The Slovenian Euro Coin Designs
This is going to be an incoherent rant about the designs for Slovenian euro coins, which have recently been approved and published by the Bank of Slovenia (see this PDF file on their website), and which we will presumably have to put up with once we adopt the euro in 2007.
My main complaint is about the overall selection of motives, which reflects a horribly stolid, conservative, dull spirit of 19th-century patriotism without the slightest ounce of creativity, originality, modernity, or indeed anything that would suggest that the people who selected the motives are in any way reconciled with the modern world. But then, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the choice of motives — according to the designer Miljenko Licul (see his interview in the Sobotna priloga, 15. 10. 2005, p. 24), the motives were selected by the government. And surely motives like these are the only thing one can reasonably expect from the assembly of conservative 19th-century Neanderthals that is our current government.
Sure, our present coin designs may have their faults, but you have to admit that they are decent, humane, modest, you could even say that they have a certain progressive and environmentalist undertone. By emphasizing our wildlife, these designs concede that the state is fundamentally just a geographical entity, not some blut-und-boden wetdream from the heady days of the 19th century. They concede, as it were, that this is a territory inhabited just as much by the other species as it is by people, and indeed that insofar as these other species by and large inhabited it much before us, it belongs much more to them than it does to us. The proposed Euro coin designs, however, have no patience with these calm modern virtues. They are all about the rowdy, flag-waving sort of patriotism that saw people march with glee less than a hundred years ago to be slaughtered by their millions in the trenches of the first world war. It seems that some people will just never learn.
I'm particularly annoyed by the use of Plečnik's proposed design for a Slovenian parliament. Thank goodness that this abomination has never actually been constructed. Sure, I agree that Plečnik designed a few nice things, but this parliament certainly isn't one of them. The huge cone-shaped thingie in the middle reeks of pure megalomania. It would do well enough for some evil imperialist power, but it's hardly appropriate for a small and decent country.
I'm also somewhat annoyed by the use of the princely stone of Caranthania. The only good thing about this is that it pisses off the Austrians, just like it did in 1991 when there was a picture of the stone on the temporary Slovenian banknotes. The stone, just like Plečnik's parliament design, is routinely an object of fetishization on part of the chest-thumping right-wing ‘patriots’. The inclusion of the stone on the new coin designs is just yet another symptom of the increasing influence of the right wing, of its conservatism and its lamentable tendency to mythologize Caranthania, the supposed democratic character of its monarchy, the almost entirely imaginary influence of their coronation procedure on Thomas Jefferson, etc., etc. I can't for the life of me imagine what's the point of mythologizing Caranthania. Yes, sure, it was the first state-like entity of which our distant ancestors were a part, and furthermore it was one in which they were governed by a ruler who was one of them rather than a foreigner. So what? Big deal. You have to start somewhere. And no matter how much you try to inflate its importance, you cannot get past the fact that it was essentially just a minor historical footnote; a smallish country in the turbulent early middle ages, which soon found itself unable to preserve its independence and was eventually engulfed by the Frankish empire. What the heck are you going to accomplish by fetishizing an obscure entity like that? If you absolutely feel that you prefer convenient mythological fiction to actual history, then at least go the full monty. Don't settle for a mere Caranthania. Join the ‘Venetic theory’ instead, insist that our ancestors came here in the 6th century BC rather than AD, have the audacity to claim that the ancient Etruscans and Veneti were really their close relatives, and that the Slovenian language holds the key to interpreting Etruscan inscriptions. I can always appreciate a good absurdity even though I am unable to take it seriously. But the fetishization of Caranthania lies uncomfortably halfway between absurd mythology and historical fact, lacking both the charm of the former and the veracity of the latter.
Besides, do look at the explanation on p. 19 of the above-mentioned PDF file. The motivation for including the stone among the coin motives is that it “is the ancient symbol of the hierarchical organization of power in the Slovenian consciousness”. And they dare to put this on a coin — practically to commemorate it, to glorify it? Isn't it entirely obvious that this is something to be ashamed of, not something praiseworthy? Is it this, then, that our government now stands for? Hierarchy — authoritarianism, oppression, obedience, monarchy — this is what our consciousness is now supposed to be about? So was Cankar right after all? Don't they realize just how FUCKING ABSURD it is to fetishize Plečnik's ‘cathedral of freedom’ (p. 13) on one coin but then prattle about the hierarchy of power in the motivation for another coin? And, once again, if we have to go for absurdities, let's just go all the way — let's just put a whip and pair of manacles (or maybe monocles, given that the slavedrivers nowadays tend to be of the capitalist persuasion) on one of the coins, or maybe a bundle of fasces with an axe in the middle — or maybe, what the heck, let's just go for a big fat swastika: after all, the Führerprinzip is where the concept of the hierarchy of power found its most perfect expression. (Yes, yes, Godwin's law, yadda yadda yadda. See if I care.)
The other motives aren't necessarily that bad by themselves, but the designs of the eight coins as a whole lack all uniformity and coherence of style. Our current coins are much more regular in this sense: you can see that they are all based on the same underlying theme, and all executed in a similar way. In the new euro designs, we have a bewildering and incoherent mixture of techniques: silhouettes of Prešeren and of the pair of horses; engraving-style pictures of Trubar and of the princely stone; a photorealistic picture of Triglav; a drawing of Plečnik's parliament; a pointilist picture of Grohar's sower; and finally the stork in a style all its own, taken from the current 20-tolar coin. These things don't fit together nicely at all. Besides, most of the designs are too busy. There's way too much stuff on them; Grohar's sower is a particularly egregious example. I am disgusted. I can only hope that these designs will look better on the actual coins than they do now in the PDF file. And I can only hope that we'll soon get a period of decent inflation which will render those coins worthless as soon as possible and thus put them out of their misery.