Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina - History - Bosnian War

Bosnian War

Citizens of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina voted for the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the referendum that was held between 29 February and 1 March 1992. The referendum question was: "Are you in favor of a sovereign and independent Bosnia-Herzegovina, a state of equal citizens and nations of Muslims, Serbs, Croats and others who live in it?" Independence was strongly favoured by Bosniak and Bosnian Croat voters, but the referendum was largely boycotted by Bosnian Serbs. The total turn out of voters was 63.6% of which 99.7% voted for the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 5 April 1992, Serb forces started the Siege of Sarajevo. On 12 May, Yugoslav People's Army left Bosnia and Herzegovina and left most of the arms to the Army of Republika Srpska, headed by Ratko Mladić. The first unit to oppose Serb forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) founded by Croatian Party of Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 18 December 1991. The Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia established its own force, the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) on 8 April 1992. HVO consisted from 20-30% of Bosniaks who joined HVO because local Muslim militias were unable to arm themselves. Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia was founded on 18 November 1991 as a community of municipalities where majority of population were Croats. In its founding acts, Herzeg-Bosnia had no separatist character. The Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia was declared by the Bosnian Croat leadership as a temporary region, which after war ended, would again become part of a united Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At the beginning of the Bosnian War, Bosnian Croats were first to organize themselves, especially Croats in western Herzegovina who were already armed. At the end of May 1992, Croats launched a counter-offensive, liberating Mostar after a month of fighting. Also, in central Bosnia and Posavina, Croatian forces stopped the Serbian advance, and in some places they repelled the enemy. On 16 June 1992, President of Croatia, Franjo Tuđman and President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegović signed an alliance according to which, Bosnia and Herzegovina legalized the activity of Croatian Army and Croatian Defence Council on its territory. Bosnian Croat political leadership and the leadership of Croatia urged Izetbegović to form a confederation between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, but Izetbegović denied this since he tried to represent Serbian interests as well as those of Bosniaks and Croats. The Bosnian Croat leadership was irritated by Izetbegović's neutrality, so Mate Boban threatened to pull back the HVO from actions in Bosnia. Since the UN implemented embargo to Bosnia and Herzegovina on the import of arms, Bosniak and Croat forces had difficulties fighting Serbian units, which were supplied with arms from the Middle East, just before the outbreak of war. However, after Croat and Bosniak forces reorganized in late May 1992, the Serbian advance was halted and their forces mostly remained in their positions during the war. The tensions between Croats and Bosniaks started on 19 June 1992, but the real war began in October.

The Croat-Bosniak War was at its peak during 1993. In March 1994, the Bosniak and Croat leadership signed the Washington agreement, according to which, the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH)-controlled and HVO-controlled areas were united into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the Washington agreement was signed, the Croatian Army, HVO and ARBiH liberated southwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina in seven military operations. In December 1995, the Bosnian War ended with the signing of the Dayton agreement. However, the same agreement caused problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was largely ineffective. According to the information published by the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, 7,762 Croats were killed or missing. From the territory of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 230,000 Croats were expelled, while from territory of Republika Srpska, 152,856 Croats were expelled.

Read more about this topic:  Croats Of Bosnia And Herzegovina, History

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