Outbreak of the war
End of the war

The Slovenes in the Habsburg Monarchy

The Slovenes were one of the smaller ethnic groups in the Habsburg multinational empire. In 1910 only 1.4 million people claimed to speak the language habitually, just 2.6 per cent of the population of the Dual Monarchy.

The Slovenes were settled in several crown lands. The heartland of this southern Slavic language group was the Duchy of Carniola, one of the Austrian hereditary lands, where the Slovenes accounted for 94.4 per cent of the population, making them the dominant nationality. Laibach [Ljubljana], the capital of Carniola, developed into the cultural centre of the Slovenes within the Monarchy.

In the other lands with Slovene inhabitants they formed an ethnic minority. Although they were sometimes present in larger numbers, they suffered from the absence of a political voice, as they were mostly to be found in the socially and economically weak rural classes.

In Styria, Slovenes made up 29.4 per cent of the population and were concentrated in Lower Styria [Spodnja Štajerska] in the south. In the era of nationalism, this was the source of numerous conflicts: although the Slovenian-speaking Styrians were a minority in Styria as a whole, in the south of the province they clearly enjoyed a regional majority. Particularly contentious focuses included the local urban centres of Marburg [Maribor], Pettau [Ptuj] and Cilli [Celje], German-speaking enclaves within Slovenian territories.

The situation was similar in Carinthia, where the Slovenes in 1910 made up 21.2 per cent of the population. The Carinthian Slovenes lived for the most part in the south-east of the province south of the Drau. From the late nineteenth century onwards they were put under considerable pressure in Carinthia to assimilate – in the first instance because of the German-dominated school system – which led to a steady diminution of the Slovene population in favour of a growing German-speaking majority.

The different coastland regions also had larger or smaller Slovene populations, again for the most part in the agrarian hinterland. In the county of Görz [Gorica] they made up 61.9 per cent of the population, compared with just 14.3 per cent on the Istrian peninsula.

The growing Slovene presence in Trieste [Trst], the main port of the Habsburg Monarchy and economic centre of the region, harboured considerable conflict potential with the traditionally dominant Italian majority in the city. The heavy migration of Slovenes from the hinterland to the city made Trieste the second-most important urban Slovene settlement after Ljubljana. In 1910, Slovenes made up 29.8 per cent of the population there.

In the Hungarian half of the empire, Slovenes settled only in the Upper Mur region [Prekmurje]. The 93,000 Slovenes living there did not form a statistically significant group, however.

Translation: Nick Somers


Pleterski, Janko: Die Slowenen, in: Wandruszka, Adam/Urbanitsch, Peter (Hrsg.): Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918, Band III: Die Völker des Reiches, Wien 1980, Teilband 2, 801–838

Rumpler, Helmut: Eine Chance für Mitteleuropa. Bürgerliche Emanzipation und Staatsverfall in der Habsburgermonarchie [Österreichische Geschichte 1804–1914, hrsg. von Herwig Wolfram], Wien 2005

Štih, Peter/Simoniti, Vasko/Vodopivec, Peter: Slowenische Geschichte. Gesellschaft – Politik – Kultur, Graz 2008

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    The Habsburg empire

    Austria-Hungary had an extremely diverse state structure. At the start of the First World War it was a major power in decline. Social and political problems and the dominant nationality conflicts shook the empire to its foundations. At the same time, the Monarchy represented an enormous cultural region in which the Habsburg empire flourished in spite of the political stagnation.