Prime Minister Janez Janša: We need to agree that one evil cannot justify another
- Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)
Today in Ljubljana, Prime Minister Janez Janša attended the international conference entitled “Illusive Reconciliation: Transitional Processes in Central and Eastern Europe in a Comparative Perspective”, organised by the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Study Centre for National Reconciliation in cooperation with the Platform of European Memory and Conscience.
In his opening address at the international conference, the Prime Minister first highlighted that over 15 years passed before a resolution, based on which the Day of Remembrance for the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes is commemorated, was adopted in Europe, the European Union and the European Parliament. “The length of time between the fall of the totalitarian communist regime in Europe, i.e. the fall of the Berlin Wall, which marked a symbolic turning point, and the European Parliament deciding on such resolution shows that this is a complicated issue which divided opinions in both the eastern and western EU,” said the Prime Minister. He added that this issue was examined in greater detail by the Council of Europe, which adopted two resolutions on the subject. These resolutions are more detailed, as they were adopted in the 1990s, when memory was still fresh.
“The fact is that in this moment, looking back three decades, the warning from Resolution No. 1096 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is unfortunately coming true in large parts of the EU. The resolution warns what may lie ahead for Europe or parts of Europe if the heritage of totalitarian regimes is not comprehensively dismantled,” said the Prime Minister, adding that unfortunately, present-day Slovenia is among the post‑communist countries that are firmly stuck somewhere in the middle. “Both the director of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation and the President of the National Council specified what has and what has not been achieved in terms of dismantling this heritage and what steps towards national reconciliation have been taken during this time. Unfortunately, when we take a look at what Slovenia has done compared to the Visegrad countries and other countries that had communist regimes after the Second World War, we realise that there is still a lot of work to be done,” said the Prime Minister, adding that in terms of national reconciliation, Slovenia is somewhere at the end of the first third of the way. “During this time, we have mainly succeeded in preserving the memory. Today, no one in Slovenia can say that they do not know, or have no way of knowing the whole truth or all the aspects of what happened under the various totalitarian regimes under which Slovenians suffered. A large part of Slovenia suffered first under fascism, then Nazism and communism, under the latter for the longest time,” highlighted the Prime Minister. He recalled that during the transition in 1990, 90% of the Slovenian population had no knowledge of the above. “They had no way of knowing, as this was a taboo subject. You were imprisoned for writing or talking about it, especially if you were specific. Today this is no longer the case. Some success has therefore been achieved,” said the Prime Minister and used the opportunity to thank everyone working at the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, in civil society associations such as Združeni ob lipi sprave (United under the Linden Tree of Reconciliation) and other institutions at the time, to everyone writing on the subject, and everyone contributing to the publication Temna stran meseca (The Dark Side of the Moon), which was the first attempt to address this issue comprehensively.
“Thank you to the proposers and to those who voted in favour of the acts that Slovenia still adopted during this time, in terms of righting the wrongs and preserving memory. However, having the truth preserved is only the first step on the path to reconciliation. The second step is to recognise the truth, to acknowledge it and to not deny the facts,” emphasised Prime Minister Janez Janša.
He continued that the world has been talking about the attempted Holocaust denial for decades and that some countries have even made it a criminal offence. “Meanwhile, we are witnessing mass denial in Slovenia, especially of the consequences and the very nature of the communist regime. We have three parties in parliament, the most prominent representatives of which portray this regime as something that was not a bad thing. One of the parties is even using the regime as a benchmark model for how the country should develop in the future,” said the Prime Minister, adding that we have had a positive development on the one hand, however stunted, and negative development on the other.
“Particularly worrisome is that many young people who were in the Slovenian education system in recent decades are also among those portraying the totalitarian regime as a good thing. A strategic mistake was made in education, which was certainly no accident,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.
In the continuation of his address, Prime Minister Janez Janša tried to identify the common denominator of events in our country, which some try to use as an instrument for denying a concretely demonstrable, even self-confessed evil. “When I talk about self-confessed evil, I’m talking about official facts published by the regime itself. The appearance of the Yugoslav Interior Minister Aleksandar Ranković in the Belgrade Federal Assembly in the early 1950s is an infamous example, where he said that fighting the counter-revolution was very successful because more than 500,000 opponents to socialism had been physically destroyed, that is killed, and more than 3 million people had been imprisoned or interned in concentration camps between 1945 and 1951. In short, it is a terrifying number and a horrible confession that is not only denied, as was attempted until 1990, but even publicly justified by political actors who, at various anniversaries, still officially worship those who carried it out,” the Prime Minister said. He went on to say, “It is about trying to justify one evil with another. Some people are retroactively labelled, for example, as fascists who were therefore allowed to be killed. Some don’t even mind that this horrendous number of half a million included babies, children, women and civilians.”
“What still awaits us in the second step is to reach an agreement about the fact that one evil cannot justify another. When one evil confronts another, it doesn’t make it good,” the Prime Minister emphasised, adding that even the mass media in Slovenia, especially in the last decade, indirectly convey the message that some evil became good because it clashed with another. And that this justifies everything.
“We hear that Srebrenica was the biggest mass crime on the territory of the former Yugoslavia after the Second World War, which of course is not true. Srebrenica was a massive crime, but the number of those killed there is significantly lower compared to half a million killed in Yugoslavia after the Second World War. Srebrenica is, however, also a consequence of this evil that sought justification by confronting another evil, National Socialism. The people who orchestrated the crime, the genocide in Srebrenica, led by Ratko Mladić, were, namely, all the product of the Yugoslav military academy teaching officers that the fundamental goal of any armed struggle is the physical destruction of the enemy, which should be even more thorough if it is a class enemy. The people who committed the crime in Srebrenica acted on the basis of the official doctrine of the Yugoslav Communist Military Academy, which taught them this. Ratko Mladić probably replaced the red star on his cap with a coat of arms just weeks before Srebrenica. Before that, the same thing happened in terms of symbols too, but later the symbols changed in part and so many in the West speak of Srebrenica as a kind of nationalist outburst, although it is something that has all the attributes of national socialism and the crimes that stem from this worldview. Srebrenica is a point of contact where it is clear that when it comes to its methods, nature, attitude towards people, life, the sanctity of life, there is no difference between Nazism and communism. It's exactly the same thing,” stressed the Prime Minister, adding that Stalin and Hitler, or Ribbentrop and Molotov, had no problem when it came to principles of conscience and philosophical worldviews when they signed the famous pact, which is a symbolic act on the day of which we commemorate the memory of the victims of all totalitarianisms in Europe.
The Prime Minister concluded his address with concern, given that the attitude of European authorities towards totalitarian, criminal regimes recently shows a fairly similar approach to that observed in the 1930s to Nazism in Germany, when it was said that it was necessary to talk to Hitler, that a hundred years of negotiations were better than one day of war, and therefore the West did not actually react until it was itself directly threatened. “If we made a grammatical comparison, we would find similar sentences today, when some say the same about the regime in Iran where those now elected into power are the same people that committed genocide against their own people at the time when freedom was being born in Europe. And a few more such regimes in our vicinity could be listed,” the Prime Minister said.
“Today, as we remember the victims of totalitarian regimes on European soil, we should not just look back, but ahead. If we are not able to learn anything from history, we will be doomed to repeat it,” said the Prime Minister, adding that he was speaking as the Prime Minister of a country that still has a lot to do in this area, including through self-criticism.
Prime Minister Janez Janša concluded his address by paying a deep tribute of grief in memory of all the hundreds of millions who suffered under totalitarian regimes and of the tens of millions who were killed, a tribute of respect to all those who resisted totalitarianism and a deep tribute to all who are still resisting. At the same time, Prime Minister Janez Janša promised his support to all those keeping the memory of these victims alive.