Official speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, at the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the tragic events that took place under the Vršič Pass in the memory of which the Russian Chapel was built

Vršič, 30. 7. 2016 | press release, speech


The spoken word applies.

Dear Mister President, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

We have gathered here because we care.

We care about the unfortunate Russian prisoners of war, who 100 years ago, far from their beloved homes, finally lost their lives in an avalanche; but before that their souls and lungs were stifled by the fearful smell of gunpowder, suffering and death.

We care about all the innocent victims of the Great War. It was at the dark Isonzo Front that the red blood of hundreds of thousands poured from both banks into the green and blue waves of the River Soča, famously commemorated by Slovenian poet Simon Gregorčič.

We care about the victims of all wars. The Great War, the First World War, was followed by another. Even more terrifying. With a sadder and more burdensome moral legacy than ever before. And because the First World War was followed by the Second, it seems logical to think that the Third will probably follow as well.

We care whether there will be war or peace. We do not think that war is a matter of historical logic. We believe that war or peace is always a matter of political decision. We refuse to believe that war is inevitable. We accept the responsibility for the peaceful resolution of disputes, all disputes. We want peace. Lasting peace. That is why we have gathered here. Because we care.

The world is changing. It seems that the very notions of peace and war no longer have the same meaning as before. The world is confronted with new forms of violence. It is no longer possible to draw a clear traditional line between war and peace. New forms of modern terrorism pose a new security threat of great dimensions, even in societies and countries considered to be peaceful and safe.

Time and again, after every tragedy in fraternal France, Germany or Russia, in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world, we decidedly emphasise that our free and open way of life will not be compromised. Nevertheless, it is true that frantic violence causes dismay and anxiety.

The problem of modern radical terrorism is in its ruthlessness, meaninglessness and aimlessness. Such violence has no political programme which could be discussed and negotiated peacefully. At least, this is how it currently seems. Its irrational nature is something new, and this is most concerning. However, we will not give up. We will find new ways for ensuring peace and security in response to new and innovative forms of extremist and cruel violence.

This is possible. We will succeed on one condition: if the entire freedom-loving and freethinking mankind joins forces. This challenge is so great that in order to resolve it we must overcome the greatest obstacles and differences that divide us. Dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue. This is not and never will be easy. We will have to overcome mutual distrust and other barriers. But the objective is existential and the purpose is noble. We must seek and find a way to ensure permanent peace and security.

The Russian Chapel is behind me. It has been here for one hundred years. It is a reminder. It is an inspiration. As if to say: peace is always possible, but never self-evident. Peace must not be driven by a terrible memory of war, but by wonderful dreams of a happy future for our children. All of our children, Slovenian, Russian, all, without exception. Irrespective of the nationality, colour of the skin or religion.

I sincerely thank all those who have taken care of this chapel in the past one hundred years and to those who continue to do so. You have made your very personal contribution to peace and friendship. Not only between the peoples of Slovenia and Russia, but between the nations of the entire world. The Russian Chapel under the Vršič Pass is a small but priceless contribution to the great idea of peace and friendship.

From here we extend our greeting to the entire world. May we live in peace and friendship.

Official speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, at the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the tragic events that took place under the Vršič Pass in the memory of which the Russian Chapel was built
Photo: STA