06/03/2014, by CLAS

Anthems of Slovenia (Part Two): A Toast to Translation – Janez Janša’s Okopi

In his second post in this series, Dr David Denton of the Department of Russian & Slavonic Studies introduces us to a new translation – produced with CLAS involvement – of the book Okopi by the former Slovene Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The Slovene Publishing House Nova obzorja is set to publish an English translation of former Slovene Prime Minister Janez Janša’s authoritative work Okopi (Trenches), a first-hand chronicle of events leading to Slovenia’s declaration of independence from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991. Translation, revision and proofreading of the book have been undertaken by a member of staff within the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies as a collaborative venture with the Slovenia-based translation agency Blaž Prevajanje.

The University of Nottingham is the only academic institution in the United Kingdom where Slovene language is taught and the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies has close ties with its counterparts in Slovenia. Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, is one of five cities officially twinned with Nottingham.

Twice Prime Minister of Slovenia, from 2004 to 2008 and again from 2012 to 2013, and leader of the Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) since 1993, Janez Janša was born into a Roman Catholic working-class family near Ljubljana on September 17, 1958. Crucially, he was Minister of Defence from 1990 to 1994, holding that post during the ten-day Slovene War of Independence (June–July 1991).

Janša presents an uncompromising account of the political intrigues, histories and relationships of leading members of the Slovene Community Party in the run-up to and in the immediate aftermath of Slovenia’s emergence as an independent state. He casts light upon shadowy events and relationships with colleagues within the Yugoslav Federal Republic and with the Yugoslav Army. Janša himself was arrested on May 30, 1988 together with three other Mladina (Youth) journalists and a staff sergeant of the Yugoslav Army, Ivan Borštner. They were tried in camera without legal representation in a military court and charged with revealing military secrets. Janša was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in a maximum security prison, but following a public outcry, he was transferred to an open prison. This infamous case became known as the JBTZ-trial and triggered mass protests against the government and marked the beginning of the process of democratization, known as the Slovene Spring.

Janša’s father was a member of the Slovene Home Guard from Dobrova near Ljubljana. He escaped the brutal massacres perpetrated by Communists on the grounds his young age. In Okopi Janša relates his father’s experiences in horrific detail and provides a historical record of the slaughter and retribution meted out by Communist authorities at the end of World War 2.

In 1987 Janša was approached by the family of the late politician Stane Kavčič, who had been the most important exponent of the reformist fraction in the Slovene Communist Party in the late 1960’s, and Prime Minister of Slovenia between 1967 and 1972. Together with Igor Bavčar he edited and published the manuscript of Kavčič’s diaries. Editing and publication of the diaries proved both a secretive and dangerous undertaking. The publication of the diaries was to become part of a political project to establish a new Slovene left wing political formation that would challenge hardliners within the Communist Party.

Circumstances surrounding Janša’s arrest remain unclear, particularly the role played by the Slovene Communist leadership. In Okopi Janša is vehement in his criticism of the Slovene Communist leader Milan Kučan and accuses him of acquiescing to the Yugoslav Army’s request for his arrest. Niko Kavčič, who was at that time considered Janša’s political mentor, attributed responsibility for the arrest to hardliners within the Slovene Communist Party who were angered by the publication of Stane Kavčič’s diaries and strove to prevent the formation of an alternative reformist movement.

Okopi: Pot slovenske države 1991-1994 (Trenches: Emergence of the Slovene State 1991 -1994) was first published by Mladinska knjiga in 1994. Final proofs of the translation were submitted early in January with publication anticipated later this year.

David Denton, Department of Russian & Slavonic Studies

(Photograph by AFP.)

Posted in Russian and Slavonic Studies