Osijek’s location on the Drava River, near its junction with the Danube (Dunav in Croatian), has made it strategically important for more than two millenniums. It was the Slavic settlers that gave Osijek its name; by the 12th century it was a thriving market town. In 1526 the Turks destroyed Osijek, rebuilt it in Ottoman style and made it into an administrative centre.
Austrians chased the Turks out in 1687, the Muslims fled into Bosnia, and the city was repopulated with Serbs, Croats, Germans and Hungarians. Still wary of Turkish attacks, the Austrians built Tvrđa, the fortress that still stands today, in the early 18th century.
Until the 1990s war, Osijek was a powerful industrial centre of former Yugoslavia. When the war broke out in 1991, the federal Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitary units overran the Baranja region north of Osijek. The first shells were dropped in July 1991 from Serbian positions across the Drava River. When Vukovar fell in November of that year, federal and Serbian forces made Osijek the object of their undivided attention, pounding it with artillery as thousands of residents poured out of the city. This devastating shelling continued until May 1992, but the city never fell.