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Demonstrations in front of the parliament, Ljubljana, March 23 1993. Photo: Tone Stojko. © Muzej za novejšo zgodovino Slovenije [National Museum of Contemporary History], collection Tone Stojko, inv. n. TS19932303_22.

Principal investigator, prof. dr. Marta Verginella,  participated at the conference Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities with her paper, titled Divided memories and the political use of history in the post-Yugoslav society: The fight for ‘the truth’ in Slovenia after 1991. The conference was jointly organized by The University of Trieste, Italy; Universität Leipzig, Germany; National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan; University of Warwick, UK; College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (CHESS) at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), USA; and Ton Duc Thang University, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Posted with permission from the conference organizers.

About the conference:

Keynote Speakers:

  • Professor Joyce C.H. Liu (National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan)
  • Professor Ursula Rao (Universität Leipzig, Germany)
  • Professor Stephen Muecke (The University of Adelaide)
  • Professor Elaine Carey (CHESS: Purdue University Northwest);

The conference themes  were organized in three overlapping streams

1. Innovations in Public Engagement

  • Memory and Public history
  • Problems of Representation for and by who?
  • Knowledge and Inquiries

2. Historical/contemporary practices and policies

  • New approaches in studies of social conflict issues
  • Perspectives on new methods, inquiries, engagements.
  • Rethinking the tools of scholarship in new times.
  • Tourism studies, international, national, local/global cultural markets.

3. Innovations of methodology, training and new skills for the future

  • New studies of production and consumption of place
  • Education and national futures, continuity, start-up, renewal, change.
  • Ecology and environment, people, animals, plants
Posted with permission from the conference organizers.


Divided memories and the political use of history in the post-Yugoslav society: The fight for ‘the truth’ in Slovenia after 1991

Since the end of the 1980s and with even greater insistence since the 1990s, discussions concerning the political and public use and abuse of history have taken place in various European contexts. Among others they addressed the importance of memory relating to oblivion (Zertal 2000), negative effects of an excessive amplification of remembering compared to forgetting and how new remembrance practices related to demands for ideological repositioning from promoters of new political and national genealogies. Establishment of new political points of reference is evident chiefly in the European contexts with a greater need to forget political associations before the political transition.

After the fall of the Berlin wall the interpretations and representations of the past developed during the Second World War and in force until the 1980s proved to be no longer appropriate. Particularly in the ex-communist world the ‘remake’ of the world – as Istvan Rév defined it in the analysis of the Hungarian case – became inevitable. ‘Certainties, the pillars of life had gone; familiar recurring events, the rhythm of existence, ordinary days and holidays, the well-known street names, the social significance of the neighbourhood, the significance of photographs in the family album, social capital, the knowledge of Russian as a foreign language to be used, the value of the sociometric network of one’s own private and professional world, the stability of memories, the comprehension of private and public history.’ (Rév,2007,19). In the effort to restore national continuity interrupted by the Second World War and by the communist period, also other East European states abandoned the accounts, created to establish a common and shared identity under the banner of the communist ideology, affecting also the ways in which national history in the decades in the post-war period was perceived.

Similarly, the narrative of the war of liberation rendered the source of legitimization and identity for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In the 1980s, when the cornerstones of the socialist regimes started to loosen influence as the ideological glue of the Yugoslav brotherhood cracked, the victims of revolutionary and communist violence gradually resurfaced at the center of the public debate. The act of remembrance of the wartime and post-war executions has eventually transformed into a condemnation of Tito’s regime and has been included in the collective memory of all those experiences lived by the Yugoslav population during and after the Second World War, that remained concealed for more than forty years. In the public debate and in the Yugoslav history school-books published before the 1990s there was a space for the partisans and the heroes of the war of liberation; the defeated remained outside the official narrative, relegated to individual and family memories. At the margin of the collective memory were also the experiences of deportations to the Nazi camps and the internments in the Fascist camps. Although occasionally remembered, the deportations did not enter into the official context developed to commemorate the partisan epic. The multiplication of memories and intensified attempts of historical revisionism in the Yugoslav context not only opened new spaces for democracy, but also served to justify new acts of violence and xenophobia. Some of the subjects excluded from the post-war historical narrative became the promoters of new forms of collective memory, while their demands encountered new political listeners to represent them.

The example of Slovenia, one of the former republics of Yugoslavia, serves me to demonstrate how practices of forgetting and remembrance were established in the transition periods after both World Wars and how the role of the smallness of the Slovene society played part in it. In addition, special attention will be paid to the role of historiography in both transition periods and to the role of oral history after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The temporal framework of the research is broadened to demonstrate, how political instrumentalization of remembrance (and forgetting) manifested after each extensive political turn.



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