Author: Vesna CopicThe historical development of cultural policy in Slovenia has gone through extreme change. Four distinct periods of transition and development of cultural policy following World War II can be identified which also reflect the major ideological transformations of recent decades. The first three take place during the period when Slovenia was one of the six republics of the ex-Yugoslavia, while the last is connected with Slovenia as the independent democratic state.
As is true of most small countries, it was through culture that Slovenes constituted themselves not only as a nation but also as a state. It is from this special emphasis on culture, that the so-called "Slovenian cultural syndrome" was derived. Thus, it is not surprising that the starting point of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, in the eighties, was the Slovenian fear of jeopardising its culture, language and national identity, which was provoked by an attempt of the central government in Belgrade to unify national contents and subordinate it to the Serbian majority, through the mandatory core Yugoslav curriculum of literature and language. This fear united professionals, intellectuals and politicians, regardless of their ideological or political orientation.
The central role which culture played throughout Slovenia's history, created an atmosphere whereby artists had more "space" to develop their own projects and to organise themselves in independent associations even during the socialist regime. Although in the years following the Second World War, certain writers and a list of books were removed from public libraries, the state systematically supported the works of artists, recognising that they had a powerful and influential public voice and that they were useful in realising their propaganda campaigns. However, the state also "intervened" in their work through administrative measures, whenever it seemed necessary. The result of this dichotomy was on the one hand intellectuals engaged in self-censorship and on the other hand politicians that were forced to execute a form of tolerance. However, since everyone was living under the constant threat of criminal prosecution, the relationship between cultural policy and civil society during this period could be defined as a repressive tolerance. The state apparatus was particularly meticulous regarding Slovene literature published abroad by post-war political emigrants. Thus, one prominent writer was put in prison for importing such books without appropriate permits, even in the middle of the 1980s. Due to the preferential treatment of "progressive", "socialist" currents, two parallel cultural scenes evolved at the end of the 1970s / beginning of the 1980s; often in opposition to each other, with the established culture supported by authorities and alternative culture tolerated at the margins.
When most of Europe was creating centralised models for cultural policies during the 1950s and 1960s, Slovenia went through a process of decentralisation. Another important feature in the general political scene of the late 1960s was some attempts at liberalism in the economy. Contrary to the "positive image" decentralisation has today, the lack of local money almost destroyed the institutional cultural network in Slovenia and the process was viewed by prominent artists as a facade and a manipulation in order to break cultural nationalism in all six republics of ex-Yugoslavia into harmless units and to enable, via the local level, easier control over "atomised" culture.
Although the cultural policy was affected in the first part of the1970s by a clash with the liberalism of late 1960s, the development of cultural policy took a sharp turn since Slovenia was granted more autonomy from the Yugoslav Federation in the area of culture. This era was otherwise known as the period of "self-management" when responsibility for cultural policy was delegated to the cultural communities, where it was debated and created by both producers and consumers of culture. Thus, in the field of cultural policy, political units (the republic and the local communities) were replaced by interest units (cultural communities). Local cultural communities (approximately 60) had a great deal of power in decision-making and resource allocation on the local level. According to the theory of polycentric development, the larger municipalities became cultural centres (ca. 25) and decentralisation remained a political orientation. Later, national culture finally obtained its place within the Cultural Community of Slovenia and, in the 1980s, a national cultural policy platform was created. Considered to be one of the most important periods in Slovene cultural policy history, the Cultural Community of Slovenia and 60 local cultural communities formed a strong administrative apparatus, which raised the level of cultural policy-making, empowered its place in society and created favourable conditions for cultural development. On the other hand, the system suffered from a lack of selectivity, capability to set clear priorities and to evaluate results. The system was jeopardised by all the characteristics of state corporatism, with poor respect for non-aligned groups, inefficient means of appeal against the state and aggressive state bureaucratic control. Slovenia's former self-management system experienced economic failure even before political difficulties occurred. The self-management system came to an end in 1989, but the utopian nature of the self-management model was evident already in the middle 1980s, when an economic recession forced the state to take over the local funds for cultural institutions in order to preserve them. The weak points of corporatism, such as organisational sclerosis, rigidity of differences, perpetuation of inequalities, disregard of individualistic norms of citizen participation and a lack of responsibility, are still present as a long standing legacy of the self-management period.
Separate laws for each cultural activity were created as each was "of special social concern". The main difference between the Western European system of public service and the Socialist regulation in Slovenia is the following:
Only in the 1980s, did the state allow the possibility for private activities in the sphere of culture and the status of a freelance artist was introduced. Before the introduction of this status, there were only state artists to whom the state provided social security contributions. Similarly, the central artistic associations, which functioned as para-governmental organisations, were also budget-financed. The state in this manner controlled all the organisational forms. Nevertheless, the Association of Slovenian Writers evolved into a driving force for democratic change and independence.
After the death of the charismatic socialist leader Josip Broz Tito, the communist party started to lose its undisputed position. The authorities became insecure and at the same time apprehensive about democratic and social processes striving to achieve independence. They became aware of the actors fuelling these processes; originating mainly from the cultural field. Culture was certainly a cradle nurturing these processes. The 1980s were, therefore, the golden years for the Slovenian cultural infrastructure and its artists: from the point of view of artistic freedom and societal financial support. It is, therefore, not a coincidence, that the sphere which mainly challenged changes, had problems coping with the fact that it would also have to change.
In spite of the adoption of new legal framework in 1994 (Exercising of the Public Interest in Culture Act which was revised afterwards in 2002 without any substantial changes) to replace the old socialistic cultural model with a democratic paradigm, the cultural system has not yet experienced significant structural changes. A weak cultural market with underdeveloped support schemes and tax incentives could not present a reliable alternative to the traditional model. Without any additional budgetary injections to place culture in the centre of social development and mobilise its economic potentials, the only natural response was a defensive attitude towards changes that resulted in the perpetuation of traditional meanings and functions of culture. In the new situation, when culture lost its ideological and national-legitimisation potentials, the transition was therefore reduced on accommodation to democratic procedures. The former socialist concept of culture as the area of special social meaning was translated into the democratic concept of public interest for culture, where the responsibility for cultural policy was, after the abolishment of the self-management system in 1990, returned to public authorities. The socio-political governance structure was transformed into a representative democracy, where decisions are taken by elected politicians on the national and local levels. Different interest groups, therefore, lost many of their rights to influence the cultural policy decision-making process; a privilege once enjoyed to a certain extent even in a one-party system. In the new system, the expert public also has an important role; however it is mainly an advisory one functioning very often as an alibi for the absence of political ambitions regarding the cultural sector. The public authorities now equipped with the democrat mandate for structural changes left culture out of their political priorities.
In such a situation, all essential systemic transitional changes were brought by the general reforms such as local community reform, the public finance system, tax system and the civil service system.
The changes can be summarised as follows:
Another external source of changes rests with the global trend of commoditisation of cultural goods that has been changing citizens to consumers and national or ethnic cultural space to the open cultural market. The liberal trade pressure exacerbates conservative reaction with a bleak status quo perspective on the institutional cultural scene. Although international foundations such as the Open Society Institute invested some resources in the modernisation of the cultural sector, it was limited to independent cultural projects, organisations and art initiatives. This support has not succeeded in creating the critical mass of organisations and individuals that would have the capacity to initiate new production and dissemination forms and models. When this assistance ended, the Slovenian independent cultural scene found itself in financial insecurity. It remains a parallel structure without serious chance of becoming part of the mainstream, while the mainstream cultural infrastructure, composed of public institutions, preserves characteristics of state bureaucracy with the system of public servants at the top.
Slovenia began accession negotiations with the European Union in 1996 and became a member state in 2004. The harmonisation of legislation, and its implementation in the field of culture, began mainly in two areas: the harmonisation of media legislation with the European Television without Frontiers Directive and the introduction of VAT (in accordance with the 6th Directive of the EU) on books and audio-visual material. The latter has had a negative impact on Slovenia's culture industries. The question regarding the implementation of theCouncil Directive on Rental and Lending Right and on certain rights related to copyright, remains open. Slovenia's position is to maintain library compensation measures in all public libraries and not on authors' copyright. It was also necessary to amend legislation considered discriminatory for the citizens of EU Member states, i.e. in the field of employment, the establishment of business etc.
The moment of joining the EU could be considered as the end of the transitional period, at least concerning all those areas that fell under acquis communitaire. Although culture represents an area of shared responsibility between member states and the EU, the principle of subsidiarity preserves national sovereignty overnon commercial cultural activities. In spite of the fundamental changes in the political and economic spheres, significant structural transition in the public cultural sector has not occurred yet. Thus, the huge infrastructure of public cultural organisations has remained unexamined, unchanged and unchallenged and doubt regarding its functional and rational operation is further eroding its credibility.