Franjo TudjmanFranjo Tuđman (May 14, 1922 - December 10, 1999) was the first president of Croatia in the 1990s.
Tuđman's political party HDZ ("Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica", Croatian Democratic Union) won the first post-communist multi-party elections in 1990 and he became the president of the country. A year later he proclaimed the Croatian declaration of independence. He was reelected twice and remained in power until his death in late 1999.
He was born in Veliko Trgovišće, a village in Hrvatsko Zagorje, region in northern Croatia.
During WWII he was on the side of Tito's partisans, where he also met his future wife, Ankica. He became the youngest general in the Yugoslav people's army in the 60s which some observers linked to the fact that he sprung from Zagorje, a region which gave few Communist partisans. He left active army service in 1961 to found the Institute for the history of the workers' movement, and remained its director until 1967.
He wrote a series of revisionist articles which attacked the communist establishment, and was subsequently expelled from the Party. In 1971 he was sentenced to two years of prison for supporting the civil unrest, the so-called "Croatian Spring", but was released after nine months. He was trialled again in 1981 and got three years of prison, but again he only served a portion, eleven months. Tito bestowed him a presidential pardon who appreciated his battle against 'Serbian chauvinism'.
In 1989, Tuđman unveiled his most known work of all, Wastelands of History ('Bespuća povijesne zbiljnosti') in which he greatly diminished the role of the Holocaust and accused the Serbs and Jews of overinflating WW II casualty figures.
Tuđman's political party was organized by pro-independence activists within Croatia and among the large diaspora abroad. Only three months after being officially registered, they entered the elections and won almost two thirds of the vote in April/May 1990. On the 25th of July, 1991, they achieved their goal and Franjo Tuđman declared Croatia's independence.
Tuđman led the fledgling country through very rough times, in war with Serbia on several fronts. The armed conflict in Croatia died down by 1992 but over a fifth of the country wasn't under government control, the areas which were overwhelmingly Serb were organized into the so-called Republic of the Serb Krajina, supported by Slobodan Milošević's Serbian government.
New elections were organized in Croatia and Tuđman again won with over 60% majority. In the coming years, his government supported Bosnian Croats in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was widely speculated that he and Milošević were actually in cahoots to carve up Bosnia amongst themselves, ever since their secret meeting in Karađorđevo in 1991. Tuđman also supported Bosnian Croats because of a powerful lobby of Croats from Herzegovina whose funding de facto brought him into power.
He didn't however finish his third mandate, incapacitated by cancer in late 1999. The Constitutional Court declared him too ill to rule on November 26th, and on December 10th, 1999 he died at the age of 77.
He had two sons Miroslav and Stjepan, and one daughter Nevenka.