One of the more interesting side-efects of the brouhaha about Titova Street is a rare glimpse into the way the hardcore political right thinks. After Ljubljana City council passed the motion approving a new street to be named after Josip Broz Tito, right wing parties went apeshit, especially Mlada Slovenija, the youth organisation of Christian-democratic Nova Slovenija. After the motion was passed, Mlada Slovenija’s president Jernej Vrtovec wrote:
As a native of Primorska I’d like to thank Partisans who gave their lives for liberation of Primorska from under fascist regime. When we speak of Tito’s crimes, we do not diminish the struggle of Partisans and especially not their struggle to liberate Primorska. Tito did not liberate Primorska. Our grandparents did, who sacrificed their lives at the altar of the motherland, while their self-proclaimed leader enjoyed the luxury of Belgrade palaces and selfishly lined his own pockets. I deplore the fact that his adherence to communism and his sick ambitions of grabbing power meant that Slovenia lost Trieste and Gorizia.
The above demonstrates clearly how the political right twist and deliberately misinterpret facts to suit their political ends, feign ignorance as to their previous statements, insinuate and hit below the belt.
First, there is the statement that Vrtovec and (by extension) Mlada Slovenija support and thank partisans for their fight during WWII. This is plain bullshit. Mlada Slovenija and its parent party Nova Slovenija are hell-bent on justifying WWII collaboration and especially actions of the Home Guard (domobranci), which – so they claim – fought Communism together with Nazis but never really collaborated. Their entire raison d’etre is based on uncovering “communist crimes”, decrying injustices of post-war socialism and thus justify their inter-war collaboration.
But spreading rumours and half-truths as well as taking things out of chronological order and presenting them to fit their needs is a sport they’re good at (I think there’s a word for that). While Tito indeed did enjoy a luxurious lifestyle after the war, this was not the case during the war. As a leader of a guerilla army he didn’t exactly have the luxury of sleeping in palaces, especially not in Belgrade, which was – as most other cities – infested troops of Nazi Army Group E, which was tied down in the Balkans, trying desperately to catch Tito and uproot partisans, while it was desperately needed on other fronts of the crumbling Third Reich.
Tito himself did not liberate Primorska. But partisans under his command did. The 9th Corps pushed as far West as Venezia region in Italy and had to pull back only after being openly confronted by the Allies. Immediatelly after the war was over, Partisan Army did control both Trieste and Gorizia, but rather than just giving it back, a Yugoslav-American stand-off began and Yugoslavia and Italy entered a long period of negotiations about what to do with Free Territory of Trieste.
Which brings us to the final claim – that Tito somehow “lost” both cities, because he was a power-hungry Communist leader. The statement implies that a) Slovenia is somehow entitled to both cities and that b) if Tito were a democrat, Slovenia (then a part of Yugoslavia) would be looked favourably upon by the US and UK which would gladly give Trieste to Slovenia instead of keeping it a part of Italy.
Which of course is naive at best. Trieste was – not unlike Berlin – a European flashpoint and it was entirely possible that one wrong move would start World War III, only that this time around the Allies would fight it out amongst themselves. There were definitely enough arms and manpower to go about it. Yugoslav and Slovenian partisans were a part of Allied Forces, but that didn’t stop Americans from getting in the way. The notion that they got in the way because Tito was a communist is just plain silly. The stand-off began because Trieste is a vital port city and Americans and Brits didn’t just want to hand it over to a country whose government they couldn’t control the way they could control Italy. It was a simple question of geo-politics.
And finally – the notion that one nation is somehow entitled to a certain piece of land is what starts wars in the first place. Yes, you will hear Slovenes bitching about how “Trieste is ours” and how we were robbed of this-and-that after both world wars. But saying that you lost something you never really had id tantamount to buying a ticket for a fast train to disaster.
A lot of people in Slovenia don’t like Tito and a lot of people in Ljubljana think that having a street with his name (again) is a waste of time and energy. Pengovsky included. But people hate it even more when they are being taken for fools, which is why in the end Tito Street got such a strong public opinion support. But I guess it figures. Jernej Vrtovec was born in 1984. He doesn’t know what can happen if you start rewriting history. He just feels that the world would be a much happier place if history were to his liking.
P.S.: This was an extremely difficult post for me. I don’t know if I should put it down to “Titova-Street-fatigue”, down to weather or to the fact that my relatives fought for liberation of Slovenia and especially Primorska region and that I happen to know that things did not go as smoothly as it might seem sixty-five years later. It’s just kind of sad that brave actions of a relatively small group of people (including their leader), who won against all odds still have to be defended today.