Ljubljana related

29 Apr 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 28 April 2019 - Vinica, a tiny border town in the south-east, is marking the centenary of a republic (Viniška republika) declared on its territory on 21 April 1919 but repressed only three days later.

 

Vinica residents got the idea to declare an independent state, the Republic of Vinica, from local survivors of World War I (1914-1918).

The cause for declaring it was problems surrounding the stamping of money, which caused a stir in this village in the Bela Krajina region, prompting secession.

The rebellion was repressed by the police and army of the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which emerged after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in late 1918.

President Borut Pahor, the keynote speaker at Saturday's main event, said Slovenians should proudly remember everything that had made them a sovereign nation which cherished the spirit of resistance.

Pointing to the 27 April Resistance Day, he said it was people's resistance that this public holiday and the celebrations of the Vinica Republic centenary had in common.

The people of Vinica had a sincere wish to choose their own representatives, he said, adding that such great ideas deserved admiration.

Pahor noted the Republic of Vinica was one of many events proving the idea of a democratic and sovereign Slovenia had not happened overnight but was a result of efforts of many generations.

As part of five-day centenary celebrations, a screening of a documentary on the Republic of Vinica made in 2012 by public broadcaster RTV Slovenija is scheduled for Tuesday alongside a workshop on Vinica postcards to be held at the house in which writer Oton Župančič (1878-1949), Vinica's most famous resident, was born.

28 Apr 2019, 12:01 PM

April 28, 2019

Money in Slovenia has existed in three different currencies since the country declared independence on June 26, 1991, the last one being the euro, introduced on January 1, 2007.

Before the euro, the Slovenian currency was the tolar.

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Faces decorating tolar banknotes belong to (from 10 to 10000): Primož Trubar (reformator), Janez Vajkard Valvasor (historian), Jurij Vega  (mathematician), Rihard Jakopič (painter), Jacobus Gallus (composer), Jože Plečnik (architect), France Prešeren (poet), Ivana Kobilica (painter) and Ivan Cankar (writer).
 

And before the tolar, Slovenia used the Yugoslavian dinar.

The dinar was a troubled currency that went through several periods of hyperinflation, each one leading to a revaluation. From the mid-1980s on, the devaluation of money also started to affect the aesthetic value of the banknotes.

Shown below are the designs of banknotes following the first revaluation of the dinar in 1965, which were in use for about 20 years.

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These banknotes were relatively detailed in design, depicted anonymous workers or statues and only changed slightly over time, mostly to update the font or background details depicting the nominal value. The 500 dinar note with Nikola Tesla was introduced in 1970 and another one, a 1,000 dinar bill, was introduced in 1974. This was also the last note designed in the old classic style of dinar, when it was still worth anything.

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In about 1980 I was considered old enough to be given some change and sent downtown to buy my own ice cream. In a few years of this independent ice cream consumption, I started to observe a pattern; each new summer season the price of a scoop of ice-cream doubled. I found that quite handy as I could enter the new season prepared. Until one day the whole thing became unpredictable.

Changing money in Slovenia

That actually happened around 1985, when strange ugly money started to enter circulation. To encourage people’s trust into these notes, Tito’s face was put on the first one of them.

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The Tito 5,000 dinar note was issued in 1985, the 20,000 bill in 1987, 50,000 in 1988, and the remaining four including the last one, the 2,000,000 dinar bill, all came out in 1989.

It seemed that money was devaluing faster than the central bank designers could draw.

The second revaluation took place on January 1st, 1990 with a new “convertible dinar” set at 10,000 : 1, basically cutting four zeros off, and from then on a whole devaluation spiral could continue.

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When the 5,000 bill was introduced in 1991, featuring the Yugoslavian Nobel Laureate for literature, Ivo Andrić, the country was coming to an end. This was the last dinar with writing in different languages inscribed on it, and the last one with the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia coat of arms.

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Slovenian currency, a short-lived experiment

On October 8 1991 Slovenia switched to the tolar, on December 23 Croatia introduced the Croatian dinar, on April 26 1992 Macedonia adopted the Macedonian denar, and on July 1 1992 Bosnia and Hercegovina switched to the Bosnian dinar. This was also the date of the Yugoslavian dinar’s third revaluation and the beginning of a period of massive hyperinflation, which at its peak in January 1994 amounted to 313 million % monthly inflation, meaning that prices would double every two or three days.

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The highest nominated dinar note ever printed: half a trillion.
 

Although Slobodan Milošević blamed this monetary fiasco on sanctions imposed on what was left of Yugoslavia by the United Nations in response to Bosnian War in 1992, earlier events suggest that this time of hyperinflation might have been mostly to his own destruction of economy in his attempt at securing power. As the Federal government’s Prime Minister Ante Marković figured out as early as on January 7th 1991, the Serbian parliament secretly ordered the Serbian National Bank to issue US$1.4 billion in credit to Milošević’s friends and political supporters. This illegal plundering of the state equaled more than half of all the new money the National Bank of Yugoslavia had planned to create in 1991. 

The Yugoslavian hyperinflation of 1993/94 was at the time the second highest ever recorded, until Zimbabwe pushed it to third place in 2008. The absolute winner remains the Hungarian pengő in 1946. This peaked at 1.3 x 1016 percent per month (prices double every 15 hours), and when the forint replaced the pengő in 1946, the total value of all notes in circulation in Hungary amounted to 1/1000 of one American dollar.

27 Apr 2019, 13:05 PM

STA, 25 April 2019 - Paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs and films created by more than 130 authors between 1929 and 1941 in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia will be displayed at the Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana until 15 September, 2019.

On the Brink: The Visual Arts in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1929-1941) provides an overview of the visual art from the start of the reign of King Alexander I on 6 January 1929 to the beginning of World War II in Yugoslavia in April 1941.

Divided into five sections, it deals with five topics through different works of art and presentations. The show, the gallery's most ambitious event this year, will be accompanied by more than 20 film screenings.

In the section exploring intimacy and the inner world, works by major Serbian and Slovenian painters are put on show, the second section is dedicated to landscapes.

The third section, focussing on contrasts, is the central part of the exhibition and features a painting by Serbian Petar Dobrović depicting journalists of the Danas magazine.

It also presents a clash on the left between Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža and Marko Ristić, a representative of Belgrade's surrealism.

The fourth section is dubbed People. According to curator Marko Jenko, this room is very chaotic, presenting people from cities and the countryside, mainly through reportage photography, which was very popular at the time.

The final part of the exhibition presents Yugoslavia's ties between the two world wars through the first two official presentations of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia at the Venice Biennale in 1938 and 1940.

According to Moderna Galerija director Zdenka Badovinac, the historical context of the period is presented through excerpts from a 1934 travelogue by Louis Adamič, The Native's Return.

Slovenian-US writer Adamič presented the complex situation in the kingdom at the time through his encounters with a variety of people, including Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, Dobrović and Krleža.

He was also received by King Alexander I, one year before his assassination in Marseilles.

Adamič portrayed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a country on the brink, a country of stark contrasts, caught between old, premodern customs and the grip of capitalism, with a premonition of its imminent end in a broader European and global context, the museum of modern art says.

The exhibition is open until 15 September.

17 Apr 2019, 17:20 PM

April 17, 2019

In 1937 the Slovenian Communist Party was established in Čebine above Trbovlje as a formal implementation of a decision adopted at the fourth meeting of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in 1934.

Revolutionary fever, which gained momentum during WWI, continued among demobilised farmers and workers with several rebellions and even attempts at establishing Soviet Republics in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia between the years 2018-19.

The Slovenian Communist Party was first established in 1920, but lost independence a month later after merging with the Yugoslav Communist Party. It adopted a thesis of one Yugoslav nation composed of three tribes, the revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat as its goal.

In 1920 communist activity was banned by a decree, and a year later completely pushed into the underground following a few notable assassinations that were ascribed to communists. 

In early 1930 young Russian educated communists such as Boris Kidrič and Edvard Kardelj begun a communist revival in Slovenia. In December 1934 the Communist Party of Yugoslavia held a congress in Ljubljana where a conclusion was adopted to establish Communist Parties of Slovenia and Croatia, but also Macedonia in the future – under the clear condition that the Communist Party of Yugoslavia would remain unified and centralised. This was finally implemented in 1937, mostly due to low numbers of communists in the country in 1934.

The ideological background of the Party in early the 30s was vague and addressed little to none of the pressing questions of the day. Clearer goals were then recognised on the Communist International in Moscow in the summer of 1935, which established fascism as the main enemy of communism, the people and nations as such, and which also allowed petit bourgeoisie to join the revolutionary struggle.

In this context of a polity of a People's Front against all forms of fascism, the Slovenian Communist Party was secretly established on April 17, 1937, with Edvard Kardelj as its leader. When in the same year Josip Broz Tito took the leadership of the Yugoslavian Communist Party, three of the Slovenian communist leaders were included into its leadership: Edvard Kardelj, Franc Leskošek and Miha Marinko.

The People's Front policy concluded two years later with the Ribbentropp-Molotov pact, between Stalin and Hitler, which prompted several early Slovenian communists such as Angela Vode, to leave the Party, while the remainder of the leadership decided to bow to Moscow. In the next two years the Slovenian Communist Party softened its anti-fascist propaganda and replaced it with a struggle against “Western imperialists” instead.

15 Apr 2019, 15:06 PM

April 1941 saw the invasion of Slovenia by Germany, Italy and Hungary, as noted here. April 26 then saw the visit of Hitler to Maribor, or Marburg an der Drau , as he knew it. That story was told in more detail in an earlier article, and in this one we’ll simply be presenting of the striking images and film footage we came across while doing some related research, showing Nazis in Slovenia.

German soliders crossing from Austria into Slovenia, entering Maribor

Hitler in Maribor

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Hitler, and other Nazis, meeting an ethnic German (Volksdeutsche) in Maribor

Volksdeutsche in Maribor

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Himmler in Maribor

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Nazi headquarters in Maribor

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German soldiers on Maribor ulica

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The entrance to Castle Brestanica (Grad Rajhenburg)

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Volksdeutsche in Celje

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Celje

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Celje

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Nazi officials in Bled

Finally, here's a train ride from 1941, with much of it in Slovenia

13 Apr 2019, 23:28 PM

STA, 13 April 2019 - President Borut Pahor and US congressman Paul A. Gosar honoured eight crew members of a downed US bomber, who lost their lives in a crash near Polzela (NE) during WWII, as keynote speakers at a ceremony on Saturday. The event also celebrated Slovenian-American Friendship and Alliance Day.

Pahor marked the 75th anniversary of the bomber's downing by laying a wreath at the memorial commemorating the crew members.

In his address, Pahor highlighted the long tradition of friendship between Slovenia and the US, adding that it also allowed for occasional differences in positions.

While the present US administration may perhaps not share the views of Slovenia and the EU, Pahor said that there was always a search for what unites us, as this was important both for Slovenia and the US.

Gosar, a Republican of Slovenian descent who is visiting Slovenia for an extended weekend at the invitation of the president, thanked Pahor on the warm reception he has received in Slovenia.

He argued that Slovenian generosity and courage had also been what had given hope and light to the downed US soldiers.

Gosar received the Golden Order of Merit, one of Slovenia's highest state decorations, on Friday, for his contribution and cooperation in strengthening relations between Slovenia and the US.

Gosar will also hold meetings with Slovenian officials to further strengthen the relationship between the two countries on Monday.

The congressman recently established the House of Representatives Friends of Slovenia Caucus, which he is to co-chair.

The US bomber B-17 flew from an Italian military base along with other 233 combat aircraft and was headed toward the Austrian Carinthia to bomb the Steyer factory, which was contributing to the German military industry at the time. It was shot down at the Andraž settlement near Polzela on 19 March in 1944.

Eight crew members died in the crash, while two of them were taken as prisoners of war and survived in POW camps. The crew members belonged to the 15th US Air Force division.

11 Apr 2019, 16:22 PM

April 11, 2019

In 1941 Italy and Hungary joined Germany's invasion of Yugoslavia, also known as the April War.

On February 5, 1941, the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop expressed a demand via a Yugoslav secret envoy to Berlin for the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to join the Tripartite Pact. The Yugoslavian leadership assessed the situation and figured it would be best for Yugoslavia to follow this order. On March 25, the Pact was signed, which triggered mass protests across the country. The chaos was seized by a group of pro-British military servicemen, who carried out a coup on March 27 and put young King Peter to the throne. All of this offended Hitler personally, so he decided to postpone his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union and strike Yugoslavia first.

Without any formal declaration of war, the attack began on Sunday, April 6th, with an air raid on Yugoslav military airports and the open, undefended city of Belgrade after that.

On today’s date, April 11th, 1941, the kingdom was also attacked by Italy and Hungary, to whom the Germans had promised parts of Yugoslav land for their collaboration in the invasion. Yugoslavia capitulated on April 17th, 1941, and the Germans took the northern part of Slovenia with Styria and Upper Carniola, Hungary occupied Prekmurje, and Italy occupied the south of Slovenia, with Ljubljana becoming the capital of their newly established Province of Ljubljana.

The video below shows the ltalian occupation of Ljubljana, repairs on the viaduct in Borovnica (Vienna-Ljubljana-Trieste Railway), which was partially blown up by the retreating Yugoslav Army, and the first military parade in Ljubljana.

 

All our stories on Slovenian history can be found here.

03 Apr 2019, 18:24 PM

The occupation of Ljubljana by Italian Fascists lasted from April 1941 until September 1943, and was a time of horror, with around 25,000 people from the area deported and sent to concentration camps, as well as the city itself being surrounded by barbed wire. Moreover, when the Italians left the Germans moved in.

However, this story won’t dwell on these details, but instead presents some Italian archive footage showing scenes of the occupation, with many sights and buildings that will be familiar to those who only know the city today, in happier times.

All our stories about Slovenian history are here

25 Mar 2019, 17:30 PM

Last week we posted an interview with Ralph Churches, a former Australian soldier who spent time as a prisoner of war in Slovenia, before escaping in a daring adventure known as the Raid at Ožbalt, or “the Flight of the Crow”. We first become aware of his story because of a new book published in English, a first person account of life as a Partisan solider in the Second World War, written by someone who was part of the same adventure. Curious to learn more, we got in touch with the translator, Robert Posl, and asked how he came to work on this project, and what he learned.

First of all, what’s your connection with Slovenia?

My parents originated from the former Yugoslavia. My father from near Rogatec, my mother from Croatia, near Zadar. She moved to Slovenia, where she met my father. In 1970 they moved to Germany. My father simply did not see a future staying in Yugoslavia.

I was the third child, born in August 1974. In spring of 1975, we moved to South Africa. The apartheid regime of South Africa was in full swing and was encouraging and inviting people to move to South Africa. So that's what my parents did, along with their three toddlers. I obviously don't remember any of that, since I was barely six months old.

We lived quite a decent and progressive life in South Africa. We as children had no contact with Yugoslavia. And even though my parents had brothers and sisters in Yugoslavia (Slovenia and Croatia), they too had almost no contact. The Communist way there was distinct and powerful until the 90's, when everything started to change. The war in Slovenia was short, only four days, with barely any conflict or anything.

Slovenia was then 'free' and with a promising future, quickly stepping forward to becoming a European nation. We started hearing about relatives we had never heard about before. Then in December 1991 my uncle and his wife came to visit us in South Africa. While things were looking quite promising for Slovenia, the opposite was for South Africa, as the apartheid era was coming to an end. So the obvious happened, the decision to move to Slovenia quickly grew.

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Robert Posl

And so you moved back?

Yes, and after moving from South Africa to Slovenia, to Europe, I felt that I was now properly introduced to history. Moving from a country which has bareky any history compared to that of mainland Europe. Most of the countries in Europe have also put significant efforts into maintaining and restoring their cultural heritage, so now I could see and even touch it, compared to only reading about it. Slovenia is thus dotted with numerous buildings and monuments, which clearly express its history. Especially the countless number of memorials and plaques reminding us of the Second World War.

One thing I heard about a lot about the Partisans. The most common thing I’d hear was how difficult it was and how they lived in poverty and in hunger, with ragged clothes and inadequate equipment. My reaction was obvious, “who would want anything like that? So unpleasant!

So that’s how you came to translate this story?

Yes and no, because there’s more of a family connection than just an interest in history. Some years ago my wife’s uncle, Alojz Voler, published his autobiography and experiences during the war, when he served with the Partisans. Alojz kept the publication quite quiet, mainly only sharing it with relatives and acquaintances. I paged through it a couple of times, reading some sections and admiring the photos.

Then in the spring of 2017, a car with foreign registration plates stopped in front of his house. They were from England, except for the translator who was with them. They were looking for a man who was involved in a remarkable event during The Second World War, “The Flight of the Crow”. A team were in Slovenia making a movie about this great event, something most people didn’t even know happened.

When I learnt more and that Alojz was involved in it, I right away suggested that his autobiography be translated into English and to include the details of this event. The more I thought about it, the more I saw the need for this to be done.

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Alojz Voler, with German recruits. He served in the German army for 14 months before he managed to desert them and return to Slovenia, where he then joined the partisans.

What was that like?

I got to know more of the details and specifics about Alojz and the life he lived. He was born in 1925 on a farm in the Savinja Valley in Northern Slovenia. Not only was I getting to know him, but I was also getting to know what it was like living in that period. The onset of the Second World War and the influence of the aggressors, which was long felt before the conflict even started.

The Second World War was for Yugoslavia more than just the invasion and engagements with German forces. A significant part of it was the tension and politics within the country itself. Already in primary school, Alojz would be tolfd negatuve things about the Partisans, and how they lived in hunger and poverty. Surprisingly, it was allo very to what I so often heard when I moved to Slovenia.

For Alojz to follow his heart was a journey in its self, and to join the Partisans was an almost unimaginable and treacherous step to make. I admire how Alojz expresses this idea: To go into resistance with almost bare hands, against the most elite forces of the world at that time, was an almost fantasy. But it was no fantasy, it was the cruel reality.          

Starting with this translation at first only fed fuel to the fire of my curiosity. What kind of person, and why, would want to be part of the Partisans? But by following Alojz’s life throughout his book, my questions were answered.

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Alojz on the right, with other members of the KNOJ (Korpus narodne obrambe Jugoslavije). Photo taken after the war ended.

The book obviously has many other stories, but how was Aljoz involved in the “Escape of the Crow”?

The battalion Alojz was in was based to the west of Maribor, nearby the Ožbalt work camp. Some of the Partisans were chosen to escort a group of six POWs, including Ralph Churches, away from the area ASAP. The next day they returned and managed to free the rest of the captives, and it was then that Alojz met and helped them to safety and away from Ožbalt before the Germans intensified their search for the prisoners.

Here is a photo, which is also on the cover of A Hundred Miles as the Crow Flies. The guy on the left, almost out of the picture is Franjo Gruden, the leader of the escort team. Alojz was at the back to make sure nobody fell behind.

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And here is a map I made for the book. You can see where they went, up to Gornji Grad, then another group of partisan soldiers took over to escort them further.

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And what you have learned from the book?

For me the most important things about working on this project are being able to share a part of history, but more than that, it’s about giving Alojz that feeling of pride. At 94 years old it’s quite something that his story is finally being told, and that he’s the one to tell it. And so I hope that more people will hear about him and what he did during the war.

While doing the translation, and still after, people would ask me: “Who is paying for this? How much are you being paid?” My answer – Alojz has paid me; with the truths and experiences from his heart, as seen by an ordinary, humble man. And with the knowledge, that I can now confidently say, “I know who and what the partisans really were”.

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Alojz Voler, Niel Churches & Monty Halls, Spring 2017

If you’d like to read Alojz’s story, Through the Eyes of a Partisan Soldier, then you can pick up a copy, in both paper and digital forms, from Amazon, while all our stories on World War Two are here

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