Valvasor’s Role in the Self-Awareness of Slovenes as a Distinct Nation

Written by Bogo Grafenauer, 1989


Valvasor and his workDie Ehre dess Hertzogthums Crain” (The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, Nuremberg 1689) have received a wide variety of interpretations in Slovene historiography and the history of literature since the end of the 18th century. In the first survey of Carniolan historiography, A.T. Linhart reproached Valvasor for leaving essential gaps in the history of the Slovenes and for his use of Schönleben’s work on older history, which he felt to be lacking in any innovation.

A.T. Linhart did, however, acknowledge that Valvasor’s work had some merit in regard of his treatment of more contemporaneous history and he particulary appreciated Valvasor’s topographical work and his description of everyday life, of “the habits and customs of Carniolans”. Nevertheless, Valvasor’s work represented a principal source for learning the history of Carniola as well as for the broader history of Slovenia for more than half a century. His impact is evident, for example, in “Zgodovina slovenskega naroda” (History of the Slovene Nation) by J. Trdina as well as in the belief by the majority of the nobles of Slovenia of that time in their essentially Slovene origins. In turn this belief was crucially affected by the treatise Plemstvo in narodni razvoj” (The Nobility and National Development) by J. Apih, published in 1887, which made a clear distinction between the Slovene population (mostly peasantry) and foreign or assimilated nobility. Such an attitude started to assert itself rapidly and more and more distinctly, particularly after 1910, that represents yet another turning point in Slovene historiography.

From the point of view of Slovene literature interest in The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, was initially restricted to the purely linguistic and literary elements. An essential break with such an approach was made by F. Kidrič, who analysed Valvasor’s views on various central elements concerning the allegiance to Slovene nationality. The views of Kidrič were supported by M. Rupel and J. Pogačnik, that differed from those held by I. Grafenauer and A. Slodnjak. To further the debate, the current paper presents the development of the evaluation of Valvasor as a historiographer, from A. Kaspret onwards in 1890, to F. Zwitter, B. Reisp, F. Gestrin, B. Grafenauer, and D. Mihelič. Assessing Valvasor’s attitude towards any kind of selfawareness of the Slovenes as an ethnic community (“nation”), the author has come to the conclusion, that although Valvasor exerted a certain influence in this respect on subsequent generations, he cannot be directly associated with Slovene national consciousness.