Slovenes - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Farming, livestock raising, and forestry have been the traditional rural Occupations of peasants. Agricultural land is limited by rugged mountains, stony valleys, and karstic soil. Only at high altitudes are alpine black soils found. Slovenia does not produce enough grain for its own needs and must rely on imports. The main crops are wheat on the flat areas; rye, barley, and oats at higher elevations; and maize, clover, and potatoes. Turnips, carrots, beets, and cabbages are cultivated for animal as well as for human consumption. The animal economy includes milk cows, beef cattle, pigs, sheep in the mountains, and poultry. Horse and oxen for draft, the traditional sources of power, have been replaced by tractors, but only in the post-World War II period. Forest exploitation has been important for Slovene peasants, who owned 90 percent of the woodland by the period between the two wars. Furniture factories and sawmills are often close to peasant villages. Traditional methods of distribution included exchanges in regional markets. Industrialization began in the nineteenth century aided by the construction of a railroad line connecting Trieste and Ljubljana. Slovenia's resources include natural gas, oil, mercury, coal, lead, silver, and zinc. Iron, steel, and aluminum are produced. Slovenia produces considerable electrical energy. There are also paper, textile, wood, and chemical industries. While in 1900 75 percent of the population was engaged in agriculture, by 1960 this figure was reduced to 32.3 percent and a large portion of these worked part-time in factories. Of all the former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia was the most industrialized and urbanized and had the highest per capita income.

Industrial Arts. The traditional village included artisans such as tailors, weavers, cobblers, smiths, carpenters, and millers, and their products provided for most of the villagers' needs.

Trade. Villagewide and regional markets once dominated local trade, where cattle were traded and textiles, tools, rope, sweets, etc. were sold. Now there are inns and stores in the countryside providing for the village needs. Horse smuggling was common in the interwar period, when horses were bought in Croatia and sold in Italy. In the modern period much of the rural trade has been controlled by cooperative farms, to which cattle, hogs, potatoes, lumber, hay, etc. are sold at prices the peasants consider unfavorable. Consequently rural areas have attempted to develop their own specialties not demanded by the cooperatives, such as breeding hogs and selling young pigs, thereby circumventing official channels. Today Slovenia imports wheat and industrial products from the West and exports wood and textile products, nonferrous metal products, livestock, and numerous other commodities. Slovenia is attempting to increase capital-intensive and specialized industries and reduce exporting of lumber and meat in order to compete on the world market.

Division of Labor. The traditional Slovene family was patriarchal and extended. Division of labor by sex was clear but not rigid. Women carried the main burden of the fieldwork, cutting and raking hay, digging potatoes, planting, weeding, hoeing, and caring for the crops throughout the year. Women also milked the cows, cared for the pigs, made everyday clothes and linen, prepared the food and cared for the Children. Men scythed or mowed, fed the cattle, plowed, repaired buildings and tools, lumbered, and carted wood, etc. But today both men and women may work in the factory and Divide up the fieldwork more informally. Other activities also divided the sexes. Thus only men and boys played ball in the balina fields. Young boys, but not girls, could sleep in barns at night. Men peopled the local inns. Typically boys helped the father and girls, the mother. Village specialists had far less land and engaged in weaving, forging, carpentry, etc.; some villagers owned sawmills and were millers.

Land Tenure. Various traces of evidence suggest ancient landholdings may have been held jointly by brothers. The joint family, or South Slavic zadruga , it is suggested, was then modified and equal division was practiced. When land became increasingly scarce by the fourteenth century, partible inheritance was replaced by impartible inheritance with a preference for primogeniture. Disinherited brothers, unless they married women who inherited land, were forced to emigrate, to turn to specialized village crafts, or become day laborers. In the modern period, primogeniture has broken down since many sons prefer to leave rural life for factories or specialized training, leaving only a younger son or a daughter to maintain the land and homestead. However, the rule of impartibility is generally maintained since landholdings are too small to be further subdivided.


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