Punk rock in Yugoslavia

Punk rock in Yugoslavia was the punk subculture of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The most developed punk scenes across the federation existed in Slovenia, the Croatian coastal towns, Vojvodina, and Belgrade. Notable acts include: Pankrti, Paraf, Pekinška patka, KUD Idijoti, Niet, Patareni and KBO!.


The Non-Aligned Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was never part of the Eastern Bloc, and it was open to western influences. The Yugoslav pop and rock scene was socially accepted, well developed and covered in the media. The former Yugoslav punk scene emerged in the late 1970s, influenced by the first wave of punk rock bands from the United Kingdom and United States, such as Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Ramones, Generation X, The Ruts, Buzzcocks and The Jam, as well as the proto-punk acts such as The Stooges and the New York Dolls. The DIY punkzine scene also started to develop in Yugoslavia.

The Yugoslav punk bands were the first punk bands ever formed in a socialist state. Some of the first ones were formed in the then SR Slovenia and SR Croatia: Pankrti from Ljubljana, formed in 1977, and Paraf from Rijeka, formed either in 1976[1] or 1977.[2] (depending on the source). The Slovenian and Croatian scene of the day was featured in the Novi Punk Val compilation album, compiled by Igor Vidmar, which included Pankrti, Paraf, Buldogi, Termiti, Berlinski Zid, Grupa 92 and the early Prljavo kazalište, who went mainstream later.

The late-1970s and early 1980s bands from Belgrade, the capital of both SR Serbia and Yugoslavia included: Defektno Efektni, Urbana Gerila and Radnička Kontrola (feat. Cane who later came into prominence as frontman of Partibrejkers and Srđan Todorović, later an eminent movie actor). This generation of bands was included on the Artistička Radna Akcija compilation. Električni Orgazam was also a punk band during its early period, although it changed to a more mainstream act later. Prominent Serbian punkabilly artist was Toni Montano from Belgrade, formerly a singer of Radost Evrope. Pekinška patka, led by the charismatic Professor Čonta, hailed from Novi Sad. Notable Yugoslav punk writer Ivan Glišić emerged from Šabac, in Serbia Proper.

The first punk band in Skopje, Socialist Republic of Macedonia is considered to be Fol Jazik, formed in 1978. Other notable acts from Skopje included Badmingtons and Saraceni, both led by Vladimir Petrovski Karter. The bass player of Saraceni, Goran Trajkoski, previously played in the punk band Afektiven naboj from Struga. Later he was the frontman of Padot na Vizantija and rose to international prominence as the frontman of Anastasia and Mizar. In Sarajevo, Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the following artists emerged: Ozbiljno pitanje (which later evolved into the mainstream act Crvena Jabuka), Ševa (later Bombaj Štampa led by Branko Đurić), and the cult band Zabranjeno Pušenje. These Sarajevian bands formed the punk-inspired New Primitives movement.

In the late 1970s, some punk bands were affiliated with the Yugoslav new wave scene, and were labeled as both punk rock and new wave. During a certain period, the term new wave music was interchangeable with punk. One of the most important compilations of the Yugoslav new wave era is Paket Aranžman.

The end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s saw the emergence of various subgenres of punk rock, such as streetpunk and Oi! later followed by: hardcore punk, crust punk all the way to crossover thrash and grindcore. Notable acts during the 1980s included, the hardcore punk bands such as Niet, Odpadki Civilizacije, Tožibabe, Epidemija and U.B.R. from Ljubljana, S.O.R. from Idrija and Ujetniki svobode from Laško, Slovenia; Patareni from Zagreb, KUD Idijoti from Pula and Apatridi from Slavonska Požega, Croatia; The Dissidents from Prijedor and Ženevski Dekret from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina; KBO! and Trula koalicija from Kragujevac, Nade iz Inkubatora, Giuseppe Carabino, Marselyeza and Process from Subotica, Incest from Novi Bečej and Napred U Prošlost from Banatsko Novo Selo and the Oi!/streetpunk bands Dva minuta mržnje, Vrisak generacije and Ritam Nereda (all three from Novi Sad, Serbia). A notable mainstream pop punk band was Psihomodo Pop from Croatia (heavily influenced by the Ramones).

Many eminent foreign punk bands played concerts in the former Yugoslavia in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, including: The Ruts, Siouxsie and the Banshees, UK Subs, Angelic Upstarts, The Exploited, Charged GBH, The Anti-Nowhere League, Discharge, Youth Brigade and Amebix. In 1983 The Anti-Nowhere League released their album Live in Yugoslavia, while Angelic Upstarts released a live album with the same title in 1985.


Regarding the punk ideology, as the other punk rock artists around the world, the Yugoslav ones also included social commentary in their songs. Anarcho-punk and Straight Edge scenes also existed, while some bands were just nihilistic. The Yugoslav punk rock and hardcore punk lyrics often featured social and political criticism, anti-war, anti-chauvinist, anti-fascist, anti-authoritarian and anarchist messages, which can be also seen by the bands' names, such as: Vrisak Hirošime (Cry of Hiroshima), Apatridi (Stateless persons), The Dissidents (Dissidents), Patareni (Patarenes), Marselyeza (La Marseillaise), Stres Državnega Aparata (Stress Of The State Apparatus), Sistem Organizirane Represije (System Of Organized Repression) etc. There were also some apolitical bands whose songs dealt with personal subjects, humour, sex or just innocent youth rebellion.

Nazi punk affair

A great scandal emerged all over SFR Yugoslavia, when the authorities arrested a Nazi punk and Nazi skinhead-oriented group called The Fourth Reich in Ljubljana, Socialist Republic of Slovenia in 1981. Though largely obscure, the band was put on trial and its members got imprisoned before having a chance to release any recordings or play live, hence leaving no legacy. They were also once turned down by the notable promoter and Pankrti's manager Igor Vidmar, who refused to sign them as he disapproved of their racist lyrics.[3][4]

Although the existence of the punk subculture was generally tolerated in Yugoslavia, with occasional mild cases of censorship, the one-party system still viewed it with certain degree of suspicion because of its in-your-face attitude, clothing, music and way of life which differed from the established image of model citizens. Thus, the authorities used this incident as an opportunity to label the punk movement as subversive and as a pretext to impose indiscriminate oppression on all punks and skinheads who began to be perceived as potential enemies of the state, although the overwhelming majority of them was actually anti-fascist, for example, both Pankrti and KUD Idijoti have their respective cover versions of the Italian antifascist and communist song Bandiera Rossa.

This led to moral panic. The authorities' reaction to punks, labeling them as "fascists", reached its crescendo during the prosecution of the aforementioned Igor Vidmar, who was bizarrely arrested for wearing the Dead Kennedys' Nazi Punks Fuck Off! badge with a swastika crossed out.[5] That anti-fascist badge was wrongly interpreted as a Nazi provocation and Vidmar was detained.


Despite the affair, which faded after a certain period anyway, the Yugoslav punk scene continued to exist successfully (although with less mainstream media coverage). While the first generation of groups such as Pankrti, Paraf, Prljavo kazalište and Pekinška patka were quite well exposed in the media, having appearances and music videos on the public TV stations and record contracts for major labels such as Jugoton, Suzy Records and ZKP RTL, the artists that came after the affair emerged, faced various problems and some succeeded to gain prominence only in the underground music circles. Apart from the affair, another reason for this is that some mainstream media began to consider punk as fad, as the initial punk euphoria of The Sex Pistols and The Clash was already gone, so they turned their interest to other styles such as: new wave, post-punk, new romantic, synthpop, darkwave and gothic rock, leaving much of the new generation of streetpunk and hardcore punk acts underestimated or unnoticed.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw transition from to parliamentary democracy which brought further liberalisation in the country, but also rise of extreme nationalism, previously kept under control by the communist regime. These processes led to the disintegration of SFR Yugoslavia.

In an interview published in the post-communist and post-Yugoslav period, despite the troubles he once had with the previous system, Vidmar was quoted saying: "It is an irony that it is harder to work now in this liberal democracy, than in the last 10 years of SFRY's communism".[6]

Yugoslav Wars

The punk scene of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ceased to exist with the country's violent breakup in the early 1990s. Many of its former adherents participated in anti-war, anti-nationalist and anti-fascist activities and were often attacked by the nationalists in their countries.

For example, in 1992, the supergroup Rimtutituki featuring members of Partibrejkers, Električni orgazam and Ekaterina Velika released a pacifist single, but since the authorities didn't allow them to promote it with a gig they performed on a truck trailer driven through the streets of Belgrade, as their stage. The Serbian musician Branislav Babić Kebra of Urbana Gerila and Obojeni program was conscripted in the army and sent to the war in Croatia, but he deserted with the help of his Croatian friend, Goran Bare of Majke.[7] A 1993 compilation of anti-war punk songs, Preko zidova nacionalizma i rata (Over the walls of nationalism and war) featured bands from the ex-Yugoslav countries. After the Ten Day War and the widthdrawal of the Yugoslav Army from Slovenia, its former barracks were squatted and the Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Center was established. Metelkova was attacked by nazi-skinheads, because it hosts punk rockers, anarchists, anti-racist, ecological and lesbian and gay rights activists.

However, many Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian youths (including some former punks, and especially skinheads and football hooligans) have been manipulated by the mainstream nationalist media and embraced nationalistic chauvinism. Some individuals previously involved in the punk scene, even saw active combat in the Yugoslav wars. One example is Satan Panonski, a charismatic and controversial punk singer, punk poet and body artist from Vinkovci, Croatia. A former convict charged with murder who spent several years in mental institutions, he was an outspoken opponent of nationalism and was openly a homosexual. However, after the war began, he joined the Croatian forces and was killed under unknown circumstances. Before his death, he was a close friend of Ivan Glišić, a notable punk writer from Serbia.

The local scenes in the independent countries that emerged after the breakup of Yugoslavia continued to exist, some of them heavily suffering during the war. The underground music scene continued even in the shelters during the Sarajevo siege, and a compilation album Rock under siege (Radio Zid Sarajevo, Stichting Popmuziek Nederland) including the punk band Protest was released in 1995.

After Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed independence, and SFR Yugoslavia was dissolved, a new federal state comprising only Serbia and Montenegro named "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" was established, however it was not internationally recognized as a legal successor to SFR Yugoslavia.[8] It existed from 1992 until 2003. Notable punk bands in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia included: Atheist rap, Ritam Nereda and Zbogom Brus Li from Novi Sad; Direktori and Šaht from Belgrade and Goblini from Šabac. Some of them were formed during the previous Yugoslav federation, and some still exist. Many bands in this period openly opposed the regime of Slobodan Milošević and criticized chauvinism and militarism, but there were some who espoused radical Serbian nationalism, especially skinhead groups.

Current (2000s)

After the end of the conflicts and especially later, after the departure of the nationalist leaders such as Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman, the former Yugoslav nations started to normalise their relations. Thus their music scenes (this time both mainstream and underground) could freely restore their former cooperation. Anti-Nowhere League came once again on former Yugoslav soil (in Croatia) and released their live album Return to Yugoslavia. In 2003 Igor Mirković from Croatia made the rockumentary Sretno dijete (Happy Child) named after a song by Prljavo Kazalište. The movie covers the early Yugoslav Punk and new wave scene feat. eminent artists from Zagreb, Ljubljana and Belgrade. Inspired by "Sretno dijete", rockumentary "Bilo jednom..." was made in 2006, featuring punk-rockers from Novi Sad, who were active during the first half of the 1990s.

Current notable acts in the former Yugoslav countries include: Niet, Scuffy Dogs, Aktivna Propaganda, GUB, Pero Lovšin (formerly of Pankrti), Golliwog, In-Sane, Kreshesh Nepitash, No Limits, all from Slovenia; Hladno pivo, Pasi, KUD Idijoti, Let 3 (featuring the former Termiti member Damir Martinović Mrle), Kawasaki 3P, Fat Prezident, Deafness By Noise, Overflow, FOB, No More Idols, Hren, Lobotomija, Brkovi, Grupa tvog života, FNC Diverzant, Tito's Bojs and Gužva u 16ercu from Croatia; Superhiks, Two Sides, Noviot Pochetok, and Denny Te Chuva from the Republic of Macedonia; Red Union, Zbogom Brus Li, Atheist Rap, Six Pack, Vox Populi, SMF, BOL, Ritam Nereda, Šaht, Miki Pirs, Birtija, Prilično Prazni, KBO!, Potres, Gavrilo Princip, Zvoncekova Bilježnica, Mitesers, Pogon BGD, Hitman, Concrete Worms, Ringišpil, The Bayonets,The Bomber from Serbia, and others.


Pankrti played a reunion concert in Tivoli Hall in Ljubljana, Slovenia on December 1, 2007 as a celebration of their 30th anniversary. They also had a tour across parts of former Yugoslavia with Ivan Kral, who previously played with Patti Smith, Blondie and Iggy Pop, as the band's new guitarist.[9][10] Meanwhile in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia the group, Badmingtons, reformed, and their music was included in the soundtrack for the feature film Prevrteno (Upside Down) directed by Igor Ivanov Izy. At the Exit festival in Novi Sad on July 13, 2008, Pekinška patka played a reunion concert, sharing the stage with the Sex Pistols, who played afterwards that evening.

Related movies

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