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Franjo Tuđman , Pronunciation ('fra:ɲɔ 'tudʑma:n) (May 14, 1922 - December 10, 1999) was the first post-Yugoslavia president of Croatiamarker in the 1990s.

Tuđman's political party HDZ (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica, Croatian Democratic Union) won the first post-communist multi-party elections in 1990 and he became the president of the country. A year later he proclaimed the Croatian declaration of independence. He was reelected twice and remained in power until his death in 1999.

Early years

Franjo Tuđman was born in Veliko Trgovišćemarker, a village in the Hrvatsko Zagorjemarker region of northern Croatia, then a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker.

During WWII Tuđman, together with his brother Stjepan, fought on the side of the Partisans. His brother was killed in 1943, but Franjo had better luck, meeting his future wife Ankica. Shortly after the end of the war his father Stjepan, who was an important member of the Croatian Peasant Party, and his wife were killed by secret police OZNA. After the war's end Tuđman worked in the Ministry of Defence in Belgrademarker, attending military academy in 1957.

Tuđman left active army service in 1961 to found the Institut za historiju radničkoga pokreta Hrvatske ("Institute for the History of Croatia's Workers' Movement"), and remained its director until 1967.

Dissident politics

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

In 1971 he was sentenced to two years of prison for subversive activities during the Croatian Spring. According to Tuđman's own testimony, Yugoslav President Marshal Josip Broz Tito personally intervened to recommend the court be lenient in his case, sparing him a far longer sentence. The authorities of SR Croatia additionally intended to prosecute Tuđman for a sentence of 15–20 years imprisonment and hard labor ("robija") on charges of espionage, which was averted by President Tito's intervention. According to Tuđman, he and Tito were personal friends.

The Croatian Spring was a national movement that was actually set in motion by Josip Broz Tito and Croatian party chairman Vladimir Bakarić in the climate of growing liberalism in the late 60s. It was initially a tepid and ideologically controlled party liberalism, but it soon grew into mass nationalist-based manifestation of dissatisfaction with the position of Croatia within Yugoslavia, and threatened the party's political monopoly. 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 helped 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.

Tuđman's role in 1971 was that of a dissident who questioned what he saw as the cornerstones of GreatSerbian - Serbian hegemony - the false exaggerated number of victims of the Jasenovac concentration campmarker, as well as the role of centralism in Yugoslavia and the ideology of unitary "Yugoslavism". Tuđman felt that what was originally a Croatian Romantic pan-Slavic idea from the 19th century had mutated into the front for what he claimed was a pan-Serbian drive for domination over non-Serb people .

His sentence was commuted by Tito's government and Tuđman was released after nine months.

Tuđman was trialed again in 1981 for having spread "enemy propaganda", while giving an interview to the Swedish TV on the position of Croats in Yugoslavia and was sentenced to three years of prison, but again he only served a portion (this time eleven months).

Formation of the national program

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

  • The primary goal is establishment of the Croatian nation-state; therefore all ideological disputes from the past should be thrown away. In practice, this meant strong support from 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. So, his chief initial proposal was not a fully independent Croatia, but a confederal 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 at the beginning): he asserted that Serbian nationalism controlled JNA (Yugoslav People's Army: Serbs, who constituted less than 40% of Yugoslavia's population, made ca. 80% of commissioned officers corps) 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, in less than four years. Tuđman's proposal was that Serbs in Croatia, who made up 11% of Croatia's population, should gain cultural with elements of territorial autonomy.

  • As far as Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker was concerned, Tuđman was more ambivalent: initially, he thought (as did many Croats from northwestern Croatia) that Bosnian Muslims or Bosniaks are, essentially, Croats of Muslim faith and will, freed from Communist censorship, declare themselves ethnically as Croats, therefore making Bosnia a predominantly Croatian country (with 44% Bosniaks, 17% Croats and 33% Serbs). But, these illusions were soon dispelled.

The President of Croatia

Internal tensions that had broken up the Communist party of Yugoslavia prompted the governments of federal Republics to call for the first free multiparty elections after 1939.

Tuđman's connections with Croatian diaspora (he travelled a few times to Canada and the USA after 1987) proved to be crucial when he founded Croatian Democratic Union ("Hrvatska demokratska zajednica" or HDZ, as it became known after its acronym) in 1989 — a party that was to stay in power until 2000.

Essentially, this was a nationalist Croatian movement that affirmed Croatian values based on Catholicism blended with historical and cultural traditions generally suppressed in Communist Yugoslavia. The aim was to gain national independence and to establish a Croatian nation-state. His party triumphed and in free and democratic elections got around 60% seats in the Croatian Parliamentmarker. Tuđman was elected to the position of President of Croatia.

Since the split among Communists in Yugoslavia on a national basis was already a fact at that time (according to prevalent opinion, that was primarily Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević's responsibility ), it was inevitable that the conflict should continue after the democratic elections that brought to power non-Communists in Croatia, Sloveniamarker and Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, while Communists held their position in Serbia and Montenegro. For the tensions and wars that ensued, one should see history of Croatia and history of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The importance of Tuđman's leadership was seen at crucial junctures of Croatia's history: the all-out war against combined forces of Yugoslav Army and Serbian irredentist rebels, 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 cease fires intermediated by foreign diplomats was efficient — when the first cease fire was signed, the emerging Croatian Army had seven brigades; the last, twentieth cease fire the Croats had met with 64 brigades.

Unlike Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic, Mr Tudjman managed to promote Croatian state by creating multi-party democracy at home.Even during his presidency there were circles in society who claimed that Mr Tuđman's rule was autocratic and that he showed little sensitivity to criticism. In particular, these circles consider that during the Tuđma era civil rights record to the minority Serb population was poor, what was not true. In 2001 a review from the IPI reported about an increased number of libel law suits that were initiated during Tuđman's mandate.


The most common accusation is that of his autocratic behavior. However, many argue that, faced with a superior military aggressor, the Croats, who had not yet built functioning national institutions, had to rely on a strong personal leadership Tuđman embodied. Although such kind of leadership necessarily involved unpleasant side-effects like traits of autocratic behavior, it might have been beneficial in crucial matters, as the Croats under Tuđman won the war and founded the nation-state, at least partly thanks to this characteristic.

Bosnian War

Alleged (and never proved) secret discussions between Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević on "the division of Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker between Serbiamarker and Croatia" were held as early as March 1991 known as Karađorđevo meeting or Karađorđevo agreement. Following the declaration of independence of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbs attacked different parts of the country. The state administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina effectively ceased to function having lost control over the entire territory. The Serbs wanted all lands where Serbs had a majority, eastern and western Bosnia. The Croats and their leader Franjo Tuđman also aimed at securing parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbian agression.The policies of the Republic of Croatia and its leader Franjo Tuđman towards Bosnia and Herzegovina were never totally transparent and always manipulated by foreign media.In 1997, the HDZ government undertook several programs to refurbish Tuđman's tarnished image, especially in the eyes of the West.

Tuđman, who had been thrice elected as President of Croatia, fell ill with cancer in 1993. He recovered, but the general state of health declined in 1999 and Tuđman died from an internal hemorrhage on December 10, 1999.

Privatization controversy

On 22 April 1998 President 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 the Second World War, and today, including the Croatian government and me personally, have condemned the crimes that the Ustaša committed not only against Jews but also against democratic Croats and even against the members of other nations in the Independent State of Croatia.'

Published works

There should be taken into consideration the following Tudjman´s publications:

  • Hrvatska u monarhističkoj Jugoslaviji ( )

  • Nacionalno pitanje u suvremenoj Europi ( ) and Usudbene povijestice ( ) are still valuable essays on unresolved national and ethnic disputes, self-determination and creation of nation-states in the European milieu, and "Velike ideje i mali narodi".

  • his most celebrated work Bespuća povijesne zbiljnosti ( ), has become regarded, by the majority of Croatian analysts and historians, as a book of historical importance only.

Despite some controversy elaborated dominately by opponents of the Croatian national state, Tuđman is credited with creating the basis for an independent Croatia, and helping the country move away from communism and towards democracy. He is sometimes given the title "father of the country" for his role the country's independence. His legacy is still strong in parts of Croatia; 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, proposed by his family and supporters, encountered discontent among the citizens. Their attempt of changing the Roosevelt or Maršal Tito square failed, and a large square near the Ilica Street in Črnomerecmarker, Zagreb was named after him in December 2006.


  • Wife Ankica Tuđman - head of the Za djecu Hrvatske (For the children of Croatia) humanitary fund.


  1. Franjo Tuđman's statement, "...[Tito] was a friend who in the end saved me from the persecution of his own communist regime." "[Tito] ...s kim sam i ja bio prijatelj, i koji me na kraju spasio od progona njegovog vlastitog komunističkog režima."; YouTube
  2. A. Historical background">
  3. [1].

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