STA, 29 March, 2018 –- To honour the general who defended what is now Slovenia's northern border, the city of Maribor is launching a series of events dedicated to Rudolf Maister. A ceremony termed Poet in Military Uniform will be held and an exhibition opened at the arts centre Narodni Dom Maribor tonight.
Following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Major Maister (1874-1934) prevented Maribor and the Podravje area from being made part of German Austria, the country created after WWI comprising areas of the former empire with a predominantly German-speaking population.
On 30 October 1918, the German city council declared Maribor and its surroundings part of German Austria, which was unacceptable for Maister, an ardent Slovenian patriot.
Two days later, he addressed his soldiers, saying: "I don't recognise these points. I declare Maribor an area of the State of Slovens, Croats and Serbs and on behalf of my government, I take command of the city and the entire region of Lower Štajerska."
He then asked Slovenian soldiers and officers, who had served in the Austro-Hungarian army during WWI, to stay with him because the new state needed them.
On the same say, all barracks and other key infrastructure in Maribor were under his military command.
The Slovenian authorities, the National Council for Štajerska, promoted him to general, and he formed a 4,200-strong army, the first Slovenian army in modern history.
The 2018 Maister Year will thus celebrate the centenary of his campaign to defend Slovenian ethnic territory in Štajerska and Koroška which ended in 1919.
He will be also presented as a poet and painter as well as a book lover.
The celebrations, which will cost the city 30,000 euro, have been prepared upon the proposal of the General Rudolf Maister Patriotic Association from Maribor.
Invited to take part were the Slovenian Armed Forces, the Primary School of Fighters for the Northern Border and the Maribor National Liberation Museum.
Some 30 events will take place at 14 different venues in the city and its surroundings, according to programme coordinator Mitja Špes from Factumevent.
A documentary on Maister will be screened at the Maribor University Library, and an air show organised to mark 100 years since Maister established an aircraft unit.
A public call for literary works will be launched, a special lecture on Maister delivered at schools around the country, and young poets will meet at Maister's linden tree.
The Slovenian Army will hold Open House at the General Maister Barracks in May and the entire 72nd brigade, stationed in Maribor, will be lined up in November.
"Events are meant to honour not only Maister and his soldiers, but all those who facilitated these historical events in Maribor," said Aleš Arih from the association.
The annual celebrations will culminate in November when Maribor hosts the state ceremony marking Rudolf Maister Day, which is celebrated on 23 November.
The day has been observed as a public holiday since 2005.
Just recently, a local gallery owner has given an idea to erect a tomb to Maister that would reflect his greatness and importance for Slovenians.
The plans for the tomb were commissioned by Maister's children with acclaimed architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) already in the 1930s.
Maister is buried at Maribor's Pobrežje Cemetery, where he has a modest grave, but the idea is to erect the tomb at the new memorial park, Dobrava Cemetery.
The city is still in talks on the project and the final decision is expected to be known soon.