Legacy of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes must be addressed in Montenegro

On the occasion of 23 August – the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of All Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes in the 20th Century – Centre for Civic Education (CCE) takes the opportunity to pay respect to the victims and families of victims of totalitarian regimes, but also to once again appeal to competent institutions to determine the time and manner of commemorating the victims of totalitarian regimes and prevent their fading into oblivion.

The Parliament of Montenegro adopted the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 2006 on the international condemnation of the crimes committed by totalitarian communist regimes, and the European Parliament issued a recommendation emphasizing that each country should determine the time and manner of commemorating the victims of totalitarian regimes, adapting it to its own history and tradition. Unfortunately, in Montenegro, these issues are occasionally raised for manipulative purposes, while a serious and responsible approach to addressing them is lacking. Consequently, they are not on the agenda of the competent institutions.

For example, by establishing the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, the European Union demonstrated its determination to confront the dark past and ensure that such crimes never happen again. This day should serve as a reminder of the need to preserve memory of committed horrors and learn from the past to build a better future, which also includes confronting the traumatic experiences of political prisoners on Goli Otok, which holds particular significance for Montenegro.

Goli otok represents a dark chapter in the history of the former Yugoslavia, where political dissidents and enemies of the communist regime were subjected to torture, repression, and terrible degradation of human dignity. It is the responsibility of the authorities and society to ensure the preservation of the historical truth about this and to remember the victims of Goli otok. Therefore, Goli Otok must become part of official commemorative policies and our educational system, as scientific and pedagogical treatment of this issue lays the foundation for preventing human rights violations and repression, while promoting critical thinking, freedom of expression, and affirmative action. This was also concluded in a recently held seminar on Goli otok, which was organized for history professors by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), the Association of History Professors of Montenegro-HIPMONT, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).

Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in Yugoslavia and Europe left behind severe consequences that shaped history and society in these regions. These repressive political systems were characterized by harsh control over citizens, suppression of freedom of expression and opinion, massive human rights violations, and political stagnation.

This day is an opportunity to remember the victims of Goli otok, as well as other victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in the 20th century, to honour their courage and resistance against injustice, and to jointly ensure that this dark era is not forgotten. We should remember all these systemic crimes as a reminder of the importance of preserving democratic values, human rights, and the rule of law as the foundation of a sustainable and modern society.

Declaration of the European Parliament of 23 September 2008 proclaimed 23 August a European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, and it was confirmed by the European Parliament Resolution on European Conscience and Totalitarianism in 2009.

Tamara Milaš, Human Rights Programme Coordinator