Slovenia is a young country by global standards, having been independent since 1991. The ancestors of the Slovenes were Slavs who migrated from the Carpathians to the present-day territory in the 6th century, before a hundred years later founding the oldest known Slavic state, Carantania, although this did not last long.
Until the 20th century Slovenia was under foreign rule, mostly by the Habsburg monarchy of Austro-Hungary. During this time the Slovenes emerged as a nation and forged their own identity, despite oppression and sustained pressure to assimilate. Slovenia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after the First World War, then part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after the Second World War. After more than 70 years of living in Yugoslavia, the Slovenes built a consensus to strike out an independent path, almost 90% of the population voting for independence in the 1990 referendum. Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, and also became a member of Nato.
The area that is present-day Slovenia had a rich and varied history even before being settled by Slavs. Here are the major historical developments, from prehistory to the present.
Present-day Slovenia was first settled by early humans more than 250,000 years ago. There are well-preserved stone tools from this time, found at the cave at Loza pri Orehku. A holed bone found at the subterranean cave of Divje Babe is 55,000 years old, making it the oldest flute in the world. It is kept at the National Museum.
- Pile dwellers
About 7,000 years ago the Ljubljana Marshes, which were then a lake, were settled by pile dwellers. The stilts fixed into the shallow lake and the houses built on top of them were a feature of the way of life of that era. The people used canoes to move among the stilts. Finds from the pile dwellers are kept at the National Museum.
- Iron Age
The National Museum and other museums also have numerous important artefacts from the period between 1,000 BCE and 300 BCE. Among the most important discoveries from the Iron Age and the Hallstatt era are the Vaška situla, the royal tombs in Novo Mesto and the earthworks in the Soča area.
The Hallstatt culture was subjugated by Celtic tribes in the 3rd century BCE. These warriors who had mastered the forging of iron had a strong army equipped with armour and helmets. They established the first state in the territory of Slovenia, a kingdom named Regnum Noricum.
The Romans began penetrating the area in the 2nd century BCE. They built major roads, and developed the first cities along these roads, many of which have survived until the present day: Emona (Ljubljana), Celeia (Celje), Poetovio (Ptuj) and Castra (Ajdovščina). Among the most important ruins from this period is the necropolis at Šempeter in the Savinjska Valley.
- Slavs and Carantania
In the late 4th century a battle took place in Slovenia that was a direct cause of the partition of the Roman empire into two parts. In the 6th century the Slavs settled the area, having migrated from the fringes of the Carpathians. The ancestors of the Slovenes founded their own independent state in the 7th century, the principality of Carantania. The oldest Slavic state, ruled from Karnburg near present-day Klagenfurt, did not last long, and came under the overlordship of the Franks.
- Conversion to Christianity and feudalism
The Slavs were originally pagan. In the 9th century, when present-day Slovenia became part of the Bavarian state, and hence the Frankish empire, the population began converting to Christianity. The feudal system had begun to strengthen by the 10th century. The Freising Manuscripts, the first documented writing in Slovene in the Latin alphabet, were written at the end of the 10th century.
-The development of artisan crafts and trade
The monasteries, important centres of religious life, began emerging in the 11th century. Several towns were also founded: Kranj and Kamnik (1228), Škofja Loka and Piran (1274), Novo Mesto (1365) and Celje (1451). These towns became the centre of artisan and trading life. The 12th and 13th centuries saw the establishment of the major feudal families, as the Habsburgs grew in power, while the towns of Primorska became part of the Venetian Republic.
- The Counts of Celje and the Habsburgs
Habsburg domination was threatened by the sole Slovenian noble family, the Counts of Celje, who died out in the second half of the 15th century. All of present-day Slovenia other than the towns of Primorska fell into Habsburg hands.
- Turkish invasions and peasant uprisings
Slovenia was invaded by the Turks in the 15th and 16th centuries. The population tried to protect themselves by forming armed camps. The struggle against the Turks was joined by peasant uprisings, brought on by dissatisfaction with the defence against the Turks and also with new taxes and serfdom. The largest uprisings were in 1515 and 1572, but they continued until the 18th century.
Protestantism had a major impact on the development of the Slovene nation. Reformer Primož Trubar published the first book in Slovene, Catechismus, in 1550. Jurij Dalmatin translated the Bible into Slovene. Slovene thus claimed an equal footing in cultural circles with other European nations and languages.
- From Maria Theresa to the Illyrian provinces
The 18th century, under the rule of Habsburg empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II, brought general compulsory schooling and primary school teaching in Slovene. This enlightened absolutist thus facilitated the strengthening of Slovenian national consciousness, which gained further impetus during the time of Napoleonic rule. Between 1809 and 1813, during the time of the Illyrian provinces, the status of Slovene improved in the education system.
- United Slovenia
The worth of Slovene was raised again in the first half of the 19th century by the poet France Prešeren, whose work proved that the language was suited to high culture. His poem A Toast is now Slovenia’s national anthem. The springtime of nations in 1848 saw the emergence of the first Slovenian political programme, called United Slovenia. This demanded the unification of all Slovenes in a single state, and the introduction of Slovene into offices and schools.
- First World War
The First World War had a major impact on Slovenia. Slovenes fought for more than three years on the Austro-Hungarian side on the Soča Front and on other battlegrounds After the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, there followed the brief creation of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which then joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The kingdom was ruled by the Serbian Karadžordžević dynasty.
- Loss of Slovenian lands and the first Yugoslavia
The first Slovenian university was established in Ljubljana in 1919, but the next year Slovenia lost significant territory in the north and the west. In 1920 Koroška voted to join Austria in a referendum, while Primorska went to Italy under the Treaty of Rapallo. In 1929 King Alexander I overturned the constitution and proclaimed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
- Second World War
The Second World War was a tragedy for Slovenia, as it was simultaneously a national liberation war and a civil war. Slovenia was partitioned by Italy, Germany and Hungary. A leading role in the liberation struggle was taken by the communists, who after the defeat of the aggressors in 1945 under the leadership of Josip Broz (Tito), first formed the People’s Republic, then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Slovenia became one of the six Yugoslav republics.
- After Tito’s death
Slovenia was the most economically advanced of the former Yugoslav republics. Following Tito’s death in 1980, a major economic, political and social crisis arose. Increasing opposition between the ethnic groups and the rise of nationalist politicians led to the break-up of Yugoslavia within a decade.
- War of independence
Slovenia held a referendum in 1990, in which over 88% of voters backed independence. Independence was declared on 25 June 1991, and was followed by the ten-day war, which claimed tens of lives. The Yugoslav Army withdrew from Slovenia in October 1991. Several countries had recognised its independence by this stage, and the majority followed suit in 1992, when Slovenia joined the United Nations.
- Membership of the European Union and Nato- Introduction of the euro and presidency of the EU
One of the Slovenian government’s main goals was joining the EU. After several years of negotiations it did so on 1 May 2004 with nine other countries. It joined Nato in the same year.
On 1 January 2007 Slovenia became the first of the new EU members to join the euro. It was also the first new EU member to assume the presidency of the organisation, in the first half of 2008.