Slovenia is one of the few European countries
that celebrate October 31, Reformation Day, as a national and
bank holiday. This might seem surprising, as Slovenia does not
belong to the group of countries with predominantly Protestant
populations: indeed, there are only about 20,000 Protestants,
mainly clustered in the northeast of the country and even there
living alongside Catholics.
However, Protestantism is a principle
that, even without its active religious and church component,
is strongly present and historically as well as culturally embedded
among Slovenes. The emergence and affirmation of Protestantism
in the Slovenian lands in the 16th century is inextricably connected
to the printing of the first two books in Slovene in 1550. These
were followed in subsequent years by numerous other publications,
the crowning achievement being the translation and publication
of the entire Bible in 1584. The Protestant priest Primož (Primus)
Trubar is the foremost name of the period and the author of
the first two books in Slovene, Catechismus (1550) and Abecedarium
(1550). Adam Bohoric also left an indelible mark with the first
Slovenian grammar book, the Arcticae horulae (1584), as did
Jurij Dalmatin, the translator of the Bible (1584).
The Protestant movement ended in what
is now Slovenia towards the end of the 16th century amidst a
turmoil of historical circumstances in the then Austrian countries.
What followed was a long and thorough re-catholicisation: many
Slovenian Protestants were forced to flee abroad and the 'blasphemous'
Protestant books were burnt at stakes. Many of them disappeared,
but not all - the translation of the Bible was far too precious
for the Catholic Church to destroy and thereby refrain from
Much later, in the period of the emperors
Maria Theresa and Joseph II, the Protestant religious and cultural
movement was revived thoroughly and completely by Štefan Küzmic
in Prekmurje, a region that the influence of the first wave
of Slovene Protestantism bypassed. Küzmic played a similar role
among the people there as Primož Trubar had 200 years before:
he created the formal basis for a Prekmurje variant of Slovene
and reaffirmed the sense of ethnic affiliation among the population.
Many in the region have stayed faithful to his religious teachings
to this day.
The Protestant literary and overall cultural
heritage persevered and started gaining in importance even though
Protestantism had been quashed in a prelude to a literary and
cultural standstill that lasted with a few rare exceptions until
the end of the 18th century and the onset of the Age of Enlightment.
The foundations of national and cultural awareness that the
Slovenian Protestant writers had laid were simply too strong
and universal. They went far beyond the declaration of religious
truths: they promoted literacy and the appreciation and recognition
of the people's native language. Perhaps most importantly, however,
they raised awareness among Slovenes about who and what they
actually were, which crucially bolstered national defence in
the 19th and 20th centuries and the subsequent nation-building
A religious and national holiday, Reformation
Day is a sign of respect that the country and all of its citizens
pay to a religious minority living in their midst, but also
a reflection of a broader willingness for openness, tolerance,
the acknowledgement of differences and the overcoming of cultural
and worldview dissimilitude. From a cultural and civilisational
vantage point, the annual remembrance of the Protestants and
their constructive contribution to the development and realisation
of the Slovenian nation and State is an event meant to reach
out to all people, regardless of their creed, belief or way
of life. Yet this holiday is taking on a new and broader context,
as Reformation and humanism may be considered as bedrocks of
today's perception and vision of Europe.
This was also the message communicated
by this year's central State celebration of Reformation Day
at the Cankarjev Dom congress centre in Ljubljana. The cultural
event was organised by the Government PR and Media Office and
the lay Protestant Society Primož Trubar with keynote speaker
Professor Boštjan Žekš, the President of the Slovenian Academy
of Sciences and Arts.
(Content abstracted from "Slovenija.svet"
published by Slovenska