By: Dr Jože Dežman
In 2006, I wrote that “the system of preservation and development of revolutionary traditions (SORRI) was an ideological mechanism that used cult forms to cover up the crimes and failures of the Communist Party/Union of Communists of Slovenia/Yugoslavia. /…/
In the SORRI research, we discover anthropological reduction, moral devastation, a false memory landscape, religious regression, and civilisational slippage. With scientific illusionism, SORRI tried to push mystery, mysticism, and prayer out of the world, it scorned death, truth, and reconciliation, it killed talents, it suffocated individuals in a collectivist manner.”
To date, the Republic of Slovenia has succeeded to a good extent in de-tabooing the taboos of Titoism and implementing many measures of transitional justice. But the activists and heirs of Titoism, in many guises, are still trying to maintain their power precisely through the endless national-communist revisions of rituals and patterns from the old days. This is no longer Titoism as we knew it, but it deserves a new name. Considering that the leading person of this masquerade is Milan Kučan, it is appropriate to call the totality of these phenomena Kučanism.
I have been pointing out for several years that the fundamental characteristics of Kučanism can be most vividly observed at the annual meetings of Titophile people in Dražgoše. It is about the desecration of graves, the enforcement of the Kučanist version of civil religion as the state church, communist atheistic burial, living in a lie.
Desecration of the grave
“Tell our people and the world that we are our own master on our own land and that they will never turn this land into a banana republic. Death to fascism – freedom to the nation!” This is how Janez Stanovnik bellowed in Dražgoše in 2015. He insulted the American ambassador and hoped that Zoran Jankovič, then a candidate for the mandate, would successfully form a new Slovenian government. Danilo Türk, the then president of the Republic of Slovenia, also politicised in Dražgoše in a similar way.
Such political crazies at the grave in Dražgoše say that they do not care about the grave at all. Despite repeated warnings, they ignore the Article 8th of the 2004 Rulebook on Cemetery Order at War Cemeteries (Minister Vlado Dimovski), which requires: “All visitors and contractors must behave appropriately for the location and purpose of the war cemetery with respect for the dead.”
Are the various kinds of blustering, incitement, etc. at the grave in Dražgoše during the annual January rituals not a violation of this regulation? The other events in Dražgoše are also in clear disagreement with the behaviour “suitable for the place and purpose of a war cemetery with respect for the dead.”
This is also the case in other burial grounds, where Kučanists are “their own masters on their own land”. Agitation and propaganda instead of respecting the grave.
Kučanism as a state religion and communist atheist burial
Agitation and propaganda were an integral part of Titoist thanatopolitics from the very beginning of the regime. It is part of the civil religion that we used to know as a system of preserving and developing revolutionary traditions. The believers of this civil religion depend entirely on the belief that “they are their own master on their own land”. For the position of “master”, they are ready to forget everything they preached yesterday (revolutionary achievements and traditions) and dedicate themselves to preaching what the position of “master” in democracy brings them (the national-communist emphasis on national liberation or the “values of the national liberation struggle”).
In order to remain “masters” “on their land”, they are trying to secure the position of the state church for Kučanism.
The communist star is supposed to defeat the Christian cross.
Janez Stanovnik is today buried under the Catholic cross at the grave in Žale. Neither Stanovnik nor the vast majority of others who, in order to be their own “master in the communist land”, publicly advocated a militant atheism with the star, sickle and hammer, renounced the symbols of the star, sickle and hammer on their graves. Were they not their intimate choice?
At the same time, they tried to hide as much as possible the fact that most of the war victims recognised by the Socialist Republic of Slovenia (a good half of all those who died in Slovenia, or around 20,000) were buried in family graves and almost all of them, without exception, under the cross. In 2003, when the Act on War Graves was adopted, there was a left-wing government in Slovenia. And this law deleted all the family graves of the victorious side from the state records of war graves. Maybe because socialist Slovenia never seriously listed these graves and they have no information about them, or maybe also because they wanted to get rid of their graves marked with a cross?
In 2014, Viktor Žakelj, as a celebratory speaker in Dražgoše, invited the “future bishop, …/… come to Dražgoše, and of course also to other Calvaries from the Second World War. /…/ Give absolution to the 41 murdered people of Dražgoše, who, believe me, died with the Lord’s Prayer on their lips.”
With these words, the organisers of the Dražgoše ceremony actually invited Archbishop Zoreto to Dražgoše just before the event. On January 7th, 2015, he replied to them: “Given that you agree with Žakelj that all the murdered people from Dražgoše died with the Lord’s Prayer on their lips, and to the fact that, as Catholics, they were buried in the church on January 21st, 1942 in the then cemetery, and that the remains of those killed were exhumed from there in 1976 and transferred to the ossuary of the central Dražgoše monument, I am sure that the dignity of all of us also dictates that the place of their last earthly residence is arranged in accordance with their religious beliefs. This ultimately also requires their human dignity and is their human right. There is no Calvary without a cross, and the grave of a Christian is usually marked with a cross.”
The murdered people of Dražgoše were buried by a German priest. In 1976, they were moved from the former cemetery to the ossuary under the monument without a religious ceremony. No one was allowed to even think of a religious ceremony in the faith of the victims at this second funeral. It is time for the communist side to realise that it has violated the Geneva Conventions, which require freedom of conscience and religion, respect for the religion of one’s fellow man, both living and dead.
Therefore, we rightly expect both the communist veterans and the Slovenian state to establish a dialogue with the Catholic and other churches on the implementation of the Geneva Conventions. Is it too much to expect that a Catholic crypt would be arranged next to the ossuary in Dražgoše in respect of the faith of those buried there and their martyrdom?
Tossing the bones and living a lie
The fifth article of the 2005 Rulebook on Cemetery Order at War Cemeteries states:
“(1) War cemeteries must be marked with information boards in Slovenian, English, German and Italian and in the language of the nationality of those buried there.
(2) The information board contains the international designation of the war cemetery, any indication that it is a cultural monument, the name of the war cemetery, the period from which the war cemetery is located, and the number and nationality of those buried, if the data is known.
(3) The accesses to the war cemetery are marked with signposts.”
In Dražgoše (as well as in other cemeteries of socialist Slovenia from the time of World War II) all the above regulations are absent. The visitor can only know that it is a war cemetery from the inscription on the ossuary: “In the ossuary lie 8 fighters from the Battle of Dražgoše and 40 villagers, victims of fascist terror.”
This number of buried victims, 48, is also listed in the register of war cemeteries. According to the Decree on the declaration of the ossuary with a monument in Dražgoše as a cultural monument of national importance, it is supposed to be an “ossuary with 50 fallen”. The actual list of names of the victims currently includes 51 people. Is it 48 or 50 or 51?
In other words, for the communist side, it is not so important what happened to the remains, it is more important that the dead have a ritual-propaganda function. It would be time to find out who is actually buried in the ossuary in Dražgoše.
The local community of Dražgoše decided to arrange the Dražgoše tomb according to regulations. The competent ministry (at that time the MDDSZ) replied that they had no information about those buried in the ossuary of the monument. This ossuary is most similar in shape to a larger sewer pipe, while the lower floor of the monument, where the ossuary is located, is a neglected warehouse or landfill. Unfortunately, this architectural attitude towards death is characteristic of most cemeteries in socialist Slovenia.
The rectory in Železniki keeps a copy from the German funeral register. On January 21st, 1942, 32 murdered villagers were buried at the old Dražgoše cemetery. There is no information about anyone else being buried in this grave later. Given that after the conflict, the villagers were interned for a while in Šentvid, and then the village was systematically blown up, this is also unlikely. Of the murdered villagers, the following were not buried: Vincenc Benedičič, Tomaž Berce (Brce), Jože Bertoncelj, Peter Frakelj, Zdravko (Valentin) Frakelj, Jože Gartner, Mihael Habjan, Jakob Lotrič, Stanislav Marenk. The wounded Marija Šolar died in the hospital in Golnik and was not buried with the other murdered villagers.
A special issue is the burial of the remains from the grave in the old Dražgoše cemetery to the ossuary of the monument in 1976. We searched for documents about the burial in various archives but could not find them. It also does not appear that the arrangement of the new grave was marked as a burial. They did not ask their relatives; they pushed the church away. Janez Tušek, who critically evaluates the Dražgoše rites in the latest issue of Železni niti, quotes a witness: “Even in 1976, when we dug up the victims and moved the remains under the monument, we were not allowed to ring the bell. But the late Šolar Matevž rang the bell at his own risk.”
Of the fallen partisans in the conflict in Dražgoše, Maks Krmelj is buried in Poljane, Maksimiljan Režen in Selce, Boštjan Jezeršek died in Stara Oselica. There is no reliable information about which of the partisans was still buried in Dražgoše.
Janez (Ivan) Kovačič Jr. fell in Dražgoše. Following the request of his mother Helena Kovačič from December 1945 for the burial of her son’s remains in Stražišče, he was buried in Dražgoše, he was said to have been “alone in a grave”, in “sandy soil”, he was buried “by a gravedigger from Selce who at that time had no authority and was without religious body”. Was he dug up?
In the future, it will probably be necessary to research the remains lying in the ossuary in Dražgoše, so that we can even begin to talk about who is actually buried there.
Similar or even worse uncertainties or untruths written on the monuments about who is supposed to be buried where are scattered throughout the cemeteries of socialist Slovenia.
The regime, which was built on the fact that nearly half of the victims were denied the right to a grave and memory, treated its victims similarly.
Truth and respect for the individual are just as foreign to Kučanism as to Titoism.
For coexistence and forgiveness
Is it too much to expect that after a few years of this kind of correspondence, all those who desecrate graves, try to use their civil religion to control society, and toss bones without respect for the dead and have no respect for the truth, might just start a dialogue about what the Slovenian city of the dead should be like, suitable for a democratic and legal state that respects human rights.