by Beth Rowen
FRANJO TUDJMAN died on December 11, 1999 at the age of 77. Tudjman was an autocratic president of Croatia who led the Balkan republic to independence from Yugoslavia.
A Communist who fought the pro-Nazi Ustase movement during World War II and once the youngest major general in the Yugoslav army, Tudjman turned to nationalism in the 1960s. He was expelled from the Communist party for his outspoken and increasingly nationalistic views.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Tudjman served prison sentences for lashing out against Yugoslavia's Communist system. He was elected president in 1990 as a candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union and sought to create a homogenous state by expelling the area of Serbs and Muslims.
A STRONG-WILLED DICTATOR, Tudjman thwarted democracy and suppressed any internal dissent. In 1991 after a bloody, six-month civil war with the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav army, Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia and established statehood.
Tudjman also had a hand in the war in Bosnia, as he sought to expand Croatia and secure the Croat-dominated region of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The United States stopped the drive, intervening in 1994. Tudjman reluctantly participated in the 1995 Dayton peace accord that ended the war.
Parliament Speaker Vlatko Pavletic took over as acting president when the parliament deemed Tudjman incapacitated on Nov. 26, 1999. He died after a long illness on Dec. 11, 1999 in Zagreb, Croatia.
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