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.
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 became the 28th member of the EU on 1 July 2013
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
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.
EU accession talks were long held up by the fact the country's most prominent war crimes suspect, Gen Ante Gotovina, remained at large until his arrest in Spain in 2005. Convicted at The Hague in 2011, he was acquitted on appeal in 2012.
A dispute with Slovenia over sea and land borders dating back to the break-up of Yugoslavia was resolved in June 2010, when a Slovene referendum cleared another obstacle to Croatia's EU accession.
The country's EU accession treaty was finally signed in December 2011, and endorsed at a referendum the following month. Croatia took its place as the 28th member state of the EU on 1 July 2013.
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%.