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The city of Maribor: from shrinking city to Cultural Capital of the year 2012

The city of Maribor (Slovenia) is this year’s European capital of culture. A few years ago, however, it was the fastest shrinking city in the EU. Maribor shows that investing in the city’s cultural profile can be an effective way to revive the city and once again make its inhabitants proud.

What does being a European Capital of Culture mean?

The European Capital of Culture is a title awarded according to a pre-determined procedure by the European Union for a period of one year. The city holding this title carries out a number of important cultural events. Maribor shares this year’s title with the Portuguese town of Guimarães. At the end of 2011 the title was passed on from Turku (Finland) and Talinn (Estonia). At the end of 2012  the honorary title of European Capital of Culture will be handed over to the French town Marseille and
Slovak town Košice.

Stimulating inter-regional and polycentric functioning

By being the Cultural Capital 2012, Maribor aims to stimulate inter-regional and polycentric functioning.
Therefore the city is not organising the whole programme itself, but in collaboration with its partner
towns: Murska Sobota, Novo mesto, Ptuj, Slovenj Gradec and Velenje. Examples of projects are:


  • Project Northern Lights marks the points on the town map where the famous Maribor writer Drago Jančar left a mark on the identity of the town.
  • World junior chess championship at different locations of the old town centre, will bring back the chessboard camaraderie.
  • Illumination of the town walls will mark the European Capital of Culture event site and give the town centre a new impulse.
  • Project ‘Poljubi & Objemi’ (= Hugs&Kisses): a series of 30 love notes in the shape of traffic signs.

The costs of last year’s preparations amounted to € 5 million. This year, with the cultural programmes in full swing, the costs are projected to climb to roughly € 17 million. The whole project is financed by means of local and national public resources.

Is it worth the investment to become a European Capital of Culture?

“Half a year ago the project seemed to be an impossible mission, yet today its results are stunning.” Director-general of the MARIBOR 2012 Institute Dr. Suzana Žilič Fišer states. She goes on to say, “We can really be satisfied, as our persistence and optimism have made the city of Maribor and its partner towns important European cultural destinations. The impressive number of foreign tourists visiting has made local people prouder of their city, they live the cultural beat of Maribor and even add to its creation. They help us set new starting points for the future. Besides, volunteer work has become an important value in Maribor. We live in a city that has become visible for its creativity and tolerance. The Maribor 2012 institute has been setting the ground for the integration of disadvantaged groups, for the digital development, for new connections of the institutions and the towns. Considering the past conditions, all the mentioned achievements can be considered a small miracle. But we did it.”

A survey held by Marketing research Company RM Plus among the inhabitants of the city shows that people accepted the project of their city becoming Cultural Capital of the year 2012 as their own. Respondents agree that being the Cultural Capital of Europe has revived the city of Maribor.