After the First World War, the territory of Hungarian Vas and Zala counties was divided to the three new states and five border regions: Burgenland in Austria, Vas and Zala in Hungary, and Medimurje and Prekmurje in Yugoslavia (nowadays in Croatia and Slovenia). Associational life began to flourished and until today, in all five regions, the concentration of volunteer fire departments – to single out one of the most numerous voluntary association - is the largest or one of the largest in the country. In Prekmurje, for example, there were twenty-two fire departments before 1918, while until the beginning of the Second World War, 128 new departments were established. Volunteer associations in Prekmurje played an important role in the ‘Slovenification’ of the territory as well as inclusion of socially different parts of the population. Traditionally, firefighting departments were founded in towns, where the urban elite occupied prominent positions. However, after the First- and the Second World War, volunteer firefighting departments were established in almost every Prekmurian village or local community. Organized as self-administered units on the communal level, voluntary associations, like the firefighters, were at the same time responsible to state control and form their own regional, national, and international federations. In the late 1940s, socialist Yugoslavia adopted the system of self-management, which envisioned for the municipalities to eventually form self-sufficient units. Below the municipal level were the so-called ‘local communities’ (krajevna skupnost), which were given extended powers by the constitution. By the late 1970s, in the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, the number of voluntary fire departments (1,270) roughly matched the number of local communities (1,170). It was in the local communities, where associations like volunteer firefighters played an important role in the community life as well as encouraged transregional cooperation. The lecture focuses on the period of post-First World War and post-Second World War transformation – to the post-imperial and to the state-socialist system—and argues that the local voluntary associations in Prekmurje emerged and operated both from above and below, as well as from inside and outside .
Ana Kladnik is a researcher at the Institute for Contemporary History in Ljubljana. She works on modern European history (particularly East Central Europe), political and social transformation process of the 20th century, socialism, democratization, nationalism, urban history, and the history of civil society. After being a PhD researcher at the Institute for Contemporary History in Prague, she then worked at the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam and at the Technical University in Dresden. She was a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh, at the University of Liverpool, and for many years she taught at the Charles University in Prague. She has held fellowships in Potsdam, Berlin, Sarajevo, and Jena. Together with Celia Donert and Martin Sabrow, she is a co-editor of the book Making Sense of Dictatorship. Domination and Everyday Life in East Central Europe after 1945, published by the Central European University Press in 2022 (Making Sense of Dictatorship | CEUPress). In March 2023, she will start her MSCA fellowship with a project A Land of Joiners. A Gender History of Volunteer Fire Departments in a Three-Border-Region of East Central Europe in Times of Political Transformation, 1918-1989 at the University of Graz, Department for Sociology / Sociology of Gender.