January 24, 2010

Veneti and Slovenian History

When we speak of Slovenian history, we must understand that there are in reality two histories—the official and the unofficial.  The official history, disseminated in the 19th century by dominant history schools in central Europe, rests on two theories, both of which lack archaeological and documentary evidence.  The first is that Slovenians settled in their traditional lands in the 6th century A.D., and the second, that they are South Slavs.  Inasmuch as both of these theories are without scientific foundation, they survived only by reason of a variety of political controls.
All other aspects of Slovenian history were formulated to meet the requirements of the above two-pronged official framework.  This contrived account of our past was largely accepted as if it were scientifically proven, and although badly outdated, it remains part of educational systems everywhere.
There were at the same time a few people who came to different conclusions.  They understood that our forbears did not come from somewhere else in the 6th century—that they were an ancient, indigenous people in central Europe.  This is the so-called autochthonous theory.  A number of Slovenian scholars contributed to it:  grammarian Adam Bohorič (born 1520); historian Martin Baucer; historian, ethnologist Janez V. Valvasor; Dr. Janko Grampovčan; Davorin Žunkovič; Henrih Tuma, and others.  We must include here also the findings of the Italian researcher Guiseppe Sergi, who considered Slovenians as indigenous and descendents of the Veneti.  Along these lines gradually developed what we could now call the unofficial history.
That the Veneti were part of Slovenian history came into sharp focus in 1989 when three Slovenian researchers, Dr. Jožko Šavli, academician Matej Bor, and Father Ivan Tomažič published their findings in the book Veneti:  naši davni predniki.  The gist of their positions is as follows:  1) Slovenians lived in their lands long before the presumed settlement in the 6th century, 2) the name Veneti relates to the West Slavs, 3) Slovenians are their descendants and 4) Venetic and Slovenian languages were related.
The above theses accord with the Greek and Roman writers (Homer, Herodotus, Tacitus, Pliny) who used names Henetoi, Uenetoi, Enetoi and Veneti for Slavs.  Several more synonyms developed later:  Vinidi, Venedi, Vinedi, Winidi, Wendische, Windische.
The Venetic studies were considerably advanced in 1996, when the book Veneti:  naši davni predniki appeared in Canada in the English language under the title Veneti:  First Builders of European Community.  Its publisher was Father Tomažič.  It has been distributed among English speakers far and wide.  Many universities with Slavic Studies and Departments of Genetics now have Veneti; it is also available in many public libraries and libraries of some associations, also in the National Library of Canada and the Library of Congress in the USA.
Within its pages are many references to Veneti in relation to Slovenians.  Here are a few examples, “Fredegarii Chronicon (year 623) uses the name Winidi for Slovenians, ‘Sclavi coinomento Winidi,’ also ‘Venetii’ and ‘Vinidi,’ even ‘Vandali’ and ‘gens Wandalorum,’ their land is named ‘marca Winidorum’” (page 9).  Slovenian Prince Valuk is “Walucus dux Winedorum”(page 144).  There is also the often-cited equation of Slovenians with the Veneti by the author of Vitae S. Columbani, where he speaks about the “land of Veneti who are also called Slavs (Termini Venetiorum qui et Sclavi dicuntur).”  He did not know these Slavs as recent settlers (page 464).  Around the year 600 St. Columban wanted to spread the Christian faith among the Veneti in Noricum, present-day Austria.  This alone is a strong indication that Veneti were of Slavic origin, regardless of where they lived—in the Alps, the Pannonian plain, the Adriatic or elsewhere.
Primož Trubar was a Slovenian preacher and writer.  In 1551 he published a Slovenian catechism entitled Catechismus in der Windischenn Sprach / Catechism in the Windisch Language, which means that among speakers of German, the name Slowenen for Slovenians came into use later, probably in the 19th century.
Official historians maintain that the territory of present-day Austria was populated by Latinized Celts before the presumed arrival of Slavs.  But they do not say why the Celts, who had already been for several centuries under Roman rule and were therefore on an appreciably higher level of culture and defence skills, would have accepted the Slavic multitudes as its own ruling class, and adopted their language and their customs without going to war.  This is improbable.  To take the entire territory from the Adriatic Sea to the Danube River without major battles would have been impossible.  Yet no ancient writer mentions battles.  Why?  Probably because there were none.  The native village population was not the Latinized Celts, but Slovenians; that is, their ancestors.  Germans called them Windische.
One wonders why historians always look to the Celts for answers, and never to the indigenous Slovenians.  If the Celts were the original population of present-day Austria, why would there not be Celtic instead of Slovenian place-names?  One of the few Austrian professors, who is treating this subject states, “All place-names as far as the line between Linz and the eastern Tyrol, which bear any Slavic element — and there are exceptionally many of them — are by origin not ‘Slavic’ but Carinthian, that is, Slovenian . . . In truth these are Slovenian names, and there are an enormous number of them, as far as the Danube River in the north.”
Important contributions to the unofficial history are being made by genetics.  Unfortunately, this science, although a very precise and reliable tool, is not yet utilized in either archaeology or history.  If historians used it freely, without political interference, they would soon recognize that the history of Europe needs to be rewritten.  It is noteworthy that the book Veneti:  First Builders…has been cited several times in genetic publications such as “Annals of Human Genetics,” University College, London.
For many years Jože Škulj from Toronto, Canada, has been researching Sanskrit and genetics.  He has accumulated a large amount of data that also concerns Slovenians.  In his paper Etruscans, Veneti and Slovenians he states, “There is a genetic continuity between ancient Etruscans and Veneti and present-day Slovenians.  Genetic information makes it evident, that Slovenians are indigenous in their traditional lands as indicated by the mtDNA relationship with the 2,500-years-old skeletal remains of the Etruscans, particularly those of Adria.  Synthesizing the results of Vernesi et al and Malyarchuk et al, it becomes obvious that the present-day Slovenians carry more ‘Etruscan’ mtDNA HVS1 haplotypes than Tuscans [the presumed descendants of Etruscans].  Twice as many ‘Etruscan’ haplotypes are present in Slovenians than in Tuscans, namely:  CRS, 16261, 16223, 16311.  These were found in skeletal remains from Adria, Magliano/Marsiliana and also from Volterra.”
Venetic studies received additional support, when in 1999 a book appeared in Canada entitled Adieu to Brittany.  The author, Anthony Ambrozic, presents his work on the inscriptions of ancient Gaul, mainly from the provinces where Veneti lived and ruled before the Roman occupation.  The first and second parts of the book include more than forty inscriptions.  They are interpreted with the help of Slovenian, its dialects, and other Slavic languages.  The third part includes a review of a large number of toponyms with Slavic elements, names of islands, rivers, mountains, plains and so on.  His second book on this subject, Journey Back to the Garumna, appeared in 2000, where he continues the same theme, but with a much wider selection of details.  His third book, Gordian Knot Unbound, published in 2002, includes his work on Phrygian inscriptions from Asia Minor, inscriptions from Thrace, decipherment of the inscriptions “Spada di Verona,” “Plumergat” and others.
Since 2001 there have been in Slovenia four conferences in the series The Origins of Slovenians.  Many papers were presented by Slovenian and foreign researchers:  Contemporary Theory of Continuity (Slovenia); Veneti, Ancestors of Slavs (Russia); Linguistic and Genetic Correspondences Between Slavs and Indo-Aryans (Canada); Veneti in Pannonia (Slovenia); Linguistic Connections Between Basques and Slavs (USA).  The fifth conference is in preparation for summer 2005.

Anton Škerbinc