Slovene territory was inhabited in prehistoric times and there is evidence of human habitation around 250,000 years ago. Perhaps the most important find is a flute, allegedly the oldest known musical instrument in the world, discovered in Divje Babe cave near Cerkno, dating from the Würm glacial age when the area was inhabited by Neanderthals. In the transition period between the Bronze age to the Iron age, the Urnfield culture flourished. Numerous archeological remains dating from the Hallstatt period have been found in Slovenia. Novo Mesto, one of the most important archeological sites of the Hallstatt culture, has been nicknamed the "City of Situlas" after numerous situlas found in the area.
In the Iron Age, present-day Slovenia was inhabited by Illyrian and Celtic tribes until the 1st century BC, when the Romans conquered the region establishing the provinces of Pannonia and Noricum. What is now western Slovenia was included directly under Roman Italia as part of the X region Venetia et Histria. The Romans established posts at Emona (Ljubljana), Poetovio (Ptuj) and Celeia (Celje) and constructed trade and military roads that ran across Slovene territory from Italy to Pannonia. In the 5th and 6th centuries, the area was exposed to invasions by the Huns and Germanic tribes during their incursions into Italy. After the departure of the last Germanic tribe – the Lombards – to Italy in 568 CE, the Slavs from the East began to dominate the area. After the successful resistance against the nomadic Asian Avars (from 623 to 626 CE), the Slavic people united with King Samo’s tribal confederation. The confederation fell apart in 658 and the Slavic people, located in present-day Carinthia, formed the independent duchy of Carantania.
In the mid 8th century Carantania became a vassal duchy under the rule of the Bavarians, who began spreading Christianity. Three decades later, the Carantanians were incorporated, together with the Bavarians, into the Carolingian Empire. During the same period Carniola, too, came under the Franks, and was Christianized from Aquileia. Following the anti-Frankish rebellion of Ljudevit Posavski at the beginning of the 9th century, the Franks removed the Carantanian princes, replacing them with their own border dukes. Consequently, the Frankish feudal system reached the Slovene territory.
The Magyar invasion of the Pannonian Plain in the late 9th century effectively isolated the Slovene-inhabited territory from western Slavs. Thus, the Slavs of Carantania and of Carniola began developing into an independent Slovene ethnic group. After the victory of Emperor Otto I over the Magyars in 955 CE, Slovene territory was divided into a number of border regions of the Holy Roman Empire. Carantania, being the most important, was elevated into the Duchy of Carinthia in 976 CE. In the late Middle Ages the historic provinces of Carniola, Styria, Carinthia, Gorizia, Trieste and Istria developed from the border regions and incorporated into the medieval German state. The consolidation and formation of these historical lands took place in a long period between the 11th and 14th century being led by a number of important feudal families such as the Dukes of Spannheim, the Counts of Gorizia, the Counts of Celje and finally the House of Habsburg. In a parallel process, an intensive German colonization significantly diminished the extent of Slovene-speaking areas; by the 15th century, the Slovene ethnic territory was reduced to its present size.
In the 14th century most of the territory of Slovenia was taken over by the Habsburgs. The counts of Celje, a feudal family from this area who in 1436 acquired the title of state counts, were their powerful competitors for some time. This large dynasty, important at a European political level, had its seat in Slovene territory but died out in 1456. Its numerous large estates subsequently became the property of the Habsburgs, who retained control of the area right up until the beginning of the 20th century.
At the end of the Middle Ages, the Slovene Lands suffered a serious economic and demographic setback because of the Turkish raids. In 1515 a peasant revolt spread across nearly the whole Slovene territory and in 1572-3 the Croatian-Slovenian peasant revolt wrought havoc throughout the wider region. Uprisings, which often met with bloody defeats, continued throughout the 17th century.
The first mentions of a common Slovene ethnic identity, transcending regional boundaries, date from the 16th century, when the Protestant Reformation spread throughout the Slovene Lands. During this period, the first books in the Slovene language were written by the Protestant preacher Primož Trubar and his followers, establishing the base for the development of the standard Slovene language. In the second half of the 16th century, numerous books were printed in Slovene, including an integral translation of the Bible by Jurij Dalmatin.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Protestantism was suppressed by the Habsburg-sponsored Counter Reformation, which introduced the new aesthetics of Baroque culture. The Enlightenment in the Habsburg monarchy brought significant social and cultural progress to the Slovene people. It hastened economic development and facilitated the appearance of a middle class. Under the reign of Maria Theresa and Emperor Joseph II (1765–1790) many reforms were undertaken in the administration and society, including land reforms, the modernization of the Church and a compulsory primary education in the Slovene language (1774). The start of cultural-linguistic activities by Slovene intellectuals of the time brought about a national revival and the birth of the Slovene nation in the modern sense of the word. Before the Napoleonic Wars, some secular literature in Slovene language emerged. During the same period, the first history of the Slovene Lands as an ethnic unity was written by Anton Tomaž Linhart, while Jernej Kopitar compiled the first comprehensive grammar of Slovene.
Between 1809 and 1813, Slovenia was part of the Illyrian Provinces, an autonomous province of the Napoleonic French Empire, with Ljubljana as the capital. Although the French rule was short-lived, it significantly contributed to the raise of national consciousness and political awareness of the Slovenes. After the fall of Napoleon, all Slovene Lands were once again included in the Austrian Empire. Gradually, a distinct Slovene national consciousness developed, and the quest for a political unification of all Slovenes became widespread. In the 1820s and 1840s, the interest in Slovene language and folklore grew enormously, with numerous philologists advancing the first steps towards a standardization of the language. Illyrian movement, Pan-Slavic and Austro-Slavic ideas gained importance. However, the intellectual circle around the philologist Matija Čop and the Romantic poet France Prešeren was influential in affirming the idea of Slovene linguistic and cultural individuality, refusing the idea of merging the Slovenes into a wider Slavic nation.
In 1848, a mass political and popular movement for the United Slovenia (Zedinjena Slovenija) emerged as part of the Spring of Nations movement within the Austrian Empire. Slovene activists demanded a unification of all Slovene-speaking territories in a unified and autonomous Slovene kingdom within the Austrian Empire. Although the project failed, it served as an almost undisputed platform of Slovene political activity in the following decades. In 1867, Slovene nationalist representatives gained a majority of votes in the Carniolan provincial elections. In the same year, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was established by splitting the Austrian Empire into two parts. Most of the territory of present-day Slovenia remained in the Austrian part of the monarchy, while Prekmurje was included in the Hungarian part. By the end of the 19th century industry had developed considerably in Slovenia and the population had become as socially differentiated as in other European nations.
At the turn of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Slovenes emigrated to other countries, mostly to the United States, but also to South America, Germany, Egypt, and to larger cities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, especially Zagreb and Vienna. It has been calculated that around 300,000 Slovenes emigrated between 1880 and 1910, which means that one in six Slovenes left their homeland.
World War I resulted in heavy casualties for Slovenia, particularly on the bloody Soča front in Slovenia's western border area. In 1917, after the Battle of Caporetto ended the fighting on Austro-Hungarian (Slovenian) soil, the political life in Austria-Hungary resumed. The Slovene People's Party launched a movement for self-determination, demanding the creation of a semi-independent South Slavic state under Habsburg rule. The proposal was picked up by most Slovene parties, and a mass mobilization of Slovene civil society, known as the Declaration Movement, followed. This proposal was rejected by the Austrian political elites, but following the dissolution of Austro-Hungarian Empire in the aftermath of the war, a National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs took power in Zagreb on 6 October 1918. On 29 October independence was declared by the Croatian parliament and by a national gathering in Ljubljana, declaring the establishment of the new State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. The new state merged with Serbia to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on 1 December 1918, renamed to Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. Following a plebiscite in October 1920, Slovene-speaking southern Carinthia was ceded to Austria. The western parts of the Slovene Lands (the Slovenian Littoral and western districts of Inner Carniola) were occupied by the Italian Army, and officially annexed to the Kingdom of Italy with the Treaty of Rapallo in 1920. With the Treaty of Trianon, on the other hand, Yugoslavia was awarded the Slovene-inhabited Prekmurje region, which had belonged to Hungary since the 10th century. Slovenes in Italy, Austria, and Hungary, became victims of policies of State policies of forced assimilation and sometimes violent persecution. In the Italian Julian March administrative region, several violent actions were directed against the Slovene communities between 1918 and 1922, both by the mob and by ultra-nationalist militias. After 1922, a policy of violent Fascist Italianization was implemented, triggering the reaction of local Slovenes and Istrian Croats. In 1927, the militant anti-Fascist organization TIGR was founded, which co-ordinated the Slovene resistance against Italian rule until its dismantlement by the Fascist secret police in 1941.
After 1918, Slovenia became one of the main industrial centers of Yugoslavia. Already in 1919, the industrial production in Slovenia was four times greater than in Serbia, and twenty-two times greater than in Yugoslav Macedonia. The interwar period brought a further industrialization in Slovenia, with a rapid economic growth in the 1920s followed by a relatively successful economic adjustment to the 1929 economic crisis.
On 6 April 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis Powers. Slovenia was divided among the occupying powers: Fascist Italy occupied southern Slovenia and Ljubljana, Nazi Germany got northern and eastern Slovenia, while Horthy's Hungary was awarded the Prekmurje region. Some villages in south-eastern Slovenia were annexed by the Independent State of Croatia. While the Italians gave Slovenes a cultural autonomy within their occupation zone (the Province of Ljubljana), the Nazis started a policy of violent Germanisation. More than 63,000 Slovenes were interned to Nazi concentration camps.
In the summer of 1941, a liberation movement under the leadership of the Communist emerged both in the Italian and in the German occupation zones. In the summer of 1942, a civil war between Slovenes broke out. The two fighting factions were the Liberation Front of the Slovenian People and the Italian-sponsored anti-communist militia, known as the White Guard, later re-organized under Nazi command as the Slovene Home Guard. The Slovene partisan guerrillas managed to liberate large portions of the Slovene lands, contributing to the defeat of Nazism. As a result of the war, the vast majority of the native ethnic German population were either forcefully expelled or fled to neighboring Austria. Immediately after the war, some 12,000 members of the Slovene Home Guard were killed in the area of the Kočevski Rog, while thousands of anti-communist civilians were killed in the first year after the war. In addition, hundreds of ethnic Italians from Istria and Trieste were killed by the Yugoslav Army and partisan forces in the Foibe massacres, while some 27,000 of them fled Slovenia from Communist persecution in the so-called Istrian exodus. The overall number of World War II casualties in Slovenia is estimated to 89,000, while 14,000 people were killed immediately after the end of the war.
The first clear demand for Slovene independence was made in 1987 by a group of intellectuals in the 57th edition of the magazine Nova revija. Demands for democratisation and increase of Slovenian independence were sparked off. A mass democratic movement, coordinated by the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, pushed the Communists in the direction of democratic reforms. These revolutionary events in Slovenia pre-dated by almost one year the Revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, but went largely unnoticed by international observers. In April 1990, the first democratic elections in Slovenia took place and the united opposition movement DEMOS led by Jože Pučnik emerged victorious. In the same year more than 88% of the electorate voted for a sovereign and independent Slovenia. This was followed on 25 June 1991 by a declaration of independence. The very next day, the newly-formed state was attacked by the Yugoslav Army. After a Ten-Day War a truce was called and in October 1991 the last soldiers of the Yugoslav Army left. In November a law on de-nationalisation was adopted, followed in December by a new constitution.
The European Union recognised Slovenia in January 1992, and the UN accepted it as a member in May 1992. Slovenia joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. Slovenia has one Commissioner in the European Commission, and seven Slovene parliamentarians were elected to the European Parliament at elections on 13 June 2004. In 2004 Slovenia also joined NATO. Slovenia subsequently succeeded in meeting the Maastricht criteria and joined the Eurozone (the first transition country to do so) on 1 January 2007. Slovenia was the first post-Communist country to hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, for the first six months of 2008.
Since 1991, Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy republic with a multi-party system. The head of state is the president, who is elected by popular vote every five years to maximum two consecutive terms, and has mainly advisory and ceremonial duties. The executive and administrative authority in Slovenia is held by the Government of Slovenia (Vlada Republike Slovenije), headed by the Prime Minister and the council of ministers or cabinet, who are elected by the National Assembly (Državni zbor Republike Slovenije). The bicameral Parliament of Slovenia is characterised by an asymmetric duality. The bulk of power is concentrated in the National Assembly, which consists of ninety members. Of those, 88 are elected by all the citizens in a system of proportional representation, while two are elected by the registered members of the autochthonous Hungarian and Italian minorities. Election take place every four years. The National Council (Državni svet Republike Slovenije), consisting of forty members, appointed to represent social, economic, professional and local interest groups, has a limited advisory and control power.
Between 1992 and 2004, the Slovenian political scene was characterized by the rule of the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia, which carried out much of the economic and political transformation of the country. The party's president Janez Drnovšek, who served as Prime Minister between 1992 and 2002, was the one of the most influential Slovenian politician of the 1990s, together with the Slovenian President Milan Kučan (served between 1990 and 2002), who was credited for the peaceful transition from Communism to democracy. The 2004 election brought to power the right wing coalition, led by Janez Janša of the Slovenian Democratic Party. The Liberal Democracy quickly lost much of its influence and in 2008, the left wing coalition headed by the Social Democrat Borut Pahor won the election by a narrow margin. The priorities of the current government are efforts to address stable economic growth and public finance, employment, social welfare, science, education and culture.
The Slovenian Armed Forces provide military defence independently or within an alliance, in accordance with international agreements. Since conscription was abolished in 2003, it is organized as a fully professional standing army. The Commander-in-Chief is the President of the Republic of Slovenia, while operational command is in the domain of the Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces. In 2008, military spending was an estimated 1.5% of the country's GDP. Since joining NATO, the Slovenian Armed Forces have taken an even more active part in supporting international peace. Their activities comprise the participation of Slovenian Armed Forces members in peace support operations and humanitarian activities. Among others, Slovenian soldiers are a part of international forces serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
Officially, Slovenia is subdivided into 211 municipalities (eleven of which have the status of urban municipalities). The municipalities are the only body of local autonomy in Slovenia. Besides, there also exist 62 administrative districts, officially called "Administrative Units" (upravne enote), which are not a body of local self-government, but territorial sub-units of government administration. The Administrative Units are named after their capital, and are headed by a Head of the Unit (načelnik upravne enote), appointed by the Minister of Public Administration. Each municipality is headed by a Mayor (župan), elected every 4 years by popular vote, and a Municipal Council (občinski svet). In the majority of the municipalities, the municipal council is elected through the system of proportional representation; only few smaller municipalities use the plurality voting system. In the urban municipalities, the municipal councils are called City Councils. Every municipality also has a Head of the Municipal Administration (načelnik občinske uprave), appointed by the Mayor, who is responsible for the functioning of the local administration.
However, regional identity is strong in Slovenia. The traditional regions of Slovenia, based on the former four Habsburg crown lands (Carniola, Carinthia, Styria, and the Littoral) are the following:
The city of Ljubljana was historically the administrative center of Upper Carniola. However, from the mid 19th century onward, it has not been considered as part of any of the three subdivisions of Carniola (Upper, Lower and Inner Carniola). Nowadays, it is not considered part of any of the traditional historical regions of Slovenia.
For statistical reasons, Slovenia is also subdivied into 12 statistical regions, who have no administrative function. These are further subdivided into two macroregions, for the purpose of the Regional policy of the European Union. These two macroregions are:
Slovenia is situated in Central Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. It lies between latutudes 45° and 47° N, and longitudes 13° and 17° E. The 15th meridian east almost corresponds to the middle line of the country in the direction west-east. The geographical centre of Slovenia is at the coordinates 46°07'11.8" N and 14°48'55.2" E. It lies in Spodnja Slivna near Vače. Slovenia's highest peak is Triglav ; the country's average height above sea level is 557 m (1,827 ft).
Four major European geographic regions meet in Slovenia: the Alps, the Dinarides, the Pannonian Plain, and the Mediterranean. Although on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, near the Mediterranean, most of Slovenia is in the Black Sea drainage basin. The Alps—including the Julian Alps, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karavanke chain, as well as the Pohorje massif—dominate Northern Slovenia along its long border with Austria. Slovenia's Adriatic coastline stretches approximately 47 km (29 mi) from Italy to Croatia. The term "Karst topography" refers to that of southwestern Slovenia's Kras Plateau, a limestone region of underground rivers, gorges, and caves, between Ljubljana and the Mediterranean. On the Pannonian plain to the East and Northeast, toward the Croatian and Hungarian borders, the landscape is essentially flat. However, the majority of Slovenian terrain is hilly or mountainous, with around 90% of the surface 200 m (656 ft) or more above sea level.
The first regionalisations of Slovenia were made by geographers Anton Melik (1935–1936) and Svetozar Ilešič (1968). The newer regionalisation by Ivan Gams divides Slovenia in the following macroregions:
According to a newer natural geographic regionalisation, the country consists of four macroregions. These are the Alpine, the Mediterranean, the Dinaric, and the Pannonian landscapes. Macroregions are defined according to major relief units (the Alps, the Pannonian plain, the Dinaric mountains) and climate types (submediterranean, temperate continental, mountain climate). These are often quite interwoven.
Protected areas of Slovenia include national parks, regional parks, and nature parks, the largest of which being Triglav National Park. There are 286 Natura 2000 designated protected areas, which comprise 36% of the country's land area, the largest percentage among European Union states.
58.5% of the country is covered by forests making it the third most forested country in Europe. The forests are an important natural resource, but logging is kept to a minimum, as Slovenians also value their forests for the preservation of natural diversity, for enriching the soil and cleansing the water and air, for the social and economic benefits of recreation and tourism, and for the natural beauty they give to the Slovenian landscape. In the interior of the country are typical Central European forests, predominantly oak and beech. In the mountains, spruce, fir, and pine are more common. The tree line is at 1,700 to 1,800 metres (or 5,575 to 5,900 ft).
Pine trees also grow on the Kras plateau, although only one third of the region is now covered by pine forest. The Kras and White Carniola are known for the proteus. The lime/linden tree, also common in Slovenian forests, is a national symbol.
In the Alps, flowers such as Daphne blagayana, various gentians (Gentiana clusii, Gentiana froelichi), Primula auricula, edelweiss (the symbol of Slovene mountaineering), Cypripedium calceolus, Fritillaria meleagris (snake's head fritillary), and Pulsatilla grandis are found.
The country's fauna includes marmots, Alpine ibex, and chamois. There are numerous deer, roe deer, boar, and hares. The edible dormouse is often found in the Slovenian beech forests. Trapping these animals is a long tradition and is a part of the Slovenian national identity. Some important carnivores include the Eurasian lynx (reintroduced to the Kočevje area in 1973), European wild cats, foxes (especially the red fox), and European jackal. There are also hedgehogs, martens, and snakes such as vipers and grass snakes. As of March 2005, Slovenia also has a limited population of wolves and around four hundred brown bears.
There is a wide variety of birds, such as the Tawny Owl, the Long-eared Owl, the Eagle Owl, hawks, and Short-toed Eagles. Various other birds of prey have been recorded, as well as a growing number of ravens, crows and magpies migrating into Ljubljana and Maribor where they thrive. Other birds include (both Black and Green) Woodpeckers and the White Stork, which nests mainly in Prekmurje.
The marble trout or marmorata (Salmo marmoratus) is an indigenous Slovenian fish. Extensive breeding programmes have been introduced to repopulate the marble trout into lakes and streams invaded by non-indigenous species of trout.
The only regular species of cetaceans found in the northern Adriatic sea is the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).
Domestic animals originating in Slovenia include the indigenous Karst Shepherd, the Carniolan honeybee and the Lipizzan horse.
Slovenia has a high-income developed economy and enjoys the highest GDP per capita of the new member states in the European Union, at $ 27,654 in 2009, or 88% of the EU average. Slovenia today is a developed country that enjoys prosperity and stability, as well as a GDP per capita substantially higher than that of the other transitioning economies of Central Europe, which is approximately at the same level of South Korea, New Zealand and Lebanon. Slovenia benefits from a well-educated and productive work force, and its political and economic institutions are vigorous and effective.
There is however a big difference in prosperity between Western Slovenia (Ljubljana, the Slovenian Littoral and Upper Carniola) with a GDP per capita at 106.7% of the EU average, which is at the level of certain prosperous European areas such as East Flanders, Outer London or Alsace, and South Eastern Slovenia (Inner Carniola, Lower Carniola, Slovenian Styria, Slovenian Carinthia and Prekmurje), which has a GDP per capita at 72.5% of the EU average, comparable to the poorest regions of Spain or Italy, such as Extremadura or Basilicata. The economically most prosperous regions of Slovenia are Central Slovenia and the Slovenian Littoral, while the poorest are Prekmurje, the Central Sava Valley and Slovenian Carinthia.
Although Slovenia has taken a cautious, deliberate approach to economic management and reform, with heavy emphasis on achieving consensus before proceeding, its overall record is one of success. Slovenia's trade is oriented towards other EU countries, mainly Germany, Austria, Italy, and France. This is the result of a wholesale reorientation of trade toward the West and the growing markets of central and eastern Europe in the face of the collapse of its Yugoslav markets. Slovenia's economy is highly dependent on foreign trade.
Trade equals about 120% of GDP (exports and imports combined). About two-thirds of Slovenia's trade is with EU members.This high level of openness makes it extremely sensitive to economic conditions in its main trading partners and changes in its international price competitiveness. However, despite the economic slowdown in Europe in 2001–03, Slovenia maintained 3% GDP growth. Keeping labour costs in line with productivity is thus a key challenge for Slovenia's economic well-being, and Slovenian firms have responded by specialising in mid- to high-tech manufacturing. Industry and construction comprise over one-third of GDP.
A big portion of the economy remains in state hands and foreign direct investment (FDI) in Slovenia is one of the lowest in the EU per capita. Taxes are relatively high, the labor market is seen by business interests as being inflexible, and industries are losing sales to China, India, and elsewhere.
During the first decade of the 21st century, privatisation was seen in the banking, telecommunications, and public utility sectors. Also, restrictions on foreign investment are being dismantled, and foreign direct investment (FDI) is expected to increase. Slovenia is the economic front-runner of the countries that joined the European Union in 2004. It was the first new member to adopt the euro on 1 January 2007, and it was the first new member to hold the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2008.
In the financial crisis of the late 2000s, the Slovenian economy suffered a major setback. In 2009, the Slovenian GDP per capita shrank by −7.33%, which was the biggest fall in the European Union after the Baltic countries and Finland. Unemployment rose from 5.1% in 2008 to 11.1% in November 2010, which was above the average in the European Union, and was still rising. As of January 2011, the total national debt of Slovenia was unknown, but was estimated by media to amount to 22,43 billion euros or 63% of GDP, surpassing the European Union limit of 60% of GDP.
Slovenia offers tourists a wide variety of landscapes in a small space: Alpine in the northwest, Mediterranean in the southwest, Pannonian in the northeast and Dinaric in the southeast.
The nation's capital, Ljubljana, has many important Baroque and Vienna Secession buildings, with several important works of the native born architect Jože Plečnik.
At the North-Western corner of the country lie the Julian Alps with the picturesque Lake Bled and the Soča Valley, as well as the nation's highest peak, Mount Triglav in the middle of Triglav National Park. Other mountain ranges include Kamnik–Savinja Alps, Karavanke and Pohorje, popular with skiers and hikers.
Karst Plateau in the Slovenian Littoral gave the name to karst, a landscape shaped by water dissolving the carbonate bedrock, forming caves. The most famous caves are the Postojna Cave with more than 28 million visitors, and the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves. The region Slovenian Istria meets the Adriatic sea, where the most important historical monument is the Venetian Gothic Mediterranean city of Piran while the town Portorož attracts crowds in summer.
The hills around Slovenia's second-largest city, Maribor, are renowned for their wine-making. The northeastern part of the country is rich with spas, with Rogaška Slatina, Radenci, Čatež ob Savi, Dobrna, and Moravske Toplice growing in importance in the last two decades.
Other popular tourist destinations include the historic cities of Ptuj and Škofja Loka, and several castles, such as the Predjama Castle.
Important parts of tourism in Slovenia include congress and gambling tourism. Slovenia is the country with the highest percentage of casinos per 1,000 inhabitants in the European Union. Perla in Nova Gorica is the largest casino in the region.
Highways are the central state roads in Slovenia and are divided into motorways (Slovene: avtocesta, AC) and expressways (hitra cesta, HC). Motorways are dual carriageways with a speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph). They have white-on-green road signs. Expressways are secondary roads, also dual carriageways, but without an emergency lane. They have a speed limit of 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) and have white-on-blue road signs. Highway users in Slovenia are required to buy a vignette.
Since the first highway in Slovenia, the A1 motorway connecting Vrhnika and Postojna, was opened in 1972, a network consisting of 528 km of motorways, expressways and similar roads, has been completed, connecting Slovenia to the neighbour countries. The Slovene motorway route heading from East to West is in line with the V. European Transportation Corridor, the motorway heading in the direction North – South is also in line with the Pan-European Corridor X.
Until the end of World War I, the main Austrian imperial port of Trieste (Slovene: Trst, German: Triest) was the main port in the Slovene Lands, and it was of crucial importance for Slovenian economy. With Trieste coming under Italy after the London Memorandum of Understanding, the Port of Koper was established in 1957. The port has since been much expanded, and in 2007 more than 15 million tonnes of cargo passed through it. In 2010, the Port of Koper surpassed the port of Trieste for the first time in its history, becoming the largest port in the region. Further development and expansion of the port in Koper is planned, together with the opening of a second rail track between Koper and the Slovene rail network.
Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is by far the busiest airport in the country with connections to many major European destinations. Around 1.5 million passengers and 15,000 tonnes of cargo pass through the airport each year. Slovenia has two more international airports, Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport and Portorož Airport and several sport airports. There is also an active Air Force Base in Cerklje ob Krki.
According to the 2002 census, Slovenia's main ethnic group are the Slovenes (83%). At least 13% of the population were immigrants from other parts of Former Yugoslavia and their descendants. They have settled mainly in cities and suburbanised areas. Relatively small but protected by the Constitution of Slovenia are the Hungarian and the Italian national community. A special position is held by the autochthonous and geographically dispersed Roma ethnic community.
Life expectancy in 2007 was 74.6 years for men and 81.8 years for women. In 2009, the suicide rate was 22 per 100,000 persons per year, which places Slovenia among the highest ranked European countries in this regard.
With 101 inhabitants per square kilometre (262/sq mi), Slovenia ranks low among the European countries in population density (compared to 320/km² (829/sq mi) for the Netherlands or 195/km² (505/sq mi) for Italy). The Notranjska-Kras statistical region has the lowest population density while the Central Slovenian statistical region has the highest.
The official language in Slovenia is Slovene, which is a member of the South Slavic language group. In 2002, Slovene was the native language of around 88% of Slovenia's population according to the census, with more than 92% of the Slovenian population speaking it in their home environment. This places Slovenia among the most homogeneous countries in the EU in terms of the share of speakers of predominant mother tongue. Slovene is the most diverse Slavic language in terms of dialects, with different grades of mutual intelligibility. There are 46 distinct dialects, grouped in seven dialect groups.
Hungarian and Italian enjoy the status of official languages in the ethnically mixed regions along the Hungarian and Italian borders. In 2002, around 0.2% of the Slovenian population spoke Italian and around 0.4% spoke Hungarian as their native language. A legally protected language in Slovenia is also Romani, spoken in 2002 as the native language by 0.2% of people. They mainly belong to the geographically dispersed and marginalized Roma community. German, which used to be the largest minority language in Slovenia prior to World War II (around 4% of the population in 1921), is now the native language of only around 0.08% of the population, the majority of whom are more than 60 years old.
A significant number of Slovenian population speak a variant of Serbo-Croatian (Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian or Montenegrin) as their native language. These are mostly immigrants who moved to Slovenia from other former Yugoslav republics from the 1960s to the late 1980s, and their descendants. 0,4% of the Slovenian population declared themselves as native speakers of Albanian and 0,2% as native speakers of Macedonian in 2002. Czech, which used to be the fourth largest minority language in Slovenia prior to World War II (after German, Hungarian and Serbo-Croatian), is now the native language of a few hundred Slovenian residents.
Slovenia is ranked among the top European countries regarding the knowledge of foreign languages. The most often taught foreign languages are English, German, Italian, French and Spanish. As of 2007, 92% of the population between the age of 25 and 64 spoke at least one foreign language and around 71.8% of them spoke at least two foreign languages, which was the highest percentage in the European Union. According to the Eurobarometer survey, as of 2005 the majority of Slovenes could speak Croatian (61%) and English (56%). A reported 45% of Slovenes could speak German, which was one of the highest percentages outside German-speaking countries. Italian is widely spoken on the Slovenian Coast and in some other areas of the Slovenian Littoral. Around 15% of Slovenians can speak Italian, which is (according to the Eurobarometer pool) the third highest percentage in the European Union, after Italy and Malta.
Traditionally, Slovenes are predominantly Roman Catholic. Before World War II, 97% of Slovenes declared as Roman Catholics, around 2.5% were Lutheran, and only around 0.5% belonged to other denominations. Catholicism was an important feature of both social and political life in pre-Communist Slovenia. After 1945, the country underwent a process of gradual but steady secularization. After a decade of severe persecution of religions, the Communist regime adopted a policy of relative tolerance towards the churches, but limited their social functioning. After 1990, the Roman Catholic Church regained some of its former influence, but Slovenia remains a largely secularized society. According to the 2002 census, 57.8% of the population is Roman Catholic. As elsewhere in Europe, affiliation with Roman Catholicism is dropping: in 1991, 71.6% were self-declared Catholics, which means a drop of more than 1% annually.
Despite a relatively small number of Protestants (less than 1% in 2002), the Protestant legacy is important because of its historical significance, since the bases of Slovene standard language and Slovene literature were established by the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Nowadays, a significant Lutheran minority lives in the easternmost region of Prekmurje, where they represent around a fifth of the population and are headed by a bishop with the seat in Murska Sobota.
Besides these two Christian denominations, a small Jewish community has also been historically present. Despite the losses suffered during the Holocaust, Judaism still numbers few hundred adherents, mostly living in Ljubljana, site of the sole remaining active synagogue in the country.
According to the 2002 census, Islam is the second largest religious denomination with around 2.4% of the population. Most Slovenian Muslims came from Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The third largest denomination, with around 2.2% of the population, is Orthodox Christianity, with most adherents belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church while a minority belongs to the Macedonian and other Orthodox churches. A small number of Greek Catholics live in the White Carniola region.
In the 2002, around 10% of Slovenes declared themselves as atheists, another 10% professed no specific denomination, and around 16% decided not answer the question about their religious affiliation. According to the Eurobarometer Poll 2005, 37% of Slovenian citizens responded that "they believe there is a god", whereas 46% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 16% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force".
Responsibility for educational oversight at primary and secondary level in Slovenia lies with the Ministry of Education and Sports. After non-compulsory pre-school education, children enter the nine-year primary school at the age of six. Primary school is divided into three periods, each of three years. In the academic year 2006–2007 there were 166,000 pupils enrolled in elementary education and more than 13,225 teachers, giving a ratio of one teacher per 12 pupils and 20 pupils per class.
After completing elementary school, nearly all children (more than 98 per cent) go on to secondary education, either vocational, technical or general secondary programmes (gimnazija). The latter concludes with matura, the final exam that allows the graduates to enter a university. 84 per cent of secondary school graduates go on to tertiary education. Currently there are three public universities in Slovenia, in Ljubljana, Maribor and in Primorska (Littoral) region. In addition, there is a private University of Nova Gorica and an international EMUNI University. According to the ARWU rating, the University of Ljubljana ranks among 500 best universities in the world.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Slovenia's education as the 12th best in the world and 4th best in the European Union, being significantly higher than the OECD average. According to the 1991 census there is 99.6 per cent literacy in Slovenia. Among people aged 25 to 64, 12 per cent have attended higher education, whilst on average Slovenes have 9.6 years of formal education. Lifelong learning is also increasing.
Some of Slovenia's greatest authors were the poets France Prešeren (1800–1849), Oton Župančič, Srečko Kosovel, Edvard Kocbek and Dane Zajc, as well as the writer and playwright Ivan Cankar (1876–1918). Boris Pahor, Drago Jančar, Alojz Rebula, Tomaž Šalamun and Aleš Debeljak are some of the leading names of contemporary Slovene literature.
The most important Slovene painters include Anton Ažbe in late 19th century. Ivana Kobilca, Rihard Jakopič, Ivan Grohar worked in the beginning of 20th century. Prominent artists of the 20th century include Avgust Černigoj, Anton Gojmir Kos, group IRWIN, and Zoran Mušič. The most famed Slovene architects of the 20th century were Jože Plečnik, Edvard Ravnikar and Marko Mušič.
Slovenia is a homeland of numerous musicians and composers, including Renaissance composer Jacobus Gallus (1550–1591), who greatly influenced Central European classical music, the Baroque composer Janez Krstnik Dolar (ca. 1620–1673), and the violin virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini. In the 20th century, Bojan Adamič was a renowned film music composer and Ivo Petrić (born 16 June 1931) is a composer of European classical music.
Contemporary popular musicians have been Slavko Avsenik, Laibach, Vlado Kreslin, Pero Lovšin, Pankrti, Zoran Predin, Oto Pestner, Lačni Franz, Helena Blagne, DJ Umek, Valentino Kanzyani, Siddharta, Big Foot Mama, Terrafolk, Magnifico and others.
Slovene cinema has more than a century-long tradition with Karol Grossmann, France Štiglic, Igor Pretnar, Jože Pogačnik, Matjaž Klopčič, Boštjan Hladnik and Karpo Godina as its most established filmmakers. Contemporary film directors Jan Cvitkovič, Damjan Kozole, and Janez Lapajne are among the most notable representatives of the so-called "Renaissance of Slovenian cinema".
Famous Slovene scholars include the chemist and Nobel prize laureate Friderik - Fritz Pregl, physicist Joseph Stefan, psychologist and anthropologist Anton Trstenjak, philosophers Slavoj Žižek and Milan Komar, linguist Franc Miklošič, mathematician Jurij Vega, sociologist Thomas Luckmann, theologian Anton Strle and rocket engineer Herman Potočnik.
A variety of sports are played in Slovenia on professional level, with top international successes in handball, basketball, volleyball, association football, ice hockey, rowing, Swimming, tennis, boxing and athletics. Prior to World War II, gymnastics and fencing used to be the most popular sports in Slovenia, with champions like Leon Štukelj, Miroslav Cerar and Rudolf Cvetko gaining Olympic medals for Austria-Hungary and Yugoslavia. Association football gained popularity in the interwar period. After 1945, basketball, handball and volleyball have become popular among Slovenians, and from the mid 1970s onward, winter sports. Since 1992, Slovenian Olympians have won 22 medals, including three gold medals.
Individual sports are also very popular in Slovenia, including tennis, with Grand Slam winners Mima Jaušovec and Katarina Srebotnik, and mountaineering, which are two of the most widespread sporting activities in Slovenia. Several Slovenian extreme and endurance sportsmen have gained an international reputation, including the mountaineer Tomaž Humar, the mountain skier Davo Karničar, the ultramaraton swimmer Martin Strel and the ultracyclist Jure Robič. Past and current winter sports Slovenian champions include Alpine skiers Mateja Svet, Bojan Križaj, Jure Franko, Rok Petrovič, Jure Košir and Tina Maze, and ski jumpers Franci Petek, Primož Ulaga, Primož Peterka, Rok Benkovič and Peter Žonta. Boxing has gained popularity since Dejan Zavec won the IBF Welterweight World Champion title in 2009.
Since the major international success of the national football team, qualifying for two FIFA World Cup's one UEFA European Football Championship, football has become increasingly popular, as well. Slovenian past and current football stars include Branko Oblak, Srečko Katanec and Zlatko Zahovič. The national basketball team has qualified for eight Eurobaskets, including a 4th place finish in 2009, and two FIBA World Championship appearances. Notable Slovenian basketball players include Marko Milič, Jure Zdovc, Peter Vilfan, Radoslav Nesterović and Ivo Daneu. Slovenia will be the host of European basketball championship in 2013, having previously hosted the final round of 1970 FIBA World Championship. The national ice hockey team has qualified for five Ice Hockey World Championships. One of Slovenia's best-known athletes is Anže Kopitar, other notable Slovenian hockey players include Jan Muršak, Ernest Aljančič senior and Rudi Hiti.