Slovenian, Croatian presidents unveil busts in Ljubljana, Zagreb
Ljubljana/Zagreb, 18 October - Slovenian and Croatia presidents Borut Pahor and Zoran Milanović unveiled a bust to Croatian writer Ljudevit Gaj in Ljubljana this morning and one to Slovenian poet France Prešeren in Zagreb this afternoon, highlighting the neighbourly relations between the two countries.
Pahor stressed the importance of Gaj (1809-1872) for the Croatian national revival, noting he had not only issued the first newspaper in Croatia, was the author of the Latin alphabet and a poet but also a skilful politician.
According to Pahor, Gaj and Prešeren were "contemporaries and in a way fellow travellers", as the Slovenian alphabet, introduced in the mid-1840s, is also a variation of Gaj's Latin alphabet, and it helped exceed the linguistic quarrel that Prešeren was also involved in, favouring Gaj's solution.
Milanović said in Ljubljana that the good relations between Slovenia and Croatia were a fact and that Croatia "does not have a better neighbour than Slovenia".
He said he would be happy if Croatia had such relations with its other neighbouring countries as well - reasonable, with the right amount of emotion, with all major issues more or less solved and the awareness that problems could only be solved through conversation, understanding, dialogue and sometimes also dialectics.
The bust of Gaj by sculptor Marijan Mirt has been standing in Ljubljana's Northern City Park since October last year but due to the pandemic it was only officially unveiled today.
The idea for the monument came from the Alliance of Croatian Associations in Slovenia.
The two presidents also unveiled today a bust of Prešeren (1800-1849) by sculptor Matod Flic in Zagreb's alley of poets near Bundek Lake. The bust's 170-centimetre marble stand also has the seventh stanza of Prešeren's Toast, the Slovenian anthem, written in Slovenian and Croatian.
The initiative for the bust, which is the first monument in the Croatian capital dedicated to a Slovenian, came from the Slovenian Embassy in 2016 and the city administration immediately backed the proposal. Part of the funding was provided by the Slovenian government.
Pahor said in his address that Prešeren had been foremost an artist but also a key figure of Slovenia's history and the author of the Slovenian anthem, which sent the message which he as president, Slovenian and European promoted.
Milanović too stressed that Prešeren was the author of the Slovenian anthem, which promoted peace much like the Croatian, while some other anthems call for picking up weapons and claiming other people's land.
"Today is a good day. Gaj in Ljubljana this morning, Prešeren in the afternoon. Let's keep that up. The Croatian-Slovenian relations are becoming an ever more beautiful story. There is no reason for this to change in the future," he said before heading for a working lunch with Pahor.
The ceremony in Zagreb was attended by diplomats, municipal officials, members of the Alliance of Croatian Association in Slovenia and the Slovenian cultural association in Zagreb.
The association's head, Darko Šonc, said Prešeren's bust would be the second home for Slovenians in Zagreb next to the Slovenski Dom centre and that they would "meet at Prešeren's" now.