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Sexual revolution in Croatia in 1960s and 1970s


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Miljan, Zrinka. (2018). Sexual revolution in Croatia in 1960s and 1970s. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of History.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij moderne i suvremene hrvatske povijesti u europskom i svjetskom kontekstu) [mentor Šute, Ivica].

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This research provides a comprehensive scholarly analysis of the sexual revolution in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia – SFRJ, with special emphasis on the Socialist Republic of Croatia – SRC. It departs from a widely accepted definition of the sexual revolution as a socio-political process that includes the protests and demands of young people for free love, legal abortion, contraception, tolerance towards homosexuality, and pornography and examines the influence, presence, and idiosyncratic developments of these processes both on the federal and republic level in SFRJ. Starting hypothesis is that the SFRJ of the 1960s and 1970s, and therefore Croatia as one of its federal republics with certain autonomy and specificities of its own, embraced the pattern and practice of sexuality to which contemporary scholars refer to as the sexual revolution. Based on archival, secondary, and oral sources the research shows that although often viewed as characteristic of mainly democratic and capitalist West of the 1960s and 1970s, the key patterns and processes connected to the sexual revolution can be traced within the women and youth in socialist Croatia. These two social groups often exhibited the same or similar demands that can all be described as the key distinctive features of that which is commonly defined as the sexual revolution. What allowed for this to occur were developments that occurred in the 1960s when socialist Yugoslavia experienced both external and internal political and economic changes. Departing from the Soviet-style communism after Tito-Stalin split, the implementation of new economic policies of economic self-governance, active role in a NonAligned Movement and finally the removal of the untouchable ruler of secret service, Aleksandar Ranković, all opened a wider maneuvering space which allowed for the appearance of more open social demands. However, such social demands were to remain confined within the permitted limits conceived and defined by the Party. To examine these patterns and processes in a wider context, a method of comparison presents the core methodological tool in this work. Thus, the sexual revolution in socialist Croatia is observed and analyzed in the context of the West and the context of the East, i.e., within the dominant political and ideological systems – capitalist and socialist. This approach aims to determine the similarities and differences with regards to the Yugoslav, that is Croatian idea and practice of sexual revolution. Therefore, this research is embedded into the trans-nationality of historical developments and processes by examining these within both nationally and transnationally specific environments. This transnational character presents an important variable because socialist Yugoslavia often positioned and portrayed itself as being in-between of that which was considered ‘normal’ for the West and that which was considered as ‘amoral’ or ‘abnormal,' and thus often forbidden and depicted as deviant, in the East. In general, the sexual revolution in the West and socialist Yugoslavia was primarily carried out by young people. However, these processes in SR Croatia require somewhat different treatment within their specificities. These arise from the fact that SR Croatia was a republic and a society deeply entrenched and built on the key premises of the communist ideology of socialism, which at that time dominated the Eastern Europe. Firstly, this concerns the position of women who, together with young people, present the key actor within the sexual revolution in SR Croatia. The position of women was defined according to the communist idea that their highly visible oppression should and must be dealt within the same context of the working-class oppression since women presented its constituent part. Therefore, it was exactly during the 1960s and 1970s that the position of women started to change rapidly. Primarily, this was connected with women's more active role in everyday political and social life, as well as with the fact that it is exactly in this period possible to trace and measure a significantly higher percentage of women participation in primary, secondary and tertiary economic spheres. By encouraging and establishing better and more adaptable working environment and broadening their educational opportunities, while at the same time increasing the number of childcare facilities in line with improved healthcare, women gained more economic independence. All these developments meant that for the first time women, to an extent, had an opportunity to arrange their lives according to their own needs and desires. As discussed in this research, the crucial link between young people and their demands, with an increasingly more active political and social role of women was provided by the fact that both contraception and abortion were allowed as legal means of protection from unwanted pregnancies. It was precisely the availability of contraception that provided women with a free choice and total control over whether they wished to have children or not. Furthermore, combined with an improved economic situation and educational opportunities’ it also allowed them to decide on their own when and with whom they wish to establish their family. As this research has shown, it was exactly the wider social and political acceptance and availability of contraception to women which opened the space for their more equal societal, political and family inclusion since all of the above-mentioned meant significant reduction of their dependence on men. Having in mind that contraception and abortion were promoted as socially acceptable means for birth control, it comes as a no surprise that contraception, and to an extent abortion as well, became desirable and acceptable not only among women but also among the youth as well. Thus, exactly during the period examined here one can trace an increase in establishment and availability of counseling centers across SR Croatia. These centres had a role in promoting awareness of the consequences of unwanted pregnancy and various available means for its prevention. Seen as a socially and politically accepted means of contraception, abortion in socialist Yugoslavia was legally codified by the 1974 Constitution and was further developed by the 1978 Croatian Law on Health Measures in Implementation of the Right to Freely Decide on Childbirth. A similar attitude can be traced to young people as well, especially students and adolescents. For them, contraception allowed the practice of pure sexual pleasure, without having to fear the unwanted pregnancy and its consequences. In order to provide a more comprehensive picture of the development and influence of contraception among the youth, this issue has been observed in the binary relation of countryside vs. urban centers. Such approach presents a crucial variable to examine and trace the influence of sexual revolution in the countryside as well, although it was largely perceived as an urban phenomenon. It further allows to trace the dissemination of information, and their acceptance among the women and young people living in the countryside and how much of what was perceived as a normal and acceptable behavior had an impact and managed to reach the youth and women outside the major urban areas. What this approach has shown, is that women in the countryside showed significantly more openness to certain changes brought by the sexual revolution from their urban female comrades who were, it seems, more conservative with regards to some practices of free sexuality. The role and position of the youth in the Yugoslav communist-socialist society came to the forefront with world-wide 1968 student protest. Somewhat similar to the sexual revolution pattern, this youth protest also emanated from the West but soon found its way into socialist Yugoslavia. Same is in western countries, the youth and students in Yugoslavia placed similar demands in front of their political leaders which consisted of the better student, working, and housing conditions, employment, and better living conditions for the youth in general. One of the best indicators of the occurring change are the magazines, both of foreign and domestic provenance, widely read by the youth. These included international ones such as Playboy, Er, Lui and others as well as those of the Yugoslav publishers such Start, Polet, Eva and Adam, Čik or Studentski list, whose pages consisted of a significant amount of articles and editorials dedicated to sexuality and to the ‘freedom’ which the sexual revolution brought to socialist Yugoslavia. What is highly interesting, and which indicates what I refer to as the ‘Yugoslav openness to a degree’ is the fact that these magazines often brought articles and expert opinions published in newspapers and magazines in democratic and capitalist countries such as Sweden, the Federal Republic of Germany or the United States. Therefore, besides examining the social and practical role and influence of the sexual revolution and its impact on the youth and women in SR Croatia, this research also examined the third, political level of this process. Such an examination meant studying the position of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and that of Croatia with regards to the occurring changes and demands put forward by their society. This aspect is important because it was the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, both on federal and republic level, which controlled and manipulated the presentation of both political and social discourse. Thus, it had the power to decide over the journal or magazine content considered suitable, timely, and beneficial for its cause and thus made available to women and young people. In conclusion, this research presents one of the first scholarly investigations regarding the transfer, implementation, and to an extent, specific development of the events and processes commonly referred to as the sexual revolution in a socialist country whose society was formed according to the communist values. The processes described here all resembled the patterns that can be observed in the Western democratic world, with one major difference which was that they occurred within the communist-socialist society and political environment. Therefore, they have been structured in such a way to become suitable for a completely different ideological and social basis, i.e., a Marxist-communist dogma of society and politics. While the role and influence of the sexual revolution in socialist Yugoslavia may seem less obvious than in western societies, it is possible to argue that the Yugoslav “model” of the sexual revolution was socially translated in a more comprehensive way than its Western “model”.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: communism, socialist Yugoslavia, sexual revolution, (free) sexuality, sexual education, Americanization, women, youth, Women’s Antifascist Front, women's conference for social engagement, erotic magazines, erotic movies, contraception, abortion
Subjects: History
Departments: Department of History
Supervisor: Šute, Ivica
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij moderne i suvremene hrvatske povijesti u europskom i svjetskom kontekstu
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2018 09:19
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2019 23:15

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