46. Light in Slovenia during 1970 - 1980
MAR. 3, 2022
Pete makes light work of the episode as he takes Ryan on a tour of all things light in 70s Slovenia. Featuring wine, cakes, punk rock, clowns and, of course, communist industrial design.
This episode Pete takes Ryan on a journey to Central Europe, to the country of Slovenia.
A hilly, mountainous and highly forested country, more than half of Slovenia is forested ranking it third in Europe by percentage of area forested, after Finland and Sweden
Slovenia is approximately 20,273 sq km, making Slovenia 3.68% the size of France with a population of about 2.1million.
It is Ia developed economy, with some tourism, including gambling tourism. Slovenia has the highest percentage of casinos per 1,000 inhabitants in the European Union.
It’s also a good spot for some skiing, and the world’s largest ski jump is here.
Slovenie was once home to early man and in this region the Urnfield culture thrived. This is named after habit of burning the dead and putting them in an urn to be buried in a field.
Later, in the 1st century BC, the Romans conquered the regio,n establishing the provinces of Pannonia and Noricum. Barbarian invasions followed and in 800ad approximately the region became part of the Carolingian Empire.
This was followed by Hungarian invasions in the late 9th century and during the 14th century, most of the Slovene Lands passed under the Habsburg rule.
So it remained until after world war one, when Slovenia joined together with Montenegro, Serbia, and Croatia in 1918 to form the new nation known as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Some years later everyone agreed this was a bit of a mouthful and in 1929 they changed the name to Yugoslavia.
In 1939 World War two broke out and Slovenia was invaded and divided among the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Hungary. Meanwhile, the Slovenes fought back and conduced a guerilla war against the Axis powers. This army of communist partisans was led by Marshal Tito.
In 1945, when the Allies won the war, it was good news for the partisans and Tito who formed Yugoslavia as a new communist nation.
Unlike many communist nations who were ‘encouraged’ by Stalin to become Communist, Yugoslavia had grass roots support for communism. In fact, Tito was one of few communist leaders to stand up to Stalin, including a public disagreement in 1948 that resulted in the exchange of letters – shocking stuff.
Although we think of the cold war as only having two sides, in 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Tito and several other national heads established the “non-aligned movement” as an alternative to the East and West binary of the cold war.
Then, in 1991 as we know Soviet Union fell apart and at the same time Yugoslavia was cracking up
Slovenia declared its independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, becoming its own country and, once independent, it joined the EU and NATO in 2004.
Light things in Slovenia
In an effort to talk about Light in Slovenia, Pete attempted to find some light snacks from the region. He found:
Sausage Kranj style from the Upper Carniola region. Pork meat and hard bacon with salt, pepper, and garlic, served warm with sauerkraut or sour turnip. Not very light.
Idrijski žlikrofi. Stuffed dumplings from Idrija, which are noodle dough, filled with potato stuffing, cooked for men who worked in a mine. Also not light.
Zganci. Flour cooked in water. Eaten with sausage (kranjska klobasa) and sauerkraut (kisu zewe).
Finally, Pete found something… Bled cream cake. Originating from the Park Hotel in the beautiful tourist town of Bled and invented by created by Ištvan Lukačevič. The dessert has a puff pastry layer on the bottom, then a layer of egg cream, a layer of whipped cream and then puff pastry layer on the top.
It was delicious.
An old tradition that was kept alive throughout the 70s was the traditional Mayday bonfire in every major town, city and village and even on some hills.
But in addition to these parties, Slovenia had a particular phenomenon known as Firebrigade Parties.
For many years, in rural Slovenia the church was the centre for socialising. But when communism arrived, the church was very much frowned on. So, what happened was that because every Town and village pretty much as a volounteer fire department, they became a centre for socialising in placed of the church. The events became small scale outdoor festivals (gasilec=fireman, veselica=party, festival) and local bands or performers might do their thing among the drinking and dancing.
And there would, of course, be wine.
Wine in Slovenia goes back before even the Romans, who tended to spread viticulture to other areas. Early Celtic and Illyrian tribes who began cultivating vines for wine production sometime between the 5th and 4th centuries BC.
Industrial design in 70s Slovenia
We often associate Communism with blocky, practicality, brutalist architecture, and greyness but in Yugoslavia, something quite different was happening in companies such as Meblo.
In October 1947 the College of the Ministry of Forestry and Wood Industry created Meblo – a furniture company.
In 1950 they started making mattresses and a year later sofas. Then in 1963, experts from Norway were invited to the factory to update the company, indicating their openness to Western methods.
The factory developed rapidly until 1970, when they presented a range of furniture and cabinets at the Belgrade Furniture Fair, called the E-program, designed by Ljerka Finžgar. They offered the user more options for assembling furniture according to their own needs.
In Industrial Design in 1971 Finžgar wrote “Lifestyle is changing. People are looking for a more informal, easier and freer way of life. People would not want to be burdened with many static possessions that are only used one way. On the contrary, they want to change their environment,”
But on light, specifically, the 70s was interesting for Meblo because it saw them move beyond timber, as new materials tech in the early 70s made plastics a practical option. Meblo teamed up with Harvey Guzzini, an Italian lighting manufacturer founded by six Guzzini brothers and named after the James Stewart film.
Guzzini developed plexiglass acrylic lights – orange mushroom, organic shapes, in distinctly seventies colours and 33 types of lamps were produced.
Another company of the Slovenian 70s that was bucking the expectations of communist design was Iskra.
Iskra translates as Spark and was founded in 1946 as a small, state-owned radio workshop.
In late 1962, Iskra founded the first section or ‘department for industrial design in Yugoslavia under designer Davorin Savnik.
For Iskra, design was part of production, not just gloss or advertising and it was successful
By 1971, an exhibition featuring Iskra was held at the Design Center in Stuttgart, where the main focus was on presenting the company as the Yugoslav counterpart to the German firm Braun.
Stane Bernik, the exhibition’s curator, wrote, “Iskra’s actions have more than once been described as pioneering and avant-garde. The exceptional efforts Iskra and the company’s designers invest in industrial design have secured it an exceptional place even today.”
In the early 1970s, Iskra grew into the largest Yugoslavian company for electromechanics, telecommunications.
Light Entertainment in Slovenia
In 1975 The Prešeren Award was handed out to Frane Milčinski aka Ježek or hedgehog
Born on December 14, 1914, in Ljubljana he was the son of renowned Slovenian writer Fran Milčinski. He started off as an entertainer, appearing on Slovenian radio and touring.
During World War II he was interned at the Gonars concentration camp, an Italian concentration camp holding ethnic Slovenes but when he got out, he still wanted to make people laugh.
He wrote radio plays for adults and children, including the 1951 movie Kekec, a children’s adventure movie, described as one of the greatest films in Slovenian and Yugoslavian cinema history.
However, during this period there were also the rumblings of something more dramatic in the shifting culture with shows such as the the Moped Show, started in 1978 - a cult satirical-humorous radio show and that started on Radio Ljubljana and created by a humourist named Tof aka Tone Fornezzi.
Alternatively, they might have been listening to the first punk sounds in the communist world.
Pankrti (The Bastards) were a punk rock band from Ljubljana, Slovenia who billed themselves as The First Punk Band Behind The Iron Curtain. They released their first album "Dolgcajt" (Boredom) in 1980.