Why we remember Goli otok

Goli Otok is a place marked by the Yugoslavian Communist regime’s repression against the thousands of individuals held captive on the island. The inhospitable and uninhabited island between Rab and Senj is one of the sites with the greatest symbolic significance in the contemporary history of Croatia, and of its time as a republic in the former Yugoslavia. However, only run-down and derelict buildings remain of the erstwhile prison camp, which later became an actual prison on Goli Otok. Sheep graze among these ruins during winter, while in the summer, tourists wander around in search of experiencing the “Alcatraz of the Adriatic”, as the island is pitched to them by tourist agencies and local boat operators.

Although almost everyone in Croatia has heard of Goli Otok, few can say more than a couple of meaningful sentences about it. One of the more important reasons for this discrepancy lies in the lack (until recently) of comprehensive scholarly research about Goli Otok. The publishing of Dr. Martin Previšić’s book, The History of Goli Otok, in early 2019, represented a great step forward in the scholarly research of this important topic. However, with its six-hundred-or-so pages, Previšić’s book vastly exceeds the wider public and the average visitor’s interest in the matter.

This website, created in cooperation with Dr. Martin Previšić, offers a short introduction to the political history of Goli Otok, and a guide to the part of the island most frequently toured by visitors. Readers are presented with the results of Dr. Previšić’s years-long research in a plain and simple form, suitable for those with no previous knowledge of Goli Otok, or the political history of Croatia.

In addition to providing basic information about the prison camp, and prison, on Goli Otok, the aim of this virtual guide through the history of the internment camp on Goli otok is to stimulate readers to think about ideologically motivated violence within the framework of various regimes that held sway on the territory of today’s Croatia. At the same time, we wish to stress the importance of safeguarding the human rights and freedoms of each individual, and encourage empathy with the victims of political and ideological violence.

We hold educating the public while stimulating critical reflection and public dialogue to be the fundamental postulates in shaping active citizens, ready to stand against the restrictions against the freedom of speech, thought and action within the framework of the constitutional-legal order. With this virtual guide on Goli otok, we wish to contribute to the development of a society founded upon democratic and civic values, a society in which dictatorship and political violence will never again happen.

Dr. Boris Stamenić

Coordinator of the Culture of Remembrance programme at Documenta – Center for Dealing with the Past