Slovenian History

Figure 1.--Along the walls of the lobby of the Great Hall in Lubjiana is a 67 meter long long fresco painted by Slavko Pengov during the Communist era (1958-59), depicting the history of the Slovene nation from the era of the post-Roman migration of nations to the period following World War II. The detail here apparently related to the period at the end of World War I and the formation of Yugoslavia.

Slovenia is today an independent country and part of the European Union. This is a very recent development. Except for a brief period after the fall of Rome, Slovenia has been a part of one of several large empires. Although a Slavic peoplke, the Slovenes have beem strongly associated with Germany, various German empires--especially the Austrian Empire, since the fall of ome. After the disollutionof the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovenia was incorporated in the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia, or land of the southern Slavs. Slovenia was the pne Yugoslav republic able to separate from Serb dominated Yugoslavia without a bloody war.

The Celts

The Celts occupied the area of modern Slovenia, the southeastern extent of Celtic lands (4th century BC). The territory north of ancient Greece and Macedonia was dominated by Celtic tribes. They formed the first state in the area--Noricum. The names of many present places (Bohinj, Tuhinj) are Celtic and date from this period. The same is true of the rivers (Sava, Savinja, and Drava). One answer unknown to history is to what extent The Celts replaced the original Brinze Age population and to what extnt they were rplaced or assimilated by the Romans and then Slavs. Here DNA studies are not yet dfinative. Some DNA studies show a very substantial presence of Haplotyoes associted with the original Bronze age people and the Celts. The only problem with this is that these hapoltypes are nor exclusive to either the oruginal Bronze Age people or the Celts and even are found with some Slavs. We believe that the best interpretation of DNA evidence is that existing populatins were conquered and assimilated. meaning that genetically but less so culturally they have left their trace. What little we know of the ancient Celts comes from the Greek and Roman authors of abtiquity which had to face Celtic raiding parties. The Celts had no written language of their own. Brennus, a chieftain of the Senones (a Celtic tribe) defeated the Romans at the Battle of the Allia (390 BC) and sacked Rome, the only foreign army to do so until the Fall of Rome (5th century AD). The Greeks never defeated the Celts. The Romans finally did. The Roman Legions defeated the Celts and annexed Noricum (10 BC).

The Roman Empire

Rome conqured the area of modern Slovenia (about 10 BC). The first important towns were along the Adriatic coast. Roman control gradually extended along with the construcion of roads into the interior. Roads were built into the Balkans. Then roads toward the Pannonian lowland became important. Poetovia (Ptuj) on one of these roads was the mpst important city. Other cities included Emona (Ljubljana) and Celeia (Celje). During the Roman era well-constructed trade and military roads crossed Slovenian territory from the Italian penonsula to Pannonia. The Celtic population became Romanised. Christianity reached Slovenia during the Roman era. Aquileia in Italy, at the head of the Adriatic was an important early Christian center which played an important role in the Chrustinization of the region. Christians competed with both Mithraism and Arianism. The Christianity was well established in the area that it influenced the Slavic tribes which after the collapse of Rome settled in the area (after 568 AD).

Barbarian Invasions

With the decline of Rome, Barbarian invaders swept over Slovenia. Both the Huns and Germanic tribes invaded the area. The Germans would dominate the area to the north, but it would be the Slavs that would dominate the area of modrn Slovenia and much of the Balkans.

The Slavs

Modern Slovenes are are primarily descended from Slavic tribes (6th century AD). The first wave of Slavic tribes which settles in Slovenia came from the north. Slavic tribes from the West eventually also entered the area. They spread over a large area and only latter settled down for permanent aagriculure. The Slavic tribes reached intonmodddern Austria. The Slavs on encountering more modern people soon developed nationalistic sentiments that never existed before. Slovenes were closely asociated with the Croatians. The early settlers spoke a common language, but over time after settlement began significant languages developed.

Duchy of Carantania (7th century AD)

The first Slovenia state was the Slavic Duchy of Carantania (7th century AD). The Duchy is notable as the first organized Slavic state. The cradle of Slovenian nationhood is Carinthia near the Karavanken Mountains. Here a Slavic nucleus influenced by existing Germanic and other groups coalessed into the bginning of a Slovenian identity. The first Slovenian duke appeared (623). The enthronement of Slovenian dukes was celebrated in the Slovene language for centuries. The enthrinmnt of the Hapsburg Ernest the “Iron” was the last ceremony in Slovene (1414). A class of freemen known as 'kosezi', a type of lower noblity, developed.

Frankish Empire (745)

The Slovenin dukes were threated from the Avars and formd an alliance with the Bavarians who were associated with the powerful Franks (around 743). This began a relationship with the Germans that would last a milennium. The Frankish Empire established control over the Duchy of Carantania (745). The Slovenes and other Slavs converted to Chritianity and love their independence within the German dominated empire. With the support of the help of the Catholic Salzburg diocese, some German dioceses (Freising), and Aquileia, a new church organization began to be established in the dukedom. St. Ciril and St. Methodius in lower Pannonia began thetheir work in Slovenia (863). They completed the Christianization of the Slovenes.

Hungarian Invasion

Under Emperor Arnulf of Carinthia, Carantania ruled by a mixed Bavarian-Slav nobility, emerged as a regional power. The Hungarians invaded long the Roman road network and extinguished the early national development (late 9th century). Carantania-Carinthia was reestablished again as an autonomous administrative unit (976). Emperor Otto I, deposed the Duke of Bavaria, Henry II, and split the lands held by him and made Carinthia the sixth duchy of the Holy Roman Empire. Carantania did not, however, develop into an independent realm.

Medieval History

The medieval history of Slovenia is closely tied with he German cultural world. With the breakup of the Frankish Empire, the story gets complicated. There was a Slovene principality under Kocelj (861-874). Slovenia became part of the Bavarian Kingdom (952) and then Carinthia (976-1002). The earliest known writings in the Slovene and Slavic dialect in Latin script is the Freising (Bri˛inski) manuscripts (about 1000). This was a book with Slovenian religious texts now in the Munich Archives. Christian missionary activity needed a written language. This helped to create a written language. This enabled the missionaries to penetrate tribal isolation. The area of modern Slovenia was created the Margravite of Carniola as the Markgrafschaft Krain (1002). It was then ruled by the Patriarchate of Aquileia (Friuli) (1077-90). This was followed with rule by Aquileia (Friuli) (1093-1232). Then began a short period of imperial administration (1237-51). The Duchy of Carniola (Herzogtum Krain) (1251). Then another period of rule by Aquileia (Friuli) (1259-69). Austrian rule of the Duchy of Carniola (1270).

Hapsburgs Rule (1270-1918)

The Hapburgs obtain control over the Slovene regions south of Austria, primarily the Duchy of Crinola (1270) family line of the Celje counts die out (1456). This was the last Slovenian feudal dynasty. The Reformation expands literacy in Slovenia and other regions of Europe. The first book was printed in Slovenia (1550). The first Slovene translation of the Bible was published (1584). As in other parts of the Austrian Empire, a desire for national identity was expressed in Slovenia durung the 1848 revolutions. The desire for a united Slovenia emerged as part of the "Spring of Nations" movement.

Napoleonic Wars

Austrian rulke was brirfly interupted by the French Revolution. As with other areas of Europe, Slovenia was affected by the French revolution. French armies ocupied Slovenia or at the time the Duchy of Carniola (May 1809) and France annexed Slovenia (October 1809). The French divided Slovenia into the provinces of Laybach (Laibach), Neustadt (Novo Mesto), and Adelsberg (Postoina) as part of the Illyrian Provinces. The French abolished the provinces and created Intendance Carniole. (April 1811). After the French disater in Rissia, Austrian armies recoccupied Slovenia (August 1813). The Austrians fornmally restore their soverignity over Slovenia (May 1814).

Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918)

The weakness of the Austrian Empire was exposed by the Austro Prussian War (1866). The Austrians concluded that they would need an imperial partner to maintain the empire. Thus a dual monarchy with Austria was established, the Ausro-Hungarian Empire. While the Hungarians were granted significant political rights within the new emperial structure, the Slovenes and many other national groups were not. There was Slovenian representation in the Imperial Diet (Reichsrat) in Vienna. I'm not sure just what that amounted to. The Slovenes populated all or most of the provinces of Carniola, Gorizia and Gradisca, and parts of the provinces of Istria, Carinthia and Styria. I do not have details concerning Austrian policies toward language rights in Slovenia. Apparently the Austrians persued a polict of Germanizing the Slovenes by insisting that the schools be taught in German, We have, however, few details at this time. This was a factor in promoting immigration to America.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-41)

The defeat of the Central Powers in World War I (1914-18) resulted in the break-up of the austro-Hungarian Empire. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was organized around the pre-World war I Serbian monarchy. The country was renamed Yugoslavia or land of the southern Slavs (1929). Slovenia was made part of Dravska Banovina. Yugoslavia became increasingly difficult to govern, primarily because of escalating conflict between the Serbs and Croats. Most of the Slovene population was in Yugoslavia, but there was a Slovenian minority in southern provinces of the new Austrian Republic.

Axis Occupation (1941-45)

NAZI Germany invaded Yugoslavia (April 1941). Slovenia was partionioned between Germany and Italy with a small portion going to Hungary. The Italian sector was annexed by the Italian Kingdom as the province of Lubiana (May 1941-September 1943). The Germans occupied the northern portion of Slovenia along the Austrian border. After a period of military rule was annexed to the Reich, as part of Ostmark (Austrian) provinces of Carinthia and Steiermark. The former Italian sector was seized by the Germans after the Italians signed an Armistace with the Allies (September 1943). It becaceme part of the Adriatic Coastland (Adriatisches Küstenland). Yugoslavia became a killing field during the War because of the ethnic tensions. Slovenia escaped the worst of the attrocities. The SS organized the Domobrans, a home guard with German SS commanders. They committed widespread atrocities. I am not sure about details on the German occupation. As part of the Reich, men were conscripted into the German military. Hitler Youth units were organized for the children. The language of instruction in schools became German. I'm not sure to what extent the use of Slovenian was tolerated in daily life. What I am not sure about is the NAZI racial policies in Slovenia. In Poland a process was set up for Aryanizing some of the Poles. I do not know if that occurred in Slovenia. The Germans appear to initiated a process of deporting Yugoslavs from Slovenia. German authorities convened a meeting in Zagreb (June 4,1941). Councillor Von Troll presided. The purpose was to set up the means of deporting the Yugoslav population from Slovenia. Tens of thousands of persons were deported in carrying out this plan. [Nuremberg enditement] Ethnic Germans in the Italian occupation zone were incouraged to sign up for relocation. They were move to areas in the German occupation zone from which the population was relocated. We know that the relatively small Slovennian population in Austria proper was deported. This eems strange as the NAZIs annexed the occupied area of Slovenia with a much larger Slovenian population into the Reich--namely Ostmark. It seems rather strange to deport a small number and then add a large population. My guess is that the deportment was done by loval Austrians NAZIs and the annexation done by Hitler, but that is just a guess. A German reader offers us some background information indicating how the NAZIs may have viewed Slovenia. One point to bear in mind is that NAZI decessions made during the War were not necessarily final. Had they won the War, they would have had plenty of time to revisit questions such as policies toward the Slovenes and other nationalities.

Slovenia Minority in Austria

The Slovenians as an ethnic minority in Austria, especially Carinthia, have been oppressed and discriminated against, especially since 1848. They have lived in the region for centuries, most of them poor farmers, who retained their own Slovenian language. The Austrian government tried to assimilate them as much as possible by forcing the children to attend schools with German-language instruction. About 100,000 persons in 1880 identified themselves as Slovenians. This had declined to only 50,000 by 40 years in 1920 with formation of the Austrian Republic. At this time, the Slovenia minority in Austria was separated from the majority of Slovenia in the Slovenia province of Yugoslavia. After the Anchluss (1937) the NAZIs escalted actions against the Austrian Slovenes. Within Austria-Hungary the Slovenian issue had been a cukltural and language issue and the desire to Germize the population. The NAZIs introduced the racial issue and the slavic origins of the Slovenes. The remaining Slovenes in Austria were deported by the NAZIs (May 1942). There were initially plans to deport them to the Ukraine, but the German disaster at Stalingrad made that impractical. The Slovenes in Austria were deported to a camp in Bavaria--Camp Hesselberg. I do not understand why the NAZIs deported the Slovenes in Austria, especially because Slovenia itself was later made part of Ostmark. But decessions were often made by different local authorties and agencies and often were not consistent. Condition at camp Hesselberg were terrible. The deportees lived in barracks, but it was not a death camp. Even so large numbers of forced Slovenian forced laborors repoprtedly died in Germany. I'm not sure what the purpose of the internment was, but the adults were repptedly used for forced labor. One reader says. "I don't think they tried to "germanize" them." Of course the NAZI view was more than a cultural view, but included race. Actually race was the most important factor. The Slovenes were Slavs which next to the Jews were the ethnic group targeted by Hitler. A photograph from the Camp shows children that are blond and rather German looking. Some of them had German family names. Our reader reports that one of the most fanatic Austrian Nazis was a certain Odilo Globocnik , a sadist of Slovenian descent. Today in all of Carinthia there are only 12,500 Slovenians in Austria. That means that most of them became German-speaking Austrians, or at least bilingual ones, who kept speaking the old language at home on the farm. The Slovenians suffered a lot, but nowadays they can enjoy their own schools, libraries, sport and music organisations, etc., although many Austrians still look down on them.

Federal Peoples' Republic of Yugoslavia (1945-91)

The NAZIs began withdrawing from Greece and Yugoslavia in 1944. Yugoslavia was liberated by Tito's Communist Partisans. The Slovenes attempted to declare independence (May 1945), but this effort was supressed by the partisans. There were many arrests and executions. Tito's regime supressed all nationalist or ethnic political expression. The Federal Peoples' Republic of Yugoslavia was established (November 29, 1945). Slovenia was one of the constituent republics.

Independent Slovenia (1991- )

With the death of Tito, ethnic tensions began to surface in Yugoslavia. Many nationalists wanted independence and the corrupt policies of the Serb dominated government fueled the case for independence. Slovenia held its firstvdemocratic election since the NAZI invasion (April 1990). This was followed by a referndum (December 1990). Nearly 90 percent of Slovenes voted for indeprendence. The Government declared independence (June 1991). The Yugoslav Government attempted an aborted invasion, but was unable to maintain control. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav Government decided to let Slovenia go, but organized a much more organized effort to retain control of the other republics which resulted in a series of bloody wars marked by terrible attrocities. The European Union (EU) recognised Slovenia's independence (January 1992). Slovenia joined the United Nations (May 1992). Slovenia signed an Association Agreement with the EU (February 1999). Sovenia became a full menber of the EU (May 2004).


Nuremberg Inditement. Nizor Project. Archive/File: imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-03-indictment


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Created: 12:51 AM 10/19/2005
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