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State

Capital

Slovakia

Bratislava

fr. Czechoslovakia; Slovenska Republika

fr. Pressburg

Currency unit

euro

Connections

Borders

Central Europe

Czech

EU

Habsburgs

Hungary

Slavic

Radioact

 NATO

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

The Slovaks are one of the western Slav peoples. They had never had their own state as until 1918 they had been ruled by Hungarians as part of the Hungarian kingdom of the Habsburg Empire. Their language had only unofficial private status.

In 1918 the Czechs, who had previously been supporters of the Habsburg monarchy, demanded the independence of their own historic state of Bohemia and Moravia. The Slovaks were added by the representatives of the Great Powers meeting in the Peace Conference, in order to tidy up central Europe. There seemed no reason to allow them a separate state and it seemed logical to add them to the Czechs whose language is at least closely related and mutually intelligible. In 1938 Hitler agitated for the cession of the Sudetenland to his new German Reich, and at the same time tried to weaken the united state, whose military was still powerful, by persuading the Slovaks to demand secession.

In 1939 the Nazis allowed them a puppet state ruled by a fascist party, headed by a Catholic priest, Tisa. After the whole country was occupied by the Russians they were again joined to the Czechs. In 1968 during the brief Prague Spring the country was made a federation of two states, but the reassertion of Russian control reduced it to an empty form.

After the collapse of Communism in 1989 the Slovaks asserted their separate identity and a nationalist party gained a majority of votes in the June 1992 election.

Now that they have achieved independence Hungary may become interested in the Hungarian minority. The chief fear of the larger powers is that the independence of the smaller east European peoples may open up a demand for the changing of many frontiers, a source of wars throughout the first 40 years of the 20th century. Although there were reports that many Slovaks would have been satisfied by a recognition of their "sovereignty" - a condition short of independence suggested by the kind of ambiguous condition Quebec has been seeking in relation to the rest of Canada, Independence was agreed for 1 January 1993. The economic weakness of Slovakia in relation to the Czech lands did not discourage the politicians' desire for complete sovereignty. A factor in the rise of nationalism may have been the greater difficulties of modernizing the economy, with its preponderance of heavy military industries. Slovaks complained that the central government neglected them. (During Hungarian rule few Slovaks were educated so that Czechs occupied most of the official positions during the inter-war period.)

Will the two countries come together again? Independence will be a model studied by such countries as Scotland, especially if it is a disaster, as seems likely.

It is being argued that independence was thrust on them by the Right Wing government of the Czech lands (Vaclav Klaus), who foresaw the expense of subsidizing Slovakia's serious economic problems and then took advantage of the Slovak nationalists by taking them at their word. Thus it is the opposite of the union of the two Germanies.

While the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1997 Slovakia has only been offered membership in 2004.

The defeat of Vladimir Meciar and the election of a moderate government has made membership of NATO and the EU possible. Slovakia joined the EU in 2004. It joined the Schengen zone in January 2008, making the frontiers with Hungary and the Czech Republic completely open.

Languages

Slovak (mutually intelligible with Czech)

Magyar

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

The June 1992 elections resulted in an assembly dominated by Nationalist parties with a policy of weakening Slovakia's connection with the Czechs, leading to independence. Shortly after, independence was agreed. Would the two states negotiate an association? Time will tell.

It was agreed to split Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992, although opinion polls showed that a majority in both Slovakia and the Czech Lands did not want the split. There was no referendum.

The Magyar (Hungarian) minority (11%) fear they will be discriminated against, after they had been treated well in the former state. There were signs of extreme nationalism in the new state (prohibition of the use of Hungarian street and town names, teaching of Hungarian). Gypsies also fear discrimination. Jews too may have cause for worry.

The independence Prime Minister, Vladimir Meciar, was briefly ousted in March 1994 mainly for dictatorial tendencies. He was replaced by a grand coalition of his opponents from right to left. His party gained the largest number of seats in the October 1994 election and seemed likely to form a coalition with extreme right parties, some of which are antisemitic. Meciar came back. He was warned by EU officials that Slovakia would not be admitted if dictatorship continued.

He was defeated in a later election by a center left coalition and in May 1999 lost the election for President. This gives hope that democracy will now be firmly established.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

The heavy industry of the Communist period suffered from a collapse in demand for its mainly military products. Restructuring would be expensive. Who will pay? Would independence make it easier? It looks unlikely. Unemployment is already considerably higher than in the Czech lands (but Czech unemployment may rise soon).

The Czechs accused the Slovaks of having been the enthusiasts for heavy industry during the Communist period, and overloading Slovakia with the large industries which now are uneconomic. The Slovaks are trying to continue with one of the largest projects - a hydroelectric project widely condemned as environmentally disruptive and economically dubious. This brings them into conflict with Hungary whose river lands have been damaged by the project.

After the frontier with the Czech republic became a customs border Slovakia (and the Czechs) suffered from the loss of trade. The break up seems likely to be damaging.

The currency was split on 2 February 1993. The new currency depreciated. By November 1994 business was still mostly unreformed. Privatization has been postponed.

Russia offered special terms, mainly to persuade Slovakia not to join NATO.

Following the membership of the EU Slovakia has introduced a Flat Tax.

The euro came into use on 1 January 2009.

The economy is said to be growing rapidly and catching up with the Czech Republic.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

The polluting industry is one big problem. Another is the Danube hydroelectric project consisting of huge dams and canals. It was originally planned jointly with Hungary but Green activists persuaded the Hungarians to withdraw. Slovakia needs the electricity both to replace dangerous nuclear stations at Bohunice and to sell for foreign currency to Austria. But the river lands are badly damaged as the water has been diverted. Possibly there should have been an agreement to divert a proportion of the water through the old channel. But almost 100% is being sent through the new canal.

Two Soviet-designed nuclear reactors at Bohunice have no radiation containment vessels and are believed to be in a dangerous condition and leaking radiation. They produce 7% of power used in the former Czechoslovakia. A large scale escape of radioactivity would threaten Austria, especially the city of Wien (Vienna) and all western Europe. New Soviet designed reactors are being finished by western companies.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

The 11% minority of Magyars fear oppression from the Slovak majority. Already (on independence Jan. 1993) signs in their language and its use in the media were being forbidden. This suggests a future of intolerance.

Romany (Gypsies) and Jews too are suffering from the majority.

Arbitrary actions by police. Rule of law defective.

Climate effects

Last revised 2/07/12

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