Slovenia’s beekeeping, Lipizzan breeding added to UNESCO heritage list

A traditional Slovenian beehive. Photo: STA

Slovenia’s beekeeping tradition, along with Lipizzan horse breeding in Slovenia and seven other countries have been added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in the latest round of inscriptions, which also include the French baguette and Cuban rum.

The additions, approved by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage during a session in Rabat, Morocco, on 1 December, expand Slovenia’s tally on the list to six, joining the Škofja Loka Passion Play, the door-to-door rounds made by the Kurenti carnival figures, bobbin lace making and dry stone walling.

A breeding tradition over 400 years old

Similar as in the case of the art of dry stone walling, the Lipizzan horse breeding was a joint nomination of several countries; Slovenia submitted it on behalf of itself and seven other countries having this tradition – Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia.

The Slovenian Culture Ministry, which coordinated the bid, said the Lipizzan horse had played a symbolic role in all eight countries for centuries and still represented many communities today. The bid includes a broad spectrum of cultural and social practices, knowledge and skills, as well as oral traditions, celebrations and equestrian sports related to Lipizzan breeding.

The effort brought together representatives of state-owned stud farms and private breeders, experts in intangible heritage, culture experts and researchers and local communities.

Špela Spanžel of the Cultural Heritage Directorate, who coordinated the project, commented that the tradition “witnesses the close emotional connection between humans and horses and the life of our ancestors in harmony with nature and the environment, which is being lost in modern society.”

The entry recognises the strong cultural dimension and the rich cultural heritage with Spanžel pledging that the close cooperation of the eight countries would continue in order to protect this intangible heritage.

The primary purpose of Lipizzan horse breeding was related to classical dressage and equestrian sports, with which all participating countries identify. In some countries the Lipizzan was also used as a work horse. Today, the breed is linked to sustainable tourism and equine-assisted therapy.

“It’s a breeding tradition over 400 years old that has been fostered by many people, trades and generations,” Tatjana Vošinek Pucer, director of the Lipica Stud Farm, said, adding that the entry meant even more international cooperation, closer ties, exchange of experience and responsibility to preserve the tradition for generations to come.

Beekeeping, a way of life

In another new addition to the UNESCO list of intangible heritage, Slovenia demonstrated the long history and the many expressions of its beekeeping heritage, as well as the plethora of skills, knowledge and practices passed down from generation to generation.

“With its immovable and movable heritage, beekeeping is strongly embedded in Slovenia, and in modern times also being developed is beekeeping in urban environments, as well as apitherapy and apiturism,” the Culture Ministry said.

Based on entries on the national list of intangible heritage, the bid brought together beekeeping, painting of beehive panels, mobile beekeeping, production of beehives and apiaries, breeding of Carniolan honey bee queens, apitherapy, production of wooden models, gingerbreads and licitars.

Participating in the preparation of the bid were experts of the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana, the Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica and the Beekeeping Association of Slovenia.

The entry is “a recognition of the generations of beekeepers who made Slovenian beekeeping globally known and inspire us with their dedication and respect”, Spanžel said.

Culture Minister Asta Vrečko labelled the entry as another great achievement for culture. “Bees and beekeeping must be given special attention in times of climate change, and traditional beekeeping […] must be especially nurtured.”

Boštjan Noč, the head of the Beekeeping Association of Slovenia, said that beekeeping was a way of life for almost 12,000 Slovenians and their families, “who can be proud that our rich beekeeping tradition has been recognised by the whole world”.

After World Bee Day, which was declared by the United Nations less than five years ago on Slovenia’s initiative, this is another great recognition of Slovenia and its rich beekeeping tradition, he added.