Slovenia’s history is the country’s history from the Middle Ages to 1992. The area that is today Slovenia was in the Middle Ages subject to the Frankish Empire, then the German-Roman Empire. From the 13th century, the influence of the Habsburgs grew in parts of present-day Slovenia, and around 1500 all of Slovenia was subject to the Habsburg House and the Austrian Empire (from 1867 the double-monarchy of Austria-Hungary).
The Slovenian national movement grew in the 19th century, along with the idea of a separate South Slavic (Yugoslav) empire. In 1918, Slovenia became part of the new state of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, from 1929 called Yugoslavia, December 1, 1918. During World War II, Yugoslavia was occupied by the Axis powers, and Slovenia was divided between Germany, Italy and Hungary. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Slovenia. After the war, Yugoslavia became a socialist republic. When it was dissolved in 1990-1992, Slovenia became an independent state.
Slovenia was originally populated by Celtic- Illyrian tribes. Slavic tribes immigrated from the 500-700s to the area of the eastern foothills of the Alps. Slovenians means “slaves” and were the Slavic tribe that settled farthest to the west, where the Slavs met Germanic and Romanian peoples.
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The Middle Ages
Karantania (now Carinthia) was a Slavic principality in the 600-700s, but then became subject to Bavaria. From about 800, the area was part of the Kingdom of Charlemagne and belonged since the Frankish Empire, from the 9th century to the German-Roman Empire. The Slovenes were Christianized from the west in the period 750–900 and thus early belonged to the Western (Latin) cultural sphere, as part of the German and Roman Catholic world.
Unlike other South Slavic people, the Slovenes did not form their own state in the Middle Ages. In Quarantine, however, a Slovenian nobility played a major role even though the prince was Bavarian. The prince took oaths in Slovenian by a special “princess”. Consequently, Quarantine has acquired an almost mythical significance in Slovenian history.
From the 1100s, the Slovenian territories were federalized. The Feudal lords were German, and the unfaithful peasants Slovenes. Written language was German and Latin, by the coast also Italian. The cities were dominated by German speakers, while Slovenian was only used as a spoken language in the countryside. Slovene’s German neighbors used from old the term windisch about Slovenian, of the old term turns to slaves.
From the 13th century the influence of the Habsburgs grew in Krain, Styria and Carinthia, and later the Trieste area. The counties of Celje, which had been powerful, lost their power, and by 1500 all the Slovenian-speaking territories were gathered under the Habsburg House and the Austrian Empire.
The Reformation at the beginning of the 16th century led to the creation of a Slovenian written language. The upper class switched to Protestantism, and schools were opened to the public. However, cultural prosperity ceased with the Counter-Reformation in the early 1600s. Germanization was strong and Slovenian was in danger of extinction.
In the second half of the 18th century, the German-Roman empress and Austrian duchess Maria Theresia’s reforms and the ideas of national romance brought new cultural awakening. Slovenian was introduced as a school language in the first grades. Marko Pohlin (1738-1801) published a grammar, a Slovenian newspaper began to come out and the history of the Slovenes was written. When large parts of the Slovenian area were incorporated into Napoleon’s ” Illyrian provinces ” in the period 1809-1813, the administration was modernized and Slovenian introduced as school and administration language.
Although the Austrians pursued a much stricter nationality policy after 1815, with German as the school and administration language, interest in Slovenian was aroused. The Austrians allowed some cultural activity among the Slovenes, which the Austrians regarded as harmless, unlike the Czechs. Many Slovenians were affected by the Croatian “Illyrian” movement, which could have weakened the Slovenian national community. But, among other things, the poetry of France Prešer helped to strengthen a Slovenian cultural identity. In 1844, the Prešeren wrote the poem “A bowl” which was banned by the censorship, which in 1991 became Slovenia’s national anthem.
During the revolution year 1848, the Slovenian national movement gained a new boost. In a manifesto to the emperor, the Slovenes demanded that Slovenian should become a school and administration language and that the Slovenian territories should be united and gain internal autonomy. The year of the revolution gave the Slovenes an important national symbol, the Slovenian flag, revolutionary red, white and blue as the tricolor.
But the Austrians extinguished the glow of the revolution year. The year 1849 was characterized by centralization and increased Germanization, but from 1861 it was again opened to a certain cultural activity.
By the division of the Austrian monarchy in 1867 into the double-monarchy of Austria-Hungary, most of the Slovenian territories came into the Austrian part. But the Venice area was surrendered to Italy, and Prekmurje came under Hungary. Centralization became stronger. The Slovenians organized large mass meetings, tabori, where they demanded the gathering of the Slovenian territories and the right to use their language.
Towards the end of the century, the Austrians agreed to introduce Slovenian as an administrative language in Krain, next to German. Eventually the Slovenes joined public administration, and they did better than many others within the Habsburg Empire. Economic developments were also strengthened. In the 1890s, political parties, a Catholic, a liberal and a social democrat, emerged. The Slovenes participated in the general political development within Austria.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia 1918-1941
In the years around 1900, the South Slavic (Yugoslav) idea gained support among the Slovenes, and the anti-Habsburg attitude was sharpened. The clerical party (from 1905 the Slovenian People’s Party) was at first habsburg-friendly and skeptical of a collaboration with the Orthodox Serbs, but eventually the leading politician Anton Korošec (1872-1940) found that the solution for the Slovenes had to be in close cooperation with the Serbs and Croats in a common state.
During World War I, Korošec became leader of the South Slavic National Council, which together with the Yugoslav Committee laid the foundation for the creation of the new state of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, from 1929 called Yugoslavia, December 1, 1918.
The most important issue for the Slovenians after the war was the border demarcation against Italy and Austria. Following direct negotiations between Italy and Yugoslavia, Italy under the Rapallo Treaty in 1920 acquired the whole of Istra and most of the Province of Venice Giulia. The Slovenian minority in Italy received no guarantees and, under Benito Mussolini, was subjected to strong assimilation pressure.
In Austria, the situation was tense. Following the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, the Yugoslavs sent troops into Carinthia, where there was a large Slovenian population. The military action aroused opposition among both Austrians and Austrian-friendly Slovenes. By a referendum in 1920, a majority in the area chose to stay in Austria. The great powers forced Yugoslavia to accept the result, and the state border was drawn along the Karavanken mountain range. The referendum laid the ground for lasting contradictions. A strong Germanization began, and Slovenian nationalists worked for Carinthia (Slovenian Koroška) to be incorporated into Yugoslavia.
The political life of the new state was far from easy. While the Slovenes and Croats wanted a federal structure, the Serbs would have a centralist political order. The Serbs’ line broke through, and Croats and Slovenes reacted in part to a boycott of political life. The 1920s were marked by chaos and political terror, and national tensions continued throughout the interwar period. Nevertheless, economically and culturally it was a good period for Slovenia, with the establishment of a number of cultural institutions, including the University of Ljubljana, and rapid industrialization. Slovenia became the most economically developed part of Yugoslavia.
Occupation of the Axis Powers 1941-1945
When Yugoslavia was occupied by the Axis forces in April 1941, during World War II, Slovenia was divided between Germany, Italy and Hungary. Ljubljana was located in the Italian part. Strong Germanization was carried out in the German-shocked part, while the Slovenians in the Italian-hunted areas had a somewhat easier time. Parts of Slovenian political life entered into cooperation with the Italians, but the communist-led resistance also became strong. This led to a deep divide in Slovenian society.
Socialist Yugoslavia 1945–1990
Josip Broz Tito’s takeover of power in Yugoslavia in 1945 initially led to a stubborn implementation of the Communist policies in Slovenia as elsewhere in Yugoslavia. About 10,000 people were liquidated, accused of national fraud and anti-communism.
Just as after World War I, Slovenia was concerned with border issues. By the 1947 peace treaty, Yugoslavia gained control of a large territory that had belonged to Italy during the interwar period. The Istra Peninsula was divided between Slovenia and Croatia, while the Trieste area was divided into two zones, the city itself (zone A) under Allied, later Italian control, and Zone B in the south under Yugoslav control. Slovenia gained access to the Adriatic Sea and two important port cities, Piran and Koper.
Tito’s breach of Stalin and the Soviet Union in 1948 led to a more liberal development. The Slovenian Edvard Kardelj was behind the Yugoslav Communist Party’s nationality policy, the Yugoslav economic system, workers’ self-government, and a policy of widespread decentralization in the 1970s. Slovenia did well financially. A large part of Yugoslavian exports went through Slovenia, living standards rose more than in other parts of Yugoslavia, and decentralization worked to Slovenia’s advantage.
After Tito’s death in 1980, Yugoslavia entered into an economic crisis that led to competition between the sub-republics and sharpened nationalism. Slovenian politicians continued to play with Belgrade, a game the Slovenians mastered from the interwar period, which allowed them to run their own internal economy and politics. In many ways, Slovenia developed in a more liberal direction than the rest of the country, unnoticed in the rest of Yugoslavia.
In the 1980s, this harmonious image was gradually changed. The Slovenes saw central Yugoslav policy as a threat to their uniqueness, so when attempts were made to introduce a common curriculum in the school, with predominantly non-Slovenian writers on the curriculum, the Slovenes began to protest. But it was in particular the rise of militant Serbian nationalism from the mid-1980s, and Slobodan Milošević’s politics as a Serbian Communist leader and president from 1987, that dissolved the country.
In Slovenia, Milan Kučan became party leader in 1986, and strong forces within the Communist Party advocated democratization. In January 1989, the party opposed the communist monopoly of power and advocated a multi-party system. This triggered violent reactions in Serbia and triggered propaganda wars between the two Yugoslav republics. Slovenia advocated a union where each sub-republic should have the right to decide its internal politics and what relations it should have to the other republics.
In 1989, opposition parties emerged, and the government realized that developments could not be stopped. Parliament decided that Slovenia had the right to self-determination and that no one could impose a state of emergency in the country without Parliament’s approval. The conflict with Serbia became more and more acute, and before the year was over, Serbia broke off all economic relations with Slovenia.
The release 1990–1991
The Slovenian-Serbian conflict initiated the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The breach came when Slovenian representatives marched out of the Yugoslav Communist Party’s 14th extraordinary congress in January 1990. Their desire for a loose, democratic state federation did not reconcile with Slobodan Milošević’s demand for “a strong party in a strong state”.
Democratization in Slovenia took place from above, through a Communist Party that captured the democratic pressure in the population. In April 1990, the first free parliamentary elections took place in Slovenia. Victory Lord became a seven-party non-socialist coalition, DEMOS (Slovenia’s Democratic Opposition), which got 55 percent of the vote, while the former Communist Party, now the Democratic Renewal Party, got just 17 percent. Prime Minister was Lojze Peterle of the Christian Democratic Party, but in the presidential election Milan Kučan won with 58 percent of the vote. This was a recognition of the role that communists, and not least Kučan himself, had played in democratization.
In July, Parliament passed a declaration of sovereignty stating that within a year a new constitution would be adopted to make Slovenia a sovereign state. On December 23, in a referendum in which 93 percent of the eligible Slovenians participated, 88 percent voted for independence. Parliament then decided that Slovenia should leave the federation by mid-1991 if Yugoslavia was not transformed into a loose confederation of states.
When negotiations did not proceed, Slovenia declared its independence on June 25, 1991. This triggered an attack by the Yugoslav army. However, the army leadership was surprised by the resistance of the Slovenes; secretly, effective Slovenian home defense forces had been built up. Yugoslavia gave up the attack after only ten days, which may be partly because Serbia had long claimed it would be better to get rid of Slovenia, to keep the rest within a Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia.
The EC negotiated a ceasefire, and in the Brioni agreement of 7 July 1991, Slovenia and Croatia were required to “suspend” the declarations of independence for three months, against the withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces within the same deadline. While the war in Croatia was now developing, the three-month period in Slovenia went smoothly, and on October 8, 1991, the road was open to full sovereignty.
Slovenia was recognized as a sovereign state on January 15, 1992.