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Slovenian Minorities in Neighbouring Countries

Slovenian minorities, known as ‘Zamejci’, or foreigners in English, are those who live ‘za mejo’, literally, ‘behind the (national) border’ of the Republic of Slovenia. There is no the exact meaning for them in English, because a word ‘foreigner’ can be translated in Slovenian as ‘tujec'(somebody who is from a foreign country).
‘Zamejci’ live in our neighbouring countries; in Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. Slovenians in Italy, Austria and Hungary are recognised as ethnic minorities and their mother tongue is Slovenian. They live in these areas from time immemorial, and because of the political definition of borders they ended up on the external side of the state border of Republic of Slovenia.

Around 80,000 ‘Zamejci’ live in Italy, around 5,000 in Hungary, around 30,000 in Austria, and around 3,500 in Croatia.

  • In Italy, they live in the following regions: Tržaško, Goriško, Videm (Udine), Benečija, Rezija, Kanalska dolina, Trbiško.
  • In Autria they live in Štajerska and Koroška regions.
  • In Hungary they live in Porabje region.
  • In Croatia they live in north Istria, Gorski Kotar, Medžimurje.
Slovenian minorities map
Slovenian ethnic minorities in Austria, Italy and Hungary

Slovenian Minorities in Italy

In Italy, in areas where Slovenian minorities can be found, bilingual signs, schools and public inscriptions exist. Slovenes in Trieste and Gorizia regions have their own public Slovenian primary and secondary schools. They can also file documents bilingually.

Italian Slovenian bilingual signs
Italian Slovenian bilingual signs

Everybody there can listen the radio and TV in Slovenian. They live mostly in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, and there are a number of cultural institutions, such as Stalno Slovensko gledališče (Permanent Slovenian Theatre) and Slovenski raziskovalni inštitut (Slovenian Research Institute).

In 2001 Italy adopted the Law on the protection of the Slovenian Minority.

Here you can view a Slovenian programme, S-prehodi, on TV Koper (Capodistria)They speak about the situation in the Benečija region, you can also hear a special dialect from Rezija, which has its own orthography, grammar and dictionary, and some special letters which aren’t known in standard Slovenian. In fact, they say that’s a totally different language—I couldn’t understand it at all.

Slovenian dialect from the Rezija region
Slovenian dialect from the Rezija region

Otherwise Slovenians in Italy speak very clearly. In this dialogue you can hear the Italian melody while they speak Slovenian. The same is with Slovenians who live in our coastal area. I was surprised last time when I was in Trieste (Trst), and I started to speak with an employee at the bus station in English (my Italian is still not so good), but she asked me if I’m Slovenian and started to speak Slovenian. I was really impressed.

Slovenians in Italy also publish their own newspapers: Primorski dnevnik (literally ‘Littoral daily newspaper’), Novi glas (‘A new voice’).

Slovenian Minorities in Austria

Slovenians in Austria live in the Koroška (Carinthia) and Štajerska (Styria) regions. Primary schools are bilingual in this area; Slovenian and German are spoken just by Slovenians. Slovenians speak their language mostly between family, friends, relatives, but in workplace they speak a combination of Slovenian and German.

Slovenian minorities have their own secondary school Klagenfurt
Slovenian minorities have their own secondary school Klagenfurt

Koroški Slovenci (Carinthian Slovenes) developed two central organisations, Narodni svet koroških Slovencev (National Council of Carinthian Slovenes) and Zveza slovenskih organizacij na Koroškem (Union of Slovenian Organisations in Carinthia). In Slovenian minority regions there are also a number of cultural, educational and sport associations. They run bi-weekly magazines and a private radio station.

Online news in Slovenian, from Austria.

Here you can view the Slovenian TV programme Dober dan, Koroška on ORF K, from Koroška region. They talk about events in Koroška and Slovenia. A TV presenter speaks in Slovenian and German (just at the beginning and end).

Their dialect is very interesting in my opinion, they speak Slovenian very well. The only difference is that they pronounce the letter ‘r’ similar to French ‘r’, which makes them unique. I realised from this programme, that the Carinthian Slovenes mostly have Austrian surnames.

Austrian Slovenian bilingual road sign
Austrian Slovenian bilingual road sign

Slovenian Minorities in Hungary

The Slovenian minority in Hungary live mostly in the Raba valley, in western Hungary. They are called porabski Slovenci (Raba Slovenes). The centre of Porabje region is Monošter (Szentgotthárd) with around 650 Slovenes. Monošer is the centre of Slovenian cultural life. They speak a dialect, which reminds me of the Prekmurje dialect in Slovenia.


Here you can view a TV programme in Slovenian, Slovenski utrinki, on Hungarian channel.

In this programme the presenter speaks in Slovenian, the subtitles are in Hungarian, and when Hungarians speak, it’s the opposite. A TV presenter speaks in standard Slovenian, so it’s hard to hear their dialect, but the children in that programme speak Slovenian with Hungarian melody.

A bi-lingual primary school and a kindergarten in Gornji Senik
A bi-lingual primary school and a kindergarten in Gornji Senik

The Raba Slovenes publish a newspaper, Porabje-časopis Slovencev na Madžarskem (‘Porabje-A newspaper of Slovenes in Hungary’). In this newspaper they write mostly in standard Slovenian, with some articles in their special dialect. You can find all of their publications here.

Raba Slovenian dialect
Raba Slovenian dialect

Final Thoughts

In theory, all three countries lawfully take care of their Slovenian minorities, but the reality is different. Slovenians in these areas are confronted with diverse pressures, for example, their culture and the language are liable to assimilation. But when I watched these broadcasts of TV programmes from all three countries, I saw that the situation is not so black, in fact it is encouraging, and the younger generations preserve Slovenian very well.

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