Ptuj draws crowds for Carnevale festivities
Slovenia’s most important carnevale celebration, Ptuj’s Kurentovanje, was held again this year, from 3 to 8 February. Sunday was the highlight, featuring a parade with nearly 2000 participants from not only Slovenia but also Austria, Croatia and Macedonia. More than 40,000 people turned out to watch.
The region’s most important carnevale figure, the Kurent, was well represented with more than 350 people wearing the traditional costumes made from animal hair and featuring huge masks and bells designed to scare away winter. [SN / 06.02.05 / Large Crowds at Ptuj Carnival].
Rado Lenček passes away in New York
Prominent Slovene-American scholar Rado Lenček died in New York on 27 January after a long illness. He was 84 years old.
Lenček was born in 1921 in Mirna na Dolenjskem and studied in Novo Mesto, Ljubljana and Padua. After World War Two, he worked as a professor in Slovene elementary schools in the British and American zones of the Free Territory of Triest, in Gorizia and Triest itself. Also in Triest he edited a cultural bulletin for the United States Information Service.
He moved to the United States in 1958 to study at the University of Chicago, and from 1959 to 1962 he studied at Harvard, earning a doctorate in Slavic languages and literature. He was recognized as a leading linguist, Slavist, cultural historian and ethnologist, and published numerous books, articles and studies.
Lenček was also one of the founders of the US-based Society for Slovene Studies and was a professor at New York City’s Columbia University until his retirement in 1995. In 2001, Lenček was awarded the Honorary Mark of Freedom of the Republic of Slovenia, and had also been named an honorary ambassador of Slovenia for science [Newsletter of the Society for Slovene Studies / 02.05 / Rado Lencek, Delo / 28.01.05 / Umrl je Rado Lenček].
Slovenia to get new daily before the end of 2005
Marko Crnkovič, who has been working to launch a new daily newspaper called Čas, told Finance on 4 February that the paper will arrive on newsstands before the end of the year. Initial plans foresaw the paper premiering in 2003, but business complications made that impossible. Aside from Crnkovič himself, prominent Slovene businessman Jurij Schollmayer and the Austrian publisher Styria are also involved in the project [Finance / 04.02.05 / New Slovenian Daily ‘Čas’ for Sure This Year, Finance / 04.02.05 / Crnkovič: Čas bo letos končno izšel].
Controversial film hits Italian TV
The film Il cuore nel pozzo (Heart in a Pit) premiered on Italian state television RAI in two parts, on 7 and 8 February, provoking protests in Slovenia and among ethnic Slovenes in and around Trieste (Trst).
The film deals with an Italian family living in World War Two-era Istria. Slovene veterans, among others, are alleging that Italians are trying to rewrite history in order to make themselves look like innocent victims and to cast the Yugoslav forces as vicious killers.
Prior to the war, the littoral region around Trieste (today part of Italy), the present-day Slovene region of Primorska as well as territories in Istria and Dalmatia that are now held by Croatia. Prior to WWII, the area was heavily ethnically mixed, with Slovenes, Croats and Italians living virtually side by side. There were problems, however, which came to the fore during the war: Italy occupied the parts of the region hitherto held by Yugoslavia and began a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Communist Yugoslav forces, called Partizans, fought back and engaged in ethnic cleansing of their own. The results of the campaign are the numerous "fojbe," or mass graves, that now dot the region’s landscape (the pit referred to in the title of the film is a reference to one such fojba). The Communists continued to fill fojbe even after the end of the conflict, compounding the problems that are only beginning to be dealt with in recent years.
During the war, some Slovenes sided with the Italian Fascists while some Italians sided with the Yugoslav Communist Partizans, but none of this is presented in the film. Rather, there is no mention in the film of fascism at all, while the Partizan forces are composed entirely of bloodthirsty Slavs.
On 6 February, Slovene veterans held a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers of a 1945 attack on the village of Boršt by the Italian army, which at that time was occupying a large swath of Slovene territory. The ceremony also featured protests against Il coure nel pozzo. Association of Veterans of the National Struggle for Liberation head, Janez Stanovnik, said that the film was based more on science fiction rather than on truth [SN / 06.02.05 / Slovenian Veterans Decry Italian War Film].
The Association of Anti-Fascists, Fighters and Participants in the National Liberation Struggle held a press conference in Koper on 2 February in which representatives stressed that the film presents a distorted, one-sided view of a very complicated time. Similar organizations from Trieste and Istria have also joined in the public outcry. [Večer / 07.02.05 / Na RAI sporni film Srce v breznu].
Dramatization of Alamut to premier in Salzburg
July will see the premier of a dramatization of the important Slovene novel Alamut, written in 1938 by Vladimir Bartol. The book is set in medieval Persia and deals with a radical Muslim sect that many present-day critics liken to Al Quaeda. Particularly after the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States and the declaration of the "War on Terrorism," Alamut has been thrust back into the spotlight and is attracting increasing international attention. The first English-language translation of the book published in the United States appeared at the end of last year.
Now, the story is set to hit the stage for the first time ever as part of this year’s Salzburg Festival in Austria. The script was adapted from Bartol’s novel by writer, director and Slovene National Theatre (SNG) director Dušan Jovanović and will be directed by Sebastijan Horvat. Both the Salzburg Festival and Ljubljana’s SNG are producing the show. It will be featured in a competitive program called "Young Directors’ Project," the grand prize of which is a Max Reinhard pen and EUR 13,000 [SN / 03.02.05 / World Premiere of Drama "Alamut" in Salzburg in July].
Gospodarski vestnik ceases publication
Slovenia’s most prominent business journal, the weekly Gospodarski vestnik, has halted publication. Publisher GV Skupina is citing low circulation as the reason.
GV Skupina is about to undergo a restructuring which will see its subsidiary GV Založba assuming responsibility for legal matters while the business daily Finance – owned by GV Skupina and Sweden’s Bonnier Business Information – will pick up where Gospodarski vestnik left off.
Gospodarski vestnik premiered in 1952 and its last issue hit newsstands on 7 February. [SBW / 07.02.05 / Publisher Decides to Drop Flagship Business Weekly].
Slovenia ratifies EU constitution
The National Assembly ratified the European Union constitution on 1 February, making it the third member state to do so. The required two-thirds majority was easily secured; the vote was 79:4, with seven members of parliament absent.
The National Party (SNS) voted against ratification, and urged members of parliament to join them to protest the manner of the ratification. AFP quoted SNS member of parliament Bogdan Barovič as saying, "Instead of having a debate on the bill and then approving it, we are first approving it and later we are supposed to debate on it" [AFP / 01.02.05 / Slovenia becomes third EU country to ratify EU constitution].
A University of Ljubljana poll from January showed that even though a majority of Slovene voters do support ratification, a whopping 36 percent have no opinion. The same poll also showed that 43 percent of voters know just a little bit about the constitution, while a telling 30 percent know nothing about it.
Previously, both Lithuania and Hungary had ratified the constitution, both – like Slovenia – new members of the EU. Spain is expected to be the next to vote on the constitution, in a 20 February referendum.
The 25 member states of the EU signed the constitution in Rome in October 2004, and it should enter into force as of November 2006. However, all member states must ratify the document, and so its fate is still far from secure [BBC / 01.02.05 / Slovenia ratifies EU constitution].
Foreign Minister denies intention to send troops to Iraq
Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told the daily Večer that the government – despite Prime Minister Janez Janša’s recent comments – is not considering sending Slovene troops to Iraq.
"There is no point in speaking about the sending of our troops to Iraq; we're not thinking about that," Rupel told the paper. He added that Slovenia, nevertheless, is trying to maintain good relations with the United States [STA / 29.01.05 / Slovenia not thinking of sending troops to Iraq, says foreign minister].
Local Slovenes lose battle for Prešeren Park in Sarajevo
The continuing controversy over Sarajevo’s Prešeren Park has apparently ended, just days before local Slovenes are to celebrate the 8 February holiday in the poet’s honor. Responding to demands by local Muslims, city authorities in the Bosnian capital have rescinded the name "Prešeren Park" for the hitherto-abandoned site and will now rename it in honor of the Harem Kalin hadži Alijna džamija, an historic mosque that stood at that location until it was destroyed in 1945 [Mladina / 31.01.05 / Preimenovan Prešernov park v Sarajevu].
Ljubljana to get water park
A huge water park called the Water City of Atlantis (Vodno mesto Atlantis) is set to open at the end of April on the grounds of the sprawling BTC City shopping center. The park will cover more than 20,000 square meters between Letališka ulica and Bratislavska ulica.
The park will have four sections aimed at different age groups. Thermal Temple (Termalni tempelj) will be for older visitors, World of Adventures (Svet doživetij) will be aimed at thrill seekers, Sauna Land (Dežela savn) will be for those seeking merely to relax and Children's World (Otroški svet) will be intended for small children.
All told, the park will have 14 pools with a combined water surface of 1800 square meters. It will be able to host as many as 1600 visitors at any given time [Ljubljana Tourism / 01.05 / A Water Park to Open in Ljubljana Presumably in April].