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Croatia in the second Yugoslavia

From Academic Kids

This article is part of
the History of Croatia
series.
Before the Croats
Medieval Croatian state
Union with Hungary
Habsburg Empire
First Yugoslavia
Croatia during WWII
Second Yugoslavia
Modern Croatia
Croatia became part of the Democratic Federal 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. Croats were again in a minority but the constitution of 1963 (the one that introduced the country name Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, SFRY) didn't allow Serbs to have all the political power in the country. Croatians participated in state politics at the highest levels: five out of nine prime ministers of SFRY were Croats. The Serbs dominated the secret services and the military, as most of the generals in the Yugoslav People's Army were either Serbian or Montenegrin.

Trends after 1965 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 many key Croatian representatives in the Party silently supported this cause, so a new Constitution was ratified in 1974 that gave more rights to the individual republics.

In 1980, after Tito's death, political and economic difficulties started to mount and the federal government began to crumble. The economy was actually in a very good shape until the fall of communism, and Croatia was the second richest of the six republics, surpassed only by Slovenia. However, probably due to the imminent end of the Cold War and all the subtle benefits for Yugoslavia which it entailed, inflation soared. The last federal prime minister Ante Marković, who was from Croatia, spent two years implementing various economic and political reforms. His government's efforts were superficially successful, but ultimately they failed.

Ethnic tensions were on the increase and would result in the demise of Yugoslavia. The growing crisis in Kosovo, the nationalist memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the emergence of Slobodan Milošević as the leader of Serbia, and everything else that entailed provoked a very negative reaction in Croatia. The fifty year old rift was starting to resurface, and the Croats increasingly began to show their own national feelings and express opposition towards the Belgrade regime.

On October 17, 1989, the rock group Prljavo Kazalište held a major concert before almost 250,000 people on the central Zagreb city square. In the light of the changing political circumstances, their song Mojoj majci ("To my mother"), where the songwriter hailed the said mother as "the last rose of Croatia", was taken to heart by the fans on the location and many more elsewhere because of the expressed patriotism.

In 1990, on the 14th Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, the delegation of Serbia led by Milošević insisted on replacing the 1974 constitutional policy that empowered the republics with a policy of "one person, one vote", which would benefit the majority population, the Serbs. This caused the Slovenian and Croatian delegations (led by Milan Kučan and Ivica Račan, resp.) to leave the Congress in protest and marked a culmination in the rift of the ruling party.

Ethnic Serbs, who constituted 12% of the population of Croatia, rejected the notion of separation from Yugoslavia. Serb politicians feared the loss of influence they previously had through their membership of the League of Communists in Croatia (that the Croats claimed was disproportionate). Memories from the Second World War were manipulated and exploited by the increasingly militant Belgrade regime of Slobodan Milošević.

As Milošević and his clique rode the wave of Serbian nationalism across Yugoslavia, talking about battles to be fought for Serbdom, emerging Croatian leader Franjo Tuđman reciprocated with talk about making Croatia a nation state. The availability of mass media allowed for propaganda to be spread fast and spark jingoism and fear, creating a war climate.

In March 1990, the Yugoslav People's Army met with the Presidency of Yugoslavia (an eight member council composed of representatives from six republics and two autonomous provinces) in an attempt to get them to declare a state of emergency which would allow for the army to take control of the country. The representatives of Croatia (Stipe Mesić), Slovenia (Janez Drnovšek), Macedonia (Vasil Tupurkovski) and Bosnia (Bogić Bogićević) voted against, the others were for the decision, and the tie somewhat delayed escalation of conflicts.

The first free elections were held in Croatia in 1990, first round on April 22th and the second round on May 6th. A nationalist movement called the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 60% of the vote, led by Franjo Tuđman. The HDZ was financially supported by the Croat diaspora, in part descendants of the Ustaša from World War II that had managed to escape, though the party primarily associated with the Ustaše was the Croatian Party of Rights, and it won less than 5% of the vote. HDZ's intentions were to secure more independence for Croatia, not excluding the option of secession from Yugoslavia.

On May 30, 1990, the new Croatian Parliament held its first session, and President Tuđman announced his plan for a new Constitution and a multitude of political, economic and social changes. The ratification of the new Constitution of Croatia waited until December 22nd.

In the summer of 1990, Serbs from the mountainous areas near the Bosnian border (counties of low population density where Serbs constitute a majority) rebelled and formed an Autonomous Region of the Serb Krajina (later the Republic of Serbian Krajina). The Croatian government sent special police forces to intervene, but helicopters carrying them were forced to land by the planes of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). Whatever the role of the JNA was, in the end they only helped widen the rift. Croats believed that the government of Serbia supported the rebels in Croatia with funds and personnel, while Serbs believed that the government of Croatia oppressed the local Serb population. The conflict culminated with the so-called "log revolution", when Krajina Serbs blocked the roads to the tourist destinations in Dalmatia.

Extremists from both sides started an elaborate campaign of harassment and even abductions and murders of people simply because they weren't of the same nationality. Ethnic hatred grew and various incidents fueled the propaganda machines that in turn caused even more hatred. The wider conflict soon escalated into armed incidents in the Krajina areas.

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