National Geographic : 1990 Aug
at the thornbushes. Two boys sat amid the maquis, selling white candles. Crosses studded the hilltop. The largest rose from a pile of stones on which about 50 candles burned. Black from smoke, and with wax smoldering, the stones looked aflame. Few stones small enough to carry remain at the site. People were scooping sand into enve lopes. A group of Germans stood before the largest cross singing softly, "Maria." As the sun melted behind the mountains and the far away church towers glowed, 10,000 people were kneeling in worship. I drove northward into the Alpine heights of Slovenia, the most westernized region in Yugoslavia. The Slovenes recently dropped "Socialist" from their name, to become simply the Republic of Slovenia. And the Slovenian communists decided they couldn't tolerate the federal party and pulled out. REFRESHINGLY, the most popular plaza in Ljubljana was named for a poet, a sometimes bawdy one. A statue of France Pre seren beams down on Preseren Square, hard by three interlocked bridges that span the willow-shaded Ljubljanica River. Rustic stalls and bright cafes radiate in all directions. Amid Ljubljana's air of solid accomplish ment few enjoy playing rich uncle to poor rela tives in the south. Rudi Tavcar, 31, with the Slovenian Chamber of the Economy, told me why he scorns the national economic system: "With only 8 percent of the population, Slove nia makes 20 percent of Yugoslavia's gross national product and a third of its exports to the West. But we have been forced to turn over to the federation most of the hard currency we earn, with no control over how it is used. We provide 27 percent of the federal budget-just 'floating money down the Sava.' " Slovenia's bad relations with Serbia came to a head last winter. Riled because Slovenes didn't seem to understand their actions in Kosovo, the Serbs and their brothers in Mon tenegro organized caravans of thousands to go to Ljubljana and "educate" the Slovenes. The Slovenian leadership, fearing street battles and a coup d'etat, set up roadblocks. Serbs then backed down, calling the blockade violent, uncivilized, and "aggression against basic human rights and freedoms." Two Yugoslav republics were behaving like foreign belligerents. A Serbian boycott against Slovenian com panies and products followed with more than 500 orders and contracts canceled. The boy cott, harming many companies, proved con venient for others: Serbian firms reneged on 225 million dollars owed to Slovenian manu facturers; Slovenes retaliated by canceling 48 million in unpaid debts to Serbs. One of the most successful companies in Slovenia is Adria Airways, which has broken the old communist mold and challenged JAT, the national airline. "We have made a profit for 20 years by being better than the competi tion," said Janez Kocijancic, the president of Adria. Technically his airline is "socially owned," but it operates on a free-enterprise standard of service.