The Passing of Dr. Franjo Tuđman, President of the Republic of Croatia

Dr. Franjo Tuđman, the first President of the Republic of Croatia and Commander-in-Chief of the victorious Croatian Army in the Homeland War, passed away on 10 December 1999.

Born in 1922 in Veliko Trgovišće, Franjo Tuđman completed his studies at the Advanced Military Academy in Belgrade in 1957 and acquired the rank of Major General in 1960. Five years later he became a doctor of historical sciences and studied the history of the Communist Party of Croatia in terms of the national component of its struggle against Greater Serbian tendencies rather than unitarism. Tuđman was sentenced to two years in prison for “nationalism” in 1972 but was released after nine months. As an advocate of Croatian independence, he became politically active in the late 1980s.

In 1989, Tuđman founded the Croatian Democratic Union (CDU) and remained its president until his death. When the first multi-party, democratically elected Croatian Parliament was constituted on 30 May 1990, he was elected President of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Croatia. Tuđman was elected President of the Republic of Croatia in the presidential elections of August 1992 and was re-elected in June 1997. Under his leadership, Croatia defended itself against Greater Serbian aggression, gained international recognition and broke the uprising by rebel Serbs in Croatia through military and diplomatic means.

The last days of Tuđman’s life were extremely difficult. He tried to be firm and decisive in difficult times even though he was plagued by cancer for many years. Tuđman conducted state affairs while his health permitted and his final international appearance was on 28 October 1999 when he visited Pope John Paul II in Rome. A few days later on All Saints Day, he laid a wreath for Croatia’s fallen on the Altar of the Homeland at Medvedgrad. Tuđman’s condition worsened that same day and he was admitted to the Dubrava Clinical Hospital where he underwent surgery.

Although it initially seemed that he was recovering well from the operation, the disease ultimately prevailed. After forty days in the Dubrava Clinical Hospital, his body could not hold out any longer and Tuđman passed away at 11:15 PM on 10 December 1999 as a result of complications caused by internal bleeding. His body lay in state for two days in the Presidential Palace at Pantovčak in Zagreb and was visited by the citizens of the state Tuđman created. He rests in Zagreb’s Mirogoj Cemetery and his famous words are engraved on his tomb – Give always and everything for Croatia; do not give up our only and eternal Croatia for anything!

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