Austrian military officer’s statue back in Tivoli Park

Ljubljana – A statue of Austrian Field Marshal Josef Radetzky (1766-1858) was erected in Tivoli Park on Tuesday, at the same spot in front of Tivoli Mansion from where it was removed in 1918, a controversial decision that some have been opposing vocally.

The Czech-born Radetzky was married to a countess from Tržič, present-day north-western Slovenia, and occasionally lived there in 1807-1819.

In 1852, he received from the Austrian emperor Tivoli Mansion. He renovated it, planted a park and opened it to the public.

Radetzky’s first statute, a bust, was put up in Ljubljana in 1860 to much fanfare, taking pride of place in present-day Zvezda Park, according to historical records.

The life-size statue in front of Tivoli Mansion followed in 1880. Both were removed in 1918 by the Slovenian patriots after the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed.

In 2015, the city of Ljubljana decided to re-erect a copy of the original statue, which is kept at the City Museum, based on a proposal from the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the newspaper Dnevnik reported on Wednesday.

There has been lively debate about the city’s decision.

Historian Božidar Jezernik, who has written a book about statues in Ljubljana, has said he had nothing against it, telling the newspaper Delo a while ago that Slovenians can trace the development of their national awareness to the era under Austrian rule.

But Miloš Kosec, an architect and writer, believes “our history is a history of discontinuation, so putting up monuments where they used to be as if nothing happened in between is a naive gesture which we cannot afford”.

Similarly, art historian Beti Žerovc sees no reason for the move “if we have not worked out what it means for us as a community which already has serious issues with identity”.

“You cannot erect such a politically burdened monument without political consequences,” she said in a statement for today’s Dnevnik.

The city sees the statue as part of efforts to preserve heritage, but Žerovc said that a monument is always a political statement.

She also pointed to the need to define the relationship between “the monuments that are returning and those leaving”.

“Why can a Ljubljana barracks no longer bear the name of [WWII Partisan] hero Franc Rozman – Stane, while the statue of the hero Josef Radetzky can be re-erected in Ljubljana?”

She fears that this is not the only Austrian monument that will be reinstated in Slovenia.

“As a precedent, the Ljubljana case will very likely come handy for the advocates of re-erection of the monument to Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff in Maribor.”