Gottschee Early History

The Gottschee region was conferred upon the Counts of Ortenburg by the Patriarchate of Aquileia on 20 September 1277. The territory was settled by German farmers from Carinthia and East Tyrol between 1330 and 1400. The first settlement in the territory attested in written sources was Mooswald, which appeared in a letter from Patriarch Bertram on 1 September 1339. A 1363 letter mentioned the settlements of Gottschee (Kočevje), Pölland (Kočevske Poljane), Kostel, Ossilnitz (Osilnica), and Göttenitz (Gotenica). The town of Gottschee acquired market town status in 1377.

With the extinction of the House of Ortenburg in 1418, the Gottschee area came under the control of the Counts of Celje in 1420. When the House of Celje died out in 1456, the territory was incorporated into the Duchy of Carniola under the control of the House of Habsburg. Emperor Frederick III elevated the town of Gottschee to a city in 1471.

The late 15th century began a time of unrest in Gottschee. Numerous Ottoman attacks took place in the region. There were also six peasant uprisings in the territory, starting in 1515 and ending in 1662.

In 1507 Maximilian I mortgaged the Dominion of Gottschee. The territory was purchased by Hans Ungnad in 1524, and then mortgaged to the Croatian County of Blagay in 1547. In 1574, Gottschee extended from Mount Snežnik in the extreme west to Blatnik pri Črmošnjicah in the east, and from Seč and Gornja Topla Reber in the north to just below Bosljiva Loka and Osilnica in the south. In 1619 the territory was purchased by the Khisl family.

The territory was elevated to Gottschee County (German: Grafschaft Gottschee, Slovene: Kočevska grofija) in 1623. In 1641 Wolf Engelbert von Auersperg purchased Gottschee County from Count Georg Zwickl-Khisl for 84,000 florins. Engelbert abandoned the deteriorating castle at Friedrichstein and built a new castle in the town of Gottschee itself, which survived until the Second World War. Because Gottschee was a county, Engelbert thereby became a count himself. In 1774 Emperor Joseph II issued a patent allowing the residents of Gottschee County to sell citrus fruit and oil, and the emperor issued a patent confirming peddling privileges on 27 April 1785.

In 1791 Emperor Leopold II elevated the territory to the Duchy of Gottschee (German: Herzogtum Gottschee, Slovene: Kočevska Vojvodina) and Karl Josef Anton von Auersperg to the Duke of Gottschee.

During the short-lived period of the Illyrian Provinces, Gottschee was part of the Napoleonic French Empire. Under this arrangement it was initially part of the Province of Ljubljana (French: province de Laybach) from 1809 to 1811, and then the Province of Carniola (French: province de Carniole) from 1811 to 1814. Gottschee constituted a separate administrative canton under this arrangement. The Gottscheers revolted against French rule during the 1809 Gottscheer Rebellion, killing the commissar of the Novo Mesto district, Von Gasparini. With the collapse of the Illyrian provinces, Gottschee was returned to Habsburg rule within the Kingdom of Illyria.

As part of the Habsburg Kingdom of Illyria, Gottschee was administratively part of the Novo Mesto District (German: Neustädtler Kreis). The Kingdom of Illyria was succeeded by the reconstituted Duchy of Carniola in 1849.

Within the Duchy of Carniola. a separate administrative Gottschee District (German: Bezirk Gottschee or Gerichtsbezirk Gottschee) was set up. The total estimated Gottschee German population in 1878, accounting for population growth and men working away from home, to be about 25,000.

In 1906 the ethnic Romanian Austro-Hungarian lawyer and politician Aurel Popovici unsuccessfully proposed the reorganization of Austria-Hungary as the United States of Greater Austria. Popovici’s proposal included Gottschee as a separate autonomous district within the proposed state of Carniola.

Gottschee was incorporated into royal Yugoslavia (known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes until 1929) as part of the prewar territory of Carniola. The Gottschee Germans accepted the new arrangement with some reluctance: in February 1918 Gottschee’s ethnically German priests characterized the proposed new state as “treacherous” and sent a letter to Bishop Anton Bonaventura Jeglič in Ljubljana denouncing the plan. In October 1918 a proposal was prepared for the Paris Peace Conference for Gottschee to become an independent republic (German: Republik Gottschee) under American protection, based on the large Gottschee German population in the United States, and a Gottschee German demonstration demanding autonomy was held in New York in January 1919. There were also unsuccessful proposals to establish a Gottschee Republic with Italian backing. In 1920, the Slovene press characterized the proposal for a Gottschee Republic as communist agitation.

Under the 1921 constitution, the traditional regions were abolished and Gottschee was made part of the Ljubljana Province (Slovene: Ljubljanska oblast) from 1922 to 1929. After the provinces were abolished, Gottschee was part of the larger Drava Banovina (Dravska banovina) from 1929 to 1941. Within the very large Kočevje District (Slovene: Srez Kočevje), 22 local communities or small municipalities (občina) largely encompassed Gottschee territory until 1933, continuing its 19th-century organization. Many Gottschee settlements were outside the Kočevje District. In 1933 a Yugoslav administrative reform created large municipalities (občina) organized within the districts (srez). The Kočevje District was the largest district in the Drava Banovina, extending from Veliki Ločnik in the north to the Croatian border in the south.[38] Gottschee territory was encompassed by 11 large municipalities, not all of which were in the Kočevje District.

During this time, political and assimilatory pressure against the German minority caused many of Gottschee Germans to emigrate: the German-language high school was closed in 1918, German was eliminated as an elective subject in schools in 1925, the majority of German business, cultural, and athletics societies were dissolved, and there was forced Slovenization of the names of villages and people. By 1941 the Gottschee German population had fallen to only about 12,500. Most of the Germans fled back to Austria or emigrated to the United States (mainly New York City or Cleveland, Ohio.)

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