As a tourist visiting Slovenia, you will notice the Slovenian amazing art scene, and also the numerous institutions and measures taken to promote and develop the country’s culture and art production.
The Slovenska Akademija Znanosti in Umetnosti is known in English as the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SASA) is the country’s supreme national institution in the fields of art and all kinds of sciences. It was created in 1938 to encourage and cultivate scientific development and artistic creation in Slovenia.
Let’s find out more about this unique institution that is partly responsible for the country’s remarkable research activities and artistic creativity!
The Academy’s Distant Past
Even if the official foundation of Slovenia’s major cultural research institution was only recognized by the constituent assembly in 1938, the idea of this structure finds its roots a long time ago.
The Academia Operosorum
300 years ago, in the same period that saw the birth of the Royal Society of London and the Académie Française, SASA’s ancestor was created in Slovenia. Since 1693, the Academy of the Operose gathered the very best Slovene intellectuals and noblemen.
The most distinguished jurists, physicians, and theologians of the Carniolan region joined its ranks, with both secular and religious men. Soon enough, the private activity of the 22 members became public and impulsed the development of Carniolan and Slovenian baroque art, with Ljubljana as its center.
The institution permitted the expansion of legal, topographic, and historical sciences in the area, but also instigated the creation of Slovenia’s first public library in 1701. During the same year, the members of the Operosi also contributed to the birth of the Academy’s philharmonic, making it the first musical association of the Slovene land.
The 1779’s Renewal
After a period of discontinuous activity noticed since 1725, the Academy has known an almost total renewal with the implication of Blaž Kumerdej. This rationalist philosopher was also a lawyer, a theologist, and a polymath that truly shattered the Academy’s path.
Kumerdej oriented the institution with critical rationalism towards enlightenment and Slovenia national awakening. The Academy was meant to develop the foundations of the Slovene language put by Trubar in the 16th century, even if the members had to use German and Latin for their debates.
The focus was also put on defining the Slovene history, but the matters of philosophy, other languages, mathematics, poetry, and medicine were not forgotten either. However, this second version of the Academy did not pursue its activities for a long time. It is commonly admitted that it must have been dissolved by the current authorities.
The Continuous Need For this Institution
With the Academy’s disappearing, the idea of an eminent institution dedicated to culture, arts, and sciences lived on through history. All of the turning points in Slovene’s national history showed a need for this kind of structure.
The idea was discussed ever since, especially during the Napoleonic occupation between 1805 and 1813, and the Spring of Nations in 1848, along with the revindication of a Slovene university.
In the second half of this century, these needs began to manifest themselves with the funding of professional societies. The most well-known one was the Slovene Society, also called Slovenska Matica, but they were diverse and mostly humanistic.
Later, in 1919, the University of Ljubljana was founded, in the same period as the Society of jurists and the National Gallery. These respected and major institutions paved the road for the creation of the Academy.
A Hectic Beginning
In 1938, just before the beginning of World War II in Slovenian lands, the current Academy was founded in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, acknowledged by the nomination of its 18 first members. Despite the certain disdain showed by the Serbian and Croatian academies of sciences, the institution succeded emerging regardless of the Yugoslav centralist policy.
The fact that the Academy is still standing today holds to its continuity during the World War. During wartime, under the presidency of Milan Vidmar that replaced the first president Rajko Nahtigal in 1942, the institution mostly kept its publishing activity.
At the end of the war in 1945, the structure and the membership of the Academy were deeply affected in the context of the social and political upheavals that followed WWII. Three of the founding members were expelled of the institution by the Academy itself or the authorities, and one was requested to submit his resignation.
However, this period remained fruitful and profitable for the history of the academy. When the literary historian France Kidrič assured the presidency, the institution has lived one of its biggest periods of expansion, market by the structural enlargement of its members.
One and then two sections were added to the four original ones while new institutes were created. We can name for example the Institute for Literatures, founded in July 1948. The academy kept its traditional fields of studies but the different technical institutes were largely separated and granted independence.
The organization was partly modeled according to the Soviet standards, but it was still balanced according to the Slovene needs. However, the Academy needed to attest to an official Marxist ideology and mostly depended on the State.
Nevertheless, the diverse institutes of the Academy led successful researches during the whole post-war period preceding independence. Furthermore, the word of the law was strong but did not prevent the evolution of practices.
Liberalization and Success of the Academy
The period of liberalization that marked Yugoslavia in the 80s at the time of Tito’s death finally marked an evolution in the structure’s ideology. In 1980, the Act on the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts established that the influence of the State would be limited to the selection of membership, unleashing the process of liberalization of the institution.
However, the most radical turning point in the life of the Acadamy was the declaration of independence in 1991, making Slovenia a free state. The conditions of a democratic political system and free cultural and scientific policy allowed the Slovene Academy to compete with all of its Western European counterparts.
A law passed in 1994 guaranteed the Academy’s autonomy and the independence of its professional activities, reestablishing the focus on promoting research and development in the fields of culture, arts, and sciences. The professional plurality permitted the emulation and the stimulation of the research around the common grounds of artistic and scientific aspirations.
New Spirit of the Structure
The major changes in the spirit and structure of the Academy after independence in 1991 allowed the institution to become more oriented towards international cooperation. A lot of its missions actually concern the development of European relations. The academy is know linked with about 30 other academies from all around the world.
The adhesion of Slovenia to the European Union in 2004 also confirmed the modification of the Academy’s aims. It reinforces the European character of the researches led by the institution.
This is a major turning point for it since it was mostly directed towards the affirmation of cultural and national identity and consciousness at the moment of its creation but also during the Yugoslav era.
The Academy’s Diverse Current Activities
Nowadays, we can differentiate the several activities led by the Academy according to their scales. On a national level, the Slovene Academy is involved in research, but also actively participates in higher education and cultural institutions but also cooperates with national authorities and economic organizations as well as with scientists or artists.
Internationally, it collaborates with numerous organizations worldwide. However, one of its main projects remains its collaborative long-term program about the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Slovenian Nation.
The members of the academies study with independent experts on numerous working bodies in an impressive number of fields. They are very diverse as they regroup ethnic minority studies and human rights, energetics and environmental protection, orthography commission, printing, and publications, or again integrity in science.
One of its major bodies is undoubtedly the co-founded Academy Scientific Research Centre that makes the pride of Slovenia internationally. It is also particularly known for being one of the most significant institutions still working on the Slovene national identity, a work that began as soon as the first academy and that was particularly brilliant in the post-war era.
The publishing activity of the Academy is then one of its major aspects. Its famous and important publications include for example The Dictionary of Standard Slovenian Language and the Slovenian Biographical Lexicon.
Art and Science Forever
Knowing the history and aims of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts allow us all to learn more about the context of its creation and the current goals of the Slovenian research and publishing bodies in the fields of arts and sciences.
This major academy also shows us that the intellectual and artistic life in Slovenia is very rich and diverse, regarding its many fields of studies and activities. It gives us a sense of the important Slovene cultural life and I recommend you to visit Slovenia and its many museums and monuments to have a better sense of its wideness!