Croatia's declaration of independence in 1991 was followed by four years of war and the best part of a decade of authoritarian nationalism under President Franjo Tudjman.
By early 2003 it had made enough progress in shaking off the legacy of those years to apply for EU membership, becoming the second former Yugoslav republic after Slovenia to do so.
A country of striking natural beauty with a stunning Adriatic coastline, Croatia is again very popular as a tourist destination.
Croatia's EU accession talks were held up because the country's most prominent war crimes suspect, Gen Ante Gotovina, remained at large until 2005.
At a glance
- Politics: The centre-left government of PM Zoran Milanovic took over in December 2011, riding a tide of anger over corruption and economic stagnation
- Economy: Service industries predominate. Shipbuilding is a mainstay of manufacturing
- International: Croatia is set to join the EU in July 2013 after voters approved accession in 2012. The accession treaty has to be ratified by all 27 current member states
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
Gen Gotovina was finally convicted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague in April 2011, and shortly after this, Croatia successfully completed its EU accession negotiations. It is due to become the EU's 28th member state in 2013.
In 2012, Gen Gotovina's conviction was overturned after an appeals court judge in The Hague decided there had been no conspiracy to eliminate the Serb civilian population from the Croatian region of Krajina.
At the time of President Tudjman's death in December 1999, the country was still in a parlous state.
Its citizens suffered from government-backed attacks on their civil and political rights. The governing party, the HDZ, was mired in corruption and the economy was in severe difficulties.
Presidential and parliamentary elections at the beginning of 2000 ushered in politicians who pledged commitment to Croatia's integration into the European mainstream.
The constitution was changed to shift power away from the president to parliament. Croatia joined the World Trade Organisation and pledged to open up its economy.
However, organised crime and associated violence continued to be a major concern, and the government had to demonstrate that it was serious about tackling the problem so as not to jeopardise its EU membership bid.
A dispute with Slovenia over sea and land borders dating back to the break-up of Yugoslavia also threatened to derail Croatia's journey to EU membership until June 2010, when a Slovene referendum cleared this outstanding obstacle to Croatia's EU accession.
The country's EU accession treaty was finally signed in December 2011, after years of tortuous negotiations, and endorsed at a referendum the following month.
Croatia was badly affected by the global financial crisis of 2008-9, which hit its tourism-oriented economy hard, and the country has mostly been in recession since 2009.
Domestic economic woes have dampened enthusiasm for the crisis-plagued EU, and elections in April 2013 to choose Croatia's first European Parliament deputies attracted a turnout of under 21%.