Slovenia marks Rudolf Maister Day

Ljubljana, 23 November - Slovenia observes Rudolf Maister Day on Thursday, remembering the general who established the first Slovenian army in modern history 105 years ago and captured large swathes of territory around Maribor to set what would eventually became Slovenia's northern border. The campaign is seen as one of the defining moments of Slovenian history.

A bust to Rudolf Maister in the lobby of Maribor Town Hall.
Photo: Andreja Šeršen Dobaj/STA

Following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Major Maister prevented Maribor and the Podravje region from being made part of German Austria, the country created after WWI comprising areas of the former empire with a predominantly German-speaking population.

On 30 October 1918, the German city council declared Maribor and its surroundings part of German Austria, which Maister found unacceptable. He put together 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 Slovenian ethnic territory, in effect creating 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.

In a speech at a state ceremony on the eve of Rudolf Maister Day, Labour Minister Luka Mesec highlighted Maister's boldness and far-sightedness at a very complex time, when empires were falling apart.

"He gave us Slovenians an important lesson. We need not be afraid because we are small, let alone be ashamed of that. When we are capable of joining forces for a common goal ... no challenge is too difficult," he said.

Rudolf Maister Day has been a public holiday since 2005, although not as a bank holiday.

© STA, 2023