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Prime Minister Janez Janša in Ormož: Thirty years ago, Slovenia displayed unity in its defence

  • Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)

This morning, Prime Minister Janez Janša attended the solemn commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the armed conflict during the war of independence in the Ormož area during the war of independence, where he also delivered a solemn address.

As the Prime Minister pointed out in the introduction, the purpose of the gathering in Ormož was to commemorate something that is more important than what had been generally known before and to honour something that stands out from that time and all the events of thirty years ago.

“Around this date, more than 560 different major events, organised by municipalities, veterans' associations and various associations, are taking place across the country to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Slovenia’s independence. There is probably more to it than we have on the list of the state committee for national celebrations, as some decided to celebrate our country’s birthday later, when the list had already been made,” said the Prime Minister.

He went on by saying that Slovenia had gained independence through a combination of all possible means. “First by using its brains. We fought where necessary, we negotiated where necessary, we took a step backwards where necessary, as in the case of the Brioni Agreement, but we never lost sight of our ultimate objective,” he said. “The unity of the nation, which was achieved in the plebiscite, also endured the experience of the war of independence, so today we can celebrate the thirtieth anniversary as an independent state which at the time of its declaration was not recognised by any other country except Croatia,” continued the Prime Minister. “Yesterday and the day before yesterday, famous UNESCO cultural heritage monuments around the world were illuminated in the colours of the Slovenian national flag, displaying its coat of arms and marking the country’s 30th anniversary. In a way, this symbolises the importance of the events thirty years ago, but, on the other hand, also our country’s successful development over the past three decades”, he said.

The Prime Minister then recalled the events of almost exactly 2,500 years ago, in 480 BC, a battle that took place at the other end of Europe, which decided the fate of ancient Greece. “It was the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans under King Leonidas were intercepted by a hundred-thousand-strong Persian army led by King Xerxes at a narrow passage between the sea and the mountains. There, 300 Spartan warriors with a few hundred auxiliary units and warriors were detained for a few days by a certainly more than hundred-thousand--strong Persian army which was attacking Greece via other routes as well. In the end, the Spartans were defeated as a traitor brought the Persian troops behind their backs over the trails and crossings, so that almost all the Spartans were killed in battle. However, they managed to hold the Persian army back long enough for Greece to organise itself, and the second Persian invasion of Greece failed despite the Persians’ overwhelming superiority in numbers, "the Prime Minister described the battle of Thermopylae, adding that the success of the defenders at Ormož thirty years ago exceeded that of the Spartans at Thermopylae 2,500 years ago.

“Here, too, the bridge did not fall and was defended, a bridge that then symbolised the new border of the new state. Enemy tanks came around via Središče ob Dravi, but in spite of this you still successfully defended Ormož. Armoured and tank units of the Yugoslav People's Army advanced along other routes, and many border crossings were taken. Some because the barricades were inadequately set up, and others because the commanders or commanders of police, militsiya or territorial defence units judged that it was better for the enemy army units to move away from their point of supply as far possible, and that the farther they would go, the more they would be vulnerable. In the end, it all worked out well. However, it would not have turned out so well if they broke through from all directions, if they had not been stopped, and if there had been no event like the one here in Ormož, where the bridge did not fall, or in Trzin, where a Yugoslav People’s Army’s unit was blocked on its way towards the airport, despite strong reinforcements by a helicopter landing operation. The enemy was unsuccessful in Rožna dolina and in Medvedjek as well. In the end, to the result was our victory,” stressed the Prime Minister.

On this occasion, he thanked all those who in Ormož achieved even more than the Spartans had 2,500 years ago. “The Spartans were defending the already existing confederation of city-states, and we were defending a state that had barely been proclaimed,” said Prime Minister Janša.

“We heard earlier about when the units were mobilised and how much time some men actually spent in uniform and under arms. When they hear others talk about a war that lasted a mere ten days and the brief efforts for independence, some probably smile wryly. In fact, the war began with the disarmament of the territorial defence or with the attempts to do so. Disarmament took place on 15 and 16 May 1990 and the war ended at the end of October 1991, when the last ship carrying Yugoslav People’s Army’s soldiers left the port of Koper. Many soldiers were in their uniforms and at their positions all this time. This makes it more than ten or 360 days,” stressed Prime Minister Janša. He pointed out that it was important that Slovenians were ready to defend their country, although not everywhere with the same amount of zeal. “When I heard before how many people responded to the call to defend the country, that number in this area meant that practically everyone responded to the call, except those who were sick, which means that the response rate was over 90%. In north-eastern Slovenia, and particularly elsewhere, with the partial exception of Ljubljana and Maribor, the response to the call was already almost at 100% when air-raid sirens were sounded and when tanks rolled through streets, roads and border crossings. The response rate in Ljubljana was 70% and slightly higher in Maribor. This number speaks for itself and it is something we haven't spoken about during the past 30 years, as everything ended well, but the collection of publications on the War for Slovenia contains an analysis that shows how everything happened on a micro level,” said the Prime Minister.

He also recalled being in Ormož 30 years ago, only a few days after the fighting, when the signing of the Brioni Declaration was followed by a truce, and they visited the area. “We saw a damaged bell tower, destroyed tanks at Kog and devastation on the bridge over the Drava. Having seen that, it was clear that Slovenia had held out there,” he said. He also shared a memory of when foreign journalists at Cankarjev dom watched footage of this battle for the bridge, and that everyone was shocked to see what had happened. “They were convinced that they would watch an attempt to carry out a theatrical operation for Slovenia’s independence and effective measures of the federal authorities, the army and the police, as they had reported on in the first days of the war. However, when they saw the footage, some even visited the sites of the conflict, they changed their minds and the world's public opinion changed from a marked disfavour of our independence to our favour within a week. This would not have happened if we hadn’t endured on key points,” stressed Prime Minister Janša.

“On this day thirty years ago, there were 75 major armed conflicts in various places in Slovenia, and even more the next day, so that not everything can be kept in memory. Slovenia would have been able to endure it all with a centralised defence system and it all depended on the decisions taken by some of those in command at each individual step. The self-initiative of commanders prevailed, including the lowest tactical units of the territorial defence, police groups, special groups, assault detachments, anti-sabotage detachments… When we added it all up, we saw that we had acted as a uniform Slovenian defence operation with great support from the people, logistics, local authorities and businesses. Slovenia displayed unity in its defence and that is why today we can solemnly and cheerfully celebrate our 30th birthday," added Prime Minister Janša.

“If I now recall Ormož as it was 30 years ago and compare it to what it looks like when I visit it now, I see the significant progress that has been made and I, therefore, extend my sincere congratulations to the mayor and his predecessors and everyone who has contributed to it. We the Slovenians have proved that everything is possible: not only thirty years ago and the thirty years that followed, but also now, when we remember these great events of the war for independence, when we look ahead, we see no reason why the next thirty years should not be even more successful than those before," said the Prime Minister, and concluded his address with the words: "My sincere congratulations on Slovenia’s birthday. Good luck, Slovenia, good luck Ormož, God bless Slovenia!"