Hedvika Sfiligoj on Slavic Animosity

The following clip relates to the Ohio Department of Education curriculum for Social Studies education through:

  • Modern World History Content Statement #15 – The consequences of World War I and the worldwide depression set the stage for the Russian Revolution, the rise of totalitarianism, aggressive Axis expansion and the policy of appeasement, which in turn led to World War II.
  • World Geography Content Statement #14 – Regions are used as a basis to analyze global geographic issues (e.g. desertification, political disputes, economic unions).
  • Contemporary World Issues Content Statement #10 – Modern instances of genocide and ethnic cleansing present individual, organizational and national issues related to the responsibilities of participants and non-participants.



Hedvika Sfiligoj is a Slovenian immigrant. She arrived Cleveland in 1952. In this clip she recounts a portion of her childhood and what it was like growing up in former Yugoslavia. She explains some of the reasons behind the animosity between Slovenians, Serbs, and Croatians. Under the reign of Alexander I, Serbian king of Yugoslavia, school children were taught the Serbian language. All three groups are sovereign slavs with similar languages yet different in their own ways, being forced to learn another people’s language was a point of contention for Slovenians and Croatians.

Potential Classroom Applications

This clip highlights some of the difficulties in the Balkans and the cultural struggles between Serbs, Slovenians, and Croatians. It also illustrates the difficulties that developed when national boundaries were redrawn after World War I. She briefly mentions President Woodrow Wilson’s involvement in the creation of Yugoslavia which implies a connection to the 14 point plan he presented after the cessation of hostilities in 1918. This clip could also be used to introduce the concept of geographical regions, focusing on the Balkans and tumultuous history that region has had in the 20th century.

Follow this link for the whole interview: Hedvika Sfiligoj Interview, 29 March 2005

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