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Vol 2, No 17
2 May 2000
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SkinheadUncivil Society
Are racist skinheads just a symptom of a larger problem in Slovenia?
Brian Požun

Last Thursday, 20 April, was the 111th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. About 50 skinheads marked the dubious occasion with a march through the center of Ljubljana, from Trubarjeva street to Prešerenov Square, Mestni and Gornji Squares, and on to Ljubljana Castle. The skinheads made their way through the streets carrying flags, singing patriotic songs and screaming "Seig Heil!" and "Tujci ven!" ("Foreigners, get out!") They were accompanied by fifteen policemen, there to keep order, though the march went off without major incident.

The situation was different in February of this year however, when the Youth Forum of the United List of Democratic Socialists (MF ZLDS) staged a concert in the center of Ljubljana protesting the success of Jörg Haider's far-right party in Austria. A group of skinheads came to the concert and fighting erupted between the two groups. Three were arrested.

Skinheads and Slovenia

The skinhead subculture was born in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s and it began appearing in Ljubljana, Maribor and other large cities in Slovenia in the early 1980s. Young people appropriated the ideas and rough image of the British skinheads to express their dissatisfaction with the social conditions of what was then Yugoslavia. It is difficult to establish the number of skinheads in Slovenia today, but there are dozens of groups. In Ljubljana, Kri in Čast (Blood and Honor) and the Ku Klux Klan are active; in the Dolenjsko region, Orli Slovenije (Eagles of Slovenia); in the Gorenjsko region, the Hammerskins. And there are many others.

Just like in the UK, most of the first Slovene skinheads came from working-class backgrounds. The marks of the skinhead ideology include a strong desire to defend the homeland, the belief that Slovenes should have priority over "foreigners" in matters of employment and housing, and a sharp opposition to communists.

In the new book Urbana Plemena (Urban Tribes), Marta Gregorčič divides Slovene skinheads into three generations. According to Gregorčič, skinheads first appeared in Slovenia in 1984. Most of the skinheads of this first generation came from broken, working-class families and did not have a secondary education. The skinhead groups were formed around beer, parties, rowdiness, sports, patriotism and the struggle against Communism. At the beginning, racism and neo-Nazi ideology were (generally speaking) unknown within skinhead subculture. This is very similar to the origins of the first British skinhead groups.

The second generation was connected with Slovene independence and was only active for a couple of years, from 1989 to 1991. These skinheads generally had less social problems, came from stronger families and had finished secondary school. Around this time, they became associated in the media with National Socialism and neo-Nazi ideology, but in reality there were no more neo-Nazis among the skinheads than among the rest of the population.

Since 1991, the third generation of Slovene skinheads has adopted racism and the neo-Nazi ideology as its own. These new skinheads are demographically and diametrically opposed to the original skinheads - most have not only finished secondary school but are in college and they come from socially-stable families. It is almost necessary to see this third generation as a different group all together, since they are neither aware of nor interested in the origins and development of the skinhead subculture, only in its image and reputation.

Reactions to the skinheads

While last week's march may not have incited heated debate in the press, it has garnered some degree of coverage in most major papers every day since.

Sociologist Gregor Tomc sees the skinheads as just being a subculture among the youth and not having any far-reaching social influence. The bigger problem he sees is Slovene politics and the lack of active civil society institutions. In the daily newspaper Večer, Tomc said that the slack reaction of civil society to the skinheads is nothing new, as civil society in Slovenia has been in a state of stagnation for years. One reason he states is the fact that the most Slovenes became accustomed to living a private life under socialism. Further, Slovenia's small dissident elite entered politics and left its true calling.

"Skinheads are a youth subculture," Večer quoted Tomc as saying. "Their political affiliation is only one facet of that subculture. I think they will outgrow their impulsiveness and extremism. The much bigger problem is politics. Politics will not mend its ways and become principled. Therefore Slovenia must revive its civil society, which will force politics into having more principles and more accountability."

The lack of a strong civil society is a real problem since it would foster public debate and offer a means of pressuring the government to get involved. In the current climate in Slovenia, Tomc sees none of this. "In another climate, skinheads would think twice before doing such things," he told Večer.

In an interview with the daily newspaper Dnevnik back in February, Tomc stated that "in Slovenia we should recognize that we're becoming a Western state, with all of the advantages and disadvantages. Among the former is also the radical rise of socio-pathological phenomena, aggressiveness and criminality."

One positive thing about last week's march is that only fifty skinheads participated. And of those fifty, 31 were underage. It would seem that Tomc is right in saying that the skinheads are nothing
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more than a subculture of youths who will eventually grow up. The results of a poll released last week showed that almost 70 percent of Ljubljana residents would not be opposed to bilingual street and traffic signs, indicating to some extent a reasonable degree of tolerance among the population of the capital, at least.

In addition to the police who accompanied the march, more were waiting at the castle. The underage participants were taken into police custody, and their parents had to come to get them. Dnevnik reported on Saturday, 22 April, that the grandfather of one of the youths was so irate at the police station that the police had to intervene. The grandfather was yelling and beating the child. "The Nazis killed my entire family," the grandfather screamed, "and here you are out in the streets screaming "Seig Heil!"

Brian Požun, 28 April 2000

Moving on:


  • Marta Gregorcic, "Vikingi ali Valhalla: Skinheadi v Sloveniji", in Urbana Plemena: Subkulture v Sloveniji v Devetdesetih, SOU - Studentska Zalozba, Ljubljana, 1999.
  • Dnevnik: www.dnevnik.si
  • Večer: www.vecer.com


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