Slovak Culture

The development of Slovak culture reflects the country's rich folk tradition, in addition to the influence of broader European trends. The impact of centuries of cultural repression and control by foreign governments is also evident in much of Slovakia's art, literature, and music.

There are 12 state scientific libraries in Slovakia, 473 libraries affiliated with universities and institutions of higher learning, and 2,600 public libraries. The University Library in Bratislava, founded in 1919, contains more than 2 million volumes and is the country's most important library. The Slovak National Library (1863), located in Martin, includes a collection of materials relating to Slovak culture.

Slovakia is also home to more than 50 museums. The Slovak National Museum (founded in 1893), located in Bratislava, contains exhibits on Slovak history, archaeology, and musicology, and is probably the country's best-known museum. Other museums include the Slovak National Gallery (1948), also in Bratislava; the Slovak National Uprising Museum (1955), located in Banska Bystrica; and the Museum of Eastern Slovakia (1872), in Kosice.

Historical Cultural Synopsis

The emergence of culture and of Slovak national literature came late in the European context.

Elements of the Slovakian spoken language appeared in literary texts during the centuries preceding the 18th century, but Anton Bernolak (1762-1813) was the first who attempted to create a literary language. Bernolak's language was used by two talented writers, Jozef Ignac Bajza (1755-1836), the author of the first Slovakian novel, and the famous classical poet Jan Holly (1785-1849), who wrote his epic poems in alexandrine verse in order to prove the Slovakian language malleable enough to be equal to complicated forms of ancient poetry.

The two main representatives of Slovakian literary classicism are the poet Jan Kollar (1795-1852) and the historian Pavel Jozef Safarik (1795-1861), even though both continued to write in Czech, their work belongs equally to Czech and Slovakian literary heritage.

Both writers adopted J.G. Herder's philosophical conception about the glorious future reserved to Slavs, and they became the most important promoters of Pan-Slavism. Holly, Kollar and Safarik greatly helped to awaken national conscience and showed the way to the creation of native literature.

19th Century

The most prestigious personality of the 19th century is undoubtedly Ludovit Stur (1812-1856): writer, scholar and deputy in the Hungarian Diet. He was the main architect of the creation of a modern literary language (1844).

This language, based on the dialect from central Slovakia, was adopted by the entire nation. Inspired by the Helegian philosophy, he developed the concept of Slovakian romanticism, whose main characteristics are the pre-eminence of patriotic thought and the attachment to popular traditions.

During the difficult period of forced "Hungary-isation" that followed the missed revolution of 1848, a few writers endeavoured to maintain the morale of a population progressively stripped of its culture.

This situation delayed the advent of realism in Slovakia, and thus it is not before 1870 that a new generation of writers began to raise the level of Slovakian literature.

"Realistic" authors chose their subjects in contemporary life, rather than in the past. This is true for the poet Pavol Orszagh Hviezdoslav (1849-1921) and for the novelists Svetozar Hurban Vajansky (1847-1916) and Martin Kukucin (1860-1928).

20th Century

At the beginning of the 20th century a literary group called "The Slovakian modernists" whose leader was the poet Ivan Krasko (1876-1958) stood out among the rest. His style is close to those of western symbolists yet exemplifying the worries of the poet for his peoples' fate.

Prevalent in this writing style and common to all the literary streams of 19th century Slovakia, is the constant concern to defend the very existence of the nation; its language and its culture.

The establishment of the Czechoslovakian republic (guaranteed by France with the treaty of Trianon) enabled young talented Slovaks to go France to continue their studies; the painters Imro Weiner-Kral and Ludovit Fulla were among them.

Guillaume Appolinaire and Andre Breton influenced young Slovakian poetry, whose most talented representatives were Vladimir Reisel, Jan Rak, Ctibor Stitnicky and Rudolf Fabry.

Impregnated with their French culture, many were the Slovakian writers like Alexander Matuska, Albert Marencin, Vladimir Minac and Jan Stevecky who contributed to bring the two countries closer together.


In the late 18th century, a national movement began in Slovakia, with the aim of fostering Slovak culture and identity. One of its leaders was Anton Bernolak, a Jesuit priest who codified a Slovak literary language based on dialects used in western Slovakia. In the 19th century, Protestant leaders Jan Kollar and Pavol Safarik developed a form of written Slovak that combined the dialects used in central Slovakia and the Czech lands. The linguist and Slovak nationalist Ludovit Stur, a contemporary of Kollar and Safarik's, rejected the Czech influence and set out to develop a more authentic literary Slovak; his language was adopted by a group of Slovak poets, whose work dealt largely with national Slovak themes. Poetry remained an important literary form into the 20th century, and was used by some Slovak writers to address the experience of World War II and the rise of Communism. During the Communist period, Slovak literary culture suffered from heavy governmental control. The works of Dominik Tatarka, Lubos Jurik, Martin Butora, Milan Simecka and Hana Ponicka were exceptions to the pattern of politically influenced works.

Folk Art

Folk arts and crafts, which include wood carving, fabric weaving, and glass painting, have a long and popular tradition in Slovakia, especially in rural areas. Examples of folk architecture, such as wooden churches and brightly painted houses, are found throughout the country, particularly in the Ukrainian communities of Eastern Slovakia.

The development of folk art and crafts developed throughout Slovak history which is documented by the abundant archaeological findings on its national territory. These findings were composed of tools and artefacts - over time, these useful objects became more and more refined and thus became what we call today's folk art. The tradition of folk art and crafts has been handed down through the generations and is supported by ULUV, The Centre for Folk Art Production. Since 1954 ULUV's expositions have shown throughout dozens of countries.

Fine Art and Architecture

Slovak modern art is influenced both by Slovakian folklore and European art and is represented today by numerous artistic associations.

Contemporary sculpture is divided between the old generation with artists like V. Kompanek and A. Rudavsky who are from a classical school, using traditional material, and the younger generation who use more original materials and are inspired by a more psychological approach. A Slovak school of painting emerged in the mid-19th century. Sculpture and architecture also developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, much of it heavily influenced by western European styles. Peter Michal Bohn and J.B. Klemens were among the best-known artists of this period. The work of landscape and figure painters Ladislav Mednansky and Dominik Skutecky received widespread attention in the late 19th century. The cubist artist Ester Simerova-Martincekova and surrealist Imrich Weiner-Kral were influential in the early 20th century. Other important 20th-century artists include Ludovit Fulla, Mikulas Galanda, Martin Benka, and Mikulas Bazovsky. Dusan Jurkovic was an important architect of the early 20th century.

Among the well-known pieces of Slovakian art is the Venus of Moravany dating from the Palaeolithic era, art forms from the stone and bronze age, as well as religious architecture from the Great Moravian Empire. In Slovakia, artistic tradition in several forms developed long ago.

Other Museums:


Music has long occupied an important and distinguished place in Slovak cultural life. In the first half of the 19th century, a national musical tradition began to develop around Slovakia's impressive folk heritage. Modern Slovak music has drawn from both classical and folk styles. Well-known works from the 20th century include the compositions of Alexander Moyzes and the operas of Jan Cikker.

Traditional Slovakian music is one of the most original of Slavic and European folklore. Its oldest form is liturgical (in Slavon) from the time of Great Moravia (9th century) which is the origin of the sacred music of the 15th and 16th centuries. National Slovakian music was heavily influenced by liturgical and chamber music.

Today, music is one of the most significant aspects of Slovakian culture. Some of the most renown orchestras are: The Philharmonic Orchestra of Bratislava and Kosice, The Symphonic Orchestra of Bratislava Radio and The Slovak Chamber Orchestra.


Motion Pictures

During the Communist period, when art was to be directed to political ends, filmmakers in Slovakia suffered from the same restrictions that affected their counterparts in the Czech lands. Nonetheless, certain individuals, including Jan Kadar, Dusan Hanak, Stefan Uher, and Juraj Jakubisko, gained international recognition for their work. As in many of the other post-Communist countries of Eastern Europe, the Slovak motion-picture industry has been affected by the reduction in state subsidies and increased competition from international filmmakers. Although the main film studio has been closed, filmmakers Jakubisko and Uher, as well as Martin Sulik and Stefan Semjan, continue to make important and innovative films.