historyEastern_Europe Czecho-Slovakia Slovakia   

 

 

Slovakia: Past, Present and Future 

by James McCulloch

 

For over 1000 years, an ethnic group of people, known today as the Slovaks, were under the rule of larger political entities. "Their (Slovak) history is not one of independence but of interdependence." (Steiner p.3) For the Slovaks, January 1st, 1993, was an extremely historic date. Why? This was the first day since the 10th Century that this relatively small ethnic group of Slavs had their independence. This essay will focus on the role that the newly formed Slovakia plays in stabilizing Central European politics along with a brief historical analysis of the Slovaks and a description of their global challenges that must be achieved.

 

   The history of Slovakian interdependence begins around the year 900, when the Magyars conquered the Slovaks. Hungarian rule over this race lasted right up until the end of the first world war. The late 1700's was when the Slovak nationalist movement really begins. At this time, the "Catholic Intelligentsia" (Brock p. 20) started the formation of the Slovak language. "They were the first to experience a sense of Slovak ethnic consciousness." (Brock p. 20) After the conclusion of World War I, a nation combining both the Czechs and Slovaks was created. However, the primary focus of Czechoslovakia was on the more numerous Czechs and therefore, the Slovaks were in a situation not too dissimilar to the one they previously had experienced under the Hungarians.

 This focus remained throughout the majority of Czechoslovakian history including after its reformation after World War II. For a brief time period during the second world war, the Slovaks were technically an independent state. However, this division of Czechoslovakia was mandated by Hitler. Thence, the Slovaks desire to be a self-governing state was not attained.

  During the 1968 uprising, communist party and government officials announced in Bratislava that Czechoslovakia was "...to become a federal state consisting of two national republics - a Czech one and a Slovak one." (Steiner p. 1) The uprising in Czechoslovakia, which led to Soviet troops putting down the nationalistic movement, foreshadows the separation of the Czechs and Slovaks in 1993. The Soviet influence continued on until the late 1980's when the communist regime collapsed. Finally, after almost eleven centuries of foreign rule, the Slovaks achieved independence in 1993.

 

Since the fall of the Soviet block in Central and Eastern Europe, the newly established governments are changing dynamically. After being linked heavily with the Hungarians, Germans, and Soviets, the political stability of Slovakia and other Central European nations remains a big question. Due to Slovakia's recent formation and quite central location, their government could play a vital role in establishing positive relations with other states in the region and therefore, help create a political strong central Europe. Unlike any of the other countries in the area, the Slovakian government has little or no recent political history with its neighbors as it has always been a subordinate to other governments. Part of the duties of the new government is to establish good working relationships with its neighbors. Depending on how these relationships evolve, the Slovakian government could accomplish two of their political targets. The first of these goals is assisting in promoting regional stability. Positive political ties between the new, non-Soviet governments will create a rigid Central Europe. The other objective of Slovakian leaders is to provide their state with security from foreign control. This could be seen as a general concern to most central European nations but with just over 5 million inhabitants, security is a major issue to the Slovakian government. Good relationships with its more populous neighbors will help in providing a secure state for their people and would prevent any immediately local conflicts from arising. Slovakia's short independent political history and their centralized location could assist in providing regional stability while achieving two of its main objectives, national security and favorable governmental ties with its neighbors.

 

While good, local political relations are important, the newly formed Slovakian government needs to address its worldwide objectives. Slovakia is currently in an economic transition from the Soviet type of planned economy to a western style market-orientated economy. Since trade is becoming more regionalized, especially with the formation of groups like the EU, NAFTA, and ASEAN, it would be extremely advantageous for Slovakia to join the European Union. Trade that would result from joining the EU would have a reciprocal effect on the Slovak economy and the market economy that is being introduced would grow stronger. Slovakia's other worldwide target is achieving global security. Positive local ties will accomplish immediate security but could not protect Slovakia from a global power such as Russia. Again, regional politics here dictate the choices available to the Slovaks. Joining the EU would provide the global military assurances that Slovakia needs to attain. By becoming a member state of the European Union, Slovakia could achieve global security and establish itself on the global trading markets.

 

There is no question that the formation of the Slovakia in 1993 was an important event in the history of the Slovaks. Not only was it the first time in almost eleven centuries that the Slovaks had their independence, but it finally recognized the Slovaks as their own ethnic grouping politically in modern history. However, the formation of the new nation comes at a time when regional and global politics are changing rapidly. The Slovakian government will play an important part in solidifying Central Europe. There are other theories in existence that state the political importance of Slovakia. Richard Smoke's book points out one of these theories, which states that because of its geographic location, "...Slovakia has a mission to fulfill, bridging between Eastern and Western Europe". (Smoke p.150) Building a good rapport with its neighbors would help in building that bridge as well as stabilizing Central Europe. Also, Slovakia has many things in its favor that could make beneficial relations possible. Firstly, Slovakia is a relatively small nation which other countries know won't pose any great physical threat to them. Secondly, the Slovaks have never had any type of independent interaction with its neighbors so there are no historical events that might prevent other countries from building political alliances with Slovakia. Besides being a leader within Central Europe, the government has two other issues that it must address - security and its transformation to a market-orientated economy. If Slovakia wants to remain a individual political entity for years to come, becoming a member of the European Union is necessary because it will assure military protection and provide markets for their products.

 

Sources:

  • Peter Brock's "The Slovak National Awakening"

  • Richard Smoke's edited book "Perceptions of Security"

  • Eugen Steiner's "The Slovak Dilemma"

 

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