On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Cultural society Svoboda Celje, we present a century-long history of one of the most numerous and active societies in Celje.
The founding member and initiator of the Social democratic cultural society Vzajemnost (Reciprocity), which was soon renamed to Svoboda (Freedom), was Ivan Cankar. The purpose of the society, established in Ljubljana in 1909, was to developed cultural and educational work among Slovenian working-class people through various cultural and sports activities. Svoboda established branches in the industrial centres of Slovenia, including a branch, which was established in Celje in 1919. Svoboda Celje was one of the most active in Slovenia; that is why in 1935 Celje hosted the famous working-class cultural manifestation Zlet Svobod (gathering of different sections of Svoboda) with around 10.000 participants.
After WWII, Svoboda established itself on new foundations and expanded its activities in the field of mass culture. Still, her mission remained the same – to convey culture to the workers and to integrate them into cultural events. In the second half of the 20th century, various sections were active within Celje society, presenting the results of their work at the annual parade Svoboda poje in igra (Svoboda sings and plays). It was the massiveness that was the hallmark of this cultural society; this way of spending leisure time is unimaginable these days, in times of shopping malls, mass media and social networks. The restructuring of Celje industry gradually transformed the traditional working-class, its identity and culture. As a result, at the turn of the century, activity of the society changed dramatically, and Svoboda gradually lost its former role. Today, the functioning of Svoboda Celje is beyond compare with the golden years of the past decades. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the Association of Svoboda Society, of which Celje was also a part, gradually transformed into todays Union of the Cultural Societies of Slovenia.
The phrase “Culture to the people!” was used as a motto on the official letters and publications of the society during the times of socialism.