The Middle Ages

The Finno-Ougrien 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.

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle



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 lifestyle. 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 - Tertiapars Regni - Nitra, 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 Svatopluk 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 theTurkish 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 in 1238, Zvolen, Krupina, Stary Tekov in 1240, Nitra, Kosice in 1248, Banska Stiavnica in 1255, Banska Bystrica in1255, Gelnica in 1270, Bratislava 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 period1604-1711. (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 and 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.