Gratiae plenum: Latin, Greek and the Cominform
Keywords:Latin, Greek, Cominform, communism, totalitarianism, classical education
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.
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in Keria by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.