Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 08:59 GMT

Yugoslavia: Demonstrations in Croatia and Vojvodina

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 May 1990
Citation / Document Symbol YUG5199
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Yugoslavia: Demonstrations in Croatia and Vojvodina, 1 May 1990, YUG5199, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Serbian minority in Croatia has engaged in three demonstrations since February 1989, involving tens of thousands of people. According to an August 1989 report by Radio Free Europe, on 9 July 1989, protestors staged a "provocative Serbian nationalist demonstration...against the cultural and social policies of the Croatian leadership." [ Radio Free Europe, "Situation Report: Yugoslavia," 18 August 1989, p. 5; Radio Free Europe, "Situation Report: Yugoslavia," 7 July 1989, p. 21.] Twenty-two Serbs were reportedly jailed in Croatia after the above incident, but according to the U.S. Department of State Country Reports, only 6 were eventually charged with misdemeanors and jailed for 30-60 days. Soon after the demonstrations, Croatian youths later attacked Serbs vacationing in the republic. [ "Nationalism a Threat to Security of Yugoslavia, General Warns," The Globe and Mail [Toronto], 1 August 1989; "Ethnic Strife in Yugoslavia Spills Into Tourist Areas," The Globe and Mail [Toronto], 21 July 1989, p. A9; U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990), pp. 1309, 1311.]

The latest rally occurred in Petrova Gora on 4 March 1990. The crowd of 50,000 was predominantly Serbian. Demonstrators reportedly demanded that parties espousing Croatian independence be banned, though according to Tanjug, the organizing committee of the rally distanced itself from "what it said was a small group of a few dozens of extremely militant nationalist-oriented participants." [ Radio Free Europe, "Weekly Record of Events," Report on Eastern Europe, 16 March 1990, p. 44; "Croatian Presidency on Petrova Gora Meeting," Tanjug [Belgrade, in English], (FBIS-EEU-90-046), 8 March 1990, p. 65; "Croatian LC on Rally," Vjesnik [Zagreb], (FBIS-EEU-90-046), 8 March 1990, p. 66; "50,000 Serbs protest Rising Croatian Nationalism," The Globe and Mail, 5 March 1990, p. N11.] Reports consulted do not mention any arrests being made during or after this rally.

Croatia held free, multiparty elections on 22 April and 7 May 1990. During the runup to those elections, a large number of election rallies took place. A recent report from Radio Free Europe states that the election campaign was "marred by violence" and that several rallies were banned by the Croatian authorities for fear of further violence. During one incident, the head of the leading opposition party was attacked by a man brandishing what later turned out to be only a non-lethal gas-powered pistol. [ Radio Free Europe, "Croatia Goes to the Polls," Report on Eastern Europe, 4 May 1990, pp. 33, 35-6.]

On 19 May 1990, members of the Serbian People's Renewal Party (SPRP) held a rally, banned by the authorities, in Titov Vrbas, Vojvodina. According to a 20 May report from Reuters, they claimed that they were attacked during the rally, by over 100 members of the secret police. The was banned by the provincial Vojvodina authorities on 14 January 1990. [ "Serbian Opposition Party Attacked at Banned Rally," Reuters, 20 May 1990; Radio Free Europe, "Nationalist Movements in Yugoslavia," Report on Eastern Europe, 23 February 1990, pp. 27-31.]

According to a 2 February report in The Globe and Mail, 5000 held an "anti-Albanian" demonstration in Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina on 1 February 1990. On 28 September 1989, over 30,000 demonstrated in Novi Sad, to protest a declaration by the Slovenian government which stated that Slovenia had the right to separate from Yugoslavia. [ "Three Killed in Kosovo Strife as Serbs Flee Yugoslav Region," Globe and Mail [Toronto], 2 February 1990, p. A4; "Slovenian Declaration Sparks Yugoslav Protest," The Globe and Mail [Toronto], 29 September 1989, p. A9.] According to the U.S. Department of State Country Reports, in 1989, "Demonstrations by Serbs were tolerated or even encouraged if they coincided with the Serbian leadership's objectives." [ U.S. Department of State, 1989 Country Reports, p. 1311.] A majority of Vojvodina's residents are Serbs.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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