HISTORY OF SLOVENIA
Slovenia lies at the crossroads of the Alps, the Pannonian Plain and the Mediterranean– an area of dynamic history. Various peoples helped shape the area's cultural heritage. The first evidence of human habitation in the territory of the present day Slovenia goes back 250,000 years. Pile dwellings on the Ljubljana Marshes date back to 3900 B.C. The Illyrians from the early Iron Age were followed by the Celts, who in the 3rd century BC established the Celtic Kingdom of Noricum. Noricum
became a Roman province and the period of the Roman Empire left a rich heritage in numerous towns that now carry Slovenian names. For example Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, was founded 2000 years ago as the Roman colony Emona. In the 6th century, Slovenia's Slavic ancestors emerged from beyond the Carpathian Mountains and settled in the territory of present-day Slovenia. As early as the 7th century, the first state of Slovenians was founded in the area, the principality of Carantania, which endured for almost 300 years. It was not until 1991 that Slovenians again lived in their own sovereign state. Until the late 20th century, foreign rulers governed the Slovenians: first the Habsburg Monarchy and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to the end of World War I in 1918.
Throughout these years, Slovenians managed to establish and preserve a national identity, mainly through culture and language. Since 1550, when the Protestant Primož Trubar penned the word Slovenians for the first time, a common Slovenian national identity has slowly developed. The compulsory elementary schooling introduced in the 18th century, enabled the Slovenians to survive as a nation, however the Habsburg Monarchy prevented them from achieving political autonomy. The idea of a unified Slovenia only emerged in 1843. In 1848 a small group of Slovenian intellectuals drew up the first Unified Slovenia national plan.
The collapse of Austria-Hungary (1918) divided the Slovenian ethnic territory among four states. The largest, central part came under the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, later renamed Yugoslavia (1929), while Northern Carinthia became part of Austria, and most of the Western regions (Primorska and Notranjska) were given to Italy. Prekmurje, with mixed Hungarian/Slovenian population, was divided between the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Serbs and Hungary. After World War II, most of the Slovenian territory under Italy was reunited with Slovenia, which became one of the republics of Yugoslavia, under the communist rule (1945-1991).
After being part of Yugoslavia for more than seventy years, the Slovenians almost unanimously opted for independence. In a 1990 plebiscite, almost 90 per cent of the Slovenian electorate voted in favor of Slovenian independence and sovereignty. On June 25, 1991, Slovenia became an independent state. The determination to build a nation based on the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law was challenged immediately. A relatively short yet decisive armed conflict with the Yugoslav army resulted in months of negotiations. Those times of transition were a trial of the will of the Slovenian nation, requiring determination and courage, as well as the intellectual capacity, spiritual power, unity, responsibility and statesmanship.
This was soon confirmed by actions of the international community. In January 1992, the European Community recognized Slovenia. On April 7, 1992, the new nation was recognized by the United States and soon after diplomatic relations between the two countries were established. On May 22 1992, Slovenia joined the United Nations (UN). In October 1997 it became a nonpermanent member of the Security Council for a period of two years. In 2004 Slovenia became a member of the European Union (EU) and NATO. Slovenia presided over the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2005 and over the Council of the EU in 2008. The country joined the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2010. For the past 25 years Slovenia has been advocating effective multilateralism and international justice, with the UN as its core focus. Slovenia's international engagement is firmly based in endeavors for peace and security, the rule of law, sustainable development, and human rights.
NATURE IN SLOVENIA
Slovenia’s total area is only about the size of Massachusetts, however it is the only country in Europe that encompasses the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pannonian plain and the mysterious Karst. Green is the dominant color of Slovenia and the country is dedicated to promoting an environmentally friendly economy and green sustainable tourism.
Around 60 percent of Slovenia is covered by forests, making it the third most forested country in Europe. Over one million new trees are planted in Slovenia every year and one can find virgin forest only 40 miles from the capital city of Ljubljana. Other natural areas are meadows and thickets. There are many endangered and protected species of flowers, particularly in mountain areas. The plant diversity is exceptional. Fertile soil is mainly found in the east of the country and in flat areas in river valleys. The sunny sides of hills in the south and west of Slovenia offer good conditions for viticulture.
With over a third of its territory protected as natural heritage, Slovenia is also one of the most biologically rich and diverse areas in Europe. It comprises just 0.004% of the Earth's surface, yet it is home to more than 2% of land and freshwater creatures. Many species of bird nest in Slovenia, and the territory is a staging area for migratory species. The forests are home to a large population of brown bears. Many other very rare and endangered animal species inhabit the woods such as the wolf, the lynx, the wildcat, the capercaillie bird and the pheasant. These are all protected. Also protected is the ibex, which can be seen in the mountains. Slovenia's rivers, lakes and sea are home to a rich variety of aquatic species.
Slovenia is one of the most water-rich countries in Europe. It has 17,000 miles of rivers, streams and other waterways. Slovenian rivers are divided into the Adriatic and Danubian or Black Sea watersheds. The supreme river of the Adriatic watershed is the Soča River, also known as the Emerald River. Slovenia's biggest river is the Drava and the longest river is the Sava. Ljubljanica, Kolpa, Krka and Savinja rivers ultimately run into the Danube River and then the Black Sea.
There are over 300 enchanting waterfalls in Slovenia, many of them in western Slovenia. The highest waterfall, Kloma, is 419 feet high, while the most frequently visited is the Savica Fall near Lake Bohinj. The waterfall of Boka near Bovec is regarded as the most powerful, while the valley of Logarska dolina boasts the fine Rinka Fall. Numerous thermal springs in Slovenia were discovered in ancient Roman times and their soothing and healing effects can be experienced in the numerous natural spas and thermal resorts. Two Slovenian natural sparkling mineral waters that enjoy an international reputation are Radenska Three Hearts and Donat Mg. However, most people drink tap water in Slovenia, as it is clean and uncontaminated.
Slovenia also features numerous lakes spread across the country. While Lake Bled is the most famous lake in Slovenia, intermittent Lake Cerknica is the biggest. When the Cerknica field is flooded, it boasts an area of 6,200 acres, but interestingly, it dries out in May or June. Etched between the mountains of Bohinj, Lake Bohinj is the largest glacial lake in Slovenia. Seven lakes are spread across the valley below Triglav, which is commonly referred to as the Seven Lakes Valley in Triglav National Park. Triglav National Park is the only national park in Slovenia. There are three regional parks and 45 landscape parks. The three regional parks in Slovenia, encompassing large natural homogenous areas are Kozjansko, Notranjska and Škocjan Caves. The Škocjan Caves, one of the largest underground canyons in the world, has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986. The most attractive among the landscape parks are the Logarska dolina, the Sečovlje saltpans on the Adriatic Coast, and the Ljubljana Marshes Nature Park.
The Sečovlje saltpans are more than 700 years old. A Nature park since 2001, the saltpans are listed by UNESCO as a marshland of international importance. Today only a small section is still used to make salt. The abandoned areas host a treasure of plant and animal life, including the Etruscan shrew, the smallest mammal in the world.
The region of Kras provided the name for Karst phenomena, used in geography all around the world. Karst topography features landscape formed by dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes, dolines, formations such as stalactites and stalagmites, disappearing and reappearing rivers, intermittent lakes and caves. There are more than 8,000 caves in Slovenia. The biggest and most popular of these is Postojna Cave, home of the endemic species of the proteus salamander or human fish.