THOUGHTS ON NATIONHOOD
THOUGHTS ON NATIONHOOD
In all the kingdoms and lands of our empire that are inhabited by Slavs, they nurture and preach patriotism, earnest wishes that their nationhood may be assured. We Slovenes, especially, strive not only for our nationhood to be acknowledged in a legal sense, but that the nation may live a publically active life. Now we are asking ourselves more than ever before: what do we need to get where we want to be? Where do we find our strongest security and firm defence of our nationhood? I am convinced that within ourselves and our own strength, and if not there, then nowhere. In our own selves, in our own enthusiasm must we search for the wellspring of national growth, and we can find it. Alongside this foundation we also need other devices to provide security for our nationhood. To demonstrate this, further discussion is necessary.
Nationhood is a high, fertile, invigorating idea like freedom, faith and others. Ideas are related; they can therefore be compared to each other; one can lead to another. If we consider only superficially ideas about freedom and faith we can see that they slumbered for a long time; that they had small beginnings; that they were often suppressed: and yet we find that later they established themselves firmly, overcoming all obstacles and difficulties. If we ask history how this happened, it replies that the freedom of which we wish to speak took root only wherever and whenever citizens were eager for it, prepared to give up dear things in exchange for it; when it became firmly consolidated in citizens’ hearts. Were the Greeks aided by anything else when they overthrew the apparently almighty Xerxes and crushed other enemies? But when the burning love for freedom and the homeland disappeared; when egoism and discord took over the Greeks: they gave in to Alexander the Great and later the Romans very quickly. To no purpose did the Roman senate and nation promise them freedom, for the people are no longer free if they are granted freedom by another nation; their consent alone shows their lack of freedom and their servitude. The same happened with the Romans who lived in freedom for many centuries; as soon as their passion for the old freedom died, freedom itself died too. Cato, Cicero, Brutus and others struggled in vain; Caesar and Augustus came and took away the core of their former freedom, leaving them only with the outer shell, only the form, and even this was soon lost. – The same fate befell other careless peoples in the Middle Ages and in modern times.
We have looked at what freedom needed before it could do anything. Let us now consider how faiths did away with opposition. We know that Christianity destroyed everything and broke all terrible bonds because the early Christians were so passionate about their faith that they held it in such high esteem; we know that Protestants rid themselves of their finest and greatest riches for their ideas, and despite this they succeeded; we know that even the Jews suffered many terrible things for their faith. I believe I have shown clearly through examples from history that the ideas of faith and freedom could not be uprooted while they were present in the nation and were in the end gloriously crowned with victory. However, this is not proven only by history but also by theory. Serious and steadfast human will is strong as iron. When many such powers united to back an idea about faith and freedom, when all the people stood in support of the idea: then they were invincible.
Is it a similar situation in the case of nationhood? I think so. Thoughts all flow from the same wellspring, the same soul, which cannot be divided. The validity of this theory is again proven to us by history. In ancient times, the Greek and Roman peoples were the most educated and refined. The Greeks were not aided solely by an innate cleverness and it was not just the beautiful, clear sky under which they lived, but love for their rich language and their spirited nation which led them to educate the Romans while they were slaves of the Romans; and Greek literature remains a light for learning to this day. Enthusiasm for their nation considerably helped the Romans not only to achieve the pinnacle of learning, but also to implant their language and spirit in other peoples. I ask anyone who does not believe this: would the world be able to marvel at the magnificent Greek and Roman learning if the Greeks and Romans had neglected their beautiful language and been ashamed of their nation?
Not to go into too much detail let us jump to the present age. – Our days are full of strange and wonderful apparitions in terms of national development. We cannot help but admire the Greeks of the new age, the grandchildren of renowned great-grandfathers, who in the 1830s made such leaps and bounds in their national development that they could perhaps again attain their former height of culture. Even the Germans can be an example for us. In Schleswig-Holstein they refuse to speak the Danish language, although it is related to theirs. They are few in number and yet the Danes cannot do anything with them because they are passionate about their nation. In our empire we have other nice examples. The Czechs, who are with us in the same circumstances, are doing away with all obstacles, the neglected people are fast being educated and are rising strongly. This is happening because they are of one thought, one heart. We Southern Slavs are also all in motion. The Hungarians have since 1830 wonderfully cultivated their language.
If we consider all this it becomes apparent that every nation from the moment it begins living for its nationhood and for as long as it lives for it, is happy to try everything and prepare everything that is necessary to imprint ideas and thought about its nationhood upon every important act of private or public, material or spiritual life, and that it builds its glory upon this foundation. This thinking leads us to two conclusions: firstly that only enthusiasm and passion for the nation are the foundation and cornerstone for all national development, and secondly that its best guarantee and strongest defence comes from a strong sense of nationhood of individual citizens and all the people. The following words ring true:
Our Slovene nation is alive and well,
as long as our faithful heart feels for the nation.
If we are convinced that this is true, then the greatest task for us Slovenes is to build an invincible fortress for our nation in our hearts. Whoever is convinced about this will be able to acquire what nationhood needs, for awareness of the truth and a love for the nation which has been placed in the heart since birth must make the honest and upright Slovene soul quickly passionate about this idea. It would be a disgrace for us if this did not happen, for we Slovenes, of all people, need not rid ourselves of so much that is dear to us. National equality has already been granted us in the constitution, so we have nothing more to do than to acquire this treasure for all time. Whoever refuses to be stirred should be aware that half-heartedness in this situation, as it is in all important ideas and public affairs, is harmful to the whole matter. Do not forget that an indifferent Slovene can begin to hate his people out of ill humour. As a result of his laziness, which discourages him from supporting this idea, which like all ideas demands self-denial, he will consider it with anger and might even scorn it; but it is a double injustice to oppose a nation, which is liberating itself. Schiller says in William Tell: «Oh, Uli, Uli, harden not your heart in the face of your dear homeland’s holy rights.«
There should be no objections that we Slovenes are too few and therefore cannot have our own literature. Let me remind you that the ancient Greeks were also few; that the Dutch and Danes and Swedes are also few and yet they have their own literature; I only wish to say that we have made a good start; that we are children of the south Slav family and that we can draw from the cultural works of all other Slav brothers, for it is an irrefutable truth that we only need good schools and that when we get them, the educated Slav will have no difficulty, on account of old Slovene and his dialect, in understanding the speech and writing of every other Slav; and this is why the unnecessary idea of bringing different dialects together to create one language or at least fewer languages than there are now is a decrepit idea coming from some individuals whom I would advise to properly learn their own language before pronouncing judgement on it and also to consider our political relations, then their judgement will be different; furthermore, it is precisely because we are few in number that we must try our very hardest, united we can resist and help each other. Concordia parvae res crescunt.
We must also bear in mind that we are born to be Slavs; no matter how hard we may try, we may never be true Germans, Italians or Hungarians, even if we can speak their language as well as they do. Therefore, it is by all means better that we use our intellectual qualities for the good of our own nation rather than some foreign one. Just as every person wishes to bequeath their belongings or treasures to their family and not to some foreign person, in the same way we must give our intellectual powers to our own nation, which is nothing other than a large family to which we belong. If every nation in our empire advanced in this way then the whole country would flourish in a similar way; for only living and strong members make up a healthy and strong whole, and the state needs enthusiastic members, not sleepyheads. Some make the excuse that they are too old to educate themselves for the nation. The most important thing is to love the nation; love lightens every burden, especially for men who are advanced in age. Old men do not work any longer but rest; so we are not even concerned with these. When a man says he is too old to learn Slovene, this only shows that he is sad and lazy. It is improper for intelligent men to say something that would only be expected of an old man in ill health. Especially you Slovenes, who speak German or Italian, consider that this very knowledge of yours is not an obstacle but a great help for you in learning another language, whichever it may be, but especially the mother tongue. For you still carry within yourselves at least some knowledge of the Slav language, so you need do no more than practice and diligently read. – And you wealthy nobility, who perhaps are unwilling to disturb your mind’s rest, open your treasures and support the institutions of the nation’s development. At least in this way follow Strossmayer’s example or imitate the Greeks of the modern age who frequently bequeath large or small amounts to the university in Athens when they die at home or abroad, and in this way let the world know in the best possible way how much they love their nation. Do not spread the false idea that it is only the responsibility of young people to learn the language and honour the nation. It is true that young people are quicker to become enthusiastic about beautiful and elevated ideas; but it is also true that young people follow the example of their elders. Cicero, Demosthenes and other old orators, when they urged the nation to have resolve or to do something grand, they referred to their forefathers, the «majores,« whom they set as an example; and they did not speak in vain. Cicero said: «Videte ergo Quirites, ne, ut illis (majoribus) pulcherrimum fuit tantam vobis gloriam relinquere, sic vobis turpissimum sit, illud, quod accepistis, tueri ac conservare non posse,« that is: «See, therefore, Romans, that as it was a great honour for the ancestors to bequeath you such glory, may it not be a great disgrace for you if you were unable to safeguard and hold what you have received.«
– If we had ancestors who were so passionate about the nation we too could speak so proudly and strongly, and would not be having such problems and difficulties. But as we are not so lucky, let us at least ensure that our manly efforts for the nation may be a good example for the Slovene youth; that our descendants may remember our time and our effort and struggle with joy. Let us avoid the future reproach that we did not take advantage of a good opportunity; history is an inexorable, ruthless judgement.
Now let us consider other promises, which are equally as supportive, to strengthen this noble idea and bring it into the public domain. Rotteck says that freedom is the mother of everything that is beautiful and great. If this is true, then freedom is certainly the first aid for the nation’s development. This is easy to understand because in a free country all good intellectual capacities and qualities may be expressed; because the nation’s intelligent desires are quickly satisfied; because many mechanisms for national education may be founded under the lawful protection of regional assemblies, the free press and especially the protection of public life. Looking around the world we can see that nationhood succeeds only in free countries where it is raised to the highest level of culture. The truth of these words is proven by the Greeks of the ancient and modern eras, the English and French etc. In the case of nations without freedom, national culture stagnates. The most sorrowful example of this is how the poor southern Slavs suffered under the terrible Turkish yoke. But as soon as the crisis eases off, the nation comes alive and the people become active in all ways. This is visible nowadays in the case of the Hungarians, Czechs, Russians, Croats and Serbs under Prince Mihailo.
It is therefore logical that the most urgent political need and obligation of all Slavs, and especially us Slovenes, is that we are freedom-loving. Whoever wants to obtain what he desires must grasp the necessary tools and use them.
A strong tool, I would say the second guarantee for our development is, therefore, freedom – beautiful and fruitful as it contains legislative assemblies, the free press, verbal and public judgements, courts of assizes, free law governing commonly owned property, the participation of the whole nation in public tasks etc. Leaving all else aside may I talk just about one institution, which has been discussed all over the empire. These are the »«courts of assizes«, important for three reasons. The English and other free peoples consider them to be the strongest pillars of their political life; jurists of many countries have confirmed that they are good and beneficial for trials, but I only wish to discuss their connection with nationhood and prove that they are of great importance for us Slovenes because they accelerate the nation’s development. Juries are made up of persons who have sworn an oath, who have been taken from among the people, therefore men who speak the national language; that is why all people who have anything to do with the court must speak in the national language which the members of the jury can understand; they include the president, the state attorney, the lawyers, the witnesses and the experts. It is certain then that our national language used in this way would rapidly gain value. And circumstances show that we Slovenes need this institution in particular. When the judicial minister replied to Cherne’s question, he ordered the imperial courts to use the Slovene language if possible. This would be the case if the nobility, which has power over the court functions, truly cared for the nation’s matters. However, as things are mostly not happening the way they should be, the good of jury trials becomes apparent to us, for they would compel officials to give way to the nation’s efforts. The presidents, lawyers and state attorneys would not be able to communicate in any language other than Slovene with those who have sworn the oath and are of Slovene origin. That is why they would no longer hesitate but would quickly set about properly learning our language. And day-to-day life would set further demands. We saw in 1850 that only Italian was spoken in some courts and only German in others. Slovenes were summoned but were always rejected so that in the end the jury was made up only of men who spoke Italian or German. It also occurred that Slovenes made up juries, but it was in vain that they suffered expenses, wasted their time and were even mocked. As it is improper to disturb people and thereby deprive the law of gravity and respect, for it is impossible to separate Slovenes from courts, the constitution should ensure that juries respect national equality. Only in this way, and in no other way, will juries be for Slovenes what they should be and what they have always been for other nations.
Another extremely important tool for nationhood is the school, which benefits the adult world but even more so the young people and consequently future generations. Humboldt says: «Die Jugend ist das unzerstörbare, uralte, immer erneuernde Institut der Menschheit«, that is: «Young people are the indestructible, age-old, constantly regenerating institute of humanity«. The nation is regenerated and rejuvenated by its young people. The state of the young people foretells the state of the nation’s future. Patriotic men must, therefore, make sure that young people learn our language and identity in schools; love for the nation must be deeply implanted in them and we will certainly reap the rewards in the very near future; we must endeavour to set up all types of Slovene schools throughout our lands: only then like a phoenix from the ashes will Slovene nationhood rise. – And finally we must not forget singing, which has helped us greatly and continues to help inflame whole nations for various ideas; of particular importance is folk singing which is so useful in reviving and strengthening love for the nation and the homeland; the song which reaches to the heart moves the man and cannot fail to enthuse him.
The most important guarantees for our national development and flourishing are therefore: a living national awareness among all Slovenes; freedom and all its liberal institutions, especially courts of assizes; regional assemblies, which should take care of nations and lead them; Slovene schools of primary and upper level, and also folk singing. If we use all these means and if we do not forget other means too, we will soon have new writers of all kinds who will rapidly accelerate the production of literature, journalism, literary and academic writing, and then our national literature will be what it must be, God’s mission, which is to make individuals and whole nations better people. – All Slovenes should, like heroes, set about this important work; each and every person should spread these ideas and persuade other people to do likewise; every person should, as far as they are able, talk highly about the nation: fathers in their families, spiritual shepherds amongst their sheep, teachers in schools, especially professors teaching in upper schools, officials carrying out public duties, journalists in newspapers and assembly members with suitable laws. Let it be seen everywhere: in towns and in villages, in the hills and on the plains, that the Slovene truly loves his nation and his cultural heritage!
Naprej, Ljubljana, 1863, nos. 31-34
Fran Levstik, Zbrano delo, VIII, Ljubljana, 1959
THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT INTERNATIONAL BORDERS
International borders are dividing a nation which speaks one language, separating the Carinthians from the Carniolans, and the Slovenes of Styria, Carniola and Carinthia etc from each other. If all nations are to have equal rights, be appeased, enjoy well-being and accelerated cultural growth then the present international borders must most certainly be changed and replaced with boundary stones that separate nations with different languages.
If the situation remains as it is now there will never be peace or reconciliation between nations. Let us look at how in Carinthia, Styria, Primorska and Gorishka the present borders are separating people who speak the same language and are placing people who speak different languages under the same name, but not in equal numbers. Two thirds of the populations of Carinthia and Styria are German while one third is Slovene; in Gorishka and Primorska, meanwhile, the Slovenes far outnumber the Italians. Equality demands that each nation sends an adequate number of its representatives to the provincial diet. That is why in Carinthia and in Styria more Germans than Slovenes must enter the assembly and in Gorishka and Primorska more Slovenes than Italians. It is certain that those who are greater in number will always overwhelm those who are fewer in number, especially when it comes to matters of nationhood. That is how it was in the Imperial Council in Vienna; that is what happened in the current provincial diet in Klagenfurt where Einspieler strived for the minutes of the diet’s meetings to be translated into Slovene and sent out to the mayors of Slovene places. He was, however, drowned out by a great German majority and the Slovenes were deprived of equality. It was said and it will always be said: the second regional language (die zweite Landessprache) must always be satisfied with what the majority gives it. It is the majority, therefore, which will write laws for itself and the minority. The minority would reject them if only it could protest. As for citizens’ duties and taxes, the minority is in the same boat as the majority. This is by no means equality of rights if the larger nation gives orders to the smaller one; this is worse than the abolished absolutism under which the Carinthian Slovenes nevertheless had laws translated into their own language. The government cannot demand such injustices, which are the result of old borders, which the constitution should by no means tolerate. To what extent we can rely on the justness and generosity of foreign deputies was made patently clear by the majority in the Imperial Council which has no mercy for any other nationality, as its foreman Giskra said. So there is no other solution than for international borders to be done away with or, alternatively, for the people to be subdued in such a way that they will be happy with these slavery-like injustices.
If the borders remain as they are, then the deputies in regional assemblies will never properly understand each other as in the national and even more so the provincial diet every deputy has the right to speak his own language. This is in order to ensure equal rights, and deputies must stick to this already out of love for their mother tongue, and out of respect for their voters, and also to fully enjoy the rights they have. If in future the lands remain divided as they are now, then two languages will always be spoken in the assemblies of Carinthia, Styria and Gorishka, and one party will not listen to the other, nor understand it properly, and Austria will be like Babylon of old. Everyone knows that it is not respectful of equality to demand that the deputies of the smaller party should speak the language of the larger party, as was the case in the dear city of Ljubljana. If the smaller party were not to have a sufficient number of bilingual deputies, it would be forced to find some in its opposing party just to resolve the language problem; but it would rarely find the right men as experience teaches us that birds of a feather flock together. «Graculus graculo assidet; similis simili gaudet.«
Slovene culture and literature too are hindered if the international borders remain as they are. In the October Diploma from 20th October, His Royal Highness found that Austria will not be a great country until its constituent nations are strengthened, developed and educated; for the Slovenes this will only be possible when their fragments are again united; when our people acquire schools that teach in their language. Eighteen million Slavs have for many centuries been paying money for schools; so where is their own national university? The excuse has been put forward that there are not enough Slovenes in one country and that it is therefore not worth building a national school for them. Qui calumniatur egentem, exprobrat factori ejus. [Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker] This empty excuse is proven utterly worthless if the hostile network of antiquated international borders is abolished and they are replaced by linguistic boundaries. Others say that the Slovene language is not cultivated enough to be allowed into schools. – One does not know whether to wonder more at the stupidity of such people or the splendid power of our language which these ignoramuses ascribe to it. They would like Slovene to learn to swim even before it enters the water; they expect it to be perfected on its own without any schools. Why is the German language being taught so diligently in German schools while the Slovene language is apportioned such a small number of hours? Presumably because German does not possess within itself that strange power inherent in Slovene which allows it to clean itself even with its hands tied behind its back.
In Carinthia, in the monastery of St. Paul, the clerical directory (Schematismus) of the Diocese of Gurk for 1863 shows that three teachers explain German to the pupils who are mainly of German ethnicity; in Klagenfurt there are six teachers from the same monastery who are striving to teach German. The German language must really be difficult if two German grammar schools require nine teachers! The Slovene language is a true hero if we consider that it was elevated into a valid court language by the High Ministry for Justice’s decree on 17 March 1862 while it has still not been allowed in schools. To think what it could achieve, how well it would develop if the schools supported it as they now support the German language. As it does not matter in which language one learns what one needs for life, and as knowledge of the German language is not yet in itself true education, Slovenes should be taught in Slovene, which is their language, and not in German, which is foreign to them. Do not be angry Germans, but the German key to education is too costly for us.
Literature is not so bound by international borders that it could not transcend them, but without them literary Slovene would more successfully hasten on to maturity; our literature, especially political, would be better supported. We Slovenes are a small branch of the great Slav race and on top of that we are divided into five parts. What kind of literature, what kind of culture is possible for Slovenes in these circumstances? – And yet, despite all this, we have in past years made good progress. The German boasts:
By no kind Augustus reared,
To no Medici endeared,
German art arose;
[from Schiller’s poem Die Deutsche Muse.]
while we work on in silence, as much as we are able, and suffer obstructions and hindrances from our opponents; and still we do not lose heart.
Until such time as the present international borders are abolished, until Slovenes are united, we will have to attend Italian or German schools; and we will have to first learn Italian or German and only then another language, which may be more important for life; and even then we will be some way behind other educated nations. This is why Austria has more German than Slav officials; and yet there are almost three times as many Slavs in the empire as there are Germans. A German was quickly good enough to be an official, if only he knew how to say yes, and that is why there are now more than 1,000 of them, and they are too great in number and are being paid for nothing. – Is this not the true role of international borders and the oppression of the Slav nations? If the present borders remain, the Slavs will never trust the state bureaus. According to the principle of equal rights, every nation has the right to employ officials of its own nationality in its bureaus. It can rely on them more and will sooner listen to them than to foreigners.
If the present international borders are kept, the Slavs will always have among them some Germans, Italians and Hungarians who will be awkward and use a foreign language; the Slavs will continue to be surrounded by foreigners on horseback while they themselves will run barefoot alongside on sharp thorns; foreigners will continue to strive to hide the key to the source which flows from the October Diploma – but the nation will continue to show the same mistrust, antipathy and disobedience it has done up till now. Everything would be different if the Germans who come to us acted like those who cross the ocean and go to America. During the voyage they stop shaving their beards and boast how hard they will try to learn American customs. Once they are there they soon shave off their beards and no longer want to be Germans: for the American does not allow the foreigner to be in charge and especially not a German. If a German starts explaining how things are done in Germany, he is quickly told: the German is an evil person. The American deems it improper that one nation should rule another. If foreigners who come to us changed their ways as quickly as that, there would not be so many disputes and foreign officials would enjoy much more trust than they do now, wanting to teach us German customs for which we are not born. So, away with these outdated borders! May we be given our own schools to produce our own national officials and we will not need foreign ones. Dear trust will reappear among us like the bright sunshine.
If the borders are not abolished then there will not be true courage either. – Courage is confidence in oneself. Courage needs two things especially: firstly one must know that one is not alone, that one is among one’s own people on whom one can fully rely in times of difficulty. One cannot expect the same kind of help from foreigners; secondly, one must take heart from the fact that one is on one’s own land, which was tilled and bequeathed by one’s forefathers and which one intends to hand on to one’s own grandchildren under the same nation’s name. The saying goes that even the rooster is more confident on his own land. The Slovene people presently have nothing of this. They cannot feel that they are among their own people; they are either added on to some other nation, or have others added on to them; they are mixed up with foreigners who act like they are in charge but do not help them when they are in need and instead mock them. Even the land is no longer ours even though we cultivate it; foreigners have renamed it the «German-Slovene« land. In these circumstances, the Slovenes must necessarily lack self-confidence and lead a miserable existence. What I have written here about the dismembered Slovene nation also holds true for all Slav soldiers who are scattered throughout the Austrian army and do not even know of each other. Despite having such a large army, successes on the battlefield have been limited. Viribus unitis! United Slavs would be the best possible support for the Austrian throne.
The present time demands that international borders are abandoned and that people that speak one language unite. Let us take a look at what international borders actually represent for the Slovene lands. When the old, almost slavery-like absolutism ended, when almost all rights were lost according to which peoples voted for their own dukes, when most of the wealth of these lands that are now under one ruler went into the state coffers, then the old borders separating the Slovenes are only sad reminders of how mercilessly they once tore at this nation and limited its freedom according to the old pagan adage: «Divide et impera.« But St. Augustine says: «The spirit of vanity slices tongues, but love binds them together.« Now there is no more slavery, no more vanity, and mercy and justice are on the government table; that is why the boundary stones made in the sad old days are unsuited to the present-day situation. Alongside other necessary changes, international borders, these painful remains of unjust times, should change; and other more suitable ones for our time should come into force.
Even the eternal law which is written in nature demands it. This law is such that it draws together whatever is related. The Southern Slavs say: «One blood flows through our veins; we have one glory, one past; we speak one language; we have one ruler: so why are we not in one country?« That is why even now the dismembered limbs of the Slovene nation are visiting each other with such pleasure in exchanges organised by reading societies, choirs etc; everyone is subscribing to newspapers, everyone is reading books and learning related dialects with great endeavour. What would be the problem if all the Slovene lands were to join together? There would certainly be no financial problem as many expensive bureaus and the costs connected with them would be done away with; neither would the people object, they have already openly expressed this desire in the Slovene petition signed by 20,000 people which was handed to the senior ministry. But something else could impede this, namely envy at the sincere happiness of all Slovenes; that wretched envy which hates the Slovenes with a vengeance; obstruction would also come from that German policy which is harmful to Austria and which stems from fear of a great Slav nation; which does not, however, realise that it is sawing off the very branch on which it is resting. If we want to build a strong, constitutionally revived Austria, we must build with big, strong stones and not with small pebbles that we Slovenes currently resemble. The new body that Austria should be needs a roomier, stronger coat suited to the whole body of every nation, and not an old, cold net into which we Slovenes are entangled like a fly in a cobweb. Of what use are these many lands of little power and high costs? Perhaps the external enemies are afraid of the very names of the lands? Never!
This will only invite them, give them courage to attack Austria for they know full well what the value and power of an individual region is; they know very well that it is easier to do battle with dismembered peoples than with a whole nation. Napoleon would never have occupied Germany with such ease if its people had opposed him united; that is why Germans nowadays wish for nothing more than to unite in one great Germany. How did the Greeks and the Serbs manage to free themselves from the immense Turkish force? They were one nation, their hearts united behind one idea, while Turkey had soldiers drawn from all over. It should not therefore be forgotten in our present-day Austria that the times are very different from what they used to be and that it is not safe to play with the eternal law, or to try to see how this law could be dominated; for sooner or later the law takes revenge for the errors committed against it.
In the end, we are shown by the behaviour of the entire human race that true power and happiness lie in fellowship alone. Farmers sometimes break down old fences because there is little timber and planks are expensive. People are joining societies and fraternities so that in cooperation with other people they may get through more easily and with smaller expenses, and in this way wonderful things indeed are accomplished, things which people would never have thought possible. Austria should do the same; it should unite dismembered nations. Only in this way will a strong force be created before which foreign countries will be forced to bow down; much money would be saved in this way, taxes would be reduced and the trust which is so necessary would be returned. Only united Slavs can help equal rights make their way from paper into actual life; other Austrian peoples will not do much for equal rights as they already enjoy what we still desire. Their efforts would be of good only for us and not them as they would have to either elevate us up to their level or lower themselves down to our level for us all to be equal; but I have never heard of this ever having happened. That is why the reaction of the Germans in the Imperial Council was so lukewarm when we expressed our desire for equality. No Austrian nation is as numerous as the Slavs, and no other group cares as much for Austria, which was clearly shown in 1848. If only they so much as tried to understand how much good this would do for Austria, not harm, if they helped the Slavs get on their feet instead of crushing them!
Naprej, Ljubljana, 1863, nos. 14-16
Fran Levstik, Zbrano delo, VIII, Ljubljana, 1959
OUR PROGRAM AGAIN
May the dear editors not hold it against us if we yet again say something about our Slovene political program. This matter is more important than people may think. Firm political programs alone give the nation self-confidence; in times of trouble they are a safe haven for it and increase the strength of its actions. Just consider the most recent Prussian politics! And compare the uncertain programs, which make the nation lose confidence in itself, deprive actions of force and speed and put all success into the hands of wayward fortune and circumstances. A sorry example is given us by our brothers the Croats. Nations are like individuals; moral virtues or weaknesses come from them like from a small wellspring of all their fortune or misfortune. And if we consider the present political situation, by God, we need to fortify ourselves morally; we must stand firm and unanimous so that in future we may not become the plaything of our neighbours and unscrupulous politics. We badly need a strong political program and there is no alternative!
What all our patriotic programs to this day have demanded can be summed up in few words: the universal well-being of the Slovene people. We all want our people to become educated, wealthy and respected. We all agree with this idea but the ways in which we are to achieve this are different. Three different ways have so far been marked out.
Our nation’s first political program, set out a year ago in Maribor, aims to unite all lands populated by Slovenes (except for Hungary and Veneto), into one so-called Inner Austrian group. This program would unite Carniola, Primorska, Carinthia and Styria into one group, which would contain three different nationalities: Slovenes, Germans and Italians, which would have one provincial government and one provincial diet, both in Ljubljana. This program was first proposed by the «Slovenec« newspaper and as can be seen in issue 81, the Slovenec is still of this opinion. This program would probably succeed in placing all Slovenes under one administration.
The second program, set out in many articles in the Slovenec, proposes a national Slovene group, the unification of all Slovenes in one region with one provincial diet and one government; the region would include all of Primorska, all of Carniola and the Slovene parts of Carinthia and Styria. This group would, therefore, be almost completely Slovene. This program would certainly make it easier for the Slovenes to develop their own education and culture than the previous one.
The third program published in the Slovenec and also recommended to patriots gathered in Ljubljana this year, goes one step further than others and wants to make one region out of Croatia and the whole of Slovenia, making up the so-called Yugoslav group, which would include southern Styria, southern Carinthia, Carniola, Primorska and even the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia and the Military Frontier; this program does not mention the Serbs in Vojvodina. There would be two advantages of this large group: firstly it would bring together the Slovenes and their Croat brothers and secondly it would be a strong barrier against the Hungarians, Germans and Italians. – This is a short summary of Slovene political programs to this day. The question is: which one should we follow to achieve our goal?
Above all, we must bear in mind that the Germans, in whose hands our destiny now finds itself, will not voluntarily ratify any one of these programs. If, therefore, anyone wonders which of these programs would be most pleasing to the Germans, I believe that person is certainly in error. In their current frame of mind, the Germans would never willingly agree to an Inner Austrian or Illyrian group. They will always aim to keep the Slovenes of Carinthia and Styria in their old servitude, but they do not care any longer for Carniola and Primorska as their politics is now completely different. Up until recently they still governed all of Austria and through their German Bund considered our Slovenia in particular to be their domain or state property, but now they have become aware of the danger they are in themselves and have begun uniting in readiness for any possible external eventualities. I believe the agreements reached in Aussee and Vienna sufficiently opened our eyes. So I believe that nothing would come of this group. Or suppose it did come about one day. What do you think would be best for us in that case? I believe nothing would change. Perhaps we would have to contend with the Germans even more than now because their aims are completely different from ours; because their political ideal, their future is very different from ours. This alliance would in future be as unnatural as it has been thus far. So let us abandon futile ideas sooner rather than later and go our own way under the wing of the Austrian eagle, for this must be undertaken if we hope ever to achieve any goal of ours.
Neither should we join with the Croats, although it would be possible. Who knows what the Croats want? They are in need of a unified program even more than we are. One of their parties – the «Madzharoni« – by all means desires greater union with Budapest, the other one – the independent one – does not know which way to turn. Until such time as Croatian politics – which has since time immemorial been unstable – does not decide which way it wants to go, we Slovenes cannot join them. The Croats should first show very clearly that they are unanimous, that their politics is truly Slav and that they want what is good for us. Up until now the Croats have not shown this, their assembly being a veritable muddle of completely opposing opinions. So we cannot count on their help, we cannot and must not take them into our political account. If we just consider, rather optimistically, that we were joined with them – what would we gain from that?
I would frankly be afraid that there would be no brotherly love or good understanding, would be afraid for the future of us all. If the Croats enjoy such poor unity with their brothers in blood and language the Serbs, what kind of unity are then we to hope for? The Croats should not misunderstand me; they should first of all live in harmony and unity among themselves and have friendly relations with the Serbs, like true Slavs, and not act like Hungarians or other kinds of politicians – only then will we sincerely give them our brotherly hand for a lasting alliance. Until such time we want only to sympathise with them but by no means give in to them yet.
In light of these thoughts, every realistic politician should clearly see that in future our Slovene politics must not and cannot be anything but exclusively Slovene. This means that as regards our domestic affairs we must strive with all our strength and by all constitutional means to attain our national Slovene group. All non-Slav appendages, with the exception of a small number of Italians and Gottschee Germans, must by all means be done away with because they would only hinder us in our national and educational progress. United, we need nothing for our initial progress than the gentle sunlight of equality and the soft dew of God’s blessing. Everything else depends on us; our gain and our fortune will be the fruit of our efforts. Let us not be afraid of this lengthy endeavour for our national, family unification! It stands written in the history of nations: through long endeavour and patience nations must earn a better fortune for themselves! Let us trust in the justness of the government, whose eyes will one day open, that it will better support the always faithful Slovenes; let us also trust the spirit of the times and the mighty idea of nationhood, which has already worked wonders. «One Slovenia« – may these two words be inscribed in every Slovene heart; may they inspire us for vigorous and untiring endeavour! One Slovenia – this is the first contract, this is the conditio sine qua non of all our progress; the distant future, meanwhile, is in God’s hands!
Slovenec, Celovec / Klagenfurt, 1866, no. 87
Fran Levstik, Zbrano delo, VIII, Ljubljana, 1959
Many of Levstik’s important essays were published in the journal Naprej, which was issued twice weekly (Tuesday, Friday) in Ljubljana from 2 January to 29 September 1863; it was published by Miroslav Vilhar, edited by Levstik, who wrote it mainly himself with a clear purpose: to campaign for the right to the universal official use of the Slovene language in public, against German bureaucracy and nemshkutars [turncoats of Slovene origin who sympathised with the Germans], against the tendency to adopt the Croatian language, for the unification of Slovenia in one administrative body. (Levstik also published in this journal his autobiographic prose fragment Deseti brat). Due to anti-German sentiment, the publisher and editor were given prison sentences and the journal was also financially obstructed. Levstik’s writing in Naprej, Slovenec and elsewhere contains elements which are topical even in this day and age despite their direct connection with the circumstances at the time. The above text is taken from the collected works (Zbrano delo), which were edited by A. Slodnjak.
(Note by editor I. A.)
Translated from Slovenian by Marko Petrovich