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Home » Cartography, Europe, GeoNotes, Nationalism

Cartography, Slovenian Nationalism, and Its Limitations

Submitted by on April 11, 2012 – 4:04 pm 5 Comments |  
Cartography has long been an important tool for nationalism, as nationalist activists have used mapping to help establish the foundations of their national communities in the public mind. In the case of 19th century Slovenian nationalism, struggling against the Austrian Empire, cartography was particularly important; Peter Kozler’s famous map of the Slovene Lands, published in 1854, helped establish the idea of a separate Slovenian nation. The area covered by the map, not surprisingly, is rather larger than the area occupied by speakers of the Slovenian language. The map upset the Austrian authorities, who confiscated copies and briefly imprisoned Kozler.

Slovenian nationalism at the time should not, however, be stressed too much. I have some evidence of such limitations from my own family history; my Slovenian maternal grandfather, born in 1880, always considered himself an Austrian, despite the fact that he spoke no German and had never visited the area that now constitutes Austria (to this day, my elderly aunts call Slovenian “the Austrian language”). I always found this attitude perplexing, but the mystery was clarified yesterday in a talk in the Stanford History Department by Pieter Judson of Swarthmore College, entitled “Everyday Empire: Habsburg Central Europe in the Nineteenth Century.” Judson argued that ethnic-based nationalism in the region has been greatly exaggerated, and that many people, speaking a variety of languages, maintained firm loyalty to the Empire up to World War I. The talk proved somewhat controversial, but based in part on my own family history, I found it largely convincing.

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  • A great many residents of the Empire, probably the majority, identified with it before the First World War, though since the Ausgleich, that identification might be phrased as Hungarian as well as Austrian.  I think that cases such as yours, where the family immigrated to America before the War, often demonstrate that quite clearly.  I can’t tell you how many students have told me their ancestors were Austrian or Hungarian, though on further probing it turns out that they have a Slavic or Romanian last name (not dispositive certainly) and that their ancestor came from places as far afield as Bukowina, Croatia, or Bohemia.  Those who came immediately after 1848 and those who came after World War I, of course, may have had quite different attitudes.

    • Many thanks for the interesting comments. Judson did imply that non-German, non-Magyar residents of the Empire could identify more easily with Austria than with Hungary, as Budapest pushed a Magyar nation-state line after the Ausgleich, whereas Vienna was content with a multi-lingual imperial formation that granted rights on an individual level. That certainly fits my understanding of Slovakian-Hungarian and Romanian-Hungarian ethnic tensions.  And I certainly agree that 1848 and 1914-1918 were crucial dates; Kozler made his Slovene Lands map in 1848, but only managed to publish it much later.    

      • Igor Jaramaz

        Nationalism was indeed a problem of the Empire in the 20th century as Slavs made up some 47% of the population with Germans (Austrians) and Hungarians another 44%. This gave rise to the idea of trialism.

        A lot of the Slovene-speakers did not, even by 1920, have a keenly developed sense of Slovene nationalism. In the Carinthian plebiscite it is estimated that every other Slovene-speaker voted to remain in Austria instead of joining the Serb-Croat-Slovene Kingdom.,_1920

        • Excellent point. My grandfather, who migrated to the United States in the late 1800s, was Slovenian, yet he always considered himself Austrian, and he had no use for Yugoslavia.

  • Edellieder

    I find your grandfather’s conviction very logical actually, since the modern Austrian republic/nation-state didn’t really exist back then.  The word “Austria” was practically synonymous with “Habsburg” as well as citizenship rights in the Austrian half of the monarchy, and had nothing to do with ‘ethnicity’ or language spoken. 

    Such non-nationalist identity would be encouraged by the court, the bureaucracy, the army, the aristocracy etc, just as much as national identity was frowned upon.