A Populist Leader Kicks Off a Culture War, Starting in Museums


The directors of publicly funded museums in Slovenia serve five-year terms, and many were scheduled to come up for renewal shortly after Mr. Jansa took power.

“On the one side there’s people who want museums to be responsible, relevant and ethical, and places of understanding and tolerance especially of minorities,” said Kaja Sirok, the outgoing director the National Museum of Contemporary History, said in a telephone interview.

“And the other side want them to be patriotic,” she added. Ms. Sirok will be replaced in February by Joze Dezman, a conservative historian who led the museum once before, as an appointee of Mr. Jansa, from 2005.

Ms. Sirok said conservatives like Mr. Dezman tended to present a highly patriotic point of view, with much focus on atrocities during Slovenia’s time under Communist rule. She had tried to make exhibitions that included a variety of political and historical viewpoints, she said, relating Slovenia’s past to contemporary issues, like immigration. Those efforts were likely to stop once she was gone, she added. (Mr. Dezman did not reply to a request for comment.)

Zdenka Badovinac, 62, who had served as artistic director of Moderna Galerija since 1993, said she had reapplied for the job when her most recent term ended last year, but lost out in a competition that was rerun several times. After one round, the culture ministry dropped a requirement that the director must have five years’ experience running a museum, she said. The ministry had also ignored the advice of museum boards — including the Moderna Galerija’s — on who should be appointed, she added.

Mr. Irsic, the culture ministry spokesman, said that the government did not always follow those recommendations, because some museum boards were dominated by left-wingers. “The Minister’s reliance on due process of picking the best candidates is the only line of defense against a politically appointed apparatus,” he said.


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