Carinthia

   Carinthia is the southernmost province of modern Austria, with a current population of around 550,000. Its name apparently is reminiscent of a Slavic tribe, the Karantaner, one among several who inhabited the area during and after the eighth century CE. Generously endowed with four large and beautiful lakes—Wörther, Ossiach, Millstätt, and Weissen—as well as around 2,000 smaller ones; a varied landscape of mountains and long, luxuriant valleys; and a more consistent summer climate than the rest of Austria, Carinthia is a major attraction for vacationers, both domestic as well as those from the rest of Europe. Ninety-seven percent of the population is German speaking; the remaining 3 percent consists of a Slovenian-speaking minority in the south, especially in the Gail, Rose, and Jaun valleys. The first archaeological artifacts and settlement of Carinthia date from the Paleolithic period. Copper mines in the region appear to have prompted far denser settlement in the fourth and third centuries BCE. The Celts came to the area around 300 BCE and eventually established a kind of tribal federation that would later become the kingdom (Regnum) of Noricum. During the Roman occupation, Carinthia became part of a Roman province of the same name, which encompassed a great deal of what is today’s Austria. Under attack from the Avars at the beginning of the eighth century, the Karantaner called upon the Bavarians to their north for help. This Germanic tribe quickly dominated the area and promoted its Christianization, which had already taken hold during the Roman occupation.
   Arnulf (ca. 850–899), an illegitimate son of the Carolingian ruler of Bavaria, Carloman, was charged with governing Carinthia in 876. Emperor Otto II made the territory, which included parts of Italy (until 1173) and modern Styria, an independent duchy in 976. Carinthia thus was the earliest of the Austrian provinces to bear this rank. As one ruling family succeeded another in the duchy from the end of the 10th to the middle of the 11th centuries, many of these territories fell away. The political unity of Carinthia was further undermined by ecclesiastical holdings in the territory that belonged to the bishoprics of Salzburg and Bamberg. King Ottokar II of Bohemia controlled the area from 1269 to 1276, having inherited it from the last of the noble families to rule Carinthia, the Sponheim. In 1335, Emperor Louis IV (the Bavarian) enfeoffed the Habsburgs with Carinthia. From that time on until the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918, Carinthia was just one among the many of the house of Austria’s possessions, with all of the advantages and disadvantages that such status conferred. In 1518, Klagenfurt became the capital when Emperor Maximilian I gave the local estates the city as a place for their meetings. Carinthia was very exposed to the marauding of the Ottoman armies, especially in the 15th century. It also became heavily Protestant during the Reformation; to this day it has the highest number of Protestants of any province in Austria. But the Habsburgsupported Counter-Reformation behaved ruthlessly here in the 17th century, and many of the evangelical faith simply left altogether. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Carinthia was part of a so-called Habsburg Illyrian Kingdom ruled from Laibach, now Ljubljana, the capital of modern Slovenia. In 1849, it was declared a crown land unto itself, which it remained until 1918.
   Historically an agricultural center, with an especially important timber industry, Carinthia was the site of bitter political and military controversies in 1918–1919 and again after 1945. With its Slovenian population, the province became the target of Serb, Croatian, and Slovenian troops to the south, who were anxious to incorporate as many of their ethnic cohorts as possible into the new kingdom that was to emerge from the Paris Peace Conference. A month before World War I ended, a Slovenian national council meeting in Ljubljana empowered itself to speak for its ethnic cohorts in Carinthia. The fighting between a Carinthian militia and the troops from the new kingdom to the south lasted from 1918 to 1919. In May 1919, South Slavic troops occupied Klagenfurt.
   Both Italy and the United States had reasons to contain the territorial reach of what was to become Yugoslavia. They and the other victorious powers meeting at the Paris Peace Conference ruled that a two-stage plebiscite should be held to decide the political future of the Carinthian Slovenes. The disputed area was divided in two: zone A to the south, where the majority of Slovenes lived, and zone B, the region around Klagenfurt, which was heavily German. In October 1920, close to 60 percent of the population in zone A decided to remain with Austria, a gesture that made a vote in zone B superfluous. It was therefore never taken. The Treaty of St. Germain did, however, cede two areas, the Miess valley to Yugoslavia and the Kanal valley to Italy.
   After World War II, Yugoslavia, supported by the Soviet Union, claimed around 259,000 hectares in Carinthia, including Klagenfurt, and $150 million as reparations for the war. However, when Stalin and the Yugoslav Communist leader, Marshall Tito, had their historic falling-out in 1948, the Soviets decided to accept the borders of Austria as they had been in 1938. Yugoslavia entered into direct negotiations on the Carinthian claims with Vienna, and eventually dropped them in return for the right to confiscate Austrian property in Yugoslavia and Austrian promises to protect the rights of the Slovenian minority—at that time between 20,000 and 50,000 people—within its borders. Slovenes were to have the right to organize politically, to operate their own press, and to study in their own language in primary and secondary school. Slovene and German would be the two official languages in the province. Where the Slovene population was especially heavy, signs with place-names were to be in German and Slovene.
   In 1972, the Austrian National Assembly passed a law calling for dual-language signs wherever the Carinthian population was 20 percent or more Slovene. Because that population had been declining, no one was exactly sure how many of the minority lived in any given area. Speakers of German, some of whom called upon unpleasant memories of Yugoslav demands after both world wars, began tearing these signs down, which led to vigorous protests from Belgrade. In 1977, the Austrian government activated the Ethnic Groups Act, passed the previous year. Dual-language signs were to be erected wherever a quarter of the population was Slovenian-speaking. The Austrian state also subsidized two Slovenian language newspapers and a radio station in Klagenfurt that broadcast in the language.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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