Croatia - Background

Governments of Croatia, 1990-present
Year Prime Minister Party composition
1990 Stjepan Mesić HDZ
1990 Josip Manolić HDZ
1991 Franjo Gregurić National unity government
1992 Hrvoje Šarinić HDZ
1993 Nikica Valentić HDZ
1995 Zlatko Mateša HDZ
2000 Ivica Račan SDP, HSLS, HNS, HSS, IDS, LS
2002 Ivica Račan SDP, HNS, HSS, LS, Libra
2003 Ivo Sanader HDZ
2008 Ivo Sanader HDZ, HSLS, HSS, SDSS
2009 Jadranka Kosor HDZ, HSLS, HSS, SDSS


Note: The first party indicates Prime Minister's affiliation.

HDZ: Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica)
SDP: Social Democratic Party of Croatia (Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske)
HSLS: Croatian Social Liberal Party (Hrvatska socijalno liberalna stranka
HNS: Croatian People's Party – Liberal Democrats (Hrvatska narodna stranka – liberalni demokrati
HSS: Croatian Peasant Party (Hrvatska seljačka stranka)
IDS: Istrian Democratic Assembly (Istarski demokratski sabor)
LS: Liberal Party (Liberalna stranka)
Libra: Party of Liberal Democrats. Split from HSLS in 2002.
SDSS: Independent Democratic Serbian Party (Samostalna demokratska srpska stranka)

Croatian history at a glance

From the 16th century the territory of what is now Croatia was divided between the Osmanlı (Ottoman—Turkish) and Habsburg (Austrian) Empires (although Dalmatia and Istria were dominated at different times by Venice and by France, while Ragusa—Dubrovnik—was formerly an independent republic). After the Hungarian revolution of 1848–49, Croatia and Slavonia (the north-eastern region of present-day Croatia) were made Austrian crown-lands. The Habsburg Empire became the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867, and the territories were restored to the Hungarian Crown in the following year. Croatia gained its autonomy and was formally joined with Slavonia in 1881. However, Hungarian nationalism transformed traditional Croat–Serb rivalries into Southern Slav (Yugoslav) solidarity. Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War in October 1918, a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (under the Serbian monarchy) was proclaimed on 4 December. The new Kingdom united Serbia, including Macedonia and Kosovo, with Montenegro and the Habsburg lands (modern Croatia, Slovenia and Vojvodina). The Kingdom was, however, dominated by the Serbs. Increasing unrest within the Kingdom culminated in the meeting of a separatist Croat assembly in Zagreb in 1928. King Aleksandar imposed a royal dictatorship in January 1929, formally renaming the country Yugoslavia in October. In 1934 the King was assassinated in France by Croat extremists.

Meanwhile, the Fascist Ustaša (Rebel) movement was gaining support among the discontented Croat peasantry. When German and Italian forces invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, many Croats welcomed the Axis powers’ support for the establishment of what was known as the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). This state, which included all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of Serbia as well as much of modern-day Croatia, was proclaimed on 9 April 1941 and was led by the leader of the Ustaša, Ante Pavelić. During the Ustaša regime political dissidents and hundreds of thousands of Serbs, and thousands of Roma (Gypsies) and Jews were murdered in extermination camps. At the same time fierce armed resistance was being waged by the Partisans, who were led by Josip Broz (Tito), the Croat-Slovene leader of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY). By 1943 Tito’s forces were able to proclaim a provisional government in a number of areas. The Ustaša state collapsed in 1944, and Croatia was restored to Yugoslavia as one unit of a federal communist republic, which became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) in 1963.

During the 1960s there was an increase in nationalism in Croatia. This ‘mass movement’ (Maspok) was supported by Croatian members of the ruling League of Communists (as the CPY had been renamed), as well as by non-communists. In December 1971 Tito committed himself to opposing the nationalist movement, and the Croatian communist leaders were obliged to resign. Together with others prominent in Maspok, they were arrested, and a purge of the League of Communists of Croatia (LCC) followed. In 1974, however, Tito introduced a new Constitution, which enshrined the federal (almost confederal) and collective nature of the Yugoslav state.

When the power of the LCC began to decline, particularly from 1989, Croatian nationalism re-emerged as a significant force. Dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s were the main beneficiaries. Dr Franjo Tuđman, who had twice been imprisoned for publicly criticizing repression in Croatia, formed the Croatian Democratic Union (CDU) in 1990. This rapidly became the main challenger to the ruling party, which had changed its name to the League of Communists of Croatia—Party of Democratic Reform (LCC—PDR). Tuđman campaigned as a nationalist for multi-party elections to the republican legislature, prompting considerable concern among the Serbs by advocating a ‘Greater Croatia’ (to include Bosnia).

At the elections to the tricameral republican Sabor (Assembly), which took place on 24 April and 6–7 May 1990, the CDU obtained an absolute majority of seats in each of the three chambers, with 205 out of 351 seats in total. The next largest party was the LCC—–PDR, with 73 seats. (Both the CDU and LCC—PDR won further seats in alliance with other parties.) Tuđman was elected President of Croatia, but he attempted to allay Serb fears by offering the vice-presidency of the Sabor to a Serb. However, Serb-dominated areas remained alienated by Tuđman’s nationalism. A ‘Serb National Council’, based at Knin (in the south-western Krajina region), was formed in July and organized a referendum on autonomy for the Croatian Serbs. Despite attempts by the Croatian authorities to prohibit the referendum, it took place, amid virtual insurrection in some areas, in late August and early September. In October the `Serb National Council' announced the results of the referendum, and declared autonomy for the Krajina areas as the ‘Serb Autonomous Region (SAR) of Krajina’.

Meanwhile, in August 1990 the Socialist Republic of Croatia was renamed the Republic of Croatia. In that month the Sabor voted to dismiss the republican member of the federal State Presidency, Dr Stjepan Šuvar, and replace him with Stjepan (Stipe) Mesić, then President of the Government (premier) of Croatia. His appointment was confirmed in October. In December the Sabor enacted a new republican Constitution, which declared Croatia’s sovereignty, its authority over its own armed forces and its right to secede from the SFRY. Tensions increased when, in January 1991, the Croatian authorities refused to comply with an order by the federal State Presidency to disarm all paramilitary groups, and subsequently boycotted negotiations on the future of the federation. On 21 February Croatia asserted the primacy of its Constitution and laws over those of the SFRY and declared its conditions for participation in a confederation of sovereign states. Later that month the self-proclaimed SAR of Krajina declared its separation from Croatia and its intention of uniting with Serbia. In April a Croatian National Guard was formed, replacing the Territorial Defence Force. On 19 May some 94% of the voters participating in a referendum (which was largely boycotted by the Serb population) favoured Croatia’s becoming a sovereign entity, possibly within a confederal Yugoslavia, while 92% rejected a federal Yugoslavia.


Government of Croatia: List of governments since 1990

Croatian Information Documentation Referral Agency: Chronology of governemnt

Historical Context (Croatia), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Bergen. Retrieved 31 May 2011 from