Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Slovenia (Slovenija)

Capital : Ljubljana (Laibach in German)

Size: 7800 sq m Popn: 1 996 000


This country was the most northern republic of Yugoslavia, bordered by Austria to the north. The modern Slovenes are descended from tribes which were already linguistically distinct from Serbs or Croats when they moved into the area around the Sva, Mura and Drava rivers in the late C6th AD, later reaching the Black Sea, Adriatic, Danube and Lake Balaton. The Western Slav alliance which formed the Duchy of Carantaria, based around Karnburgh Castle in Klagenfurt, lasted from 630 to 745 when the Carantarians asked Bavaria for military assistance against the Avars. Another Slovene state, Lower Pannonia, was established by Prince Kocelj in 869 with a capital at Lake Balaton in modern Hungary but he was defeated by the Franks in 874. The Slovenes converted to Christianity in the C8th and came under the control of Frankish feudal lords in the C9th and Hungarian domination from 907-55. There was a large influx of German settlers which drove them into the upland regions.

The Frankish rulers were replaced as holders of the Holy Roman Empire by the Habsburg dynasty and Slovenia was divided into several parts (Carinthia, Carniola and Styria; Gorizia, Istria) and incorporated into the imperial administrative system. In the C16th, the Protestant movement begun by Martin Luther attracted many German and Slovene followers in traditionally Catholic Slovenia but they were defeated by Jesuit ideas and military force and many Germans left the country during the 1590s. The area was subject to Turkish raids but the Slovene provinces were never part of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks were driven out after being defeated at Sisak in 1593 and Vienna in 1693 and Slovenian cultural development began to increase.

Over the next centuries, Slovenia came under both German and Italian influence. In 1747, Habsburg control was strengthened by a provincial government controlled directly from Vienna but in the province of Carniola, which was the most strongly Slovenian, German schools were replaced by Italian ones as a Counter-Reformation measure. Trade with Italy was also encouraged as Slovenia was at a convenient point between Central Europe and the Mediterranean. The population increased to about 700 000 by the middle of the C18th. The belief that the Slovenes were ethnically German was encouraged until a Slovene, Tomas Linhart, rejected this in the C18th. Slovenian was allowed in schools but usually only for teaching German which remained the main language of education.

Istria was largely under Venetian control until Napoleonic times, when French control was imposed in 1806. Carinthia and Carniola came under French control in 1809 but the Illyrian province with Ljubljana as the capital ended with Napoleon's defeat in Russia in 1812 and Slovenia returned to Habsburg control in 1813. In the other South Slav areas, the idea of a unified Yugoslavia gathered strength during the C19th but gained few supporters in Slovenia, partly because the proposed Serbo-Croat language was so different form their own. At this stage, Slovenia was divided between six Austrian provinces, most of which had German or Italian majorities, so support for Illyrian unity strengthened after the idea of giving up the Slovenian language was abandoned.

A Slovene group proposed the Maribor Programme which suggested that a single Slovenian province (Zedinjena Slovenija or Unified Slovenia) should be formed within the Habsburg monarchy and the idea of a larger South Slav province attracted support. In 1870, over one hundred Slovenian, Serbian and Croatian representatives met in Ljubljana to decide what to do but this had little effect as they had no political power and after the elections of 1873, Slovene politics were concerned more with internal affairs. Few Slovenes considered the South Slav state a possibility until after the Serbian victories in the Balkan Wars of 1912-3.

The country was still largely rural and from 1901-10, 5% of the population emigrated but the port of Trieste (which had been a free city until 1891) had the largest urban population in the future Yugoslavia. By 1912, Viennese investment and Trieste's economic strength helped Slovenia to produce four times as much industrial output per capita as Serbia. Trieste's Slovene majority had a clear sense of ethnic identity and this helped the rise of the Catholic National Party (later the Slovenian People's Party) in Carniola. It proposed giving up the Slovenian language and adopting Croatian if the Dual Monarchy would accept a third, South Slav part of the monarchy but the urban minority parties refused to consider this. The novelist Ivan Kankar, a Slovenian member of the Yugoslav Social Democratic Party, pressed for union with 'our cousins in language and our brothers in blood'.

Italian claims upon Gorizia, Istria and the central Adriatic coast also provided an incentive to South Slav unity and during the First World War, the Slovene People's Party under Anton Korosec voted to support a South Slav entity under Habsburg monarchy and sent representatives to the Yugoslav Committee in 1918. Representatives of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia met in Belgrade after the First World War and proclaimed the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes under the Serbian ruler, Alexander Karadjordjevic. This became part of Yugoslavia in 1928.

During the Second World War, Slovenia came under German, Italian and Hungarian occupation. The communists organized resistance in the Italian occupied area helped to begin the revolution and civil war. The monarchy was deposed and the second Yugoslavia was founded after further Balkan conflict in 1945-6 as the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito, a Croatian. There were six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro, and two autonomous regions, Kosovo and Vojvodina. Slovenia was the most economically advanced and politically liberal republic and helped to subsidize the poorer areas.

The Communist state, against expectation, outlasted the death of Tito in 1980. Slovenia still had the highest standard of living of the Yugoslav republics but economic growth was declining by the 1980s. Belgrade's call for closer integration with the other republics did not seem to be as good a way of improving the situation as improving connections with the surrounding countries of Hungary, Austria and Italy. It was the economic issue which turned Slovenia away from the old leadership with the ruling Slovene League of Communists acquiring a new head, Milan Kucan, a former youth leader, in 1986. It pressed for greater autonomy within the federation which would allow the republic to pursue economic liberalization and political pluralism. Opposition parties were legalized and in 1989, the May Declaration by five new political parties demanded a sovereign Slovene state which was established after the free, multiparty elections of April 1990. The communists, renamed the Party of Democratic Reform, had adopted a social democratic programme but lost convincingly to the six-party Democratic Opposition of Slovenia, a nationalist, centre-right coalition campaigning for independence. The PDR's reformist leader became state president and renounced his party membership after taking office. The new government promoted the formation of a new, looser Yugoslav federation but Serbia rejected this.

In December 1990, over 80% of Slovenes voted for independence and it was proclaimed on June 25th 1991. The Yugoslav army attacked the day after, but Slovenia, being more ethnically homogenous than the other republics, was able to unite to defeat it, forming an independent army, the Slovenian Territorial Defence Force. Over a hundred people were killed in clashes around the newly established Slovene border posts. The EC brokered a cease-fire based on a three-month suspension of Slovenia's independence declaration and the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from the republic. This was successfully implemented as the Serb-dominated army had transferred its attention to Croatia, which had a much larger Serb minority. A new constitution was passed in December 1991 with official recognition by the United Nations in January 1992 and the Republic of Slovenia joining the United Nations in May 1992. A vote of no confidence in the government led to Janos Drnovsek being appointed prime minister designate. He formed a new Executive Council and the first elections in independent Slovenia took place in December 1992. Slovenia was admitted to the UN in May 1992 and became a founding member of the World Trade Organisation in December 1994.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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