Slovenes (Slovene: Slovenci [slɔˈʋèːntsi]), or Slovenians, are a
nation and South Slavic ethnic group native to
Slovenia who share a
common ancestry, culture, history and speak the Slovene language.
1.1 Population in Slovenia
1.2 Population abroad
3.1 Early Alpine Slavs
Slavs during the Frankish Empire
3.3 16th century: Slovene
Protestant reformation and the consolidation
of the Slovene language
3.4 18th century:
Slovenes under Maria Theresa and Joseph II
Slovenes under Napoleon 1809–1813
3.6 1840s: the first Slovene national political programme
3.8 World War I
Fascist Italianization of Littoral Slovenes
3.10 World War II and aftermath
Slovenes in Socialist Yugoslavia
4.1 The Stalinist period
4.2 The 1948
Tito-Stalin split and aftermath
4.3 1950s: heavy industrialization
4.4 1960s: "Self-management"
4.5 1970s: "Years of Lead"
4.6 1980s: Towards independence
Slovenes in independent Slovenia
5.1 1990s: Slovenian Spring, democracy and independence
5.2 2010s: Slovenian disillusionment with socio-economic elites
7 See also
Population in Slovenia
Slovenes today live within the borders of the independent
Slovenia (2,007,711 est. 2008). In the Slovenian national census of
2002, 1,631,363 people ethnically declared themselves as Slovenes,
while 1,723,434 people claimed Slovene as their native language.
The autochthonous Slovene minority in
Italy is estimated at 83,000 to
100,000, the Slovene minority in southern
Austria at 24,855, in
Croatia at 13,200, and in
Hungary at 3,180. Significant Slovene
expatriate communities live in the
United States and Canada, in other
European countries, in Argentina, and in Australia. The largest
Slovenes outside of
Slovenia is in Cleveland, Ohio.
In total 39-36% of 399-458 sampled Slovenian males belong to Y-DNA
Haplogroup R1a, more frequent than in South Slavic peoples,
constituting 41% in the capital region and greater in some regions.
Slovenian population displays close genetic affiliations with West
Slavic populations. The homogenous genetic strata of the West Slavic
populations and the Slovenian population suggest the existence of a
common ancestral Slavic population in central European region. The
M458 branch constitutes 4%, while the dominant clade is Z280,
specifically its R1a-CTS3402 clade, the same as that of their Slavic
and not Slavic neighbours. The Z92 branch of Z280 which is
East Slavs is recorded as completely absent among
Of 100 sampled Slovenians, 18% belong to R1b, of which 8% of R1b
belongs to the P312 branch, 6% to the eastern and 4% to U106. The
Dinaric-North (DYS448- 20) haplotypes of I2a1b are with overwhelming
higher frequency than Dinaric-South(DYS448- 19) even in regions with
Early Alpine Slavs
In the 6th century AD,
Slavic people settled the region between the
Alps and the
Adriatic Sea in two consecutive migration waves: the
first wave took place around 550 and came from the Moravian lands,
while the second wave, coming from the southeast, took place after the
retreat of the
Italy in 568 (see Slavic settlement of
From 623 to 658,
Slavic peoples between the upper
Elbe River and the
Karavanke mountain range were united under the leadership of King Samo
(Kralj Samo) in what was to become known as "Samo's Tribal Union". The
tribal union collapsed after Samo's death, but a smaller Slavic tribal
Carantania (Slovene: Karantanija) remained, with its
centre in the present-day region of Carinthia.
Slavs during the Frankish Empire
Due to pressing danger of Avar tribes from the east, the Carantanians
accepted a union with Bavaria in 745 and later recognized Frankish
rule and accepted
Christianity in the 8th century. The last Slavic
state formation in the region, the principality of Prince Kocelj, lost
its independence in 874. Slovene ethnic territory subsequently shrank
due to pressing of Germans from the west and the arrival of Hungarians
in the Pannonian plain, and stabilized in the present form in the 15th
16th century: Slovene
Protestant reformation and the consolidation of
the Slovene language
The first mentions of a common Slovene ethnic identity, transcending
regional boundaries, date from the 16th century, when the
Protestant Reformation spread throughout the Slovene Lands. During
this period, the first books in Slovene were written by the Protestant
Primož Trubar and his followers, establishing the base for
the development of standard Slovene. In the second half of the 16th
century, numerous books were printed in Slovene, including an integral
translation of the Bible by Jurij Dalmatin.
At the beginning of the 17th century,
Protestantism was suppressed by
the Habsburg-sponsored Counter Reformation, which introduced the new
Slovenes under Maria Theresa and Joseph II
The Enlightenment in the Habsburg monarchy brought significant social
and cultural progress to the Slovene people. It hastened economic
development and facilitated the appearance of a middle class. Under
the reign of Maria Theresa and Emperor Joseph II (1765–1790) many
reforms were undertaken in the administration and society, including
land reforms, the modernization of the Church and compulsory primary
education in Slovene (1774). The start of cultural-linguistic
activities by Slovene intellectuals of the time brought about a
national revival and the birth of the Slovene nation in the modern
sense of the word. Before the Napoleonic Wars, some secular literature
in Slovene emerged. During the same period, the first history of the
Slovene Lands as an ethnic unity was written by Anton Tomaž Linhart,
Jernej Kopitar compiled the first comprehensive grammar of
Slovenes under Napoleon 1809–1813
Between 1809 and 1813,
Slovenia was part of the Illyrian Provinces, an
autonomous province of the Napoleonic French Empire, with Ljubljana as
the capital. Although the French rule was short-lived, it
significantly contributed to the rise of national consciousness and
political awareness of Slovenes. After the fall of Napoleon, all
Slovene Lands were once again included in the Austrian Empire.
Gradually, a distinct Slovene national consciousness developed, and
the quest for a political unification of all
widespread. In the 1820s and 1840s, the interest in Slovene language
and folklore grew enormously, with numerous philologists advancing the
first steps towards a standardization of the language. Illyrian
Pan-Slavic and Austro-Slavic ideas gained importance.
However, the intellectual circle around the philologist Matija Čop
and the Romantic poet
France Prešeren was influential in affirming
the idea of Slovene linguistic and cultural individuality, refusing
the idea of merging
Slovenes into a wider Slavic nation.
1840s: the first Slovene national political programme
Peter Kozler's map of the Slovene Lands, designed during the Spring of
Nations in 1848, became the symbol of the quest for a United Slovenia.
In the 1840s, the
Slovene national movement
Slovene national movement developed far beyond
literary expression. In 1848, the first Slovene national political
programme, called United
Slovenia (Zedinjena Slovenija), was written
in the context of the
Spring of Nations
Spring of Nations movement within the Austrian
Empire. It demanded a unification of all Slovene-speaking
territories in an autonomous kingdom, named Slovenija, within the
empire and an official status for the Slovene language. Although
the project failed, it served as an important platform of Slovene
political activity in the following decades, particularly in the
1860s and 1870s, when mass Slovene rallies, named tabori, were
organised. The conflict between Slovene and German nationalists
deepened. In 1866, some
Slovenes were left to Italy, and in
1867 some remained in the Hungarian part of the Austria-Hungary. This
significantly affected the nation and led to further radicalisation of
the Slovene national movement. In the 1890s, the first Slovene
political parties were established. All of them were loyal to Austria,
but they were also espousing a common South Slavic cause.
Between 1880 and World War I, the largest numbers of Slovenes
emigrated to America. Most of these went between 1905 and 1913,
although the exact number is impossible to determine because Slovenes
were often classified as Austrians, Italians, Croats, or under other,
broader labels, such as Slavonic or Slavic. Those who settled in
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania came to be called Windish, from the Austrian
German term Windisch 'Wend'.
The largest group of
Slovenes in the
United States eventually settled
in Cleveland, Ohio, and the surrounding area. The second-largest group
settled in Chicago, principally on the Lower West Side. The American
Slovenian Catholic Union (Ameriško slovenska katoliška enota) was
founded as an organization to protect Slovene-American rights in
Joliet, Illinois, 64 km (40 mi) southwest of Chicago, and in
Cleveland. Today there are KSKJ branches all over the country offering
life insurance and other services to Slovene-Americans. Freethinkers
were centered around 18th and Racine Ave. in Chicago, where they
founded the Slovene National Benefit Society; other Slovene immigrants
went to southwestern Pennsylvania, southeastern Ohio and the state of
West Virginia to work in the coal mines and lumber industry. Some
Slovenes also went to the
Pittsburgh or Youngstown, Ohio, areas, to
work in the steel mills, as well as Minnesota's Iron Range, to work in
the iron mines. Many also went west to Rock Springs in
Wyoming to work
in the coal mines that supported the Union Pacific Railway.
World War I
See also: Battles of the Isonzo
There were more than 30,000 casualties among ethnic
World War I
World War I because they were and still are inhabiting the territory
Isonzo Front was fought. While the majority of them were
drafted in the Austro-Hungarian Army, also Slovene civil inhabitants
Gorizia and Gradisca
Gorizia and Gradisca region suffered in hundreds of thousands
because they were resettled in refugee camps where, however, Slovene
refugees were treated as state enemies by
Italians and several
thousands died of malnutrition in Italian refugee camps.
Fascist Italianization of Littoral Slovenes
The annexed western quarter of Slovene speaking territory, and
approximately 327,000 out of the total population of 1.3 million
Slovenes, were subjected to forced Fascist Italianization. On the
map of present-day
Slovenia with its traditional regions' boundaries.
After the First World War (1914–1918), the majority of Slovenes
South Slavs in the State of Slovenes,
Croats and Serbs,
followed by the Kingdom of Serbs,
Croats and Slovenes, and finally the
Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In the new system of banovinas (since 1929),
Slovenes formed a majority in the Drava Banovina.
In the ex-
Austrian Empire area given to
Italy in exchange for joining
Great Britain in World War I, the forced
Fascist Italianization of
Slovene minority in
Italy (1920-1947) was under no international
restraint especially after
Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922.
Already during the period of Italian occupation, between the years
1918 and 1920, all Slovene cultural associations (Sokol, "reading
rooms" etc.) had been forbidden Fascist
Italy brought Italian
teachers from South
Italy to Italianize ethnic Slovene and Croatian
children, while the Slovene and Croatian teachers,
poets, writers, artists and clergy were exiled to
elsewhere to South Italy. In 1926, claiming that it
was restoring surnames to their original Italian form, the Italian
government announced the Italianization of names and surnames not only
of citizens of the Slovene minority, but also of Croatian and
Slovenes willingly accepted Italianization in
order to lose the status of being second-class citizens with no upward
social mobility. By the mid-1930s, around 70,000
Slovenes had fled the region, mostly to Yugoslavia and South
In the bilingual regions people of Carinthia decided in a 1920
referendum that most of Carinthia should remain in Austria.
Slovene volunteers also participated in the
Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War and the
Second Italo-Abyssinian War.
World War II and aftermath
Hungary occupied northern areas (brown
and dark green areas, respectively), while Fascist
Italy occupied the
vertically hashed black area, including
Gottschee area. (Solid black
western part being annexed by
Italy already with the Treaty of
Rapallo). After 1943,
Germany took over the Italian occupational area,
During World War II,
Slovenes were in a unique situation. While Greece
shared its experience of being trisected,
Slovenia was the only
country that experienced a further step—absorption and annexation
Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Hungary. After
Yugoslavia was invaded by
Axis Powers on 6 April 1941,
Hungary occupied northern Slovenia. Some villages in Lower Carniola
were annexed by the Independent State of Croatia.
The Nazis started a policy of violent Germanisation. During the war,
tens of thousands of
Slovenes were resettled or chased away,
imprisoned, or transported to labor, internment and extermination
camps. Many were sent into exile to Nedić's
Serbia and Croatia.
The numbers of
Slovenes drafted to the German military and
paramilitary formations has been estimated at 150,000 men and
women, almost a quarter of them lost their lives on various
European battlefields, mostly on the Eastern Front.
Compared to the German policies in the northern Nazi-occupied area of
Slovenia and the forced
Fascist italianization in the former Austrian
Littoral that was annexed after the First World War, the initial
Italian policy in the central
Slovenia was not as violent. Tens of
Slovenes from German-occupied
Lower Styria and Upper
Carniola escaped to the
Province of Ljubljana
Province of Ljubljana until June 1941.
However, after resistance started in Province of Ljubljana, Italian
violence against the Slovene civil population easily matched that of
the Germans. The province saw the deportation of 25,000 people —
which equated to 7.5% of the total population of the province — in
one of the most drastic operations in the Europe that filled up many
Italian concentration camps, such as Rab concentration camp, in Gonars
concentration camp, Monigo (Treviso), Renicci d'Anghiari, Chiesanuova
and elsewhere. To suppress the mounting resistance by the Slovene
Mario Roatta adopted draconian measures of summary
executions, hostage-taking, reprisals, internments, and the burning of
houses and whole villages. The "3C" pamphlet, tantamount to a
declaration of war on civilians, involved him in Italian war crimes.
In the summer of 1941, a resistance movement led by the Liberation
Front of the Slovene Nation, emerged in both the Italian and in the
German occupation zones. The resistance, pluralistic at the
beginning, was gradually taken over by the Communist Party, as in the
rest of occupied Yugoslavia. Contrary to elsewhere in Yugoslavia,
where on the freed territories the political life was organized by the
military itself, the
Slovene Partisans were subordinated to the civil
political authority of the Front.
In the summer of 1942, a civil war between
Slovenes broke out. The two
fighting factions were the
Slovenian Partisans and the
Italian-sponsored anti-communist militia, later re-organized under
Nazi command as the Slovene Home Guard. Small units of Slovenian
Chetniks also existed in
Lower Carniola and Styria. The Partisans were
under the command of the Liberation Front (OF) and Tito's Yugoslav
resistance, while the
Slovenian Covenant served as the political arm
of the anti-Communist militia. The civil war was
mostly restricted to the Province of Ljubljana, where more than 80% of
the Slovene anti-partisan units were active. Between 1943–1945,
smaller anti-Communist militia existed in parts of the Slovenian
Littoral and in Upper Carniola, while they were virtually non-existent
in the rest of the country. By 1945, the total number of Slovene
anti-Communist militamen reached 17,500.
Immediately after the war, some 12,000 members of the Slovene Home
Guard were killed in the Kočevski Rog massacres, while thousands of
anti-communist civilians were killed in the first year after the
war. In addition, hundreds of ethnic
Italians from the Julian
March were killed by the Yugoslav Army and partisan forces in the
Foibe massacres; some 27,000 Istrian
Italians fled Slovenian Istria
from Communist persecution in the so-called Istrian exodus. Members of
the ethnic German minority either fled or were expelled from Slovenia.
The overall number of World War II casualties in
Slovenia is estimated
at 97,000. The number includes about 14,000 people, who were killed or
died for other war-related reasons immediately after the end of the
war, and the tiny Jewish community, which was nearly
annihilated in the Holocaust. In addition, tens of thousands
Slovenes left their homeland soon after the end of the war. Most of
them settled in Argentina, Canada, Australia, and the United States.
Most of Carinthia remained part of
Austria and around 42,000 Slovenes
(per 1951 population census) were recognized as a
minority and have enjoyed special rights following the Austrian State
Treaty (Staatsvertrag) of 1955.
Slovenes in the Austrian state of
Styria (4,250) are not recognized as a minority and do not enjoy
special rights, although the State Treaty of 27 July 1955 states
otherwise. Many Carinthians remain uneasy about Slovene territorial
claims, pointing to the fact that Yugoslav troops entered the state
after each of the two World Wars. The former
governor, Jörg Haider, regularly played the Slovene card when his
popularity started to dwindle, and indeed relied on the strong
anti-Slovene attitudes in many parts of the province for his power
Yugoslavia acquired some territory from
Italy after WWII but some
Slovenes remained behind the Italian border, notably around
Trieste and Gorizia.
Slovenes in Socialist Yugoslavia
Titoism and Economy of the Socialist Federal Republic of
Socialist Republic of
Slovenia within the Socialist Federal Republic
Coat of arms of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia
Following the re-establishment of Yugoslavia at the end of World War
Slovenia became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia, declared on 29 November 1943. A socialist state was
established, but because of the Tito-Stalin split, economic and
personal freedoms were broader than in the Eastern Bloc. In 1947,
Italy ceded most of the
Julian March to Yugoslavia, and
regained the Slovene Littoral.
The dispute over the port of
Trieste however remained opened until
1954, until the short-lived Free Territory of
Trieste was divided
Italy and Yugoslavia, thus giving
Slovenia access to the sea.
This division was ratified only in 1975 with the Treaty of Osimo,
which gave a final legal sanction to Slovenia's long disputed western
border. From the 1950s, the Socialist Republic of
Slovenia enjoyed a
relatively wide autonomy.
The Stalinist period
Between 1945 and 1948, a wave of political repressions took place in
Slovenia and in Yugoslavia. Thousands of people were imprisoned for
their political beliefs. Several tens of thousands of
Slovenia immediately after the war in fear of Communist persecution.
Many of them settled in Argentina, which became the core of Slovenian
anti-Communist emigration. More than 50,000 more followed in the next
decade, frequently for economic reasons, as well as political ones.
These later waves of Slovene immigrants mostly settled in
in Australia, but also in other western countries.
Tito-Stalin split and aftermath
Main article: Titoism
In 1948, the
Tito-Stalin split took place. In the first years
following the split, the political repression worsened, as it extended
to Communists accused of Stalinism. Hundreds of
imprisoned in the concentration camp of Goli Otok, together with
thousands of people of other nationalities. Among the show trials that
took place in
Slovenia between 1945 and 1950, the most important were
the Nagode trial against democratic intellectuals and left liberal
activists (1946) and the Dachau trials (1947–1949), where former
Nazi concentration camps were accused of collaboration with
the Nazis. Many members of the
Roman Catholic clergy suffered
persecution. The case of bishop of Ljubljana Anton Vovk, who was
doused with gasoline and set on fire by Communist activists during a
pastoral visit to
Novo Mesto in January 1952, echoed in the western
Between 1949 and 1953, a forced collectivization was attempted. After
its failure, a policy of gradual liberalization was followed.
1950s: heavy industrialization
In the late 1950s,
Slovenia was the first of the Yugoslav republics to
begin a process of relative pluralization. A decade of
industrialisation was accompanied also by a fervent cultural and
literary production with many tensions between the regime and the
dissident intellectuals. From the late 1950s onward, dissident circles
started to be formed, mostly around short-lived independent journals,
such as Revija 57 (1957–1958), which was the first independent
intellectual journal in Yugoslavia and one of the first of this kind
in the Communist bloc, and Perspektive (1960–1964). Among the
most important critical public intellectuals in this period were the
sociologist Jože Pučnik, the poet Edvard Kocbek, and the literary
historian Dušan Pirjevec.
By the late 1960s, the reformist faction gained control of the
Slovenian Communist Party, launching a series of reforms, aiming at
the modernization of Slovenian society and economy. A new economic
policy, known as workers self-management started to be implemented
under the advice and supervision of the main theorist of the Yugoslav
Communist Party, the Slovene Edvard Kardelj.
1970s: "Years of Lead"
In 1973, this trend was stopped by the conservative faction of the
Slovenian Communist Party, backed by the Yugoslav Federal government.
A period known as the "Years of Lead" (Slovene: svinčena leta)
1980s: Towards independence
In the 1980s,
Slovenia experienced a rise of cultural pluralism.
Numerous grass-roots political, artistic and intellectual movements
emerged, including the Neue Slowenische Kunst, the Ljubljana school of
psychoanalysis, and the Nova revija intellectual circle. By the
mid-1980s, a reformist fraction, led by Milan Kučan, took control of
the Slovenian Communist Party, starting a gradual reform towards a
market socialism and controlled political pluralism.
Slovenes in independent Slovenia
1990s: Slovenian Spring, democracy and independence
The first clear demand for Slovene independence was made in 1987 by a
group of intellectuals in the 57th edition of the magazine Nova
revija. Demands for democratisation and increase of Slovenian
independence were sparked off. A mass democratic movement, coordinated
by the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, pushed the
Communists in the direction of democratic reforms. In 1991, Slovenia
became an independent nation state after a brief ten-day war. In
December 1991, a new constitution was adopted, followed in 1992 by
the laws on denationalisation and privatization. The members of
European Union recognised
Slovenia as an independent state on 15
January 1992, and the
United Nations accepted it as a member on 22 May
2010s: Slovenian disillusionment with socio-economic elites
The disillusionment with domestic socio-economic elites at municipal
and the State's level was expressed at the 2012–2013 Slovenian
protests on a wider scale than in the smaller 15 October 2011 protests
– Slovenian disillusionment with the elites and financial
institutions at the European and global level. In relation to the
leading politicians' response to allegations made by official
Commission for the Prevention of Corruption of the Republic of
Slovenia, law experts expressed the need for changes in the system
that would limit political arbitrariness.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2012)
Further information: National symbols of Slovenia
The first researchers of the origin of
Slovenes believed, on the basis
of the German name for Slovenes, Wenden or Winden, that
descendants of the Germanic tribe of the Vandals. Even today, some
German speakers refer to the Slovenian minority in Carinthian Austria
as Windische, an ethnicity distinct from Slovenes.
This claim is rejected by linguists on the basis that their dialect is
by all standards a variant of the Slovene language. The Germanic word
Wenden generally refers to the Wends, a West Slavic tribe that settled
along the now Eastern Germany. The first to define
Slovenes as a
separate branch of the
Slavic people was
Anton Tomaž Linhart
Anton Tomaž Linhart in his
work An Essay on the History of Carniola and Other Lands of the
Austrian South Slavs, published in 1791. In it, Linhart also
established the linguistic unity of the Slovene ethnic territory and
set the foundations of the Slovene ethnography.
After the disintegration of Yugoslavia during the late 1980s and the
formation of independent
Slovenia in the early 1990s motivated
interest in a particularly Slovenian national identity. One reflection
of this was an attempt at the rejection of a Slavic identity in favour
of a "Venetic" one. The autochthonist (protochronist) "Venetic theory"
was advanced in the mid 1980s, but it never gained wide currency. The
identification with Slavic roots remains strong in
Slovenia and in
2004 even led to the establishment of the Forum of Slavic Cultures in
In the late 1980s, several symbols from the
Middle Ages were revived
as Slovenian national symbols. Among them, the most popular are the
so-called Slovene Hat which featured in the coat of arms of the
Slovene March, and the Black Panther, a reconstruction of the supposed
coat of arms of the
Carolingian duchy of Carantania. After being used
in the Flag of Slovenia, the graphical representation of
become recognised as a national symbol. Per the Constitution of
Slovenia and the Slovenian act on national symbols, the flag of the
Slovene nation is a white-blue-red flag without the coat-of-arms. The
ratio of the width to height of the flag is one to two.
Roman Catholic with some
Lutherans in Prekmurje. A large minority of
non-religious or atheists.
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