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Ljubljana
Thursday, June 20, 2024

Under the monument of death

By: Franci Kindlhofer

It would be difficult to find a stronger symbol of the state of Slovenian society than this. On Republic Square, a bronze monstrosity still juts into the sky, representing the chaos of the communist revolution, with lit candles beneath it for the victims of those who erected this monument. Instead of removing this symbol of the 45-year dictatorship during the celebrations on the evening of June 26th, 1991, it remained as a threat to all those who, at the time of Slovenia’s independence and the collapse of communist Yugoslavia, also hoped for radical political changes.

In reality, 1945 repeated itself in a milder form; we all rejoiced in independence, but the communist ideology remained present and ensured the continuation of national division. We have had thirty-four years of democracy, reminding us of walking a tightrope, where only a trained artist reaches the other end. Thus, many governments have only made it halfway, then the struggle to maintain balance ended. On this uncertain path, no government has managed to thoroughly deal with the past and set Slovenia on a solid foundation on which our daily lives could thrive, and we could look to the future with confidence.

In attempts to nullify efforts for tolerant coexistence, besides the unfortunate start with party secretary Milan Kučan as the president of the country, the most successful is the current government of the left-wing coalition with Prime Minister Robert Golob. The minority coalition parties with a communist background, especially Levica and SD, ensure that the government does not abandon the “right” side of history. Some of their MPs see themselves as successors to the communists and publicly demonstrate this by mingling and appearing in veteran circles at their imagined victorious exploits or participating in celebrations honouring the communist party. Thus, we find the Minister of Culture at Čebine, an enthusiastic Svoboda deputy in Dražgoše, or as a historian praising the glorious NOB (National Liberation Struggle).

Simultaneously, the dismantling of everything that would remind of the democratic victory over communism and might put this ideology and its actors in danger of having to justify or at least explain their past actions is happening. In this relatively short time, the 15th government has managed to turn the wheel of history significantly backward. Through a rapid process, it managed to subjugate the public broadcaster RTV to government control, abolished the Office for Demography, merged the Museum of Independence with the Museum of Recent History, and last year even tackled the most painful wound of the Slovenian nation by abolishing the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Dictatorship. Thank God, this decree did not break the will and pride of the relatives and descendants of these victims. Thus, we saw more people on Republic Square on May 16th this year, despite the bad weather, than last year.

The absence of anyone from the state leadership is, of course, already a standard for Golob’s government and a sign of indifference and ignorance from President Nataša Pirc-Musar, who prefers socialising with a colourful company of sexual provocateurs on the streets of Ljubljana over the, for her probably too complicated, recent history of Slovenia. Viewed this way, we should not be surprised by the reactions of some hotheads who appear on various social media platforms with insults and provocations towards the victims and their relatives.

We are already thinking about May 16th, 2025. There must be even more of us, and we must think about giving the victims a face. Prepare photographs of the victims. Perhaps some supporter of the communist executioners will pause and realise that our future does not lie in eternal hatred. It is incomprehensible if someone further burdens innocent victims with hatred just because they are looking for justification for their actions. Even their silence would be more humane.

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