Croatia (Croatian: Hrvatska) is a country situated in Central Europe. It is to the east side of the Adriatic Sea, to the east of Italy. It is also bordered by Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the north, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast, Serbia in the east, and Montenegro to the south.
Northern Croatia has a temperate continental climate whereas the central and upland regions have a mountainous climate. The entire Adriatic coast has a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Spring and autumn are mild along the coast, while winter is cold and snowy in central and northern regions. The average temperature inland in January ranges from -10° to 5°C (14° to 41°F) and in August, from 19° to 39°C (66° to 102°). The average temperature at the seaside is higher: in January, from 6°C to 11°C (43° to 52°F) and in August from 21°C to 39°C (70° to 102°F).
Geographically diverse; flat agricultural plains along the Hungarian border (Central European area), low mountains and highlands near the Adriatic coastline and islands. There are 1,246 islands; the largest ones are Krk and Cres. The highest point is Dinara, at 1,830m.
The Croats settled in the region in the early 7th century and formed two principalities: Croatia and Pannonia. The establishment of the Trpimirović dynasty ca 850 brought strengthening to the Dalmatian Croat Duchy, which together with the Pannonian principality became a kingdom in 925 under King Tomislav. Independent Croatian kingdom lasted until 1102 when Croatia, after a series of dynastic struggles entered into a personal union with Hungary, with Hungarian king ruling over both countries. In 1526, after the Battle of Mohács, where Hungary suffered a catastrophic defeat against Ottoman Turks, Croatia severed it’s relationship with Hungary and its parliament (Sabor) voted to form a new personal union with the Habsburg Monarchy. Croatia remained an autonomous kingdom within the Hapsburg state (and later Austria-Hungary) until the empire’s dissolution following defeat in World War I.
In 1918, a short lived State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (carved out of south slavic parts of Austria-Hungary) joined Kingdom of Serbia to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. The new state was unitarist in character, erasing all historical borders within it’s new territorial division, which resulted in a strong movement for more autonomy for Croatia. This was achieved in 1939, only days before the start of World War II, when Croatia was granted broad autonomy within Yugoslavia as Banovina of Croatia. When Germany and Italy attacked Yugoslavia in 1941, the state was dissolved, parts of it annexed to Germany and Italy, and puppet governments installed in Croatia and Serbia – in the “Independent State of Croatia”‘s case, said government was led by the brutal pro-Nazi group known as the Ustasha. Almost immediately, a strong resistance movement was formed, led by communist leader Josip Broz “Tito” (an ethnic Croat), which gained broad popular support.
After the end of World War II, a new, communist Yugoslavia was formed with Tito becoming “president for life”. Tito ruled with a strong hand, using political repression and secret police to quell any separatist sentiments, with the official motto of the new country being “Brotherhood and Union”. Still, due to the fact that Yugoslavia didn’t belong to the Warsaw Pact, having broken off political ties with USSR in 1948, it was by far the most open socialist country in Europe and its citizens enjoyed more civil liberties and a higher living standard compared to the rest of the Communist bloc.
After Tito’s death in 1980, the weakening of political repression led to a period of political instability. Faced with the rise of nationalist sentiment, a decade-long recession, and the weakening of communist grip on power on the eve of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, first free elections were held in Yugoslavia in almost 45 years. In these elections, nationalist options won power in all Yugoslav republics, which led to rise in inter-ethnic tensions, culminating when Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. This led to open war in newly independent Croatia and later in Bosnia and Herzegovina which declared its independence in 1992. The wars ended four years later, in 1995, with decisive Croatian victory in operation Storm, bringing peace to both countries. The anniversary of operation Storm is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day in Croatia every August 5th.
After a period of accelerated economic growth in the late 90’s and 2000’s Croatia joined NATO in 2009 and the EU in 2013. Croatia today is a functioning liberal democracy, with a free market system and a robust welfare state.
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