Slovenia History

The early Slovenes settled in the river valleys of the Danube Basin and the eastern Alps in the 6th century. In 748, Slovenia was brought under Germanic rule, first by the Frankish empire of the Carolingians, who converted the population to Christianity, and then as part of the Holy Roman Empire in the 9th century. The Austro-German monarchy took over in the early 14th century and continued to rule (as the Austrian Habsburg Empire from 1804) right up until 1918, with only one brief interruption. Over these six centuries, the upper classes became totally Germanized, though the peasantry retained their Slavic (later Slovenian) identity.

In 1809, in a bid to isolate the Habsburg Empire from the Adriatic, Napoleon established the so-called Illyrian Provinces (Slovenia, Dalmatia and part of Croatia), making Ljubljana the capital. Though the Habsburgs returned in 1814, French reforms in education, law and public administration endured. The democratic revolution that swept Europe in 1848 also increased political and national consciousness among the Slovenes, and after WWI and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovenia was included in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

During WWII much of Slovenia was annexed by Germany, with Italy and Hungary taking smaller shares. Slovenian partisans fought against the invaders from mountain bases. Slovenia joined the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945.

Slovenes worried when Serbia, under Slobodan Milosevic, started to make noises in the late 1980s about asserting its cultural and economic leadership among the Yugoslav republics. In late 1988, when Belgrade abruptly ended the autonomy of Kosovo, Slovenes, along with their Croatian neighbors, feared that the same could happen to them and that the time to decide their own fate was imminent. Undoubtedly, the rapid breakdown of communism throughout the Eastern Bloc gave the independence movement further encouragement.

In the spring of 1990, Slovenia became the first Yugoslav republic to hold free elections and slough off 45 years of socialist rule; the following December the electorate voted overwhelmingly (90%) in favor of independence. The implications for the future of Yugoslavia and regional stability were not taken lightly; both the West and the many Slavs living in Slovenia were lukewarm about the decision. They were right, in so far as Belgrade was not about to let the republic go quietly into that good night. Diplomatic efforts to secede gradually were rejected, and a series of provocative confrontations between the Yugoslav army and the newly established Slovenian army ensued. On 25 June 1991, Slovenia declared its independence, and a show down loomed as Yugoslav forces mobilized. Slovenian troops and civilians called their bluff by taking up what arms they could, and the West stood by and watched. A 10-day war ensued in which lives were lost and much worse was threatened, but with the world watching and fierce resistance from the Slovenian militia, the Yugolsav army backed off. With no territorial claims or minority issues involved, the Yugoslav government agreed to a truce brokered by the European Community (EC). Slovenia paid a comparatively light price for its independence, as Croatia and Bosnia would soon discover. On 15 January 1992, the EC formally recognized the country. Slovenia was admitted to the United Nations in May 1992.

In October 2000, in Slovenia's third election since gaining independence, the Liberal Democratic party was returned to power. Events since then have moved Slovenia further towards political and economic integration with western Europe. In 2004, the country was one of a host of countries to be admitted to the European Union and NATO. In a referendum in that same year, voters embarrassed the government by rejecting moves to restore civil and property rights removed from nationals of other Yugoslav republics following independence. 


Since WWII many Slovenian folk traditions have been lost, but traditional musicians and old-style cooking (heavily dependent on fish, venison and the dumpling) keep the beat alive. Slovenia is no stranger to more modern pleasures like punk and post-modernist art, but their best-loved writer is still the 19th-century Romantic poet France Preseren.

Postmodernist painting and sculpture has been dominated since the 1980s by the multimedia group Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) and the five-member anonymous artists' cooperative IRWIN.

Slovenia's most beloved writer is the Romantic poet France Preseren (1800-49), whose lyric poems set new standards for Slovenian literature and helped raise national consciousness.

Slovenia's most beloved writer is the Romantic poet France Preseren (1800-49), whose lyric poems set new standards for Slovenian literature and helped raise national consciousness.

Slovenian cuisine, which traditionally relies heavily on venison and fish, is heavily influenced by that of its neighbours. From Austria, it's klobasa (sausage), zavitek (strudel) and Dunajski zrezek (Wiener schnitzel). Njoki (potato dumplings), rizota (risotto) and the ravioli-like zlikrofi are Italian. Hungary has contributed golaz (goulash) and paprikas (chicken or beef stew). And then there's an old Balkan standby, burek, a greasy layered cheese, meat or even apple pie served at takeaway places. There are many types of dumplings; cheese ones called struklji are the most popular. Traditional dishes are best tried at an inn (gostilna). Slovenia produces some noticeable red and white wines, a strong brandy called zganje and Union and Zlatorog brand beers, which are very popular.

Since WWII, many Slovenian folk traditions have been lost, but compilations by the trio Trutamora Slovenica go back to the roots of Slovenian folk music. Popular music runs the gamut, but it was punk in the late 1970s and early 1980s that grabbed straitlaced Slovenia by the collar and shook it up.


Slovenia occupies about 2% of central Europe - 20,256 sq km (7817 sq mi) of land area - and it's about the size of Israel or Wales. To the north is Austria and to the south Croatia. Shorter borders separate Slovenia from Italy in the west and Hungary in the east. Slovenia is predominantly hilly, with more than 90% of its surface over 300m (984ft) above sea level. Forest covers almost half of the country (making Slovenia one of the world's 'greenest' countries) and agricultural land - mostly made up of fields, orchards, vineyards and pastures - covers a further 43%.

There are six main regions within the country: the Alps; the pre-Alpine hills; the Dinaric karst (a limestone region of caves and underground rivers) below the hills; the Slovenian littoral, 47km (29mi) of Adriatic coastline; the flat Pannonian plain; and the lowlands, which make up around one-fifth of the country, mostly in the east and north-east. The interior is drained by rivers including the Sava and the Drava (which empty into the Danube), the Soca, which flows into the Adriatic, the Mura and the Krka. The Kolpa River marks much of the border with Croatia.

The country is home to 2900 plant species and many are unique to Slovenia. Triglav National Park is especially rich in endemic flowering plants.

Common European animals are abundant in Slovenia, including deer, boar, chamois, bear and lynx (all of which are hunted), and it's also home to rarer beasts such as the moor tortoise, cave hedgehog, scarab beetle and various dormice. Proteus anguinus, the 'human fish', is unique to Slovenia's karst caves, and is one of the world's most mysterious creatures.

The northwest has an Alpine climate, and temperatures in the Alpine valleys are moderate in summer but cold in winter. The Adriatic coast and much of the Primorska (westernmost) province have a Mediterranean climate, with warm, sunny days and mild winters. Most of eastern Slovenia has a Continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. January is the coldest month; the average daytime temperature is minus 2C (28F). July is the warmest month, with an average of 21C (70F).

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