The changing of the Honor Guard in St. Mark's Square on Independence Day (Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL) The changing of the Honor Guard in St. Mark's Square on Independence Day (Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL)

The momentous decision by the Croatian Sabor followed an air strike by the Yugoslav National Army on the seat of the Croatian government in Zagreb on November 7. The bombing had been an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate Croatia's leadership.  The next day, lawmakers met in secret in the basement of the INA building in Šubićeva to avoid detection by the Yugoslav Army. They set in motion the decision to cut all ties with Yugoslavia, which had been adopted earlier that year, but had been under a three month moratorium that had just expired. Deputy Parliament Speaker Vladimir Šeks told lawmakers on the occasion that it was up to the entire nation to carry out the historic decision.

"It is the mission of the Croatian Government, the Croatian Parliament, and all Croatian citizens to bring this decision to life and defend Croatia's national autonomy, sovereignty, and independence,” Deputy Parliament Speaker Vladimir Šeks told lawmakers on that occasion.

That day lawmakers also voted to recognize the independence of the other republics and passed a package of laws that enabled the country to begin functioning independently.

Today, Croatia's leaders gathered to mark Independence Day today in St. Mark's Square. They attended mass at St. Mark's Church and watched the changing of the guard in front of Parliament at noon. Earlier this morning, officials laid wreaths and lit candles at Mirogoj Cemetery in memory of Croatia's fallen soldiers and the country's first president, Franjo Tuđman.

"I'd like to wish all Croatian citizens a happy Independence Day. On this day, we must remember our soldiers and everyone who played a part in the creation of our independent nation. We must remember in particular, the families of those who died fighting for Croatia and the civilian victims of the Homeland War," President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović told reporters.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković expressed a similar sentiment.

“We should remember Croatia's first president, Franjo Tuđman, the Croatian leadership at that time, and of course, our soldiers, who bravely defended our freedom, secured our territorial integrity, and ensured that future generations can live free in an orderly country, a country that has achieved all of its strategic national goals over the past three decades and is today a respected member of the international community, NATO and the EU,” he said.

It is an already established tradition that Croatia's Sabor, the parliament, opens its doors to the public on Independence Day. Guided tours of the building were available to anyone interested from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. The public could see the chambers where MPs debate and vote, where they meet, and other spaces that are not accessible to the public on regular tours of the Sabor. Visitors could also talk with the Speaker and members of parliament.