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The Government Office for Slovenians abroad would like Slovenians abroad to remain part of the single Slovenian space and to be actively involved in our intellectual, cultural, economic, scientific and social development. The Government Office therefore supports activities that contribute to the preservation and consolidation of the identity of Slovenians abroad, programmes for learning Slovenian language, and the preservation and enrichment of Slovenian culture.

In the past, our compatriots who emigrated from the Slovenian national territory were divided into workers abroad and expatriates. In sociological terms, workers abroad are nationals who intend to return to their homeland, whereas expatriates have no such intention; in legal terms, workers abroad keep their permanent residence in their country of origin, while expatriates do not.

However, as life decisions and lifestyles are changing and working abroad often changes into expatriatism, and moreover, as both concepts are not accurate for the second and subsequent generations, i.e. the descendants of workers abroad and expatriates, in more recent times, the single term of Slovenians abroad, or the diaspora, has been most frequently used.

Slovenians emigrated from the Slovenian ethnic territory in three major waves

In the period between 1860 and 1914 there was a significant increase in the population of Europe, including Slovenia, and the land could no longer sustain such great numbers. Moreover, farmers gained personal freedom following the abolition of feudalism and many young men wanted to avoid military service. It is estimated that in this wave, which ended with the First World War, almost one third of the population emigrated from the Slovenian ethnic territory. They most often emigrated to the USA, Germany, Argentina, and other parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and to a lesser extent to Brazil, Venezuela, Canada and elsewhere. A particular group of emigrants were the so-called Alexandrines, mostly young women from the Primorska region and Ziljska Dolina (Ziljska Valley), who would emigrate to Egypt to serve as wet nurses and nannies for rich families.

In the period from 1918 to 1941, Slovenians were abandoning their homes due to a combination of economic (less developed regions) and political reasons (the people of Primorska were fleeing from fascism and Carinthian Slovenians from German nationalism). The tactic of political persecution often included economic neglect of target regions. As the USA eventually placed severe restrictions on immigration, the bulk of emigrants turned to Argentina and, to a lesser extent, to other South American countries, and also to Canada and Australia. There was also considerable emigration to other European countries, mostly France, Belgium and Germany. Furthermore, a part of the population emigrated to other parts of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians. The emigration of young women to Egypt continued.

In the period after the Second World War and the end of the 1970s emigration was influenced by political and economic reasons. Immediately after the end of the Second World War, there was an exodus of people who did not agree with the communist authorities and whose lives were threatened as a consequence. First they settled in refugee camps in Austria and Italy and from there they migrated around the world. In the following decades, many people who came into conflict with the communist authorities continued to emigrate from Slovenia. They mostly left for Argentina, the USA, Australia, Canada, and to a lesser extent, to the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany. The 1960s, however, witnessed a wave of economic migrants, which mostly headed to Germany, Sweden, France, Australia, Canada, and the USA, as well as to certain other European countries.

Modern emigration is primarily a search for better career opportunities

After the Republic of Slovenia gained independence, emigration continued in small numbers. It mainly involved individuals who moved abroad in search of better career opportunities, or for love, adventure, etc. Emigration increased again during the most recent economic and financial crisis (2008/2009) and has since been rising steadily, reaching around 9,000 citizens per year. The characteristics of modern migrants are different from the first three emigrant waves.

In addition to the above, there are several smaller "categories" of Slovenian expatriates, such as Slovenian missionaries working around the world.

There are also four civil society (non-governmental) organisations in Slovenia whose main purpose is to link Slovenians abroad with their home country: Svetovni slovenski kongres (Slovenian World Congress), Slovenija v svetu (Emigrant Association Slovenia in the World), Slovenska izseljenska matica (Slovene Emigrant Association), and Rafaelova družba (St. Raphael's Society).