On 3 December, Slovenia saw nationwide celebrations of the bicentennial of the birth of Slovenia's preeminent Romantic poet, France Prešeren, but a poll taken by the weekly tabloid Nedelja showed that almost 65 per cent of respondents were unaware of the holiday. Of the respondents, only 2.3 per cent could name more than five of Prešeren's poems, 7.9 could name four, but almost 20 per cent could not name a single one. Zdravljica (the Toast), Slovenia's national anthem, is the most obvious, and more than 40 per cent remembered that it was indeed Prešeren who wrote it.
Events have been taking place all over the country throughout the year, which the Ministry of Culture named Prešeren Year, and 3 December marked the climax of the festivities. However, almost three-fourths of those participating in the poll said they were likely not to attend any of the events.
Among the highlights of the international celebrations this year were those in Moscow, Vienna and Paris. Earlier this year, Moscow played host to a major exhibition about Prešeren and a conference on the works of Prešeren and the preeminent Russian Romantic poet, Aleksandr Pushkin. In Vienna, there was a major symposium on Prešeren and his relationship to German literature. And on 3 December, the Bosnian, Hungarian and Slovene embassies in Paris jointly observed the holiday with a gala event.
In honour of the occasion, Kolja Mičević, of the Paris embassy of Bosnia and Hercegovina, published a French translation of a collection of Prešeren's poems that was particularly appreciated by the Slovene embassy in France, given that Mičević adeptly translated Prešeren from his second language into his third.
Soros pulls out of Slovenia
After eight years and more than USD 25 million spent, the Slovene branch of George Soros's Open Society Institute (OSI) is closing its doors as of 31 December. The decision was announced earlier this year, after the World Bank declared Slovenia to be a "developed" country no longer eligible for development loans. The OSI was intended to assist countries in transition, and now the organization feels that Slovenia no longer qualifies.
The Ljubljana-based Mirovni Inštitut (Peace Institute) has signed an agreement with the OSI by which it will continue to carry out OSI projects and receive OSI funding for at least one more year. Other OSI projects will continue with private or otherwise-alternative funding.
The OSI has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments in Slovenia. It founded multimedia centers in Maribor and Koper and the Center for Contemporary Art in Ljubljana. The OSI was also responsible for creating the Ljubljana Digital Media Lab (Ljudmila), which serves as a central homepage for more than 300 websites for Slovene non-governmental and non-profit organizations.
More than 50 Slovene students have received OSI stipends to study in American and British universities, 66 for postgraduate work at the Central European University in Budapest and 50 for summer courses there.
The OSI has also co-financed the Ljubljana University Faculty of post-graduate Humanistics, the Academy of Music, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT), the Faculty of Architecture, the Institute for National Questions as well as study trips for Slovene academics, artists and journalists abroad and for foreigners to come to Slovenia.
Future Soros projects in Slovenia will be carried out by OSI branches in Budapest and New York. There are OSI branches in 31 countries around the world, but primarily in Central and Eastern Europe.
Slovenia and Yugoslavia
On 9 December, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanović started a two-day visit to Slovenia at the invitation of Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel. The two signed an agreement passed by the Slovene parliament on 8 December and by the Yugoslav Parliament on 20 November officially establishing diplomatic relations between the two states. Svilanović also met with President Kučan and Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek on the visit.
Sir Arthur Watts, the chief arbitrator of the succession of the Former Yugoslavia has invited the negotiating teams of all five successor states—Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Macedonia—to a meeting in Brussels on 18 and 19 December. He plans to meet with each team individually on the 18th, and then with the whole group on the 19th, to determine how to further the negotiations that have now been stalled for twenty months. The meetings are intended for purely information-gathering purposes and should not include much substantive negotiation.
On 8 December, Parliament named Miran Mejak to the post of Coordinator for Questions Relating to the Succession of the Former Yugoslavia. Mejak will lead the Slovene negotiating team to the Brussels meeting. This week, he made a public statement in which he expressed his belief that the unresolved questions relating to succession can quickly be resolved in the new political atmosphere of the region.
And in other news...
- Ljubljana Archbishop Franc Rode visited Belgrade this week to meet with Serbian Patriarch Pavle. Both agreed that relations between the Catholic Church in Slovenia and the Serbian Orthodox Church are quite good, but there is room for more extensive cooperation. Approximately 45,000 Orthodox Christians live in Slovenia and fall under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate.
- The Dun & Broadstreet Agency has once again positively acknowledged the Slovene economy, naming it and that of Hungary the best in the region. Among its comments were positive appraisals of the political situation in the country, whereby there is a secure governing coalition with mass approval and a large majority and a highly experienced prime minister. The agency criticized the slow rate of privatization, however, it expressed hope that the new government would hold to its promises of speeding up the process.
- The 16th annual Book Fair was held this week in Ljubljana. More than six million individual books were published in Slovenia last year, for a population of just under two million, making the per capita rate among the highest in the world. Slovene publishers released more than 4000 new titles last year, of which 3000 were written in Slovene and 1000 were translations. The print run of the average book was 1500 copies.
- The Leonardo New Horizons Award for Innovation in New Media was awarded this week in Paris. The Virtual Base, INTIMA, and its founder, Igor Štromajer, were nominated for the award along with ten other artists and art groups from around the world. INTIMA has exhibited in 15 shows in Europe, North and South America and Australia this year and is currently featured in the Interferences/Les Nuits Savoureuses festival in Belfort, France. The award is granted by the MIT Press Leonardo, based in San Francisco.
- Back from a highly successful tour of Italy and hell-bent on international success, the Slovene band Psycho-Path will participate in the EuroSonic festival in the Netherlands. The festival takes place annually at Groningen, near Amsterdam, and attracts record companies, managers, promoters and hopeful performers. The EuroSonic festival begins on 5 January.
Brian J Požun, 8 December 2000
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