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1945-1989 - Yugoslav Slovenia

Throughout the postwar period, Slovenia was by far the richest per capita, the most ethnically homogeneous, and the most open to political experimentation of the Yugoslav republics. In centuries of close contact with Austria, Italy, and France, it had absorbed much from Western political and economic thought. Preservation of hard-won economic advantages was a primary consideration in Slovenia's political posture, especially after the 1974 Constitution prescribed new federal budgeting procedures. Slovenes had always objected to federal levies used to support underdeveloped economies in other republics. By the mid-1980s, Slovenes were highly critical of federal (Serbian-dominated) financial policy, especially when the new procedures failed to reduce their payments for support of a deteriorating economy in Kosovo, and when rising inflation hurt their economy.

Slovenia's level of prosperity remained higher than that of the other Yugoslav republics throughout the socialist era. Because its per capita income was highest, the republic contributed a higher per capita share to Yugoslavia's federal funds than any other republic. The Slovenes complained that the less-developed republics exploited them and that as a result their standard of living slipped precipitously relative to that in the neighboring regions of Austria and Italy. Nevertheless, among the Yugoslav republics, Slovenia had the highest proportion of its population employed in industry, the lowest rate of unemployment, and the highest value of exports per capita. Slovenia also boasted Europe's second-highest literacy rate in the 1980s. Throughout the turbulent late 1980s, the Slovenes maintained a strong sense of cultural continuity and a devout belief in Roman Catholicism.

The combination of Western intellectual influence and increasing pressure for independent solution of economic problems led to formation of many official and unofficial noncommunist political groups in Slovenia, which became the center of a major political controversy in the late 1980s. Several politically significant acts by official and unofficial Slovenian groups posed a clear threat that the republic's substantial industrial, financial, and agricultural resources might be withdrawn from the federation. While loudly opposing the Serbian thrust for centralization and dominance of Kosovo, the Slovenes liberalized their own political system by adding multiple-candidate elections, open media discussion of all issues, and noncommunist political groups. In 1989 the Slovenian League of Communists endorsed multiparty elections, and in 1990 it renamed itself the Party of Democratic Renewal.

Although party president Milan Kucan had led a substantial bloc of moderates as late as 1989, the momentum of new party formation and the failure of compromise with Serbia brought controversial change that threatened to carry the Slovenes farther from the center of the federation. Among amendments added to the Slovenian constitution in late 1989 were provisions limiting the emergency intervention power of the Yugoslav government in Slovenia, and affirming Slovenia's right to secede from the federation if "national self-determination" were not guaranteed in the next round of constitutional changes. Those amendments were viewed as an alarming precedent by nearly all non-Slovenian political groups, and they were declared at variance with the national constitution by an advisory decision of the Constitutional Court of Yugoslavia a few months after passage.

As economic success and political reform progressed at home, the Slovenes increasingly perceived Serbian nationalism as a major danger. For Slovenes, Serbian nationalism threatened to reinstate external control of economic resources and political processes. At the time of the Fourteenth Party Congress in early 1990, the federal government and the LCY were split between proSerbian and pro-Slovenian factions. Slovenian party officials condemned Serbian oppression in Kosovo and the Serbian demand for a one man-one vote national decision--making system, which would allow Serbia to dominate because of its large population.

In 1989 the Front for Independent Slovenia appeared with demands for total independence. Slovenia was the first Yugoslav republic ever to hold multiparty elections, in early 1990. At the time of the elections, the Slovenian Social Democratic Alliance was one of only two Yugoslav noncommunist parties to have expanded past republican borders. That group was part of a coalition called Demos, which easily won the first (parliamentary) phase of elections, defeating Kucan's former communists with a platform that included secession from Yugoslavia. In the presidential runoff, the popular reformist Kucan won, making him the first freely elected communist head of government in Eastern Europe, and creating a mixed republican government in Slovenia.





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