History Files
 

European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

Slovenia

Now an independent state, the territory that is encompassed by Slovenia's modern borders is situated in the upper north-west of the Balkans, bordering Hungary. The Slovenes are Slavs, closely related to the Croatians. For much of the twentieth century their state had been forcibly subsumed by the kingdom and republic of Yugoslavia, but the history of its people actually stretches back around fifteen hundred years.

Prior to the arrival of Slavic groups the region had been occupied by Celtic tribes - especially the Boii, Carni, and Latovici - prior to the arrival of the Romans. Following the collapse of the Western Roman empire, Slovenia's territory followed the same path as its eastern neighbours, being controlled successively by the Huns (circa 400-460), and the Ostrogoths (circa 460-488), before undergoing Slav incursions during the late fifth and sixth centuries AD and falling to the Avars until circa 745. It was the Alpine Slavs - settlers in eastern portions of Friulia in the sixth century - who are thought to have been the ancestors of the modern Slovenians. Then the Bavarii ruled the region (circa 745-788), followed by the Carolingian Franks (788-843), Germany (843-907), Hungary (907-955), and then back to Germany as part of Carinthia until the territory was established as a margraviate in 1054.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin (1996), from The Barbarians: Warriors & Wars of the Dark Ages, Tim Newark (Blandford Press, 1985), from The Civilisation of the East, Fritz Hommel (Translated by J H Loewe, Elibron Classic Series, 2005), and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

c.631

The Alpine Slavs (probable ancestors of today's Slovenians), of which Duke Valuk of the Slav Kingdom is possibly a member, have most likely migrated into their current region by following the Danube. They would have come into contact with groups who had once belonged to Celtic tribal states and which may well have retained Celtic customs and perhaps the language too. The Venedi would still appear to be extant around what was becoming Wallachia's northern area, so other Celtic refugees from Central Europe (the Lugii and Boii for example) had probably joined them, bolstering their numbers.

Carinthia
The modern southern Austrian region of Carinthia marked the upper edge of the Adriatic hinterland, and the southern borders of Samo's seventh century Slav kingdom, one of the earliest Slav states to appear

600 - 800s

The Slovene language is closely related to its eastern neighbour, Serbo-Croatian, from which it now separates, between the sixth and ninth centuries. The South Slavic Slovene language subsequently exhibits affinities to West Slavic Czech and to Slovak. Eastern Slovene dialects blend with Kajkavian forms of Serbo-Croatian, but literary Slovene remains distinctive from its Croatian counterparts, borrowing words from the German and Italian languages.

c.700s - 962

Following the death of Samo, the Slav Kingdom dissolves into several minor successor states. A Slovene tribal duchy emerges in what will become Slovenia, centred on what is now Austria's Klagenfurt basin. Neighboured by a Slav principality known as Khorushka, it manages to survive for around two hundred years.

MapThen, in 962, with the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I the Elder is restored in Flanders, and the March of Austria is formed (or confirmed) from territory already captured from Hungary (around 960). The establishment of the margraviate of Carniola soon follows.

Margraves of Carniola (Slovenia)
Incorporating Merania

In the tenth century, after the partitioning of the Frankish empire, the lands in which lived Slovene speakers were assigned to the German kingdom. As part of the defence of that kingdom against the invading Magyar horsemen they were divided up into 'marks', border marches (satellite territory around the edge of a kingdom), of Carinthia, Carniola (essentially modern Slovenia), Istria, and Styria. German lay and clerical lords arrived, along with dependent peasants, and enserfed the Slovenes, whom they called Wends or Winds (a detailed discussion of the source of this name can be found under the entry for the Venedi).

Over the next three centuries, the marches came under the tenuous authority of several territorial dynasts, starting with a German-led margraviate in 1040. It was Holy Roman Emperor Henry III who divided the march of Verona from Carinthia and created two new marches from it - Carniola and Istria. Thanks to ties forged through marriage, Poppo, count of Weimar-Orlamünde in Thuringia, was appointed margrave of both marches. In time Ottokar II of Bohemia-Moravia brought many of the marches back under Slavic control in his attempts to establish a Slavic empire. The name Carniola owes its origins to a German revival of the Carni tribal name, Celts whose territory had previously incorporated the eastern parts of Slovenia. Its capital was Krainburg (modern Kranj).

Merania was a coastal territory that was probably located at the northern end of the Adriatic. It cannot be placed precisely but its titleholders were often known as dukes of Dachau or Dalmatia. Thanks to this the Dalmatian coast has been touted as a strong possibility, which would probably make Carniola an integral part of its lands. The duchy is certainly important and, because it is not represented elsewhere, and may indeed be a renaming - and possibly an enlargement - of Carniola, its dukes are shown below with a shaded background to differentiate them from the less influential margraves of Carniola.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Geschichte Kärntens bis 1335 (Vols 1 & 2), A Jaksch (Klagenfurt, 1928-29), from Geschichte Kärntens (Vols 1 & 2), C Fräss-Ehrfeld (Klagenfurt, 1984-94), from Dynasties of the World, John E Morby, and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1040 - 1044

Poppo I

Thuringian count. First margrave of Istria (1012).

1045 - 1070

Ulrich I

Son. Count of Weimar-Orlamünde. Margrave of Istria.

1055

Duke Welf III of Carinthia dies without having produced an heir. He bequeaths his property to Weingarten Abbey in Altdorf, where his mother is abbess. She in turn passes it to Welf, soon to be Duke Welf I of Bavaria. This does not include the fief of Carinthia, however, which is assigned to Conrad of Zulpichgau along with the margraviate of Verona (the territory from which Carniola and Istria had been drawn).

Map of Germany AD 962
Although showing the political situation in the Germany of AD 962, this map is still valid for displaying the marcher territories on the southern and eastern border around a century later (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1070 - 1098

Poppo II Weimar

Son. Count of Weimar-Orlamünde. Margrave of Istria.

1098 - 1108

Ulrich II Weimar

Brother. Count of Weimar-Orlamünde. Margrave of Istria.

1108

Upon the death of the childless Ulrich II, Carniola passes to his nephew via his sister, Adelaide. Her daughter is Willibirg, and it is Willibirg's son who will (in 1152) become Conrad, duke of Merania, a coastal territory probably at the northern end of the Adriatic but which cannot be placed precisely. The Dalmatian coast has been touted as a strong possibility, which would probably make Carniola an integral part of its lands.

The duchy is certainly important, as the holders of the title are also princes of the Holy Roman empire. Because it is not represented elsewhere, and may indeed be a renaming - and possibly an enlargement - of Carniola, its dukes are shown with a shaded background to differentiate them from the less influential margraves of Carniola.

1108 - 1159

Conrad I

Grand-nephew. Later duke of Merania (1152).

1159 - 1182

Conrad II

Son. Duke of Merania. Died childless.

1182 - 1204

Berthold II Andechs

Son. Duke of Merania. Margrave of Istria.

1204

When Berthold dies his titles are divided between two successors (somewhat adding to the air of confusion about Merania, given that it seems to incorporate Carniola and part - or all - of Istria). His son Otto succeeds as Duke Otto I of Merania, while also acquiring the free county of Burgundy (a division of, but not to be confused with, the duchy of Burgundy and the former kingdom of Burgundy, formed in 1004) as Otto II in 1208. His younger brother, Henry, becomes margrave of Carniola and Istria.

1204 - 1234

Otto I

Son. Duke of Merania. Count Otto II of Burgundy.

1204 - 1228

Henry II of Meran

Brother. Margrave of Istria.

1228 - 1234

Otto I of Meran

Inherited Carniola & Istria from Henry.

1230

The margraviate of Istria passes to Berthold III, younger brother of Otto and patriarch of Aquileia. Otto continues to hold the title of duke of Merania and seemingly also margrave of Carniola until his death in 1234.

Krainburg (Kranj)
The city of Krainburg (with 'krain' being the German version of the Anglicised 'carn' of Carniola) served as the margraviate's capital, and today is Kranj, fourth-largest city in Slovenia

1234 - 1248

Otto II

Son. Last duke of Merania. Count Otto III of Burgundy.

1248

Dying childless and largely in disgrace thanks to a feud with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, Otto's Burgundian lands pass to his sister, Adelaide, while the now empty Meranian title is extinguished.

1248 - 1269

Ulrich III

Son of Bernard. Duke of Carinthia (1256).

1269

Ulrich has outlived his own children, so upon his death, and based upon his marriage to Judith of Bohemia and a secret agreement of 1268, King Ottokar II of Bohemia-Moravia takes the duchy. This is despite Ulrich having also formally agreed to be succeeded by his brother, Philip, the deposed archbishop of Salzburg. Philip is reduced in rank as far as his surviving hereditary titles go, while at the same time Carniola is also effectively merged into Carinthia.

1269 - 1276

Ottokar the Great

King of Bohemia. Also in Austria, Carinthia, Slovenia, & Styria.

1276

Rudolf of Habsburg wrests the duchies of Austria and Carinthia from Ottokar. Two years later he kills the Przemysl king in battle on the Moravia Field, on the right bank of the River Morava in Austria.

1276 - 1286

Rudolph I of Habsburg

HRE (1273). Duke of Austria, Carinthia, & Swabia. In Bohemia.

1282 - 1286

In December 1282, as Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph of Habsburg gives the duchies of Austria and Styria to his sons, Albert and Rudolf II respectively. At the Imperial Diet of Augsburg in 1286, Carinthia and the adjoining march of Carniola are also passed to Meinhard of Gorizia-Tyrol.

1286 - 1295

Meinhard II (Tyrol) / IV (Carinthia)

Duke of Tyrol (1258) & Carinthia (1286).

1295 - 1335

Henry of Carinthia

Son. Henry II of Tyrol (1310-1335), V of Carinthia (1310).

1335 - 1359

With the death of Duke Henry V of Carinthia (Henry II of Tyrol) in 1335, the now-vacant duchy returns to the Habsburgs, with Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian giving it to Otto and Albert, the sons of Duke Albert I of Austria.

Crest of Henry V of Carinthia
Otto the Cheerful, duke of Carinthia, was succeeded there by his younger brother, Henry, who had already enjoyed some success in his own career as - initially - margrave of Carniola, becoming king of Bohemia for a short time before gaining Carinthia - his crest is show here

The title of archduke (erzherzog in German) is 'granted' to Austria in 1359, even though it has to be invented and proclaimed by the first archduke, Rudolph IV. The bluff is propagated to make up for the loss to the Habsburgs of the imperial title and their failure to receive an electoral vote in the Golden Bull of 1356. At the same time they consolidate Austria's territory and titles, which include the margraviate of Carniola among many others. By 1406 these core possessions - Carinthia, Carniola, Styria - are collectively referred to as Inner Austria and remain so for centuries.

1918 - 1991

On 6 October 1918, a 'Southern-Slav' kingdom is declared by the Serb, Croat, and Slovene subjects of the Austro-Hungarian empire. This includes the Kosovo region (liberated in 1913), Bosnia, Herzegovina & Monte Negro. Serbia is the dominant member of the new Yugoslavia and views much of the territory as being part of a traditional 'Greater Serbia'.

On 25 June 1991, Croatia, Istria, and Slovenia leave Yugoslavia and declare themselves to be independent republics. The Serb-dominated remnants of Yugoslavia begin a war which lasts until 4 August 1995. Croatian and Slovenian independence is secured and recognised by Europe.

Modern Slovenia
AD 1991 - Present Day

The modern parliamentary republic of Slovenia was formed by the gradual disintegration of federal Yugoslavia, the joint kingdom of Balkan states which had Belgrade at its heart. The territory encompassed by Slovenia's modern borders is situated in the upper north-west of the Balkans, bordering Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the north-east, and Croatia to the south, with a narrow access corridor to the Adriatic Sea formed around the city of Koper (immediately to the south-west of Trieste).

The Slovenes are Slavs, closely related to the Croatians. The name means literally 'land of Slavs'. Their history in this region stretches back around fifteen hundred years. Prior to their arrival it had been occupied by Celtic tribes - especially the Boii, Carni, and Latovici - all of whom were eventually subjugated by the Romans. Following the collapse of the Western Roman empire, Slovenia's territory followed the same path as its eastern neighbours, being controlled successively by the Huns (circa 400-460), and the Ostrogoths (circa 460-488), before undergoing Slav incursions during the late fifth and sixth centuries AD and falling to the Avars until circa 745.

It was the Alpine Slavs - settlers in eastern portions of Friulia in the sixth century - who are thought to have been the ancestors of the modern Slovenians. Then the Bavarii dominated (circa 745-788), followed by the Carolingian Franks (788-843), Germany (843-907), Hungary (907-955), and then back to Germany as part of Carinthia until its establishment as the margraviate of Carniola in 1054. That margraviate passed to Habsburg Austria in 1335 and remained part of 'Inner Austria' until the dissolution of the empire in 1918. The empire's Slovene subjects elected to join the newly-created kingdom of southern Slavs which, in 1928, became Yugoslavia.

With the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation in 1991, a multiparty democratic political system emerged in Slovenia. Its economic prosperity in the late twentieth century attracted hundreds of thousands of migrants from elsewhere in the Balkans. In the early twenty-first century, Slovenia integrated economically and politically with Western Europe, joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well as the European Union in 2004. Slovenia’s capital and most important city is Ljubljana which is situated in the heart of the country. Owing to its several centuries of integration into the core of a multinational empire, Italian and Hungarian are recognised regional languages, alongside Slovene.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin (1996), from The Barbarians: Warriors & Wars of the Dark Ages, Tim Newark (Blandford Press, 1985), from The Civilisation of the East, Fritz Hommel (Translated by J H Loewe, Elibron Classic Series, 2005), from The Collapse of Yugoslavia, 1991-1999, Alastair Finlan (Osprey Publishing, 2004), from The Death of Yugoslavia, Laura Silber & Allan Little (Penguin Books, 1996), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Nation-Building in Croatia and the Treatment of Minorities: Rights and Wrongs, Antonija Petricusic (L'Europe en Formation, 2008/3-4, No 349-350, available via Cairn.info), and Refugees stuck in Serbia (The Guardian), and Tens of thousands migrate through Balkans (The Guardian), and Wooden Melania Trump statue replaced (The Guardian).)

1991

Having already formed a multi-party representative democratic process, on 25 June Slovenia declares its independence from Yugoslavia, along with Croatia and Istria, and attempts to form a republic of its own. The Serbs who form the dominant remnant of Yugoslavia send troops to prevent this, resulting in the Ten Day War (the Slovenian War of Independence). The Brioni (Brijuni) Declaration implements a truce and a three-month pause to independence, with the last Yugoslav troops leaving by the end of that last month.

River Drava at Maribor, Slovenia
Slovenia's largely rugged mountainous terrain also has its fair share of rivers, with this view showing the River Drava at Maribor

1992

With a new constitution having been adopted by Slovenia in December 1991, the new state is recognised by the European Union on 15 January 1992, while the United Nations does the same on 22 May 1992. Unlike Croatia to the south, Slovenia is largely untouched by ongoing conflict with the Serb-dominated Yugoslav remnant which does not end until 4 August 1995. In December 1992 Slovenia elects its first president as head of state in the form of Milan Kučan.

2004

Slovenia has already produced an independent state with a progressive democratic attitude and a thriving economy. Now it accedes to the European Union and Nato, along with a swathe of former Eastern Bloc states which includes Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

2015

In mid-October Hungary fences off its border with Croatia in an attempt to halt the flow of refugees heading into Europe from the military conflict zones in Syria and Afghanistan. The effort pushes the flow westwards so that it cuts directly through tiny Slovenia. In November it too is forced to fence off the migration path on the Croatian border. The Balkans migration trail subsequently sees a large drop in numbers, with smugglers and other routes becoming preferred instead.

2020

Slovenia's most famous daughter for now (whatever the merits of such a claim) is Melania Trump (formerly Melanija Knavs), ex-model wife of soon-to-be-discarded US president, Donald Trump. In 2019 she had been memorialised in the form of a rough-cast wooden statue which had been unveiled on the outskirts of Sevnica, her former home town. In July 2020 the wooden statue is burned down so, in September, a bronze version replaces it.

Melania Trump in wood and bronze, 2020
The new bronze statue of Melania Trump is shown in the left, while the original, painted wooden version is on the right, mimicking a well-known photo of the subject from the early days of the Trump presidency

In the same year the country becomes the latest to elect a right-wing government to power, led by another so-called 'strongman' type - Janez Janša - who openly ridicules journalists and fires off unsupported accusations with all the enthusiasm of his close friend in Hungary, Viktor Orbán, or their joint role-model, the aforementioned President Trump. Typically, accusations of cronyism and corruption follow him wherever he goes.