Despite everything, Slovenia made it through another year, celebrating its 21st anniversary yesterday. Well, “celebrating” might be pushing it a bit. Perhaps “being force-fed psychotic delusions of mentally challenged individuals chasing ghosts of their own pasts” might be a more accurate approximation. Allow me to elucidate with refferences to specifics.
Statehood Day ceremony last Friday (photo: Office of the President/Daniel Novaković/STA)
Every so otften a debate ensues on whether a militay parade should be held in honour of the nation’s independence. You know: tanks, infantry, Alpine troops, naval units, helicopter and jet (or, rather, turbo-prop) fly-bys, the whole nine yards. And every single time, the idea is tossed right out the window, for it is usually supported only by hardline nationalists and those elements of mainstream politics who hope to score cheap political points by waving flags as the troops march. Luckily, thusfar none have been in great demand.
That is not to say, however, that Slovenia has a history of pacifism. The latter was one of the bases of the civil society boom of the 80’s which ultimately brought about democracy. But even though it was openly discussed (and with some gusto on both pros and cons), the idea never really stood a chance. What it did, however, was establish a clear division between the military, the government and the society.
In the old country, the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) was everywhere. And I mean every-fucking-where. Conscripts were visiting elemntary schools saying what a blast it was to serve in the JNA and that only the lucky ones got to serve in the navy or in the air force. JNA had its own Party structure, pre-declared seats in various representative bodies, special access to decision-makers on republic and federal level and was for all intents and purposes considered a constiutuent element of Yugoslav society (insofar such an entity existed in the first place). As a result the Army was omnipresent and seemingly omnipotent. If anyone ever tried to challenge its position, the brass and the entire elite with it shouted treason, pointed to all the way back to 1941 and the Partisans fighting Fasicst and Nazi occupators, shot back with charges of counterrevolution and that was more or less the end of it. If you were lucky, that is. The unlucky ones found themselves publicly humiliated, without a job, thrown in jail or otherwise persecuted, depending on the state the system was in at that exact moment. Bottom line: the world started in 1941, the Communist party was there to bring it about and woe be unto anyone who sayeth otherwise.
Fast forward to 1991 and the Slovenian war for independence which made the debate on pacifisim once again purely academic. Nevertheless the principle of unconditional civilian control of the armed forces was implemented, the army was confined to the barracks and by switching to a professional rather than a conscscript army, solidering became a job and not every man’s initiation into adulthood. In adition, parades were frowned upon, the history of warfare this nation had to endure instead being represented by the Guard of honour doing trick with rifles (the kind they probably teach in Marines prep school), the occasional fly-by of the entire Slovenian air force (it really doesn’t last long) and ensigns of various armed formations which have one way or another fought for the Slovenian cause at various periods in the nation’s history. And thus we finally get to the gist of it.
The Friday Clusterfuck
In preprarations for this year’s official celebrations, ensigns of the Partisan Army in World War II were, for the first time in the history in Slovenia not included in the official celebrations on Statehood Day. The official explanation was that they are bearing red stars, a symbol of the aggressor JNA which sought to quash the fledgling state on that fateful 25 June 1991. An uproar followed but the government committee in charge of these things reacted not by extending the invitation to the WWII Veterans Association post haste, but rather by retracting invitations already extended to three other veteran organisations: TIGR (a pre-WWII anti-fascist movement in Primorska region), The General Rudolf Maister Association (preserving the heritage of a Slovenian general largely credited by securing Slovenian northern border right after World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire) and – most perverse of all – the Disabled Veterans Association. As an act of solidarity, Sever Association (policemen who fought in the Independence War) refused to take part in Friday’s celebrations as well.
All hell broke loose and Friday’s events are still the talk of the town. It soon became apparent that the red star had precious little to do with anything. Instead, what really happened was an attempt at hi-jacking the history of this country (hat tip to the good doctor), making it look as if the world started in 1991 and that everything that went before that was a bad dream at best and that modern-day Slovenia has nothing to do with it. Which is not unlike what the JNA was doing for all those years. The fact that the incumbent prime minister was once a true believer (expelled from the Party for being too radical) only strengthens the point.
Quite a few good analyses of the entire event were given in the past few days (in Slovenian, I’m afraid), but then Prime Minister Janez Janša finally made a statement on the issue earlier today, saying that “his only mistake was to have asked President Danilo Türk to deliver the address”. Thus two things became apparent. That a) Janša had a bigger role in this clusterfuck than it seemed at first and – connected – b) that despite the ideologically charged debate the whole thing was more or less aimed at discrediting President Türk who is up for re-election later this year.
Tomaž Majer Strikes Again
In the days following the elections on December 4, when things still looked as if Zoran Janković was about to form a government, a highly bigotous and xenophobic write-up appeared on SDS website claiming electoral fraud and coercion brought Janković on top on election day, mostly “due to people with foreign accents wearing track-suits”. You can read the Google translation of the said post. It is still on the party website and is highly illuminating.
The post was undersigned by one Tomaž Majer, which turned out to be a fictitious person. Almost immediately conspiracy theories were floated that the post was actually written by Janša himself during one of his rambling fits. It is hardly the first one (again, Google translate to the rescue). But although ugly, pengovsky never wrote it up because it all seemed too convenient.
Saying that Janez Janša is Tomaž Majer is in fact just a mechanism to single out one individual who – regardless of the fact that he is the big Kahuna of his party – can hardly come up with all of that shit. Sure, some of it. Even most of it. But running a party, running a campaign, fighting criminal charges, having a family, eating, sleeping, talking and coming up with stuff way beyond lunatic all the while keeping a composed, somber and lucid appearance is hardly possible. Either that or I seriously need to be taken to his dealer.
No. Pengovsky submits that “Tomaž Majer” is in fact a group of like-minded individuals (present PM included) whose reality only intermittently intersects with that of the rest of the country and who are not beyond starting a fully-charged ideological
debate shouting-match for the sole purpose of achieving short-term political goals, not giving a fuck about poisoning the atmosphere in the country or indeed making sure that it remains as poisonous as possible. The only problem is that in their zeal to drive the message home the whole thing explodes right into their faces. Therefore, this thing with ensigns of WWII veterans was nothing more than a ploy to have Danilo Türk say something inflammatory on Friday and then beat him to political death with it come Autumn. Rewriting history was just a “bonus for the troops”, so that the rank-and-file believers would have something to shout about.
But as per usual, the whole thing exploded right into Janša’s face, presenting President Türk with a chance to reach beyond these artificial divisions, being all presidential and stuff. The Prez did not waste the opportunity.
As if shooting themselves in the knee once wasn’t enough, the people responsible for the event (by his own admission this included Janša) had the moderator deliver an on-stage statement, saying that “memories of those fallen for independent Slovenia should not be defiled by symbols of the aggressor army. At the risk of repeating oneself: as if the world started in 1991 and everything before that was just a bad dream at best.
That the political left-wing went apeshit, goes without saying. Even the chronically consensual Borut Pahor said that “such events should be about bringing people together, not driving them apart”. What is more, this particular potato became too hot even for most of the parties of the ruling coalition. Karl Erjavec, facing leadership challenges in DeSUS was quick to threaten with quitting the coalition “if it ever happened again” (meaning he doesn’t have to make good on his word for at least another year) and even Radovan Žerjav of centre-right SLS said that the whole issue was counter-productive and called for the government to apologise to those involved. Most curious, however, was the reaction of Gregor Virant of Citizens’ list who issued a statement saying that “someone appropriated the celebrations”, that the whole thing was a solo action of Janez Janša’s SDS and that the whole thing “was almost totalitarian”. In fact, it was only the Christian-democratic NSi which stood by the SDS, but they have a hard-on for anything even remotely resembling communism so that was to be expected.
So, yes, celebrations of this country’s birth were hi-jacked by those who deem themselves sole interpreters of The Truth. In this, they are no different from the aggressor army which sought to kill Slovenian state in its infancy (and for some time before that). But the real insult to the people of this land is not the fact that they attempted it (yet again), but rather that they went at it for the sole purpose of winning what for all intents and purposes is a prestigious political fight.
If recent history is anything to go by, Janez Janša will pay a heavy political price for this one. And with him anyone who is too cozy with him. Yes, I’m looking at you, Borut Pahor. In fact, all things being equal, one could place a wager saying that on Friday last Danilo Türk won the autumn presidential elections. Which, ironically, proves Janša right. It was a mistake to have Türk deliver the address…