Documentary honours Slovenian-Italian mountaineering couple

Trieste, 13 June – In a cross-border coproduction, the regional branches of the Italian and Slovenian public broadcasters, RAI and RTV Slovenia, have made a documentary to honour the first couple ever to climb all 14 eight-thousanders, Romano Benet and Nives Meroi.

Foto: Xinhua/STA

The documentary, written and directed by Vida Valenčič, was produced in a Slovenian and an Italian version and premiered in the Slovenian programme of RAI on Sunday evening.

Benet, an ethnic Slovenian, and his wife Meroi live near Tarvisio, just off the Slovenian-Italian border.

They completed their crown of the Himalayas on 11 May with Annapurna (8,091 m), after their journey to all the mountains higher than 8,000 metres started in 1994 with a failed attempt at K2, the world’s second highest mountain.

Not only did they manage to climb the world’s 14 highest mountains, but they did so without the use of supplementary oxygen, without fixed ropes and without the help of porters, which exhibits extraordinary respect for the mountains, according to the makers of the film.

Shot mostly in the area of the Julian Alps, the film also features a lot of Benet’s own previously unpublished footage from the Himalayas.

Apart from different mountaineering-related topics, like women in mountaineering and the contrast between classical and more touristic ascents to the Himalayas, the documentary also deals with what the pair dubs their 15th eight-thousander – Benet’s illness.

Symbolically titled 14+1, the documentary tells the story of how mountains became life teachers for them also in dealing with acute bone marrow aplasia, a rare disease that Benet contracted in 2009.

He has since undergone two bone marrow transplantations and two hip replacements with prosthetics, but he approached this the same way he does climbing mountains – with endless hope and one step at a time.


Diaspora minister opens Slovenian minority library in Hungary

Szentgotthard, 10 June – Minister for Slovenians Abroad Gorazd Žmavc opened a mini library in the Slovenian cultural and information centre in Hungary’s Szentgotthard on Saturday and attended a traditional Slovenian heritage event hosted by the Association of Slovenians in Hungary.


Author: Marjan Maučec/STA

The Slovenian Australian Academic Association (SAAA) Conference

On Monday, the 22nd of May, 2017, in the week of celebrating its second anniversary, the Slovenian Australian Academic Association – SAAA held its first event, the SAAA Conference 2017: Australian and Slovenian current and future research opportunities. The event, opened by H. E. Mrs Helena Drnovšek-Zorko, Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia in Australia, took place at the EU Centre RMIT (Storey Hall, Green Brain) in Melbourne.

Photo: Manca Ogrizek

The Conference brought together 36 participants, the majority from all Slovenian Australian communities nation-wide. Academics, researchers, students, entrepreneurs as well as members of government and non-government organisations had the opportunity listening to 17 speakers (2 of them through video from Slovenia) including two keynotes Professor Glenda Sluga, ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor of International History, FAHA, The University of Sydney, and Professor Zlatko Skrbiš, President of the University of Ljubljana Global Alumni and Associates Network (SMUL) & Vice-Provost (Graduate Education, Monash University).


This one-day conference closed with a round table titled How to improve knowledge exchange between Slovenia and Australia? The conclusions of the even and recommendations will be available in the coming months.
More information about the conference is available on an on the SAAA Facebook page.

Dr Kaja Antlej

Slovenian Australian Academic Association – SAAA

June issue of the e-magazine Moja Slovenija

A new issue of our e-magazine Moja Slovenija is out. You can read it here:

Accessible and Noble (200 years of public music schools in Slovenia)

Slovenians have always associated themselves with music and valued it very highly, and so as times changed it remained an important factor that brought people together. The teaching of music has played a central role in this process, and in different periods and under varied circumstances, a number of exceptional musicians worked relentlessly to build an excellent system of public music schools, which managed to survive despite the many obstacles it had to face.

Celebration of the 200th anniversary of music education Slovenia. On the stage of the Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana appeared a united orchestra of Slovenian music schools, conservatories, gymnasiums and the Music Academy. Photo: Office of the President of the Republic of Slovenia

Music schools have a very long and interesting history in Slovenia, with the oldest sources dating them back to the Middle Ages. Copies of musical discussions and accounts of early musical education have been preserved from the 12th century onwards. Such efforts were initially focused within monasteries, and later also in large parish centres. Music, especially singing and the basics of musical theory, was included in the Protestant school programs in the 16th century, and in Catholic institutions in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many textbooks have survived from this era, with the most historically important being one written by an organist from Novo Mesto (Noten-Buch darinnen di Fundamenta zu dem Clavier oder Orgel enthalten).


The First Music Schools

The first public music school opened its doors in Ljubljana in 1815, with the mission to offer music lessons that were free of charge and accessible to everyone. There, students and teacher trainees alike studied different instruments and acquired basic musical knowledge. When an advertisement for the position of a music teacher was published in newspapers in Klagenfurt, Graz, Vienna and Prague, a staggering 21 candidates applied, including the young Franz Schubert.

Roughly at the same time, in 1820, the music school of the Philharmonic Society started its classes. Organized by a body called the Philharmonische Gesellschaft (1794–1919), this was one of the oldest civic societies in the former Habsburg Monarchy. The Society was founded by citizens of Ljubljana, the so-called musical dilettantes, with the aim of encouraging music, and especially instrumental music. They organised concerts with the Ljubljana Orchestra and, to meet their own needs, started a music school for stringed and wind instruments. The society had honorary members, including such luminaries as Hayden, Beethoven and Paganini. In 1891, a wonderful concert hall was built in Ljubljana – the Tonhalle in Kongresni trg square, which today houses the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Later on, music schools were gradually opened in other Slovenian towns and cities, such as Trieste, Maribor, Celje and Ptuj. At first, music schools were established within the German musical societies, but later, as the reading room movement progressed, Slovenian music schools also started opening. The Glasbena matica Society played the most notable role in founding Slovenian music schools. It opened its own school in 1882 and continued by establishing associated institutions in Novo Mesto, Celje, Kranj, Trieste, Gorica, Maribor and Ptuj. The basic aim of these efforts was to encourage musical creativity and interpretation among the Slovenian people.

Music classes offer growing opportunities

Slovenian music schools experienced an important development after World War I. In 1919, the first Conservatory was founded, and two decades later the Music Academy opened. Thereafter, a number of music schools were opened and classes thus became widely accessible.

Although such developments were interrupted by World War II, in 1945 the number of music schools started to increase rapidly again, and the network expanded to include all large Slovenian towns and cities, with subsidiaries also opened in rural areas. From 1945 to 1960 the number of music schools grew five-fold, and had increased by nine times by 1990. The Organization and Financing of Education Act, adopted in 1991, guaranteed uniform financing for music schools and special forms of work with talented students.

Music in Slovenia today

There are 69 music schools in Slovenia today, 54 public and 15 private ones, offering official educational programs in music and dance. Almost 26,000 children attend such schools, and students from among these often achieve excellent results at international competitions, with many joining leading orchestras after graduation. Following the spirit with which they were first established, music schools are open to children from all social classes if they show sufficient musical ability. Since music is known to have positive effects on the overall development of young people, enabling them to grow their rational and emotional sides, and thus helping them to become more balanced individuals, such accessibility is especially important.

Slovenian music schools hold individual lessons in playing instruments, thus ensuring a very high quality of teaching. Besides working with their chosen instruments, children also attend classes in music theory, which allows them to read music and develop in terms of musical performance and creation. Group classes encourage socialisation, and from a musical point of view require the individual players to learn how to work in a group context. Especially important here are the presence of chamber groups, choirs and orchestras in these schools. By playing in a group, students learn how to tailor their personal interpretations and musicality to those of other players, and develop the skills needed for shared work, discipline and responsibility. As such, a diverse programme is included in music schools through numerous solo and orchestra concerts, contributing to the cultural lives of many Slovenian towns and cities.

As a jubilee year, 2016 has seen a number of events which connected musicians in different ways. The Slovenian School Museum prepared a retrospective exhibition, and a scientific symposium was organised by the Music Academy. The most prominent projects include the gala concert, which featured three symphonic orchestras comprised of the best young musicians from the country. On this occasion, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, awarded the Slovene Music Schools Association with the Sliver Order of Merit.

Boris Štih,
president of the Slovene Music Schools Association

Sinfo May-June 2017

SINFO – SLOVENIAN INFORMATION is a bimonthly magazine, that brings news from Slovenia on business, culture and sports.

Click on the picture below to read the latest issue (May-June 2017):

Introducing and Promoting Slovenia in the World – Soft Power of Cultural Diplomacy

Promoting Slovenia’s culture and its identity, creativity, and artists abroad is one of the key elements of the country’s foreign policy. In previous years, a lot of work has been done to support the Slovenian economy, which is very export-oriented. Nevertheless, the promotion of cultural identity remains of special value, often complementing or preceding economic diplomacy.

In a time of budget constraints, Slovenia has managed to establish two cultural centres – in Vienna and Berlin. Although they are still quite modest, operating within the residential embassies in these two cities, they are the nucleus of a future network.

Overall, Slovenian embassies are very active in introducing and promoting Slovenian cultural creativity, which is especially vibrant and rich, in cities around the world. The state has set up a special financing fund dedicated to the organisation of individual cultural events throughout its entire diplomatic network. One of the basic guidelines is that each diplomatic event organised by the embassy should also be used for presenting Slovenian cultural creativity in the broadest meaning of the word.



Culture has always played a very significant role throughout the history of the Slovenian nation, and of Slovenia as an independent country. With the purpose of promoting culture and art effectively and in an organised manner, the Republic of Slovenia followed the example of other nations and established its first Slovenian Cultural Information Centre in 2011 in Austria, called SKICA.

SKICA is a joint project of the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs that has clear objectives, namely to introduce Slovenian art to the Austrian and international public, bring together Slovenian and Austrian artists, connect national cultural institutions, bring Slovenian projects and artists to renowned Austrian festivals, fairs and other events, as well as to participate in bilateral relations at the highest level.

The most important aim of SKICA is to raise the profile of Slovenian creativity in Austria. Since the EU places a high value on the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, we are now even more closely linked by culture, which is inseparably linked with the mobility of artists. It is exactly this awareness that serves as a foundation of the centre’s actions, i.e. the notion that culture, through cultural diplomacy, also includes the implementation of foreign policy in international relations in the form of soft power. This gives culture a state representative function, in that it can be used to enhance Slovenia’s presence on the international stage.

In order to ensure the successful operation of SKICA, it is vital that it is properly placed within the cultural space of Vienna and Austria. Although SKICA does not have its own facilities for hosting events, this has proven to be an advantage as presentations held at important Austrian locations reach a wider public and gain more recognition.

Since its establishment, SKICA has maintained partnerships with important festivals such as the Vienna Design Week, Wienerfestwochen, Literaturhaus Wien, Waves Vienna and others, and at the same time is an active partner in the EUNIC Austria network of cultural institutes. Through EUNIC, SKICA has become a part of both the Austrian and European cultural landscapes. Each year, SKICA organises, co-organises and promotes from 35 to 40 events. Media responses, attendance at the events and a growing interest in participation show that SKICA has already reached its original goals, and is now a successful model of a cultural centre.


The second Slovenian cultural institution in the German speaking area

The Slovenian cultural centre in Berlin opened its doors on 1 June 2016, when Slovenia was celebrating 25 years of independence. The newly-opened cultural centre, whose primary purpose is to promote Slovenian culture and artists in Berlin and elsewhere across Germany, was founded in response to the wish for deeper relations between the two nations.

The Slovenian Cultural Centre in Berlin is the second Slovenian cultural institution in the German-speaking area. This is not surprising, as historically speaking Slovenia has had strong ties with this region. The two Slovenian centres work together, in a coordinated manner, ensuring added value to the implementation of their programmes, which work to promote Slovenian culture and artists, of all genres, and establish links between governmental and non-governmental cultural institutions. They also provide support for Slovenian artists when they attend international festivals, fairs and so on.

The Slovenian Cultural Centre in Berlin has been active for nearly six months, and it is already evident that Slovenian artists are becoming more confident and recognised in this context, while their work contributes an important tile in the mosaic of the international art scene. Most of the performers in the projects carried out by the Slovenian Cultural Centre in Berlin have received good reviews, and thus invitations for further cooperation.

Indeed, there is growing interest in the events organised by the Slovenian Cultural Centre in Berlin, and with the Centre’s aid many Slovenian institutions and artists have been hosted in the city for the first time. For example, the main Slovenian theatre company, the Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana, made its first appearance in Berlin with the play Als ich tot war (When I was Dead) by Ernst Lubitsch, adapted from his silent film, and performed in his theatre and the Babylon Cinema.

The Slovenian Cultural Centre in Berlin makes efforts to encourage Slovenian artists to create new pieces especially for German-speaking audiences, where they then have their opening nights. This is certainly an added encouragement for Slovenian artists to produce more international work.


This year will mark even deeper cultural cooperation with Russia

The year 2016 was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karl Erjavec, addressed the guests at the opening of an exhibition called Velika vojna v Krnskem pogorju. Sinovi Rusije v slovenskih Alpah (The great war in the Krn mountain range. The sons of Russia in the Slovenian Alps) in the Museum of Contemporary Russian History. Following his speech, artist Dragan Živadinov carried out an informative performance in the vicinity of Red Square. In Saint Petersburg, the honorary consul of the Republic of Slovenia organised an exhibition called I Feel Slovenia. I Feel at home, to mark the anniversary of the nation’s independence.

In the country that sent the first man into space, the opening of a memorial room at the Slovenian Embassy in Moscow dedicated to Herman Potočnik Noordung, the pioneer of space architecture, was certainly of a great value and interest.

In addition to such memories of the past, Russian experts in fields of culture and art did not overlook the impressive achievements of contemporary Slovenian artists. The regular autumn programme of one of the most important Russian galleries, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, included an exhibition from the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana called Neue Slowenisch Kunst: From Kapital to Capital. Its opening was attended by the Minister of Culture, Anton Peršak. His visit in September 2016, as well as signing a joint statement with the Russian Ministry of Culture on the presentation of Slovenian culture in the Russian Federation, and of Russian culture in the Republic of Slovenia for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, further encouraged the strengthening of bilateral relations in a cultural context. The performance of the renowned Slovenian choir Carmina Slovenica, and their project When the Mountain Changed its Clothing, convinced the committee that it was worthy of Russia’s most prestigious theatre award, and thus this group won the coveted Golden Mask.

The acclaimed M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University also hosted an international conference on the Slovenian language, literature and culture in a Slavic and European context in November 2016, which was organised by the Department of Slavic Languages. A comprehensive two-day conference programme was enriched by an exhibition of Slovenian grammar books and dictionaries, called Poljub z jezikom (A Kiss with a Tongue).

The many successes of 2016 were rounded off with the opening of the Centre of Slavic Cultures at the Rudomino All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature, in co-operation with the International Foundation Forum of Slavic Cultures. The Centre serves as an additional platform for promoting Slovenian culture in the Russian Federation.

Other notable events of the previous year, as organised by the Slovenian Embassy in Moscow, included a literary evening with Ivo Svetinam, the Slovenian writer and president of the Slovene Writers’ Association, held at the Rudomino library; a screening of the Slovenian film Panika (Panic) at the EU film festival in Kaliningrad; and the presentation of Slovenian products at the Winter Bazaar, a traditional charity fund-raiser in Moscow.

The Slovenian Embassy in Moscow is now preparing for further cooperation with the Ministry of Culture in opening and implementing the Season of Slovenian Culture in 2017.


Every year, the Embassy of Slovenia in Washington organises a range of cultural, public diplomacy, educational and science events – all highlighted in the weekly Embassy Newsletter and promoted through the Embassy’s website, social, printed and even TV media. The Embassy has a spacious reception hall, which also serves as a gallery space and concert room. On these premises the Embassy often also hosts exhibitions curated by Slovenian museums.

Besides a series of cultural events held at the Embassy, including concerts, film screenings, plays, panel discussions, lectures, wine tastings, cooking lessons, tourist promotions and at least five exhibitions a year, the Embassy presents many of its events in collaboration with other embassies and consulates, non-governmental and nonprofit organisations, Slovenian societies and clubs in the USA, universities and other partner organisations. In 2016 alone, the Embassy organised around 140 events, trying to embrace all aspects of the arts, from architectural showcases to films, sculptures, paintings, visual arts, dance, theatre and music. Many of these events were dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence.

In addition to introducing Slovenian culture to US audiences, the Embassy is also active in Mexico. With the assistance of honorary consuls in Mexico City and Guadalajara, Slovenian writers participate in the Guadalajara Book Fair every year, while theatre groups perform at different festivals (such as FCTAI in Zacatecas). Most recently, curator Vasja Nagy presented the Art in a Suitcase project in Mexico, which featured several Slovenian artists.

The Embassy of Slovenia also participates in annual cultural events organised in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union in Washington, DC, other EU member states’ embassies, non-EU embassies, consulates, non-governmental and nonprofit organisations and universities. The Embassy is also an active member of two European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) clusters – the EUNIC Washington cluster and the EUNIC New York cluster, both dedicated to promoting contemporary European culture in the US.

The American Slovenian Educational Foundation and Kerže Endowment Fund work enhance cooperation between Slovenia and the US in the context of educational programmes, such as the Fulbright Program. The Embassy regularly collaborates with the VTIS Association and the Society for Slovene Studies, and has for the past three years organised a Science and Educational Showcase for researchers, scientists and scholars, with the support of the Slovenian diaspora.

Uroš Mahkovec

Slovenian Roots: Kathy Kaye (USA)

Slovenian Roots visits the descendants of Slovenes all around the world to find out what it’s like growing up Slovene and how they feel about their home away from home.

The show can be found in the web archives of RTV Slovenija – .