Pahor, Milanović attending ceremony of Slovenian community in Croatia

Rijeka, 9 May - The Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a ceremony in Rijeka on Tuesday, to be attended by Slovenian and Croatian presidents, Borut Pahor in Zoran Milanović. The umbrella organisation of Slovenian associations in Croatia sees this as a great recognition.

Croatian President Zoran Milanović and Slovenia's Borut Pahor.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA
File photo

"The visit by both presidents is a great honour and we expect the union to become better known because of it. Perhaps after this visit, the anniversary and the ceremony, certain institutions will start taking us more seriously and will also hear us out," Barbara Riman, the head of the union, has told the STA.

"We see this visit as a recognition by Slovenia and Croatia not only of the union but also of the associations that are active in Croatia," she says.

The Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia represents all Slovenian associations in Croatia in relations with Slovenia and Croatia.

It was founded in 1992 at the initiative of then Slovenian Ambassador to Croatia Matija Malešič. At the time, only three Slovenian associations were active - in Zagreb, Rijeka and Karlovac, while today there are 16. The union was based in Rijeka until 1996 and then moved to Zagreb.

Riman has been the union's head since 2018 and will vie for another term at an election congress on 20 May.

The most important activity of Slovenian associations in Croatia is teaching Slovenian.

Currently, Slovenian is being taught at several primary schools in the Istria and Kvarner regions, with efforts under way for Slovenian classes in Zagreb, Bregana and three other primary schools. Slovenian is also taught at some secondary schools, while several associations also offer Slovenian lessons.

Riman, who works at the Institute for Ethnic Studies in Rijeka and does research on the Slovenian community in Croatia, says her biggest challenge as the head of the Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia is to attract young people. She thinks it is crucial that Slovenian is spoken also outside Slovenian associations and that jobs are created where the language could be used.

Currently, most Slovenian associations are working on a voluntary basis while the workload has been increasing. The problem is financial support, which is particularly low in small associations, she said.

Whereas in the past, the goal has been to raise the awareness of the Slovenian community in Croatia among politicians, and have their status regulated, now the main challenge is globalisation and preserving the Slovenian language and culture.

She thinks Slovenians in Croatia should become more politically active, as currently they do not have representatives in parliament or a political party. Good ties between Slovenia and Croatia should also be nurtured, especially in border areas, she believes.

The oldest association of Slovenians in Croatia and Europe in general is Slovenski Dom in Zagreb. It celebrated its 90th anniversary three years ago.

© STA, 2022