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Prime minister’s address on Rudolf Maister Day

There are many soldiers. And there are many poets. But there are few soldiers who are also poets. General Rudolf Maister would deserve to be remembered for this fact alone. But he was so much more. Just as he knew how to write – signing his works with his pen name Vojanov – he also knew how to wield a sword. So he was not only a man of words, but above all a man of actions. Without him our northern border would not be where it is today – if there would be a border at all.

In history there are moments when what was unimaginable suddenly becomes inevitable. This is certainly true of the downfall of Austria-Hungary at the end of World War One. This is why we refer to this time as a revolutionary period. New countries began to emerge from the ruins of the former Habsburg Empire. But their borders were not yet defined. They still had to be fought for.

Luckily, one of the commanders at the Melje barracks was a patriotic Slovenian officer from Kamnik. Maister not only rejected the attempt by the German municipal council to join Maribor and its surroundings with German Austria, but singlehandedly decided to take control of the city and all of southern Styria. At the same time he declared mobilisation, thereby founding the first regular Slovenian army.

We celebrate Rudolf Maister Day on 23 November because it was on this day in 1918 that this army, acting upon his command, disarmed the German national guard. This is how Maribor remained in Slovenian hands. And Maister did not stop there, but attacked northwards, to establish a nationally just border. As he writes in one of his poems, “let’s cross Šentvid together, to drink from the Zilja with our brothers".

Now we live in different times. Together with our neighbours we live in the European Union, where Slovene is one of the official languages. But we should nevertheless remember some truths on this day. For example, how our destiny depends on every one of us. And how our nation had individuals who knew how to take it into their own hands. So let us remember General Maister. And above all let us try to emulate him.

My very best wishes to all Slovenians on Rudolf Maister Day.