WED, 12 JUL 2000 01:31:37 GMT
New prime minister of Slovenia, Andrej Bajuk, and a retinue of his ministers attended the ceremony where the anthem of Home Guards was sung and absurdity of resisting the fascist occupiers in the Second World War was stressed
AIM Ljubljana, June 30, 2000
Could it happen in any European country that its prime minister participates in a commemoration where speakers passionately speak of the abortiveness of the struggle against Nazism of half a century ago and glorify the domestic collaborationists? And then in the end, accompanied by the chairman of the assembly and a few ministers, sing the old march of collaborationist units which fought side by side with forces of the Axis? Perhaps a similar occasion could be seen a few years ago in Tudjman’s Croatia or Heider’s Austria, but certainly not in the presence of such high state officials; and when states of modern Europe are concerned – similar acting can cause nothing but rage and abomination.
Let us take France, for instance. At the end of the Second World War over there, in victorious pogroms several ten thousand domestic collaborationists, associates of German occupiers, members of Vichy government and quite innocent people perished – but this has never been a reason for some French official to publicly wonder about the sense of anti-fascist resistance.
And that is exactly what happened the other day in Slovenia when on the occasion of the commemoration to the “killed enemies of communism” in Kocevski Rog, prime minister o Slovenia Janez Podobnik, minister of defense Janez Jansa, foreign minister Lojze Peterle and Archbishop Franc Rode, accompanied by the honorary platoon of Slovenian Army and humble subjects, listened to the speech of Justin Stanovnik with obvious approval. And the honorary speaker declared to general satisfaction of the persons present that “the civil war in Slovenia still continues”, that it is led by “post-communists” and that “the so-called People’s Liberation Struggle cannot be the foundation of our statehood, simply because it was a fraud”.
This part of the speech, plus singing of the Home-Guards’ anthem called “My Homeland” at the end of the performance – stirred up quite a lot of dust in Slovenian public. It is a fact that after 1991 Slovenia has not changed the official historiography which judges anti-fascist struggle as a positive episode in the domestic, not exactly heroic history. Slovenian official politics and reformed communists admitted immediately after 1990 many mistakes and crimes of the single-party system, and this was followed by the law on denationalisation, the law on victims of war violence and other similar laws which were intended to remedy the committed injustice. But despite everything, the contribution of anti-fascist struggle has never been questioned.
Every year, April 27 is still observed as the Day of Resistance to the occupier (the content of the holiday has remained the same although it is not called the Day of the Liberation Front any more, as this holiday was called for decades until the beginning of the nineties), wreaths are regularly put on the graves of the partisan monuments (killed in the battle of Dragos, heroes of the Pohorje batallion, etc.), and rival organisations of “war veterans”, primarily the Home-Guards who fought in the Second World War as part of the German war machine and who in summer 1941 pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler – have never been given the same status as the veterans’ organisation which gathers former partisans and members of the Liberation Front of the Second World War. In Ljubljana and other cities around Slovenia there are still monuments to partisans and revolutionaries, the attempt to move away monuments to Edvard Kardelj and Boris Kidric from the city centre has not succeeded, and streets and schools still bear the names of glorious partisan brigades.
It is, therefore, no wonder that the described event flustered the spirits in Slovenian society; sharp reactions followed this move of the new, rightist government. Deputy Zmago Jelincic, leader of the national party known for his brisk statements, said on the occasion that “collaborationism can by no means be a part of Slovenian identity, because those who betrayed their own people and joined the foreigners in the destruction of their own people – are worse even than the occupiers”. President of the organisation of veterans Ivan Dolnicar estimated concerning the (ab)use of the honorary platoon that it was “a disgrace for Slovenian Army to participate in such a ceremony”, and that the commemoration mass for the souls of Home Guards turned into an “act of intolerance and insult not only of the People’s Liberation Struggle, but of all those who feel respect for these values”. President of the state Milan Kucan also issued a public statement, concluding that “People’s Liberation Struggle was a fraud equally as an allegation that the second World War and the struggle of the allies was a – fraud!”
Almost simultaneously came the reaction of one of the chambers of Slovenian parliament. Deputy Veljko Rus proposed that the State Chamber pass a declaration of protest against the controversial statement of Archbishop of Ljubljana, Franc Rode. Rus condemned “systematic politisation of the Roman Catholic Church in Slovenia” which is manifested through the attacks against certain citizens and institutions of Slovenian state. He added that Archbishop Rode was “incessantly stirring up religious hatred and intolerance, constantly abusing and reprimanding those who are not believers”. Similarly, but in the opposite direction, says Rus, Slovenian Church glorifies those who collaborated with the occupiers, approves of singing of Home-Guards’ marches, and brings the resistance to Axis powers down to “Bolshevik revolution”. The session of the State Chamber was strained and the debate explosive, with some of the deputies demonstratively leaving the meeting, and that was the reason why no decision was reached in the end.
The question that arises now is – what next? Conclusions of Veljko Rus are more than right, and it is not difficult to check them. At this very moment, on the third channel of (Catholic) TV, the same Archbishop Rode is speaking about the former “German religion” (implying the Protestants in Slovenia), underlying that believers must know how to preserve “their and the only correct truth”, as well as how the Slovenes should acquire “praiseworthy awareness” that they are a “sovereign, noble people”. Slovenian Archbishop is known for similar excesses; a year ago he expressed the opinion that school in Slovenia “is not our school”, that it would therefore be “changed as soon as the opportunity arises”, and he reprimanded atheists for the lack of ethics and morality. A big part of Slovenian public considers this to be the vocabulary of a leader of some extremist political party, and not the head of the Church.
That Rode does not enjoy too much confidence nor popularity even among his own flock became clear after an investigation of the public opinion in 1999. (Similar investigations are carried out ever since the beginning of the sixties and they are known for their excellent methodology). It showed that 79.4 per cent of the pollees express great or very high confidence in the existing public school institutions. The results of the poll just published by a team of sociologists from the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana confirm that laments on violation of the rights of about “70 per cent of members of the Catholic religion in Slovenia” – due to which the Church demands introduction of catechism into public schools – are not even approximately true. Moreover, according to the latest data, only 19 per cent of the Slovenes believe in the sense of the “Church”, 21 per cent believe “autonomously” and three fifths (60 per cent) – are not believers at all! Besides, the Catholic Church is not the only church of the Slovenes. There is also the historically important Protestanism which has given the first book in Slovenian language. Obviously such religious pluralism annoys intolerant Rode who uses ecumenicism only for propagandist purposes, which is proved by his occasional gaffes – such as the remark on “German” (Protestant) religion.
Despite the odium of the public, the leftists and independent intellectuals, the past events prove that reshaping of history on new religious and ideological bases is gaining ground in Slovenia, especially after the latest changes in the administration, although it is not quite clear what the outcome of the process will be like. The government which was inaugurated after great pains with the majority of just one vote and which is in polls supported by hardly more than 20 per cent of the pollees, will not have much time to significantly affect public opinion, at least not until the forthcoming elections planned for autumn this year.
The only thing that is certain is that there will be elections; president of the Republic Milan Kucan announced that after July 16 he would decide on the date of regular elections. For the rightists, especially after the latest rash actions of Andrej Bajuk and his followers it will be a very difficult and uncertain test.