Nikola Čolak Collection
The collection documents the work of Croatian historian and political émigré Nikola Čolak (1914-1996). In 1966, he belonged to a group of academics and thinkers from Zadar, who officially sought to break the Communist Party's monopoly on truth by establishing the first journal not controlled by the Party. After the suppression of this initiative, Čolak was forced into exile in Italy. The so-called Movement of Independent Intellectuals represented the first attempt to create a formal cultural opposition circle not only in Croatia, but in Yugoslavia as a whole, which is recorded through this collection.
Zagreb Trg Marka Marulića 21, Croatia 10000
Show on map
Name of collection
Nikola Čolak Personal Papers
Provenance and cultural activities
Nikola Čolak was one of the most prominent Croatian political émigrés in the time after World War II. His collection thus represents a significant historical source for studying Croatian émigré and dissident processes in the period of socialist Yugoslavia. Its institutionalization in the Croatian State Archives (CSA) was implemented through a grant agreement with Mrs Terezija Đurić, Čolak's wife. By the time the collection had landed in the CSA, it was the property of his wife and his children, with a smaller part of the collection been kept by the Janjevo Association Zagreb since 1997.
The collection was created at Čolak's initiative as its primary creator and collector. There was no predetermined goal in its creation, except to serve as Čolak’s personal archives. The greater part of the collection documents his émigré life in Italy from 1966 until his death in 1996. During Čolak's employment in the Historical Archives in Zadar (1954-1960), he became aware of archival preservation, which surely contributed to the completeness and soundness of his collection.
In 1966, Čolak had to go into exile because of his participation in an initiative by Zadar intellectuals who wanted to establish the first opposition periodical in Yugoslavia, not controlled by the one-party state. Mihajlo Mihajlov, a young assistant in the Russian Language and Literature Department at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities in Zadar and later one of the most distinguished Yugoslav dissidents, was the leader of this group. Besides, Čolak, there were other people in the circle around Mihajlov, such as Danijel Ivin, Mirko Vidović, Davor Aras, Boža Pavlović, Predrag Ristić, Marijan Batinić and Franjo Zenko. They were intellectuals with differing political and world views, ranging from reform socialists to anti-Marxist conservatives like Čolak and Vidović. Together with Čolak, some of them felt that Yugoslavia did not solve the national question of the Croats and other Yugoslav nations, while others thought that Yugoslavia was the best framework for the development of these nations. Their common ground was a commitment to the freedom of speech, thought and expression within the context of Yugoslav socialism.
Since the collection was held in Italy until its arrival in the CSA, it was not hidden from the regime nor was it subject to censorship. Given that Čolak was considered an enemy of the regime, his books and the other contents of the collection were banned in socialist Yugoslavia. In his émigré works, Čolak criticized the political and social monopoly of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and socialism and the existence of a unitary Yugoslav state, advocating for a democratic and independent Croatian state. Most of the collection is open to the public. It is kept in paper format and has not been digitized thus far. Apart from the Croatian language, the collection contains documents in the Serbian, Italian, German, French and English languages.
Description of content
The Collection is instituted under aquisition no. 44/2006 and arranged in an archivistic way. After processing it has 223 archival boxes. It includes both books and archival records. There are 1.192 book volumes, mainly historical literature. Archival records mostly relate to Čolak's longtime research work and activities in exile. A small part relates to his schooling (faculty notes), activity in archival, educational and scientific institutions (notes, texts, reports, seminars), participation in the academic and professionals meetings (concepts, notes, texts, sketches, circulars). There is a hemeroteque and a bibliography of Nikola Čolak. From the period before his exile the most important part of collection is the cooperation with Mihajlo Mihajlov and their attempt to establish an oppositional periodical entitled Slobodni glas (The Free Voice). Besides, Čolak's collection contains the archive of The Free Voice, which is a not widely known information.
Apart from it, the collection contains the manuscripts of his own books (in Italian and Croatian) published in exile, in which he describes his life in Yugoslavia under communists (Behind a barbed wire: fate of Croatia in Serbo-Communist Yugoslavia, Communist Yugoslavia: between the dissent of intellectuals and the state-right of Croatia, Action of the Tenth April in the light of the crown testimony of Ivan Prusac and documentation). There are articles on political issues about Yugoslavia and the Croatian national question that he published in different Italian (Il Resto di Carlino, La Reppublica, Il Mattino, Il Messagero) and Croatian émigré press ( The Croatian Review, The Croatian State). From his editorial work there are material (texts, financial reports, notes) from émigré journals.
Čolak belonged to various émigré organizations such as the Croatian National Comitee and Croatian Liberation Movement, about which he wrote. His correspondence includes members of the Croatian political emigration after World War II (Branimir Jelić, Bruno Bušić, Jere Jareb, Jakša Kušan, Vjekoslav Lasić, Mirko Vidović, Vinko Nikolić, Višnja Pavelić, Srećko Pšeničnik, Bogdan Radica, Ivo Rojnica etc..) and dissidents from Yugoslavia (Mihajlo Mihajlov, Danijel Ivin). The collection is saved in a paper format and not digitized. Except from Croatian, languages of the collection are also Serbian, Italian, German, French and English.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Padova, Padua, Italy
Show on map
Creators of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- Čolak, Nikola. Struggle goes on: independent Yugoslav intellectuals are not surrendering, in Italian, 1966. Manuscript
- Čolak, Nikola. Communist Yugoslavia: between the dissent of intellectuals and the state-right of Croatia, in Italian, 1978. Manuscript
- Čolak, Nikola. Mihajlo Mihajlov and the meaning of his political struggle, in Croatian, 1966. Manuscript
- Čolak, Nikola. Truth about Yugoslavia, in Croatian, 1970. Manuscript
- Čolak, Nikola. Yugoslavia and united Europe, in Italian, 1970. Manuscript
- parts are closed to the public
Authors of this page
- Kljaić, Stipe
- Čolak, Nikola. Iza bodljikave žice: svjedočanstvo o životu Hrvatske u srbokomunističkoj Jugoslaviji, sestrama i braći, Hrvaticama i Hrvatima žrtvama srbokomunističke invazije Hrvatske (Behind a barbed wire: a testimony about the life of Croatia in Serbo-Communist Yugoslavia, to Croatian brothers and sisters, victims of the Serbo-Communist invasion of Croatia). Padua: Nikola Čolak, 1977.
- Čolak, Nicola. La jugoslavia comunista: Fra il dissenso dell'intellighenzia e il diritto di stato della Croazia (Communist Yugoslavia: between the dissent of intellectuals and the state-right of Croatia. Venice: Centro di Studi Storici Croati, 1979.
- Čolak, Nikola. Personal Papers (boxes 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 173, 189, 190, 191). HR-HDA-1946, Croatian State Archives. Zagreb.
- Čoralić, Lovorka. "In memoriam Nikola Čolak (1914.-1996.)." Radovi Zavoda za hrvatsku povijest 29 (1996), 412-413. http://hrcak.srce.hr/50175 (accessed on 20 June 2017)
- Vidović, Mirko. Kako je nastao pokret nezavisnih intelektualaca u Zadru: testament disidentske generacije (How was the movement of independent intellectuals launched in Zadar: a testament of a dissident generation). Zagreb: Škorpion d.o.o., 2013.
Bosnar, Marijan , interview by Kljaić, Stipe , November 15, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection
Podhraški Čižmek, Zrinka , interview by , February 07, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection