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Slovenia - History

Slovenia is today a vibrant democracy, but the roots of this democracy go back deep in Slovene history. According to the 16th century French political philosopher, Jean Bodin, Slovenes practiced the unique custom of the Installation of the Dukes of Carinthia for almost 1,000 years, until the late 14th century. According to some scholars, Bodin's account of how Slovene farmers contractually consented to be governed by the Duke influenced Thomas Jefferson's drafting of the Declaration of Independence. From as early as the 9th century, Slovenia had fallen under foreign rulers, including partial control by Bavarian dukes and the Republic of Venice. With the exception of Napoleon's four-year tutelage of parts of Slovenia and Croatia--the "Illyrian Provinces"--Slovenia was part of the Habsburg Empire from the 14th century until 1918. Nevertheless, Slovenia resisted Germanizing influences and retained its unique Slavic language and culture.

In the 14th Century, most of the territory of Slovenia was taken over by the Habsburgs. Their powerful competitors were the counts of Celje, a feudal family from this area, who in 1436 acquired the title of "state counts". Their large dynasty, important at a European political level, died out in 1456 and its numerous large estates became the property of the Habsburgs, who retained control of the area right up to the beginning of the 20th Century. German colonisation between the 11th and 15th Centuries narrowed Slovenian lands to an area only a little bigger than they are today. The end of the Middle Ages (15th and 16th centuries) was marked by Turkish incursions. Dissatisfaction with the ineffective feudal defences against the Turks and the introduction of new taxes brought about peasant revolts. Uprisings continued until the first half of the 18th Century when Austro-Hungary became dominant.

Modern Slovenia largely consists of the former territories of Lower Styria and Carniola. Styria was a duchy and crownland of Austria, bounded E. by Hungary and Croatia, S. by Carniola, W. by Carinthia and Salzburg, and N. by Upper and Lower Austria. Almost all the district is mountainous, and is distinguished by the beauty of its scenery and by its mineral wealth. Geographically it is divided into three large divisions: ŚNorthern or Upper Styria; Middle Styria; and Southern or Lower Styria. In the Roman period Styria, which even thus early was famed for its iron and steel, was inhabited by the Celtic Taurisci, and divided geographically between Noricum and Pannonia. Subsequently it was successively occupied or traversed by Visigoths, Huns, Ostrogoths, Langobardi, Franks and Avars. Towards the end of the 6th century the last-named began to give way to the Slavs, who ultimately made themselves masters of the entire district. Styria was included in the conquests of Charlemagne, and was henceforth comprised in the German marks erected against the Avar and the Slav.

At first the identity of Styria is lost in the great duchy of Carinthia, corresponding more or less closely to the Upper Carinthian mark. This duchy, however,afterwards fell to pieces, and a distinct mark of Styria was recognized, taking its name from the margrave Ottacar of Steier (1056). A century or so later it was created a duchy. In 1192 the duchy of Styria came by inheritance to the house of Austria, and from that time it shared the fortunes of Upper and Lower Austria, passing like them to the Habsburgs in 1282. The Protestant Reformation met an early and general welcome in Styria, but the dukes took the most stringent measures to stamp it out, offering their subjects recantation or expatriation as the only alternatives. At least 30,000 Protestants preferred exile, and it was not till the edict of tolerance of 1781 granted by Joseph II. that religious liberty was recognized.

Carniola derives its modern name from the Slavonic word Krajina (frontier). During the Roman Empire it formed part of Noricum and Pannonia. The Slavonic population settled here during the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century. Conquered by Charlemagne, the most of the district was bestowed on the duke of Friuli; but in the 10th century the title of margrave of Carniola began to be borne by a family resident in the castle of Kicselberg near Krainburg. Various parts of the present territory were, however, held by other lords, such as the duke of Carinthia and the bishop of Freising. Towards the close of the 14th century all the separate portions had come by inheritance or bequest into the hands of Rudolph IV. of Austria, who took the title of duke of Carniola; and since then the duchy has remained a part of the Austrian possessions, except during the short period from 1809 to 1813, when it was incorporated with the French Illyrian Provinces. In 1849 it became a separate crown-land.

The first Slovenian political programme, called "Unified Slovenia" emerged during the European "Spring of Nations" in March and April of 1848, demanding that all the lands inhabited by Slovenes should be united into one province, called Slovenia. In this province, Slovene would be made the official language. In 1878, although other neighbouring states became independent with the Treaty of Berlin, Slovenia stayed within the Austro-Hungarian Empire but nationalism in the Balkans increased.

In 1918, Slovenia joined with other southern Slav states in forming the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes as part of the peace plan at the end of World War I. Renamed in 1929 under a Serbian monarch, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia fell to the Axis powers during World War II. Following communist partisan resistance to German, Hungarian, and Italian occupation and elimination of rival resistance groups, socialist Yugoslavia was born under the helm of Josip Broz Tito. During the communist era, Slovenia became Yugoslavia's most prosperous republic, at the forefront of Yugoslavia's unique version of communism. Within a few years of Tito's death in 1980, Belgrade initiated plans to further concentrate political and economic power in its hands. Defying the politicians in Belgrade, Slovenia underwent a flowering of democracy and an opening of its society in cultural, civic, and economic realms to a degree almost unprecedented in the communist world.

In September 1989, the General Assembly of the Yugoslav Republic of Slovenia adopted an amendment to its constitution asserting Slovenia's right to secede from Yugoslavia. On December 23, 1990, 88% of Slovenia's population voted for independence in a referendum, and on June 25, 1991, the Republic of Slovenia declared its independence. A nearly bloodless 10-day war with Yugoslavia followed. Yugoslav forces withdrew after Slovenia demonstrated stiff resistance to Belgrade.

As a young independent republic, Slovenia pursued economic stabilization and further political openness, while emphasizing its Western outlook and central European heritage. Reflecting its success in these goals, Slovenia became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) in 2004. Today Slovenia is a stable democracy that is increasing its international engagement. Though small in size, Slovenia enjoys a growing regional profile and plays a role on the world stage that is out of proportion to its size.

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Page last modified: 09-11-2012 19:25:09 ZULU