In 1834 the first trade school in the Slovenian lands was established in Ljubljana by Jacob Franz Mahr, its owner and first principal. The language used in the school was German, and the school was intended for wealthier kids of the local bourgeoisie to learn trade skills on the one hand, and assimilate on the other, and in line with Austrian de-nationalisation efforts targeting the empire’s Slavic majority subjects.
In 1855 Mahr bought one of Ljubljana’s most renowned hotels at today’s Krekov Trg by the central vegetable marketplace, where he moved his school. The building soon gained its current name, that is the Mahr House, and in 1865 the upper two floors were built.
In 1918 the Mahr House was taken over by the city government, which moved in several of its offices. Since 2003 the ground floor of the house hosts one branch of the Slovenian Tourist Information Centre, while the upper floors have been transformed into several apartments.
From 1865 to the WWI the school also ran a bilingual department, following the ultraquistic doctrine of introducing the primary language of the Slovenian pupils as a tool for more effective learning in the preferred language, German. Ultraquism as denationalising bilingualism in schools still remains a relevant issue of the Slovenes living in Austrian Carinthia.
The rarely used word ultraquism originates in the Latin sub utraque specie, meaning “in both kinds”, and originally referred to a Christian dogma proposed by pre-protestant Hussites (after the Czech Jan Hus) who maintained that the Eucharist should be administered “in both kinds”, that is as bread and wine to all the congregation, including the laity, since at the time the wine was only for the priests to enjoy.
As an author living in Ljubljana, much of my work is inspired by Slovenia and the region. Most recently I was inspired to write an alternate history of the breakup of Yugoslavia, which asks the question: What if Marshal Tito had named a totally untrained and untested successor? The first book centers on Slovenia and its war of independence. Here are ten interesting things that I learned, or discovered more about, while doing research for Tito’s Lost Children: War One Slovenia.
1. If you live in Ljubljana, Marshal Josip Broz Tito died in the hospital you probably go to.
Josip Broz Tito died at the University Clinical Center in Ljubljana on Njegoševa cesta. In 1980 it was one of the newest and most advanced medical centers in Yugoslavia, so he chose to travel to Ljubljana for treatment. The procession that took his body back to Belgrade on his famous Blue Train started from the Slovenian Parliament and what is today called Republic Square. A bit over ten years later this was the same location where Slovenian independence was declared.
In the Tito’s Lost Children trilogy, eleven years after his death, Tito’s fictional successor is tasked with stopping the breakup of Yugoslavia, avoiding capture by Serbian nationalists and preventing a wider war and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.
2. The rest of the former Yugoslavia has stereotypes that Slovenes are cheap, that Slovene girls are ‘easy,’ and that Slovene men are wimpy.
In the rest of the former Yugoslavia, ‘going Dutch’ is apparently referred to as ‘being Slovene.’ Despite – or possibly because of --the fact that Slovenia was the wealthiest member republic of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenes have a reputation as the misers of the region. In my experience the Slovenian attitude toward money seems to be more of an overt concern with good accounting. Be sure you keep the receipt for that one piece of burek you just bought!
There is also a stereotype that Slovene girls are ‘easy’, possibly because most interactions between Slovenes and people from other Yugoslav nationalities took place on ‘spring break’ style vacations in Croatia. As a single guy living here, I must report that I don’t have much evidence that this stereotype is true.
Perhaps related to the above, there is also a perception in the Balkans that Slovene men are wimpy. However, Slovenes are quick to point out that this is not the case and that brash behavior is simply frowned upon more here than it is in the rest of the former Yugoslavia.
In Tito’s Lost Children, the main characters meet Slovenes who seem to fulfill these stereotypes, only to turn out to be slightly misunderstood once we actually get to know them.
3. Slovenia declared independence one day before they announced that they would.
88.5% of Slovenians voted for independence in a referendum held on December 23rd 1991, which gave the government six months to implement the decision. The government took almost the entire six months to prepare for the independence and a probable conflict with the Yugoslav People’s Army. However, independence was declared one day early, before the waiting period expired, in order to catch the People’s Army off guard. This surprise move possibly made Slovenian victory easier. It also plays a role in Tito’s Lost Children.
4. Slovenska Cesta used to be named Tito Street.
It seems almost obvious once you know that ‘Tito Street,’ one of the main roads in the center of Ljubljana, was renamed ‘Slovenian Street’ upon independence. The names also changed for a lot of other landmark places in the center of the city. These include: Revolution Square, present day Republic Square, and Liberation Square, which is today’s Congress Square.
Tito and Jovanka reading Delo in Hotel Slon, on Tito Street, in 1969. Wikimedia
5. The present day prison hostel in Metelkova was where Janez Janša, an activist in the 1980’s, was imprisoned.
One of Ljubljana’s alternative culture hubs, now known as Metelkova for the street that it fronts on, has a prison that has been converted into a hostel. During the late 1980’s Metelkova was a barracks for the Yugoslav People’s Army, which got abandoned after the Slovenian war of independence. The prison hostel in it was once a very real military jail where politician Janez Janša was imprisoned after leaking classified People’s Army documents to Mladina, a magazine that, at the time, was officially the communist party’s youth magazine. I describe Metelkova as a functioning barracks toward the end of Tito’s Lost Children Book One and in the beginning of Book Two: Croatia.
The prison in Metelkova before the area became a squat. Source: Hostel Celica. Below, the place now. Source: JL Flanner
6. Technically speaking, Slovenia declared war on Yugoslavia, not the other way around.
When you hear about the Ten-Day-War, it often sounds as if the scrappy Slovene defense forces went up against the overwhelmingly superior aggressor of the Yugoslav People’s Army and won. This is true; a People’s Army soldier fired the first actual shots in the war. However, the order to retaliate, should the People’s Army resist Slovenia’s independence, was given before those shots were fired. This means that, technically, Slovenia did not only win the war, it was the first to declare the war in the first place.
7. No one can agree on who gave the order for the Slovene Territorial Defense forces to engage the Yugoslav People’s Army.
To this day, both then-President Milan Kučan and Janez Janša, who was defense minister at the time, claim to have been the one to give the order for the Slovenian forces to fire at the People’s Army. This means no one really knows who gave the actual order to start the war. Spoiler Alert: in Tito’s Lost Children, this is because my main character gives the order and both Kučan and Janša have to cover up her existence!
8. After World War Two a large group of fighters was killed or forced into exile.
Walking around Ljubljana, you will doubtless notice the large number of plaques dedicated to the partisan fighters who fell fighting the fascists during the Second World War. However, there was also another group of soldiers that didn’t get plaques -- to put it mildly.
The Domobranci (Home Defenders) were composed of people who did not support the partisans and the Italians allowed them to band together to defend their homes. Eventually, the Nazis forced them into fighting on their side. Nevertheless, they were branded as traitors after the partisans’ victory and were either forced to flee, sent to ‘reeducation’ camps or shot in mass killing fields. Knowledge of this was largely suppressed during the Yugoslav times. Nowadays, when you hear Slovenes speak of the ‘complicated World War Two history,’ this is what they are talking about.
One of my characters in Tito’s Lost Children is a descendant of a Domobranec. She has to deal with the political fallout of this history and was inspired by one of my real ancestors, who I discovered while doing research for the books could possibly have been a Domobranci sympathizer.
9. There was a whole class of people who had their rights as citizens erased when Slovenia became independent.
After Slovenia declared independence in 1991 it erased many non-Slovene Yugoslav nationals living in Slovenia from its list of citizens. This functionally made them non-persons in Slovene society. The issue has not been addressed until relatively recently. Milan Aksentijević, one of the senior officers of the Yugoslav People’s Army in Slovenia, had this happen to him, even though he had lived in Slovenia for years and was married to a Slovene. Something similar happens to a fictional general in my books.
10. Mt. Triglav looks absolutely nothing like it does on the flag.
The climax of Tito’s Lost Children Book One takes place on the summit of Mount Triglav. While doing research for the books I ran across a number of pictures of the mountain and was quite hard pressed to find where the three peaks were. I guess they go in kind of a curve?
At one point, I resolved to finally climb Triglav as research for the books. My mountaineer friend just laughed and suggested that a ‘city rat’ like me should start with Šmarna Gora, a hill on the outskirts of Ljubljana, instead. I had to settle for watching YouTube videos about climbing Slovenia’s highest peak.
Tito’s Lost Children War One: Slovenia is available here.
In 1910 the Carniolan provincial assembly adopted a new electoral law for municipal elections, under which many women were granted suffrage.
At the time Ljubljana was a stronghold of the elitist Liberal Party, with the Slovenian People’s Party in opposition. At the provincial level, Slovenian People’s Party won an absolute majority in 1908 and their municipal electoral reform meant an attack on the advantageous position Liberals’ enjoyed in Ljubljana.
Liberals, who were mostly supported by the wealthy voters, were fierce opponents of universal, equal and women’s suffrage. The Slovenian Catholic political camp in Carniola (liberals called them clericals) recognised women's municipal suffrage in 1910, and not only for taxpayers and landowners, but also explicitly for teachers and retired teachers. Besides, women were allowed to actually vote, not just authorise a man to go and cast a vote in their name, which was the practice until then.
In 1911, when women participated in Ljubljana municipal elections for the first time, police had to protect the separate female polling station on Bleiweiss street (today’s Prešeren street) and eventually closed the street down, since liberals organised protests during which they were yelling and spitting at mostly Ursuline women – nuns – who, as teachers, had a right to vote which they were also willing to exercise.
After WWI, on May 15, 1920 the Slovenian People’s Party granted universal suffrage for men and women at the municipal level. This was the first time universal women suffrage was introduced to Slovenian lands. It did not last long, however. The opponents of universal suffrage, local liberals and leaders in Belgrade managed to dismiss the right just two months before the local elections in 1921.
Apart from Slovenian People’s Party, the social democrats, communists and Croatian farmers’ party also stood in favour of women suffrage.
Women were granted the right to vote again in 1945, when the communists took power. However, given the one-party system and a lack of true choice, we can conclude that Slovenian men and women were finally granted equal suffrage with Slovenian first democratic elections in 1990.
In 1786 Emperor Joseph II ordered that the Discalced Augustinians monastery in Ajdovščina, Ljubljana, be rearranged into the first civilian hospital in Slovenian lands.
Among the reasons why Ajdovščina monastery was chosen over the Franciscan monastery at Vodnik square, another venue considered, were given its more appropriate interior design, beautiful garden and fresh air from Kamnik Mountains.
On the day of the opening, the hospital had three departments (internist, surgical and dermatological) and only 12 beds; three for women and nine for men. Two years later a psychiatric ward or – in the language of the day, “mad house” – was added. The hospital was managed by Brothers of Mercy from Trieste.
During the Illyrian Provinces and French occupation of Ljubljana, the French were in need of space for their wounded soldiers, and demanded the civilian hospital for this. The Brothers of Mercy refused to comply, so the French dismissed their order, seized the hospital, and handed its management to the city government. In 1849 the hospital was taken over by the provincial government of Carniola.
Due to lack of space a new psychiatric hospital was built in Polje, Ljubljana in 1881, and in 1889 children were also moved to a new paediatric hospital at Streliška street. In 1888 the Carniolan government decided to build an entirely new hospital on Zaloška street, Ljubljana. Construction work started in 1893 and was expected to be finished in 1896.
However, the damage caused by Ljubljana earthquake in 1995 forced the authorities to move the patients in old Ajdovščina hospital into tents in the hospital garden, and complete the work on the new hospital in the same year.
Ajdovščina monastery was so heavily damaged by the earthquake that the entire building had to be pulled down. In its place two secessionist buildings were erected at the addresses of Slovenska street 44 and 46: the Sloveniasport building (1906), designed by Ciril Metod Coch, and Hribar house (1905), designed by Max Fabiani.
Sloveniasport building with Hribar house to its left, 2014 Photo: Tia Monto, Wikimedia Commons
In memory of the hospital a memorial plate was built into the façade of Sloveniasport.
In 1888 the Cyril and Methodius Society established the first Slovenian school in the city of Trieste. On today’s date after years of efforts, Slovenes from Trieste finally got a school in their mother tongue. At the time around a quarter of the city’s population spoke Slovenian, while the rural areas surounding the city were mostly Slovene.
Until then education in the Slovenian language was opposed by the Italian nationalist elite, defending the exclusivism of the Italian schools, a means against “Slavization” and a guarantee of the Italian-only image of Trieste. The city children of Slovenian parents were thus only able to attend Italian schools, which promoted national assimilation.
The Cyril and Methodius School in Trieste performed its invaluable mission until the forced fascist abolition in 1930.
In 1809 Napoleon signed a decree establishing a special status zone called the Illyrian Provinces (Slo: Ilirske province), subordinated directly to the French central government. It included western Carinthia with Villach, Gorizia, Trieste and its surroundings, Istria, part of Croatia with Karlovac, Dalmatia with Zadar, the Republic of Dubrovnik and Boka Kotorska. Ljubljana became the administrative and cultural capital of the provinces.
The purpose of this territorial formation was not to restore Slavic Illyria, as Valentin Vodnik wrote in Illyria Revived in 1811, but to create a buffer zone along the Adriatic coast, which would cut off German lands from the sea, and a direct land between France and the Middle East would be established across Istria and Dalmatia.
Despite the dissatisfaction of the Slovenian population with the severe economic crisis (trade with Austrian lands was hindered) and the new tax burden and the recruitment of men into the French Army, the four years of rule under the French authorities were still quite important for the development of the Slovenian language and culture.
The first governor-general of the provinces Marshal August Marmont, made sure that elementary and middle school levels were all in Slovene, while Valentin Vodnik was in charge of providing textbooks. For this he published first Slovenian grammar written in the Slovenian language - Literacy or grammar for first schools. He also became a headmaster at a lower secondary school and headmaster of folk and art schools.
The integration of the Slovene lands into the Illyrian Provinces had a significant impact on the development of the Slovenian nationalist movement. However in 1813 Austria, following Napoleon’s defeat, regained its full control and sovereignty of the Slovenian lands, while Valentin Vodnik got into trouble for his support to the French. He was banned from working in schools in 1815 and died four years later.
STA, 6 October 2019 - Retired Celje Bishop Stanislav Lipovšek stressed at the annual Teharje ceremony remembering an estimated 5,000 victims of war and post-war summary executions the need "for true reconciliation with the past" if Slovenia wants to build a safe and happy future.
Addressing the ceremony in the Teharje Memorial Park (Spominski park Teharje) near Celje on Sunday, Lipovšek said 74 years were passing this year since the end of World War 2, 50 of which passed in forced silence and an guided concealing of the truth about events during and following the war.
While speaking of 600 execution sites around the country as proof of that, Lipovšek expressed gratitude to all who made sure that these sites are finally being tended to and that Slovenia is approaching the basic civilisational norm of giving the dead the right to a name and a grave and the living the right to remember.
"For a lasting an true peace and a future of our nation, a reconciliation of with the past is vital, since we cannot build a safe and happy present time and future without making sure true reconciliation with the past occurs.
"Reconciliation is only possible if we're willing to forgive. And forgiveness is only possible when we're ready to admit the truth, no matter how painful, difficult and burdensome it may be. Only the truth sets you free," Lipovšek said.
The ceremony was also addressed by researcher Slavko Žižek, who said "no nation can survive with a burden that began with the murder of several hundred victims in the autumn of 1941 and spring of 1942 and ended with the executions of thousands at the end of the war".
He rejected the continuing accusations of treason, collaboration etc, saying that the "only sin of these people was to resist the terror of the red star".
Many had to leave Slovenia because of their "love of God, of the nation, homeland and life" and they managed to preserve the Slovenian language and love of the homeland and transfer them to their offspring, which "simply does not square with the definition of treason", he said.
Among the victims the Teharje Memorial Park pays respects to were members of the Home Guard, a militia that collaborated with the Nazis; soldiers; civilians; and refugees from Croatia and Serbia apprehended by the Allies in May 1945 in the northern Koroško region as they were fleeing north.
The Allies turned them over to the Partisans, who brought them to the Teharje barracks, a facility formerly used by the Nazi Germany military.
In the subsequent two months, some 5,000 people were killed without a trial on several locations nearby Teharje, including the notorious Huda Jama mine shaft near Laško.
It took a long time until the locals dared to speak about what had happened. Many mustered the courage to speak up only after Slovenia gained independence in the early 1990s.
A memorial park was inaugurated at the site of the former barracks in 2004 but it still not fully finished.
In 1869 the Vienna Postal Administration, which was at the time in charge of the mail in Slovenia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, introduced postcards to carry shorter messages that were cheaper than letters and did not need an envelope.
In the second half of the 19th century, lower paper costs allowed for a novelty to be introduced into the postal service – envelopes. Letters were now inserted into unscripted paper wrappings, which were industrially produced and stamped in Austria first.
On today's date in 1869 the Vienna Postal Services introduced the first official postcard in the world, which was called “Correspondenz-Karte”. In Slovenian it was first called “listnica” and was later renamed to “dopisnica”.
STA, 1 October 2019 - After almost 60 years since its establishment, Adria Airways, Slovenia's flag carrier privatised in 2016, is grounded. By selling it to German fund 4K Invest, the state claimed it wanted to give the troubled company a fresh impetus, but with the management filing for receivership, the opposite scenario has happened.
March 1961 - Charter airline Adria Aviopromet is set up, operating DC 6 planes. In December of the same year, it operates the first flight with a home crew.
1964 - Adria Aviopromet gets its own airport in Brnik, after landing and taking off at Croatia's Zagreb airport.
1968 - Adria Aviopromet introduces the first regular route, between Ljubljana and Yugoslavia's capital Belgrade, and is renamed Inex Adria Aviopromet.
December 1981 - An Inex Adria Aviopromet plane crashes into Mt San Pietro in Corsica. All 180 people on board die.
1986 - The company is renamed Adria Airways. In the years to come, the number of routes grows, and so does the number of passengers.
25 June 1991 - Slovenia declares independence, and Yugoslavia's civil aviation administration soon bans Adria Airways from flying for three months.
1992 - Adria Airways relaunches its business and focusses on regular routes rather than charter flights.
1995 - The company enters a code share agreement with Germany's Lufthansa.
2004 - Adria Airways becomes a member of Star Alliance, the world's largest global airline alliance.
2010 - The airline establishes Adria Airways Tehnika, a subsidiary for the maintenance of its fleet.
2011 - Due to financial trouble, Adria Airways sells its 100% stake in Adria Airways Tehnika to two state-owned companies and is recapitalised by the state with EUR 50 million.
2012 - An international call to sell a 74.87% stake in Adria Airways is published, but falls through. The European Commission launches a probe into state aid.
2014 - The European Commission establishes that four state capital injections Adria Airways received in 2007-2011 were not in breach of EU rules.
July 2015 - A call to sell a 91.58% stake in Adria Airways is published, with an almost 70% stake held directly by the state and the rest indirectly through state assets managers.
January 2016 - A contract to sell the 91.58% stake to the German turnaround fund 4K Invest is signed. Before selling it, the state recapitalises the company with EUR 3.1 million and receives purchase money to the tune of EUR 100,000.
March 2016 - The privatisation is completed. CEO Mark Anžur hands over to Arno Schuster as the last Slovenian manager at its helm.
July 2017 - Through a subsidiary, Adria Airways takes over Swiss regional airline Darwin Airline, which in November files for bankruptcy. Swiss prosecutors then open a probe into financial irregularities.
February 2018 - Schuster resigns as CEO, and is replaced by Holger Kowarsch.
summer 2018 - Due to a shortage of staff, Adria Airways starts merging flights. Its fleet grows to 21 planes, the highest number ever.
December 2018 - Despite a capital injection of EUR 4 million from Adria Airways owners, the Civil Aviation Agency threatens to revoke its operating licence.
January 2019 - The Civil Aviation Agency finds the airline is solvent in the long-run.
February 2019 - STBE, a company said to be the owner of Adria Airways brand, is folded into Adria Airways to increase its capital.
June 2019 - Adria Airways is cancelling ever more flights.
September 2019 - Pilots threaten to go on a strike, but the two sides manage to sign a new collective bargaining agreement.
10 September - Adria Airways delivers to the Civil Aviation Agency an audited financial report for 2018. Nine days later, the agency bans it from flying with two CRJ900 Bombardier planes.
24 September - Adria Airways stops flying to all destinations expect once a day to Frankfurt and back to Ljubljana.
25 September - Adria Airways is given until 2 October to provide a financial restructuring plan, or else it would lose its operating licence.
30 September - As the government discusses Adria Airways' financial situation, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek says receivership seems to be the most viable option. The management files for receivership as it cancels the remaining flights, and the airline loses its operating licence. Počivalšek indicates the state could set up a new air carrier.
All our stories on Adria are here
August 20, 2019
In 1910 the official opening of a new, beautiful and large hotel took place in Portorož. At the time Palace Hotel (hotel Palace, but since 2008 known as Kempinski Palace Portorož), was one of the most prestigious and beautiful hotels on the Adriatic Coast, second only to the Excelsior Hotel in Venice.
The hotel, an example of neo-classicist architecture under the influence of the Viennese secession and Italian construction, was designed by the Vienna-based architect Johann Eustacchio from Friuli, and built by the Bruna & Depaoli construction company from Trieste.
During the WWII tourism ended in Portorož, and the hotel was plundered and used by various armies. Renovation works began in 1949, and in 1951 hotel was reopened.
During the 1960s it hosted many internationally recognised names, including Josip Broz Tito, Orson Welles, Sophia Loren, Yul Brynner, Marcello Mastroianni, Rita Pavone, Bobby Fisher, and so on.
During the 1970s and 80s a new Portorož began to form under the supervision of architect Edo Mihevc. Times were not favourable for the decorative style of the Palace Hotel, which also lost its direct access to the sea. The number of guests started to decline, and the hotel was finally closed in 1990.
After the hotel became the property of the Municipality of Piran, renovation and demolition works began in 2005 in cooperation with the strategic partner, Istrabenz. All that was left of the old hotel was its front façade facing the sea, Crystal Hall and its salons, and the main historic stairway. Everything else was rebuilt.
Related: Postcards From Sunny Portorož