Carinthian Plebiscite
The Carinthian Plebiscite on 10 October 1920 determined the final southern border between the Republic of Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...



After the ruin of the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Habsburg dynasty in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, new states arose in its former territory. Among these there was an internationally recognized State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs
State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs
The State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was a short-lived state formed from the southernmost parts of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy after its dissolution at the end of the World War I by the resident population of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs...

, which was created on October 29, 1918, but was incorporated into the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on December 1, 1918.

Determination of borders between the new countries was complex and difficult, and not always peacefully. The "Carinthian question" became an issue in the closing days of World War I. The principle of self-determination
Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion or external interference...

, championed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

, was taken up by various nationalities that would people the successor states
Successor States
In the fictional BattleTech universe, the Successor States are the major military powers of the Inner Sphere, each governed by one of the Great Houses...

 of the defunct Habsburg empire. Events in Carinthia developed rapidly, beginning with territorial claims by the Slovenian National Assembly on October 17, 1918. These claims were rejected by the Carinthian Provisional State Assembly on October 25, 1918. On November 11, 1918, the Carinthian Provisional State Assembly demanded self-determination, which in this case amounted to demanding a plebiscite for a region with a mixed population. The question was whether the considerable Slovene-speaking majority in the state's southern region, adjoining the Karawanken
Karavanke or Karawanken is an Alpine mountain range on the border between Slovenia and Austria. With a total length of 120 km, the Karavanke chain is one of the longest ranges in Europe....

 frontier, would carry the vote for union with Austria or whether that majority wished to join a newly created South Slavic state. This was to a large extent a consequence of rising national awareness under the multi-national Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 and dreams of autonomy, which Slovenes had not experienced since the Slavic principality of Carantania lost its autonomy in the ninth century. A common state with other southern Slavic peoples seemed the most acceptable compromise toward fulfillment of nationalist strivings.

With the occupation of Lower Carinthia by Yugoslav (that is, southern Slavic) troops in 1919, the confrontation evolved into armed clashes. A fight to preserve the Karawanken frontier began, alarming the Entente
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

 powers. A nine-day American commission, the "Miles mission," scouted the disputed region between river and mountains in January and February 1919 and made the crucial recommendation that the Karawanken frontier should be retained, thus opening the possibility of a plebiscite. Yugoslavs pressed for a border on the Drava; American delegates spoke in favor of preserving the unity of the Klagenfurt
-Name:Carinthia's eminent linguists Primus Lessiak and Eberhard Kranzmayer assumed that the city's name, which literally translates as "ford of lament" or "ford of complaints", had something to do with the superstitious thought that fateful fairies or demons tend to live around treacherous waters...

 Basin and convinced the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...


The Treaty of Saint-Germain
Treaty of Saint-Germain
The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, was signed on 10 September 1919 by the victorious Allies of World War I on the one hand and by the new Republic of Austria on the other...

 with Austria in 1919 should have determined the border between Austria and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

). The treaty determined that parts of Carinthia—the Meža
The Meža is a long river in Carinthia, Slovenia. It has its source on the Austrian side of the state border near Mount Olševa, becomes subterranean a kilometer from its source, and reappears on the surface in Koprivna near Črna na Koroškem, Slovenia. It is the central river of the Mežica Valley...

 valley (in German, the Mießtal) and areas around Dravograd
Dravograd is a small town and a municipality in northern Slovenia, close to the border with Austria. It lies on the Drava River at the confluence with the Meža and the Mislinja. It is part of the traditional Slovenian province of Carinthia)....

 (Unterdrauburg) and Jezersko (Ober Seeland) -- should be annexed to the new Kingdom, with the status of the wider area around the Klagenfurt basin to be determined by a plebiscite.

Wanting to resolve the conflict peacefully, the Allied victors in World War I divided southeastern Carinthia into two zones, "A" in the south and "B" in the north. A two-stage referendum was to be held to determine annexation by either Austria or the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The population of Zone A was predominantly Slovene-speaking: according to the Austrian census of 1910, people in this area who used Slovene as their primary language represented nearly 70% of the population; while the number of ethnic Slovenes was probably higher. German speakers were concentrated in Völkermarkt
Völkermarkt is a city of about 11,000 inhabitants in Carinthia, Austria.According to the 2001 census 2.6% of the population are Carinthian Slovenes....

 and certain smaller localities, especially Bleiburg
Bleiburg is a small town in the south Austrian state of Carinthia , south-east of Klagenfurt , in the district of Völkermarkt, some four kilometres from the border with Slovenia....

 (Pliberk, in Slovene) and Ferlach
Ferlach is the southernmost town in Austria, about 17 km south of the Carinthian capital Klagenfurt. It is situated in the Rosental/Rož Valley of the Drava River, at the northern slope of the Karawanken mountain range...


Before the plebiscite, both sides waged intensive propaganda campaigns. Austrian propaganda emphasized the economic benefits of maintaining the unity of the Klagenfurt Basin and appealed to feelings of Carinthian unity and brotherhood between the Slovene- and German-speaking peoples of Carinthia. Conducted in the local Slovene dialect, Austrian propaganda promised that the Slovene language would be equal to the German in Austria; it had an anti-Yugoslav tendency, picturing the conditions in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes as chaotic. Yugoslav propaganda almost exclusively used arguments emphasizing Slovene national awareness. It was extremely anti-German and turned to economic issues only in the last few weeks before the plebiscite but was not capable of using the political instability of the young Austrian republic and its then unenviable position in the international community for advantage.

Despite the six-month term determined by the Treaty of Saint-Germain
Treaty of Saint-Germain
The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, was signed on 10 September 1919 by the victorious Allies of World War I on the one hand and by the new Republic of Austria on the other...

, the referendum was not held in Zone A until October 10, 1920. In addition to changing the date of the plebiscite, other terms of the Treaty of Saint-Germain allegedly were ignored or changed: an Austrian representative was accepted into the commission, and the plebiscite commission changed rules by not allowing the Yugoslav military to control the border between Zones A and B (8 June 1920). The Yugoslav army had to withdraw from Zone A in accord with the decision of the plebiscite commission (18 September 1920). Changes may also have been made in electoral registers which allowed people from northern zone B voting in zone A, which dramatically powered the German side.

The outcome of the plebiscite held on October 10, 1920, was 22,025 votes (59.1% of the total cast) in favor of adhesion to Austria and 15,279 (40.9%) in favor of annexation by the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Because the Austrian option gained a majority of votes in Slavic Zone A, the second stage of the referendum in northern Zone B, populated chiefly by German speakers, was not carried out.

The plebiscite determined the border between Austria and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The border remained unchanged after World War II, even as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia gave way to Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito
Marshal Josip Broz Tito – 4 May 1980) was a Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian, Tito was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad, viewed as a unifying symbol for the nations of the Yugoslav federation...

's Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Yugoslav state that existed from the abolition of the Yugoslav monarchy until it was dissolved in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. It was a socialist state and a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,...

, though at the end of the war Yugoslav troops again briefly occupied the area, including the capital city of Klagenfurt. Since the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the border has separated Austria and Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...



  • Janko Pleterski
    Janko Pleterski
    Janko Pleterski is a Slovenian historian, politician and diplomat.He was born in Maribor, Slovenia, then part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. He attended high school in Ljubljana. In August 1941, he was arrested by the Fascist authorities of the Italian-occupied Province of Ljubljana...

    , Koroški plebiscit 1920. Ljubljana: Zveza zgodovinskih društev Slovenije, 2008.
  • Thomas M. Barker and Andreas Moritsch, The Slovene Minority of Carinthia. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.

External links

  • A hybrid map of the region on Google Maps
    Google Maps
    Google Maps is a web mapping service application and technology provided by Google, free , that powers many map-based services, including the Google Maps website, Google Ride Finder, Google Transit, and maps embedded on third-party websites via the Google Maps API...

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