Principal Investigator:
prof. dr. Darko Darovec

Research Organisations:

  • University of Maribor, Faculty of Arts, Dipartment of History
  • New University, Faculty of Slovenian and International Studies, European Faculty of Law
  • Nova revija –Institute of Humanities
  • Institute IRRIS for Research, Development and Strategies of Society, Culture and Environement

Period: 1. 7. 2018 – 30. 6. 2021
Financed by: Slovenian Research Agency (Grant n.o: J6-9354)

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE RESEARCH PROJECT

SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND

Three decades will soon pass from the last major transitional processes in Europe and worldwide as well: the dissolution of most of the socialist states and the formation of new national states. Within this transition process, for the first time in history, was established the Slovene state. Thus, the research project is dedicated to the phenomenon of nation-building and state-building of Slovenia. The methodological and theoretical approach in exploring this phenomenon will be based on a special scientific discipline, the cultural memory, established at the end of 20th Century. This new scientific discipline explores, within the specificity of individual historical times, the role of cultural patterns of remembrance, the importance of memory, remembrance and oblivion for shaping identities and attitudes towards history and past events in the fields of science and collective memory. Within this approach, the connection between time, identity and memory in their three dimensions of the personal, social, and cultural becomes more and more evident (J. Assmann, 2008), while particularly historiography plays a major role in all three dimensions, which we will research in this project on the case of Slovenia.

The originality of the project lays in the fact that we will, on the basis of a complex analysis and interdisciplinary methodological approaches of humanities and social studies, critically (re)interpret the corpus of Slovene national cultural memory, as is evident in the texts of national history, literature, folk literature, arts, rituals, myths, media etc. Thus, we will study the basic characteristics of the Slovenian national cultural memory in the five selected milestone transitional historical periods in the last quarter of the millennium, which have formed the corpus on which is based the nation-building process of the Slovenian nation and state.

The last European transitional processes show an interesting characteristic: return to the ancient. The year 1989 does not represent any revolutionary milestone in the sense of the establishment of new values, but the restoration of old values in Europe: capitalism, nationalism and religion. Thus, it is not surprising that during the past 30 years, the phenomena of ethnicity, modern nation, nationalism and identities have been worldwide studied in the fields of sociology and humanities. Within the theoretic context, we will evaluate the theoretical models of the development of ethnicity, which upgraded the modernist theory, for example the symbolic construction of nations by Smith, but especially the theory funded by Sahlins who, based on the research of the Pyrenees French-Spanish border, confirmed the theory of symbolical construction of national and political identity, which is, besides Barth and Armstrong, defended also by Grillo, Cohen, Wallman etc. They emphasize that ethnic identity is shaped precisely by the differentiation and distinction between “us” and “them” or “the first” and “the Other”, which affects the phenomenon of national identity much earlier, even before the local community is assimilated by the dominant center (Sahlins, 1989). These influences will also be studied in accordance with the concept of transculturality, as introduced by Welsch, who articulates the culture in terms of intertwining, since cultures from the inside is characterized by hybridity and pluralization of identities, while from the outside by exceeding the limits of their own framework (Welsch, 1999, 194–213).

Recently, some quality studies on ethnicity and identity were published for the area of South-East Europe, providing us with excellent possibilities for comparison with the Slovenian territory, especially since Slovenia was taken into consideration only by Kuljić (2012), while in other recent studies is not treated (Kolstø, ed., 2005, 2014; Todorova, 1997, 2004), even though in the last cycle of the formation of national states in Europe, in many respects Slovenia shared its destiny with the neighbouring South Eastern countries, much more than with Central European countries, which enjoy a longstanding state tradition. Even though Slovenian historians have been following these research trends, there is still a lack of systematic research of ethnicity and nation- and state- building processes in Slovenia. Namely, the nation and state building process is a discursive process between its promoters, supporters, reviewers, and opponents.

The Slovenian historiography (cfr. Mythical and stereotypical in the Slovene view of history, 2006) reflects the phenomenon of Slovenian ethnicity mostly from the viewpoint of the modernistic theory (Kosi, 2014), which argues the idea of nations as »imagined communities« (Anderson, Breuilly, Hobsbawm) that grow in the minds of elites aiming to satisfy their political goals. Furthermore, the theoretical results in the fields of ethnical studies and nationalism are not sufficiently reflected in the surveys of Slovenian history. Despite the efforts by some Slovenian researchers (Klabjan, Petrovič, Ratej, Lutar, Rožac-Darovec), there is still a chronic lack of studies on the social dimensions of memory and self-reflection of the historiography itself in Slovenia: how and why we remember something; what is the ideological basis of this; who are the protagonists of the processes of writing history, memory and, of course, oblivion; what kind of the relationship was between memory and history or the role of historiography in the creation of collective memory and the problem of divided memory in Slovenia? The Slovene present and past offer us an abundance of such examples, which will be properly researched and re-interpreted within this project.

 

PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION

It is certainly a unique particularity in the phenomenon of the building of the Slovenian nation, known for lacking its own centres of power, nobility, bourgeoisie, intellectuals, official authorities and appropriate schools in the area of its ethnic community until the mid- 19th century, divided between several regional and state administrative units. There were only small towns in this area, dominated by German and Italian culture. Today, the western part of the Slovenian territory bordering Italy, northern Austria, eastern Hungary, which obtained dualism in the Habsburg Monarchy (1867), and Croatia, with which Slovenia shares the common Slavic linguistic roots. All of Slovenian bordering countries are in majority Catholic. This was a land with a large majority of its population located in rural areas, relatively sparsely populated. Located on this geostrategic very important European transition area, this territory had also been characteristically shaped by the environment.

In the professional and lay public exists a general opinion that, in the historical absence of its own ruling elites, the culture was essential for the formation of the Slovenian national identity; however, this process requires a much more complex approach. Culture in the broad sense and community identity are shaped in each time and space basing on numerous factors, from the environment to the geostrategic position, historically-political, socio-economic, legal, administrative, ethnic, linguistic, demographic and other intertwines and transfers of culture in a certain cultural geographical area and in interaction and interdependence towards/from other (ethnonational) cultures and identities. Those significantly contributed to the creation of a culture of memory about the Slovenian national identity.

The project proposal aims to examine the Slovenian nation-building and state-building process with a special emphasis on the last phase of the processes, the 80’s and 90’s of 20 C., when, after the long-term process, the Slovenians established their own state. The formation of a modern nation can be discussed in terms of the modern middle class movement, which has been evolving – similarly as in Europe – between the 18th and 19th Cent. This was shaped as a political, economic and cultural movement. The researches will be focused on an interdisciplinary research of different aspects (historical, cultural, anthropological, legal) of the formation of Slovenian ethnic and national identity. Being aware that history, national identity and culture are formed retrospectively through the interpretation in the present, we originate from the hypothesis that symbols, myths, rituals, figures, memories, communications, national ideologies and historiography are the main factors for the formation of the identity of communities and individuals. Therefore, special attention will be given to their representation and construction in terms of their integrative role in connecting communities and construction of the »historical truth«, particularly in relation to the cultural products (art, literature, historical studies, popular culture, means of mass communication, commercials etc.).

Due to the heterogeneity of culture, language and society, the Slovenian territory in 19th and 20th C. became a battle ground between the here existing ethnicities. Therefore, special attention will be devoted to the relations between national identity and “Others” in the sense of relations that form, consolidate, challenge or are in any sense crucial for the consolidation of identity, particularly national. We will build upon a hypothesis that due to specific historically political and socio-economic circumstances Slovenian ethnicity has been built not only essentially, but especially in relations towards the »Other«. The process of formation of Slovenian national identity began at least in the 19th C., in the context of European concepts of national communities, when (national) traditions were significantly produced in European consciousness (Hobsbawm; Anderson, Burke, 2007, 96). The process continued in the 20th C., first in the Habsburg Monarchy, and then within the Yugoslav state, thus the formation of the Slovenian state had firm foundations in the already preformed identity of the community. Like any organism it has also been subjected to a process that has gained new dimensions with obtaining its own country, European integration processes and, nonetheless, recently with economic financial crisis.

The Slovenian state counts only 25 years, thus special attention will be devoted to the period of processes of the independence (around 1991) and the building of national symbols. In particular, this period of democratization of the political space is marked by the sharpening of the divided memory related to the Second World War, which is characteristic of most European countries that were contaminated by cooperation with Nazism.

The epistemological approach will be based on analyses, comparisons and (re)interpretations of the cultural memory of the basic Slovene identity stories in each social period, with special emphasis on the periods of transition from the end of the 18th century: 1) the romantic period (until the middle of the 19th century), 2) the period of realism or modernism (up to World War I), 3) the period between the two world wars in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1945), 4) the period after World War II in socialist Yugoslavia, and 5) the period of independence in the 80s and 90s of the 20th century.

With the thematic analysis we have already identified representations of stories that play a crucial role in the formation of national identity (Myths about sui generis, ante murales, antiquity, rebellion and the myth of common suffering). With a comparative interdisciplinary approach we will study them throughout the main transition milestones of the Slovenian collective memory, which all have a rebellious character:

 

  • Early Medieval Migration Period, King Samo (6/7 C.)
  • Period of Christianization (Carantania: 7 /8 C.)
  • Freising manuscripts
  • Important feudal families on today’s Slovene territory (Counts of Gorizia and Counts of Celje)
  • Peasant revolts (the most important in 1478, 1515, 1572/1573, 1635 and 1713);
  • Reformation: Primož Trubar;
  • Enlightenment: Anton Tomaž Linhart, Marko Pohlin, Valentin Vodnik, Žiga Zois;
  • Folk songs and tales;
  • Romanticism: France Prešeren;
  • The political Program of United Slovenia (1848), movement of mass meetings and reading rooms: the activities of Slovenian intellectuals, especially historians and litterateurs in the second half of the 19th C. and at the beginning of the 20th C.: Fran Levstik (Martin Krpan 1858), Josip Jurčič, Ivan Cankar, Fran Saleški Finžgar (Under the free sun 1906/1907), Karel Štrekelj, Josip Gruden, Josip Mal, Franc Kos;
  • The May Declaration (1917);
  • Building of the Slovene identity in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941);
  • Antifascism in the Primorska region and in Istria (1918-1941);
  • National liberation war and antifascism during WW2 (1941-1945);
  • Construction of Slovene identity and cultural dissidence in socialist Yugoslavia (1945-1990);
  • Etruscan and Venetian theories about the origins of Slovenes;
  • Innovative artistic and political movements (Perspektive, neo avant-garde conceptualist art group OHO, Neue Slowenische Kunst, Nova revija etc.),
  • Popular culture in the eighties of the 20th C.;
  • Importance of Slovenes outside the border (minorities in Italy, Austria and abroad);
  • Democratization, the independence movement (1980-1991) and the War for independence (1991);
  • Divided memory, reconciliation and oblivion.

We derive from the hypothesis that the myth of rebellion, which appears to be a conflict in relation to the tradition and the so-far established concept of identity, plays in Slovene historiography and collective memory a central role in the Slovenian nation- and state- building processes.

Sestava projektne skupine:

 

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