In the history of every nation there is a precisely defined moment that enables a nation to become sovereign, its own master on its own land. Such a moment reflects the positive attitude of most citizens or members of the nation. Such a moment represents the centre of the nation’s values. For us, Slovenians and citizens of the Republic of Slovenia, this is the moment of independence.
This year will mark thirty years since the meeting of the Demos coalition on 9 and 10 November 1990 in Poljče, where a historic decision was made to call for a referendum for Slovenia’s independence. Demos’ decision in Poljče was right, decisive and deciding. But this decision was not an obvious one. It took courage. It was adopted at a time when other political leaders would have hesitated and deliberated and again have wasted the historic opportunity of the Slovenian nation. Who knows when, if ever, would such an opportunity repeat itself. Therefore, I sincerely thank to everyone who put all their doubts and fears aside that November day and decided what was right and what was most needed at the time. This decision was later upgraded with a unified political agreement to hold a plebiscite on Slovenia’s independence.
The day of the plebiscite, 23 December 1990, will forever be written in Slovenia’s history as a special day. At a 93.2% voter turnout, 95% of us voted for an independent Slovenia. The nation understood the uniqueness of that historic moment and thus proved its maturity, wisdom and readiness to become a free sovereign state. It was the only time in history when the Slovenian nation really did create its own fate.
Six months later, on 25 June 1991, after heated debates and votes on independence laws, the most important of which were adopted with only a few votes of Demos’ small majority, the Slovenian National Assembly passed the Constitutional Act Implementing the Basic Constitutional Charter on the Sovereignty and Independence of the Republic of Slovenia with the required two-thirds majority, with which Slovenia assumed the former federal jurisdiction over its territory. Slovenia became an independent and sovereign state. There was no way back, and the Yugoslav People’s Army tried to aggressively prevent the way to a new life.
We had to immediately defend the freedom of our nation by taking up arms. During those weeks, days and hours in June and July 1991, everything was at stake. An independent and European future for Slovenians, a democratic system, our religion and law, prosperity and our lives. These were the days when—disarmed in May 1990—the nation once again stood up for its rights, declared an independent Slovenia and vigorously resisted the Yugoslav People’s Army’s aggression.
In those days, a small percentage of Slovenians, who, with the mass support of the nation, took up every available weapon and, together with the civil defence, opposed the fifth strongest army in Europe, achieved the impossible with their courage and wrote the final act of the transition of the Slovenian nation to a state. The courage of Slovenians was admired by the whole world at that time. Representatives of the most powerful countries in the world, who claimed a few days before the war that they would never recognise us, changed their mind because of our courage. Despite opposition to our actual independence by a part of left-wing politics, the nation was united. United like never before and very brave.
The unity of the nation, the courage of those who were armed, the strong political will of the Demos government coalition led by Dr Jože Pučnik and the initiative of many individual commanders of tactical units of the Territorial Defence and the police forged a victory in the war for Slovenia. A victory elevated in its finality to the Slovenian Olympus, a victory more important than all the battles that our ancestors—often unfortunately also for others—fought through the vortices of the ungrateful history of past centuries.
Every day, the war for Slovenia revealed thousands of heroes in the Slovenian nation. Boys and men who overcame fear out of a love for their homeland. They took up arms to defend their home, their religion and their law. Slovenia. They did a great job.
To paraphrase the famous quote by Winston Churchill following the Battle of Britain, we can say that never in the history of the Slovenian nation was so much owed by so many to so few compatriots.
Following their victory they returned to their homes. The state may have often forgotten about them, but their homeland never will. It was a pivotal moment, a great ode to the Slovenian nation. We rose up and, thanks to their courage, we prevailed.
But, unfortunately, there were also those who fell victim to this war. We are grateful to all those who gave the most valuable gift—their lives—in order to realise the nation’s dream. And we nurture their memory with our full appreciation.
Looking back at our journey, at everything that we as a nation have achieved in these twenty-nine years, which is really only a short amount of time for a country, we can be proud. We have achieved a great deal, but we have also missed many an opportunity. Also because we allowed old grievances, hatred, cynical distance and divisions to regain their power. Because the good that is in each of us stayed silent when the bad once again began its march and halted creative enthusiasm.
However, the trials that life tests us with teach us time and time again that we are, in fact, strong when we are connected and unified. That only in unity can we advance as a nation and a society, overcoming even the hardest adversities. Our last experience in the fight against the coronavirus only confirmed this. In spite of divided politics, as was the case during our path to independence, we, as a nation that understood that our health is irreplaceable, indivisible and equally invaluable to all, were able to win the first battle against the virus. I believe that together, by acting responsibly, we can overcome any further outbreaks of infection. Furthermore, I would like to express my sincere condolences and empathy to the friends and family of all those who passed away from the coronavirus.
On the occasion of the birthday of our homeland, I look back at the path we have walked and hope that we more frequently realise what a great honour and privilege it is that with our decision we were able to achieve the dream of an independent state and justify the sacrifices, efforts, work and prayers of many generations of Slovenians.
I hope that we see our independent country as a great gift and opportunity for all to make it their own, care for it and do our very best, each in our own way. Just as we care for the people we carry in our hearts.
I hope that, since our joint decision at the plebiscite became a reality in the form of a sovereign and independent state, we never again say that nothing can be done. That nothing can be changed. The power of a unified nation is an unstoppable force. If it is joined together for a noble cause, the whole of Creation will help us achieve it.
I hope that, as a result of the extraordinary events that took place at the end of 1990 and in the first half of 1991 and which were unparalleled in our history up to this point, we would never give up. That we would know how to preserve our connection to that time which, with its intensity that overcame all hurdles, led to the birth of our sovereign and independent country in that momentous time. This is the centre of the Slovenian nation’s values in which the creative, spiritual and material forces of the nation came together from its very beginning.
I hope that we will always channel our strength and creativity from this centre of values. That we will find shelter in it after storms and rest after going through trials. That we remain as one with it and with each other.
I hope that the Slovenian flag will proudly fly from every home in our beloved homeland in honour of this, our greatest anniversary. That in the days of summer to come we discover our country’s hidden beauty and realise just how magical it is. In the sound of bells born, gifted from God. Created for us. Happy Birthday, Slovenia!
My sincere congratulations on Statehood Day.