Carnival time in Slovenia
This week was the first week of the pre-lenten Kurentovanje festival around Slovenia. The country's central Kurentovanje celebrations took place in Slovenia's oldest town, Ptuj, which hosted its 41st annual Kurentovanje.
Kurentovanje is a distinctive pre-Lenten festival. The name comes from the festival's central figure, the Kurent, who in earlier times was believed to have the power to chase away winter and usher in spring.
The origins of the Kurent and Kurentovanje festivities are obscure, and may have come from earlier Slavic, Celtic or Illyrian customs. Similar traditions are found throughout the region, in parts of Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and elsewhere.
In the days before Lent, young men throughout Slovenia donned Kurent costumes this year as they have for centuries. The costume is simple: a sheepskin hat and outfit, cow bells hanging from a chain belt, red or green wool socks, black boots.
The Kurent mask, however, is a major folk art in Slovenia, and one that may well soon die out. There are only two masters of Kurent masks left: Master Klinc from Spuhlje and Master Zelenik from Markovci. The mask is made of leather, with two holes cut out for the eyes, and a hole cut out for the mouth. The holes are surrounded with red paint. A trunk-like nose is attached along with whiskers made of twigs and teeth made of white beans. The final touch is a long, red tongue.
Saturday 17 February marked the start of the eleven-day festival, with Ptuj mayor Miroslav Luci transferring his power to the prince of the 41st annual carnival, Matevž Zoki. The prince's retinue consists of 40 vitezi (knights) from all over Slovenia dressed in folk costumes and masks. Groups from Austria, Croatia and Bulgaria were also on hand for various events throughout the festival.
The district of Ptuj where the prince and his vitezi set up camp has been renamed Kurentova Dežela (Land of the Kurent) and is the main fairground for the festival.
Organizers set a full agenda of concerts, activities and other attractions for all eleven days of the festival. One of the goals for this year's 41st annual Kurentovanje in Ptuj was to return a "Ptuj spirit" to the festival, and so among the festival activities there are also many opportunities for visitors to get to know Ptuj: guide-led tours, tastings of local wines and trips to the local Terma thermal spa.
The centerpiece of the festival is the carnival parade on Sunday, 25 February, and 30,000 people are expected. Overall, more than 150 thousand visitors are expected to attend Kurentovanje in Ptuj.
Is the RTVS saga over?
The on-going saga of Radio-Television Slovenia (RTVS) inched ever closer to its finale this week, as parliament voted 51:14 not to confirm the appointment of Janez Čadež to the post of general director on 23 February.
On 20 February, Čadež's current mandate as general director expired. Previously, the Advisory Board of RTVS told the press that the interim director would not be Čadež, due to the controversy. However, with a 16:7 vote, the Board in fact did name him interim director over the protests of the journalists and unions.
Even though the journalists won this battle, the Slovene media scene is showing no signs of calming down just yet. Next week, the new Law on Media is set to undergo its second reading in parliament, and neither the politicians nor the journalists are satisfied with it in its current form.
Protesting tolerance in Trieste...
The extreme-right Italian political group Forza Nuova (New Force) will hold a demonstration on 24 February in Trieste (Trst). Originally planned to coincide with the G-8 meeting next month in Trieste, the group moved up the date when the Italian Senate passed the awaited Global Law on the Protection of the Slovene Minority in Italy on 14 February.
Other extreme-right wing groups from all over Europe are planning to attend the demonstration, among them the German NPD.
The City of Trieste announced on Friday, however, that public demonstrations will not be permitted by any of the groups. The City has it in its power to forbid public assemblies and marches on city streets, but added that it can do nothing about meetings behind closed doors, such as the central event of the planned demonstration, a rally in a hall of the train station.
...Protesting intolerance in Ljubljana
The Urad za Intervencije (Office of Intervention), a Ljubljana-based NGO dealing with refugee issues, staged a demonstration at Zvezda Park, near the capital's Congress Square. The intention was to raise awareness of the poor treatment of foreigners in the country and to show solidarity with refugees.
The total turnout is unclear: the daily Večer reported more than 300 people, the daily Dnevnik more than 600, and the national wire service STA reported more than 1000. In any case, everyone agreed it was a success.
Organizers did not get official permission for the rally, but it was tacitly supported by the government: the newly-appointed Ombudsman for Human Rights, Matjaž Hanžek, attended, along with several MPs. Activists from Italy and Belgium also made the trip to participate.
Brian J Požun, 23 February 2001
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