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Greater Croatia

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Title: Greater Croatia  
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Greater Croatia

Map of a Greater Croatia in a 1939 article of the Ustase Hrvatski Domobran newspaper associated with the Ustase organization of the same name, Hrvatski Domobran, that sought recruitment of Croat emigres in Argentina and other countries. This article rejects the Cvetković–Maček Agreement and the borders that it provided to Croatia as insufficient.

Greater Croatia (Croatian: Velika Hrvatska) is a term applied to certain currents within Croatian nationalism. In one sense, it refers to the territorial scope of the Croatian people, emphasising the ethnicity of those Croats living outside Croatia. In the political sense, though, the term refers to an irredentist belief in the equivalence between the territorial scope of the Croatian people and that of the Croatian state.


  • Background 1
  • Cvetković–Maček Agreement 2
  • Independent State of Croatia 3
  • Bosnian War 4
  • Lands of "Greater Croatia" 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
  • External links 8


The concept of a Greater Croatian state has its modern origins with the Illyrian movement, a pan-South-Slavist cultural and political campaign with roots in the early modern period, and revived by a group of young Croatian intellectuals during the first half of the 19th century. Although this movement arose in the developing European nationalist context of the time, it particularly arose as a response to the more powerful nationalist stirrings in the then-Kingdom of Hungary, of which Croatia was a part.

The foundations of the concept of Greater Croatia are laid in late 17th and early 18th century works of Pavao Ritter Vitezović.[1] He was the first ideologist of Croatian nation who proclaimed that all Slavs are Croats.[2] His works were used to legitimize expansionism of the Habsburg Empire to the east and south by asserting its historical rights to claim Illyria.[3][4] "Illyria" as Slavic territory projected by Vitezović would eventually incorporate not only most of the Southeastern Europe but also parts of Central Europe such as Hungary.[5] Vitezović defines territory of Croatia which, besides Illyria and all Slavic populated territory, includes all the territory between Adriatic, Black and Baltic seas.[6]

Because the Kingdom of Hungary was so large, Hungary attempted processes of Magyarisation on its constituent territories. As a reaction, Ljudevit Gaj led the creation of the Illyrian movement.[7] This movement aimed to establish Croatian national presence within Austria-Hungary through linguistic and ethnic unity among South Slavs. This was the first and most prominent Pan-Slavic movement in Croatian history.

An early proponent of Croatian-based Pan-Slavism was the politician, Count Janko Drašković. In 1832, he published his Dissertation to the joint Hungarian-Croatian Diet, in which he envisioned a “Great Illyria” consisting of all the South Slav provinces of the Habsburg Empire.

Likewise, the influential Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, although a supporter of the Habsburg Monarchy, nonetheless advocated merging the Kingdom of Dalmatia with Croatia.

The concept of a Greater Croatia was developed further by Ante Starčević and Eugen Kvaternik, who founded the nationalist Party of Rights (HSP) in 1861. Unlike Strossmayer and the proponents of the Illyrian movement, HSP advocated a united Croatia that stood independently of a Pan-Slavic umbrella state. Starčević was an early opponent of Croatia's unification with Serbs and Slovenes (chiefly the Kingdom of Serbia); their ideologies gradually gained popularity during the interwar period as tensions grew in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia between the Croatian and the more influential Serbian political leaders. Ensuing events surrounding the ideology culminated in the World War II conflict between the Independent State of Croatia and its opponents including Chetnik Serbs and Communists of all ethnicities (including Croatian).

Cvetković–Maček Agreement

Map of the Banovina of Croatia.

Amid rising ethnic tensions between Croats and Serbs in the 1930s, an autonomous Greater Croatia within Yugoslavia, called the Banovina of Croatia was peacefully negotiated in the Yugoslav parliament in the Cvetković–Maček Agreement of 1939. Croatia was united into a single territorial unit and was provided territories of parts of present-day Vojvodina, and both Posavina and southern parts of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Independent State of Croatia

Districts of the Independent State of Croatia in 1943

The first modern development of a Greater Croatia came about with the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska NDH). Following occupation of the country by Axis forces in 1941, Slavko Kvaternik, deputy leader of the Ustaše proclaimed the establishment of the NDH.

The Ustaša, a fascist[8] movement founded in 1929 supported a Greater Croatia that would extend to the River Drina and to the edge of Belgrade.[9] Ante Pavelić, the Ustaše's Poglavnik (leader) had been in negotiations with Fascist Italy since 1927. These negotiations included Pavelić supporting Italy's annexation of its claimed territory in Dalmatia in exchange for Italy supporting an independent Croatia.[10] In addition, Mussolini offered Pavelić the right for Croatia to annex all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pavelić agreed to this exchange.

Bosnian War

The most recent expression of a Greater Croatia arose in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia. When the multiethnic Yugoslavian republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, Bosnian Serb political representatives, who had boycotted the referendum, established their own government of Republika Srpska, whereupon their forces attacked the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The subsequent war was principally a territorial conflict, initially between the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bosnian Croat forces on the one side, and Bosnian Serb forces on the other. However, the Croats also aimed at securing parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Croatian.[11] With the 1991 Karađorđevo agreement between Croatian president Franjo Tuđman and Serbian president Slobodan Milošević, and with the Graz agreement of 1992, the Serb and Croat political leaderships agreed on a partition of Bosnia, resulting in the Croat forces turning on the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, leading to the Croat-Bosniak war.[12]

The policies of Croatia and Franjo Tuđman towards Bosnia and Herzegovina were never totally transparent and always included Tuđman's aim of expanding Croatia's borders.[11][13] After Tuđman's death, his successor, Stjepan Mesić, revealed thousands of documents and audio tapes recorded by Tuđman about his plans in regards to Bosnia and Herzegovina.[14][15] The tapes reveal that both Milosević and Tuđman ignored pledges to respect Bosnia's sovereignty, even after signing the Dayton accord.[14][15] In one conversation Tuđman told an official: Let's make a deal with the Serbs. Neither history nor emotion in the Balkans will permit multinationalism. We have to give up on the illusion of the last eight years... Dayton isn't working. Nobody- except diplomats and petty officials - believes in a sovereign Bosnia and the Dayton accords.[15]

Lands of "Greater Croatia"


  1. ^ John B. Allcock; Marko Milivojević; John Joseph Horton (1998). Conflict in the former Yugoslavia: an encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 105.  
  2. ^ Ivo Banac (1988). The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics. Cornell University Press. p. 73.  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Jr., John V. A. Fine (1 January 2006). When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans: A Study of Identity in Pre-Nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the Medieval and Early-Modern Periods. University of Michigan Press. p. 486.  
  5. ^ Trencsényi & Zászkaliczky 2010, p. 364
    By Slavic territories, Vitezović meant the Illyria of his dreams (Greater Croatia) which, in its boldest manifestation, would have incorporated Hungary itself.
  6. ^ Jr., John V. A. Fine (1 January 2006). When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans: A Study of Identity in Pre-Nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the Medieval and Early-Modern Periods. University of Michigan Press. p. 487.  
  7. ^ Elinor Murray Despalatović (1975). Ljudevit Gaj and the Illyrian Movement. East European Quarterly.  
  8. ^ "Ustasa (Croatian political movement) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  9. ^ Meier, Viktor (23 July 1999). Yugoslavia: a history of its demise. Psychology Press. p. 125.  
  10. ^ Bernd Jürgen Fischer, ed. (March 2007). Balkan strongmen: dictators and authoritarian rulers of South Eastern Europe. Purdue University Press. p. 210.  
  11. ^ a b "International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Former Yugoslavia since 1991 Case No. IT-98-34-T" (PDF). International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. 31 March 2003. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  12. ^ Laura Silber; Allan Little (1997). Yugoslavia: death of a nation. Penguin Books. p. 185.  
  13. ^ André Klip; Göran Sluiter (2005). Annotated leading cases of international criminal tribunals: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia 2001. Intersentia nv. p. 279.  
  14. ^ a b Sherwell, Philip; Petric, Alina (2000-06-18). "Tudjman tapes reveal plans to divide Bosnia and hide war crimes". London: Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c Lashmar, Paul; Bruce, Cabell; Cookson, John (2000-11-01). "Secret recordings link dead dictator to Bosnia crimes". London: Independent News. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 


  • Trencsényi, Balázs; Zászkaliczky, Márton (2010). Whose Love of Which Country?: Composite States, National Histories and Patriotic Discourses in Early Modern East Central Europe. BRILL.  

External links

  • "Croatia: New Government Alters Position of Diaspora". Transnational Communities Programme. Economic & Social Research Council. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  • Janez Kovac (15 February 2000). "Mesic Spurns Greater Croatia". BCR Issue 116. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
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