“Instead of celebrating our common achievement, some are working hard to polarise and even misuse independence to create new divisions. This is the difference between us, and I do not enjoy it. There were times during World War II and the revolution that divided our nation, but independence brought us together and united us in a common goal. We should be aware of this and celebrate it,” said Lojze Peterle, the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia and the current President of the Association for the Values of Slovenian Independence (Združenje za vrednote slovenske osamosvojitve – VSO), who cancelled his participation in this week’s Statehood Day celebrations because he himself does not feel the festive atmosphere that the commemoration of the greatest political achievement of the Slovenian nation deserves, and is critical of the behaviour of the Golob government. “There has never been so much intolerance and lies in our society as there are now. Even in my childhood, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, and later, when the regime was much tougher, the latter took care of its honour and its dignity, but now the rulers have practically no regard for their dignity and honour,” historian Dr Stane Granda was critical.
On the 25th of June 1991, Slovenia formally became an independent and sovereign state. Slovenians wanted to decide on their own fate and be the masters of their own land. Through the efforts of generations of Slovenians, this dream became a reality. But because Slovenia has gone down a different path over the last few years, many people are now saying that they never dreamed of a Slovenia where a symbolic and, in places, actual rehabilitation of totalitarianism could be taking place, thus polarising society, and they also never thought we would be going into eco-craziness, which is delaying the construction of the Krško Nuclear Power Plant two. They never imagined a country where pensioners are completely ignored, where farmers and entrepreneurs represent the class enemy, and where the NGOs promoting cultural Marxism are at the very forefront.
We initially asked Lojze Peterle what the spirit of the nation was like before independence and what it seems to be like today, 32 years after Slovenia gained its independence. “Before independence, I felt the great will of Slovenians to find a way out of the very critical situation in the collapsing Yugoslavia. People welcomed the opportunity to speak out in favour of an independent state for the first time in history, and they seized this opportunity with a unique result,” he pointed out, adding that at that time, it was clear whether we would go our own way or stay in Yugoslavia with the old political forces. “The people made their choice and confirmed it in the plebiscite.” For Peterle, this was a dream time in Slovenia’s history, during which we achieved our greatest national-political success. Of course, there were also some embarrassing moments; they knew they were taking risks and that they would have to take risks, but the atmosphere of the time was really focused on the future.
The revolutionary paradigm with the concept of the enemy is reappearing
“There was more dialogue, even though we did not have the same country or the same political system as the one we have today. And today, unfortunately, the revolutionary paradigm is reappearing with the concept of the enemy – there is talk of fascists, traitors, and so on. Instead of celebrating our common achievement, some are working hard to polarise and even misuse independence to create new divisions,” Peterle stressed, adding that this is a difference he does not enjoy. “There were times during World War II and the revolution that divided our nation, but independence brought us together, united us in a common goal. We should be aware of this difference and celebrate it,” he believes.
When asked if he ever imagined that we would someday live in a country where totalitarianism is worshipped, the Museum of Slovenian Independence is abolished, the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Communist Regime is abolished, people go to Čebine to celebrate the anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party of Slovenia, and there is an all-present eco-craziness going on, Peterle replied that we are once again experiencing the revolutionary spirit, talking about ugly capitalists, listening to terminology that was first used in the years 1941 or 1945, and this is worrying, because this state of mind is also contributing to the fact that very creative people, entrepreneurs, are leaving our country. “Not because they cannot get a job, but because they do not like this state of mind, they do not like to be described by someone as being right or wrong, ours or not ours.” The concept of the enemy has really come back to us, he said. “We have already experienced this, and we disconnected from it with independence, but it looks like we have not quite succeeded,” he stressed, adding that after everything that we are seeing now, when they are returning us to the Čebine, in connection with which around 750 mass murders and burial sites have been identified so far, the impression is that people are beginning to understand a little bit more what is at stake and what is the difference between the Socialist Republic of Slovenia in totalitarian Yugoslavia and the Republic of Slovenia, which is a democracy and a member of the European Union.
Representatives of the state authorities, with Robert Golob at the helm – with the exception of the President of the National Council and Minister Matjaž Han – boycotted the Mass for the Homeland. We asked Peterle what message this sends and he explained: “This is the spirit of what we were talking about before. For some people, the Church obviously remains an ideological concept in the sense that the Church is others, it is ‘them,’ you don’t go there. So, here too, polarisation has now set in. We have had prime ministers and also a president of the country who saw the Mass for the Homeland as an occasion for Slovenia to stand together,” he pointed out, explaining that this does not mean that you need to change your whole worldview, but that you bow together to the same values. So now we have people who go to Mass and people who go to a celebration – however, Peterle fears that they will not be celebrating the same thing. “Drawing from this, I would say that maybe we were not so united when it came to independence, because we have a restoration of the revolutionary and totalitarian paradigm,” he stressed.
When asked what he would like to see for Slovenia in the future, so that we would no longer have to live in a country where patriotism is something marginal or even shameful, Peterle pointed out that the education system is certainly an area where we could develop a good patriotic, civic and democratic consciousness. “In school, young people should learn why independence happened in the first place, why the undemocratic system did not hold, but young people do not learn this, they do not even know that we had a war for Slovenia.” What is missing, he said, is that several generations have not had the basic education to understand why the change happened in the first place. “I think we have a big task ahead of us to put this country in order, in line with the values of independence, and one of those values is Slovenians standing together. In many ways, we achieved our independence together, we were united at critical moments, not only in the plebiscite. For me, what is missing is this togetherness, which can only be developed if we respect each other, talk to each other and agree on some common goals,” he concluded.
Today, the Slovenian identity is not a value anymore
We also spoke to historian Dr Stane Granda about the spirit of the Slovenian nation at the time of independence and today, and the expectations of an independent state. “Before independence, especially in the second half of the 1980s, Slovenians were gripped by a strong optimism, a belief in themselves, but also a belief in the role and importance of democracy. This was very widespread, and there was a general interest in and willingness to talk about the national question,” he pointed out, adding that today, Slovenian identity is no longer a value, because there is no optimism in the ruling tone, everything is only about materialism, about money, about where to get more, and above all, there are a lot of lies and intolerance. “There has never been so much intolerance and lies in our society as there are now. Even in my childhood, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, and later, when the regime was much tougher, the latter took care of its honour and its dignity, but now the rulers have practically no regard for their dignity and honour. In fact, they really do not care what the people think of them.”
“I never expected such a crazy situation as the one we have now, and probably none of those who took an active part, whether theoretically or practically, in the independence process, did either,” he said, recalling that even then, there were heavy pressures on those who fought for independence. In fact, there was an organised campaign of hate against them, mainly implemented by the National Liberation fighters, and above all, it was all on the level of discrediting, which was both personal, as well as professional – it took place at various levels. “It was important that everyone who came up at the time of independence was discredited, and if nothing else, it was said that he or she had their own chart in a hospital for the mentally ill.”
Slovenian independence ignored the importance of education
What is frightening about this, according to Granda, is that it is organised and systematically managed and well-orchestrated, well thought out, because it is not something spontaneous and accidental. “Of course, not all phenomena are controlled, but the general stimulus, the one that everything is directed towards, is very carefully managed. The reason I see for this is that Slovenian independence completely ignored the importance of education.” He problematised the fact that, although we have been an independent country for more than 30 years, children come out of schools knowing nothing about independence, the father of the Slovenian state, Jože Pučnik, or those who ideologically defend it. “They are simply skipping over this topic, and that is very frightening.”
“The importance of patriotic knowledge, which should form the basis of an independent state, has thus been completely overlooked. It is not very responsible to make excuses and blame it all on the old forces, because we cannot forget that the generations that have been brought up in this country for 30 years are now coming to the limelight. Education in this country has completely failed at all levels,” Granda stresses, adding that this is, of course, partly a global phenomenon, but it is even more visible here. “In our country, even the Prime Minister sometimes disregards his duties as the Prime Minister,” he said, referring to his absence at the Mass for the Homeland. He then cited the example of old Austria. “You could be a Protestant, a member of the Jewish faith, an Orthodox or even an atheist, but when there was a school celebration, a school holiday or a public holiday if you like, which usually started with a mass, depending on the circumstances, whether Protestant or Catholic, it was considered an official duty to go there. But today, civic duties are not just rights and claims.”
The old Yugoslavia, Grande also said, systematically moulded its youth from the Austrian to the Yugoslav spirit. “But here there is none of that in our country – on the contrary, the little national history that Slovenian children hear in Slovenian schools is nowhere to be found in Europe,” Granda criticised this, explaining that there has been a comparative study done on the subject, adding that he is not just making up facts. “This needs to be changed completely.” The democratic forces that will sooner or later come to power must, according to Granda, focus all their energy on schools, not on capital, which adapts. “What matters is the fight for souls, not for some material values and yachts,” he believes.