During the Great War, between 1915 and 1917, the Soča valley was part of the Isonzo Front. Young and adult men of numerous nations fought and suffered along the river Soča, and many of them lost their lives. Numerous remains of that period survive (trenches, fortifications, caves, small churches and chapels, memorials, military cemeteries) that constitute cultural and historical heritage of national and international interest. In order to protect and thus preserve this heritage, the “Walks of Peace in the Soča Region Foundation” was established in 2000. The founders of the Foundation were as follows: Zdravko Likar, Željko Cimprič, Prof. Dr. Anton Jeglič, and the late academician Prof. Dr. Robert Blinc. In addition to the founders, Prof. Dr. Petra Svoljšak is also a member of the managing board.
In 2000, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia adopted a ten-year programme on the evaluation of historical and cultural heritage of the Great War in the Soča Region. i.e. “The Soča Region – the Walks of Peace”.
In 2011, the Slovenian Government approved a new 5-year programme. The implementation of this programme is funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, the municipalities of Bovec, Kobarid and Tolmin, and several sponsors. The Foundation has also been gaining ever greater means on its own.
As stated in the Statutes, the purpose of the Foundation is to be generally beneficial and continuous. The basic activities of the Foundation are: study-research work, restoration and presentation of historical and cultural heritage of the Great War, publication of expert and promotion materials, the historical library of Kobarid, development of history tourism, collaboration with Friuli Venezia-Giulia.
In its activities the Foundation collaborates with the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Public Agency SPIRIT Slovenia, the museums of Kobarid, Tolmin and Nova Gorica, the National Museum of Contemporary History Ljubljana, Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia – Nova Gorica Regional Office, Slovenian National Committee for the 100th Anniversary of World War 1, various societies, municipalities, tourist information centres, and other organizations. On the occasion of the 100th anniversaries of WW1, cooperation with several institutions from all over Europe has also been intensified.
Some history and tourist societies had already restored and arranged certain sections of the front line in the Soča Region and Goriška area even before the Foundation was established. Under the expert guidance of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and in collaboration with the societies of 1313, Peski, Mengore, tourist societies TD Drežnica and TD Kobarid, and municipalities in the Upper Soča Region, the Foundation first organized six outdoor museums: Ravelnik, Čelo, Zaprikraj, Kolovrat, Mengore, and Mrzli Vrh.
In 2007, the outdoor museums, major monuments and memorials of the Isonzo Front, natural points of interest, the museums of Kobarid and Tolmin, private museum collections, and tourist information centres were connected to form the Walk of Peace in the Upper Soča Region. Along the route of more than a hundred kilometres, visitors can admire natural beauties of the Upper Soča Region. The Walk of Peace is dedicated to the memory of the suffering caused by the First World War and its victims. In addition to outdoor museums, the Foundation restored about 30 monuments along the Walk of Peace in the Upper Soča Region. As a lasting memorial to the fallen soldiers, the Foundation drew up a register of 22,000 fallen Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers who are buried in the Upper Soča Region.
In 2010, a Walk of Peace Visitor Centre was opened, with an interactive exhibition, souvenir shop with handicraft and local products, conference and gallery rooms. Available are local tourist guides who have a comprehensive knowledge about the First World War.
Since 2011, following the example of the Walks of Peace in the Upper Soča Region, the Foundation has been arranging the “Walk of Peace from the Alps to the Adriatic” in cooperation with numerous partners from both sides of the Slovenian-Italian border. The Walk combines historical and natural heritage, institutions and people along the onetime Isonzo Front, all the way from Mt. Rombon to Trieste. The symbolic mission of the Walk is to promote coexistence and reconciliation of the formerly hostile nations. Another task of the Walk is to promote the identity of the area in question and develop tourism in the cross-border area along the Soča river.
Members of the “Walk of Peace in the Soča Region” Managing Board:
- Zdravko Likar, president
- Prof. Dr. Anton Jeglič
- Prof. Dr. Petra Svoljšak
- Željko Cimprič