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History of Croatia

Croatia's modern history begins in 168 BC with the Romans taking the region. The Romans ruled the region for about 500 years and during that time greatly improved the coast's trade and communication. Also under their rule, two Roman Emperors were born in the region, including Diocletian, whose palace's remains are in Split.

The Slavs arrived in the area in the 600s and intermarried the locals, creating the beginnings of Croatians today. These people had no unification until about 800 when the Franks took control over much of the region (the rest remained under Byzantium rule) and converted the locals to Christianity. This conversion eventually gave the people a unifying religion in Catholicism and by 925 the Croatians were united.

This kingdom lasted for only a brief period as Venice (in Italy) grew powerful and successfully invaded the coast in about 1000 as Hungary attacked from the north. The Venetians finished what they started in the early 1100s as they took most of the coast and, for the most part, held this land in complete poverty for the next 700 years. Power over the inland however switched hands a number of times, but most of the time remained in control of the Hapsburgs.

In 1797 France's Napoleon took Venice and by war's end the Dalmatian (Croatia's) Coast was under the control of the Hapsburgs, but the interior fell under the control of their ally, the Hungarians. The people of the interior fought the rule of Hungary and in the mid-1800s the people of both modern-day Croatia and Slovenia united for independence, but failed. This unity among the southern Slavs, also created ethnic pride and hence division among them based upon religion.

World War I began in Sarajevo (in modern day Bosnia & Herzegovina) with the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian Archduke and by war's end the southern Slavs had created an independent country, with Yugoslavia being established in 1929. This union immediately proved destructive for the Croatians.

At the onset of World War II the Nazis placed a Croatian nationalist movement in power over Yugoslavia, creating mass murders of both Jews and Serbs within the region. After WWII, the Croatians rejected this government and again united with the other southern Slavs in Yugoslavia, which maintained almost complete independence from the communist government in the Soviet Union. This union upset the Croatians, who felt too much governmental money was being sent to Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia.

In 1991 a referendum in Croatia proved the people wanted independence, but the local Serbs then claimed independence from Croatia and the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina was on the verge of boiling over. The central Yugoslav government was primarily controlled by Serbs at this time and they used these national resources to protect Serbs in Croatia, but by 1992 a peace treaty has been signed, although violent episodes continued until 1995.

Today Croatia still struggles in diplomatic relations with Serbia and tensions remain high as Croatia has shifted west and are on the path to joinning the European Union (EU).

This page was last updated: March, 2013