Decadents and Saboteurs: Homosexuals on Trial in Post-war Socialist Yugoslavia (1945-1955)

Monday, March 26, 2018
1201 International Affairs Building (12th Floor, 420 W 118th St)

Please join us for a talk with Franko Dota, historian and postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka, Croatia.

Of all the twentieth century, the first five years of Communist rule were the harshest for Yugoslav homosexuals. From 1945 till the mid-1950s at least 250 homosexuals were prosecuted as criminals, some of them even as saboteurs of the socialist project, while many others were arrested, detained and interrogated about their sexual life. Homosexuality was branded as a corruptor of youth and a decadent, rotten remnant of the old, overthrown bourgeois regime.

At the same time, the highest echelons of the Communist Party together with legal experts in the Ministry of Justice in Belgrade came to a radically different conclusion: it is the concept of sexual morality and chastity that is non-socialist, non-progressive, bourgeois and saturated with religious worldview. To keep it in the Penal Code would be at odds with the modernist, revolutionary and secular socialist project. Therefore, a complete decriminalization of same-sex sexual contacts was proposed. This proposal ignited an intense and heated debate.

Franko Dota, PhD is a historian and postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka, Croatia, where he teaches courses on historical theory and methodology. His doctoral dissertation, completed in 2017 at the Department of History, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, is the first broad historical reconstruction of the political, legal and medical history of male homosexuality in socialist Yugoslavia (1943-1989). He is also the author of a book on conflicting memories and narratives of migrations of Italians from Istria following World Word II (Zaraćeno poraće, Zagreb, 2010). Franko Dota is active in the Croatian LGBT movement and was among the founding members of Zagreb Pride organization.

Event image: Illustration of a feature on homosexuality in the Yugoslav weekly Start (April 1980), author Mirko Ilić.