On August 5 each year, Croatia celebrates the national holiday Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders, which is called “Dan pobjede i domovinske zahvalnosti i Dan hrvatskih branitelja” in Hrvatski.
On this day, citizens commemorate the military action called “Oluja” (Operation Storm) from the Croatian War of Independence (Domovinski rat).
Oluja was the last major battle of Domovinski rat in 1995. During this battle, the Croatian army liberated the city of Knin, which had been occupied by the Serbian army.
This liberation resulted in the end of the Republic of Serbian Krajina proto-state.
History of “Dan pobjede i domovinske zahvalnosti i Dan hrvatskih branitelja”
The holiday was first celebrated on August 5, 1996. Its first name was “Dan pobjede i domovinske zahvalnosti” (Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day). In 2008, Dan hrvatskih branitelja (Day of Croatian Defenders) was added to the name of the holiday.
Dan hrvatskih branitelja celebrates current military service members and veterans of the Croatia Armed Forces (OSRH).
The battle of Oluja started on August 4, 1995 after a 4-year occupation by Serbia. At 12 noon on the dot, the Croatian flag was raised at the fortress of Knin, confirming its liberation.
On August 6, Plaško, Lički Osik, Vrhovine, Obrovac, Korenica, Slunj and Plitvice were all liberated. The operation ended on August 7, 1995. Gračac, Lovinac, Benkovac, Kijevo, Vrliku, Dubicu, and Primišlje were liberated as well.
In just 84 hours, 10.400 square meters of occupied Croatian territory were freed, which amounts to 18,4% of the total territory of the Republic of Croatia.
Oluja and Bljesak were the main military actions which led to the end of Domovinski rat.
How Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day is celebrated
The main celebration of the Dan pobjede i domovinske zahvalnosti i Dan hrvatskih branitelja is held in the city of Knin. Every year, Croatian politicians and citizens gather to lay wreaths in honor of the Croatian defenders who died in the war.
Candles are lit the Spomenik hrvatske pobjede “Oluja 95” (Monument of Croatian Victory “Oluja 95”) in Knin. The Croatian flag is raised right at noon on the Kninska tvrđava (Knin fortress) as a memory of the liberation.
This is a highly attended event that continues with parades and concerts. Visitors get the chance to see the weapons and equipment used by Croatian Army in the war.
The holiday is also celebrated in other Croatian cities such as Vukovar, Osijek, Petrinja, Rijeka and Pula. These celebrations are also marked with lighting candles, laying wreaths, organizing parades, concerts and fireworks.
To learn about other Croatian holidays, click here.