Croatia: Hard-Won Independence

7 October 1991  bombing of Zagreb Photo: Hrvoje knez

7 October 1991
bombing of Zagreb
Photo: Hrvoje knez

While Croatia celebrates its Independence Day on 25 June today, 8 October is also a day for celebrations and so is 30 May. It’s a national holiday that marks the final “administrative” step in Croatian Independence, a day when Croats celebrate the unanimous decision of the Croatian Parliament to terminate the link between Croatia and Yugoslavia.

The Croatian referendum on independence was held in May 1991, with 94% of voters supporting Croatian independence from communist Yugoslavia. On 25 June 1991 the Croatian Parliament proclaimed the Croatian independence and seven days later, on 7 July, Croatia and Slovenia signed the Brioni Declaration in which the two countries agreed to suspend all declarations and acts passed by the Croatian and Slovenian parliaments related to those states’ secession from Yugoslavia for a period of three months. On 8 October 1991, the Croatian Parliament decided to end relations with Yugoslavia, in the Decision on the termination of the state and legal ties with other republics and provinces of Yugoslavia. That session was not held in the House of Parliament but instead in the basement of an INA (Oil and Gas industry company) building, because of fears that the Yugoslav army bombing of the Croatian government headquarters – Banski Dvori – that occurred the previous day – 7 October 1991 – may be repeated.

Croatian newspaper Vecernji List 8 October 1991 covers the bombing of the heart of Croatia: Zagreb

Croatian newspaper
Vecernji List 8 October 1991
covers the bombing of the
heart of Croatia: Zagreb

Vecernji List 8 October 1991 Zagreb bombing by Yugoslav Army

Vecernji List 8 October 1991
Zagreb bombing by
Yugoslav Army

On October 7, 1991 two Yugoslav Air Force jets bombed the Croatian government headquarters in Zagreb where President Franjo Tudjman was having a meeting with Yugoslav Presidency Chairman Stjepan Mesic and Yugoslav Federal Prime Minister Ante Markovic. Two missiles hit the government building while four more struck nearby buildings. Tudjman, Mesic and Markovic escaped unscathed, having left the conference room just minutes before the attack. The attack left one person killed and four slightly injured, as well as extensive property damage.
The attack on Zagreb’s Gornji Grad–the historic “upper city” of Hapsburg mansions, stately villas and a medieval cathedral–shattered any remaining thoughts that the renegade Yugoslav forces would heed a European ultimatum to stop fighting or face crippling economic sanctions.
Broken glass carpeted the square stretching between the Parliament building and the Ban’s palace, and roof tiles were torn off the district’s 14th-Century cathedral, St. Mark’s.
The attack caught many Croats off guard, since residents had come to ignore the air raid sirens that wailed repeatedly throughout the day. Bomb shelters filled quickly after the rocket strikes, and many residents were still taking cover hours later.

Ban's Palace/Banski dvori Zagreb Croatia today

Ban’s Palace/Banski dvori
Zagreb Croatia today


St Mark's church Zagreb Croatia

St Mark’s church
Zagreb Croatia

“What do they want, that we all be killed?” cried Croats as they huddled in suburban shelters.
The U.S. Consulate in Zagreb urged all Americans, including journalists, to leave Croatia.
The attack followed a warning from a regional Yugoslav army commander, Gen. Andrija Raseta, that the capital would be hit if Croatian national guardsmen refused to end their siege of federal bases in the republic. By this time the Yugoslav army in Croatia had suffered mass desertions and Croatian forces surrounded several barracks and cut off power and supplies.
On that weekend Franjo Tudjman called for a full mobilisation in Croatia after the Yugoslav army forces moved to within 10 miles of Zagreb and executed a major assault on the strategic city of Karlovac, severing the Croatian capital from its seacoast.

The attack on Zagreb was obviously an assassination attempt against Franjo Tudjman and meant to strike at the heart of the Croatian Government that wanted out of Yugoslavia. By then, hundreds of people had died in Croatia since the declaration of independence in June. Some estimates had in that month of 1991 put the toll at 2,500 and hundreds of thousands non-Serbs had been ethnically cleansed from their homes. Ethnic Serbs in Croatia, who numbered 12 percent of Croatia’s population together with Serbian Serbs, opposed Croatian independence and joined forces to wage a bloody and brutal war of aggression against Croatia in 1991 that would last to August 1995, many more thousands lives lost, with the final pieces of Serb occupied Croatian territories being returned under Croatia’s sovereignty in 1998.

War has been imposed on us and we have to act according to the laws of war,” said Croatia’s first president Franjo Tudjman at a news conference on the morning of 8 October 1991.

On the same day, the Yugoslav army shelled the outskirts of Dubrovnik, while its troops moved into the nearby harbour town of Cavtat. The outskirts of Zadar were also shelled. To the east, Yugoslav army units and Serbian paramilitary forces attacked the industrial city of Sisak and fought house to house in Vukovar, the centre of which had already been in Serbian hands after two months of aggression, ethnic cleansing, rape, concentration camp tortures.


Croats overjoyed on 7 October 1991 that Franjo Tudjman survived an assassination attempt PHOTO: Reuters

Croats overjoyed on 7 October 1991 that
Franjo Tudjman survived an assassination attempt
PHOTO: Reuters

Franjo Tudjman died in 1999 The floral wreaths at his grave spell: THANK YOU

Franjo Tudjman died in 1999
The floral wreaths at his grave spell: THANK YOU

Croatia celebrates independence but not without remembering how hard it was won and what incalculable costs in human life and suffering it bore and still bears. Congratulations to all freedom and democracy loving Croatians and thank you, Franjo Tudjman – rest in God’s peace and your people’s gratitude. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Happy Independence Day!

  2. Ina, I appreciate your blog posts so much. Without them, I’d know little about your wonderful country.

  3. Croatiaisfree says:

    17 year old Croat guy here I passed the flying Croatian flags today in Southern Croatia. Thank you for everything and the liberation Ina Vukic and the other Lions who made all this possible today we are free and living in dignity no more humiliation. I know many had to die so I could live in security.

  4. Ina your blog should be mandatory reading for people within and outside of Croatia. Heck, you should start a media literacy program there for highschool and university students! You are helping to break the media blockade there AND abroad because sadly not all Croats abroad are informed as well. A friend of mine in Osijek recently told me how a colleague of hers said she was going to vote for Josipovic in the upcoming election because he was ‘a gentleman.’ Can you believe the lunacy?
    Clearly her criteria for choosing leaders is seriously flawed.
    We need to change the mindset of the low information voter. Thanks to your blog (especially because yours is in English) and sites like braniteljski portal and for being a part of the solution.

  5. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel.

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