Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition: Politicized Art under Late Socialism

By Aleš Erjavec | Go to book overview
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Neue Slowenische Kunst—
New Slovenian Art

Slovenia, Yugoslavia,
Self-Management, and the 1980s
Aleŝ Erjavec

The Slovenians are a nation of two million people living in mountainous terrain bordered by Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, and the Adriatic Sea. From the eighth century until 1991 they had no independent state of their own. National aspirations that emerged mostly in the nineteenth century caused Slovenians to join the newly formed Yugoslavia after the end of the First World War, which thus became the “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians. In Tito's federal Yugoslavia, Slovenia retained and strengthened its cultural autonomy, this being equally true for language, education, art, and literature. Before independence in 1991, Slovenia's overall culture, political system, and economy were inextricably linked with those of the rest of Yugoslavia.

Throughout most of Slovenian history, national identity was built almost exclusively on the Slovenian language and culture. With no kings and conquerors to speak of, streets in towns or villages in Slovenia were named not after royal figures and generals, but mostly after writers, painters, scientists, and a few statesmen. In the early twentieth century, Josip Vidmar, one of the leading Slovenian intellectuals, promulgated the idea that small Slovenia could excel, not in economy or politics, but in culture and art. 1 From this wishful thinking arose his idea of the “Slovenian Athens”—the idea that the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, could become another Athens or Florence, renowned for its culture, making a mark in the world in this way. 2

Not only before the emergence of Yugoslavia, but also after its creation in 1918, the Slovenian national identity and the role of Slovenia within the broader Yugoslavia raised numerous problems and were the cause of

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