During the Iron Age (2000 to 1000 BC), there were several settlements in Žminj’s region. This is confirmed by the numerous remains of pottery found around the church of Santa Fosca and in Žminj itself. It is assumed that Žminj has gained its importance as a traffic intersection point already during the Iron Age since even then the roads led to other existing settlements, such as Barban, Pićan, Lindar and Vodnjan. The Slavs came to Žminj in the 7th century. Historical discoveries located an old cemetery near today’s Vladimir Gortan’s primary school and these findings date back to 9th and 10th century, confirming that a larger Slavic settlement was located here. Žminj was a part of Pazin County since the second half of the 12th century. Looking at the urbarium (collection of regulations) and other sources it can be seen (from land rent data) that Žminj was among the most developed settlements. It featured a market rich in agricultural produce, wine and wood. Wine was traded here and one can even find the claims of Jochann Weichard Valvasor, who in his book The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola describes that there is more wine than water in Žminj.
Žminj region saved from malaria and cholera
In the 14th century fugitives from other Istrian settlements, which were destroyed by the Venetians, settled in Žminj region. In the 16th century Žminj was also inhabited by the settlers of Lika and Krbava who fled before the Turks. Because of the Uskok war (1615 - 1617), Žminj region was going through difficult times. The Venetians were ruthlessly destroying forestry and other natural resources. After the war, the region quickly recovered because it was not invaded by malaria and cholera which were ravaging the Istrian peninsula. Namely, there was no wetland and therefore no mosquitoes that transmitted the diseases. Žminj was a well-known trading centre, trading in timber, meat, cheese, grains, fruit, wine and hay. Five wagons of wood could be obtained from one tree. For each wagon one could get 14 Italian lira. Meat was sold at two or three “šolda” (units of money) per libra (ancient Roman measurement unit, around 327 grams). In the 17th century, Žminj region had about 380 families, which meant more than 1000 inhabitants.
The efficient Frenchmen
After the fall of the Venetian Republic, the whole Istria fell under Austrian rule, where it remained until 1918. At that time the road network developed significantly. The French authorities (1805-1814) assisted in this matter, building rapidly the new roads through Istria. During this period the road from Pula and Rovinj via Žminj to Pazin was reconstructed. The French had wealthy estates here, as evidenced by the name Stancija Napoleon (Latin “stantia”, estate). It is known that Žminj gave the most funds for maintaining the French army. In 1812, this amounted to 246 French francs, representing 12% of the total amount of Pazin County. With the modernisation of roads, Žminj received its first postal office in 1841. The settlers from Carnia (a place in Italy in the district of Udine) came in the 19th century. Most of them worked in Žminj’s quarries and later became their owners. Žminj opened its elementary school in 1822, which enabled further development and prosperity.
Rapid development in the early 20th century
A large number of inns, hotels and co-tenancies speak of the fact that many people lived and traded in Žminj. The majority of them worked as bakers, carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers and weavers. Stone processing industry developed significantly during this period. Žminj’s “škarpelini”, stone processors, were particularly known in this area. At the beginning of the 20th century, the following events were important for Žminj and its surroundings: establishment of an operative economic association in 1903, construction of a social community building in 1905, establishment of “Posujilnica” (a bank and loan company), establishment of a reading room in 1906 and a cooperative steam mill in 1907. At that time the first cars, motorcycles and bikes began to drive around and a working telegraph started operating.
Between the two wars
After the First World War, in 1920, by the Treaty of Rapallo, Istria was obtained by Italy. In 1923, the Province of Pola was established, with its capital in Pula, and managed by a prefect. The province was divided into six districts and Žminj belonged to the Pazin district. The growth in population began in 1930 and lasted until the beginning of World War II. Žminj’s residents tried to find their daily bread in America, Yugoslavia, Italy and elsewhere. Forty-two families were evicted and many estates were destroyed. Progress was made in the mid 1930’s due to work in Raša mine and due to overall improvement of trade, roads and bus traffic. People from Žminj started to sell their products in Trieste seeing that they had the opportunity to travel regularly by train. Rail transport was fast and comfortable. In Trieste they managed to procure various products and later delivered them to their local population. Thus, the goods from Trieste gained a high reputation in Žminj – the products coming from Trieste were considered to be the best ones. From 1928 onwards a bus started passing through Žminj, traveling from Trieste to Pula and vice versa and stopping in front of the church of St. Bartholomew. In the mid 1930’s people working at Raša mine got their own transport through Žminj, making it easier to go to work, where more and more people found their source of income. The electrification of Žminj began on January 12, 1929.