chapter
Introduction
Pages 6

Croatia’s history, like its geography, is full of diversity and contrast. Its Dalmatian coast with its numerous islands stretches down the Adriatic for almost 1,000 kilometres, while in the east the fertile region of Slavonia borders on Hungary, Serbia and Bosnia. Before the First World War Croatia formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and hence had a firmly Central European identity. After the First World War it joined a new state of southern Slavs which eventually became known as Yugoslavia, and gained a Balkan identity. After the Second World War Yugoslavia became a socialist country but with a unique position outside the Soviet bloc – it balanced itself between East and West and became a leading power within the Non-Aligned Movement. Croatia gained its independence during the dissolution of Yugoslavia and became a sovereign state in 1992. Since then it has attempted to distance itself from its Balkan roots to the south, and sought to integrate with its European neighbours to the north and west. Yet Croatia was not initially accepted by the European Union. It was only when a new coalition government was elected at the turn of the new millennium, that Croatia was welcomed into the process of European integration. In the meantime, Croatia’s society, economy and politics had undergone some radical transformations. As with the other countries of Eastern Europe, this process can be summarized under the term ‘transition’. And it is the story of this transition which I will be concerned to describe and analyse in this book.