Slovenes and Slovene Language (aka Slovenian)

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During the 6th century AD, ancestors of the Slovenes, by historians now referred to as Alpine Slavs or proto-Slovenes, pushed up the Sava, Drava, and Mura river valleys into the Eastern Alps and the Karst (a limestone area on the Dalmatian coast on the Adriatic Sea  north of Trieste). There they absorbed the existing Romano-Celtic-Illyrian cultures. At that time the Slavs owed allegiance to the Avar khans. After the defeat of the Avars by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, a Slavic kingdom emerged under Samo (reigned 623-658) that extended from the Sava valley northward as far as Leipzig. It came under Frankish rule in 748. Over the next two centuries, Alpine Slavs living in present-day Austria and western Hungary were absorbed by waves of Bavarian and Magyar invaders, so that the Slovene linguistic boundaries contracted southward. Nevertheless, a Slovene tribal duchy, centred in Austria's Klagenfurt basin, managed to survive for some 200 years. Though it is still imperfectly understood, ancient Carantania (or Carinthia) serves as a symbol of nationhood for contemporary Slovenes.

From 450-650 Slavic peoples, including the Wends, the Carns, and the Creines emerged out of their original homeland in the districts between the Vistula and the Dnieper, spreading southwest over the Carpathians to the Balkans and into the Alps.  The Slavs first arrived north of the Danube during the 5th Century.  Under the migratory pressure of the Turkish Avars who were pushing westward, the Slavs, beginning around 570 AD began large-scale migrations into the Balkans (Fine 25-31).  Between 550-630 AD, the Slavs had settled throughout the entire Balkan peninsula.  As they moved west across the Oder and the Elbe, these Slavic peoples came and settled into the region of present-day Slovenia, leaving their impact on such place names as Venice (Wends), Carinthia and Carniola (Carns), and the German name for Carniola, Krain (Creines).

Of these first Slavic tribes to make their way to the area, the Wends were the most widely known.  Indeed, both Pliny and Tacitus wrote about the Wends during the first two centuries after Christ.  Pliny (died 79 AD) wrote that among the peoples living on the other side of the Vistula, besides the Sarmatians and others, are also the Wends (Venedi) (Natural History IV, 97).  Tacitus, in his Germania (46), also writes about the Venedians.  He describes their language and custom as being similar to that of the Germans, and seems to have trouble deciding whether he ought to include them among the Germans or the Sarmatians in the east.  He does conclude, however, that the Vendians are more closely connected with the Germans.  Ptolemy (died about 178), in his Geographike (III, 57) called the Venedi the greatest nation living on the Wendic Gulf.   He writes later, however, that they live on the Vistula (III, 5, 8).  He also writes of their presence on the Venedic mountains (III, 5, 6).  In the centuries immediately succeeding, the Wends are rarely mentioned.  The great migrations that had now begun had brought other peoples into the foreground. The next time they are mentioned, in the sixth century, they are referred to as Slavs (Lénard "Slavs").

The name Wend, interestingly, was never completely forgotten.  The German chroniclers used both names constantly without distinction - the former almost more frequently than the latter. Even now the Sorbs of Lusatic are called Wends by the Germans, while the Slovenes are frequently called Winds and their language is called Windish.  And in the 14th century, a town would emerge in Gottschee called Windischdorf - reflecting the Slavic presence in the region early on.  Writers during the early Middle Ages referred to the various Slavic tribes as Vinedorum (650 AD), Patria Carnuntum (670 AD), and Carantani, Slovani, and Vendi (after 700 AD).  Most of these Slavic settlers spoke Old Slovene - referred to as Windisch.

Among the various Slavic tribes to settle in Pannonia, the Slovani were perhaps the largest group - inhabiting most of the old Roman district.  Although they arrived after the Wends and the Carns, they quickly merged into the existing groups.  The Slovani (or Slovenes) initially inhabited positions farther to the west in the Alps and on the Adriatic than they do today.  They first appeared in this region after the departure of the Lombards for Italy. The first recorded date in their history is 595, when they fought an unsuccessful battle with the Bavarian Duke Tassilo on the field of Roblach.   At that time, they occupied present-day Styria, Lower Austria as far as the Danube, Carinthia, and Slovenia (Leeper 71). They extended along the Drave as far as Tirol, reaching the valleys of the Rivers Riem and Eisack.  They also occupied the larger part of what is now Upper Austria, the Lungau in Southern Salzburg, the crownland of Görz-Gradiska, and a large part of Friuli.  Under German control beginning in the 8th century, the territory occupied by the Slovenes has grown considerable less over the course of the centuries (Lénard "Slavs").

During the so-called Dark Ages (476-800 AD), the people of Western Europe were governed, for the most part, by tribal law. The Germanic people settled the lands from present-day Britain to Austria. The only real form of centralized government during this era was to be found in the Church. Popes, archbishops, and bishops, overseeing various dioceses, provided some sense of order and spiritual health.  By the end of the 6th Century, much of Western Europe was well on its way to being fully Christianized.   The Slavs to the southeast, however, were still imprisoned by their barbaric past.   In an effort to prevent further Slavic invasions, the Church set out to Christianize the Carns, Creines, Wends, and Slovenes living in the southern Alpine region.   By the year 700, these Slavic tribes became united under Duke Borut, who recognized the sovereignty of Bavaria in 725, in an effort to align himself with the Bavarians against the threat of the Avars - a nomadic Tartar tribe that was harrassing the populations of the Danube and Drava rivers.  Duke Gorazd, Borut's successor, was baptized a Christian in 745 AD.  Soon thereafter, the Franks, a Germanic tribe living along the Rhine, extended their rule over most of this region - including present-day Bavaria, Austria, and Slovenia (Skender 5-6).

In 795, the southern Alpine region became part of the southeastern frontier border region of the Holy Roman Empire.  (It would remain under German or Austrian authority until 1918, when it became part of the Republic of Slovenia - the northern-most part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  On June 25, 1991, Slovenia decared its independence.)  In that year, Pope Leo III asked Charlemagne, the son of the Frankish king Pepin the Short and the grandson of Charles Martel, to protect Rome against the Avars, who were threatening to invade the ancient city.  For his successful defense of Rome and the papacy, Charlemagne was crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome on Christmas Day in the year 800 (Previté-Orton 315).  Following the Carnic rebellion against the Franks in 819, Frankish and Bavarian troops and missionaries were stationed permanently in the southern Alpine region to keep the peace (Leeper 105).

During this time, Charlemagne, with the help of the Papacy, created a centralized government structure - modelled after the old Roman Empire.  This new model included several administrative subdivisions in the eastern frontier of the empire to serve as strategic borderlands against the threat of Slavic invasions.  He called these borderlands marches or marks.  In the northeast, he created the Saxon March.  In the east, near Vienna, he created the Eastern March (or Ostmark), which would later become Österreich (Austria).  The Ostmark was designed to protect the eastern region of the empire from Germany to the northern side of the Eastern Alps.   To protect the south side of the Eastern Alps, Charlemagne created the Styrean March (or Steiermark) between the Sotla and the Danube, and the Windisch March (or Windischmark) between the Sotla and Kulpa Rivers and the Adriadic.  The region of the Windisch March was the predecessor of the modern region of Carniola (Skender 6-7).

The Feudal System of the Middle Ages
In order to understand the rather complex circumstances surrounding the history of Gottschee, it is essential to know how feudal relationships were formed and how they operated.  Feudalism during the High Middle Ages was a contractual system of political and military relationships existing among members of the nobility in Western Europe.  The feudal relationship was characterized by the granting of fiefs, chiefly in the form of land and labor, in return for political and military services.  This relationship was in fact a contract that was sealed by oaths of homage and fidelity.   The nobleman of higher status who granted a fief, and the nobleman of lesser status who accepted the fief, were both considered free men and social equals.  Feudalism joined political and military service with landholding to preserve medieval Europe from disintegrating into myriad independent seigneuries, or lord-peasant relationships, after the fall of the Carolingian Empire (Cazel "Feudalism").

The feudal system, which flourished between the 11th and 14th centuries, emerged in response to the constant warfare occuring in Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century.  Although the Carolingian Empire kept the various Germanic peoples somewhat under control, it ultimately failed because it was based on the rule of one man, who did not have institutions sufficiently well developed to carry out his will.   The dynasty's dissolution brought about the threat of anarchy in Europe, with thousands of individual feudal lords, or seigneurs, ruling their people entirely independent of any feudal overlordship, or suzerain authority.  The bonds of feudalism once again tied the local seigneuries into a loose unity, under which the feudal lords gave up only as much of their freedom as was essential.  Under the leadership of their feudal lords, the united tenants, or vassals, were able to fend off invaders and then to create feudal principalities of significant size and complexity.   When it became evident that feudalism was working on a local basis, kings and emperors adopted it to strengthen their monarchies (Cazel "Feudalism").

The classical feudalism that emerged toward the end of the 10th Century in Central Europe involved a hierarchy of ranks that were bestowed on select individuals by the emperor.  Under this system, all land was held in fief, or in trust, for someone holding the next higher rank.  The emperor, who ruled over the entire empire, held the highest rank.  The empire was divided into provinces, or duchies, that were ruled by dukes.  Provinces, in turn, were divided into counties, that were ruled by counts.  These counts were responsible for administration, justice, and keeping the peace within their counties.  Living within the jurisdiction of the counts, and subordinate to them, were the knights and barons.  Knighthood was a non-hereditary title usually awarded to a military man of noble birth, and usually after his services as a page and squire.  Knights lived on fiefs containing fortified manors and small settlements.  Barons, like knights, were members of the lowest order of nobility.  Sometimes, the emperor granted fiefs to bishops and abbotts in the form of manors, villages, and estates - drawing income from them as if they were civil lords.   The two principle obligations of anyone holding land in fief were the payment of taxes and the supplying of soldiers to the noble of the next higher rank (Skender 7-8).

Within the frontier marches there existed a special rank that was lower than a duke, yet higher than a count.  Because of the military and strategic significance of these frontier marches, a unique position of authority was required.  The noblemen who filled these positions held the title margrave (in English), marquis (in French), or Markgraf (in German).  The region in which Gottschee was located, once called the Windisch Mark, was called the Markgraftschaft Krain, or the Margravate of Carniola (in English) during the Middle Ages (Skender 8).

After the withdrawal of the Romans in the 6th Century, Aquileia was directed to Christianize the Slavic tribes that were settling in the region of the eastern Alps.   As a result, the church province known as Aquileia was expanded considerably towards the east - covering a significant area of land from vast regions of the eastern Alps to the later bishopric of Carniola and the Wendian Marches (Petschauer 23).

In 739, Saint Boniface founded the bishoprics of Freising in Upper Bavaria and Salzburg.  In 789, Charlemagne influenced the papacy into elevating Salzburg to an archbishopric.  Thereafter, Salzburg began an extensive colonization of the region of the eastern Alps.  The patriarch of Aquileia perceived this as an encroachment on his sphere of influence.  Following disputes and military conflicts, Charlemagne himself ended the conflict in 811 by declaring the Drava River as a boundary between the quarreling archbishoprics (Shahan "Aquileia").

In 1075, the Investiture Dispute between the papacy and the emperor broke out.   Pope Gregory VII sought to prevent the appointment of bishops by laymen.  In response to the pope's actions, Emperor Henry IV, in an effort to strengthen his ties to the bishops, granted to the bishops greater worldly power by giving them larger fiefs.   Among the beneficiaries of Henry IV's political largesse were the patriarchs of Aquileia, who were granted large tracks of land in Carniola, which had become part of Carinthia in the 10th Century as an independent administrative district.  In 1077, Henry IV appointed his own chancellor Sieghard as Patriarch of Aquileia (Petschauer 23).

The Patriarch of Aquileia held two titles: Duke of Friaul and Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in Italy.  His power was tied to both the emperors and the popes.  The emperor himself would name the patriarch, and the pope would confirm the appointment, naming the patriarch an archbishop.  During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Patriarchs of Aquileia began favoring the city of Udine in  present-day northern Italy as their residence - an imperial donation located in Venetian territory.   Following the earthquake of 1348, which decimated the city of Aquileia, the patriarchs became Metropolitans of Udine.  The Venetians had never lived in peace with the patriarchate - jealous over their imperial favour and tendencies.  Conflict between the two only worsened after the transfer of the patriarchical residence to Udine.   Aquileia flourished until it was occupied by the neighboring city of Venice in 1420, when Patriarch Louis of Teck (1412-1439) compromised himself in a war between Hungary and Venice.  The latter seized on all the lands donated to the patriarchate by the German Empire.  As a result, only Venetians were allowed to hold the Patriarchate of Aquileia (Shahan "Aquileia").

From 799, the region of the eastern Alps - including most of present-day Austria and Slovenia, was part of the Duchy of Bavaria, under the general supervision of the prefect of Bavaria.  Audulf was the first to hold this position, from 799-818.   Originally a Roman possession, Carinthia (Kärnten) was made an independent duchy in 976.  The Duchy of Carinthia included the districts of Carinthia, Carniola, Styria, and the Veronese March (Leeper 154).  It would later fall to the Habsburg family in the 13th century and become an Austrian crown land in the 14th century.   Out of this duchy would emerge a noble family that would, upon receiving the land in fief from the Patriarch of Aquileia, breathe life into the primeval forest located between the Gurk and Kulpa rivers.


The Slavs and the Avars moved into Pannonia from the east and southeast at about the same time the Germans invaded the northwest. By the mid-6th century the Bavarians had occupied Tirol, and the Alamanni had settled to the west. The Slavic peoples were split into northern and southern groups by Avars and Bavarians contending for control of the Danube River valley. The Avars left only superficial traces in the country, but the Slovenes built settlements in the depopulated valleys of the Eastern Alps. The Germans finally overwhelmed the Slovene settlements, which could not depend on a continuous stream of new settlers. In a few areas of what are now Carinthia (Kärnten) and Styria (Steiermark) the Slovenes managed to establish permanent settlements.

By the Germans they are (1907) often called Wends or Winds. They settled in Carinthia...

The separate development of South Slavic was caused by a break in the links between the Balkan and the West Slavic groups that resulted from the settling of the Magyars in Hungary during the 10th
century and from the Germanization of the Slavic regions of Bavaria and Austria. Some features common to Slovak and Slovene may have developed before the West-South break. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)


Diffence between Slovakia and Slovenia

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Historically, the word Slavonicus (Sclavonicus) had different meanings: Slavic, Slovene, Slovak, Slavonian. Also the German word windisch (wendisch, bändisch, bindesch, etc) was sometimes used for Slovene, Slovak, Slavic, Sorbian (Wendish). More information about the common origin of the words Slovene and Slovak will be added later.

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