Slovenes, inhabitants of the Republic of Slovenia, in Austria a linguistic Minority, predominantly in southern Carinthia and partly in the southern part of Styria. The Slavs who settled in the 6th century A.D. in the Roman province of Noricum were called Carantanians from the 7th century onwards; they maintained close links with the Bavarians from the late 8th century onwards, in particular with Freising ("Freising Monuments" from the 10th century, the oldest Slav records in Roman characters, comprising two penance formulas and the fragment of a sermon). In the High Middle Ages, the tribal duchy of Carantania was bilingual. The language that came to be called Slovene at a later date remained the principal language of the southern part of Carinthia well into the 20th century. Slovene as a written language was strongly promoted during the Reformation (Bible translations by P. Truber). The early nationalist and linguistic movement among the Slovenes initially had its centre in Carinthia (U. Jarnik, M. Majar, A. Einspieler, foundation of the Hermagoras Brotherhood [Moharjeva družba] in Klagenfurt for the dissemination of Slovene literature 1852-1860). On account of the prevailing social pattern in Carinthia (Slovenes were mostly employed in agriculture) and as a consequence of the special importance of the clergy for raising the national consciousness of Slovenes, there was an increasing tendency from about 1860 to equate "German" with "progressive" and "Slovene" with "clerical-conservative"; accordingly, speaking and feeling "German" was frequently seen as a rise in social status. In consequence the Slovene language group in Carinthia declined in the 19th and early 20th centuries (Slovene-speaking population in 1880: more than 100,000 or 30 %; in 1910 approx. 82,000), a development that was favoured by the "utraquist" (= bilingual) school system in Carinthia. Even though at least 10,000 Slovenes opted for Austria in the referendum of 1920, the First Republic was not favourably disposed towards minorities. The National-Socialist attack on Yugoslavia in 1941 was accompanied by reprisals against Slovenes and the expulsion of Slovenes from Carinthia, which in turn resulted in inroads made by Slovene partisan fighters into Carinthia. In October 1945, in the early days of the Second Republic, the school system was reformed: All schools in southern Carinthia were required to teach the two languages as compulsory subjects. In 1957 a Gymnasium secondary school for Slovenes was founded in Klagenfurt. In response to school strikes the school legislation of 1959 limited bilingual education to those pupils who had expressly opted for it. The Court Languages Act of 1959 permitted the use of Slovene in three mixed-language court districts (Bleiburg/Pliberk, Eisenkappel/Železna Kapla, Ferlach/Borovlje).The use of languages in this area has been regulated by the Ethnic Minorities Act since 1976. In implementation of Article 7 of the State Treaty of 1955 place names were shown on signposts in two languages from 1972 onwards. Many of these inscriptions were, however, forcibly removed or defaced (Carinthian Conflict over Bilingual Signposts). The government subsequently succeeded in concluding a three-party agreement (Ethnic Minorities Act of 1976), which envisaged an Ethnic Minorities Advisory Board; this was, however, boycotted by the two Slovene associations in Carinthia (the Council of Carinthian Slovenes/Narodni svet koroških Slovencev, with Christian leanings, and the Central Association of Slovene Organisations/Zveza Slovenskih organizacij na Koroškem, which was committed to the traditions of the partisan fighters) until 1989. In 2000, nine municipalities or parts thereof are meant to have bilingual road signs, while 14 municipalities or parts thereof have Slovene as their official language. The number of persons using Slovene as their vernacular had stabilised at approx. 20,000 by 1991( of which 15,000 in Carinthia).
Literature: F. Hauptmann, Die Stellung der Südslawen in der Habsburgermonarchie, in: E. Zöllner (ed.), Volk, Land und Staat in der Geschichte Österreichs, 1984; Geschichte der Kärntner Slowenen von 1918 bis zur Gegenwart, 1988.