The war in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, with ethnic cleansing and large population movements, has made Croatia more ethnically homogeneous than it was before. Nine out of ten residents are now Croats. At the same time, the total population figure has dropped steadily for 30 years.
The population is estimated to have decreased by almost three quarters of a million people since 1989. The population is now at the same level as in 1957. Low birth rates and continued emigration contribute to the downward trend continuing even after the war years. EU membership in 2013 has made it easier for people to apply abroad to work: around 15 percent of working-age Croats live in another EU country. The most common is to apply to Ireland, Germany or Austria.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Croatia, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Nearly ethnic Croats, ethnic Serbs are the second largest population, but they are significantly fewer than before the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Between 1991 and 2011, when censuses were carried out, the proportion of Serbs decreased from 12 to 4.5 percent of Croatia’s population.
In the country there are also smaller groups of Bosniaks, Italians, Albanians and Romans and others. Around 25,000 Croatian citizens in the 2011 census chose to call themselves Istria (residents of Istria). The constitution recognizes a total of 22 minorities.
In many parts of the border areas called Krajina, the Serbs were formerly the majority. During the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the first half of the 1990s, tens of thousands of Croats fled or were expelled from these areas. When Croatia later regained Serb-controlled territory, around 200,000 Serbs fled, mainly to Bosnia-Herzegovina or Serbia. The few Serbs who chose to remain after the Croatian conquest were often affected by persecution (see further Modern History).
Since the end of the war, Croatia has been under international pressure to allow refugees to return to their homes. The requirement was, among other things, a condition for Croatian EU membership. Nevertheless, most of the Serbs who fled have remained abroad.
During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–1995), Croatia received around 700,000 refugees from neighboring countries.
Up to 20,000 people were killed or missing following the fighting in Croatia during the 1990s.
Over 95 percent of Croatia’s residents speak the South Slavic language Croatian, which is the country’s official language. During the Yugoslav era (1945–1991), Croatian and Serbian were considered a language, Serbo-Croatian. Since then, efforts have been made not least in Croatia to enlarge the differences between Serbian and Croatian through, for example, new formations of words (similarly, Bosnian and Montenegrin today are also considered their own languages). Croats and Serbs have no linguistic difficulties in understanding each other. Croatian is written with Latin letters, while Serbian is written mainly with the Cyrillic alphabet. Serbian is the largest minority language.
By law, ethnic minorities have the right to use their languages in official contexts in areas where they make up at least a third of the population. Attempts to apply the law mainly in the city of Vukovar triggered an infected fight in 2013, when Croatian nationalists strongly opposed the use of Cyrillic letters (see Modern History).
Croatian pronunciation guide
C = ts; Ć = tj; Č = tsch
Dž = about dzj; Đ đ = dj
G and K = always hard pronunciation as in good cake
Š = sch
Z = toning z; Ž = toning zj
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Croats 90%, Serbs 4.4% 1
Number of residents
4 125 700 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
56.7 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
9.0 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
12.3 per 1000 residents (2016)
-1.2 percent (2017)
1.4 number of children born per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
51.8 percent (2017)
78 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
81 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
75 years (2016)
Croatian is officially language 2
- in addition to Bosnians, Italians, Albanians, Roma, Hungarians (census 2011)
2. Serbs and Italian are major minority languagesSources
Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Damir Polančec resigns after allegations of corruption. He is sentenced one year later to 15 months in prison.
Arbitration in border disputes paves the way for EU negotiations
Croatia and Slovenia agree to allow a dispute over the border crossing in the Gulf of Piran to go to international arbitration (see Foreign Policy and Defense). Thus Slovenia ceases to impede Croatia’s EU negotiations. They resume in October and the agreement is formally signed in early November.
The Prime Minister resigns
Sanader abruptly resigns as prime minister and states that he is leaving politics. Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor takes over, which means that for the first time Croatia will have a woman as head of government. Kosor, who will also become a new leader for HDZ, is redeveloping the government.
Member of Parliament convicted of war crimes
A Zagreb court sentenced MP and former General Branimir Glavaš to ten years in prison for war crimes during the 1991-95 war. The verdict concerns the torture and murder of at least ten civilian Serbs in Osijek’s hometown of eastern Croatia. This is the first time a leading politician is being convicted in Croatia of abusing Croatians. Glavaš was one of the founders of HDZ but broke out in 2005 and later formed the regional right-wing party HDSSB.
Croatia becomes a member of NATO
Croatia is the second of the former sub-republics of Yugoslavia to join the US-led defense alliance, after Slovenia joined in 2004. Albania becomes a member at the same time as Croatia.