia escalated and independent Serbian governments were proclaimed in Krajina and eastern and western Slavonia. The Croats accused the Serbs of trying to make a 'Greater Serbia' and fighting intensified. In September 1991, the Serb and Croat leaders signed an agreement letting unarmed EC observers in to monitor the latest cease-fire and the former British foreign secretary was appointed to oversee negotiations. At least a third of Croatia was under Serb control and fighting was particularly intense around Osijek and Vukovar in Slavonia near the eastern border. Croatian ports were besieged and at least 500 000 people became refugees. Croatia retaliated with blockade of the oil-supply to Serbia and announced in October that it had formally severed all ties with the Yugoslav Federation. In December, the Croatian assembly passed a law which committed the country to adhere to international conventions on human rights and cultural autonomy in its relation with ethnic minorities.

In January 1992, a peace plan was brokered in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, by UN envoy Cyrus Vance. It agreed to an immediate cease-fire, the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from Croatia and the deployment of a 10 000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Krajina and east and west Slavonia. The Serb leader of breakaway Krajina, Milan Babic, disregarded it but it was recognized by the main Croatian and Serbian forces. German pressure led to the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia as independent states by the EC and the USA early in 1992 and by the UN in May. The peacekeeping force began to arrive in March and gradually took control of Krajina although Croation forces continued to shell its capital, Knin. In September, President Tudjman asked that it should be withdrawn when its mandate expired in 1993, claiming that Serb minorities within Croatia had been granted full civil rights.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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