Viniška Republika Celebrates its Centenary

more than a year ago
Vinica is an unassuming village of around 200 residents some 18km south of Črnomelj, lying just before the Kolpa river and border with Croatia. It's also one of our favourite places in Slovenia. Known nowadays primarily for being the birthplace of acclaimed early 20th century poet Oton Župančič, as well as the site of the increasingly famous Schengenfest music festival (which is "bigger and sexier each year"), the village has long had a reputation among the locals of Bela Krajina as a peculiar sort of place.

One legend that perfectly captures the spirit of the people here goes back to the time when the region was under the constant threat of Turkish invasion. One day someone from the village spotted the advancing Ottoman army, and knew that with a population much the same size as it is today they would be helpless to defend themselves against the imminent attack. Without hesitation the town elders calmly asked their fellow townsfolk to quickly gather as many lizards as possible, and then proceeded to catapult a boot full of the tiny reptiles towards the Turks, which of course struck the general of the army squarely in the face. Assuming that the village in front of them was so infested with dragons that their offspring were falling from the sky, the general made the decision to find another route and Vinica was spared, although it's still unclear if the boot was ever recovered.

As impressive as this legend is, even if it were true it wouldn't be the strangest occurrence in the history of the village, which undoubtedly goes to the events of April 1919. In the confusing weeks and months that followed the cessation of fighting in the autumn of 1918, but before comprehensive Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919, the new national borders that would be carved out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were not officially established. It was under these circumstances that the village of Vinica officially declared it's independence and became the Republic of Vinica (or Viniška Republika), electing the 87 year-old Jure Pavelšiča as their president. But alas, the hard-fought independence of the good citizens of Vinica was short-lived, as they were forced to abandon their statehood and once again rejoin the newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia after only five days.

Nowadays little remains of that glorious 72 hours of freedom, aside from a monument, the memories and souvenir T-shirts and currency that can be purchased online from the Republic's own website (republika.vinica.si) - it is the 21st century after all, and even non-existant republics have websites apparently.


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