42. Slovenija (Slovenia)
Written & performed by Buldozer
From the LP Nevino Srce (Innocent Heart), (Helidon, Slovenia 1983)



Zemlja mog sna,
Zemlja obecana.
Zemlja mog sna.

Ja sanjam cesto jedno mjesto,
Mjesto kakvog nema ni u snu,
Visoke gore sa pogledom na more,
A dole u dolini, gradici fini,
Fini gradici, u njima fini kafici,
U njima fini mladici, plesu po cijeli dan.

Zemlja mog sna,
Zemlja obecana.
Zemlja mog sna.

Ljudi su tamo pametni i zdravi,
Voze bicikle i skakucu po travi.
Parkovi su prepuni cvjeca i ozona,
Pravila bontona su poznata svima.

Vikendom se zene penju na planine,
Vikendom se muzevi penju na zene.

Ljudi su tamo rumeni i plavi,
K’o marljivi mravi, rade dan i noc,
A njihove lijepe zene cekaju mene,
I sanjaju da cu im uskoro doc.

[Dolazi nova, dolazi nova, dolazi nova]

Zemlja mog sna,
Zemlja obecana.
Zemlja mog sna.

Srce me vuce ka mjestu tom,
Mjestu sto ga nosim u srcu svom.

Zemlja mog sna,
Zemlja obecana.

Slovenia – the land of my dreams
Slovenia – the promised land


One. Buldozer clear a space

Buldozer are unique in Slovenian pop. Formed in 1975 by avant garde singer songwriter Marko Brecelj and guitarist and lead vocalist Boris Bele, Buldozer were the first band in Slovenian pop history to make social protest a central component of their song-writing, albeit through a requisite haze of drugs and a veil of often smutty humour.

Influenced by the music of Frank Zappa, Buldozer’s sometimes psychedelic rock marks the beginning of a culturally alternative, playfully political pop culture – which would become part of a broader surge of expression of deep political dissatisfaction with the repressive dominance of Tito’s brand of socialism on Slovenian every day life.

Unlike its neighbours in Serbia and Croatia, dissent in Slovenia never reached full scale war, and was voiced mainly through the social movements and the formal and informal institutions of civil society, one of which, thanks to Buldozer, was politicised rock music. Buldozer cleared a space through which followed punks, art rockers and post punks and politically minded electronica that characterised Slovenian music and, in the years leading to its independence, challenged the prevailing political orthodoxy. And as you’ll see a bit later, it has been argued that Slovenia’s transformation by way of movements usually deemed marginal to such upheavals provided the basis for the country’s much celebrated smooth transition from socialism under Yugoslavian rule to national independence, political democracy, and a market economy.

Two. The children of Slovenia’s Promised Land

The eruption of politics into everyday life, the intertwining of art and pop culture with social movements was, perhaps with hindsight inevitable. Or no more inevitable than Zappa, a hippy hating, anti drug devotee of Edgar Varese providing the inspiration for a politicised Slovenian popular music culture. Slovenija was released in 1983 and spoke to an audience who, like the disgruntled songwriters, were children during the late nineteen fifties, when Slovenia was a popular destination for eastern European migrants. To give you an idea of how things were then, here is Mitja Velikonja, in an excerpt from Slovenia’s Yugoslav Century, in Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed Idea, 1918-1992:

‘Slovenia – the land of my dreams
Slovenia – the promised land

Even if we take into account the sarcasm of the authors of the above lyrics, Slovenia – now one of six Yugoslav Socialist Republics, with its own constitution, legislative parliament, government, police and with the constitutionally guaranteed right to self determination and secession – was seen by many Slovenes and non-Slovenes as a promised land within post-war Yugoslavia. The economic development of Slovenia continued, and it was gradually turning from a predominantly agrarian into predominantly industrial society. It remained the most developed Yugoslav republic, with large employment opportunities and relatively high standard of living. In 1958, the GDP per capita in Slovenia was $400, while Yugoslavia’s average was $220.’

And here is the story of the life of a Slovenian who grew up during Slovenia’s Promised Land phase. Meet Alenka Puhar, journalist, author, translator, and historian, born in Ljubljana on February 4, 1945, famous for her columns in the Slovenian journal Delo, for her writings on the dissident movements in communist Slovenia and Yugoslavia, and for her works on the social history of childhood in the Slovene Lands.

Puhar was active in several civil activities throughout the Slovenian Spring, a process of political democratization between 1988 and 1992, which led to the independence of Slovenia in 1991. From Wikipedia: ‘In 1983, she was among the signers of a petition demanding the abolition of the death penalty in Yugoslavia. Next year, she organized a petition of solidarity with Serbian intellectuals that were trialled in Belgrade for opposing the government policies. She became one of the co-editors of the alternative journal Nova Revija. During the JBTZ-trial in 1988, when four Slovenian journalists were arrested by the Yugoslav People’s Army and accused of revealing military secrets, she was elected on the board of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights. The Committee organized the first free mass demonstration in Slovenia after 1945, held in May 1988 on the central Congress Square of Ljubljana.’

We cannot say whether Puhar ever listened to Buldozer, let alone Slovenija, or, if she had, whether she remembered the song five years later during the demonstration in Congress Square. We can’t even say whether any members of Buldozer were at the demonstration, although we’d like to imagine they were.

Slovenija addressed Puhar’s generation, the children who grew up in the late fifties in Slovenia’s climate of economic prosperity – some may have even migrated there with their parents from one of Yugoslavia’s other republics. This promised land, the land of their childhood – the land of Buldozer’s childhood, was ruled by President Josip Tito’s anti Stalinist, socialist government, which, in time would respond with increasing repression to attempts at fragmenting Yugoslavia with calls for independence. In 1974, a year before Buldozer were formed, Tito declared himself president for life. He was eighty one.

By 1983, when the song was released, Buldozer were, to listen to their critics, past their best and Yugoslavia was in economic and geopolitical freefall, and with Tito dead for three years, the Communist party was unable to replace their old leader’s grip on the tensions between Yugoslavia’s republics. With Tito no longer holding the Republic in place, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was gradually, painfully crumbling, as claims and counter-claims for independence, made all the more forceful by a deepening economic and political crisis, undermined, fragmented, and slowly began a process of erasing the name of Yugoslavia from the map of the world, a process that was almost complete in 2003 when Yugoslavia became Montenegro and Serbia, and fully completed when Kosovo secured its independence from Serbia.

In 2009, looking back, a year after Slovenia’s presidency of the EU Council, eighteen years after Slovenia’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, this generation of late fifties and perhaps early sixties youth, the children of Slovenia’s years as an economic promised land, are significant because they were the harbingers of Slovenia’s culture of popular dissent – independent Slovenia’s saving grace, as it were.

We found some interesting reflections on the role of Slovenia’s Promised Land generation in transforming Slovenia in a paper by Paul Stubbs at Leeds Metropolitan University. Stubbs presented his paper to the Second European Conference of Sociology – European Societies: fusion or fission, in Budapest on August 1995, eighteen months after Slovenia joined the Council of Europe, having already been accepted by the United Nations. The paper is entitled Nationalisms, Globalisation and Civil Society in Croatia and Slovenia, and has this to say about the unique nature of Slovenia’s transformation:

‘ ‘Politics is the highest form of popular culture and we, who create the contemporary European pop culture, consider ourselves politicians.’
- Laibach quoted in Thompson (1992: 44).

In much of the writing concerning developments in Slovenia in the 1980s, the terms ‘civil society’ and ‘new social movements’ are used interchangeably. In a sense, this reflects the assimilation, into the Slovenian experience, of the work of writers such as John Keane (1988), Alberto Melucci (1985), and Alain Touraine (1986). Indeed, in some ways, the theoretical underpinnings of the movements represent a bricolage (Hebdidge, 1980), parallel to the diversity within the movements. Whilst the terminology may be opaque and borrowed, the reality to which it referred was clear and, as Mastnak argues, unique:

The hegemony of new social movements in initiating and directing the democratic transformation was a unique Slovenian phenomenon; and it was only in Slovenia that the alternative to the existing system was explicitly articulated in terms of civil society. (Mastnak 1994: 97)

In the light of this, then, a key question becomes how new social movements articulated their challenge to the existing symbolic order. Listing the various dimensions of the movement, and addressing their emphases chronologically, is unlikely to provide an answer. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts, although the parts seem, at various times, to have included: the women’s movement, gay and lesbian groups, alternative trade unions, an ecological movement, ‘new age’ spirituality, peace activists, squatters, and an alternative mental health movement. What is important is that the movements emphasised cultural and ideological production and gained support from independent radio and, in particular, the official youth magazine Mladina which, in the 1980s became, very much, the voice of the movements.

In addition, and crucially, the sphere of music and culture, from the first punks of the late 1970s (including the band Pankrti (‘The Bastards’) (c.f Tomc, 1989) to the much feted Laibach (the German name for Ljubljana) and NSK (Neue Slovenische Kunst or New Slovenian Art), was a key site of new social meanings which interrogated previously taken-for-granted, or indeed taboo, themes of the existing social order and, in the process, ‘disrupted the balance of public discourse’ (Slapsak,1992) in Slovenia and, more widely, in Yugoslavia as a whole.


The two case studies discussed in this paper have posed certain problems in terms of the way in which ‘civil society’ tends to be conceptualised. Most importantly, there is a danger of seeing ‘civil society’ in reified terms, as a commodity, which is present in some places in a greater amount than in others. This is reflected in Benderley and Kraft’s argument (1994) that one of the strengths of Slovenia, boding well for the future, is its well-developed civil society.’

Three. Under erasure

The story of modern Slovenia appears to be one in which a counter culture initiating the downfall of socialism and kick-starting a transition that would make theirs the wealthiest country of all of Europe’s former communist states, a story in which social groups rendered almost invisible by communism (‘the women’s movement, gay and lesbian groups, alternative trade unions [...]‘) emerge transformed from the shadows of the margins and take their place in the mainstream of civil society where their visibility functions as a symbol of national well being. The story of the new Slovenia seems to share with the story of the old Slovenia the structuring presence of invisibility. In place of the previously barely visible communities, in a place, from a place, other than that of the old, almost invisible communities, and in personae other than that of the old invisibles, a new invisible community serves the same function as those who occupied the place of the invisible before them – to suggest a limit to the claims of liberty made by those in power.

We found a document that took our metaphors of dissolution and invisibility back to the question of migration in a time of prosperity: Meet Ali Berisha, an erased Slovenian, and if you’re wondering what an erased Slovenian is, read this;

‘Amnesty International Index: EUR 68/002/2007 (Public). News Service No: 023

1 February 2007

Slovenia: Amnesty International condemns forcible return of ‘erased’ person to Germany.

Amnesty International condemns the forcible return to Germany, which took place on 1 February 2007, of Ali Berisha, an ‘erased’ person, his wife Mahi, and their five children. In Germany they would be at risk of being removed to Kosovo. There, as members of Romani/Ashkali/Egyptiani communities, with the current uncertainty surrounding the final status of Kosovo and the recent increase in ethnic tension, they would be at risk of ethnically-motivated attacks.

Amnesty International is concerned that the Slovenian authorities have not restored retroactively the status of permanent residents of those ‘erased’ in 1992 and, in this case, have deported from Slovenia one of them, with his family.’

A year after independence. That doesn’t reflect too well on Slovenia’s image of a diverse and vibrant civil society. But there’s more:

‘Ali Berisha was born in the former Yugoslavia, in Kosovo. He was registered as a permanent resident in the city of Maribor, in what is now Slovenia, between 1987 and 1992. In 1992, he was one of some 18,305 people who were ‘erased’ (unlawfully removed from the Slovenian registry of permanent residents) and was thus deprived of his rights as a permanent resident, including his right to have access to health care and his employment and social security rights.

Following his ‘erasure’, Ali Berisha was forced to leave Slovenia in 1993. He voluntarily returned there in September 2005 and since then has lived with his family in a reception centre for asylum-seekers in Ljubljana.

Amnesty International reiterates its call on the Slovenian authorities to retroactively restore the status of permanent residents of those ‘erased’ in 1992 and to provide other forms of reparation, including compensation, to the individuals affected.’

This wasn’t the first time Amnesty International brought the question of Slovenia’s erased people – people under erasure? – to global attention. In 2005 AI published a document on erasure titled, Slovenia: The ‘erased’ – Briefing to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Right Slovenia. Amnesty International’s Briefing to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 35th Session, November 2005. The document gives an overview on the phenomenon of the erasure in Slovenia:

‘The Socialist Federation of the Republic of Yugoslavia was a federation composed of six republics and, before its dissolution, SFRY citizens had also a second, republican citizenship. SFRY citizens of other republics living in Slovenia enjoyed the same rights as citizens having Slovenian republican citizenship. After Slovenia became independent, citizens of other republics having permanent residence in Slovenia could apply for Slovenian citizenship by the deadline of 26 December 1991.

On 26 February 1992, at least 18,305 individuals were removed from the Slovenian registry of permanent residents and their records were transferred to the registry of foreigners. Those affected were not informed of this measure and its consequences. The ‘erased’ were mainly people from other former Yugoslav republics, who had been living in Slovenia and had not applied for or had been refused Slovenian citizenship in 1991 and 1992, after Slovenia became independent. As a result of the ‘erasure’, they became de facto foreigners or stateless persons illegally residing in Slovenia. In some cases the ‘erasure’ was subsequently followed by the physical destruction of the identity and other documents of the individuals concerned. Some of the ‘erased’ were served forcible removal orders and had to leave the country.

Some of the ‘erased’ were born in Slovenia but, on the basis of the republican citizenship and birthplace of their parents, had remained SFRY citizens of other Yugoslav republics. Others had moved to Slovenia from other parts of Yugoslavia before the country’s dissolution, and remained there after 1991. They are mostly of non-Slovene or mixed ethnicity and they include a significant number of members of Romani communities. Some of those affected by the ‘erasure’ included former JNA officers, who did not apply for or were refused Slovenian citizenship often on the grounds that they participated in the war against Slovenia or were otherwise deemed disloyal to Slovenia.’

Sources consulted


Alenka Puhar en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alenka_Puhar

Slovenia’s Yugoslav Century, by Mitja Velikonja, in Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed Idea, 1918-1992
Edited By Dejan Djoki, Published by C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2003

Nationalisms, Globalisation and Civil Society in Croatia and Slovenia, by Paul Stubbs, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, International Social Policy Research Unit and the University of Zagreb, Croatia, August 1995. Paper presented to Second European Conference of Sociology, ‘European Societies: fusion or fission? Budapest 30 August – 2 September 1995


The Death Of The Patriarch And The Dissolution Of The Yugoslav Zadruga, from [Yugoslav Childhood] CHILDHOOD NIGHTMARESAND DREAMS OF REVENGE by Alenka Puhar, The Journal of Psychohistory 22(2) Fal1994

Slovenia: Amnesty International condemn forcible return of “erased” person to Germany, 1 February 2007

Briefing to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Right – Slovenia. Amnesty International’s Briefing to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 35th Session, November 2005



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