Croatian lands before the 7th century

Croatia as it is known today has been inhabited throughout the prehistoric period, since the Stone Age. In the middle Paleolithic, Neanderthals lived in Krapina. The area was inhabited by the Illyrians, and since the 4th century BC also colonized by the Celts and by the Greeks. Illyria was a sovereign state until the Romans conquered it in 168 BC. The Western Empire organized the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia, which after its downfall passed to the Huns, the Ostrogoths and then to the Byzantine Empire. Forebears of Croatia's current Slav population settled there in the 7th century.

Medieval state of Croatia

The Croat and other Slavic tribes arrived in what is today Croatia and Bosnia in the 7th century from present day Poland. The Croats organized into two dukedoms: the Pannonian duchy in the north and the Dalmatian duchy in the south. The Christianization of the Croats ended in the 9th century.

The first native Croatian ruler recognized by a pope was duke Branimir, whom Pope John VIII called dux Chroatorum in 879. The first King of Croatia, Tomislav of the Trpimirović dynasty, was crowned in 925. Tomislav united the Pannonian and Dalmatian duchies and created a sizeable state. He defeated Bulgarian Tsar Symeon I in one of the greatest battles in history - battle of the Bosnian Highlands. The medieval Croatian kingdom reached its peak during the reign of King Petar Krešimir IV.

Following the disappearance of the major native dynasty by the end of the 11th century in the battle of Gvozd Mountain the Croats recognized the Hungarian ruler Coloman as the common king for Croatia and Hungary in a treaty of 1102 (the Pacta Conventa treaty).

Croatia in the union with Hungary

The consequences of the change to the Hungarian king included the introduction of feudalism and the rise of the native noble families such as Frankopan and Šubić. The later kings sought to restore some of their previously lost influence by giving certain privileges to the towns. The primary governor of Croatian provinces was the ban.

The princes of Bribir from the Šubić family became particularly influential, asserting control over large parts of Dalmatia, Slavonia and Bosnia. Later, however, the Angevines intervened and restored royal power. They also sold the whole of Dalmatia to Venice in 1409.

As the Turkish incursion into Europe started, Croatia once again became a border area. The Croats fought an increasing amount of battles and gradually lost significant amount of territory to the Ottoman Empire.

Croatia in the Habsburg Empire

The Ottoman Empire further expanded in the 16th century to include most of Slavonia, western Bosnia and Lika. Later in the same century, large areas of Croatia and Slavonia adjacent to the Ottoman Empire were carved out into the Military Frontier and ruled directly from Vienna military headquarters. The area became rather deserted and was subsequently resettled by Serbs, Germans and others. As a result of their compulsory military service to the Habsburg Empire during conflict with the Ottoman Empire, the population in the Military Frontier was free of serfdom and enjoyed much political autonomy unlike the population living in the parts ruled by Hungary.

After the Bihać fort finally fell in 1592, only small parts of Croatia remained unconquered. The remaining 16,800 km2 were the remnants of the once great Croatian kingdom. The Ottoman army was successfully repelled for the first time on the territory of Croatia following the Battle of Sisak in 1593. The lost territory was mostly restored, except for large parts of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina.

By the middle of the 17th century the Ottoman Empire was driven out of Hungary and Croatia and Austria brought the empire under central control. Empress Maria Theresia was supported by the Croatians in the War of Austrian Succession of 1741–1748 and subsequently made significant contributions to Croatian matters.

With the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, its possessions in eastern Adriatic became subject to a dispute between France and Austria. The Habsburgs eventually secured them and Dalmatia and Istria became part of the empire. Croatian romantic nationalism emerged in mid-19th century to counteract the apparent Germanization and Magyarization of Croatia. The Illyrian Movement attracted a number of influential figures from 1830s on, and produced some important advances in the Croatian language and culture.

Following the Revolutions of 1848 in Habsburg areas and the creation of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, Croatia lost its domestic autonomy, despite the contributions of its ban Jelačić in fighting the Hungarian rebellion. Croatian autonomy was restored in 1868 with the Hungarian–Croatian Settlement which wasn't particularly favorable for Croatia.

Croatia in the first Yugoslavia

Shortly before the end of the Great War in 1918, the Croatian Parliament severed relations with Austria-Hungary as the Entente armies defeated those of the Habsburgs. Croatia and Slavonia became a part of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs composed of all Southern Slavic territories of the now former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy with a transitional government headed in Zagreb. Although the state inherited much of Austro-Hungary's military arsenal, the Kingdom of Italy annexed rapidly the state's most western territories, promised to her by the Treaty of London. An Italian Army eventually took Istria, started to annex the Adriatic islands one by one, and even landed in Zadar. After Srijem left Croatia and Slavonia and joined Serbia together with Vojvodina, which was shortly followed by a referendum to join Bosnia and Herzegovina to Serbia, the People's Council of the state, guided by what was by that time a half a century long tradition of pan-Slavism, joined the Kingdom of Serbia into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The Kingdom underwent a crucial change in 1921 to the dismay of the Croatian political leadership led by the Peasant Party of Stjepan Radić. The new constitution abolished the historical and political entities, including Croatia and Slavonia, centralizing authority in the capital of Belgrade. The Croatian Peasant Party boycotted the government of the Serbian Radical People's Party throughout the period, except for a brief interlude between 1925 and 1927, when external Italian expansionism was at hand with her allies, Albania, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria that threatened Yugoslavia as a whole.

In 1928, Radić was mortally wounded during a Parliament session by Puniša Račić, a deputy of the Serbian Radical People's Party, which caused further upsets among the Croatian elite. In 1929, King Aleksandar proclaimed a dictatorship and imposed a new constitution which, among other things, renamed the country into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The territory of Croatia was roughly composed out of the Sava and Littoral Banates.

In 1934, King Aleksandar was assassinated abroad, in Marseilles, by a coalition of two radical groups: the Croatian Ustaše and the Macedonian pro-Bulgarian VMRO. The Serbian-Croatian Cvetković-Maček government that came to power distanced Yugoslavia's former allies of France and the United Kingdom, and moved closer to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the period of 1935-1941. A national Croatian Banate was created in 1939 out of the two Banates, as well as parts of the Zeta, Vrbas, Drina and Danube Banates. It had a reconstructed Croatian Parliament which would choose a Croatian Ban and Viceban. This Croatia included a part of Bosnia (region), most of Herzegovina and the city of Dubrovnik and the surroundings.

Independent State of Croatia

The Axis occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941 allowed the Croatian radical right Ustaše party to come into power, forming the so-called "Independent State of Croatia", led by Ante Pavelić. His puppet regime enacted racial laws, formed eight concentration camps and started a campaign to exterminate Croatia's ethnic minorities. The anti-fascist partisan movement emerged early in 1941, under the command of the Communist party, led by Josip Broz Tito, as in other parts of Yugoslavia.

Ustaše collaborated with the Axis powers and fought against the Partisans. By 1943, the partisan resistance movement greatly expanded and was able to expel all Nazi collaborators by 1945, with the help of the Soviet Red Army. The ZAVNOH, state anti-fascist council of people's liberation of Croatia, functioned since 1943 and formed an interim civil government.

Croatia in the second Yugoslavia

Croatia became part of the Democratic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945, which was run by Tito's Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Tito, himself a Croat, adopted a policy to manage the conflicting national ambitions of the Croats and Serbs. Yugoslav federation was composed of six republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Under the new communist system, private property was nationalized and the economy was based on a type of planned market socialism. The country underwent a rebuilding process, recovered from the WW2, went through industrialization and started developing tourism.

The constitution of 1963 balanced the power in the country between the Croats and the Serbs, and alleviated the fact that the Croats were again in a minority. Trends after 1965, however, led to the Croatian Spring of 1970–71, when students in Zagreb organized demonstrations for greater civil liberties and greater Croatian autonomy. The regime stifled the public protest and incarcerated the leaders, but this led to the ratification of a new Constitution in 1974, giving more rights to individual republics. In 1980, after Tito's death, political, ethnic and economic difficulties started to mount and the federal government began to crumble. The emergence of Slobodan Milošević in Serbia and many other events provoked a very negative reaction in Croatia, followed by a rise in nationalism.

Modern Croatia

In 1990, the first free elections were held. A people's movement called the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won, led by Franjo Tuđman, former general in Yugoslav army. HDZ's intentions were to secure more independence for Croatia, contrary to the wishes of part of ethnic Serbs in the republic and official politics in Belgrade. The excessively polarized climate soon escalated into conflict between the two nationalities. In the summer of 1990, Serbs from the mountainous areas where they constitute a relative majority rebelled and formed an unrecognized "Autonomous Region of the Serb Krajina". Any intervention by the Croatian police was obstructed by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), mainly consisting of Serbs. The conflict culminated when the Krajina Serbs blocked the roads to tourist destinations in Dalmatia and started a mass ethnic cleansing of all non-Serb population.

The Croatian government declared independence from Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991, and the JNA launched an aggression on Croatia. Many Croatian cities, notably Vukovar and Dubrovnik, came under attack of Serbian forces. The Croatian Parliament cut all remaining ties with Yugoslavia in October of that year. The civilian population fled the areas of armed conflict: generally speaking, thousands of Croats moved away from the Bosnian and Serbian border, while thousands of Serbs moved towards it. The border city of Vukovar underwent a three month siege during which most of the city buildings were destroyed and a majority of the population was forced to flee. The city fell to the Serbian forces in late November 1991. Soon after, shocked with atrocities committed by Serbs, the foreign countries started recognizing Croatia's independence. By the end of January 1992, most of the world recognized the country.

Subsequent UN-sponsored cease-fires followed and the Yugoslav People's Army retreated from Croatia. During 1992 and 1993, Croatia also handled hundreds of thousands of refugees from Bosnia. Armed conflict in Croatia remained intermittent and mostly on a small scale until 1995. In early August, Croatia started the Operation Storm and quickly reconquered most of its territory. A few months later, as a result, the war ended upon the negotiation of the Dayton Agreement. A peaceful integration of the remaining Serbian-controlled territories in Eastern Slavonia was completed in 1998 under UN supervision. The country underwent many liberal reforms beginning in 2000. An economic recovery ensued and the country proceeded to become a member of several regional and international organizations. Finaly, the country has started the process of joining the European Union.