Other than World HIV/AIDS day and anniversary of establishment of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, 1 December marks the 20th anniversary of Operation North (Akcija Sever), which prevented a massive Serb-led protest against reformist communist leadership of socialist Slovenia and paradoxically helped usher in democratic reform.
What remained of the “Rally of Truth” in Ljubljana on 1 December 1989 (source)
Although technically a relatively simple public order operation, Operation North on 1 December 1989 was the first tangible indicator that Slovenian League of Communists (at the time still constitutionally the only political party in Slovenia) recognised that a) Yugoslavia’s days are numbered, b) Slovenia will have to confront Milošević-led Serbian expansionism by itself and c) is willing to use force to that end, albeit in self-defence.
Demonstrations, organised by supporters of Slobodan Milošević were called “Rallies of Truth”. At their core were a group of Kosovar Serbs with whom Serbian leader crafted an unholy alliance which brought him to power in his republic and provided him with the “masses” he needed to start wrecking havoc in what was then Yugoslavia. After removing leadership of Kosovo, a rally (dubbed the Yoghurt Revolution) was organised in Novi Sad, Vojvodina (the other until-then-autonomous region in Serbia). The movement then moved on to Montenegro, where it at first failed following a police break-up, but succeeded in the second attempt and installed Momir “The Butler” Bulatović
The irony of the whole situation was, that until that date Slovenian leadership was bending over backwards to prevent federal institutions from declaring a state of emergency in Slovenia using “counter-revolutionary” activities by the ever more alienated Socialist Youth organisation (ZSMS) and the fledgling opposition as a pretext. But when push came to a shove immediately after the Slovene Assembly passed constitutional amendments allowing democratic multi-party elections, the republic’s leadership, with Milan Kučan as party president and Janez Stanovnik as president of the republic as two most senior politicians declared a state of emergency (pre-empting a similar move by federal authorities), mobilised special police forces and positioned them on republic’s borders. In charge of the operation was Secretary of Republic for Internal Affairs (basically, police-and-security minister) Tomaž Ertl, who only weeks earlier was vilified as the ultimate human-rights violator for his role in the arrest of Janez Janša in the JBTZ Affair and the arrest of Janez Janša in 1988 (a year earlier), as well as the fact that the Slovenian branch of UDBa (secret police), which permeated Slovenian society was under his command. At the time it was generally understood that with Operation North Ertl sort-of redeemed himself (or at least balanced out his actions) for his JBTZ-related actions. Ertl himself always maintained that his job was to keep law and order and that his actions (including JBTZ) contributed to the fact that federal intervention occurred only after Slovenia actually declared independence.
However, in a feat of political naiveté, President Danilo Türk yesterday awarded Ertl the Silver Order for Services for his actions during Operation North. This, understandably sent shock-waves through Janez Janša’s SDS and generally raised many-an-eyebrow (pengovsky’s included). SDS strongly protested against Türk decision and demanded that the president either revoke the award or resign his post.