Borderlands of Memory. Croatia (Istria-Kvarner) – Slovenia (Primorska) – Italy (Friuli-Venezia Giulia)

The Memory of War and Violence in the 20th-century northeastern Adriatic

Route and destinations of the study trip:
Lipa (Croatia) Gonars (Italy)
Basovizza (Italy) Risiera di San Sabba (Italy)
Kobarid (Slovenia) Pula (Croatia)
Log pod Mangartom (Slovenia) Rijeka (Croatia)
Redipuglia (Italy)  
Map Study Trip Route and Destinations

30 May 2012: Pula (Croatia)

Martina Draščić

Pula is the largest town in the County of Istria, located on the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula in the northwestern part of the Republic of Croatia. In the context of cultural remembrance in the twentieth and twenty-first century, Pula is important as the main military port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Back then, it was the main naval base of the Austro-Hungarian marine as well as a shipbuilding centre. After the long period of the Austro-Hungarian dominion, Pula and the rest of the Istrian peninsula were annexed to Italy at the end of the First World War. After the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, the German army entered Pula and occupied it as a part of Operational Zone Adriatic Coast. At the end of Second World War most of the population in Pula spoke Italian, and for many people this was their mother language. In 1947 Pula became a part of Jugoslavia, and from 1991 until today it is a part of the Republic of Croatia.

At the end of the Second World War, most of the Italians fled to Italy (this is called the "Istrian exodus"). Italian signs and symbols were removed from the monuments and streets between 1947 and 1953. The Italian minority in Pula is well accepted today and Pula became one of the bilingual cities in Istria because of numbers of Italians living there. This means that the names of the streets and monuments are again written in both languages, and Italian language classes are held in all elementary schools starting from the first grade and are also optional in most highschools. Except for the city of Rovinj, Pula has the largest Italian community on the peninsula.

The official web page of the city of Pula:

Photo Impressions

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Travel Diary


Pula - a port town atmosphere with seagulls.Nothing seemed to disturb our study-trip. After arriving in Pula on the 29th of May, we went directly to a restaurant to have dinner. We sat near the harbour of Pula, eating Ćevapi and fish. The weather was good; Alexander was singing French, Russian and Macedonian songs, certainly about love. A light breeze brought the smell of fish and algae. A real port town atmosphere was in the air, along with seagulls.

Later on, some of us were in a bar waiting for another part of the group.  Now, when I visit some bars in Regensburg, I remember how cheap the drinks were in Pula. We had a good time talking about a lot of things, laughing and drinking at the Forum on the steps of the Temple of Augustus. It is well preserved in spite of the time having passed. Difficult to believe – it was built between 2 BC and AD 14. Since then it used for different purposes (temple, storehouse church, gallery…).

Pula - Temple of AugustusThat night I fell asleep thinking that it would be 27 degrees tomorrow and that I could finally bathe in the sun (while it was raining in Regensburg…). However, not everyone in our group had the opportunity to enjoy the sunny weather the next day in the Southern part of the Istrian peninsula. Over night half of the group became sick and couldn’t leave the hostel for the whole day.

While most of the girls stayed at the hostel, the ones feeling well split into two groups. Some went to the beach and some went for a walk through the city. Our “Russian coalition” started their observations at a place of remembrance – the Forum, where we had been sitting the night before. Once the Forum was surrounded by temples of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. But nowadays one can only see the Temple of Augustus.

Pula - the ForumLater on, we went to a monument dedicated to the Yugoslav partisans. It looked interesting because it was two-side oriented, which means that you could take pictures from both sides. One side looks to the sea and another one to the city. It gives the impression of guarding the city from the both sides. Furthermore, we went to the Amphitheatre, which is very well preserved, and the Fortress. By listening to the people it became obvious that there were many German speaking tourists.

We decided to sit down at places, watch people passing by, talk about all kinds of topics and simply enjoy the good company. We bought bread in the form of a flower, sat on a shady bank near a fountain and had our dinner. Pigeons were taking a bath in this fountain and courageous seagulls were drinking water from the top of the fountain. It looked like some kind of a bird hierarchy…

Pula - Graffiti SAMO ISTRAIn the afternoon, we tried to find place where we could take a bath and lie on the seaside. It was a 25 minute walk from our hostel. On the way we saw the residential part of Pula, which is usually not included in tourist routes. This was where we could see the everyday life of Pula’s inhabitants: People were watering their plants or waiting at the bus station. Close to the station we saw a piece of graffiti saying “SAMO ISTRA”. There were no tourists except us. I felt a little bit awkward. Some of the locals observed us with deep interest, but continued their conversations in local cafés. Thanks to a little boy who showed us the way, we finally arrived at a beach with a stony shore called “Camping Stoja”. There, we spent about an hour enjoying the sun and sea. Even though the water was very cold and full of jellyfish, I went swimming.

Back in the centre later that night, we had dinner at a pizzeria with some other members of our group who had also had an amazing day at a beach near Pula.



Wednesday was supposed to be a day off for us, a day to relax.  The plan was to visit the Brijuni Islands to explore the national park there, which is famous for its scenic beauty. When the Brijuni fell to Yugoslavia after 1945, Josip Broz Tito soon made it his personal State Summer Residence and welcomed many state guests there.

Unfortunately, when we arrived there in the end of May, all transit ferries were already booked – thanks to the Bavarian Whitsun holidays and therefore the hordes of Bavarians in Istria around this time. The program had to be changed: instead we would visit another of Croatia’s beautiful national parks, Kap Kamenjak, at the southern tip of Istria. It would be a day to process all the last days’ different impressions, and to intensify the intercultural exchange between the Croatian and the German students.

Pula: The Roman AmphitheatreUnhappily, a sickness had put the majority of our group out of action the night before. The small number of group members who were lucky and stayed healthy had the chance to spend the morning in Pula’s picturesque Old Town with its loads of historical sights.

Pula is particularly famous for the preserved Roman buildings that still characterize the cityscape – the impressive Amphitheatre, the Temple of Augustus and the Triumphal arch, the partially preserved city wall with the city gates and the Theatre.

At the same time, we were stunned by the immense fortifications from the period when Pula was remodelled as the Austro-Hungarian Navy’s main naval port; they leave a memorable impression of the city’s changing meaning throughout history.

Around noon we took a bus to the beach in order to enjoy the sun and the sea along an exceptionally beautiful part of the coast near Pula.

After some extensive sunbathing we walked along the rugged coastline, looking for even nicer places to swim in the warm Adriatic. It was only in the late afternoon that we had to get back, so as not to miss the joint dinner.



Goodness gracious! You could never believe the events of today, as they require the expertise of Hercule Poirot rather than us history students! 80 per cent of our group is down with some sort of food poisoning, although nobody is certain it really is food poisoning! There was something weird this morning with half of the group not appearing for breakfast… Then we started hearing from the first casualties. Most of the group is down with a high temperature and a stomachache – Professor Heike even took two of the girls to the hospital! At first I got the rest of them some active coal and then some tea. I even thought of calling my dad to come and take the two girls back to Rijeka, but Professor Sabine said it would not be necessary. My entire morning was spent caring for the sick. Around 1 PM they were all taken care of, so the rest of us found ourselves unemployed. I called Vlatko, a friend who lives in Pula, and we had lunch meditating on the strange indications this case has brought about. The rest of the crew that wasn’t ill went to the beach with Professor Pavlaković. They said they had a good time. Still, I am sad because tomorrow, I suppose, we will have to cease our trip. What case of bad luck!

Diary of the previous destination Diary of the next destination

31 May 2012: Pula (Croatia)

The Brijuni islands are a an archipelago stretching along the south-western coast of the Istrian peninsula and covering more than seven hundred hectares of land, located merely ten kilometers away from the town of Pula. The Venetian rule over Brijuni was followed by Austrian rule in 1797. In 1893, the new owner, Paul Kupelwieser, started a complete renewal, turning the islands into a livable place. Brijuni bacame a resort for the world's elites to come and enjoy the beauty and calmness of what now is part of the National Park. After the Second World War the islands became part of Croatia, which was then part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In Yugoslav times, the islands became famous mostly because they started being connected to the name of Josip Broz Tito, the president of Yugoslavia. He used part of the islands as his summer resort and welcomed many international statesmen there. A gallery was opened in his name in a building which used to be a laundry room in order to remember his time spent in a nearby mansion. Today, many tourists visit Tito's former summer resort.

The official web site of the Brijuni islands and National Park of Brijuni:


The Naval graveyard in Pula is a memorial graveyard located in the neighborhood Stoja. It is one of the largest military graveyards in Europe. It was opened in 1862 and measured four thousand square meters. Today, however, it measures more than twenty two thousand square meters. The victims of the accident of the passenger ship Baron Gautsch, as well as the crew members of the sunken battleships Szent Istvan and Viribus Unitis, were buried there during the First World War, along with twelve Austro-Hungarian and allegedly one Turkish admiral. In total about a hundred and fifty thousand people found their last rest in the graveyard. In the period between the World Wars the Italian military government banned burials because there was a lack of burial places. Instead, the plan was to build another cemetery near by.

Nowadays, it is included on the list of monuments protected by the Hague Convention. The municipality of Pula declared this historic cemetery a heritage site in 1960 and it was restored during the 1990s.

Photo Impressions

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Travel Diary


While the majority of the students went on the boat cruise, a few students decided to go for a walk through the biggest town of Istria –  Pula. Even though Pula had been part of many empires and had even experienced a great number of battles over its rule, it still includes a few historic buildings that remain in fairly good shape. The city is 3000 years old and  walking through it makes one feel as if someone has turned back time.

Our first goal was to visit the Arena because it is doubtless the most important sight in the city. The Arena is Pula's landmark and is the sixth biggest Roman arena in the world. Its sight even from a distance is overwhelming. Nowadays many cultural events and the most significant Croatian film festival take place there. 

We continued our walk to the harbor, where we enjoyed the fresh sea air and the magnificent view.

Pula has a multitude of other unique sights. As we proceeded with our stroll we were instantly drawn to and captured by the Temple of Augustus. This became the central point for our small breaks from exploring the city, where we would sit together as a group and discuss plans for future visits or have other conversations. The Town Hall  caught our attention next. It's an excellent example of how classical, Roman, Gothic, Baroque and modern architectural designs can be combined. Each wall describes a piece of Pula's history. During the Roman reign, the Venetian Republic and now the Croatian Republic, the palace has always been at the centre of the city (literally, figuratively and politically).

We often strolled along the street Sergijevaca, a pedestrian zone with a great atmosphere and charming shops and homes. In a souvenir shop one of the sales people recommended that we should go and see the Goldenen Gate (zlatna vrata), also known as the Triumphal Arch of Sergius. We promptly followed this suggestion. Upon our arrival we marveled at the imposing antique structure. Afterwards we refreshed ourselves with an ice tea, which youngsters at the Trg Portarata distributed with pleasure.  Then, we started to make our way back to the hostel…

To conclude the day we decided to have some tea at a small Café close to the Forum and let the adventures of the day sink in before saying goodbye to Pula.



A miraculous recovery of the entire crew! Lovely news accompanied by a wonderful boat tour through the Brijuni archipelago and a visit to the ruins of the Arena! Martina and I had coffee with Fabian and Martin as we were waiting to be taken to the navy cemetery in Pula on our way to Rijeka. I bought a hat before and Martina liked it very much, so just as the bus was leaving, I ran to get her a similar hat. Fabian ran with me and we nearly missed the bus! The important thing is that she liked the hat!
Luka was waiting for me in Rijeka and we made arrangements to go out with our new (and old) friends tonight. I am not in the mood for going out, though; my own bed seems as a cloud meant for dreaming… I guess I’ll have dinner and see what happens!

The Naval Cemetery in Pula (Cro.: Mornaričko groblje u Puli)

Martina Draščić

One of the monuments.The Naval cemetery in Pula is a memorial cemetery located in the part of the city called Borgo San Polikarpo. When it was built it covered about four thousand square meters; today it comprises more than twenty-two thousand square meters of land, making it one of the largest military cemeteries in Europe. According to the available data, about a hundred and fifty thousand people are buried there. The cemetery is listed as one of the monuments protected by the Hague Convention.

The history of this cemetery starts with Pula's history as the main war port of the Austro-Hungaric Empire. Until 1866, the ''Zentralkriegshafen'' of the Austrian war navy had been the city of Venice, in Italy. Pula was seriously taken into consideration as a candidate for the new ''Zentralkriegshafen'' immediately following the anti-Austrian rebellion in Venice, whose purpose was unification with the rising Kingdom of Italy. After the rebellion in Venice, the supreme Headquarters  in Vienna gave the admiral Hans Birc the task of finding another location for the port. Pula had been in the process of becoming a great war navy center since 1853, when the first barracks, establishments, warehouses, apartments and villas were built.  More and more modern ships anchored in Pula thereafter.

In the process of constructing a war port, a navy cemetery had to be built, along with other important buildings. The chef engineer of the naval shipyard, Karl Moring, was assigned with finding a suitable location for the graveyard and with beginning its construction. The Austro-Hungarian Navy bought 4000 square meters of land near the bay Valkane from a citizen of Pula, Giovanni Dobrovich, and started building the cemetery. After the invasion of the Italian units in 1918, the cemetery changed its name to Cimitero R. Marina di Pola, a name it kept until the capitulation of Italy in 1943. The German army occupied Istria and the Coast in 1943 and continued to burry their dead in the cemetery. Under the Anglo-American military government (1945-1947), members of the English and American army were also buried there. A funeral was organized in 1946 for the 12 members of the Istrian anti-fascist resistance who were killed fighting the German forces, with reference to the end of the National Liberation War. The Municipality of Pula named recognized it as a memorial cemetery in 1960, at which point new burials ceased.

Today, at its entrance, the cemetery seems to be a huge park or a promenade. The graves are barely visible due to the dense shrubs and thick grass, while the pebble paths are lined with tall cypress and pine trees. In 1997 the cemetery was restored as a part of a project financed by the Austrian Black Cross (Das Österreichische Schwarze Kreuz) and the German organisation caring for war graveyards, the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (which both take care of numerous military cemeteries in the area of the former Austrian empire). Built by the Austro-Hungarian government, today the cemetery represents an important reflection of the multiethinic nature of the empire and of the complex history of Pula. As one can see in the inscriptions written on the graves, those buried not only included Austro-Hungarian soldiers but also soldiers and civilians of different nationalities. Allegedly, a Turkish admiral was even buried there. The victims of the Baron Gautsch ship accident in 1914 and the crew members from the sunken battleships Szent Istvan and Viribus Unitis in 1918 were buried there during the First World War. In the interwar period, the Italian government banned burials in this cemetery because there was no more space. Furthermore, they had plans to build another cemetery. Instead, they enlarged the old one. During the Second World War, three hundred Italian and German soldiers and civilians were buried there. Although the Pula Municipality declared the historic cemetery a heritage site in 1960, it slowly deteriorated until its restoration in the nineties. This was also the beginning of regular maintenance of the cemetery.

Different commemorative events are held on the cemetery and monuments from various periods have been erected there. It is interesting to see how the various layers of Pula’s history overlap at this site of memory. The history of Pula becomes a symbolic place for different narratives in the culture of remembrance. For example, when a large group of representatives of the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge of Bavaria visited military cemeteries in the region, a wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Naval cemetary. This can be interpreted as a ceremony serving to strengthen the established friendly ties between Germans and Croatians after the German organization had assisted in restoring the cemetery.

In contrast to this commemoration, we can  observe a different kind of gathering at the cemetary. On 10 April 2012, a commemoration marking the controversial Independent State of Croatia (NDH) took place. Members of right-wing organizations and parties often use this date to recall the suffering of the Croatian nation during the Second World War and, more problematically, to glorify the NDH. Interestingly, Istria itself has never been part of the NDH and, in fact, this region was known for its important contribution to the antifascist resistance. The fact that they chose this cemetery for constructing their memory can be interpreted as a provocative act, one which has resulted in debates over what type of events should be allowed to take place in certain public and historical sites and monuments.

Monument at the entrance of the cemetery.This commemoration of the NDH is even more peculiar because it was held near a monument with very particular connotations and links to different events in the past. The monument is placed at the entrance of the cemetery and the writing on it says Hrvatski domobran (Croatian Home Guard). It has the symbol of a shining sun on it and two numbers: the year of 1868 and the year of 1999. The year of 1868 is the year when The Royal Croatian Home Guard was first founded and started serving as a section of the Royal Hungarian Army. It was active until 1918. Interestingly, during the Second World War, when the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was formed, its regular army was also called Hrvatski domobran (Croatian Home Guard); this particular Croatian Home Guard was active between 1941 and 1945. Later, in the Croatian War of Independence, a part of the state's army was also called Domobran (Home Guard). An association of Croatian war veterans sent a request in the year 2004 for the monument to be erected, saying that the purpose of this monument was to remember the Croatian Home Guard which was active from 5th December of 1968 until the end of the Croatian War of Independence in 1999 (which explains the second year on the monument). They also stated they picked this cemetery because there are Croatian Home Guard members from the First World War buried there. The conservation department in Pula gave its approval for the erection and the monument was built in 2005. It is interesting how three different units were connected with the same or similar name, even though they existed in different periods and belonged to different countries. The common use of the name Hrvatski domobran made it possible for the NDH to connect their own history a memorial created for another purpose, and they now stage celebratory commemorations in Pula. It seems like this monument could be a place for many different commemorations, considering the multiple ways in which Hrvatski domobran can be interpreted. The commemoration celebrating NDH is an indication of how the multiplicity of meanings can sometimes be used to justify a provocative act by misusing and instrumentalizing history. This commemoration continues to be controversial. As the monument is located immediately at the entrance of the cemetery, it deeply affects the context of the cemetary's representation. However, town authorities claim they cherish the tradition and values of antifascism and have distanced themselves from these kinds of commemorations. They also emphasize that the permission to build the monument was given by the former city government (referring to the government led by the socialdemocratic Mayor Luciano Delbianco).

We can also regard this cemetery as a contemporary site of memory for touristic purposes. Travel agencies include it among their offerings for those visiting the cultural heritage of this area and use it as a place where visitors can learn about different stages of Pula's history; starting from the Austro-Hungarian rule throughout the two World Wars and beyond. The cemetery, as a place of remembrance, is also being transformed. The current city of Pula wants to represent itself to the modern world, especially Europe, which is dominated by the rules of the free market. It is interesting to analyze what and how the city of Pula, as a tourist destination, wants to remember of its history.

It is obvious that different parties are trying to adapt urban public spaces like this naval graveyard to suit their own representations of the past, no matter how different and conflicting these memories happen to be. Thus, the cemetery has become a site of struggle for symbolic representation. This contestation is on display when, for example, a monument for the victims of the Croatian civil war is disfigured, or when any other monument is desecrated. This suggests that the naval cemetary is a place whose history, and therefore its memorialization, has been marked by conflict and disagreement. Nevertheless, the process of commemoration itself now seeks to ensure the development of a modern society that has sufficiently dealt with its traumatic past.


Brijuni Islands

Vedran Alić

A brief history

The Brijuni (or Brioni) Islands are a small archipelago off the coast of Pula in south-western Istria. The archipelago consists of 14 small islands which cover an area of around 8 km2 (1). Brijuni’s first signs of habitation date from around 3000 B.C. They were later inhabited by the Histrians, from whom Istria got its name. Although the archipelago area is small, it holds hundreds of indigenous flora and fauna species as well as around 100 archaeological sites dating from the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the medieval era, the Venetian period and the Austrian Empire. There are a few Roman villas and a very interesting church built by the Knights Templar in the 13th century. The Austro-Hungarian government used the islands as a quarry which supplied stone to Vienna and Berlin. After the erection of a naval base in Pula in 1859 (2), the navy built a strong fortress on Veliki Brijun and a smaller fortification system on the other islands. For almost half a century, Brioni and Pula served as Austria’s main naval base in the Adriatic (3).

A part of Brijuni’s  fortification system 
Picture 1. A part of Brijuni’s fortification system

The islands were turned into an attraction after Paul Kupelwieser, an Austrian industrial entrepreneur, bought them in 1893 (4) and built hotels, restaurants and the first 18-hole golf course in continental Europe. Brijuni became a first-class tourist destination. He also sent a letter to Robert Koch, the famous doctor and biologist who visited Brijuni in 1900/1901, where he examined mosquitoes and thereby discovered the cause of malaria. After the First World War, the maintenance of the estate became too expensive for the Kupelwieser family (Kupelwieser himself had died in 1919); it thus became part of the Italian state until 1943.

After the Second World War, in 1947, the Brijuni Islands became part of Titoist Yugoslavia. He turned one of the islands into his private summer residence with the help of Ljubljana's most famous architect, Jože Plečnik. During the next 33 years, around 100 statesmen from around the world visited Tito in his residence, as well as famous celebrities such as Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Elizabeth Taylor. Many of the statesmen gave him animals or plants as gifts. This is the reason why there is now a zoo and a safari park holding many exotic animals from around the world (e.g. an elephant which Tito received from Indira Gandhi). Apart from their natural beauty, the islands also served as a place of political meetings. One of the most important events which took place on the Brijuni islands was the signing of the Brioni Declaration by Tito, Gamal Abdel Naser and Javaharlal Nehru when they formed the Non-Aligned Movement in 1956. They met there again a few times in the 1960s. The memory of Brijuni as a meeting place of powerful men also inspired Franjo Tuđman to hold meetings there during and after the Yugoslav wars. (5)

In 1983, three years after Tito’s death, the islands were turned into a national park. Since 1991, they have been part of the Republic of Croatia. The Brijuni archipelago is still a place visited by many people who admire Josip Broz Tito and his work. There is also an exhibition which includes photographs of his activities on the islands. The Brijuni islands also served as a symbol of resistance to the eastern and western bloc during the Cold War due to their historic importance. The vast flora and fauna somehow symbolize friendship and mutual benefit of countries from around the world which were united in a single cause – the struggle against hegemony, imperialism and colonialism.

Tito’s “luxury playground”

During Italian rule, the Brijuni lost their former splendour. By the time Tito got there, the Depression and the Second World War had taken their toll. Realizing the islands’ great potential, Tito set out on a mission to create the most luxurious residence in Yugoslavia, the place popularly referred to as his luxury playground. All the villas were built and decorated in different styles representing different cultures in the Non-Alligned Movement, although that fact doesn’t make them less luxurious. The purpose of the villas and the surrounding terrain was Tito’s enjoyment. He spent around six months every year on the Brijuni islands fishing, playing sports or gardening. However, his life on Brijuni became famous for a completely different thing. Tito was known as a playboy president who had 3 wives and countless mistresses (6). He would pick them up in Brijuni after a boat ride from Fažana and then drive them across the island in a 1950s Cadillac which he had received from Dwight Eisenhower (7). He would then take them to one of the four luxurious villas. Tito was rebuked by Stalin for being too independent, which he really was. This was the case on both political and symbolic levels, which can be seen in the events he held on Brijuni. Whether he invited a famous movie star or the queen of England, the atmosphere and the parties were quite Western. Tito liked to smoke Cuban cigars, wear American suits and drink foreign drinks. He was a communist leader with a western image that he maintained meticulously. In so doing he clearly opposed the Soviet Union and its harsh control of leaders' public images and, at the same time, opened himself to the rest of the world as an ally and friendly figure. The picture gallery of VIP visitors holds so many world-famous figures that we could also include Tito in the category.

Picture 2. Tito and Baudouin I of Belgium,

It is noticeable that Tito presented himself casually in front of women, as opposed to the formality in the picture with the king of Belgium. In Picture 3, he looks almost like a man at an aristocratic bridge club trying to seduce the princess. This casual and friendly look was common in his Brijuni meetings.  

Picture 3. Tito and Princess Margaret of England,

The people of Yugoslavia liked Tito because of his numerous appearances on television and in events all around the country. He presented himself as a common person and not a cold and distant leader. However, the banquets, mistresses, and the luxury of Brijuni were kept a secret. Even if word did slip of the luxury their president enjoyed, there would be no rebuke from the public. It is safe to say that the people couldn’t even imagine what kind of a lifestyle their president lived. He was like a mythical figure showing up on television every now and then and living on a secluded island the rest of the time. Despite this fact, 32 years after his demise, people still admire him and the stable union of lands he created.


Yugoslavia fell apart many years ago, but the memory still remains strongly branded in the minds of its people. Tito created a unique type of socialism which was more liberal and less harsh than the Soviet police state (8). He was a soft dictator, a father-like figure who cared about his people and wasn’t as harsh with dissidents. This is often the picture of Tito we get from people who lived under his rule (9)

Yugonostalgia is a phenomenon which will hardly die out soon. The reason for this is an increasing interest in Tito among young people today. Even though they weren’t born during Tito’s lifetime and haven’t experienced the stories that they've heard from others, it is popular to be Yugonostalgic in the Balkan area. A great number of young people also visit Tito’s mausoleum every year. All these facts show that Josip Broz managed to create a cult of personality so strong that it still mesmerizes people and is still present in pop culture.

Tito’s mild dictatorship and Yugoslavia's very low unemployment rate are probably the main reasons for Yugonostalgia and for people's positive memories of life at that time. They remember a time when they could travel freely and education and medical care was free. (10) One of the more interesting facts about Yugonostalgia is the fact that it is a negative term. Basically, people who long for something better are now viewed as outcasts, which is an interesting phenomenon. Tito succeeded in maintaining peace and order in the Balkans; this collapsed soon after his death, and after the Yugoslav wars all of the Yugoslav countries live in hatred towards the Serbs. When we look at things from that angle, it is not so unexpected that people who long for a country centralized in Belgrade are viewed as outcasts. Another interesting fact is the great number of Tito-nostalgic people from outside the Balkans, namely in the third world countries of the Non-Alligned Movement. Their view on Tito is of a man who gave them hope and helped their countries connect with the rest of the world and make their voices count. This fact can be illustrated with the example of the famous Ivory Coast footballer Didier Drogba’s child nickname – Tito, which his mother gave to him because she admired and respected the Yugoslavian president (11). There is a major clash between Yugonostalgics and the present Croatian government. Many streets or squares named after Tito or prominent Partisans were changed in the 1990s, which often resulted in protests or petitions for changing them back. The reason for this is obvious: only 32 years have passed since Tito died and many of the people who experienced living in Yugoslavia and loved their dictator are still alive and loving him. This was not the case with Hitler or Pol Pot because they committed many serious crimes. Tito, on the other hand, was part (even one of the creators) of the Antifascist movement, and his rule was perceived as nonviolent. People had everything they needed for a normal life, including visas to travel in most countries of the world. Yugoslavia had a strong consumerist society, unlike most socialist countries, so people felt like they were living in the West (12). All of that - combined with Tito’s strong charisma - resulted in the creation of a cult of personality which is still alive today.

Apart from the political and economic rationale behind for Yugonostalgia, the cultural aspect should not be neglected. Tito’s figure is still present in pop culture, especially among younger people. Even though they did not experience Tito in person, they know what he represented and that everyone liked him.


Picture 4. Josip Broz Tito, Picture 5. Ernesto Che Guevara

These two pictures provide a good example of how the younger people view Tito as a revolutionary, like Che Guevara. Both of them were famous figures, so there are a lot of pictures of Tito made in the style of Che’s most famous image (Picture 4.).

Picture 6. Jugoslav flag with present-day coats of arms of its six constituent republics

This picture represents one of the main reasons why people liked Tito and his ideas: the unity of the six republics. The slogan Krv nije voda (Blood is thicker than water) serves to illustrate how all the Yugoslavs are people of the same nation. The fact that the coats of arms on the picture are not those of the socialist republics, but present-day republics, shows how the idea of Yugoslavia is still present in the minds of many people. 

Tito’s popularity also stems from the many movies still played on national television about the Partisan movement and its battles against the fascists. In those movies, which were filmed mainly in the 60s and 70s and were highly propagandistic, Tito is presented as a figure you cannot help but admire. Apart from the movies, many famous Yugoslav singers recorded songs about Tito, Yugoslavia or simply the everyday life at the time. Those singers are still recording today and their songs about the former republic are still popular and played on radios.  


Josip Broz Tito turned the Brijuni into what they are today: a jewel in Croatia’s crown of natural beauties. He also turned them into his personal heaven on earth where he greeted many of the world’s most famous people. Now, they are a shrine where people can admire his great charismatic personality. He was also a mythical figure living on his own isolated island and only showing up on television and at important events. Apart from his appearance and personality, people also admire his political and social ideas, as well as the things he did to create Yugoslavia and maintain peace where other great historical leaders had failed. Therefore, it is not strange that there are still many Yugonostalgics who long for the days when everything was fine and their leader had true power to shape things both in and out of the country. I would like to conclude this essay with this statement: In the case of Yugonostalgia, the pain is about the present, not about returning to the past. (13)



(5) Brijunski transkripti,, accessed 19 Oct, 2012
(6) “Tito’s epochal funeral”, May 1980., accessed October 13, 2012
(7) “Inside Tito's luxury playground“, August 2009., accessed October 13, 2012
(8) “Postcard from Europe: Tito nostalgia”, May 2010., accessed October 14, 2012
(9) Maria Todorova and Zsuzsa Gille, ed., Post-Communist Nostalgia (Oxford, New York:Berghahn books, 2012)
(10) Bancroft, Claire, "Yugonostalgia: The Pain of the Present" (2009). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. Paper 787: 26., accessed October 14, 2012
(11) “My Mum Calls me Marshall Tito”, October 2009., accessed October 15, 2012
(12) Igor Duda, Pronađeno blagostanje (Zagreb: Srednja Europa, 2010), 7-16
(13) Bancroft, Claire, "Yugonostalgia: The Pain of the Present" (2009). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. Paper 787: 26., accessed October 15, 2012


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