The 18th & 19th Century



Thanks to the regulation of the lord lease (1767-1768) by Maria Theresia, archduchess of Austria and queen of Hungary and Bohemia, information about the bond-slaves in the Slovene villages within the Raba Region are accessible. The law of the lord lease regularised the rights and tributes of these bond-slaves. Furthermore, this law kept an account on the size of the estates on which the bond-slaves paid the taxes to their squires and the state. Until the middle of the 19th century, the Slovenes from the Raba Region were bond-slaves of three squire families, the Battyányi family, the Nádasdy family and the Széchy family and the Cistercian monks. Six of the ten Slovene settlements that existed at that time were subordinate to the Cistercians. A day per week the bond-slaves of the Cistercian monks were obliged to execute socage with the aid of two, three or four oxen. During the time of the regulation of the lord lease the bond-slaves complained that the monks sold them spoilt wine and that they were not allowed to keep wine for sale over three to six months. Within the six settlements that belonged to the Cistercians agriculturally used area was acutely rare. Simultaneously to the inauguration of the church of the Cistercian abbey in Szentgotthárd a Catholic chapel was built in Alsószölnök (1764). Together with Felsõszölnök, Ritkaháza and Neuhaus (Austria) Alsószölnök belonged to the manor of the Battyányi family. In 1728, the widow of Earl Battyányi possessed 24 bond-slaves in Alsószölnök, among them there were two shoemakers and a potter. What is more, their possessions included grassland but not vineyards. Towards the end of the 18th century this estate augmented due to the added local brick buildings and the appendant land, due to barns and a mill. In 1777, Maria Theresia founded a new church district domiciled in Szombathely. Within this new church district all the Catholic Slovenes in Hungary were united. During this time the term "vendvidék/Wends- and Windish-land respectively" (Slovenska krajina) was created, which integrated the Catholic Slovenes in Vas County and Zala County within one church district. The first bishop of Szombathely János Szily was a major promoter of the Slovene believers. In Apátistvánfalva he had had a church built from 1776 to 1780, since the inhabitants of Apátistvánfalva and its surroundings belonged to a parish within the Szentgotthárd outskirts Kethely. Priest Miklós Küzmics was appointed provost of the Slovenes and he published his books that were written in Slovene and were set books in the Catholic schools within the whole church district. The books written and printed by Evangelic and Catholic priests did not reach every Slovene household. Many Slovene teachers did not acquire these books either. The so-called cantor teachers who did not only tutor at schools entered the songs treated in these books in notebooks. Most of these songs were translations of Catholic and Evangelic songs from the Hungarian language. In 1883 half of Rábatótfalu was destroyed by a major burning, by reason of this disaster the chapel of Saint Florian was built.



The Slovenes and the Hungarian revolution of 1848

During the Hungarian revolution against Habsburg in March 1848 Illyrism, which tried to reach the local Croatian and Slovene inhabitants, circulated in Vas County. Illyrism was a linguistic, cultural and political movement. The key-note was mainly a common state, which is inhabited by south Slavs and descendants of the Illyrians, runs from the Black Sea to the Adria and which is being controlled by Croatian leadership. On May 22, 1848 the sub-major of Vas County, József Széll, wrote a letter to the Hungarian minister of the interior. In this letter he informed him that he, in order to keep the Slovenes away from Illyrian propaganda, set up border patrol at the southern border whereby he prevented a possible mislead of the Slovenes in the Raba Region. On September 24 1848 the Catholic Church called a people's council, in which after separate church districts councils were organised. The church district of Szentgotthárd held its assembly on August 23 1848 in the neighboring locality Jennersdorf (Austria). Parishes belonging to the church district of Szentgotthárd were all of German oder Slovene mother tongue. In these assemblies it was a major concern of the priests from the Raba Region that they could give lessons in schools and churches and pray in their own mother tongue. Unfortunately, the people's council did not result in a regulation. The revolution against Habsburg ended in Vas County already towards the end of 1848. Coming from Steiermark general Nugent crossed the border to the Slovene Raba Region in December 1848, and it came under his military administrations. In 1849 the command to collect all the weapons in every Slovene village and to fly the flag of the Austrian emperor was issued. During the Hungarian revolution against Habsburg (1848-1849) the Catholic Slovenes of the Raba Region sided with the Catholic Habsburgs. The Evangelic Slovenes, however supported the freedom fighter Lajos Kossuth, sided with Hungary and they pleaded for the separation of Hungary from Habsburg which with its anti-Protestant policy. At that time, the reasoning that the inhabitants of the Raba Region were not Slovenes but Wends and Winds/Windish Slovenes respectively and that as a consequence their ancestral Slavic/ancestral Slovene/Vindish language was not to be equated with the other Slovenes living in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was established. In the opinion of the Evangelic-Slovene priest of Hodoš (Slovenia) the only possibility for the Evangelic Slovenes emerging from the Catholic-Slovene population group to continue was to support Lajos Kossuth and his Hungarian culture. Hereafter the Evangelic Slovenes used their language in churches and schools in the most traditional way in order to distinguish themselves from the Catholic Slovenes and the Slovene literature language. The Evangelic priests and believers remained of the conviction that they could only adhere to their Evangelic faith when following the wish of the Hungarians and considering themselves “Vendek/Wends/Winds/Windish Slovenes”. If they did not conform to this, then they were in danger of being assimilated into Hungarian culture.



Industrial settlement in Szentgotthárd

During the turn of the century several factories, which enabled also the Slovenes in the Raba Region to work, were founded in Szentgotthárd. Including, amongst others, a tobacco factory and a brickyard (1894). Within the Slovene villages the cultivation of tobacco had a long a tradition, and for the newly founded tobacco factory a great deal of workers were available at that time. This tobacco factory, which employed mainly women, produced cigars and after 1945 also cigarettes. However, on March 1 1948 it was closed. The brickyard, which was nationalized in 1949, specialized particularly in tiles made in manual work and only in 1960 it changed from manual to mechanical production. In 1896 Fülöp Kohn founded a watch factory with the aid of Swiss and Hungarian shareholders. In 1904 the factory burnt down but it could be rebuilt three years later thanks to subsidy. The clock factory, in which the majority of the employees were Swiss, moved to Vienna in 1929. The production of a weaving mill, which had been founded in 1899, began in 1901. Only since the 1960s until the 1980s it provided a secure job for the Slovene women living in the Raba Region. After the political change the weaving mill was privatized and as a consequence a lot of Slovene employees lost their jobs. In 1902 the Austrian baron József Wiesner founded a blacksmith's store in Szentgotthárd, which conduced to the war industry until the Second World War. The owner József Wiesner and his foreign workers left the enterprise in March 1945. The Free Hungarian Iron- and Metal Union seized the blacksmith's store, which became Soviet, but later on Hungarian public ownership.
On December 31 2001 the blacksmith's store was closed.



Seasonal work

Due to the bad farmland, the overpopulation and the tight job market a part of the Slovene population of the Raba Region depended on seasonal work from spring-time to autumn. In the 18th and 19th century they also went to the neighboring counties in order to mow, to harvest and to flail. Until the First World War the Slovenes from the Raba Region were laboring as construction workers in Austria or as seasonal workers in the agricultural sector in other parts of Hungary. Between the two world wars, above all in the 1930s, they were working on the estates of squires in Somogy County, Baranya County and Fejér County. By this means the Slovene families earned the necessary funds for wintertime. Between the two world wars their salary consisted of crop and some money. Also after the Second World War, before job opportunities improved in Szentgotthárd, seasonal work, particularly in the Mosonmagyaróvár region, was the main source of income. In the late 1960s new employment opportunities opened up for the Slovenes from the Raba Region. At first, only contracts for separate seasonal workings were negotiated within the Mosonmagyaróvár Lajta-Hanság State Industries, later on however, also permanent working contracts. Some Slovene families also settled down in the Mosonmagyaróvár region, where there was established a Slovene self-administration in 1998. In the 1970s and 1980s the economic situation of the Slovenes from the Raba Region improved, and they only laboured as seasonal workers in Dombóvár, Cspreg and Söpte in order to supplement their income. Since the political change in Hungary nowadays mainly seasonal work in Austria and to some extent also in Slovenia is done in order to supplement one's income.



The endeavour to assimilate into Hungarian culture

In 1792 Hungarian was introduced as language of instruction in all the schools on Hungarian soil. Within the Vas County a foundation was created in 1820 and in 1826 a permanent commission responsible for the spread of the Hungarian language was founded. Bishop András Bõle demanded that the register books, which had been written in Latin until 1842, should be continued using the Hungarian language. Evangelic teacher István Lülik and priest József Kossics wrote a Hungarian linguistic book for Slovene children. The textbook by Lülik remained in its handwritten version, whereas the one written by Kossics was printed in Graz at the expense of Vas County. The goal of these two authors was not the promotion of Hungarian assimilation but rather enable the Slovenes from the Raba Region to advance more easily within Hungarian society and not to be disadvantaged due to the lack of language ability. After an agreement in 1867 Hungarian became the official language.

Translated from German into English: Joël Gerber

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