Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia (Republika Hrvatska), is a strategically important country at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and Central Europe. It controls most land routes from Western Europe to the Aegean Sea, and the Turkish Straits. Croatia shares land borders with Slovenia and Hungary on the north, Serbia on the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina on the south and east, and Montenegro on the south. It borders the Adriatic Sea to the west. Its mainland territory is split in two non-contiguous parts by the short coastline of Bosnia and Herzegovina around Neum.
The country, which by the end of the twentieth century resembled that of a crescent or a horseshoe, has been colonized, invaded, and ruled by numerous different ethnic groups and foreign empires over its 100,000 years of pre-human and human habitation.
Croatia has been known for “ethnic cleansing,” both during the Second World War, when Serbian Chetniks drove Croats from their homes in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia to create a supposedly ethnically "pure" Serb society, and during the war of independence in the 1990s, when both Serbs and Croats drove each other from their homes.
Croatia shares land borders with Slovenia and Hungary on the north, Serbia on the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina on the south and east, and Montenegro on the south. It borders the Adriatic Sea to the west. Its mainland territory is split in two non-contiguous parts by the short coastline of Bosnia and Herzegovina around Neum.
Croatia occupies approximately 21,825 square miles (56,540 square kilometers), or is slightly smaller than West Virginia in the United States.
Its terrain is diverse. There are plains, lakes, and rolling hills in the continental north and northeast (Central Croatia and Slavonia, and part of the Pannonian plain); there are densely wooded mountains in Lika and Gorski Kotar, part of the Dinaric Alps; and there are rocky coastlines on the Adriatic Sea (Istria, northern seacoast and Dalmatia).
The country is famous for its many national parks. Offshore Croatia consists of over one thousand islands varying in size. Seventy percent of the land is farmland. The highest point is Dinara, one of the more prominent mountains located on the border of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is 6000 feet (1830 meters).
Croatia has a mixture of climates. In the north and east it has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. A Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry, and brilliantly sunny summers, prevails along the coast. There is a semi-highland and highland climate in the south-central region. The average temperature in Zagreb is 32°F (0° C) in January and about 75°F (24°C) in July. Annual precipitation in Zagreb it is about 26 inches (652mm).
Croatia's main rivers are the Sava, Drava, Danube and Kupa. The Drava and the Sava flow from the Pannonian Plain into the Danube, which forms part of Croatia's eastern border with Serbia. The Kupa flows east along the Slovenian border into central Croatia, to join the Sava.
Croatia is rich in mineral resources, which include petroleum, some coal, bauxite, low-grade iron ore, calcium, natural asphalt, silica, mica, clays, salt, and hydropower.Dinara, near the source of Cetina river.
Deciduous forests, including beech and oak, predominate on the plains and in much of the mountainous area, and there are 50 types of protected plant life. The floodplain of the Sava has extensive wetlands that provide a habitat for numerous plant and animal species. Wildlife includes hare, fox, lynx, weasel, otter, bear, deer, marten, boar, wildcat, wolf, and mouflon (wild sheep). Dinara is host to an endemic species of rodents, a vole called "Dinarski miš" ("Dinaric mouse"), which is declared an endangered species.
Natural hazards include destructive earthquakes. Environment issues include air pollution (from metallurgical plants) and resulting acid rain is damaging the forests. Industrial and domestic waste pollution in the rivers became so bad that the water had to be treated even for industrial use. The 1992-1995 civil strife has left a significant number of land mines requiring removal.
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of Croatia. Zagreb is the cultural, scientific, economic and governmental center of the Republic of Croatia. The city's population in 2001 was 779,145. It is situated between the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain and both northern and southern bank of the Sava river.
HistoryA view of the city of Hvar from the castle.
The area known as Croatia has been inhabited ever since the Stone Age. In the middle Paleolithic period, Neanderthals lived in the northern area. Bones and other 100,000-year-old remnants of a Neanderthal, subsequently named Homo krapiniensis, were discovered on a hill near the town of Krapina. In the early Neolithic period, the Starcevo-Körös, Vinča and Sopot cultures were scattered between and around the Sava, the Drava and the Danube rivers. Traces of a somewhat isolated Hvar culture were found on the Adriatic island of Hvar. The Iron Age left traces of the Hallstatt culture (proto-Illyrians) and the La Tène culture (proto-Celts).
Illyria and Rome
The area was inhabited by Illyrian tribes such as the Delmetae, who spoke an Illyrian language. King Bardyllis turned Illyria into a formidable power in the fourth century B.C.E. Other tribes such as the Liburni and Iapodes, whose ethnicity is less clear, inhabited various parts of the Adriatic coastline and interior between modern Istria and Herzegovina. Celts, the Scordisci tribe colonized the northern parts of modern-day Croatia in the fourth century B.C.E. The islands of Issa and Pharos as well as the locality of Tragurion became Greek colonies since the same period.
Illyria was a sovereign state until the Romans conquered it in 168 B.C.E., and organized the land into the Roman province of Illyricum, which encompassed most of modern Croatia. Illyricum was subsequently split into the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia in year 10. Pannonia was further split in two by Trajan between 102 C.E. and 107 C.E.
A four-fold split of the same province followed at the turn of the fourth century C.E. under Diocletian - an emperor of Illyrian descent, from Dalmatia. Other notable people from these areas in this period included the Christian Jerome, Saint Marinus (builder of San Marino), emperors Valentinian I, Valens, and Pope John IV. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, the Illyrian population speaking Romance languages (such as Istro-Romanian or Dalmatian) remained. With the increasing amount of human migration, this population became entrenched in the cities along the Dalmatian coast. The Lombards and the Huns made an incursion from the north. After year 476 the area was subject to Odoacer and then to Ostrogoth rulers, beginning with Theodoric the Great. Justinian I claimed the old province of Dalmatia for the Eastern Roman Empire in 535.
Croatian forebears arriveOton Iveković, The Croats arrival at the Adriatic Sea
Forebears of Croatia's Slav population migrated into the Balkans and along the Dalmatian coast in the sixth century, displacing or absorbing the Illyrians. These Slavs encountered other nomadic peoples, including the Avars, Alans, and Antes, and the mixture of these produced the southern Slavs, who remained disparate tribal groups until the ninth century.
Croatian duke Trpimir I (845-864), founder of the Trpimirović dynasty, fought successfully against the Bulgarians, and expanded his state in east to the Drava River. 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 (910-928) of the Trpimirović dynasty, was crowned in 925. Tomislav, rex Chroatorum, united the Pannonian and Dalmatian duchies and created a sizeable state. He defeated Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I in the battle of the Bosnian Highlands. The mediæval Croatian kingdom reached its peak during the reign of King Petar Krešimir IV (1058-1074).
Hungarian rule, Ottoman incursions
After defeat in the Battle of Gvozd Mountain, the Croats, in a treaty of 1102, agreed to follow the king of Hungary but retained their own government body, the sabor, and its own governor, or ban. Hungarian rule introduced feudalism and hastened 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 princes of Bribir from the Šubić family became particularly influential, asserting control over large parts of Dalmatia, Slavonia and Bosnia.
Since the twelfth century, Croatia has been largely under the domination of others. The Angevines intervened, restored royal power, and sold the whole of Dalmatia to Venice in 1409. As the Ottoman Empire incursion into Europe started, Croatia once again became a border area. The Croats fought an increasing number of battles and gradually lost increasing swaths of territory to the Ottoman Empire, which, by the sixteenth century, included most of Slavonia, western Bosnia, and Lika.
The 1526 Battle of Mohács and the death of King Louis II of Hungary meant Hungarian rule was replaced by the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy. 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, creating a buffer zone between Croatia and Austria to the north, and the Ottoman empire to the south. The area became rather deserted and was subsequently settled by Serbs, Vlachs, Croats and Germans and others. Orthodox Slavs who fled Bosnia were moved into the Military Frontier to serve as resident soldiers and were given free title to land. After a fort at Bihać fell in 1592, only small parts of Croatia remained unconquered. The Ottoman army was repelled for the first time on Croatian soil at the battle of Sisak in 1593. Croatia remained under Hapsburg rule until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when Napoleon conquered Croatia in 1809.
Croatian nationalismBan Josip Jelačić.
Croatian romantic nationalism emerged in mid-nineteenth century to counteract the apparent Germanization and Magyarization of Croatia. This nationalism, known as the Illyrian movement, attracted a number of influential figures from the 1830s on, including Ljudevit Gaj who reformed and standardized the Croatian literary language. 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 Josip Jelačić in quenching the Hungarian rebellion. Croatian autonomy was restored in 1868 with the Hungarian-Croatian Settlement.
Croatia in the First YugoslaviaStjepan Radić
After World War I, Croatia joined other southern Slavs in the First Yugoslavia. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) was born out of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The Croats soon came to resent the Serbian monarch and being governed from Belgrade, the Serbian capital. The Croatian Peasant Party under Stjepan Radić boycotted the government of the Serbian Radical People's Party. In 1928, the Ustaše (Ustashe) Party was formed to fight for independence, supported by Italy and Germany. In 1928, Radić was mortally wounded during a Parliament session by Puniša Račić, a deputy of the Serbian Radical People's Party. In 1929, King Alexander of Yugoslavia proclaimed a dictatorship and imposed a new constitution which, among other things, made Croatia part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In 1934, King Aleksandar was assassinated in Marseilles by a coalition of two radical groups: the Croatian Ustaše and the Macedonian pro-Bulgarian VMORO. The Serbian-Croatian Dragiša Cvetković-Vlatko Maček government that came to power moved closer to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the period of 1935-1941. A national Banovina of Croatia was created in 1939 out of the two banates, as well as parts of the Zeta, Vrbas Banovina, Drina Banovina 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.
World War II
The Axis powers' occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941 allowed the Croatian radical right Ustaše to come into power, forming the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), led by Ante Pavelić. Following the pattern of other fascist puppet regime in Europe, the Ustashi enacted racial laws, and formed eight concentration camps targeting minority Roma and Jewish populations. The main targets for persecution, however, where the minority Serbs, who were seen as a trojan horse of Serbian expansionism, and bore the brunt of retribution for the excesses of the Serb royal dictatorship of the First Yugoslavia.
A communist anti-fascist Partisan movement emerged in Croatia early in 1941, under the command of Croat-Slovene Josip Broz Tito. Meanwhile, a Serbian royalist guerrilla group called Četnici (Chetnik) was formed to displace Croats from parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia to create a supposedly ethnically "pure" Serb society. The Četnici acted mainly against partisans rather than the occupying fascist forces. It was estimated that hundreds of thousands of people were killed.
By 1943, the partisan resistance movement had gained the upper hand, and in 1945, with the some help from the Soviet Red Army, expelled the Axis forces and local supporters. The ZAVNOH, the state anti-fascist council of people's liberation of Croatia, functioned since 1944 and formed an interim civil government.
Following the defeat of the Independent State of Croatia at the end of the war, a large number of soldiers and civilians (ranging from sympathizers, young conscripts, anti-communists, and ordinary serfs who were motivated by rumours of Partisan atrocities) attempted to flee to Austria hoping to surrender to British forces and be given refuge. They were instead interned by British forces and then returned to the Partisans. Amid conflicting reports, it was estimated that between 35,000 and 55,000 were killed in what has come to be called the Bleiburg massacre.
Second YugoslaviaRichard Nixon and Mrs. Nixon, and President Josip Broz Tito and Mrs. Broz, enroute to a dinner in President Tito's honor in 1971.
Croatia, as a communist republic, became part of the six-part Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945, which was run by Tito's Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Tito, himself a Croat, adopted a carefully contrived policy to manage the conflicting national ambitions of the Croats and Serbs. Under communism, a Yugoslav identity was promoted and nationalism was suppressed. Singing Croatian songs said to be nationalistic could lead to a jail term. Private property was nationalized and the economy was based on a type of planned market socialism.
The country underwent a rebuilding process, recovered from World War II, 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 1970-1971, when students in Zagreb organized demonstrations for greater civil liberties and more Croatian autonomy. The regime stifled the public protest and jailed the leaders, but ratified a new constitution in 1974, giving more rights to the individual republics.
In 1980, after Tito's death, economic, and political difficulties started to mount. Some communist leaders recast themselves as nationalists. Croats began to express resentment against the Yugoslav government. A crisis in Kosovo and, in 1986, the emergence of Slobodan Milošević in Serbia provoked a negative reaction in Croatia and Slovenia. As communist hegemony was challenged throughout Central and Eastern Europe, calls for free multi-party elections were becoming louder.
Croatian war of independenceFranjo Tudman.
The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) was formed, and Franjo Tuđman, a former general in Tito's World War II anti-fascist Yugoslav Partisan movement, rose to power. In 1990, the first free elections were held in Slovenia and Croatia. The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), led by Tuđman, won by a slim margin against the reformed communist Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), and Ivica Račan, the former president of Croatia's branch of the Yugoslav Communist's League. Tudman's party wanted more independence for Croatia, contrary to the wishes of ethnic Serbs in the republic and official politics in Belgrade.
In 1990, Serbs formed an unrecognized Autonomous Region of Serb Krajina (later the Republic of Serbian Krajina). The Yugoslav People's Army, mainly consisting of Serbs, blocked intervention by Croatian police. Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991. The Yugoslav National Army (JNA) attacked Croatian cities, notably Vukovar and Dubrovnik. Civilians fled-thousands of Croats moved away from the Bosnian and Serbian border, while thousands of Serbs moved towards it. The Croatian Parliament cut remaining ties with Yugoslavia on October 8, 1991. At the end of 1991 there was full-scale war in Croatia.
The reasons for the war are complex. Basically, Croatia wanted to separate from Yugoslavia, and Serbs were unwilling to let this happen, largely for economic reasons. The Yugoslav People's Army, which consisted mostly of conscripts from Serbia and Montenegro, and irregulars from Serbia, forced masses of civilians out of areas in what became known as "ethnic cleansing." Ethnic Serbs in Croatian-dominated parts of Croatia were similarly forced out by the Croatian army and irregular forces. A war of words harked back to atrocities committed during World War II. Serbs used the term "Ustasha" as a negative term to refer to any Croat, and Croats called Serbs "Chetniks.
The border city of Vukovar underwent a three month siege - the Battle of Vukovar - during which most of the city was destroyed and most inhabitants were forced to flee. The city fell to the Serbian forces on November 18, 1991. Subsequent United Nations-sponsored cease-fires followed. The Yugoslav People's Army retreated from Croatia into Bosnia and Herzegovina where the Bosnian War was just about to start. During 1992 and 1993, Croatia handled an estimated 700,000 refugees from Bosnia, mainly Bosnian Muslims.
Armed conflict in Croatia remained intermittent and mostly on a small scale until 1995. In early August, Croatia started Operation Storm and quickly reconquered most of the territories of the Republic of Serbian Krajina, leading to an exodus of the Serbian population. An estimated 90,000-350,000 Serbs fled. A few months later, the war ended with 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 Serbs who fled from the former Krajina have not returned.
President Tudman died in late 1999. In February 2000, Stjepan Mesić was elected president, ending the HDZ's rule. The country underwent liberal reforms beginning in 2000. The country started the process of joining the European Union, which was delayed by a perceived lack of co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal concerning the tracking down of the indicted Gen. Ante Gotovina, who was captured on December 8, 2005.
Government and politics
The politics of Croatia take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, with a pluriform multi-party system. The president (predsjednik) is the head of state, directly elected to a five-year term and is limited by the constitution to a maximum of two terms. The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces, appoints the prime minister with the consent of the parliament, and has some influence on foreign policy. The president's official residence is predsjednički dvori.
The Croatian parliament (sabor) is a unicameral legislative body. A second chamber, the "House of Counties," which was set up by the constitution of 1990, was abolished in 2001. The number of sabor members can vary from 100 to 160; they are all elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The plenary sessions of the sabor take place from January 15 to July 15, and from September 15 to December 15.
The Croatian government (vlada) is headed by the prime minister who has two deputy prime ministers and 14 ministers in charge of particular sectors of activity. The executive branch is responsible for proposing legislation and a budget, executing the laws, and guiding the foreign and internal policies of the republic. The government's official residence is at banski dvori.
Croatia has a three-tiered judicial system, consisting of the Supreme Court, county courts, and municipal courts, and is independent of the executive and the legislature. Court hearings are open, and judgments are mostly made publicly. Judges are appointed by the National Judicial Council, and judicial office is permanent (until 70 years of age). The president of the Supreme Court is elected for a four-year term by the Croatian Parliament at the proposal of the president. The Constitutional Court rules on matters regarding the constitution. Since the 1991-1995 war, there is increased petty crime, and there are more beggars on the streets. Most are displaced peoples or refugees.
Croatia is divided into 21 counties (županija).
Croatia's military, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia, consists of ground forces, naval forces, and air and air defense forces. Total active duty members of the armed forces number 32,700, including about 8000 conscripts. Reserves number 111,000 out of which 32,360 are on the first state of alert. Only male citizens are subject to compulsory military service at least until 2008/2009. The Croatian military budget was approximately $1.1-billion in 1997 (a little more than 5 percent of GDP), but it has since been reduced significantly to 2 percent of GDP in 2007.
Croatian foreign policy has focused on entering the European Union and NATO. In order to gain access to European and trans-Atlantic institutions, it has had to undo many negative effects of the break-up of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the war that ensued, and improve and maintain good relations with its neighbors. Key issues over the last decade have been the implementation of the Dayton Accords and the Erdut Agreement, non-discriminatory facilitation of the return of refugees and displaced persons from the 1991-95 war including property restitution for ethnic Serbs, resolution of border disputes with Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and general democratization.
Croatia has had an uneven record in these areas between 1996 and 1999 during the right-wing HDZ government, inhibiting its relations with European Union and the U.S. Improvement in these areas severely hindered the advance of Croatia's prospects for further Euro-Atlantic integration. Progress in the areas of Dayton, Erdut, and refugee returns were evident in 1998, but progress was slow and required intensive international engagement.
Croatia's unsatisfactory performance implementing democratic reforms in 1998 raised questions about the ruling party's commitment to basic democratic principles. Areas of concern included restrictions on freedom of speech, one-party control of public TV and radio, repression of independent media, unfair electoral regulations, a judiciary that is not fully independent, and lack of human rights and civil rights protection.
A centre-left coalition government was elected in early 2000. The SDP-led government slowly relinquished control over public media companies and did not interfere with freedom of speech and independent media, though it didn't complete the process of making Croatian Radiotelevision independent. Judiciary reforms remained a pending issue as well.
In an economy traditionally based on agriculture and livestock, peasants comprised more than half of the Croatian population until after World War II. Pre-1945 industrialization was slow and centered on textile mills, sawmills, brickyards, and food-processing plants. Rapid industrialization and diversification occurred after World War II. Decentralization came in 1965, allowing growth of certain sectors, like the large tourist industry. Profits from Croatian industry were used to develop poorer regions in the former Yugoslavia. This, coupled with austerity programs and hyperinflation in the 1980s, led to discontent in both Croatia and Slovenia that fueled the independence movement.
Before the dissolution of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Republic of Croatia, after Slovenia, was the most prosperous and industrialized area, with a per capita output perhaps one-third above the Yugoslav average. Privatization under the new Croatian Government had barely begun when war broke out. As a result of the Croatian War of Independence, the economic infrastructure sustained massive damage in the period 1991-1992.
By the end of the 1990s, Croatia faced considerable economic problems stemming from:
- the legacy of long-time communist mismanagement of the economy;
- damage during the internecine fighting to bridges, factories, power lines, buildings, and houses;
- the large refugee and displaced population, both Croatian and Bosnian
- the disruption of economic ties; and
- mishandled privatization.
Inflation and unemployment rose and the Croatian kuna fell, prompting the national bank to tighten fiscal policy. A new banking law passed in December 1998 gave the central bank more control over Croatia's 53 remaining commercial banks. Croatia is dependent on international debt to finance the deficit. Western aid and investment, especially in the tourist and oil industries, helped restore the economy.
The death of President Franjo Tudman in December 1999, and the defeat of his ruling Croatian Democratic Union or HDZ party in parliamentary and presidential elections in January 2000 ushered in a new government committed to economic reform and halting the economic decline. The Ivica Račan government carried out a large number of structural reforms and with tourism as the main factor, the country emerged from recession in 2000. Due to overall increase in stability, the economic rating of the country improved and interest rates dropped. As a result of coalition politics and resistance from the unions and the public, many reforms are still overdue, especially in the legal system.
Unemployment reached a peak of circa 22 percent in late 2002 due to many overdue bankruptcies. It has since been steadily decreasing, powered by growing industrial production and rising gross domestic product rather than only seasonal changes (tourism). Tourism is a notable source of income during the summer. With over 10 million foreign tourists a year (as of 2006), Croatia is ranked as the 18th major tourist destination in the world.The Croatian National Bank.
Since the end of the communist regime, state-owned property has been transferred to private ownership. There have been difficulties with homes confiscated by the government and occupied by people other than their former owners for long periods of time. The occupants of government-owned apartments have the option to buy their homes. Government-owned industries have been transferred to private ownership.
Exports totalled $11.17-billion in 2006. Export commodities included transport equipment, textiles, chemicals, foodstuffs, and fuels. Export partners included Italy 21.8 percent, Bosnia and Herzegovina 14.7 percent, Germany 10.7 percent, Slovenia 8.1 percent, and Austria 7.3 percent. Imports totalled $21.79-billion in 2006. Import commodities included machinery, transport and electrical equipment; chemicals, fuels and lubricants; and foodstuffs. Import partners included Italy 15.9 percent, Germany 14.9 percent, Russia 9.1 percent, Slovenia 6.8 percent, Austria 5.8 percent, China 4.7 percent, and France 4.2 percent.
Per capita GDP (purchasing power parity) was $14,368 in 2007, a rank of 53rd on the IMF list of 170 nations. Eleven percent of the population were below the poverty line 2003. The unemployment rate was officially 17.2 percent.
Other international rankings include: The United Nations Human Development Index, ranked 44 out of 177 countries; The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, ranked 55 out of 157 countries; Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, ranked 69 out of 163 countries; and Reporters Without Borders Worldwide press Freedom Index 2006, ranked 53 out of 168 countries.
DemographicsSplit, the largest and most important city in Dalmatia.
The population of Croatia, estimated at 4,555,000 in 2007, has been stagnating over the last decade. The 1991-1995 war in Croatia had previously displaced large parts of the population and increased emigration. Some Croats who fled the country during the war are returning. Average life expectancy is 74.68 years.
Ethnicity and religion
Croatia is inhabited mostly by Croats (89.9 percent). There are around 20 minorities, Serbs being the largest one (4.5 percent) and others having less than 0.5 percent each.
The census of 1991 was the last one held before the war in Croatia, marked by ethnic conflict between Serbs and Croats. In the ethnic and religious composition of population of Croatia of that time:
- Croats 78.1 percent, Catholics 76.5 percent
- Serbs 12.2 percent, Orthodox Christians 11.1 percent
There were also people who declared themselves Yugoslavs, but who would in recent censuses register as Serbs or others.
There were two major sets of population movements during this period - the first one during the earlier stage of the war, around 1991, and the second one during the later stage of the war, around 1995. The first movement peaked at around 550,000 on the Croatian side; the second movement peaked at around 200,000 on the Serbian side.
After the end of the war of the 1990s, the numbers were:
- Croats 89.6 percent, Catholics 87.8 percent
- Serbs 4.5 percent, Orthodox Christians 4.4 percent
Most Croat refugees have since returned to their homes, while two thirds of the Serbs remain in exile; the other third either returned or had remained in Zagreb and other parts of Croatia not directly hit by war.
The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism (87.8 percent), with some Eastern Orthodoxy (4.4 percent) and Sunni Muslim (1.3 percent) minorities.
The official and common language, Croatian, is a South