Where they wrote the Border with Blood

Defensive Struggle and Referendum in Carinthia

A Docudrama by Gernot Stadler

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Documentation, 2010
ORF, Gernot Stadler Filmproduktion
Written and directed by
Gernot Stadler
Gerhard Lapan
Dominik Achatz
Manfred Plessl
ORF Enterprise

Every year, Carinthia commemorates the referendum of the 10th of October 1920, in which 59 percent of the population entitled to vote, voted in favor of keeping the mostly Slovenian-speaking voting zone A near Austria. The vote is regarded by historians as a commitment to the unity of the state and to the young Republic of Austria. At the same time, Carinthia was one of the few examples, where the “right of self-determination of people”, proclaimed by American President Woodrow Wilson, came into effect after the First World War. The plebiscite was preceded by a military confrontation with South Slavic SHS troops, which had occupied large parts of South Carinthia. The so-called defensive struggle, in turn, led to the establishment of the Allied Miles Commission, which toured the disputed areas in order to get an idea of the ethnic composition and mood of the population. At the peace conference in Paris, the Allies finally allowed Carinthia to hold a referendum on the nationality of the disputed territories.

The film traces the events of the years 1918 to 1920 and shows how decisive political and diplomatic action ultimately preserved the historical unity of the country. On display are historical film footage from the end of the First World War, as well as partly unpublished photographs from the time of the defensive struggle and the referendum, which were elaborately animated. In order to provide a realistic picture of this very eventful time for Carinthia, director Gernot Stadler has also depicted the Miles Commission, the work of the state agitation department or the dangerous smuggling of propaganda material in feature scenes.