Punk in Print: Publicizing Yugoslav Punk and Rock
The main public platform for the introduction of new ideas and trends in post-WWII Yugoslavia were literary journals. In the sixties and seventies, Yugoslavia saw the beginnings of Western influence make its way into the country and with this, these platforms began diversifying to include more genres and topics, which also expanded readership. As the region began to shift away from communism, a developing consumer culture emerged that allowed for the success of rock and punk publications. Because of their success, these publications helped the punk movement gain an even larger following, which exposed Socialist Yugoslavia to the West even more than before. Punk publications featured both domestic and foreign artists, and at this time, publishing a magazine that featured Western artists and lyrics in English was seen as scandalous and revolutionary in Yugoslavia. The social commentary of the punk movement, including political criticisms, was promoted in their publications. Increased exposure to and familiarization with the West helped the radicalization of the youth movement as well as the growth of the hippie and punk movements. This leads people to question why the socialist regime allowed for the fostering of this movement through these publications. According to Radina Vučetić, in her article, “Rock and Roll In the West of the East: The Case of Magazine Džuboks,” in the eyes of the authorities, it is easier to maintain control over the youth underground scene, clubs, and illegal dealings if there is transparency and openness. The anti-establishment movement that emerged was moderately supported by communist authorities and communist youth organizations that organized cultural events such as concerts and festivals. These criticisms of the socialist state through the punk movement were considered “useful and friendly critique” coupled with instances of censorship. The regime made the punk movement accessible in Yugoslavia, letting it out into the open by sponsoring rock avenues and enabling the generation of youth to be a part of two different worlds as a larger project to westernize society and develop consumerism.
Founded in 1966, Džuboks (Serbian for “jukebox”) was the first youth magazine that promoted rock ‘n’ roll music in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the first to feature the punk movement in the region. Published in Belgrade, the magazine was also the first rock music magazine to be published in a communist country. (Vučetiž, 74) According to Nikola Karaklajić, first editor and chief for the magazine, Džuboks drew inspiration from British and American rock magazines like New Musical Express, Melody Maker, and Rolling Stone. Initially in the sixties and seventies, they covered punk from abroad.
In the eighties they began featuring local bands, promoting the local punk scene. Additionally, the magazine was distributed with flexi disks that featured both foreign and domestic artists, which also contributed to the growth of the punk movement in the region, coinciding with Western exposure. In issue 111, published on March 27, 1981, the magazine featured local punk groups Šarlo Akrobata and Idoli in which Momčilo Rajin, Džuboks music critic, referred to the groups as, “one of the most exciting new acts.” The magazine also expanded to cover entertainment and fashion in Mini Džuboks from 1968 to 1969, having released a total of 33 issues.
Polet was published in Zagreb in the fall of 1976 and was a promoter and key outlet of the local punk scene. They frequently featured local punk bands on their covers. Cosmopolitan in its outlook, Polet combines western advertising tradition with socialist aestheticism serving as a platform for young journalists and designers. The magazine served as a news source but also as a platform and medium for action. Many of the middle-aged journalists in the region today got their start at the magazine. In its beginnings, the magazine featured illustrations and comics because they printed with letterpress, therefore their ability to utilize photography was limited. This use of comics is what some claim first opened up the magazine to a wider audience beginning with kids then opening up to larger audiences. Mirko Ilić, a former comics artist for Polet commented that the magazine “paved the way” for kids, allowing anyone to come into the space as they were, gain confidence, and begin forming their personal identities as a result of the magazine’s promotion of creativity and freedom of thought. Ilić also commented on the influence Western culture had on the magazine, noting that the creator of Polet, Pero Kvesić, was influenced by his experiences in America as a Fulbright Scholar. He states they were already influenced by Western European culture and that American culture was becoming more and more influential in the region and its publications.
According to journalist and former editor of the magazine, Denis Kuljiš, Polet created the punk scene in many ways, helping many newly formed bands, and even organized punk band Pankrti’s first show. The magazine has also been described by academics as the key media outlet for shaping and supporting the local punk scene in Zagreb. They were funded by the government as a youth project by the Socialist Youth of Croatia, but also critiqued the media for the way it commercialised everything and projected anti-nationalist sentiments that were shared throughout the punk movement. This speaks to the communist regime’s tactic for handling rebellion and an “underground” scene as previously mentioned. Polet also served as economic propaganda for the region, promoting “liberation” in the form of consumerist culture over communist consumer habits the region previously saw. Being sponsored by the government, they were asked to stop publishing their anti-government articles by the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Croatia. When Polet refused, the government began to reject the magazine. However, the staff began to work at other newspapers and media outlets, perpetuating the rebellion. It was seen as a magazine not only for youth but as a magazine of youth having portrayed itself as the voice for the new generation of urban youth in its content and style. They placed importance on truthfully presenting a magazine that portrayed the realities, actual lived experiences, and real issues of the youth.
Mladina and Problemi were magazines that promoted the punk scene in Ljubljana. Mladina, meaning “youth,” is a socialist current affairs and pop culture youth magazine that began in the 1920s and continues to be popular today. The magazine was and still is controversial due to its provocative reporting style and was politically influenced by the eighties and nineties punk movements. Despite this, the magazine was supported by the League of Socialist Youth of Slovenia. They served as the voice of opposition and protest against those in power, published political criticism, promoted a pacifist stance, and served as one of the most politically influential magazines in the country.
Problemi was a Slovenian journal that focused on and commented on sociocultural theory. In three issues from 1981 to 1983, they featured the punk movement, situating it as a symptom of the cultural, social, and political climate of the region. In this reading, punk dramatically mimicks the ideological language and everyday rituals of Yugoslav self-managment system, thereby exposing its mechanisms of control. Problemi also explains punk as reaction to the system’s self-interested nature and describes its performances as social critique. The Ljubljana punk scene as a whole became a vehicle for alternative culture and social movements as well as a source of intellectual debate about the repressive nature of the Yugoslav political system.
Finally, fanzines are punk-related print magazines independently and casually produced. Often xeroxed by hand and produced for small audiences, fanzines epitomize “underground press.” Fanzines embodied the punk movement--they told the story of punk “in the moment” by insiders and adopted the do-it-yourself attitude and style, including the cut-and-paste and collage styles that could be produced by anyone. They featured news, gossip, social commentary, music reviews, and interviews with bands. This self-publication allowed subcultures to thrive, most notable the queercore movement.
No matter how punk was received by the general public, it was a movement that the youth embraced with fervor, revealing the cultural need for a youth voice and avenue for expression. This culture fostered an “imaginary community” that allowed for the sharing of ideas and community within historically turmoil-ridden Yugoslavia. Punk publications served to take cultural involvement a step further and connect with new developments in the art scene while exposing the region to punk and anti-regime rhetoric and views.
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