Slovenia remembers defender of its northern border

Ljubljana – Slovenia observes Rudolf Maister Day on Tuesday, remembering the general who established the first Slovenian army in modern history and secured what later became Slovenia’s northern border. The holiday commemorates the day in 1918 when Maister (1874-1934) took control of Maribor.

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 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 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.

Maister is buried at Maribor’s Pobrežje Cemetery. He had a modest grave until recently, but on the eve of the holiday, a new tomb holding his remains was unveiled.

The Defence Ministry contributed EUR 5,000 to the restoration of Maister’s tomb as a tribute to the great Slovenian patriot and general, says a statement on the government’s website.

Representatives of the Defence Ministry also marked the holiday by laying a wreath at the General Maister Memorial in front of the ministry, which was put up there in 2000.

A few events are scheduled to mark the holiday, including an open day at the Presidential Palace in Ljubljana and a round table in Škofja Loka, dedicated to fighters from the Škofja Loka area who fought under him, which will take place this evening.

Addressing the public at the Presidential Palace in Ljubljana, President Pahor highlighted Maister’s importance for the present-day territorial cohesion of Slovenia.

Pahor also underlined the values on which he believes General Maister based his actions – patriotism, national self-confidence, camaraderie and Slovenian culture.

Parliamentary speaker Igor Zorčič also paid tribute to the general today, writing in his message that Maister was one of the greatest Slovenians of the 20th century.

“The courage and zeal of this great man should be an inspiration and encouragement to us all,” Zorčič wrote. He also underlined the need for a just, solidarity-based and democratic society in facing the challenges and crises that lie ahead.

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