Monuments in the winds of change


In Europe, nineteenth‐century historicism, with its conscious association of the past with the present, initiated a veritable flood of public monuments — the cities were literally stuffed full of architectural sculpture and statues. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, Ljubljana was caught up in the winds of change and started to replace its German façade with a Slovene one. Growing national conflicts in the multinational monarchy also played a role in the creation of memorial sculpture. The subsequent changes in political borders have resulted in further changes of symbols — those monuments to statesmen which had occupied the most important areas of the city, announcing to the world that Ljubljana was the true capital of the Slovene nation. Only the monument to Napoleon, a reminder of the ‘bright years of the French occupation’, has survived in Ljubljana, having been erected after the first world war, when Slovenia was no longer a part of the Austro‐Hungarian Empire. History repeated itself after the second world war and after the creation of Slovenia as an independent state. This paper contends that the true meaning of the removal and replacement of monuments, now that Slovenia is an independent country, is no more than a replacement of one myth with another. In this case, the replacement of the myth that the country of Slovenia was born during the national liberation war and socialist revolution between 1941 and 1945, with the myth that there was no national liberation struggle but merely a socialist revolution. The removal of monuments also represents the blotting out of history: an erased memory of Austria and the first and second Yugoslavias. Historical space has always been filled with a national myth in the sense of an age‐old yearning of Slovenes for their own state. Therefore the history of the Slovenes is largely a history of correction, a history of myths. There is no history between us and our ancient ancestors, merely an unbroken line of yearning for an independent state. Paradoxically, this is taking place under the rubric of a return to Europe, while it is obviously a matter of ‘Balkanization’.