Thursday, 30 May 2019

New Red History Museum in Dubrovnik a Hit: Number 3 on TripAdvisor

May 30, 2019 - Red History Museum, a new museum in Dubrovnik looking at Croatia's socialist past, is proving rather a hit on a topic which usually polarises opinion.

If there is one thing I have learned living in Croatia, it is that talking about Croatia's recent Socialist path is the shortest way to disagreement and argument with someone. 

I can totally understand why the Tito period is so divisive, and why the former Yugoslav leader is so reviled and loved by different sections of the population. 

And so when I heard that two brothers had opened a new museum covering the socialist era in Dubrovnik of all places, I was more than intrigued. It was one thing to have an opinion online about this controversial period of Croatia's past, but it was quite another to have a museum dedicated to it. 

As previously reported on TCN, I went to report on it and was supremely impressed, not only at the rich collections of original material, but also the balanced view that the curators were trying to present of the period. Far from being a glorification of the Socialist era, there was an educational overview of the origins, rise and fall of socialism, followed by a nostalgic tour of a fully-stocked apartment from the socialist years. As a nostalgic reminder of the past, this interactive section (including videos and adverts via the interactive app) have been very popular indeed. But the darker side of Tito's regime is also covered in the Dark Room, with interviews of Goli Otok survivors, for example. The museum is still expanding as more exhibits come in, but this was my experience when I visited earlier this month

I met both the guys behind the museum and was impressed by their tenacity and determination to take on some a brave - and necessary - project. And I have been telling anyone who will listen about the museum since, to rather predictable initial reactions.

"A Red History Museum in Dubrovnik," remarked one. " That is like opening a Dinamo fan shop in Diocletian's Palace."

I sent my article to others, suggesting they share it to tell people about this great museum, but more than one declined, saying they were worried about the online backlash. 

These are reactions I totally understand, which makes my admiration of the guys behind the museum all the stronger, and I have been following their progress. And mighty impressive it is too. 

It seems that those prepared to experience the museum with an open mind have come out more than impressed, and Red History Museum now stands at number 3 out of 26 on TripAdvisor for museums in Dubrovnik. That is no mean feat in any city, never mind Dubrovnik which is a museum in itself. But to do so with such a topic is commendable indeed. 

Learn more about the Red History Museum on the official website

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Red History Museum: Exploring the Good, Bad & Ugly of Croatia's Socialist Past

May 20, 2019 - Talking about Croatia's recent socialist past is one easy way to polarise opinion. Meet Red History Museum, which is taking a different approach, documenting the good, the bad and the ugly from this divisive time in Croatian history. 

I learned a long time ago that the easiest way to alienate sections of Croatian readers is to mention the period of ex-Yugoslavia. Looking back, I was fairly naive, but I learned quickly. And when we put blocks on words such as Tito, Ustase, Partizani and the like, the hate comments and abuse was reduced by 90%.

I can totally understand why the former Yugoslav era was so divisive, and why passions run so high, and I always wondered if it would be possible to portray this important piece of Croatia's recent history in a balanced way - the good, the bad and the ugly. 

And then I found two brothers who have put their entire lives (and savings) over the last two years doing precisely that. 

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I was intrigued when I heard about the new Red History Museum in Dubrovnik, which opened last month. Given the amount of hate mail I get every time I even mention the subject, I was intrigued to see how they were coping with a full-blown museum dedicated to the socialist era, and we had time for a very quick visit on the drive from Budva to Split. 

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The museum is located at "Svetog Kriza 3, in the Carbon Graphite Products Factory - TUP premises. The factory is one of the key monuments of the socialist period in the city of Dubrovnik. It was founded in 1953 in the midst of the post-war industrialization and socialist renewal of the country. It was the leading industrial plant in Dubrovnik and, during the breakup of Yugoslavia, it helped Croatian defenders by producing and repairing weapons necessary for defense and the struggle for independence." 

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The wealth of original authentic material is staggering, as the brothers spent two years travelling around picking up items for their exhibition. There is much more to come, but what they have put together already is mightily impressive. One of the strengths of the museum is its interactive app, which you point at the marked positions on the exhibition. This opens up more information such as old videos etc. I am still trying to get the images of a 1980s bra video advert out of my head, for example. 

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The museum comes in three pieces - history of the rise and fall of socialism in Croatia, including how daily life was affected by the big upheavals; a nostalgia fest of original items from the period which are evoking plenty of childhood memories of favourite items of yesterday in a superbly recreated apartment of the era; and the Dark Room, which examines the incarcerations, murders and secret service. At no point does the museum judge, but presents the items as they are. 

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Learn about a different kind of communism and a communist country that in the midst of the Cold War between the East and the West, between the USA and the USSR, opted for its own way - the Non-Aligned Movement. 

How do people respond to paid vacation, free schooling and healthcare, when (at least in the eyes of the law) women are made equal with men, when expressing national and religious feelings or free political action is banned? 

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What happens when you want to turn a mostly agricultural, rural and very religious country into a predominantly industrial, urban, and atheistic one? 

​Experience almost half a century of life under the communist regime - from secret services and the communist party to pop culture and the development of consumer society. 

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And there were plenty of surprises. 


The Zagreb Bible, which was apparently the first bible translated into Croatian in 1968, during that era when religion was suppressed.


And I learned of the importance of the Dubrovnik Chess Set, which became one of the most popular in the world (and a TCN feature article is coming shortly) after Yugoslavia won the 9th Chess Olympiad in 1950 in Dubrovnik. 

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Of a young lady from Dubrovnik in 1966, who first won Miss Yugoslavia and then went on to become the runner-up in Miss World. 

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The museum documents events up to the end of the socialist state and founding of the modern Croatia. 

But no such museum could be credible without also examining the evil side of the regime.  

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The Dark Room included an interview with a survivor of the Goli Otok camp.

You can watch the full video here.  

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I am sure that there are plenty of people who will have commented just seeing the title of this article, making judgments before they have read it or visited the museum. Such is the modern way. 

But I really applaud these two guys for what they have achieved and will achieve with this project. 

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You can check out the website here - entrance is 50 kuna. And for Croatian speakers, there is an in-depth feature in the video below from local Dubrovnik media. 

The Red History Museum is open daily from 09:00 to 22:00.