In 1987 workers in the state owned company Litostroj, a Ljubljana-based heavy machinery manufacturer, began their strike, which many consider one of the crucial events in the democratisation of Slovenia.
The strike of about five thousand Litostroj workers under the leadership of an engineer France Tomšič lasted between December 9 and 15, expressed no confidence into the existing one-party governing rule by demanding that unions be able to become independent, and countered the ruling party at the political level by establishing an initiative committee of the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia.
Since the existence of another party, besides the ruling one, was not constitutionally possible at the time, the Social Democratic Union’s constitutional meeting could only occur on February 16, 1989, after the constitution had been changed.
The new party’s first leader was Tomšič, and Jože Pučnik became his successor in November 1989. At the 1993 congress, Janez Janša – current leader of the SDS – was elected as the party’s new leader.
In 1989 DEMOS, or the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (Demokratična opozicija Slovenije), was established, a coalition of democratically elected parties, which won the first democratic elections since 1945 and carried out the Slovenian independence project.
In 1980 the dictator of the Socialist Yugoslav federation Josip Broz-Tito died, and the economic, nationalistic and political tensions in the country started to grow.
In the Socialist Republic of Slovenia the first political party, Slovenian Farmers’ Association (Slovenska kmčka zveza), was established in 1988, and several more followed in 1989, as part of the democratic movement challenging the one-party political system.
Slovenian National Assembly passed several constitutional amendments in September 1989, which among other freedoms granted the rights of national self-determination and democratisation of Slovenian political system. In December the Assembly then first passed a law on political associations, setting the legal grounds for establishment of political parties (before this they had to be registered as associations or societies) and then called the parliamentary elections for April 8, 1990.
Several of the newly established parties, including the Slovenian Farmer’s Association, Slovenian Democratic Union, Slovenian Social Democratic Union and the Slovenian Christian Democrats signed a cooperation agreement, forming the DEMOS coalition, which won with 54.8 % of the vote in 1990, beating the parties which emerged from the crumbling Communist Party organisations.
DEMOS then formed the first democratically elected Slovenian government since 1945, which successfully carried out the referendum on independence on December 23, 1990, when 88.2% of all voters favoured Slovenia breaking away from Yugoslavia, and then June 25, 1991, the National Assembly on passed the declaration of independence.
The DEMOS government fell in 1992 due to disagreements with regard to changes in economic system, most notably, the question of how the privatisation of public companies should take place, a question then addressed by the second democratically elected government of Janez Drnovšek.
STA, 23 November 2019 - Slovenia observes Rudolf Maister Day on Saturday, remembering the general who established the first Slovenian army in modern history and secured what later became Slovenia's northern border. The holiday commemorates the day in 1918 when Maister (1874-1934) took control of Maribor.
Several events commemorating Maister were held this week. The main ceremony, on the eve of the holiday in Murska Sobota, was addressed by parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.
Židan praised Maister's courage, patriotism and determination also in his address to MPs yesterday. He said that Rudolf Maister Day was a great opportunity "for us to ask ourselves how do we contribute to a better society on a daily basis and whether we are worthy of the great deeds of our ancestors".
He added that Maister and his fighters could serve as an inspiration particularly to "us, current decision-makers" to be "bold enough to join forces in our efforts for a better future".
Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar noted in his message marking the holiday that Maister had not hesitated for a minute before taking his army into battle for "our northern border".
After laying a wreath at the monument to Maister in front of the Defence Ministry building on Friday, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec said Maister, a superb army commander, had felt at the end of the First World War that a historic moment is coming.
"It was a time, when we were able to take advantage of the first opportunity to get to independent Slovenia. It was a dream of many generations, many have given their lives for this goal. This is why is consider General Maister's actions as the first step towards our country," he stressed.
Today, President Borut Pahor will welcome visitors at the Presidential Palace, and the honorary guard of the Slovenian Armed Forces will be lined up in front of the building.
In Maribor and Kamnik, where Maister was born, memorial plaques will be unveiled, honouring the ardent Slovenian patriot.
Following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Major Maister prevented Maribor and the Podravje area from being made part of German Austria, the country created after WWI comprising areas of the former empire with a predominantly German-speaking population.
On 30 October 1918, the German city council declared Maribor and its surroundings part of German Austria, which Maister found unacceptable.
He set up a Slovenian army of 4,000 soldiers, disarmed the German Schutzwehr security service, and disbanded the militia of the German city council.
The general then occupied Slovenian ethnic territory, establishing the northern border between Austria and Yugoslavia that was later ratified by the Saint Germain Peace Treaty. The same border still runs between Slovenia and Austria today.
Maister is buried at Maribor's Pobrežje Cemetery, where he has a modest grave.
23 November has been observed as a public holiday since 2005, although not as a bank holiday.
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In 1948 the first Slovenian feature film with sound, titled On Our Own Land (Na svoji zemlji), was released in Union Cinema (Kino Union) in Ljubljana. The film, directed by France Štiglic, was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.
The first film ever made in today’s Slovenia was a two-minute long portrait of Ljubljana, filmed from Ljubljana Castle in autumn 1898. The film, which has unfortunately been lost, was then shown in Tivoli Park for about a week in May, 1899.
In 1905 three short films were made about the life in Ljutomer and in 1909 Ljubljana, a seven-minute film depicting Slavec Worker’s Choir’s 25th anniversary celebrations was created and can still be seen today.
In the years 1931 and 1932 two feature silent films celebrating mountaineering were made, that is In the Kingdom of the Goldhorn (V kraljestvu Zlatoroga), which is also the first Slovenian feature film, and The Slopes of Mount Triglav (Triglavske strmine).
After these nothing else was filmed for about a decade, as if the only thing Slovenians needed at the time was to put Triglav on film.
In 1941, just before WWII reached Slovenia, O Vrba was made, a documentary film that shows the house of the Slovenian poet France Prešeren when it was opened as a museum, an event that happened on the same day the film’s creators found out about the German invasion of Poland. The film’s release, however, had to wait until 1945, due to cultural silence imposed by the occupying forces during the war.
Another film was also released in 1945, the first post-war film and documentary with some acted scenes inserted, titled Ljubljana Welcomes Liberators (Ljubljana pozdravlja osvoboditelje).
In 1948, however, Slovenia finally got its first proper feature movie with sound. On One’s Own’s Land was based on the novel Grandpa Orel (Očka Orel) by Ciril Kosmač, and depicts partisan resistance during the last two years of WWII in the Slovenian Littoral, occupied by the Italians, then after capitulation of Italy when it was occupied by the Germans.
The film was the first produced by the company Triglav Film, established in 1946.
You can watch it below, although it’s only available online with Croatian subtitles.
In 1896 a four-kilometre long electric grid with 700 light bulbs came into operation in Kočevje, the event marking the beginning of the public distribution and supply of electricity in Slovenia.
The historical use of electricity in Slovenia begins in Maribor, where the first electric light illuminated the steam mill in 1883. The beginning of electrification, however, is considered the year 1894, when the first public hydroelectric plant began operating on Sora River in Škofja Loka.
The main purpose of the hydroelectric plant in Škofja Loka, however, was not to provide electricity for public use but rather for the needs of a thread factory, which was also the producer of the energy it needed. The surplus of electricity was sold to the city government and could support about 40 electric bulbs.
The hydro power plant in Kočevje, which was established to deliver water and electricity to the citizens, beginning on today’s date in 1896, is therefore considered as the beginning of electrification of today’s Slovenia.
In comparison, in Ljubljana the first electric bulb did not get turned on until January 1, 1898.
In 1918, following the end of WWI, the Serbian army officer Stevan Šabić and some of the Serbian army troops that have been captured by Austro-Hungarians during the war made a stop in Ljubljana on their way to Serbia and prevented its plunder by retreating military gangs and its planned occupation by the advancing Italian forces. Lieutenant Colonel Švabić, having the highest rank in the land he found himself in, also prevented the capture and plunder of Trbovlje and some other Slovenian towns.
In the chaos that followed the end of the WWI the newly established State of Serbs Croats and Slovenes (a month later the state embraced the Serbian king becoming a Kingdom itself) was not yet recognised and did not have its own army presence in all of the territories it claimed, especially in Slovenia, which used to be part of the now defeated Austrian Empire. With no troops present, the land was open for post-war looting, violence and changing of geopolitical circumstances which could potentially affect the new border agreements which were soon to follow.
Post-war Hungarian military violence against the Slovenian majority population in Prekmurje ended with the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where Hungary was forced to sign the Treaty of Trianon, which granted people the right to self-determination and allowed Prekmurje to join the Kingdom of SCS.
In Maribor, where on October 30, 1918 the German city council declared lower Styria (Štajerska) as part of the Austrian territory, General Rudolf Maister, who managed to mobilise 3,000 troops, disarmed the German guard on November 23, then continued a military campaign for Slovenian Styria and Carinthia.
On the Western border, however, things were a bit more complicated. The “people’s self-determination” principle that guided the Treaty of Trianon of the Paris Peace Conference was forgotten here in favour of the secret 1915 Treaty of London, which promised Italy large territorial gains in case of the Entente Powers’ victory. The controversial treaty became public after Lenin publicly denounced it in 1917.
Nevertheless, about 1/3 of the lands where Slovenians lived went to Italy, including the entire Southern and Northern littoral right up to the peak of Triglav. And in the post-war chaos with the central part of the country undefended, Italians turned their eyes on the capital, Ljubljana, as well.
On November 6, 1918, a Lieutenant Colonel of the Serbian army, Stevan Švabić, and other Serbian prisoners of war made a stop in Ljubljana after being released from Austrian war camps. According to Švabić’s account, Ljubljana train station was in a complete disorder: there was a train with 15 cars full of armed Hungarians on a nearby track and several other trains with armed militias present at the station. Immediately after his arrival at the station he was already being looked for by Adolf Ravnikar, sent to find help by the city authorities. Ravnikar explained the situation as alarming: out of control Austrian soldiers were returning from the front, while the Italian army followed them. If immediate help was not found, gangs would ransack the city and empty the military depots.
Understanding the urgency, Švabić gathered his troops to restore some basic order in the city, while prepared to address the problem of the advancing Italian army which had by November 10 already reached Logatec and was heading towards Vrhnika.
By November 14, Švabič had about 2,000 men and probably got a permission from Zagreb, to send the Italian commanding officer in Vrhnika an ultimatum not to continue the advance of the Italian troops further to Ljubljana, as he would have find “use of weapons on allied forces most regretful”.
The ultimatum, which was based on a pretext that the allied forces, the Serbs, had already taken control of the surrendered Austrian territories, stirred a lot of confusion on the Italian side, which must have concluded that perhaps the Serbian army had indeed managed to reach that far north at such a short notice. Furthermore, additional pressure on the Italians to retreat came from the French, who were called to do so by the Serbs.
In the days that followed, the Italian army retreated from Vrhnika while only six days after his ultimatum Stevan Švabić was called to Belgrade, probably due to a presumed violation of the chain of command by signing his name on the document which threatened an allied country with the use of weapons.
In 1930 Stevan Švabić was awarded a deserving citizen medal by the City of Ljubljana and two streets in Slovenia are named after him: Švabićeva ulica in Trnovo, Ljubljana and Švabićeva ulica in Vrhnika.
In 1920 the Rapallo Treaty was signed by the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Kingdom of SCS, in 1929 renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) and the Kingdom of Italy in Rapallo. The treaty defined a border between the two countries, assigning one third of the Slovene ethnic territory, Istria and part of Dalmatia, to Italy, which in turn recognized the Kingdom of SCS.
Along the Rapallo border, the Slovenian population of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire was divided into two parts. Slovenes who lived in Gorizia, part of Inner Carniola, Trieste, Istria and the Littoral were soon to experience the pressure of increasing fascism.
Italy entered WWI due to an alliance with Germany and Austro-Hungary that it had been part of since 1882. At the start of hostilities it refused to commit troops, claiming that the alliance was defensive in nature and that Austro-Hungary was the aggressor.
In 1915 Italy changed sides after the Triple Entente (France, Russia and Great Britain) promised it parts of the Austro-Hungarian territories under the secrecy of the so-called London Agreement (Italian: Patto di Londra), signed on April 26, 1915 by the representatives of Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Russia.
Italy pledged to declare war on the Central Powers, which it did less than a month later, on May 23, and was in return promised the following territories in case of the Entente’s victory:
Trst (Trieste), Trento, Gorica, Istria, Protectorate over Albania, the port of Vlorë, Dodecanese Islands, Zadar, parts of Dalmatia, the Soča River Valley and Southern Tyrol.
The agreement became public with the fall of Tsarist Russia, when Vladimir Lenin, a fierce opponent of war and secret diplomacy, in 1917 publically declared that the new Soviet state no longer recognized the Agreement.
In a new international situation that followed with the war’s end in 1918 the United States became involved as well. President Woodrow Wilson rejected Italian claims for Dalmatia, but agreed that the Slovenian Littoral and much of Istria, including Pula, belong to Italy.
Backed with such an international support Italy headed to Rapallo in 1920, where it was to sign a peace deal with a newly established, not yet recognised state.
About one-third of the Slovene ethnic territory remained outside the country of origin, all of Istria, Rijeka and Zadar with their immediate hinterland. The aforementioned territories immediately received a strong wave of violent Italianization through fascist attacks, arson, imprisonment, torture, internment and killing of Slovenes and Croats. Tens of thousands were expelled to southern Italy, and more than one hundred thousand were forced to flee to Yugoslavia and other countries.
In 1598 Ferdinand II of the Habsburgs issued a decree that all Protestant teachers and preachers had to leave Carniolan cities and squares in 14 days.
In Slovenia Protestantism was most effective and widely spread in the 16th century during the Reformation. The Protestant movement – its most popular form in Carniola was Lutheranism – supported the development of Slovenian literary language, which allowed for Slovenian literature and education to spread for the first time, and the first public library was opened. All this enabled and directed the development of Slovenia to a modern nation.
In response to all of this the Catholic Church initiated the Counter-Reformation, also called the Catholic Reformation, a period of Catholic resurgence which began with the Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) and, in greater part but not completely, ended with the conclusion of European wars of religion in 1648.
In Slovenian lands the Counter-Reformation arrived at the end of the 16th century and was led by the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand II, who ordered the Protestant groups of of inner Austria to return to the Catholic faith or leave the country.
During the Counter-Reformation special religious commissions were established, which, accompanied by soldiers, expelled Protestant preachers, abolished Protestant schools, demolished Protestant churches and cemeteries, burned books, and expelled Protestant families who refused to renounce their religion. In Styria they were led by Bishop Martin Brener and in Carniola and Carinthia by Tomaž Hren.
Following the Counter-Reformation’s onset, publication of Slovenian books died out and Protestantism was only preserved in Prekmurje.
Currently the most famous living Protestant in Slovenia is perhaps Milan Kučan, Slovenia’s first president, who was born into a Lutheran teacher’s family in Prekmurje.
In 1917 on today’s date, the 12th and last Battle of Soča (Isonzo) started with the Austro-Hungarian forces being able to break into Italian frontline and forcing Italians to retreat about 100 km westward to the Piava River.
One of the Slovenia’s most scenic areas, the Soča (ITA: Isonzo) river valley, a filming location for fantasy movies like Narnia (Prince Caspian, 2008) and one of the main Slovenian tourist destinations, was also one of the bloodiest scenes of World War One. The last of these battles, the Battle of Kobarid (Caporetto), which started on today’s date, is also the one mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
Italy entered WWI due to an alliance with Germany and Austro-Hungary that it had been part of since 1882. At the start of hostilities it refused to commit troops, claiming that the alliance was defensive in nature and that Austro-Hungary was the aggressor.
In 1915 Italy changed sides after the Triple Entente (France, Russia and Great Britain) promised it parts of the Austro-Hungarian territories, in particular the Southern Tyrol, Austrian littoral (today’s Slovenia), and Dalmatian coast (today’s Croatia) after a Austro-Hungarian defeat. In April 1915, Italy declared war on Austro-Hungary and fifteen months later it declared war on Germany.
Austro-Hungarian troops, in anticipation of the Italian offensive, moved from the border with Italy to the left bank of the Soča River to await the Italian army in a terrain difficult to conquer.
The numerically superior Italian army was led by Field Marshal Luigi Cadorna, a proponent of the frontal assault, who had planned to break into the Slovenian plateau, take Ljubljana and then threaten Vienna.
On the side of numerically weaker Austro-Hungarian army was Field Marshal Svetozar Boroević, a Serbian Croat and the only non-Austrian commander of this rank, who managed to persuade Emperor Franz Joseph that what was believed to be an indefensible part of Slovenia was is in fact worth defending, which placed him in command of Soča.
The terrain did in fact prove difficult for the Italian offensive, and the battle line practically didn’t move for the first eleven battles that took place over the following two years, exerting tremendous suffering not only on the troops but also the local population, who found themselves in the middle of the crossfire, famine and disease.
In the second half of 1917 the Austrian-Hungarian army was not only exhausted by years of war in steep mountain trenches, but also losing morale due to lack of progress and the aspirations for independence by various peoples under imperial rule. Emperor Karl I (Charles I), Franz Joseph’s successor and the Austrian commanding officer, decided to ask the Germans for help. If the Soča Front had fallen, the Austrian army would have collapsed and German offensive in the western front might fail as well. The Germans agreed and in September 1917 the plan for attack was drawn which was supposed to happen on October 22, but the date eventually changed to the 24th due to preparation delays.
Italian commanders began suspecting that Austria was preparing an offensive on September 14th, when it the closed border with Switzerland to prevent information from being leaked. By the end of the month the Italian command headquarters were informed about the presence of the German officers in the Tolmin area and Grahovo by Bača, and then about the arrival of Germans to Ljubljana and Tolmin at the beginning of October.
Despite all the warnings that an attack would occur somewhere in the upper Soča valley, the Italian commander Cardona believed that the Austrian offensive would occur at Banjšice plato near Gorica, so he moved most of the artillery units there.
The traditional military wisdom, which Cordona had followed, dictated the preferential capture of the hills from where the surroundings could be controlled. The German and Austrian strategists turned the idea upside down, planning to attack through the valley where the enemy was most vulnerable, in order to surround the heavily fortified hills and take them down one by one in the second phase of the offensive. In realization of this plan, they got a lot of help from the weather, as on the day of the attack it rained in the valley and snowed in the mountains.
Generally speaking, the 12th battle of Soča, also known as the Battle of Kobarid or the Battle of Caporetto, is considered the first to successfully employing the vague strategy of blitzkrieg commonly believed to be a WWII invention: infantry break through the weakest link in the adversary’s defense line, getting through behind its back and finishing it with artillery after it tries to follow.
Italian defense lines were well-fortified and equipped. In fact, the positions were carved into stone walls, making them accessible from the front face only. To get to their positions, which were distributed in three parallel defense lines, one would also have to get over the wire hurdles first.
The Austro-Hungarian and German army decided to solve the problem by the use of gas, which had already been used by the Austrian army in 1916. The gas used then was chlorine. This time, two gasses were prepared to deploy, chloroarsine and phosgene, the first one being a sneezing agent which seeped through the gas mask filters and caused an irritation which would force soldiers to take their masks off and thus inhale the second gas, phosgene, the deadly poison.
The battle began at two in the morning, when more than 111,000 gas grenades, the first the ones marked with blue crosses, then the ones with green crosses, were shot at the Italian side. Then the front was quiet till six in the morning, when full fire opened at the attempts to fill in the gaps in the defense lines. The infantry then moved through the valley with almost no resistance, advancing about 25 kilometers towards Italy on the first day alone.
Eventually the attackers were stopped at the Piava River, where they were decisively defeated in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in October 1918.
Austria-Hungary surrendered on 11 November 1918. The larger part of Carniola joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Kingdom of Yugoslavia), while Italy got its promised spoils of war (apart from Dalmatia) that included the former Austrian littoral with the border line drawn just under the peak of Triglav.
In 1943 the first overseas brigade was formed in Carbonara, Italy. It consisted of 1886 fighters from the Slovenian 1st and 2nd battalions, 3rd Montenegrin battalion and 4th battalion, which was Croatian in origin. A month later when the brigade was deployed to the island of Hvar two more battalions joined in, mostly comprised of Slovenian soldiers.
In WWII fascist Italy arrested over 60,000 Slovenes from the occupied Western Slovenia and sent them to concentration camps as political prisoners, alongside several thousand Croats and Serbs. Furthermore about 10,000 Slovenes and Croats were mobilised and mostly deployed in penal work units or so-called special battalions as citizens of Italy, and an additional 6,000 antifascist activists from the Littoral and Istria, were sent to jails and special camps in the Italian hinterlands and islands, such as Lipari, Ustica and Ponza.
Italy capitulated in September 1943 and the internees came under the supervision of the occupying allied forces. Most of the Slovenes and other Yugoslavs located in the north of the country managed to escape to the Littoral and Istria, while the majority, located in the central and Southern Italy, were gathered by the Allies in various local camps and then moved to a single major camp in Carbonara near Bari, Italy.
Right after the capitulation of Italy, the National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia (NLAPDY) delegation came to the camp and established its base there in agreement with the occupying Allied forces. The NLAPDY then negotiated to establish the self-organisation of life inside the camp and dismissed the Chetnik guards (mostly from the Serbian nationalist and royalist army, which collaborated with the Nazis on many occasions –- the main military force the Allies collaborated with in the territories of Yugoslavia until 1943). At the same time the camps committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was established alongside the 1st. Overseas Brigade. In November of the same year the internees were moved to Gravina, which had its own command headquarters and guards, and was also a gathering point for all the subsequent arrivals of Yugoslavian expats, which continued to arrive there in the subsequent year.
The occupying powers and Marshal Badoglio, who was in charge of the Carbonara camp, disagreed on the transfer of former members of the Italian army – mobilized Slovenes and Croats – to the Yugoslav National Liberation Army, causing more of them to flee from Allied assembly camps to NLAPDY assembly points in Taranto, Naples, Foggia, Brindisi and then to Gravina.
About 20,000 of the Littorals and Istrians, who were not in contact with the NLAPDY during the liberation of Italy in Sardinia, were transferred to Corsica in spring 1944 and then to southern France, where they were detained until December 1945.
After being mobilized into the Italian army thousands of Littorals and Istrians were sent to the Italian occupied territories in African Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Libya. They were captured there by Allied troops and imprisoned in prison camps in Kenya, Sudan, Egypt, Algeria and some other countries. From there, after the invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, they joined the emerging Yugoslav royal army abroad. The latter lost homogeneity as a result of the controversial emigration of the Yugoslav government and the dual policy of General Draza Mihailović, and by that time a large part of these troops had also joined the NLAPDY overseas brigades in Italy.
Nazi Germany also mobilized Slovenes from its occupied territories of the Upper Carniola (Gorenjska), Styria (Štajerska) and Carinthia (Koroška), many of whom crossed over to the Allies after the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Two thousand eight hundred of them established an overseas brigade in London.
In the years of 1943 and 1944, five overseas brigades were formed, and several other artillery and special units that participated in the fight against the occupying forces in Yugoslavia. In all the overseas units consisted of about 18,000 troops, more than 1,000 of whom fell in battle.
In December 1943, the 1st Overseas Brigade was transferred to the island of Korčula to defend it on December 22- 24, 1943, when the Germans landed on the island. The brigade suffered heavy casualties and retreated to Vis. Subsequently, members of the 1st Overseas Brigade participated in the seventh offensive and landing on Drvar, and then were deployed to Serbia, where they participated in the fight for the liberation of Belgrade. Following this operation, the 1st and 6th Proletarian Divisions, whose members had previously been members of the 1st Overseas Brigade, participated in the Srem front, then advanced through Slovenia towards Trieste.