Gratiae plenum: Latin, Greek and the Cominform

  • David Movrin University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts
Keywords: Latin, Greek, Cominform, communism, totalitarianism, classical education

Abstract

The survival of classics in the People’s Republic of Slovenia after World War II was dominated by the long shadow of the Coryphaeus of the Sciences, Joseph Stalin. Since 1945, the profile of the discipline was determined by the Communist Party, which followed the Soviet example, well-nigh destroying the classical education in the process. Fran Bradač, head of Classics at the University of Ljubljana, was removed for political reasons; the classical gymnasium belonging to the Church was closed down; Greek was struck from the curriculum of the two remaining state classical gymnasia; Latin, previously a central subject at every gymnasium, was severely reduced in 1945, only to disappear entirely in 1946. The classicists who continued to teach were forced to take ‘reorientation courses’ which enabled them to teach Russian and other more suitable subjects. By 1949, only two out of the 42 classicists employed by the Ministry of Education were actually teaching Latin. The Classics department at the university, where only two students were studying in 1949, was on the brink of closure.
 Paradoxically, the classical tradition was saved by Stalin’s attack on the same Party. The Cominform conflict in 1948 astonished the Yugoslav communists and pushed them towards a tactical détente with the West, prompting a revision of some of their policies, including education. The process was led by the top echelons of the Party — such as Milovan Djilas, head of the central Agitprop, Boris Kidrič, in charge of Yugoslav economy, and Edvard Kardelj, the Party’s chief ideologue — during the Third Plenum of the Central Committee Politburo in Belgrade in December 1949. Their newly discovered love of Latin and Greek, documented in the minutes of the Politburo Plenum, was overseen only by the discriminating eye of Josip Broz Tito. Classical gymnasia were revived, Latin was reintroduced to some of the other gymnasia, students returned to study classics at the university, and a classical journal, Živa antika, was established in 1951, paying respects to the Third Plenum in its first editorial. The thaw was publicly praised by prominent classicists. A more nuanced picture is provided in the State Security records, with agents noting their remarks about “the Slovenian University lagging behind” and “nobody publishing anything, having no access to the recent literature”.
The change which provided the discipline with a new lease of life did not last long. Stalin’s death was followed by a rapprochement between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. With no particular political incentive to preserve classics as a hallmark of its unique understanding of Marxism–Leninism, the Party proceeded to dissolve the classical gymnasia in the late 1950s and to make Latin slightly more marginal with each subsequent reform, until its position during the years of ‘directed education’ in the 1980s was worse than the one alleviated by the plenum of 1949.

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Published
2010-12-31
How to Cite
Movrin, David. 2010. “Gratiae Plenum: Latin, Greek and the Cominform”. Keria: Studia Latina Et Graeca 12 (2-3), 281-304. https://doi.org/10.4312/keria.12.2-3.281-304.
Section
Articles