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Reflections on the Violent Death of a Multi-Ethnic State:
A Slovene Perspective

by Robert Gary Minnich

Along with others I agonize over the fate of family and friends in Yugoslavia, despair over the demise of a once commendable experiment in multi-ethnic statehood, and grieve the destruction and loss of life. I think especially of inter-ethnic marriages and their issue, of ethnically mixed communities and regions, and of that generation of people which identified itself as "Yugoslav." Still, on reflection, we must recognize that a great deal was done in socialist Yugoslavia to constrain the virulent outbreak of what Clifford Geertz (1963) succinctly called "primordial sentiments." Civil society attained a firm footing in this short-lived federation of many peoples. These several considerations challenge us as anthropologists to lay bare the malicious stereotype of "the Balkans" used by nationalist demagogues (and mimicked by journalists) to substantiate the bloody reality of ethnically inspired terror and war.

This challenge is approached here by outlining the ways in which multi-ethnicity has served, during the Slovene quest for self-determination, as a positive principle for state-making, regardless of whether Slovenes have represented a majority or minority in a given state polity. And by presenting the integration of marginal agrarian communities into modern state societies as a process underlying the formation of Slovene national ideology, I argue that it is from the vantage point of local social formations that we can contribute to a more nuanced view of what is occurring today in the politically unsettled multi-ethnic landscape of central and east Europe. First, however, I relate a popular Slovene view of events leading to recognition of their country as a sovereign republic and then proceed to consider processes leading to the creation and demise of Yugoslavia as a multi-ethnic state and as a theater of ethnic confrontation within a global context.

A Popular Slovene View of the Road to Statehood:
Independence and War-June/July, 1991

By the time fighter pilots (serving in what once was an "army of the Yugoslav peoples") began randomly killing foreign lorry drivers and journalists in their pursuit of Slovene targets, the inhabitants of what at the time was called an Operettenstaat (operetta country) were adamant to defend themselves. Slovenes were indignant over the failure of European and U.S. governments to anticipate the violent demise of Yugoslavia for which, it turned out, their own government had fortuitously made contingency plans. The Western media's depiction of Slovene self-defense as the action of "breakaway rebels" and "peasant guerrillas shooting from behind trees" was incomprehensible to a well informed public aware that their elected representatives had followed for more than a year constitutionally and internationally prescribed rules for peacefully attaining their country's sovereignty and recognition. The newly elected coalition government's good fortune in rapidly concluding the above hostilities rendered the new leadership with a legitimacy and credibility difficult to imagine in a more peaceful transition to independence. Slovenia's baptism in fire contributed immeasurably to the resolve of citizens and government alike to make good their entrance into the global community of states.

The Road to Secession
As soon as Kosovo's duly elected government was forcefully ousted by the Serbian leadership, the government of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia sought to bring this violation of the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution (as well as the subsequent infringements of the rights of the Albanian majority of this province) to the attention of the international community. For Slovenes the events in Kosovo were an omen of what could happen to them and the other small republics and provinces of the federation. Once the Yugoslav League of Communists was dissolved into republican factions and the federal presidency was effectively in the hands of protagonists for a "Greater Serbia" there remained for the socialist government of Slovenia no other recourse than to request that the federal constitution be re-negotiated to guarantee the sovereignty of the federation's constituent republics and autonomous provinces. By the time the Berlin wall fell it was apparent to any informed reader of the European press that the federation was in a constitutional crisis, that the federal government was falling under the hegemony of overtly nationalist politicians. While still pursuing a constitutional solution in Belgrade which called for a confederation of sovereign Yugoslav states, the newly elected Slovene government (a broad coalition ranging from Socialists to Christian Democrats) began preparing in the summer of 1990 for secession from the federation. A referendum was held on Dec. 23 whereby the Slovene government was mandated by an overwhelming majority of country's inhabitants to implement secession six months later. Slovenia's Independence was formally declared on June 26, 1991.

Slovene governments, both before and following free elections in April 1990, pursued a well conceived and consistent policy for retaining the country's sovereignty in the face of Serbian attempts to control the federation. As the Slovene program for "dissolution" proceeded, the Federal Government remained unresponsive to the initiative for renegotiating the constitution and the Milosevic regime in Belgrade retaliated by blocking the import of Slovene products to Serbia and eventually by expropriating Slovene assets there. The Slovene government's defense of its right to self-determination concluded with the systematic implementation of legislation formulated according to norms established by the International Convention on Human Rights and standards for protecting minority rights established by the Parliament of Europe. In an orderly fashion legislation was passed and a nominal territorial defense force was established in advance of Slovenia's declaration of independence. Throughout the first turbulent years of this decade the Slovene government consistently took the initiative among its Yugoslav counterparts, first, for guaranteeing political autonomy within a Yugoslav confederation, and later, for securing its sovereignty exclusive of Yugoslavia. Slovenia's elected leaders were determined to attain these ends exclusively through participation in established political forums at home and abroad. While they pursued this non-military course, local media relentlessly reported on irredentist and chauvinistic campaigns gaining momentum in neighboring republics.

Following the attack on Slovenia and during the subsequent devastation of the frontier region between Croatia and Serbia, Slovenes were dismayed by the failure of the EC to recognize their country in advance of Croatia. During the fall of 1991 they asked themselves why these governments were unable to distinguish between the orderly and democratic implementation of secession and independence in Slovenia and the heavy-handed rule of Croatia's regal president during an absurdly abbreviated re-organization of that republic as a sovereign state where independence was declared before statehood legislation was enacted in its elected parliament! While Croatia was still in the throes of armed conflict, the Serbian army agreed to withdraw from Slovenia. In contrast to the Baltic states (recognized earlier the same year) where it was agreed that Soviet armed forces would remain for several years, the Slovene government secured complete control over its territory (Oct. 19, 1991) three months before any European country offered recognition. By the time Slovenia was eventually recognized by EC states, January 15, 1992, the issues of the day had returned to the much more mundane matters of coalition politics and overhauling the economy ~ a political agenda sadly supplemented by the problem of caring for 70,000 war refugees representing approximately 4% of Slovenia's total population.

At the end of the fateful summer of 1991 I was invited to teach at Addis Ababa University. This time away from Europe enabled more detached reflection over my experience with Yugoslavia and Slovenia. The crisis of government in war-ravaged Ethiopia was propitious for elucidating the demise of Yugoslavia, though little promising for that country's future.

Yugoslavia Viewed from Ethiopia
Colleagues in Addis Ababa approached me with keen interest to discuss alternatives for the reintegration of their country. They gently provoked my participation in a staff seminar on Constructive Regionalism with the following comments:
The representatives of European governments and international institutions continuously accuse us of engaging in tribal warfare and are applying more and more pressure upon African leaders to adopt over night democratic institutions which have taken centuries to develop in their vastly more prosperous home countries. But now that Balkan tribes are slaughtering one another, these same spokesmen for the "civilized world" just stand by and allow the carnage to proceed! If European leaders and the international organizations which they dominate cannot intervene and preserve the rule of law in a fellow European state, what hope can we have for attaining peace and promoting civil society in impoverished Ethiopia? Ever since Tito and Hailie Selassie embraced one another we have looked to Yugoslavia as a progressive model for organizing a multi-ethnic society. Where shall we look now? Tell us what went wrong!"

I sympathized with this indignation over European passivity toward the carnage on its own doorstep and agreed that current hostilities along the historic divides between the former Habsburg, Ottoman and Venetian dominions are essentially tribal.

By definition, however, such wars should be fought hand to hand among designated groups of warriors armed with appropriate weapons. Today's tribal hostilities, whether in the Balkans, Mogadishu or Afghanistan, are conducted in the absence of mechanisms of social control and mediation manifest in a conflict between honorable men. Rather, these confrontations are perpetrated by mercenaries and demagogues who engage in indiscriminate killing and material devastation propelled by a seemingly limitless supply of modern conventional instruments of mass destruction. These arsenals avowedly created to inhibit confrontation, defend the sovereignty of independent states, and hold the balance of power during the Cold War today flood the markets where these unscrupulous men trade.

How should I explain Yugoslavia's demise? What could it tell us about constructive regionalism? My remarks were understandably pessimistic. I began by emphasizing the fragile construction of the Yugoslav state in a multi-ethnic region not unlike that of Ethiopia where Christians, Jews, and Muslims have co-resided for centuries under the subjugation of kings, emperors and dictators. I stressed that the initial consolidation of Yugoslavia into a modern European state was essentially a shot-gun wedding in the disarray brought on by the demise of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires. I also noted the failure of inter-war regimes in Yugoslavia to establish within a democratic framework an equitable division of power among its constituent peoples.

Recalling the inter-tribal carnage which Serbs and Croats wrought on one another during World War II, I attributed Yugoslavia's incredible survival as a sovereign state to the unifying effect of the partisan movement and, not least, to the extraordinary political acumen of a gifted leader who understood the destructive potential of the ethnic tinderbox upon which he consolidated his authority. Like his Ethiopian counterparts-Hailie Selassie and Mengistu Hailie Mariam-Josip Broz Tito craftily exploited Cold War protagonists to consolidate his power and advance the living standard of his people.

I then supplemented this simple sketch of a complex history of state-making, with an equally terse suggestion of how the historical inhabitants of the region came to view themselves as peoples and nations. Here I emphasized the importance of myths of historical greatness, myths which evoke epochs when the acknowledged predecessors of each group were mobilized by chiefs or kings, in some cases for no more than a few decades, into some kind of "great kingdom," inevitably a strategic regional military response to some external threat. I portrayed these myths of greatness-paradoxically viewed as epochs of self-determination in a tribal or feudal world where political frontiers are innately diffuse and the consolidation of power is ephemeral!-as the ideological charters for much more recent popular movements.

I suggested that these 19th century national awakenings were the ideological motor of regionalism in the recent history of Balkan state-making, whereas the wars and interests of great powers within the region (Realpolitik) created the chaotic circumstances in which Balkan states were arbitrarily constructed~states with political frontiers that never "satisfy" their respective peoples' modern aspirations for national self-determination.

The implications of these observations are clear. Parochial ethnic considerations should be kept out of the constitutions of democratic states incorporating several self-aware ethnic groups. Indeed, the administrative sub-division of such states should avoid any strict consideration of ethnic territory. Such a polity should rather concern itself exclusively with the implementation of the rule of law within a political administrative framework assuring the equitable distribution of power within it. Self-determination can be a positive principle for state-making only if founded on the rule of law and on the creation of a trans-ethnic political administration and judicial system.

But the distance between these ideals and the nitty-gritty reality of state-making is overwhelming. The multi-ethnic states of both Yugoslavia and Ethiopia were consolidated via military campaigns and maintained largely under the heavy handed rule of totalitarian leaders who often pragmatically acknowledged the sorts of principles outlined above but who only conditionally empowered their subjects. These personal regimes were fragile; they fell apart when confronted by succession crises, economic depression or perturbations in the great power relations influencing them. In spite of devastating economic conditions calling for the creation of larger markets and free trade, ethnically inspired state-making in multi-ethnic regions is reduced to petty and ultimately futile experiments in self-determination such as the "Serbian Republic of Krajina" which seek to establish defensible frontiers around ever smaller territories. Ironically this subdivision of the world's political map occurs at a time when self-determination is increasingly subject to the intervention and control of inter- and transnational institutions.

Although Balkan self-determination was always confounded by the intervention of external factors, the international and transnational reality confronting the aspiring states of former Yugoslavia is fundamentally different from that at the end of World War I. The freedom of action invested at that time in Europe's sovereign states-a moment when the nation-state was at its apogee for structuring both domestic and international political order-has been markedly constrained since World War II. For example, the presence of an expanding European Community, the European Parliament and the CSCE all represent new contingencies for conducting the affairs of state in the community of European countries. Likewise, the economy of all modern states is regulated more these days by transnational commercial institutions and global production systems than by contingencies enforced by parochial state governments.

Policies furthering a state's economic self-sufficiency and the U.N. Charter's guarantee of non-intervention in the affairs of states are now being stricken from the political agendas of European governments. The quest for self-determination in Europe today is contingent upon conformity with internationally established standards for conducting political and commercial affairs. The conditions for international recognition which were recently imposed on Europe's new states and the precondition that third world countries uphold international conventions on human rights to obtain loans and aid confirm this new world order. The diatribe of the Cold War has been replaced by the rhetoric of human rights as the medium for conducting affairs in the international arena. However, the inaction of the international community in the face of the atrocities committed in Bosnia and Hercegovina reminds us daily of the very tenuous credibility of this new paradigm for conducting inter-state relations.

Multi-Ethnicity As a Positive Principle for State-Making:
The Slovene Case

For the Slovenes, numbering less than two million and representing a mere 8.5% of Yugoslavia's 1981 population, irredentist campaigns have never been a viable alternative in the quest for self-determination as an ethnic nation. Their only recourse has been via the formal instruments of domestic politics and international diplomacy. It was fashionable in the media to attribute the brevity of Slovenia's recent "mini-war" to its ethnic homogeneity and to the absence of a sizable autochthonous non-Slovene population. This is at best a partial truth. While the segment of Slovenia's population which could potentially become the object of irredentist claims of neighboring states is small, less than 1%, more than 10% of the country's population identified themselves in the 1981 census as not Slovene. And this larger group includes tens of thousands of second and third generation immigrants from the greater territory of former Yugoslavia. Most of these post-World War II immigrants remained in Slovenia (with the understandable exception of numerous federal army officers and their families), are now Slovene citizens and a large majority of them supported the referendum for Slovenia's secession. It is, however, especially with regard to the rights of its autochthonous minorities that Slovene governments have self-consciously promoted multi-ethnic statehood.

Ethnically inspired self-determination is of course the guiding theme in the political consolidation of the Yugoslav successor states. But the strategy for attaining this differs markedly from one republic to the other. It is self-evident that the belligerence in the territory of former Yugoslavia can be attributed to the failure of leadership in the country's two most populous republics to pursue self-determination via the rule of law. In the following I emphasize the pragmatic orientation of Slovene politics of self-determination arguing that the road to independence adopted by Slovene leaders is not merely a reflection of the country's small population and military impotence but also a consequence of its location on the historical political map of Europe.

Since the so-called Slovene national awakening of the 19th century self-determination of the Slovenes as a "people" has been on the political agenda in the various polities where they have attained formal parliamentary representation or otherwise influenced the affairs of state. The creation of Slovene national ideology was tantamount to the delineation of Slovene ethnic territory. And, as is the case for the vast majority of Europe's historical "peoples" (Völker/narodi), this so-called ethnic territory was arbitrarily divided among diverse polities.*Under Habsburg dominion those people who called themselves Slovenes were relegated to three provinces: Carinthia, Carniola and Styria. With the creation of Yugoslavia they were included in four European states, a situation which persists today with the succession of Slovenia after Yugoslavia.

Depending upon whether or not an ethnic group represents a majority or minority within a given polity, the pursuit of national self-determination follows different strategies. This raises the question of how the protagonists of Slovene self-determination have dealt with the political frontiers dividing Slovene ethnic territory? I suggest that the strategy for promoting both formal (inter-state) and informal relations between the so-called mother country, especially during its consolidation as the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, and the Slovene minorities of Austria, Italy and Hungary has been fundamentally different than that between the political elite and intelligentsia in Zagreb and the Croatian minorities of Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia, and that between their Belgrade counterparts and Serbian minorities in Croatia and Bosnia. The current Croatian and Serbian irredentist campaigns in Bosnia-Hercegovina do not have their Slovene counterparts in Austria, Italy and Hungary. And this state of affairs alludes to the quality of the political borders separating the ethnic majority of a so-called "mother country" from its minorities located in adjacent polities.

In order for the protagonists of Slovene national self-determination to maintain contact with one another and support the rights of the Slovene minorities of Austria, Italy and Hungary, they had to acknowledge the international borders separating them since World War One and find ways for communicating and cooperating across these imposed frontiers. The protagonists of national self-determination in Zagreb and Belgrade have not been similarly preoccupied. Political and intellectual elite with nationalist agendas at these centers have more or less refused to acknowledge the boundaries between their respective polities (i.e. socialist republics and especially the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina) as anything more than arbitrary administrative subdivisions of historically contested territory.

In order for Slovenes of the mother country and neighboring states to even retain contact with one another at the height of the Cold War, they had to acknowledge the state frontiers separating the Slovene nation and engage in diplomacy via their respective central governments in Belgrade, Budapest, Rome and Vienna. Once federal authorities in Belgrade adopted an open frontier policy toward Western Europe in the mid-1960s in an effort to alleviate unemployment through labor migration (Minnich 1976), the way was opened for closer contact between Slovenia and its ethnic regions in Austria, Hungary and Italy. Under constant pressure from socialist politicians and communist party leaders in Slovenia the Federal Government acquiesced in the transformation of these international borders (between Slovenia and its European neighbors) into some of the most open frontiers in Europe (Jersic and Klemencic 1973, Klemencic 1987). Furthermore numerous crossing points were opened for local residents residing within 10 kilometers of state frontiers. This border population was provided with green transit documents enabling free movement across these frontiers. As a result trade, commerce, and tourism were facilitated throughout the historical ethnic territory of the Slovenes and especially within the immediate border regions. A very different situation was thus created in the frontier zone which intersects Slovene ethnic territory than that which persisted elsewhere along the relatively impenetrable and depopulated "iron curtain" (as well as border regions separating socialist states) previous to the summer of 1989.

In order to improve the political position of the Slovene minorities in Austria, Hungary and Italy, the socialist government of Slovenia codified in the late 1950s (Kercmar 1986) the ethnic rights of its indigenous Italian and Hungarian populations. Multi-ethnicity was supported through creation of local bilingual administrations, media and public schools employing multi-cultural curriculums. During recent decades these programs were acknowledged as exemplary by various international bodies promoting codification of minority rights within Europe and were also emulated in Kosovo and Vojvodina. On more than one occasion Slovene initiatives in these matters have exposed the reticence of Austrian and Italian authorities under pressure from local national majorities to implement equally progressive programs for their own Slovene minorities (cf. Flaschberger and Reiterer 1980, Moritsch 1986, Moser 1982, Pleterski 1980). Schooling and language were central political issues throughout the course of the Slovene national awakening and remain so today wherever Slovenes remain a minority (Fischer 1980, Gstettner 1988, Gstettner and Larcher 1985, Minnich 1992). Past and present governments of Slovenia have contributed substantial sums to research on minority issues both at home and among Slovenes abroad. These investments have not only contributed to the formulation of government policy, but also facilitated a campaign to make multi-ethnicity a high profile issue in European politics.

The protagonists of Slovene nationalism learned under subjugation by Austrian and Serbian monarchies that self-determination is possible only through responsible participation in existing political structures. As norms were established for the treatment of ethnic minorities in Europe, Slovene politicians systematically paved the way within Yugoslavia for the implementation of these standards at home. The foregoing history of international participation in minority and regional politics gave the new government of Slovenia a strong base to accommodate conditions imposed upon it for international recognition and significantly reduced the importance of nationalism in the initial platforms of those political parties participating in Slovenia's first free elections. The prospect that administrative borders established under the old Yugoslav regime will now attain the status of inter-state frontiers creates a political reality for which the new states are ill prepared. Ethnic minorities will have to be taken seriously and treated according to established norms. No matter how great the loss of property and life through war, the ultimate political frontiers of Yugoslavia's successor states will never correspond with the perceived ethnic territories of its self-acknowledged nations. Sooner or later a program for assuring minority rights will have to be implemented by these Balkan states.

An Anthropological Perspective
The preceding emphasized the vernacular of political scientists, politicians and the media. I uncritically categorized people as Albanians, Croats, Ethiopians, Serbs and Slovenes, and even alluded to distinct peoples or nations. But as anthropologists we must understand the misplaced concreteness of such categories, especially as used by nationalist demagogues, but also in own writing. Many of us with Balkan field experience know well the utter conditionality which informs ethnic and national collective self-identification. For example, fieldwork among Slovene-speaking Alpine villagers in Val Canale, Italy, demonstrated to me the fallacy of assuming that their dialect impels them to adopt Slovene identity (1988a, 1992). For three generations as the people of Ukve village were subjugated by the Dual Monarchy, Mussolini and Hitler their socialization as citizens of modern centralized states was profoundly disrupted and confused (Minnich 1992). They were conscripted into armies and died for causes they did not understand, they were coerced to change their names and resettle in foreign lands, and they were told they were Austrians, Italians and Germans. Living out their lives along a geo-political and linguistic frontier of Europe (Minnich 1990), this minority community learned to distrust most everything outside the familiar confines of the homestead and village. Understandably even ethno-political initiatives promoted in Ukve by Slovene minority politicians were met with skepticism. Most Ukve villagers consistently reject the proposition that their dialect qualifies them as Slovenes or Slovene-Italians as this implies allegiance to supra-local polities which history has taught them to mistrust. The most comprehensive collective identity for which Ukve people find consensus is that of their village. While the circumstances that generate their ambivalence toward the "imagined community" of a nation are complex (Minnich 1992), this case alerts us to the need to consider locally founded processes of social and cultural reproduction in order to account for the consolidation of such collective identities.

A critical evaluation of the role of peasants as the protagonists of Slovene history points to the sorts of processes which account for identity formation within marginal European agrarian communities. It is especially in such communities that we can substantiate the ultimately alien quality of the nation as a manifestation of group identity and as a parameter for conducting meaningful social discourse.

Peasants-the Protagonists in Slovene History?
For the sake of the argument advanced here I arbitrarily suggest that "Slovene history" is an epiphenomenon of the "Slovene national awakening." The assertion that peasants are the protagonists of this history thus presupposes widespread public consensus about the general validity of a national identity as well as the integration of society via a strong central state authority. In order to understand the various roles of peasants in the consolidation of national identity, it is essential to consider the relationship between the peasantry and other social strata.

Field work in three marginal regions where both Slovene vernacular and family-based agrarian production have been practiced for countless generations suggests that the historical and contemporary peasantry of what today is Slovene ethnic territory has long participated both passively and actively in the propagation of a pan-Slovene identity. During these field studies of Western Haloze, Val Canale (cf. Rupel 1987, Steinicke 1984, Venosi and Komac 1987) and Gailtal (cf. Barker 1984, Janschitz 1982, Moritsch and Baumgartner 1992) I investigated those institutions and relationships which integrate agrarian villagers of these regions into their respective state societies, i.e. the republics of Slovenia, Italy and Austria.

The pervasive encroachment of state institutions into rural society by the introduction of universal suffrage and widespread literacy during the final decades of the Dual Monarchy greatly accelerated the Slovene national awakening (Minnich 1992). The proponents of Slovene national ideology sought to mobilize this newly enfranchised and largely agrarian rural population by drawing heavily on the peasant heritage of what was understood as the Slovene people (Minnich 1990). Popular understanding of the Slovenes as a people consequently revolved around a standardized written Slovene language, the continuous settlement of a largely agrarian population over contiguous geographic territory, and the use of linguistic vernaculars perpetuated in the context of local society. These "mother tongues" were all seen as dialects of a Slovene language family linguistically distinct from its European counterparts.

Thus, on the basis of an a priori linguistic and territorial delimitation of a specific population ethnographers, folklorists, writers, jurists, historians, and linguists created what they deemed to be an authentic and legitimate image of "the Slovene people." This was especially done by documenting and comparing the myths, artifacts, rituals and legal, and diverse institutions of local society which supposedly distinguished this ethnic territory from its neighbors (cf. Kuret 1965-70, Vilfan 1961). This then standardized a heterogeneous conglomeration of local agrarian communities within a pan-Slovene heritage (Minnich 1990). Such an endeavor, spearheaded by individuals and groups from non-peasant social strata and assimilated disinherited peasants, necessarily reduced the unique social and cultural reality of the local peasant community to passive objects in the ideological consolidation of the Slovene nation. It further enabled nationalist scholars to wield power and influence over their agrarian compatriots and to subsist at least in part on the agrarian surplus created by the latter.

The standardization of a Slovene peasant heritage tended to equate peasant society with a homogeneous social order characterized as self-contained and resistant to change. As such, peasant society was often portrayed as the antithesis of modern society (Minnich 1989). In order to view peasants as protagonists in this process it is therefore necessary to reconsider our terms of reference which can only be done by considering as problematic the assumed static nature of peasant society, its place as a distinct historical phase in the development of society and its cultural and social homogeneity.

A cultural ecological perspective does not require such a priori conclusions about change, structural diversity, and historical uniqueness among a given peasantry. Attention is drawn, rather, to productive activities and the full spectrum of subsistence-related behavior and to meaning without reducing investigation to the study of economy or technology. In studying the give and take between people and environment, cultural ecology emphasizes the dynamics of adaptation where the practitioners of a specific adaptation or combination of adaptations who manifest social and economic integration as neighborhood, village, region, etc. are considered actors making strategic decisions in the pursuit of individual and collective interests. Such an approach sees the peasantry as the protagonist of Slovene history because it accounts for both their actions and their understanding of those actions. In contrast, the conception of the peasantry used for the image of a pan-Slovene heritage emphasizes normative aspects of peasant society (e.g. constituent traits, customs, etc.) which are in fact abstractions or artifacts of behavior itself (Silverman 1979:59).

Furthermore, a dynamic concept of adaptation assumes the historical continuity of subsistence and thus accounts for the transition from largely self-sufficient peasant farms to those where wage work and cash cropping are also utilized. In other words, the incremental integration of a rural agrarian society into a modern urban-industrial one is not, from the perspective of cultural ecology, necessarily tantamount to a structural transformation of peasant society into its urban-industrial opposite where social organization and culture fundamentally differ (Minnich 1989).

The Slovene national awakening was paralleled by a marked increase in the interdependence of agrarian settlements with large-scale commercial, political, cultural and administrative institutions. However, though these new forms perpetuated the historical subjugation of society's rural "underdogs" (Shanin 1971:15), peasant strategies for coping with these institutions and maintaining the viability of their family farms remained quite effective. Considerable heterogeneity in the social organization and culture of the Slovene countryside persisted along side the synthetic and uniform national tradition conceived to encompass all Slovenes.

Thus, the "history of the Slovenes" begins as Slovene agrarian society and its local family farms and villages were integrated into the large-scale institutions of modern bureaucratic society. Once peasants expressly acknowledge their interdependence with these institutions the matter of their identification with a collective as large as a nation becomes an existentially important issue and substantiates the peasantry's role as a potential protagonist in the formation of the Slovene nation.

Thus, in the village of Zetale in Western Haloze though dialect is preferred for local communication, standard Slovene is used in almost all situations and institutions mediating local relationships with society at-large (e.g. schools, public administration and services and the church). Since in their relations with greater society Zetalcani do not have an alternative to standard Slovene, they need not make public linguistic choices nor implicitly reject their loyalty to the state. Thus, they are passive participants in the maintenance of a Slovene national identity. Though they use local dialect to perpetuate myths, anecdotes and songs, they nonetheless aspire to literacy in standard Slovene, considered a resource for life in the state. Although they perceive themselves as marginal citizens, Zetalcani's access to an official republican language gives them a greater degree of latitude in actions related to the society controlled by that state.

The situation differs for Slovene dialect speaking communities outside Slovenia like Ugovizza/Ukve in Val Canale, Italy and Feistritz/Bistrica in Gailtal, Austria where Slovenian vernacular is distinct from the language of the state and its institutions. In order to function within society people in Ukve and Bistrica must command at least rudimentary Italian and German while standard or literary Slovene is necessary in neither. Use of Slovene vernacular by these villagers may qualify them in terms of linguistic categories as Slovenes. But to assume solely on this basis that they self-consciously play a significant role in the Slovene ethnic-nation is, as suggested, misleading. Localized processes of language socialization perpetuate only a constituent dialect of the Slovene language family. Furthermore, the use of Slavic vernacular in public settings of Gailtal is stigmatized or discouraged because of its latent value as a symbol of a national identity or social inferiority (Fischer 1980, Moser 1982).

Still some few individuals in both Ukve and Bistrica command standard written Slovene and positively identify with the Slovene nation. In order to understand their integration within the Slovene nation our attention is drawn to their biographies and their access to the institutions which facilitated their Slovene literacy and identity. It is equally important to consider how provincial and state elite have accommodated ethnic difference within formal political institutions and how state policy manifests itself in local settings like Ukve and Bistrica.

These thoughts lead to a more general conclusion. Hope for those persons in former Yugoslavia who are victims of miscreant politicians lies in their local communities where the meaning which life holds for them is most profoundly integrated. It is here that the trauma of the current Balkan conflagration will be resolved, that the material devastation of war will again be surmounted through local initiative and inventiveness. Virulent ethnic nationalism is the product of elite defending their privileged position at the centers of power; it is fundamentally alien to the social and cultural reality reproduced in the agrarian margins of the Balkans.

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Abstracted from 'Anthropology of East Europe Review' Vol. 11, Nos. 1-2 Autumn, 1993