Yugoslavia Table of Contents
The most celebrated instance of dissident repression in postwar Yugoslavia was the case of Milovan Djilas. His oftenpublished heretical political views brought Djilas official denunciation by the LCY and imprisonment in the 1950s and 1960s, despite his earlier close association with Tito. Djilas was released from prison after the Rankovic era ended in 1966, but he was harassed long afterward, and similar cases occurred through the following decades. The majority of postwar dissident writers were students and academics whose published material criticized the Yugoslav political system or advocated regional political diversity. Mihajlo Mihajlov, for example, was tried and jailed several times between 1965 and 1975 for propaganda deemed dangerous to the state. In many instances, established writers such as the Serb Dobrica Cosic were allowed to criticize the regime harshly (Cosic called Tito a "spiritual nihilist"), while less influential figures were prosecuted for expressing the same ideas.
In 1968 a group of intellectuals connected with the journal Praxis began conducting an open polemic with the theories of party ideologist Eduard Kardelj. The group soon gained a substantial audience for its attacks on censorship, bureaucracy, and economic planning mistakes. Because the Praxis group used Marxist argumentation very effectively, many of its ideas were applied by economic and political reformers in the early 1980s. Tito finally succeeded in silencing Praxis in 1975, as part of a crackdown on intellectual dissenters centered in Yugoslav universities.
The most widely publicized dissident trial of the 1980s involved the "Belgrade Six," a group of intellectuals arrested in 1984 for planning a meeting with Djilas (whose views remained officially heretical). The group, which for several years had official permission to meet, received international publicity that eventually forced the government to free three members and reduce the sentences of the others.
Throughout the 1980s, measures to control free speech had a legal basis in the uneven civil rights provisions of the Yugoslav Constitution. The Constitution did not specifically protect privacy of communication from police interference; the illdefined concepts of "hostile propaganda," "fostering national hatred," and "derogatory statements" were used to silence troublesome protest voices, most often on the sensitive Kosovo issue; and the lack of a habeas corpus principle made arbitrary detention legal. Although criminal trials in Yugoslavia were open to the public, political trials often were closed in the 1980s. Such techniques were used irregularly, but their existence remained a curb on popular expression (see Dissidence , ch. 5).
In the 1980s, the majority of known political prisoners in Yugoslavia were ethnic Albanians involved in the Kosovo liberation movement. In 1987 nearly all prisoners charged with "most serious political criminal acts" were in this category. According to Yugoslav sources, 1,652 people were tried for political crimes between 1981 and 1985. The Kosovo crisis generated isolated crackdowns on dissent in Serbia (a political show trial in 1984), Slovenia (army court proceedings against government critics in 1988), and Croatia (a blacklist of Croatian intelligentsia in 1984). But public criticism of the government continued in spite of such measures.
Data as of December 1990