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March 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 3)
Slovenia's Search for
Zürcher Zeitung (conservative), Zurich, Switzerland,
Jan. 8, 2002
The rockers sing
like they used to doin Serbian or Croatian. Nevertheless,
the crowds of young people pack into k4. All
my love under the sun belongs to Tito, are the words of
a song blasting out of the disco, and the young crowd drinks
and dances to it. This is a Balkans Party. Ljubljanas
students, who grew up after the collapse of the south Slavic
federation, are having a good time to hits from the Yugo-rock
wave that are older than they are. The Balkans Party,
just a few years ago a phenomenon of the capitals underground
scene, has long since become mainstream. What is behind this
bizarre trend? Nostalgia? Certainly. Homesickness for the multicultural
new, globalized culture: A flier advertising a Ljubljana
nightclub features "hip hop, breakbeat, drum and
bass, and visual communications."
The young are distancing themselves from the Balkans. Balkans
means violence and chaos, poverty and dirt. Tradition is ignored,
heritage destroyed. What then is drawing them to the Balkans
Party? Perhaps the feeling of loss. Perhaps the awareness
that in that closed room they possess something that distinguishes
them from the teens and 20-somethings in the West. Perhaps the
wish to hold on to something, to belong to something again,
something bigger, stronger. Perhaps.
Slovenia has always feared becoming lost, the songwriter
Ales Steger remarks derisively. I ask him about Yugoslavia.
It was a wonderful country because of its multiculturalism.
At the same time it was a country of repressed emotions, a
country that bloomed early and whose bloom just as soon faded.
The 28-year-old Steger is certainly not typical. I was,
he tells me, not often in the other republics when I was
a kid. Now, however, the south is important to him. My
generation fell between the cracks. We grew up under socialism;
in 1991 we were still too young to play a role in the revolutions
and get positions. Back then, there was a time change of generations
in which we had no part.
And the people who are even younger? Theyre bored
with everything. They think about Ecstasy and want to go to
Paris and London. They drink, or smoke their joints, listen
to techno music, hang out.
Sociologists are clueless: What do young people today think
and feel? What distinguishing characteristics do they have of
their own besides an undefined, flexible lifestyle in answer
to the fragmentation of society? The very young, the researchers
claim, are living in a historical void because their history
after 40 years of communist rule was rewritten as anti-communist.This
is the cause of the Yugo-nostalgia felt by so many: What kind
of country was it where our parents lived? What had happened
to it? The young are obviously having an identity crisis. They
are uncertain, confused.
Back then, in the 1980s, provocative projects like New Slovenian
Art (NSK) and the rock band Laibach made sensations across Europe.
The avant-gardists from that time mutated into pop icons.
Tanja Soklic, 26, would rather listen to Elvis than Yugo-rock.
What do young people in Slovenia want? The same thing
as young people everywhere.You dont want to be left behind;
you want to be with the people who are in the lead. The European
Union will bring a lot of bad things with it. But we want to
be a part of it.
Back in Ljubljana: There is one place where you dont feel
any of that sleepy self-satisfaction: the culture project in
the Metelkova Ulica. Steger calls the place an island, the only
one of its kind. Metelkova, a sprawling complex painted dirty
yellow, was for 130 yearsthrough all the radical changesan
After the flight of the Yugoslav Peoples Army, the alternative
scene showed an interest in parts of the buildings. A network
of the citys subculture negotiated with the officials;
an agreement was reached, and then one night the wrecking cranes
showed up. At that point we decided to occupy the thing,
explains 41-year-old Andrej Morovic. There had been three months
of creative chaos, then the city government gave permits for
electricity and water, sinking Metelkova into years of agony.
Then the junkies arrived.
Ever since, Metelkova has reawakened, and is now living without
an overall concept or commission. Some of the buildings are
works of art. About 100 people work on the grounds, mostly artists
in their early 20s. There are classical music concerts and performances
by experimental bands. There are gays and lesbians, feminists
and drag queens, foreigners and handicapped people. There is
a union for the protection of atheistic feelings
and the Macedonian Cultural Society. There are galleries and
studios and, of course, the Gromki Klubsamt Theater.
How would Morovic describe the outlook of the average young
person? Totally apolitical, consumer-oriented. Suddenly
comes this enormous pressure: I must be successful, make
money, have fun! Metelkova is like an island of calm in
all that. It certainly does not correspond with the zeitgeist.
But the people come anyway.
Do they ever have Balkans Parties in the old barracks?
Noo, says Morovic in his Berlin accent. Theyre
way too trendy.