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History of Slovakia

Table of contents
1 Prehistory
2 Formation of Slav States
3 The Middle Ages
4 19th Century
5 20th Century
6 Independent Slovakia
7 External links and references


The oldest surviving archeological artefacts from Slovakia date back to 270,000 BCE, the Early Paleolithic Era, and were found near Nové Mesto nad Váhom. These ancient tools were made by the Clactonian technique and are a potent reminder of the ancient habitation of Slovakia.

Other stone tools from the Middle Paleolithic Era (200,000 - 80,000 BCE) were discovered in the Prévôt cave near Bojnice and other nearby sites. Artefacts were discovered dating back to the Paleolithic Stage, include the famous Cranium Mold of a Neanderthal (c. 200,000 BCE), discovered near Gánovec, a village in Northern Slovakia.

Homo sapiens skeletons were also discovered on in this region. Numerous objects and vestiges of the era of the Gravettian culture have also been found, principally in the river valleys of Nitra, Hron, Ipel, Vah and as far as the city of Zilina, and near the foot of the Virhorlat, Inovec and Tríbec mountains and the Myjava Mountains. Among the most well-known find is the oldest female statue made of mammoth bone—22 800 B.C.—the Venus of Moravany. It was found in the 1940th during an archaelogical research at Moravany nad Váhom near Pieštany. Numerous necklaces made of shells from Cypraca thermophile gastropods of the Tertiary Period have been discovered at the sites of Zákovská, Podkovice, Hubina, and Radošinare These findings are the most ancient evidence of commercial exchanges carried out between the Mediterranean and Central Europe.

From an archeological standpoint, the discovery of different instruments and objects made of pottery in several archeological digs and burial places scattered across the Slovakia, and even more surprising, in the northern regions at relatively high altitudes, give evidence to human habitation in the Neolithic period. The pottery of Zeliezovce, that of Gemer and of the Massif Bukové hory is characterized by remarkable modelling and by delicate linear decoration, revealing the first attempts at coloring. These shapes reveal a developed of aesthetic sense.

Several caves have also been discovered in Slovakia. One is the famous Domica cave, almost 6000 meters long, which was inhabited down to a depth of 700 meters. This cave is one of the biggest Neolithic deposits in Europe and was inhabited continuously for more than 800 years by the same tribes who created the pottery from the Massif Bukové hory.

The transition towards the Neolithic Era in Central Europe was characterized by the development of agriculture and the clearing of pastures, the first transformation of metals at the local level, by the "Retz" style pottery and also by fluted pottery. During the 'fluted-pottery' era, several fortified sites were built and some vestiges remain today, especially in high-altitude areas. The most well-known being the Nitriansky Hrádok site, which is surrounded by pits. Starting in the Neolithic Era, the geographic location of present-day Slovakia was dense trade network for goods such as shells, amber, jewels and weapons. As a result, it became an important crossroads of European trade routes.

The Bronze Age in Slovakia went through three stages of development, which stretched from 2000-800 BCE. The most well-known culture of that era was the funeral culture of the Carpathians and that of the middle Danube. During the later Neolithic Age, a considerable growth in cultural regions took place in Slovakia. This phenomena was linked to a large development in local copper manufacturing, especially in Central Slovakia and North-West Slovakia. This metal became a permanent source of enrichment for the local population. After the disappearance of the Cakany and Velatice civilizations, it was the Lusacian people who expanded the building of strong and complex fortifications, the appearance of large permanent buildings and administrative centers, a large growth in trades and agricultural technologies.

The richness and the diversity of the sepulchers increased considerably. Arms, shields, jewelry, dishes and statues were manufactured. Life for the people of Calenderberg who lived in the hamlets located in the plain (Sered) and also in the fortresses located on the summits (Smolenice, Molpír) was disturbed by the arrival of community tribes from the Thrace. The local power of the "Princes" of Hallstatt disappeared in Slovakia during the last period of the Iron Age after the battles which took place between the Scytho-Thracian people and the Celtic tribes, advancing from the South towards the North, following the Slovakian rivers. The victory of the Celts marked the beginning of the later Iron Age. Their reign then disappeared with the Germanic incursions, the victory of Dacia near the Nezider Lake and the expansion of the Roman Empire.

The Roman epoch began in Slovakia in 6 CE., inaugurated by the arrival of Roman legions on this territory which led to a war against the Markoman and Quadi tribes. The Romans and their armies occupied only a thin strip of the right bank of the Danube and a very small part of South-West Slovakia. It was not until 174 CE that Marcus Aurelius penetrated deeper into the river valleys of [[Vah], Nitra and Hron. It was on the banks of the Hron that he wrote his philosophical work "Meditations."

In 179 CE, the Roman Legion engraved on the rock of the Trencín Castle: Laugaritio, the Roman inscription marking the furthest northern point in Europe.

Roman and German historical theory suggests that the habitation of Central and Western Europe by the Slavs only began in the sixth century CE. However, certain elements attest to the fact that by the beginning of the sixth century, a Slav population was occupying vast territories extending from the Vistule, the Dniestr, the Danube, including present-day Slovakia, the Pannonia and the Coruthania.

The most recent archeological and historical knowledge has led to the development of a theory in which Slav tribes appeared progressively on this territory for thousands of years BCE, evolving from sedentary indigenous peoples in the middle of Celtic and Germanic tribe movements.

This quite recent historical knowledge is confirmed by the writings of ancient Greek and Roman authors which proves a much earlier Slavic presence on these territories.

The first reference to the Slavs-Vénčdes is found in a work by Herodotus of Halicarnasse dated 400 BCE. The designation Vénčtes or Vénedčs was the most widely used, and interestingly enough, it is still used today on the territories, places of contact between Western Europeans and the Slavs, situated on the territory of present-day Austria.

Mention of the Slav presence is also found in the writings of Pliny the Elder (79 CE) and of Tacitus Cornelius (55-116 CE). The first designation of the Slavs in the Latin form "Souveni" appears in the writings of Claude Ptolemy in 160 CE. This name was used under the form "Sloveni" by the Slavs of the Middle Danube before the 8th century, who lived on the present-day territories of Slovakia, of North and West Hungary, Moravia, Pannonia, Austria and Slovenia. The name is still used by the Slovakians and the Slovenians, who come from the ethnic group Sloveni.

Coexistence between the Slavs and the Celtic tribes has been discovered, by the most recent research, in the region of Liptov in Northern Slovakia, near the area of Liptovská Mara. Six Celto-Slav colonies were discovered at the same time as the site of a castle with a sanctuary in the center of it which was used for Celtic and Slav rites. The castle was surrounded by stone fortifications. Slav tribes also coexisted with the Germanic Quadis, according to the latest findings of the Czech archeologist J. Poulík.

In the third and second century, the Huns began leaving the Central Asian steppes, crossing the Danube in 377 CE and occupying Pannonia which became, for 75 years, their base for conducting looting raids in Western Europe. In 451, under the command of Attila, they crossed the Rhine, devastating Gaul, even crossing the Pyrenees and devastating the "Champs catalauniques." However, the death of Attila in 453 brought about the disappearance of the Hun tribe. In 568, a proto-Mongol tribe, the Avars, made their own invasion into the Middle Danube region.

The insurrected [?] Slav population settled in the Middle Danube. The birth to the Samo Empire, which was first mentioned in writing as early as 623, was a response to the raids of the invading peoples. It was the first known political formation by the Slavs, who beat, in 631, the Frank Army of King Dagobert near Vogatisburg and thereby gained their independence from the Franks and the Avars. However, the Empire disappeared in 665 with the death of Prince Samo. The supremacy of the Avars in these countries only came to an end in 803, the year where Charlemagne, with much help from the Slavs in regions to the North of the Danube and that of the Nitrian principality (Principality of Nitra), beat, once and for all, the Avars, who were eventually assimilated into the local Slav populations.

The Slavs of the Danube suffered heavy human and material losses by containing two large invasions by Asian tribes, thereby playing an essential role by forming a shield, which prevented nomad Asian tribes from carrying out their invasions and bloody raids in Western Europe.

A third invasion of Asian nomads in Europe, the six Magyar tribes, took place in this territory at the end of the 9th century.

Formation of Slav States

The first recorded mention of Slav princes near Pannonia goes back to 803 CE. In 805, the presence of Prince Vratislav, Lord of the Bratislava Castle, signifies the arrival of the second historic Slav in the Middle Danube. In an anonymous Bavarian geographic work Descriptio, Civitatum et Regionum ad septentrionalem plagam Danubiti, it mentions, in 817, the existence of 30 castles on the territory of the principality of Nitra and 11 castles on the territory of the Moravian principality. In 822, emissaries sent by the Slavs visited Emperor Louis the Pious at the Imperial Diet of Frankfurt and in 828, the Archbishop Adalram of Salzburg consecrated the Church of the court of Prince Pribina in Nitra. The oldest mentions of the subject of the Christianization of the Slavs in the Middle Danube goes back to the seventh century, to the epoch of Bishop Amand, an apostle of the Belges. After his mission, the arrival of travelling Irish and Scottish missionaries was attested to in the region of High Nitra.

In 833, an important political event took place in this region. Prince Mojmír, from the Moravian principality, and his army, attacked the principality of Nitra, conquering it and creating in a relatively vast territory, a united Slav State. The Empire unified the Slavs of Nitra and Moravia. The principality of Mojmír is known in historiography under the incorrect name of Great Moravia. This designation was assigned 100 years later, after its disappearance, by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII, even though no historic source from the 9th century mentions the formation of a State called Great Moravia.

Prince Pribina, after fleeing Nitra, became the Lord of the Slavs, occupying the Transdanubian Pannonia. He founded the principality of Balaton, had castles and churches built, and obtained remarkable results in his efforts of Christianization in this region. After his death in 861, his son Kocel, who ruled the principality of Balaton until 876, continued his father's work.

The empire of Mojmír became the target of Christianization led by the Frank clergy, which is attested to by the Ecclesiastical Assembly of 852 at Mohuc and the reports by the Ecclesiastical Missions of Salzburg. But the rich deposits of iron, silver and copper also served as strong attractions to the rulers of the Frank empire. It was for this reason that Louis II the German, with his armies, invaded the principality of Mojmír, stripping Mojmír I of his crown, and entrusting the royalty to his son, Rastislav.

Prince Rastislav I stood out as an efficient and wise lord. To put an end to the aggressiveness of the Eastern Franks, he attempted, starting in 853, to establish an alliance with the Bulgars. He resisted several military attacks by the Franks and, in 855, challenged the huge army of King Louis the Pious at Devin and, in 857, even conquered Duke Carloman and established, in 857, a peace treaty with him.

Ratislav I wisely understood the importance of Christianization of the Slavs and asked the Pope in Rome, in 861, to send a Bishop to his kingdom. His request fell on deaf ears in Rome and, so, in 862, he asked the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to send him a Bishop and religion teachers. The famous letter from Ratislav I to Emperor Michael III began with these words: " ...We, the Slavs, a simple people, have no-one to teach us the truth..." The Emperor agreed to his request and sent Ratislav two apostles, Cyril and Methodius, who were brothers and natives of the city of Salonika (today Thessalonika).

They, even before leaving the Byzantine Empire, had created the "first" Slavic alphabet, called glagolitic and had translated several religious works into the Slavon language (ancient Slav).

After their arrival in the principality of Rastislav, Cyril and Methodius, accompanied by a large group of scholars, founded, using as a model the Academy of Constantinople, the first academy in Slovakia and further developed writing in the Slav language, to which were translated other religious texts and in which several literary works, poems and judicial acts were written (Proglas Poem, the work " Warnings to Lords, a judicial Code for the common people, ", etc...) The work of Cyril and Methodius includes:

From 869-871, the intrigues and military attacks led by the Eastern Franks against the principality of the Slavs intensified. After Rastislav was taken prisoner by the Franks and lost his sight, and after the large anti-Germanic insurrection of Slavomír, Svätopluk acceded to the throne of the principality. From 872-876, Svätopluk conquered the armies of Louis several times and kept his independence. In 880, Pope John VIII, by the act "Industriae tuae " crowned Svätopluk King and gave his kingdom the protection of the Holy See.

Important events during the period of the Kingdom of Svätopluk:

The death of King Svätopluk brought about the progressive disintegration of the largest Central European empire and eventually disappearance due to the incessant invasions of the allied Bavarian armies and the Magyars. However, the first act which led to the disintegration of the Empire was caused by the Slav Dukes of Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic) in 895, which detached itself from the Empire of Svätopluk and asked Emperor Arnoul of Ratisbonne for his protection against the Slavs.

In 897, Mojmír II tried once again to conquer the territory of Bohemia, but failed, and in 898, a struggle for the throne broke out between King Mojmír II and his brother, Svätopluk II. Mojmír II fought off the attack by the Bavarian armies, who had been joined also by military troops of the small Czech Lords and he had Svätopluk II imprisoned.

In 899, the Bavarians once again attacked the Slavs and liberated Svätopluk II. In 900, Mojmír once more fought off attacks from the Czech and Bavarian armies.

In that same year, the Pope reconfirmed the archdiocese and the three dioceses in the Slav Empire and in 901, Louis IV the Younger and Mojmír II reached a peace agreement in Ratisbonne.

In 902 and at the beginning of 906, Mojmír II twice pushed back attacks from the Magyar armies which resulted in their fleeing. However, during their next raid in the South, Mojmír II as well as Svätopluk II were killed and the Magyars pillaged the Southern regions of Slovakia. This was the beginning of the progressive disappearance of the independent Slav State and chronicles of that period describing the battle of the Bavarians against the Magyars on July 4, 907 make no mention of any participation by Slav armies.

The Middle Ages

The Ugrien tribes of the Magyars (Hungarians), who, after the break-up of the Slav empire, occupied the plains between the Tisa river and the Danube, progressively imposed their authority on the Slav tribes located nearby. At the same time, they began to adopt the life style of the Slavs. Thus, they built cities, got involved in agriculture and the trades, practiced the Christian religion and organized themselves into a State.

In spite of that, hordes of Hungarian cavalry each year conducted raids to pillage the German territories. It was not until the Battle of Augsburg on the Lech River in 955 that their invasions ceased when King Otto I (the Great), completely destroyed the Magyar military troops and forced the Magyar nomadic tribes to give up their aggressive and pillaging life style. The territory of the present-day Slovakia was progressively integrated, until the end of the 11th century, into the developing multinational Hungarian State where the Hungarian ethnic group was only a minority, which remained the case until its disappearance in 1918. Until 1106, Slovakia kept a special status in the principality—Tertia pars RegniNitra, being the capital. The first successor to the throne and the future Sovereign of the Hungarian throne always ruled with much independence from the Central Power. He even had the right to mint his own coins.

In 997, the head of the old Magyars, Geza, died and the question of his succession came up. It was then that war broke out between his son Vajko (the future St. Stephen I) and the Head of the "Comitat", the pagan Koppany. Vajko had to seek refuge in Slovakia and he organized the Christian warriors and, with their help, conquered the pagan insurgents. Vajko, baptised later, mounted the throne of Hungary in 1000 as Stephen I. Pope Sylvester II gave him the title of King and a crown, which, thus, made him the first King of Hungary. In this developing State, the Hungarians not only went back to the principal elements of the organization of the former Empire of the Slav State during the period of Svätopluk I, but also brought into their language most of the old Slav words connected to the organization of the State and the hierarchy, the judicial system, the Church and religion, agriculture, the trades, social relations, etc. Most of these words are still used today in Hungarian and their form in ancient Slav has hardly been changed. When the Hungarian State was created, the Slovakian territory of Moravia was detached from the other Slovakian territories and, after a complicated historical evolution, it became part of the present-day Czech Republic. The Slovakian territories were, at the beginning of the existence of the Hungarian Kingdom, the object of frequent and long battles between them and the neighboring country sovereigns. Human and material losses linked to these fierce struggles were multiplied by the bloody invasions of the Tatars from 1241-1243, invasions which, sadly, were characterized by massive exterminations of populations and famines. This resulted in the Hungarian Lords calling on the German colonists, who contributed largely not only in the development of cities, but also in the development of the mining, the metallurgical industry and the trades, not only in Hungary, but also throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Slovakia was rich in raw materials and fairly economically developed and therefore (until the beginning of the Modern Era, Slovakia was the biggest producer of silver and the second largest producer of gold in Europe) was, until the Turkish expansion, the richest and most developed area of Hungary.

It was precisely for that reason that the first royal privileges were given to Slovakian cities— Trnava probably in 1238, Zvolen, Krupina, Stary Tekov in 1240, Nitra, Košice in 1248, Banská Štiavnica in 1255, Banská Bystrica in 1255, Gelnica in 1270, Bratislava probably in 1291, etc. The participation of the Slovaks in public affairs was attested to notably in the Privilegum pro Slavis by Zilina, dated 1381, where King Louis I gave the Slovaks half of the seats on the Municipal Councils.

The catastrophic collapse of the Hungarian armies of the Battle of Mohacs in 1526 brought about the partition of Hungary into three parts and de facto Hungary ceased to exist.

The Ottoman Empire occupied, without the least resistance, the territorial center of the former State, present-day Hungary, and set up a Turkish province there. Transylvania became a Turkish protectorate vassal and a base which gave birth to all the anti-Hapsburg revolts led by the Hungarian nobility during the period 1604-1711. (The Hungarians, even today, call them "revolutions" in which they sided with the Turks, all of which took place on Slovakian territory). The third part of the Kingdom, Slovakia, resisted Turkish occupation (except for the Southern regions) and became, in 1526, part of the Hapsburg Monarchy. At the same time, the Austrian sovereign took over the function of Monarch of the "Kingdom of Hungary and the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, became, for the period between 1526 to 1784 the capital and the coronation city of this Slovak "Hungary Kingdom." From 1526 to 1830, nineteen Hapsburg sovereigns were crowned "Kings and Queens of Hungary" in Saint Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava.

By Turkish invasion, Slovakia became, for almost two centuries, the principal battleground of Turkish wars and Slovakia paid dearly for the defense of the Hapsburg Monarchy and, moreover, the rest of Europe, against Turkish expansion, not only by the blood and the goods of its population, but also by losing practically all of its natural riches, especially gold and silver, which were used to pay for the costly and difficult combats of an unending war.

After the ousting of the Turks from Central Europe in 1786, Buda, which later became Budapest, became the capital of Hungary. However, even during difficult historic periods, even in spite of considerable human and material losses, and without having their own state, the Slovakian people knew how to keep their vitality, their language and their culture in order to continue to develop them. They began the era of Lights full of hope and ready to assume their role in the national renaissance, ready to lead their struggle for the rebirth of their State.

19th Century

During the 18th century, a Slovak national movement was founded with the aim of fostering a sense of national identity among the Slovak people. Advanced mainly by Slovak religious leaders, the movement grew during the 19th century. A key component was the codification of a Slovak literary language by Anton Bernolák in the 1780s, and the reform of this language by L'udovít Štúr the following century. Hungarian control remained strict, however, and a large Slovak movement did not emerge until the 20th century.

New signs of national and political life appeared only at the very end of the century. Slovaks became aware of the fact that they needed to ally themselves with others in their struggle. One result was the Congress of Oppressed Peoples of Hungary, held in Budapest in 1895, which alarmed the government. In their struggle Slovaks received a great deal of help from the Czechs. In 1896, the concept of Czecho-Slovak Mutuality was established in Prague to strengthen Czecho-Slovak cooperation and support Slovakia. At the beginning of the 20th century, growing democratization of political and social life threatened to overwhelm the monarchy. The main rallying call was for universal suffrage. In Hungary only 5 percent of inhabitants could vote. Slovaks saw in the trend towards democracy a possibility of easing ethnic oppression and a break through into politics again. The Slovak political camp, at the beginning of the century, split into different factions. The leaders of the Slovak National Party based in Martin, expected the international situation to change in the Slovak's favor, and they put great store by Russia. The Catholic faction of Slovak politicians lead by Father Andrej Hlinka focused on small undertakings among the Slovak public and, shortly before the war, established a political party named the Slovak Popular Party. The liberal intelligentsia rallying around the Hlas (Voice) journal, followed a similar political path, but attached more importance to Czecho-Slovak cooperation. An independent Social Democratic Party was founded in 1905. The Slovaks achieved some results. One of the greatest of these was the election success in 1906, when, despite continued oppression, seven Slovaks managed to get seats in the Assembly. This success alarmed the government, and oppression was stepped up. One result was the passing of a new education act known as the Apponyi Act, named after education minister Count Albert Apponyi. This was the climax of the Magyarization process. The new act stipulated four years of compulsory schooling, and that only Hungarian was to be taught. The reign of terror claimed the lives of 15 Slovaks—killed during consecration of a new church at Cernova near Ruzomberok. The local inhabitants wished their new church to be consecrated by the popular priest and patriot Andrej Hlinka. But the Hungarian authorities decreed that the church should be consecrated by their own nominee. The public uproar was put down by the police with guns. All this added to estrangement and resistance towards Hungarian rule.

In 1867 the Habsburg domains in central Europe were reconstituted as the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. During World War I (1914-1918) Czechs, Slovaks, and other national groups of Austria-Hungary were joined by Czechs and Slovaks living abroad in campaigning for an independent state. In October 1918, at the end of the war, Slovakia announced its independence from the empire and incorporation into the new republic of Czechoslovakia. The new republic included the Czech lands (Bohemia and Moravia), a small part of Silesia, and Slovakia; within these boundaries were areas inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Hungarians. A parliamentary democratic government was formed, and a capital was established in the Czech city of Prague.

Slovaks, who were outnumbered by the Czechs, differed in many important ways from their Czech neighbors. The Slovak economy was more agrarian and less developed than its Czech counterpart; the majority of Slovaks were practicing Catholics while the Czechs were less likely to be members of established religions. The Slovak people had generally less education and experience with self-government than the Czechs. These disparities, compounded by centralized governmental control from Prague, produced discontent among Slovaks with the structure of the new state.

In the period between the two world wars, the Czechoslovak government attempted to industrialize Slovakia. These efforts were not successful, however, due in part to the Great Depression, the worldwide economic slump of the 1930s. Slovak resentment over what was perceived to be economic and political domination by the Czechs led to increasing dissatisfaction with the republic and growing support for ideas of independence. Father Andrej Hlinka and Father Jozef Tiso, were joined by many Slovaks in calls for equality between Czechs and Slovaks and greater autonomy for Slovakia.

20th Century

Fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

After the outbreak of world war, the Slovak cause took firmer shape in resistance and determination to leave the dual monarchy and form an independent republic with the Czechs. The decision originated amongst people of Slovak descent in foreign countries. Slovaks in the US were especially numerous and formed a sizeable organization. These, and other organizations in Russia, and neutral countries, backed the idea of a Czecho-Slovak republic. Slovaks strongly supported this move. The most important Slovak representative was Milan Rastislav Stefanik, French citizen of Slovak origin, who as a French general and leading representative of the Czecho-Slovak National Council based in Paris, made a decisive contribution to the success of the Czecho-Slovak cause. Political representatives at home, including representatives of all political persuasions, after some hesitation, gave their support to the activities of Masaryk and Stefanik. The national campaign amongst Slovak inhabitants was hindered by the fact that the Hungarian government had increased harassment of Slovaks during the war. Despite stringent censorship, news of their success abroad got through to Slovakia and was received with much satisfaction.


In the turbulent final year of the war, sporadic protest actions took place in Slovakia—politicians held a secret meeting at Liptovsky Mikulas on May 1, 1918. Finally the Prague National Committee proclaimed an independent republic of Czechoslovakia on 28 October, and, two days later, the Slovak National Council at Martin acceded to the Prague proclamation.

Although Czechoslovakia was the only east-central European country to remain a parliamentary democracy from 1918 to 1938, it was plagued with minority problems, the most important of which concerned the country's large German population. A good part of the new Slovak political establishment sought autonomy for Slovakia. The movement toward autonomy was building gradually from the twenties until culminating in independence in 1939. In September 1938, the Allies concluded the Munich agreement that forced Czechoslovakia to cede the predominantly German region known as Sudetenland to Germany, and in November 1938 the Vienna Arbitration that forced Czechoslovakia (later Slovakia) to cede Southern Slovakia to Hungary. Then on March 14, 1939 Slovakia declared its independence and became another state in Central Europe under Nazi German control (for more details on the years 1938-1939 see Jozef Tiso). The new Slovak Republic was led by Jozef Tiso. One day later (on March 15) Nazi Germany invaded what remained (after the Munich agreement) of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia and established a German protectorate there. On the same day, the Carpatho-Ukraine declared its independence and was immediately invaded and annexed by Hungary. Finally, on March 23 Hungary invaded and occupied from the Carpatho-Ukraine some (additional) parts of Slovakia.

On August 29, 1944, 60,000 Slovak troops organized by the underground rose up against the Nazis and the Tiso regime in what became known as the Slovak National Uprising. Although ultimately quelled by the superior Nazi forces, this act of resistance became an important historical landmark for the Slovaks. At the close of World War II, Soviet troops overran all of Slovakia, Moravia, and much of Bohemia.

After Nazi Germany was defeated in 1945, Czechoslovakia was reinstated, though the province of Ruthenia was ceded to the Soviet Union. The Czechs and Slovaks held elections in 1946. In Slovakia, the Democratic Party won the elections (62%), but the Czechoslovak Communist Party won in the Czech Republic, thus winning 38% of the total vote in Czechoslovakia, and eventually seized power in February 1948, making the country effectively a satellite state of the USSR.

The next four decades were characterized by strict communist rule, interrupted only briefly in 1968 when Alexander Dubcek, a Slovak, became party leader. Dubcek proposed political, social, and economic reforms in his effort to make "socialism with a human face" a reality. Concern among other Warsaw Pact governments that Dubcek had gone too far led to the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, by Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian, East German, and Polish troops. Dubcek was removed as party leader and replaced by another Slovak, Gustav Husak, in April 1969.

The 1970s and 1980s became known as the period of "normalization," in which the apologists for the 1968 Soviet invasion prevented, as best they could, any opposition to their conservative regime. Political, social, and economic life stagnated. Because the center of the reform movement had been in Prague, normalization was less harshly felt in Slovakia. In fact, the Slovak Republic saw comparatively high economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s relative to the Czech Republic (which has mostly also been the case since 1994 till today).

The 1970s were also characterized by the development of a dissident movement, especially in the Czech Republic. On January l, 1977, more than 250 human rights activists signed a manifesto called Charter 77, which criticized the government for failing to meet its human rights obligations.

On November 17, 1989, a series of public protests known as the "Velvet Revolution" began and led to the downfall of communist rule in Czechoslovakia. A transition government was formed in December 1989, and the first free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1948 took place in June 1990. In 1992, negotiations on the new federal constitution deadlocked over the issue of Slovak autonomy. In the latter half of 1992, agreement was reached to peacefully divide Czechoslovakia. On January 1, 1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic were simultaneously and peacefully founded. Both states attained immediate recognition from the United States and their European neighbors.

In the days following the "Velvet Revolution," Charter 77 and other groups united to become the Civic Forum, an umbrella group championing bureaucratic reform and civil liberties. Its leader was the dissident playwright Vaclav Havel who was elected President of Czechoslovakia in December 1989. Its Slovak counterpart, Public Against Violence, was based on the same ideals.

In the June 1990 elections, Civic Forum and Public Against Violence won landslide victories. Civic Forum and Public Against Violence found, however, that although they had successfully completed their primary objective—the overthrow of the communist regime—they were less effective as governing parties. In the 1992 elections, both Civic Forum and Public Against Violence were replaced by a spectrum of new parties.

Independent Slovakia

In elections held in June 1992, Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party won in the Czech lands on a platform of economic reform, and Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerged as the leading party in Slovakia, basing its appeal on fairness to Slovak demands for autonomy. Meciar and Klaus negotiated the agreement to divide Czechoslovakia, and Meciar's party—the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)—ruled Slovakia for most of its first 5 years as an independent state, except for a 9-month period in 1994 after a vote of no-confidence, during which Slovakia was ruled by a reformist government under Prime Minister Jozef Moravcik.

The first president of newly independent Slovakia was Michal Kovac, who promised to make Slovakia "The Switzerland of Eastern Europe". The first prime minister was Vladimir Meciar, who had been the prime minister of the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia since 1992.

Rudolf Schuster was elected president in 1999. Vladimir Meciar's semi-authoritarian government is said to have breached democratic norms and the rule of law until being voted out of the office in the parliamentary elections of 1998 by a coalition led by Mikulas Dzurinda.

The first Dzurinda government made numerous political and economic reforms that enabled Slovakia to enter the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), close virtually all chapters in European Union (EU) negotiations, and make itself a strong candidate for NATO accession. However, the popularity of the governing parties declined sharply, and several new parties that earned relatively high levels of support in public opinion polls appeared on the political scene. Meciar remained the leader in opposition of the HZDS, which continued to receive the support of 20% or more of the population during the first Dzurinda government.

In the September 2002 parliamentary election, a last minute surge in support for Prime Minister Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) gave him a mandate for a second term. He formed a government with three other center-right parties: the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), Christian Democrats (KDH) and Alliance of New Citizens (ANO). The coalition has a narrow (three seat) majority in the parliament. The government strongly supports NATO and EU integration and will continue the democratic and free market-oriented reforms begun by the first Dzurinda government. The main priorities of the new coalition are gaining NATO and EU invitations, fighting corruption, attracting foreign investment, and reforming social services such as the health care system. Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, which received about 27% of the vote in 1998 (almost 900,000 votes) received only 19.5% (about 560,000 votes) in 2002 and again went into opposition, unable to find coalition partners. The HZDS will be joined in opposition by Smer, the party of young politician Robert Fico, and by the communists, who obtained about 6% of the popular vote.

Slovakia experienced more difficulty than the Czech Republic in developing a modern market economy. Unlike the Czech Republic, Slovakia is not a member of NATO but is expected to join the NATO in 2004 and both countries are scheduled to join the EU in May 2004.

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