- Jesenice (Slovenia)
mayor=Tomaž Tom Mencinger
Jesenice, is a
townand a municipality in Slovenia, on the Slovene side of the Karavankemountain range, bordering Austriato the north. It is known as the home of Slovenia's largest steelcompany, Acroni [ [http://www.acroni.si/en/ Acroni official web site] ] , and the hockeyclub it sponsors, Acroni Jesenice [ [http://www.hkjesenice.si/ HK Acroni Jesenice web site] ] . The town name derives from the ash tree( _sl. jêsen), which once grew in abundance locally. The history of Jesenice is tightly knit with that of its ironworksand metallurgyindustries, which have until recently been the driving force of the town's development in practically all departments.
Geography and climate
Jesenice lies in the Upper Carniola region, in the
Upper Sava Valley. It is surrounded by the Karavankemountain range to the north and by mount Mežaklato the south. Across the Karavanke lies the Austrian town of Villach( _sl. Beljak). The resort town of Kranjska Gorais 15 kilometres northwest of Jesenice, while the picturesque tourist destination Bledlies 10 kilometres to the southeast. Other nearby villages and towns include Mojstrana, Hrušica and Žirovnica. The hamlet of Planina pod Golico, 5 km north of Jesenice, is popular with tourists, especially in May when the wild narcissiare in flower [ [http://www.jesenice.si/ Jesenice municipality web site] ] . Jesenice's climateis transitional between temperateand continental, with influences of alpine.
The German name for Jesenice is "Aßling", first mentioned in a 1004 document in which
Bled("Veldes" at that time) was also mentioned. There were no settlements there at that time, however, and the name Assling only marked an area on the banks of the Jesenica stream [Natalija Štular: "Od trga do mesta Jesenice : kratka zgodovina mesta Jesenice", Jesenice Municipality, 1999, p.8 ] . Later, a settlement slowly started to grow around the area now known as Murova, where the church of St. Lenart is today.
There are few sources for the early history of Jesenice; most of them focus on ironworks. The oldest is a set of mining rights issued to the House of
Ortenburg, dating to 1381. According to the document, the first settlements in the area were founded on the southern slopes of the Karavanke (not in the Sava valley) due to need for wood, flowing water for mills, and iron ore [ [http://www.gornjesavskimuzej.si/ Jesenice museum site] ] . With the development of new techniques of extraction of iron from ore, the need for water energy grew, and the small streams on the slopes of the Karavanke were no longer sufficient. The ore-extracting industry was thus relocated to the valley in 1538, when Bernardo Bucellini from Bergamogained permission from Emperor Ferdinand to move the ironworks to a greater water source, the Sava [Natalija Štular: "Od trga do mesta Jesenice : kratka zgodovina mesta Jesenice", Jesenice Municipality, 1999, p.12 ] , creating a settlement that was to become Jesenice. The ironworks continued to mine ore from the slopes of the Karavanke.
Members of the House of Ortenburg were the most prominent landowners in the area from the 11th century onwards. They were at their apex in the 13th century in terms of land, encompassing almost all of the
Savavalley from its source to its confluence with the Sora river. The oldest settlement in the area of the present-day Jesenice municipalityis Koroška Bela, founded in the 13th century. Initially, there were no other settlements in Koroška Bela's immediate surroundings. The House of Ortenburg, however, promoted colonisationof the Upper Sava Valley, especially in ore-rich areas. Throughout the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, the small settlements of Plavž, Sava, Murova and Slovenski Javorniksprung up. On 20 March 1929 all these settlements were, by decreeof king Alexander I of Yugoslavia, amalgamated into the town of Jesenice [Uradni List Kraljevine SHS 13.4.1929, reprinted in Štular, 1999, p.46] .
Industrial growth from the 19th century to World War I
The abovementioned settlements evolved independently of each other and until the arrival of the
railwayat the end of 19th century; they were only connected by a gravel road. Besides mining and ironworking, inhabitants made a living from agriculture and stockbreeding.
Different iron foundries belonged to different owners (the Zois, Ruard and Bucelleni families) and did not interact. All developed and evolved very quickly. This situation continued until the arrival of capitalist
liberalismin the 19th century. Compared to other foundries around the world at the time, the Jesenice ironworks were very out-of-date. The need for their modernisation was apparent, but this would require vast amounts of capital, which neither the Zoises, the Ruards nor the Bucellenis had available. Help was offered by a family of bankers from Ljubljana, the Luckmann family. They agreed to modernize the iron foundries, but demanded the foundation of a new shareholder company. The company, named "Kranjska Industrijska Družba" (KID) (Carniolan Industrial Company) was founded on September 18, 1869by the Luckmann family. The Zois family was the first to join the company, with the Ruards following three years later. The company soon expanded its activities to the Tržičironworks and to Croatia( Topusko). This was the first time that all the Upper Carniolan ironworks were joined under a single administration, with central management in Ljubljanaand business administration in Jesenice. The greatest achievement of KID was the discovery of a process for obtaining ferromanganesein a smelting furnace. This innovation brought KID a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Viennain 1873 and worldwide fame. Jesenice ironworks achieved a status as a pioneering centre of technical invention in the history of ironworking.
KID was also the basis for a new ironworks facility, which still provides employment today. The new facility started expanding quickly, from
medieval-style iron foundries to up-to-date modern ironworks facilities in just a few years. The town of Jesenice grew almost exponentially, with a great influx of people attracted to the newly created jobs.
Political, cultural and social life at the beginning of 20th century
The political, cultural and social life in Jesenice at the beginning of the 20th century was affected by the foundation of the competing
gymnasticsassociations "Sokol" (hawk) in 1904 and "Orel" (eagle) in 1906. The associations were aligned with competing political and social movements, and were in constant competition, providing the dynamics for political, cultural and social activities.
Other groups established at that time were a
choir, a reading club, a brass band, and the Workers' Catholic Association. Three political parties: clerical, liberal and social democratic, also became active in Jesenice, all three establishing their own cultural and gymnastics associations. Germanshad a great influence in Jesenice at that time; Orel and Sokol were founded as a counterweight to German influence, both being nationally-oriented [ [http://www.jesenice.si/default.asp?pdr_id=2731&lang_id=1060&obc_id=41 Jesenice Municipality site] ] .
In 1904, the rolling mills were relocated from Jesenice to Javornik (at the eastern end of today's Jesenice). Stockholders wanted to cover the expenses of relocation by lowering workers wages, which led to the first strike in Jesenice, involving around 400 workers. The strike lasted for six weeks, with strikers only partially achieving their goal] ) [ [http://www.trajekt.org/Transformation.pdf Transformation - urban regeneration workshop organised by the British Embassy in Slovenia and Jesenice Municipality] ] .
In 1870, the first railway tracks were laid through Jesenice, and construction of railway station followed soon after. This made Jesenice much better connected with the world and allowed for greater exports. In 1905, construction of the Karavanke-Bohinj railway was started. This was a very complicated project, since it demanded the drilling of two tunnels: one to Austria through the Karavanke and the other through the Kobla mountain in
Bohinjfor better access to Italy. The tunnels were successfully completed and the railway line was opened to traffic in a special ceremony attended by Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria[ [http://www.palinstravels.co.uk/book-4217 Michael Palin "New Europe"] ] .
During WW1, the ironworks were mainly converted to the manufacture of military products. The front lines being some distance to the south, the war did not reach Jesenice, which only suffered one bombing attack by Italian aircraft, with no casualties at all. With the end of World War I came major political changes - on
December 1, 1918, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Sloveneswas formed, opening up new markets. Due to its border position, Jesenice became an important traffic junction. A grammar school was established in 1914. The first boys' and girls' school was established in 1920 and, renamed in 1935, offering higher education. There was no high school in Jesenice before the end of World War II (it was established in 1945). For its own staffing needs, KID established an apprenticeship school in 1938. Between the wars, Jesenice was also the center of various kinds of craft and small trade. A tradesman's union was formed in 1920.
Development of the ironworks continued; by 1937, 4567 workers were affiliated to a greater or lesser extent with KID.
Italy occupied Jesenice on
April 11, 1941, with the Germans taking over eight days later. That resulted in the immediate arrest of some of the workers' leaders, educated and culture-affiliated individuals, and all Roma people. Forced mobilization and recruitmentfollowed soon after. The Germans were aware of the strategic and industrial importance of Jesenice, so they soon began with a programme of assimilation, introducing lessons only in the German languageto schools, germanizing public signs, etc. These measures lead to the formation of the Partisan movement in Jesenice; the most significant being the Cankar brigade.
As had been the case during World War I, the steel industry was again diverted to German military needs. Since most of the population was sympathetic to the resistance, sabotage was a problem, and the now-German management started importing French workers, which were followed by Italian workers after Italian
March 1, 1945, shortly before the end of the war, Jesenice suffered the worst bombing in its history, by Allied forces [ [http://www.trajekt.org/Transformation.pdf Transformation - urban regeneration workshop organised by the British Embassy in Slovenia and Jesenice Municipality] ] , which came in two waves. There were many casualties and a great deal of material damage in the centre of the town, including the total destruction of the train station.
After the end of World War II followed a new economic golden age. Soon after the war, two further smelting furnaces were put into operation. The Jesenice ironworks became one of the main steel manufacturers tasked with the rebuilding the newly-founded
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and started employing more people than ever before. Many new industrial buildings were built, increasing production manyfold. With this age of prosperity, Jesenice began to develop into its present shape. As the population increased, massive building of apartment blocks, houses and residential sections took place. Cultural, sports, school, medical and traffic infrastructurewas built. Jesenice became the center of black metallurgyin Slovenia. Introduction of electrical steel processing marked the era of manufacturing steel of higher quality and in greater quantities. At its peak in 1970s, the ironworks employed more than 8000 people.
After the collapse of
Yugoslavia, economic policies changed and the Jesenice ironworks could not compete with the much more developed metallurgy in the West. Another problem was the loss of acess to raw material resources, now located in the newly independent republics of the former SFRY. This led to massive layoffs and emigration of people in search of new jobs. The ironworks currently employs around 1350 workers [ [http://www.ukom.gov.si/eng/slovenia/publications/slovenia-news/1966/1974/ Republic of Slovenia, Government Communication Office, News 26 4 2005] ] , but has undergone massive modernisation. It is currently on the level of other steel making companies throughout the world. In the years since the declaration of Slovenian independence in 1991, however, Jesenice has become much less dependent on its metallurgic industry, and is currently developing other areas of its economy.
Jesenice is presently undergoing massive urban reconstruction with the help of EU resources [ [http://www.rs-rs.si/rsrs/rsrseng.nsf/I/B9D8908F19506295C125747F0020BA9B Republic of Slovenia, Audit Report Archive, Audit report on the ability of the Municipality of Jesenice to use European Union funds, 8 June 2007] ] . A new city centre is being built in the former industrial heart of the town, where almost all of the 1950s steelmill buildings have been demolished. Two shopping malls have already been built, as well as a new city hall. Current projects include rebuilding some old parts of town and upgrades to sporting facilities, as well as another high school.
The largest religious community in Jesenice are
Catholics, but as there is a significant minority of other ex-Yugoslav nationalities, due to the past need for labor for the steel industry, migration from Bosnia-Hercegovinahas supplied the town a significant Muslimminority. As with many East- and Central European countries, a nontrivial portion of the populace describe themselves as nonreligious.
During the late 80s and early 90s, Jesenice functioned as a "beachead" for (often non-traditional) religiuos communities attempting to make inroads in Yugoslavia, with a number of "house churches" of various affiliation functioning.
Places of worship in Jesenice include:
*Church of St. Lenart, the parish church, located in Murova
*Church of St. Barbara, a very small church, located in Plavž
Church of St. Ingenuin and St. Albuin, a historic and richly decorated church, located in Koroška Bela
* [Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and
Roch, located in Sava
*Church of the Holy Cross, located in
Planina pod Golico
*Jesenice Mosque, a small mosque located in lower Plavž
There are three high school-level institutions in Jesenice:
*"Srednja Šola Jesenice" (Intermediate School Jesenice), still commonly known by its former name of "ŽIC" ("Železarski Izobraževalni Center" or "Ironworks Educational Centre"), which offers 4-year vocational courses in technical and medicinal subjects. Founded by KID on 19 November 1938. [ [http://www.ssj-jesenice.net/ Srednja Šola Jesenice web site] ]
*"Gimnazija Jesenice" (Jesenice High School), a preparatory school with a 60-year tradition (founded 1945). [ [http://www.gimjes.si/ Gimnazija Jesenice web site] ]
*"Visoka šola za zdravstveno nego Jesenice" (Higher School of Medical Care Jesenice), a nursing college established in 2006 by the municipality. The first such program in Slovenia, it is accredited by the state Council for Higher Education in line with European directives and the
Bologna declaration. [ [http://www.vszn-je.si Visoka Šola za Zdravstveno Nego Jesenice web site] /] .
There are also three primary-level (grades 1-9) institutions:
*"Osnovna šola Toneta Čufarja Jesenice" (Tone Čufar Elementary School), named after the local writer
*"Osnovna šola Prežihovega Voranca Jesenice" (Prežihov Voranc Elementary School), named after the writer and communist activist
*"Osnovna šola Koroška Bela" (Koroška Bela Elementary School), operates in two locations, with a main site in
Koroška Belaand an annex in Blejska Dobrava. Formerly (pre-1992) named "Osnovna šola Karavanških Kurirjev NOB" (Karawanken Couriers of the National Liberation Struggle Elementary School).
Sightseeing and notable places
Places to visit in Jesenice include:
*The Ruard Manor in the Old Sava neighboorhood, housing the ironworks collections of the Upper Sava Museum
Kos Manorin the Murova neighboorhood, housing a gallery and the Upper Sava Museum's permanent local history exhibits, focusing on the Second World Warand the Workers' movement
Kasarnain Old Sava, housing the ethnographic collections of the Upper Sava Museum [ [http://www.gornjesavskimuzej.si/ museum web site] ]
*Numerous scenic places in the nearby countryside: for a peaceful walk or cycle ride, one can head up the hill to
Planina pod Golicoor to Pristava, where swathes of white narcissi bloom in springtime. Planina pod Golico is a good starting point for hikes further up into the mountains, to Golica, Rožca, or Španov vrh.
*One of the towering smokestacks of the old steelmill has been preserved as a mid-town landmark; the illuminated red star that formerly decorated its side has been replaced by advertising billboards.
ice hockeyfans, a visit to the Dvorana Podmežaklaice skating Ice hockey rink, home of the HK Acroni team, might be worthwhile, especially when there is a match on.
*There are also a few pubs and bars frequented by young people, such as Mars (by the hockey hall), Domina, Jožef, Dimnik (in Old Sava) and Teater (next to the Tone Čufar theatre and cinema).
Jesenice is not to be confused with the village of Jesenice, which lies in the
Lower Carniolaregion in the south-east of Slovenia on the border with Croatiain the municipality of Brežice, nor with the town of Jesenice u Prahyin the Czech Republic. See .
Miha Baloh, (born 1928), actor [ [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0051060/ Miha Baloh on Internet Movie Database] ]
Helena Blagne Zaman, (born 1963), singer
Tone Čufar(1905 - 1942), writer
Anja Klinar(born 1988), swimmer
Anže Kopitar(born 1987), ice hockey player
Tomo Križnar(born 1954), peace activist, writer
Thomas Luckmann(born 1927), sociologist
Miha Mazzini(born 1961), writer, screenwriter, film director
Teodora Poštič(born 1984), figure skater
Jure Robič(born 1965), ultra marathon cyclist
Rok Urbanc(born 1985), ski jumper
* [http://www.jesenice.si/ Official website]
* [http://www.jesenice-tourism.net/ Jesenice tourist portal]
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