Brdo pri Kranju – Jože Pučnik, a leading dissident under the Communist regime in Slovenia who played a key role in the country’s independence, was honoured with a bust at Brdo estate on the 90th anniversary of his birth. In his address to the ceremony, Prime Minister Janez Janša drew parallels between the situation in Slovenia at the time and the war in Ukraine.
The bust carries the famous quote with which Pučnik welcomed the outcome of the 1990 independence referendum: “Yugoslavia is no more, now it is about Slovenia”, the words that Janša said should be kept repeated today.
Even though Pučnik did not spend much time at Brdo pri Kranju, the estate where state functions are held, Janša said the location for the bust was picked because it was here that one of the most momentous political decisions was taken.
After the plebiscite on 23 December 1990, where Slovenians voted overwhelmingly for independence from Yugoslavia, Janša said there were many doubts about Slovenia breaking free from Yugoslavia.
Pučnik then called a meeting at Brdo of the DEMOS government, which unified over the decision for independence, said Janša who at the time served as defence minister.
He said Pučnik was not burdened by grudges or the difficulty of building consensus between the great number of parties forming the DEMOS government, but fought for the Slovenian nation’s right to self-determination.
“I’m glad Slovenia’s main airport carries his name and that streets and squares are named after him,” said Janša, regretting that this was not the case in the capital Ljubljana.
Janša said that just before his arrival at Brdo he got a call from Australian PM Scott Morrison, who inquired about the EU’s steps in the coming days and weeks. What happens in Ukraine will also determine what happens in the South Pacific and elsewhere in the world in terms of peace and respect for international law, Janša quoted Morrison.
He noted that many Ukrainians who live in various European countries are now returning home to help defend the country. “Pučnik too came from the comfort of a foreign country into the turbulence of Slovenian Spring.”
Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti praised Pučnik for his fearlessness which allowed him to keep his faith in life and the future. He saw the future in Slovenia and was one of its pillars.
The bust of Pučnik was unveiled by Janša and Pučnik’s son Gorazd Pučnik.
In tribute to the 90th anniversary of Pučnik’s birth, a guard of honour laid a wreath at Pučnik’s grave in his home village of Črešnjevec in the north-east on behalf of President Borut Pahor. One of the halls in the Presidential Palace was named after Pučnik in 2015.
Pučnik (1932-2003) was one of the most outspoken Slovenian critics of dictatorship and lack of civil liberties in Yugoslavia during the Communist regime. He was incarcerated two times in the late 1950s and 1960s because of his critical writing, after which he emigrated to Germany.
After returning to Slovenia in the late 1980s, he co-founded the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDSS) in 1989 and remained its leader until 1993. From 1989 to 1991, he also headed DEMOS, a coalition of parties that won the first multi-party election in Slovenia after World War II.
In 1990 he run in the election for the president of Slovenia’s collective presidency, but was defeated in the run-off by Milan Kučan. Pučnik was deputy prime minister in 1992 and in the 1992 election he was elected MP. He retired from politics in 1997. He died in Germany in 2003.