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Franjo Tuđman

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Franjo Tuđman

Franjo Tuđman
1st[a] President of Croatia
In office
30 May 1990 – 10 December 1999
Prime Minister Stjepan Mesić (1990)
Josip Manolić (1990–91)
Franjo Gregurić (1991–92)
Hrvoje Šarinić (1992–93)
Nikica Valentić (1993–95)
Zlatko Mateša (1995–99)
Preceded by Ivo Latin (as President of the Presidency of Croatia)
Succeeded by Vlatko Pavletić (acting)
1st President of the Croatian Democratic Union
In office
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Vladimir Šeks (acting)
Personal details
Born (1922-05-14)14 May 1922
Veliko Trgovišće, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
(now Croatia)
Died 10 December 1999(1999-12-10) (aged 77)
Zagreb, Croatia
Resting place Mirogoj, Zagreb, Croatia
Nationality Croat
Political party Croatian Democratic Union
Other political
League of Communists of Yugoslavia (1942-1967)
Spouse(s) Ankica Tuđman (née Žumbar)
Alma mater Belgrade Military Academy
Profession Politician, historian, soldier
Religion Lapsed Catholic (considered atheist by some),[1] see Relation to the Catholic Church
Website Official website
Military service
Allegiance Yugoslavia
Service/branch Yugoslav Partisans (1942–45)
Yugoslav People's Army Ground Forces (1945–61)
Croatian Armed Forces
Years of service 1942–1961
Rank Major General (YPA)
Vrhovnik (HV)[2][3]
Unit 10th Zagreb Corps
Battles/wars World War II in Yugoslavia
Croatian War of Independence
^a 1st counting from the 1990 Croatian parliamentary election. 17th Croatian president overall.

Franjo Tuđman (Croatian pronunciation: ; 14 May 1922 – 10 December 1999) was a Croatian politician and historian. Following the country's independence from Yugoslavia he became the first President of Croatia and served as president from 1990 to 1999.

Tuđman was born in Veliko Trgovišće, Croatia. In his youth he fought during World War II as a member of the 10th Zagreb Corps of the Yugoslav partisans. After the war he took a post in the Ministry of Defence, later attaining the rank of major general of the Yugoslav Army in 1960. After his military career he dedicated himself to the study of geopolitics. In 1963 he became a professor on the Zagreb Faculty of Political Sciences. He received a doctorate in history in 1965 and worked as a historian until coming into conflict with the regime. Tuđman participated in the Croatian Spring movement that called for reforms in the country and was imprisoned for his activities in 1972. He lived relatively anonymously in the following years until the end of communism, whereupon he began his political career by founding the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in 1989.

HDZ won the first [4][5][6]


  • Early years 1
  • World War II 2
  • Military career 3
  • Institute 4
  • Dissident politics 5
  • Formation of the national program 6
  • 1990 election campaign 7
  • President of Croatia 8
    • War years 8.1
      • War in Bosnia and Herzegovina 8.1.1
      • Ceasefire in Croatia 8.1.2
      • End of the war 8.1.3
    • Post-war policy 8.2
      • Economy 8.2.1
      • Relation to the Catholic Church 8.2.2
      • Health problems 8.2.3
    • Vrhovnik 8.3
  • ICTY trials 9
  • Tuđman as historian 10
    • Horrors of War 10.1
  • Legacy 11
    • Public opinion 11.1
  • Immediate family 12
  • Honours and decorations 13
    • Croatian 13.1
      • Military rank 13.1.1
    • International 13.2
  • Notes 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16

Early years

Franjo Tuđman's childhood home in Veliko Trgovišće

Franjo Tuđman was born on 14 May 1922 in Veliko Trgovišće, a village in the northern Croatian region of Hrvatsko Zagorje, at the time part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The family moved to the house marked as his birthplace soon after he was born.[7][8] His father Stjepan ran a local tavern and was a politically active member of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS).[9] He had been president of the HSS committee in Veliko Trgovišće for 16 years (1925–1941 and had been elected as mayor of Veliko Trgovišće in 1936 and 1938).[10] Mato, Andraš and Juraj, brothers of Stjepan Tuđman, emigrated to America.[11] Another brother Valentin also tried to emigrate but a travelling accident prevented him and kept him in Veliko Trgovišće, where he worked as an (uneducated) veterinarian.[11]

Besides Franjo, Stjepan Tuđman had an elder daughter Danica Ana (who died as a baby), Ivica (born in 1924) and Stjepan "Štefek" (born in 1926).[11] When Franjo Tuđman was 7 his mother Justina (née Gmaz) died while bearing her fifth child.[12][13] Tuđman's mother was a devout Catholic, unlike his father and stepmother. His father, like Stjepan Radić, had anticlerical attitudes and young Franjo adopted his views.[9] As a child Franjo Tuđman served as an altar boy in the local parish.[14] Tuđman attended elementary school in his native village from 15 September 1929 to 30 June 1933 and was an excellent student.[15]

He attended secondary school for eight years, starting in the autumn 1935.[16] The reasons for the interruption are not clear, but it is assumed that the primary cause was an economic crisis in that period.[17] According to some sources the local parish helped young Franjo to continue his education[18] and his teacher even proposed him to be educated to become a priest.[19] When he was 15 his father brought him to Zagreb, where he met Vladko Maček, the president of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS).[9] At first young Franjo liked the HSS, but later he turned towards communism.[20] On 5 November 1940 he was arrested during student demonstrations celebrating the anniversary of the Soviet October revolution.[21]

World War II

Franjo Tuđman (left) in February 1945

On 10 April 1941, when Slavko Kvaternik proclaimed the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) Tuđman left school and started publishing secret newspapers with his friend Vlado Stopar.[21] He was recruited into the Yugoslav partisans at the beginning of 1942 by Marko Belinić.[21]

His father also joined the partisans and became a founder of ZAVNOH. According to Tuđman, his father was arrested by the Ustaše, and one of his brothers was taken to a concentration camp.[21] They both managed to survive, unlike the youngest brother Stjepan[21] who was killed by the Gestapo[22] fighting for the Partisans in 1943.

Tuđman was traveling between Zagreb and Zagorje using false documents which identified him as a member of the Croatian Home Guard. There he was helping to activate a partisan division in Zagorje.[21] On 11 May 1942, while carrying Belinić's letter, he was arrested by the Ustaše, but managed to escape from the police station.[21]

Military career

Franjo Tuđman and Ankica Žumbar were married on 25 May 1945 at the Belgrade city council.[23] In this way they wanted to confirm their faith in the communist movement and the importance of civil ritual over religious ones.[23] (In May 1945 the government created the law which allowed civil weddings, taking weddings (among other things) out of Church jurisdiction). They returned to work that same day.[23]

On 26 April 1946 his father Stjepan and stepmother were found dead.[23] Tuđman never clarified the circumstances of their death. According to the police, his father Stjepan killed his wife and then himself. Other theories accuse Ustaše guerrilla (Crusaders) and members of the Yugoslav secret police (OZNA).[23] Franjo and Ankica did not graduate from secondary school. They did so after the war, in Belgrade.[24] He graduated from the Partisan High school in 1945 and she finished five semesters of English language in the Yugoslav Foreign Office.[24]

In 1953 Tuđman was promoted to the position of colonel and in 1959 he became a major general.[24] At the age of 38, he had become the youngest general in the Yugoslav army. His promotion was not extreme but it was atypical for a Croat because senior officers were increasingly likely to be Serbs and Montenegrins.[24] In 1962 Serbs and Montenegrins composed 70% of army generals.[25]

On 23 May 1954 he became secretary of JSD Partizan Belgrade[26] and in May 1958 its president,[26] becoming the first colonel to occupy that position (all previous holders were generals).[26] He was placed in that position in order to solve administration problems inside of the club, especially the football section. When he arrived, JSD Partizan Belgrade was a kind of intelligence battlefield where leaders of UDBA and KOS struggled for influence.[27] That has caused clubs (despite having notable and good players) to have bad results, especially its football section.[28] During his club presidency the club adopted the black-white striped kit which is used to this day. According to Tuđman he wanted to create a club that would have a pan-Yugoslav image and oppose the Red Star that had an exclusive Serbian image.[29] Tuđman was inspired by FC Juventus uniforms. However, Stjepan Bobek (former player of FK Partizan) claimed that uniform colors idea was in fact his which he passed on to Tuđman.[30]

Tuđman attended the military academy in Belgrade, like many officers who did not have formal military education. He graduated from the tactical school on 18 July 1957 as an excellent student.[31] One of his teachers was Dušan Bilandžić, who would be a future advisor.[32] Before he turned 40 years old, he had risen to become the youngest general in the Yugoslav Army. He was prominent in attending to communist indoctrination while based in Belgrade, where his three children were born.[33]


In 1963 he became professor at the University of Zagreb Faculty of Political Sciences where he taught a course called "Socialist Revolution and Contemporary National History".[34] He left active army service in 1961 at his own request and began working at the Institut za historiju radničkoga pokreta Hrvatske (English: Institute for the History of Workers' Movement of Croatia), and remained its director until 1967.[34]

Tuđman's increasing insistence on a Croatian interpretation of history turned many professors from University of Zagreb like Mirjana Gross and Ljubo Boban against him.[35] In April 1964 Boban denounced Tuđman as a "nationalist".[35] During Tuđman's leadership the Institute became a source of alternative interpretations of Yugoslav history which caused his conflict with official Yugoslav historiography.[32] He did not have an appropriate academic degree to qualify him as a historian. He began to realize that he would need to obtain a doctorate in order to keep his position. His dissertation was entitled "The causes of the crisis of the Yugoslav monarchy from unification in 1918 until its breakdown in 1941", and was a compilation of some of his previously published works. The University of Zagreb's Faculty of Philosophy rejected his dissertation, on the grounds that some parts of it had already been published.[36] The Faculty of Arts in Zadar (then part of University of Zagreb, today University of Zadar) accepted it and he graduated on 28 December 1965.[37][36]

In his thesis he stated that the primary cause of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia's breakdown was the repressive and corrupted regime which was at odds with the contemporary mainstream Yugoslav historiography which considered Croatian nationalism to be its primary cause.[36] Bogdanov and Milutinović (both ethnic Serbs) did not object to this. However, the Zagreb-based publisher Naprijed cancelled the contract following his refusal to change some "controversial" statements in the book.[36]

Tuđman publicly supported the goals of Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Literary Language. The Croatian Parliament and League of Communists of Croatia from Zagreb, however, attacked it and the board of the institute requested Tuđman's resignation.[38]

In December 1966, Ljubo Boban accused Tuđman of plagiarism,[39] stating that Tuđman had compiled four fifths of his doctoral thesis, The Creation of the Socialist Yugoslavia, from Boban's work. Boban offered conclusive proofs to his claim from articles published previously in the magazine Forum and the rest from Boban's own thesis.[39] Tuđman was then expelled from the Institute and forced to retire in 1967.[40]

Between 1962–67 he was the president of the "Main Committee for International Relations of the Croatian League of Communists Main Board" and deputy in the Croatian parliament between 1965-69.[40]

Dissident politics

Franjo Tuđman in June 1971

Apart from his book on guerrilla warfare, Tuđman wrote a series of articles criticizing the Yugoslav Socialist establishment. His most important book from that period was Velike ideje i mali narodi ("Great ideas and small nations"), a monograph on political history that brought him into conflict with the central dogmas of the Yugoslav Communist elite with regard to the interconnectedness of the national and social elements in the Yugoslav revolutionary war (during World War II).

In 1970 he became a member of the Croatian Writers' Society. In 1972 he was sentenced to two years in prison for subversive activities during the Croatian Spring. According to Tuđman's own testimony, the Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito personally intervened to recommend the court to be lenient in his case, sparing him a longer prison sentence. The authorities of SR Croatia additionally intended to prosecute Tuđman on charges of espionage, which carried a sentence of 15–20 years in prison with hard labour, but the charge was commuted by Tito. Other sources mention that Miroslav Krleža, a writer, lobbied on Tuđman's behalf.[34] According to Tuđman, he and Tito were close friends.[41] However, Tuđman later described Tito's crackdown as an "autocratic coup d'état".[42]

The Croatian Spring was a national movement set in motion by Tito and the Croatian communist party chairman Vladimir Bakarić amid the climate of growing liberalism in the late 1960s. It was initially a tepid and ideologically controlled party liberalism, but it soon grew into a mass nationalist-based manifestation of dissatisfaction with the position of Croatia within Yugoslavia. As a result, the movement was suppressed by Tito, who used the military and the police to put a stop to what he saw as separatism and a threat to the party's influence. Bakarić quickly distanced himself from the Croatian communist leadership that he himself had helped to gain power earlier and sided with the Yugoslav president. However, Tito took the protesters' demands into consideration and in 1974 the new Yugoslav constitution granted the majority of the demands sought by the Croatian Spring. On other topics like Communism and one-party political monopoly Tuđman remained mostly within the framework of the communist ideology of the day. His sentence was eventually commuted by Tito's government and Tuđman was released after spending nine months in prison.

In 1977 he travelled to Croatian diaspora.[43] His trip apparently went unnoticed by Yugoslav police. However, on that trip he gave an interview to Swedish TV about the position of Croats in Yugoslavia that was later broadcast.[43] Upon returning to Yugoslavia, Tuđman was put on trial again in 1981 because of this interview, and was accused for having spread "enemy propaganda". On 20 February 1981 he was found guilty and sentenced to three years of prison and 5 years in house arrest.[44] However, he served only eleven months of the sentence.[40]

In June 1987 he became a member of the Croatian PEN centre.[40] On 6 June 1987 he travelled to Canada with his wife to meet Croatian Canadians.[45] They were trying not to discuss sensitive issues with emigrants abroad fearing that some might be agents of the Yugoslav secret police UDBA, which was a common practice at the time.[46]

During his trips to Canada he met many Croatian emigrants who were natives of Herzegovina or were of Herzegovinian ancestry, and some of them later became Croatian government officials after the country's independence, the most prominent of whom was Gojko Šušak. These meetings abroad in the late 1980s later gave rise to many conspiracy theories. According to these rumours the Croats of Herzegovina had somehow used the meetings to earn a huge amount of influence inside the HDZ, as well as the post-independence Croatian establishment.[47]

Formation of the national program

In the latter part of the 1980s, when Yugoslavia was nearing its demise, torn by conflicting national aspirations, Tuđman formulated a Croatian national programme that can be summarized in the following way:

  • The primary goal is the establishment of the Croatian nation-state; therefore all ideological disputes from the past should be thrown away. In practice, this meant strong support from the anti-Communist Croatian diaspora, especially financial.
  • Even though Tuđman's final goal was an independent Croatia, he was well aware of the realities of internal and foreign policy. His chief initial proposal was not a fully independent Croatia, but a confederate Yugoslavia with growing decentralization and democratization.
  • Tuđman envisaged Croatia's future as a welfare capitalist state that will inevitably move towards central Europe and away from the Balkans.
  • With regard to the burning issues of national conflicts, his vision was the following (at least initially): he asserted that Serbian nationalism, controlled by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), could wreak havoc on Croatian and Bosnian soil. The JNA, according to some estimates the fourth European military force re firepower, was being rapidly Serbianized, both ideologically and ethnically,[48] in less than four years. Tuđman's proposal was that Serbs in Croatia, who made up 12% of Croatia's population, should gain cultural freedom with elements of territorial autonomy.
  • As far as Bosnia and Herzegovina was concerned, Tuđman was more ambivalent: Tuđman did not take a separate Bosnia seriously as shown by his comments to a television crew "Bosnia was a creation of the Ottoman invasion ... Until then it was part of Croatia, or it was a kingdom of Bosnia, but a Catholic kingdom, linked to Croatia".[49]

On 17 June 1989, Tuđman founded the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Essentially, this was a nationalist Croatian movement that affirmed Croatian values based on Catholicism blended with historical and cultural traditions which had been generally suppressed in communist Yugoslavia. The aim was to gain national independence and to establish a Croatian nation-state.

1990 election campaign

Internal tensions that had broken up the Communist party of Yugoslavia prompted the governments of federal Republics to schedule free multiparty elections in spring 1990. These were the first free multi-party elections for the Croatian Parliament since 1913. The HDZ held its first convention on 24–25 February 1990, when Tuđman was elected its president. The election campaign took place from late March until 20 April 1990. Tuđman recruited several supporters from members of the diaspora who returned home, most importantly Gojko Šušak.[50]

Tuđman based his campaign mostly on the national question. He paid less attention to economic questions, apart from stating that the dinar earned in Croatia should stay in Croatia, thus objecting the subsidies for less developed parts of the country, or for the army.[51] Although Tuđman had ties with the right-wing anti-Communist diaspora, he also had important colleagues from the Partisan Communist establishment, including Josip Boljkovac and Josip Manolić.[51] His main opponent in the election was Ivica Račan from the League of Communists of Croatia (SKH), who became the SKH Chairman in December 1989.[52]

Tuđman's talk of Croatia's past glories and independence was not received well among Croatian Serbs. The HDZ was heavily criticized by Serbian media, portraying their possible victory as a revival of NDH.[53] Veljko Kadijević, general of the JNA, said at meeting of the army and SR Croatia leaderships that the elections will bring the Ustashe to power in Croatia. A few weeks before the elections, the army removed the weapons of the Territorial Defence from stores all over Croatia.[54] During a HDZ campaign rally in Benkovac, an ethnically mixed town, a 62-year-old Serbian man, Boško Čubrilović, pulled out a gas pistol near the podium. Croatian media described the incident as an assassination attempt on Tuđman, but Čubrilović was in late 1990 charged and convicted only of threatening the security staff. The incident further worsened ethnic tensions.[55]

During his campaign, on 16 April 1990 Tuđman said at a rally:
All sorts of other lies are being spread today, I do not know what else they will invent. I've heard that I'm of Jewish descent, but I found, I knew of my ancestors in Zagorje from around 350 years ago, and I said, maybe it would be good to have some of that, I guess I would be richer, I might not have become a Communist. Then, as if that's not enough, then they declare that my wife is Jewish or Serbian. Luckily for me, she never was either, although many wives are. And so on and so forth spreading lies ...[56]

The part of the statement about his wife was later widely criticized, including by officials of the Wiesenthal Center.[57] Croatian historian Ante Nazor cited claims by Tuđman's son, Miroslav and Stijepo Mijović Kočan about the statement being directed against the former Yugoslav communist system rather than against Jews or Serbs; instead about mixed marriages being used by Croats as a means to promotion in the system.[56]

The elections were scheduled for all 356 seats in the tricameral parliament consisting of the Socio-Political Council (80 seats), the Council of Associated Labour (160 seats) and the Council of Municipalities (116 seats). Tuđman's party triumphed and got an absolute majority of around 60% or 205 seats in the Croatian Parliament. Tuđman was elected to the position of President of Croatia on 30 May 1990. After the victory of HDZ the nationalistic Serb Democratic Party (SDS) spread its influence quickly in places where Serbs formed a high percentage of the population.[58] Since the split among communists in Yugoslavia along ethnic lines was already a fact at that time, it seemed inevitable that the conflicts would continue following the multi-party elections which brought to power new political establishments in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while at the same time the same communist officials kept their posts in Serbia and Montenegro.

President of Croatia

In the weeks following the election the new government introduced the traditional Croatian flag and coat-of-arms, without Communist symbols. Constitutional changes were proposed with a multitude of political, economic, and social changes. Tuđman offered the vice-presidency to Jovan Rašković, president of the SDS, but Rašković declined the offer and called the elected deputies from his party to boycott the parliament. Local police in Knin began operating as an independent force, often not responding to orders from Zagreb.[59] Many government employees, mostly in police where commanding positions were mainly held by Serbs and Communists, lost their jobs. This was based on a decision that the civil service ethnic structure should correspond to their percentage in the entire population.[58]

On 25 July 1990, a Serbian Assembly was established in Srb, north of Knin. Jovan Rašković announced a referendum on "Serb sovereignty and autonomy" in Croatia in August 1990, which Tuđman labeled as illegal. A series of incidents followed in areas populated by ethnic Serbs, mostly around Knin, known as the Log Revolution.[60] The revolt in Knin concentrated the Croatian government on the problem of the lack of weapons. The effects of the JNA’s confiscation of the Territorial Defence supplies was partly undone by the new Defence Minister, Martin Špegelj, who bought weapons from Hungary.[61] On 22 December 1990, the Parliament of Croatia ratified the new constitution. The Serbs in Knin proclaimed the SAO Krajina in municipalities of the regions of Northern Dalmatia and Lika.[62]

Until the spring of 1991 Tuđman, together with the Slovenian leadership, was ready to accept a compromise solution of a confederation or alliance of sovereign states within Yugoslavia. After the Serbian leadership rejected their proposals and armed provocations became more frequent, Tuđman decided to realize the idea of a complete Croatian independence.[63] On 25 April 1991, the Croatian Parliament decided to hold an independence referendum on 19 May. Croatian Serbs largely boycotted the referendum.[64] The turnout was 83.56%, of which 93.24% or 2,845,521 voted in favour of the independence of Croatia. Both Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991. The Yugoslav side accused the two of secession. The federal government ordered the JNA to take control of border crossings in Slovenia, which led to the Ten-Day War in which the JNA was routed. The Ten-Day War ended with the signing of the Brioni Agreement, when a three-month moratorium was placed on the implementation of the decision. Slovenia's parliament cut all remaining ties with Yugoslavia on 8 October 1991.[63]

War years

The importance of Tuđman's leadership was seen at crucial junctures of Croatia's history: the all-out war against the combined forces of the Yugoslav Army and Serbian rebels, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Operation Storm and the Dayton peace agreement. For instance: Tuđman's strategy of stalling the Yugoslav Army in 1991 by signing frequent ceasefires mediated by foreign diplomats was effective — when the first ceasefire was signed, the emerging Croatian Army had seven brigades; the last, twentieth ceasefire the Croats had taken the field with 64 brigades. However, he failed on 2 and 3 August 1991 to make a truce with Ante Marković and Slobodan Milošević, after a successful Croatian military action, he had in haste invited mediators of the European Community to observe this ceasefire negotiations with Ante Marković and Slobodan Milošević.[65] On 30 August 1991 after meeting with President François Mitterrand, Tuđman said that growing violence posed a "danger for the whole of Europe". Soviet President Gorbachev met with Tuđman at the Kremlin on 1 October 1991.

Tuđman's first plan was to win support from the European Community, avoiding the direct confrontation with the JNA that had been proposed by Martin Špegelj, the Minister of Defence, since the beginning of the conflict.[66] Tuđman rejected Špegelj's proposal as it would be damaging on Croatia's international position and there were doubts that the Croatian army was ready for such an action.[67] As the war escalated, Tuđman formed the National Unity Government which brought in members of most of the minor parties in the Parliament, including Račan's Social Democratic Party.[68]

Fierce fighting took place in Vukovar, where around 1,800 Croat fighters were blocking JNA's advance into Slavonia. Vukovar assumed enormous symbolic importance to both sides. Without it, Serbian territorial gains in eastern Slavonia were threatened. The unexpectedly fierce defence of the town against a much larger army inspired talk of a "Croatian Stalingrad". Increasing losses and complaints from the Croatian public for failing to hit back compelled Tuđman to act. He ordered the Croatian National Guard to surround JNA army bases, thus starting the Battle of the Barracks. Tuđman named Gojko Šušak the new Minister of Defence in September 1991.[69]

In early October 1991, the JNA intensified its campaign in Croatia.[70] On 5 October, Tuđman made a speech in which he called upon the whole population to mobilize and defend against "Greater Serbian imperialism" pursued by the Serb-led JNA, Serbian paramilitary formations, and rebel Serb forces. Two days later the Yugoslav Air Force bombed Tuđman's residence in the old town of Zagreb.[71] In November 1991 te Battle of Vukovar ended that left the city devastated. The JNA and Serbian irregulars seized control of about 30 percent of Croatia's territory by the end of 1991.[70] In December 1991, the SAO Krajina proclaimed itself the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK). Until the end of 1991 sixteen ceasefires were signed, none of which lasted longer than a day.[72]

On 19 December 1991, Iceland and Germany recognized Croatia's sovereignty. Many observers believe Tuđman's good relationship with Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Germany's foreign minister at the time, had much to do with this decision.[73] Hostilities in Croatia ended for a time in January 1992 when the so-called Sarajevo Agreement was signed, that became a lasting ceasefire. However, the military situation in Croatia itself remained unsettled. Meanwhile, the war had spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where fierce fighting continued until 1995.

War in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević meeting in Karađorđevo on alleged agreement
Franjo Tuđman and Alija Izetbegović signing the Washington Agreement in 1994

During the war in Croatia, Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović gave a televised proclamation of neutrality, stating that "this is not our war", but the war had already spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and by early 1992 it accelerated. After the independence referendum in March, Bosnia declared independence on 6 April that was immediately recognised by Croatia.[74]

Initially, the governments of Zagreb and Sarajevo were on friendly terms.[75] In 21 July 1992, the Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia was signed by Alija Izetbegović and Franjo Tuđman, establishing a military cooperation between Bosnian and Croatian forces.[76] Although it was often not harmonious, it resulted in the gradual stabilisation of the defence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Weapons for the Bosnian army were sent through Croatia despite the arms embargo.[77] The relations worsened by the 2nd half of 1992 and, from October 1992 to February 1994, Muslim forces loyal to Izetbegović and reinforced by mujahideen volunteers battled against Bosnian Croat forces backed by the Croatian Army.[75]

In August 1993 the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia was proclaimed. During the conflict in Bosnia, Croatia exercised overall control over the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), the official military formation of Herzeg-Bosnia.[78] As the Croat-Muslim conflict escalated, Croatia's foreign and domestic policy reached a low point.[79] The United States were concerned with the way the war played into the hands of the Serbs and pressured Tuđman to change his policy in Bosnia. They tried to bring the Muslim and Croatian sides back together in September 1993, but the attempt at reconciliation was sunk by continued fighting in central Bosnia and Mostar and by the fact that the Muslims were not interested in peace.[80] Finally, the US-brokered Washington Agreement of March 1994 ended the Croat-Muslim conflict and created the Croat-Muslim Federation in the country.[81] In June 1994 Tuđman visited Sarajevo to open the Croatian embasy there. He met with Alija Izetbegović and discussed the creation of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its possible confederation with Croatia.[82]

The policies of the Republic of Croatia and Franjo Tuđman towards Bosnia and Herzegovina were never totally transparent and Tuđman was often accused for having a strategic goal of expanding Croatia's borders.[77][83] In the first-instance verdict against Tihomir Blaškić, the Trial Chamber found that "Croatia, and more specifically former President Tuđman, was hoping to partition Bosnia and exercised such a degree of control over the Bosnian Croats and especially the HVO that it is justified to speak of overall control".[84]

On 25 March 1991, Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević met at the Karađorđevo hunting ground in northwest Serbia that later became known as the Karađorđevo agreement. The meeting became controversial due to claims that the two presidents discussed the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia. However, the claims came from persons that were not present at the meeting and there is no record of this meeting that proves an existence of such an agreement,[85] while Milošević did not behave subsequently as if he had an agreement with Tuđman.[75]

Ceasefire in Croatia

Despite considerable difficulties, Croatian diplomacy managed to achieve recognition in the following months. Croatia was recognised by the European Community on 15 January 1992 and became a member of the United Nations on 22 May.[73] In April 1992, Washington recognised Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina simultaneously. Since the new Clinton administration came to power it had lobbied consistently for a hard line against Milošević, a political position often largely attributed to the policies of then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright.[86]

The war caused great destruction and indirect damage in tourism, transit traffic, investment, etc.[87] President Tuđman estimated the cost of direct material damage at over $20 billion and that Croatia was spending $3 million daily on care for hundreds of thousands of refugees.[88] When the ceasefire of January 1992 came into effect Croatia slowly recovered. As economic activity picked up steadily and negotiations with the leaders of RSK got nowhere, the Defence Minister, Gojko Šušak, started amassing weapons in preparation for a military solution.[89]

Tuđman won the presidential elections in August 1992 in the first round with 57.8% of the vote.[90] Simultaneously, the parliamentary elections were held that were also won by HDZ. During the campaign, Dobroslav Paraga, the extreme right-wing leader of the Croatian Party of Rights, accused Tuđman of betraying Croatian interests by not engaging in an all-out war with Serbian forces. Tuđman tried to marginalize his party due to their use of Ustaše symbols, that brought criticism in the foreign press towards Croatia. Paraga won only 5 seats in the parliament and 5,4% of the vote in the presidential election.[91][92]

In January 1993 the Croatian Army launched Operation Maslenica and recaptured the vital Maslenica bridge linking Dalmatia with northern Croatia. Although the UN Security Council condemned the operation, there were no incurring sanctions. This victory enabled Tuđman to counter domestic accusations that he was weak in his dealings with RSK and the UN.[93]

Despite clashes with the RSK forces, during 1993 and 1994 the overall condition of the economy improved substantially and unemployment was gradually falling. On 4 April 1993 Tuđman appointed Nikica Valentić as prime minister. The anti-inflationary stabilization steps in 1993 successfully lowered inflation. The Croatian dinar, that was introduced as a transitional currency, was replaced with the kuna in 1994.[94] GDP growth reached 5,9% in 1994.[95]

End of the war

The Dayton Peace Accords on 21 November 1995

In May 1995, the Croatian army launched Operation Flash, its third operation against RSK since the January 1992 ceasefire, and quickly recaptured western Slavonia. International diplomats drafted the Z-4 Plan, proposing the reintegration of the RSK into Croatia. RSK would keep its flag and have its own president, parliament, police and a separate currency. Although Tuđman was displeased with the proposal, RSK authorities rejected it outright.[96]

On 22 July 1995, Tuđman and Izetbegović signed the Split Agreement, binding both sides to a "joint defence against Serb aggression". Tuđman soon put his words into action and initiated Operation Summer '95, carried out by joint forces of HV and HVO. These forces overran the towns of Glamoč and Bosansko Grahovo in western Bosnia, virtually isolating Knin from Republika Srpska and FR Yugoslavia.[97]

At 5am on Friday, 4 August 1995, Tuđman publicly authorized the attack on RSK, codenamed Operation Storm. He called on the Serb army and their leadership in Knin to surrender, and at the same time called Serb civilians to remain in their homes, guaranteeing them their rights. The decision to head straight for Knin, the centre of RSK, paid off and by 10am on 5 August, on the second day of the operation, Croatian forces entered the city with minimal casualties. By the morning of 8 August the operation was effectively over, resulting in the restoration of Croatian control of 10,400 square kilometres (4,000 square miles) of territory. Around 150,000–200,000 Serbs fled and a variety of crimes were committed against the remaining civilians.[98] Germany and the United States refused to condemn the operation. United States President Bill Clinton said he was "hopeful that Croatia's offensive will turn out to be something that will give us an avenue to a quick diplomatic solution."[99]

A joint offensive of Croatian and Bosniak forces followed in western and northern Bosnia. Bosnian Serb forces quickly lost territory and were forced to negotiate. Talks regarding a peace treaty were held in Dayton, Ohio and an agreement was drafted in November 1995. Tuđman was one of the signatores of the Dayton Agreement, along with the leaderships of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, that ended the Bosnian War. On 12 November the Erdut Agreement was signed with local Serb authorities regarding the return of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem to Croatia, with a two-year transitional period. This ended the war in Croatia.[100] Official figures on wartime damage published in Croatia in 1996 specify 180,000 destroyed housing units, 25% of the Croatian economy destroyed, and US$27 billion of material damage.[101]

Post-war policy

Tuđman and journalist Ana Havel in 1997

In 1995 parliamentary elections were held that resulted in a victory of HDZ with 75 out of 127 seats in the parliament. Tuđman named Zlatko Mateša the 6th prime minister, who formed the first peacetime government of independent Croatia. The elections were held in conjunction with local elections in Zagreb, which were won by the opposition parties. Tuđman refused to provide a formal confirmation to the proposed Mayor of Zagreb, which led to the Zagreb crisis. In 1996 mass demonstrations were held in Zagreb in response to revoking broadcasting license to Radio 101, a radio station that was critical towards the ruling party.[102]

Treatment of the media brought criticism from some international organizations.[102] Some opposition parties in Croatia advocated the view that, far from Europeanising Croatia, Tuđman was responsible for its "Balkanisation" and that during his presidency, he acted like a despot. Other parties, for instance the Croatian Party of Rights, argued that Tuđman was not radical enough in his defence of the Croatian state.[103]

Croatia became a member of the Council of Europe on 6 November 1996.[104] On 15 June 1997 Tuđman won the presidential elections with 61.4% of the votes, ahead of Zdravko Tomac and Vlado Gotovac, and was re-elected to a second five-year term. Marina Matulović-Dropulić became the Mayor of Zagreb having won the 1997 local elections, which formally ended the Zagreb crisis.

In January 1998 Eastern Slavonia was officially reintegrated into Croatia.[105] In February 1998 Tuđman was re-elected as President of HDZ. The beginning of the year was marked by a large syndical protest in Zagreb, due to which the government adopted legislation regulating public gatherings and demonstrations in April.[106]

After the war, as part of his idea of national reconciliation, Tuđman suggested that the remains of those killed during the Bleiburg repatriations be brought and laid to rest at Jasenovac, an idea he later abolished. In 1998 Tuđman said that his programme of national reconciliation prevented a civil war in Croatia during the collapse of Yugoslavia.[107]


As a result of the macro-stabilization programs, the negative growth of GDP during the early 1990s stopped and turned into a positive trend. Post-war reconstruction activity provided another impetus to growth. Consumer spending and private sector investments, both of which were postponed during the war, contributed to improved economic conditions and growth in 1995-97.[108] Real GDP growth in 1995 was 6,8%, in 1996 5,9% and in 1997 6,6%.[95]

In 1995 a Ministry of Privatization was established with Ivan Penić as its first minister.[109] Privatization in Croatia had barely begun when war broke out in 1991. Infrastructure sustained massive damage from the war, especially the revenue-rich tourism industry, and its transformation from a planned economy to a market economy was thus slow and unsteady. Public mistrust rose when many state-owned companies were sold to politically well-connected at below-market prices.[108] The ruling party was criticised for transferring enterprises to a group of privileged owners connected to the party.[110]

The method of privatization contributed to the increase of state ownership because the unsold shares were transferred to state funds. In 1999 the private sector share in GDP reached 60%, which was significantly lower than in other former socialist countries.[111] The privatization of large government-owned companies was practically halted during the war and in the years immediately following the conclusion of peace. At the end of Tuđman's rule, roughly 70% of Croatia's major companies were still state-owned, including water, electricity, oil, transportation, telecommunications, and tourism.[112]

Value-added tax was introduced in 1998 and the central government budget was in surplus that year.[113] The consumer boom was distrupted when the economy went into recession at the end of 1998, as a result of the bank crisis when 14 banks went bankrupt,[108] and GDP growth slowed down to 1,9%. The recession continued throughout 1999 when GDP fell by 0,9%.[95] Unemployment increased from around 10% in 1996 and 1997 to 11,4% in 1998. By the end of 1999 it reached 13,6%. The country emerged from the recession in the 4th quarter of 1999.[114] After several years of successful macroeconomic stabilization policies, low inflation and a stable currency, economists warned that the lack of fiscal changes and the expanding role of the state in economy caused the decline in the late 1990s and were preventing a sustainable economic growth.[114][115]

Relation to the Catholic Church

Živko Kustić, a Croatian Eastern Catholic priest and journalist for Jutarnji list, wrote that Tuđman's perception of the church's role in Croatia was contradictory to the goals of Pope John Paul II. Moreover, Kustić expressed doubt that Tuđman had ever been truly religious except when he was very young. Tuđman considered the Catholic religion to be important for the modern Croatian nation. When taking the oath in 1992 he added sentence "Tako mi Bog pomogao!" (English: So help me God) which was not then part of the official text.[116] In 1997, he officially included the sentence in the oath.[116] Tuđman's era was the era of the Catholic revival in Croatia. Church attendance rose; even former communists massively participated in church sacraments. The state was funding the building and renewal of churches and monasteries. Between 1996–99 Croatia signed various treaties with the Holy See, by which the Catholic Church in Croatia was granted some financial rights, among others.[117]

Health problems

Tuđman was diagnosed with cancer in 1993. His general health had deteriorated by the late 1990s. On 1 November 1999 he appeared in public for the last time. While being hospitalized opposition parties accused the ruling HDZ of hiding the fact that Tuđman was already dead and that the authorities were keeping his death secret in order to win more seats in the upcoming January 2000 general election. Tuđman's death was officially declared on 10 December 1999.[118] He had a funeral Mass in Zagreb's Cathedral and was buried in Mirogoj Cemetery.


Shoulder insignia of rank.

Tuđman was conferred by the Croatian Parliament the military rank of Supreme commander of Croatia, or 'Vrhovnik' on 22 March 1995.[119][120] It was the highest honorific title in the Croatian Armed Forces and equivalent to Marshal.[121] Tuđman was the only person to ever hold this rank. He held it until his death. The uniform for this position allegedly was modeled on the uniform of Josip Broz Tito as Tuđman was Major General of Yugoslav People's Army.[1] The title was eventually abolished in 2002.[122]

ICTY trials

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the United Nations in 1993. Although the Croatian government passed a law on cooperation with the ICTY, since 1997 relations between ICTY and Croatia worsened. Tuđman criticized the work of ICTY in 1999, while ICTY's chief prosecutor Louise Arbour expressed her dissatisfaction with Croatia's cooperation with the Tribunal.[123]

During Tuđman's life, neither Richard Goldstone nor Arbour, ICTY's first chief prosecutors, reportedly considered indicting him. In 2002 the new ICTY prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, said in an interview that she would have indicted Tuđman had he not died in 1999.[124] Graham Blewitt, a senior Tribunal prosecutor, told the AFP wire service that "There would have been sufficient evidence to indict president Tuđman had he still been alive".[125]

Stjepan Mesić, the former president of Croatia who succeeded Tuđman, revealed thousands of documents and audio tapes recorded by Tuđman about his plans during a case against Croat leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina for war crimes committed against Bosniaks. During the trial against Tihomir Blaškić for the crimes in Ahmići, the defence argued that there was a parallel line of command surpassing Blaškić that went to the political leadership of Herzeg-Bosnia. There were reports in the media that Tuđman himself participated in the coverup. The appeals chamber of the ICTY ruled that Blaškić did not have command responsibility for the massacre and lowered the initial sentence of 45 years to nine years of imprisonment.[126][127]

In 2004 six Bosnian Croats (Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Corić and Berislav Pušić) were indicted by the ICTY for conducting a joint criminal enterprise which included war crimes against non-Croats, particularly Bosniaks, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the indictment, Tuđman, among others, participated in this enterprise.[128] As the indictment mentions not just Tuđman but key Croatian officials (such as Gojko Šušak, former Minister of Defence and Janko Bobetko, a senior army general) the Croatian government filed a motion in 2006 to be allowed to participate in the trial as amicus curiae to "assist in the interpretation of historical and political facts and the determination of truth". The ICTY dismissed Croatia's motion, concluding that "it would not be in the interests of justice to allow a state – whose former political and military officials are named in the indictment as the participants in the joint criminal enterprise – to participate in the proceedings as the amicus curiae".[129] In 2009, Presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti claimed that had Tuđman lived longer, he would have been on the accused bench.[130]

At the trial of Gotovina, in a first-degree verdict, the Trial Chamber found Tuđman to have been a key participant in a joint criminal enterprise, the purpose of which was to permanently remove the Serb civilian population from the territory of Republic of Serbian Krajina and repopulate it with Croats.[131] Klaus-Peter Willsch compared Gotovina's verdict, in which Tuđman was posthumously found to have participated in a joint criminal enterprise, with the 897 Cadaver Synod trial in Rome, when Pope Stephen VI had the corpse of Pope Formosus exhumed, put on trial and posthumously found guilty.[132] In November 2012, an ICTY appeal court overturned the convictions of Mladen Markač and Ante Gotovina, acquited the two former generals and concluded that there was no planned deportation of the Serbian minority and no joint criminal enterprise by the Croatian leadership.[133]

In May 2013, the ICTY, found that Tuđman had been the leader of the [4][5] Judge Jean-Claude Antoanetti issued a separate opinion in which he contested the notion of a joint criminal enterprise and said that Tuđman's plans regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina were not in contradiction with the stance of the international community.[134][135]

Tuđman as historian

Tuđman did not have a formal academic education as historian.[136] He approaches history as a Marxist scholar and Croatian attorney.[137] He always considered history as means of forming society.[138] His voluminous, more than 2,000 pages long, Hrvatska u monarhističkoj Jugoslaviji (English: Croatia in Monarchist Yugoslavia), has come to be assigned as reading material[139] concerning this period of Croatian history at some Croatian universities. His shorter treatises on national question, Nacionalno pitanje u suvremenoj Europi (English: The National question in contemporary Europe) and Usudbene povijestice (English: History's fates) are still well-regarded essays on unresolved national and ethnic disputes, self-determination and creation of nation-states in the European milieu.

Horrors of War

Horrors of War: Historical Reality and Philosophy (Croatian: Bespuća povijesne zbiljnosti; literal translation Wastelands of historical reality)

In 1989 Tuđman published his probably most famous work, Horrors of War: Historical Reality and Philosophy (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Jasenovac museum are speaking of less than 100,000 victims. That number is supported by Croatian Jewish historiographer Ivo Goldstein.[141][142]

The last serious research of victim numbers before the Yugoslav wars was conducted by Croatian economist Vladimir Žerjavić and Serbian researcher Bogoljub Kočović. 59,589 victims (of all nationalities) have been identified by name in a Yugoslav name list that was made in 1964. These closely match up with Tudjman's claims. In his book Tuđman had estimated, relying on some earlier investigations, that the total number of victims in the Jasenovac camp (Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, Croats, and others) was somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000.[143]

In Horrors of War, Tuđman accepted historian Gerald Reitlinger's estimates that the number of Jewish deaths during World War II was closer to 4 million as opposed to the most quoted number of 5 to 6 million.[144] Aside from the war statistics issue, Tuđman's book contained views on the Jewish role in history that many readers found simplistic and profoundly biased. Tuđman based his views on the Jewish condition on the memoirs of a Croatian former Communist Ante Ciliga, who described his experiences at Jasenovac during a year and a half of his incarceration. These are recorded in his book, Sam kroz Europu u ratu (1939–1945), paint an unfavorable picture of his Jewish inmates' behavior, emphasizing their alleged clannishness and ethnocentrism. He claimed Jews had held a privileged position in Jasenovac and actually, as Tuđman concludes, "held in their hands the inmates management of the camp up to 1944", something that was made possible by the idea that "in its origins Pavelić's party was philo-Semitic".[145] Ciliga theorized that the behavior of the Jews had been determined by the more-than-2000-year-old tradition of extreme ethnic egoism and unscrupulousness that he claims is expressed in the Old Testament.[146]

He summarized, among other things, that "The Jews provoke envy and hatred but actually they are 'the unhappiest nation in the world', always victims of 'their own and others' ambitions', and whoever tries to show that they are themselves their own source of tragedy is ranked among the anti-Semites and the object of hatred by the Jews".[146] However, in another part of the book, Tuđman himself did express the belief that these traits weren't unique to the Jews; while criticizing what he alleges to be aggression and atrocities in the Middle East on the part of Israel, he claimed that they arose "from historical unreasonableness and narrowness in which Jewry certainly is no exception".[147]

On 22 April 1998, Tuđman received the credentials of the first Israeli ambassador to Croatia, Natan Meron. In his speech Tuđman said, among other things:
During the Second World War, within the Quisling regime in Croatia, Holocaust crimes were also committed against members of the Jewish people. The Croatian public then, during WWII, and today, including the Croatian government and me personally, have condemned the crimes that the Ustaše committed not only against Jews but also against democratic Croats and even against members of other nations in the Independent State of Croatia.[148]


Mr. President, like all the great people during life you will not wait enough for the proper interpretation of your merits for the nation, it will be done only by future generations, but believe me it will be done. You'll be a great man of Croatian history, but not during your life, but when ratings will be made with cool heads.
— Henry Kissinger, [149]
Tuđman's grave at the Mirogoj cemetery

Tuđman is credited by his supporters with creating the basis for an independent Croatia, and helping the country move away from communism. He is sometimes given the title "father of the country" for his role the country's independence. His legacy is still strong in many parts of Croatia as well as in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Croatian majorities; there are schools, squares and streets in some cities named after him, and statues have been erected. Plans to create a square in Zagreb after the late president were proposed by his family and supporters. In December 2006, a large square near Ilica Street in the Črnomerec section of Zagreb was named after him.[150] In June 2015 Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, Minister of Maritime Affairs Transport and Infrastructure, said that the reconstructed and upgraded Zagreb International Airport will be named after Tuđman.[151]

Public opinion

In a December 2002 poll by HRT, 69% voters expressed a positive opinion about Tuđman.[152]

In a June 2011 poll by Večernji list, 62% voters gave the most credit to Tuđman for the creation of independent Croatia.[153] In December 2014, an Ipsos Puls survey on 600 people showed that 56% see him as a positive figure, 27% said he had both positive and negative aspects, while 14% regard him as a negative figure.[154]

In a survey by promocija Plus in July 2015, regarding the renaming of Zagreb Airport after Tuđman, a majority of 65,5% showed support for the initiative, 25,8% were opposed to the idea, while 8,6% had no opinion about it.[155]

Immediate family

  • Widow: Ankica Tuđman
  • Sons: Miroslav Tuđman (born 1946)[156] and Stjepan Tuđman
  • Daughter: Nevenka Tuđman (born 1951)[157]

Honours and decorations


Awarded by the Croatian Parliament in 1995:[158]

Award or decoration
Grand Order of King Tomislav
Grand Order of King Petar Krešimir IV
Order of Duke Domagoj
Order of Ante Starčević
Order of Stjepan Radić
Order of Danica Hrvatska with the face of Ruđer Bošković
Order of the Croatian Trefoil
Homeland War Memorial Medal
Homeland's Gratitude Medal

Military rank

Award or decoration
Vrhovnik of the Croatian Armed Forces


Award or decoration Country Awarded by Date Place
Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Italy  Italy Francesco Cossiga 17 January 1992 Zagreb
Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of Chile  Chile Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle 29 November 1994 Santiago de Chile
Collar of the Order of the Liberator San Martin  Argentina Carlos Menem 1 December 1994 Buenos Aires
Medal of Zhukov  Russia Boris Yeltsin 4 November 1996 Zagreb
Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer  Greece Konstantinos Stephanopoulos 23 November 1998 Athens
Order of the State of Republic of Turkey  Turkey Suleyman Demirel 1999 Zagreb


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External links

  • Website in a tribute of Franjo Tuđman (Croatian)
  • Britannica entry on Franjo Tuđman
Political offices
Preceded by
Ivo Latin
(as President of the Presidency of Croatia)
post created
President of Croatia

30 May 1990 – 10 December 1999
Succeeded by
Vlatko Pavletić (acting)
Party political offices
Preceded by
Post established
President of the Croatian Democratic Union
17 May 1989 – 10 December 1999
Succeeded by
Vladimir Šeks (acting)
Military offices
Preceded by
New Title
22 March 1995 – 10 December 1999
Succeeded by
Title Abolished
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