The historical fact that Vinidi, Wenden, or Veneti--as
Slovenes were called in the past--were an indigenous people of the Alpine
region went unchallenged until around the middle of the 19th century. At that
time, German and Austrian historians began researching possibilities to discredit
and suppress it. Backed by a strong nationalistic environment, they created,
without documentary or archeological evidence, theories that "proved" the
Slovenes were not indigenous West Slavs but rather a branch of South Slavs
who reached the eastern Alps in the 6th century A.D. These and similar inventions
became established around that time as the official history of the Slovenes.
They were further elaborated early in the 20th century. Research in Slovene
studies at any university, including the Department of History in Slovenia,
is done within this framework.
Only since the middle of the 1980's has there developed among concerned
Slovenes (outside the historiographic establishment) an open rebellion against
the invented history. Central to the undertaking are the findings of three
Slovene researchers: Matej Bor, Jožko Šavli, and Ivan Tomažič. They published
their studies in German, Slovene, Italian, and finally in English under the
title Veneti: First Builders of European Community
. A Russian translation
is to appear soon.
Two reviews published recently corroborate the findings of the above three
The prestigious journal Revue des Études Slaves
, Paris (LXX/l,
1998), published the essay "The Theory of the Veneti in Slovenia: A Problem
of History, Historiography, or Ideology?" by Professor Antonia Bernard (translated
into English in Canada). She is apologetic for not having studied the Venetic
theory more thoroughly, but it is clear she has considerable knowledge in
the field, and her paper is well researched. Part of the essay is presented
In regard to the name "Veneti," she says, "The Fredegarii Chronicon
supports their thesis, since in 623 AD it equates the Veneti with the Slavs:
'Sclavi coinomento Vinedos,' and speaks of the 'marca Winedorum' and the 'Walucus
dux Winedorum.' The same theme occurs in the 'Vitae S. Columbani,' where
the author speaks of the 'country of the Veneti who consider themselves also
Slavs' [Termini Venetiorum qui et Sclavi dicuntur]."
In support of the indigenous status of the Slovenes in their present homeland,
the three authors submitted countless pieces of evidence concerning all areas
under study. In essence, all their writings are but a clarification of this
one historical fact, Professor Bernard elaborates'. "
... they energetically refute the idea that their Slavic ancestors came
from the marshlands east of the Carpathians during the 6th century. On the
contrary, they see themselves as the original inhabitants who lived in the
area before the Roman Empire. This is how Ivan Tomažič explains the theory:
'My intention is to present ... in a clear and accessible manner, important
evidence showing that we Slovenes are a people rooted in central Europe since
time immemorial. We created our own social system, and the first form of
statehood before the Roman times (Noric Kingdom). We reestablished them in
the Middle Ages, and we have maintained the same foundations of social and
judicial organization in the traditions of our village community up to modem
times . . . "'
There were in the past other Slovene intellectuals who had the same understanding.
We should also acknowledge the Italian researcher Guiseppe Sergi, who considered
Slovenes to have resided in their present homeland since prehistoric times
and were descendants of the Proto-Slavic Veneti. Professor Bernard concurs:
"However, we should be aware that these theories that unite the Slavs and
the Veneti in former times, if even considered by other West Slavs, notably
the Poles, do not represent anything new for the Slovenes. At the beginning
of this century, J. Mal, H. Tuma, and D. Trstenjak undertook some research
in this direction. For the first Slovenian historians such as J.V. Valvasor
(1641-93) or A.T. Linhart (1756-95), there was no doubt about the identity
between Veneti, Slavs, and the residents of Carniola [Slovenia]." She adds:
" . . . one has to admit that these amateurs bring something like a breath
of fresh air to the Slovene historiography which until now was idling in its
cozy microcosm of unquestioned absolutes."
When Communist rule began to crumble in the mid 1980's and some degree of
freedom of speech had been regained, Slovenes wanted to reexamine their history.
This was of great importance because they had been denied this right for many
centuries. Professor Bernard assesses it this way: "The myth of Napoleon,
liberator of the Slovenes and founder of Yugoslavia, was never questioned
by the professional historians, any more than 'Illyria Revived,' the famous
poem by Vodnik (1811), in which the poet considers the Illyrians, that is
to say, the Slovenes, as indigenous residents and their civilization to have
preceded that of the Romans. Our amateur historians do not say anything different.
Could there be a history for historians, and another one for the people?"
About the advantages to be gained from the work of the three authors, Professor
Bernard states: "As far as the Venetic theory in Slovenia is concerned, one
has to point out that the published works, as well as the ensuing polemics,
have served to awaken in the public at large an interest in history which
cannot hurt this discipline." And she adds: "As to the underlying problems
raised by the Venetic theory, these go far beyond the Slovenian context and
should be looked at from a regional as well as a European point of view."
Another significant item on the Venetic theory appeared recently in The
, the intonational journal of the Augustan Society, California,
where Veneti: First Builders of European Community
was reviewed by
Professor Charles Bryant-Abraham. A small portion of his review is presented
Among other introductory thoughts Professor Bryant-Abraham states: " . .
. two ideologically driven trends of thought have shaped the course of Slovenian
studies over the past 150 years: the German and the Pan-Slavic (Russian) Historical
Schools. Each sought to establish its own cultural hegemony over strategically
and economically important tracts of real estate, including the Slovenian
, the book under review, comes to mount a serious, well-substantiated
challenge both to the official occidental (German) and oriental (Russian)
histories of not only Slovenian cultural and linguistic development but indeed
of Europe itself."
He continues: "A Proto-Slavic speech community had divided into Proto-West
Slavic and Proto-East Slavic dialects some time before the formation of the
Lusatian Culture (ca. 1300-ca. 1100 B.C.E.) and had also extended throughout
a great part of Western and Central Europe and as far as Paphlagonia, the
northern coast of Asia Minor. There, according to Homer (11. ii, 85), they
) specialized in the breeding of 'wild mules.' Šavli's
valid findings from his analysis of European toponymy (Veneti
adequately establish an infra-structural Slavic presence throughout these
regions. This conclusion is equally supported by Bor's chapter, 'Similarity
of the Slovene, Latvian, and Breton Words.' (Veneti
, 324-33 1) The
reviewer has also carried out the homework for this independently, inducing
him to inevitable concurrence with Bor's results. The significance of Bor's
discovery of a layer of Slavic loanwords in Breton cannot be overstated....
Bor has clearly established the existence of Slavic loans in Breton and this
fact strongly suggests that prior to the arrival in Armorica of the Brythonic
(Insular P-Celtic) speaking refugees fleeing the Saxon invasions of South
Britain, the indigenous Venetic population had indeed been Slavic. That a
knowledge of Slovenian dialectology enabled Bor to proceed in his analysis
is itself of importance."
Professor Bryant-Abraham takes note of another important and interesting
detail: "Furthermore, we can henceforth assert that St. Jerome, born ca. 347
at Stridon, near modem Ljubljana, very probably spoke the Slavic regional
dialect (Venetic), for in his Commentary to Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians
, p. 463), he explains the name Tychicus
enim silens interpretatur,' 'Tychicus actually means silent.' The Slovenian
, Štix], means 'silent' and emerges as a highly probable
Venetic loan into St. Jerome's Latin, which would have suffixed the adjectival
"We discover that Etruscan inscriptions betray a gradual process of linguistic
fusion (akin to that of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French) upon an earlier Slavic
substrat, extant prior to the arrival of the Lydian or Hittite immigration.
Again here, it is a knowledge of Slovenian dialectology that allowed Bor to
decipher the earlier inscriptions. "We are brought to appreciate the fact
that it is specifically Slovenian dialectology that provides the missing key
to a meaningful reading of early Venetic, Phrygian, Rhaetian, and Yapodic
inscriptions, even permitting a partial reconstruction of Venetic grammar.
The task had facilely eluded every preceding Venetologist and, for his pioneering
achievement in this field, the reviewer would advance the candidacy of Matej
Bor for academic acclaim." (Veneti
Professor Bryant-Abraham further comments: "The problem had heretofore maintained
its intransigence simply because no Venetologist had yet brought into the
arena a thorough working knowledge of Slovenian dialectology. Specifically
herein resides the genius of Bor's contribution."
Those who seriously wish to examine this problem point by point will find
Veneti: First Builders of European Community
very helpful. The most
thorough work in the English language on the Venetic theory and its relation
to the modem Slovenes, Veneti presents a wide selection of details on every
aspect of the subject covered by Professors Bernard and Bryant-Abraham.
Veneti: First Builders of European Community
is published by Editiones
Veneti, Vienna 1996, translated and printed in Canada, hardbound with an attractive
dustcover, 534 pages, 150 illustrations, index. Price in the USA, Australia,
and other destinations 29 USD, in Canada 34 CAD. Postage included. Quantity
discounts are available. Write to Anton Škerbinc, Site 1, Box 17, R.R. 1,
Boswe1l B.C., V0B 1A0 Canada.
From Slovenija, Quarterly Magazine, Spring No.
1/2000 Vol. XIV, pages 49-50.