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The Black Panther Story

Frustration of an honest Slovenian!

by Dr. Jozko Šavli, FAS, KdB, FSAI

At the beginning of the 1980's, I hit upon an excellent book entitled Das Landeswappen der Steiermark (The Coats of Arms of Styria, Graz 1900) written by A. Anthony von Siegenfeld.  The author was one of the best heraldic scholars in the Habsburg monarchy at that time.  He was, however, German-national-oriented, and he was a sympathizer of the pan-Germanic movement, which tended to extend the German speaking territory from the North Sea toward the South to the Adriatic Sea.

Such an expansion could be carried out only over the Slovenian area.  Therefore, the pan-Germanic circles in the Monarchy began to Germanize the Slovenian people.  In order to do this, Slovenians had to be led to believe that they were a people "without a history", i.e., so that they should never be able to establish their own state.  Their culture and also their language had to be kept at a lower level - in contrast to the Germans, who were the bearers of progress in central Europe.   This way, the Slovenians would disappear from the scene, without damage to the European civilization.

For this purpose the interpretation of Slovenian history, particularly at the University of Graz and also elsewhere, was distorted.  The Austrian and German academic world which was invaded by the pan-Germanic ideology continuously denied the existence of the earlier Slovenian State called Carantania, in the southern part of today's Austria [south of a line between Vienna and Salzburg].  Nowadays in the German and Austrian historical books, Carantania is not to be found.

Even as this was so, I was very surprised to find that book on the Styrian Coats of Arms, and I learned that the panther was of Carantanian and Bavarian origins.  I had to do further research on this topic.  Doing this, I found some articles concerning the Styrian Panther, among them the well-known La panthère de Styrie, written by R. Viel (Archivum Heraldicum, Lausanne 1964).   However, the author did not mention its Carantanian origin.  It is obvious that he had purposely avoided this fact.

In Slovenia, at that time still part of Yugoslavia, the historiography was strictly under the control of Belgrade.  Actually what Belgrade did not take into consideration was that the early Slovenian State called Sclaunia (Slovenia) or Carantania, was mentioned in the historical sources already in 595 A.D. (Paulus Diaconus).  Belgrade claimed that the Slovenians or Carantanians, when Christianized after 750 A.D., also lost their independence by recognizing the supremacy of the Frankish King.  This was not so.

They omitted the fact that the Frankish King, empowered by the Pope, was the protector of Christian Europe.  In 800 A.D. the Pope crowned Charlemagne as Emperor.  This was the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire, the Sacrum Imperium Romanum, which united the Christian community of Western Europe in defense against the Islamic world.  Within this Christian community Carantania maintained its independence.  Centuries later, when the Habsburgs took power in Vienna, the name Austria was imposed on Carantania.

However, as directed by Belgrade, the continuation of Carantania as a Slovenian state had to be denied.  For both, the pan-Germanic movement in the former Monarchy and the Serbs, Carantania was disturbing.  Disturbing to the Serbs and their plan for a "Greater Serbia" which Yugoslavia was intended to become.  The "Greater-Serbia" ideology headed by the Serbian Academy, could not tolerate the existence and the continuation of an independent Slovenian state in their historiography.

Belgrade's requirements were to show the history of the Slovenians as 'under the German yoke', beginning with the recognition of the supremacy of the Frankish King, and ending in 1918, when their Serbian "brothers" supposedly saved them from it.

For the occasion of the declaration of independence of Slovenia, in 1991, the Serbian linguist Pavle Ivic, a member of the Serbian Academy, was quoted in Time International (No. 41, October 14, 1991).  Here is what James B. Graff (p. 15) wrote, and here is what Paul Ivic said:

"Thus, as Serbs have it, Yugoslavia was created by their military prowess, which benefited their Slav brethren in Croatia and other regions by giving them statehood… Says Pavle Ivic: "The Croatians and Slovenes have practically no history, and they never fought for their nation.  They have suffered, perhaps quite naturally, from an inferiority complex, first toward Austria and then toward Serbia."

In the 1980's, I had already published a paper concerning the Black Panther, Coat of Arms of Carantania.  It was published in Glas Korotana (No. 7, Vienna 1981), edited by Father Tomazic, rector of the Slovenian student home Korotan in Vienna.  The paper was, quite naturally, ignored in Slovenia, which at that time still belonged to Yugoslavia.  However, it stirred up an interest in the heraldic world.  The chairman of the Austrian heraldic association Adler, Prof. Hanns Jäger-Sunstenau, published in the Archivum Heraldicum (Bulletin No. 3-4/1982) a recension in which he recognized the Carantanian origin of the Panther.

In the eyes of the pan-Germanic ideology and notwithstanding the interpretation of the actual history of Carantania, from which also the history of Austria derived, it was falsified so it would appear that Austria continued through German roots.

In the mid-1980's, I published in the weekly "Die Furche of Vienna" an article concerning Lower Styria.  The article was read also by the Prof. Erich Körner, a Styrian, and it filled him with enthusiasm.  Later, during a discourse with me about the Austrians and their origin, he exclaimed: "Wir sind Carantaner!" [We are Carantanians].

It felt, as if cataracts had fallen from my eyes.  It is evident that during the centuries a great many of the Carantanians adopted the German language, but they remained Austrians, historically the same people as the Slovenians.  One and the other have the same national history; they derived from Carantania-Austria.  A common history which for ideological reasons, the pan-Germanic and the pan-Slavic or united-Yugoslav ideologies did not like and so created their own versions of history.

I thought the public in Slovenia remained indifferent about the Black Panther which I discovered as the coat of arms of Carantania.  However, in 1990 on the threshold of the declaration of independence, a group of youngsters proposed that a new coat of arms should replace the one that reflected the Republic of Slovenia in the communist Yugoslavia.  Such a proposal was rejected by three members of the Historical Institute of the Slovenian Academy - Prof. Bogo Grafenauer, Mag. Stane Granda, and Dr. Boz'o Otorepec - who even signed a declaration (No. II - 128/90).  They did not mention the Panther at all by its name, but referred to it only as an "animal-figure", and here is what they said:

"… We condemn the misuse of the historical facts which are incorrectly interpreted by the media …that creates confusion among the people, in particular because they propose for the Slovenian national symbol, colours and an animal-figure which were until 1918 and between two wars, the symbols of the power which pertained to the main bearers of the Germanization and of the fight against the unity and freedom of the Slovenians."

This declaration reflected the obligatory point of view in the matter of Slovenian history, imposed consistently from Belgrade.  It was, in fact, ammunition to the Slovenians who at that time were preparing a referendum on the independence.   It was not possible to deny, that such a declaration was given by the same people who made their academic career under the Yugoslav regime, in conformity with the Yugoslav ideology.  Indeed, the academic world in Slovenia remains in that position until today.  Moreover, it is not tolerant toward the individuals who wished to express another point of view.

To me it was clear that this situation was created and directed by the Yugoslav underground which still remained in Slovenia after the declaration of independence, and it became even more and more potent.  In fact, in today's Slovenia it is not possible to publish articles and pictures of the Black Panther.  The Yugoslav underground gradually took control over the media and the public thinking in Slovenia.

In April 2000, Father Tomazic and I were invited to register for a discourse about the Veneti and Carantania on the Television of Ljubljana.  The following day a group of Slovenian skinheads took to the streets and carried a Black Panther as a neo-Nazi sign..  They were evidently fired up and financed by the Yugoslav underground, because they carried some neo-Nazi signs and, among them, the Black Panther.  Our discourse, recorded for Ljubljana Television, was planned to be aired in August, when usually the majority of people is on vacation.  It seems, that even this circumstance troubled the underground.  Two weeks later the newspaper Delo of Ljubljana published in a very visible place, a picture showing the skinheads carrying the Black Panther.  Above that article, the columnist was even published reporting that the German Nazi skinheads killed a colored man.

It was a primitive move which had no connection whatsoever with the historical Slovenian symbol of the Black Panther.  But the Slovenian public understood immediately its real background, and since then the popularity of the Panther has been increasing continuously.

Dr. Jozko Šavli
Fellow of the Augustan Society
Knight de Bryan
Fellow of the Solidality of Ark International

Page Created:  July 1, 2001
Page Updated:  July 4, 2001
©Copyright 2001 Gary L. Gorsha