Military history of Croatia

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The military history of Croatia encompasses wars, battles and all military actions fought on the territory of modern Croatia and the military history of the Croat people regardless of political geography.

Medieval Croatian states[edit]

Croatian principalities[edit]

The first mention of Croatian military actions dates from the time of the Croatian principalities in the 8th and 9th centuries. Vojnomir of Pannonian Croatia led a Croatian army in wars against the Avars at the end of the 8th century. He launched a joint counterattack with the help of Frankish troops under Charlemagne in 791. The offensive was successful and the Avars were driven out of what then became Pannonian Croatia under Frankish overlords. In 819, his successor Duke Ljudevit Posavski raised a rebellion against the Franks. Ljudevit won many battles against the Franks, but in 822 his forces were defeated. Prince Borna of Croatia led the army of Dalmatian Croatia and had a primary role in crushing Ljudevit's rebellion. Borna reported his successes to the Frankish Emperor, stating that Ljudevit had lost over 3,000 soldiers and 300 horses during his campaign. Prince Trpimir I of Croatia battled successfully against his neighbours, the Byzantine coastal cities under the strategos of Zadar in 846–848. In 853 he repulsed an attack from an Army of the Bulgarian Khan Boris I and concluded a peace treaty with him, exchanging gifts. Prince Domagoj of Croatia is known in the history for his navy which helped the Franks to conquer Bari from the Arabs in 871. During Domagoj's reign piracy was a common practice, which earned him a title of The worst duke of Slavs (Latin: pessimus dux Sclavorum). One of the strongest Croatian princes was Branimir, whose naval fleet defeated the Venetian navy on 18 September 887.

Kingdom of Croatia[edit]

Depiction of the Hungarians arrival into the Carpathian Basin. The Hungarian incursion into Croatia was repelled at the Battle of Drava River.

First Croatian king Tomislav defeated the Magyar mounted invasions of the Arpads in battle and forced them across the Drava River. In 927 Tomislav's army heavily defeated the army of Bulgarian Emperor Simeon, under the command of general Alogobotur in the Battle of the Bosnian Highlands. One of Tomislav's admirals lead more than 5,000 sailors, soldiers and their families into Slavic quarter of Palermo, Sicily. At the peak of his reign, according to Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos' De Administrando Imperio, written around 950, Tomislav could raise a vast military force composed out of 100,000 infantrymen and 60,000 horsemen and a sizable fleet of 80 large ships and 100 smaller vessels.

King Dmitar Zvonimir of Croatia took the hard line against the Byzantine Empire and joined the Normansin wars against Byzantium. When Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia, invaded the western Balkan provinces of the empire in 1084, Zvonimir sent troops to his aid.

King Petar Svačić's troops maintained resistance against repelling Hungarian assaults at Mount Gvozd in the war for the succession of the Croatian throne. At the end, the last native Croatian king was defeated and killed by King Coloman of Hungary in the Battle of Gvozd Mountain (1097).

Notable wars and battles of early medieval times[edit]

Notable wars and battles that included Croatian army:

Depiction of King Petar Svačić's death at the Battle of Gvozd Mountain. Svačić's death led to a secession crisis in Croatia and an eventual dynastic union between Croatia and Hungary.

Ottoman Conquest (15th–18th centuries)[edit]

Nikola Šubić Zrinski's charge from the fortress of Szigetvár during the Ottoman siege of the city in 1566.

Historic units and formations originating from the time of the Ottoman wars:

19th century[edit]

At the beginning of 19th century many Croatian troops (as a part of Austrian imperial army) fought in Napoleonic wars against French Grande Armée. Later, a significant Croatian force (four regiments) fought on the French side during Napoleon's invasion of Russia[1].

Josip Jelačić with his soldiers before the Battle of Schwechat. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Jelačić's forces supported the armies of the Austrian Empire.

On the wave of French revolution, at the end of first half of 19th century Croatian romantic nationalism emerged to counteract the non-violent but apparent Germanization and Magyarization. By the 1840s, and during revolutions of 1848 the movement had moved from cultural goals to resisting Hungarian political demands which grew even bigger during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Croatian Ban Josip Jelačić cooperated with the Austrians in quenching the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 by leading a military campaign into Hungary.

Croatian troops also contributed in other conflicts who involved Austrian Empire. According to the sources, out of 7,871 sailors on Austrian ships around 5,000 were Croats.[2] Many of Croatian sailors fought on Austrian side in 1866 during Third Italian War of Independence in Battle of Vis.

20th century[edit]

World War I[edit]

Svetozar Boroević was a Croat field marshal which served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I.

During World war I, Croatian soldiers served in Croatian Home Guard units, Croatian military section of Austro-Hungarian army formed after Croatian–Hungarian Agreement of 1868. Most notable Croatian commanders of that time were Field Marshal Svetozar Boroević, General Stjepan Sarkotić and Admiral Maximilian Njegovan.

Notable battles of World War I that included Croatian troops:

End of the World War I was followed by dissolution of Austro-Hungarian monarchy and formation of new national states. The State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was formed from the southernmost parts of the Austria-Hungary but it lasted for only a month. After it was clear that Austria-Hungary had lost World War I, the Austrian government decided to give much of the Austro-Hungarian Navy fleet, to the newly formed State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. This move would have avoided handing the fleet to the Allies, since the new state had declared neutrality. Soon, the Fleet was attacked and dismembered by the Italian Regia Marina and the flagship SMS Viribus Unitis was sunk along with his captain and commander of Navy of the newly formed state, admiral Janko Vuković.

World War II[edit]

Croatian partisans during the Second World War.

Battles of World War II:

Croatian War of Independence[edit]

Battles of Croatian War of Independence:

See also[edit]


  • Enciklopedija leksikografskog zavoda 1966–69 (in Croatian)