By: Sara Kovač (Nova24tv.si)
“With independence, the proclamation of the state on June 26th, 1991, we moved away from totalitarianism, with it we broke it. Independence is not an extension of the NOB; it is not an extension of the 45-year-old party consensus that you went to Čebine to pay your respects to. These are two stories, there is no continuity,” Lojze Peterle, the first Slovenian Prime Minister and President of the VSO, explained to Culture Minister Asta Vrečko on the 24ur Zvečer show, reminding her that Čebine is connected to the revolution, the 700 mass murders and graves that remained in Slovenia. “I have the impression that you do not understand independence,” he was clear.
When asked if he agrees with Minister Asta Vrečko’s accusation that there is a cultural struggle and that they are using it to attack Golob’s government and the coalition, Lojze Peterle replied that he is not sure if there is agreement on what a cultural struggle is. The cultural struggle is considered to be a kind of struggle between the state and the church. “We are not doing that. At today’s meeting, we came out with firm and clear words against the new cynical attitude towards independence, which is manifested especially by the abolition of the museum, which was established by the democratically elected government. Making fun of there being a room or two. If the museum has just started operating, of course it cannot be the equipped museum that we would like.”
We will not accept this belittling of Slovenian independence
Peterle reminded that the Minister did not even visit this museum. The director and employees of this museum found out about its termination from the media. “Then you declared two history doctors incompetent, they lost their jobs. But you went to pay your respects to the memory of Čebine, to which we said goodbye precisely with independence.” According to Peterle, Čebine does not represent the values of an independent, democratic and European Slovenia. He emphasised that he was very surprised by this. “I expect that you will have some political problems because of this, because you paid tribute to symbols that have nothing to do with independent Slovenia. Count on us not to accept this belittling of Slovenian independence,” he pointed out and added that today’s protest rally clearly showed that.
Asta Vrečko addressed the accusations, saying that they are supposedly manipulation and deception. Although in this case it was about the abolition of the Museum of Slovenian Independence, she claims that in this case it is a formal merger. “The united museum has a new acting director, and then there will be a call for applications where anyone can apply, including former directors. It is definitely about reckoning with the opposition and exploiting the values of independence and veteran societies for a cultural struggle, an attack on the government, a government that does good, that has results, that also corrects not only the state of affairs that brought culture to the brink, but also everything mistakes made by the previous government with its inaction in the field of culture. On the one hand, they did not take care of cultural workers, interrupted the dialogue with civil society, practically put them on the street, and on the other hand, they founded a museum, which at the same time was neither descriptively developed nor had space, collections and so on,” she said in her defence.
Based on what was said, Peterle emphasised that he could not understand this as an argument, but as an attempt to defend oneself in a game in which they reacted to the government’s humiliating decision by cancelling it. They find the attitude towards two Doctors of Science even more humiliating. Such matters have not happened to us so far. “This has nothing to do with a culture war. The opposition has the right to react to the moves and policies of the government, and it did so. But that after a good year of the museum’s work, you say that there were no collections and that there were no rooms, because they had just started,” he emphasised, adding that this was twisted from the vine.
When asked how she views the accusation that by cancelling a museum that celebrates the brightest event in the history of a nation, she shows a humiliating and cynical attitude towards independence, Vrečko replied that she herself thinks that it is cynical to establish a museum without premises, it does not enable collections. According to her, museums are established together with the collection. “If it remained a serious intention, the museum would be split in half,” she said and insists that the merger will provide the infrastructure and all the necessary conditions. In this way, according to her, a serious country, a serious government with serious intentions does not establish a museum. “This can only happen with a general and some sleight-of-hand solution, which was exclusively for some political purpose. On the other hand, all these accusations that fly around the way history is treated, history is important, the history of Slovenians is long, and every step has led to the society and country we are in today. In a few days we will celebrate one national holiday, in two months another. And all of them are nation-forming, and history as the past, which is also interpreted through the collection, is the thing and task of museums”.
With independence, we moved away from totalitarianism
“Madam Minister, with all due respect. You are taking this matter technically. I do not understand you acting as if there was one building somewhere that waited 30 years for some government to decide on a museum. There was no such building, so the government adopted a financial budget, told where the space would be made for this museum, which, thank God, started there in a small villa on Jamova Street, and you are making a problem out of it,” replied Peterle to Vrečko, adding, that he can even less agree with the fact that throughout history things have happened in favour of independence. “With independence, the proclamation of the state on June 26th, 1991, we moved away from totalitarianism, we broke it with it. Independence is not an extension of NOB; it is not an extension of the 45-year-old party single-mindedness that you went to Čebine to pay your respects to.” According to Peterle, these are two stories, there is no continuity here. If there was continuity, we would not be in the European Union, UN, NATO. At the same time, he made it clear that we have a government and a Minister of Culture who do not understand the difference between the Yugoslav communist totalitarian socialist republic of Slovenia and the democratic sovereign republic of Slovenia, which is a member of the European Union. “It is a light year of difference,” said Peterle.
Čebine is associated with the revolution, with 45 years of unity, 700 mass murders and graves
The Minister replied that this is not how institutions are established. According to her, Peterle did not understand the system of museums and galleries in Slovenia, nor how the cultural ecosystem and institutions work. Regarding Čebin, where the Communist Party of Slovenia was founded in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1937, she said that the latter suppressed national expression. “It was a unitary state where all deviations against the ruling kingdom were sanctioned, including censorship. And there it was also about the unification of progressive forces, which then also united in Liberation Front, which is undoubtedly one of the very important events that also led us to what we are today. History must be viewed objectively and as a whole.” She reproached Peterle that what he was doing was supposed to be stirring up emotions.
“You contradict your own statements. You cannot build a new museum by having two top experts Dr Oset and Dr Dežman throw on the street and declare them incompetent,” Peterle pointed out, adding that this is undoubtedly not the government’s task. Vrečko replied that this did not happen to which Peterle replied that of course it did. “This is indecent. Also, in terms of history: Čebine is connected with the revolution, with 45 years of one-mindedness, 700 mass murders and burial grounds that remained in Slovenia. It was a different time and we said goodbye to it on June 26th,” he explained to Vrečko, adding that he had the impression that the Minister did not understand independence.
“Independence is, as already mentioned, one of the important milestones in where we live today. It has been more than 30 years since. We cannot look at it this way from the point of view of some emotions, it is important that those who feel it every day, who were involved, their descendants, but the museum and historical professions must have suitable conditions for the entire collection, who they present to schoolchildren, foreigners, the elderly, the public, children, Slovenians, anyone,” Vrečko said in response, adding that, in her opinion, these are two completely separate things. Vrečko asked Peterle to monitor the work of the new museum, saying that in this way he would be able to find out why the decision to close the museum was “expedient and smart”. “Veteran organisations also have the right to express their opinion and have a place in the museum,” she added.
Independence was never a project of just one party
Peterle explained that they have the museum in their hearts because independence also had some emotion. “To attribute this to one party or one person is again an abuse of the truth. Independence was never a project of just one party, it is a fabrication of your people, your government.” According to Peterle, there were 6 parties in Demos, and he himself had the honour of leading a government that included these 6 parties. “If Demos had not won the first democratic elections with the project of an independent state, there would not have been a plebiscite, and this one approved this matter with 90 percent, so you are not dealing with one or two people, but the will of the people. We will remain faithful to this will, the museum will be sooner rather than later, because this is our fundamental value and we will not allow ourselves to be mocked by this fundamental value,” he was clear.