Lives Journal 5

Ivan Trinko







Let us consider schools. Slovenians from Shempeter / Shpeter Slovenov (San Pietro al Natisone) have around 25 of them. But what are they like? All of them completely Italian!

Just imagine, dear reader! Our small kid, not yet six years old, becomes a regular pupil in the primary school, which he is obliged by law to attend for three years. The teacher makes him sit down at a desk and immediately begins explaining things to him in an authentic Tuscan dialect as if the child was born and grew up somewhere between Sienna and Florence. But the small pupil who has until this day not heard any language other than his native Slovenian stares at the teacher like a young calf that is faced with something new and unusual. For God’s sake! What can he learn if he cannot even understand the teacher? First of all he should master a completely foreign language and only then would he be in a position to learn something else from books. Can this be accomplished in three years?

I believe that nowhere else in the world you can find as much pedagogical nonsense as in our schools. A sensible person would say: if you want to teach a child something do not speak to him in a language he does not understand for all your effort will be in vain. Go from what is familiar to what is unfamiliar — a noto ad ignotum. Well, here we have a rule: from the unfamiliar to the unfamiliar — ab ignoto ad ignotum! Now that is something is it not?

Teachers (female for the most part) are forbidden from using the Slovenian language in school. The school inspector from Chedad (Cividale), who is responsible for our schools, is most concerned with suppressing poor Slovenian as soon as possible. Much of interest could be said on this matter. But why? Let us rather consider what progress our little barefoot children make in those three years of school.

In all truth and with all due credit to the clever little heads of our pupils and the superhuman efforts of our teachers I must admit that the children learn how to read and write and they even manage to remember some words of Italian; those that are diligent may greet you on the road with a »Buon giorno« or a »Riverisco!« – But this is all and even this they soon forget. The child may be able to read but he does not understand what he is reading and he has no motivation at all to continue reading after he has left school. At the end of the third year he abandons the books and has no choice but to slowly forget all he has learnt so that after about a year many no longer know what is a and what is b.

And to achieve this success our municipalities must spend over 25,000 lira per year!

Whoever, having completed primary school wishes to continue in education or wishes simply to learn Italian and mathematics for his own use must enrol in one of the schools in Cividale or in Udine, knowing full well that the local schools get one nowhere.

Those who wish to become teachers may then attend elementary schools in Shempeter which the government has built here of all places with the obvious intention of Italianising the population.

Pupils have at their disposal a grammar school and junior technical schools in Cividale, while in Udine there are three grammar schools as well as senior technical schools. One of the two grammar schools is a state school while the other is private, diocesan and is joined with the seminary. Most Slovenians (now around 18) attend the latter, all of them thinking of continuing with theology although we also have several who have completed year eight in seminary followed by a faculty at the University of Padua and now have excellent state jobs.

Unfortunately, those who have since a young age been brought up in the Italian spirit care little for their native language; often they refuse to know and maybe really do not know they are children of the great mother Slava. Where would they learn this anyway? Who would explain to them the Slav situation? Who would rid them of maliciously untruthful and utterly absurd ideas about the Slavs, ideas which they gorge themselves with from books and newspapers that are hostile to us? It is not possible; there is no opportunity because Slovenian books are inaccessible for them.

The author of these modest facts remembers very well his surprise when he chanced upon some Slovenian printed material and thereby discovered that Slovenians too have books; he also remembers full well what he had to go through before he taught himself a little Slovenian, without a teacher, without a grammar book and without a dictionary.

The problem of the Venetian Slovenians is that they do not even know the Slovenian alphabet and therefore cannot correctly read Slovenian books. We have recently overcome this problem as well as grammatical problems with a Slovenian grammar book written in the Italian language. We are, however, perhaps even more in need of a Slovenian-Italian or at least a Slovenian-Latin dictionary without which it is impossible to make use of Slovenian books. But if such a dictionary really were published, who would buy it? Besides the odd priest, probably only Slovenian pupils and seminarians from the seminary in Udine who require knowledge of Slovenian for their later service amongst our people. But these potential customers are too few for it to be worth printing a dictionary only for them; the already printed grammar book is lying unsold and will remain unsold until judgement day!

Amongst the Slovenians of Shempeter around 70 % are illiterate but this is not the worst rate in Italy seeing as the average proportion of illiterate people is around 67 %. Some of them learn to read in later years in order to acquire the right to vote. Soldiers too acquire some competence. However, »literature« flourishes most amongst those who head out into the world to earn their daily bread. These people write home as best they can, mixing Italian, German and Slovenian although in Slovenian letters there is no sign of the Gaj or the Bohorich alphabets, or any other sensible orthography.

It is an interesting fact that there are more literate women than men. Women learn on their own. Their textbooks are their Slovenian prayer-books. They are keen on coming to mass with their prayer-books while men show no interest in this. Women also like to read other suitable Slovenian books. Unfortunately, they have few of them and there are few people that can procure them for them.

Our Slovenians hardly know any other books than those of the publishing house Druzhba svetega Mohorja. The Druzhba has around 200 members in Venetian Slovenia. This figure is very small; there could be at least five times as many if there were not various obstacles. The main obstacle seems to me to be the lack of sufficient explanation and recommendation or advertisement for the Druzhba by the clergy. The second, even greater obstacle, is the fact that particularly in the valleys very little official Slovenian is understood and they hardly know how to read. The third obstacle is opposition from the government, which also encourages the local educational authorities and the journalists, who are possessed by the evil one and are not ashamed of using even the most contemptible means just so as to set the Italian population and government against the peace-loving Venetian Slovenians and the Druzhba, which apparently spreads its »panslavist« ideals among them!

All the same, a journalist from Chedad not long ago freely admitted that books from the Druzhba are very good for our Slovenians and help them greatly in attaining material and spiritual well-being and progress through their educational, religious and entertaining texts. And he writes something like this: »We (journalists, school authorities, government etc.) have tried in all manner of ways to oppose this but so far without success; we need new plans, new means etc.«

– Dear reader, is it not extraordinary that at the end of the enlightened XIX century there are attempts to eliminate the only means by which our neglected people could make at least a little progress, and this through fear of »panslavism«! Extreme naivety if it were not barbaric evil!

It occurred that the Druzhba was lambasted even in the national assembly in Rome. Deputy Morpurgo who represents the Chedad-Shempeter constituency, excelled in this completely unjustified and backward war. For God’s sake! One would have thought there are enough other worries and pressing matters in Rome.

What are these people afraid of? That this handful of Slovenians will topple the admittedly a little too rickety Italian hut? They almost certainly do not know the history of the small land where once the Venetian Republic and then Italy had and still has its most loyal citizens who no-one can possibly accuse of the smallest trace of disloyalty. Slovenian loyalty is commonly known; Slovenians have never been and never will be traitors. The Jew Morpurgo would do well to remember this and in future attend to the wellbeing of the province he represents in a different way and not by suppressing the poor Slovenian language!

In an attempt to curb the influence of books from the Druzhba the government has these very days, (heeding Morpurgo’s advice), decided to finance a new school in Chrni Vrh. Well, welcome! But it will be as of much use as all the others up till now. A waste of money! What is stranger is that the same government has bought around one thousand copies of various Italian books to be distributed free of charge amongst the school pupils. They include 300 prayer-books. O well, – e se non ridi, di che rider suoli? Amusing really that the Italian government is buying prayer-books for its citizens. »Il diavolo s'è fatto frate« (the devil has become a monk), as the Italian saying goes.

The government would have accomplished a much more necessary and humanitarian task if it had used the money to buy a little bread for the hungry people of Romagna and Sicily where in those very days there were great riots due to famine.

And yet the same province of Udine is also home to a handful of Germans who use their special language. They have been allowed to have mixed Italian-German schools without anyone protesting. The pan-Germanists who invented and presented naive Europe with the terrible bogey of panslavism, take good care that no-one becomes afraid of the no less terrible pan-Germanism.

Moreover, without these Austrian pseudo-Italian Jewish agitators the true, culture-loving Italians would not make a fuss if a simple and completely apolitical Venetian Slovenian was found to be in possession of an innocent Slovenian book. This thought explains the whole matter. Questo è tutto — it would be a shame to waste any further words on the matter.

Even if the Slovenian language does not find refuge in schools, and recognition from the government, it is fully valid in church. All sermons are in Slovenian for no other language would be understood. Unfortunately, the priests themselves are not proficient in official Slovenian and its grammar and often distort what is not yet distorted in our dialect. But I must admit that in recent times the situation is improving in this respect, not only because the younger ones are beginning to prepare themselves even before they become priests but also because the older ones take more care to speak correctly and many a priest, despite preaching in dialect, nevertheless speaks correctly.

Religious instruction is also given in Slovenian, in churches of course, for it is not obligatory in school. For our three parishes we have a special catechism, which was prepared and published by the parish priest Muchich and curate Peter Podreka, (both now deceased) with the help of the late Monsignor Kocijanchich of Gorizia. But the book is used only by priests and the children never get to see it.

It is an interesting fact that Slovenian is also employed at christening ceremonies for all the questions and for the Our Father and the creed. Also at mass, the gospel is read in Slovenian immediately after it has been read in Latin. It is perhaps even more interesting that when the priest takes Communion to the sick he says Domine, non sum dignus etc. in Slovenian as follows: »Gaspuod, jest niesan uriedan, de stopish pod mojo strieho, pa raci 'no samo besjedo an ozdravjena bo moja dusha.« (in official Slovenian: »Gospod, nisem vreden, da stopish pod mojo streho, toda reci eno samo besedo in ozdravljena bo moja dusha.« – English: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed« – Note by ed. I. A.)

As regards the singing in church, it is all in Slovenian except for the solemn Latin mass and the Tantum ergo for the blessing. We sing at the silent mass before and after the Tantum ergo, at the time of the blessing. Besides the ordinary singing we also have special songs for Christmas, Easter and other feasts. All the people sing (in secret) with great devotion and with real feeling. The melodies are very simple, slow and strictly in the church spirit. Who knows how old they are! Someone who is not used to this kind of singing is surprised when he first hears it. Just think: a mixed choir consisting of several hundred voices, from the highest delicately flowing women’s and children’s voices, of all tones, colours and nuances, to the most powerful basses, all nicely mingled into complete harmony, without exaggeration and shouting, almost quietly, and all marked by a light, peaceful and soul-touching melancholy air! A man must truly have a heart of stone if he fails to feel the powerful effect of this singing.

As I am already talking about singing, may I also mention the broader situation of singing. I have already said that Venetian Slovenians like to sing; but they lack Slovenian songs and suitable melodies. The old songs have disappeared and are increasingly been replaced by often extremely impudent Italian popular songs. We have no choirs so singing makes no progress but only grows worse, and each new popular song is just a new musical stupidity. The young people themselves do nothing but bring home what they hear from the Friulians and soldiers. There is no-one who would found a society and develop singing in the true sense of the word.

There is no reason for any further explanation of the state of culture amongst the Venetian Slovenians. The reader can himself make out from these scattered details that Venetian Slovenians are without any cultural organisation.

The only thing that binds them together is faith and ties of kindred in a broad sense. When will they too get something better? Those who deny them their only means to make progress, namely the Slovenian book, think they will only be happy once they drown in the sea of Italian nationality; in that case they will not achieve happiness for a long time yet. On the one hand the Venetian Slovenians stick firmly to their language and their traditions, and on the other hand their character is very different from that of their direct neighbours the Friulians so it is impossible for them to unite with them and become one national community. Oh well! More than a wave or two will come down the River Nadizha (Natisone) before something like that happens!


(first published: Dom in svet, 1898, pp. 248-252; last in the series)





The people of Resia are clever and very self-confident. They are also proud if someone expresses interest in them and their region. In order to make themselves appear more important they say their ancestors came from Russia but this is an empty and recent fabrication without any true foundation and is based only on the apparent connection between the names Rezija (Resia) and Russia. There is no true sense of national belonging in a broad sense amongst them. When it happens that they are in high spirits and in the company of a Slav they like to emphasise: »My nysömö Lashke, my sömö Slavinske, Rozojanuvi!« (in official Slovenian.: Mi nismo Lahi, mi smo Slovani, Rezijani! – We are not Italians, we are Slavs). But the words a woman from Resia spoke to the well-known editor of the Czech Slovansky pøehled, Adolf Cherný when he visited Resia are probably true: »Our men, when they have drunk wine they shout Zhiveli Slovenci [Long live Slovenians]!, but what does this help us for we are Italians!« – Actually, the Resians are good Italians as I have already said. When they have among them distinguished Italian guests – which is quite often – then they can also become enthused and say: »Noi siamo italiani«! (We are Italians.) Of course, the first reason for this enthusiasm is profit. If a foreigner visits them then they earn something; so – Zhivio! if he is a Slav; Evviva! if he is an Italian. But they remain »Rozojanuvi« (Resians), loyal to their government. This loyalty has become part of their nature, as it has for all the other Venetian Slovenians, out of gratefulness to the Venetian Republic which treated them well and bound them to itself with preferential rights and favourable concessions so that they faithfully guarded the national borders against external enemies from the northeast. The Venetians were cunning and knew how to govern wisely. Of course, the republic collapsed a long time ago and the rights and concessions are but a memory so there are no longer any reasons for special gratitude and loyalty but an affinity for Italy lives on, as do the geographical characteristics, location and natural inclinations which connect the region of Friuli with the so-called Italian Slavia.

The literary Slovenian language is unknown in Resia. The ubiquitous Druzhba svetega Mohorja has no members among its population. Slovenian books are inaccessible because the Resian dialect is too distant from literary Slovenian and is strongly polluted and interwoven with foreign words so the simple people would not even understand such books. Not even the small Slovenian catechism for Slovenians produced by the archdiocese of Udine would be suitable for them. The situation is in this sense much worse than amongst the Slovenians of Shempeter and is equivalent to the situation amongst most of the Slovenians living in the valley of the River Ter (Torre). This does not mean that in a linguistic sense the Resians will soon be lost; the Slovenians from the Ter valley, for example, will long have become Friulian while Resia will still be as it is today. Geographical circumstances, ethnic resilience and the living awareness of their Resian identity will for a long time yet preserve the national and linguistic situation »in statu quo«. The situation in Resia is similar to that of the German settlements in Sauris and Sappada (within the same province of Udine) that are doing an excellent job of preserving their identity although they are surrounded on all sides by Italians. The geographical circumstances successfully defend them. But the Germans that live there are more conscious of their identity and have managed to obtain German schools; besides, no-one is suppressing their dialect.

As for the Resian dialect, I will mention briefly that it possesses quite a number of curiosities. It is different from Slovenian in all manner of ways and has some similarities with Croatian. It has little in common with the remaining Venetian Slovenian dialects. It has preserved the old aorist. Something that is unique and not found in other European languages is the harmonic vowel changes. These can be split up into the pure (e, i, o, u) and the muted (ae, y, ö, ü); the narrow (i, u, y, ü, e) and the broad vowels (e, o, ae, ö, a). Vocal harmony exists: if for example in a word the muted vowel dominates, then the others, subordinate to it, must also be muted; if the pure vowel dominates, the others are also pure; in the same way the broad vowel demands a broad one and the narrow a narrow one, i.e.: zhaná, dative: zhaenè, genitive plural: zhiní etc. The way they count is also interesting. Up to 20 is like everywhere; then: dvajsti anu dan (twenty and one), dvajsti anu dva (twenty and two), and so on up to 39; 40 is twice twenty, 60 three times twenty etc.

Although Resia is not very large, there are nevertheless significant linguistic differences between the villages. But what is really spoiling the old and independently developed dialect is the above mentioned overabundance of foreign, especially Italian and Friuli words. Many of them have forced their way into the language because of the linguistic incompetence of priests, especially when giving religious instruction. Below is a popular church hymn which Mr. Cherný recorded in Njiva and which is not so badly spoilt:



Devica Marija, vy mati bozhja,

prosite za nas Jezhusha,

Jezhusha, nashaha höspuda,

ti, ka talyko nas amà!

Jezhusha vy stoe dojila,

z váshimi roki ha previla;

muæ tympa stoe pátela

za Jezhusha dòrzhat zhivaha.

Vy ste ha bila zübila,

muæ tympa vy stoe ha jiskala,

stoe ha naloezla tuv cerkvè

tami toemi sapjenc mozhmí.

Si von boeshoe valyky kontent

ha vydeshtoæ tami sapjenc,

koj a na moeshoe shæe dvanijst lit.

Vàs chisto pópol an vüchashe,

an höjashe dishépule,

an dílashe mirákole

an mortve zhive dilashe

po svitu üchashe muæ judi,

o vy, Marija vérdjina!


[text of the song in old dialectal language of Venetian Slovenians]  



Resia is interesting in many respects and that is why it attracts the attention of scholars. Much has already been written about it in various languages and with various attitudes and motives. The renowned Italian experts and professors Taramelli, Marinelli (father and son), Musoni and others have come to study its geological and geographical characteristics. From a national and linguistic standpoint it has already in previous times been the object of interest for various Slavs, e.g. Pysheli, Kopitar, Hanka, Shafaøik, Kocianchich and others. Our Rutar described it in the book entitled Beneshka Slovenija (1899). It has been visited in person and reported on by the Polish count Potocki, the Russian Sreznjevski, the Slovene-Croat Stanko Vraz, the Czech Cherný, but the most distinguished of them all is the Polish linguist and university professor Baudouin de Courtenay who lived for a long time in Resia and almost became one of the locals. He acquired a high level of proficiency in the Resian dialect and he collected, put in order and published at the Royal Saint Petersburg Academy a huge collection of material, especially dealing with linguistics. He also has handwritten material for a complete Resian dictionary. Mrs Shulc-Adajevska too cooperated with him for some time and acquired a collection of folk songs and melodies.

Some of the latest prominent guests to visit Resia include the Russian university professor dr. Francev, the Czech university professor dr. Kadlec and the senior financial official Kohout. I will not bother to mention the ordinary tourists of various nationalities. The least interest in the Resians has so far been shown by Slovenians. If these brief notes inspire any interest in this small but picturesque region and its unique inhabitants my aim will have been fulfilled.



(first appeared under the title Hajdimo v Rezijo! in Dom in svet, 1907; last in the series)







It is difficult to determine when Slovenians settled in the region of Friuli; it is possible at least approximately to determine how far across the broad plain they reached with the help of toponymy. What happened to them is both known and not known.

They probably began coming into Italy in the second half of the sixth century together with the Avars or maybe just on their own. It is known for certain (from Pavel Diakon), that in early times they frequently fought with the Langobards under whose rule the regions of Friuli and Venetia-Lombardia had come. However, it seems that the Slovenians settled intermittently and in various groups. The Resians from below Mt. Kanin have little in common with the other Venetian Slovenians who can themselves be split into very distinct groups, some of them having a more Serb-Croat nature while others are more obviously Slovenian.

The territory that was originally occupied by the Slovenians was much larger than what they presently occupy. It can be said that a considerable part or even the whole of the so-called Iron Canal (Canale del Ferro) from Pontebba onwards was Slovenian, but nowadays Slovenians can only be found in the side-valley of Resia. No corner of the Friulian plain has been preserved for Slovenians.

A large number of completely Slovenian place names (sometimes with Friulian endings) that have been preserved to this day testify to the fact that Slovenians once broadly settled across middle and lower Friuli as far as the River Tilmente (Tagliamento) and beyond. Old documents from the XII and XIII centuries bear witness to the presence of a large Slovenian population in these parts for there a large number of beautiful old Slovenian names of places and people. But the history of this Slovenian element is quite unclear and incomplete. It is not known for certain when and how Slovenians occupied these parts. Perhaps the free settlements were located on land that had been ravaged and abandoned by the tempestuous passage of peoples on the move; perhaps these were Slovenian soldiers who had fought in Italy together with the Avars and stopped on the way back where they found unpopulated ground that was good for agriculture. Besides, their settlements were mixed with Romance ones; it is therefore not surprising that they slowly assimilated. In the XV century, Slovenian was still very widespread in Friuli. It cannot be said for certain when it disappeared.

The present-day Slovenians live in the hills and valleys that stretch from the Gorishka Brda to the Kanin massif. They can be divided into three main groups: the Resians, the Slovenians of the Ter valley and the Shempeter Slovenians.

The history of Resia is connected with that of the abbey in Moggio which was founded in 1115 to fulfil the wish and will of the Carinthian count Kocelj who owned the Iron Canal. Much land was given to the monastery including Resia. The Benedictines had complete ecclesiastic and worldly authority over this region, from which they had considerable profit. In 1409, the monastery became a free commendam, which however kept all its previous rights. One of those who enjoyed it was St. Charles Borromeo. In 1777, the Venetian Republic took everything over, and ever since then Resia has been an independent municipality and parish.

The Slovenians from the Ter valley or from Tarcento did not have their land partitioned in an organised fashion and were therefore always divided amongst themselves and subject to various feudal lords and ecclesiastically joined to various Friulian parishes. That is why they do not have a common history.

The history of the Slovenians of Shempeter is the most interesting as they had a special administrative organisation. First they came under the rule of the Franks who had destroyed the Langobard kingdom and had spread their authority over all the Slovenian and also Croatian lands. Later the Slovenians came under the patriarchs of Aquilea to whom the German emperors had granted princely authority over all of Friuli. As all these patriarchs came (especially at the beginning), from German families they often gave their relations various lands, including Slovenian ones, to run as feudal estates; that is why old, ruined castles on hillsides mostly have German names. Despite these feudal lords, the Slovenians slowly conceived a special administration to suit their needs which they kept and reinforced even when the patriarchate was taken over by Venice. The wise Venetian Republic gave the Slovenians considerable freedom, defended them against the feudal lords and accorded them new privileges especially as regards exemption from various taxes. Their duty was to protect the Venetian border against the Germans which the Slovenians fulfilled loyally so that in 1492 the government referred to them in a document as: Fideles nostri incolae montanearum et convallium.

They therefore enjoyed considerable autonomy although here and there they were still subject to the, albeit apparent more than real, right to jurisdiction of the old Friulian feudal lords. The Slovenian communities were organised in strictly democratic fashion. The best form of organisation, which was wisely and precisely conceived, was amongst the Slovenians of Shempeter. The heads of families in the different villages took care of common village matters which they dealt with in village meetings that were presided over by a »deacon« whom the heads of families elected from among their number. The villages, which numbered around 40, were joined into two groups called Banka (table). Each group took its name from the central villages Landar and Mersa, hence: Landarska Banka and Merska Banka.

Each Banka had its head deacon who was elected by the subordinate villages. The Landarska Banka was responsible for the inhabitants of the Nadizha and Sovodnje valleys while the Merska Banka covered the population of the Shentlenarshke and Kozhishke valleys. Each village had its representatives in its Banka who convened when common matters demanded a meeting.

The representatives of both Bankas met at least once, and if necessary more than once a year under the Slav linden trees at the church of St. Quirinus in Shempeter. At these general meetings, the common affairs of the whole region were discussed under the chairmanship of both head deacons. Each village representative had the right to speak during the discussions while the minutes were kept by the public notary or chancellor. This was, therefore, an old, strictly democratic, small but genuine parliament!

Alongside this administrative system they also had a judicial system. The heads of families voted for the Landarska Banka, while for the Merska Banka retired judges (every year 12 judges) judged minor and major matters including murders. All this despite the right of jurisdiction held by the old feudal lords over Slovenian lands but who it appears were happy to check their right once a year by coming to Shempeter and having a feast at the expense of their subjects. What else could they do? The Slovenians were completely at peace with the Venetian Republic, which did not want to offend them and protected them against everyone. Even appeals were handled, as far as possible, by the Bankas although the first court of appeal was supposed to be in Chedad, followed by Udine and finally Venice. Major offenses were punished with prison sentences while for minor offenses the condemned person was locked in stocks in a public place or they had to pay fines.

All this administrative and legal organisation was in place from the time of the patriarchs of Aquilea until Austrian rule. Austrian absolutism destroyed everything and replaced the old partition with the current municipalities.

Ecclesiastically, the Slovenians of Shempeter were the first to get their own parish, and it is mentioned in a document (Bulla Coelestini III) that dates back to 1192. Then they got their second one in Sv. Lenart; the records of parish priests in Sv. Lenart go back as far as 1400 but the parish is mentioned even before this date. At the end of the XVIII century a third parish was founded in Drenkija, which previously belonged to Volche ob Sochi. All three belong to the chapter of Chedad.

One of the oldest churches is the one on Stara gora – Castel del Monte which is also a Slovenian parish that belongs to Chedad. The parish of Prapotska (Prepotto) used to be Slovenian but is now mixed. The Slovenians in these two parishes do not belong to Shempeter but are a kind of extension of the Gorishka Brda.

For all other Slovenians the old Friulian parishes had a Slovenian curate (Vicarius Sclaborum); only later did Slovenian succursal parishes get their own priests.

Slovenian was used in Slovenian churches ever since the days of old. Even nowadays, many a melody and accompanying text has been preserved, its age being considerable as it is clearly Gregorian in character and origin. Examples are hymns for Christmas, Easter, the feast of Corpus Christi and others. The people love to sing in church, even during quiet masses, and this distinguishes them very clearly from the Friulians.

Priests wrote or translated their own catechisms, sermons and other necessary material. When Slovenian religious books were first printed they purchased them keenly. Unfortunately, the old manuscripts have not been preserved. But there is a very interesting mixed Latin-Slovenian-Italian record from 1497 in which a certain Johanes civis Vegle says he translated »de latino in sclabonico lingua« the annual legacy of the »Bratine sfete marie szergneu« (Fraternity of Our Lady in Cernjevu). This manuscript as well as some more recent Resian texts were published in Petrograd by the Polish scholar Baudouin de Courtenay. A detailed study of the Chernejski rokopis, the first Slovenian dated manuscript, was written by the late dr. Oblak.


(first published: Jadranski almanah 1923, Trieste)




IVAN TRINKO – ZAMEJSKI (1863-1954), was born and died in Trchmun (Tercimonte, Venetian Slovenia, Italy). He came from a farming family, studied theology in Videm (Udine), became a priest and professor, was a deputy in the Udine regional assembly, wrote poems (Poezije, 1897), prose, essays (also in Italian and Latin), translated Presheren, Stritar, Gregorchich, Tavchar and Polish and Russian writers into Italian; he was an artist and musician. Trinko is the most important cultural worker of Venetian Slovenia and is known as the »Father of the Venetian Slovenians«. His travelogue-sociological essay Beneshka Slovenija is a classic presentation of this far western region that is almost completely forgotten in central Slovenia; he described his reasons for writing about it as follows:

»I hope it will be of great interest to other Slovenians to learn about their brothers who like an advance guard for all Slavs find themselves under the Italian crown. And it is about time they learnt about them for they must sooner or later perish under the Italian assault unless the circumstances change.« (cit. DiS, 1900, pg. 284). The above presentation is composed of three fragments from three essays that deal with similar themes but appeared in different publications.











Virgin Mary, mother of God,

pray to Jesus for us,

Jesus, our Lord,

who loves us so much!

You nursed Jesus,

and your hands changed his clothes;

you suffered for a long time

to keep Jesus alive.

You rocked him,

and searched for him for a long time,

before finding him in the church

amongst the wise men.

This was for you a great source of satisfaction

to see him there so wise,

when he was only twelve years old.

He taught all the people,

he led the disciples,

he did miracles

brought the dead to life,

all over the world he taught many people,

o you, Our Lady and virgin!








In connection with Trinko’s text on the Resians (see above II) it is appropriate to mention the »Carinthian connection«. Alongside the purely linguistic aspect (in more ancient times there were links between the Resian dialect and Carinthian Slovenian but later it was the littoral and Venetian Slovenian components that dominated) there is also a specific literary aspect: Andrej Einspieler (1813-1888), Slovenian Carinthian priest and cultural and political worker, known as the »father of the Carinthian Slovenians« (as Trinko was the »father of the Venetian Slovenians«), founder of the newspapers Sholski prijatelj, Slovenec in Mir and Mohorjeva Druzhba (together with Slomshek and Janezhich in 1851; in 2011 this legendary publishing house, which »taught the Slovenians how to read,« is celebrating its 160th anniversary), published two of Trinko’s related essays: Beneshki Slovenci (Sh. prijatelj, 1852) and Resians (ibid., 1856). The latter is very typical considering Trinko’s determined rejection of the »apparent relationship« between the names Rezija (Resia) and Russia, so there follows a longish quotation related to this topic from Einspieler:

»Old people say that the Resians came to their present-day home from Russia. In the time of great wars, some Russians sought refuge in this valley where nobody had lived before; they settled here, built houses and lived in peace, and the place was named Resia after them. The Resian language is also very similar to Russian; for when the Russians were retreating from these parts, a Russian also came to Resia and when he spoke to the older inhabitants of Resia who speak a purer version of their language, he could understand very well what they were saying and the Resians too understood what he said. It is probable, therefore, that the Resian language is in fact a dialect of Russian, but now it has been badly distorted because the Resians live amongst the Italians and travel around where they have to speak at least a little of many other languages. Is the Resian dialect, therefore, a mixture of Slavic – supposedly Russian, German and Italian or Friulian words to which they give Slav endings and Slav declensions? As they trade with Germans and Italians they speak, as I have already mentioned, some German and Italian.

The renowned Kolar too in his famous work Staroitalia slovanska (díl I. hlava II. chlanek II. § 2. pp. 209-212) mentions these Resians of ours. He derives the name of the Resians from the ancient Etruscans as follows: »The inhabitants of Etruria had three names, two so-called external ones: Turi, Turii, Turanje, Tursci, Tusci from tur‚ ox, fire’; and the Etruscans or worshippers of fire symbolised by the ox’; the third name was internal and used at home: Raseni, Razeni, which is‚ Rodjeni [‘born’]« ... etc.


Meanwhile, Sreznjevski wrote: »What is most noteworthy about the settlement of Gospodnica is that here lived, as oral tradition says, the first Resian who came from Russia, as explained by Reverendissimus Dominus Odorico Buttolo« – [cit.: Reziani; Sholski Prijatel – periodical for school and home, 1856].

Despite the problematic nature of this kind of etymology, similarities between the following words: Resia, Raetia (the Rhaeti or Rhaetoromans in Switzerland), Reti and Raseni (both Etrurians), Rasha (river and village in Istria), Rashka (river and town in SW Serbia, Sandzhak, the name Rascia for medieval Serbia with its capital Ras) and variants of Russia (Rossija, Rasija) as well as the name of the Venetian goddess Reitija (Rehtia, Reisia) and the ancient Slav temple Retra (Rhetra, Rethtra, Radgosc) near Luzhice are nevertheless striking (on this case.: Branko J. Hribovshek, Imeni Raetia in Schwyz, SRP 75-76/2006 and 77-78/2007). 


(Selected, adapted and noted by Ivo Antich)




Translated from Slovenian by Marko Petrovich





Slovenian (gajica)

Slovenian (bohorichica)