|Traditional region||Upper Carniola|
|Statistical region||Upper Carniola|
|• Total||8.5 km2 (3.3 sq mi)|
|Elevation||576.3 m (1,890.7 ft)|
Jesenice (pronounced [jɛsɛˈniːtsɛ] ( ); German: Assling) is a town in the Municipality of Jesenice in Slovenia, on the Slovenian side of the Karawanks, bordering Austria to the north. It is the seat of the municipality. It is known as the home of Slovenia's largest steel company, Acroni, and the hockey club it sponsors, Acroni Jesenice. The town's name derives from the ash tree (Slovene: jêsen), which once grew in abundance locally. The history of Jesenice is closely connected with that of its ironworks and metallurgy industries, which until recently were driving force of the town's development in practically all areas.
- 1 Geography and climate
- 2 History
- 3 Religion
- 4 Education
- 5 Sightseeing and notable places
- 6 Notable people
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Geography and climate
Jesenice lies in the Upper Carniola region, in the Upper Sava Valley. It is surrounded by the Karawanks to the north and by Mount Mežakla to the south. Across the Karawanks lies the Austrian town of Villach (Slovene: Beljak). The resort town of Kranjska Gora is 25 km northwest of Jesenice, and the picturesque tourist destination of Bled lies 10 km 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 daffodils are blooming. Jesenice's climate is transitional between temperate and continental, with influences of alpine.
The German name for Jesenice is Aßling, first mentioned in a 1004 deed of donation issued by King Henry II of Germany, in which nearby 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 Jesenica Creek. Later, a settlement slowly started to grow around the area now known as Murova, where the St. Leonard church is today. With the March of Carniola it passed to the Austrian House of Habsburg upon the 1278 Battle on the Marchfeld.
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 Carinthian counts of Ortenburg, dating to 1381. According to the document, the first settlements in the area were founded on the southern slopes of the Karawanks (not in the Sava Valley) due to need for wood, flowing water for mills, and iron ore. 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 Karawanks were no longer sufficient. The ore-extracting industry was thus relocated to the valley in 1538, when Bernardo Bucellini from Bergamo gained permission from the Habsburg King Ferdinand I to move the ironworks to a larger water source, the Sava, creating a settlement that was to become Jesenice. The ironworks continued to mine ore from the slopes of the Karawanks.
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 Sava Valley from its source to its confluence with the Sora River. The House of Ortenburg promoted colonisation of 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 Javornik were founded. On 20 March 1929, by decree of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, all of these settlements were amalgamated into the town of Jesenice.
Industrial growth from the 19th century to World War I
The aforementioned settlements evolved independently of each other and until the arrival of the railway at the end of the 19th century; they were only connected by a gravel road. In addition to mining and ironworking, the local people 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 liberalism in 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, 1869 by 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 Tržič ironworks 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 Ljubljana and business administration in Jesenice. The greatest achievement of KID was the discovery of a process for obtaining ferromanganese in a smelting furnace. This innovation brought KID a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Vienna in 1873 and worldwide fame. The 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.
The political, cultural, and social life in Jesenice at the beginning of the 20th century was affected by the founding of the competing gymnastics associations, the progressive nationalist Sokol (Hawk) in 1904 and the Catholic 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 — the Catholic Slovene People's Party ("Clerical"), progressive nationalist ("Liberal"), and social democratic—also became active in Jesenice, all three establishing their own cultural and gymnastics associations. Germans had a great influence in Jesenice at that time; Orel and Sokol were founded as a counterweight to German influence, both being nationally-oriented.
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.
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 Karawanks-Bohinj railway was started. This was a very complicated project because it required drilling two tunnels: one to Austria through the Karawanks and the other through Mount Kobla in Bohinj for better access to Italy. The tunnels were completed and the railway line was opened to traffic in a special ceremony attended by Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
During World War I, 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. With the end of World War I came major political changes; on December 1, 1918, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was 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, 4,567 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. This resulted in the immediate arrest of some of the workers' leaders, educated and culture-affiliated individuals, and all Romani people. Forced mobilization and recruitment followed 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 German to 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. Because most of the population was sympathetic to the resistance, sabotage was a problem, and the German management started importing French workers, which were followed by Italian workers after Italian capitulation in 1943.
On March 1, 1945, shortly before the end of the war, Jesenice suffered the worst bombing in its history, by Allied forces, which came in two waves. There were many casualties and a great deal of damage in the centre of the town, including the total destruction of the train station.
After World War II there 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 infrastructure was built. Jesenice became the center of black metallurgy in Slovenia. Introduction of electrical steel processing marked the era of manufacturing steel of higher quality and in greater quantities. At its peak in the 1970s, the ironworks employed more than 8,000 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 access 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, but has undergone massive modernisation. It is currently at 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. 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 improvements to sports 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-Herzegovina has supplied the town a significant Muslim minority (Bosniaks). As with many Eastern European countries, a nontrivial portion of the populace describe themselves as nonreligious.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jesenice functioned as a "beachhead" for (often non-traditional) religious 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. Leonard, 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 St. Roch, located in Sava
- Church of the Holy Cross, located in Planina pod Golico
- Jesenice Mosque, a small mosque on Viktor Kejžar Street close to the town hall.
There is one college and two secondary schools in Jesenice:
- Visoka šola za zdravstveno nego Jesenice (Jesenice College of Nursing), 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.
- Srednja Šola Jesenice (Jesenice Secondary School), still commonly known by its former name of "ŽIC" (Železarski Izobraževalni Center or "Ironworks Education Centre"), which offers 4-year vocational courses in technical and medicinal subjects. Founded by KID on 19 November 1938.
- Gimnazija Jesenice (Jesenice High School), a preparatory school with a 60-year tradition (founded 1945).
There are also three primary-level (grades 1-9) institutions:
- Osnovna šola Toneta Čufarja Jesenice (Tone Čufar Primary School), named after the local writer Tone Čufar.
- Osnovna šola Prežihovega Voranca Jesenice (Prežihov Voranc Primary School), named after the writer and communist activist Prežihov Voranc.
- Osnovna šola Koroška Bela (Koroška Bela Primary School), operates in two locations, with a main site in Koroška Bela and an annex in Blejska Dobrava. Formerly (pre-1992) named Osnovna šola Karavanških Kurirjev NOB (Karawanks Couriers of the National Liberation Struggle Primary School).
Sightseeing and notable places
Places to visit in Jesenice include:
- The Upper Sava Museum, comprising:
- There are numerous scenic places in the nearby countryside: one can hike or cycle up to Planina pod Golico or to Pristava, where swathes of white narcisi bloom in springtime. Planina pod Golico is a good starting point for hikes further up into the mountains, to Golica, Rožca, or Španov vrh. The highest mountain in the Municipality of Jesenice is Vajnež, at 2,104 meters.
- 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 hockey fans can visit the Dvorana Podmežakla ice skating Ice hockey rink, home of the HK Acroni team, especially when there is a match on. Jesenice is also the birthplace of NHL star Anže Kopitar.
- 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).
Notable people that were born or lived in Jesenice include:
- Miha Baloh, (born 1928), actor
- 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
- Janez Modic (1846–?), beekeeper
- Teodora Poštič (born 1984), figure skater
- Jure Robič (1965–2010), ultra marathon cyclist
- Rudi Šeligo (1935–2004), writer and politician
- Rok Urbanc (born 1985), ski jumper
- Gregor Urbas (born 1982), figure skater
- Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia
- Acroni official web site
- HK Acroni Jesenice web site
- Jesenice municipal web site
- Natalija Štular: Od trga do mesta Jesenice: kratka zgodovina mesta Jesenice, Municipality of Jesenice, 1999, p.8
- Jesenice museum site
- Natalija Štular: Od trga do mesta Jesenice : kratka zgodovina mesta Jesenice, Municipality of Jesenice, 1999, p.12
- Uradni List Kraljevine SHS 13.4.1929, reprinted in Štular, 1999, p.46
- Jesenice municipal site
- Transformation - urban regeneration workshop organised by the British Embassy in Slovenia and Municipality of Jesenice
- Michael Palin New Europe
- Republic of Slovenia, Government Communication Office, News 26 4 2005
- Republic of Slovenia, Audit Report Archive, Audit report on the ability of the Municipality of Jesenice to use European Union funds, 8 June 2007
- Visoka Šola za Zdravstveno Nego Jesenice web site/
- Srednja Šola Jesenice web site
- Gimnazija Jesenice web site
- museum web site
- Miha Baloh on Internet Movie Database
- Bokal, Ljudmila, ed. 2008. Čebelarski terminološki slovar. Ljubljana: Založba ZRC, ZRC SAZU and Lukovica: Čebelarska zveza Slovenije, p. 256.
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