For Yugoslavia’s socialist government, accepting millions of naturists who wanted a relaxed space to get back to nature was a useful show of Cold War soft power. The policy left its mark, with nudist resorts on the Adriatic Coast to this day — but the modern, capitalist world has also brought new challenges.
In August 1972, the International Naturist Federation held its 13th Congress in Koversada, a city-sized camping resort on Croatia’s Istrian coast. More than 250 journalists flocked to the region — then part of Yugoslavia — to mark the first time such a meeting had been held in a communist country.
An estimated 400 celebrants attended the opening ceremony, at which the Naturist Federation’s flag was hoisted to the strains of Yugoslav national anthem Hej Slaveni (Hey You Slavs!). For the next seven days, delegates discussed everything from relations with nudist groups in other communist countries, to the dangers to the movement posed by pornographic magazines. Sessions took place in the courtyard of a palatial villa originally built for German Count Lichtenberg. Western nudists accustomed to the back-to-nature simplicity of the movement were taken aback by the chandeliers, luxurious furnishings, and black-tie waiters provided by their socialist hosts.
Clothes-free tourism was one of the many things that made Yugoslav communism rather different to the model then offered by the Soviet bloc. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Yugoslavia was one of the biggest nudist destinations in the world. Koversada, which could accommodate 10,000 guests at its peak, was just one part of a coastal resort archipelago that attracted an estimated one million naturists a year.
These visitors could provide a considerable income. The value of events such as the International Naturist Federation congress to the Yugoslav tourism industry as a marketing exercise was incalculable. “Reaching such a wide public would have normally cost us a fortune,” says the congress’s organiser Jerko Sladoljev, long-time Koversada marketing manager and still a sought-after expert on the Adriatic camping scene.
But naturism (commonly referred to by the initials “FKK”, in line its German name, Freikörperkultur) was also an archetypal example of Cold-War soft power. Non-aligned Yugoslavia could demonstrate to Western Europe that it was a free and tolerant country that displayed none of the puritanism associated with its Soviet-bloc neighbours. It was also a way of demonstrating to Yugoslavia’s own citizens that they lived under a system that was not unduly restrictive, as well as a country in which foreign contacts were welcome.
“No sooner do you get off the boat than you see natural beauty at every turn,”Armin Ganser, Die Zeit
Foreign journalists talked of Yugoslavia as a nudists’ paradise. “No sooner do you get off the boat than you see natural beauty at every turn,” declared Die Zeit’s Armin Ganser in March 1972, before reeling off a list of naturist resorts stretching from the Croatian town of Umag in the northwest, to Montenegrin Ulcinj in the far southeast.
As well hard-core nudists staying in resorts like Koversada, where they could roam unclad for days on end, there were also significant numbers of fellow-travellers, who would stay in regular accommodation but visit nudist beaches during the daytime. According to a report drawn up by Jerko Sladoljev for the Yugoslav tourist industry in 1978, the country boasted 25 nudist beaches in established naturist resorts, 34 designated nudist beaches elewhere, and as many as 60 “wild” nudist beaches that, despite being unregulated, were happily tolerated by tourist-friendly authorities.
Source: The Calvert Journal
Original publication 27 July, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 6th August 2020
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.