The country's main ethnic groups are Illyrians and Celts. Christianity was brought to the country in the 9th Century by the Carolingians, but the religion of the Croats has its roots in Rome and not Constantinople, as with the other South Slavs. You'll discover these influences by visiting Croatian towns.
The medieval Croatian principalities date from the 9th Century. The great power that was medieval Croatia lasted for two centuries. When the last Croatian king, Dimitar Zvonimir, died, the kingdom was thrown into anarchy. Ladislas 1 er of Hungary, taking advantage of this, conquered Croatia in 1091. In 1102, Kalman of Hungary was crowned king of Croatia. The Hungarian reign lasted until 1918. The town of Dubrovnik developed into an independent republic between 1358 and 1808 and began to trade throughout the whole Mediterranean area.
In the 16th Century, the country was invaded by the Ottomans and conceded a large part of its territory. The Croatian nobility elected Ferdinand 1 st of the House of Habsburg as king. Croatia thus became an integral part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and remained so until 1918. After the First World War, Croatia became part of Yugoslavia, constituting one of its republics. After 1945, it became a communist federation, which lasted until 1991. It had a planned economy and nationalised property.
When Tito died, the country found itself in economic and political difficulties. The tide of democracy in Eastern Europe which had brought about the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was also affecting the Yugoslavian Federation. Citizens were therefore granted the freedom to vote, and at the next elections the Communist Party failed to retain power not only in Croatia but also in Slovenia, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. This signalled the start of a move towards democracy in Croatian history.
Croatia was declared independent in 1992, after having fought against the people's army of Yugoslavia and against the Serbs, who had attacked several towns, notably Vukovar and Dubrovnik (unmissable during a trip to Croatia). Croatia suffered great losses from this war: many of its people were massacred.
Croatia has been a member of the United Nations since 1992, of NATO since 2009, and of the European Union since 2013. Today, tourism contributes in large part to Croatia's economic development.