In the midst of nationalist excitement of their own, the militant Serbs of Croatia moved to resist the Croatian independence bid and to seize a strip of land they call Krajina, which runs through the heart of Croatia and is heavily populated with ethnic Serbs.
The bitter fight is further fueled by an ancient enmity of religious and political differences and, more lately, by the scars of World War II, when the Croats, in a Nazi puppet state, exterminated thousands of Serbs in concentration camps.
The crisis of the Serbian advance, which has daily carved off more territory for the "new" Serbia, has put Tudjman and his Croatian Democratic Party under paralyzing pressure.
A Croatian parliamentary group suggested a plan to give full autonomy to Serbs living in Croatia, including their own police and court systems, with a special "national council" allowing them a unique voice in the government. But the proposal has not been put forward in Parliament and would probably not be accepted by the militant Serbs, even in the unlikely event that it were adopted.
At the same time, hard-line Croats, including the freshly dismissed defense minister, are demanding all-out war. The hawks argue that at least a war could bring the intervention of Europe, which might lead to a negotiated settlement.