CARINTHIA   KÄRNTENKoruska (Slovene).

  1. Enthronement of the Dukes of Carinthia.

    Enthronement of the Dukes of Carinthia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Duchy in the Holy Roman Empire;

  2. Crownland in the Austrian Empire;
  3. Briefly a province in the French Empire
  4. Land in modern Austria.

It is an Alpine region, on the southern side of the range, and is drained by the River Drau (Drave).   The name comes from Carantania, a late name, perhaps Slav, for the southern and mountainous lands of the Roman province of Noricum.

Slavs settled in the region under Avar supremacy, but around the middle of the 8th century they came within the orbit of Bavaria.   They were led by dukes, one of whom, called Waltunc, may have been a German (c.770).   It was perhaps during the time of the Slavonic dukes that the ceremony that attended the enthronement of a new Duke began, a ceremony which was observed in the later middle ages, and last of all in 1597.

The new Duke of Carinthia, wearing peasant costume, approached the senior member of a Slovene peasant family seated at the base of a column.   After answering questions, handing over a piebald mare and a dappled bull, and being tapped upon the cheek by the peasant, the Duke took his place on the stone.   A church ceremony and a banquet followed, and then enthronement in a little copse where the Duke received homage.  It seemed to symbolise that the Duke’s authority stemmed from Carinthia itself, its land and people, but as its origins are unknown nothing is sure.

The Bavarian Duke Tassilo III was deposed by Charlemagne in 788, and in the 790s Avar power was overthrown. Carinthia became part of the Marcher region in the Frankish Kingdom that faced towards Hungary and the Balkans and ultimately towards the Byzantine Empire. After 843 it belonged to Louis the German’s East Frankish Kingdom.   Two major figures served in the Carinthian Mark in the later 9th century.

Arnulf of Carinthia was the bastard son of King Carloman of Bavaria, the eldest son of Louis the German, and was himself German King, 887-99.  His relative and associate in Carinthia, Luitpold, died in battle with the Magyars in 907 and was ancestor (and possibly the first) of the Luitpolding Dukes of Bavaria.

When Duke Henry the Wrangler was deposed in 976 Carinthia was separated from Bavaria and formed into a separate Duchy.   Its Duke also took over the northeast Italian March of Verona or Friuli.   Bavaria and Carinthia were briefly reunited, 989-95, under a restored and placid Henry the Wrangler.   Most of the Dukes of Carinthia were outsiders.   Only those of the Eppenstein family, who held the Duchy, 1011-36 and 1072-1122, came from Carinthia itself, though their Sponheim successors (1122-1269) had been Margraves of Istria and the last Ducal family, the Meinhardiner, held Görz in the March of Friuli and lands in the Tirol.

The early Dukes came from various families and some of them hardly established themselves in what had become an isolated land, because the Dukes found it hard to maintain the original large Duchy, which had combined Italian, German and Slav lands, Alpine lands and the lowlands beyond in northern Italy. Carniola, to the south of modern Carinthia, was a separate Mark by the early 11th century and Istria one by mid-century.   The Mark of Friuli was given to the Patriarch of Aquileia in 1077 and in the marcher area to the west around Verona the Duke’s power faded away. The Carinthian Mark, which lay to the east, also slipped away in the 11th century and was later to become the Mark and Duchy of Styria.

The last Sponheim Duke (1256-69) recovered strong influence in Carniola and Istria.   After his death his lands were seized by King Otakar II of Bohemia, ruler of Austria from 1251 and of the old Carinthian Mark from 1260.   He was forced from all these German lands in 1276 by the German King, Rudolf of Habsburg, who appointed the Count of Tirol, Meinhard III, first as governor of Carinthia and then in 1286 as Duke.   Meinhard’s last son died in 1335, whereupon Carinthia passed to the Habsburg Dukes of Austria, and remained Habsburg territory, with the odd interruption, until 1918.

In the partition of 1379 between the brothers Albert III and Leopold III, Carinthia, Carniola and Istria went to the latter, and in later partitions among Leopold’s heirs these lands were held with Styria, in what was known after the partition of 1564, as Inner Austria.

Carinthia itself was studded in the middle ages with a number of pockets of ecclesiastical land, held by the Archbishop of Salzburg and the Bishop of Bamberg.   The day-to-day administration of the latter’s lands had passed to the Habsburgs by the 18th century;  the episcopal lands were secularised in the early 19th century and all Carinthia was Habsburg.

In 1809 the western half of Carinthia, with Villach as capital, was ceded to the French Empire, where it was joined with the East Tirol (Austrian before 1805, then Bavarian until 1809) to form the Illyrian province of Carinthie.   By 1813 France was in full retreat and western Carinthia returned to the Habsburgs, though it was not until 1825 that the Klagenfurt Kreis, which had remained Habsburg in 1809, was fully reunited with the rest of the Duchy.

At the Peace Conference of 1919 the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes claimed much of eastern Carinthia, and obtained a small sector in the southeast, while Italy received a segment of southern Carinthia.

Besides these losses of territory, two plebiscite areas were created under the Treaty of St Germain with Austria, 1919.

The plebiscite in Zone A (the southeast of Carinthia, focussed on the  valley of the Drau/Drava), which contained a considerable Slovene population, took place on 10th October 1920.   The turn-out was remarkable – 96% – and 59% of the vote favoured Austria, even though only 31% of the population had been reckoned to be German in the Austrian census of 1910.   Many of the Slovenes of Carinthia looked on themselves as Windisch rather than Slovenes.

There was no point in carrying out the plebiscite in Zone B, which lay around Klagenfurt and was far more German in composition.  So Carinthia remained almost intact as a Land in the new Republic of Austria.

In the Third Reich East Tirol was added to what became the Reichsgau of Carinthia in 1939, and in 1941 northern Carniola was annexed from Yugoslavia.   At war’s end Yugoslavia hoped to gain eastern Carinthia but was again disappointed.   Carinthia was in the British Occupation Zone.

Kärnten is a middling Land, 5th in area and 6th in population among the nine Länder.   It is divided into 2 Stadtbezirke (Klagenfurt and Villach) and 8 Landbezirke.   The Landbezirke are themselves divided into 129 Gemeinden altogether.   Of these 13 have the status of a Stadt and 34 that of a Markt.   The capital is Klagenfurt;  the diocese for the Land is that of Gurk, originally founded in 1072, in the province of Salzburg.

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