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Culture and Creativity

Zdravljica - the Message of the European Spring of Nations (Slovenia)

"Zdravljica" is a poem written in 1844 by the Slovenian poet France Prešeren. It was only published in 1848, after the abolishment of censorship in the Habsburg Empire as part of the Spring of Nations. Written in Slovenian, it hainfluenced the development of Slovenian identity, and more generally the promotion of freedom of expression. The continued importance of Zdravlijca was illustrated in 1944 when the partisans resisting Nazi-fascism re-printed "Zdravljica", and when it was sung on various occasions in the 1980’s and early 1990’s during the period of democratisation leading to the independence of Slovenia.

In 1991 in the new Slovenian Republic, the 7th verse of the poem was chosen as the national anthem. In this verse the poem expresses the ideal of a peaceful co-existence of all nations. A quotation from the poem is stamped onto the national €2 coin and also engraved on a memorial erected in 2008 in front of the Justus Lipsius building of the Council of the EU in Brussels, during the Slovenian EU Presidency.

"Zdravljica" is representative of 1848 - the Spring of Nations or Year of Revolution, an important movement in European history. The role of literature, written in national or minority languages, in kindling nationalist feelings, and shaping demands for the removal of censorship and the right of freedom of expression, was reflected across Europe. Whilst the literary achievements of the poem’s author, France Prešeren, are of central importance to the creation of a Slovenian nation via language and literature, the poem simultaneously promoted the message of peaceful coexistence of nations.

The positive reception of the poem and its transmission across Europe through German and Scandinavian translations since the 1860s/ 1880s, and English and other languages since the mid-20th century, made the poem widely known. In addition, it promotes an international inclusive spirit rarely found in a national anthem.