Goli otok - the gulag of Tito

Sep 2019
Yugoslav communist leader and dictator Josip Broz Tito started in 1948 a concentration camp for political prisoners on Goli otok ( Bare island ) in Croatian Adriatic sea. There were many labour camps for political prisoners in Yugoslavia at that time, political prisoners were living in very bad conditions and were subjected to force labour. But Goli otok was specially brutal because there disident communists were imprisioned. They were subjected not just to the hard work but also to psyhological pressure of so called political re-education. They constanly had political meetings where people should admit their mistakes othervise they were beaten by other prisoners which were like already re-educated. All the sistem on Goli otok was under the control of political police UDBA. From the documents of UDBA we can see that 16.000 people were sent to Goli otok, but some suggested also higher numbers. Around 550 Slovenes were imprisioned there. Some were sentenced by military courts but the great majority was sent there by local commities of communist party. They like made some minor offense, like saying something wrong for example that people are going missing and that something is not ok in such state, or that communist leaders are having privileges, or making jokes about communist leaders or that there is no freedom of expression and so on. According to UDBA files around 400 prisoners died. Also this number is likely higher. Yet it is true that prisoners were not so long on Goli otok if they agreed to work for secret police. But if they changed their mind later they were sent back.

Communist party of Yugoslavia ( CPY ) came at that time in conflict with Stalin and his Informbiro ( new comintern ). Tito was seen as to powerful in Balkans for Stalin and because there was no Red army in the country Stalin did not like such a situation. CPY decided they will try to satisfy Stalin but were not ready to depose Tito. So CPY decided to purge the communist party of all supporters of Stalin and also of all communists which loyality could be questioned. At the same time they pushed hard on farmers with collectivization and nationalized the reamaining small bussinesses. Stalin was not impresed with this and was insisting that Yugoslav leadership should be changed. Later because of this Yugoslavia established connections with the west making even an alliance with Greece ( before it supported revolution of Greek communists against their governament ) and with this in fact also with Nato to protect itself from Soviet attack. Relations between Yugoslavia under communists and USSR improved later again after Khrushchev took power.

List of political prisoners on Goli otok from UDBA files, published in left wing croatian newspaper Novi plamen:


Book 'Čas ki ga ni' written by former political prisoner on Goli otok Radovan Hrast in Ljubljana in 1991

Interview with former political prisoner mr. Andrej Aplenc who was two times imprisioned on Goli otok ( in Slovenian )

Aplenc: Goli otok je odraz delovanja najožjega vrha komunistične partije
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Forum Staff
Oct 2011
Italy, Lago Maggiore
About that political prison I can suggest the work of an Italian journalist and writer, Giacomo Scotti [in Italian the isle is called "Isola Calva"], who wrote a book [GOLI OTOK - Italiani nel gulag di Tito ] about Italian Communists who migrated to Yugoslavia after WWII. When Yougoslavia broke the linkage with the "internationalism", since Italian Communists where on the other side, in Tito's country they had even suspected to be spies of the Cominform and a part of them had imprisoned just on the isle of Goli Otok [where they died].
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Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
the worst of Tito political prisons was called Jasenovac , an estimated 100.000 victims

Oups ! my mistake , wrong side
May 2013
There was a great movie made in 1980s with Miki Manojlovic playing a teacher who was a hardcore Stalinist and who ends up on Goli Otok. Once he was released, he had a severe PTSD and complete change of character. He became a broken, mentally tortured man, ready to snitch and lie about everyone out of fear. I believe it was based on a true story.

IIRC, the first honest and public look on this once taboo subject, came in late 1980s, when Danilo Kis made a documentary interviewing former prisoners of Goli Otok. It was an eye opener for most average Yugoslavs at the time as to early years of Tito’s “benign dictatorship”.