The earliest known writings in the Slovenian language date back to the end of the first millennium - the Freising Manuscripts.
Two writers are widely regarded as the founders of Slovenian culture. The first was Primož Trubar, a Protestant reformer who built the foundation for Slovenian literary language with works published in the middle of the 16th century.
The second is Slovenia's greatest and most celebrated poet, France Prešeren. Prešeren established through his voluminous work Slovenia's first national programme. The national awards for culture bear his name, and are awarded on the National day of Culture, an official holiday.
At the end of the 17th century, the historian Janez Vajkard Valvasor provided unique perspective and vivid description to the Slovenian territory of the time. A century later, the works of the German baron Žiga Zois formed a solid foundation for Slovenian linguistics and essayism.
Among the modernists the writer Ivan Cankar and poet Oton Župančič stand out, while the constructivist Srečko Kosovel and dramatist Slavko Grum offered crucial insight into the developing Slovenian experience.
The second half of the twentieth century recorded at least three other literary greats: the poet Dane Zajc, the writer Lojze Kovačič, and the writer, playwright and essayist Drago Jančar.
Boris Pahor (1913), Slovene writer who lives and works in his native city of Trieste, has gained widespread recognition in Slovenia and in the world recently. He is considered to be one of the most important living authors in the Slovene language and has been nominated for the Nobel prize for literature by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Theatre and Film
To this day, dramatic art remains one of the favourite forms of the nation’s cultural life. Slovenian theatre has achieved considerable success both at home and abroad. Today, there are six national theatres outside Ljubljana, while the country’s leading theatres remain the so-called Slovene National Theatre Drama (SNG Drama) companies with opera and ballet houses in Ljubljana and Maribor, respectively.
Among the directors of the younger generation who in the past two decades have impressed domestic and foreign audiences alike with their (post)modern poetics, the most notable are Vito Taufer, Tomaž Pandur, and Matjaž Pograjc.
In recent times, modern dance has attracted many young artists. Iztok Kovač (b. 1962) and Matjaž Farič (b. 1965), both performers and choreographers, have won international recognition with their dance troupes.
Though relatively small the Slovenian film industry has received some attention abroad. Directors France Štiglic, Jože Gale, Matjaž Klopčič and Boštjan Hladnik, collaborating with colleagues from abroad, have received a number of international awards. Today, the young generation of Slovenian directors (Metod Pevec, Jan Cvitkovič, Damjan Kozole and Janez Burger) is attracting the attention of juries at international film festivals.
In Slovenia, professional musicianship proper began in 1701 when the Philharmonic Society was founded in Ljubljana. While the first major Slovenian musical compositions date back to the 16th century works of Jacobus Gallus, uniquely Slovenian musical creativity began to surface only at the turn of this century.
Among composers Marij Kogoj, Marjan Kozina, Lucijan Marija Škerjanc, Primož Ramovš, Vinko Globokar, Janez Matičič, Uroš Rojko, Jani Golob and Aldo Kumar have introduced Slovenian works to wider European audiences. Among performers, pianist Dubravka Tomšič, flutist Irena Grafenauer, tenor Janez Lotrič and mezzo-sopranos Marjana Lipovšek and Bernarda Fink have earned wide acclaim, and largely perform abroad.
In the field of popular music the band Laibach with its early industrial sound from the 1980s still has a cult following around the world. Siddharta is one of the most popular Slovenian bands, who excites not only teenagers, but also their parents.
A special musical phenomenon are the world famous founders of traditional popular music The Avseniki.
The history of our country's visual arts is rich with important artists. Although talented artisans and painters were already working and refining their craft as early as the 12th century, there were Slovenian impressionists whose works finally placed Slovenian painting firmly on the European cultural map. With the development of the Slovenian Academy of Art after the Second World War, a much wider circle of painters emerged, including Gabriel Stupica, Riko Debenjak, Maksim Sedej, Božidar Jakac, Veno Pilon, France Mihelič and Zoran Mušič.
Also important was the Ljubljana Graphics School, which has grown together with the internationally acclaimed Biennial of Graphic Arts (from 1955).
Due largely to the works of Jože Plečnik, Slovenian architecture maintains a special place in the country's cultural heritage. Plečnik's most notable works include the renovation of the Hradčany Castle and grounds in Prague, Zacherl's Palace in Vienna, and Ljubljana's Žale Cemetery and the National Library. A number of his students and contemporaries, Max Fabiani, Ivan Vurnik, Edvard Ravnikar and the Viennese Slovenian Boris Podrecca build upon Plečnik's acknowledged legacy.
Many artists (Marjetica Potrč, Marina Gržinič, Marko Peljhan, Jože Barši, Tadej Pogačar) and collectives (particularly Irwin) present the Slovenian art scene at exhibitions abroad, including the Venice Biennial.
Alternative and Amateur Cultural Activities
The alternative scene has become such a vital, flourishing part of Slovenia's cultural life that its own centres have evolved, ironically enough, in the former Yugoslav army barracks at Metelkova in Ljubljana and Melje in Maribor.
Perhaps the most significant contribution made by amateur cultural groups is that they enable a lively cultural life in even the smallest Slovenian settlements and in the countryside.