SLOVENES IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
Slovenes in neighbouring countries are our fellow countrymen, autochthonous Slovenes living in the bordering areas of the four countries that border on Slovenia. The settlement of Slovenes in these areas is historical – it goes back to ancient times. Today, these territories together with the Republic of Slovenia constitute Common Slovenian Cultural Space; its aim is the preservation and the development of Slovene culture, by means of nurturing the Slovene language as well as openness to cultural diversity.
The autochthonous Slovene national community in the neighbouring countries is very closely connected to the Republic of Slovenia, its mother as well as its protective country. This connection is particularly evident in the cultural, educational, economic and political field. Besides the Government Office for Slovenes, there is another political body, active on the state level, namely the Council for Slovenes in the neighbouring countries which includes representatives of Slovenes in the neighbouring countries. The Council is responsible for Slovene national policy making in the field of collaboration and care for Slovenes in neighbouring countries.
The autochthonous Slovene national community lives in all four neighbouring countries, but its number and status differ significantly from country to country. The most numerous, the strongest and the most protected is the autochthonous Slovene community living in the Republic of Italy, the autochthonous Slovene national community in the Republic of Croatia, on the other hand, is one of the weakest, the most threatened and the least protected. It is interesting to mention that the autochthonous Slovene national community in neighbouring countries is very often described as autochthonous Slovene minority, or rather shorter, Slovene minority.
The autochthonous Slovene national community in Italy is located in the broader border territory of three provinces of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region; the Province of Trieste, the Province of Gorizia and the Province of Udine. There are no exact figures of the number of Slovenes living in Italy, but the Slovene community is believed to include between 70.000 to 80.000 members. In the Trieste and Gorica province, the Slovene minority is significantly more protected than their counterparts in the Udine Province where Slovenes still fight for their basic minority rights. In the year 2001, the Slovene Minority Protection Law was passed in Italy but unfortunately, its provisions are mainly non-implemented.
The major part of the autochthonous Slovene national minority in the Republic of Austria lives in the southern parts of the Federal State of Carinthia. Smaller group of Slovene minority is also present in the Federal State of Styria, in particular in towns on the Slovene-Austria border (Radgonski kot, Sobota, Arnež, Ivnik, Lučane etc.). The estimated number of Slovenes living in Carinthia amounts to 20.000 to 30.000, whereas the number of autochthonous Slovenes in the Federal State of Styria amounts to only 1.500.
In Hungary, Slovene minority lives in the area between the Raba River to the North and the Slovene border to the South: it is called the Raba region, its regional centre is the town of Monošter (Szengotthárd). There are around 3.000 Slovenes; they are very well organized and have been developing quite successfully in the past few years. The only disadvantage is that they live in the economically under-developed area therefore there is still a lot of emigration from this territory.
The autochthonous Slovene community is also present in the Republic of Croatia, in particular in the areas on the border with the Republic of Slovenia, such as: northern Istria, the rear area of Rijeka, Gorski kotar, Medžimurje as well as the territory near the rivers Kolpa and Sotla. It is estimated that there are round 3.500 Slovenes – members of the Slovene minority in Croatia.
Besides Slovenes that form the part of autochthonous national community, there is also a very strong emigrant community of more than 10.000 Slovene fellow countrymen: they settled in bigger industrial, tourist and military centres in the beginning of the industrial area, in particular throughout the 20th century.
Contacts details of Slovene clubs and associations in the neighbouring countries and abroad are available on the web portal -Slovenci.si.