MIROSLAV VILHAR IN ZHABJEK
Miroslav Vilhar (1818–1871) was a wealthy lord. He was one of the first to write and translate farces for reading club stages, and was also a poet, composer and politician. In 1863, he began publishing the political journal Naprej. The journal's editor-in-chief and head writer was Fran Levstik (1831–1887). Naprej advocated Slovene national rights and equal status for the Slovene language in administration, churches and schools; it also backed the Zedinjena Slovenija or »United Slovenia« programme and opposed the pro-German party and »Germanisers«. Naprej ceased publication at the end of September 1863. Two articles published in Naprej led to legal problems for the publisher and editor-in-chief.
In the article »Kaj se nekaterim zdi ravnopravnost?« (»What do some people consider equal rights?«, no. 42, May 1863), in which Levstik wrote about a request from the mayors of Ljubljana and the surrounding towns for Slovene-language correspondence, Johann Pajk, an official of the municipality of Ljubljana, could be easily identified. He sued Levstik and Vilhar for slander. Levstik was sentenced to three months in prison; Vilhar received four weeks and was forced to pay a fine in the amount of 60 florins. The two were later acquitted by the court in Vienna and the provincial court in Graz.1
The article entitled »Misli o sedanjih mednarodnih mejah« (»Some Thoughts on the Current International Borders«, no. 15–17, February 1863), written by one M.P., was published as a correspondence from Koroshka (Carinthia) (Levstik, as editor-in-chief, probably also had a hand in the article). Vilhar and Anton Klein, the head of Eger's print shop, were charged with a criminal act for disturbing the peace. Vilhar did not divulge the identity of the writer of the piece on national borders; in January 1864, he was sentenced to a six-week prison sentence with a weekly fast and was fined 300 florins, which were given to the poor of Ljubljana. Anton Klein, the head of Eger's print shop, was acquitted.2 The courts in Vienna and Graz upheld the conviction. Vilhar had to serve his sentence. He also lost his seat in the provincial assembly.
The newspaper Tagespost reported that Vilhar had asked the Emperor for an exceptional review of his appeal. Vilhar issued a correction in issue 125 of Tagespost: »I did not file any kind of request for an exceptional review of my case or for a pardon. It is with a clear conscience that I will commence serving the 6 week sentence handed down unto me on the 4th day of this month... – Long live my dear homeland!«3
Vilhar was said to have nonetheless requested a deferral of the sentence, but his request was not granted. He departed for the prison in Zhabjek on 4 June and was released on 23 July 1864.4
While serving his sentence, Vilhar had himself photographed. Ferdinand Bognar was also being held in the prison at the time and had actually set up a photography studio there.5 He was sentenced and imprisoned for forging banknotes. He photographed Vilhar without receiving official permission, because he intended to sell the photographs once he was done serving his sentence.6
Perhaps Bognar was a travelling photographer and as such was allowed to bring all of his possessions with him to prison, including his photography supplies.
The photograph shows Vilhar behind iron bars. Officer Marij Bachmann was also being held at Zhabjek; his wife would visit him, and it was she who brought the photographs from the prison. France Kadilnik, the proprietor of the reading club’s tavern, sold photographs of the »national martyr«. The proceeds went towards the national cause.7 The photographs went on sale when Vilhar was released from prison. The police confiscated the photographs because the photographer's name was not listed on the back.8
At the trial in December 1864, Vilhar, Bachmann and Kadilnik were given small fines, which Vilhar immediately paid.9
Miroslav Vihar wrote a short book of humorous, satirical verses as a memento of his incarceration at the remand prison in Zhabjek; the book, entitled Zhabjanke (Zhabe, Raki, Ribice) (»Verses from Zhabjek (Frogs, Crabs, Fishes))* was published in Zagreb in 1865. *The title is a play on words, as the place name »Zhabjek« contains the root of the word »zhaba« or »frog«.
(Motimir, »O Miroslavu Vilharju«, Slovanski svet, 1893, sht./no. 8, str./p. 151).