Iljko Karaman Collection of Court Records on Censorship
The Iljko Karaman Collection is an archival collection established in 1949 by the Zagreb Deputy Public Prosecutor, Iljko Karaman (1922-2010), who deposited the collection at the Croatian State Archives in 1992. The collection includes unique material related to state censorship practices in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Independent State of Croatia, the People’s Republic of Croatia and the latter Socialist Republic of Croatia until the 1980s.
Zagreb Trg Marka Marulića 21, Croatia 10000
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Name of collection
The Iljko Karaman Collection of Court Records on Censorship
Provenance and cultural activities
After the Republic of Croatia gained independence in 1991, Iljko Karaman (1922-2010), Zagreb District Deputy Public Prosecutor, decided to institutionalise his private archival collection on state censorship by depositing it at the Croatian State Archives (CSA). The material was brought in to the CSA on several occasions in May and July 1992, already arranged chronologically into pre- and post-WWII categories, and packed into twelve bundles. Karaman left a personal note written a couple of months before the actual delivery (3 March), explaining the provenance and organisation of his collection. The note is an exquisite testimony to his collecting strategy.
In Karaman’s words, the collection came into being in the summer of 1949, when working as a young investigator in the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office of the newly established Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. At the front of his office, he spotted a pile of censorship case files, originally from the pre-war Yugoslav State Prosecutor’s Office and destined for recycling in a paper factory. Karaman became interested in its content and pulled out from the pile, among other things, confiscated flyers, newspaper articles, foreign newspapers, and other confiscated and unconfiscated publications inserted in the files. He decided to take them home. Although Karaman provides an explanation only to the way in which he collected pre-war material, it becomes apparent from the content of the bundles that after this initial enterprise, he continued to assemble documents on an ongoing basis, mostly copies of indictments, reports and other materials generated or confiscated by the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office and stored them in his archive. His position at the Press Department, where he worked on different cases, enabled him to acquire the copies without the fear of being discovered.
In his note, he later admits regretting not having preserved juridical verdicts on confiscations, while acknowledging that the dubious circumstances of those times were the main reason for not doing so. He points out not keeping the verdicts at home as it would have posed a problem, had his flat been searched by the police. The unauthorised possession of such material might very well have been deemed a serious crime against the People and State according to the Press Act (Article 11) of 31 August 1945. It explicitly forbade the distribution and selling of seditious publications, all subsumed under “hostile propaganda”, and which could pose a threat to the constitutional order.
Karaman believed it was important to safeguard the confiscated material, but does not explain the role of his collection. It seems his desire was to make the long concealed material freely available to historians for research purposes following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, given that after 1945 there was no official censorship in the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. This lack of censorship was explicitly stated in the first Constitution of 31 January 1946. There Article 27 states “Citizens are guaranteed freedom of the press, of association, assembly, to gather in public and participate in manifestations”, and in the Press Act of 31 October 1960, where Article 3 says “The publishing of information requires no formal reporting or approval. Censorship does not exist, except in the case of mobilisation or wartime”. Unofficially, the opposite was true, as the Iljko Karaman collection clearly demonstrates.
The Iljko Karaman Collection reveals Yugoslav state control activities over the press during a period of almost forty years, from 1945 to 1984. To maintain total control over the cultural memory of the newly-established Yugoslav state, and finally break with the past, the communist authorities took all possible measures to purge libraries and bookshops from ideologically ill-suited publications in the period from 1945 to 1952. By that time, the Yugoslav Communist Party had already seized absolute political power, which was exercised in Soviet style, at a time when other communist parties only began their ascent in Eastern Europe. Confessions of possessing incriminating books were extorted from people even under death threats, and the searching of residences was a daily occurrence. The communist ruling elites in Croatia especially feared ideologically opposing literary works, published during the collaborationist Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945). Their distribution and selling were strictly forbidden by enacted laws, not least because of their anti-communist content. To suppress dissent and opposition, a range of censoring procedures were developed within both governmental structures and the Party, the most notable being the Agitation and Propaganda Department (“Agitprop”).
Accordingly, possessing blacklisted books was considered a criminal offence. Before the Cominform Resolution of 28 June 1948, and the break with Stalin, the Soviet doctrine dominated Yugoslav legal thought and justice was administered in the Soviet style. Perpetrators of criminal offences were processed primarily by the public prosecutor. After WWII, the public prosecutor became an influential figure in criminal proceedings with very broad powers similar to that of the Soviet procurator, and which included controlling the application of legislation against the press. In addition, the public prosecutor conducted criminal inquiries with the assistance of the police but in the absence of an investigative judge. This Soviet-styled legal system meant that the rights of the accused were very limited and allowed repressive state apparatuses freedom to operate.
It seems that Iljko Karaman, who in his words worked as an investigator at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in 1949 and was, therefore, a trustworthy member of the regime, took high risks in disobeying the law, which forbade the possession of blacklisted publications. He used his authorised status to gain possession of classified documents and collect evidence on the real nature of the communist government. These documents and evidence became part of his private collection. After the fall of communism, it became an excellent source for investigating censorship practices in the Yugoslav communist regime and indicating how it dealt with cultural opposition – writers, journalists, public intellectuals. Historians studying Yugoslav censorship, such as Josip Grbelja, assert that the Iljko Karaman Collection reveals for the first time the entire list of these authors in postwar socialist Croatia, whom the Communist Party considered cultural enemies par excellence. Press laws were, in fact, political laws, as acknowledged by the regime itself and evident in the very laws, and any expression of cultural opposition was also considered the political opposition.
Description of content
The collection includes judiciary documents, various publications and archival documents such as books, leaflets, newspapers containing prohibited articles, newspapers delivered to preventive and suspensive censorship to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. It was Iljko Karaman who organised the archival and printed material he had brought to the CSA, dividing them into twelve thematically categorised bundles. Once at the CSA, the publications were separated from archival documents and handed over to the library. The remainder was stored in two archival boxes.
Karaman made a detailed list of the materials in Bundles I-VI, which now helps to do searches in the reading room (the collection is yet to be processed ). He also wrote notes on the covers of other bundles describing their content. Bundles I-VII contain materials from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia State Prosecutor’s Office in Zagreb dating from 1912 to 1941, whereas bundles VIII-XI from the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office relate to the socialist period (1945-1984). Karaman’s bundle XII is titled “Journals, newspapers and similar publications printed in Zagreb in 1970 and 1971 (with a few exceptions) and received at the Press Department of the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office.” The list contains 28 confiscated publications printed in 62 volumes and documenting the turmoil of the reformist movement known as the “Croatian Spring” (1970-1971). The volumes were handed over to the CSA library except for Omladinski tjednik (Youth Weekly) (15 April 1970) and Telegram (10 December 1970) containing prohibited articles, which were left in the box 2.
Karaman himself named and labelled all these bundles: VIII – “Indictments of the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office from the period 1945 to 1948” (Box 1); IX – “Reports from the Press Department of the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office from the period 1959 to 1970” (Box 2). This important bundle is further subdivided into: a) “A List of banned books and magazines” (16 March 1946); b) “Books that need to be urgently prohibited and their further circulation prevented” – a blacklist of 150 banned authors (ca. 1946); c) A transcript of the report to the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the People’s Republic of Croatia on the work of public prosecutor’s offices in applying the Press Act (26 March 1958); d) Yearly reports on the work of the public prosecutor’s offices (1959-1983); X – “Sections of reports by the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office on political criminality in the period from 1971 to 1984” (Box 2); XI – “Instructions for the courts in criminal and civil issues from 1944 and different circular letters from activities by the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office in the period 1945 to 1948” (Box 2): XII - “Journals, newspapers and similar publications published in Zagreb in 1970 and 1971 and received by the Press Department at the Zagreb District Public Prosecutor’s Office” (Box 2).
Although small in scope, the Iljko Karaman Collection is a starting point for researchers interested in the socio-political aspect of censorship in socialist Croatia and examines how communist censorship functioned in practice and its institutionalisation. As a historical source, its content is especially significant for investigating the practices of retroactive or suspensive censorship, as documented in numerous publications that Karaman took from the archive of the Press Department at the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
- legal and/or financial documentation: 500-999
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 100-499
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- List of Books and Newspapers Which Were to Be Urgently Prohibited and Prevented from Further Distribution, ca 1946. Manuscript
- List of Forbidden Books and Newspapers, 1946. Manuscript
- Poster with an invitation for a students' general strike at the University of Zagreb, 1971. Publication
- The indictment against four girls for printing and distributing anti-Bolshevik leaflets, 1945. Manuscript
- parts are closed to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Shek Brnardić, Teodora
Cirkveni, Neven. „The Criminal Justice System of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: The Role of the Public Prosecutor (1943-1991)“. PhD diss., University of Connecticut, 1997.
Cirkveni, Nenad, and George F. Cole. 1990. "Prosecution in the Criminal Courts of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, Yugoslavia." Criminal Justice Review 15, no. 1: 37-47. Accessed October 4, 2016. doi:10.1177/073401689001500105.
Dović, Marijan. 2008. "Totalitarian and post-totalitarian censorship: From hard to soft?." Primerjalna Knjizevnost 31: 167-178. Accessed October 4, 2016.
Gabrič, Aleš. "Cenzura v Sloveniji po drugi svetovni vojni : od komunističnega Index librorum prohibitorum do ukinitve verbalnega delikta = Censorship in Slovenia after the World War II : from the communist Index librorum prohibitorum to abolition of the "verbal offence"." Primerjalna književnost 31 (2008): 63-77, 221-236.
Grbelja, Josip. Cenzura u hrvatskom novinstvu: 1945.-1990. (Censorship in the Croatian journalism). Zagreb: Naklada Jurčić, 1998. (a partial list of „Books that need to be urgently prohibited and their further circulation prevented” and a complete "List of banned books and magazines (16 March 1946)” from bundle IX on pp. 92-97)
HR-HDA-1803 Zbirka sudskih spisa o cenzuri Iljka Karamana (a digitised finding aid for the use in the reading hall) (o. 1992.)
Haramija, Predrag, ed. Stoljeće političkog plakata u Hrvatskoj: Kabinet grafike HAZU, lipanj - srpanj 1992. (A Century of the Political Poster in Croatia). Zagreb: Kabinet grafike Hrvatske akademije znanosti i umjetnosti, 1992. (Note: Iljko Karaman collection is not mentioned explicitly, only in the box 2 there is a note that the material was borrowed for this exhibition)
Hebrang Grgić, Ivana. 2000. "Zakoni o tisku u Hrvatskoj od 1945. do danas (Publishing Legislation in Croatia from 1945 to present)." Vjesnik bibliotekara hrvatske 43, no. 3: 117-134.
Karaman, Iljko. 1992. A personal note added to the file, HR-HDA-1803, Croatian State Archives, March 3, 1992.
Krapac, Davor. 1992. "The Role of the Public Prosecutor in (Former) Yugoslavia." Zbornik Pravnog fakulteta u Zagrebu 42, no. 3: 5-22.
Mihaljević, Josip. 2016. Komunizam i čovjek: Odnos vlasti i pojedinca u Hrvatskoj (1958. – 1972.) (Communism and Man: the Relationship between the Government and the Individual in Croatia, 1958-1972). Zagreb: Hrvatski institut za povijest.
Vukelić, Deniver. 2012. “Censorship in Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1952." PECOB's Papers series 19: 1-56. Pristup ostvaren 4. listopada 2016. (a complete "List of banned books and magazines (16 March 1946 )” on pp. 26-27, and a complete list of "Books that need to be urgently prohibited and their further circulation prevented" from bundle IX on pp. 48-52).
“Zakon o javnom tužilaštvu (Law on the Public Prosecution).” Službeni list SFRJ 21, no. 7 (1965): 149-153.
Zakon o štampi i drugim oblicima informacija (Law on the press and on other informing forms). (Beograd): Službeni list FNRJ, 1960.
Zakoni o udruženjima i zborovima, o štampi i izdavanju i raspač̌avanju omladinske i dečje književnosti i š̌tampe (Laws on associations and assemblies, on the press and on the publishing and distribution of youth and children's literature and press). Beograd: Službeni list FNRJ, 1947.
Zima, Snježana, e-mail message to Teodora Shek Brnardić, September 7, 2016.
Zrnić, Dijana. 2015. "Yugoslav Literature Under (Il)legal Censorship, 1945–90." Law & Literature 28, no. 2: 139-152. Accessed on October 4, 2016. doi:10.1080/1535685x.2014.989707.
Bukvić, Nenad, interview by Shek Brnardić, Teodora , May 10, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection