Becoming a republic

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  • Janez Bleiweis. Founder and editor of the first Slovenian newspaper "Kmetijske in rokodelske novice" (Agricultural and Handicraft News). Source: Institute of Contemporary History
    Agricultural and Handicraft News, 1848. Source: Institute of Contemporary History

    From Styria, Carniola, Carinthia and the Province of Gorizia to Slovenia

    Hapsburg lands

    During his travels through Carinthia in 1807, the publicist Franz Sartori wrote about the local inhabitants: "Carinthians regard their neighbours, Styrians and Carniolans as foreigners; upper Carinthian treats the inhabitants of lower Carinthia as foreigners; Slovenians consider as fellow Slovenians only those friends and compatriots who speak the same language and do not live on the German side." This written record clearly reflects the collective consciousness of the society at the time. Due to the political division of the Slovenian territory into historical crown lands of Carniola, Styria, Carinthia, the Province of Gorizia, Trieste, and Istria, as well as into the Hungarian counties of Vas and Zala and the Venetian territory, the sense of belonging to a community was very local and regional. The majority of people shared Janez Trdina's views: "I thought that the best person in all things is a Carniolan, then a Frenchman and a German. I became infected with "Carniolan" patriotism when I was still at home and our farmers always spoke of Carniolans and the Carniolan land with some kind of pride. But no one knew Slovenia yet, not even by name." How would they, when Slovenia did not even exist as an administrative entity or in history and "no one even cared" about the rising trans-regional national idea, according to the well-known Slovenian politician Josip Vošnjak. The findings of professor Janez Cvirn have shown that, at the time, people from Maribor, Celje, or Ptuj were "primarily Styrians and also conscious bourgeois and local patriots who spoke both German and Slovenian, depending on what was necessary in their every-day life, but had a neutral position with regard to German or Slovenian national identity because they were still unaware of the new issue of national identity." However, during this period, the awareness of linguistic and ethnic unity of Slovenians also matured, and instead of the designations "windisch/Winde/Wende" and "krainerisch/Krainer," the ethnonym "Slovenian" began to be established and a completely new term was created for the land populated by "Slovenians" – Slovenia. The idea of the unification of Slovenian territory began to emerge, namely the concept of a new unit, which for then still remained securely shut behind the doors of Biedermeier apartments and was restricted to conversations and letters.


    Jože Vošnjak, constant supporter of "Zedinjena Slovenija" (United Slovenia)

    United Slovenia

    A significant shift occurred in the momentous revolutionary year of 1848 when the developing national awareness beyond crown-land borders strengthened, but still remained in the shadow of old regional identities. This was the year when the then limited and weak Slovenian intelligentsia crossed an important threshold – it departed from the cultural sphere and became politically active by forming the United Slovenia programme. The basic idea of the programme, which was created in multiple centres, was for "Slovenians to unify as a nation." In fear of Italian and German aspirations for Slovenian territory, its authors bound it tightly with the destiny of the Hapsburg monarchy. This concept of the United Slovenia programme remained the first and ultimate goal of Slovenian politics until its end in 1918. Even after the division of Slovenian politics into new ideological political camps, during the formation of political parties, and when it appeared that the monarchy itself would collapse due to foreign policy crises, the programme still did not lose its appeal for Slovenian politics.

    Jure Gašparič, Institute of Contemporary History