Immediately to the east of the Lopar peninsula is Goli otok (Bare Island), a hummock of arid rock that was used to imprison communists who remained loyal to the Soviet Union after Stalin’s break with Tito in 1948. Over a period of five years, a total of fifteen thousand alleged Stalinists were “re-educated” on Goli otok through forced labour. Few of the prisoners were guilty of seriously plotting against the regime; the majority were minor figures who had simply spoken out against Tito in private and been betrayed by a colleague or friend. Inmates were subjected to a harsh regime of beatings and torture; recalcitrant prisoners had their heads immersed in buckets of human excrement, while those who confessed their ideological errors were recruited to torture the others.

From the mid-1950s onwards, Goli was used to incarcerate common criminals, and the prison regime was softened. Sent here as an army deserter, Romany singing legend Šaban Bajramović (1936–2008) played in goal for the prison football team and performed in the prison orchestra, going on to become a pan-Yugoslav musical superstar after his release.

Around the island

Boats arrive at a port area where the camp’s administrative buildings were based. Nowadays there’s a simple konoba beside the harbour, and a tourist train (the driver doesn’t turn up every day) that trundles round the island. Uphill from the port lies a row of derelict workshops where inmates were set to work sawing the timber shipped over from the mainland. Above the factory zone is a central plateau covered in scrub, and a couple of spartan-looking accommodation blocks and solitary cells. English-language information boards will give you some idea of what went on here. Paths descend to another port area on the eastern side of the island, where most prisoners arrived and departed. It takes about ninety minutes to tour the whole circuit, and temperatures can be scorching in summer; bring appropriate headgear and water.

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