Another historical footnote of which I was unaware. It’s only 119 miles (as the crow flies) from Vienna to Maribor, which lies in Slovenia’s wine region.
Slovenia observes Rudolf Maister Day on Saturday, 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.
Several events commemorating Maister were held this week. The main ceremony, on the eve of the holiday in Murska Sobota, was addressed by parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.
Židan praised Maister’s courage, patriotism and determination also in his address to MPs yesterday. He said that Rudolf Maister Day was a great opportunity “for us to ask ourselves how do we contribute to a better society on a daily basis and whether we are worthy of the great deeds of our ancestors”.
He added that Maister and his fighters could serve as an inspiration particularly to “us, current decision-makers” to be “bold enough to join forces in our efforts for a better future”.
Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar noted in his message marking the holiday that Maister had not hesitated for a minute before taking his army into battle for “our northern border”.
After laying a wreath at the monument to Maister in front of the Defence Ministry building on Friday, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec said Maister, a superb army commander, had felt at the end of the First World War that a historic moment is coming.
“It was a time, when we were able to take advantage of the first opportunity to get to independent Slovenia. It was a dream of many generations, many have given their lives for this goal. This is why is consider General Maister’s actions as the first step towards our country,” he stressed.
Today, President Borut Pahor will welcome visitors at the Presidential Palace, and the honorary guard of the Slovenian Armed Forces will be lined up in front of the building.
In Maribor and Kamnik, where Maister was born, memorial plaques will be unveiled, honouring the ardent Slovenian patriot.
Following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Major Maister prevented Maribor and the Podravje area 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, where he has a modest grave.
23 November has been observed as a public holiday since 2005, although not as a bank holiday.