Around 1330, the Carinthian counts of Ortenburg invited German-speaking farmers from Carinthia and the East Tyrol to their Gottschee estate, which now lies in southern Slovenia, near to the border with Croatia. The settlers cleared woodland and worked as farmers, foresters and small-scale traders. The regional centre was a small town of the same name, Gottschee (now Kocevje). The area remained a German-speaking enclave in a Slovenian area until 1941. Politically, it formed part of the duchy of Krain until 1918, being subject to Habsburg rule in the form of the empire and, after 1867, the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy. After the dissolution of Austro-Hungary in 1918, the Gottschee was awarded to Yugoslavia.
In the Middle Ages, it contained 178 settlements with 123 churches. Its population peaked in the mid-19th century, numbering 28,000 German Catholics. This soon dwindled significantly as poverty forced many of them to emigrate to the USA. The regional economy continued to stagnate, so that by the beginning of the 20th century, many of its villages were deserted.