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Culture and arts Organisation of resistance Post-war visions

Culture in Resistance: Congress of Cultural Workers, 1944

In the summer of 1944 the partisan liberation and anti-fascist resistance movement had already become a mass and widespread phenomenon throughout the territory of Yugoslavia. In addition to military liberation the leadership of the movement began to increasingly focus on plans for taking over power and organizing life in the country after the end of the war. Important aspects of the new society being formed included, among other things, culture, art, and science. From the beginning of the war the partisans sought broad support among the people and in gaining that support well-known writers, artists, actors and other public figures who actively joined the partisan ranks played a significant role alongside military victories. To emphasize this fact and continue the mobilization of other intellectuals a decision was made to organize a congress of the largest possible number of cultural workers in one place.


One of the most esteemed writers of that time, anti-fascist and partisan Vladimir Nazor, concluded his public invitation to the congress with the following words:


“Do not hesitate, you who, by the grace of the goddess of art, place the crown of beauty atop every honest human creation. Prepare yourselves; our invincible partisan forest will soon call you to a meeting, where Youth and Spring will welcome you on the eve of Victory and Resurrection!”


After extensive preparations at the end of June 1944 in the town of Topusko, about fifty kilometers away from Zagreb, a unique event took place in wartime Europe. Although the end of the war was not yet in sight in the heart of the Independent State of Croatia the First Congress of Cultural Workers of Croatia was held in strict secrecy.


At one location, numerous distinguished writers, scientists, professors, poets, directors, actors, and composers gathered for three days during the congress (25-27 June) delivering lectures and presentations in their respective fields to the members of the partisan movement in attendance. As part of the congress an exhibition of artistic works was held featuring the works of 13 painters and sculptors as well as a photography exhibition depicting the everyday life of the partisans. Due to security concerns and the fear of potential attacks by the Ustasha and German forces the building where the congress took place was completely blacked out from the outside. For the same reasons, lectures were also held in nearby wooded areas and it was common to see small groups of people lying on the grass, listening to the speakers.


It should be noted that following a similar principle and with similar goals the leadership of the partisan movement on liberated territory almost simultaneously organized congresses for lawyers, doctors, teachers, and other professionals.


Hrvoje Klasić

Sources / Further reading
  • Prvi kongres kulturnih radnika Hrvatske, Časopis za suvremenu povijest, Vol. 8 No. 2-3, 1976. Zagreb, Institut za historiju radničkog pokreta Hrvatske (

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