A nation is a hard to define notion. Of course, there is scientific identification of the nation, but it is not just a one-sided thing. Furthermore, a nation is connected to a country, but it’s not defined by it. Sometimes a country can have several nations inside, and sometimes a nation can be much bigger than a country. In addition, this one should not be confused with an ethnic group. That’s why people can be questioned about any particular nation. In this article, we propose to define what is the Slovene nation and the Slovene identity.
The interesting fact that Slovenians are part of the one Slavic nation, however, with a lot of influence from its neighbors and not only them. Historically, Slovenia was on the crossroad of different worlds, hence it grabbed a lot from travelers as well as developed its own culture.
The Slovenian nation has a much longer history than the country itself, Slovenia. This happened because of a bunch of reasons had been influencing Slovenian people for centuries. Moreover, there are a lot of Slovene communities in a variety of countries around the world. Slovene identity is quite an interesting story, so let’s discover it with us!
Gaining the Identity
The first one to define Slovenes as a separate Slavic branch of ethnicity was Anton Tomaž Linhart. He mentioned this in An Essay on the History of Carniola and Other Lands of the Austrian South Slavs, published in 1791, a historical academic work.
On the other side, Slovenian identity started to form a long time before scientific recognition. The first proto-Slovenian tribes were Early Alpine Slavs. They settled in between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea in two waves: from the Moravian lands around 550 and from the southeast to the Lombards areas (modern Italy) in 568.
At that time, they were not separated from the other south Slavic tribes. The tribes have a similar language as well as a similar culture. It was centuries until “brand new” Alpine Slavs got used to the new territories and neighbors.
Consequently, the first mentions of a common Slovene ethnic identity date from the 16th century. The indicator of this was the beginning of the Slovenian books publishing. It is believed that the first who had started was Primož Trubar or Primus Truber, a Slovene Protestant Reformer of the Lutheran tradition, author of the first Slovenian printed book. The other one who contributed to the forming of the identity was Jurij Dalmatin, a person who translated the Bible. At that time, religion played a great role in enlightenment and therefore, in the process of forming of national identity.
The 18th century was the time of Slovenes under Maria Theresa and Joseph II. At that time, the Habsburg monarchy experienced a cultural uprising. Those two rulers did a lot of reforms and the administration and society, including land reforms, the modernization of the Church, and compulsory primary education in Slovene. Thus, it was considered the birth of the Slovene nation in the modern sense of the word. It appeared that Slovenian intelligence and intellectuals as well as the Slovenian culture were promoted.
From 1809 to 1813, Slovenia was part of the Illyrian Provinces as an autonomous province of the Napoleonic French Empire. It was a big deal because it was the higher level of autonomy Slovenes ever had before. Moreover, after that, in the 1820s and 1840s, Slovenian philologists took the first steps towards a standardization of the language.
In general, the periods before World War I, in between the wars, and even after World War II. The main destination points were Argentina, the United States of America, Australia, Canada, etc. Also, it was popular among Slovenian women to work as a babysitter in Arabic countries. The 20th century was, maybe, the hardest in European History. World Wars, communistic and Nazi regimes, political and economic crises. Everything mentioned above was a great reason to move and find a “better life.” On the other hand, a man has such a nature to discover, to open new horizons, to see new places. Sometimes it happens that those places seem to be better for individual personalities or so on.
In general, there are 0.5-1 million Slovenians around the world. They are developing their culture, establishing Slovenian organizations, saving their national identity even in a foreign environment.
On the other side, there are 2,102,678 of the population inside the country. They are living in 62 towns and a number of villages.
Slovenians are predominately Roman Catholics. A small number of the population are Greek Catholics, Lutherans, Protestants (around 1% for each group). There is present a small Jewish community that came to Slovenia during the Holocaust. Religion played a great role in forming the Slovenian identity, as we mentioned in the history section. Moreover, most of the national days off are religious days. The Easter, Whit Sunday, Assumption of Mary, All Saints’ Day and Christmas are incredibly important for Slovenians. They have special dishes for these occasions. One of the most popular celebrations treats is potica. It is a round cake with different fillings such as walnuts, nuts, cocoa, bananas, coconut, etc. Moreover, families gather all together. People greet each other and transmit these traditions from generation to generation.
The point of cultural identification became the creation of the national anthem “Zdravljica”, composed in 1905 by Stanko Premrl. To mention, the lyrics were written seven decades before, in 1844, by France Prešeren. However, as the hymn is a formal representation of national identity, the informal one, but even more influential, was polkas composed by Slavko Avsenik.
The most famous one is “Na Golici”, that became the second national hymn. Moreover, it was declared as the most played an instrumental piece of music in the world over the last century by the German royalty collection agency GEMA in 2003. The secret of such is the fact that it is not just Slavko’s song; it is the song of family, culture, and tradition.
Avseniki is an ensemble created by two brothers: Slavko and Vilko. They brought their unique personalities as well as strong family links in their music. This kaleidoscope of human emotions connected to national traditions passed from generation to generation was touching the hearts of the whole Slovenian population. Furthermore, not only them, because Avseniki were recognized as the most performed and the best-sold authors of popular folk music in Europe. This fact meant that they found not only the notes of Slavic identity but uniting melodies of the whole European nation.
Other famous Slovenian folk performers were Antona Birtica, Joze Kovac, Lojze Slak, Janez Dovc, and Jararaja. The main instrument and most recognizable instrument of Slavko Avsenik was the accordion, but Slovenian folk music is usually played with a variety of instruments. They are flutes, clarinets, harmonicas, fiddles, different types of brass. Some other instruments came from such neighboring as Hungary and Balkan countries; they are tamburica, drone zither and violin zither, hammered dulcimer. Therefore, they are used mostly in the music of the Eastern and Southern regions of the country.
Of course, folk music is usually followed by folk dances. It is an inevitable part of traditions. The most famous Slovenian dances are kolo, lender, štajeriš, mafrine, and šaltin. The one that should be emphasized is kolo, because it’s definitely Slovenian, not borrowed from neighbors. Usually, it is performed in groups in a special way. The meaning of its name is “a circle” named by the circle formed by dancers. Today, those dances are mostly performed in festivals and touristic events in order to show national identity, using traditional clothing and playing appropriate songs.
To mention about drinks, undoubtedly, schnapps is the favorite alcoholic drink in Slovenia. On local lingo, it is called “zganje”. At least one bottle should be on the table in times of national celebrations. Of course, you can buy the bottled one in any shop, but wait! The best schnapps is home-brewed, with unique recipes carried inside the Slovenian families from generation to generation. Also, viticulture and winemaking have existed in nowadays lands of Slovenia since the times of Celts and Illyrians tribes. Sometimes it is really obscure that people use to associate wine with France, Spain, and Italy because Romans introduced to their lands winemaking a lot after. It is an incredible number, but today Slovenia has 28,000 wineries and produces from 80 to 90 million liters annually. It is estimated that the country has 22,300 ha of vineyards!
After the break of Yugoslavia, it started the building of a real Slovenian identity. Slovenia found their own political path and started to follow it. Moreover, Slovenia became a recognized separate country that brought the international image of the political arena.
Slovenians found themselves as a part of the European Union and NATO. Today, they live in an independent country. Furthermore, they are proud to be Slovenians, with their own traditions, culture, music, and mentality.
If you are interested in Slovenia, then you should definitely try to visit the country. Because the theory is important, but real impressions, as well as real emotions, are much more worthwhile.