Area: 56,542 sq. km. land area (slightly smaller than West Virginia), 31,067 sq. km. coastal sea area.
Major cities (2009 est.): Capital–Zagreb (790,298). Others–Split (180,200), Rijeka (144,043), Osijek (114,616).
Terrain: Croatia is situated between central and eastern Europe. Its terrain is diverse, containing rocky coastlines, densely wooded mountains, plains, lakes, and rolling hills.
Climate: Croatia has a mixture of climates. In the north it is continental, Mediterranean along the coast, and a semi-highland and highland climate in the central region.
Croatia serves as a gateway to eastern Europe. It lies along the east coast of the Adriatic Sea and shares a border with Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, and Slovenia. The republic has a distinct boomerang shape, arching from the Pannonian Plains of Slavonia between the Sava, Drava, and Danube Rivers, across hilly, central Croatia to the Istrian Peninsula, then south through Dalmatia along the rugged Adriatic coast. Croatia is made up of 20 counties plus the city of Zagreb and controls 1,185 islands in the Adriatic Sea, 67 of which are inhabited.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Population population of Croatia 2011
The population of Croatia on May 15th 2011 is approximately 4,486,521. (Extrapolated from a population of 4,500,000 in July 2005 and a population of 4,489,409 on February 3rd 2010.)
Ethnic groups: Croat 89.6%, Serb 4.5%, other 5.9% (including Bosniak, Hungarian, Slovene, Czech, and Roma) (2001 census).
Religions: Catholic 87.8%, Orthodox 4.4%, Slavic Muslim 1.28%, others 6.52%.
Language: Croatian (South Slavic language, using the Roman script).
Health (2009 est.): Life expectancy–male 72.3 years; female 79.2 years. Infant mortality rate–5.58 deaths/1,000 live births.
The Croats are believed to be a Slavic people who migrated from Ukraine and settled in present-day Croatia during the 6th century. After a period of self-rule and the establishment of an independent kingdom, Croatians agreed to the Pacta Conventa in 1091, submitting themselves to Hungarian authority. By the mid-1400s, concerns over Ottoman expansion led the Croatian Assembly to invite the Habsburgs, under Archduke Ferdinand, to assume control over Croatia. Habsburg rule proved successful in thwarting the Ottomans, and by the 18th century, much of Croatia was free of Turkish control. The Austrian monarchy also acquired control over Dalmatia at the close of the Napoleonic wars following centuries of rule by the Venetian Republic.
In 1868, Croatia gained domestic autonomy under Hungarian authority. Following World War I and the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Croatia joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes became Yugoslavia in 1929). During World War II, German and Italian troops invaded and occupied Yugoslavia and set up a puppet, Fascist regime to rule a nominally-independent Croatian state. This regime, under the hard-line nationalist Croatian Ustasha party, was responsible for the deaths of large numbers of ethnic Serbs, Jews, Roma, and other civilians in a network of concentration camps. It was eventually defeated by the Partisans, led by Josip Broz Tito, in what was essentially a civil war as well as a struggle against the Axis occupiers. The pro-Yugoslav Partisans included many ethnic groups, including a large number of Croatians, and were supplied in large part by the United States and the United Kingdom. Yugoslavia changed its name once again after World War II. The new state became the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and united Croatia and several other republics together under the communist leadership of Marshal Tito.
After the death of Tito and with the fall of communism throughout eastern Europe, the Yugoslav federation began to unravel. Croatia held its first multi-party elections since World War II in 1990. Long-time Croatian nationalist Franjo Tudjman was elected President, and 1 year later, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Conflict between Serbs and Croats in Croatia escalated, and 1 month after Croatia declared independence, the Yugoslav Army intervened and war erupted.
The United Nations mediated a cease-fire in January 1992, but hostilities resumed the next year when Croatia fought to regain one-third of the territory lost the previous year. A second cease-fire was enacted in May 1993, followed by a joint declaration the next January between Croatia and Yugoslavia. However, in September 1993, the Croatian Army led an offensive against the Serb-held self-styled “Republic of Krajina.” A third cease-fire was called in March 1994, but it, too, was broken in May and August 1995, after which Croatian forces regained large portions of the Krajina, prompting an exodus of Serbs from this area. In November 1995, Croatia agreed to peacefully reintegrate Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium under terms of the Erdut Agreement, and the Croatian government re-established political and legal authority over those territories in January 1998. In December 1995, Croatia signed the Dayton peace agreement, committing itself to a permanent cease-fire and the return of all refugees.
The death of President Tudjman in December 1999, followed by the election of a coalition government and President in early 2000, brought significant changes to Croatia. The government, under the leadership of then-Prime Minister Racan, progressed in implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, regional cooperation, refugee returns, national reconciliation, and democratization.
On November 23, 2003, national elections were held for Parliament, and the Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ), which had governed Croatia from independence until 2000, came back into power. The HDZ government, headed by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, was narrowly re-elected in a November 2007 ballot, and the new government assumed office on January 12, 2008. The Sanader government’s priorities included membership for Croatia in the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Croatia joined NATO in April 2009. In July 2009, Prime Minister Sanader unexpectedly resigned, and Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor took over as Croatia’s first female Prime Minister. Since that time, Prime Minister Kosor has focused on tackling corruption at home, while pushing to overcome the last remaining hurdles to Croatia’s EU accession. In January 2010, Ivo Josipovic won the final round of presidential elections to replace two-term President Stjepan Mesic. In December 2010, former Prime Minister Sanader fled the country in the face of a corruption investigation and was arrested in Austria, where he is being held in detention pending a separate investigation by Austrian authorities and possible extradition to Croatia.