Slovenia honours WWI general who secured northern border

Ljubljana, 23 November - Several events have been held in Slovenia in recent days to mark Rudolf Maister Day, a public holiday in memory of the general who established the first Slovenian army in modern history and secured what later became Slovenia's northern border.

Statue of WWI general Rudolf Maister.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Major Maister (1874-1934) set up a Slovenian army of 4,000 soldiers in 1918 and prevented Maribor and the Podravje region in the north-east of the country from being made part of German Austria.

President Borut Pahor, who organised an open day at the Presidential Palace in honour of Maister today, attended a commemoration ceremony in Žiri on Tuesday at which he argued Maister had secured a cornerstone for an independent Slovenian state.

"Rudolf Maister remains an exemplary case as a courageous visionary, a great nationally-conscious personality, an intellectual, an officer and a cultured man who was not afraid to stand up for the high goals of Slovenian nationhood, as he understood them so well at the time," Pahor said.

Prime Minister Robert Golob meanwhile stressed today that Maister single-handedly took control of Maribor and the whole of Lower Styria, forming the first Slovenian army in the process. He noted that there were many soldiers and many poets in the world, but few soldiers who are also poets, like Maister.

"But he was so much more. Just as he could wield a pen under the name of Vojanov, he could also wield a sword. He was therefore not only a man of words, but above all a man of deeds," said Golob.

On 30 October 1918, the German city council declared Maribor and its surroundings part of German Austria, which Maister found unacceptable.

He set up a Slovenian army of 4,000 soldiers, disarmed the German Schutzwehr security service, and disbanded the militia of the German city council.

The general then occupied the Slovenian ethnic territory, establishing the northern border between Austria and Yugoslavia that was later ratified by the Saint Germain Peace Treaty. The same border still runs between Slovenia and Austria today.

23 November, the day when Maister took control of Maribor, has been observed as a public holiday since 2005.

© STA, 2022