Demographics of Croatia

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Croatia is inhabited mostly by Croats, while minority groups include Serbs, Bosniaks, Hungarians, Italians and others. Catholicism is the predominant religion, while there's also Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam.

The natural growth rate is minute, as the demographic transition is long done. Life expectancy and literacy rates are reasonably high.

Demographics of Croatia, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.

Changes in the late 20th century

The census of 1991 was the last one held before the war in Croatia, marked by ethnic conflict between the Orthodox Serbs and the Catholic Croats. In the ethnic and religious composition of population of Croatia of that time, those two sets of numbers are quoted as important:

  • Croats 78.1%, Catholics 76.5%
  • Serbs 12.2%, Orthodox Christians 11.1%

After the end of the war of the 1990s and everything else that it entailed, the numbers are:

  • Croats 89.6%, Catholics 87.8%
  • Serbs 4.5%, Orthodox Christians 4.4%

The population change is seen by some as a campaign of ethnic cleansing between 1990 and 1995. In earlier stages of the war, most of the Croats of eastern Slavonia, Baranja, Banija, Kordun, eastern Lika, northern Dalmatian Zagora and Konavle fled those areas as they were under Serbian military control. Conversely, most of the Serbs from Bilogora and northwestern Slavonia fled those areas as they were under Croatian military control. In later stages of the war, most of the Serbs of western Slavonia, Banija, Kordun, eastern Lika and northern Dalmatian Zagora fled those areas as they came under Croatian military control.

There were several incidents of what can be pretty clearly explained as ethnic cleansing: the attacks on and the subsequent expulsion of population from the villages and towns of Škabrnja, Kijevo, Vukovar, Medak. Although widely assumed to be a war in which ethnic cleansing was generally used, no international institution has yet established a clear pattern that would indicate that either side in the war in Croatia committed ethnic cleansing on the scale of the whole country, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague. However, the leader of the rebel Serbs Milan Babić was indicted, plead guilty and was convicted for persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, a crime against humanity, which combined with the content of his indictment implies that there was ethnic cleansing on the whole area of Krajina.

The war ended with military victories of the Croatian government in 1995 and subsequent peaceful reintegration of the remaining renegade territory in eastern Slavonia in 1998. The exodus of the Krajina Serbs in 1995 was prompted by the advance of the Croatian troops, but it was still mostly self-organized rather than forced. All of them have been officially called upon to stay shortly before the operation, and called to return after the end of the hostilities, with varying but increasing degrees of guarantees from the Croatian government. All persons that participated in the rebellion but committed no crimes were pardoned by the government in 1997.

Most Croat refugees returned to their homes, while two thirds of the Serbs remain in exile; the other third either returned or had remained in Zagreb and other parts of Croatia not directly hit by war.

The current reasons why many Serb refugees still have not returned vary: for non-civilians, it is fear of prosecution for war crimes (Croatian legal system, like the ICTY, has secret lists of war crimes suspects) and fear of retaliation; for civilians, it is unfavourable property laws, ethnic discrimination by local authorities, and last but not the least, appalling economic conditions in the rural areas they inhabited.

In 2004/2005, the government of Serbia still had around 140,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina registered on its territory, while around 13,000 housing reparation demands had been pending with the Croatian authorities.

The property laws, in particular, favor Croats who immigrated into the previously predominantly Serb-inhabited areas after having been forced out of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Serbs. Under the current law, a person who occupies someone else's previously vacated house and does not have alternative accommodation (such as their own home or a place in a refugee camp), is allowed to stay in someone else's private property as a refugee, without being charged for squatting. The number of such individuals and families has dropped significantly in the 2000s, and a certain amount of property was returned to its previous owners. However, at the same time not all of the former refugees actually left the same houses, and instead remained in the occupied houses illegally. In 2004, the authorities noted around 1,400 houses still occupied by former refugees. The courts and the police are generally hesitant to evict these to avoid public protest of the Croat majority, causing much disagreement between the Croat and Serb communities in these locations.

The Croatian government denies any ethnic cleaning on a large scale as is claimed by some of the Serbs, and has consistently worked with the international community and the local Serb representatives to rectify the war-related problems, though cooperation on the lower levels has been lacking. The participation of the largest Serbian party SDSS in the Croatian Government of Ivo Sanader has eased tensions to an extent, but the refugee situation is still politically sensitive.

Slow refugee return and slow prosecution of Croatian army personnel implicated in war crimes are some of the main obstacles to Croatia's application to the European Union.

Demographic data from the CIA World Factbook


4,495,904 (July 2005 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 16.4% (male 378,615/female 359,231)
15-64 years: 67% (male 1,497,355/female 1,514,993)
65 years and over: 16.6% (male 283,460/female 462,250) (2005 est.)

Median age

Total: 39.97 years
Male: 38.01 years
Female: 41.76 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate

-0.02% (2005 est.)

Birth rate

9.57 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Death rate

11.38 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Net migration rate

19.58 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Sex ratio

At birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.61 male(s)/female
Total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate

Total: 6.84 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 6.79 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 6.88 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

Total population: 74.45 years
Male: 70.79 years
Female: 79.31 years (2005 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.39 children born/woman (2005 est.)


Adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
People living with HIV/AIDS: 200 (2001 est.)
Deaths: less than 10 (2001 est.)


Noun: Croat(s), Croatian(s)
Adjective: Croatian

Ethnic groups

Croat 89.6%, Serb 4.5%, Bosniak 0.5%, Hungarian 0.4%, Slovene 0.3%, Czech 0.2%, Roma 0.2%, Albanian 0.1%, Montenegrin 0.1%, others 4.1% (2001)


Roman Catholic 87.8%, Orthodox 4.4%, Muslim 1.3%, Protestant 0.3%, others and unknown 6.2% (2001)


Croatian 96%, other 4% (including Italian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, and German)


Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 98.5%
Male: 99.4%
Female: 97.8% (2003 est.)

See also


Template:CIA WFB 2005

External links

pt:demografia da Croácia