The Language Rights of  Minorities in the Slovenian Republic

Anna Kollath


Those non-Slovenian ethnic communities living in the independent Slovenian Republic which was esteblished in 1991 can be divided into two groups:  so-called classic (regional) minorities and the modern national communities which are the result of a modern migration process. The latter mainly comprise memebers of  the nations which made up the common Yugoslav state. The classic national minorities include the indigenous Muravidek Hungarians and indigenous Maritime communities of Italians.

The language rights of minorities had been guaranteed constitutionally since 1946 in the constitution of the former Yugoslavia. From 1964, in the Slovenian Republic (as part of  federal Yugoslavia) and later from 1991 in the constitution of the fully independent Slovenian Republic, besides the Slovenian language the Hungarian and Italian languages were accepted as official in those areas where these nationalities lived. These rights also extended to education. Individual articles in the 1991 constitution guarantee the language rights of minorities on the level of collective rights. Slovenia fully satisfies the European recommendations on the protection of minorities; moreover, with respect to some of  these it actually goes beyond them – the right of veto to members of parliament representing national communities and the introduction of the double right to vote. The author draws attention to three groups of laws on nationalities: these include basic rights, the rights on compensation which include separate protection, and the right of decision-making possessed by national communities. From the naming of settlements to official adminstration in the public life of all regions in Slovenia bilingual administration is characteristic. The greatest deficiency is evident in the language of religious denominations. This is especially a feature of the Evangelical and Reform churches for Hungarians and the Roman Catholic church for Italians – all these lack their own mother tongue ministers. In contrast to this the media provides information for the national minorities in their respective mother tongues.

With respect to education a divergence has developed: in the Muravidek the schools are bilingual while the primary and secondary schools for the Maritime Italian minority are monolingual. In the bilingual education where nationalities coexist the Slovenians would have been able to learn Hungarian; however, this type of school has not lived up to the hopes that were originally attached to it. Today homogenous groups are preferred. In higher education only the mother language and literature can be learnt in Italian or Hungarian.

There is no harmony between the theory and practice for the defence of the rights for the small Slovenian-Hungarian community (which can be estimated to number about 8000 individuals). Awareness of  Hungarian self-identity has decreased and thus the prestige of the Hungarian language itself has tended to get lower and lower; on the other hand the number of mixed marriages is increasing. According to the author the framework of rights for minorities is genuinely guaranteed and thus it depends only on the minorities themselves as to the extent to which they are able to live with these opportunities in order to maintain their self-preservation as minorities.