History[edit | edit source]

In 1915 a group of political emigres from Austria-Hungary, predominantly Croats but including some Serbs and a Slovene, formed themselves into a Yugoslav Committee, with a view to creating a South Slav state in the aftermath of the Great War. They saw this as a way to prevent Dalmatia being ceded to Italy under the Treaty of London. In 1918, the National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs formed in the wake of ethnic tensions boiling over within the empire. The State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was proclaimed. The leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, Stjepan Radić, warned on their departure for Vienna that the council had no democratic legitimacy. But the new state was duly proclaimed a kingdom within the empire on 28 October 1918, with no heed taken of legal protocols such as the signing of a new Pacta conventa in recognition of historic Croatian state rights.

The political situation of the Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was fractious and violent. In 1927, the Independent Democratic Party, which represented the Serbs of Croatia, turned its back on the hopes of uniting with Serbia. On 20 June 1928, Stjepan Radić and four other Croat deputies were shot while in the Zagreb parliament by a member of the Serbian People's Radical Party. Three of the deputies, including Radić, died. The outrage that resulted from the assassination of Stjepan Radić threatened to destabilise the kingdom. In January 1929, Archduke Maxregent for Emperor Otto, responded by proclaiming an imperial dictatorship, under which all dissenting political activity was banned. The Ustaša was created in principle in 1929.

One consequence of Archduke Max's 1929 proclamation and the repression and persecution of Croatian nationalists was a rise of support for the Croatian extreme nationalist, Ante Pavelić, who had been a Zagreb deputy in the National Council, he was later implicated in an assassination plot against Otto in 1934, went into exile in Italy and gained support for his vision of liberating Croatia from Austrian control and racially "purifying" Croatia. While residing in Italy, Pavelić and other Croatian exiles planned the Ustaša insurgency.

Establishment of NDH[edit | edit source]

Following the invasion of the Axis powers on the United States of Greater Austria in 1941, and the quick defeat of the Imperial and Royal Army (Croatian: Carsko-kraljevska vojska), the country was occupied by Axis forces. The Axis powers offered Vladko Maček the opportunity to form a government, since Maček and his party, the Croatian Peasant Party (Croatian: Hrvatska seljačka stranka – HSS) had the greatest electoral support among Austria's Croats – but Maček refused that offer.

Slavko Kvaternik, deputy leader of the Ustaše proclaimed the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH – Nezavisna Država Hrvatska) on 10 April 1941. Pavelić, who was known by his Ustaše title, "Poglavnik" returned to Zagreb from exile in Italy on 17 April and became the absolute leader of the NDH.

Acceding to the demands of Benito Mussolini and the Fascist regime in the Italy, Pavelić reluctantly accepted Aimone the 4th Duke of Aosta as a figurehead King of the NDH under his new royal name, Tomislav II. Tomislav II aarived in Croatia in 1944 and had no influence over the government, which was dominated by Pavelić. Tomislav II was not interested in being the figurehead King of Croatia.

From a strategic perspective, the establishment of the NDH was an attempt by Mussolini and Hitler to pacify the Croats, while reducing the use of Axis resources, which were more urgently needed for driving the Soviet's back. Meanwhile, Mussolini used his long-established support for Croatian independence as leverage to coerce Pavelić into signing an agreement on 19 May 1941, under which central Dalmatia and parts of Hrvatsko primorje and Gorski kotar were ceded to Italy. The borders were finalized and international recognition obtained with the Treaty of St. Germain signed in Paris in 1947 which formally disolved Greater Austria.

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