Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
(link to map of physical geography of Croatia)
In the wake of democratic revolutions against communism in Eastern Europe in Fall 1989, and in a context of lingering economic collapse in Yugoslavia, elections are held.
1990: Nationalist Franjo Tudjman elected with 2/3 of legislature also supporting his program, 205 of 356 seats; Serb areas vote heavily against Tudjman and nationalists.
1990: Serb militias begin to form in Serb-majority areas. Municipal police in Knin, a Serb stronghold, assist local Serbs in disrupting commerce between northern Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast. Croatian Government attempts to mediate an end to blocking of roads is unsuccessful. Croatian Government begins quiet attempts to buy arms abroad so to form an effective national police and army.
On June 21, 1991, James Baker, the Bush Administration's Secretary of State, told Milosevic that the U.S. supported "the unity and territorial integrity" of Yugoslavia. It was a statement made as much with the Soviet Union in mind as with the Balkans, but it gave Belgrade an excuse to send the Serb-dominated federal army into Slovenia and then Croatia to prevent their secession.
June 25, 1991: Croatia declares independence, as does Slovenia. At that time 1/8 of the 4.75 million who live in Croatia are Serbs.
June-Sept 1991: Serb militias occupy 1/3 of Croatia. Serb militia leader Milan Martic later is convicted of war crimes for their actions in 1991-92.
July 1991: U.S. refuses to back French proposal to G-7 that force be threatened in order to prevent a wider war. Inter-ethnic skirmishes grow in intensity.
Sept 1991: full scale war erupts between Yugoslav Federal Army (essentially, the Serbian Army) and Croatia.
In response, the UN Security Council imposes an arms embargo against all states of the former Yugoslavia.
November-December 1991: On the Dalmatian coast, Serb-Yugoslav gunboats shell Dubrovnik; in the east of Croatia, JNA regular ground forces lay Vukovar to siege for 80 plus days. Widespread atrocities are committed. Elsewhere, in the long arc of Croatia running roughly parallel to the Bosnia-Croatia border and known as Krajina, Serb militias establish control. NATO, UN do not act.
January 1992: At German urging, E.U. grants diplomatic recognition to Croatia.
April 1992: UN arranged cease fire begun. 15,000 peace keepers separate armies, stabilizing Serb gains on the ground.
Nov 1992: Photos of concentration camps in Vukovar reach outside world.
1992-95: Uneasy Truce, by and large, holds: 250,000 Croats are expelled from Serb held areas of Croatia. Localized fighting in 1993 challenges all sides. Croatian elements aid Bosnian Croats in their war against the Bosnian Government at times; later, in 1995, Croatian Armed Forces operate against Croatian Serbian militias substantially in support of Bosnian Government operations against Bosnian Serb militias.
U.S. retired military officers train Croatian Army during this period, but no publicly acknowledged U.S. military aid is extended to the Croatian Government.
above: U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton and Croatian Pres. Franjo Tudjman
Jan 1995: Tudjman tells UN to leave by March 31, 1995. Agreement was reached late in March to reduce the UN contingent to approximately 5500, and to extend withdrawal deadline.
May 1, 1995: After the Bosnian Government allowed cease fire there to expire on April 30, fighting then resumed in both rural Bosnia and in Croatia. Croatian Government troops initiated attacks on Serb-held positions.
May 1, 1995: Croatia invaded and in 48 hours retook the 200 sq. mile Western Slavonia area of Croatia which Serbs had seized in 1991.
By July 1995, nearly all of the Krajina is retaken by the Croat Army, causing 150,000 plus Serbs to flee into Serb-held areas of Bosnia.
Dayton Accords of Fall 1995 require end of Serb occupation of all other parts of Croatia, e.g. Eastern Slavonia and the town of Vukovar.
August 1996: Croatia and Yugoslavia agree to fully normal diplomatic and trade relations.
Jan. 15, 1998: U.N. administration of Eastern Slavonia ends with formal transfer of power to Croatia.
April 1998: Mass grave near Vukovar is excavated: 938 bodies are found.
Dec. 1998: Pres. Tudjman dies of cancer.
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