Friday, 30 September 2016

Zlatko Tomičić - Croatian Poet and Dissident - JCS 21


(Some Bio-bibliographical Data)


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Journal of Croatian Studies, XXI, 1980, – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.
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Zlatko Tomičić was born on May 26, 1930, in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where his father, a tailor from Lika, and his mother, a civil servant from Slavonia, were then living. He completed his secondary education in Vinkovci, Slavonia, and graduated from the Philosophical Faculty of the Hrvatska Sveučilište (Croatian University) in Zagreb. Under other circumstances he would probably have become a professor of comparative literature and of the Czech and Slovak languages.

But, as Tomičić himself pointed out in a 1967 interview in Kerub, "the artist in a small nation like Croatia is not only an artist but also a self-sacrificing cultural worker. At any time that Croatian literature has threatened to become artificial, it has been revived through healthy struggle in the cultural field". Consequently, Tomičić was compelled from 1948 to 1954 to work as a journalist in Yugoslavia, but his dissident views made it ever more difficult for him to work for the government-controlled press. From 1954 to 1968 he made a living as a free-lance writer and through the publication of his literary works.

In 1968, two years after Tito's dismissal of Alexander Ranković --the Yugoslav Beria, long-time secret police chief notorious for his cruelty, especially toward the Croats— in an atmosphere of deceptive liberalization Tomičić and his associates of the literary circle TIN started to publish a monthly called Hrvatski kniževni list (The Croatian Literary Journal). Because it was the first independently published periodical in Yugoslavia since the establishment of the Communist regime in 1945, and also because of its dissident and Croatian nationalist views, Hrvatski književni list rapidly became a mass-circulation publication, pulling ahead of all government sponsored newspapers and magazines published in the Socialist Republic of Croatia. No doubt this was the reason that in 1969 the Communist authorities suppressed Tomičić's journal, although neither he nor his associates were charged with criminal violations at that time. However, following Tito's purges of 1971-72 Tomičić was arrested. Incidentally, the same destiny that befell Tomičić's Hrvatski književni list awaited Hrvatski tjednik (The Croatian Weekly), a biweekly issued by Matica hrvatska, the most prestigious Croatian national cultural institution and publisher, whose chief editor was Vlado Gotovac, another distinguished Croatian poet, philosopher, and dissident.[1]

After his arrest in 1972 Tomičić was held in prison for several months before he was brought to trial on various charges dating back to 1962. Among other things, Tomičić was charged with "seeking forcibly to overthrow the Yugoslav system and government", with having written the "Fourth Epistle to the Croats," in which he had "openly called for the separation of the Socialist Republic of Croatia from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia"; and furthermore, with having written and circulated an unpublished poem "Obećana zemlja" (The Promised Land); and finally, that he was in touch with and had received correspondence from various "enemy exiles from Croatia now living in the USA". As the result, on November 5, 1972, Tomičić was sentenced to three years in prison, but on March 15, 1973, the Supreme Court of Croatia found Tomičić guilty of additional charges and increased his sentence to five years at hard labor. The Supreme Court found "evidence" that the defendant Tomičić had "falsely alleged that a majority of the Croatian people wish to separate Croatia from Yugoslavia and establish their own independent Croatian Stare". The decision of the Supreme Court moreover asserted that through his contacts with the Croatian emigration Tomičić had encouraged the emigré press to attack the Yugoslav government.

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