It is the year 1945 and the month of May.
On the 8th of May 1945, Germany signed an unconditional surrender to the 4 powers (Russia, UK, USA, and France) and World War II in Europe officially ended.
Needless to say, it took a few more months of bloody battles in the Pacific and the Japanese island of Okinawa, and 2 atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima to see the end of World War II globally.
A few months before, in February 1945, the leaders of Russia, UK and the USA met in Yalta, Crimea to discuss how the future of Europe would look. Of course, the sphere of influence of Russia had been sealed.
All ex-allies of Germany (Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania) somehow became buffer zones between the West and East. There is one communist country which didn’t like that idea.
That country was called Yugoslavia, once upon a time.
Stalin, on behalf of Russia, told brotherly Yugoslavia and its leader Marshal Tito to hop on the train and ride together toward the red dawn of communism.
Stalin expressed his concerns that the Communist Party of Yugoslavia didn’t follow the principles of Marxism, that they were thieves, looters and literally embarrassing Communism.
In 1948, Stalin withdrew military consultants from Yugoslavia because Tito didn’t like the idea that the USSR were interfering with the internal affairs of Yugoslavia and geopolitical relationships.
However, the crumbling relationship between Yugoslavia and the USSR culminated because Yugoslavia started helping Greek communists in Greece (1944 – 1949). Stalin didn’t like that one bit because he didn’t give his blessing.
Stalin had stipulated that Yugoslavia was having too great a bilateral relationship with the West and that they would become bourgeois and stop being communist.
Stalin started flexing his muscles in the countries surrounding Yugoslavia and threatening a full scale invasion.
Stalin asked true communists of Yugoslavia to remove Tito and his government. No doubt, there were a number of communists in Yugoslavia who were not so happy with Tito and they sided with Stalin.
In a nutshell, the USSR conjured a civil war in Yugoslavia.
Tito responded with his famous "NO" to Stalin in 1948, and Tito not only started a new era in Yugoslavia's relations with the Soviet Union, but also one of the country's bloodiest chapters following the Second World War.
Execution and imprisonment was the fate given to those who went rouge against the Yugoslavia Communist Party and its leader Marsal Tito.
Economically, Yugoslavia sided temporarily with the West which made Stalin angrier and even more revengeful. Why? because no one says “NO” to Mr Stalin.
At the end of 1948 Tito and the Communist Party authorised investigations (torture and interrogations, applying all the forbidden methods in order to obtain confessions) for citizens who supported Stalin and the USSR, and even people who listened to Russian songs.
Imagine, imprisonment of those who saw Stalin and Russia as a raw model, those who believed in communism and that all communists across the globe are equal.
We all heard or saw in movies about the infamous prison called Alcatraz, popularly called The Rock.
Alcatraz is situated in San Francisco Bay and prisoners could see San Francisco, land in the distance. It was considered to be a maximum security prison.
What you never heard about was the most brutal political prison. A prison that even Russia’s Gulags are considered kindergartens by comparison.
Now imagine an island 4.5 km2 in size, uninhabited, only rock and more rock.
The sun above, sea around. No fresh water.
Tito and his close associates belonging to a security-intelligence apparatus decided to turn this rock into a political prisoner camp.
That camp was called Naked Island, Goli Otok.
The most well-known political prisoner camp in socialist Yugoslavia, Naked Island is one of the historical phenomena that has not yet been thoroughly studied.
The camps were a top-secret state operation at the time they existed.
Prisoners of Naked Island said that in the German concentration camps, Germans would kill the body, but the Yugoslavian prison, Naked Island, was designed to kill humanity and the human within the body.
The welcome party for new groups of prisoners was organised by prison guards. They made 2 columns of one or two thousand prisoners beat the passing new inmates.
Daily work consisted of extreme hard labour, smashing the rock and building a camp from that rock.
This prison was organised to re-educate political prisoners in the following way:
3. Prove yourself a worthy member of the Yugoslavian Communist Party
Interestingly enough, the prison stopped taking political inmates in 1956 after Yugoslavian- Russian relationships improved.
The Prison didn’t close its doors; on the contrary, it was used until 1989 when it was officially closed.
Books and newspaper articles addressing that delicate subject didn't start to appear until the middle of the 20th century.
There is still not enough information available on the network of pro-Soviet opposition camps and prisons in Yugoslavia.
The majority of the materials were unavailable for many years due to the politically sensitive nature of the topic.
Is there any chance that significant sources have been saved at all?
The documentation was destroyed; therefore, the precise number of prisoners is still unknown.
The reasoning behind this practice is likely to do with the fact that the documentation about the camps also included evidence of the breadth and depth of repression, which may subsequently be utilised against UDB officials or specific politicians in the event of any unforeseen developments.
"Dissidents" started to be transported to Goli Otok in July 1949, a little over a year after the then Soviet Union published the Informbiro Resolution to appoint a new political leadership for Yugoslavia. This was following the breakup between Josip Broz Tito and Joseph Stalin.
Due to its isolation, lack of drinking water, and inaccessibility, the same named island in the Adriatic Sea has a reputation as a notorious camp.
Before that, the Soviet Union and its leader were portrayed as Yugoslavia's closest friends, and Soviet models in the economy, culture, sports, and other fields were imitated and put into practice.
Naked Island is a place where people were "re-educated" to change their opinions because they could not accept that this was no longer the case or were thought to be on Stalin's side.
Dissidents were typically sentenced to "re-education" by administrative decision without being tried, while military members were tried in simulated trials. They were given sentences of at least three and as much as twenty years in solitary confinement.
According to Wikipedia, 16,101 persons who passed through Naked Island and other information bureau camps between 1949 and 1956 have names listed in the 1963 Census prepared by the UDBA.
In these detention facilities for information bureau officers, 413 prisoners died in various ways (murder, suicide, natural death).
The precise number of detainees was never determined, as I previously stated, therefore the documents contain a variety of information, some of which read:
In Yugoslavia, 55,663 individuals have received sentences, "according to the IB line", since 1948.
The number of victims ranges from 17,000 to 60,000, and it is still unknown how many convicted or unconvicted individuals (of whom there were the majority) remained on Naked Island.
Additionally, although some estimates put the number of victims at several thousand, it is believed that about 500 captives were killed or died in the camp (i.e., the intention was not to kill people but to kill the spirit).
To end, I would like to highlight one thing.
Communism was notorious for executing their own pupils, those who were leaders, intelligentsia and true revolutionists because they represented a threat to those who came to power, thanks to those who were true believers in communism and revolution.
A great example we can see is where Che Guevara was executed by his second in charge, Fidel Castro and Fidel executed all his associates.
Naked Island was not only hell on earth but a place where security intelligence apparatuses trained themselves in the ways of torture and interrogation.