Franjo Tuđman (Veliko Trgovišće, 14th May 1922 – Zagreb, 10th December 1999) was a historian, statesman and the first president of the sovereign and independent Republic of Croatia.
He participated in antifascist movement since 1941, as an intelligence officer. After the war he was in General staff of JNA (Yugoslavian national army), then on high military - political positions, in General personnel department, Ministry of defence and General Staff. He finished studies at the Higher military academy in 1957, acquired general-major rank in 1960. He left the army at his own request in 1961 and devoted himself to scientific research. He founded the Institute for history of labour movement in Zagreb, and was its director from 1961 to 1967. He achieved the degree of Doctor of historical sciences in 1965, and from 1963 to 1967 was an associate professor at the Faculty of political sciences in Zagreb.
He collected extensive material and wrote about the history of the Croatian Communist Party, in which he, opposite to unitarisation, emphasised the national component of its struggle against ideology of Great Serbia. He was expelled from the League of Communists in 1967 and then retired. He was sentenced in 1972 to two years in prison for “nationalism”, and was released after 9 months. He was convicted because of an interview on Swedish television in 1981, to three years, was released in 1983 for health reasons. During 1984 he was brought back to prison the serve the rest of his sentence, but was released on probation the same year due to worsening of his health condition.
As an advocate of Croatian independence he engaged politically in the end of the 1980s. in 1989 he founded the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and remained its president until his death. After HDZ’s victory in the elections in 1990 he was elected to the president of Presidency of SRH (Socialistic Republic of Croatia). Following the adoption of the democratic Constitution in 1990 he was elected to the president of the Republic in 1992. He is the author of the Declaration of Croatian independency from 25th of June 1991. As the Commander-in-Chief he led the Croatian defence in the Croatian war of independence. He was re-elected as the president in 1997, and HDZ won again the parliamentary elections in 1992 and 1995.
The foundations of his politics were: union of all Croatians - regardless of ideological orientation, political – national movement, which aim was an independent state, re-entering the Central Europe civilisation circle and way out of the “Balkans”, restoring of suppressed and stigmatized Croatian tradition, culture, language and history.
His politics has caused controversy in part of domestic and international public. Opposition has criticized him for authoritarian political appearance and accented party government, next to failed privatisation of the so called public ownership. He went, nevertheless, as a charismatic personality, most deserving for Croatian independence, its defence against Great Serbian aggression and liberation of the occupied areas.