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Flag of Slovakia Missing image
Slovakia: Coat of Arms

(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official language Slovak
Capital Bratislava
President Ivan Gašparovič
Prime Minister Mikulᦡmp;#353; Dzurinda
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 126th
49,035 km?
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Ranked 103rd
Independence January 1, 1993 (division of Czechoslovakia)
Currency Slovak koruna
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem [[Nad Tatrou sa bl?
Internet TLD .sk
Calling Code 421

Slovakia (Slovak: Slovensko) is a landlocked republic in Central Europe. It borders the Czech Republic and Austria in the west, Poland in the north, Ukraine in the east and Hungary in the south. Slovakia is a member of the European Union and has a population of more than five million. The capital is Bratislava.



The long form of the name Slovakia is Slovak Republic (in Slovak: Slovenská republika). The relation between those two name forms is exactly the same as with for example Germany vs. Federal Republic of Germany or France vs. French Republic.

The recent practice, often seen especially in economic texts, of using the name Slovak Republic instead of Slovakia, when the terms Hungary, Slovenia etc. are used in the same text, is therefore awkward, arising in analogy to the use of the term Czech Republic, but that is (partly) another problem (see Czech Republic, Czech lands).


Main article: History of Slovakia

Since c. 450 BC, Slovakia was inhabited by Celts, who built powerful oppida in Bratislava and Liptov. Silver coins with the names of Celtic kings represent the first known use of writing in Slovakia. Since AD 6, the expanding Roman Empire maintained a chain of outposts around the Danube. From 20 to 50 AD, the Kingdom of Vannius, a barbarian kingdom founded by the Germanic tribe of Quadi, existed in western and central Slovakia.

The Slavic population settled in the territory of Slovakia in the 5th century. Western Slovakia was the centre of Samo's Empire in the 7th century. A proto-Slovak state, known as the Principality of Nitra, arose in the 8th century and its ruler Pribina had the first Christian church in Slovakia consecrated by 828. Together with neighboring Moravia, the principality formed the core of the Great Moravian Empire since 833. The high point of this (Proto-)Slovak empire came with the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius during the reign of Prince Rastislav and the territorial expansion under King Svätopluk.

After the disintegration of the Great Moravian Empire in the early 10th century, Slovakia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 11th through to the 14th centuries. Due to its high level of economic and cultural development, Slovakia also retained its important position in this new state. For almost two centuries, it was ruled autonomously as the Principality of Nitra and the Nitrian Frontier Duchy. Slovak settlements extended to the northern half of present-day Hungary, while the ethnic composition of present-day Slovakia itself became more diverse due to the arrival of the Germans (from the 13th century), Vlachs (from the 14th century), and Hungarians (from the late Middle Ages).

A huge population loss resulted from the invasion of the Mongols in 1241 and the subsequent famine. However, medieval Slovakia was characterized rather by burgeoning towns, construction of numerous stone castles, and development of art. In 1467, Matthias Corvinus founded the first university in Bratislava, but the institution was short-lived.

After the Ottoman Empire started its expansion into present-day Hungary in the early 16th century, the center of the Kingdom of Hungary (under the name of Royal Hungary) shifted towards Slovakia, and Bratislava (known as Pressburg/Pressporek/Posonium/Posony at that time) became its capital in 1536. But the Ottoman wars and frequent insurrections against the Habsburg Monarchy also inflicted a great deal of destruction, especially in rural areas. As the Turks retreated from Hungary in the 18th century, Slovakia's influence decreased.

During a revolution in 1848-49, the Slovaks supported the Austrian Emperor, with the ambition to secede from the Hungarian part of the Austrian monarchy. But they failed in the end to achieve this aim. During the period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from 1867 to 1918, the Slovaks experienced severe oppression in the form of Magyarisation promoted by the Hungarian government. For example, all three Slovak high schools and Matica slovenská were closed down in 1874-1875.

In 1918, Slovakia joined the regions of Bohemia and neighbouring Moravia to form Czechoslovakia. During the chaos following the breakup of Austria-Hungary, a Slovak Soviet Republic was created for a very brief period. During the Interwar period, democratic and prosperous Czechoslovakia was permanently threatened by revisionist governments of Germany and Hungary, until it was finally broken up by the Munich Agreement of 1938, when Slovakia became a separate state that would be tightly controlled by Nazi Germany. However, the anti-Nazi resistance movement launched a fierce armed insurrection, known as the Slovak National Uprising, in 1944. After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reassembled and came under the influence of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact from 1945 onward. In 1969, the state became a federation of the Czech Socialist Republic and Slovak Socialist Republic.

The end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, during the peaceful Velvet Revolution, was followed once again by the country's dissolution, this time into two successor states. Slovakia and the Czech Republic went their separate ways after January 1, 1993, an event sometimes called the Velvet Divorce. Slovakia became a member of the European Union in May 2004.

See also: History of Bratislava


Missing image

Main article: Geography of Slovakia

The Slovak landscape is noted primarily for its mountainous nature, with the Carpathian Mountains extending across most of the northern half of the country. Amongst them are the high peaks of the Tatra mountains, where High Tatras are a popular skiing destination and home to many scenic lakes and valleys as well as the highest point in Slovakia, the Gerlachovský štít at 2,655 metres (8,711 ft). Lowlands are found in the southwestern (along the Danube) and southeastern parts of Slovakia. Major Slovak rivers, besides the Danube, are the Váh and the Hron.

The Slovak climate is temperate, with relatively warm summers and cold, cloudy and humid winters.
Missing image
View of a valley in the Tatras


Main article: Demographics of Slovakia

The majority of the inhabitants of Slovakia are ethnically Slovak (86 %). Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority (10 %) and are concentrated in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Several municipalities, Dunajská Streda, Komárno, Šahy, Želiezovce etc., have a Hungarian majority. Other ethnic groups include Roma, Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians and Germans. The percentage of Roma is 1.7% according to the last census (that is based on their own definition of the Roma), but around 5.6% based on interviews with municipality representatives and mayors (that is based on the definition of the remaining population). Note however that in the case of the 5.6%, the above percentages of Hungarians and Slovaks are lower by 4 %age points in sum.

The Slovak constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The majority of Slovak citizens (68.9 %) practice Roman Catholicism (although church visits percentage is much lower); the second-largest group are people without confession (12.96 %). About 6.93 % belong to Lutheranism and 4.1 % are Greek Catholic, Calvinism has 2.0 %, other and non-registered churches 1.1 % i.e., Eastern Catholic and some 0.9 % are Eastern Orthodox. About 2,300 Jews remain of the estimated pre-WWII population of 120,000. The official state language is Slovak, a member of the Slavic languages, but Hungarian is also widely spoken in the south and enjoys a co-official status in some regions.

In 2004 Slovakia had a fertility rate of 1.25 (i.e., the average woman will have 1.25 children in her lifetime), which is one of the lowest numbers among EU countries. The fertility rate is currently increasing.


Main article: Politics of Slovakia

Missing image
Bojnice Castle, the only one of its design in Eastern Europe

Slovakia is a parliamentary democracy. Two rounds of Presidential elections took place on April 3, 2004 and April 17, 2004. The Parliamantary elections are scheduled for June 17, 2006.

The Slovak head of state is the president, elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. Most executive power lies with the head of government, the prime minister, who is usually the leader of the major party or a majority coalition in parliament and appointed by the president. The remainder of the cabinet is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister.

Slovakia's highest legislative body is the 150-seat unicameral National Council of the Slovak Republic (Národná rada Slovenskej republiky). Delegates are elected for four-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. Slovakia highest judicial body is the Constitutional Court (Ústavný súd), which rules on constitutional issues. The 13 members of this court are appointed by the president from a slate of candidates nominated by parliament.

Slovakia is a member state of the European Union since May 1, 2004 and of NATO since March 29, 2004. As a member of the United Nations (since 1993), Slovakia was, on October 10, 2005, for the first time elected to a two-year term on the UN Security Council for 2006-2007. Slovakia is also a member of WTO, OECD, OSCE, and other international organizations.

See also: List of rulers of Slovakia

Administrative Divisions

Main article: Regions of Slovakia

As for administrative division, Slovakia is subdivided into 8 kraje (singular - kraj, usually translated as regions, but actually meaning rather county), each of which is named after their principal city. As for territorial division and the definition of self-governing entities, since 2002, Slovakia is divided into eight Upper-Tier Territorial Units (sg. vyšší územný celok, pl. vyššie územné celky, abbr. VÚC) called samosprávny kraj (Self-governing (or: autonomous) Region):

Missing image

  1. Bratislava Region (Bratislavský kraj) (see also Bratislava)
  2. Trnava Region (Trnavský kraj) (see also Trnava)
  3. Trenčín Region (Trenčiansky kraj) (see also Trenčín)
  4. Nitra Region (Nitriansky kraj) (see also Nitra)
  5. Žilina Region (Žilinský kraj) (see also Žilina)
  6. Banská Bystrica Region (Banskobystrický kraj) (see also Banská Bystrica)
  7. Prešov Region (Prešovský kraj) (see also Prešov)
  8. Košice Region (Košický kraj) (see also Košice)

(the word kraj can be replaced by samosprávny kraj in each case)

The "kraje" are subdivided into many okresy (sg. okres, usually translated as districts). Slovakia currently has 79 districts.

See also:

Map of Slovakia
Map of Slovakia


Main article: Economy of Slovakia

Slovakia has mastered much of the difficult transition from a centrally planned economy to a modern market economy. The Slovak government made progress in 2001 in macroeconomic stabilisation and structural reform. Major privatisations are nearly complete, the banking sector is almost completely in foreign hands, and foreign investment has picked up. Slovakia's economy exceeded expectations in the early 2000s, despite recession in key export markets.

Revival of domestic demand in 2002, partly due to a rise in real wages, offset slowing export growth to help drive the economy to its strongest expansion since 1998. Solid domestic demand boosted economic growth to 4.4 % in 2002. Strong export growth, in turn, pushed economic growth to a still-strong 4.2 % in 2003, despite a downturn in household consumption. Thе estimated GDP growth was around 5.7 % in 2005. It was the highest rate from the Visegrád group. It is expected to reach at least 6 % in 2006, and 6.5 % in 2007. The growth in Slovakia's gross domestic product, which reached 7.5 percent p.a. in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2006 according to the Statistics Office estimate, came as a surprise to local analysts, given that big foreign investors, such as Peugeot or Kia have not launched their production yet.

Unemployment, rising from 14.9 % at the end of 1998 to 19.2 % at the end of 2001 (seasonally adjusted harmonised rate) during the radical reforms introduced by the Slovak government since 1999, decreased again to 11.8 % (January 2006).

Inflation dropped from an average annual rate of 12.0 % in 2000 to just 3.3 % in the election year 2002, but it rose again in 2003-2004 due to necessary increases in taxes and regulated prices. Nonetheless, CPI fell below 3 % in 2005.

Slovakia plans to adopt the Euro currency on 1 January 2009 and has already entered the ERM for this purpose (Slovak euro coins).

The Slovak crown reached its new historical maximum value in 1 March 2006, with the day's best exchange rate against the reference currency the euro reaching 36.940 SKK/EUR

In a survey of the German Chamber of Commerce held in March 2004, as many as 50 % of German enterpreneurs chose Slovakia as the best place for investment.


Main article: Culture of Slovakia


Miscellaneous topics

Further reading

  • A History of Slovakia : The Struggle for Survival Stanislav Kirschbaum
  • Axis Slovakia: Hitler's Slavic Wedge, 1938-1945 Mark W. A. Axworthy
  • Blue Guide: Czech and Slovak Republics Michael Jacobs
  • Insight Guide: Czech & Slovak Republics Alfred Horn
  • Lonely Planet World Guide: Czech & Slovak Republics Neil Wilson, Richard Nebesky
  • My Slovakia: An American's View Lil Junas
  • The Rough Guide: Czech and Slovack Republics Rob Humphreys
  • Slovakia: The Heart of Europe Olga Drobna, Eduard Drobny and Magdalena Gocnikova
  • Slovak History: Chronology & Lexicon Julius Bartl and Dusan Skvarna
  • Slovakia: A Photographic Odyssey Eugen Lazistan, Fedor Mikovic, Ivan Kucma and Anna Jureckova
  • The Slovak Republic: A Decade of Independence, 1993-2002
  • Slovakia Since Independence : A Struggle for Democracy Minton F. Goldman
  • World War II: OSS Tragedy in Slovakia Jim Downs

External links


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