The Slovenes are a Slavic people related linguistically to peoples to the
south, but the real matrix
of Slovenia's culture is its Eastern Alpine location. Easily accessible mountain passes (now
superseded by tunnels) have long shaped its character by channeling demographic, economic,
social, political, and intellectual currents from both the Mediterranean and Transalpine regions of
Europe. For most of its history, Slovenia was split among the Holy Roman Empire, Venice,
Austria, and Hungary. During most of the 20th century it was part of Yugoslavia, but, with the
dissolution of that federation, a sovereign, internationally recognized republican government now
manages Slovenia's destiny for the first time in 1,200 years.
Slovenia is mostly elevated. Outside the coastal area, its terrain consists
largely of karstic
plateaus and ridges, magnificently precipitous Alpine peaks, and (between the elevated areas)
valleys, basins, and arable or pastorally useful karstic poljes.
Four main physiographic units may be distinguished. The first is the Alpine
region, which takes
up about two-fifths of Slovenia's surface area. In the northernmost reaches of this region, along
the borders with Italy and Austria, are the High Alps, comprising the Kamnik and Savinja, the
Karavanke (Karawanken), and the Julian chains--the last including Slovenia's highest peak,
Mount Triglav, at 9,396 feet (2,864 metres). In a vale beneath Triglav lie idyllic Lake Bohinj
and, northeastward, Lake Bled. Slightly lower than the High Alps is the Subalpine
"ridge-and-valley" terrain. The main Subalpine range is the Pohorje, located between the Sava
and Drava rivers. The historical name for the central Alpine lands is Gorenjska, or Upper
Carniola--a name that Slovenes still use; in addition, they still refer to the Meza River valley as
Koroska (Carinthia, or Kärnten). On Gorenjska's southern edge is the spacious Ljubljana basin,
which contains the capital as well as the industrial city of Kranj. (see also Index: Julian Alps)
The next largest region (occupying one-fifth of Slovenia's surface) is
which descends from the base of the Alpine-Subalpine region into the valleys of the Sava,
Drava, and Mura rivers. Its basins contain the cities of Maribor (on the Drava) and Celje (on the
Savinja, a tributary of the Sava). Subpannonia corresponds to the lower part of the old Austrian
duchy of Styria; Slovenes persist in calling their portion Stajerska and share some traits with their
Austrian neighbours. Beyond a saddle of hills known as the Slovenske Gorice or the Slovene
Humpback is Prekmurje, a region drained by the Mura River that was ruled by Hungary until
1918. The main town here is Murska Sobota.
In the southwestern part of the country, the Karst, a spur of the lengthy
Dinaric Alps, is the third
major region. Although it takes up one-quarter of the surface, it houses but a minute fraction of
Slovenia's population, which clusters between the wooded limestone ridges in dry and blind
valleys, hollows, and poljes. Caves and underground rivers are features of karst topography.
Water is scarce: the northeastern segment is called the Suha Krajina, or "Dry Countryside," and
to the southeast lies the Bela Krajina, or "White Countryside," a transitional belt pointing toward
Subpannonia. Most of the region is known to Slovenes by its historic names, Dolenjska (Lower
Carniola) and Notranjska (Inner Carniola). The word karst comes from the Kras Plateau above
Trieste; scientific study of this type of terrain is a Slovene specialty, research having begun during
the 18th century in Habsburg Carniola.
The fourth principal region (occupying barely one-twelfth of Slovenia's
surface) is the Slovene
Littoral, or Submediterranean Slovenia. Overlapping the ancient region of Primorje (known to
Slovenes as Primorska, "Territory Near the Sea"), it is made up of Slovenia's portion of the
Istrian Peninsula and is the natural hinterland of Trieste. The 29-mile (47-kilometre) strip of
coast, with its lovely, Venetian-flavoured towns and beaches, is Slovenia's riviera. The city of
Koper (just south of Trieste and known to Italians as Capodistria) is Slovenia's sole major port.
Most of Slovenia's intricate fluvial network is directed toward the Danube
River. The Sava,
originating in the Julian Alps, flows past Ljubljana toward Croatia; its narrow valley serves as a
road and rail conduit to Zagreb and eventually Belgrade, in Serbia. The Drava enters Slovenia
from Austrian Carinthia and the Mura from Styria; they meet in Croatia and, like the Sava,
ultimately reach the Danube. In the west, the Soca originates beneath Mount Triglav and, after a
precipitous course, reaches the Gulf of Venice on Italian territory, where it is known as the
Isonzo. (see also Index: Sava River, Drava River)
The relatively steep gradients of Slovenia's topography create fast runoff,
which in turn assures
most of Slovenia copious water and hydroelectric resources. On the other hand, it also washes
away valuable soil nutrients. Pollution remains a problem.
Slovenia's complex geology has created a pedological mosaic. The small,
cover is acidic and viscid. Permeable, thin brown podzols--cambisols and fluvisols--are
productive if fertilized, but they cover a mere 10 percent of the surface, chiefly to the northeast.
The carbonate bedrock underlying much of the country produces thin lithosols suited to forest
growth. There are many good alluvial soils (particularly in Subpannonia) as well as bog varieties.
Karstic sinkholes and poljes are famous for terra rossa, a red soil produced by the degradation
of the underlying limestone.
As stated above, eluviation is intense everywhere. Overall, the prerequisites
for agriculture (apart
from livestock raising) are poor--although Slovenia's stubborn farmers seem to effect miracles.
Slovenia may be divided into three climatic zones. Conditions in Istria
and near Trieste indicate
a transition from the Mediterranean climate of the Dalmatian coast to a moderate continental
climate. In this zone the highest monthly precipitation (up to 15 inches, or 380 millimetres) and
highest temperatures (often rising above 80° F, or 27° C) occur in June and July. Winter
temperatures rarely drop below 50° F (10° C), but the mild winters are sometimes interrupted
by the awful bora, a cold northerly wind.
Central and northern Slovenia have a continental, "cool summer" climate,
while the eastern third
of the country (mainly Subpannonia) also falls into the continental category but has warm
summers and a growing season almost as long as Istria's. Monthly summer rainfall in the cool
belt is more than three inches, and high temperatures average 68° F (20° C)--although there are
uncomfortable hot spells. The warm summer zone receives more than four inches of rainfall
monthly from April to September, although the east and northeast have much less overall
precipitation, and midsummer highs reach well past 70° F (21° C). From November to
February, temperature readings below freezing are common in both zones, above all in the cool
Plant and animal life.
Slovenia's flora reflects the country's physiographic diversity, especially
its varying elevations.
At the highest elevations below the tree line, Alpine conifers such as junipers alternate with high
meadowland. Lower down is a central belt of coniferous and deciduous trees (birch and beech)
mixed with pasturage and arable lands, and still lower comes deciduous growth including karstic
heath and maquis (good for rough grazing). At sea level along the littoral is a typically
Mediterranean cover of brushwood, including maquis. Fruit and vegetable areas are scattered
about the country, and forests cover about half of the terrain.
Several animal species have been given protected status. Along with others
of direct economic
importance, they include the reintroduced (though still rare) ibex, the European brown bear, the
chamois, the wild boar, and red, fallow, and roe deer as well as standard varieties of small
game. The lynx has reappeared. The Subpannonian habitat suits migratory fowl and upland
birds, and the trout and grayling of the Soca are renowned among sport anglers. Adriatic waters,
like the Mediterranean in general, are not an especially favourable environment for fish.
With some 6,000 localities, Slovenia's population is overdispersed. Three-quarters
nation's population centres are hamlets with fewer than 200 residents, and only half of all
Slovenes can be categorized as city dwellers. Commuting from suburbs and farm homes to
urban jobs is common.
With its incorporation into Yugoslavia after World War I, Slovenia entered
a period of
agricultural decline and quickening industrialization that induced people to settle at lower
elevations or simply to emigrate--a process that accelerated after World War II. In cities and
larger towns, physical evidence of this shift can be seen in the ubiquity of high-rise housing and
shopping centres. A modernized economy has also benefited the service infrastructure and
standard of living in rustic localities, despite only modest changes in the traditional smallholding
pattern of landownership in favour of cooperatives and state farms.
More than 90 percent of Slovenia's people are ethnically Slovene. German
formed the elite during the Habsburg era, vanished entirely after World War II. The 1954
agreement over Trieste has left a few thousand Italian speakers in Istria, and Prekmurje has a
small Hungarian minority. (These autochthonous Italians and Magyars enjoy legally guaranteed
rights, including parliamentary representation.) (see also Index: Trieste agreement)
The disintegration of Yugoslavia has brought numerous immigrants from other
republics; there are also a few Albanians and Gypsies. Integration of these people, who come
from cultures with differing value systems, attitudes, and political traditions, poses a difficult
problem. Despite linguistic kinship with people from the Balkan Peninsula, the Slovenes are
culturally an Alpine folk who have more in common with northern Italians, southern Germans,
and the Swiss.
Slovene is a South Slavic language, along with Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian,
and Bulgarian, but
it also has affinities to West Slavic Czech and Slovak. Eastern Slovene dialects blend with
Kajkavian forms of Serbo-Croatian, but literary Slovene is remote from its Serbo-Croatian
counterparts. Loan words from German, Italian, Friulian, and Hungarian speech can be heard. In
addition, there are marked differences among the 47 dialects and standard Slovene, which is
derived from two Carniolan speech variants.
Slovenes are largely Roman Catholic. The authority of a once-powerful church
broken by the flight of ultraconservative Catholics (including many clerics) in 1945, and religious
practice was further vitiated by the acceleration of industrialization and consumerism under the
communist Yugoslav regime. Immigration of Muslims and Orthodox Christians from the Balkans
has modified this essentially homogeneous picture.
Along with the rest of the industrial West, Slovenia has undergone an intense
from rural to nonagrarian society. Numerical growth, however, has not been as great as
elsewhere in Europe owing to emigration and, until the 1970s, the absence of immigration. The
annual population growth rate is 0.4 percent, the birth rate 10.8 per 1,000, and life expectancy
68.8 years for men and 76.7 for women.
Drawing upon a long tradition of crafts, the modernization and diversification
of the Slovene
economy began in the late Habsburg era. Owing in part to this head start, Slovenia made great
progress (at least by communist standards) under Yugoslavia's market-oriented,
"self-management" form of socialism. With only 8 percent of Yugoslavia's population, Slovenes
produced 20 percent of its wealth and 30 percent of its exports. By the 1980s, however, the
system had succumbed to debt and stagnation, and resentment over the Belgrade government's
policy of distributing subsidies from the more prosperous northern republics to the backward
and often corrupt southern republics was probably the catalyst of Slovene independence.
Yugoslavia's breakup deprived Slovenia of a secure market and caused economic
as Slovene enterprises were forced to compete for business in a broader market at a time of
worldwide recession. Intrinsic weaknesses of "socially owned" enterprises were exposed,
including featherbedding, limited professional skills, poor competitiveness, undercapitalization,
outmoded production methods, and resistance to innovation. Positive features included the
modern infrastructure and Slovenia's traditionally strong social discipline. Development strategy
calls for specialization, differentiation, internationalization, and investment in human
resources--processes that go hand in hand with privatization and encouragement of foreign
Since it produces only 84 percent of its food requirements, Slovenia is
however, progress in the agrarian sector has been immense. Archaic Slovene farming methods
began to change in the late 1700s with the introduction of modern crop rotation and new plants
such as potatoes, corn (maize), beans, and alfalfa, putting an end to the previous cycle of
famines. By the mid-20th century, dairy and meat products dominated agriculture, cereals having
been largely abandoned. Under communism, private plots were limited to 25 acres (10
hectares), and expropriated lands were turned over to collective and state farms. The 250
"social" enterprises were linked to food processing. They proved efficient, especially in raising
poultry and cattle, but operated at high cost. Privatization commenced in 1992.
Field crops make up slightly more than 40 percent of agricultural production,
livestock almost 55
percent, and fruits and wine about 5 percent. Feed-based agriculture prevails in the
Alpine-Subalpine region and the Karst. Subpannonia specializes in cereals and cattle, while root
crops characterize Dolenjska, Gorenjska, the Sava-Mura floodplains, and Istria. Istria has olives
and wine grapes as well, and fine wines are also made in other warmer areas--for example,
along the border with Styria. Sheep and horse breeding--with the exception of a stud farm in
Lipica, the original home of Vienna's celebrated Lipizzaner horses--have declined greatly.
Timber remains crucial to Slovene industry, but, owing to excessive felling
in Slovene forests,
wood must be imported. Forests have also been damaged by factory and motor vehicle
Slovenia's modern industrial history began in the 19th century with the
injection of capital from
abroad. By 1910 every 10th Slovene worked in industry. The post-1918 Yugoslav market
especially benefited textiles, coal, iron and other metals, and wood. Small industries evolved
because of good transportation, electrification, and a skilled, highly motivated labour force, so
that by 1939 the number of industrial employees had doubled. Under communism, industry was
virtually force-fed. Metals and engines received top priority, textiles came second, and electrical
machinery, a new branch, followed. Because production was oriented toward Yugoslavia's
needs, not all Slovene industry could compete in developed markets. Also, under the socialist
watchwords of symmetry and polycentrism, almost every major locality received at least one or
two factories, yet only a handful of these employed more than 5,000 persons.
Nevertheless, Slovenia has a well-balanced manufacturing base. Metal products,
paper, leather and shoes, sporting goods, and textiles are distributed worldwide. New industries
include electronics, appliances, chemicals, drugs, vehicles, and transportation requisites. Paper,
colour lithography, and printing deserve special mention.
Slovenia's power-generating infrastructure includes four thermoelectric
and 12 hydroelectric
plants. Close to the Croatian border at Krsko is a 664-megawatt nuclear facility. Coal reserves
are meagre and of declining quality, so that natural gas (imported from Russia and Algeria) and
oil are growing in relative importance.
Some three million annual visitors--many of whom simply used to cross Slovenia
on their way
to the Dalmatian coast--now take advantage of recreational opportunities such as skiing, hiking,
boating, fishing, and hunting, which are offered by Slovenia's diverse topography and splendid
scenery. The Triglav area has been made a national park. Spas such as Rogaska Slatina
preserve an elegant Neoclassical aura from Habsburg times. Tourists are mainly Germanophone
and British; their spending is an important source of hard currency.
Finance and trade.
Major financial institutions include the Ljubljana Stock Exchange and the
Bank of Slovenia. A
rebaptized Slovene monetary unit, the tolar (German: Thaler), has superseded the Yugoslav
With the loss of the Yugoslav market, Slovenia's trade goal is integration
with its new main
partner, the European Community, to which Slovenia exports about 70 percent of its goods
and from which it receives about 60 percent of its imports. The European Free Trade Area
accounts for about 10 percent of exports and 15 percent of imports. Also vital are commercial
and other ties within the Alpine-Adriatic Working Community (Italy, Austria, Croatia, Hungary,
and Germany). Most of the rest of Slovenia's export-import market is in the former Yugoslav
republics, principally Croatia.
Slovenia's Eastern Alpine location and easily accessible transit routes
have been crucial since
ancient days. Vestiges of the Roman road and settlement network are still visible. During the
1840s the Viennese government built the monumental Southern Railroad, which passed through
Slovenia on its way from Vienna to Trieste. Austria-Hungary also constructed lateral lines that
still link Slovenia to Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and southeastern Germany.
Four highway-rail corridors cross Slovenia: London-Istanbul-Tehran,
Amsterdam-Hamburg-Zagreb, Lyon-Milan-Trieste-Ljubljana (with a branch going to the
Croatian port of Rijeka), and the north-south Trans-European Motorway running from the Baltic
States in the north to the Mediterranean countries in the south. Tunnel-studded expressways
(Slovene: avtocesta) are the nexus of road travel to Italy and Austria, while other, mainly
secondary, routes lead into Croatia. Despite efforts to improve its highways, Slovenia suffers
traffic congestion, particularly near Ljubljana and Maribor. These two cities also have small
Administration and social conditions.
The highest state authority is the president, who nominates the executive,
passed by the assembly, and sets election dates. The president also commands the armed forces
and declares national emergencies. Popularly elected, he sits for five years and may serve a
The legislative assembly has 90 directly elected delegates (including two
representing Italian and
Hungarian speakers). It is advised by a 40-member indirectly chosen, nonpartisan state council
that represents economic and local interests. The executive consists of a prime minister and
cabinet ministers. The cabinet must enjoy the support of an assembly majority.
An autonomous judiciary caps the system of power separation. Local government,
subordinate, has become autonomous.
Primary schooling is compulsory and lasts eight years from age 7 to 14.
Secondary schools are
either vocational or academic. The University of Ljubljana, founded in 1595 and reopened in
1919, has divisions including the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities and arts,
education, law, medicine, and engineering. The University of Maribor, founded in 1975, is
The Slovene government finances many research institutes, especially in
the natural sciences and
technology. A Slovene scholarly tradition reaches directly back to the 17th-century Carniolan
polymath Johann Weichard, Baron von Valvasor. The premier centre of learning is the Slovenian
Academy of Sciences and Arts, established in 1938.
Austrian Empress Maria Theresa's educational reforms of the 18th century
produced a reading
public for the eloquent Romantic poet France Preseren, Slovene literature's pater patriae.
Novels followed in the late 1800s. The luminaries of the Modern school, the novelist Ivan
Cankar and the poet Oton Zupancic, were the first of a long list of politically influential writers.
Among interwar figures were the harshly realistic novelist Prezihov Voranc and the avant-gardist
Srecko Kosovel. Poet Edvard Kocbek stood out during and after World War II; an antifascist,
he suffered at the hands of ex-comrades. Postwar literary celebrities include Ciril Zlobec, Niko
Grafenauer, and Drago Jancar.
Music and the visual arts also have a rich heritage. Slovenes are especially
proud of the
Renaissance composer Jakob Petelin Gallus-Carniolus, known in the German-speaking world as
Jacob Handl. Theater and the media are remarkably creative. An important, internationally
active cultural group is the century-old Slovene Mother Bee (Slovenska Matica).
The Slovene lands to 1918.
The Alpine Slavs.
During the 6th century AD, ancestors of the Slovenes, now referred to by
historians as Alpine
Slavs or proto-Slovenes, pushed up the Sava, Drava, and Mura river valleys into the Eastern
Alps and the Karst. There they absorbed the existing Romano-Celtic-Illyrian cultures. At that
time the Slavs owed allegiance to the Avar khans. After the defeat of the Avars by the Byzantine
emperor Heraclius, a Slavic kingdom emerged under Samo (reigned 623-658) that extended
from the Sava valley northward as far as Leipzig. It came under Frankish rule in 748. Over the
next two centuries, Alpine Slavs living in present-day Austria and western Hungary were
absorbed by waves of Bavarian and Magyar invaders, so that the Slovene linguistic boundaries
contracted southward. Nevertheless, a Slovene tribal duchy, centred in Austria's Klagenfurt
basin, managed to survive for some 200 years. Though it is still imperfectly understood, ancient
Carantania (or Carinthia) serves as a symbol of nationhood for contemporary Slovenes. (see
also Index: Slovenia)
The Middle Ages.
In the 10th century, after the partitioning of the Frankish empire, the
lands in which Slovene
speakers lived were assigned to the German kingdom. As part of the defense of that kingdom
against Magyar invaders, they were divided among the marks, or border marches, of Carinthia,
Carniola, and Styria. German lay and clerical lords arrived, along with dependent peasants, and
enserfed the Slovenes, whom they called Wends or Winds. Over the next three centuries the
marches came under the tenuous authority of several territorial dynasts. In the 13th century they
fell to Otakar II of Bohemia, who, like Samo, tried to establish a Slavic empire. Following the
defeat of Otakar in 1278, Styria was acquired by the Habsburg family. Carinthia and Carniola
fell into Habsburg hands in 1335, Istria in 1374, and the city of Trieste in 1382. Habsburg rule
was based on a bureaucracy that shared power with local noble-run estates. One of these was
run by the counts of Celje, who were powerful in the Middle Ages but whose lineage died out in
1456. (see also Index: Austria, Habsburg, House of)
Modern Slovenes tend to view the coming of German rule as a national calamity,
as it subjected
the Alpine Slavs to steady pressure to Germanize. Nonetheless, it was from this time that they
were included in the Western, or Roman Catholic, church. German episcopal and monastic
foundations, along with local diocesan establishments, enriched and fructified the native Slavic
culture with western European civilization. Indeed, the first missionaries to the area, arriving from
Ireland in the 8th century, taught the Alpine Slavs to pray in their own tongue. The Freising
Manuscripts, a collection of confessions and sermons dating from about AD 1000, are the
earliest known document in what eventually became the Slovene language.
Early modern times.
Along with the rest of the Habsburg empire, Slovene-inhabited lands experienced
Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The area was left firmly Roman Catholic, but in fact
Slovene national development was assisted by such Protestant scholars as Primoz Trubar and
Jurij Dalmatin, who in the 16th century propagated the gospel in the vernacular and even printed
a Slovene translation of the Bible.
The Slovenes never lived under Ottoman rule, although Turkish invaders
were only partially
deflected by the Habsburg's Military Frontier, established in Croatian lands to the south. Turkish
raids occasionally penetrated even Carinthia. The failure of the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683
and Habsburg victories in Hungary ended the Turkish menace. Baroque civilization was free to
permeate all of Austria, including Slovene-inhabited lands.
Economically, the Slovene lands had been incorporated fully into the system
of German feudal
tenure. The topography of the region militated against the development of large-scale agriculture,
and the larger feudal estates typically contained substantial areas of forest. Cultivation was
confined in the main to peasant holdings. Peasant rights were at times defended only with
difficulty. There are records of several uprisings by both German and Slovene peasants against
onerous seignorial exactions, including substantial Slovene participation in a Croatian revolt in
1573. Generally speaking, however, direct attachment to the crown meant that the Slovene
lands escaped much of the economic and political upheaval that affected life among other South
Slavs living under Habsburg rule. As a consequence of this and of their greater proximity to the
major urban and economic centres of the Habsburg empire, the Slovenes reached relatively high
levels both of literacy and technical development and achieved an early integration into a market
economy. The reforms decreed by Empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II in the 18th
century particularly improved the lot of the peasantry. (see also Index: feudalism)
The later Habsburg era.
From 1809 to 1814 a large part of the Slovene lands was included in the
Illyrian Provinces of
Napoleon I's French Empire, along with Dalmatia, Trieste, and parts of Croatia. French
occupation had a profound impact on the politics and culture of the area. The French
encouraged local initiative and favoured the use of Slovene as an official language. Many of the
changes did not survive the return to Habsburg rule, but the period contributed greatly to the
national self-awareness of both the Croats and the Slovenes and aroused in some intellectuals an
"Illyrian" ideal that stressed the common political and cultural interests of the South Slavs.
Moved by this ideal, the poet and philologist Jernej Kopitar published
the first grammar of the
Slovene language in 1808. In his position as imperial censor, Kopitar made the acquaintance of
the great Serb linguistic reformer Vuk Karadzic, and he tried to apply Karadzic's ideas
concerning the standardization of Slavonic orthography to Slovene by eliminating its many
Germanic accretions and stressing its South Slav origins. Kopitar's ideas bore fruit in 1843 with
the publication of the first Slovene-language newspaper in Ljubljana (or Laibach, as it was
known to its German-speaking population.)
The revolutionary upheavals that swept many parts of Europe in 1848 had
their counterpart in
Slovenia, with the formulation of the first Slovene national program: this demanded a unified
Slovene province within the Austrian Empire. Vienna stifled this program as it did rebellion
everywhere, but Slovenia, like Europe, had changed. As the relics of manorialism vanished and
plowmen became freeholders, Austrian nobles such as the Auerspergs lost their ancient grip.
German remained the normal language for merchants and the tiny educated elite, but a Slavic
bourgeoisie was growing and gradually becoming enfranchised. Change was most evident in
Carniola, where by 1900 Ljubljana became truly Slovene.
In the 1890s political parties were formed, including the Progressive (Liberal)
Party, the Socialist
Party, and the Slovene People's Party. The Slovene People's Party had close links to the Roman
Catholic church, which had also been instrumental in establishing large-scale cooperative
movements earlier in the century. By providing credit, marketing, and other facilities to peasants
and artisans, the cooperatives enabled both rural and urban Slovenes to break free from German
During World War I, Slovenes fighting in the Austrian army suffered huge
losses against the
Italians in incessant battles of attrition along the Soca (Italian: Isonzo) front. In May 1917, as the
war turned against the Central Powers, the Slovene Anton Korosec and other South Slav
deputies in the Austrian Reichsrat put forward a declaration in favour of "the unification of all
territories of the monarchy inhabited by South Slavs in one independent political body, under the
sceptre of the Habsburg dynasty." Known as Trialism, this ideal of a partnership among South
Slavs, Austrians, and Hungarians fell victim to the collapse of Austria-Hungary in October 1918.
The next best choice seemed to be a federation of South Slav states, and Slovene political
leaders collaborated in the hasty formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.
Slovenia as a polity.
At the Paris Peace Conference after the war, the Allies awarded Italy all
the coastal areas that
had given Slovenes access to the sea--including Gorizia (Gorica), Trieste, and Istria. The
Yugoslav kingdom was given the Prekmurje region and southern Styria but only a small part of
southern Carinthia. Yugoslav troops occupied much of the Klagenfurt basin, but the Allies
insisted that a plebiscite be held in two zones to decide the fate of the rest of southern Carinthia.
In October 1920 the more southerly zone chose Austria, so that no plebiscite was held in the
northern zone around Klagenfurt; both zones were left to Austria. Almost one-third of Europe's
Slovene speakers were thus left outside the boundaries of Slovenia. Slovene speakers in Italy
and Austria continued to be subject to discrimination and political pressure by the dominant
majorities--as were Slovenia's Germans between 1918 and 1941.
Incorporation into the Yugoslav kingdom also proved disappointing. Anton
high positions in the government, but Slovene politicians overall had minimal influence in
Belgrade. Strong central control--in effect, Serbian hegemony--was imposed over the kingdom
in an effort to discipline its hybrid citizenry. As a "province" of Yugoslavia, Slovenia's autonomy
was restricted mainly to cultural affairs. Its economy, which had already industrialized more than
the rest of the kingdom, benefited somewhat from greater commercial contact with Belgrade, but
progress was limited by the detachment of Slovene producers from the economically vital
Habsburg centres of Klagenfurt and Trieste. Also, as one of the kingdom's wealthiest areas,
Slovenia was taxed more heavily than other regions. By the late 1930s Slovene politics was
riven by political factions, including ardently Catholic conservatives, anticlerical liberals, and ever
more militant leftists.
World War II.
After the German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, Slovenia was partitioned.
Italy took the
southwest, including Ljubljana; Germany annexed the north directly into the Reich; and Hungary
recovered Prekmurje. Although the Slovenes had been deemed racially salvageable by the
Nazis, the mainly Austrian rulers of the Carinthian and Styrian regions commenced a brutal
campaign to destroy them as a nation. Resistance groups sprang up; after Germany invaded the
Soviet Union, they came under the domination of the communist-led Slovene National Liberation
Front. From its principal base in the forests near Kocevje, the Front combined operations
against the occupiers and their Slovene collaborators in the White Guard with a ruthless struggle
against potential rivals, such as members of the Slovene People's Party. In November 1943 the
Front joined Josip Broz Tito's Partisans in proclaiming a new Yugoslavia, and in May 1945
Ljubljana was liberated. After the armistice, the British repatriated more than 10,000 Slovene
collaborators who had attempted to retreat with the Germans, and Tito had most of them
massacred at the infamous "Pits of Kocevje."
The communist era.
Having occupied Trieste in May 1945, the Partisans hoped that its possession
was assured, but
the Allies forced the establishment of a Free Territory of Trieste, consisting of an
Italian-administered zone in and around the city and a Yugoslav zone on the Istrian Peninsula. In
1954 Tito agreed to allow the return of Trieste to Italy. The Yugoslav zone was incorporated
into Slovenia; this gave the Slovenes access to the sea and left fewer Slovene speakers outside
Yugoslavia, but it also brought a small Italian minority into the republic. (see also Index: Trieste
As a constituent of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, Slovenia
complete restructuring of its economy, politics, and society along Stalinist lines. Following the
rupture between Tito and Stalin in 1948, however, conditions improved. Over the next two
decades, Slovenia managed to achieve greater prosperity than the southern Yugoslav republics
under the unique economic system known as "socialist self-management"--designed largely by
Tito's chief ideologue, the Slovene Edvard Kardelj. By the 1970s, liberalization had brought on
a number of local autonomy movements, especially in Croatia and Slovenia, obliging the League
of Communists of Yugoslavia to reassert party control throughout the federation. In Slovenia,
dissenting voices survived in such journals as Mladina ("Youth") and Nova Revija ("New
Review"). Through the 1980s, as the Yugoslav economy succumbed to inflation and debt, even
Slovene communists steadily lost patience with what they perceived to be profound cultural
differences between them and the southern Yugoslav peoples. In May 1990 Slovenia held free,
multiparty elections in which Milan Kucan, a former communist official, was elected president,
and in December a referendum calling for a sovereign, independent Slovenia received more
than 90 percent of the vote. The response of the Belgrade government--by then dominated by
Serbia's nationalist strongman, Slobodan Milosevic, and by the Serb-led Yugoslav People's
Army (YPA)--was to begin an economic blockade of Slovenia and to expropriate Ljubljana's
bank assets. Slovene and Croatian proposals for a looser Yugoslav confederation were rejected
by Serbia, and on June 25, 1991, Slovenia seceded from Yugoslavia.
Two days later the YPA attacked border posts that had been taken over by
Slovenia. In what
became known to the Slovenes as the Ten-Day War, Slovene militiamen, adopting tactics
originally intended to defend Yugoslavia against invading Soviet tanks, defeated the ineptly
commanded, disintegrating YPA units with minimal loss of life. The last Yugoslav soldier left by
ship from Koper on Oct. 25, 1991.
Slovenia strengthened its domestic political and economic stability in 1993 while continuing its
opening to the West, in particular by forging new links with the European Community (EC),
NATO, and Germany. On January 25 the Slovene National Assembly voted 60-25 to confirm a
new coalition government made up of the Liberal Democrats, the strongest party in the Dec. 6,
1992, election, and the Christian Democrats, the second largest party. Janez Drnovsek, leader
of the Liberal Democrats; was reconfirmed as prime minister; Lojze Peterle, leader of the
Christian Democrats, became foreign minister.
The relative domestic political calm was upset by the seizure of a 120-ton
consignment of arms
at the airport in Maribor in July under the terms of the UN arms embargo covering the entire
area of former Yugoslavia. An investigation was ordered by the government, which led to the
arrest of seven persons. On September 24 the Ministry of Interior Affairs announced that the
arms, in a deal of which the former minister of interior affairs was cognizant, had been destined
for the Muslim-led government in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On October 2 the office of the
president denied allegations that he had known about arms sales to Bosnia. On October 7 the
head of the intelligence service resigned in connection with the affair.
In October it was officially revealed that Slovenia was looking after 29,000
former Yugoslavia, not 70,000 as had been previously claimed. On November 23 the National
Assembly adopted tighter regulations on naturalization, requiring, among other things, a 10-year
residence period (5 years of that time continuous).
In April in Luxembourg, Slovenia signed a so-called asymmetrical agreement
with the EC under
which Slovenia's exports would gain virtually unlimited access to EC markets while exports
from the EC to Slovenia would remain subject to certain restrictions. Slovenia's relations with
Croatia became tense in December when Slovenia announced the closure, "sometime in 1994,"
of the jointly financed and operated Krsko nuclear station because of Croatia's alleged failure to
fulfill its financial obligations.
Slovenia's main trading partners in 1993 were Germany, Italy, France, and
Austria. Its gross
domestic product grew by 1% compared with 1992. Total exports were 4.8% lower than in
1992; imports in 1993 grew by 10.8% compared with 1992. About 55% of Slovenia's total
foreign trade was with the countries of the EC. The inflation rate in 1993 was 33%. Industrial
production in the January-November 1993 period was 3.4% lower than in the first 11 months of
1992. Unemployment in the January-October 1993 period was 14.9%, higher than in the first
10 months of 1992.
Slovenia continued its economic and political advance on a broad front while maintaining its
drive for membership in all important world institutions. On September 29 it became a full
member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which on Jan. 1, 1995, would be
replaced by the World Trade Organization. Also in September, Slovenia's prime minister, Janez
Drnovsek, was elected one of the vice presidents of the Liberal International at its meeting in
Reykjavík, Iceland. Slovenia's main goal of joining the European Union (EU), however, came
no closer to being realized in 1994.
Italy obstructed Slovenia's attempt to obtain the EU's associate membership,
Slovenia make concessions regarding the property of 160,000 former Italian citizens who left
or were expelled from Slovenia after 1945. According to official Italian calculations, nearly
7,000 ha (17,300 ac) of land, 300 building plots, 21 companies, and 7,172 buildings belonging
to Italians were nationalized between 1945 and 1972 by the Slovene authorities. An attempt to
negotiate a compromise made by Slovenia's foreign minister, Lojze Peterle, and his Italian
counterpart, Antonio Martino, in Aquilea, Italy, in October went awry when the government in
Ljubljana repudiated its own foreign minister. Peterle, a Christian Democrat whose party was a
coalition partner of the prime minister's Liberal Party, resigned. He had not been replaced by the
end of 1994, and his ministry was temporarily taken over by the prime minister himself.
Relations with Croatia deteriorated during 1994. No solution was found
in disputes over
territorial rights in the Bay of Piran and sovereignty over certain inland villages. On October 3
the lower house of the Slovene National Assembly approved the assigning of disputed territory
to a Slovene municipality. There was also no resolution of the dispute over savings deposited by
Croats with the biggest Slovene bank, Ljubljanska Banka, before the breakup of former
Local elections held in December showed a swing toward the Christian Democrats,
party maintained its coalition with the Liberals. In the first nine months of 1994, Slovenia
reported a $250.5 million trade deficit. Its exports in that period increased by 8.1%, and imports
grew by the same amount. About 60% of Slovene exports went to EU countries, and 5.7% of
its imports came from there. Annual inflation was 19.9%. Privatization was slow, with 26,000
firms accounting for 77% of total output still in the public sector at the end of 1994.
Although Slovenia's aspirations to join the European Union (EU) continued
to be frustrated in
1995 by Italy's opposition, the country maintained a steady rate of economic progress. There
was hope for progress on EU membership in March, after Italy lifted its veto on talks, and on
May 19 the European Commission approved the terms of Slovenia's associate membership.
Then Italy called for further changes to the 1975 Osimo Treaty and the 1983 Rome Agreement
between Italy and Yugoslavia (of which Slovenia was then a part) and insisted on material
compensation for Italians displaced in the 1945 border adjustments as preconditions for
agreeing to further EU talks. Italy further demanded that Italian citizens have the right to buy
property in Slovenia. Pres. Milan Kucan visited Brussels on November 30, but Italy continued
to insist on its preconditions, and talks on Slovenia's association with the EU made no further
progress. On December 6 Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek acknowledged that the talks had
reached an impasse. Nonetheless, Slovenia was voted a full member of the Central European
Free Trade Agreement in September, and relations with NATO continued to develop within the
Partnership for Peace program. U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry visited Slovenia on
In June Slovenia agreed with a consortium of nearly 300 banks to assume
18% of the total debt of $4.7 billion owed to the banks by former Yugoslavia. Relations with
Croatia remained tense mainly because of the continuing dispute over the territorial waters of the
Bay of Piran. On November 30 Slovenia recognized Yugoslavia.
Relations between the government and the country's Roman Catholic Church
sharply in 1995. The church demanded the return of property nationalized under the communist
Slovenia registered 5% growth in gross domestic product in 1995. The annual
inflation rate was
11%. Its exports, at $6,180,000,000 for the January-September 1995 period increased by
26.1% over the corresponding period in 1994. In the same period, Slovene imports, at $7
billion, were 35.2% higher than in 1994. For January-September Slovenia's trade deficit was
$804 million, compared with $266 million in the first nine months of 1994. The tolar became
fully convertible on Sept. 1, 1995.
On June 10, 1996, Slovenia signed an agreement of associate membership
with the European
Union (EU). The country's ultimate goal was full EU membership, with 2001 as the target date.
Slovenia moved closer to membership when its legislature agreed to support changes in the
nation's constitution to permit noncitizens to own property. This demand had been pressed
strongly by Italy, which thereupon removed its veto against Slovenia. During the year Slovenia
continued its efforts to be included in the first group of nations (Poland, Hungary, Czech
Republic) to be invited to join in the expansion of NATO, winning important support for this in
the U.S. Congress.
Pope John Paul II visited Slovenia May 17-19, the first pope ever to have
overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country. He was received enthusiastically despite major
problems between the church and state authorities over the slow return of church properties
seized during the communist regime. The Vatican, in late 1991, had been the first international
entity to recognize the independence of Slovenia.
Quadrennial legislative elections held November 10 produced an even split
left-of-centre and right-of-centre parties. The centre-left Liberal Democracy of Slovenia won
25 of the 90 seats, followed by three more conservative parties: the Slovenian People's Party
(19 seats), the Social Democratic Party (16), and the Slovenian Christian Democrats (10). In
fifth place was the United List of Social Democrats, the reformed Communist Party. On
December 8 a national referendum was held, with voters deciding whether to approve a change
in the election law toward a majority system and away from proportional representation. In the
referendum the voters rejected the proposed change.
Slovenia experienced a 3% increase in gross domestic product in 1996. The
inflation rate was
On Feb. 27, 1997, Slovenia's legislature finally broke a deadlock and approved a new coalition
government, again led by Janez Drnovsek, prime minister since 1992. Legislative elections in
November 1996 had given Drnovsek's centre-left Liberal Democracy of Slovenia 25 of 90
seats, which made it the largest party. After prolonged negotiations the right-wing Slovenian
People's Party (19 seats) agreed to enter the government, and its leader, Marjan Podobnik,
became deputy prime minister. The centre-left DeSUS Party (5 seats), primarily representing
retirees, also joined the coalition. Government policies remained unchanged.
Milan Kucan, president since 1990, was elected in November to a second
five-year term. The
former head of Slovenia's Communist Party, Kucan ran as a nonparty candidate and received
56% of the vote. His nearest competitor in the eight-candidate field won 18%.
Slovenia's economic growth rate remained moderate at 3.5%. The rate of
inflation was 9.5%,
and unemployment stood at 14%. At the end of October, the country had $4,185,000,000 of
foreign exchange reserves and a foreign debt of $4,060,000,000.
On March 5 Msgr. Franc Rode was appointed archbishop and titular head of
Catholic Church in Slovenia, replacing Archbishop Alojzij Sustar, who retired. He proved more
forceful than his predecessor in defending the church's interests, particularly in the still-delayed
return of forest land and other property confiscated by the communist government after World
Although disappointed by the decision of NATO members in July to exclude
Slovenia in the
first round of expansion, Slovenia's government pledged to work toward the country's inclusion
in the projected second round and in the meantime to continue participation in the
NATO-sponsored Partnership for Peace. A small Slovene military unit joined the SFOR
peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina in November. On July 16 the European Union
formally invited Slovenia to join in negotiations aimed at eventual membership. In October the
UN General Assembly elected Slovenia to serve a two-year term (1998-99) as a
nonpermanent member of the Security Council, replacing Poland.