As the only Eastern Bloc country independent from the Soviet Union, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was a highly unique experiment in communism. The country wasn’t technically “behind the Iron Curtain,” and culturally it was very open to so-called “Western” culture like metal, rap, New Romantic and yes, punk. The scene was big and incredibly dynamic, with all the diversity of the American or British scenes—Oi!, thrash, hardcore, proto-punk, you name it. Photographer Jože Suhadolnik started taking pictures of bands and fans at the tender age of 15 (his first show was a 1981 Siouxsie and the Banshees concert), and he’s recently compiled his photos into a book, Balkan Pank.
The pictures are sensual and untamed—everything you want from a bunch of young punks, but while Yugoslavia wasn’t a Soviet state, it was still heavily policed. Suhadolnik remembers:
“You could be arrested and beaten hard by police because you sprayed graffiti or were wearing a badge with a ‘Nazi Punks Fuck off’ sign just because ‘Nazi’ is on it. Few people were jailed and later secretly followed by the police.
After the break up of Yugoslavia, Suhadolnik had a chance to look at his own fat police file—over 400 pages about taking pictures of punks, a subversive act, simply by association.
The Virgin Prunes