Croatian Minority in Republic of Serbia
Although they carry several regional and sub-ethnic names (e.g. „Bunjevci“ and „Šokci“), Croats in Vojvodina constitute an integral part of the Croatian people, who in the capacity of an autochthone people reside in the parts of the Srijem of the Vojvodina province, in the Banat and the Bačka region, but also in a significant number in Belgrade. From the historical perspective, this population, in in its overwhelming number, has been for centuries an indigenous population. The origin of the „Bunjevci“ Croats can largely be traced to western Herzegovina. They had begun to settle down in this area at the end of the 12th century. At the beginning of the 13th century, due to harsh living conditions in Bosnia and the increased Islamization process of Christians, the “Šokci” Croats began to settle down in the middle part of the Hungarian -ruled region of the lower Danube (south-west Bačka and Baranja), as well as in the western part of Srijem. Croats of the Srijem region lived in the areas ever since the arrival of the South Slavs and all the way until 1945 within the framework of the state of Croatia.
Based on the last census of 2002 the total number of Croats living in Serbia is 70,602, of whom 56,546 reside in Vojvodina. Among indigenous Croats in Vojvodina, 20,012 Croats declare themselves „Bunjevci.“ It is believed that a large number of Croats, included in this category from the last census, declared themselves as: „Yugoslavs“ (80,712), the “undecided” (107 732) and „unknown“ (75 483). Over the period stretching from 1991 to 1995, 20, 000 Croats were expelled from Vojvodina, and some estimates suggest the figure to be around 40,000, a fact which has significantly contributed to the reduced number of Croats in the Vojvodina i.e. in Serbia proper. Based on the above, one can conclude that, as of now, between 150, 000 to 200,000 Croats live in Serbia. The majority of Croats live in Subotica, Sombor and Novi Sad.
The political and legal status of national minorities in Serbia is regulated by the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro, the Charter on Human and Minority Rights, Civil Rights, as well the Rights and Liberty of National Minorities. Human and minority rights are regulated by the Charter on Human and Minority Rights, which have the effect of the Constitutional law. Pursuant to the law on the Rights and liberty of national minorities (adopted by the Assembly of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, on February 26, 2002), the Croat national minority was guaranteed, for the first time ever, the status of minority.
In the early July of 2002, a bill was passed regarding the Regulation of the organization of electoral assembly of the National Council of National Minorities. Based on the above Regulation the Croatian National Council was founded (35 members - www.hnv.org.yu). However, in a number of cases, the rights of Croats to their ethnic and minority status, seems to be in contradiction to the proclaimed legal and political resolutions.
After several years of negotiations, on November 15, 2004, the Agreement on the Protection of the Croatian minority in Serbia and Montenegro and the protection of the Serbian and Montenegrin minority in Croatia was signed in Belgrade, and in 2005 it was ratified by both states respectively. This Agreement will greatly facilitate the legal status of the Croatian minority in Serbia and Montenegro. As a follow up to this Agreement two sessions were held by the intergovernmental joint committee, whose task is to monitor the implementation of the Agreement and propose measures to improve the status of national minorities in each state respectively.
In Serbia three Croat political parties are active: The Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV). In June 2004, in the city of Subotica, the party of the Croatian „Bunjevci“ was founded. Due to the internal disagreements within the DSHV, a third party of Croats in Vojvodina was established on June 25, 2007: the Democratic Union of Croats.
At the last parliamentary 2008 elections, the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina entered into coalition with the Democratic Party, thereby securing one seat in the National Assembly of Serbia.
Associations, publishing houses and the media
Croat organizations operating in Serbia are mainly affiliated with the associations in the Vojvodina province. There are also Croat associations in Zemun and Belgrade. Their activities mainly focus on culture, education and information. Recently, an associations of Croat businessmen was founded in Subotica. Among the most important and influential associations are: HKC "Bunjevačko kolo in Subotica; HKD "Matija Gubec" in Tavankut; HKD "Vladimir Nazor" in Sombor, HKC "Srijem" in Sremska Mitrovica; Croatian Academic Society "HAD" in Subotica; KUD "Bodrog" in Bačka Monoštor; Theological institute "Ivan Antunović" in Subotica; a Catholic monthly magazine "Zvonik“ .
The newspaper publishing house „Hrvatska riječ" (www.hrvatskarijec.rs) is the first professional institution of Croats living in Serbia, and it was formed by the Assembly of the autonomous province of Vojvodina in 2002. The founding rights were transferred in 2004 to the National Council on the Croatian National Minority –i.e. the Croatian National Council. The main voice of this Institution is a political weekly "Hrvatska riječ ." This magazine was once published in Subotica from 1945 to 1956, only to be reinstated in 2003. So far it has printed 312 issues. The children’s magazine, “Hrčko „ has also been published since 2005, as a monthly supplement to the weekly "Hrvatska riječ”. It contains 24 full color pages.
In a joint publishing project with the youth association, the "CroV" institution also prints the monthly supplement "Kužiš? (You get it?), as another monthly supplement to the weekly. It has 24 pages in full color. Since 2006 the NIU “ Hrvatska riječ”, in the joint process with the “Croatian Heritage Foundation” ( Matica Hrvatska) , i.e., its branch in Subotica, publishes the magazine dedicated to literature, art and science „Klasje naših ravni.“ It prints annually 12 issues in six volumes.