Delirium in the tunnels under Zagreb during the war

Many Croatian cities, like other European and even Italian cities, have underground tunnels that were used as air raid shelters in wartime. In Pula, for example, the tunnel system is called Zerostrace (“Route Zero” in German) and runs through much of the historic centre, with four long tunnels connected to a central space. There are also some in Zagreb, the capital, but here the underground shelter system is less well known and only part of it is open to the public. It was built in 1943 to allow civilians to take shelter from World War II bombs, and was reused in the early 1990s for similar reasons, during the Yugoslav Wars.

However, in this period Zagreb’s galleries found another use: they hosted rave parties, free and usually self-run music events, attended by techno fans and often psychoactive. These evenings became part of local musical history, especially in the first case, dating back to 1993, which MTV told at the time.

Damir Kucic, a native of Zagreb and a lover of disco and hip-hop music, was a party organizer. In the 1980s he was a DJ and had some connections in London who described the first rave parties organized in the city. Then Kucic decided to organize his first relatively small rave in KSET, a nightclub in Zagreb. Then on October 30, 1993 he organized another in a part of the underground tunnels now open to the public, called the Grič Tunnel (from the name of the area it passes through from the city).

Those were turbulent and dangerous years, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and since then has been waging a war against the Yugoslav National Army, which has been trying unsuccessfully to preserve the unity of the Federation despite the relentless campaign of independence by the various republics. . Moreover, starting in 1992, tensions increased not only on the Serbian border but also on the Bosnian border, due to the conflicts between the Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Muslim communities, the Bosniaks. Despite all this, Kucilich thought it was a good idea to organize these raves.

After the first experiences with a few hundred people, five thousand appeared in the delirium of the Gretsch Tunnel. Cuculić and other organizers expected a maximum of 500-700 people, also because the Croatian music scene was not as developed as in other European countries, on the contrary: events such as a rave party of this scale had never been seen before and in general, in Croatia, no Electronic music has a large following.

“When we organized the party, everyone complained, the police, the neighbors, everyone. No one had any idea how to put something like that up, or how to manage it,” Cuculić said in 2019. At the entrance people were supposed to show the tickets that the organizers had printed in a rather literal way, but several people filmed them to present to their friends and had them run around. On the evening of the event, distinguishing between the “original” and those pictured became impossible.

Kuculich recalls that “when the first 2,500 people entered the entire space it was already full,” and that “there was so much humidity that you couldn’t even run a zippo, the ventilation was poor, and the only thing we could do was leave both entrances to the tunnel open.” The steam in the air was on the ceiling and at some point during the night it started raining down on our DJs and mixers and people. We had to pitch a nylon tent to protect the equipment.”

Kuculich said he couldn’t explain why they were delirious during the war (he said “we were young and crazy”) but perhaps the event’s success had to do with a desire to vent frustration and fear that the war had spawned people. After tunnel delirium, Cuculić worked in television and radio, while continuing to organize concerts and music events, including Future Sound in Zagreb. The Grič Tunnel was renovated in 2016 and opened to the public, inside a cultural center established with exhibits on the history of Croatia and the city.

– Read also: History of Croatia’s Independence

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