Josip Wilfan and Engelbert Besednjak in the Congress of European Nationalities between 1925 and 1938

  • Egon Pelikan Znanstveno raziskovalno središče Republike Slovenije Koper, SI-6000 Koper/Capodistria, Garibaldijeva 18
Keywords: Congress of European Nationalities, League of Nations, European minorities, the Julian March, Engelbert Besednjak, Josip Wilfan, Generalization of the Law on Minorities


The author presents the activity of the Congress of European Nationalities between 1925 and 1938. In the period between the two world wars, the Congress was the main international body dealing with issues concerning national minorities. The Congress' Main Office was in Vienna while its sessions were normally held in Geneva. The Congress dealt with issues concerning the protection of European national minorities, the establishment of joint cultural areas as well as striving to secure the adoption of general European legislation protecting minorities. Two Slovenes, Josip Wilfan and Engelbert Besednjak played a key role in the Congress. The existing documentation shows that the Congress dealt with issues that are still topical today. The ideas expressed by its participants were of exceptional ideological and intellectual height and can undoubtedly be compared with the current thought and processes regarding minority issues. The Congress of European Nationalities was able achieve this in spite of the fact that, at the time, the politics and societies in most European countries were becoming increasingly authoritarian and totalitarian.