The culture workers' trade union, Glosa, staged a protest rally at noon on Tuesday in Ljubljana's landmark square, by the statue of France Prešeren, Slovenia's greatest poet whose death anniversary has been celebrated as a public holiday since WWII and was made a bank holiday after independence.
Addressing the crowd, Glosa boss Dora Hvalica said that the decision to scrap the culture ministry was a mistake that "may be put right fast or regretted for a long time".
Hvalica countered the argument of Žiga Turk, the candidate for minister for education, science, culture and sport, that many nations in Europe do not even have the word culture in the names of their ministries, by saying that "no one in Europe has Culture Day either, except for the Slovenians".
"Let's celebrate now, for it may be the last time," the trade unionist appealed, adding that Slovenians were the only nation "far and wide who constituted themselves as a nation and a state through culture".
The ministry of culture is being abolished by the politicians of the Slovenian Spring Movement, who would not be here now if it were not for writers, intellectuals and artists, Hvalica said, suggesting that the explanation was that "every revolution has always eaten its own children".
In response to the government's move, culture workers are setting up a ministry of culture in civil society that will be based at the headquarters of Glosa. The proposal is for the minister to be selected by the Coordinating Committee for Culture (KOKS), a body set up in reaction to the abolition of culture ministry.
KOKS also held a protest event in front of the Cankarjev dom arts centre, where the official Culture Day ceremony was held tonight. The members of the committee lit candles and read a statement emphasising the respect of a constitutional article on the importance of culture for the preservation of the Slovenian nation.
According to the president of the Writers' Association Veno Taufer, 26 organisations have joined KOKS so far. One of them, the Asociacija Society, joining NGOs and independent artists, burnt a double bass in front of Cankrajev dom tonight. The society's head Jurij Krpan told the STA they wanted a more radical gesture than lighting candles.
The protest by KOKS was also attended by several prominent figures, including one of this year's winners of the Prešeren Fund Prize, author Andrej E. Skubic, poet Tomaž Šalamun and former Culture Minister Jožef Školč.