Slovak Republic F.A.Q.
"The only thing I know about Slovakia is what I learned first-hand from your foreign minister, who came to Texas."
- Then governor George W. Bush replying to a Slovak journalist. Bush met the leader of Slovenia, not Slovakia. Source: Knight Ridder News Service, June 22, 1999.
If Slovakia and geography in Central Europe in general seem to confuse you, you're not alone. As the quote above attests even US President George W. Bush had some learning to do in this area. And so, these set of questions and answers are meant to orient individuals with very little knowledge about Slovakia.
Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising and Bratislava Castle
Crossroads of Europe: The bridge in the picture was built in honor of the partisans who stood up against Nazi German occupation while the castle on the right was the seat of the Hapsburg emperors (and the historic coronation of Maria Teresa) during the Ottoman Turk occupation of Greater Hungary.
Slovakia or the Slovak Republic?
The full and official designation for Slovakia is the Slovak Republic and hence both terms refer to the same nation-state. For formal purposes use the official designation: the Slovak Republic.
e.g. When I traveled to Slovakia I visited the parliament of the Slovak Republic.
Slovak refers to an inhabitant or native of Slovakia. Slovaks is the plural.
e.g. I only met one Slovak but there are many more Slovaks who didn't come.
Slovak also refers to the language of Slovakia.
e.g. Although I can understand some Slovak, I can't speak it.
Slovak can also be used as an adjective.
e.g. We studied Slovak literature by reading Slovak books.
Slovakian is equivalent to Slovak. The term Slovakian is less common and not used in official environments. Certain references recognize the term but it should be avoided.
e.g. I am studying Slovakian history from a book called "Slovak History"
"Slovensko" is the Slovak equivalent of the term "Slovakia" and "Slovenska Republika" translates as "the Slovak Republic".
Q: Has Slovakia recovered from the war?
Although W.W.II was the most destructive war ever, Slovakia was at the periphery of the theatre of war and wasn't severely affected. And in any case, it has had well over half a century to recover.
Oh, you mean the Balkan war? Well considering that Slovakia is not in the Balkans, never was part of Yugoslavia, nor is located in Southern Europe, this is a silly question. Take a look at the European map.
The nation-state of Slovenia, however, did experience war in 1991 when it tried to break away from Yugoslavia. Because of the similarity in spelling individuals not familiar with modern European history confuse these two countries.
The most exciting occurrence, politically speaking, in Slovakia was a peaceful secession from former Czechoslovakia in 1993.
Q: What's the difference between Slovakia, Slovenia and Slavonia?
Slovakia (officially known as the Slovak Republic- but you already know that), of course, is the subject of this website and undoubtedly you will learn more about the country by exploring different areas of our site. Slovenia is a nation-state that was part of the former Yugoslavia. Slavonia is not a nation-state but a province of modern day Croatia, also part of the former Yugoslavia. Slovenia and Slavonia, unlike Slovakia, are part of the Balkans and have experienced violence and atrocities related to the recent wars in this region. What they share in common is a Slavic heritage (to learn more about Slavs click here) that has also brought similarities in spelling as these various names attest.
Examine our European map to get a better understanding.
Q: Why did Slovakia secede from Czechoslovakia?
Both the United Nations Charter and the International Declaration of the Rights of Man have always guaranteed the self-determination of peoples. The leaders of Slovakia felt that the Czech and Slovak Federation did not provide for adequate autonomy and wasn't the best way for the Slovak people to develop culturally and economically.
In short, after being oppressed and even ethnically cleansed by Hungarians in the Hapsburg and Austro-Hungarian empires, and coexistence with the Czechs on unequal terms in Czechoslovakia, elected Slovak politicians decided to go at it alone in 1993. Although the majority of public opinion was against the split and there were elements in the "Czechoslovak" leadership that resisted the breakup they did not have the support nor military/police resources to forcefully keep the country together. Thus, the secession of Slovakia from the Czech and Slovak Federation was done by wholly peaceful means hence it is referred to as the "Velvet Divorce" - jocularly named after the peaceful fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia, the "Velvet Revolution". See the history section for further information.
Q: Was the 1993 separation democratic and amicable?
The separation of Slovakia from Czechoslovakia, which is referred to as the 'Velvet Divorce' and occurred in 1993, was executed in a democratic and largely uneventful way. Consequently, this clean breakup has been a model for other peoples who wish to forge their own identity via the nation-state. For example, leaders in the province of Quebec in Canada have studied the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic and hope to attain a similar separation.
There has been some debate as to whether the breakup was truly democratic. Although the decision was made b both Czech and Slovak leaders who were elected by the citizens of each part of the nation, no question about separation was ever posed to the people of Czechoslovakia. The mandate to separate came through representative democracy rather than a direct plebiscite. There are indications that the majority of the public opinion in both parts of the country was against the break-up. Considering that Czechoslovakia on two occasions (1918 and 1945) and Slovakia once before (1939) were created in a dictatorial and wholly undemocratic way, namely by oligarchs and external fiats, the separation of Slovakia in 1993 was comparatively more democratic than both previous separations and conglomerations. Indeed, it was argued that Czechoslovakia was no more a true nation state than the USSR or Yugoslavia. Such geo-political constructs, which were masterminded by a small minority of citizens and glued together by force, were fundamentally flawed due to the domination of one ethnic group. As such, many historians argue, they were destined to fail.
Q: Where is the Slovak Republic?
The Slovak Republic is located at the precise geographic center of Europe. Hence, this Central European country is referred to as the "Country at the Heart of Europe." Slovakia borders five other countries: Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine. Inspect our maps to get a better idea.
Q: Do I need a visa to visit Slovakia?
That depends on your citizenship. US, Canadian and most European passport holders do not need a visa. For more information and full list of visa requirements visit our Tourism section, as well as the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Q: What is Slovakia like?
Slovakia is modern European country mixed with a deep rural tradition. Geographically, it is primarily a mountainous country with numerous winter activities. It has a continental European climate with moderate winters and warm summers. Most infrastructure and many of the tourist facilities are on par or near Western European standards.
There is refreshingly little McDonald's-style commercialism that is rampant across Western Europe. Quaint and jovial with a surprisingly rich cultural life, Bratislava is a capital city without the usual congestion. The High Tatras are a magnificent range of European mountains dotted with villages with deep peasant traditions. You'll find Slovaks to be an extremely helpful, pleasant people prepared to go out of their way to welcome you. From city breaks, film and folk festivals, to castle tours to snow boarding and hiking you'll find Slovakia a spectacular country to visit.
Visit the Tourism section for more details.
The 5 million Slovaks are Slavic people, having a common cultural, historic and linguistic heritage with their fellow Slavs. Slavs number over 300 million and are the largest European ethnic and linguistic body. The group includes these nationalities: Belorussians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Croats, Czechs, Macedonians, Montenegrians, Poles, Russians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians. Other ethnic Slavs such us Ruthenians, Sorbs and Wends do not have national homelands. The Slavic peoples are divided into three linguistic groups, West, East and South. Slovaks are part of the Western group that also includes Czechs and Poles. To learn more about Slavs go here.
About 15% of the population of Slovakia is non-Slovak. Composed mainly of Hungarians, Roma (Gypsies), Czechs, Ruthenians and Ukrainians, these minorities enjoy full protection of their language, culture and history under the constitution and subsequent legislation enacted into law. See the Society section for more information.
Q: I have a Slovak mother/grandfather/uncle/relative/...etc. How can I find out more about them, their place of birth, their records, etc.?
This is one of the most frequent questions we have to field. Questions dealing with genealogy almost always require tremendous amount of research and it is impossible for us to help with such specific requests. If you don't find the information at this site, we probably don't have it. There are a multitude of genealogical resources on the web that are better equipped to deal with such questions and research. In most probability your endeavors will require to make trips to assess material first hand and which is not available on the internet. Consulting a certified, professional genealogist is an option we also recommend. You may want to start out at Slovakia.ORG's Slovak Genealogy page.
Q: I need to contact Hotel ABC in town XYZ can you give me their fax number? OR
Q: When is National Park ABC open in the month of July and how much do they charge for admission? OR
Q: I need a car rental, who has the best rates? Also can you send me a road map... my address is ABC... OR
Q: Where is the embassy of country XYZ located?
We would love to give out specific information such as this but unfortunately we just don't' have the time. Information of this nature can in many instances be found in our site so please review each of the sections first. If you can't find the information proceed to our link section to expand your research to other sites on the internet.