Collectivization hardly works with peasants, especially these peasants. You know why it doesn’t work with these peasants? Because this was the only island around here that never had serfdom.
Anton Jurica in conversation with Anamarija Batista on the Island of Lastovo in the summer of 2019. The conversation was recorded by Goran Škofić. Anton Jurica is a retired doctor from Lastovo and the author of the book "Lastovo kroz stoljeća" ("Lastovo Through the centuries").
AB: In 1950, Yugoslavia introduced this self-governing system, the people’s self-government. What is your opinion about that? Was this idea successful, the idea of factories belonging to their workers? Was such form of collectivisation ever achieved here?
AJ: Well, I think such collectivisation in Lastovo never succeeded. Or it did, to limited extent. They formed an agricultural cooperative here, right after the war. It gathered maybe twenty families, no more than that. And then the cooperative fell apart. It fell apart for one and only reason: they said there were more clerks in it than workers, and everything was shared equally among all, among those who actually worked, worked hard, and those who governed. So, it all lasted some five or six years at the most. Collectivization rarely works with peasants, especially these peasants. You know why it doesn’t work with these peasants? Because this was the only island around here that never had serfdom. And that was very important. You had serfs everywhere around. But a Lastovo peasant was never a serf. Why? Because Lastovo established a precedent in 1310. The people adopted a Statute. The Statute of Lastovo was the fifth statute in Croatia. I think Korčula adopted one before, in 1220. Thirty years before that, only thirty years, Dubrovnik adopted its own. And I think there were three in Gorski Kotar, somewhere around those seven municipalities, and then three in Croatia, I don’t know... But what does it mean when a village of a thousand to adopt a statute? In the statute, they created a precedent, made a decision: not one Lastovo citizen could sell, give or rent any particle of Lastovo property. And I mean immovable property, we can give a watch, but not a house, land, agricultural field. If they gave or sold the land to a foreigner, it was lost forever. Why? They realized that if someone from Dubrovnik came and bought their land, they would become their serf. So, the people of Lastovo decided to do things on their own. And remained the owners of their land. And that’s why you never had serfdom on Lastovo.
AB: But that means you did have a form of self-government back then?
AJ: Well, when the people of Lastovo made that decision, they limited themselves in a way they didn’t have much contact with the outer world. They didn’t have any profit, but they were free on their own land. They could do whatever they wanted. They were the masters and no one could take their land from them. Second, when they fell under the jurisdiction of Dubrovnik in 1254, they had one condition: Dubrovnik must respect their self-government. And Dubrovnik respected it. Lastovo had its self-government, it had its council, it had its own story. And it worked, for 500 years, until the Austrians came. Lastovo had its self-government.