White Carniola (Slovene: Bela krajina; German: Weißkrain or Weiße Mark) is a small traditional region in southeastern Slovenia on the border with Croatia. It is the southernmost part of the historic Lower Carniola region.
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The area is confined by the Gorjanci and Kočevski Rog mountain ranges in the north and west and the Kolpa River in the south and east, which also forms part of the border between Slovenia and Croatia. As the area could only be reached from northern Lower Carniola by mountain passes, the inhabitants cultivate a certain distinctness.
The region corresponds to the present-day municipalities of Metlika, Črnomelj and Semič. The terrain is characterised by low karst hills and extended birch forests. The main river is the Kolpa with its Lahinja, Dobličica and Krupa tributaries.
White Carniola is known for the Grič and Kanižarica pottery from clay with a distinct calcite content, as well as for high-quality wines, such as metliška črnina (a dark red wine), belokranjec (a white wine), and modra frankinja (i.e. Blaufränkisch). One of the features of the region is also a traditional circle dance called belokranjsko kolo.
The name Bela krajina literally means 'white march'. The noun krajina 'march' refers to a border territory organized for military defense. The adjective bela 'white' may refer to the deciduous trees (especially birch trees) in the area in comparison to "black" (i.e. coniferous) trees in the neighboring Kočevje area. It may also be an old designation for 'west', referring to the western location of the region in comparison to the Croatian Military Frontier (Slovene: Vojna krajina). Non-linguistic explanations connect the designation bela with the traditional white linen clothing of the population. The German designation Weißkrain (and in turn the English name White Carniola) is the result of a hypercorrection based on the adjective belokrajnski (understood as a dialect metathesis of *belokranjski) (cf. also German Dürrenkrain, English: Dry Carniola, for Slovene Suha krajina, literally 'dry region').
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In the early 12th century, the area was part of the disputed border region between the Windic March and the March of Carniola, established by the Holy Roman Empire in the northwest, and the Hungarian crown lands in the Kingdom of Croatia in the southeast. From about 1127 the local counts of Višnja Gora (Weichselberg) backed by the Sponheim margraves and the Salzburg archishops crossed the Gorjanci mountains and marched against the Hungarian and Croatian forces, which they pushed beyond the Kolpa river down to Bregana.
The Counts of Weichselberg, descendants of Saint Hemma of Gurk, established the Imperial Weiße Mark ("White march") in the acquired territories. They took their residence at Metlika (Möttling), therefore in contemporary sources there lands were also referred to as County of Möttling. After the line had become extinct in 1209, the possessions passed to the Carniolan margraves from the Bavarian House of Andechs, Dukes of Merania, and were finally acquired for the House of Habsburg by Archduke Rudolf IV of Austria, who proclaimed himself Duke of Carniola in 1364.
Several castles were built in the border region, especially during the Ottoman Wars from the 15th century onwards, as in Črnomelj, Gradac and Vinica. The remains of the large fortress in Pobrežje were destroyed in World War II.
Notable people that were born or lived in White Carniola include:
- Juro Adlešič (1884–1968), lawyer and politician, mayor of Ljubljana 1935–1942
- Draga Ahačič (born 1924), actress, film director, translator and publicist
- Andrej Bajuk (1943–2011), politician and economist
- Joe Cerne (born 1942), American football player
- Oton Gliha (born 1914), Croatian painter
- Miran Jarc (1900–1942), writer, poet, playwright and essayist
- Lojze Krakar (1926–1995), poet, translator, editor, literary historian and essayist
- John Vertin (1844–1899), Catholic priest, Bishop of Marquette, US from 1879
- Oton Župančič (1878–1949), poet, playwright and translator
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