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Thirty-Two Years Ago, the May Declaration, Which Milan Kučan Saw as a Threat, Was Read in Front of a Crowd of Several Thousand

On the eighth of May, 32 years ago, the famous May declaration was read at the Congress Square in Ljubljana. “We want to live in a sovereign state of the Slovenian nation!” was its central message.

At the mass demonstrations against the arrest of Janez Janša, the Slovenian poet Tone Pavček read the May Declaration at the Congress Square. It was a political statement formulated by the Slovenian opposition political parties in 1989 and signed by over a hundred thousand people. The name of the document, the May Declaration, was taken from the famous declaration by Dr Anton Korošec from 1917, which called for the unification of all South Slavic nations in one political state unit and announced the end of the Habsburg Empire and the creation of Yugoslavia. The May Declaration, which was drawn up 72 years ago, however, announced the breakup of totalitarian Yugoslavia and the beginning of independent Slovenia.

The political statement, read in front of thousands of people, was created in April 1989 in the office of Dr Dimitrij Rupel. In addition to Rupel, Janez Janša, France Bučar, Hubert Požarnik, Veno Taufer and Ivo Urbančič also helped write it.

The May Declaration was also signed by the then-opposition parties and movements: The Slovene Writers’ Association, the Slovene Democratic Union, the Slovene Christian Social Movement, the Slovenian Democratic Union (now the Slovenian Democratic Party), the Slovene Composers’ Association and the ZSMS University Conference. At the same time, a pro-Yugoslav document was being created, entitled The Founding Charter of Slovenia 1989, which was drafted by the then-Republic Conference SDZL. Unlike the Declaration, the Founding Charter still maintained the Yugoslav framework and announced the renewal of the former totalitarian system.

The Declaration became the basis of the Demos political programme
The May Declaration was created in uncertain times, full of friction, and, in contrast to the then-totalitarian Yugoslav system, it courageously and resolutely demanded a sovereign state of the Slovene nation, based on respect of human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and social order, which would ensure spiritual and material well-being in accordance with the natural resources and human capabilities of the citizens of Slovenia. In the spirit of the Slovenian spring and the national awakening, the Declaration became the basis of the political programme of the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (Demokratična opozicija Slovenije – DEMOS), which, in 1990, led by Dr Jože Pučnik, won the first multi-party elections in Slovenia after the year 1945. The DEMOS government successfully held a plebiscite for an independent Slovenia and, on the 25th of June 1991, implemented the main point of the May Declaration, when the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Slovenia was adopted.

The communist leadership at the time saw the May Declaration as a threat, as it would cause them to lose power and their totalitarian privileges, so the reactions to it were harsh. The former head of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Slovenia, Milan Kučan, told the newspaper Komunist (Communist) the following: “Some Slovene democrats, who are such ardent supporters of the May Declaration, see a perspective beyond socialism and Yugoslavia. But I am convinced that giving up Yugoslavia means giving up our own country.”

Sara Kovač

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