Podravje is a region in NE Slovenia stretching over 2.170 km2 mostly hilly landscape. It has almost 350.000 inhabitants. It is currently consisting of 41 municipalities (with state tendencies to join some of them):
* Benedikt * Kungota * Podlehnik * Sveta Trojica v Slovenskih goricah * Cerkvenjak * Lenart * Poljčane * Sveti Andraž v Slovenskih goricah * Cirkulane * Lovrenc na Pohorju * Mestna občina Ptuj * Destrnik * Majšperk * Rače - Fram * Sveti Jurij v Slovenskih goricah * Dornava * Makole * Ruše * Sveti Tomaž * Duplek * Mestna občina Maribor * Selnica ob Dravi * Šentilj * Gorišnica * Markovci * Slovenska Bistrica * Trnovska vas* Hajdina * Miklavž na Dravskem polju * Središče ob Dravi * Videm * Hoče - Slivnica * Oplotnica * Starše * Zavrč * Juršinci * Ormož * Sveta Ana * Žetale * Kidričevo * Pesnica
There are three good reasons why we have chosen the enlarged region of Podravje - with some places reaching into Celje region, former lower part of Styria in the time of Austro - Hungarian monarchy, as the enlarged geographic field for implementation of the Terra Parzival European Regional Development Model for the period 2014-2020, namely because: the interesting sparks of initiative historically documented in the area, the current social and economical situation of the region and the medieval legend of Parzival.
These factors led Miha Pogačnik and his creative team to a vision of a co-creative process in a special area within the region, called Terra Parzival Macro Violin which is limited by historical places mentioned in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s high medieval epic masterpiece Parzival, and will be used as intensifier of regional development model activities.
Some interesting sparks of initiative historically documented in the Podravje region
Podravje had over the centuries bursts of interesting and visionary development, usually followed by falls, caused by plague, wars, loss of market or economical crises.
In 13th and 14th century the medieval city of Maribor had the most important Jewish community in Slovenia, which had a substantial impact on life in the trade centre between Venice and Vienna. Among Jewish merchants, bankers, goldsmiths, and healers of the time, Rabbi Israel Isserlein stands out as one of the most important Jewish thinkers of the past seven centuries. There were ideas of establishing a University in the region (that was in times of establishing the first European Universities like in Heidelberg, Germany) but sadly, the Jewish community in Maribor flourished only until 1496, when a decree was issued by Emperor Maximilian instructing all Jews to forever leave the city. Forced to leave, most Jews chose to settle mostly in Italy assuming the name Marpurgi.
Since those times the region was many times seen as a nice place to relax by noblemen, with its peak in 1822 when Archduke Johanes von Habsburg bought land near Maribor and started with vine cultivation. Soon the region was known as »Styrien Meran« after a noble touristic place in Italy and again numerous aristocrats were visiting and enjoying the beauties of the region.
Also industrial revolution and the first railway Vienna-Trieste, helped Maribor and the region to another breakthrough. The first Edison’s electrical bulb in Europe was lit in Maribor in 1883, only four years after the invention. The development continued in Yugoslavia where the region was known as the most industrially developed in the whole country.
Also regarding the civil uprisings people in Podravje should not to be underestimated; the first Partisan action against Hitler’s army on Slovenian territory was in Maribor in 1941. Not surprisingly, in the short War for independence of Slovenia in 1991 the first actions and victims also fell in Maribor.
The history repeated in 2013 when Maribor’s FB society was the initiator of the civil uprising movement against corrupted government “Gotof si!” that finished with resignation of the former mayor and extra local elections, on which, also due to the first independent monitoring in Slovenia done by NGO Center for Civic Education, the fist non-political mayor in Slovenia was elected.
Current social and economical situation of Podravje region
The current social and economical situation in Podravje region is far from good. The rate of unemployment in august 2013 was over 17% (which is good 5% higher that in other parts of Slovenia) or in figures 17.127 people. The real figure is much higher as Employment Service is daily erasing unemployed people from its evidences on various state-ordered reasons and is estimated to be over 30.000 people.7
The rate of poverty is growing; many people are not able to pay for their mortgages or loans any more. Because of low pension incomes old people, needing help, are moving out of Elderly homes. Young people are unemployed (over 40% of all unemployed in the region are under 29 in age), there are no new workplaces created.
Companies and entrepreneurs are closing down for bankruptcy, in the first six months of 2013 over 6300 companies had blocked bank accounts, 66 forced liquidations of companies were started, 215 legal subjects were erased from the State Register8. There is no payment discipline and even the state is paying its bills only after 90 days or in some ministries even more.
Many families are turning back to land - tending gardens for daily food, switching from oil or electrical heating to cheaper wood, economising on household expenses is common practice.
This of course might be seen also as development trigger; an opportunity to encourage people to look for new, better and more sustainable living practices, to go after new business opportunities and to open for challenges Terra Parzival model is offering.