A UACES-supported research trip delving into Slovenia’s history

Zala Pochat Križaj |

I am thrilled to have been awarded the UACES scholarship to support my research trip to Slovenia. As a PhD candidate in war studies, I focus on reconciliation in Slovenia following post-Second World War mass killings. Reconciliation remains a contentious, disputed and polarised topic, experiencing revisionism, contestation and political manipulation. My research aims at developing an understanding of this historical case that still continues to impact the country and its politics today. It was a great privilege to conduct my research trip with the support of the UACES scholarship.

 

The UACES scholarship supported five weeks of fieldwork in Slovenia by contributing to my expenses for the trip, including travel, accommodation, and food expenses. I was in Ljubljana between 14 April and 17 May. The trip has provided me with the opportunity to spend time in Ljubljana to conduct interviews, which are an integral part of my research, as well as archives and the National and University Library of Ljubljana, to collect data and access books that are not available in London.

 

Interviews, networking and access to resources

The interviews were an invaluable source of information which the UACES scholarship enabled me to collect. I was able to get insights on my research topic from key experts working on the post-war atrocities and Slovene reconciliation, including historians, politicians and government actors, journalists, investigators, novelists, and philosophers. They provided me with fascinating insights into my research on reconciliation in Slovenia, the narratives explaining the post-Second World War mass atrocities, political polarisation and the interpretation of history. The discussions were informative and engaging, providing me with significant knowledge to develop my arguments. They contribute to fulfilling my research objectives, which are to understand what reconciliation in Slovenia means, what the obstacles for reconciliation are, the role of historical re-interpretation and revisionism in reconciliation, and finally, what solutions have been attempted to address the obstacles.

 

In addition, the interviews provided me with the opportunity to network and receive guidance from the experts I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing. This has been an exceptional opportunity for professional development alongside the development of my research.

 

Besides the interviews, visits to the National and University Library of Ljubljana provided me access to books and sources such as newspapers and archival material that are not available in London. These resources offer a wealth of information to support my research. Additionally, I visited the government archives, which gave an insight into the gaps in the archives since many documents are missing. However, it was fascinating to access certain documents, and it was exciting to delve into a country’s past through governmental archives. Archives, and the lack thereof, are an integral aspect of my research, looking at a country that has been independent since the early 1990s but was previously part of communist Yugoslavia. During the decades under Yugoslavia, the post-war atrocities were silenced, and their knowledge was hidden. Therefore, the silence in archives and the few documents available are an interesting insight into the role of silence in reconciliation and establishing the facts about the past.

 

Therefore, the UACES scholarship allowed me to focus on my research and develop my professional skills and network.

 

The importance of understanding the context behind the research

Finally, the UACES scholarship enabled me to spend a longer time in Slovenia and visit the museums, including the Museum of Contemporary History and the City Museum of Ljubljana. Museums provide insights into how history is presented to the public and remembered in collective memory. Since my research focuses on a polarised topic, visiting museums and being confronted with how history is publicly explained is insightful to understand my research’s social and political context. Understanding the context is central to this research topic. Indeed, since the focus is on contemporary reconciliation, revisionism and polarisation, context is key to understanding how the problem developed and why events that took place over 70 years ago continue to divide. This context explains how people think and why they argue certain positions, the impact of decades of silence, and the deeply rooted re-interpretations of history.

 

Concluding remarks

The trip supported by UACES was also an opportunity to spend more time in my native country, where I have lived for only a very limited time. I was able to reconnect with the language and culture and delve into a dark chapter of history. Spending these five weeks in Ljubljana allowed me to immerse myself in my research topic and better grasp the context of my research.

 

I am grateful for the recognition provided by the awarded UACES scholarship to conduct my fieldwork because it supported my research and data collection, which I hope will contribute to the academic field of reconciliation and mass atrocities but also to a practical understanding of obstacles to reconciliation, and solutions addressing these obstacles.