The good doctor often says that Slovenian independence was not won by a handful of individuals, but by the people of this country. Obivously, the whole thing would have not gone as smoothly as it had, had it not been for a perfect blend of a clear-headed communist leadership, fervent, vocal but nevertheless rational oppostition and brave, resolute and civil people who sensed that a lot was at stake supported the process of democratisation as such, not neceserily always agreeing either with the communist leadership which was gradually relinqushing power or the oppositon which was getting ready to take power.
70.000 people demonstrating in support of JBTZ, demanding a fair trial and use of Slovene language (photo: Tone Stojko)
The so called “Slovenian Spring” started in earnest on May 31, when Janez Janša (yes, the guy) was arrested for allegedly being in posession of a top secret military document. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As Ali H. Žerdin, author of Generals Without Hats, a brilliant book about the period, notes, the masses were ready and were waiting for the signal. And as luck would have it, four people of very different walks of life we arrested, starting the JBTZ trial (Janša, Borštner, Tasić, Zavrl – a very good beginner’s guide on the trial is here).
Janez Janša, David Tasić, Ivan Borštner and Franci Zavrl moments after the trial ended (photo: Tone Stojko)
Immediatelly, a “rescue operation” was mounted and it took the shape of Committee for Protection of Human Rights (Odbor za varstvo človekovih pravic), headed by Janša’s long time friend Igor Bavčar. But it soon became obvious that the Yugoslav army, the only true force still holding Yugoslavia together was not just on a show-of-force mission, but was dead serious about trying, sentencing and locking up these four people for high treason. And the Army wanted to do it in Serbo-Croatian. This was reason enough even for people who intentionally stood out of politic’s way. Language is one of the few things on which Slovenes agree most of the time and as far as the Army was concerned, it all went downhill from there. People were out on the streets, repeating a simple demand: A fair trial in Slovene language. As Žerdin later noted, it rarely occurs that such a simple idea has such devastating consequences.
Ordinary citizens throwing flowers at the feet of conscripts guarding the military court in Ljubljana (photo: Tone Stojko)
To commemorate this rarely seen unity of Slovenians and to give credit to everyone of hundreds of thousands of people who either took part in demostrations or became members of the Committee, who – to put is simply – were there when it mattered, to all those a web museum named Slovenska pomlad is being set up (Slovene only, I’m afraid), but if you happen to be in Ljubljana one of these days, a “real-life” exhibition opens today at Mestni Muzej Ljubljana (Ljubljana City Museum).
Believe me, it’s worth a look…