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Slovenia: Use of Carantanian Panther flags by nationalist parties and movements

Last modified: 2010-12-04 by ivan sache
Keywords: panther (black) | carantania | hervardi society | tu je slovenija |
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The Carantanian Panther symbol

The black panther is a putative historical symbol of the early-medieval Slavic principality of Carantania - in some ways an antecedent of present-day Slovenia. The imputation of this usage to Carantania is generally considered ahistorical; Erik Valenčič published in the weekly Mladina, 22/2010, a nice and concise summary of the matter (article).

Of all the symbols that distinguish Slovenian ultra-rightist youth, the most popular is certainly the so-called Carantanian Panther; the groups Tu je Slovenija and Hervardi have adopted it as their hallmark. The Carantanian Panther (a black panther on a white banner) is to have been the symbol of the former Carantania, as well as a more general embodiment of the glorious and warlike past of the Slovenian nation. Supporters of this idea have only one problem, but it is an insurmountable one: the Panther was unheard of in Carantania. It is therefore a simple purportion or mythical construct, more than anything else a fabrication of the past.
Historian and professor at the Department of History at the Faculty of Arts of Ljubljana University Dr. Peter Štih warned several years ago in an interview with Mladina: "In sources there is borne out absolutely no connection between this symbol and the old-Slavic Carantania." The comprehensive Encyclopedia of Slovenia does not mention it either, because the Panther did not appear in the area until after the disintegration of the former greater Carantania into individual feudal duchies at the beginning of the 11th century.
Dr. Andrej Pleterski, an archaeologist and historian working at the Institute SRC SAZU in Ljubljana, adds: "the Panther originates from the 12th-century noble house of Spanheim. It is true that the family then lived in Carinthia, but it had no relation to the former Carantania. How, therefore, has the Panther entered into modern Slovenian consciousness? Its main promoter, Dr. Jožko Šavli, belongs to the narrow circle of Slovenian venetologists, people who in short argue that the [autochtonous BC-era tribe] Veneti were in fact ancient Slovenes, present in the area since prehistoric times. Šavli disseminated this theory in the Korotan Gazette, published by Father John Tomažič in Vienna. From here the matter was taken up by MP Zmago Jelinčič [SNS, ultranationalist] and spread widely. But it needs to be stressed that Šavli's design does not have much to do with the Spanheim arms, something apparent when examined in detail: Šavli's Panther is gussied up, wild, snorting, angry, it is thus a modern creation, which attempts to establish an artificial connection with some seemingly aggressive and glorious past, which did not in fact exist."
It should be noted that Šavli is not a historian, but an economist, for whom the Carantanian Panther theme and the "prehistory" of Slovenians is a hobby. In professional circles he is very lonely, and his theory is doomed to eternal mockery. And how does Šavlii interpret his isolation? On the Hervardi website, in an article on the Carantanian panther, he explains: "the Carantanian coat, with its content, is clearly a serious nuisance to someone. And this 'someone' cannot be anyone other than the old Yugoslav structure, more or less represented by the secret service KOS. Slovenian police, after more than a decade of government by the Yugoslav-oriented parties LDS and SD, does not have the power to block its activity. (...) Until when the old Yugoslav structures will intimidate the Slovenian public, and especially young people, it is not possible to know." Someone who does not understand the past cannot understand the present. But there is more to it than that: conspiracy theories like Šavli's are generally deployed only in the complete absence of tangible supporting arguments.

Originally, around independence, the panther was broadly viewed as a generic national symbol, but it has since come to be seen more and more as a symbol of the nationalist right. It is at this point too firmly identified with the objectionable fringe of the political spectrum to ever be a prospect in the event of a serious move to replace the current flag.

Eugene Ipavec, 21 June 2010

This/Here is Slovenia (Tu je Slovenija)

[Black panther flag]

Black panther flag - Images by Eugene Ipavec, 21 June 2010

The aforementioned article is illustrated with a photo of a rally in front of the Parliament; those in attendance are waving white flags with a large panther overall. This design is apparently used both generically and as the flag of the group Tu je Slovenija See also an orange gonfanon charged with the black panther (photo).

Eugene Ipavec, 21 June 2010

Hervardi Society

[Hervadi flag]         [Hervadi flag]

Hervadi flag, horizontal and vertical versions - Images by Eugene Ipavec, 21 June 2010

The Hervardi Society is a Slovene ultranationalist group founded in 2004. "Hervardi" is not a Slovene word; the name allegedly derives from the standing army of early-medieval Carantania, a compound of the Venetic herai (strike) and varda (guards).
The flag shown on the Hervrdi website (image) is red, symbolizing "blood spilled for Slovenia", with the Carantanian Panther shield in the middle, in chief the name of the society in white letters on black. A vertical version of the flag (with the red shade lighter than on the graphic of the horizontal flag and no name above the thinner-bordered arms) can be seen on a photo, but Hervardi seem to more often use the aforementioned white flag with the large panther. It should be noted that Hervardi uses a simplified panther, compared to the more ornate version on the white flag.
The group apparently attracts skinheads, but I don't think the red field with the white shield and the black charge is meant as an evocation of the Nazi flag, as Hervardi claims to be explicitly antifascist and has had bad blood with other skinhead groups like Kri in Čast, the Slovene branch of Blood and Honour.

Eugene Ipavec, 21 June 2010

Alleged Carantanian medieval flags

[Duke's flag]         [March flag]         [Count's flag]         [Castellan's flag]

[Duke's flag]         [March flag]         [Count's flag]

Alleged Carantanian medieval pennants
First row, from left to right, Duke (vojvoda), March (?, krajnik), Count (grof) and Castellan (gradnik);
Second row, from left to right, Commanders of the East, North and West regions - Images by Eugene Ipavec, 21 June 2010

The Hervardi website shows images of flags labelled as the Duke's standard, military rank and regional command pennants of the Duchy of Carantania, pre-12th century. Not impossible, maybe, but very much unlikely, and so far as I know unattested historically.

Željko Heimer & Eugene Ipavec, 21 June 2010