Croatian State Security Service Collection on Religious Communities
The collection belongs to the group of the most relevant archival resources for researching the communist regime’s relationship with and repression against religious communities in Croatia, and their organisations, priests and other religious officials. It contains documents collected or produced by the State Security Service of the Republic Internal Affairs Secretariat of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, the civilian security and intelligence service in Croatia in the period from 1946 to 1990. Different cultural opposition activities of certain religious communities and their members can be studied on the basis of its documents. Criticism (concealed and public) of communist rule and its social and political system, i.e. the official doctrine of atheism, is especially visible.
Zagreb Trg Marka Marulića 21, Croatia 10000
HR-HDA-1561. State Security Service of the Republic Internal Affairs Secretariat of the Socialist Republic of Croatia. Internal issues. Religious communities.
Kilmė ir kultūrinė veikla
The collection belongs to the group of the most relevant archival resources to research the communist regime’s relationships with and repression against religious communities in Croatia. Its content is entirely relevant to cultural opposition topics. Several scholarly papers and publications have been published so far on the basis of collection’s documents. The collection was handed over to the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb on an ex officio basis from the public authorities on two occasions: a minor part of these documents was handed over in 1992 from the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Croatia, and the majority from the Security and Intelligence Agency of the Republic of Croatia in 2015.
According to its constitutional provisions, the Yugoslav communist regime guaranteed the freedom of conscience and religious liberty to all citizens, but sharply restricted the scope of religious communities. Separation of church and state was firmly established. Under communist rule, freedom in religious affairs and in conducting religious ceremonies was guaranteed to those religious communities whose teachings were not contrary to the constitution. Seminaries for the education of priests were
free, but under general state surveillance. The use of church and faith for political purposes and the formation of political organisations on religious grounds were forbidden. In principle, it was stipulated that the state could financially assist religious communities (Article 25 of the Constitution of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia of 1946; Article 26 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of Croatia of 1947; Mihaljević 2011, p. 40). Under the federal and republic Constitutional Acts of 1953, those provisions were not amended. The SFRY Constitution of 1963 reiterated that the manifestation of a person’s religion is a free and private matter. As a novelty, the right of religious communities to own real property was added, albeit within the limits laid down by federal law (Article 46) (Mihaljević 2011, p. 44). The same provisions were included in the Constitutional Acts of 1974 (Article 174 of the SFRY Constitution of 1974; Article 258 of the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Croatia of 1974).
In practice, within the framework of its atheistic ideology the communist regime – to put it briefly – looked unfavourably upon religious communities. It saw a severe and dangerous ideological threat in their activities, often assessing them as “hostile and reactionary.” This is particularly true with regard to the mainstream Catholic Church, which was accused of cooperation with the Ustasha regime and identified as a major threat to the normalisation of relations in the state (Matijević 2006, p. 139; Spehnjak and Cipek 2007, p. 286). Despite the effective constitutional provisions, repression was the main characteristic of the relationship between the communist regime and religious communities in practice, especially in the early post-war years. It was pursued by arresting and killing priests and other religious officials, by the seizure of the property, by the banning of the religious press and other forms of the suppression of religious freedom. Such measures were enabled by a series of laws adopted in the post-war period (governing agrarian reform and colonisation; offences against the state; asset seizure, expropriation, state registers, various tax regulations) (Akmadža 2012, p. 145-147).
Reactions by religious communities and their representatives to such regime actions and repressive measures against their activities were not lacking. They were expressed publicly as complaints, petitions and other forms of appeals to the state authorities. It was a way of speaking about the state's attitude towards religious communities and presenting concrete demands for improving their status. Public criticism of the social and political order, and, in particular, of the official doctrine of atheism, was constantly present in letters released for religious feasts, sermons, and in the religious press. Apart from religious topics, it was a way of speaking about the actual measures taken by the authorities in other areas of life, and encouraging resistance to their implementation (e.g. encouragement to write requests for discharge from peasant cooperatives, discouraging the membership in mass organisations, encouragement to boycott elections, etc.). Criticism of the regime was also present in the correspondence with organisations and individuals abroad. It was covertly present in the activities of church choirs, societies, boards and other organisational forms. Pilgrimages (especially to places where miracles had occurred) had the character of public protests against the atheistic social order, as well as other religious celebrations and ceremonies (weddings, funerals) which generally gathered sizable crowds. An illustrative example is the case of a collective church wedding ceremony for 15 couples, organized by a Catholic priest in Glina at the beginning of the 1950s. In its reports, the Croatian State Security Service recorded that the wedding became a large-scale event with the attributes of a protest.
The Communist party and the state, especially its repressive apparatus, accorded particular attention to the activities of religious communities. This is also confirmed by documents collected or produced by the State Security Service of the Republic Internal Affairs Secretariat of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, the civilian security and intelligence service in Croatia in the period from 1946 to 1990. Through its collaborative network, the State Security Service closely monitored the activities of the mainstream
Catholic Church and all other religious communities that operated in Croatia at the time. In the Ordinance of the State Security Service issued in 1967, collecting and processing data on “some forms of hostile and other activities specific to religious communities” was defined as one of its core operational activities. In practice, specific attention was focused on meetings of religious officials and their conclusions (conferences, councils), the religious press, foreign connections and travel by clergy members to foreign countries, the celebration of feasts and other religious events, and messages conveyed by them to their congregations. The State Security Service regularly compiled reports on these subjects. Special emphasis was placed on “hostile activities,” with proposals for countermeasures against such activities. The most oft-cited forms of “hostile activities” by religious communities included the incitement of ethnic hatred, hostile propaganda and the dissemination of false news, abuse of religion and the church for political purposes, incitement of religious hatred and intolerance, hostile activities against the state through émigré organisations, the émigré and religious press, and influencing workers and émigré communities. They were accused of distributing hostile pamphlets received from abroad (in the reports of the State Security Service they were often called “Messages from Heaven”) and for participating in sabotage and espionage.
The majority of documents were initially classified by the State Security Service. In September 2015, all documents were declassified. Under the Amendments to the Archives Act of May 2017, the documents became publicly available without any particular restrictions.
It should be noted that in the Croatian public space, considerable importance has been accorded to this collection and to other documents produced by socio-political organizations and the repressive apparatus up until 1990, i.e. their importance for understanding the history of the Yugoslav communist regime is greatly emphasized. Besides the professional (academic) community, those documents are often used in daily political debates. Many media pronouncements and headlines that focus on “the dossier war,” “manipulation of the State Security Service archives,” “secrets of the state archives,” the problem of “equating the victims and the perpetrators ,” etc. illustrate this point.
The collection includes historical overviews, studies, annual reports, operational notes, periodical information and other materials on the activities of religious communities, religious secondary schools and lay religious organisations. It also includes the written records of hearings, criminal charges, judgements, biographical details, reports on activities at home and abroad, transcripts of telephone conversations and letters, as well as other, similar materials on priests, religious dignitaries and other individuals connected to religious communities under the surveillance of the State Security Service. In several cases, the documents are accompanied by photographs (e.g. the funeral of Aloysius Stepinac, photos of religious buildings and events). The noticeably highest number of documents pertain to the mainstream Catholic Church and related organisations (religious secondary schools, the lay apostolate, lay institutions such as the Spiritual Family or Maria Della Strada, the Great Crusade Sorority, Companions of Christ the King, etc.). However, the activities of other religious communities and religious-philosophical movements active in Croatia were also under surveillance: the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Religious Community, the Croatian Old Catholic Church, the Free Catholic Church, the Jewish community, the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church, the Union of Baptist Church Parishes, the Methodist Church, the Christian Reformed Church, the Church of Christ, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Nazarene Religious Community, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Pentecostal Church, Esoteric University Religious Community, theosophy, etc.
Together with the documents produced by its direct activities, the State Security Service collected documents of diverse origin, some of which cover the period prior to its establishment. The documents were classified into two groups: dossiers by content (thematic SDS) and dossiers on persons. The documents on religious communities were initially organized in a separate unit labelled with the code 00. Within it, there is a subdivision on religious communities and individual documents, also labelled with numerical codes (001-006). This initial structure of the collection was retained after the Croatian State Archives assumed possession of the documents.
The collection is supplemented by individual documents on religious communities, contained in other Croatian State Security Service collections, and in the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb: emigration (numerical code 1); analytical materials, overviews, indicative information and other reports (numerical code 4); dossiers on persons. With the exception of the dossier on Aloysius Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb, the dossiers on members of religious communities are not singled out separately, but are rather part of a unit of approximately 70,000 dossiers of all surveilled groups of persons.
The collection belongs to the group of the most relevant archival resources for researching the communist regime’s relationship with and repression against religious communities in Croatia. It documents the methods employed by the Yugoslav secret services, the extent of intelligence and counter-intelligence activities, as well as state repression of religious communities and their members in the country and abroad. Its content is fully relevant for cultural opposition topics.
- fotografijos: 500-999
- pilkoji literatūra (archyvų dokumentai tokie kaip brošiūros, atsišaukimai, pranešimai, slaptųjų tarnybų bylos, apskaita, juodraščiai, susirinkimų protokolai): 1000-
Svarbūs įvykiai kolekcijos istorijoje
- Ex officio acquisition of the Collection by the Croatian State Archives, 1992
- Ex officio acquisition of the collection by the Croatian State Archives, 2015
- Event (general): Declassification, 2015
- Event (general): Digitisation of the collection, 2016 – 2017
- Publication: Akrap, Gordan. Kardinal Stepinac u dokumentima Gestapo i OZN-e (Cardinal Stepinac in Gestapo and OZNA documents), 2016. Book
- Copy of a petition sent by Yugoslav Catholic bishops to Josip Broz Tito, 1952. Archival document
- Information of the State Security Administration/Zagreb Department on a complaint from members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 1955. Archival document
- Overview of priests and other officials from all religious communities convicted in Croatia in period 1944-1951, 14 February 1952. Archival document
- Report on hostile activities by religious communities and the State Security Service's countermeasures in 1965, 1965. Archival document
- atviras priėjimas
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Akmadža, Miroslav. 2004. „Pregovori Svete Stolice i Jugoslavije i potpisivanje protokola iz 1966. godine“. Časopis za suvremenu povijest (Zagreb), 36, no. 2, 473-503.
Akmadža, Miroslav. 2007. „The Position of the Catholic Church in Croatia 1945-1970“. Review of Croatian History (Zagreb), 2, no. 1, 89-115.
Akmadža, Miroslav. 2008. „Oduzimanje crkvenih matičnih knjiga u Hrvatskoj u vrijeme komunizma“.Croatica Christiana Periodica (Zagreb), 32, no. 61, 103-122.
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