SLOVAKIALOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENERGY AND POWER
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FLAG: Horizontal bands of white (top), blue, and red superimposed with a crest of a white double cross on three blue mountains.
ANTHEM: Nad Tatru sa blyska (Over Tatra it lightens).
MONETARY UNIT: The currency of the Slovak Republic is the Slovak koruna (sk) consisting of 100 hellers, which replaced the Czechoslovak Koruna (kcs) on 8 February 1993. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 hellers and 1, 2, 5, and 10 korun, and notes of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 korun. sk1 = $0.03333 (or $1 = sk30) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; May Day, 1 May; Anniversary of Liberation, 8 May; Day of the Slav Apostles, 5 July; Anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising, 29 August; Reconciliation Day, 1 November; Christmas, 24–26 December. Movable holiday is Easter Monday.
TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.
Slovakia is a landlocked country located in Eastern Europe. Comparatively, it is about twice the size of the state of New Hampshire with a total area of 48,845 sq km (18,859 sq mi). Slovakia shares boundaries with Poland on the n, Ukraine on the e, Hungary on the s, and Austria and the Czech Republic on the w, and has a total boundary length of 1,355 km (842 mi). Slovakia's capital city, Bratislava, is located on the southwestern border of the country.
The topography of Slovakia features rugged mountains in the central and northern part of the country, and lowlands in the south. The High Tatras (Tatry) mountains along the Polish border are interspersed between many lakes and deep valleys. The highest peak in the country, Gerlachovsy, is found in the High Tatras with an elevation of 2,655 m (8,711 ft). Bratislava is situated in Slovakia's only substantial region of plains, where the Danube River forms part of the border with Hungary.
Slovakia's climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. In July the mean temperature is 21°c (70°f). January's mean temperature is -1°c (30°f). Rainfall averages roughly 49 cm (19.3 in) a year and can exceed 200 cm (80 in) annually in the High Tatras.
Some original steppe grassland areas can be found in the south-western lowland region, where marsh grasses and reeds are also abundant. While oak is a primary tree found in the lowlands, beech, spruce, pine, and mountain maple are found on mountain slopes. Alpine meadows include carnations, glacial gentians, and edelweiss. The High Tatras support the growth of many types of moss, lichens, and fungi. Mammals found in the country include fox, rabbits, and wild pig. A wide variety of birds inhabit the valleys of Slovakia. Carp, pike, and trout are found in the country's rivers, lakes, and streams. As of 2002, there were at least 85 species of mammals, 199 species of birds, and over 3,100 species of plants throughout the country.
Like the Czech Republic, Slovakia has had its air contaminated by sulfur dioxide emissions resulting from the use of lignite as an energy source by the former Czechoslovakia, which once had the highest levels of sulfur dioxide emissions in Europe. Slovakia instituted a program to reduce pollution in the late 1980s. Air pollution by metallurgical plants endangers human health as well as the environment, and lung cancer is prevalent in areas with the highest pollution levels. Airborne emissions in the form of acid rain, combined with air pollution from Poland and the former German Democratic Republic, have damaged Slovakia's forests. Land erosion caused by agricultural and mining practices is also a significant problem.
There are 13 Ramsar wetland sites in the country and 2 natural UNESCO World Heritage sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 7 types of mammals, 11 species of birds, 1 type of reptiles, 8 species of fish, 6 types of mollusks, 13 species of other invertebrates, and 2 species of plants. Threatened species include the Danube salmon, marsh snail, and false ringlet butterfly.
The population of Slovakia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 5,382,000, which placed it at number 109 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 12% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 18% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be stagnant at 0.0%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The projected population for the year 2025 was 5,237,000. The overall population density was 110 per sq km (284 per sq mi), with the highest density concentrated in the river valleys.
The UN estimated that 56% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.57%. The capital city, Bratislava, had a population of 425,000 in that year. Košice had a population of 242,066.
Slovakia receives about 400 refugees every year. In April 1999 Slovakia granted temporary protection to 90 refugees from Kosovo. Of these, 70 left Slovakia in July 1999 and returned home. In 2004, Slovakia had 409 refugees, and maintained higher numbers of asylum seekers, including 2,916 from India, China, Russia, and Armenia. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated 0.3 migrants per 1,000 population.
The population is about 85.8% Slovak according to the latest census (2001). Hungarians, heavily concentrated in southern border areas, total 10.6%. While the census reported that Roma make up about 1.6% of the populace, unofficial estimates place the number at about 7%. Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Germans, Poles, and various other groups account for the remainder.
Slovak is the official language, spoken by about 83.8% of the population. It belongs to the western Slavic group and is written in the Roman alphabet. There are only slight differences between Slovak and Czech, and the two are mutually intelligible. Slovak lacks the ě, ů, and ř in Czech but adds ä, l', ô, and ŕ. As in Czech, q, w, and x are found only in foreign words. A minority language like Hungarian may be used for official business if its speakers make up at least 20% of the population on the local level.
The Slovak Republic has been a strongly Catholic region, even during the period of communist repression of religion from 1944–89. According to the 2001 census, about 69% of the population were Roman Catholics. About 7% of the population were Augsburg Lutheran, 4% were Byzantine Catholics, 2% were members of the Reformed Christian Church, and 1% were Orthodox. Other registered groups include Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, Brethren Church members, Seventh-Day Adventists, Apostolic Church members, Evangelical Methodists, and members of the Christian Corps in Slovakia and the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. There are small communities of Muslims and Jews. About 12% of the population claimed no religious affiliation.
There are about 30 unregistered groups in the country, including: Hare Krishnas, Shambaola Slovakia, Shri Chinmoy, Zazen International Slovakia, Zen Centermyo Sahn Sah, the Church of Scientology, the Baha'i Faith, the Society of Friends of Jesus Christ (Quaker), Nazarenes, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).
The constitution provides for freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. While there is no specific state religion, the government signed an international treaty with the Vatican in 2001 which creates a special relationship between the state and the Roman Catholic Church. Though the government has signed special agreements with at least 11 other religious groups within the country, these agreements are subject to national law, while the Vatican agreement is governed by international law, making the latter more difficult to amend. The government offers subsidies to registered religious groups based on the number of clergy within the organization. Since the Catholic Church is the predominant religion, this church receives the largest amount of money.
There were some 3,662 km (2,277 mi) of broad, standard and narrow gauge railroads in 2004, primarily consisting of the Bratislava-Koice route. Of that total, standard gauge railways predominated at 3,512 km (2,184 mi), followed by 100 km (62 mi) of broad gauge.
The road system totaled 42,970 km (26,727 mi) in 2002, of which 37,698 km (23,448 mi) were paved, including 302 km (188 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were 1,356,185 passenger cars and 161,559 commercial vehicles registered for use.
As an inland country, Slovakia relies on the Danube, 172 km (45 mi), for transportation of goods. Bratislava and Komárno are the major ports on the Danube, which connects with the European waterway system to Rotterdam and the Black Sea. In 2005, Slovakia's merchant fleet was comprised of 24 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 41,891 GRT.
Slovakia had an estimated 34 airports in 2004. As of 2005 a total of 17 had paved runways, and there was also a single heliport. Air service in Slovakia is conducted primarily through M.R. Stefanik Airport at Bratislava. In 2003, about 208,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.
The first known peoples of the territory of present-day Slovakia were Celts, who lived in the region about 50 bc. The Celts were pushed out by Slavs, who moved in from the east at the beginning of the modern era. A Frankish merchant named Samo formed the first unified state in the region in the mid-7th century. The Moravia Empire appeared in the 9th century, incorporating parts of present-day Slovakia. Although the first Christian missionaries active in the area were Orthodox (including the monks Cyril and Methodius, who introduced an alphabet of their own invention—still called Cyrillic—in which to write the Slavic languages), it was the Roman church that eventually established dominance. At the end of the 9th century the Magyars (Hungarians) began to move into Slovakia, incorporating the territory into their own. For many centuries the Hungarians treated the Slovaks as subject people, so it was not until the 13th century, when Hungary had been ravished by Tatar invasions, that the territory began to develop. Some contact with the Czechs, who speak a closely related language, began in the early 15th century, as refugees from the Hussite religious wars in Bohemia moved east.
After the Turkish victory at Mohacs in 1526 the Kingdom of Hungary was divided into three parts; so-called "Royal Hungary," which included Slovakia, was passed to the rule of the Hapsburg dynasty. Bratislava became the Hapsburg capital until the end of the 17th century, when the Turks were driven from Hungarian territory, and the Hungarian capital moved to Budapest. Although there was some religious spillover of Protestantism from the west, Slovakia was solidly in control of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, establishing the long tradition of strong church influence in the region.
In the late 18th century the attempt of the Hapsburg rulers, especially Josef II (1765–1790), to germanify the empire led to a rise in Hungarian nationalism, which in turn stimulated a rise in Slovak national self-consciousness. During the 1848 Revolution a program, "Demands of the Slovak Nation," was formulated, which called for the use of Slovak in schools, courts, and other settings, and demanded creation of a Slovak assembly. These demands were rejected, and the Hungarians continued their efforts to suppress Slovak nationalism. When the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formed in 1867, the Hungarians began a program of intense Magyarification. In the absence of a Slovak intellectual elite, nationalistic ideals were largely maintained by the local clergy.
When World War I began the Slovaks joined with the Czechs and other suppressed nationalities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in pushing for their own state. Czech and Slovak immigrants in America were united in their efforts to prod the United States to recognize a postwar combined Czech and Slovak state. The Czechs declared independence on 28 October 1918, and the Slovaks seceded from Hungary two days later, to create the Czecho-Slovak Republic.
The relationship between the two parts of the new state was never firmly fixed. The Czech lands were more developed economically, and Czech politicians dominated the political debate. Although they were supported by a portion of Slovak society, there remained a large constituency of Slovak nationalists, most of them in Jozef Tiso's People's Party, who wanted complete independence.
Attempts to deal with Slovak separatist sentiments occupied a good deal of legislative time during the first Czechoslovak Republic, particularly since economic development continued to favor the Czech lands over the Slovak.
In 1938 Adolph Hitler demanded that the Sudeten German area, in the Czech part of the country, be ceded to Germany. Representatives of Germany, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom met in Munich, without participation by Czechoslovakia, and decided that in order to achieve "peace in our time" Germany could occupy the Sudetenland, which it did in October 1938. Slovak nationalists argued that once the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia had begun, they too should secede, particularly because both Poland and Hungary also took advantage of the situation to seize parts of Slovakia. When Hitler's forces seized Prague in March 1939, a separate Slovak state was declared, which immediately fell under Nazi domination. Although nominally independent, the Slovakia of President Tiso was never more than a Nazi puppet.
During the war Slovak leaders like Stefan Osusky and Juraj Slavik cooperated with E. Benes' Czechoslovak government-in-exile, headquartered in London. There was also a small group of Slovak communists who took refuge in Moscow. In December 1943 a Slovak National Council was formed in opposition to the Tiso government, with both democratic and communist members. They began an uprising in Banska Bystrica in August 1944, which failed because of lack of support by both the West and the Soviet Union. When the war ended, the Slovak National Council took control of the country. Soviet attempts to use Slovak nationalism as a tool of control failed in the 1946 elections, when noncommunist parties received 63% of the vote. The communists switched their tactics to encouraging civil disorder and arresting people accused of participation in the wartime Slovak government. Tiso himself was executed in 1947.
Elsewhere in Czechoslovakia, the communists had been the largest vote getters in the 1946 elections, but in 1948 it seemed that they might lose. Rather than risk the election, they organized a Soviet-backed coup, forcing President Benes to accept a government headed by Klement Gottwald, a communist. Benes resigned in June 1948, leaving the presidency open for Gottwald, while A. Zapotocky became prime minister.
Once Czechoslovakia became a People's Republic, and a faithful ally of the Soviet Union, a wave of purges and arrests rolled over the country, from 1949 to 1954. In 1952 a number of high officials, including Foreign Minister V. Clementis and R. Slansky, head of the Czech Communist Party, were hanged for "Tito-ism" and "national deviation."
Gottwald died in March 1953, a few days after Stalin, setting off the slow erosion of communist control. Zapotocky succeeded to the presidency, while A. Novotny became head of the party; neither had Gottwald's authority, and so clung even more tightly to the Stalinist methods, which, after Nikita Khrushchev's secret denunciation of Stalin in 1956, had begun to be discredited even in the USSR. Novotny became president upon Zapotocky's death in 1957, holding Czechoslovakia in a tight grip until well into the 1960s.
Khrushchev's liberalization in the USSR encouraged liberals within the Czechoslovak party to try to emulate Moscow. Past abuses of the party, including the hanging of Slansky and Clementis, were repudiated, and Novotny was eventually forced to fire many of his most conservative allies, including Karol Bacilek, head of the Slovak Communist Party, and Viliam Siroky, premier for more than a decade. Slovaks detested both men because of their submission to Prague's continued policies of centralization, which in practice subordinated Slovak interests to those of the Czechs.
Alexander Dubček, the new head of the Slovak Communist Party, attacked Novotny at a meeting in late 1967, accusing him of undermining economic reform and ignoring Slovak demands for greater self-government. Two months later, in January 1968, the presidency was separated from the party chairmanship, and Dubček was named head of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, the first Slovak ever to hold the post.
Novotny resigned in March 1968, and Czechoslovakia embarked on a radical liberalization, which Dubček termed "socialism with a human face." The leaders of the other eastern bloc nations and the Soviet leaders viewed these developments with alarm. Delegations went back and forth from Moscow during the "Prague Spring" of 1968, warning of "counter-revolution." By July the neighbors' alarm had grown; at a meeting in Warsaw they issued a warning to Czechoslovakia against leaving the socialist camp. Although Dubček himself traveled to Moscow twice, in July and early August, to reassure Soviet party leader Brezhnev, the Soviets remained unconvinced.
Finally, on the night of 20–21 August 1968, military units from all the Warsaw Pact nations except Romania invaded Czechoslovakia, to "save it from counter-revolution." Dubček and other officials were arrested, and the country was placed under Soviet control. Difficulties in finding local officials willing to act as Soviet puppets caused the Soviets to play on Czech and Slovak antagonisms. On 31 December 1968 the country was made into a federative state, comprised of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic, each with its own legislature and government. In April Gustav Husak, once a reformer, but now viewing harmony with the USSR as the highest priority, was named head of the Czech Communist Party. A purge of liberals followed, and in May 1970 a new Soviet-Czechoslovak friendship treaty was signed; in June Dubček was expelled from the party.
Between 1970 and 1975 nearly one-third of the party was dismissed, as Husak consolidated power, re-establishing the priority of the federal government over its constituent parts and, in May 1975, reuniting the titles of party head and republic president.
Once again it was liberalization in the USSR which set off political change in Czechoslovakia. Husak ignored Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's calls for perestroika and glasnost until 1987, when he reluctantly endorsed the general concept of Party reform, but delayed implementation until 1991. Aging and in ill health, Husak announced his retirement in December 1987, declaring that Milos Jakes would take his post; Jakes had been a life-long compromiser and accommodator who was unable to control dissenting factions within his party, which were now using the radical changes in the Soviet Union as weapons against one another.
Enthusiasm for political change was not as great in Slovakia as it was in the Czech west, where in November 1989 people had begun to gather on Prague's Wenceslas Square, demanding free elections. The so-called "velvet revolution" ended on 24 November, when Jakes and all his government resigned. Novotny resigned his presidency soon after.
Alexander Dubček was brought out of exile and put forward as a potential replacement, but the hostility of Czech intellectuals and activists, who felt that they had to drag unwilling Slovaks into the new era, made it impossible to choose a Slovak as president. The choice fell instead on Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright and dissident, who was named president by acclamation on 29 December 1989, while Dubček was named leader of the National Assembly.
Dismantling the apparatus of a Soviet-style state began immediately, but economic change came more slowly, in part because elections were not scheduled until June 1990. The old struggle between Czechs and Slovaks intensified, as Slovaks grew increasingly to resist the programs of economic and political change being proposed in Prague. Slovak demands led to an almost immediate renaming of the country, as the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic.
In the June elections the Slovaks voted overwhelmingly for Public Against Violence, the Slovak partner of the Czech Civic Forum, which meant that economic transformation was begun. Again there was much greater enthusiasm for returning to private ownership in the west than there was in the east, intensifying Slovak separatism. In December 1990 the country's Federal Assembly attempted to defuse the problem by increasing the roles of the Czech and Slovak regional governments, but it also gave President Havel extraordinary powers, to head off attempts at Slovak secession. The nationalists found an articulate and persuasive voice for growing separatist sentiments in Vladimir Meciar, the Slovak premier.
During a visit to Bratislava in March 1991, President Havel was jeered by thousands of Slovaks, making obvious the degree of Slovak discontent. Meciar was replaced in April 1991, by Jan Carnogursky, but the easing of tensions was only temporary, since Carnogursky, too, favored an independent Slovakia.
By June 1992 matters had reached a legislative impasse, so new federal elections were called. Slovakia chose to hold elections for its National Council at the same time. In July the new Slovak legislature issued a declaration of sovereignty and adopted a new constitution as an independent state, to take effect 1 January 1993. Throughout 1991 and 1992 a struggle followed, with the Federal Assembly and president on one side, trying to devise ways of increasing the strength of the federal state, and the Czech and Slovak National Councils, or legislatures, on the other, seeking to shore up their own autonomy at the expense of the central authorities. Although polls indicated that most Slovaks continued to favor some form of union with the Czechs, the absence of any national figure able or willing to articulate what form that union might take, left the field to the separatists and the charismatic Meciar.
In the federal election the vote split along national and regional lines, with the Czechs voting for right-of-center, reformist candidates, especially Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, while the Slovaks voted for leftist and nationalist parties, especially Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (MDS). Although the federal government and President Havel continued to try to hold the state together, Czech Prime Minister Klaus made it clear that the Czechs would offer no financial incentives or assistance to induce the Slovaks to remain in the union. Increasingly the republics began to behave as though they were already separate so that, for example, by the end of 1992, 25.2% of Czech industry had been privatized, while only 5.3% of Slovak industry had. By the end of 1992 it was obvious that separation was inevitable. The two prime ministers, Klaus and Meciar, agreed to the so-called "velvet divorce," which took effect 1 January 1993. Czechs and Slovaks alike have objected that this move was never put to a popular referendum.
The new constitution created a 150-seat National Assembly, which elects the head of state, the president. Despite the strong showing of his party, Prime Minister Meciar was unable to get his first candidate through, and so put up Michal Kovac, a Dubček supporter and former finance minister in Slovakia, who had served as the last chairman of Czechoslovakia's federal parliament.
The Meciar government rejected the moves toward political and economic liberalization which the Czechs were pursuing, attempting instead to retain a socialist-style government, with strong central control. Swift economic decline, especially relative to the Czech's obviously growing prosperity, combined with Meciar's own erratic and autocratic manner, caused him to lose a vote of no-confidence in March 1994.
Kovac was elected for a five-year term by the National Parliament on 8 February 1993; on 12 December 1994 he appointed Meciar prime minister. Meciar's party (MDS), which won 35% of the vote in the 1994 elections, formed a ruling government with the Slovak National Party and the Association of Slovak Workers. However, Meciar again was slow to implement economic reforms, and his attempts to consolidate his power via undemocratic legislation were rebuffed in 1996 by President Kovac. The MDS-led coalition government managed to remain in power until the September 1998 elections. During the MDS era, opportunities to privatize state-owned property were used to reward political loyalty, and election laws were changed in a way that favored the MDS. Much of the legislation introduced by the Meciar government was found to be unconstitutional.
Under the new election laws, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDC) was formed by five small political groups in 1997. Mikulas Dzurinda was its leader. Elections held in September 1998 saw the SDC gain 26.33% of the vote. On 30 October 1998, SDC formed a coalition government with Dzurinda as prime minister.
In January 1999, parliament passed a new law allowing for the direct election of the president. Presidential elections were held on 15 and 29 May, and in the second round, Rudolf Schuster of the small centrist Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) was elected with 57.2% of the vote over Meciar (42.8%). The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found the elections to be free and fair. In July 1999, a law was passed improving the status of minority languages. In February 2001, parliament amended the constitution as a step toward gaining membership in the EU and NATO. Among the 85 amendments bringing the 1992 constitution in line with EU judiciary and financial standards were the creation of an ombudsman as a public protector of human rights, and an initiative to have the government support the aspirations of ethnic Slovaks living abroad to preserve their national identity and culture.
Parliamentary elections were held on 20 and 21 September 2002, and although Meciar's HZDS party won the most seats in the 150-member National Council (36), three core center-right parties formed a coalition without left-wing parties that had previously hampered it. Dzurinda continued in office as prime minister.
At a NATO summit in Prague held in November 2002, Slovakia was formally invited to join the organization, and in December, it was one of 10 new countries invited to join the EU. In the spring of 2004, it became member of both these organizations. Also, in April 2004, a new president was elected, Ivan Gasparovic. Although in the first voting round Gasparovic received less votes than his main contestant—Meciar—he managed to rally the support of the other presidential candidates in the second round, taking 59.9% of the vote. In May 2005, Slovakia ratified the EU constitution.
The constitution that the Slovak National Assembly adopted in July 1992 calls for a unicameral legislature of 150 members (the National Council of the Slovak Republic). Voting is by party slate, with proportional seat allotment affecting the gains of the winner. Thus, in the 1994 election, Meciar's party gained 61 of the 150 seats, with only 35% of the popular vote. In the 2002 election, Meciar's party gained 36 seats in the National Council, with 19.5% of the vote. The government is formed by the leading party, or coalition of parties, and the prime minister is head of the government. A coalition of center-right parties formed the government in 2002. Head of state is the president, who, after 1999, was directly elected by popular vote for a five-year term. A cabinet is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister. Rudolf Schuster was Slovakia's first directly elected president; Ivan Gasparovic was elected president in 2004, defeating Meciar in the second round of voting. The next presidential election was to be held April 2009.
There were 18 parties contesting the 150 seats of the National Council in the 1994 election, but only 7 or 8 were considered to be serious contenders, because of the necessity of receiving 5% of the total vote in order to take a seat. In 2002, there were 7 parties that won seats in the National Council. The single most popular party in 1994 was the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which won 35% of the vote. By 2002, HZDS won just 19.5% of the vote and 36 seats; although it won the most votes it was unable to form a government. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda headed a coalition consisting of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) with 15.1% of the vote and 28 seats; the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) with 11.2% of the vote and 20 seats; the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) with 8.3% of the vote and 15 seats; and the Alliance of a New Citizen (ANO) with 8% of the vote and 15 seats. Also winning seats in parliament were the populist Smer Party (Party Direction—Third Way) with 13.5% of the vote and 25 seats, and the Slovak Communist Party with 6.3% of the vote and 11 seats. The next legislative elections were to be held September 2006.
Slovakia is currently divided into 79 districts and 8 regions (kraje ), and each region has a parliament and governor. In February 2001, in an effort to speed up Slovakia's EU accession process, the parliament implemented a series of constitutional changes aimed at decentralizing the country's power structure. Thus, the state audit office, the judiciary, and the minorities gain in independence and authority. In January 2002, Slovakia was divided into eight Upper-Tier Territorial Units—self-governing entities, named after their principal city. These changes responded to one of EU's key requirements for increased decentralization and flexibility of the administrative apparatus.
The judicial system consists of a republic-level Supreme Court as the highest court of appeal; 8 regional courts seated in regional capitals; and 55 local courts seated in some district capitals. The courts have begun to form specialized sections, including commercial, civil, and criminal branches.
The 13-member Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of laws as well as the constitutional questions of lower level courts and national and local government bodies. Until 2002, parliament nominated and the president appointed the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court judges, and parliament chose all other judges based on the recommendations from the Ministry of Justice. In 2002, however, parliament passed legislation creating a Judicial Council, composed of judges, law professors, and other legal experts, to nominate judges. All judges except those of the Constitutional Court are now appointed by the president from a list proposed by the 18-member Council. The president still appoints the Constitutional Court judges from a slate of candidates nominated by parliament.
The constitution declares the independence of the judiciary from the other branches of government. Judges are appointed for life, but Constitutional Court judges serve seven-year terms. There is also a military court system, and appeals may be taken to the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Defendants in criminal cases have the right to free legal counsel and are guaranteed a fair and open public trial.
In 2005 the total active armed forces of Slovakia numbered 20,195, with estimated reserves numbering 20,000. The Army had 12,860 active personnel, armed with 271 main battle tanks, 291 reconnaissance vehicles, 404 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 120 armored personnel carriers, and 374 artillery pieces. Air Force personnel totaled 5,160, equipped with 71 combat capable aircraft and 19 attack helicopters. As of 2005, there were 4,700 members in paramilitary units, including border police, guard troops, civil defense troops, and railway defense troops. Slovak armed forces in 2005 were deployed to eight countries or regions as part of NATO, European Union or UN missions. The defense budget for 2005 was $828 million.
Slovakia is a member of the United Nations, which it joined in 1993 when Czechoslovakia agreed to split into two parts. Slovakia serves on several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNESCO, UNIDO, the World Bank, ILO, and the WHO. The country is also a member of the Council of Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the OECD, OSCE, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the WTO. Slovakia became an official member of NATO and the European Union in 2004. The country has observer status in the OAS and is an affiliate member of the Western European Union.
The government has actively participated in US- and NATO-led military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The country also participates in a joint Czech-Slovak peacekeeping force in Kosovo and supports UN missions and operations in Sierra Leone (est. 1999) and Cyprus (est. 1964).
Slovakia serves on the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Energy Agency, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification
Slovakia is continuing the difficult transformation from a centrally controlled economy to a market-oriented economy with some measure of success. Sustained GDP growth, although slowed after 1998, has been achieved, and inflation has moderated to single digits. While privatization has been carried out at an uneven pace, macroeconomic performance has improved steadily with 4.8% growth in 1994 and an average annual GDP growth rate of 6.66% 1995 to 1997. In 1998, however, the effects of the Russian financial crisis slowed investment and demand, reducing annual GDP growth to 4.4% in 1998, and to 1.9% in 1999. The pace of growth accelerated slowly from 2000 to 2002, from 2.2% to 3.3% to 4.4%, respectively. Average annual inflation after independence fell from 13.4% to 5.8% in 1996, but then hit double digits again in 2000, at 12%. In 2000 the government implemented austerity measures that helped to bring inflation down to 7.3% in 2001 and 3.1% in 2002. Unemployment remains a serious concern, at 19.8% in 2001 and 17.2% in 2002. The per capita GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, at $8,300 in 1998, had reached $11,500 (CIA est.) in 2001.
The progress made by the Dzurinda government between 2001 and 2004 has been remarkable. In 2004, Slovakia joined NATO and the EU, most of the major privatizations have been completed, massive foreign investment has been attracted to the country, and the economic expansion has been significant (despite the general European slowdown). In 2004, the GDP growth rate was 5.5%, up from 4.5% in 2003; for 2005, it was expected to stabilize at 5.3%. Inflation was on the upsurge in 2003, reaching 8.6%, but by 2004 it decreased to 7.5%, and was expected to decrease even further in 2005, to 2.9%. Unemployment was reduced steadily since 2001, but at 14.3% in 2004 it was still very high, and negatively influenced the economic performance of Slovakia. Other factors that affect the healthiness of the economy are corruption and poor living conditions for the population.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Slovakia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $85.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $15,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.8%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3.6% of GDP, industry 29.7%, and services 66.7%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $425 million or about $79 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $160 million or about $30 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.5% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Slovakia totaled $18.15 billion or about $3,368 per capita based on a GDP of $32.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.1%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 26% of household consumption was spent on food, 16% on fuel, 5% on health care, and 12% on education.
As of 2005, there was an estimated 2.62 million people in Slovakia's workforce. As of 2003, agriculture accounted for 5.8%, with 29.3% in industry, 9% in construction, and 55.9% in the services sector. Unemployment was estimated at 11.5% in 2005.
Unions are freely allowed to organize in Slovakia as well as engage in collective bargaining. Strikes are legal only if they meet certain stringent requirements. About 45% of the workforce was unionized in 2002.
Children may not work until the age of 15. After age 16, minors may work without restrictions as to hours or condition of work. These provisions are effectively enforced by the government. The minimum wage was $105 per month in 2002. The standard workweek was 42.5 hours, although under collective bargaining agreements, many workweeks are 40 hours. The government sets minimum occupational health and safety standards and it effectively monitors them.
Agriculture engaged 9% of the economically active population in 2000. The total cultivated area in 2003 was 1,564,000 hectares (3,865,000 acres), or 33% of the land area. Agriculture accounted for about 4% of GDP in 2003.
Barley and hops are important agricultural exports; fruit, wine, and seed oil are also produced for export. Important crops in Slovakia in 2004 (in thousands of tons) included: wheat, 1,764; barley, 916; corn, 862; potatoes, 382; rye, 124; and sugar beets, 1,599. In 2003, 22,615 tractors and 3,748 combines were in use.
During 1980–90, agricultural production grew by an average of 1.6% annually. During 1990–2000, agriculture increased by an annual average of 1.2%. Cereal production in 1999 was only 71% of the average during 1989–91. In 2004, cereal production was 6.9% higher than during 1999–2001.
Some 874,000 hectares (2,160,000 acres) of land are meadows and pastures, representing 18.2% of the total land area. In 2005, there were some 1,300,000 pigs, 580,000 head of cattle, 316,000 sheep, 9,000 horses, and 5,600,000 chickens. Meat production was estimated at 314,000 tons in 2005, with pork accounting for 44%; beef, 14%; turkey, 23%; chicken, 14%; and others, 5%. Milk production was 1,153,000 tons in 2005. Due to the concern over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), in July 1996 Slovakia banned selected imports and transit of cattle and sheep, and beef and mutton imports and transits coming from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, France, and Switzerland.
Fishing is only a minor source of the domestic food supply. Production comes mostly from mountain streams and stocked ponds. Some of the rivers and ponds near Bratislava are polluted with chemicals and petrochemical seepings, impairing the growth of fish stocks regionally. The total catch in 2003 was 2,527 tons, with common carp and rainbow trout the dominant species.
About 45% of Slovakia is under forest cover. Forests have been severely damaged by acid rain from coal-fired power stations. Roundwood production in 2004 was 7,240,000 cu m (255.6 million cu ft). Slovakian forest product exports include paper, wood, and furniture. In 2004, wood pulp production amounted to 520,000 tons; paper and paperboard, 798,000 tons; and wood-based panels, 508,000 cu m (17.9 million cu ft). Slovakia's trade surplus in forestry products was nearly $331.8 million in 2004.
Metal and metal products, particularly aluminum and steel, comprised Slovakia's leading industries in 2002, each of which was heavily dependent upon imports of raw materials. Gas, coke, oil, nuclear fuel, and chemicals were other top industries. Industrial mineral production in 2002 included: dolomite, 1.357 million tons, down from 1.471 million tons in 2001; lime (hydrated and quicklime), 911,000 tons; magnesite concentrate, 930,000 metric tons, down from 961,000 metric tons in 2001; crude gypsum and anhydrite, 121,700 metric tons; salt, 97,400 metric tons; barite concentrate, 25,820 metric tons, up from 14,450 metric tons in 2001; bentonite, 66,128 metric tons; kaolin, 24,600 metric tons; perlite, 18,630 metric tons, up from 14,910 metric tons in 2001; and zeolites, 15,000 metric tons. The Košice magnesite mines were put on care-and-maintenance. Also produced in 2002 were arsenic, diatomite, feldspar, illite, iron ore, refractory clays, nitrogen, sand and gravel, sodium compounds, limestone and other calcareous stones, crushed stone, sulfur, sulfuric acid, and talc. No zinc, lead, gold, silver, or copper was mined in 2002. Other mineral resources included antimony ore, mercury, brick soils, ceramic materials, and stonesalt. All mining companies were government owned.
Total electric power production in 2002 amounted to 30.486 billion kWh, of which 26.9% was from fossil fuels, 17.1% from hydropower, and 55.9% from nuclear power. By 2001 nuclear power accounted for 54% of production, thanks to two new reactors that had come on line between 1998 and 2000, reducing Slovakia's dependence on fossil fuels and allowing it to become a net exporter of electricity. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 24.196 billion kWh. As of 2002, total installed capacity was 7,417,000 kW. Slovenske elektrarne (SE) is Slovakia's main power producer, accounting for 91% of the country's generating capacity.
Coal mining produced some 3,752,000 short tons of lignite in 2002, from reserves estimated at 190 million tons in 2001. In 2002, Slovakia imported 6,076,000 short tons of coal, of which 5,103,000 short tons consisted of hard coal.
As of 1 January 2004, Slovakia had crude oil reserves of 9 million barrels, natural gas reserves of 0.53 trillion cu ft., and a crude oil refining capacity of 115,000 barrels per day. Production of oil in 2003 was estimated at 3,500 barrels per day. Natural gas output in 2002 was estimated at 7.5 billion cu ft. Domestic demand for oil averaged 81,000 barrels per day in 2003. Natural gas consumption in 2002, was estimated at 270 billion cu ft. In 2002, natural gas was used by 80% of all Slovak households.
Major industries include heavy engineering, armaments, iron and steel production, nonferrous metals, and chemicals. In 2000, industry accounted for 34% of Slovakia's GDP, and the industrial growth rate was estimated at 4% in 2001. Foreign firms such as Volkswagen, US Steel, and Whirlpool are major investors in Slovak industry. Although privatization was ongoing in 2002 (including the Slovak Gas Company and oil-pipeline operator Transpetrol), and the country was attracting more foreign investment, many firms untouched by foreign investment were in trouble. Nonetheless, many Slovakian enterprises were restructuring and modernizing their equipment and methods. Slovakia produced 182,003 automobiles in 2001, and 264 heavy trucks in 2000. The country had one oil refinery in 2002, with a capacity of 115,000 barrels per day.
By 2004, the industrial sector had suffered a series of setbacks. Its representation in the total economic output had decreased to 30.1%, it employed only 29.3% of the labor force, and the industrial production growth rate was only 5.1%—as opposed to the 5.5% GDP growth rate. Agriculture made up 3.5% of the GDP and employed 5.8% of the working population; services came in first with 66.4% and 55.9% respectively; 9% of the workforce was employed by the construction sector. Major industries in 2004 were: metal and metal products; food and beverages; electricity, gas, coke, oil, nuclear fuel; chemicals and manmade fibers; machinery; paper and printing; earthenware and ceramics; transport vehicles; textiles; electrical and optical apparatus; and, rubber products.
The Slovak Academy of Sciences, founded in 1953, has departments of exact and technical sciences and of natural sciences and chemistry, and 36 affiliated research institutes. The Council of Scientific Societies, headquartered in Bratislava, coordinates the activities of 16 societies concerned with specific scientific and technical fields. Natural history exhibits are displayed in the Slovak National Museum in Bratislava, the Central Slovak Museum in Banská Bstrica, and the Museum of Eastern Slovakia in Košice. The Slovak Mining Museum, founded in 1900, is located in Banská Stiavnica. Eight universities offer scientific and technical degrees. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 40% of university enrollment.
In 2002, research and development (R&D) expenditures totaled $407.279 million, or 0.59% of GDP. Of that amount, 53.6% came from the business sector, followed by government sources at 44.1%. Foreign sources accounted for 2.1% and higher education 0.1%. In that same year, there were 1,707 scientists and engineers, and 564 technicians per one million people that were engaged in R&D. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $386 million, or 3% of the country's manufactured exports.
Bratislav is the primary commercial center of the country. Other major centers include Košice, Trencin, Zilina, and Poprad. Nitra is a primary distribution center for agricultural products.
Retail trade is currently undergoing rapid privatization along with other sectors of the economy. As of 2002, about 98% of all retail establishments were privatized. Most establishments are small, family-owned shops specializing in one type of product, such as groceries, flowers, books, clothing, music, etc. However, the trend is slowly moving towards larger Western-style stores and hypermarkets that offer a wider variety of products under one roof. Wholesalers tend to be directly involved in the retailing of their products as well. A few franchise firms have recently made their way into the country.
Retail shops are generally open from 9 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday. New chain stores are open seven days a week from about 7 am to 8 pm. Grocery stores often operate from 6 am to 7 pm. Many stores will open for half a day on Saturdays, but most businesses and shops are closed on Sundays.
The Czech Republic, which used to account for as much as one-third of Slovakia's foreign trade, has dropped behind Germany as Slovakia's leading trade partner. Trade with the former Soviet Union has declined in importance and has increasingly been replaced by trade with the OECD, whose members buy over 90% of all Slovak exports.
In the Far East, China has emerged as the top trading partner, with imports and exports between the two nations increasing by almost 300% in 1995.
In 2004, exports totaled $29.2 billion (FOB—Free on Board), and were only slightly surpassed by imports at $29.7 billion (FOB).
|Italy-San Marino-Holy See||1,650.0||1,395.8||254.2|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
Vehicles (25.9%), machinery and electrical equipment (21.3%), base metals (14.6%), chemicals and minerals (10.1%), and plastics (5.4%) topped the list for Slovakia's export commodities. Slovakia's main export partners were Germany (which received 34.4% of total exports), the Czech Republic (14.7%), Austria (8.2%), Italy (5.8%), Poland (5.3%), the United States (4.5%), and Hungary (4.3%). The imports were distributed among the following categories: machinery and transport equipment (41.1%), intermediate manufactured goods (19.3%), fuels (12.3%), chemicals (9.8%), and miscellaneous manufactured goods (10.2%). Most of the imports came from Germany (26.1%), the Czech Republic (21.3%), Russia (9.1%), Austria (6.6%), Poland (4.9%), and Italy (4.9%).
A decline in foreign trade in 2001 caused the central bank to revise its forecast of the current account deficit up from 4% to 5.7% of GDP.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Slovakia's exports was $12.9 billion while imports totaled $15.4 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $2.5 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2000 Slovakia had exports of goods totaling $11.9 billion and imports totaling $12.8 billion. The services credit totaled $2.2 billion and debit $1.81 billion.
Exports of goods and services totaled $31.5 billion in 2004, up from $25.1 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $25.5 billion in 2003, to $32.6 billion in 2004. Although Slovakia has managed to keep a fine balance between imports and exports, the resource balance was on a negative upsurge, growing from -$407 million in 2003, to -$1.2 billion in 2004. A similar trend was registered for the current account balance, which deteriorated from -$278 million in 2003, to -$1.4 billion in 2004. The national reserves (including gold) were $12.1 billion in 2003, covering approximately
|Balance on goods||-649.0|
|Balance on services||241.0|
|Balance on income||-119.0|
|Direct investment abroad||-24.0|
|Direct investment in Slovakia||559.0|
|Portfolio investment assets||-742.0|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||168.0|
|Other investment assets||-20.0|
|Other investment liabilities||1,703.0|
|Net Errors and Omissions||27.0|
|Reserves and Related Items||-1,508.0|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
six months of imports; by 2004, they decreased to $11.7 billion, covering only four months of imports.
Four years after the Soviet system relinquished control over the eastern bloc, Slovakia formed a National Bank. In January 1992 the banking system of Czechoslovakia was split. From that point on the National Bank of Slovakia was charged with the responsibility of circulating currency and regulating the banking sector. At the end of 2002, there were 23 commercial banks operating in the Slovak Republic, including the Investment and Development Bank (1992); People's Bank (1992); Postal Bank Inc. (1991); Industrial Bank, Inc. (1992); First Commercial Bank Inc. (1993); Slovak Credit Bank (1993); Slovak Agricultural Bank (1991); and the General Credit Bank (1990). Twelve of the 23 commercial banks were partly or wholly foreign-owned. In addition, two branches and 10 representative offices of foreign banks had been established. In 2000, plans called for the privatization of the three largest banks, Vseobecna Uverova Banka (VUB), Slovenska Sporitelna, and Investicna a Rozvoyova Banka (IRB) by the end of the year. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $4.7 billion. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $13.9 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 7.76%.
The Bratislava Stock Exchange (BSE) opened on 8 July 1990 and acts as a share holding company formed by all Slovakian financial institutions, banks and savings banks, and companies authorized to trade securities. Brokers and other mediators are not permitted in the trading system. The volume of stocks traded on the BSE, however, remained low until 1996. In 2001, there were 844 companies listed on the BSE, with a trading value of $966 million (up 141% from 2000) and total market capitalization of $665 million (down 10.3% from 2000). As of 2004, a total of 258 companies were listed on the BSE, which had a market capitalization of $4.410 Billion. The Bratislava Option and Futures Exchange opened in 1994.
The pre-World War II insurance companies and institutions of the former Czechoslovakia after 1945 were reorganized, merged, nationalized and centralized. Since 1952, the insurance industry has been administered by the State Insurance Office, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, and two enterprises conducted insurance activities, the Czech and the Slovak Insurance Enterprises of the State. In 1997, at least 20 insurance companies were doing business in Slovakia. Nonetheless, the Slovak Insurance Company remains the only company authorized to write the compulsory third-party automobile liability insurance. Lawyers, architects and dentists are also required to carry liability insurance. There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of companies. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $1.140 billion, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $676 million. In that same year, the top nonlife and life insurer was Allianz Poistovna, which had gross written nonlife premiums
|Revenue and Grants||422.55||100.0%|
|General public services||95.37||20.6%|
|Public order and safety||23.11||5.0%|
|Housing and community amenities||3.9||0.8%|
|Recreational, culture, and religion||5.49||1.2%|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
totaling $369.8 million, and gross written life insurance premiums of $141.9 million.
Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Slovak government has implemented several measures to compensate for the large loss of fiscal transfers it received from the Federation, which were equivalent to between Sk20–25 billion in 1992. The Slovak government's initial budget was balanced at the beginning of 1992, with revenues and expenditures equivalent to Sk159 billion. Since that time, however, Slovakia's budget has fallen into deficit. Privatization efforts have been successful, attracting a large amount of foreign direct investment (FDI).
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Slovakia's central government took in revenues of approximately $21.4 billion and had expenditures of $23.1 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$1.6 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 16.9% of GDP. Total external debt was $25.81 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were Sk422.55 billion and expenditures were Sk461.99 billion. The value of revenues was us$11 million and expenditures us$12 million, based on an exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = Sk36.773 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 20.6%; defense, 4.7%; public order and safety, 5.0%; economic affairs, 10.2%; environmental protection, 0.7%; housing and community amenities, 0.8%; health, 20.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.2%; education, 3.4%; and social protection, 33.2%.
The principal taxes are corporate income tax, personal income tax, and value-added tax. Individuals are liable for tax on all sources of worldwide income. Corporate income tax is levied on joint stock companies, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships. In 2005, the corporate tax rate for resident companies was 19%. Capital gains were also taxed at 19%. Dividends paid out of after-tax profits are not taxed. Interest income from loans or bands are taxed at the corporate rate, as is income from royalties. Other taxes include a road tax, excise duties, import duties, and taxes on property.
As of 2005, individual income was taxed according at a flat 19% rate. Dividends paid to individuals is not taxed. Income from interest and capital are included in total income.
The principle indirect tax is Slovakia's value-added tax (VAT). As of 2005, the standard rate was 19% and was applied to most transactions. However, exports are zero-rated, and financial, broadcasting, insurance and educational services are exempt.
As a WTO member, Slovakia uses the Brussels Tariff Nomenclature. Goods imported into Slovakia are liable to three kinds of charges: customs duties, value-added tax (VAT) of 10% or 19%, and an excise tax. A 3% import surcharge was eliminated on 1 January 2001. However, Slovakia imposes surcharges on approximately 80% of its imports. Slovakia is also a member of the Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA) along with Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia.
Prior to the defeat of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, Slovakia experienced difficulty attracting foreign investment due to perceived political uncertainty and vacillations in its privatization policy. The government has introduced tax incentives to attract more capital from abroad.
Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was $220 million in 1997 and rose to $648 million in 1998. Affected by the Russian financial crisis, FDI inflow fell to $390 million in 1999, but then recovered sharply in 2000 to reach a peak of over $2 billion. FDI inflow to Slovakia in 2001 was $1.5 billion. The Netherlands has been the single largest investor.
At the end of the first three quarters in 2004, cumulative foreign investment had risen to $11.4 billion. Most of the capital inflow was generated through privatization sales, but since 2003 significant greenfield investments have been made. In 2004, Hyundai invested $1.5 billion in its first European assembly plant; Ford constructed a $400 million gearbox production plant in the same year. Most of the investments went to industrial manufacturing (38.2%), the banking sector (22.7%), retail and wholesale (11.7%), and to the production and distribution of gas and electricity (11.0%). The biggest investing countries were Germany (with 22.7% of total investments), the Netherlands (16%), and Austria (14.3%).
The government in the early 1990s slowed economic reforms due to the social burden imposed by the transformation to a market economy. Measures included stimulation of demand through price subsidies and public spending. Slovakia's most successful structural reform has been privatization. The first stage of largescale privatization included 751 companies, and a second stage, which involved 650 medium- and large-scale enterprises, was implemented in late 1993.
However, the Meciar government was slow to implement the $1.5 billion privatization program after he regained power in 1994 and the country continued to rely heavily on foreign aid. Western investors cheered his defeat and replacement by reformer Mikulas Dzurinda in 1998. The Dzurinda government quickly earned praise for its implementation of reforms. The renewed liberalization measures, combined with a new attitude toward Slovakia's Roma (Gypsy) population, caused the EU to place Slovakia back on its list of candidate members. In December 2002, Slovakia was officially invited to join the EU, and accession took place in May 2004.
Slovakia's foreign debt at the beginning of 2002 was about $11 billion, approximately 55% of gross domestic product (GDP). The current account deficit was high, largely due to a shortfall in foreign trade. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been relatively small in recent years, although FDI in 2000 alone was greater than cumulative investment received by Slovakia in the preceding 10 years. Although growth was strong and inflation relatively low in the early 2000s, the unemployment rate remained high. By 2002, the main banks and utilities had been privatized; but further corporate restructuring and labor market reform, improved banking supervision, and strengthening state administration and the judicial system remained structural reforms to be implemented.
A strong economic expansion followed in 2003 and 2004, with GDP growth rates of 4.5% and 5.5% respectively. In 2004, Slovakia joined NATO and the EU, which greatly improved the stability of the political and economic climate. In addition, an investment friendly environment was created, which led to a dramatic increase in the inflow of foreign capital. In 2005, Slovakia was considered by the World Bank the world's top performer in improving its business climate over the last year; in the same year it was deemed one of the top 20 countries in the world for ease of doing business. As of 2006, Slovakia was able to boast a highly skilled and relatively low-cost labor force, an attractive tax system (19% flat tax), a liberal labor code, and a favorable geographic location.
Slovakia's social security system was first introduced in 1906. The current program was implemented in 2004. Old age, disability and survivor's pensions are funded by employee and employer contributions as well as government subsidies. Retirement is set at age 62 for both men and women. The first laws covering sickness benefits were instituted in 1888. A family allowance system provides benefits for all residents funded totally by the government. There are also sickness and maternity benefits, a workers' compensation program, and unemployment benefits.
Women and men are equal under the law, enjoying the same property, inheritance, and other rights, however discrimination persists. Women on the average earn 30% less than men. Despite legal safeguards, the small number of women in private and public leadership roles is evidence of continuing cultural barriers to full equality. The Coordinating Committee for Women's Affairs has not been successful at protecting women against violence, health risks, or economic disadvantages. Domestic abuse and sexual violence against women remains an extensive and underreported problem.
Roma minorities suffer from high levels of unemployment and housing discrimination. Attacks against Roma and other minorities by skinhead extremists were reported. Human rights were generally well respected, but some democratic freedoms were not respected. These include the intimidation of political opponents and interference with the media. There were also reports of police abuse of Roma.
Since 1995 general public health services have been organized into a system of state health institutes. However, primary health care services, formerly operated by the state, are now separate from the public health sector and reimbursed through a compulsory insurance program. As of 2004 there were 77 polyclinics in the country; Slovakia had 84 hospitals, 23 specialized institutes, and 1 maternity facility. As of 2004, there were an estimated 325 physicians, 731 nurses, 44 dentists, 48 pharmacists, and 7 midwives per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 6.5% of GDP.
Life expectancy in 2005 was 74.50 years and infant mortality was 7.41 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 10.1 and 9.2 per 1,000 people. A Slovakian woman living through her childbearing years had an average of 1.3 children. A large proportion of Slovakian women (74%) used some form of contraception. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were impressively high: tuberculosis, 90%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 98%; polio, 98%; and measles, 98%.
The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 200 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
In 1992, the Slovak Association of Towns and Villages, comprised of some 2,000 towns, was engaged in recovering all housing units from former state administration authorities. As of 2001, there were about 1,884,846 dwelling units nationwide. Most of these were detached houses. About 88% of all dwellings were permanently occupied. About 11% of all dwellings were unoccupied. Of the permanently occupied units, the average number of rooms per unit was 3.2; nearly 73% of all dwellings had 3 rooms or more. The average number of people per dwelling was also 3.21. About 76.3% of all dwellings had central heating and 92.8% had a separate bathroom or shower facility. About 28,507 units were considered unsuitable for habitation.
Slovakia has an estimated adult literacy rate of 99%. Education is compulsory for nine years, approximately up to the age of 15. This basic schooling is accomplished in two stages of four years and five years. At the secondary level, there are a variety of general, vocational, professional, and art school programs to choose from. Most secondary programs last about four years.
In 2001, about 82% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 86% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 88% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 99% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 18:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 13:1.
Slovakia has 13 universities, with the oldest being Cornenius (Komensky) University in Bratislava—founded in 1919. The Pavel Josef Afarík University, founded in 1959, is in Košice. In 2003, it was estimated that about 34% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99%.
As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.4% of GDP, or 13.8% of total government expenditures.
The most important library in Slovakia is the Slovak National Library (4.4 million volumes), founded in 1863 and located at Martin. The State Scientific Library in Banská Bstrica (1926) holds almost two million volumes, and the Comenius University in Bratislava has the country's largest university collection of 2.2 million volumes. In total there are over 450 libraries in universities and other higher-educational institutions and about 2,600 public library branches nationwide.
The Slovak National Gallery (1948), the Slovak National Museum (1924), the Natural History Museum (1948), and the History Museum (1924), are all in Bratislava. The administrators of the Slovak National Museum also sponsor the branch museums of the Museum of Archaeology, the Museum of Ethnography, the Museum of Music, the Museum of Puppetry and Toys, and the Museum of Jewish Culture. The State Gallery of Art is in Banská Bstrica. There are dozens of regional museums throughout the country.
In 2003, there were an estimated 241 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 7,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 684 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
There are three government boards appointed by a majority vote of parliament to supervise radio and television broadcasting: The Slovak Television Council and the Slovak Radio Council establish broadcasting policy for state-owned television and radio. The Slovak Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting issues broadcast licenses for nongovernment groups and administers advertising laws and other regulations. The privately owned TV Markiza has the widest broadcast audience. In 2005, there were at two other commercial television stations and at least four commercial radios stations. The public broadcaster, Slovak TV and Radio, sponsored two national television networks and five national radio networks. In 2003, there were an estimated 965 radios and 409 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 127.3 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 180.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 256 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 63 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.
In 2002, there were 14 major daily newspapers, including (with average circulation figures): Novy Cas (New Time, 230,000), Pravda (Truth, 165,000), Praca (Labor, 80,000), and SMENA (a youth journal, 80,000). The daily sports newspaper Sport had a circulation of 85,000 in 2002. The two major Hungarian newspapers are the daily Uj Szo (New Word, 42,000) and the weekly Szabad Ujsag (Free Journal, 40,000). There are also a number of government bulletins and small circulation publications printed by and for minority language groups.
The Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry is located in Bratislava. There are professional associations for a number of occupations, including teaching and a number of medical professions.
The Slovak Academy of Sciences promotes public interest, education, and research in various scientific fields. Cultural and educational associations include the Organization of Slovak Writers. The Slovak Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are several other associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.
National youth organizations include the Association of Slovak Students, Civic Democratic Youth, YMCA/YWCA, and Slovak Scouting. There are several sports associations promoting amateur competition in a variety of pastimes, such as Frisbee, aikido, badminton, baseball, figure skating, floorball, and track and field; many sports associations are affiliated with international groups as well. There are national chapters of the Paralympic Committee and the Special Olympics, as well as a national Olympic Committee.
Kiwanis and Lion's Clubs have programs in the country. Women's organizations include the Alliance of Women in Slovakia. Greenpeace, Habitat for Humanity, and the Red Cross have national chapters.
Slovakia's outdoor tourist attractions include mountains (the most famous being the High and Low Tatras), forests, cave formations, and over 1,000 mineral and hot springs. In addition, tourists can visit ancient castles, monuments, chateaux, museums, and galleries. Slovakia is also home to many health spas. Horse racing is a national pastime. Golf, skiing, mountaineering, and rafting are popular sports among tourists. All visitors are required to have valid passports, onward/return tickets and sufficient funds for their stay. Visas are required for nationals of 154 countries including China, Australia, and India.
In 2003, about 1.4 million tourists arrived in Slovakia. There were 35,853 hotel rooms that year with 90,773 beds and an occupancy rate of 38%. The average length of stay was three nights.
According to 2005 US Department of State estimates, the cost of staying in Bratislava was $272 per day. Estimated daily travel costs elsewhere in the country averaged $157.
Ján Kollár (1793–1852), writer, poet, Slavist, and archaeologist, was a Slovak patriot who championed the Slav struggle against foreign oppression. Ludovít Stúr (1815–56) is the founder of the Slovak literary language and modern Slovak literature. Founder of scientific Slavic studies was Pavel Josef Safačrík (1795–1861), whose Slavonic Antiquities had great scholarly influence. Andrej Hlinka (1864–1938) led the Slovak Catholic autonomist movement. The greatest Slovak poet, Pavel Hviezdoslav (1849–1921), translated foreign poetry, refined the language, and contributed to Slovak awakening. The Robin Hood of the Slovaks, Juraj Jánošík (1688–1713), fought the Hungarians. Milan Rastislav Stefánik (1880–1919), military leader, astronomer, and ally of Tomáš Masaryk, represented the Slovaks in their struggle for liberty. Alexander Dubček (1921–92) was first secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (1968–69). His attempt to increase civil liberties led to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact in 1968. In 1989 he was elected the Federal Assembly's first speaker.
Slovakia has no territories or colonies.
Frucht, Richard (ed.). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005.
Kirschbaum, Stanislav J. Historical Dictionary of Slovakia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 1998.
——. A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005.
Labour Market and Social Policies in the Slovak Republic. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1996.
McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.
Mikus, Joseph A. Slovakia: A Political and Constitutional History: With Documents. Bratislava: Slovak Academy Press, 1995.
Reuvid, Jonathan. Doing Business with Slovakia. Sterling, Va.: Kogan Page, 2004.
Slovakia and the Slovaks: A Concise Encyclopedia. Edited by Milan Strhan and David P. Daniel. Bratislava: Encyclopedical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Science, Goldpress Publishers, 1994.
"Slovakia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700293.html
"Slovakia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700293.html
The Slovak Republic
Banská Bystrica, Piešt'any
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Slovakia. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
Slovakia, the former Czechoslovakia's less glamorous partner, emerged disordered and fatigued after the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989.
The Great Moravian Empire, formed in 833, included all of present Central and West Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and parts of neighboring Poland, Hungary, and Germany. In 907, the empire collapsed as a result of the political intrigues, and by 1018 the whole of Slovakia was annexed by Hungary and remained so for the next 900 years. When the Turks overran Hungary in the early 16th century, the Hungarian capital moved from Buda to Bratislava.
The formation of the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1867 gave Hungary autonomy in domestic matters, and a policy of enforced Magyarization ("Hungarianization") was instituted. Slovak intellectuals cultivated closer cultural ties with the Czechs, who were themselves dominated by the Austrians. The concept of a single Czecho-Slovakian unit was born for political purposes, and, after the Austro-Hungarian defeat in WWI, Slovakia, Ruthenia, Bohemia, and Moravia united as Czechoslovakia. After the 1938 Munich agreement that forced Czechoslovakia to cede territory to Germany, Slovakia declared its autonomy within a federal state.
A second Czechoslovakia was established after the war, but after the communist takeover in February 1948, the administration once again became centralized in Prague.
The fall of communism in Czechoslovakia during 1989 led to a resurgence of Slovak nationalism. In June 1992, the Slovak parliament voted to declare sovereignty and the federation dissolved peacefully on January 1, 1993.
Although it is now holding its own in a rebuilding Eastern block, there is a refreshing absence of Prague-style glitz and glamour. The capital, Bratislava, is small and cheerful with a surprisingly accomplished cultural life; the High Tatras are as rugged a range as any in Eastern Europe and the peasant traditions of rural Slovakia are still evident in the villages. You will find the Slovaks to be extremely warm, friendly people prepared to go out of their way to help you enjoy their country.
The capital of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava, lies on both banks of the Danube River at the foothills of the Low Carpathian Mountains. Its southern district borders on the Hungarian Republic and Austria shares its western border. Vienna is 65 kilometers from Bratislava, Budapest 200 kilometers, and Prague 321 kilometers. The city has a population of 451,616 inhabitants.
Archaeological finds support evidence of man's presence on the territory of Bratislava since ancient times. The Celts were present during the 4th and 5th centuries. The Slavs arrived in the area during the 5th and 6th centuries. In A.D. 833 the Great Moravian Empire came into being, and Bratislava is first mentioned in historical sources in A.D. 907 as the city of "Brezalzuspurc."
During the 10th and 11th centuries, Bratislava gradually became the seat of government for the Hungarian State and was largely under Hungarian influence. Its advantageous position helped Bratislava to become the capital of the Habsburg part of Hungary in 1536. As the capital, Bratislava was the coronation town for the reigning Hungarian kings and queens. St. Martin's cathedral was used as a coronation church until 1830 and during this period of almost 300 years, 11 rulers (including Maria Theresa) and eight royal consorts were crowned there.
The period of the late 18th and first half of the 19th century is known as the Slovak National Revival and saw significant historic events and movements toward a new Slovak identity. Important among them were the first efforts to codify literary Slovak made by the Bratislava Seminary through its leader, Anton Bernolak. Finally, Ludovit Stur, the leading personality of the Slovak national movement, succeeded in codifying the modern Slovak language. The 1830s were marked by the development of manufacturing in Bratislava and the introduction of modern transport. Steamships, also capable of sailing upstream, appeared on the Danube. In 1840, horse-drawn trains ran on rails as far as Trnava and later also to Sered. Ten years later, passengers traveled by train to Pest (now part of Budapest).
On the first of January 1919, Bratislava became a part of the newly-constituted Czecho-Slovakia and was duly proclaimed the capital of Slovakia. It began to use the name of Bratislava instead of Pressburg, its name under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On March 14, 1939, at the same time that Bohemia and Moravia became a protectorate incorporated into the German Reich, Slovakia declared itself independent, and the Slovak Parliament elected Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest, as its president. During the following six years, Slovakia existed as a puppet state of Hitter's Germany. A codex that sharply discriminated against its Jewish population was instituted, and subsequently thousands of Jews were deported to extermination camps. On August 29, 1944, Slovak resistance fighters began an insurrection, the Slovak National Uprising, against the pro-Nazi government in Bratislava and the German troops stationed in Slovakia. The uprising, centered in the town of Banska Bystrica, lasted two months before it was put down at a terrible cost in lives and property. An American mission was sent to aid the uprising most of its members were captured by the Nazis in December 1944. In early 1945, Soviet Forces broke through German defenses, and on April 4th they reached Bratislava. After 1945, but particularly in the 1960s, Bratislava became the center of numerous independence efforts of the Slovak people. These resulted in the signing of the Constitutional Law on the Czecho-Slovak Federation in 1968 at the Bratislava Castle. However, in the wake of the restoration of totalitarian rule that followed the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, Slovakia was left with a government and parliament whose real powers were severely limited. After the 1989 Revolution, discussions with Czech and Slovak officials were instituted to find a mutually acceptable formula that would divide powers between the two states but maintain a common Czechoslovak state.
Finally, on January 1, 1993 Slovakia was declared a free and independent state. After centuries of Hungarian and Soviet repression, Bratislava today is a dynamic city with a youthful population and a rich, picturesque history. There is a general air of modernization taking place. Individuals, however, are impatient for visible improvements in their personal standard of living. Reconstruction and renovation of old buildings in the historical district are a part of daily life here. The city will have to deal with major problems like local, public, and personal transportation, parking lots, and housing construction. In spite of all these temporary inconveniences, Bratislava is a pleasant place to live in.
Slovakia has dependable electricity and water.
The voltage for electricity is 220v. Small appliances using 220v are available locally.
Bratislava has several grocery stores whose stocks vary according to the season, but it is possible to find most things locally. During the spring and summer there are several large markets, and many small vegetable and fruit stands and two markets in the city where it is possible to find locally produced fruits and vegetables. It is common to see Western European products available all over these places, even in the small grocery stores. Bread and sweets abound in the small shops and are very good. Cosmetics are available on the local market.
Additionally, fresh foods can be purchased in Hainburg, Austria across the border all year round at high prices.
Apparel worn in Bratislava is much like that in the Northeastern United States. Most Slovaks dress conservatively. The younger people dress in a more avant-garde style. "Informal" is the most widely used term for social functions and generally means a suit for men and a cocktail dress or suit for women. Wardrobes should include warm winter clothing: a warm coat, scarves, hats, gloves, and low-heeled warm boots. Shops are opening in Bratislava regularly and provide a reasonable selection of Western European clothing and locally manufactured clothing.
Supplies and Services
European manufactured toiletries are available in Bratislava in ample supply at Baumax (hardware store), Tesco (department store), and other shops such as Billa, Dominos, and smaller shops all over Slovakia. American brand-names are more unusual, and cosmetics, while available, are limited in variety. It is recommended to include often used cosmetics, feminine and personal supplies, and medicines, in your household goods. Cigarettes and name-brand liquors are available in the duty free stores and in local shops at reasonable prices. Good quality household cleaning supplies are available in Tesco, and cleaning supplies stores (drogerias) as well as in many smaller shops.
Bring U.S. postage stamps.
Parents with babies should bring everything required if they prefer certain American manufactured items. There is a large IKEA in Bratislava which stocks good quality children's furniture and baby furniture. The baby store "Super G Market" also has a good selection of furniture and clothes for babies. European manufactured baby foods are in ready supply and good quality. Dinos and Maxa are food warehouses, where you can purchase in bulk, dairy products, toiletries, beverages, canned and frozen food.
Paper napkins, paper plates, plastic cups can be purchased locally.
Beautiful glassware and crystal is available locally.
Generally, basic supplies and services are inexpensive when compared to the United States. Service can be slow and sometimes spare parts and materials are difficult to find.
Local beauty shops located in the large hotels. Haircuts, perms, treatments, etc. are generally less expensive than in the U.S. Good quality European hair products are used, but methods and techniques used by hairdressers may differ somewhat from those in the West. Facials, manicures, pedicures, and massages are plentiful, good quality, and at low prices.
Good quality fabrics for clothing are manufactured in Slovakia and are available at very reasonable prices. Men's suits can be tailor-made at very good prices. Shoes can be hand-made locally. Shoe repair is available and at low cost, although quality varies.
Currently there are three dry-cleaning stores in town.
Help for cleaning, cooking, shopping, childcare, gardening, household repairs, driving, etc., is widely available. Payment and fees are negotiable, and are very reasonable compared to prices in the West.
The employer must be willing to train the employee so that the work can meet his or her standards. English-speaking help is hard to find. Most Slovaks are not familiar with Western appliances, or cleaning products, so care should be taken to train employees in their use. If possible, try to retain the domestics of your predecessor, as they will be used to dealing with Americans, and training will be easier.
Household help costs between 60 and 80 SK per hour in Bratislava, less in surrounding towns. Slovak insurance for social security and taxes costs about 38% of the earned salary. Some employers agree to pay the salary plus the monthly insurance costs.
There are two agencies in Bratislava that find and train domestic help, but the prices are usually higher than hiring an employee directly. Other good resources for finding domestic help are the International Women's Club of Bratislava or the expat community.
Slovakia's population is largely Roman Catholic and there are many Catholic services conducted in Slovak in Bratislava. The next largest denomination is Lutheran. Several other Protestant denominations as well as Jewish and Eastern Orthodox congregations are also present. There are several international churches conducting services in English, including Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Apostolic, and the Church of the Brethren.
The International School of Bratislava, a US-accredited private institution which opened in September 1994, offers English-language instruction for students from five years through 15 years of age, as well as a professionally developed and staffed preschool for children ages three and four. The school operates under the control of Quality Schools International, a private nonprofit organization, operating schools in 13 Newly Independent States. Children who reach the age of five before October 31 of the enrollment year are eligible for kindergarten. The school has 125 students enrolled for 1998-99.
The school term is from early September to mid-June. The curriculum includes English, mathematics, cultural studies, science, art, music, drama, foreign languages, and physical education. Special activities include dance, gymnastics, and swimming. The school is located within a large children's center called the Iuventa. The area used by the school includes seven classrooms, a library, and a cafeteria. The sport facilities include soccer and baseball playing fields, a swimming pool, an outdoor basketball court, and a playground area.
The British International School is a non-U.S. accredited private school, which was opened on September 1997. The school offers English-language instruction for students from six years through 15 years of age, and has a kindergarten from three-five years old. Currently the school has 80 students from different nationalities.
The British International School term is from early September to mid-June. The curriculum includes mathematics, art, music, cultural studies, gymnastics, and swimming. The school is located in Karlovy Vez. This school has a computer laboratory, a cafeteria, and includes five classrooms.
Some American parents have placed their children in Slovak schools. Slovak kindergartens and elementary schools are accommodating to American children wishing to attend; almost every district in Bratislava has a kindergarten and an elementary school. They offer a sound academic curriculum, most have music and sports programs, and English is being taught starting in the first grade in many schools. The experience of attending a local school can be rewarding if children are prepared to endure the time necessary and the extra work involved in learning the Slovak language.
Special Educational Opportunities
City University of Washington State, USA, opened a campus in Trencin, Slovakia three years ago. Instruction is in English and an undergraduate program leading specifically to a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration as well as a graduate-study program leading to a Master's
Degree in business administration (MBA) is offered. Comenius University has a program for teaching foreigners the Slovak language. Private language tutoring is widely accessible. The University of Maryland European Division offers a variety of courses in Vienna. Their offerings include many weekend seminars of historical and cultural interest.
There are many hiking paths around Bratislava, which are heavily used by people out for a stroll, hikers, and runners. Cycling is popular here, and there are some bike paths where children can ride safely. Outdoor tennis courts have become more abundant here, and several Americans have purchased weekly time on a court for the May-October season at a very reasonable price. Indoor courts are more difficult to find, but a few exist and are available during the winter. A nine-hole golf course opened near Bratislava in October 1995, with future plans to construct a complete 18-hole golf course.
There are several indoor pools offering swimming all year round. Some haved used the fitness rooms of two hotels in town. There are fitness centers and gymnasiums available at various locations around the city. There is a Hash House Harriers running group, which has a marathon twice a year. Aerobic lessons are becoming popular. Classes are given in Slovak and occasionally in English.
Both cross-country and downhill skiing is possible all over Slovakia and in locations close to Bratislava. The Carpathian Mountains provide the full range of possibilities with high, steep runs in the Tatras and Fatras, and gentle sloping runs in the low Carpathians. The most popular spectator sports are soccer and ice hockey.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Slovakia is a beautiful country to visit, although knowledge of the language greatly facilitates getting around, as many Slovaks do not speak English. There are many lakes for boating (motor boats are forbidden) and swimming, mountain streams and large rivers to hike along, and numerous fascinating caves to explore. Slovakia has more castles per capita than any other country in Europe. Other historical monuments also abound. Entire towns are constructed of traditional wooden houses, and cathedrals are filled with treasures from the past.
The Slovak National Theater presents a full range of high quality opera and ballet performances annually. The Slovak Symphony offers an annual subscription or you can buy tickets on an individual basis. Their performances are excellent. The summer months in Bratislava are alive with the concerts of the well-known series, "Cultural Summer," being performed all around the city. There are several movie theaters in Bratislava, and most popular American films are in English.
Many opportunities exist in Bratislava to make contact with the expatriate community. Embassy personnel, business representatives and journalists often entertain each other at informal dinners, receptions, and theater performances. The Bratislava American Chamber of Commerce also provides a venue for economic and commercial personnel to pursue business contacts.
The International Women's Club offers numerous activities and opportunities for foreign women living in Bratislava to get acquainted with each other and with English-speaking Slovak women. Various interest groups within the club provide opportunities for women to tour cultural facilities, participate in arts and crafts-making, practice foreign language skills, and participate in a variety of sports and other activities.
In general, social relationships with Slovak citizens are not difficult to establish, particularly if one possesses the language skills. The Slovaks are very warm and receptive to someone reaching out to make friends.
Americans are popular and generally welcomed by all segments of society in Bratislava. There is a low incidence of violent crime; however, reasonable precautions should be taken. Incidents of pickpockets are increasingly frequent in the downtown and other tourist areas.
Košice is located in the East Slovak Region on the Hornád River, near the borders of Hungary and the Ukraine. A major market for the surrounding agricultural area and a transportation center, Košice has a population of 235,000. Košice is also a principal industrial center whose modern factories produce steel, machinery, petroleum, cement, and ceramics. Other industries include breweries, distilleries, and food-processing plants.
The city was originally a fortress town, was chartered in 1241, and was an important trade center by the Middle Ages. Frequently occupied by Austrian, Hungarian, and Turkish forces, Košice passed from Hungary to Czechoslovakia via the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Landmarks in Koš ice include the 14th-century Franciscan monastery and church, the Gothic Cathedral of St. Elizabeth (built in the 14th and 15th centuries). It is the most outstanding historical building in all of Slovakia. Other buildings of prominence are the 18th-century town hall, an Ursuline convent, the Forgács Palace, and a Gothic Dominican church and monastery.
The city's several museums house collections of technology, historical and prehistorical artifacts, feudalism, coins, and records of the Communist movement in East Slovakia. The State Philharmonic Orchestra makes Košice its home, and here also are located the Municipal Theater and the Hungarian Theater.
Other city attractions are the botanical gardens and a large sports arena. Skiing is popular at nearby Jahodná. Krasna Horka, 40 miles from Košice, has an interesting medieval castle which was later rebuilt in Renaissance style and is a museum today. In Jasov, 22 miles away, there is a medieval monastery and nearby stalactite caverns. Presov is known for its fortification ruins.
BANSKÁ BYSTRICA , site of the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, is a city of 78,300 residents in the Central Slovak Region. This historical town lies on the Hron River, about 100 miles northeast of Bratislava, and is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Slovakia. It prospered in the Middle Ages from the mining of silver and copper. The oldest of Banská Bystrica's many remaining medieval buildings is a Romanesque church which dates to the 13th century. A castle, surrounded by fortifications, dominates the main square. Other Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings, most of which are in the square, are now preserved as museums and galleries. During World War II, many of Banská Bystrica's men and women lost their lives in brutal battles with occupying forces, and tributes to their resistance are seen throughout the city in monuments and memorial plaques.
PIEŠT'ANY , situated in the picturesque valley of the River Váh, 45 miles north of Bratislava, is Europe's foremost center for the treatment of inflammatory joint diseases. The first mention of its thermal springs dates from early in the 12th century, and for hundreds of years it has enjoyed a reputation for arthritic treatment and orthopedic rehabilitation. Modern medical treatments have further enhanced its renown. So popular is this spa that there is an express bus service to Piešt'any from Vienna. The city, with a population of 31,000, offers a busy cultural life and a wide variety of opportunities for recreation. There are concerts, theatrical events, and art exhibitions, and a music festival sponsored annually in June and July. An international motorcycle race is also held in Piešt'any.
Geography and Climate
Slovakia, located in the very heart of Europe, has an area of 29,418 square miles (49,030 square kilometers), slightly smaller than the State of West Virginia. To the west, Slovakia borders with the Czech Republic, to the southwest with Austria, to the southeast with Hungary, to the north with Poland, and to the east with the Ukraine. The terrain includes the high Carpathian Mountains (The Tatras) in the north, the low Carpathian mountains in the center, the foothills to the west, and the Danube River Basin in the south. Slovakia is mostly mountainous; approximately 80% of the territory is 750 meters or more above sea level. The highest point is Gerlach Peak, 2,655 meters above sea level.
Slovakia is a land of beautiful, wide valleys, which were created by the Vah, Nitra, and Hron Rivers. Most of the land is drained by the Danube, the largest river in Slovakia, which empties into the Black Sea, and its tributaries (Morava, Vah, Hron and others). A smaller part of Slovakia is drained by the Dunajec River, a tributary of the Visla, which empties into the Baltic Sea. The longest river in Slovakia is the Vah, which is 234 miles (390 kilometers).
In the eastern part of the country lie the woodlands of the Carpathian Mountains. Further south along the Danube River lies another important woodland section called the Podunajska Plain, the bread basket of Slovakia. In the woodland regions, oak, birch and spruce grow abundantly up to the tree line. Mountain pine and alpine vegetation grow above the tree line. Because the country lies on the crossroads of several different plant systems, unique flora abound. The entire territory of Slovakia is rich in fauna and most animal species live in the mountainous woodland regions.
The climate in Slovakia is a mixture of continental and ocean climates and has four distinct seasons. The mountain regions affect the weather much more than the geographical location of the country.
The warmest and driest regions are the southern Slovak plains and the Eastern Slovak lowlands where the average temperature is 10°C and average annual precipitation is approximately 500 mm. In the High Tatras, the average temperature is 3°C and annual precipitation is 2,000 mm. The coldest month is January; the warmest is July. During winter the temperatures in the mountain valleys are substantially lower than on the mountain peaks, and temperature inversions are quite common. Bratislava has a warm and moderately dry lowland climate with average temperatures ranging from-1 degree C to-4 degrees C in January and from 19.5 degrees C to 20.5 degrees C in July. Annual rainfall varies from 530 to 650 mm. Bratislava ranks among the warmest places in Slovakia, and strong winds help to remove excessive air pollution and improve the air quality.
Slovakia has a population of 5,390,657. The ethnic breakdown of the population is 85.6% Slovaks, 10.8% Hungarian, 1.5% Romanies (or Gypsies), 1% Czechs, and the remaining 1.6% is made up of Ruthenians, Ukrainians, and Germans. The average density is 106 inhabitants per square kilometer. The official language is Slovak. The majority of the population is Roman Catholic. Lutheranism is the second most practiced religion, and a significant part of the population of Eastern Slovakia is Greek-Catholic and Orthodox. Other smaller religious groups such as the Jewish community are active in Slovakia.
On January 1, 1993, the Slovak Republic, formerly part of Czechoslovakia, became an independent and democratic state. The partition of the former federation was accomplished democratically and peacefully. On September 1, 1992 the Slovak Parliament passed the Constitution of the Slovak Republic, creating the necessary framework for the democratic development of society. Its political system is based on the three fundamental branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Slovakia's unicameral Parliament, the National Council of the Slovak Republic, has 150 deputies.
The official head of state is the President who is elected by popular vote through a secret ballot for a five-year term. The President appoints and dismisses the Prime Minister and the other members of the government. The National Council of the Slovak Republic is the only constitutional legislative body. Its deputies are elected by secret ballot for a four-year term. The main political parties are as follows:
HZDS-Movement for a Democratic Slovakia SDK-Slovak Democratic Coalition SDL-Party of the Democratic Left KDH-Christian Democratic Movement DU-Democratic Union SNS-Slovak National Party EWS-Coexistence-Hungarian (Spoluzitie) National Movement SMK-Party of the Hungarian Coalition
Slovak citizens have the right to vote at the age of 18 years.
The judicial branch is comprised of courts on three levels: the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic, regional courts and district courts, with a Constitutional Court to decide constitutional issues. There is also a system of military courts. Judges of the Supreme Court, district, and regional courts are elected by the National Council, while the President appoints those of the Constitutional Court. A new government coalition formed after the September 1998 parliamentary elections has declared its top priorities to be righting the economy, fighting crime and corruption, and Slovak integration into the EU and NATO.
Arts, Science, and Education
Slovakia boasts a variety of cultural, artistic, and craft traditions. A stay here would not be complete without seeing the variety of brightly colored ceramics produced by local tradesmen and artists. Beautifully hand-embroidered tablecloths and linens abound, as well as wooden toys, hand-made dolls, painted wooden eggs, and a variety of other enchanting folklore objects.
Opera has a long tradition in Bratislava, and the Renaissance-style Slovak National Theater maintains a lively schedule of performances annually from September through June. Just opposite the theater, in the neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque building called the Reduta, the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra performs an annual series of concerts, also from September through June. Tickets to both the opera and the symphony are readily available at reasonable prices. The summer months are filled with the music of outdoor concerts, drama performances, and puppet shows, most of which are free, during the annual July-August Cultural Summer concert series. A number of movie theaters in Bratislava show English language films.
There are many historical monuments of various architectural styles in the Slovak Republic. Slovakia lists 16 historical towns and 158 historical monuments. Listed historical towns are: Bratislava, Svaty Jur, Nitra, Trencin, Trnava, Banska Bystrica, Banska Stiavnica, Kremnica, Zilina, Bardejov, Kezmarok, Kosice, Levoca, Spisska Sobota, Spisske Podhradie, and Presov.
In the last half of the nineteenth century an interest in preserving the Slovak national identity began to emerge. A cultural institution, the Slovak National Foundation (Matica Slovenska) was established in 1863. Later, in 1893, the Slovak Museum Society was also founded in Martin, and in spite of the extremely difficult conditions imposed by the Austro-Hungarians, museum collections were brought together. Today the Matica Slovenska maintains the Slovak National Literary Museum, the National Cemetery, and the A. S. Pushkin Literary Museum in the city of Martin. There are also a variety of open-air museums where traditional Slovak life has been preserved and in the town of Cicmany, a tranquil mountain village, residents continue to live in beautifully kept, typical, dark wooden houses decoratively painted in white folklore designs.
Presently there are 15 institutions of higher education in the Slovak Republic. The oldest university is Academia Istropolitana which was founded in Bratislava in 1467. The Mining and Forestry Academy of Banska Stiavnica is the oldest institution of its kind in Central Europe. Comenius University, located in Bratislava, has an independent unit called the Institute for Language and Academic Preparation, where foreign students are prepared for all Slovak universities in the Slovak language. There are fifty university faculties in Slovakia and university-level education is open to anyone who can pass an admissions test. Education in Slovakia is compulsory for ages 6-16.
Among the new facilities is City University Bratislava which uses Distance Learning teaching methods: books, audio and videotapes, and computer software. Methods used are based on similar correspondence courses used at The Open University located in the UK. A second, and different, City University, headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, USA, has established a branch campus locally in the city of Trencin, a picturesque city in the northern part of Slovakia on the River Vah. Instruction is in English with most of the faculty coming from America. American professors conduct courses in several of the universities in Slovakia. American students in Slovakia pursue academic work under the auspices of various foundations and privately funded programs.
Commerce and Industry
After the "commanders" of the command economy lost their power in 1989, Slovakia (then still a part of former Czechoslovakia) set out on a course of serious economic and political reforms. Much like in every other economy in transition, reforms have brought many gains but also a lot of pain. Slovakia successfully privatized most of its small enterprises and is concluding a notso-transparent privatization of large enterprises. Retail prices have been going up but are still fairly low compared to the prices in the USA due to the low price of labor. Inflation is the lowest in Central Europe (ca. 6%), currency (Slovak CrownSK) is fairly stable, unemployment ca. 13%, and the GDP grew ca. 8% in 1998. It is premature to say, however, that after several years of impressive reforms, Slovakia is facing macroeconomic problems and much restructuring remains to be done at the microeconomic level. Private enterprise plays an important role in employment and amounts for ca.70% of the country's income.
Though the economic situation is reasonably favorable, foreign investment has been growing at a slower pace than in other Eastern European countries. This is often attributed to Slovakia's relatively unstable political climate. Slovakia's neighbor, Austria, is the largest investor, followed by Germany and the Czech Republic. The USA comes fourth. Slovakia's principal trading partners are Europeans-both those in CEFTA (Central European Free Trade Agreement) and those in the EU.
Slovakia is dependent on oil and gas imports from Russia and foreign machinery and factory equipment imports. Slovakia also imports some food products, cars, electronics, clothing. Exports consist mainly of semi-finished products, market goods, machinery and equipment. Since iron and steel products play a crucial role in Slovakia's exports, the economy fluctuates with the economies of the countries that import these commodities (mainly within the EU). Slovakia's key advantages both in terms of competitiveness and foreign investment are its well-educated, highly skilled work force and relatively low wage rates. On the other hand, the country suffers a shortage of domestic capital needed for economic revival. Slovakia has its eyes set on joining the OECD and the EU.
Commercial ties with the USA are good. American companies are becoming increasingly active in setting up joint ventures, holdings, offices and other forms of partnerships and investment in Slovakia. The American Business Center, American-Slovak Enterprise Fund, and American Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia with 120 members in 1998 are also very active in providing assistance to U.S. business and promoting U.S.-Slovak business ties.
The public transportation system in Bratislava. In addition, neighboring cities like Vienna, Prague and Budapest, as well as towns and historic sites in Slovakia are within easy driving distance of Bratislava.
The Slovak Republic has strict standards on automobiles. To register, all cars must pass an inspection designed to assure that vehicles meet emission standards, are road worthy and have certain safety features. Two such safety features that are often missing from American-made cars are fog lights and mud flaps for the rear tires.
European specification cars are easier to maintain and register, but American specification cars are allowed in the country. Local dealers, such as Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW, maintain inventories of only European specification spare parts.
High quality fuel, oil and antifreeze are available locally, but prices are more expensive than in the United States.
All car owners must purchase local liability insurance. The rate of this insurance depends upon the size of the engine, with costs ranging from $100 to $200 per year for most standard cars. Owners should investigate purchasing collision coverage from an American company that writes policies for automobiles in the Slovak Republic. Rental vehicles are available in Slovakia, although the rates for American sized vehicles can be quite high, particularly when taking the car outside of the country.
Local mass transportation is excellent, widespread and inexpensive. Most trams and buses run from 6:00 am to 12:00 midnight. A bus or tram ticket is the equivalent of 25 cents per trip and three-month passes cost $30. Cabs are readily available and the cost per mile is equivalent to less than taxis in the United States.
The roads throughout Slovakia and its neighboring countries are generally good. Major highways and roads are salted and plowed frequently during snowy and icy weather. There are excellent controlled-access highways leading into central Slovakia and to Budapest and Prague. As with the rest of Europe, driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Most countries in the area have imposed or will impose in the near future a "road tax" that must be paid to drive in the country. For Hungary this tax is paid at border crossings when entering the country. Austria and The Czech Republic require the purchase of highway stickers good for one year, as does Slovakia. The cost for a sticker in Austria is $65, for the Czech Republic is $15 and Slovakia is between $10 and $20 depending on the size of the engine of the vehicle. Other means of transportation are also excellent. Vienna International airport, with direct flights to many parts of the United States and to most major cities in Europe, is conveniently located 45 minutes by car from Bratislava. The Bratislava airport can also be used for commuter flights to other cities within Slovakia and to Prague and Budapest. Trains to other parts of Slovakia and to neighboring cities and countries are frequent and inexpensive.
Telephone and Telegraph
The national telephone system is adequate and is being upgraded. International direct dialing is available from residences and at the Post Office. Rates to the U.S. from residences are about $1.80/min and are considerably more expensive from the Post Office. Many call-back services exist which cost about 60 cents per minute for a call to the U.S. AT&T and MCI services are also available though more expensive. Fax services are available in a few shops in the city. Cellular phone services are available from Eurotel, Inc. and Globtel Inc. Cellular phones are not compatible with European protocol and generally cannot be changed. Internet is offered by local companies and the annual rate is approximately $194.
Slovak mail service is currently not completely reliable for parcel mail. Parcels have arrived opened or very overdue and occasionally they have just disappeared.
TV and Radio
Radio in the region provides entertainment and information formats. BBC World News and Blue Danube Radio (Vienna) provide news and entertainment in English on the FM dial. Car radios that have digital tuners must be switchable to European standards (100 kHz increments) to receive all FM stations (U.S. standard is kHz). Local television is limited to three Slovak, two Austrian and two Hungarian stations. Cable TV is available is some parts of the city, but most residents use 3ft satellite dishes and receivers to tune in to European satellite services. These services, cable and satellite, offer a handful of English-language channels-CNN, TNT, Sky News, Eurosport, etc., and several German channels. Enhanced services are available with the use of decoders and service memberships. Basic satellite service hardware purchased locally costs $200 to $500.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals
Local publications are of interest to those with Slovak language skills. The Slovak Spectator, an English-language newspaper, is written and produced in Bratislava by an English-speaking staff. The International Herald Tribune is widely available in large hotels and some bookstores.
Health and Medicine
The U.S. Embassy Regional Medical Officer recommends that local hospitals not be used by any U.S., except for emergency services in cases in which it is inadvisable to transport the patient to the hospital in Hainburg, (a border town approximately 20 minutes from Bratislava) Austria. Additionally, the RMO recommends that chronic medical conditions be managed by Austrian physicians.
Competent dentists practice in Bratislava, but many Americans do not consider them equal to the best American dentists. Americans are usually satisfied with minor dental work done locally. Local ophthalmologists and opticians are dependable. Glasses may be obtained locally and at U.S. military hospitals in Germany for somewhat lower prices than in the U.S.
Your should plan bringing a supply of prescriptions with you or filling them though mail-order pharmacy services in the U.S.
General sanitation in Bratislava is good. The water is fluorinated and safe to drink. Some Americans use water distillers if they live outside of the city limits of Bratislava. Bottled water is widely available for sale. Parents should bring fluoride-fortified vitamins or fluoride tablets for their children, as once the water is distilled or filtered/boiled, it loses its fluoride content. Streets and sidewalks are relatively well-kept due to daily sweeping. People practice basic cleanliness. Garbage collection is regular, and sewage disposal is good. Many roadside ditches are currently being dug in Bratislava and in towns and villages around Slovakia, in order to lay sewage lines, bury television and telephone cables, etc. The dirt and ditches are annoying but temporary.
In winter months, the city and rural streets are plowed sporadically during heavy snowfall. Sidewalks are often not cleaned of ice and snow. Main roads in Bratislava are generally in fair condition in winter, and highways in Slovakia are adequate.
Immunizations should be current upon arrival. Additionally, a series of three injections preventing tick-borne encephalitis is recommended in this region.
NOTES FOR TRAVELERS
Passage, Customs and Duties
Most choose to fly to Vienna, due to its proximity to Bratislava. Several American carrier service Vienna's Schwechat airport with code sharing arrangements with European airlines. Delta, United and Northwestern are three airlines that fly into Vienna. There are usually several flights daily from the East Coast of the U.S. using one of the American carriers.
There are no special restrictions on the free passage of individuals and goods among countries in Central Europe, other than those that are generally known-drugs, contraband weapons, etc.
A passport is required. A visa is not required for stays up to thirty days. For stays longer than thirty days a visa must be obtained prior to entry at Slovak embassies or consulates abroad. Visas cannot be obtained at border points upon arrival. Travelers to the Slovak Republic can obtain entry information at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic at 3523 International Court N.W., Suite 250, Washington, DC 20007, telephone (202) 965-5160/1, Internet http://www.slovakemb.com.
Americans living in or visiting Slovakia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Slovakia and obtain updated information on travel and security within Slovakia. The U.S. Embassy is located at Hviezdoslavovo nam. 4, telephone (421)(7) 5443 0861, (421)(7) 5443 3338, fax (421)(7) 5441 8861, web site: http://www.usis.sk.
Rabies shots must be current, not less than one month and not more than one year old, for entry of a pet shipped by air to Vienna. A valid International Certificate of Health must be issued by a veterinarian within ten days before your arrival in Vienna. As long as your pet has the above documentation, no quarantine restrictions are required. Veterinarian services are available in Bratislava, and most of the veterinarians speak English.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures
The Slovak Crown (Koruna) is the official currency. One koruna contains 100 halier. Notes of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 5000 Korun exist. Coins in circulation are of 1, 2, 5, 10 Korun, and 10, 20, and 50 halier.
Dollars can be exchanged at banks and official exchanges all over Bratislava and Slovakia. Credit cards are widely accepted in stores, restaurants, and hotels, in Bratislava. Many automated teller machines accept Most, Plus and Cirrus debit cards.
The metric system of weights and measures is used in Slovakia.
Jan. 1…Slovak Republic Day
May 1…Labor Day
May 8…End of World War ll
July 5…St. Cyril & St. Methodious Day
Aug. 29…Slovak Nation. Uprising Day
Sept. 1… Slovak Consitituion Day
Sept. 15… The Day of the Virgin Mary of the Seven Sorrows Nov. 1…All Saints' Day
Dec. 24 …Christmas Eve
Dec. 25 …Christmas
Dec. 26 …St. Stephen's Day
The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:
Encyclopedical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Slovakia and the Slovaks: A Concise Encyclopedia. Goldpress Publishers: Bratislava 1994.
Priroda. Slovakia: Walking Through Centuries of Cities and Towns. Stredoslovenske vydavatelstvo Banska Bystrica and Tlaciarne BB: Banska Bystrica 1995.
Kirschbaum, Joseph M. Slovakia: A Nation at the Crossroads of Central Europe. Robert Speller and Sons, Publishers Inc.: New York 1960.
Kischbaum, Stanislav J. A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival. St. Martin's Press: New York 1995.
Oddo, Gilbert L. Slovakia and Its People. Robert Speller and Sons, Publishers: New York 1960.
Zendzian, Paul F. and Vadkerty, Madeline Bon Appetit, Dobru Chut, Bratislava: A Guide to 70 of the Best Restaurants in Bratislava. Brunswick Legal Publishers: Brunswick, Maine U.S.A. 1995.
"Slovakia." Cities of the World. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700151.html
"Slovakia." Cities of the World. 2002. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700151.html
LOCATION AND SIZE.
The Slovak Republic is a land-locked nation in the eastern portion of Central Europe, with access to the Black Sea via the Danube River. Its neighbors are the Czech Republic to the northwest, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, and Austria to the west. The country's total area is 48,845 square kilometers (18,859 square miles). Much of its northern and central terrain is composed of striking mountains, similar to the American Rockies. Terrain in southern Slovakia consists of plains in the west and rolling hills. Slovakia is about the size of South Carolina, and it does not border a sea. The capital, Bratislava, is located near the country's western border and is not far from Vienna, Austria. Other major cities include Košice in the east and Banská Bystrica in the center of the country.
The population of Slovakia was estimated to be 5,407,956 in July 2000, an increase of 3.25 percent over the 1980 population of approximately 4,996,000. The birth rate stood at 10 per 1,000 in 2000, and the death rate was 9.29 per 1,000, resulting in a growth rate of .12 percent for 2000. Following this trend, the population for 2010 is projected at 5,473,203. The population has become increasingly urbanized, with 56.7 percent of Slovaks living in cities in 1999, up from 49.2 percent in 1980 and 32.8 percent in 1960.
Several ethnic groups make up the population. About 85.7 percent of the people are Slovak, and 10.6 percent are ethnic Hungarians. Although the census data registers 1.6 percent of the population as Romany (Gypsy), this figure is believed to be an underrepresentation, with some experts estimating as many as 500,000 Romany living in Slovakia. There are also small numbers of Czechs, Moravians, Silesians, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, and Poles. Approximately 60 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, about 10 percent is atheist, 8 percent is Protestant, 4 percent is Orthodox, and 17.5 percent list their religion as "other."
OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY
The nation that is now known as Slovakia was part of the Hungarian portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I in 1918. It then became a part of the new nation of Czechoslovakia. During the 1930s, Czechoslovakia was an industrial powerhouse in Europe. After World War II, Czechoslovakia fell under the political and economic influence of the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovak economic performance began to stagnate under communist rule, which mandated state ownership of enterprises, state-led central planning of economic activities, and artificial price controls . In 1968, after some Czechoslovak leaders attempted to introduce some political, cultural, and economic liberalization , the country was invaded by the Warsaw Pact troops of neighboring communist countries under the direction of the Soviet Union. This intervention put a stop to liberalization and introduced a period of "normalization" in which the government attempted to increase production of consumer goods in exchange for political compliance by the people. In spite of these efforts, the economy continued to decline, culminating in an economic crisis by the late 1980s that sparked more popular protests.
By late 1989, the more liberal policies of the Soviet Union toward Eastern Europe, as well as the weakening of communist governments in neighboring East Germany, Hungary, and Poland, made it harder for the Czechoslovak communists to retain power. In November and December of 1989, the communist government stepped down. Free elections for parliament were held in 1990, and Václav Havel was elected president. The government quickly embarked on a series of economic reforms aimed to reorient the economy towards free market principles. These reforms included economic restructuring and the elimination of government price controls. In addition, the government began the process of privatization .
From 1990 to 1992, these reforms were more popular in what is now the Czech Republic, which had a larger industrial base, than in what is now Slovakia, where several factories that had produced arms during the Cold War had been shut down. Under the country's federal structure, which gave each republic a measure of independent powers, the 1992 elections resulted in a governmental deadlock, and the newly-elected prime ministers of the Czech and Slovak republics began to negotiate the separation of Czechoslovakia into 2 independent states. The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic became separate sovereign states on January 1, 1993.
Compared to the pre-1993 economic reforms in Czechoslovakia, the economic reforms that took place in Slovakia between 1993 and 1998 occurred at a slower pace. While the country registered continued growth in GDP during this time, international investment did not reach desired levels. In 1998, a more reformist government was elected and began to accelerate the pace of economic reforms. For example, as part of the privatization process, property was now being sold to qualified individuals at regular prices, putting a halt to the previous government's attempts to sell off property to unqualified friends of government officials at artificially low prices. Reforms also improved conditions for foreign investment in Slovakia, paving the way for increased employment and for future accession to the European Union.
Slovakia's strongest economic sectors are industry and services. Its primary industrial products include iron and steel, machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, manufactured goods, plastics, chemicals, and armaments. The country's primary agricultural products are wheat, potatoes, barley, sugar beets, and grapes for wine-making. The Slovak Republic's primary mineral products include copper, iron, lead, lignite, manganese, and zinc. The vast majority of the country's energy is imported from outside sources, although there is some hydroelectric and nuclear power.
The Slovak Republic has applied for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and is a prospective member of the European Union (EU). Its largest trading partners are the EU and the Czech Republic. It has received some aid, in the form of grants and loans, from international organizations such as the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. Slovakia's external debt for 1999 was US$10.6 billion. Organized crime has been a negative factor in the development of the economy, as occasional violence between organized crime factions, such as car bombings, have deterred potential foreign investors. These gangs, composed of Slovaks and immigrants from the former Soviet Union, have in some cases also extorted payments from some small business owners.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION
Slovakia is a parliamentary democracy with a directly-elected president. A unicameral (one-house) National Council of 150 members is elected via a proportional system in which voters indicate a preference for parties rather than for specific candidates. Each party that receives at least 5 percent of the vote is assigned a number of seats in parliament according to the percentage of ballots it receives. Terms are for 4 years. Judicial power is vested in a Supreme Court, elected by the National Council and a Constitutional Court appointed by the president from nominees approved by the National Council.
Although the president was initially elected by the parliament, the office of president has been chosen by direct election since 1999. The 1st president to be chosen by direct election, Rudolf Schuster, was elected in 1999 for a 5-year term. He succeeded Michal Kovac, who served as the 1st president after being elected by the parliament in 1993.
The 1st elections in the independent Republic of Slovakia took place in 1994. At that time, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerged as a clear victor, as it had in 1992. This party, which is a weak supporter of free-market reforms, formed a governing coalition with the xenophobic (anti-foreign involvement) Slovak Nationalists (SNS) and the Slovak Workers (ZRS). In spite of a very slight victory for the HZDS in the 1998 elections, the party's inability to form a governing coalition gave power to a broad-based coalition that included the free-market reformist Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK). Other significant political parties include the Slovak Communist Party (KSS) and the reformist Democratic Union (DU). There is also a new, centrist party called Smer (Direction).
The government has played a significant role in the economy during the process of changing from a centrally planned communist system to a market-based system. The HZDS-SNS government in power from 1994 to 1998 not only slowed economic reforms but also did some damage to the privatization process by selling direct shares of state industries instead of distributing shares through a voucher process (in which all citizens obtained vouchers to purchase shares in formerly state-run industries), as had been initiated under the Czechoslovak state. It had originally been intended that these sales would take place via public auction, but the HZDS-SNS government made the transfers independently of public discussion or knowledge. There have been allegations that the transfer of many of these enterprises occurred under dubious circumstances, especially between 1996 and 1998.
In spite of these setbacks, the economy is currently dominated by private activity, and the vast majority of economic activity originates in the private sector . The reformist government that took power in 1998 has actively attempted to implement numerous reforms at a rapid pace, with the goal of having Slovakia enter the European Union in the near future.
The Slovak Republic adopted the Commercial Code that was initially formulated in 1991 under the Czechoslovak state. It outlines legal protections for private property and business activities for both Slovaks and foreign persons. Government reforms have also stabilized the Slovak currency and made it convertible to other currencies on the world market. The government has effectively reoriented trade towards Western partners in an attempt to integrate with EU markets.
The government obtains revenue through several different forms of taxes. There is a progressive personal income tax with 7 rates that ranges from 12 to 42 percent. The corporate income tax is 29 percent, although tax holidays or specific tax breaks for some businesses are offered as part of an effort to attract foreign investment. Other taxes include property taxes, road taxes for business vehicles, inheritance tax, and fees for administrative services. There is also a value-added tax on goods; excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and some fuels; customs duties ; and real-property transfer taxes. The court system enforces the commercial code, but as it is often overloaded, plaintiffs may experience significant delays. The military has little or no role in controlling economic development, except for the armaments industry.
|Country||Newspapers||Radios||TV Sets a||Cable subscribers a||Mobile Phones a||Fax Machines a||Personal Computers a||Internet Hosts b||Internet Users b|
|aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.|
|bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS
Given the former communist emphasis on public goods, Slovakia inherited an extensive network of public transportation, in the form of bus and train routes, from Czechoslovakia. Even some of the most remote locations may be reached by bus. One of the most significant changes of the post-communist era has been an increase in independent auto ownership. There are 17,710 kilometers (11,005 miles) of highways, including 288 kilometers (179 miles) of expressway, with only 177 kilometers (110 miles) remaining unpaved. A large-scale improvement is planned for the highway system with a cross-country expressway slated for construction. Continued improvements are planned for the railway system in order to bring it more in line with EU standards. The country now has 3,660 kilometers (2,274 miles) of railways.
There are 18 airports in the country. The largest public airports are in Bratislava and in Košice, the second-largest city. Many visitors also enter Slovakia via the Vienna airport, which is only 25 miles away from Bratislava. The 172 kilometers (107 miles) of waterway are provided by the Danube River, which gives Slovakia access to the Black Sea via ports in Austria, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, and Romania. The 2 port cities are Bratislava and Komárno, both of which host shipping companies.
Electricity production stands at 20 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), and the country relies on a 220-volt power system. Most electricity is generated by nuclear power (56 percent), followed by imported fossil fuels (24 percent) and hydroelectric power (20 percent). One of the 2 nuclear plants was being upgraded as of 2000, and the construction of an additional hydroelectric power plant on the Danube has been delayed by a dispute with Hungary.
Slovakia's communications infrastructure is rapidly modernizing. In 2000, Slovak Telecom, the former state-owned communications monopoly , was largely privatized, and access to telephone service is easier. The increased entry of private telecommunications providers and the growing popularity of mobile telephones now provide more competition in this industry. There are 87 mobile phones per 1,000 people in the Slovak Republic, compared to 50 per 1,000 in neighboring Poland, and there are 2 providers of cellular phone service and 5 large Internet service providers. Internet cafes are readily available, which make up for the fact that relatively few Slovak households contain computers (65.1 per 1000 people in Slovakia, compared to 97.3 per 1,000 in the Czech Republic and 457 per 1,000 in the United States). Slovakia also lags behind the Czech Republic in the proportion of radios and televisions but is on a rough par with Poland in these categories.
Since the 1990s, Slovakia has experienced a drastic production shift away from the industrial sector and towards the services sector. In 1998, the proportion of contributions to GDP from services, industry, and agriculture were 62 percent, 33 percent, and 5 percent, respectively. This change has not merely resulted from the 1993 separation of Czechoslovakia, since the Czech Republic has been experiencing similar dramatic shifts. Rather, it is a side effect of the transformation from the central planning of the communist system to a market-based system. The communist system created several large monopoly industries in specific sectors, such as pharmaceuticals and machine production. Once privatized, only some of these industries have been competitive in a free-market environment. While the service sector was given a low priority under the communist system, the free-market environment has demonstrated a strong demand for growth in this sector.
GDP showed generally continuous growth during the 1st decade of the transition. However, some irregularities in the privatization process were among the factors that prevented Slovakia from attaining levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) comparable to that of its neighbors. A restructuring of the government and economic policies in 1998 has brought renewed investor interest in Slovakia. The most famous Slovak industry to survive the transition process is the VSŽ Steel company in Košice, now a partnership with U.S. Steel. Volkswagen also set up operations in Slovakia in the late 1990s.
Under the communist system in Czechoslovakia, Slovakia produced 80 percent of the state's armaments, many of which were exported to eastern-bloc allies. With the end of the Cold War, these factories were shut down. This sector had at one time contributed 5 percent of total industrial production and 12 percent of exports, employing 80,000 people. The closing of the factories was highly unpopular in Slovakia, and played a contributing role to the eventual breakup of the Czechoslovak state. Some Slovak arms production has now been resumed.
The sectors that are projected to have particular growth potential are pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, information technology, equipment and equipment services, business services, and tourism.
The agricultural sector is the smallest in the Slovak economy, making up approximately 5 percent of the GDP, although some sources argue that this proportion is higher. According to 1994 figures, the agricultural sector employs 8.9 percent of the labor force , or 295,480 people. More than one-third of Slovakia's territory is cultivated, and the primary agricultural products are sugar beets, potatoes, wheat, barley, fruit, forest products, corn, pigs, cattle, poultry, and sheep. Grapes for wine production are grown in some hilly areas, and tobacco is cultivated in valleys. Animal products, including oils, represent over 80 percent of all agricultural receipts.
Under the communist economic system, much of Slovakia's agriculture, particularly on the plains, was collectivized, meaning that small private farms were taken by the government in order to create state-owned cooperatives. Under this setup, individuals who lived in a village would be employed by the nearby collective farm. After the collapse of communism in 1989, these cooperatives were transferred to private owners, often by the direct sale of the farm as a unit, though some lands were also restored to their former owners. The government has embarked upon a long-term agricultural policy in an effort to modernize this sector for the world market.
Food consumption has diversified with the introduction of the free market system , and food items that are not produced domestically, such as tropical fruits, are easily imported. These items were more difficult for individuals to obtain under the communist economic system.
Industry is a large but declining sector of the economy of Slovakia. According to 1998 data, industrial production made up 33 percent of the country's GDP and employed 37 percent of the labor force, or 1,238,360 people, in 1994. Slovakia is experiencing a long-term decline of industrial production as fewer unnecessary products are being produced under capitalism as were produced under communism. There has also been a reduction of heavy and light industry and a move toward services. In the first decade of the free-market economy, employment in the industrial sector shrank, with the most significant job losses in the areas of construction, machinery and equipment, metals and fabricated metal products, and mining and quarrying. The only increase came in the area of textile production. In spite of this decline, industry continues to produce a significant portion of exports from Slovakia to other countries.
While the majority of large and medium-sized enterprises have been privatized, some companies remained in government hands until as late as 1999 and 2000. Some of these companies had significant debts, making their privatization politically unpopular because of potential job losses. Other companies were initially categorized as strategic enterprises and were left out of the first efforts of privatization. In 1998, Slovak Telecom and SPP, the Slovak gas company, were privatized.
Many of the remaining manufacturing plants that were privatized after communism included outdated equipment. Thus, foreign direct investment has been extremely important in determining which industries survive the transition to a market economy. Foreign investment was particularly helpful in the areas of transport machines, auto production, and steel production. The most sizable investments were made by the German company Volkswagen and by U.S. Steel, which purchased the large East Slovakia VSŽ Steel plant in the late 1990s. Automobiles and steel are among Slovakia's most successful exports. Chemical production has recently averaged approximately 18 percent of total industrial output and includes chemical fibers and plastics. Other important sectors are the production of textiles, clothing, and leather products such as footwear, fuel and power production, and construction.
The late 1990s saw some decreases in the production of manufactured products, as well as in chemicals, while exports of crude materials remained at steady levels. According to employment figures for 1999, employment trends in various manufacturing sectors varied widely. There have been significant declines in employment in the areas of basic metals and fabricated metal products, machinery and equipment, and construction. The following manufacturing areas registered positive increases between 1998 and 1999: textiles, electrical and optical equipment, pulp and paper products, leather products, and transport equipment.
Approximately 4.6 million tons of coal are mined in Slovakia each year. Other significant minerals include iron, copper, lead, manganese, zinc, mercury, and lignite. Employment in the mining sector declined during the 1990s.
Construction levels initially increased dramatically after 1989, and building materials represent over 3 percent of industrial output. However, at the end of the 1990s, construction began to experience some fluctuations in employment.
As part of the general transformation of the economy in the transition from a communist to a capitalist system, the service sector in Slovakia has experienced sizable growth while the industrial and agricultural sectors have declined. In 1998, the services sector accounted for 62 percent of total GDP, and, as of 1994, it employed 54 percent of the labor force, or 1,786,160 workers. Significant increases in employment in the late 1990s were located in the service sector, in the areas of wholesale and retail trade, repairs, and hotels and restaurants.
FINANCE, BANKING, AND INSURANCE.
As insurance was not provided under the communist system, there was significant growth in this area during the 1990s. Financial services and consulting companies experienced similar growth. Although foreign companies initiated growth in this sector, they now have some domestic competitors. An increasing number of commercial banks are under private and/or foreign ownership.
The retail portion of the service sector has undergone dramatic changes since 1989. Under the communist economic system, retail was limited to state-owned shops where product shortages were common and the displays unattractive. In an effort to promote full employment , these stores maintained a complicated point-of-purchase system that required several steps with different clerks at each level (selecting the product, paying for it, and receiving it). Retail stores were privatized as part of the process that took place under the Czechoslovak state before 1993. The current retail sector consists of privatized, restructured stores as well as completely new stores that have adopted capitalist marketing methods. Among the most popular products for consumer consumption are automobiles and foreign-produced appliances, such as televisions, VCRs, and stereos. The repair sector is also growing.
Tourism has increased significantly since 1989, and it is targeted as a primary sector of growth. Slovakia's chief urban attractions are its largest cities, the capital city of Bratislava and Košice. The country's best known feature is the striking High Tatra mountains, comparable to the American Rockies, which offer numerous opportunities for outdoor tourism such as skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, and cave exploration. Visitors are also attracted by the region's historic spas and castles. Slovakia hopes to make a bid to be a site for a future Winter Olympics.
The number of tourists visiting Slovakia steadily increased after 1989, with the majority of visitors coming from Western Europe and neighboring countries. The dramatic increase in tourism has led to an increased need for tourist services, particularly hotels, and hotel accommodation income increased from 1.1 billion korunas in 1993 to 1.8 billion korunas in 1995. In 2000, some 2.8 million tourists spent US$431 million in Slovakia. Unlike the situation under the communist system, which featured a state-run, monopolistic tourist bureau, the majority of tourist facilities have now been privatized.
Since it became an independent state in 1993, Slovakia has had a trade deficit , meaning that it imports more than it exports. The former Czechoslovak state also consistently registered a negative trade balance between 1975 and its separation into the Czech and Slovak Republics. In 1999, it exported US$11.2 billion worth of goods and services while importing US$10.1 billion.
Slovakia's primary industrial exports are various manufactured goods, among them metal products and wood products, such as paper, as well as machinery and transport equipment. In 1998, these categories comprised 43 percent and 37 percent of all commodity exports, respectively. Other significant exported commodities were chemicals, which made up 9 percent, and raw materials, which amounted to 4 percent. Of the EU countries, Germany and Austria are the primary consumers of Slovak exports (at 29 and 7 percent of exports, respectively), but the Czech Republic (with 20 percent) also consumes a significant volume of Slovak products.
Some 40 percent of all of Slovakia's imports for 1998 were classified as machinery and transport equipment. Other imports included intermediate and miscellaneous manufactured goods, which comprised 28 percent of imports, chemicals (11 percent), and fuels (11 percent), although increasing fuel demand makes this a rapidly-growing import sector. The primary sources of imports from EU countries are Germany (26 percent) and Italy (6 percent), with the Czech Republic (18 percent) and Russia (10 percent) also serving as important importers.
In the early 1990s, the Czechoslovak state made a concentrated effort to shift trade away from the former Soviet Union and former Soviet Bloc countries and to the European Union and the United States. In contrast to the previous Slovakian government, the government elected in 1998 began to actively encourage this shift in an effort to improve the country's chances for entry into the European Union. Trading patterns now show increased volume in trade with the European Union and the United States and decreased volume with other eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union. As one result of this shift, trade with the Czech Republic has been in decline, in spite of a favorable customs union between the 2 countries. The Czech Republic made up 39 percent of Slovakia's foreign trade turnover in 1993, but, by 1999, it was about half that (18 percent). Both countries have instead been registering increased trade with the European Union, which now accounts for approximately 56 percent of Slovakia's foreign trade.
Since 1995, the Slovakian koruna has been generally convertible to other currencies on the world market for trading purposes. In January 2000, it was being exchanged at the rate of 42.059 korunas to the U.S. dollar, up from 29.713 in 1995. The Slovak National Bank serves as the country's central bank and sets monetary policy . It is designed to be autonomous from political structures. In spite of the bank's generally responsible policies to curb inflation , the currency has been in a slow state of decline for several years. As a result, imported products are becoming increasingly harder for Slovaks to afford. In addition to the central bank, there are 2 agencies to assist banks and companies through the bankruptcy process.
The privatization of banks in Slovakia has been a complicated process, and the state retained shares in the 3 strongest banks as of 1999. In that year, the government began a program to reduce the amount of state ownership in the banking sector (a holdover from the communist system) and to increase the amount of private ownership of banking. This restructuring is understood as a crucial step in the transition to a market economic system. There is also a growing amount of foreign investment and ownership in the banking sector. This process corresponds with the country's efforts to prepare for future integration into the financial structures of the European Union.
The Bratislava Stock Exchange is the seat of much of the securities trading in the Slovak Republic. There is also an electronic exchange market called the RM-system, also for the trade of securities. A database of all listed companies is maintained by the Center of Securities of the Slovak Republic, a joint-stock company.
|Exchange rates: Slovakia|
|koruny (Sk) per US$1|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
POVERTY AND WEALTH
In 1998, GDP per capita was US$3,822 in Slovakia, as compared to $5,142 in the Czech Republic, US$2,900 in Poland, and US$23,200 in the United States. Four decades of communist rule in Czechoslovakia (1948 to 1989) had a strong and enduring effect on the distribution of incomes in Slovakia. Under communism, wages were artificially kept at similar levels, so professionals such as doctors earned wages similar to those of factory or construction workers. Because property had belonged to the state and housing was distributed through state channels, those individuals who obtained large homes often did so through political means, such as good standing with the Communist Party.
By 2000, with the privatization of property, home ownership is increasingly becoming a privilege of financial success. However, the Slovakian government that administered the privatization process throughout most of the 1990s did so in a non-transparent (secretive) way, making it clear that political affiliation mattered for the acquisition of property at reduced rates. Such instances of corruption have allowed a few individuals to improve their economic standing through dubious means.
Although the social structure is rapidly moving toward a hierarchical class system, as of the late 1990s, income distribution and consumption in Slovakia remained more equalized than in the United States. In the United
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Slovakia|
|Survey year: 1992|
|Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.|
|SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
States, the richest 20 percent of people earn and consume 46 percent of available wealth, as compared with Slovakia, where the richest 20 percent earn and consume only 31 percent of available wealth. In the United States, the poorest 20 percent earn and consume only 5 percent of available wealth, but in the Slovakia, the poorest 20 percent earn and consume nearly 12 percent.
Under the communist system, higher education and health care were freely provided by the state. Slovakia has been implementing reforms that require individuals to pay for these services. These reforms have been difficult for average individuals because institutions such as a comprehensive student loan system or health insurance have not yet been fully developed. The state does provide a social security system and some social assistance.
Slovakia's labor force is 3.32 million. Because the previous communist system required women to work outside the home, many are now choosing to remain at home when they have children, in contrast to trends in the United States. In 1999 and early 2000, the rate of unemployment, which registers those actively looking for work, reached
|Household Consumption in PPP Terms|
|Country||All Food||Clothing and footwear||Fuel and power a||Health care b||Education b||Transport & Communications||Other|
|Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.|
|aExcludes energy used for transport.|
|bIncludes government and private expenditures.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
nearly 20 percent. It now appears to be declining, with unemployment for late 2000 at 16-17 percent. Many experts believe that high levels of unemployment are difficult to avoid in the ongoing transition period. The government has focused its energies on improving foreign investment and business possibilities in an effort to promote new jobs, and unemployment benefits are available, as well as progressive provisions for paid maternity leave.
Unemployment is at the lowest level in the capital of Bratislava, where wages are at the highest level in the country, and in the eastern region of Košice. In 1994, the majority of those employed, 53.8 percent, worked in the service sector. Industry employed 37.3 percent of the workforce, and the remaining 8.9 percent worked in agriculture. Given the importance of foreign investment in the economy, those workers who speak English and German have an advantage in the labor market.
There is an active confederation of trade unions, with the largest single union being the Engineering and Metal Union. The majority of all workers are union members. Slovakia has instituted a system of laws that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, faith, and political views. However, discrimination against the hiring of Romany people (Gypsies) persists in practice.
COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
500 A.D. First Slavonic tribes appear in region.
830-900. Period of the Great Moravian Empire.
863. Christianity enters the region, brought by the monks Cyril and Methodius.
907. The Moravian Empire is overthrown by the Hungarians (Magyars), leading to rule by various Hungarian kings.
1526. The defeat of Hungarians by the Turks in a battle moves the administrative seat of Hungary northward, to what is now Slovakia. This situation lasts until the late 1600s.
MID-1800s. Increasing Slovak national identity is particularly centered around language.
1867. The Austro-Hungarian Empire is divided into 2 parts. The Slovaks remain under the rule of the Hungarians, based in Budapest, while the Czechs are under Hapsburg rule.
1918. The Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrates at the end of World War I and Czechoslovakia becomes an independent nation.
1938. Adolf Hitler's Germany is given a piece of Czechoslovakia by the Munich Agreement.
1939. Germany attacks Czechoslovakia at the start of World War II. Czechoslovakia is dissolved and Slovakia becomes a puppet state allied with Hitler's Germany. Many Jews perish in camps during the war.
1944. Approximately 60,000 Slovak troops engage in the Slovak National Uprising against German rule, a resistance that is put down by the Nazis.
1948. The Communist Party takes over Czechoslovakia's parliament. A communist political and economic system dominates for the next 4 decades.
1968. The Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc nations invade Czechoslovakia to counter reform attempts during the "Prague Spring" of Premier Alexander Dub ek.
1970s. Strict repression and control of the population by the Communist Party.
1977. Some political dissidents, emboldened by principles of human rights, begin to visibly resist the communist leadership.
1980s. Worsening economic conditions lead to increasing numbers of protests against communism.
1990. The first post-communist parliamentary elections are held in Czechoslovakia, and the new government embarks on a series of reforms to replace the communist economic system with a capitalist system.
1992. The second post-communist elections result in a leadership stalemate between the Czech and Slovak republics under the federal Czechoslovak state.
1993. The Republic of Slovakia is constituted on January 1. In February, it establishes a separate Slovakian currency.
2000. Slovakia is invited to begin accession talks with the European Union, of which it is already an associate member.
Slovakia has come a long way since its founding in 1993 and its first decade of transition from a communist to a capitalist economic system. It is a member of several international organizations, including the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is also an associate member of the European Union. It aspires to become a member of NATO and is working to update its military infrastructure for this purpose. The government's primary focus in recent years has been the preparation of legislative and regulatory structures for future EU membership, for which it has made a formal application.
In spite of the enormous changes that Slovakia has successfully undergone in its first few years of independence, and particularly since 1998, more remains to be done. Some areas for improvement include: some restructuring of the enterprise sector after the negative results of corrupt "insider" privatization by the first Slovak government, increased foreign investment, a reduction of high unemployment levels, and further reforms of legislation to incorporate EU standards. Although the Slovak economy faces many difficulties, the EU has responded favorably to the economic reforms initiated by the reformist government. Whether the country is able to complete its reform process and attain membership in the EU will depend largely upon the fate of the reformist government in the next elections.
Slovakia has no territories or colonies.
"Elections in Slovakia." <http://www.electionworld.org/election/slovakia.htm>. Accessed January 2001.
Foreign Trade Support Fund. <http://www.fpzo.sk/indexlEuk.htm>.Accessed August 2001.
International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook. Washington: The International Monetary Fund, 1999.
Kirschbaum, Stanislav. A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1995.
Ministry of Agriculture of the Slovak Republic. <http://www.mpsr.sk/english>. Accessed August 2001.
National Bank of Slovakia. <http://www.nbs.sk/mena/bezmin/indexa.htm>. Accessed August 2001.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD Interim Economic Assessment, Slovak Republic, 2000. Paris: OECD, May 2000.
Ratjar, Jozef. "Customs Union between the Czech and SlovakRepublics." Doing Business.CZ. <http://www.doingbusiness.cz/article.asp?ArticleID=40>. Accessed January 2001.
Slovakia.org: The Guide to the Slovak Republic. <http://www.slovakia.org>. Accessed January 2001.
Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic. <http://www.statistics.sk/webdata/english/index2_a.htm>. Accessed August 2001.
Stroschein, Sherrill. "Slovakia." In Nations in Transit 1997: Civil Society, Democracy and Markets in East Central Europe and the Newly Independent States, edited by Motyl and Shor Karatnycky. New York: Freedom House/Transaction Publishers, 1997.
United Nations Development Program. Human Development Report 2000. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed August 2001.
U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Slovakia. <http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/slovakia_9908_bgn.html>. Accessed January 2001.
U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Slovakia. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2001/europe/index.html>. Accessed January 2001.
Slovenská koruna (Sk). One koruna equals 100 hellers. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 hellers, and 1, 2, 5, and 10 korunas. There are notes of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 korunas. The koruna came into being with the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993 and is now valued at a different rate than the Czech currency.
Machinery and transport equipment, intermediate manufactured goods, chemicals, raw materials.
Machinery and transport equipment, intermediate manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$45.9 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$10.1 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$11.2 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.).
Stroschein, Sherrill. "Slovakia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100229.html
Stroschein, Sherrill. "Slovakia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100229.html
|Official Country Name:||Slovak Republic|
|Region (Map name):||Europe|
|Area:||48,845 sq km|
|GDP:||19,121 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Daily Newspapers:||29|
|Circulation per 1,000:||126|
|Number of Nondaily Newspapers:||2|
|Circulation per 1,000:||2|
|As % of All Ad Expenditures:||11.00|
|Number of Television Stations:||38|
|Number of Television Sets:||2,620,000|
|Television Sets per 1,000:||483.8|
|Number of Cable Subscribers:||754,380|
|Cable Subscribers per 1,000:||139.7|
|Number of Satellite Subscribers:||620,000|
|Satellite Subscribers per 1,000:||114.5|
|Number of Radio Stations:||95|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||3,120,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||576.2|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||740,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||136.7|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||650,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||120.0|
Background & General Characteristics
A member of the European Union, Slovakia— officially the Slovak Republic—broke from Czechoslovakia in 1993 to become an independent republic. Originally settled by Illyrian, Celtic, and Germanic peoples, Slovakia was part of Great Moravia in the ninth century, then Hungary in the eleventh century. After World War I, the Slovaks joined the Czechs of Bohemia, forming the Republic of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Under Communism from 1948, Czechoslovakia moved toward democracy through the 1989 "Velvet Revolution," when the Communist government resigned.
The Slovak Republic's population of 5.4 million is a diverse mix of Eastern European ethnicities; 86 percent Slovak, 11 percent Hungarian, with Gypsy, Czech, Moravian, Silesian, Ruthenian, German, Polish, and Ukrainian minorities making up the remaining 3 percent. Religion is predominantly Roman Catholic (60 percent), with many people speaking both Slovak and Hungarian. Education is compulsory from age 6 to 14, and the country enjoys a 100 percent literacy rate. Slovakia's landlocked terrain features rugged mountains in the central and northern part with lowlands in the south; 57 percent of its inhabitants are city dwellers.
After the fall of Communism, Slovakia's media has struggled to transform from a restrictive state-controlled climate to a dual system of public, state media and diverse, independent publications and broadcasting. Soon after independence, private broadcast venues were launched alongside a cornucopia of special-interest newspapers and magazines. In the twenty-first century, Slovak media—with a large, educated audience and little commercial capital—continues to be an attractive market for foreign interests and new technology media. Yet an oppressive environment was instigated by the regime of Prime Minister Vladimír Mećiar from 1992 to 1998.
Press freedom improved dramatically after 1998 elections replaced Mećiar and his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) with Prime Minister Mikuláś Dzurinda of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK). Mećiar, who served three times as prime minister, battled with President Michal Kováć over executive and government powers, opposed direct presidential elections, resisted economic liberalization, and disregarded the rule of law and a free press, bullying state-run media outlets into pro-government coverage.
Under the new coalition government of Dzurinda, Parliament dismissed the directors of state-supported Slovak broadcast outlets for failure to guarantee objectivity. Since 1999 there have been no reports of government interference. A parliamentary democracy, Slovakia elected President Rudolf Schuster by a 57 percent popular vote in 1999.
The social and political changes brought about by the Slovak independence and the fall of Communism resulted in large increases in the number and diversity of print publications. Since 1989 the number of periodicals tripled—from 326 to the 1,034 recorded in 1998. The majority of Slovakian national newspapers are broadsheet, publishing detailed information on a wide range of news and current affairs. Though most strive for objectivity, each tends to express strong opinion for or against the government, or a certain party or policy in its editorial columns. Weekend editions include colorful special sections with features on sports, economics, finance, technology, travel, style, and analysis.
The highest-selling daily is the Novy Cas (The New Times), with a circulation of 230,000. The tabloid is read by two-thirds of the population under 45, and women make up over half its readership. Slovakia's second largest paper is Pravda (Truth), once the Communist Party's mouthpiece. Its readership is primarily older urban residents. Praca (Labor) is the trade unions' paper, largely distributed in the West Slovak region. Two competing dailies—Sme and Slovenska Republika —attract a similar share of Slovak readers. Other dailies include Sport and Uj Szo.
With 365 regional and local periodicals, most Slovak towns and cities have their own regional and local newspapers—4 daily morning papers, 4 evening papers, 94 regional papers, 167 municipal and local papers, 72 in-house papers, and 37 consumer publications. Covering local, national, and international news, these papers provide a significant audience for local advertising. In addition, businesses, societies, public bodies, and universities publish specialty publications.
Slovak magazines and periodicals include over 560 titles with a circulation of at least 17.2 million. Since 1989 the number of titles in this market has increased 168 percent, with at least half as much in circulation. Slovenka, the highest-circulation weekly magazine at 230,000 copies, leads the market of some 17 women's periodicals in Slovakia with an aggregate circulation of 1.2 million. Opinion journals include Nedel'na Pravda andPlus 7 dni, both weeklies reviewing social issues, politics arts, and literature, as well as Trend, a weekly focusing on economics. The number of church and religious periodicals has nearly tripled since 1989; Katolicke Noviny is among Slovakia's top 10 magazines, with a circulation of 100,000 and a readership of 300,000.
Bravo leads the list of some 34 youth publications, with a circulation of 90,000 covering pop music and other teen interests, while at least 235 scientific and professional journals count an aggregate circulation in excess of 1 million. Over 46 free advertising papers are distributed to some 3.5 million Slovaks weekly. Over 40 newspapers and magazines cater to ethnic minorities, including the daily Uj Szo, the weekly Szbad Ujsah Vasarnap, andJang-Kep representing Hungarians, while other Romanics, Ruthenians, and Germans have their own publications.
The reintroduction of a post-Communist, free market economy has been a long and difficult process in Slovakia. Before 1989 many Slovak industries were inefficient and not competitive in the world market. The foreign investment needed to modernize these industries has been elusive because of the country's erstwhile political instability. However, direct foreign investment totaled $1.5 billion in 2000.
The Slovak economy has improved since the country's 1993 independence. From 1993 to 1994, the Gross Domestic Product grew 4.3 percent, and inflation fell from 20 percent to 12 percent. Foreign trade is important to Slovakia's economy; in 1994 imports and exports each totaled about $6 billion. Over 50 percent of its trade is with European Union countries, and Germany is Slovakia's largest trading partner, followed by the Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, and Italy. Imports include natural gas, oil, machinery, and transportation equipment, while exports include machinery, fuels, weapons, chemicals, and steel.
Slovak press distribution is privately controlled. However, secondary government influence is present in Danubiapress, the nation's largest private company with links to the political party, HZDS. In 1998 a government agency distributing 30 dailies and 650 magazines sold 97 percent of its shares to Danubiapress, despite protests by Slovak journalists' organizations.
Since its 1993 formation, the Slovak Republic has made a steady, if indirect, advance toward a free press. Print media are uncensored, exhibiting a wide variety of opinions. Slovakia's Constitution provides for freedom of the press. Media are subject to the 1966 Law on Mass Media Communications, which was amended in 1990. Individuals may freely criticize the government without fear of reprisal, and threats against journalists are rare. Constitutional provisions include a limitation on press freedom only to necessitate freedoms of others, state security, law and order, health, and morality; and the government must provide reasonable access to documents and information. In addition, the state's legislation includes the Charter on the Human Rights and Freedoms, based on the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Slovakia's Law on Public Information Media regulates the rights and obligations of the media operators and their relations to government authorities, local self-governing bodies, public institutions, and individuals. To discourage cross-ownership and media monopoly, the bill restricts owners of national media outlets—dailies, national radio, or television—to 20 percent capital share in other media.
The Council of the Slovak Government regulates information policy and media legislation for Mass Media, an advisory group, which prepares government viewpoints on proposed legislation concerning media policy.
As of 2002 an independent press council was being organized. This body was conceived by three media organizations: the Syndicate of Slovak Journalists (SSN), the Association of Slovak Journalists (ZSN), and the Association of Slovak Press Publishers. It will receive, consider, and adjudicate complaints of breaches in media code and comprises nine members appointed by core organizations representing journalists and publishers.
Slovak broadcast media is subject to Czechoslovakia's Broadcast Act, the first of its kind in a post-Communist country. The Act was created to give legal existence to an emerging dual system of public and private radio and television in the region. The Broadcasting Act states terms and conditions of allowable broadcasting and standards of advertising and sponsorship, with penalties for noncompliance. The Act also provides for editorial independence and freedom of expression within guidelines of impartiality and objectivity. It also prohibits broadcasting material, which might incite violence or ethnic hatred, instigate war, or promote indecency. Practical issues addressed by the Broadcasting Act include the planning of frequencies and granting of licenses. Under the Broadcast Act, the Slovak Parliament can recall any member of radio and television authorities, if the recall motion is supported by at least 10 percent of Parliament.
The Slovak National Broadcasting Council, established in 1992 to safeguard freedom of speech while introducing a more flexible operating environment, regulates supervision of broadcast laws. Its responsibilities include design of the national information policy, control over broadcasting franchises, development of local broadcasting, and submitting an annual report on the state of broadcasting to the Slovak Parliament. Within the Slovak Broadcasting Council, the Slovak Radio Council and Slovak Television Council approve long-term programming concepts budgets, their own statutes, and the election of general directors for the two public broadcasters.
The road to a post-Communist/Slovak free press has been difficult. Although government influence lessened considerably with the fall of Communism in 1989, policies of Prime Minister Vladimír Mećiar earned Slovakia the label, "a totalitarian island in a sea of democracy." Mećiar, in office from 1992 until his defeat in 1998, was reported to have manipulated the press to promote his party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). This was accomplished by threatening journalists, limiting access, cutting off broadcast stations' electricity, and proposing a prohibitive newspaper tax that would have suffocated small publications.
Prior to the 1998 election, Slovakia's Election Law was amended to prohibit independent media from providing campaign coverage, publishing the results of pre-election polls or for 48-hours before the election, or reporting on any political developments whatsoever. State-controlled broadcast stations were largely exempt from these regulations. In 1997 then-president Michael Kováć—whose political leanings opposed Prime Minister Mećiar—was prevented three times from appearing on camera to urge Slovaks to vote in favor of entry into NATO.
Although government has reduced its attempts to use economic pressure to control the press, defamation laws still exist. In March 2000 a Slovak deputy prime minister accused the editor of an extremist weekly of defamation. The editor—who had criticized governmental permission to use Slovak airspace for Kosovar bombing raids—was found guilty, receiving a four-month suspended sentence and two months probation. In 2001 President Rudolf Schuster of Slovakia filed a defamation suit against a Novy Cas commentator who wrote a column critical of Schuster's state of the nation address.
During Mećiar's rule, even privatization was used as a tool to manipulate journalists. In 1996 Tatiana Repkova was forced out of her job as editor and publisher of a Slovak national daily when Mećiar's government pressured a friendly company to buy the paper and then dismiss her. Both the purchase of the paper and her firing were legal.
In 1997 the Slovak government proposed increased taxation in an effort to muzzle the press. Its failed attempt to increase the value-added tax on newspapers by nearly 400 percent would have eliminated many independent papers. However, the proposal was withdrawn in the wake of criticism by international media organizations and dissenting government officials.
Under former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mećiar (voted out in 1998), journalists were often barred from the monthly meeting of the ruling party and from Parliament sessions. In addition, reporters rarely gained access to Prime Minister Mećiar at press conferences.
In 2001 Parliament passed Slovakia's first Freedom of Information Act, granting citizens access to virtually all unclassified information from national and local government offices, the president's office, and the Parliament.
Attitude toward Foreign Media
Suddenly open to privatization, Slovak media is attracting foreign investment. The market is ripe for innovation and development; it is somewhat undeveloped, the existing press underserves consumers, and emerging free-market businesses need advertising venues. Foreign ownership is permitted, although licensing preference is given to foreign applicants planning to contribute to original domestic programming. The Slovak government offers substantial tax breaks to foreign investors and plans to privatize many state-run institutions, including telecommunications.
Two foreign radio stations have been awarded broadcasting licenses and are on the air. BBC World Service delivers short-wave broadcasts around the clock from Bratislava, Banská Bystrica, and Kośice in English, Slovak, and Czech. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts Slovak and Czech programming from Prague 13 hours each day; its editorial offices in Bratislava oversee reporters operating through Slovakia. In addition, a Slovak company and the London-based American firm, Central European Media Enterprises, jointly own the country's first private television station, TV Markiza.
Slovakia is home to the only state-controlled press agency in Europe, the Press Agency of the Slovak Republic (TASR). Until 1992 it was part of the federal Czechoslovak Press Agency (CTK) but has operated independently since then. A private, competing news agency, the Slovak News Agency (SITA) was established in 1997. Since then Slovak journalists have regarded SITA as an unbiased information source.
The two agencies have repeatedly challenged one another legally. In 2000 SITA sued TASR over copyright infringement when the government agency allegedly plagiarized a SITA story. TASR responded by suing SITA for 92 million Slovak koruna (SK) in damages, accusing SITA of stealing customer passwords to access TASR. The state press agency's 72 million SK government subsidy has been challenged by Parliament, suggesting that the agency may redefine its policies to avoid accusations of political influence.
TASR has over 250 employees, including 170 editors and journalists. A modern press agency with foreign correspondents in Washington, Bonn, Moscow, Brussels, Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague, TASR is connected via wire and satellite with other world and national news agencies, generating 400 to 450 reports and 60 photographs daily for some 240 customers. Its documentary department provides research and cutting services, an archive of 250,000 items, and the Daily News Monitor, a brief review of Slovak and Czech media.
A smaller agency, SITA is staffed by 30 trained professionals specializing in financial and business news, though it also covers political, social, and regional Slovak events. SITA also provides its clients with a daily news digest and an information service of traffic and weather.
Founded in 1991, the Slovak Union of Press Publishers (ZVPT) includes over 50 newspaper and magazine publishers. A member of the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers (WAN), ZVPT offers professional training seminars and participates in advising and consulting on media laws. Slovakia's Association of Independent Radio and TV Stations (ANRS) represents its 18 member stations in discussions with government bodies, with authors' rights protection, organizations with telecommunication companies, and other subjects. The Slovak Society for Cable Television (SSKT) unites equipment engineers, manufacturers, suppliers, creators, and operators of the state's rapidly developing cable television sector. Other groups include the Association of Slovak Periodical Publishers, the Association of Independent Radio and Television Stations, and the Union of Slovak Television Creators.
The major association of Slovak journalists is the 2,000-member Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN), which includes 80 percent of Slovak journalists. A member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), its mission is to safeguard free press and journalists' rights and working conditions. The SSN provides unemployment support, maternity leave pay, represents its members in international relations with foreign journalists' organizations, produces the magazine Forum, and organizes press conferences. A pro-government group, the 1,000-member Association of Slovak Journalists (ZSN) broke from the SSN in 1992, but some journalists are members of both groups. Its membership has declined since the defeat of former Prime Minister Mećiar in 1998.
Slovakia's broadcast media includes two state-run television stations, three state-run radio stations, 20 private radio stations, and a number of private television stations. Some parts of the country also receive Czech and Hungarian television signals.
Since 1991 Slovak Radio and Television have been public institutions supervised by parliamentary-appointed councils. Prior to 1998, privately owned television could not officially carry political news, and public television served as a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Mećiar and the HZDS party. A 1998 monitoring survey showed that STV devoted 47 percent of its news coverage to the ruling party, 17 percent to coalition parties, and only 13 percent to the opposition, which received overwhelmingly negative coverage. Government and ruling parties receive 62 percent of overall airtime; the opposition only 15 percent.
In the same pre-1998 period, Slovak Radio operated more objectively than STV. Devoting no airtime to editorials, Slovak Radio allotted 55 percent of its time to the government; parliamentary and other central bodies got 36 percent, and the opposition received slightly less than 10 percent.
The nonprofit, public service Slovak Radio has broadcast since 1926. Financed by an annual license fee from each household with a radio receiver as well as by advertising, Slovak Radio also receives government support. Slovak Radio broadcasts 23,000 hours per week on three national networks—each specializing in news, classical music, or rock—reaching 3.5 million across Slovakia. Regional radio (also called Regina) includes ethnic minority broadcasting. In this category, the Hungarian community receives some 40 hours of programming, with 15 hours for Ukrainian and Ruthenian listeners, and half an hour each for Romanic and German minorities.
Established in the wake of independence, the Slovak World Service is geared to expatriate Slovak listeners living abroad wishing to maintain their national identity and proficiency in the Slovak language. Private radio was launched in 1990 and reaches some one-third of the Slovak population each day through 19 stations. Its first and most popular outlet, FUN Radio, broadcasts rock music and reaches 3 million people daily in 70 percent of Slovakia's territory. RadioTwist broadcasts a wider range of music programs and an objective political program competing with public service broadcasting. Radio Koliba's four transmitters reach a fair share of radio audiences in central and eastern Slovakia, while other private broadcasters serve specific regions, reaching no more than 5 percent of the total population. Other stations include RMC Radio, FM Radio DCA, Radio Ragtime, and Radio Tatry.
Television reaches most Slovak citizens; over 98 percent of the population owns at least one television. Some 60 percent watch television daily, while 27 percent watch several programs each week. Slovakia's public broadcaster, Slovak Television (STV), was chartered in tandem with Slovak Radio. STV broadcasts 8,600 hours on 2 channels from its studios in Bratislava, Kośice, and Banská Bystrica, and is financed by license fees, ad sales, and government support. Although public television is popular, private television is providing significant competition.
Launched in 1996, the commercial TV Markiza broadcasts 19.5 hours daily. Its light entertainment format includes the first Slovak soap opera and game shows in addition to news and current affairs. It has enjoyed top place in viewer listings since its first day of broadcasting; 65 percent of Slovak adults watch it daily. Slovakia began installing cable facilities in 1989, and by 2002 dozens of networks were accessible by 27 percent of its population. Slovakia's largest cable operator, SKT Bratislava, serves 70 percent of the capital's population.
Electronic News Media
By 1998 some 10 percent of all Slovak citizens and public schools had Internet access through 10 Slovak Internet providers. When the Internet was first introduced in Slovakia, the interest was predominantly focused on foreign countries. Later, domestic sources began to play a more important role. In 1999 Central Europe Online introduced Slovakia Today, a site featuring daily news, business, and entertainment coverage, as well as various personal services. In 2002 at least 14 print publications also maintained online news sites. A new media portal, Markiza Portal (www.markiza.sk), affiliated with the popular TV station, was due to launch in 2002.
Many newspapers and magazines in Slovakia have embraced new technology, writing and editing their stories on computers; Pravda had introduced a computer system before 1989. All journalism education programs in Slovakia include courses, workshops, and facilities to develop new media.
Education & Training
Over 1,400 students have graduated from the journalism program of Comenius University since its founding in 1952. Its curriculum offers four areas of concentration: theory and history of journalism, press and agency news, radio and television journalism, and advertising. In Trnava, the University of St. Cyril began a dual graduate program of mass media communication and marketing communication in 1997.
The Centre for Independent Journalism in Bratislava is one of four schools established by the Independent Journalism Foundation (IJF) to offer tuition-free training for journalists in Eastern and Central Europe. Funded privately it is operated by veteran journalists from the United States and Europe. The Centre is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities provided by the Freedom Forum, an international free speech organization.
Since 1989 the media climate in Slovakia has changed from a restrictive, state-run system to a dual system of state and independent media. Between 1990 and 1992, there were more than 15 significant new statutes or modifications of old laws regarding the media. This legislation ensured free speech and set guidelines for the development of private and commercial press enterprises.
With a truly democratic government in place by 1998, Slovakia enjoys a free press climate and a burgeoning media industry. The array of commercial broadcast and print outlets appearing after the fall of Communism have been augmented by the growth of online media, cable, and satellite communication.
Since Slovakia's government and economy stabilized in the late 1990s, the country has attracted and encouraged foreign investment, much of it geared toward media outlets. With these resources and a demanding, educated audience, Slovakia can expect rapid growth in the number, diversity, and types of media available. In the early twenty-first century, Slovakia may narrow the small gap between its media environment and that of western Europe.
- 1998: Prime Minister Mećiar is ousted by Mikuláś Dzurinda of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK).
- 2000: Slovakia joins The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international organization of 30 industrialized, market-economy countries.
- 2001: Slovakia's first Freedom of Information Act is passed.
Brecka, Samuel. "A Report on the Slovak Media." Bratislava: National Centre for Media Communication, 2002.
Dragomir, Marius. "Slovakia's Twenty-first Century Journalism School." Central Europe Review (Sept. 21, 2001).
International Journalists Network. "Access to Information Law Adopted in Slovakia." Washington, D.C. (June 1, 2000).
International Press Institute. "Slovakia: 2001 World Press Freedom Review."
——. "Slovakia: 2000 World Press Freedom Review."
Karatnycky, Adrian, Motyl Alexander, and Charles Graybow. "Nations in Transit: Slovakia." Freedom House, 1998.
Lipton, Rhoda. "Final Report: Slovakia." International Center for Journalists, July 1998.
"New Online Publications Offer News on Six CEE Nations" Embassy of the Slovak Republic Newsletter. Bratislava: n.d.
Skolkay, Anrej. "An Analysis of Media Legislation: The Case of Slovakia." International Journal of Media Law and Communications (Winter 1998/1999).
U.S. Department of State. "Country Commercial Guide: Slovakia." Washington, D.C.: 2000.
——. "Slovak Republic Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2000." Washington, D.C.
Vystavil, Martin. "Internet: Supporting Democratic Changes in the Post-Communist Slovak Republic." Reston, VA: The Internet Society, 1995.
Tindall, Blair. "Slovakia." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900200.html
Tindall, Blair. "Slovakia." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900200.html
|Official Country Name:||Slovak Republic|
|Number of Primary Schools:||2,493|
|Compulsory Schooling:||9 years|
|Public Expenditure on Education:||5.0%|
|Foreign Students in National Universities:||1,725|
|Educational Enrollment:||Primary: 329,880|
|Educational Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 102%|
|Student-Teacher Ratio:||Primary: 20:1|
|Female Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 102%|
History & Background
The Slovak people, one of Eastern Europe's smaller Slavic groups, achieved a degree of recognition, autonomy, and finally national independence only during the twentieth century. At the start of the twenty-first century, Slovakia was an independent republic seeking full membership in NATO and the European Economic Union. Linguists have noted the relationship between the Czech and Slovak languages within the greater family of Slavic languages; yet a combination of history and geography have encouraged each group to seek its own destiny, despite the close proximity.
The nature of Slovakian geography has imposed a degree of isolation. The country stretches on a west-east axis from the Danube River on the western border to the Carpathian Mountains on the eastern border with the Ukrainian Republic. The northern border is adjacent to Poland and the Czech Republic while the southern border abuts Hungary. The high Tatra Mountains along the northern border have minimized the contact and influence of Poland. The remaining borders have contributed to a chaotic history. Historian R. W. Seton-Watson (1965) has observed that the Slovaks had no discernable, separate history among the early Slavs, had a distinctly separate history from Bohemia (historically, the Czechs to the northwest), and were generally viewed as part of the history of Hungary. While the Czechs were heavily influenced by German affairs, the Slovaks were influenced by the Hungarians or Magyars. Nineteenth century romantics attributed a colorful past to the Slovak people.
Not until the end of the ninth and into the beginning of the tenth century, nearly 100 years after the death of Charlemagne (A.D. 814) as a point of comparison with western European history, did the presence of the Slovaks become discernable. According to Seton-Watson (1965), the presence of the short-lived Moravian state (A.D. 896-906) drove a permanent wedge between Czechs and Slovaks. Much of the history of the Slovaks was under the influence of Hungary, populated by the Magyars, an Indo-European Finno-Urgic people from the steppes of central Asia whose progress into western Europe was halted by Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great on the Lechfeld of Bavaria (A.D. 955). Of profound significance, both the Slovaks and the Magyars were christianized by the western Latin church as represented by the missionaries St. Adalbert of Prague and St. Stephan, who was also crowned the first king of Hungary. The presence of the Latin church meant that the Slovak language would use the Latin alphabet, which would, in turn, strengthen the ties to and influence of Western Europe. For centuries, Latin was the official language of Slovakia. Western Slovakia came under the jurisdiction of the bishopric of Erztergom.
As a counterbalance to the political power of the Hungarian nobility, the monarchy began to encourage German colonization of Hungarian towns, whose existence was guaranteed by a royal charter. This included those towns north of the Danube in Slovakian homelands. German settlers brought along their own legal code, the Magdeburger Recht, which insured that town property could only be sold to Germans. This code laid the basis for future discrimination against the Slovaks. Subsequently, the development of a wealthy German urban class would free the Hungarian monarchy from its uncomfortable dependence on the Hungarian nobility. For their part, the Slovakian people, largely rural and illiterate, lived in feudal servitude to the Magyar nobility.
Ironically, the situation was intensified by the Ottoman invasion and occupation of Hungary south of the Danube River (A.D. 1526-1711), a fact which brought even more of the nobility into historically Slovakian lands, and created the opportunity for more ethnic friction. The history of the Slovaks was tied to Hungary for centuries. The rural Slovakian people lived north of the Danube, often in the isolated valleys of the high Tatra Mountains, still subject to an increased population of Magyar émigrés who had moved their exiled capital to Brataslava (Pressburg in German) on the western Danube border. The eventual defeat and withdrawal of the Ottoman Turks allowed Hungary to reclaim its identity. The Bohemian phase of the Thirty Years War strengthened the Hapsburgs, eventually placing the crown of Hungary under the complete control of this hereditary dynasty with the Treaty of Karlowitz on 26 January 1698.
The eighteenth century saw increased centralization and Germanization under the empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II. Not until the nineteenth century with the growth of nationalism under the impetus of romanticism and the legacy of the French Revolution did the Slovak people begin to emerge with their own national aspirations and desire for autonomy. Slovak nationalists and patriots had begun to follow a path of cultural politics as a means of establishing national identity. This task was aided by the presence of the Jesuits, who were among the first to give the Slovakian language a literary expression. In 1787 the priest Anton Bernolak published a Slovak grammar, and in 1792 founded a Slovak literary society at Trnava. Jan Holly translated the major classics of western civilization into Slovak and wrote his own epics to provide a literary heritage for the Slovakian people. The efforts of these cultural revolutionaries and nationalists were encouraged by the Revolution of 1848. Ludevit Stur gave voice to nationalist, romantic, and pan-slavist sentiments. Slovak nationalists such as Stur conducted revolution on two fronts, against the Germans in Vienna and against other non-Magyar minorities. Magyarization of Slovak schools became a sore point. For a time, Stur was the much abused, only Slovak member of parliament. His death in 1856 deprived the nationalists of crucial leadership. Yet they were able to celebrate a small victory in the founding of a Slovak Academy of Law and a chair of Slavonic at the university in Pest.
With the establishment in 1867 of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy, the Ausgleich, a new era for non-Magyar minorities ensued. The Czechs were the only minority to benefit from Law XLIV, Article 17. The promise of Slovakian schools did not materialize. From 1869 to 1911, a deliberate policy of the central government reduced the number of Slovak primary schools from 1,921 to 440 (Seton-Watson 1965). The Slovak priest Father Hlinka led the nationalists with a voice, which became increasingly demagogic and anti-Semitic. By the end of the nineteenth century, the seven Slovak representatives in the Hungarian parliament were badly treated and often incarcerated. The Magyar elite continued to pursue the policy of Magyarization. Backward and impoverished living conditions, including alcoholism and tuberculosis, encouraged heavy migration to North America. According to Seton-Watson (1965), the Middle Ages in Slovakia ended politically in 1848 but continued economically until 1918. This Slovak community abroad proved to be an important source of funds, and had considerable influence on the planning of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's design for post-World War I Europe. In July 1918, a Slovak congress convened in the U.S. city of Homestead, Pennsylvania, demanding Slovak autonomy. In December 1918 there was agreement on a union with the Czechs, which was ultimately affirmed by the treaties of Versailles and Trianon (1919 and 1920). However, the republic of the Czechs and Slovaks suffered from the same malady that had affected the Austro-Hungarian empire: unhappy and dissatisfied minorities, the fate of most of the states carved from the old empire. In the case of Czechoslovakia, the Sudeten Germans were the loudest, most unhappy minority, along the border with Germany. The industrial Czech half of the county also placed Slovakia at a disadvantage in terms of wealth and resources. The Munich crisis of 1938 and the subsequent German occupation of the remainder of Czech lands in March 1939 led to the establishment of a Nazi German protectorate, the Slovak state under the Catholic priest Father Josef Tiso as premier. After World War II, Tiso was executed as a war criminal, and the pre-World War II borders of Czechoslovakia were reestablished, minus its substantial German population.
From its post-World War I inception, the Slovaks had been dissatisfied with the nature of the state created. They viewed the Czechs as replacements for their Hungarian rulers of the past, and vigorously advocated federalism throughout the 1920s and 1930s (Gawdiak 1989).
Despite the experience with the March 1939 clerical fascist state and German protectorate under Tiso, and despite the centralization of the post-World War II communist government, Slovak national aspirations were not quelled. When Soviet communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and Czechoslovakia once again emerged as a democratic republic, Slovakian nationalism guaranteed that the Republic of Czechoslovakia was to be short-lived. On 1 January 1993 a constitution for an independent Republic of Slovakia was born.
At the start of the twenty-first century, this new Slovak Republic had a population distribution of approximately 85 percent Slovak and 11 percent Hungarian (Magyar), a potentially prickly problem. The remaining ethnic minority distribution is among Czechs, Moravians, Silesians, Roma (Gypsies), Ukrainians, Ruthenians, and Germans. A law passed in 1995 makes Slovak the official language and also recognizes Hungarian. About 60 percent of the population is Roman Catholic with the remaining religious affiliations distributed among the following groups: Protestant, 8.4 percent; Orthodox, 4 percent; and other, 17.5 percent. Atheists constituted 9.7 percent of the population (CIA 2000). The Slovak Republic signed an agreement in late 1998 to settle questions regarding the redistribution of former Czechoslovakian federal property and continues to negotiate with Hungary concerning the Glabcikovo Dam.
Constitution & Legal Foundation
The 1992 Constitution of the Slovak Republic, Article Six, Section One, mandates Slovak as the state language. Section Two provides for the regulation of other languages by law. In November 1995 a law passed by the unicameral Slovak parliament further reinforced Slovak as the sole official language (Turner 2000). Under Section Four, pertaining to the rights of national minorities and ethnic groups within Slovakia, Article Thirty-Four guarantees their right to set up and maintain educational and cultural institutions in their own languages. This part of the constitution is intended to soothe the anxieties of the Hungarian minority along the Danube. Article Forty-Two of the Constitution outlines the basis for educational rights and government policy in the Slovak Republic in the following four brief paragraphs:
- Everyone has the right to education. School attendance is compulsory. Its period and age limit will be defined by law.
- Citizens have the right to free education at primary and secondary schools and, based on their abilities and society's resources, also at higher educational establishments.
- Schools other than state schools may be established, and instruction in them provided, only under conditions defined by law. Such schools may charge a tuition fee.
- A law will specify under which conditions citizens who are engaged in studies are entitled to assistance from the state. (Euroweb 2001)
Article 43 guarantees the freedom of scientific research and art, and that the results of such creative intellectual activity are protected by law. The second part of the article guarantees the right of access to the cultural heritage under conditions defined by law. Article Eighty-Six gives to the National Council of the Slovak Republic the power to establish ministries and other state administrative bodies by means of law. Article 102 gives the president the power to appoint university professors and rectors.
The history of education in Slovakia is closely bound to the region's cultural politics and nationalist aspirations. The legacy of Magyarization in the Slovak region has had lasting effects, even into modern times. The presence of over a half-million Hungarians within the borders of Slovakia still effects the shaping of Slovakian educational policy. Other ethnic minorities, except for the Roma (gypsies), have always had larger national states beyond Slovak borders with which they can identify. The defeat of Germany during World War II has silenced the remaining German enclaves in Eastern Europe. The region's volatility is underscored by the history of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. The fact remains that educational concerns are highly impacted by ethnic questions. Before the nineteenth century, Latin was the official language of Slovakia. A distinct Slovak language emerged under the tutelage of Ludovit Stur. The Constitution of 1992 was designed to maintain a degree of balance among potentially competing ethnic groups and as a remedy for past injustices.
The Constitution of 1992 makes an effort to fulfill the promises made or implied after the Ausgleich and Dual Monarchy of 1867, where Article Seventeen of Law XLIV promised instruction in the mother tongue. The fact remains that Slovaks were without institutions of secondary education from 1875 to 1918 (Seton-Watson 1965). Not until 1919 did Slovakia have a university, Comenius, in Brataslava. In an effort to shed the legacy of communism, the civil legal system has reverted back to the legal codes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (CIA 2000). This is reflected in the structure and educational requirements. Compulsory education begins at age six and lasts eight years. The government does not require a secondary education. After completion of compulsory education, students choose a vocational or an academic track leading either to a trade or to a professional career that requires university study. The official language of instruction is Slovak.
The most recent statistics on the Slovak educational system date from 1995. As a new democracy in east central Europe, Slovakia has had to struggle with the economic difficulties of the move to a market economy. Funds are scarce, so innovation in education is at a minimum.
Preprimary & Primary Education
Voluntary preschool known as the mater skola may begin at age three. Many, but not all, Slovak children partake of this opportunity. As in German educational tradition, compulsory education begins at age six with elementary school, the zakladna skola, which can last nine years. After this, adolescents are free to pursue apprenticeships or an academic secondary education. In 1995, there were 3,322 preschools and 2,485 primary or elementary schools (Turner 2000). The mater skola is the equivalent of the German Kindergarten, and the zakladna skola, is the equivalent of the old German Volksschule. The first four years of basic schooling are the only times when children of all abilities are in the classroom together.
All Slovakian children must complete a minimum of one year of secondary school. The path to the university requires attendance of a grammar or preparatory school which is called a gymnazium, a term directly derived from its Germanic legacy, the Gymnasium. Just as Germany with its Abitur and Austria with its Matura, a diploma from the Slovak gymnazium is required for university study. There are approximately 190 grammar schools in Slovakia (Turner 2000). The vocational track offers approximately 364 vocational schools and some 357 apprentice training centers as well as 400 special schools (2000). The statistics provided by Turner do not differentiate between public and private schools. The diplomatic community in the capital of Brataslava sponsors a private international school operated by a private corporation, Quality School International, with instruction through grade ten in English (United States Department of State 1995).
University level education in Slovakia has its origins in the late Middle Ages when the university as an educational institution was being established as a fixture of western civilization. In Hungary, of which Slovakia was then a part, a royal charter from the King of Hungary was necessary in order to distinguish it from any other academy or college. From 1465 to 1490 the first university on Slovakian soil was the Akademia Istropolanta, soon complimented by the Jesuit institutions, the Universities of Trnava and Kosich. The last of these earlier institutions was the Hungarian Elizabeth University in Brataslava. The Turkish invasions and occupation as well as the subsequent absorption of Hungary into the Hapsburg Empire swept away these institutions. Not until after the emergence of the first Republic of Czechoslovakia following World War I did higher education find a new beginning in Slovakia.
Stanislaw J. Kirscbaum (1999) provides a detailed summary of Slovakian institutions of higher education in his book, Historical Dictionary of Slovakia. In 1918 and 1919 the Comenius (Komensky) University in Brataslava was founded. In 1937 the Slovak Technical University in Koske was founded and was later transferred to Nira in 1942, now known as the Slovak Agricultural University of Nitra. The Academy of Fine Arts and Design was begun in Brataslava in 1949. In the same year the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts was established in Bret. There are two technical universities, one in Zvolen and one in Kosice. A university of veterinary medicine was established in 1952, and the Pavol Safarik University was established in 1959. This was followed in 1960 by the University of Transportation and Communication, since re-christened the University of Zilina in 1996. During the brief years of the second Czechoslovakian republic, two additional universities were founded: Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica and the University of Trna and Pedagogical Academy in Nitre in 1992. In 1996 the latter was renamed Constantine the Philosopher University. With the emergence of the second Slovakian republic, the year 1993 saw the establishment of the Liptovsky Mukulas Military Academy and the General M. R. Stefanik Air Force Academy, which were drawn from military schools of the Czechoslovakian army of 1973. In 1996 the University of Preslov and in 1997 Saints Cyril and Methodus University of Trnava, the Academy of Arts in Banska Bystrica, and the University of Trenein became the latest additions to Slovakina higher education. The Comenius University in Brataslava provides orientation programs in Slavic languages for exchange students who are embarking on study in a Slavic country. As in the former Czechoslovakian republic and its socialist precursor, degrees offered are the state examination and promotion (doctorate).
Administration, Finance, & Educational Research
As noted, the Constitution gives the president of the Slovak Republic the power to appoint professors and rectors, which means that the Austro-German university system of the past serves as the primary model. As evident by their titles, a number of institutions are organized according to discipline and specialization. The idea of the Gesamthochschule (comprehensive university) has not yet arrived. The disappearance of the heavy centralizing pressure of Soviet communism has encouraged Slovakia to look to its past. The state finances higher education, but the Constitution gives enough latitude so that the state may or may not subsidize students. With the disappearance of the requirements of communist party membership and a Marxist philosophy, admission to study is more democratic. For Slovakian universities to be competitive with western European and North American universities in terms of research will require greater Slovakian prosperity. In 1994 the total expenditure on education constituted approximately 5 percent of the GNP (Turner 2000).
When Slovakian citizens gain access to the Internet, they will greatly increase opportunities for informal education. The extent of the influence of the Internet in Slovakian education is yet undetermined. In the capital of Brataslava, the Open University of Great Britain has an established outlet. A second distance learning institution, this one from the United States, City University registered in Spokane, Washington, offers programs for U.S. college credits.
As with most formerly communist countries, the transition to a democratically educated teaching profession has its difficulties. An unemployment rate of approximately 20 percent puts pressure on the educational system to contribute to economic recovery. On the positive side, teachers, who are civil servants, are well trained and competent in their subjects. Teachers at the gymnazium have a university education. Preprimary and primary level teachers are graduates of teachers colleges and pedagogical seminars. The university pedagogical system reflects the older German university. Since the president of the Slovakian republic is constitutionally empowered with the task of appointing university professors and rectors, it is a probable assumption that the total number of full professors is limited, socially prestigious, and institutionally powerful, much like that of the Ordinarious in neighboring Austria and in the recent past of the German university.
Now that Slovakia has achieved independence and autonomy, the question as to whether or not it will survive long-term is still to be answered. Slovakia's most obvious need is to require more years of compulsory education of all of its children. In a technical age of rapid change and growth, leaving a large spectrum of the population with just an elementary education diminishes the ability of the country to respond to economic change. Slovakia needs to abandon the old Austro-German template with its innate verticality that points the way towards the re-stratification of society. Even after decades of the ideology of egalitarianism, which was a part of communism, that Slovakia has turned the clock back. The old German system, as well as the current Slovakian system, does not serve late bloomers well. Slovakia needs to retain the academic rigor of its old system while at the same time incorporating flexibility and experimentation. While literacy rates are not available, it is probable to assume that they are quite high, with the exception of the Roma (Gypsies) who have traditionally had a high rate of illiteracy.
Slovakia's general fiscal situation remains weak, saddled with structural problems originating in the first years of the second republic under the leadership of Vladimir Meciar, which included inefficient enterprises, banking insolvency, high inter-company debt, and declining tax and social support payments (CIA 2000). University students are finding themselves paying more and more of their own costs, which is very unsettling in a context where the state once paid the entire subsidy. The future of Slovakia is hopeful, yet tenuous, as in most of Eastern Europe.
Boehm, Laetitia and Rainer A. Müller. Universitäten und Hochschulen in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Düsseldorf, Wien: Econ Verlag, 1983.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact Book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov.
Euroweb. 2001. Available from http://www.eunet.sk/.
Gawdiak, Ihor, ed. Czechoslvakia: A Country Study. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress. Department of the Army, 1989.
Halecki, Oscar. The Borderlands of Western Civilization. New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1952.
Humphreys, Rob. Czech and Slovak Republics: The Rough Guide. London: Rough Guides Limited, 1998.
Kirschbaum, Stanislaus J. Historical Dictionary of Slovakia. Lanhorn, Md: Scarecrow Press, 1999.
Seton-Watson, R.W. A History of the Czechs and Slovaks. Hamdon, Connecticut: Archon, 1965.
Turner, Barry, ed. The Statesman's Yearbook 2001. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.
United States Department of State. Post Report: Slovakia. Washington, D.C.: United States Government, 1998.
—Beverly J. Inman
Inman, Beverly J.. "Slovakia." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700205.html
Inman, Beverly J.. "Slovakia." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700205.html
Marriage and family have always been considered fundamental social values among the Slovak population. Nearly 90 percent of all inhabitants consider the family to be the most important value in their lives (European Values Study 1999/2000). This feeling was formed under the strong influence of Christianity (according to the last census in 2001, 69% of all inhabitants are Roman Catholic). Approximately 90 percent of the adult population marry at least once in their life. The family based on matrimony is a culturally, religiously, and legislatively accepted form of cohabitation. Basic family legal relationships are regulated by the Act No. 94/1963 (Coll.) on Family.
The main purpose of marriage is to create a harmonious, solid, and permanent association for man and woman. Slovak law stipulates that the minimum age for marriage is eighteen years. Younger persons are allowed to marry only by permission of the court. The lowest age permitted for marriage is sixteen years, and a serious reason for requesting permission to marry must be declared (e.g., pregnancy).
Marriage requires the consent of both the man and the woman. This consent must be stated before a church or civil authorities and two witnesses. Marriages performed either by the church or state authorities are equally valid. Before 1992, only marriages in front of the state authorities were considered valid.
Cohabitation of a couple based on matrimony is preferred to any other form of cohabitation in Slovakia. Only 11.5 percent of Slovak inhabitants consider marriage an outdated institution (European Values Studies 1999/2000). Slovak family law does not recognize common-law partnerships as legal conjugal relations. Although some couples cohabitate without marrying, the partners do not have the same legal rights and responsibilities as those who officially marry. Only some rights based on the civil code (e.g., heritage rights, rights to a common dwelling) apply in cohabiting cases, but not the mutual responsibility to provide for subsistence as in the case of married couples.
Selection of Partners
Slovakia was predominantly rural until the middle of the twentieth century. Custom and social status determined how people would find their future wife or husband, usually in the same or nearby village and from a family of similar social level. The parents were the ones who decided who would be their future son- or daughter-in-law. In the urban areas these rules were not so precise nor were they strictly followed. Urban marriages were also more heterogeneous (Stefanek 1944).
Social progress, supported by urbanization and industrialization, promoted new values that were considered important in the process of the selection of a partner. The significance of wealth and the parents' aims receded and the personal interests of the young couple became a priority.
During the period of socialism (1948–1989) economic self-sufficiency, as the basic prerequisite for getting married and establishing a family, became less important. Social policy became supportive, especially towards young families. These policies enhanced access to housing and allowed for state loans on favorable terms to newlyweds. These measures and the lack of sexual education, as well as the fact that contraception was neglected, resulted in marriages at early ages. Approximately 50 percent of brides became pregnant before their wedding (Vagac 2000). Many of these were students without their own independent income. It became an expectation that the parents of a young couple would provide assistance, usually financial. Approximately 90 percent of young families depended on such assistance (Bútorová 1996).
Before 1990, the average age for brides was about twenty-one years at marriage (first marriages) and about twenty-three years for bridegrooms. During the 1990s, the average age of women and men at their first marriage rose, and by 1999 the average age of brides was 23.1 years, whereas the average age of bridegrooms rose to 25.6 years. About 85 percent of women and 83 percent of men were living in their parents' home before marriage (Bútorová 1996). These changes were caused both by the increased opportunity to study, to travel, and gain employment abroad after the disappearance of the Iron Curtain and by the deterioration of living conditions among young people. Despite the fact that unmarried cohabitation of young couples is not the preferred form, it has become increasingly common.
Termination of Marriage
A marriage may be terminated for one of two reasons: the death of the other spouse or divorce in a court of justice. In the latter case, the process of divorce can only begin after a request for divorce is submitted to the court by one of the spouses. The court must take into account the needs of dependent children. In its decision, the court must define parents' rights and responsibilities with respect to children, as well as decide custody of the children and the way in which each of the parents will contribute to their children's upbringing.
The divorce rate is showing a slow but continuous increase over time. The marriage rate, on the other hand, is approximately half of what it was in the 1980s, which reflects demographic processes, and has continued to decline since the early 1990s. The reason for this is the deterioration in economic and social conditions in the country. The high rate of unemployment, the collapse of former social policy measures (such as housing and services for families), and new professional opportunities for young people have contributed to this phenomenon.
Changes in the Family
Following World War II, changes in the family included changes in the size of the family, relations between individual family members, division of labor, and the economic activity of family members and their family roles, as well as to intergenerational coexistence.
Changes in the reproductive behavior in Slovakian families started long before the World War II. A large percentage of the population adopted the ideal of the still-dominant two-children family model. Families with two children made up 18.6 percent of all families in 1961, and increased to 26.7 percent by 1991. Families with more than three children have been in decline (15.4% in 1961, 11.5% in 1991) whereas families with only one child have been increasing in number. Between 1980 and 1991 the share of childless households increased from 36.7 per cent to 39.6 percent. Concomitantly, belief in the importance of children in a family for a marriage to be considered a fulfilled and happy one declined. In 1992, 88.2 percent of respondents indicated that children were an important condition for a happy marriage, whereas in 1999 only 68.8 percent expressed the same opinion (European Values Study 1999/2000).
Agriculture was the main source of subsistence for the largest portion of the Slovak population until halfway through the twentieth century. The division of duties between spouses and their responsibilities to the children were determined by their primary economic activity. "The father is the real head of the family and enjoys the authority of master and ruler of the house. . . . The wife of the household was not only the mother, cook, and guardian of cleanliness, but also coworker on the field, in the shed and in the yard. ... Children from an early age were involved in household chores and farm work according to their age" (Stefanek 1944, p. 76).
Extensive industrialization started in Slovakia after World War II. Collectivization and the mechanization of agriculture resulted in an exodus of the work force from agriculture. Young men were the first to leave agriculture, later followed by the women. Men found new jobs in industry and
|children born out wedlock||by order (in %)|
|per 1000||% of|
|year||total||population||total births||1st||2nd||3rd +|
|source: stav a pohyb obyvatel'stva v sr v rokoch 1950-2000. bratislava, ŠÚ sr.|
women found work in the service sector in nearby towns. Beginning in the 1960s, a high proportion of commuters was typical in Slovak rural areas. By the end of the 1980s, there were villages in which 90 percent of economically active people commuted to work. After returning home from their work, people would work on their household plots: they grew crops and vegetables and reared animals, to produce both food and additional income for the family.
Single persons and childless couples would commute daily or weekly. After the birth of a child or children they often moved to the city because it offered better infrastructure and greater opportunities. (As a rule, people moved within short distances from their village to the nearby district capital.) In the urban centers they had access to various services. Highly educated parents wanted their children to have better access to various after-school activities (educational and recreational). The number of families who owned a second home also increased. On weekends, urban dwellers went back to their villages where they did gardening in order to improve their economic situation.
Since the 1970s it became a characteristic feature of rural and urban families in Slovakia for both parents to be employed. The economic activity of women was primarily motivated by the need to obtain additional income for the family. At the end of the 1990s, the majority of wives preferred being employed to the role of a housewife, even if their husbands' earnings were sufficient to support the family.
Family Contacts and Relations
Family law and policy are based on the nuclear family. Nevertheless, relations with kin play an important role in the everyday life of families in Slovakia. Members of larger families provide assistance in difficult situations. Social contact is frequent among relatives and is not limited by the boundaries of the settlement where the family lives.
Standard of Living
There were no significant differences in the standard of living between rural and urban families, or small and large families, or families with more highly educated parents and less well educated parents, until the end of the 1980s. Remuneration from paid work was essentially the same, but income was supplemented by benefits of various kinds. Family allowances were paid for all children until they attended school, prices of food were heavily subsidized, and education was free at all levels. Travel costs were also subsidized, rent for housing was reduced for families with children (the more children in a family, the greater the reduction), and there was income-tax relief for parents and state loans for young families on favorable terms. (The principal was written off by a certain amount at the birth of each additional child.) All of these measures helped families increase their income indirectly and, in this way, allowed for an appropriate standard level of living for all families regardless of their size.
After 1990 most of these benefits were phased out. The economic situation of the majority of Slovak families, especially the young ones, began to deteriorate. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there is a high rate of unemployment (about 20%) and many families are living on social benefits. The reduction of income from paid work has led to higher involvement of family members in other activities around the home, particularly those focused on the production of food. This is more common in rural areas, where the unemployment rate is higher than in urban centers. Many fathers, particularly from less-developed regions, work in places distant from the family dwelling, and often abroad. Mothers usually stay at home and care for children as well as the household and garden. The father's absence and the mother's heavy workload result in the fact that children are often left on their own. The absence of fathers is also frequent in well-to-do families where fathers are so deeply involved in their business activity that there is no time for the children.
The gap between rich and poor families has increased. The financial situation of families is difficult, especially in the economically marginal regions of Slovakia. There are some families in which no family member has had a paid job in over two or three years—sometimes longer.
Political, economic, social, and demographic processes in the twentieth century affected family relationships and their function. Changes in family roles accompanied such developments as an increase in the educational level of women, the massive entry of women into the labor market, birth control, shrinking of families, and changes in intergenerational relationships and multigenerational coexistence. In spite of these changes, the family remains the basic social network for individual relationships and family solidarity. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the family is still an important social value in the life of the majority of Slovak people.
See also:Czech Republic
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Filadelfiová, J.; Gurán, P.; Skorová, D.; Leoncikas, T.; äkobla, D.; and Dûambazovic, R. (1999). The Possibilities and Limits of Family in Today's Europe. Bratislava: Bratislava International Centre for Family Studies.
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Stav a pohyb obyvatelstva v SR v rokoch (Size and mobility of population in the Slovak Republic). (1920–2000 editions). Bratislava: sú SR (Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic).
Vagac, L., ed. (2000). National Human Development Report. Slovak Republic 2000. Bratislava: United Development Programme and Center for Economic Development Bratislava.
Zákon o rodine (Act on Family). c. 94/1963 Z.z. (Act No. 94/1963 [Coll.] on Family).
"Slovakia." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406900407.html
"Slovakia." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. 2003. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406900407.html
Slovakia (slōvă´kēə, slōvä´kēə) or the Slovak Republic, Slovak Slovensko (slô´vĕnskô), republic (2005 est. pop. 5,431,000), 18,917 sq mi (48,995 sq km), central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic in the west, by Austria in the southwest, by Hungary in the south, by Ukraine in the east, and by Poland in the north. Bratislava is the capital. Slovakia became an independent nation on Jan. 1, 1993, when Czechoslovakia was dissolved.
Land and People
Most of Slovakia is traversed by the Carpathian Mts., including the Tatra and the Beskids. Gerlachovka (8,737 ft/2,663 m) in the High Tatra, is the highest peak. S Slovakia is a part of the Little Alföld, a plain. Its fertile soil is drained by the Danube and its tributaries, notably the Váh. Several of its rivers have been dammed for hydroelectric power. Major cities include Bratislava and Komárno, which are the major Danubian ports; and Košice, Trnava, and Nitra.
Slovaks comprise more than 85% of the population; other groups include Hungarians (about 10%), Romani (Gypsies), and Czechs (who are ethnically and linguistically related to the Slovaks, but have a separate history and cultural traditions). A law passed in 1995, and strongly opposed by Hungarians and other minorities, made Slovak the sole official language; additional minority language restrictions in 2009 led to new tensions (as have laws in Hungary granting ethnic Hungarians special rights). Hungarian is widely spoken in S Slovakia. About 70% of the population profess Roman Catholicism, and there are significant Protestant (mainly Lutheran), Eastern Orthodox, and Uniate minorities.
Farms, vineyards, orchards, and pastures for stock form the basis of S Slovakia's economy. The main crops are wheat, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, hops, and fruit. Pigs, cattle, and poultry are raised. The mountainous part of Slovakia has vast forests and pastures, used for intensive sheep grazing, and is rich in mineral resources, including coal, high-grade iron ore, copper, manganese, lead, and zinc. There are also numerous mineral springs, notably at Piešt'any, and many popular resorts. Slovakia has undergone considerable industrialization and urbanization since World War II. Its industries produce metals and metal products, foods and beverages, electricity, oil and gas, coke, nuclear fuel, chemicals, synthetic fibers, machinery, paper, ceramics, motor vehicles, textiles, electrical and optical instruments, and rubber products. Exports include vehicles, machinery, electrical equipment, metals, chemicals, minerals, and plastics. The main imports are machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, fuels, and chemicals. Its main trading partners are Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and Poland.
Slovakia is governed under the constitution of 1992 as amended. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president with the approval of the legislature, as is the cabinet. The unicameral legislature, the National Council, has 150 members who are popularly elected by proportional representation for four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 8 regions.
The Slovaks in History
The area now constituting Slovakia was settled by Slavic tribes in the 5th–6th cent. AD In the 9th cent. Slovakia formed part of the great empire of Moravia, under whose rulers Christianity was introduced by Saints Cyril and Methodius. From the Magyar conquest of Slovakia early in the 10th cent. until 1918, Slovakia was generally under Hungarian rule. German and Jewish settlements in Slovakian cities date from the Middle Ages; most of the Slovaks remained peasants in the countryside, although some became burghers. Czech-Slovak contacts, broken after the demise of the Moravian empire, were restored by the 14th cent.; and the 15th-century Hussite movement in Bohemia enjoyed influence in Slovakia.
After the Ottoman Turkish victory at Mohács in 1526 over Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia, Slovakia, along with western Hungary, fell under Hapsburg rule. It thus escaped Turkish domination but became a stronghold of the great Hungarian nobles, who owned most of the land and treated the Slovaks with contempt. Slovakia, however, played an important political role, with Bratislava serving as the Hapsburg capital, until all of Hungary was finally freed from the Turks in the late 17th cent. Slovakia also enjoyed more religious toleration than much of the Hapsburg empire, and Protestantism thrived.
In the 18th cent. Maria Theresa and Joseph II pursued religious freedom and social reform in Slovakia but greatly intensified Germanization. This policy spurred a Slovak national revival, which grew steadily in the 19th cent. The Catholic clergy, which constituted the only sizable body of Slovak intellectuals, exercised the main leadership of the nationalist movement. L'udovít Štúr became the father of the modern Slovak literary language. During the anti-Hapsburg revolutions of 1848, Štúr joined Czech representatives in a Pan-Slav congress at Prague. Also in 1848, the Slovaks formulated a set of demands for increased political and linguistic rights.
Some clashes between Slovaks and Hungarians occurred, and Magyarization lessened temporarily; but after the Ausgleich establishing the dual Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1867, Magyarization again intensified, thus further heightening Slovak nationalism. Large-scale immigration (1900–1910) of the landless Slovak peasants to America gave the Slovak independence movement considerable support in the United States during World War I, during which the Slovaks and other nationalities of the Hapsburg empire agitated for freedom.
The Birth of Czechoslovakia
The so-called Pittsburgh Declaration, signed by Czech and Slovak patriots in May, 1918, provided for a united Czechoslovak republic, in which Slovakia would retain broad autonomy, with its own governmental institutions and official language. On Oct. 30 the Slovak National Council formally proclaimed independence from Hungary and incorporation into Czechoslovakia. The new republic's boundaries, established in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon, encompassed areas where more than one million Hungarians lived. Hungary, meanwhile, continued to claim at least part of Slovakia, while a large Slovak People's party, led by Monsignor Andrej Hlinka, accused the Czechoslovak government of denying Slovakia the autonomous rights promised. Indeed, from 1918 until 1938, Slovakia held the status of a simple province, although the Slovak language was official within its boundaries.
The minority problem was complicated by religion: the majority of Slovaks were Catholic, while the Prague government was distinctly anticlerical. Monsignor Hlinka and his successor as leader of the Slovak People's party, Father Jozef Tiso, demanded full autonomy for Slovakia on a basis of complete equality for both Czechs and Slovaks. After the Munich Pact of 1938, Slovakia became an autonomous state within reorganized Czecho-Slovakia, with Father Tiso as Slovak premier. At the same time a large part of S Slovakia was ceded to Hungary and some northern districts to Poland. When the Prague government dismissed (Mar., 1939) Tiso as premier, he appealed to Adolf Hitler, who used this appeal as a pretext for making Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia a German protectorate.
Slovakia became a nominally independent state under German protection and Tiso's one-party rule. Tiso allowed German troops to occupy Slovakia in Aug., 1939, and entered World War II as Germany's ally. A Slovak underground movement gained strength, however, and powerfully aided the Soviet troops who drove the Germans out of Slovakia late in 1944. The Allied victory in 1945 restored Slovakia to its territorial status before the Munich Pact, and the constitution of 1948 recognized Slovakia as one of the constituent states of a reestablished Czechoslovakia; the other state was composed of Bohemia, Moravia, and a small part of Silesia. The constitution also established separate government organs for Slovakia.
The Rise and Fall of Communism
The accession in 1948 of a Communist government in Czechoslovakia revived the old antagonism between Czechs and Slovaks. The Catholic clergy in Slovakia, militantly opposed to Communism, was persecuted, and the Slovak government came entirely under the control of the Czechoslovak Communist party, which began to transfer authority from Bratislava to Prague. In 1960 a new constitution seriously curtailed Slovakia's autonomy. The liberal Communist regime of Alexander Dubček, which came into power in 1967, responded to Slovak discontent by promising federalization of Czechoslovakia.
Despite the invasion (1968) of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, the new Socialist Federal Republic came into being on Jan. 1, 1969; the constituent Czech and Slovak republics received autonomy over local affairs, with the federal government responsible for foreign relations, defense, and finance. The fall of the Communist regime at the end of 1989 revived Slovakia's drive for autonomy. Dissatisfied with their minority status in the federal government, many Slovaks called for a loose confederation of the Czech and Slovak Republics, while others advocated complete independence.
An Independent Slovakia
In 1992, as free-market reforms brought on economic problems and widespread dissatisfaction, nationalists led by Slovak premier Vladimír Mečiar came to power. A constitution for an independent Slovakia was approved and on Jan. 1, 1993, the country became independent. An inefficient and obsolete industrial base, rising inflation, and high unemployment were among the problems facing the republic. Mečiar was ousted in Mar., 1994, and Jozef Moravčík became prime minister. Following elections in Oct., 1994, Mečiar returned to power at the head of a coalition government.
A continuing stalemate between Mečiar and Slovakian president Michal Kováč hindered Slovakian efforts to win credibility abroad and join the Western community. The Mečiar government was criticized for its handling of the privatization of state-owned businesses and for its backing of controversial legislation, including a law making Slovak the sole official language. Slovakia's inefficient, defense-oriented industrial base contracted, and the country did not receive needed foreign investment. When Kováč's term was up in Mar., 1998, a divided parliament was unable to appoint a successor; the constitution was amended to allow for direct election of the president.
The Mečiar government was defeated in Sept., 1998, by a four-party center-right coalition, and Mikuláš Dzurinda became prime minister. Mečiar ran for president in 1999, but was defeated by Rudolf Schuster, who pledged to steer a more pro-European course. Dzurinda's government overhauled the tax and social welfare systems and worked to attract foreign investment; the economy subsequently experienced significant growth. Dzurinda's coalition retained power after the 2002 parliamentary elections.
Slovakia became a member of NATO in Mar., 2004, and of the European Union in May. In April, Ivan Gašparovič was elected as Schuster's successor. Mečiar again mounted a campaign for the presidency and won the first round of voting, but he was soundly defeated in the runoff. In the June, 2006, parliamentary elections the leftist party Smer [direction], led by Róbert Fico, won the largest number of seats, and the following month Fico became prime minister of a coalition government that included Mečiar's party and the right-wing Nationalist party. President Gašparovič was returned to office in Apr., 2009, following a runoff election.
The June, 2010, parliamentary elections resulted in an increase to Smer's share of the vote, but a coalition of conservative parties secured a majority of the seats and formed a government. Iveta Radičová became prime minister; she was the first woman to hold the post. Coalition divisions over the eurozone rescue fund led to the fall of the government in Oct., 2011 (though the rescue was then approved with opposition support). Early elections were called for Mar., 2012; Smer won a majority of the seats, and Fico again became prime minister. In the Mar., 2014, presidential election, Fico was a candidate and led after the first round, but he lost to businessman and political independent Andrej Kiska in the runoff.
See J. Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia (1955); G. L. Oddo, Slovakia and its People (1960); E. Steiner, The Slovak Dilemma (1973); S. J. Kirschbaum, Slovak Politics (1983); B. Chnoupek, A Breaking of Seals: The French Resistance in Slovakia (1988).
"Slovakia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Slovakia.html
"Slovakia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Slovakia.html
Official name: Slovak Republic
Area: 48,845 square kilometers (18,859 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Gerlachovsky Peak (2,655 meters/8,711 feet)
Lowest point on land: Bodrok River (94 meters/308 feet)
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT
Longest distances: Not available
Land boundaries: 1,355 kilometers (842 miles) total boundary length; Austria 91 kilometers (57 miles); Czech Republic 215 kilometers (134 miles); Hungary 515 kilometers (320 miles); Poland 444 kilometers (276 miles); Ukraine 90 kilometers (56 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Slovakia (or Slovak Republic) occupies an area of Central Europe that constituted the eastern part of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1993. With an area of 48,845 square kilometers (18,859 square miles), it is about two times as large as the state of New Hampshire.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Slovakia has no territories or dependencies.
Slovakia has a continental climate with sharp seasonal contrasts. Mean temperatures are -1°C (30°F) in January and 21°C (70°F) in July. Weather can vary considerably with elevation, however. The January average can be as low as -5°C (23°F) in the mountains, where temperatures are colder than in the lowlands.
Rainfall also varies with elevation. The annual average precipitation in the lowlands is about 64 centimeters (25 inches); in the High Tatras, however, it can be more than twice as high.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
The western Carpathian Mountains, which extend over Slovakia's northern and central regions, dominate the landscape. To the south are subsidiary mountain ranges, with distinct lowland areas in the southwest and east. The capital city of Bratislava is located on the Danube River, which flows through the country for a short distance in the west and along part of its southern border.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Slovakia is landlocked.
6 INLAND LAKES
Clear lakes dot the mountains of Slovakia. Many of them, such as Lake Orava and Lake Popradské, are associated with rivers of the same names. In addition to the natural lakes, there are several artificial ones. Slovakia is known for its thermal springs and mineral waters; its spas are a major attraction for visitors.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
Most of Slovakia's rivers flow south into the Danube, which, together with the Morava, forms the country's southwestern border. From a point a few kilometers south of the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, the main channel of the Danube River demarcates the border between Slovakia and Hungary for about 175 kilometers (108 miles). As it leaves Bratislava, the Danube divides into two channels. The main channel, the Danube proper, continues southward along the border with Hungary. The smaller channel, called the Little Danube, branches eastward and then southeast to meet the Váh River. The Váh continues south and converges with the Nitra and with the main branch of the Danube at Komárno. The Hron and Ipel' Rivers also flow south and enter the Danube before the latter turns south into Hungary. Slovakia's eastern rivers also tend to flow to the south, eventually entering the Danube. Among them are the Hornád and the Ondava. The Poprad, also in the east, is the only sizable river that flows northward, into Poland.
There are no deserts in Slovakia.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The corner of southeastern Slovakia between the Little Danube and the Danube, known as the Great Rye Island (Velky Litny Ostrov), is a marshland that supports some agriculture. The lowlands in southwestern Slovakia belong to the Danube Basin, while the lowlands in the east are part of the Carpathian Depression. The mountains of central Slovakia give way to hills in the south-central part of the country.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The portion of the Carpathian mountain system within Slovakia consists of a number of different ranges separated by valleys and river basins. The highest range is the High Tatras (or Vysoké Tatry); these mountains extend in a narrow ridge along the border with Poland and have traditionally been a popular summer resort area. They include Slovakia's highest peak, Gerlachovsky (2,655 meters/8,711 feet). Snow persists at the higher elevations well into the summer months and all year long in some sheltered pockets. To the south, across the Váh River, the Low Tatras (Nízke Tatry) rise to elevations of 1,981 meters (6,500 feet). Still farther south, across the Hron River, are the Slovak Ore (Slovenské Rudohrie) Mountains. In addition to the three major ranges in the center of the country, there are several smaller ones. In the west, the Little Carpathian (Małe Karpaty) range rises near Bratislava. Several ranges, including the Bíelé Karpaty, Javorníky, and Beskid Mountains, extend into the western part of the Czech Republic and southern Poland.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
There are a dozen caves open to the public in Slovakia. The Belian Cave in Tatra National Park is 5,778 feet (1,752 meters) long.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
Slovakia's southwestern lowland includes some original steppe grassland.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Belian Cave in Tatra National Park is home to a natural auditorium where musical performances are staged; the cave also provides a habitat for eight distinct bat species.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
Dikes and artificial drainage have made it possible to cultivate grain in the former marshlands of the Great Rye Island (Velky Litny Ostrov) in the southeast. Slovakia's largest artificial lake is the Orava Reservoir. Others include the Zemplínska, Velká Domaša, and Liptovská Reservoirs. The country's largest hydroelectric plant is located on the Danube River at Gabcikovo.
14 FURTHER READING
Brewer, Ted. The Czech and Slovak Republics Guide. New York: Open Road Publishing, 1997.
Humphreys, Rob, and Tim Nollen. Czech and
Slovak Republics: The Rough Guide. New York: Penguin, 1998.
Husovská, 'Ludmilá. Slovakia: Walking Through Centuries of Cities and Towns. Bratislava, Slovakia: Priroda, 1997.
Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia. www.ilcham.sk (accessed April 21, 2003).
"Slovakia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900243.html
"Slovakia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900243.html
Identification. "Slovak" is derived from the Slovakian term for Slav: Slovan. There are three main regional culture areas: western, central, and eastern. Slovensko is the shortened local name for Slovakia, or the Slovak Republic. Slovaks share a common culture despite regional and even local differences in dialect, local customs, and religion. Hungarians (Magyars) in Slovakia are generally bilingual and have been acculturated but wish to maintain their national culture, especially their language.
Location and Geography. Slovakia (the Slovak Republic) is a landlocked country with ports on the Danube River at Bratislava and Komarno; it is bordered by the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, and Austria. Slovakia has a total area of 18,928 square miles (49,035 square kilometers). Its range of elevation runs from a low of 308 feet (94 meters) at the Bodrok River to a high of 8,711 feet (2,655 meters) at Gerlachovsky peak in the High Tatras. Slovakia's topography is extremely varied for such a small total area. Physiographic provinces range from the High Tatras in the north to the rich agricultural lands of the plains and the Danube Basin to the south. Other components of the Carpathian Mountains are the Little Carpathians and White Carpathians of western Slovakia and the Low Tatras and Slovak Ore Mountains in the north-central area. Bratislava, the capital, is a city of 441,453 population on the Danube in southwestern Slovakia. It appears on older maps as Pressburg and was once the Hungarian capital.
Demography. The July 1999 population estimate was 5,396,193, approximately 85.7 percent of which is ethnically Slovak. Hungarians are the largest cultural minority at 10.7 percent (nearly six hundred thousand) and are concentrated in the southern lowlands near the Hungarian border. Rom or Roma (Gypsies) account for 1.5 percent and probably are underreported in census figures, although there has been a substantial migration to Austria, the Czech Republic, and other nations since 1989. Rom occasionally self-identify as Hungarian in census records. Other groups include Czechs, 1.4 percent; Ruthenians (Rusyns), 0.3 percent; Ukrainians, 0.3 percent; Germans, 0.1 percent; and Poles, 0.1 percent. Rusyns are eastern Slavs who live in Slovakia, Ukraine, and Poland. The population growth rate is estimated to be 0.08 percent (1998), with an age structure of 0-14 years, 21 percent; 15-64 years, 68 percent; and 65 and over, 11 percent.
Linguistic Affiliation. Slovak, the national language, uses the Roman alphabet. Along with Czech and Polish, it is classified as a western Slavic tongue in the Indo-European language family. Slovak is very closely related to Czech. Political circumstances beginning nearly a thousand years ago separated populations, but Slovak and Czech are still mutually intelligible. There are three main dialects of Slovak, corresponding to the western, central, and eastern regions. It is said that the pronunciation of particular sounds in the western region is hard, while the dialect of central Slovakia is said to be softer sounding and was adopted historically as the norm. In all but parts of eastern Slovakia, the stress is on the first syllable of a word; longer words (three or more syllables) have secondary accents. There are Slovak words that appear to be formed entirely or mostly of consonants, such as the term for death: smrt'.
Slovak was designated the official language by the Slovak State Language Law of 1 January 1996. This measure curtailed the use of minority languages in the public sphere and mostly affected the Hungarian minority. The language law has now been revised and is less restrictive. Many Slovaks and most non-Slovaks know a second language. Besides Magyar (spoken by Hungarians) and Rusyn (spoken by Rusyns in eastern Slovakia), German, English, Russian, French, and Czech are used.
Symbolism. Slovakia's national flag consists of three equal horizontal bands of color, from top to bottom white, blue, and red. Superimposed over the bands on the left (hoist) side is a shield displaying the national emblem: a double apostolic cross in white sits atop the middle peak of three blue mountaintops, all on a red background. The emblem predates the national flag by centuries (elements of the emblem were used in the Great Moravian Empire) and appears in many contexts both in Slovakia and abroad among people of Slovak descent. The national flag became official on 1 January 1993, Independence Day. The national anthem, Nad Tatrou Sa Blýska, translates as "Lightning over the Tatras." The lyrics refer to stormy times and the belief that Slovaks survive them, while their oppressors and opponents lose. In the former Czechoslovakia, the Slovak anthem was played after the Czech anthem. Folk culture has had a broad impact on the symbols and metaphors of national culture. For example, the fujara, or shepherd's flute, a bassoonlike tube of wood over a meter long, and the valaška, or shepherd's ax, are markers of Slovak culture, along with folk costumes and designs.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. Slovaks trace their origins to the Slavic peoples who migrated from the European-Asian frontier to the area between the Danube and the Carpathians in the fifth and sixth centuries c.e. As increasingly sophisticated agricultural peoples, those Slavs established permanent communities in the Morava, Ipel', Torysa, Vah, and Nitra river valleys. This region of early western Slavic occupation, especially east of the Morava River, correlates almost exactly with the historical and contemporary geographic distribution of Slovaks. The settlement of Nitra became an early focus of political importance and the home of western Slavic rulers, such as King Svätopluk (870–894 c.e.). The first Christian church in east-central Europe was established at Nitra, and in the ninth century, the Great Moravian Empire reached its greatest development, occupying all the land currently within Slovakia. The empire's estimated one million inhabitants included all the western Slavs (peoples who became the Czechs, Moravians, Slovaks, and Poles).
After the invasion of nomadic Hungarian peoples in the tenth century, the peoples who became the Slovaks were isolated from other western Slavic groups as a result of the conquest of the Great Moravian Empire after the Battle of Bratislava in 907. Hungarian rule over Slovaks lasted a thousand years until the end of World War I and the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Halfway into that millennium, the Turks invaded this region.
The emergence of Slovak national consciousness is fairly recent, dating to about the 1700s, and has been punctuated by nationalistic movements, especially as the originally multiethnic Hungarian state attempted to transform itself into an ethnic Magyar state through programs of assimilation. Written Slovak appeared before the eighteenth century in literary texts, and near the end of that century a national movement began to delineate Slovak ethnic identity, especially in the work of Anton Bernolák, who codified written Slovak based on the western Slovak dialect. In the nineteenth century, this process continued with Ján Kollár and Pavol šafárik, who developed a written form of Slovak that combined the western and central dialects. L'udovit štu`r finally codified written Slovak by 1844, basing it on the central dialect. štu`r also encouraged the development of Slovak romanticism, with its focus on patriotism and nationalism and identification with popular and folk traditions. The formation of the Austro-Hungarian state in 1867 led to increased efforts to assimilate the Slovaks under Magyarization. Matica Slovenská, the Slovak cultural organization known in English as the Slovak Institute of Sciences and Arts, founded in 1863, was suppressed by 1875. Slovak secondary schools were closed. Compulsory language training in Hungarian was forced on Slovak children, and Hungarian became the official language. As the state grew more alien to Slovaks, they responded with increased tenacity in retaining their language and customs and emphasizing their ethnic identity through literature, music, and folk traditions. At the end of World War I, Slovak identity was fully formed, and in 1919 Slovakia joined with Czechia to form union of two western Slavic nations: Czecho-Slovakia. Slovakia became an independent nation on 1 January 1993.
National Identity. Slovak national culture and identity crystallized between about 1700 and World War I, in part as a reaction to centuries of attempted assimilation by other peoples, primarily Hungarians. Slovaks who emigrated to the United States in the last quarter of the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth centuries promoted elements of national identity abroad.
Ethnic Relations. Slovaks have experienced adversarial relationships with four major ethnic groups as a consequence of wars, conquests, and political configurations: Hungarians, Czechs, Germans, and Russians. Nomadic Hungarian peoples conquered the ancestors of the Slovaks in 907 c.e. and retained control over them until the end of World War I. While closely related to Czechs culturally, Slovaks generally felt marginalized in the various permutations of the unified or federated Czecho-Slovakia and Czechoslovakia from 1919 to the end of 1992. This nonviolent ethnic conflict, sometimes called the "Slovak Question," ended in the recent "Velvet Divorce."
During the regime of Jozef Tito and the formation of a pro-Nazi state between 1939 and the end of World War II, Czech domination was replaced by German control. After 1948, Russian influence appeared with the re-creation of the Czechoslovak state and the establishment of the Warsaw Pact. Russian military personnel and Soviet armaments and aircraft were stationed in Slovakia after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, during which the Prague Spring movement, led by Prime Minister Alexander Dubček (a Slovak), was crushed.
Currently, the most significant ethnic conflicts are with Hungarians and Rom. The large Hungarian minority concentrated in the lowlands of southern Slovakia has been more vocal and politically unified since 1989. In 1996, when the Slovak State Language Law took effect, Hungarian communities were further galvanized against the nationalistic government of Prime Minister Vladimir Mečiar. This led Hungarian political parties to join with the Slovak opposition to gain the majority in the fall 1998 parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, the Slovak and Hungarian governments have been at odds over the partially completed Gabčikovo-Nagmoros dam project on the Danube, a dispute that went to the World Court. Hungarians have long protested the project, mostly on the grounds that it poses a flood threat to Budapest and other Hungarian communities.
Rom have been physically attacked and even killed by ethnic Slovak skinheads in the past few years. While skinhead groups are relatively rare, racist attitudes toward the Rom persist among many Slovaks.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
The Slovak settlement pattern includes hamlets or colonies, villages, towns, and cities. They are distinguished by population size (with hamlets differing in both size and composition). Cities typically have populations over ten thousand, towns have between four thousand and about ten thousand people, villages have a few hundred to three thousand people, and hamlets or colonies have a few households with perhaps several dozen related people. Hamlets are rapidly depopulating in some areas, and many have ceased to exist; empty houses in others are being purchased by city dwellers for use as vacation homes.
Historically, ethnic Slovak dwellings consisted of one room where all activities took place: sleeping, food preparation and eating, and social and economic tasks. Over time, an additional room was added primarily for sleeping and entertaining. Furniture for sitting (long, narrow benches in older-style kitchens) and sleeping is placed along the walls, while tables for entertaining or providing work surfaces are moved near the benches in kitchens or remain in the center of the second room–bedroom. Family photographs and hand-painted ceramics adorn the walls of most rooms. Two-room houses of the older type can still be found in hamlets and villages. Occasionally rooms were added to accommodate newly married sons. Since the 1950s, most dwellings have indoor plumbing, although outdoor privies can still be found even in homes with running water and flush toilets. Structures for housing livestock frequently are attached to dwellings but are separated by walls and have their own entrances. Other outbuildings may include a rabbit hutch, a barn, and a separate structure where a hog is kept and fattened. Traditional Slovak homes had a fence with a gate leading into the yard as the only entrance visible from the street. The house usually was situated lengthwise on the property, with the door opening onto the little courtyard, not the street (there was little frontage.) The street side usually featured a flower garden, and a vegetable garden was located in back of the courtyard. In towns and cities, dwellings became more diverse over time. Some cities now exhibit suburban sprawl with high-rise apartment building away from the old town centers. Some towns and cities have incorporated nearby villages, and so within the same urban center one can see modern hotels and restaurants in one sector and decades-old peasant cottages in another. Vegetable gardens continue to be popular even in towns as a source of fresh produce.
Non-Slovak influence in the architecture of towns and cities is widespread. In eastern Slovakia, there are Gothic buildings in Spiš and Levoča, while Renaissance structures can be seen in šariš. Baroque and rococo buildings can be found in Bratislava. There are castles and strongholds from before the Crusades. Elements of Slovak folk architecture include the wooden churches and wooden and log dwellings of northern and eastern Slovakia, along with the plastered-over mud-brick homes of western and central Slovakia. There are central places and parks in towns and cities with benches, and virtually all communities except for hamlets have soccer fields. Most monuments commemorate wars, battles, and military, political, and cultural heroes. The most noteworthy Slovak monument is Bradlo, the massive hilltop tribute to General Milan Rastislav štefánik (1880–1919) near Košariskáin western Slovakia. Stefanik, a hero of World War I, is a national icon, and his monument is the site of pilgrimages. The second most popular type of monument commemorates the Slovak National Uprising of 1944 against Germany in World War II.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. Slovak food exhibits much regional variation, but generally is based on soups, stewed and boiled vegetables, stewed fruits, smoked meats (especially sausages), roasted meats, gruels, and dairy dishes. Sheep cheese with small dumplings, bryndzové halušky, is among the most typical Slovak dishes. Traditionally in peasant households, five meals would be taken: early in the morning upon rising (raňajky ), a snack at about ten a.m. (desiata ), the main meal of the day at noon (obed ), another snack around four p.m. (olovrant ), and supper in the evening after chores (večera ). Tea with sugar is the most popular hot beverage. Bread is served with every meal, and hot soup is a fixture as the first course at the main noon meal, with meat dishes commonly served at that time as well. The evening meal is usually light and may include bread, cheese, and vegetables. Beer, wine, juices, and carbonated water or flavored sodas are served with most meals. The main distilled beverage is plum brandy (slivovica ), and borovička (gin) is quite popular.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Special foods are prepared for a number of religious holidays. On Christmas Eve, the meal is meatless and usually begins with a blessed wafer that is drizzled with honey. An alcoholic beverage based on honey called medové also is prepared for this occasion. A vegetable-based based soup is served first, followed by small baked pieces of dough that are moistened in milk and coated with a sweetened poppyseed mixture. On Christmas and other occasions for feasting, a roasted goose may be served, along with sausage (klobása ). Fresh sausages (jaternica, for example) made from barley, pork meat, blood, and rice also appear on special occasions. There is toasting with alcoholic beverages and a dessert of small cakes made with fruit or cheese fillings or log-shaped strudels with nut or poppyseed fillings. Salads tend to be made from sliced cucumbers prepared with a clear sweet and sour dressing or sour cream.
Basic Economy. Slovakia is an industrialized nation with a growing service sector. The economy was privatized amid accusations of racketeering in the 1990s. Many former collective farms have been transformed into agricultural cooperatives, with varying degrees of success. Earlier in the 1990s, some cooperatives were cash-poor and had to pay their workers with produce or livestock. The agricultural sector accounts for about 5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), industry contributes nearly 40 percent, and services account for around 55 percent. The labor force exceeds 2,300,000 and is divided (approximate percentages in 1994) as follows: services, 45.6 percent; industry, 29.3 percent; agriculture, 8.9 percent; transportation and communications, 8.2 percent; and construction, 8 percent. The unemployment rate, which was negligible before 1989 because of the structure of the command economy, has increased throughout the 1990s and is now nearly 20 percent (19.07 percent in June 2000). Unemployment is particularly high in areas that formerly produced armaments. Inflation was about 6 percent in 1997, and prices have been increasing for many goods and services.
Land Tenure and Property. Land, homes, and privatized businesses and factories can be owned by individuals, bought and sold, and passed on to heirs. Much agricultural land is owned and operated by members of cooperatives. Many Slovaks in rural areas retain ownership and exclusive use over plots of land that are used to generate food for family consumption or provide pasturage for livestock.
Commercial Activities. Agricultural production includes grains (rye, wheat, corn, barley), silage (clover), potatoes, sugar beets, hops, fruit, hogs, cattle, poultry, and wood products. There is growing travel and tourist industry, with hotels, restaurants, spas, car rental firms, and ski resorts. Privately owned retail stores now include some foreign investment.
Major Industries. Slovakia produces metal and metal products, fossil fuels (oil, gas, coke), chemicals, synthetic fibers, machinery, paper, ceramics, transportation vehicles, rubber products, optical and electrical apparatus, food and beverages, electricity, and nuclear fuel.
Trade. Slovakia's exports to major trading partners are as follows: Germany, 20.9 percent; Austria, 6 percent; other European Union countries, 14.4 percent; the Czech Republic, 30.6 percent; and countries of the former Soviet Union, 7.1 percent (1996). Exports totaled nearly $9 billion in 1996 and included machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, raw materials, and manufactured goods. Slovakia imports more than it exports. In 1996, it took in about $11 billion of imports in machinery and transport equipment, fuels, intermediate manufactured goods, and miscellaneous manufactured goods. Slovakia imports primarily from Germany, 14.7 percent; Italy, 6 percent; the Czech Republic, 24.8 percent; and countries of the former Soviet Union, 17.7 percent (1996 figures).
Classes and Castes. Slovakia is characterized by socioeconomic classes, with the divisions falling along educational and occupational lines. However, income is not always an accurate indicator of class because some professions requiring advanced study have depressed pay scales.
Symbols of Social Stratification. Higher socioeconomic standing is marked by automobile ownership, stylish clothing, the size of a home or apartment, a home's furnishings and location, and even speech. People in lower socioeconomic groups take public transportation and are more likely to use regional dialects. A relatively small percentage of the population experienced great gains in wealth in the 1990s. An undocumented percentage of Slovaks receive financial help from relatives working in the West.
Government. Slovakia is a parliamentary democracy with legislative, judicial, and executive branches. The legislative branch consists of a single-chamber parliament that meets in Bratislava, has one hundred fifty elected members, and is called the National Council of the Slovak Republic (NR SR ). Members of parliament are elected for four-year terms through universal suffrage; the voting age is 18. The judicial system is represented by the Supreme Court (with judges elected by the parliament) and the Constitutional Court. Executive power is held by the prime minister and other ministers. After the general elections of 1998, Slovakia planned for the direct popular election of its president (the post was vacant after March 1998, when Michal Kovač, Slovakia's first president, left office).
Leadership and Political Officials. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 in Czechoslovakia that ended communist rule, politicians who promoted national interests became popular in many areas of Slovakia. A charismatic leader named Vladimir Mečiar headed the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and became prime minister. However, Slovaks have become disenchanted with politicians as concerns over economic problems have grown. Many Slovaks blamed politicians for the Velvet Divorce that divided Czechoslovakia into two nations at the end of 1992. The 25–26 September 1998 Slovak elections produced a new governing coalition composed of former opposition parties, and Meciar was replaced by Mikulaš Dzurinda, chair of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK). The agenda of the Dzurinda government includes the direct election of a president, membership in NATO, and admission to the European Union. In 1999, Rudolf Schuster (the chair of SOP, the Party of Civic Understanding) became the first directly elected Slovak president.
Current major political parties and movements include the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), Slovak Workers' Association (ZRS), Christian Democratic Party (KDH), Democratic Union (DS), Slovak National Party (SNS), and Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK). In June 1998, there were upwards of twenty political parties and/or movements. On the local level, candidates for local office (mayor, vice mayor) are typically lifelong residents of their communities and are elected by popular vote.
Social Problems and Control. Slovak civil law is based on the former Austro-Hungarian codes of law, and its system has been modified to comply with the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Property crimes became more common after 1989, and while most are committed by Slovaks, a steady influx of foreigners from Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries has contributed to the problem. Car theft, theft of merchandise, and burglary are much more common than they were before 1989. Pickpockets are active in urban areas and on buses and trains, assaults are more common, and there have been car bombings and political assassinations. Organized gangs of criminals have become powerful in some areas, and skinheads have committed assaults and other atrocities against Rom. Slovak law enforcement is understaffed. Informal social control is more likely to take place in villages where there is no resident police force and law enforcement must be called in from another town.
Military Activity. Before 1989, Slovakia was a major manufacturer of military equipment and a major arms-trading partner with the Soviet Union. That industry has been curtailed. The Czechs and Slovaks divided up military equipment when they split, with Slovakia receiving the smaller share. There is a military draft for males when they reach age 18; in 1998, it was estimated that total military manpower stood at 1,125,200. Military expenditures in 1998 totaled $436 million (U.S.), which represented 2.1 percent of GDP. The military branches are the army, the air and air defense forces, and the reserve force (home guards).
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have proliferated since 1989 and number in the thousands. Slovak organizations and associations include trade unions, environmental and/or conservation groups, associations of artists and performers, folklore ensembles, political lobbying groups, and religious organizations. Examples are the Party of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen of Slovakia, the Christian Social Union, the Metal Workers Union (KOVO and METALURG), and the Confederation of Trade Unions (KOZ). There are also Slovak chapters of international organizations, including environmental groups such as the Greens.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Until the second half of the twentieth century, political, medical (excluding nursing), religious, construction, architectural, engineering, managerial, and administrative roles were almost always restricted to men. Women could enter teaching, clerical positions, nursing, sales, and factory jobs. Change came about slowly, and today women are seen in most professions; there are female physicians, politicians, professors, managers, pastors, and administrators. However, in the household, women still are expected to perform child care and basic maintenance.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Slovak men retain a privileged position in the home and the outside world. While women have been entering occupations traditionally held by men and more women are acquiring education beyond the secondary level and opting to remain unmarried longer, they still experience difficulties in certain areas, especially business and politics above the local level. Wealth remains largely in the hands of men.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Slovaks practice monogamy, and individuals have free choice in the selection of marriage partners, though marrying within one's religion is expected in many areas. In rural sectors, it was once expected that everyone would marry except individuals who were disabled. In modern Slovakia, people have other options, including remaining single and living with a partner. The majority of Slovaks marry and enjoy some economic benefit, especially if they have children. Parents still receive, in many instances, a cash bonus when a child is born and mothers are given ample maternity leave. Divorce has become common since the 1980s, along with remarriage. Gay and lesbian partnerships remain mostly closeted, and same-sex marriages are not legal.
Domestic Unit. The basic household unit has increasingly become the nuclear family. Traditional households, especially in rural areas, consisted of extended families that were three generations deep. Grandparents, particularly grandmothers, cared for the offspring of married sons or daughters. Slovaks were at one time more likely to live with the groom's family. Men retain authority in the household, though women informally negotiate decision making and exert considerable influence. Today both spouses are likely to work outside the home.
Inheritance. The children of a couple inherit property equally. In the past, a dowry system operated among the peasantry, and daughters who wanted to accumulate a dowry might sell their future share of property to their brothers for cash. As a result of land reallocations in the past, partible inheritance practices among landowners resulted in plots of dwindling size in only a few generations. The resulting ribbonlike strips of land could seldom support a family. Today, the grown children of deceased parents feud over shares in houses and property. If one of them already occupies the house, he or she may have to sell it to satisfy the claims of siblings.
Kin Groups. Rural-urban migration has resulted in a dispersing of kin, as has emigration to the West. Young people no longer expect to remain in the hamlets, villages, or towns of their birth but seek to move to cities. Today there are no kin groups larger than the extended family. Slovaks have bilateral kinship and trace descent through both parents.
Infant Care. Slovaks place infants in cribs to sleep in the parents' bedroom. Babies play in little pens or in safely confined areas on a blanket on the floor. They are wheeled around outside in strollers but are picked up and carried in the home. Very active or crying babies are entertained and/or pacified with a variety of toys and teething objects.
Child Rearing and Education. Children are supposed to behave like miniature adults. They are expected to be quiet, attentive, and respectful and to keep their clothing clean. Parents and other care-givers attempt to set parameters of behavior and then assess sanctions when rules are broken. Corporal punishment is still common, although less violent methods are increasingly employed. Families try to instill a serious work ethic in children and may assign them substantive chores as early as age seven. In rural areas, once it was common for elementary school-age children to take geese and other small livestock to pasture. There is compulsory formal education for children through the tenth grade.
Higher Education. Slovaks value postsecondary education, and many parents encourage their children to prepare for it by attending academic high schools. However, there appear to be many more students eligible to attend universities than there are places for them.
Slovaks maintain a typically Western distance (about three feet) when conversing. Greetings are expected, and consist of "good morning," "good day," and "good evening." "Good night" is reserved for the last leave taking of the evening. Both men and women shake right hands with acquaintances and newly introduced strangers, and men and women may kiss close friends and relatives on both cheeks during greeting and leave taking. For business and other professional activities, men are expected to wear suits and ties, while women still adhere to a code that involves dresses or two-piece suits with skirts or skirts and blouses.
Lunches tend to be lengthy with several courses served because the noon meal is the main meal of the day. During a visit to a home, food and drink are immediately placed on the table. Refreshments are supposed to be accepted graciously, and emptied plates and glasses are refilled promptly. It is customary to bring flowers, food (cakes), or a beverage when visiting people's homes. Business lunches and home visits are likely to include the offer of alcoholic beverages. Women usually can refuse politely and request a soft drink or hot tea. Men are expected to drink but may decline if they are driving.
Religious Beliefs. The monks Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity to the Great Moravian Empire in the ninth century, but there is evidence of an earlier traditional religion among western Slavs that involved a pantheon of supernatural beings. Today, 70 to 75 percent of Slovaks are Christian, and the majority (60.3 percent) are Roman Catholics. This figure includes Rom, most of whom are Catholic. Other major religions include Evangelical Lutheran, nearly 7 percent; Orthodox Christian, 4.1 percent; and Judaism (greatly reduced by the Holocaust), around 1 percent). Atheists may constitute nearly 10 percent of the population, and other faiths (especially Christian) account for the rest.
Religious Practitioners. Full-time religious practitioners include priests, pastors, and rabbis. In many communities, religious leaders participate in secular events and celebrations alongside political officials. Political leaders no longer control their activities, as they did before 1989.
Rituals and Holy Places. Slovaks affiliated with the major religions worship in established churches or synagogues. Christians conduct burial rites in cemeteries, and some groups visit special sacred areas. The Roman Catholic Church of Saint Jacob in Levoča ranks as one of the most significant shrines. In eastern and parts of central Slovakia, Roman Catholics place offerings of flowers and sometimes scarves at free-standing crosses in the countryside.
Death and the Afterlife. Slovak Christians believe that the soul survives death, and they bury their dead below ground in cemetery plots rather than cremating. In many villages, embalming was introduced as late as the 1980s, and wakes commonly were held at home before the widespread construction of houses of sorrow at or in cemeteries. In some communities, children from the same village are buried together in one or more rows of individual plots rather than with their families. Mourning lasts for nearly a year, and traditionally adult daughters and widows wear only black or subdued colors. Christian cemeteries tend to be located near churches, and it is common to see weeds and unmown grass there. Jewish cemeteries fell into neglect after the Holocaust. Many Christians in rural areas believed that ghosts of the deceased could come back and cause mischief; some people still attribute various types of misfortune to the activities of ghosts.
Medicine and Health Care
Slovaks used to attribute illness and misfortune to supernatural causes and sought curers to diagnose their problems and provide remedies. They made extensive use of medicinal plants and mud poultices. Linden (lipa ) blossoms were collected and dried to make infusions for various maladies. Serious cuts could be treated with the sap of red milkweed, and a beverage brewed from the plant called mouse's tail reportedly lowered blood pressure. Numerous medicinal spas, such as Piešťany in western Slovakia, have attracted patients for centuries. Slovakia's spas enjoy international renown and tend to be associated with specific types of ailments.
In the 1970s, curers for diagnosing and treating the evil eye could be found in rural areas, but modern medicine is Western in character. Villages typically have clinics staffed by resident nurses and midwife-paramedics. Regular visits by nonresident dentists, pediatricians, general practitioners, and obstetrician-gynecologists before 1989 provided free health care for all citizens, with nominal charges for prescriptions. After 1989, socialized medicine ended and medical care moved toward privatization. In general, the cost of medical care and equipment is the responsibility of individuals.
Slovaks celebrate a number of public holidays, several of which are associated with the Christian calendar and beliefs. January 1 is both New Year's Day and Independence Day. January 6 is Epiphany, a Christian festival celebrated especially in Catholic communities, where boys dress up as the Magi and go in a procession from house to house. Other Christian spring holidays on the public calendar include Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday, when young men used to visit homes of single young women and switch them with whips made of willow branches tied with ribbon and douse them with cologne. May Day (1 May), a survival from a much older annual round of Slavic and Slovak festivals signifying the major spring celebration, was transformed during the decades of communism into a celebration of workers, with political speeches and shows of military force. The liberation of the Slovak Republic is commemorated on 8 May. Another Christian and national holiday (observed mostly by Catholics), 5 July, honors Saints Cyril and Methodius, who brought Christianity to the Slavs. The anniversary of the Slovak national uprising in World War II is celebrated on 29 August. Constitution Day of the new Slovak Republic is celebrated on 1 September, and 15 September marks another Christian holiday: Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. All Souls' (Saints') Day on 1 November is observed by many Christians; visits are made to relatives' cemetery plots, where candles are lit. Christmas, the final holiday of the calendar year is celebrated on 25 December, and 31 December marks the celebration of Sylvester (New Year's Eve).
Annual local secular celebrations usually include an end-of-the-school-year festival and parade, and in agricultural areas there are events marking the end of the grain harvest. This festival is called dožinky and usually occurs in August. In the early fall, oberačky celebrates the harvesting of apples and other late orchard crops. These local secular events include feasting and dancing.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. Folk arts and crafts have enjoyed government support through the Center for Folk Art Production (ULUV). The center has promoted these arts abroad through numerous exhibitions. However, in many areas, state subsidies for the arts dried up after 1989, and artists have had to find other means of support.
Literature. Slovak folklore has a long oral tradition of storytelling. Stories generally fall into two categories: folktales that have broad geographic distribution in Slovakia and stories that stem from personal accounts that may be told for only one or two generations in an individual family.
The formal written literary language arose in the eighteenth century and was codified in the nineteenth century. Poetry became established in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a vehicle of the national spirit. While male poets were prominent in the public sphere, the recent publication of Incipient Feminists: Women Writers in the Slovak National Revival by Norma Rudinsky has revealed poems written by women.
While books were affordable before 1989 because of government support, the communist regime controlled and monitored what was published. After 1989, state financial sponsorship of publishing entered a period of transition, resulting in price increases for most books.
Graphic Arts. Slovakia has an extensive heritage of arts and crafts. Modra in southwestern Slovakia has been a center for the production of fine ceramics that began in the 1600s and now exhibits a distinctive folk-art form incorporating historical designs and firing techniques. Painting, sculpture, wood carving, glass (crystal) making, and other graphic arts enjoyed a decade of expansion and access to new markets after 1989. There are stores operated by regional artists' associations where works are sold, and new outlets to Western markets have been established. Modern art has roots both in Slovak folk themes and in European art in general. Most graphic artists belong to special associations or organizations; there are galleries and shows in cities and towns and in many museums. Art exhibits appear occasionally in villages.
A particular type of graphic art involving wire and metalworking was produced by Slovak tinkers from the Upper Vah River Valley or Spis. Their production of utilitarian household items such as candleholders is considered an art form.
Performance Arts. Performance arts fall into three main categories: folk, formal and/or classical, and modern and contemporary. Folk performances are usually local events, many in rural areas, and most often are held in the summer. They frequently are associated with particular festival dates or special commemorative events, such as the first mention of a village in historical records. Folk music, folk dances, minidramas and musicals, and mock weddings with the participants dressed in traditional costumes remain popular. Some folk performances are national or even international in scope, such as the festival in Východná in July. Traditional music ranges from groups playing string instruments and clarinets to groups playing brass instruments. Slovak music is said to have been influenced by both liturgical and chamber music, but a national musical tradition arose in the first half of the nineteenth century that was based primarily on folk themes.
Formal and/or classical and modern and/or contemporary performances are numerous. There are orchestras and chamber groups in many cities, with the most significant groups having their primary homes in Bratislava. A chamber opera was founded in 1986 to provide an outlet for newer performers in a kind of alternative theater.
There are theaters throughout Slovakia where skits, plays, operas, and puppet shows are performed before enthusiastic audiences. Motion pictures have become important in Slovak performance art since the 1960s. While many restrictions were placed on films made before 1989 and those films were expected to promote a political agenda, some works achieved international renown, such as The Shop on Main Street. In the 1990s, because of a lack of state financing, the main film studio closed, but Slovak filmmakers have continued their work.
The State of the Physical and Social Sciences
The physical and social sciences are extremely active in Slovakia. Numerous scientific journals are published, and some now appear in electronic form online. Many institutions of higher learning offer courses of study leading to advanced degrees in natural, behavioral, and social sciences as well as engineering, environmental science, and agricultural engineering. Comenius University and Slovak Technical University, both in Bratislava, are leading institutions in the physical and social sciences. While higher education was free before 1989, there has been a transition to a tuition-based program. In recent years, students in the social sciences numbered about 15.5 percent of the total university population, while natural science accounted for 3 percent and engineering, architecture, mathematics, and other sciences together accounted for 37 percent. There are twenty-one state institutions of higher learning: eighteen civilian schools, two military academies, and one policy institute.
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POLLAK, JANET. "Slovakia." Countries and Their Cultures. 2001. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3401700221.html
The people of Slovakia are called Slovaks. The people who trace their descent to Slovakia make up 85 percent of the population. Hungarians, concentrated in the south near the border with Hungary, totaled about 12 percent. For more information on Hungarians, see the chapter on Hungary in Volume 4.
"Slovakia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900438.html
"Slovakia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900438.html
"Slovakia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O233-Slovakia.html
"Slovakia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O233-Slovakia.html