Memorial to linguist Jernej Kopitar unveiled in Vienna

Vienna, 29 May - A memorial to Slovenian linguist Jernej Kopitar (1780-1844) was unveiled at St Marx Cemetery in Vienna on Friday as part of an initiative designed to enhance dialogue between Slovenia and Austria.

Kopitar, the author of the first scientific Slovenian grammar, spent most of his life in Vienna, where he also worked as the imperial censor for books written in Slavic languages and Modern Greek.

He died in Vienna and was buried at St Marx Cemetery in 1844 before his remains were moved to the Navje Cemetery in Ljubljana in 1897.

The idea to put a copy of the gravestone at St Marx Cemetery was floated a few years ago by Ivan Martelanc, an advisor at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and then the initiative by Slovenian Ambassador to Austria Ksenija Škrilec was also backed by Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig.

The Slovenian Embassy in Austria said the unveiling of the memorial was part of its activities in the framework of the Slovenia-Austria neighbourly dialogue.

At the unveiling ceremony, Mayor Ludwig said the event was part of the shared heritage and enhanced already strong links between Vienna and Ljubljana as well relations at the inter-state level.

Ambassador Ksenija Škrilec welcomed the realisation of the joint project at the end of her four-year term in Vienna.

Alojz Kovšca, the speaker of the Slovenian National Council, described the memorial's unveiling as an exceptional importance for Slovenia and for the recognition of the contribution of Slovenian linguistics in Austria and internationally.

Emmerich Kelich, from the Slavic studies department at the University of Vienna, spoke at the ceremony about Kopitar's work and role in founding Slavic studies as an independent science.

His 1808 Grammar of the Slavic Language in Carniola, Carinthia, and Styria is considered the first scientific grammar of the Slovenian language and the first modern grammar for Slavic languages.

Kopitar also served as an imperial advisor and the first curator at the Vienna Court Library. He influenced Vuk Stefanović Karadžić in forming a new standard for the Serbian literary language.

St Marx Cemetery, one of the most important cemeteries worldwide, is graded as a historic monument and is open to public as a park. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart used to be buried there.

The project to put up a memorial to Kopitar was made possible by the Slovenian Culture Ministry.