Gorazd Pučnik, son of one of the fathers of the Slovenian state, Jože Pučnik, recently received the Order of Extraordinary Merit, the highest state decoration, on his father’s behalf. The decoration had already been awarded in 2006 by the then-President of the Republic, Janez Drnovšek, who awarded it to Pučnik posthumously when Slovenia celebrated 15 years of independence. However, the Pučnik family had so far refused to accept the decoration but have now changed their minds, as per Gorazd Pučnik, “because of the Presidential attitude of Borut Pahor.” This is one of the last presidential acts of the outgoing President of the Republic, Borut Pahor.
“This was the main reason why we decided to accept the award with great joy as a family,” said Pučnik. The President of the Republic thanked the Pučnik family and said that he had wanted to present the decoration to the family several times, but they refused each time. “Then, some time ago, I heard the wonderful news that the family had decided to change their minds.”
Borut Pahor also said at the award ceremony that Jože Pučnik was a national leader and a great personality who was able to inspire people at the right time with ambitious ideas that are unparalleled in the history of Slovenia. He was also not defined by the injustices he had to endure but, above all, by his desire to inspire and not to avenge. “We are dealing with a great personality whom I would like young people to see as a role model,” said the outgoing President of the Republic.
The decoration had been displayed in a special place until now
The decoration had been displayed in a special place until Monday when it was awarded. Namely, it was displayed in a place of honour in the hall named after Pučnik. It was President Pahor who decided to name the halls in the Presidential Palace after the fathers of the Slovenian political spring and statehood: France Bučar, Janez Drnovšek, Ivan Oman and Jože Pučnik. President Pahor did this on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the plebiscite, on the 26th of December 2015, as a token of gratitude and to honour their memory.
This was also one of Borut Pahor’s last acts. On Thursday, the new President of the Republic, Nataša Pirc Musar, will be sworn in.
Political dissident, visionary and leader of the nation
Pučnik was born on the 9th of March 1931 in Črešnjevec near Slovenska Bistrica. His political activism began shortly after he graduated from the Faculty of Arts in 1958. He was arrested by the communist authorities at the time for his critical writings in the magazine Revija 57 and sentenced to nine years in prison. After five years, he was released on parole, and then re-arrested two years later for once again writing critically in the magazine Perspektive. The authorities also stripped him of his academic degrees, which he had regained in Germany, where he had gone after his release.
During the period of democratic awakening within the communist regime, he returned to Slovenia and became one of the key figures of independence. In 1987, he was one of the authors of the 57th issue of the Nova Revija magazine, one of the most important publications in the history of Slovenia. He also became President of the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia party (Demokratična opozicija Slovenije – DEMOS), which brought about Slovenia’s independence.
In 1990, as a DEMOS candidate, he ran against Milan Kučan, the last President of the Communist Party of Slovenia, in the elections for the President of the Republic, but unfortunately lost. In May 1992, he was the Deputy Prime Minister in Drnovšek’s government. He retired from active politics in 1997 but retained the post of Honorary President of the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS).
Today, Slovenia’s main airport is named after him. It was renamed from Brnik Airport to Jože Pučnik Airport in 2007 by the first government of Janez Janša.