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February 11 2014

Prisoners Lists Stir Informbiro Memories in Former Yugoslav Republics

The recent publishing of lists of prisoners of Goli Otok, victims of communist purges in Yugoslavia from 1949 to 1956, has reignited dormant debates and opened some old wounds, across all the former Yugoslav republics.

Goli Otok is a Croatian island that was used as a prison camp during the so-called “Informbiro era” – the post-World War II breakdown between the communist leaderships of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. For many Yugoslavs, “Tito's historical ‘No!’ to Stalin” was a source of pride, especially because it solidified their country's role as an intermediary between the Western and Eastern Bloc. The purges that were part of the clash officially included persecution of alleged “pro-Soviet communists”. According to the victims and dissidents of the time, this was often just an excuse by the country's power-mongers to get rid of anyone they disliked for any reason and, thus, people of many other political affiliations were sent to the notorious camp.

Prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

Abandoned prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

During the last two months of 2013, Croatian portal Novi Plamen (New Flame) published two lists compiled by UDBA (Yugoslav State Security Service) from the State Archive of Croatia – the list of the 413 people [hr] who died in the camps, and the list of all 16,101 prisoners [hr] who had served sentences there. The second link spread widely through social networks and then through news portals in all six former Yugoslav republics.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment... Published by Novi Plamen.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment… Published by Novi Plamen.

Slovenian right-wing blogger Pavel noted [si] that the publishing of the lists coincided with the recent December 9, 2013, death of Jovo Kapičić [sr], who had allegedly been the man in charge of Goli Otok. In an August 2013 interview, Kapičić, a Serb, claimed [sr] that the Serbs had made up the majority of prisoners at the camp.

Twitter user ‏@flusteredcooler from Montenegro commented on this issue as well and, while people from all of the former Yugoslav republics often claim that their nationals made up the majority of those sentenced to serve time at Goli Otok, he noticed:

Legend says that most of the population of Goli Otok consisted of Montenegrins? The lists show that it was Yugoslavia in a nutshell [representing everybody]

A senior Macedonian blogger, among the oldest members of the local blogosphere, and a World War II anti-fascist resistance veteran, Buv (“Owl”), posted an announcement [mk] by the Association of former Goli Otok prisoners, advising caution in relation to the lists and offering first-hand consultations to all interested parties:

Темата за “голооточаните“.“информбировците“затвореници што ја издржувале казната во логорот Голи Оток е дел од пошироката историска тема за конфликтот меѓу СССР и СФРЈ.Не може да се зборува за казнениците на Голи Оток,без да се разгледуваат во комлесот на историските збиднувања.

Независно од тоа колку биле свесни/идејно свесни/за својот однос кон конкретните настани,учесниците во збиднувањата,што подоцна се нашле на Голи Оток,се учесници во еден политички судир кој има исклучително историско значење,за нив,за нивната земја,за пошироките светски движења.

Ова отклонување го направивме за да обрниме внимание на оние лесно искажани карактеристики што се даваат по повод на објавените списоци за голооточаните/информбировците/ и во други прилики.Без да се има во вид поширокиот контекст на случувањата,може паушално да се кажува се и сешто.Важноста на историската проблематика бара сериозен пристап.

Здружението Голи Оток,меѓу другото,ја има и таа задача да ја објасни,документира,да ја покаже историската вистина за настаните во кои независно од нивната волја се нашле и овие страдалници,што така строго ги казнила историјата.

The topic of the “inhabitants of Goli Otok,” the “Informbiro prisoners” is part of a larger historical topic about the conflict between the [USSR] and the [SFRY]. One cannot talk about the Goli Otok prisoners without taking into account the complexity of historical events.

Regardless of how much they were aware or ideologically involved in these concrete events, the participants who were detained on Goli Otok were engulfed in a political clash with exceptional historical importance, for them personally, for their country and the wider world movement.

We publish this notice to draw attention to the reactions that have been published with great ease after the lists of prisoners were exposed, as well at other occasions. Without taking into consideration the wider context of events, anyone can say anything without arguments. The importance of the historical issues requires a very serious approach.

The Goli Otok Association has the mission to explain, document and disclose the historical truth about the events which unwittingly encompassed these sufferers, who were so severely punished by history.

Informbiro activities left deep trauma in the collective former Yugoslav memory, parts of which were artistically expressed through popular cult movies like When Father Was Away on Business (1985) by then young Bosnian/Serbian director Emir Kusturica, and Happy New Year '49 (1986) by Macedonian director Stole Popov.

August 08 2013

Slovenia: The Old New Touristic Gem of the Balkans

Slovenia is becoming an ever more popular destination in recent years due to the numerous attractive vacation features it has, in particular for citizens of Europe. Slovenia's idea to focus on and develop health tourism is a flourishing success and this small country now has dozens of natural spas and health resorts.

Using it's geographic advantages in terms of location and climate, Slovenia's development plan has created 15 of the most modern health resorts under the tagline “Through Nature to Health”. This spa tourism campaign has given Slovenia a rising number of visitors who are fans of the green Mediterranean coast.

One of Slovenia's man natural wonders - Skocjan Caves; used under Creative Commons license.

One of Slovenia's man natural wonders – Skocjan Caves; used under Creative Commons license.

The Slovenian coastline is only 46.6 kilometers long, while the coastal towns of Piran, Izila and Kopar draw tourists with their original medieval structures and feel. Social media sites are loaded this summer with warm greetings by users from around Europe and the world during their vacations in Slovenia, who seem most impressed by the country's natural wonders. A Facebook page for caving enthusiasts shares photos by tourists of the amazing Skocjan caves. Another Facebook page, dedicated to summer in Slovenia, shares users’ photos of summer activities such as rafting.

Kayaking lessons in Soča Valley; photo courtesy of Soča Rafting, used with permission.

Kayaking lessons in Soča Valley; photo courtesy of Soča Rafting, used with permission.

Soča Valley offers many activities and adventures; photo courtesy of Soča Rafting, used with permission.

Soča Valley offers many activities and adventures; photo courtesy of Soča Rafting, used with permission.

The most popular destination, however, seems to be the city of Bled:

Alastair Mavor, a Nottingham University History student from London, says this about Bled:

Another Twitter user, a media professional and speaker native to Slovenia, @LenjaFPapp says:

A visitor from Austria @StephDo_ posts as picturesque photo of Bled Lake:

Slovenian lakes still attract the most attention from visitors, but Slovenia seems intent on drawing tourists’ attention to other sites and activities that the country has to offer and ABC News calls it vacationing in the heart of Europe.

January 29 2013

Spain: Catalonia's “Declaration of Sovereignty” Translated into 36 Languages

On January 23, 2013, amid rising tensions with the Spanish government, the regional parliament of Catalonia approved by majority vote a Declaration of Sovereignty [ca] — seen widely as a prelude to a referendum on independence, expected to be held by 2014. Thanks to a diverse team of collaborators, the online Catalan-language publication Vilaweb [ca] has been able to publish the document in thirty-six languages.
(more…)

December 04 2012

Slovenia's New President Elected Amidst Anti-Corruption Protests

The second round of the 2012 presidential election in Slovenia, in which the former Slovenian PM Borut Pahor defeated the incumbent president Danilo Türk, took place on Dec. 2, amidst ongoing mass protests.

On EurActiv.com, Marko Bucik examined the election campaigns of Pahor and Türk - and commented on the current situation in Slovenia:

[…] Pahor will start his mandate among very tense social and political circumstances. In the past week, numerous mass protests have spread across Slovenia expressing genuine feelings of disappointment and anger about the precarious situation in which Slovenia finds itself merely 21 years after gaining independence.

With the number of those unemployed persistently above 11% and with Slovenia's GDP projected to contract by 2% in 2012 and a further 1.4% in 2013, little optimism is left. The frustrations with the current economic hardship have been further strengthened by perceptions of corruption among the ruling elites, their insensitivity to the population's fears and their inability to cope with the crisis.

[…]

None of the presidential candidates convincingly responded to the social unrest and expression of disaffection that will probably only grow over the coming months. […]

The official results of the election look like this:

(A Wikipedia entry screenshot.)

On Facebook, Blaž Babič presented a somewhat different picture:

For the fellow readers from abroad. New president of Slovenia Mr. Pahor (”Barbie”) won with the votes of 27,7% of the electorate.

The minority of 13,4% wanted to reelect former president Türk.

Those figures are so low because the electorate is fed up with false choices - only 42% did bother to cast a vote at all.

Conclusion - over 72,3% of the electorate did not elect the new president who ran the campaign under the slogan “Together!”.

Babič added:

14.546 ballots were “invalid”. That's 2% of all votes cast.

Majority of them had two ex-post-commy candidates stricken out and option 3. Gotof Si (you're finished) added.

“Gotof si!” is also the last fashion motto of the protest against the corrupt elite.

A screenshot of the Facebook page [sl] of the “Gotof je” protest: “A community for a new Slovenia. Enough of corruption, nepotism, clientelism! WE ARE SLOVENIA”

Dr. Filomena commented on the recent rallies:

[…] Right now, protests are being held in various places around the country, aimed against politics in general, against politicians who have been unable to steer the country clear of the continuously deepening crisis. The protests are spontaneous and no politician or political party dares claim them as their own. They do, however, try to pin them onto others, much to the disgust of the protesters. […]

Ljubljana, Slovenia: Protesters give flowers to the police during a peaceful protest that later turned violent. Photo by Nina Blaž, copyright © Demotix (30/11/2012).

Piran Café shared a photo report from the Nov. 30 rally in the capital city of Ljubljana, which ended in violence:

[…] Upwards of 10,000 people gathered in Ljubljana yesterday, one of seven Slovenian cities where hastily organized demonstrations took place to protest what’s perceived as widespread fraud and corruption, austerity measures, and the economic reform policies of the center-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa. Here in the capital, the demonstration began at 4 pm in Kongresni Trg, or Congress Square, before moving a couple hours later towards Trg Republike, or Republic Square, near Parliament. Protesters were loud and at times blunt, but peaceful. Police stationed near Parliament were relaxed –certainly much more than they were on Tuesday – some of them exchanging banter and conversation with demonstrators. Many were wearing carnations given to them by protesters whose chants included, ‘higher salaries for police’.

I left at about 6:30; an hour later the mood shifted dramatically. Provocateurs, described by many on the scene as well organized and numbering perhaps four to five dozen, began throwing bottles, rocks, bricks and fireworks. Under the spotlight of a helicopter, police soon responded with tear gas. When the rock-throwing idiots were eventually forced from Republic Square and back towards Congress Square, the water cannon was brought in. At night’s end, 33 were arrested and 18 treated for injuries at local hospitals. […]

Water cannons were used against the protesters during the Nov. 30 protest in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo by Luka Dakskobler, copyright © Demotix (30/11/2012).

Another photo report from the Nov. 30 Ljubljana rally was posted on Suncan's Daily Photo:

[…] And then a gang of some 50 (they say) covered up bastards rushed into the crowd and started throwing everything (and yes, they came well prepared) they had in their pockets at the police and the crowd. As someone I know very well (and who I totally believe would not be making up this) described: A guy was standing close to me, and he said into the phone. ‘Ok, it is all ready. Come in now' And then a gang of what she described as highly organised covered up people rushed into the crowd, just a few meters away from me. And that was when all hell broke loose.

So, my honest opinion is: No it wasn't the protesters fault. No, it wasn't the police's fault (I know it sounds weird coming from under the fingers of somebody who does not believe in any repressive government bodies). It was the fault of a few dozen highly organised mercenaries (I have no idea what to call them, but from the description of their actions I do have a feeling that they were paid for this action, so I will use the word mercenary.) As far as I am concerned the main question is: Who paid them?

July 06 2011

Macedonia: Views from Abroad on Protests Against Police Violence

Ordinary people's reactions to the protests against police brutality in Macedonia indicate the strength of the grip of the traditional media, which are not very keen on relaying such “unpopular” news, and highlight the opportunities for solidarity once the information gets through.

Jovana Tozija, a Macedonian woman residing in Germany, wrote [mk, en] about the reactions of her friends:

Many of my international friends asked what’s going on in Macedonia after they saw me spamming on Facebook with links to sites with strange letters and when they saw that I'd changed my profile picture. I briefly explained to them the incident with the murder of Martin Neshkovski. Here are their responses and my personal analysis of their initial instant reactions.

A Russian woman: So? The police killed a man. Why are you making such a big deal out of it? There is nothing you can do about it.

Obviously, the awareness about freedom of speech in this country is not on the highest level. I don’t know if it is because they are afraid or because it is not developed enough. But I do know that there is over-centralized power of the oligarchs and there is literally nothing you can do about it.

An Iranian man: Only one person was killed?

This was his instant reaction. It’s not easy for him as well. He has seen worse. Last year, during the green revolution in Iran, the government was killing young people, just because [Ahmadinejad] would not recognize the electoral fraud. A bunch of progressive young people were protesting and they failed. Many of them were killed and Ahmadinejad is still in power.

A German woman: How can it be that for 2 days it was not known who the boy was and the case was not reported?

The people of this country are used to the fact that the institutions do their job by default. She was not interested in how a member of the special police units could kill a young man, but how the case could stumble throughout the institutions.

A Croatian man: OMG, the police is going to send us to our graves.

I don’t have a comment on this and don’t know what to think about it. I suppose he is a proponent of the [ACAB] theory.

Bulgarian blogger Yurukov wrote [bg] on his blog several days after protests started:

Why no Bulgarian media have informed about this protest for a week? Why do I have to learn about it from Twitter, and only because by chance I follow several Macedonians? What are they waiting for? An official position from the Ministry of the Interior or from [PM Boyko Borisov]? Has it come that far? Are we afraid that the media would be blamed for inciting unrest if the protests spread to Bulgaria? Why even the publications that are considered freer keep silent? Or should we wait for the news to become popular, so we can talk about it?

Yurukov noted that in the week after the protests started, only two internet portals published information in Bulgarian: Dir.bg and News.bg. (In addition, these two exceptional media outlets did not post follow-up articles in the next few weeks.)

The website Stop police violence published an article [mk/sr] about the support for the protests from the female choir “Kombinat” [sl] from Slovenia:

We are sending a photo of support, taken during our concert in [Celje], dedicated to you, who protest against police brutality in Macedonia. We'll send you [a petition] signed at the concert. People in Slovenia have no idea what's going on in Macedonia, because the media do not write or speak about it… Accept our solidarity and support, we are with you in our thoughts and hearts…

No Pasaran!

Kombinat concert in Celje, Slovenia. Photo by Kombinat, used with permission.

Macedonian protesters keep inviting people from abroad to show their support for the protests by writing or making videos about them.

March 14 2011

Japan: Earthquake, “how to protect yourself” in 30 languages

Written by Scilla Alecci

TUFS students launched a website with advices on risk management translated in more than 30 languages.
The website provides “a basic guide in several languages to what to do when you have to evacuate because of the earthquake.”

September 21 2010

Slovenia: Severe Floods and… Surfing?!

By Filip Stojanovski

While severe floods plague Slovenia [SLO], Balkan portals from Croatia to Macedonia keep republishing a video clip named “wakeboarding in Ljubljana at 1am,” showing a car towing a surfer through the streets and passing by a dry cleaning sign.

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