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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 Germanised, 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 (which it still is today). 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 and remained behind the Iron Curtain for several decades.

Slovenes worried when Serbia started to make moves in the late 1980s to assert its cultural and economic leadership among the Yugoslav republics. In late 1988, when Belgrade abruptly ended the autonomy of Kosovo, Slovenes feared that the same could happen to them. Pushing the Slovenes to split from Yugoslavia was the fact that for some years Slovenia's interests had been shifting to the capitalist north and west. Meanwhile, its ties to the rest of Yugoslavia had become an economic burden and a political threat.

In the spring of 1990, Slovenia became the first Yugoslav republic to hold free elections and slough off 45 years of communist rule; the following December the electorate voted overwhelmingly (90%) in favour of independence. Fearing the worst, the Slovenian government began stockpiling weapons and, on 25 June 1991, it pulled itself out of the Yugoslav Federation. To dramatise its bid for independence and generate foreign sympathy, Slovenia deliberately provoked fighting with the Yugoslavian federal army by attempting to take control of its border crossings. A 10-day war ensued, but resistance from the Slovenian militia was fierce and, as no territorial claims or minority issues were involved, the Yugoslav government agreed to a truce brokered by the European Community (EC). Slovenia got a new constitution right away and, on 15 January 1992, the EC formally recognised 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 and Janez Drnovsek was returned to the prime ministership after being dumped six months earlier when his coalition lost its majority. Drnovsek is believed to be the person who can finally wrench open the political doors to the European Union and NATO for Slovenia.


Slovene is a South Slavic language written in the Roman alphabet. It's closely related to Croatian and Serbian, but the languages are not mutually intelligible. Slovene is grammatically complex, with lots of cases, genders and tenses. Fortunately for non-Slovenian speakers, virtually everyone in Slovenia speaks another language: usually Croatian, Serbian, German, English and/or Italian (in that order). English is the preferred language of the young.

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. 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. 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. Many notable buildings and public squares in Slovenia were designed by architect Joze Plecnik (1872-1957), whose image adorns the 500 SIT note.

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.

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