Slovenia's Path to Independence

by JAY SEDMAK, SNPJ Publications Editor
Introductory paragraph by Dr. Božo Repe, University of Ljubljana
Originally published in the August 24, 2011, PROSVETA issue

 

Primož Trubar
PRIMOŽ TRUBAR (1508-1586) was the very first person to write books in a language common to all Slovenians.

Since 1550, when Primož Trubar penned the word “Slovenes” for the very first time, a common Slovenian national identity has slowly developed. The idea of Slovenia emerged in 1843, whereas the first national program was drawn up by a group of a few Slovenian intellectuals in 1848. The Slovenians lived in lands historically ruled over by the Austrians that were marked by a strong regional identity and an ethic mix. The eastern part of Slovenian territory developed independently in the Hungarian part of the monarchy, with the local Slovenians (Prekmurians) developing their own language. By introducing compulsory primary schooling, the Hapsburg Monarchy enabled the Slovenians to survive as a nation, but prevented them from achieving political autonomy. With the downfall of the monarchy, the majority of Slovenians joined the Yugoslav state, although the entire western territory encompassing a third of the Slovenian population remained under Italy, the northern part (Carinthia) under Austria, and the eastern part divided between Yugoslavia and Hungary; the former receiving the larger part, (Prekmurje) and the latter the smaller portion (the Raba region). All minorities were quickly subjected to assimilation, initially and particularly the people of Primorska, under fascist rule. In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Slovenians made economic and cultural gains, and they also established their first university. However, they failed to achieve their main goal: political autonomy. By resisting the German, Italian and Hungarian occupying forces during the Second World War, the Slovenians managed to survive as a nation, and achieved a change of its western border along with the status of a republic in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Slovenia had its own assembly (parliament) and government (an executive council), and after the Constitution of 1974 was adopted, a collective republic presidency. In addition, since 1946 all state and republic constitutions granted the individual Yugoslav republics the right to self-determination, including the right to secession.

The Pen versus the Sword

Never underestimate the power of the press. Much like the formation of the Slovene National Benefit Society was spawned by a newspaper article way back when in 1904, so too was the path to an independent Slovenia formed.

By the 1980s, poor economic conditions in Slovenia, coupled with the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s inability to introduce democratic changes in the context of its socialist system, led to increasingly critical views of Slovenian society and of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in general. A number of individual movements gained momentum, including the pacifist, environmental and feminist movements, all of which helped to form a strong social network across Slovenia. Fanning the flames of the economic and political change, the Slovenian Writers’ Association, which brought together authors of differing political ideologies, presented critical views of the conditions in Yugoslavia and promoted the protection of artistic freedom. The association posed social questions concerning nationality, creative freedom and politics, and with help from experts in related fields began to sow the seeds of democracy on Slovenian soil. To present their views to a larger audience, the Slovenian Writers’ Association organized a massive and influential public program called “The Slovenian Nation and Culture” in January 1985 that brought attention to important issues regarding democracy and a national program.

While the Slovenian Writers’ Association was drumming up support for political and economic reform, six Slovenian authors – political columnist Dimitrij Rupel, philosopher Tine Hribar, poets Niko Grafenauer, Svetlana Makarovič and Boris A. Novak, and literary historian Andrej Inkret – petitioned the Socialist Republic of Slovenia in 1980 for the right to publish a new independent journal. When this new magazine, Nova revija (“New Review,” in English), was finally launched in 1982, its publication offered both liberals and conservatives the opportunity to present their critical perspectives of the socio-economic climate in Slovenia for the first time since the mid-1960s. The founders of Nova revija argued that the then-alternative magazine Problemi, which had been published in Slovenia since the 1960s, was in the hands of radicals, and editorial control of the publication rendered it useless to conservatives and non-Marxist contributors.

The cover of Nova Revija Issue No. 57., published in January 1987
The cover of the now-famous Nova Revija Issue No. 57. Published in January 1987, the issue analyzed the political and social conditions in Slovenia, and most importantly, Slovenia’s relations with Yugoslavia

In January 1987, Nova revija magazine published its 57th issue. This once-scandalous and now-famous edition of the magazine, titled “Contributions to the Slovenian National Program,” was essentially a plea for a democratic and sovereign Slovenian nation. All 16 articles, written by noted authors and columnists from Slovenia, analyzed the political and social conditions in Slovenia, and most importantly, Slovenia’s relations with Yugoslavia. The Contributions comprising Issue 57 were written in reaction to the “Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts” (the “SANU Memorandum”), published in Serbia in 1986, which presented controversial views on the political-economic state of Yugoslavia at the time and argued for a fundamental reorganization of the Yugoslav state to further Serbia’s interests. Following publication of the Contributions, Yugoslav authorities denounced Nova revija issue 57, but never pursued any legal action against the Contributions’ authors. As a result, freedom of expression was quickly taking root as a civil right in Slovenia.

Although the liberal activity in Slovenia may have been accepted by the communist leaders of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, it didn’t sit well the heads of the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA). Slovenian critics had long complained of the army’s special social status – to the extent of journalists labeling the YPA “the Seventh Republic” – and argued that the army should come under civilian control and undergo a complete reorganization. YPA leaders retaliated by declaring a state of emergency in Slovenia in March 1988. The YPA took additional action in the summer of 1988, launching court martial proceedings against four Slovenians accused of revealing secret military documents – one of whom was a YPA staff sergeant while another, Janez Janša, who would eventually become Slovenia’s prime minister, was working as a journalist for Mladina, another popular alternative magazine. In defense of their fellow countrymen, several Slovenians formed the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, a group that would become the most powerful civil organization in Slovenia. At the height of its activity, this committee counted over a hundred thousand individuals (estimated at roughly five percent of Slovenia’s population at the time) and more than a thousand organizations among its membership.

Slovenia was beginning the process of democratization, referred to as the “Slovenian Spring,” in May 1988, and the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights was taking a leading role in the process by organizing numerous protests, the largest and most important of which attracted tens of thousands of people to Ljubljana’s Congress Square. While the court martial trial (the “Trial of the Four” or the “JBTZ Trial,” so named for defendants Janez Janša, Ivan Borštner, David Tasić and Franci Zavrl) proceeded, the crowds continued their protests in front of the military court in Ljubljana.

As a result of the activity coordinated by the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, a mass movement within the Socialist Republic of Slovenia forced Slovenia’s political leaders to consider democratic reforms. A general election for the Slovenian seat in the Collective Presidency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was held in March 1989 producing a surprise result: Janez Drnovšek, a relatively unknown politician, defeated the party favorite and his election was confirmed by the Slovenian Republic Parliament, much to the chagrin of the other Yugoslav republics. Just two months later, in May 1989, Drnovšek would become chairman of the Yugoslav Collective Presidency.

A Time for Action

While Slovenia’s political dissidents and critics continued their assaults on the Yugoslav government, no one had as yet formally called for an entirely independent Slovenian nation. The nation’s first demand for sovereignty and democracy was presented May 8, 1989, as poet Tone Pavček read the May Declaration during a demonstration in Ljubljana’s Congress Square. By September, Slovenia’s democratic movement had developed into a socio-economic revolution. No longer willing to shoulder the burden of economic support for the entire Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia adopted a total of 81 amendments to the 1974 Constitution that assured the sovereignty of the Slovenian people and laid the constitutional groundwork for the transition from a single-party political system to a multi-party democracy.

Poet Tone Pavček reads the May Declaration in Ljubljana’s Congress Square in May 1989.
Poet Tone Pavček reads the May Declaration during a demonstration held in Ljubljana’s Congress Square in May 1989. The May Declaration marked Slovenia’s first demands for sovereignty and democracy.

Even though the YPA threatened yet another state of emergency in Slovenia and Yugoslav government officials refused to acknowledge the right of the individual republics to make autonomous decisions (although this right was included in all Slovenian and Yugoslav constitutions from 1946 onward), a number of political parties had been formed by autumn 1989. Even the League of Communists of Slovenia (ZKS) and the Socialist Alliance of the Working People formed political parties, the former becoming the Party of Democratic Renewal (and later, the Social Democratic Party), and the latter becoming the Socialist Party. Initially, and because of constitutional restraints, these political units operated as affiliate of Socialist Alliance of Working People, but when Slovenia’s new election legislation was introduced in December 1989, the parties operated independently of the Socialist Alliance.

Relations between Slovenia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia continued to dissolve through the end of 1989 and the early weeks of 1990, to such extent that the League of Communists of Slovenia, the Slovenian representation within the Yugoslav government, walked out of the 14th Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in protest of growing Serbian domination, followed soon after by the League of Communists of Croatia. With both the Slovenian and Croatian delegation pulling out of the government, the League of Communists of Yugoslavia ceased to exist, and in early March 1990 the Slovenian Assembly approved dropping the word “Socialist” from the country’s name, officially renaming the state “the Republic of Slovenia.”

The month of April 1990 brought a new round of elections in Slovenia, and this election was significant – it marked the first time since the Second World War that Slovenians would participate in a democratic, multi-party election. In addition to the general election, Slovenians again voted for president of the Slovenian Presidency, eventually giving the nod to Milan Kučan after two rounds of voting. In the general election, the DEMOS coalition won the majority of seats (a total of 127) in the Slovenian Assembly. DEMOS – short for the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia, a coalition of democratic political parties that had formed in January 1990 to oppose the communist candidates in the April elections – led the effort to establish democracy in Slovenia prior to independence, and guided the Republic of Slovenia through its transition to a market economy following independence.

While DEMOS was able to secure the majority in the Slovenian Assembly, the result of the April election seated an almost equal number of Assembly members from the former League of Communists of Slovenia, which was now operating as the Party of Democratic Reform. The democrats and reformed communists held opposing views on the Slovenia constitution, privatization of industry and the economy in general, but eventually managed to agree on the issue of Slovenian sovereignty and how best to attain it. In a joint session of all three chambers of the Slovenian government held in early December 1990, the Assembly approved a plebiscite (often referred to as a referendum) for Dec. 23, 1990, thus allowing every Slovenian to cast his vote on the important issue of sovereignty. When the votes were tallied, the outcome was clear: an overwhelming majority – more than 88 percent of all eligible Slovenian voters – supported the creation of an independent Slovenia.

DEMOS had achieved the first of its goals – Slovenia was well on its way to becoming a sovereign nation for the first time in history – and the Slovenian Assembly was making strides to ensure the future of the democracy by adopting the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, an amendment that made all constitutional laws of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia invalid in the Republic of Slovenia. Prior to Slovenia’s formal independence, the Slovenian parliament adopted several additional laws establishing independence, along with a new flag and coat of arms.

 

Winds of War

As Slovenia’s lawmakers continued with their plans for the nation’s eventual transition to independence and democracy, Slovenia’s territorial defense system was bracing for a long-anticipated “invasion” launched by the Yugoslav People’s Army. After Slovenia held its first democratic election in April 1990, the Yugoslav People’s Army announced a new defense doctrine that would apply across the country: the “General People’s Defense,” which allowed each Yugoslav republic to maintain a Territorial Defense Force, would be replaced by a central defense system. Thus, the individual Yugoslav republics would lose their roles in new defense system, and all former Territorial Defense units throughout Yugoslavia would be disarmed.

The new Slovenian government, with Defense Secretary Janez Janša in charge of Slovenia’s defense effort, ensured that much of Slovenia’s Territorial Defense weaponry remained in Slovenian possession by refusing to surrender its weapons to the Yugoslav People’s Army. In September 1990, the government passed a constitutional amendment which placed the Territorial Defense Forces under its command, while also arranging an alternative command structure known as the Maneuver Structures of National Protection (MSNZ). This defense strategy, unique to Slovenia under the Yugoslav constitution, enabled the new Slovenian government to form a defense system similar to the WWII-era Home Guard. The DEMOS-led government quickly realized the importance of the MSNZ: its forces, which would be entirely in the hands of the Slovenian government, could be mobilized quickly and provide a defense organization operating in parallel with the Slovenian Territorial Defense. When the Yugoslav People’s Army tried to take control of the Slovenian Territorial Defense in May 1990, the Slovenian Territorial Defense command structure was replaced by the parallel-operating MSNZ command. Throughout the year, the Slovenian government also prepared a detailed military campaign against the Yugoslav People’s Army, resulting in the formation of an operational and tactical plan by November 1990.

In early March 1991, the Slovenian Assembly passed a law on military service, and as a result, Slovenian citizens were no longer obligated to serve in the Yugoslav People’s Army. The Assembly had previously severed all ties with the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia in February by passing the 19th amendment to the Slovenian constitution in February, and in April 1991 the Assembly adopted the Defense and Protection Act, which provided for the organization, preparation and action of Slovenia’s new defense system should any threats arise. A month later, in mid-May, the first generation of Slovenian soldiers comprising the Slovenian Territorial Defense started training at the Ig military center near Ljubljana and at the Pekre center near Maribor, and within days numerous Slovenian Territorial Defense units – now operating solely under the command of the MSNZ and Slovenian government – were mobilized in anticipation of aggressive measures launched by the Yugoslav army.

 Slovenian Independence Day celebration in Congress Square Ljubljana, June 26, 1991.
Slovenian Independence Day celebration in Congress Square Ljubljana, June 26, 1991.

The pace of Slovenia’s march toward independence quickened in June 1991 as the Slovenian Assembly adopted the Basic Constitutional Charter, the Constitutional Act and the Declaration of Independence. By the end of the month, sufficient legislation had been approved and enacted, a national budget had been confirmed, and the Republic of Slovenia declared independence on June 25, 1991.

The following day, June 26, 1991, a ceremony both announcing and marking Slovenia’s independence was held in Ljubljana, and commemorative celebrations of Slovenian independence broke out across the new nation. The president of the Presidency of Slovenia, Milan Kučan, sent telegrams to the leaders of all western nations notifying them that the Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia had accepted the constitutional document on the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Slovenia. “With this resolution,” Kučan wrote, “the independent and sovereign state of Slovenia has been constituted, which will be based on human rights, as a legal state and on social justice.” A similar letter was sent to the United Nations secretary-general.

While Slovenia celebrated in late June 1991, the Yugoslav army readied its advance. On the morning of June 26, units of the Yugoslav People's Army left their base Rijeka, Croatia, and moved toward Slovenia’s Italian border. The local residents responded immediately, erecting barricades and organizing demonstrations directed against the Yugoslav army. The Slovenian government had already ordered forces to seize control of the new republic’s border crossings and operation of Brnik International Airport, and in doing so Slovenian forces were able to establish defensive positions against the expected attack.

The Slovenian War of Independence, better known as the “10-Day War,” started the very next day, June 27, 1991, as Yugoslav troops clashed with Slovenian Territorial Defense units in the town of Poganci, near Novo mesto. Crossing into Slovenia from neighboring Croatia, the Yugoslav army quickly regained control of Brnik Airport and all border crossings, forcing President Kučan to publicly announce that the Yugoslav federal government had “responded with aggression toward the independent and sovereign Republic of Slovenia,” and declare that the army’s activity was a “direct, violent intervention and an attempt to occupy Slovenia permanently.” Kučan also announced that the Presidency of Slovenia had adopted a decree to “execute planned measures to hinder Yugoslav army advances, to block infrastructure, and to defend installations and communications.”

 Armored units of the Yugoslav People’s Army left their base Rijeka, Croatia, and moved toward Slovenia’s borders, marking the start of the 10-Day War.
While Slovenia celebrated its independence on June 26, 1991, armored units of the Yugoslav People’s Army left their base Rijeka, Croatia, and moved toward Slovenia’s borders, marking the start of the 10-Day War.

By the end of the first day of conflict, the Yugoslav army controlled all of Slovenia’s border crossings and airports, and had launched a propaganda war by air-dropping leaflets proclaiming that “units of the Yugoslav People’s Army will fulfill their assignments consistently and energetically. All resistance will be broken.” For their part, the Slovenian Territorial Defense had managed to destroy several YPA armored vehicles and helicopters, had cut electricity and water service to Yugoslav army facilities in Slovenia, and most importantly, had accepted numerous surrenders and defections from the Yugoslav army and captured the first of numerous prisoners of war.

The fighting continued to ebb and flow over the course of the following week as the Yugoslav army began air raids on radio and television transmitters, and the Slovenian forces continued to accept more and more Yugoslav surrenders and defections on a daily basis. By July 2, however, a ceasefire agreement between President of Slovenia Milan Kučan and deputy of the Yugoslav Defense Minister Admiral Stane Brovet began to show promise of building a fragile truce. A gradual reduction of armed conflicts on July 3 was reinforced by renewed discussions between representatives of the European Community (EC) and the Conference on European Security and Cooperation (CESC) which began July 3 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Beginning in the evening of July 3, the Yugoslav People’s Army had accepted the terms of a ceasefire agreement, and YPA forces began a retreat to their barracks that would last through the reminder of their stay on Slovenian soil.

On July 7, 1991, after 10 days of Slovenian-Yugoslav conflict that ended July 6 (thus the “10-Day War”), the Brioni Agreement was adopted and brought an end to the Slovenian War of Independence. The treaty was negotiated and signed on the Brioni islands near Pula, Croatia, by representatives of the Republic of Slovenia, Republic of Croatia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The terms of the Brioni Agreement required that all Yugoslav military units leave Slovenia – the Yugoslav government set a deadline of the end of October to complete the process – and the Slovenian government insisted that the withdrawal proceed on its terms, which included that Slovenian police and armed forces (the Slovenian Territorial Defense) be recognized as sovereign on Slovenian territory. In return, Slovenia and Croatia would “refrain from the further implementation of [their] constitutional acts on independence for 90 days.” In other words, Slovenia and Croatia agreed to suspend implementation of their declarations of independence, but were not required to rescind the declarations themselves.

Although a few minor incidents followed, the Slovenian Independence War was essentially over. According to Slovenian estimates, damage was minimal on both sides: the Yugoslav People’s Army suffered 44 fatalities and 146 wounded, while 18 members of the Slovenian Territorial Defense forces were killed and another 182 wounded. A dozen foreigners were killed in the fighting, most of whom were journalists covering the conflict and truck drivers who had steered into the line of fire. Some 4,700 Yugoslav soldiers and 252 federal police officers were captured by the Slovenians. Post-war assessments made by the Yugoslav People’s Army tallied equipment losses of 31 tanks, 22 armored personnel carriers, six helicopters, roughly 6,800 infantry weapons, 87 pieces of artillery and 124 air defense weapons.

Representatives of the Republic of Slovenia, Republic of Croatia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia signed the Brioni Agreement on July 7, 1991, effectively bringing an end to the Slovenian Independence War.
Representatives of the Republic of Slovenia, Republic of Croatia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia signed the Brioni Agreement on July 7, 1991, effectively bringing an end to the Slovenian Independence War. The treaty was negotiated and approved on the Brioni islands near Pula, Croatia.

More than a week after the Brioni Agreement was adopted, a July 18, 1991, session of the Presidency of Yugoslavia produced a surprising decision: the Presidency, at the proposal of Slovenian representative Dr. Janez Drnovšek and Yugoslav Defense Minister General Veljko Kadijević, formally accepted the Brioni Agreement resolution which addressed the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from Slovenia within a period of three months. During this three-month period, members of the Yugoslav army who had Slovenian citizenship could decide whether to remain in the army or resign. Milan Kučan, the President of the Presidency of Slovenia, stated that the decision was surprising, encouraging and far-reaching. In Kučan’s view, it was obvious that the Yugoslav army had renounced all-out war in Slovenia and had opted for the alternative: a peaceful solution to the Slovenian-Yugoslav political crisis.

The Light at the End

The withdrawal of Yugoslav troops began just days after the mid-July Yugoslav Presidency session (complete troop withdrawal would continue until Oct. 26, 1991), and all three Slovenian airports opened to air traffic later in the month of July. The moratorium on Slovenian (and Croatian) independence introduced by the Brioni Agreement would expire in early October 1991, and both the Slovenian government and Assembly took advantage of the 90-day moratorium by formulating additional laws to establish its independence, initially focusing on economic issues.

Among other damages, the 10-Day War served to increase existing economic difficulties throughout Slovenia. By the end of July 1991, the Slovenian government estimated that between 700 million and one billion German marks was necessary to revive the slumping economy. The government sought financial assistance from abroad, sending the Slovenian Finance Minister to Vienna while President Kučan discussed Slovenia’s fragile economic situation with the Italian government during a visit in Rome.

The loss of contact with the other Yugoslav republics during the war also caused economic damage, not to mention the fact that Slovenian property had been confiscated in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The actions of the Yugoslav federal authorities also contributed to the mounting economic difficulties in Slovenia, most notably by the National Bank of Yugoslavia which introduced a financial blockade of Slovenia and Croatia and virtually ejected the two nations from the Yugoslav monetary system. Another area of the economy that required immediate attention was the denationalization and privatization of Slovenian industries. Through July and August, the Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia discussed a package of three laws that would aid in that process: the ownership reformation of companies, the privatization of cooperatives, and the denationalization of state-run businesses.

 Slovenia announced its monetary independence on Oct. 8, 1991, by launching its new system of currency, the tolar.
Slovenia announced its monetary independence on Oct. 8, 1991, by launching its new system of currency, the tolar, which the government introduced as the only legal tender in the independent Republic of Slovenia. The first Slovenian tolars were issued as banknotes; tolar coins were minted and introduced into circulation beginning in 1992.

One final step along the road to economic independence that needed to be addressed was the development of a Slovenian national currency. The three-month moratorium on Slovenian independence, which began July 7 with approval of the Brioni Agreement, expired on Oct. 7, 1991. The very next day, Slovenia announced its monetary independence by launching its new system of currency, the tolar, which the government introduced as the only legal tender in the independent Republic of Slovenia. The first Slovenian tolars were issued as banknotes ranging in denomination from 0.50 to 5,000; tolar coins were minted and introduced into circulation beginning in 1992.

In the diplomatic arena, President Kučan made the first visit of an independent Slovenian head of state to Bonn, Germany, in early October 1991. Although Germany wouldn’t yet officially recognize the Independent Republic of Slovenia, Kučan was pleased to discover that the German government realized that Yugoslavia was no longer in existence. Regarding the meeting, Kučan remarked that “business [was] conducted with Slovenia as with any other state. In December 1991, the Arbitration Commission of the Conference on Yugoslavia (more commonly known as the Badinter Arbitration Committee), a commission set up by the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community to provide the Conference on Yugoslavia with legal advice, handed down its Opinion No. 7 which determined that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia no longer existed and recommended that the European Community (the EC, now known as the European Union or EU) recognize Slovenia. The EC followed the Arbitration Commission‘s advice, and on Dec. 17, at the suggestion of the EC’s German delegation, offered to recognize both Slovenia and Croatia, provided that each new nation could fulfill certain conditions by presenting factual guarantees concerning the respect for human rights, the rights of minorities, disarmament and internal security prior to Dec. 23.

As Slovenia’s foreign diplomats worked abroad in the last few months of 1991 to garner support for European recognition of Slovenia, back home the Slovenian Assembly was debating and adding the final touches to the new Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia. The constitution was ratified Dec. 23, 1991, during a joint session of the Assembly that was attended by all members of the Slovenian government, led by President Milan Kučan and Prime Minister Lojze Peterle. In his ceremonial speech to the joint session, President Kučan remarked to Assembly members that “we can be proud that today we have managed to overcome our party interests and abandon them for the interests of the nation.” Just three days later, on Dec. 26, 1991, a year to the date since the independence of Slovenia was officially proclaimed, the Slovenian nation celebrated their very first Independence Day holiday. During an afternoon ceremony commemorating Independence Day, Minister of Defense Janez Janša decorated distinguished members of the Territorial Defense with awards acknowledging their conduct and performance during the 10-Day War.

After centuries of subjugation under foreign rule, Slovenia welcomed the arrival of 1992 as an independent, democratic nation. In the months to follow, Europe’s newest democratic state would receive the recognition it fought so hard to achieve from nations throughout Europe, from across the Atlantic on the North American continent, and from around the globe. The DEMOS coalition of political parties, which had steered the nation on its path to independence, disintegrated before the start of the new year, but its legacy lives on in the continuation of sovereignty and democratic principles that still burn fiercely in Slovenia two decades after those formative years. Over the course of the past 20 years, Slovenia has both celebrated new victories and suffered setbacks at the hand of defeat – and this new nation still faces the many challenges which lay ahead. But as President Milan Kučan reminded the crowd during the independence ceremonies in June 1991, “Tonight dreams are allowed. Tomorrow is a new day.” There’s a lesson in there for us all.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The above history presents an encapsulated timeline of the events leading up to and immediately following Slovenia’s independence. The material for this feature has been compiled from a number of sources, including the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) web site, the Slovenian Government and Communications web site addressing Slovenia’s 20-year anniversary (http://www.twenty.si/first-20-years) and the chronology “United in Victory, the Independence of Slovenia” by Jože Dežman, 2006, Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia.