For a long time, Tito was praised by the West for his efforts in splitting with Stalin in 1948, so much so that Yugoslavia became one of the key factors in Cold War relations. But the split with Stalin did not just stir diplomatic relations, it also shocked the ranks of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. During the height of the clash with Stalin, Yugoslavs jailed around 13,000 real or alleged Stalin supporters, mostly members of the CPY, on a small, isolated island in the northern Adriatic called Goli Island. From 1949 to 1956, inmates were subjected to hard, often senseless labor and violent “re-education.” The camp was a combination of a complex system of fictional self-management, violence, hard labor and an organizational concept already seen in Nazi camps and the Soviet Gulag, making this labor camp a unique phenomenon in 20th century history. It was, and to some extent even today, is one of the most controversial topics in Yugoslav history.
Martin Previšić is an assistant professor in the Department of History, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. His research and teaching interests focus on political history, the role of party institutions, the role of ideology in socialist Yugoslavia and the history of Communism in Europe. His PhD thesis entitled, “History of the Goli otok Cominformist prison camp 1949 – 1956” was completed in 2014 under the mentorship of Ivo Banac at the University of Zagreb. He was awarded a fellowship in Israel (Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies – Seminar for Holocaust Studies for Educators from Croatia and Slovenia, Jerusalem 2015). In 2017, Previšić held guest lectures at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urbana–Campaign, University of Pittsburgh, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Furman University.