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FRANJO TUĐMAN (1922-1999)


Franjo Tudjman is the first president of the independent and democratic Croatian state and the supreme commander of its armed forces. As head of state, he was the initiator of the organisation of the defence and the creation of the Croatian army, and the chief political and military strategist in the establishment of a sovereign Croatia and its international recognition, and defence and victory in the Homeland War. He became the first president of the Republic of Croatia after the first multiparty elections in 1990.

         Franjo Tudjman was born in Veliko Trgovišće, in the northern Croatian region of Zagorje, on 14 May 1922. He attended elementary school in his birthplace, and secondary school in Zagreb from 1934 to 1941. He graduated from a senior military academy in Belgrade in 1957, and earned a doctor's degree in political sciences at the University of Zagreb in 1965.

         During secondary school, Tudjman was part of a national democratic movement, for which he was imprisoned in 1940. He was a member of the anti-fascist movement since 1941. After the Second World War, he was employed at the Ministry of National Defence's Personnel Service, and Main Staff of the Yugoslav People's Army between 1945 and 1961. Despite being promoted to the rank of general in 1960, Tudjman left active military service in 1961, and in Zagreb he established the Institute for the History of the Labour Movement in Croatia, staying in the manager's office until 1967.

         As senior lecturer Tudjman taught "Socialist Revolution and Contemporary National History of Croatia" at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb until 1967. He was a representative in the Parliament of the Socialist Republic of Croatia from 1965 to 1969, sub-editor and assistant editor-in-chief for the Military Encyclopaedia, sub-editor for the Lexicography Institute Encyclopaedia, member of the editor's office at "Vojno Delo" magazine, editor-in-chief at "Putevi Revolucije" magazine, member of the board of directors at the cultural association Matica Hrvatska, and president of the Matica Hrvatska Commission for Croatian History since 1970. Tudjman has been a member of the Association of Croatian Writers since 1970 and of the Croatian PEN Centre since 1987. He has been a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts since December 1992.

         Tudjman was imprisoned after the suppression of the "Croatian Spring" democracy movement in 1971. The communist authorities labelled him the chief culprit for allegedly suspicious connections with foreign factors and Croatian emigrants. Thanks to the intervention of Croatian writer Miroslav Krleza with Josip Broz Tito, Tudjman escaped long-term imprisonment. In 1972, he was sentenced to two years in prison. The sentence was subsequently reduced to nine months.

         Tudjman was sentenced again in February 1981 to three years in prison, and prohibited from public activity for five years on account of an interview given to Swedish and German televisions and the French radio, in which he voiced his opinions on history and advocated pluralist democracy.

         He was imprisoned in Lepoglava between January 1982 and February 1983, when he was released for medical treatment. He was returned to prison in May 1984, but was paroled in September due to a deteriorating health condition.

         In 1987, when he got his passport after 17 years, Tudjman travelled abroad, first to Canada and the United States of America, and then to European countries. He gave lectures to Croatian emigrants, promoting the notion of an all-round Croat reconciliation and advocating the creation of a Croatian state.

         In 1989, Tudjman established the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) political party, and became its president. Through the HDZ, he formulated a national political programme, which led to the national and political mobilisation of the Croat people in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the emigration. This was the basis for national reconciliation and a strong resistance to the increasingly violent assaults of Serb chauvinism and encroachment on Croatian territories.

Tudjman and the HDZ won the first free multiparty elections in 1990; he was elected President of the Republic, and formed the first democratic Croatian government.

At presidential elections in 1992 and 1997, the Croatian people re-elected him President of the Republic to five-year terms.

         Due to the growing pressure of Serbian hegemonies and Yugoslav centralism after the first multiparty elections, Tudjman accelerated his activities on organising the state and securing its international recognition. Referring to the historical and cultural identity of the Croatian people, he encountered special understanding and continual support of Pope John Paul II.

         At the time of Yugoslavia's disintegration, Tudjman conducted a policy of negotiations on the state's confederal organisation or the peaceful split-up of its republics. Tudjman used the policy, which in Croatia also encountered disapproval, to lessen the intensity of the imminent aggression by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). When the aggression on Croatia started, he countered it also through international negotiations and an increasingly organised armed force.

         After the declaration of Croatia's independence in 1991 and the beginning of open aggression by Serbia and the JNA, it was Tudjman's policy, balancing between Croatia's potential and unfavourable international circumstances, that stopped the Serbian military offensive on Croatian territory and countered international factors which were extremely unfavourably disposed toward Croatia's independence.

         Following the declaration of Croatia's independence, Tudjman skilfully avoided traps in diplomatic games around Croatia and by 1995 he organised the army and police forces to the extent, which enabled the country to on its own liberate the largest part of its territory in operations "Flash" (May 1995) and "Storm" (August 1995).

         The strength of the Croatian Army enabled the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube River region in January 1998, completing the process of establishing sovereignty on the whole of Croatia's territory recognised by international law, under Tudjman's leadership.

         In regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tudjman conducted a policy, which was aimed at protecting the interests of the Croat people.

      Relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina went through different phases under complex internal and international circumstances. Eventually, the victories of the Croatian Army and the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) following the liberation of Croatia and a large part of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Serb aggressor led to the signing of the peace agreement and the establishment of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This created a foundation for securing an equal constitutional and legal position of the Croat people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

         Dr. Franjo Tudjman, a Croatian officer, historian and statesman, has written numerous books and papers (treatises) on topics from the fields of military doctrine, history, political science and the philosophy of history.

His most important works are:

Rat protiv rata (War Against War), Zagreb, 1957;
Stvaranje socijalističke Jugoslavije (The Establishment of the Socialist Yugoslavia), Zagreb, 1960;
Okupacija i revolucija (Occupation and Revolution), Zagreb, 1963;
Velike ideje i mali narodi (Great Ideas and Small Nations), Zagreb, 1969;
Nacionalno pitanje u suvremenoj Europi (The National Issue In Modern Europe), Munich-Barcelona, 1981;
Državnost nacija - ključ mira Europe (The Statehood of Nations - The Key to Peace in Europe), Lidingo, 1982;
O povijesti rješavanja hrvatskog pitanja i samoodređenja naroda u svijetu (On the History of Resolving the Croatian Issue and the Self-Determination of World Nations), Toronto, 1987;
Stjepan Radić u hrvatskoj povijesti (The Role of Stjepan Radic in Croatian History), Sudbury (Canada), 1988; 
Bespuća povijesne zbiljnosti. Rasprava o povijesti i filozofiji zlosilja, (Horrors of War. An Essay on the History and Philosophy of Violence), Zagreb, 1989;
Hrvatska u monarhističkoj Jugoslaviji 1918 - 1941 (Croatia In the Yugoslav Monarchy), Zagreb, 1993;
S vjerom u samostalnu Hrvatsku (Believing in Croatia's Independence), Zagreb, 1995;
Povijesna sudba naroda. Izabrani tekstovi (The Historical Fate of the Nation. Selected Texts), Zagreb, 1996;
Horrors of War, New York, 1996;
Das historische Schicksal des Volkes, Bad Kissingen-Koeln, 1997.


Due to illness Franjo Tudjman was hospitalised at Zagreb's "Dubrava" clinic. He died during the night between December 10 and 11, 1999.


© Zdeslav Milas 2003.