The History of Croatian Statehood Day

The conflict in former Yugoslavia reached its peak in the Spring of 1991. Croatia and Slovenia declared their sovereignty a year before and held the first free parliamentary elections. However, at that time, the terms sovereignty and independence were not synonymous. Croatia (and Slovenia) sought a peaceful way of breaking away from Yugoslavia. As such, Croatia issued a referendum on May 19. 83% of the voting population responded in the referendum, out of which 93,2% voted YES for Croatian sovereignty.  To this day, this referendum holds the record for the largest turnout in Croatian history and is one of the most significant Croatian historical events.

On 25 June 1991, the Croatian Parliament met and adopted a Constitutional Declaration on the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Croatia. The Croatian Parliament declared the Republic of Croatia—until then a part of Socialist Yugoslavia—a sovereign and independent state. By this act, Croatia became an independent state, initiated the separation process from other Yugoslav republics, and sought international recognition. In December 1991, Germany independently recognized Croatia and in January 1992 so did the rest of Europe, followed by the rest of the world.

Until 2020, Statehood Day was celebrated on June 25 (the day that the independent republic was declared).  However, on September 19, 2019, the government changed the law on national holidays and officially moved this holiday from June 25 to May 30 in order to reflect  the day the first democratically elected multi-party Parliament was constituted.

You can read more about Croatia’s Statehood Day on the Expat in Croatia website (


Traditions, Customs, and Activities on Statehood Day

Typical state activities on this occasion involve speeches by the President of Croatia, the Prime Minister, and other dignitaries, as well as a commemoration of the Croatian War of Independence. The commemoration usually begins at the Mirogoj City Cemetery in Zagreb. The Croatian president, the Prime Minister, and other dignitaries lay wreaths and light candles in front of the Central Cross of Croatian War Veterans in the Alley of Killed Croatian War Veterans. They also lay wreaths on the grave of the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman, at the grave of the unidentified victims of the Croatian War of Independence, and in the memorial park near the monument called Voice of the Croatian Victim – Wall of Pain. After the ceremony at Mirogoj, a Holy Mass for the Croatian homeland is served. It is usually led by the Archbishop of Zagreb. Every year, the government holds a military parade in the  Jelačić Square in the country’s capital, Zagreb. The government also holds a meeting with the parliament and conducts a ceremonial session to discuss matters related to the country’s international and internal affairs. In other Croatian cities, Statehood Day is also commemorated by laying wreaths and lighting candles near monuments and graves of Croatian War Veterans. Some cities also organize sports and entertainment events.


What do you miss most about home?

I miss my family and friends but, on the other hand, my posting here gives them a chance or several chances, if we allow them and they do not bother us too much, to come visit and enjoy this beautiful country.


What do you find rewarding about working in a multinational environment like JALLC?

As this is my first time working in NATO I found that I really enjoy this environment and all the colleagues from different Nations that I have met and will meet over the coming years during my posting at the JALLC.


What is something unique in Portugal that others may not know?

I have found out that Portugal is in many ways similar to Croatia, from the food to the strong tourism industry, and all the good and bad things related to that. My wife, who is intensively learning Portuguese, has told me that there are many similarities between our languages, something that one wouldn’t perhaps expect given they are from different families of languages. Apparently we both use similar expressions, phrases and she says she is really enjoying studying it.  


How do you usually celebrate this national day (in Portugal or in your country)?

This year, to celebrate our national day, our embassy in Lisbon is organizing an event (reception) at Igreja da Madre de Deus in Alfama with a traditional group of singers from Croatia (actually traditional to Dalmatia – they are called Klapa) who will give a concert. (an example of a famous klapa: