By: Sara Rančigaj
Eighteen years ago, the father of Slovenian independence, Jože Pučnik, Ph.D., passed away. Pučnik was a great patriot, a political prisoner and a cornerstone and the initiator of the Slovenian independence, at the centre of the democratic processes at the end of the 1980s. At the time of Slovenia gaining its independence, he was the leader of the Demos coalition, which was responsible for the plebiscite and the implementation of the independence process itself. Pučnik was also one of the founders of the Social Democratic Alliance of Slovenia, which is now known as the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), and later, he was also the party’s leader. As today’s members of his party pointed out, his life motto was the fight for the truth and the prosperity of Slovenian people.
Jože Pučnik, Ph.D., was born on the 9th of March 1923, in a Catholic family of farmers, in Črešnjevec near Slovenska Bistrica. Even as a young man, he was already able to clearly and loudly defend his views and beliefs, and critically point out the mistakes of the Yugoslav totalitarian system.
No one had had a path quite so difficult as Pučnik did – he was already persecuted for his free-thinking and criticism when he was in high school. Among other things, he criticised the undemocratic regime in the school newspaper called Iskanja (Searching), for which he was punished and was therefore not allowed to take the final exam. No punishment or torture, however, stopped Pučnik from seeking and fighting for the truth.
He published articles in Revija 57 (Magazine 57), in which he criticised the economic policies of the communist system and was sentenced to nine years in prison, for allegedly undermining the socialist system, according to the Yugoslav regime. Because of his actions, especially the critical articles he wrote about the communist regime, he was convicted and imprisoned twice and was even put in solitary confinement and tortured. Pučnik was released after five years, and in the same year, he published the article “The Problems of our Agriculture,” with which he drew attention to the ineffective agricultural policies, so the authorities put him in prison once again.
Due to criticism of the then-authorities, he had to find a job abroad
After his release in 1966, he was unable to get a job, so he was forced to find other career options abroad. He settled in Germany, where he received his doctorate in philosophy and sociology and became a lecturer at the University of Hamburg and Lüneburg. His convictions served as a prime example of what would happen to those who publicly expressed their opposition to the totalitarian system. However, Pučnik never tried to get his revenge, despite the fact that he was imprisoned for nine years. He opposed personal revenge fights; he only wanted systemic changes, so that his experience would not have been repeated with anyone else.
Despite his exile, his mind and heart were always with his homeland, Slovenia. His departure was only temporary. In the mid-1980s, he began publishing his works in Slovenia again, in the alternative magazine Nova revija (New magazine), where he formulated his demands for a multi-party parliamentary system. Pučnik also participated in the establishment of the Social Democratic Alliance of Slovenia and was later also its leader. During the independence process, he led the Demos coalition, which won the first multi-party elections, successfully held the plebiscite for an independent Slovenia, led the Slovenian nation to independence, and defended it from the Yugoslav People’s Army’s attacks.
After the dissolution of Democ, Jože Pučnik, Ph.D., continued his career as a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia. During his term from the year 1992 to 1996, he headed the Commission of Inquiry that investigated the post-war massacres. After the end of his term in parliament, he withdrew from active politics but remained the honorary president of the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia. Pučnik died on the 11th of January 2003, and in honour of the father of Slovenian independence, the government decided to name the Ljubljana Airport after him in 2007.
There would be no independent Slovenia without Jože Pučnik
Today, Pučnik’s heritage is increasingly valued and respected. it is difficult to imagine an independent Slovenia without his intervention in the Slovenian political space, as Slovenia has achieved all the goals it set for itself during the democratic shifts, because of his involvement. The life motto of Jože Pučnik, Ph.D., in Slovenian politics, was to fight for the truth and to fight for the well-being of the Slovenian people. Pučnik did a lot of work for the Slovenian nation, and his traditions should be respected, and we should continue his fight for the truth and prosperity of man.
To honour Pučnik, the SDS president Janez Janša, along with the president of the SDS municipal committee of Slovenska Bistrica, laid flowers on his grave. SDS MP Karmen Furman and the Mayor of Slovenska Bistrica, Ivan Žagar, were also present at the laying of flowers.