Communist-era leader buried with military honours in Slovenia stirs up controversy

Communist-era leader buried with military honours in Slovenia stirs up controversy |

Janez Zemljarič, a politician who held several top positions during the communist era, including head of the secret police, has been buried with military honours, sparking controversy and reigniting old political divisions.

Zemljarič served as the first minister of Slovenia’s government from 1980 to 1984, when the country was part of Yugoslavia, and then spent five years as deputy prime minister of the federal Yugoslav government.

Before that, he was the National Security Service director from 1975 to 1976. The Security Service is best known by its acronym UDBA and is believed to have assassinated several opponents of the Yugoslav regime.

After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Zemljarič was a lobbyist renowned for being a power broker with good connections with leftist parties who always remained in the background.

One paper describes him as “one of the most influential men in Slovenia in the last fifty years”.

Zemljarič, who died on 30 December and was buried on 6 January, was given a funeral with military honours by the government at the initiative of members of his cabinet – who argued he deserved the privilege, citing his efforts in the country’s development and management of some major national infrastructure projects.

However, the opposition Democrats (SDS) expressed indignation at the decision, which they see as fundamentally at odds with the spirit of the Slovenian constitution.

“The Robert Golob government’s decision violates the fundamental right to human dignity and makes a mockery of the suffering of the many victims of UDBA’s criminal activities,” the party said.

It said the former secret police was an institutionalised antithesis of the fundamental constitutional values of today’s Slovenia, and the Slovenian Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court formally recognised UDBA activities as criminal.

Zemljarič’s funeral was attended by several prominent public figures, including Slovenia’s first President Milan Kučan and Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković.

(Sebastijan R. Maček |


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