Middle Ages & Early Modern Times


The Slovene Raba Region belonged to the Hungarian dominion, which became a part of Zala County and Vas County (1091) and of the dioceses of Zagreb (1094) and Gyõr (1176) respectively only towards the end of the 11th century. The Slovene population group based in Vas County and belonging to the diocese of Gyõr was called “Tótság” by the Catholic Church. At first the Hungarians appointed all the Slovenes living within the Carpathians basin as “tót/tótok”. Later only the ones who called themselves “Slovensko” were denominated as “tót/tótok”. Among these were the Slovenes and the Slovaks. Until the end of the 16th century also the Slavonian Croatians were called “tót/tótok”.


The first documented data

In 1183 the city of Szentgotthárd was documented by name for the first time, together with the foundation of the Cistercian abbey. In this city the Hungarian King Béla III founded an abbey in order to cover the scarcely populated region with buildings and to settle new employees. The Slovene settlements in the Szentgotthárd region still existing today were founded by the estate of the Cistercian abbey and by the Slovenes who had already been living and settled down there. The Slovene localities, which were considered bond-slave settlements of the Cistercian abbey, and of the squire families Széchy, Nádasdy und Battyányi, were documented for the first time between the 13th and 16th century: Rábatótfalu as Sclavorum (1221), Szakonyfalu as Zakonfalua and Apátistvánfalva as Estevanfalva (1350). Furthermore Felsõ- and Alsószölnök (1378), Ritkaháza and Permise (Kétvölgy) (1387) and Orfalu (1538).


Reformation and Counter Reformation

In the 16th and 17th century the doctrine of Reformation also reached the squires of the Slovenes from the Raba Region. Consequently their bond-slaves had to convert first to Calvinism, later to Evangelism as well. In 1698 it was held constant that of the 600 inhabitants of Felsõszölnök 413 were Evangelics and 187 Catholics. The Catholics attended church in Čepinci (Slovenia). The Evangelic inhabitants of the Raba Region belonged to the churches of Felsõszölnök, Dolinci (Slovenia) and Szentgotthárd. The parsonage of Felsõszölnök owned farmland, grasslands and vineyards as well as five bond-slaves (Hung. zseller), who served the parsonage. In Felsõszölnök the weaving industry and the pottery industry were prevalent at that time. The names of the parishioners were, amongst others, Horváth, Szukits, Metlitz, Gecsék, Czigut, Gubics and Hampó. Mihály Medvedovics, the former priest of Felsõszölnök, converted to Catholicism in 1629 and thus he was appointed earl by the squire Ádam Battyányi in 1630. In 1634 Ádam Battyányi decreed that if the Protestant clericalists on his estates did not convert to Catholicism they had to leave his possessions within two weeks. Recatholisation was not accomplished from day to another since amongst others the new religion offered the Slovene bond-slaves a possibility to acquire their mother tongue in spoken and written. However, towards the end of the 17th century most of the Slovene bond-slaves living in the Raba Region returned to Catholic faith together with their squires Ádám Battyányi, Ferenc Nádasdy and Péter Széczy. Due to the enactment, which had been decreed in the parliamentary assembly in Sopron (1681), the Evangelic and Calvinistic believers were only allowed to follow their beliefs in prescribed places. What is more, only books destined for religious use were permitted. In 1717, the Battyányi family reseized the churches, which were inaugurated in a Catholic ceremony.


Ottoman time

The Ottomans appeared in the Raba Region simultaneously with the start of Reformation. Ottoman leader Ibrahim Damad occupied the city of Nagykanizsa, which constituted the nearest and highly important fortress, on October 20, 1600. On Christmas Day 1640 an Ottoman troop coming from Nagykanizsa invaded Felsõszölnök. Since then the local bond-slaves not only had to pay tributes to their squire Ádám Battyányi, but also to the Ottoman occupiers. The Ottomans announced that if the inhabitants of Felsõszölnök did not submit to them within two weeks, their whole village would be destroyed. The inhabitants wrote a letter to Ádám Battyányi asking him for advice. In 1641, the latter consulted his brother-in-law, László Csáky, who was living in Szentgotthárd, and he was told that he should not consider submission. Csáky mentioned the locality Apátistvánfalva. Even though the inhabitants submitted out of fear (in 1622) the village was levelled by the Ottomans. According to Lászlo Csáky Felsõszölnök was better off not submitting, if they did, then the inhabitants of the Raba Region of German origin and consequently the whole Raba Region would have followed suit. Ádám Battyányi also asked the author Miklós Zrínyi, his second-grade cousin for advice. In 1648, the latter advised him to battle against the Ottomans. In 1664, in the Battle of Szentgotthárd the Ottomans advanced to Felsõszölnök. The village was almost completely devastated. Many impoverished inhabitants fled into neighbouring Styria. The battle against the Ottomans in Szentgotthárd lives on in the tales of the Slovenes from the Raba Region. In these narratives real and misty-eyed events mix. Furthermore most historical knowledge about this very battle is far from being complete. However, it is an accepted fact that the Ottoman sultan who was said to be a protagonist of this battle, did not participate in it. In addition, the Ottoman troop leader Ahmed Köprülü was not killed in this battle, as it is often claimed. It is correct however that Pascha Ismail, the brother-in-law of the sultan, died in the Battle of Szentgotthárd. Radetzky, who according to the tales fooled the Ottoman troops in this battle, was born about a hundred years later and was the commander-in-chief of the Austrian army during the Napoleonic Wars in northern Italy. According to the tales, the Hungarian troops were positioned on a hill in Mogersdorf (Austria), not far away from Szentgotthárd.

It was said that Radetzky was at the foot of this hill devising the plan to split up the Hungarian troops in two parts and thus fooling the Ottomans. On the hill the soldiers started a fire and in order to simulate a bigger amount of soldiers, they kept running around the same fireplace. The Ottomans should believe that the Hungarian troop was attacking them coming from the hill. One said that whilst the attack the third cannonball had hit the tent of the sultan and had killed him. Before the battle the sultan was quoted as saying that he would not surrender as long as the fried cock on his plate would not start crowing. At that moment the cock began to crow and the sultan was hit mortally by the cannonball. The Ottoman soldiers started panicking and fleeing. According to the tales the battle caused so many dead people that the river Raba turned red due to all the blood that had been shed. Still today one section of this river is still called “Holt-Rába/Dead Raba”. Because of the great number of slain bodies lying in this river one said that this section of the river had cloven his way in a different direction. Before the battle the sultan was quoted as saying that soon his horse would be eating and drinking from the lap and the bust of Virgin Mary (in today's Mariazell, Austria). Still today, the place of pilgrimage in Mariazell is still visited by numerous inhabitants of Felsõszölnök. Between Felsõszölnök and Alsószölnök, on a bank, there is a well, in which the woman of the sultan had thrown an assey-balance on the run. And still today, on August 1 people commemorate the battle against the Ottomans in Szentgotthárd and they arrange a run from Szentgotthárd on the hill near Mogersdorf, on which stands a large cross. At that time, however also the Kuruc troops (revolutionaries against Habsburg) of Rákóczi and the Labanc troops (who were loyal to Habsburg) were wreaking havoc within the Slovene Raba Region. Rákóczi's Kuruc troops defeated the Austrian-imperial army in Szentgotthárd.


The escape to Somogy County

In the 17th and 18th century numerous Slovene families from Vas County settled down in Somogy County. According to some results of the latest research three country districts (Csurgó, Nagyatád, Marcali), in which sixteen Slovene settlements emerged, are known. The Slovenes came to Somogy County in two waves: The first was caused by Ottoman attacks around 1600 and the second took place in the 18th century due to their Protestant belief. In most cases the Slovenes who had been immigrating to Somogy County could be assimilated within the local Hungarian surroundings. Today only few indications, which are evocative of the Slovenes in Somogy County, still exist. Among them are the preparation of the food and the liveries. The most relevant common motive is apparent in the wedding custom in Tarany. Also the Slovenes from the Raba and those from the Mura Region know the “guest caller” at weddings. Both in Tarany and in the Raba Region the guest caller is dressed in a robe decorated with knitting. In addition, he carries along a stick that has a hedgehog fur wrapped round its bottom. Also the customs at the deathbed, the laying out and funerals are similar. Furthermore the descendants of the Slovenes in Somogy County do not exert either the typical Hungarian Easter Monday custom, in which men and boys douse women and girls with Eau de Cologne. Whereas the Slovenes from the Raba Region still maintain their language and culture, the knowledge of the inhabitants of Tarany about their ancestors is constantly decreasing. In the population census in 2001 only 44 people avowed themselves Slovenes within the whole Somogy County.

Translated from German into English: Joël Gerber

The German text is based on:
Mukics Mária, „A Magyarországi Szlovének“; Press Publica, (2003)