By: Dimitrij Rupel
At the beginning of the month, the media reported on the government’s intention. Ministry of Culture to establish or supports the establishment of the Museum of Slovenian Independence: “In the budget for 2022, the government redistributed funds for culture in an amended proposal so that we will get a new Museum of Slovenian Independence.” This message was typically objected to by the SD and Levica parties, especially Tanja Fajon and Luka Mesec; then “a group of activists … carried out a protest art campaign against the launch of the project of the Museum of Independence of Slovenia” and warned that “the museum … will mean an additional loss of funds for culture.” With the “protest performance”, the activists wanted to say that the money, which is supposed to be intended for them, “is also used for financing an institution, for which is already clear that it will serve primarily as a propaganda institution for the current government and some individuals. who present themselves to the Slovenian public as independence fighters”. They also added that in the midst of the biggest health crisis in history, which is causing uncontrollable financial damage to the cultural sector, they will not allow “an already bizarrely small budget for culture to be impoverished at the expense of this.”
By the way, the behavior of the opponents of the Museum of Slovenian Independence betrays unexpected uncertainty. While announcing the imminent end of the current government, they are worried about its policy in 2022. In a protest letter addressed to Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti and State Secretary Ignacia Fridl Jarc, handed over to a security guard at the ministry, they asked them to reconsider and then decide to resign. In connection with these protests – as Fridl Jarčeva writes – a call to kill officials of the Ministry of Culture appeared online: “This happens to traitors of our own nation. Be glad that no one is really doing “traitors death”. For all of you who don’t know what it is: a man’s stomach is cut, his intestines pulled in front of him, and burned. If he watches it, he screams, otherwise he’s lucky and dies sooner.”
Regardless of the cruelty and unworthiness of such communication, they go further and deeper in some places. Thus, we read that “Slovenian culture is one of the social systems that, through its discourses, helps to maintain the Slovenian independence myth, this moral basis of the traditionalist-militaristic policy of the Janša government.”
With all these inadequacies, the question arises as to how countries preserve the memory of their beginning or to their turning points in its history. Most countries are, of course, older than Slovenia and have resolved this issue a long time ago. Material on state beginnings or turning points is kept in the so-called national, i.e. state museums, which of course are not the same as the National Museum of Slovenia, which deals with older (Egyptian, Roman, medieval…) history or with events that are more related to the territory rather than to the nation, and it mostly is not concerned with the state. In Slovenia, we also have the Museum of Recent History, which was originally intended for events in the World War II (NOB) and which is not intended for the collection and systematic presentation of material related to the beginning of the Slovenian state. In this regard, many ask the (more or less nonsensical) question, did the Slovenian state really begin in 1991, or did it already exist in the SFRY? In the former three-room apartment on Ljubljana’s Cankar street, in the premises of the Association for the Values of Slovenian Independence, there is a the so-called Museum of Slovene Independence, which – due to space constraints and financial shortages – of course does not represent the beginning of the Slovene state in an appropriate way. There are still three Yugoslav monuments on the edge of Ljubljana’s square of republic: the monuments to Drago Tršar and Edvard Kardelj, and the revolution, and a stone block with a quote from the constitution of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia. Two empty concrete blocks (without quotes) near Zvezda Park are supposed to be a monument of reconciliation between partisans and home guards.
How do Americans, French, or Germans treat their national heritage? The United States Declaration of Independence is kept in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and many monuments associated with the beginning of statehood are located, e.g. Washington Monument. In nearby Monticell is the house of Thomas Jefferson. The American Independence Museum is in New Hampshire; the American Revolution Museum is in Philadelphia.
The German event, which could be compared to Slovenian independence, is the unification of Germany in 1990, and the French museums of “recent history” deal with the French Revolution and the achievements of World War II. In both cases, they are reputable institutions and prominent buildings.
It is a ruthless disqualification of the government and the ministry
Opposition to the Museum of Independence has some more or less blurred backgrounds. It is a ruthless disqualification of the government and the ministry that proposed it; to a large extent, it is also a matter of ignorance resulting from school and media negligence over the last thirty years. The anti-independence campaign after 2008 has become particularly harsh and unworthy.
Slovenia is also experiencing a “guns or butter” debate. Excessive and obscene protests in connection with the Museum of Slovene Independence occur at the same time as protests against investments in the Slovene army. Instead of buying weapons for the Slovenian Army in the years 2021-2027 (it is not really known who will rule Slovenia in five years!), hospitals or similar social institutions are to be built. These institutions are desperately needed, but their funding cannot be linked to the defence of the state. It may be possible to save something in the military, but in health care it is known how much money clever intermediaries have put in their pockets in the purchase of operating tables, vascular splints and all possible medical devices. Concern for the health of citizens is of courseself-evident in a modern country; regarding respect for and protection of the state, the citizens decided in a plebiscite in 1990 and in a referendum on the EU and NATO in 2003. At that time, Slovenian administrators were once and for all instructed to take care of the protection of the state and its historical material.
Dr. Dimitrij Rupel is a Slovenian sociologist, politician, diplomat, writer, playwright, editor and publicist. He was a dissident under the former communist regime. Immediately after the Slovenian independence, he became Foreign Minister. He was also Foreign Minister from 2004 to 2008.