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Goli otok (pronounced [ɡôliː ǒtok]; literal translation: barren island, Italian: Isola Calva) is an island off the northern Adriatic coast, located between Rab's northeastern shore and the mainland, in what is today Croatia's Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. The island is barren and uninhabited. Its northern shore is almost completely bare, while the southern one has small amounts of vegetation as well as a number of coves.
Despite having long been an occasional grazing ground for local shepherds' flocks, the barren island was apparently never permanently settled other than during the 20th century. Throughout World War I, Austria-Hungary sent Russian prisoners of war from Eastern Front to Goli otok.
In 1949, the entire island was officially made into a high-security, top secret prison and labor camp run by the authorities of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, together with the nearby Sveti Grgur island, which held a similar camp for female prisoners. Until 1956, throughout the Informbiro period, it was used to incarcerate political prisoners. These included known and alleged Stalinists, but also other Communist Party of Yugoslavia members or even nonparty citizens accused of exhibiting sympathy or leanings towards the Soviet Union. Many anticommunist (Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, Albanian and other nationalists etc.) were also incarcerated on Goli Otok. Non-political prisoners were also sent to the island to serve out simple criminal sentences and some of them were sentenced to death. The total number of prisoners and massacred victims is unknown but Vladimir Dedijer estimates 32,000 male prisoners in Goli otok only; other historians estimates 4,000 killed.
The prison inmates were forced to labor (in a stone quarry, pottery and joinery), without regard to the weather conditions: in the summer the temperature would rise as high as 35 to 40 °C (95 to 104 °F), while in the winter they were subjected to the chilling bora wind and freezing temperatures. Inmates were also regularly beaten and humiliated either by guards or, predominantly, by other inmates. Guards did not kill any inmate but they did not prevent inmates from killing each other either.
After Yugoslavia normalized relations with the Soviet Union, Goli Otok prison passed to the provincial jurisdiction of the Socialist Republic of Croatia (as opposed to the Yugoslav federal authorities). Regardless, the prison remained a taboo topic in Yugoslavia. Antonije Isaković wrote the novel Tren (Moment) about the prison in 1979, waiting until after Josip Broz's death in 1980 to release it. The book became an instant bestseller.
The prison was shut down in 1988 and completely abandoned in 1989. Since then it has been left to ruin. Today it is frequented by the occasional tourist on a boat trip and populated by shepherds from Rab. Former Croatian prisoners are organized into the Association of Former Political Prisoners of Goli Otok. In Serbia, they are organized into the Society of Goli Otok.
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- Šaban Bajramović – Serbian Roma musician
- Panko Brashnarov – Bulgarian and Macedonian politician
- Vlado Dapčević – Montenegrin partisan
- Adem Demaçi – Kosovar-Albanian politician and author
- Teki Dervishi – Albanian writer
- Vlado Dijak – Bosnian writer
- Alija Izetbegović – Former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Tine Logar – Slovenian linguist
- Venko Markovski – Bulgarian and Macedonian writer
- Dragoljub Mićunović – Serbian partisan, sociologist, and politician
- Dragoslav Mihailović – Serbian writer
- Dobroslav Paraga – Croatian politician
- Igor Torkar – Slovenian writer
- Amdi Bajram – Macedonian Roma politician
- Petre Piruze - Macedonian partisan
- Vladimir Poležinoski - Macedonian partisan
- Dijon Jevremov – Christian pilgrim
Goli Otok in literature
The first Yugoslav novel which raised the subject of purges against Stalinists in 1950s Yugoslavia was Kad su cvetale tikve (When Pumpkins Blossomed, 1968) by Dragoslav Mihailović. It is set in Belgrade and tells the demise of a boxer, Ljubomir Sretenović, who eventually flees Serbia for a new life in Sweden. His brother and father both vanish at the hands of the UDBA, and his brother spends time on Goli Otok (although the island itself is never mentioned).
The first book describing the conditions of the prison, was the autobiographic novel Umiranje na obroke (Dying in Installments) written by the Slovenian author Igor Torkar and published in 1984 by the alternative publishing house Globus in Zagreb with the help of the Communist revolutionary poet Matej Bor. The same year, the book Goli Otok: The Island of Death, written by Venko Markovski, was published in the United States. Ligio Zanini (1927–1993), a poet born in Rovinj, wrote Martin Muma (1990), an autobiographical book about his imprisonment on the island. In 1991, the Slovene inmate Radovan Hrast published an autobiographical novel entitled Čas, ki ga ni (The Time That Is Not), based on his experience in the concentration camp. Goli Otok is also pivotal to Claudio Magris' "Blindly" translated into English in 2008.
Other significant literary reference to Goli Otok include Noč do jutra (Night till Morning, 1981), by the Slovenian writer Branko Hofman, Goli Otok: Italiani nel Gulag di Tito (Goli Otok: Italians in Tito's Gulag), by Giacomo Scotti, an Italian emigrant in Croatia, and Brioni, by the Slovenian writer Drago Jančar. Rade Panic wrote novel Tito's Hawaii. Also Prigionieri del silenzio by Giampaolo Pansa (2004) Island of the World, a 2007 novel by Michael D. O'Brien, chronicles the life of fictional character Josip Lasta, who endures and ultimately escapes imprisonment on the island. Philip Roth's 1995 novel Sabbath's Theater references Goli Otok and its horrors as an impetus for the self-imposed exile of the narrator's mistress from Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia.
Bastards, bend your heads(original title : Bando,sagni glavu) by the survived prisoner Vilim Lončarić.
- Goli Otok directed by Darko Bavoljak, 2007.
- Austrian documentary film STRAHOTA — Gefangnisinsel Goli otok, Salzburg, May 2009, by the authors Reinhard Grabher, ORF journalist and Franz Schweighofer, cameraman. The documentary is based on the testimonies of former prisoners.
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- read in Novi prilozi za biografiju Josipa Broza Tita 1984 last edition
- Daniel J. Goulding, Liberated cinema: the Yugoslav experience, 1945-2001, Indiana University Press, 2002. (p. 159)
- Goli Otok website Quote: "This picture of a room for musicians was taken in 1990, in other words directly after Golis relinquishment."
- Slobodna Dalmacija
- Spomen žrtvama Golog otoka na Adi | Glas javnosti
- Rade Panic, Tito's Hawaii
- Darko Bavoljak
- Goli Otok Documentary in the Works
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Goli otok.|
- Comparative criminology | Europe - Yugoslavia
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