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Saturday, 1 August 2009

Goli Otok: Tito's Island-Prison Turned Into Natural Paradise

This story caught my eye the other day. It came to me on one of my Gooogle-alerts. (Gotta love Google) Anyway, this infamous island prison is a very touchy subject. Some people sort of like to sweep the dirt under the carpet, as the saying goes, regarding the former ruler of Jugoslavija, Josip Broz Tito.  A lot of not nice things happened here, especially regarding Croatian political prisoners. I think some sort of permanent memorial to former prisoners should definitely be erected.

Something educational and in remembrance of what it meant to disagree with the strong mans rule of law. However to turn the majority of the island into some kind of nature retreat would be a super idea I think. Time to move on and not dwell too much on the past.( Maybe even hold some outdoor electro-darkwave industrial, or rock concerts/festival under the stars.)  Based on some of the photos I've come across, it seems like it really could be something beautiful again.

(by Franko Dota) (ANSAmed)

- ZAGREB - For almost 40 years, from 1949 to 1988, the island of Goli Otok, in the Northern Adriatic sea, was the island-prison of socialist Yugoslavia, first for the detention of political opponents, then for ordinary prisoners, a place both ill-famed and hated. Today, twenty years since the fall of the regime and the rise of democracy, Croatia is still unsure of the future of this unspoilt natural reserve, with its stretches of beach untouched by tourism, a land that has avoided all of the environmental and urban destruction of the last few years. The only structures present on the 4.7 square kilometres island, are the prisons and bunkers, abandoned and decrepit. There are no bedrooms or camping sites and the very few visitors are only allowed to stay for half a day, as part of their excursion to nearby Rab, one of the most famous summer destinations on the Croatian coast.

There are no brochures or guided visits. But there isn't any monument either, to commemorate the almost 30,000 political prisoners of former Yugoslavia, of all ethnicities, who were deported to the Goli Otok's prisons and sentenced to convict labour. Until 1956, it was mostly Tito's political opponents that where imprisoned on the island, those that sided with Stalin in 1948, at the time of the fracture between Belgrade and Moscow. Since 1956 the prison was destined to ordinary convicts, those that were found guilty of the most severe crimes, and in 1988 it was closed for good and civilians were admitted on the island for the first time. Since then, local authorities, various non-government organizations and public and private initiatives have put forward a multitude of proposals on how to exploit the rocky and deserted island.

 Many of these proposals gained the approval of the central government, but eventually nothing came of any of them. A few years ago, a group of young people from Rijeka suggested to turn it into haven for artists and writers from all over the world and in particular from former Yugoslavia and various European countries, including Italy: citizens of all of these countries had in fact been inmates on the island, during the regime. The prison blocks and bunkers could be turned into art pavilions, something like the Biennale in Venice,'' said Damir Cargonja, one of the promoters of the initiative, ''where every country has its own place of reference''. Other initiatives had shocked public opinion, such as the idea to recreate the atmosphere of the old prison and offer ''a political prisoner's holiday'', with fake guards, fake convict labour and isolation cells.

The only realistic proposal came from a group of tour operators who saw the chance to create on the island a centre for extreme sports, such as free climbing and water sports but the idea was never turned into reality due to lack of funding and the unresolved requests of local population that wanted to see the land, confiscated in 1945, returned to its original owners.

Former inmates' associations would like to see the island turned into a memorial site for the victims of Tito's communist regime, an idea that has the full support of local authorities, even though they have not yet given up on the initiatives for touristic use of the island. But as for now, the only 'real project' that has seen the light on the island, and which was given a lot of space in the Croatian press, was the production of a series of porn movies, shot without permission by foreign production companies. (ANSAmed).

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