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Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo: Husond.
Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo: Husond.

Slovenia’s Art World Scrambles as Culture Ministry Slashes Funding

According to multiple sources, the Slovenian Ministry of Culture recently slashed cofunding to NGOs by nearly 50 percent in the course of its latest four-year program tender, a decision some fear could push the country’s cultural landscape to the brink. The move, which shrinks funding from €6.4 ($7.1 million) to €3.6 million ($4 million), comes as the ministry records its largest budget since Slovenia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and follows the ascent to governmental power, over the past two years, of a right-wing administration, which has additionally gutted the Slovenian Press Agency and withheld funding from media outlets covering or expressing views in conflict with those of the ruling party.

Many of the arts organizations that were denied money had for decades been funded through the ministry. Established contemporary arts nonprofit Maska Institute, which was one of the rejected organizations, noted that a number of those denied had previously seen their funding cut in previous rounds but had successfully appealed those decisions. As well, a significant proportion produced or sponsored socio-politically engaged work at odds with the mores espoused by the ruling Slovenian Democratic (SDS) party. “Cutting funding has become a means of punishment and suppression of speech and creativity,” wrote Maska.

Speaking to Slovenian weekly Mladina last week, Jani Novak, of the well-known long-running industrial band Laibach, which has roots in Trbovlje, lamented, “The current tender is, in fact, an insult to renowned cultural actors (such as the Glej Theatre, the Maska Institute, the Delak Centre, City of Women, Carmina Slovenica, Ars Ramovš, and many others). Considering their remarkable references, an intelligent ministry could—and should—cofund those directly, without any complicated and degrading bureaucratic procedures.” The paper in a separate article of January 7 called out the Glej Theatre as one of the country’s few spaces presenting new work by Slovenian playwrights and a crucible in which many of the nation’s actors are forged.

As revealed last week by French network Euronews, Slovenia in June was placed on the Civicus Monitor Watchlist, which issues warnings regarding countries where civic freedoms are rapidly vanishing. The publication detailed the government’s cuts to cultural funding and cited environmental NGOs as also at severe risk, with funding for climate-related efforts cut by 70 percent and that for environmental projects reduced to zero.