Ante Ciliga was born in the village Šegotići, near Pula, then in the province Istria, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on February 20, 1898. A journalist, writer, politician, communist dissident and pamphleteer, he was one of the most prominent Croatian emigrant intellectuals. He attended primary school and the classics gymnasium in Mostar, and also in Pazin and Brno. He studied in Križevci, Prag, Vienna and Zagreb, where he obtained a doctorate in philosophy in 1924, and he was the first to defend a dissertation on the theme of Marxism at Zagreb University under the title O socijalno-filozofskom aktivizmu Rudolfa Goldscheida: Kritika i obrana marksizma na području filozofije (On Rudolf Goldscheid's socio-philosophical activism: criticism and defence of Marxism in the field of philosophy).
In 1918, he joined Social Democratic Party of Croatia and Slavonia. Shortly afterward, he became one of the founders of the Yugoslav communist movement. He was in Budapest when the Hungarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed in 1919. After the communist fiasco in Hungary, Ciliga left for his native Istria, where he organized an insurrection against Italian authorities in 1921 in an events known as the Proština Revolt. He edited and wrote for Borba, the official publication of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (1923-1925), in which he debated with Serbian communists about the national question in Yugoslavia, advocating a federalist solution. In 1924, he became a member of the Central Committee of the CPY and participated in the Third Congress of the CPY in Vienna in 1926. In the same year, due to persecution because of his illegal party work, he was exiled from the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. From there he moved to Moscow, where lectured at the Communist University of the National Minorities of the West and supported Trotsky in his struggle against Stalin. Stalin therefore had him i jailed briefly in Leningrad, and afterward, in 1930, he was sent to the Siberian concentration camps, where was released in 1935 after the Stalin-Mussolini agreement, as he had Italian citizenship. At the 4th Territorial Conference of the CPY in December1934, Ciliga was branded a Trotskyist. He also parted ways with the Trotskyists very soon, but continued to be loyal to socialist ideas. Later, in 1938, he printed his first great work, Au Pays de gran mensonge (In the Land of the Great Lie) in French, which was among the first books to inform the Western world of Stalinist mass terror. At the time, this testimony led to harsh attacks by the Stalinist CPY. After the German occupation of France, in December 1941 he departed for the Independent State of Croatia, where he was interned in the Jasenovac camp because of his suspect communist biography. After his release from the camp, he began working as a journalist for the weekly magazine Spremnost, writing articles about Soviet communism. In the final of 1944, he travelled to Berlin, whence he fled to the West, in the American military zone, before the Soviet army entered Berlin.
After the war, he lived in Paris until 1958, and prior to his return to Croatia in 1990, he lived continually in Rome. In 1954, he published his second well-known work, his memoir Sam kroz Europu u ratu (Through Europe in the War Alone). Although he had abandoned the communist movement, he continued to write about socialist ideas on the basis of democracy and to criticize party dictatorships. The whole time he cooperated with Croatian émigré communities and wrote about the Croatian national question and the general situation in Yugoslavia. He joined the Croatian National Council, which was chaired by émigré Branimir Jelić. In 1960, together with Krunoslav Draganović, Veljko Mašina and Miroslav Varoš, he founded the Croatian Democratic Parliament, which, after the conflict between Ciliga and Varoš, was called Croatian Democratic and Social Action since 1964. After 1958, he issued a bulletin under various names (Bulletin of Croatian National Council, Bulletin of Croatian Democratic and Social Action and On the Threshold of the Future) with short interruptions until 1984. In it, he dealt with the history of the Yugoslav communist movement and critically assessed Tito's regime. As a former member of the communist movement and a dissident who had transitioned into a hard-core anticommunist, he was branded a political enemy of the regime in Yugoslavia. Tito mentioned him in his paper at the Fifth Congress of the CPY in 1948, in the context of the menace represented by the “counter-revolutionary Trotskyism of Ante Ciliga”. After the communists fell from power in 1990, he returned to Croatia, where he was granted an honorary function in the commission drafting the new democratic constitution in December 1990. He died in Zagreb on October 21, 1992 at age of 94.
- Šegotići, Croatia
Date of death
Author(s) of this page
- Kljaić, Stipe