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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 2 .

Making a New Nation
Danica Fink-Hafner & John R Robbins eds

(Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1997)
330pp. bibl. Hb. ISBN 1-85521-656-6. ?42.50.

The small southern European republic of Slovenia seems in some ways to have escaped the ethnic conflicts which otherwise characterised the break-up of Yugoslavia. The economy is undeniably the most successful in Eastern Europe; elections are free and fair, with a viable multi-party system; the country itself is charming, if not very exciting. The government vehemently favours joining the EU and the single currency at the earliest opportunity - even the car number-plates are difficult to distinguish from those of neighbouring Austria. The 'native minority' Hungarian and Italian populations, a few thousand each in a country of two million, are constitutionally protected with guaranteed parliamentary seats.

But as recently as 1991, Slovenia was part of the same country as Bosnia, as Kosovo, as Macedonia, as Croatia which then had a substantial Serb minority (and no longer does). And the many Slovenian-registered cars which can be seen on the roads of Bosnia today demonstrate that the largest ethnic minority currently living in Slovenia are the tens of thousands of Bosnian refugees who migrated during the war. Although Fink-Hafner and Robbins' collection of papers tends to present Slovenia as a historic nation newly liberated from an alien Yugoslav state, a less comfortable truth peeks through the contradictions between Janko Prunk's historical introduction (pp. 21-30), Drago Zajc's review of the changing political system (pp. 156-171), and Bernik, Malnar and To?'s essay on the paradoxes of Slovenian democratization (pp. 56-82). This last is one of the most interesting contributions, presenting polling data from 1980 to 1994, including the 1990-91 independence process. The authors point to the sudden crystallisation of support for secession from Yugoslavia in 1990, and to continuing poll evidence of ethnocentrism and xenophobia, to argue that Slovenian political culture is not as whole-heartedly democratic as it is usually portrayed.

Much of the rest of the book concentrates on economics in Slovenia alone. John R. Robbins, who as well co-editing the collection is its only non-Slovene author, contributes an insightful prologue (pp. 1-20), which discusses the problems of democratization, ethnicity and pluralism in a global context, and also an epilogue (pp. 278-294) measuring Slovenia's "attainment of viability" and prospects for long-term stability. Ethnic homogeneity is no guarantee here; however Robbins' main concern is the political system's shallow institutional roots. He is frank about the problems facing a small European nation struggling to enter the New World Order, but basically shares the optimism of his fellow contributors.

Nicholas Whyte, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs - Croatia

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