Croatia

Timeline. Through history.

If we don’t understand the past, how can we understand our present and future? To truly absorb, appreciate, and reflect on the country we are visiting, we need to look at pivotal moments in history. Begin your journey through the ages now.

  • Jewish timeline
  • General timeline

EARLY HISTORY

  • 300 000 Neanderthal presence in the area
    1000 Indo-European Illyrians migrate into region
    500 Illyrians dominate while Greeks establish trade on Adriatic coast
    11 Rome rules most of present-day Croatia. Create network of trade & towns
  • Jews settle in Roman towns, including in Savona (near modern-day Split)

  • 600 Croats and other Slavic tribes arrive from today’s Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus
    Under threat from Croats, walled city of Split becomes Roman stronghold
    The walled city of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) also established on Adriatic Coast
  • Limited evidence suggests small Jewish communities active, including in Split
  • 800 Croats begin accepting Christianity, strengthening collective identity
    925 Kingdom of Croatia established but independence and stability fragile
  • Little is known about extent, if any, of Jewish population in this period

A CROSSROADS OF EMPIRES, FAITHS, ETHNIC GROUPS

  • 1100 Venice and Italian elites control most of southern coast for next 700 years
    Northern Croatia under Hungarian rule. Town of Zagreb grows in importance
  • Jewish communities settle in Zagreb and elsewhere in northern Croatia
    1402 Synagogue built in Dubrovnik (independent city-state on southern coast)
    1456 Jews expelled from Hungarian-controlled northern Croatia
  • 1493 Ottoman Empire conquers Bosnia and Serbia, makes inroads into Croatia
    1526 Northern Croatia (and Hungary) absorbed into Habsburg (Austrian) Empire
  • No Jews in north Croatia, Sephardi immigration boosts south coast communities
    Sephardi immigrants play important role in southern maritime trade
    1537 Cemetery in Split (one of oldest still used today) established
  • 1600 Much of northern Croatia now under Ottomans Turks except around Zagreb
    Serbian Orthodox settlers come to Krajina to help under-siege Habsburgs
    Krajina becomes a key area for the substantial Serbian minority in Croatia
    1683 Ottomans defeated. Habsburgs regain control of northern Croatia
    Period of stability brings many immigrants from different groups
    1738 Living conditions on southern coast declining greatly
  • Jews in previously tolerant southern coast (Split, Dubrovnik) confined to ghetto
    1773 25 Jewish families in Austrian-ruled northern Croatia, est. 600 Jews in south
    1782 Austrian Emperor grants religious freedom to Jews
    1806 Jewish immigration (Ashkenazi) increases, main settlement Osijek in northeast

NATIONALISM ON THE RISE

  • 1815 Austrian Empire gains control of south coast
    Austrian Empire allows Hungary to rule north Croatia
    Hungary tries to impose language and culture on north Croatian population
    1848 Croatians fail to overthrow Hungarian control in north and east
    Croatian nationalist efforts strengthen but split into two camps
    Some favor unity with Serbia in autonomous South Slavic entity (Yugoslavia)
    Others favor Croatian independence and oppose alliance with Serbia
    1857 Croatia pop. 2.1 million and growing. Economy based on agriculture
  • 1870 Population grows. 10,000 Jews in Croatia, mainly merchants and artisans
  • 1900 Croatia remains a poor, overwhelmingly rural, society with low literacy levels
    Extreme poverty on southern coast sparks large-scale migration
  • 20,000 Jews in 33 communities. Zagreb is and will remain largest community
    Most Jews in north. They are mainly middle-class, urban, Ashkenazi
    They are influenced by German and Hungarian culture, Reform movement
    Southern Jews mainly Sephardi. Active in trade, religious, and secular culture

CROATIA AS PART OF THE KINGDOM OF YUGOLSAVIA

  • 1914 Nationalism grows among Croats, Serbs, and Austro-Hungarian Empire
    Serb assassination of Austrian Archduke in Sarajevo, Bosnia sparks World War I
    1918 Austro-Hungarian Empire collapses following defeat in WWI
    Fearful of Italian and Hungarian intentions, Croats join Kingdom of Yugoslavia
    A diverse, multicultural kingdom of 12 million with all men able to vote
    Serbs (mainly Orthodox Christians) 38% of population
    Croats (mainly Catholic) 24%, Bosnian Muslims 6%. Many other groups
    Kingdom based in Belgrade, Serbia. Heavy Serbian influence in politics, army
  • 65,000 Jews in Yugoslavia, 100 communities with considerable diversity
    Some Croatian anti-Semitism but Jews generally accepted in Yugoslav kingdom
  • 1920 Croatian peasant revolt a sign of wider ideological and national tensions
    1928 Serbian politician assassinates Croat leaders in Yugoslav parliament
    Fearing civil war, King Alexander declares royal dictatorship
    Ante Pavelic establishes Ustaŝe, a Croatian separatist, anti-Serb terror group
    Ustaŝe seek independent, fascist-Catholic Croatia including in all of Bosnia
    1934 Ustaŝe and Macedonian nationalists assassinate King Alexander

A MURDEROUS WORLD WAR II

  • 1941 Axis nations (Germany, Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria) occupy and divide Yugoslavia
    Germans establish puppet state of Croatia (includes north Croatia, Bosnia)
    Is ruled by the Ustaŝe. They decimate political opponents & non-ethnic Croats
    Jasenovac concentration camp system established by the Ustaŝe
  • Ustaŝe kill 340,000 Croatian Serbs. Roma population of 27,000 devastated
    Ustaŝe kill most Croat Jews, many at Jasenovac
    Others handed to Germans and deported to Auschwitz
    Southern Croatia under Italian rule; only place of protection for Yugoslav Jews
  • 1945 Communist partisans led by Josip Tito (a Croat) liberate Yugoslavia
    One in eight Yugoslavs (mainly civilians) killed in war, one of highest ratios in Europe
  • 67,000 Yugoslav Jews (including over 30,000 in Croatia) killed; 14,000 survive

CROATIA AS PART OF COMMUNIST YUGOSLAVIA

  • 1945 Yugoslavia is the only Communist state without direct Soviet control
    One of Europe’s poorest, most multi-national states. Mainly rural, religious
    Pop. 15.7 million including 6.5 million ethnic Serbs, 3.8 million ethnic Croats
    Tito launches “ultra-Bolshevik” economic and political program
    Executes opponents, including Croatian fascists and Catholic leaders
    1946 Federal Yugoslavia has 6 republics including Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia
    Serbia largest republic but Tito prevents nationalist conflict & Serb dominance
  • Yugoslav Jews (with JDC help) re-establish communities including in Croatia
  • 1948 Soviets break with Yugoslavia: Stalin condemns ambitious, independent Tito
  • 8,000 Yugoslav Jews leave for Israel in next four years. Just 6,500 remain
  • 1949 Fearing economic collapse & Soviet invasion, Tito accepts huge US financial help
    He keeps political control but finishes purges & allows more economic flexibility
    1960 Socio-economic improvements; “repressive but not oppressive” political system
  • 1967 Govt. breaks with Israel but local Jews retain communal and religious freedoms
  • 1968 Economy boosted by Yugoslav “guest workers” in booming Western Europe
    1970 Zagreb’s population has doubled to 560,000 over last 20 years
    Croatian Spring: Zagreb students demand more liberties and Croatian autonomy
    1974 Keeping the peace: new constitution gives greater rights to Croatia
    Yugoslavia a land of overlapping minorities. Each republic has multiple groups
    A more secular, integrated Yugoslavia emerging, especially in growing cities
    Both Serbs & Croats speak Serbo-Croat (different alphabets but similar verbally)
    1975 Croatian-Swiss scientist Vladimir Prelog wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry
    1980 Tito dies. Presidency rotated among leaders of 6 republics to maintain balance
    Northern republics of Slovenia and Croatia wealthier than others
    They are concerned by federal govt. economic policies and its massive debts
  • 5,500 Jews in Yugoslavia (2,000 in Croatia), increasingly secular communities
  • 1989 Communist control weakening like in much of Eastern Europe
    Croatia worried by Serbian nationalist leaders including Slobodan Milošević
    1990 Yugoslav inflation (1240% per year) another factor in Croatian separatism
    Croatian republic elect anti-Serbian nationalist Franjo Tudjman
    This in turn alarms the 560,000 Serbs living in Croatia, 12% of total population
  • Tudjman also makes anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim remarks

WAR & ETHNIC CLEANSING RETURN TO EUROPE

  • 1991 Both Croatia & Slovenia declare independence from Yugoslavia
    Germany & European community quickly recognize these new sovereign states
    Serb-dominated Yugoslav army launches attacks on these “rebel republics”
    Over next 8 years, there will be 5 main Yugoslav wars. Three involve Croatia
    New Croatian state at war with its Serb minority (backed by Serbia-Yugoslavia)
    Massacres, ethnic cleansing, many Croats displaced by Serbian forces
  • Jewish community buildings in Zagreb and Dubrovnik damaged in bombings
  • 1992 Fragile ceasefire declared in Croatia. Serbs hold part of Croatia (Krajina)
    Bosnia (led by local Muslims & Croats) declares independence from Yugoslavia
    War in Bosnia. Bosnian Serbs versus local Muslims & Croats (backed by Zagreb)
    1993 Bosnian Croats seek to establish own state (Herzegovina) & link it to Croatia
    Croatia & Bosnian Croats now at war with Bosnian Muslims & Bosnian Serbs
    War in Croatia breaks out again. Croatia eventually recaptures Serb-held Krajina
    Estimated 200,000 ethnic Serbs flee or are expelled from Croatia
    1995 Croatia wins its war of independence. Dayton agreement ends Bosnian conflict.
    1999 Last Yugoslav war (in Serbian province of Kosovo) ends after NATO bomb Serbs
    In all of former Yugoslavia, estimated 140,000 dead (20,000 killed in Croatia)
    Over 2 million refugees & displaced people after widespread ethnic cleansing
    Worst European violence since WWII. Multinational communities destroyed

A NEW NATION, A NEW BEGINNING?

  • 2000 New, more moderate leadership: Tudjman dies, Milošević overthrown in Serbia
    Increased democracy in Croatia & a fast-growing economy
  • Estimated 1,700 Jews in Croatia, mainly Zagreb
  • 2005 Tourism boom: Lonely Planet calls Croatia world’s best spot to visit
    2007 Income has doubled in Croatia since end of war
    2008 Global financial crisis hits Croatia hard. Public spending slashed
    2012 Croatia education system voted 22nd in world (equal with Austria)
    2013 Croatia joins EU. Economy recovering somewhat but 17% unemployment
    Most Serb refugees do not return. Croatia now 90% Croat, just 4% Serb
    2015 Over 700,000 refugees from Syria and elsewhere pass through Croatia
  • Croatian President visits Israel; condemns Ustaŝe’s role in Holocaust
    However, Croatian Jewish leaders condemn increasing Holocaust revisionism
  • 2018 A small nation, a soccer giant. Croatia reaches final of World Cup
    2019 Population of Croatia: 4.1 million
    Jewish population: 1,700
 

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