Croatia during World War I

Croatia during World War I I

1915 caricature Carnival shows the sharp contrast of pre-war and wartime life in Zagreb
Monarch Franz Joseph I (1914-1916)
Charles I (1916-1918)
Leader(s) Civil
Ivan Skerlecz (1913-1917)
Antun Mihalović (1917-1919)
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Croatia during World War I is a part of Croatian history covering the period of World War I (1914-1918). At the beginning of War in 1914, Croatia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its territory was administratively divided between the Austrian and Hungarian parts of the empire; Međimurje and Baranja were in Hungarian part (Transleithania), the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia was a separate part formally under the jurisdiction of Hungary, Dalmatia and Istria were in the Austrian part (Cisleithania), while town of Rijeka was known as Free City of Fiume and had the semi-autonomous status.

Question about unification of the Croatian territories was a fundamental problem that hasn't been resolved with the creation of Dual Monarchy in 1867. Many political problems along the Balkan wars led to a state of unrest, strikes and assassinations at the beginning of the War. Croatian policy amounted to either staying in the Empire and trying to find the best solution, or to proceed with unification with Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Montenegro into a South Slavic state. Political action was extremely limited during the War with plenty of power ending up in the hands of military authorities, while calling for the creation of a unified South Slavic state was equated with treason.

During World War I, Croats mainly fought on the Serbian battlefield, Eastern Front (against Russian Empire) and Italian Front (against Kingdom of Italy), although a small number of Croats took part in the fighting on other fronts. Part of Croats participated on the side of the Triple Entente. Those were mainly Croatian volunteers from overseas (primarily from the United States) and war prisoners or fugitives from the Austro-Hungarian Army. Croatia suffered huge human and economic losses during the War which was further made worse by the outbreak of Spanish flu pandemic at the end of the War.[1] Croatian military losses in war probably amounted to around 190,000 people, white some sources listing about 137,000 military and 109,000 civilian casualties.

In the circumstances of the collapse of the Empire, anarchy and insecurity at the end of the War, the Croatian Parliament declared on 29 October 1918 secession from the Empire and joining the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which was united with Serbia in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on 1 December 1918.

Situation in Croatia

Outbreak of War

Upon the arrival of the news about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that occurred on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo, a major discomfort and tensions rose in Croatia. Shortly afterwards, more than 50,000 copies of the newspaper were sold in Zagreb, while paperboys had to be protected by the police.[2] In the evening of the same day on which the assassination occurred, Croats held a commemorative parades and gatherings with pictures of the murdered heir to the throne and Croatian flags with black flora. Members of the Party of Rights were badly affected by the death of Franz Ferdinand because he expressed sympathy for the Croatian interests in the past.[3] Nevertheless, some historians believe that it was very unlikely that Franz Ferdinand, if he had become emperor, would have ever introduced Trialist monarchy with three parts: Austria, Hungary and Croatia, with former including Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina.

Proclamation of mobilization in Croatia, 1914

Members of the Party of Rights used some minor provocation and the atmosphere of bitterness to lead anti-Serb demonstrations. After someone throw stone at the commemorative parade, they demolished stores owned by the Serbs, as well as cafes and gathering places of pro-Yugoslav politicians.[4][5] MPs of the Croatian-Serbian Coalition were also physically attacked.[6] Members of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia and Slavonia held a protest against this violence.[7] At the same time with a large anti-Serbian riots in Vienna, Budapest and serious incidents in Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where many were wounded and murdered, conflict with the Yugoslav oriented citizens and associations, and Serbian associations and clubs, occurred in many Croatia towns. It was then when building of the Serbian society "Dušan silni" in Dubrovnik was destroyed. This was all triggered by the fact that Franz Ferdinand assassin, Gavrilo Princip, was an ethnic Serb.[8] Riots have been reported in Zadar, Metković, Bjelovar, Virovitica and Konavle where protesters burned the Serbian flag. In Đakovo and Slavonski Brod riots become so violent that the army intervention was requested.[9] In addition, a curfew was imposed in the town of Petrinja. In Vukovar and Zemun police managed to prevent more clashes. Most Serbs in Croatia were approving murder of Franz Ferdinand. Cases of provocation, such as showing images of King Peter I of Serbia, joy, insults and celebrations, have been reported.[10][11] 14 Serbs were arrested in Zadar for celebrating the assassination.[12] Some pro-Yugoslav politicians like Ante Trumbić[13] and Frano Supilo[14] decided to emigrate to avoid prosecution. Renowned Croatian sculptor and architect Ivan Meštrović emigrated to the United States.[15]

An extraordinary session of the Croatian Parliament, which was convened to read a loyalty oath to the Empire and statement of condolence, was interrupted by the members of Party of Rights (HSP) and with accusations and recriminations against ruling Croatian-Serbian coalition. Dr. Ivo Frank (HSP) allegedly threatened Serbian representatives with a revolver.[16] On 26 July, the partial mobilization was announced. On the next day, ban Iván Skerlecz issued a special regulation which abrogated 1875 Ivan Mažuranić's Law on freedom of assembly. After war was declared on 28 July, protest of support were held in Zagreb. Arrival of recruited soldiers to the Zagreb barracks was welcomed with approval. People shouted to the soldiers: "Long live the Croatian army", on which soldiers would respond with: "Long live Croatia, long live Croatian King [Franz Joseph]".[17]

Caricature published on the occasion of introducing Aprovizacija, states activity determining the minimum amount of food per capita; Text: 1kg, 75dkg per week; Oh, Great God, please make this enough for a hall week.

Since the last conflict in which Croatia was involved was in 1878, and since all of Europe enjoyed in almost fifty years of peace and relative stability, the war was soon welcomed with a severe shock and disbelief.[18] Food prices immediately rose so the government had to froze them. All associations except firefighting and charity were closed. Soon, many pro-Yugoslav politicians and activists, such as Ivo Vojnović, Ivo Andrić, Grga Angjelinović and Oscar Tartaglia, were arrested. Most of them were freed during 1915, and no later than 1917, since the emperor Charles I, under strong pressure from the international public, and in preparation for the conclusion of a separate peace treaty with the Triple Entente, adopted in 1917 a decision on the amnesty of political prisoners.

Croatian territory, except for the Eastern Syrmia and some Dalmatian islands (Palagruža, Lastovo), was not affected by military operations, but 60,000 residents of Pula and the surrounding area were forced to relocate in 1915 to refugee camps in Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia because of the proximity of war, and the security of the naval port. Many of them died in those camps of diseases and hunger. Military rule was established in Istria. Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia had a difficult political situation. During all four years of war, Kingdom was in danger of seduction of dictatorship of Military Commissariat which was constantly trying to seize power from the Croatian Parliament. Party of Rights supported dictatorship because they hoped that they would become its levers.[19]

Economic situation was very bad since nearly a million people from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were mobilized.[20] Nevertheless, involvement of Russian and Serbian prisoners of war, who were ascribed to agricultural estates and factories for forced labor, was helping out. There was a shortage of products, as evident from the fact that the copper roofs of Dubrovnik Cathedral and Croatian State Archives palace were removed and warm in the ammunition. Same fate befell the Jaruga Hydroelectric Power Plant on the river Krka near Šibenik. The bread was received only with food stamps, while textile goods, even those of nettles, were completely gone. There was so little vegetable that there was no food stamps for it, so potatoes and beans were given away by the government from time to time. Women and children would wait all night at the Ban Jelačić Square and Preradović square to get their 1⁄4 kg of potatoes or beans that was given per person.[21]

Charity campaigns

Gave Gold for Iron rings, 1914

Charity campaign Dadoh zlato za željezo (I Gave Gold for Iron) was conducted in year 1914. People were donating their gold jewelry in exchange for iron rings. Donated gold was used for supporting families of fallen soldiers.[22]

In October 1914, the Government commissioner for the organization of voluntary war nurse service, with the approval of High Royal Government, ordered campaign Zlatno za željezo (Gold for Iron) in order to gather "gifts in the form of golden items, cash money and other valuables". After the assessment and with the written confirmation, donors were given an iron ring worth as the given donation, with the minimum value of the donation being 5 krones. The purpose of this charity campaign was to raise money for the families of fallen soldiers "who are natives of these kingdoms and who have left their families with lack of supplies." The center of the organization was in Zagreb, while collecting was carried out at the premises of the First Croatian Savings Bank in Ilica no. 5, in its subsidiaries or by an authorized person in the smaller towns. The rings had inscription "I Gave Gold for Iron 1914" and were protected by the stamp of the Commission for the organization of voluntary war nursing.[23] In addition, in year 1915, citizens of Zagreb could hammer a nail into the trunk of the lime tree at Nikola Šubić Zrinski Square for a symbolic amount of money, thus collecting resources to care for families of killed soldiers.[24] This action took place in other Croatian cities as well; in Pula donors could hammer a nail to the lighthouse, and in Jastrebarsko in wooden hawk.

Avenue of chestnut trees in the main street of Sinj, which is used as the racecourse of Sinjska alka, was planted in memory of the recruited soldiers who went to war in 1917. The number of trees equals number of men who were recruited.[25] Many members of the nobility were engaged in humanitarian work as well. Marija Janković, married Adamović, noblewoman from family Janković, donated a large portion of her wealth for buying medication for poor. She was also personally helping wounded soldiers in Drenovci.

Taking care of starving children

Long war for which Austria-Hungary was not prepared, and drought, caused hunger and famine in 1916 and especially 1917. People, especially children, started dying, mostly from starvation. Therefore, the Zagreb Central Committee for the Care of Families of Mobilized and Killed Soldiers, began a huge humanitarian action of relocation of children from Istria to the north Croatia.[26] This charity campaign was accepted by the Franciscans of Herzegovina as a lifeline for (Catholic) children, which was initiated and implemented by Fra Didak Buntić.[27] During 1917 and 1918, about 17,000 children from Herzegovina were taken care for in Croatia and Slavonia.[28] It was also a lifeline for children from Bosnia, Dalmatia, and Slovenia. This campaign, that was managed from Zagreb by dr. Josip Šilović, Đuro Basariček and Zvonimir Pužar, became massive. During the War, more than 20,000 children arrived to the northern Croatia, mostly to Bjelovar-Križevci County.[29]


Ban Ivan Skerlecz visiting the hospital of the 25th Zagreb Royal Croatian Home Guard Regiment

After the begging of War, Government introduced a system of extraordinary legal measures in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. Those laws were mainly focused on control over the press. In cases where journalists violated the rules of military censorship, the military administration would recruit them and send them to the battlefield.[30] The military censorship canceled "Hrvat" and "Hrvatski pokret", newsletters of the Croatian Party of Rights. Despite censorship, public interest in newspapers has increased significantly. At the end of the war, in 1918, daily circulation of all newspapers in Zagreb increased to 150,000 copies, which was five times the pre-war editions.[31]

Rebellion and desertion

Under the influence of the Russian October Revolution, the spread of Lenin's ideas, but also because of the desperate situation of Croatian soldiers and sailors and senseless prolongation of war operations, desertion, rebellion and desecration of soldiers and sailors become common from the beginning of 1917. There were many anti-war protests and desertions in the port town of Pula.

Cattaro Mutiny sailors rebellion, 1918

Protest of 11,000 arsenal workers who were seeking truce, higher wages and better nutrition, broke out in 1918. Crew of the seaplane K-307 deserted, and ran from Kumbor to Brindisi. Crew of torpedo boat T-11 ran away with the boat from Šibenik harbor to Kingdom of Italy. Sailors Koucký Frantisek (Czech) and Ljubomir Kraus (Croat) tried to escape from Pula with a torpedo boat T-80 but they were betrayed, and later sentenced to death and executed. Sailors from the warships Erzherzog, Prinz Eugen and Aspern were canceling their obedience in support of the workers' protests. 35 members of Pula seaplane base were punished with long prison terms because of the disobedience.[32] One of the biggest rebellions was the Cattaro Mutiny that occurred in Bay of Kotor on 1 February 1918. In the northern Croatia, deserters from the Royal Croatian Home Guard, known as Green cadres, were randomly looting and burning down nobility castles and estates. It is estimated that the number of Green cadres at the end of the war was about 50,000. Prohibited mockery: Care Karlo i carice Zita, što ratujete kad nemate žita?! (Emperor Karl and Empress Zita, why you make war when you don't have grain?!), was very popular among soldiers.[33]

Spanish flu pandemic

Memorial to fallen soldiers in World War I, Zrinski park, Čakovec

In July 1918, first cases of Spanish flu, which killed more than 20 million people worldwide, were reported in Croatia. On average, 60 people were dying in Zagreb per week. In the most difficult period of the epidemic that number has grown to more than 200 people, with a peak in the second week of December, when the number increased to 264. In less than four months, Spanish flue took 700 lives in Zagreb alone, and probably tens of thousands on the whole Croatian territory. Contemporaries evaluated that nearly 90% of the Croatian population was affected in the second half of 1918. Estimate of 15,000 to 20,000 victims in Croatia should be taken as the lower limit of the number of victims of the epidemic.[34]

In 1918, during the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, period of anarchy and general insecurity began in Croatia. Serbian army entered Slavonia under the pretext of introducing order. It was supported by the French colonial units (Vietnamese, Senegalese...). They made many robberies and killings of peasants.

Croats on the battlefield

Artillery battery of the Croatian Royal Home Guard in the pit at Italian Front
Soldiers of the Croatia Royal Home Guard crossing Drina river near Batar (BiH), Oton Iveković, 1914

In the First World War, Austria-Hungary fought on the side of the Central Powers. Croatian soldiers fought in the Balkans, Galicia, and since 1915, on the Italian front. Since July 1918, some Croatian troops fought on the Western Front as part of 18th Corps:[35][36] 31 hunting battalion, two squadrons of the 10th Hussar Guard Regiment[37] and artillery units in the Battle of Verdun. Croatian gunners fought as part of the Austro-Hungarian artillery batteries in Sinai and Palestine as assistants to the Turkish forces.[38] The complexity of administrative fragmentation of Croatian lands affected the military organization, so the soldiers from the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia fought as part of 13th corps of the Austro-Hungarian Army and the 42nd Home Guard Infantry Division of the Royal Croatian Home Guard. Soldiers from the Kingdom of Dalmatia were members of the 22nd Imperial and Royal Regiment, Zadar 23rd Imperial and Royal Regiment, Dubrovnik 37th Home Guard Regiment, and elite unit of Dalmatian Terrestrial Shooters. Istrians served in the 5th Imperial and Royal Home Guard Regiment and the 87th Imperial and Royal Regiment, while people from Međimurje served in 20th Royal Hungarian Regiment and 48th Imperial and Royal Regiment. In addition, Dalmatians and Istrians were recruited to the Austro-Hungarian Navy.

At the beginning of the war in the summer of 1914, the general mobilization of Zagreb 13th Corps (including 42nd Home Guard Division) in the 5th Army and the Dalmatian-Herzegovinian 16th Corps under the 6th Army, were sent to Serbia, while Istrian and Međimuje troops were sent to Galicia.[39] On 23 May 1915, 16th Corps was transferred from Serbia to the newly opened Italian Front, where it remained until the end of the war.[40] Intention of the General Staff was clear - Croats from Dalmatia had a motive to fight against Italy, since they were directly threatened by the Italian plans of taking the eastern Adriatic coast according to the Treaty of London.[41] On 27 February 1918, Zagreb 13th Corps was transferred to the battlefield of the Isonzo where it remained until the end of the war. At the end of the war, 84th Home Guard Brigade held a defensive position at Monte Groggio, while 83rd Brigade was in reserve near Belluno. On 22 October 1918, 83rd Brigade refused to replace the 84th Brigade at the position which was a sign of mass disobedience that was happening in the Austro-Hungarian Army. After retreat from the Monte Groggio on 30/31 October 1918, 84th brigade entered Puster Valley near Bruneck. It was transported together with the 83rd Brigade from Carinthia to Croatia.[42]

Croats that were captured on Italian and Galician battlefield, often ended up in the so-called Yugoslav Legion, where they continued to fight on the Macedonian Front. Among them were cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, ban Ivan Šubašić, and composer Ivo Tijardović. Croatian painter Vladimir Becić joined the Serbian army shortly before the outbreak of war.[43]

Croatian emigrants

Part of Croatian emigrants helped the work of the Yugoslav Committee, while others opposed its idea of creating a unified South Slavic state. Committee ideas got deep roots among the Croatian diaspora, especially the one in South America. After they heard the news of the war, they reacted by spontaneously gathering so they soon found themselves under the patronage of the Yugoslav Committee. The link between the Committee and emigrants was established by Committees member Mićo Mičić, and organized by the representatives of the United Yugoslavian (Nationalist) Youth, Milostislav Bartulica and Ljubo Leontić. Emigrants were of great importance for the Committee for these reasons: emigrants were giving legitimacy to the Committee that it could not get out of its homeland; emigrants were covering Committees expenditure giving it kind of freedom in political action in relation to the Serbian government which was trying to degrade it to its body for promotion; emigration was basis for recruitment of the members of imaginary Yugoslav Legion which fought on the Macedonian Front. Nevertheless, the only real effect was material support. Despite the legitimacy that it got from emigrants, the Committee hasn't been recognized by the Triple Entente as a representative of the South Slavs of the Empire, and emigrants generally did not come to fight on the Macedonian Front.[44]

Since they came from Austria-Hungary, the enemy of the country, hundreds of Croatian emigrants in Canada, together with other co-citizens, were detained in concentration camps and used as forced labor in the most remote regions of Canada. At the same time, they were stripped of all their assets. In 2011, Croatian Consul to Canada Ljubinko Matešić marked the graves of Croats who died during captivity.[45][46]

Internal political developments

Discontent and demands for resolving the Croatian question were increasingly growing. Its solution depended on whether the Empire would survive as a country or not. When the war broke out, there were three possible solutions for the Croatian question:

The last two solutions predicted the collapse of the Empire. The first solution had the best possibility at the beginning of the war, because non of the superpowers wanted dissolution of the Empire but rather its reconstruction and federalization. Creation of a Trialist monarchy generally prevailed on the Vienna court.[47] The creation of the independent Croatian state had the slightest chance in the given international circumstances. Therefore, Croatian politicians opted for the other two solutions during the war.

Count István Tisza enters the Croatian Parliament with ban Iván Skerlecz and count Teodor Pejačević, 1914.

Since 1913 parliamentary election, Croatian-Serbian coalition (HSK) had the majority in the Croatian Parliament. Its leader was Svetozar Pribičević who advocated the creation of a unified South Slavic state. HSK cooperated with the Hungarian government, against Austria, and did not make any public statements about the reorganization of the Empire. Some opposition parties gathered in a temporarily formed alliance, Croatian Statehood Democratic Bloc, which was formed after part of moderate members of the Party of Rights excepted the Yugoslav idea. They all generally shared the idea of trialism, or creation of the Croatian Kingdom which would have a high degree of autonomy within the Empire.

Emperor Charles I was the last ruler of the Austria-Hungary

Almost throughout the war, Stjepan Radić believed in the success of the Empire and a favorable solution of the Croatian problems within it. In 1914 he stated: "Victory of Austria-Hungary would be a disaster for all the nations of Austria-Hungary, with the exception of the Germans and Hungarians. However, disintegration of the Austria-Hungary would be a disaster for all nations of the Empire, even Germans and Hungarians. For us Croats, it will be the only luck if Austria-Hungary would be totally defeated, but stay together afterwords."[48] However, as the end of the war approached, he was dissatisfied with the unfavorable position of Croatia so he changed his mind, stating in September 1917 that he would be the first one to shout "Down Habsburgs!" if something didn't change.[49]

Step towards the unification of the Croatian lands has been made pro forma in 1916. Vice-ban Vinko Krišković, who was tirelessly working to strengthen Croatian position within the Empire, managed to persuade emperor to guarantee the territorial integrity of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia in his inaugural oath on New Year's Eve of 1916 in Budapest. This prevented emperor to mention otherwise agreed text of the oath before the Imperial Council in Vienna in 1917, which stated that Dalmatia was an Austrian crown land. Furthermore, Krišković negotiated with Emperor the real unification of the Croatian lands, including Bosnia Herzegovina. Despite the Emperor's preferences, it turned out that some politicians from Dalmatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were extremely reluctant about that idea, with some even suggesting that Croatia should be annexed to Dalmatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina instead.[50]

The official coat of arms of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1915, which consisted of signs of three countries: Austria, Hungary and Croatian

Representatives of Croats from Dalmatia and Istria and Slovenes, gathered in an Yugoslav parliamentary club in the Imperial Council, after the death of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1916, submitted May Declaration in which they called for reorganization of the Empire on the trialist principles. This plan included creation of a third unit that would include all South Slavic countries within the Empire (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina). Some prominent Croatian politicians, such as Vjekoslav Spinčić, Josip Smodlaka and Ivo Prodan were members of the Club.[51] Declaration was presented by Anton Korošec in late May 1917. Yugoslav Committee and Ante Trumbić were not satisfied with the decision of the Yugoslav club to stay in the Empire.

Stješan Radić, as representative of the Croatian Party of Rights and Croatian Peasant Party, stated in the Parliament on 7 February 1918: "We want to build our national democratic state of Croatia together with the Slovenians in which our brothers Serbs would have all the rights that we have. If Serbs would oppose this Croatian state, we will try our best to revive it without them, even against them, because we are convinced that without the unity with these Slovenians and without the totality of historic Croatia, Bosnia and Dalmatia, Croatian nation will not prosper, nor survive."

People celebrating the announcement of suspension of all constitutional ties with Austro-Hungarian empire in front of the Croatian Parliament

On the other hand, Starčević's Party of Rights took a leading role in bringing together all the parties and groups that were in favor of creating a unified South Slavic state. Meeting of representatives from the South Slavic states of the Empire, on which the Zagreb resolution was accepted, was held in Zagreb on 2 and 3 March 1918. Resolution signatories asked for creation of a democratic South Slavic state; "We are asking for independence, unification and freedom in our unique national country in which the noble qualities of a single nation with three names, Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, would be preserved, and if desired by the component parts respect national statehood continuity of historic and political territory with full equality of tribes and religions."[52] One of the conclusion was that the creation of national organizations that would be merged into a single body had to start. These organizations were soon established in Dalmatia, Istria and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Stjepan Radić and representatives of the Croatian-Serbian coalition did not attend the meeting. Radić disagreed with the resolution, while HSK considered that it was too early for such meetings. National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was created on 5 October 1918 in Zagreb. HSK soon joined and in accordance with the majority in the Parliament took the final word. Anton Korošec (Slovene) was Council president, with vice-presidents being Ante Pavelić Sr. (Croat) and Svetozar Pribićević (Serb).

Another advocate of Trialist empire was the general Stjepan Sarkotić, war governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the last days of the Empire he tried to persuade the emperor to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina and Dalmatia to Croatia. Emperor agreed in principle, but he left the final decision to the Hungarian government, but it was too late. In early October 1918, it was clearly visible that the Empire would collapse. In mid-October 1918, the United States rejected the idea of the autonomy of the southern Slavs within the Empire. Emperor Charles tried to prevent the inevitable so he issued manifesto on 16 October and proposed a reconstruction of the Empire into federation. The National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs rejected emperors manifesto, and announced on 19 October that it would take control over the national policy.

Monument to Croatian soldiers killed in WWI, Mirogoj cemetery, 1939, Radauš-Turkalj

Creation of unified South Slavic state was announced publicly for the first time. On 29 December 1918, Croatian Parliament unanimously adopted a conclusion on suspension of all constitutional ties with Austro-Hungarian empire. Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia with Rijeka were declared an independent state, which immediately accessed the newly formed State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. Parliament recognized National Council as a constitutional government. The decision on the form of government and the interior organization of State was given to the Constituent Assembly. Triple Entente did not recognize the newly created State, and because of the resistance of the Serbian government, they refused to recognize the legitimacy of Yugoslav Committee. This allowed the Italian army to begin the occupation of Croatian areas in accordance with the Treaty of London. Italian occupation of Dalmatia has prompted the government to seek unification with Serbia as soon as possible in order to get protection since their state did not have standing army. Request of the Dalmatian government and riots that broke out in the Dalmatian countryside forced the Central Committee of the National Council to speed up unification with the Kingdom of Serbia and Montenegro, despite strong opposition from Stjepan Radić.

Unification was declared on 1 December 1918, contrary to the instructions of the National Council, and without the consent of the Croatian Parliament. The new country was named Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.[53]


Writer Miroslav Krleža wrote about human losses before Christmas of 1915 in his book Zastave (Flags) (quoting credible news reports):: "25th Home Guard Infantry Regiment 14,000 dead, 26th Regiment 20,000 dead, 53rd Regiment 18,000 dead".[54] Total Croatian losses were around 190,000 people,[55] with some sources claiming 137,000 military and 109,000 civilian casualties.[56] 4,363 people were killed in Međimurje alone.[57] It's very hard to come by the accurate data since relevant documentations is scattered in archives in Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade. Between the census of 1911 and 1921, territory of Croatia and Slavonia lost nominally 5,359 residents or 0.2%, and in 1921 the ratio of women to men was 1,043 women per 1,000 men. During this period, increase of birth rate of 1.7% per year, occurred. Peter Grgec wrote in his war memoirs that the Croatian loses were hardest of all Austro-Hungarian nations.[58]


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