Round table: “In the Name of the People! – Trials against Homosexuals and Lesbians in Croatia, 1945-1977”
The round-table discussion “In the Name of the People! – Trials against Homosexuals and Lesbians in Croatia, 1945-1977”, on the first cluster of sentences for homosexual behaviour found in the Croatian archives.
Knowing that male same-sex sexual relations in Croatia were criminalized until 1977, the Domino Association began to search for sentences that would demonstrate the severity and scope of the persecution of homosexuality in socialist Croatia. In 2009, with the help of volunteers, and under professional guidance of a historian, research was conducted in the Croatian State Archives (HDA), in the Supreme Court of Croatia archival collection (HR-HDA 1596, VS NRH). During this first phase, a dozen sentences for “unnatural fornication” were found, mostly verdicts dating back to the initial post-war years.
These sentences showed that by the mid-1950s in socialist Yugoslavia, homosexuality was branded as a “corruptor of youth” and a “decadent, rotten remnant of the old, overthrown bourgeois regime.” The authorities were convinced that the homosexuals came from the ranks of “decadent intellectuals,” the urban middle class and the clergy, all of whom were perceived as “corruptors of healthy working-class youth.” Especially important was the finding of the complete materials from the probably largest trial against homosexuals ever held in post-war Yugoslavia, when in February 1950, seven men were found guilty of “unnatural fornication.” Moreover, their full names were published in the press where they were called out as enemies – and even saboteurs – of socialism. All of this indicates that the entire proceeding had elements of a show trial, with a clear ideological message (Dota 2017, 167-177).
The materials from the trial contained statements that were given by the accused themselves, and even complaints they wrote against the verdict. These documents bear witness to the forms of resistance some men engaged in against the anti-homosexual policies to which they were subjected. Some argue that homosexuality does not pose any kind social peril but is rather a natural predisposition that should not be punishable in a socialist country. Others cited progressive sexological and other scientific works in order to prove they were neither sick nor perverted.
In January 2010, following the initial phase of research in the Croatian State Archives, a roundtable discussion was held under the title “In the Name of the People! –Trials Against Homosexuals and Lesbians in Croatia, 1945-1977.” This event presented the public with copies of retrieved sentences and summarized the preliminary results of the research project. The speakers were Gordan Bosanac, the director of Domino and research project coordinator, two historians working on the history of homosexuality in socialism, Dean Vuletic and Franko Dota, and Andrea Zlatar-Violić, a literary theorist and, later, Minister of Culture. Furthermore, an article on trials against homosexuals in socialist Croatia was published in the press (Dota 2010a).
Subsequently, the research was expanded to the State Archives in Zagreb (DAZG), where 30 more sentences for “unnatural fornication” were found, mostly from the 1950s and the 1960s.
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Starting year of event
- Bosanac, Gordan
- Dobrović, Zvonimir
Author(s) of this page
- Dota, Franko