Slovakia


Slovakia
Slovakian, adj., n.
/sloh vah"kee euh, -vak"ee euh/, n.
a republic in central Europe: formerly a part of Czechoslovakia; under German protection 1939-45; independent since 1993. 5,393,016; 18,931 sq. mi. (49,035 sq. km). Cap.: Bratislava. Also called Slovak Republic. Slovak, Slovensko /slaw"ven skaw/.

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Slovakia

Introduction Slovakia -
Background: In 1918 the Slovaks joined the closely related Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. Following the chaos of World War II, Czechoslovakia became a Communist nation within Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe. Soviet influence collapsed in 1989 and Czechoslovakia once more became free. The Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate peacefully on 1 January 1993. Historic, political, and geographic factors have caused Slovakia to experience more difficulty in developing a modern market economy than some of its Central European neighbors. Geography Slovakia
Location: Central Europe, south of Poland
Geographic coordinates: 48 40 N, 19 30 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 48,845 sq km water: 45 sq km land: 48,800 sq km
Area - comparative: about twice the size of New Hampshire
Land boundaries: total: 1,524 km border countries: Austria 91 km, Czech Republic 215 km, Hungary 677 km, Poland 444 km, Ukraine 97 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate; cool summers; cold, cloudy, humid winters
Terrain: rugged mountains in the central and northern part and lowlands in the south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Bodrok River 94 m highest point: Gerlachovsky Stit 2,655 m
Natural resources: brown coal and lignite; small amounts of iron ore, copper and manganese ore; salt; arable land
Land use: arable land: 30.74% permanent crops: 2.64% other: 66.62% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,740 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: NA Environment - current issues: air pollution from metallurgical plants presents human health risks; acid rain damaging forests Environment - international party to: Air Pollution, Air
agreements: Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution- Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: landlocked; most of the country is rugged and mountainous; the Tatra Mountains in the north are interspersed with many scenic lakes and valleys People Slovakia -
Population: 5,422,366 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.3% (male 508,256; female 484,739) 15-64 years: 70.1% (male 1,888,705; female 1,910,842) 65 years and over: 11.6% (male 237,770; female 392,054) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.14% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 10.09 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 9.22 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.53 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.61 male(s)/ female total population: 0.95 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 8.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.2 years female: 78.41 years (2002 est.) male: 70.19 years
Total fertility rate: 1.25 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.01% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 400 (1999 est.)
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Slovak(s) adjective: Slovak
Ethnic groups: Slovak 85.7%, Hungarian 10.6%, Roma 1.6% (the 1992 census figures underreport the Gypsy/Romany community, which is about 500,000), Czech, Moravian, Silesian 1.1%, Ruthenian and Ukrainian 0.6%, German 0.1%, Polish 0.1%, other 0.2% (1996)
Religions: Roman Catholic 60.3%, atheist 9.7%, Protestant 8.4%, Orthodox 4.1%, other 17.5%
Languages: Slovak (official), Hungarian
Literacy: definition: NA total population: NA% male: NA% female: NA% Government Slovakia -
Country name: conventional long form: Slovak Republic conventional short form: Slovakia local short form: Slovensko local long form: Slovenska Republika
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: Bratislava Administrative divisions: 8 regions (kraje, singular - kraj); Banskobystricky, Bratislavsky, Kosicky, Nitriansky, Presovsky, Trenciansky, Trnavsky, Zilinsky
Independence: 1 January 1993 (Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia)
National holiday: Constitution Day, 1 September (1992)
Constitution: ratified 1 September 1992, fully effective 1 January 1993; changed in September 1998 to allow direct election of the president; amended February 2001 to allow Slovakia to apply for NATO and EU membership
Legal system: civil law system based on Austro- Hungarian codes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; legal code modified to comply with the obligations of Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to expunge Marxist- Leninist legal theory
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Rudolf SCHUSTER (since 15 June 1999) head of government: Prime Minister Mikulas DZURINDA (since 30 October 1998) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister elections: president elected by direct, popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 29 May 1999 (next to be held NA May/June 2004); following National Council elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the president note: government coalition - SDK, SDL, SMK, SOP, KDH election results: Rudolf SCHUSTER elected president in the first direct, popular election; percent of vote - Rudolf SCHUSTER 57%
Legislative branch: unicameral National Council of the Slovak Republic or Narodna Rada Slovenskej Republiky (150 seats; members are elected on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms) election results: percent of vote by party - HZDS 27%, SDK 26.3%, SDL 14.7%, SMK 9.1%, SNS 9.1%, SOP 8%; seats by party - governing coalition 93 (SDK 42, SDL 23, SMK 15, SOP 13), opposition 57 (HZDS 43, SNS 14); note - seating as of January 2002 - governing coalition 90 (SDK 23, SDL 21, SOP 16, SMK 15, KDH 9, DS 6), opposition 51 (HZDS 43, SNS 8), PSNS 6, independents 3 elections: last held 25-26 September 1998 (next to be held NA September 2002)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are elected by the National Council); Constitutional Court (judges appointed by president from group of nominees approved by the National Council) Political parties and leaders: Christian Democratic Movement or KDH [Pavol HRUSOVSKY]; Democratic Party or DS [Ludovit KANIK]; Direction (Smer) [Robert FICO]; Liberal Democratic Union or LDU [Jan BUDAJ]; Movement for a Democratic Slovakia- People's Party or HZDS-LS [Vladimir MECIAR]; Party of Civic Understanding or SOP [Pavol HAMZIK]; note - SSDS and SZS joined the SOP parliamentary caucus; Party of the Democratic Left or SDL [Pvel KONCOS]; Party of the Hungarian Coalition or SMK [Bela BUGAR]; Real Slovak National Party or PSNS [Jan SLOTA]; Slovak Democratic and Christian Union or SDKU [Mikulas DZURINDA]; note - this is DZURINDA's new party for the 2002 elections; he remains chairman of a rump and splintering SDK; Slovak Democratic Coalition or SDK (loose parliamentary club grouping, representing members of the smaller SSDS, SZS, and those committed to run under SDKU in 2002) [Mikulas DZURINDA]; Slovak National Party or SNS [Anna MALIKOVA]; Yes (ANO) [Paval RUSKO] Political pressure groups and Association of Employers of
leaders: Slovakia; Association of Towns and Villages or ZMOS; Confederation of Trade Unions or KOZ; Metal Workers Unions or KOVO and METALURG International organization Australia Group, BIS, BSEC
participation: (observer), CCC, CE, CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NAM (guest), NSG, OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNTAET, UNTSO, UPU, WCL, WEU (associate partner), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Martin BUTORA chancery: 3523 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008 FAX: [1] (202) 237-6438 telephone: [1] (202) 237-1054 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Ronald
US: WEISER embassy: Hviezdoslavovo Namestie 4, 81102 Bratislava mailing address: P.O. Box 309, 814 99 Bratislava telephone: [421] (2) 5443-3338 FAX: [421] (2) 5443-0096
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of white (top), blue, and red superimposed with the Slovak cross in a shield centered on the hoist side; the cross is white centered on a background of red and blue Economy Slovakia
Economy - overview: Slovakia has mastered much of the difficult transition from a centrally planned economy to a modern market economy. The DZURINDA government made excellent progress in 2001 in macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform. Major privatizations are nearly complete, the banking sector is almost completely in foreign hands, and foreign investment has picked up. Slovakia's economy exceeded expectations in 2001, despite recession in key export markets. Revival of domestic demand, partly due to a rise in real wages, offset slowing export growth to help drive the economy to its strongest expansion since 1998. Solid domestic demand is expected to boost economic growth to 3.4% in 2002, and about 4% in 2003. Unemployment, rising to 19.8% at the end of 2001, remained the economy's Achilles' heel. The government faces other strong challenges in 2002, especially the maintenance of fiscal balance ahead of the September 2002 parliamentary election, cutting budget and current account deficits, and privatization of the Slovak energy and power monopolies.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $62 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $11,500 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 4% industry: 32% services: 64% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 5.1%
percentage share: highest 10%: 18.2% (1992) Distribution of family income - Gini 26.3 (1996)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 7.4% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 3 million (1999) Labor force - by occupation: industry 29.3%, agriculture 8.9%, construction 8%, transport and communication 8.2%, services 45.6% (1994)
Unemployment rate: 19.8% (yearend 2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $5.2 billion expenditures: $5.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1999)
Industries: metal and metal products; food and beverages; electricity, gas, coke, oil, nuclear fuel; chemicals and manmade fibers; machinery; paper and printing; earthenware and ceramics; transport vehicles; textiles; electrical and optical apparatus; rubber products Industrial production growth rate: 4% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 27.53 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 35.34% hydro: 17.11% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 47.55% Electricity - consumption: 25.203 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 4.9 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 4.5 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: grains, potatoes, sugar beets, hops, fruit; pigs, cattle, poultry; forest products
Exports: $12.5 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 39.4%, intermediate manufactured goods 27.5%, miscellaneous manufactured goods 13%, chemicals 8% (1999)
Exports - partners: EU 59.0% (Germany 26.8%, Italy 9.2%, Austria 8.4%), Czech Republic 17.4% (2000)
Imports: $14.4 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 37.7%, intermediate manufactured goods 18%, fuels 13%, chemicals 11%, miscellaneous manufactured goods 9.5% (1999)
Imports - partners: EU 48.9% (Germany 25.1%, Italy 6.2%), Russia 17.0%, Czech Republic 14.7% (2000)
Debt - external: $7.8 billion (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $421.9 million (1995)
Currency: Slovak koruna (SKK)
Currency code: SKK
Exchange rates: koruny per US dollar - 47.792 (September 2001), 46.035 (2000), 41.363 (1999), 35.233 (1998), 33.616 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Slovakia - Telephones - main lines in use: 1,934,558 (1998) Telephones - mobile cellular: 736,662 (April 1999)
Telephone system: general assessment: a modernization and privatization program is increasing accessibility to telephone service, reducing the waiting time for new subscribers, and generally improving service quality domestic: predominantly an analog system that is now receiving digital equipment and is being enlarged with fiber-optic cable, especially in the larger cities; mobile cellular capability has been added international: three international exchanges (one in Bratislava and two in Banska Bystrica) are available; Slovakia is participating in several international telecommunications projects that will increase the availability of external services Radio broadcast stations: AM 15, FM 78, shortwave 2 (1998)
Radios: 3.12 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 38 (plus 864 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 2.62 million (1997)
Internet country code: .sk Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 6 (2000)
Internet users: 700,000 (2000) Transportation Slovakia -
Railways: total: 3,660 km broad gauge: 102 km 1.520-m gauge narrow gauge: 51 km (46 km 1,000- m gauge; 5 km 0.750-m gauge) (2001) standard gauge: 3,507 km 1.435- m gauge (1,505 km electrified; 1,011 km double-tracked)
Highways: total: 17,710 km paved: 17,533 km (including 288 km of expressways) unpaved: 177 km (1998 est.)
Waterways: 172 km (all on the Danube)
Pipelines: petroleum products NA km; natural gas 2,700 km
Ports and harbors: Bratislava, Komarno
Merchant marine: total: 3 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 15,191 GRT/19,489 DWT ships by type: cargo 3 (2002 est.)
Airports: 34 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 17 over 3,047 m: 2 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 914 to 1,523 m: 3 under 914 m: 7 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 17 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 9 under 914 m: 7 (2001)
Heliports: 1 (2001) Military Slovakia -
Military branches: Army (Ground Forces), Air and Air Defense Forces, Home Guards (Territorial Defense Forces), Civil Defense Force, Railway Armed Forces (subordinate to the Ministry of Transportation, Post, and Telecommunications) Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 1,486,728 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 1,136,775 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching males: 45,502 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $406 million (2002)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.89% (2002)
GDP: Transnational Issues Slovakia - Disputes - international: Slovakia requested additional ICJ judgment in 1998, and talks continue to set modalities to assure Hungarian compliance with 1997 ICJ decision to proceed with construction of Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Dam, abandoned by Hungary in 1989
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin bound for Western Europe; producer of synthetic drugs for regional market

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officially Slovak Republic

Country, central Europe.

Area: 18,933 sq mi (49,035 sq km). Population (2001 prelim.): 5,379,455. Capital: Bratislava. About nine-tenths of the population are Slovak; Hungarians form the largest minority. Language: Slovak (official). Religion: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy. Currency: Slovak koruna. The Carpathian Mountains dominate Slovakia, with lowlands in the southwestern and southeastern regions. The Morava and Danube rivers form parts of the southern border. The country grows grain, sugar beets, and vegetable crops and raises pigs, sheep, and cattle, but the economy is based on mining and manufacturing; there are substantial deposits of iron ore, copper, magnesite, lead, and zinc. Slovakia is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Slovakia was inhabited in the first centuries AD by Illyrian, Celtic, and Germanic tribes. Slovaks settled there around the 6th century. It became part of Great Moravia in the 9th century but was conquered by the Magyars с 907. It remained in the kingdom of Hungary until the end of World War I, when the Slovaks joined the Czechs to form the new state of Czechoslovakia in 1918. In 1938 Slovakia was declared an autonomous unit within Czechoslovakia; it was nominally independent under German protection from 1939 to 1945. After the expulsion of the Germans, Slovakia joined a reconstituted Czechoslovakia, which came under Soviet domination in 1948. In 1969 a partnership between the Czechs and Slovaks established the Slovak Socialist Republic. The fall of the communist regime in 1989 led to a revival of interest in autonomy, and Slovakia became an independent nation in 1993.

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▪ 2009

Area:
49,034 sq km (18,932 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 5,401,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
President Ivan Gasparovic
Head of government:
Prime Minister Robert Fico

      The most important development for Slovakia in 2008 was the approval of the country's entry into the euro zone as of Jan. 1, 2009. Despite skepticism over Slovak inflation prospects, European Union authorities backed the move mid-year, and the final conversion rate was set at 30.126 koruna per euro, a much stronger rate than was originally expected. Although many Slovaks also feared that euro adoption could negatively affect inflation, the accession was a source of pride. Slovakia would be the second EU state in the former communist bloc—after Slovenia—to be admitted to the euro zone.

      In February, Prime Minister Robert Fico received another boost from abroad when the Party of European Socialists (PES) readmitted his party, Smer (“Direction”). The PES, an umbrella group for left-wing parties within the EU, had suspended Smer's membership after the 2006 elections, when Fico formed a coalition government with two parties—the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the People's Party–Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LS-HZDS)—that were seen as outside the European mainstream. According to the PES, the decision to restore Smer's membership was based on Fico's demonstrated social-democratic orientation and commitment to minority rights. Hungary, however, continued to see the SNS's presence in the Slovak cabinet as a threat to Slovakia's ethnic Hungarians, and bilateral tensions flared in late 2008.

      From a political standpoint, Slovakia was quite stable in 2008; the three ruling parties continued to register strong public support, while the opposition struggled to find its voice. The government was not without scandal, though; three ministers were replaced, and calls were made for the resignation of several others. Still, the opposition had few tools to use against the ruling coalition, particularly since the economy continued to perform relatively well, benefiting from reform measures taken during the 2002–06 term.

      One issue of particular concern was a controversial press bill that the opposition believed would limit pluralism. The opposition parties vowed to block the ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty as long as the government insisted on the passage of the press bill. After several months of wrangling, however, the opposition's tactics failed; the parliament backed both documents in April, and one of the three opposition parties ended up voting in favour of the treaty.

      In the first months after the international financial crisis struck, the Slovak economy held up well; several foreign investors ramped up production, and falling unemployment and rising wages drove household demand. Nevertheless, leading companies warned that the business environment was deteriorating under Fico.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2008

Area:
49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 5,396,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
President Ivan Gasparovic
Head of government:
Prime Minister Robert Fico

      Slovakia's political scene was relatively quiet in 2007 as the three ruling parties that took office in mid-2006 consolidated their power and maintained remarkably high public support, partly thanks to a booming economy. Backing for the largest ruling party, Direction–Social Democracy (Smer-SD), stood at approximately 40% throughout the year, higher than the support for the three centre-right opposition parties combined.

      In 2007 Prime Minister Robert Fico continued his efforts to undo many of the business-friendly reforms that had been implemented during the 2002–06 term of his predecessor. Fico launched rhetorical attacks against the foreign owners of Slovakia's energy monopolies, called for major changes to the 2003 labour code, and tried to decrease the influence of private pension funds, which formed the backbone of the three-pillar system that had been introduced in 2005. In an effort to further raise his popular support domestically, in early February Fico pulled Slovakia's demining team out of Iraq.

      The parliament approved controversial amendments to the labour code and pension system that business leaders viewed as indicators of a worsening business environment. Still, those laws did not go as far as Fico had hoped, as the initial proposals were often toned down by Smer-SD's two junior coalition partners—the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LS-HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS), particularly the former. One study indicated that Fico's government had kept fewer than half of its key promises during its first year in office. For its part, the political opposition was ineffective in blocking government legislation.

      The only major leadership shift in the six parliamentary parties during 2007 occurred in early April. Bela Bugar, the longtime chairman of the opposition Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), was defeated by Pal Csaky. Bugar's replacement sparked fears that the SMK's orientation would shift toward a more nationalist approach, contributing to tense relations between Slovaks and Hungarians. In September relations worsened further after the Slovak parliament approved a resolution on the inviolability of the post-World War II Benes decrees, which had stripped ethnic Germans and Hungarians living in Czechoslovakia of their civic and property rights. The SMK was the only party to vote against the resolution. The ruling parties experienced their biggest crisis to date in November, after Fico fired Agriculture Minister Miroslav Jurena (of the LS-HZDS) following reports of his involvement in illegal land transfers.

      The Slovak economy surged at a record pace in 2007 (about 9%) as strong foreign demand contributed to a sharp narrowing of external deficits. Moreover, productivity gains continued to outpace real wage growth, keeping concerns about economic overheating to a minimum. By the standards of Eurostat's Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices, Slovakia's inflation fell to about 2%, well within the Maastricht Treaty limit for entry to the euro zone. Thus, Slovakia appeared to be on track to adopt the euro in January 2009. There were some risks from a fiscal perspective, particularly since the Fico government seemed eager to raise social spending. Government representatives repeatedly insisted, however, that Slovakia would meet all the Maastricht criteria by the end of 2007. On the downside, Eurostat figures indicated that Slovakia recorded the highest unemployment rates (over 11%) in the EU during 2007, falling behind Poland.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2007

Area:
49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 5,391,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
President Ivan Gasparovic
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Mikulas Dzurinda and, from July 4, Robert Fico

      Parliamentary elections on June 17, 2006, brought a change in Slovakia's leadership, ushering in a ruling coalition seen by many analysts as the worst-case scenario. Still, the economy continued to perform very well, thanks to the policies put in place during 2002–05. GDP growth soared to an all-time high, and unemployment rates fell to their lowest levels in years. The elections were held three months ahead of their originally scheduled date because of the February departure of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) from the preelection ruling coalition owing to a dispute regarding the country's Vatican treaty. The surging economy was not enough to bring an election victory for Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU). Still, the SDKU finished second, with a stronger-than-expected 18.3% of the vote and 31 seats in the 150-member parliament. The populist opposition party Smer (“Direction”) was the clear election winner, with 29.2% of the vote and 50 seats. Next in line were the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) and the Slovak National Party (SNS), both of which gained just under 12% of the vote and 20 seats. The only other parties to surpass the 5% threshold were the People's Party–Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LS-HZDS), with 8.8% and 15 seats, and the KDH, with 8.3% and 14 seats.

      Smer leader Robert Fico announced on June 28 that his party would form a government with the SNS and the LS-HZDS, two nationalist-populist parties responsible for Slovakia's economic cronyism and international isolation of 1992–98. The new cabinet was approved by the president on July 4, 2006, with Fico as prime minister. The government manifesto—backed by the parliament on August 4—was very vague about economic policy, but it did propose populist shifts in tax policy. Still, after some wavering the cabinet promised continuity in regard to Slovakia's adoption of the euro, maintaining the January 2009 target date set by its predecessor.

      With 85 seats in the parliament, the postelection ruling coalition was expected to have few problems with internal cohesion. Although a difference of opinion emerged in mid-October as former prime minister Vladimir Meciar (LS-HZDS) voiced concern over a provision of a new income-tax bill that would reduce corporate tax assignations to nongovernmental organizations, the dispute was soon resolved, allowing for the approval of the 2007 state budget bill in early December. Despite Smer's rising popularity, the opposition performed well in local elections on December 2, winning the post of mayor in five of eight regional capitals. The biggest blow to the ruling parties came in Zilina, where SNS leader Jan Slota failed in his reelection bid as the city's mayor, a post he had held since 1990.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2006

Area:
49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 5,384,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
President Ivan Gasparovic
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda

      Despite economic success, the position of the government of Slovakia was somewhat shaky in 2005. Three ministers were replaced during the course of the year, and the government came close to collapse in September. Within the four-party ruling coalition, relations were especially tense between the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO), owing partly to personality conflicts within the Education Ministry. In May an education-reform bill failed after ANO rejected the legislation, marking the first time that the government had been disunited over an important reform matter. The situation calmed down after the ministry's state secretary, Frantisek Toth of ANO, replaced Rudolf Chmel as culture minister.

      Political tensions heightened again in August when the KDH demanded ANO leader Pavol Rusko's dismissal as economy minister because of a financial scandal. After failing to heed Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's call to resign voluntarily, Rusko was fired on August 24, and he subsequently withdrew ANO from the ruling coalition. Nonetheless, a majority of ANO parliamentary deputies, led by former journalist Lubomir Lintner, opted to continue supporting Dzurinda's cabinet and forged an agreement with the three remaining ruling coalition partners: the KDH, Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, and the Party of the Hungarian Coalition. Lintner's group was therefore able to keep ANO's two remaining ministers in place and name a replacement to head the Economy Ministry, with Jirko Malcharek taking that post in October.

      Rusko's departure made the achievement of a parliamentary majority uncertain, particularly since Dzurinda had been running a minority government since late 2003, dependent on backing from political independents. The opposition refused to attend the mid-September parliamentary session, and the necessary quorum of 76 out of 150 deputies was not reached for several days, which led to calls for early parliamentary elections. After more than a week of delay, the parliament finally started operating on September 21, with 77 deputies present. That followed the surprising shift of two deputies from the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) to Lintner's group, accompanied by allegations that they had been “bought.” In an apparent effort to improve the government's image, Dzurinda backed the resignation in October of controversial Labour and Social Affairs Minister Ludovit Kanik in connection with questionable financial dealings. The respected sociologist Iveta Radicova replaced Kanik, becoming the first woman in Dzurinda's cabinet. Despite weak public support, Slovakia's ruling parties fared surprisingly well in the November regional elections, which were plagued by a very low turnout.

      On the economic front Slovakia continued to record rapid GDP growth in 2005, owing partly to a recovery of real wages. Inflation and unemployment dropped sharply, and the country appeared to be in good shape to meet its goal of euro adoption by 2009, joining the European exchange-rate mechanism in late November. In regard to foreign affairs, Bratislava hosted a summit between U.S. Pres. George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in February; this marked the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to Slovakia. In May Slovakia became the seventh European Union member state to ratify the constitution, approving it through a parliamentary vote. In October Slovakia was elected for the first time as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2005

Area:
49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 5,383,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
Presidents Rudolf Schuster and, from June 15, Ivan Gasparovic
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda

      The year 2004 was a very successful one for Slovakia; the country acceded to both NATO and the European Union (EU) and won international praise as a reform leader. Despite the political squabbling that had caused the ruling coalition to lose its parliamentary majority in late 2003, the cabinet managed to push through legislation on health care reform and fiscal decentralization and thereby wrapped up the key points of its program within the first two years of its term. Given the progress that Slovakia had made since 1998, the World Bank's Doing Business in 2005 report ranked the country as the world's top reformer and listed it as one of the top 20 economies in regard to “the ease of doing business.” The reforms attracted new investment projects, including an automobile manufacturing plant by Hyundai affiliate Kia Motors, scheduled to open in 2006.

      One challenge faced by the cabinet in 2004 was a referendum on early parliamentary elections that was organized on the basis of a petition drive by opposition parties and trade unions, which claimed that government-led reforms had contributed to a worsening social situation. Held on April 3, the referendum failed, since turnout was well below the required 50% threshold. Although the referendum results marked a victory for Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, the cabinet received a major blow in the presidential elections that were held the same day, as the ruling parties' candidates unexpectedly failed to make it past the first round. In the second-round runoff, former speaker of the parliament Ivan Gasparovic prevailed over former prime minister Vladimir Meciar.

      The ruling parties fared better than had been expected in Slovakia's first elections to the European Parliament (EP) on June 13; they won a combined 8 out of 14 seats. A major concern was the disappointingly low turnout, just under 17% of eligible voters, the lowest in EU history. Still, the failure of the referendum combined with the EP elections helped to strengthen Dzurinda's position, even as the prime ministers in three neighbouring countries lost their jobs.

      The year also brought more rapid economic growth. Though the 2003 increase in GDP had been based entirely on an improvement in net exports, growth was much more balanced in 2004, with a recovery in investment and household demand, signaling that Slovaks were adjusting well to the sweeping changes in taxation that had taken effect at the start of the year.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2004

Area:
49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 5,402,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
President Rudolf Schuster
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda

      Slovakia achieved considerable success in economic policy and foreign affairs in 2003, but the year was disappointing politically. Probably the most important event was the referendum on accession to the European Union, held on May 16–17. It was Slovakia's first successful referendum; all previous attempts had failed to attract the required 50% turnout. This time the threshold was just barely achieved, with a turnout of 52.2%, and politicians from across the political spectrum showed unprecedented unity in encouraging voters to participate. Voters gave a resounding “yes” to accession, with 92.5% in favour, the highest of any EU candidate country. Despite the strong “yes” vote, Pal Csaky, deputy prime minister for European integration, was criticized for the lower-than-expected turnout as well as Slovakia's relatively poor preparations for joining the union.

      In economic policy the centre-right ruling coalition showed courage in approving wide-ranging fiscal reforms that seemed likely to lower the budget deficit substantially over the coming years. In addition to pension, social welfare, and health care reforms, legislation providing for a flat income tax for both individuals and corporations, as well as a unified value-added tax rate, all at 19%, was approved. The government's progressive economic policies made Slovakia more attractive to foreign investors, as demonstrated by the January decision of PSA Peugeot Citroën to build a plant in the town of Trnava. Although GDP growth decelerated somewhat in 2003 owing to slowing domestic demand, the country was still one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Europe.

      Politically, the situation was not so promising, as the ruling coalition began to experience serious conflicts less than a year after the September 2002 parliamentary elections, and some of the sheen was thereby taken off the government's image both at home and abroad. Although all four ruling parties easily agreed on economic policy, the conservative Christian Democrats (KDH) and the liberal Alliance of the New Citizen (ANO) were at odds over social policy, particularly over the question of abortion. Moreover, conflicts within both the ANO and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), led to changes in the government lineup, with the replacement of two well-respected ministers and the dismissal of the head of the National Security Office. After three deputies left the ANO's parliamentary caucus in the autumn, the ruling coalition lost its parliamentary majority, with 75 of 150 seats, but the government managed to remain intact.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2003

Area:
49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 5,383,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
President Rudolf Schuster
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda

      Parliamentary elections held on September 20–21 were the major event of 2002 in Slovakia. The outcome was considered crucial for the future direction of the country, particularly in light of the upcoming decisions on the enlargement of NATO and the European Union (EU). Many feared that Slovaks would turn away from the reformist, pro-Western government that had held office since 1998 and would instead support the return of populist and nationalist forces that could lead the country to international isolation.

      Much to the surprise of everyone (including the parties themselves), four centre-right parties managed to win a majority in the elections, with 78 of 150 parliamentary seats. Three of the four had worked together in government over the previous four years, and within just two weeks they had set up the new cabinet and agreed on the basic policies they would like to pursue. Mikulas Dzurinda was reappointed prime minister on October 15, and the remaining ministers were installed the following day. In addition to Dzurinda, a number of other key players were retained, marking a sign of continuity. Foreign policy was arguably the most important impetus behind voters' decisions. Turnout at the polls was 70%, boosted by a Western-funded get-out-the-vote campaign.

      The new government promised to push forward rapidly with economic and social reforms. Unlike the previous Dzurinda cabinet, the new ruling coalition did not include the left-wing parties that had blocked many of the changes proposed in 1998–2002. Key issues that the new government vowed to address included reforms in the areas of health care, education, pensions, social welfare, police, and the judiciary.

      Slovakia enjoyed one of the highest economic growth rates in the region in 2002. Moreover, low inflation helped to boost real wages substantially, giving consumers more leeway to spend. On a negative note, the country continued to struggle with high fiscal and current-account deficits; however, the reforms proposed by the new cabinet were expected to alleviate those problems in the medium term.

      Slovaks were rewarded for their voting behaviour by gaining invitations from both NATO and the EU.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2002

Area:
49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 5,410,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
President Rudolf Schuster
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda

      Although Slovakia continued to struggle with political uncertainty and economic difficulties in 2001, the country also made considerable progress in reforms. The ruling parties showed remarkable unity when necessary, which was demonstrated most clearly by the adoption in February of 85 constitutional amendments, the most important of which allowed for public administration reform and the introduction of an ombudsman.

      The parliament approved territorial and public administration reforms in July aimed at granting more power to municipalities. Slovakia's first regional elections were held on December 1 and 5. The centre-right ruling coalition parties won a clear majority in just three of the eight regions and obtained the post of regional leader in only two. The other regions went to former prime minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, sometimes in coalition with the left-wing ruling parties and the extraparliamentary Smer (“Direction”). The turnout was disappointingly low, at just 26% in the first round and 23% in the second.

      The government experienced two major upheavals in 2001. The first was a squabble on the centre-right in May over who would appoint a replacement for Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda eventually prevailed, putting forward his close ally Ivan Simko. In the summer the five-party ruling coalition faced collapse when the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) threatened to leave the government because of its disagreement over the territorial reforms. The parliament had voted to retain the 8 regions established by the previous government rather than switch to the 12-region model preferred by the SMK. However, the SMK finally decided to stay in the government after the parliament approved all the relevant laws on administrative reforms by early October, transferring approximately 300 powers from the central government to regions and municipalities.

      On the economic front the government pushed forward quickly with privatization, completing the sales of the country's major banks and making significant headway into privatizing the energy sector. Nonetheless, economic growth continued to be slowed by weak household consumption, a sign that ordinary Slovaks had yet to benefit from the government's reforms.

      Slovakia remained on the fast track for membership in NATO and the European Union (EU). Defense Minister Jozef Stank worked hard to push forward military reforms, and Slovakia was seen as one of the two favourites to receive an invitation to NATO in 2002. Slovakia caught up with the first-round countries in preparations for EU membership, closing 22 of 31 chapters of the acquis communautaire, the body of legislation that regulates the activities of EU member states. The one major setback was related to a scandal in May over the alleged misuse of EU PHARE funds, which led to the resignation of the deputy prime minister for European integration, Pavol Hamzik; he was replaced by Maria Kadlecikova.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2001

Area:
49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 5,403,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
President Rudolf Schuster
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda

      Slovakia continued to struggle politically and economically in the year 2000, but the country remained on its reform path. While membership negotiations with the European Union (EU) moved along relatively quickly, Slovakia's accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in the fall was considered the government's greatest success since taking office in October 1998.

      Tensions between the four government parties heightened in mid-April when party chairman Jozef Migas and several other members of the ruling Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) supported an unsuccessful no-confidence vote in the cabinet that was called by the opposition. Although some SDL representatives condemned Migas's behaviour, he was reelected party chairman in July after dropping demands for a government reshuffle. There were conflicts at the end of the year as well within the Slovak Democratic Coalition, the largest of the government parties.

      Opposition activity mounted after former prime minister Vladimir Meciar was briefly arrested on April 20 by masked police commandos in an attempt to force him to testify in several cases. Nonetheless, the opposition failed to remove Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner in a parliamentary no-confidence vote, and attendance at a series of antigovernment rallies was low. The opposition also instigated instability by calling for a referendum on early parliamentary elections; however the referendum failed when just 20% of registered voters took part in the November poll.

      After Pres. Rudolf Schuster nearly died in June at a Slovak hospital during an operation on his colon, he was transported to Austria, where doctors managed to save his life. Subsequent criticism of the Slovak health care system led to the replacement the following month of Minister of Health Tibor Sagat with Roman Kovac. Defense Minister Pavol Kanis resigned in December following criticism of personnel policies at his ministry and his construction of a luxurious villa.

      Political tensions also centred on national minorities as Party of the Hungarian Coalition chairman Bela Bugar several times threatened to remove his party from the ruling coalition if certain conditions were not met to strengthen the position of ethnic Hungarians. Meanwhile, the need for a solution to the Romany (Gypsy) question became increasingly urgent as Slovak Roma continued to seek asylum abroad.

      The government's economic reforms started to show results during the year, and annual growth of gross domestic product was predicted at 2.1%, mainly thanks to strong exports. Nonetheless, annual inflation was expected to rise to 12.0%, while unemployment remained a significant problem, forecast at 18.6% in December. Considerable foreign investment took place during the year, most notably the sale of the eastern Slovak steel giant VSZ to U.S. Steel and Deutsche Telekom's purchase of 51% of its Slovak counterpart.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2000

Area:
49,036 sq km (18,933 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 5,398,000
Capital:
Bratislava
Chief of state:
vacant until June 15 (functions exercised by the prime minister and parliament chairman); thereafter President Rudolf Schuster.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda

      In Slovakia 1999 brought progress in politics, economic reform, and foreign relations. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's Cabinet, which had taken office in October 1998, had to cope with economic problems and conflicts within the broad-based coalition government, as well as the challenge of bringing Slovakia back on track with its neighbours, particularly in terms of integration into the European Union (EU).

      By July the Cabinet had fulfilled all the political requirements for starting EU entry talks, including the approval of a law on the use of minority languages. Another major political achievement was the holding of direct presidential elections in May after a vacancy in the chief of state position for more than a year. Although Slovakia was showing signs of economic downturn at the time of the elections, the ruling coalition's candidate, Rudolf Schuster, managed to defeat former prime minister Vladimir Meciar. Schuster passed his first major test in August by refusing to call a referendum demanded by the opposition but widely considered unconstitutional.

      Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic Coalition showed signs of strain as many deputies returned to their original parties. A series of public scandals brought a significant drop in the government's popularity by midyear. As a result, Transport and Telecommunications Minister Gabriel Palacka left office in August, and Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak followed him in October. Police reopened the investigation of several controversial cases in which certain representatives of the previous ruling parties were suspected of involvement, including the 1995 kidnapping of former president Michal Kovac's son.

      After some hesitation the Dzurinda government managed to take a number of unpopular but necessary steps to turn the economy around, and the announcement in May of the Cabinet's “revitalization program” put a halt to speculation on the Slovak koruna (crown). Owing to increased demand for Slovak products abroad, the economy managed to avoid recession, with gross domestic product registering growth of 0.6% in the third quarter. Inflation reached 14.2% for the year, while unemployment grew to 18.3% in November.

      Slovakia's relations with the EU and with neighbouring countries improved considerably. Nonetheless, Slovakia had problems with Austria because of the decommissioning of two nuclear reactors and with certain other Western countries because of an outflow of Slovak Roma (Gypsies) seeking asylum. Slovakia's greatest breakthrough during the year was its invitation to attend accession talks at the EU summit in Helsinki, Fin., in December.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 1999

      Area: 49,036 sq km (18,933 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 5,425,000

      Capital: Bratislava

      Chief of state: President Michal Kovac until March 2; some functions of chief of state assumed by the prime minister thereafter.

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Vladimir Meciar and, from October 29, Mikulas Dzurinda

      Slovakia's parliamentary elections on September 25-26 brought dramatic change and overshadowed other events of 1998. Four opposition parties won a constitutional majority and removed Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), from power. The HZDS defeat came despite its lavish campaign and government-sponsored changes in the election law approved by the parliament in May that were apparently aimed at hindering the opposition.

      The HZDS won 27% of the vote, but the centre-right opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) trailed closely with 26.33%. HZDS attempts to form a Cabinet were welcomed only by the Slovak National Party (SNS). A four-party coalition agreement was signed on October 28, with SDK Chairman Mikulas Dzurinda as prime minister and participation in the government from the SDK, Party of the Democratic Left, the centre-left Party of Civic Understanding, and the ethnically oriented Party of the Hungarian Coalition.

      In its program statement, the Dzurinda government focused on freedom, equality, justice, democracy, and tolerance as its basic principles. It also sought to reduce the balance of payments deficit.

      Slovakia was without a president for much of the year. Pres. Michal Kovac's term expired in March, but the parliament was unable to agree on a replacement. Meciar took over most presidential duties.

      Slovakia's new Cabinet was faced with a troublesome economic situation, the legacy of the Meciar government. Gross domestic product growth continued to be strong, with an expected annual increase of approximately 5% in 1998, and annual inflation had risen just 5.9% as of September. Other economic figures, however, were far less promising. The growing foreign trade and state budget deficits were worrying, as was the rising state debt. Whereas privatization had moved quickly under Meciar's Cabinet, the restructuring necessary in many firms remained to be carried out, and special measures needed to rescue the banking sector awaited implementation. Despite several years of strong economic growth, unemployment remained at about 14%. On October 1 the National Bank of Slovakia was forced to float the national currency, the koruna (crown), and abolish the 7% fluctuation band within which it was fixed against a mark-dollar basket.

      The top foreign relations objective of the Dzurinda government was putting Slovakia on track for early European Union membership. Just after the elections, Slovakia's neighbours were actively pushing for the country's speedy integration. The situation remained difficult for Slovakia's Roma (Gypsy) population, particularly after summer floods ravaged two villages. Because of an inflow of Roma from Slovakia applying for refugee status, Great Britain imposed a visa requirement for Slovak nationals on October 7.

SHARON FISHER

▪ 1998

      Area: 49,036 sq km (18,933 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 5,404,000

      Capital: Bratislava

      Chief of state: President Michal Kovac

      Head of government: Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar

      In Slovakia 1997 would be remembered as the year the country fell from the group of fast-track states for entry into NATO and the European Union (EU). Over 90% of eligible voters boycotted a May referendum on NATO membership after Interior Minister Gustav Krajci removed from the ballot a question on direct presidential elections that had been added by the opposition. Another controversy centred on the parliament's refusal in September to reinstate the mandate of Frantisek Gaulieder, who was stripped of his seat in December 1996 after he quit the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The feud between Pres. Michal Kovac and Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar continued, and several politically related cases remained unresolved, including the 1995 kidnapping of Kovac's son. The ruling coalition squabbled over bank and television privatization and the 1998 state budget. Five opposition parties formed the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), which immediately surpassed the HZDS in opinion polls. The SDK signed a cooperation agreement with the opposition Hungarian coalition, while the postcommunist Party of the Democratic Left preferred to remain an "independent opposition party."

      In June the EU-Slovak parliamentary committee recommended that Slovakia improve government-opposition relations, alter the composition of parliamentary committees to achieve a fair coalition-opposition ratio, and pass a minority language law in order to move toward EU membership. Kovac and Meciar issued a rare joint statement in October promising to cooperate in achieving these goals. After three years of anticipation, on November 19 the parliament voted to expand the parliamentary committees overseeing the secret service and military intelligence to include three SDK deputies.

      Annual growth in Slovakia's gross domestic product was expected to fall to 4% by December, and year-end inflation was predicted to rise to 8%. Problem areas included the mounting state budget and trade deficits. Although the import surcharge was lifted on January 1, the worsening trade deficit led Slovakia to introduce 7% import tariffs in July.

      A dispute with the Czech Republic over disposition of remaining common property led Slovakia to withdraw its ambassador for three weeks in April; however, talks between Meciar and his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, in October helped to resolve some problems. Ties were strained with another neighbour as well, Hungary, when it complained that Slovakia was not fulfilling the bilateral state treaty and when suggestions about a possible population exchange became public.

SHARON FISHER
      This article updates Slovakia, history of (Slovakia).

▪ 1997

      Slovakia is a landlocked state in central Europe. Area: 49,036 sq km (18,933 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 5,372,000. Cap.: Bratislava. Monetary unit: Slovak koruna, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 31.19 koruny to U.S. $1 (49.13 koruny = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Michal Kovac; prime minister, Vladimir Meciar.

      Politics in Slovakia in 1996 was played out against the backdrop of the continuing feud between Pres. Michal Kovac and Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar; the two men found themselves on opposing sides on practically every important issue. Kovac even initiated a slander suit against Meciar. Before a conference in August 1996, the two men had not met officially in 14 months.

      The formal investigation of the kidnapping in August 1995 of Kovac's son, in which many believed Meciar's supporters had a role, slowly petered out during the year. Meciar had intimated that the abduction might have been a sham engineered by Kovac himself. A key witness, who might have implicated intelligence service chief Ivan Lexa in the kidnapping, died when his automobile was bombed on April 29. The police found no evidence to support allegations that Lexa and Interior Minister Ludovit Hudek had obstructed the investigation, and charges were dropped in July.

      Eyebrows were raised in March when the National Council approved the Law on the Protection of the Republic, providing stiff penalties for the dissemination abroad of false information about the state and for the organizers of demonstrations harmful to the state. The law was vetoed by President Kovac in April, but the government was more successful in maintaining tight control over the media. In one visible case, Tatiana Repkova, editor and publisher of Narodna obroda, a newspaper that was uniquely independent of all political factions, was forced to quit in late November.

      If Slovakia's political life was harsh, its economy was faring well. Western analysts expected a 6% growth rate in 1996, and the inflation rate was 5.2% in September. Unemployment was dropping. Still, the political jockeying between the two top Slovak leaders and the country's human rights record were poor recommendations abroad. Fears were expressed that Slovakia might be passed over in the expansion of the European Union and NATO. (EDITORS)

      This article updates Slovakia, history of (Slovakia).

▪ 1996

      Slovakia is a landlocked state in central Europe. Area: 49,036 sq km (18,933 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 5,355,000. Cap.: Bratislava. Monetary unit: Slovak koruna, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 29.60 koruny to U.S. $1 (46.80 koruny = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Michal Kovac; prime minister, Vladimir Meciar.

      Three domestic sources of power were not under Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's control in 1995, and his policies appeared designed to minimize their significance. The first of these was the parliamentary opposition, possibly the easiest target because it had never fully recovered from having lost the 1994 elections. Meciar's second target was the president, Michal Kovac. Kovac had played a very active role in engineering Meciar's removal in 1994, and Meciar was implacable in his determination to oust him. There were votes in the National Council criticizing Kovac, he was snubbed, and then additional pressure was put on him through his son. The younger Kovac was wanted by the German authorities in connection with a corruption investigation, and in the autumn he was kidnapped, almost certainly by the Slovak intelligence service, forced into a car, and driven over the border into Austria, where the Austrian authorities released him on bail while he awaited possible extradition to Germany. Kovac held out, but the pressure was taking its toll.

      The third target, and in this Meciar had the full-throated backing of the opposition Slovak Nationalist Party as well as of many members of his own party, was the Hungarian minority. The government moved on several occasions to curtail the rights of the Hungarians—in education, for example, and in the legality of bilingualism in local government—which the minority viewed with considerable distress.

      Under some Western pressure, Slovakia and Hungary signed a bilateral security treaty, which provided for minority rights. Bratislava had still to ratify it at the end of the year and, indeed, signing it earned Meciar significant attacks from the nationalists. Then, as a concession to the nationalists, Meciar agreed to introduce a new law on the Slovak language, overtly nationalist in intent. By promoting Slovak as the unique language of the state, the law upset the Hungarians greatly, but their campaign against the law found no echo even among democratic-minded Slovaks, who ended up voting for the law.

      The growing encroachment on the freedom of civil society was attracting the attention of the West. Both the European Union and the United States protested in the autumn, warning the Slovak government that it was running the risk of being excluded from the West. The Slovak authorities' response was to opt for isolation and, equally, for intensified, if pointless, relationships with Ukraine and Russia. (GEORGE SCHÖPFLIN)

      This updates the article Slovakia, history of (Slovakia).

▪ 1995

      Slovakia is a landlocked state in central Europe. Area: 49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 5,352,000. Cap.: Bratislava. Monetary unit: Slovak koruna, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 31.19 koruny to U.S. $1 (49.61 koruny = £ 1 sterling). President in 1994, Michal Kovac; prime ministers, Vladimir Meciar until March 11, Jozef Moravcik from March 16, and, from December 13, Meciar.

      The stresses of implementing the democratic political system adopted by Slovakia on independence became acute in 1994. Throughout 1993 there had been unease about Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's autocratic style of government, and this continued into 1994. Meciar persistently intervened in political and economic processes supposedly governed by law and was seen as undermining democracy.

      Pres. Michal Kovac and others were concerned about Meciar's sometimes erratic policies, especially the slowing down of privatization and the international isolation toward which the policies seemed to be leading. Finally in March, exploiting a split in the party dominating the coalition, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (MDS), a parliamentary vote went against the prime minister, and Meciar had to resign.

      Led by Jozef Moravcik, the new coalition that took over was shaky and unwieldy. It consisted of Christian Democrats, the Centre Union (refugees from Meciar's MDS), and the former communists, the Democratic Left. The main difficulty with the coalition was that it was united on only two broad strategic objectives—to keep Meciar out of power and to accept the general principles of European democracy. In practice this was too narrow a base for a long-term government, not least because there were major differences within the coalition that influenced its attitudes on such issues as the role of the state against the role of the market and the level of public spending.

      General elections were held on September 30-October 1 and produced an unexpected and, from the Moravcik coalition's point of view, unwelcome result. Although the polls had forecast that Meciar's MDS would gain somewhere between 25% and 30% of the vote, in reality it polled nearly 35%. The Slovak National Party gained 5% and, rather surprisingly, the left-wing Association of Slovak Workers won 7%. All the coalition parties fared badly, with the Democratic Left suffering a serious loss. The Hungarian minority parties formed a coalition and emerged as the third largest party in the legislature.

      After trying unsuccessfully to attract dissident deputies from other parties, Meciar accepted that he would have to govern with a simple majority. He immediately moved to reverse the privatization policies launched by his predecessor and reemphasized nationalism, much to the dismay of the Hungarian minority. (GEORGE SCHÖPFLIN)

      This updates the article Slovakia, history of (Slovakia).

▪ 1994

      Slovakia is a landlocked state in central Europe. Area: 49,035 sq km (18,933 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 5,329,000. Cap.: Bratislava. Monetary unit: Slovak koruna, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 31.79 koruny to U.S. $1 (48.16 koruny = £ 1 sterling). President from March 2, 1993, Michal Kovac; prime minister, Vladimir Meciar.

       Slovakia's first year of independence in 1993 was one of bewilderment, economic fluctuation, and painful adjustment after Czechoslovakia split into two nations. Because it had fairly poor relations with neighbouring Czech Republic and Hungary, Slovakia was relatively isolated and suffered from the weakness of its democratic institutions.

      As far as relations with Prague were concerned, expectations in Bratislava had always been unrealistic about the extent to which the Czechs would maintain shared institutions from the past. The drastic differentiation insisted on by Prague was a severe shock to the new state. At Czech insistence, for example, the common currency argument rapidly dissolved, as an indirect result of which bilateral trade fell sharply. The Czechs insisted on frontier controls, and there were disputes over the division of Czechoslovakia's assets.

      As far as Hungary was concerned, there were two main issues—the fate of the ethnic Hungarian minority (about 11% of the population) in Slovakia and the construction of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam on the Danube, which the Hungarians saw as an environmental threat. The Slovak leadership made matters worse by its inexperience. It began by proclaiming that Slovakia would pursue a foreign policy independent of its neighbours and would not seek early integration into Europe, but it had to revise this fairly rapidly once the realities of its political and economic weakness had made themselves felt. Unemployment was high, the budget deficit was growing, foreign currency reserves were being depleted, foreign investment was low, and the economy deteriorated further. The rate of inflation, however, remained steady.

      This state of affairs was paralleled in politics, in that the democratic structures were ignored or undermined by the dominant political figure in Slovakia, Vladimir Meciar, the prime minister. (See BIOGRAPHIES (Meciar, Vladimir ).) Meciar had emerged as the leading Slovak politician in the 1992 elections as head of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, and he took the country to independence. He proved to be a rather authoritarian figure who clamped down on many expressions of criticism and opposition, however. The media were one of his early targets. He had little time for the opposition in general, and he sought to counterbalance the effects of his declining popularity by intensifying Slovak nationalism, thereby exacerbating the Hungarian problem.

      (GEORGE SCHÖPFLIN)

      This updates the article Slovakia, history of (Slovakia).

* * *

Introduction
Slovakia, flag of   landlocked country of central Europe. It is roughly coextensive with the historic region of Slovakia, the easternmost of the two territories that from 1918 to 1992 constituted Czechoslovakia.

      The short history of independent Slovakia is one of a desire to move from mere autonomy within the Czechoslovak federation to sovereignty—a history of resistance to being called “the nation after the hyphen.” Although World War II thwarted the Slovaks' first vote for independence in 1939, sovereignty was finally realized on Jan. 1, 1993, slightly more than three years after the Velvet Revolution—the collapse of the communist regime that had controlled Czechoslovakia since 1948.

      Of course, the history of the Slovak nation began long before the creation of Czechoslovakia and even before the emergence of Slovak as a distinct literary language in the 19th century. From the 11th century, Hungary ruled what is now Slovakia, and the Slovaks' ancestors were identified as inhabitants of Upper Hungary, or simply “the Highlands,” rather than by their Slavic language. Despite the Hungarians' drive to Magyarize the multiethnic population of their kingdom, by the 19th century the Slovaks had created a heavily mythologized identity, linking themselves with the 9th-century Slavic kingdom of Great Moravia. Because they lacked a national dynasty, patron saints, and a native aristocracy or bourgeoisie, their national hero became the 18th-century outlaw Jánošík, sometimes called the Slovak Robin Hood.

      Only in 1918, when World War I ended with Austria-Hungary on the losing side, did Slovakia materialize as a geopolitical unit—but within the new country of Czechoslovakia. Although a critical stocktaking of the Czech-Slovak relationship shows more discord than harmony, there was one splendid moment when the two nations stood firmly together. This was in the summer of 1968, when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia and crushed the Prague Spring, the period during which a series of reforms were implemented by Communist Party leader Alexander Dubček (Dubček, Alexander), arguably the best-known Slovak in the world.

      Today Slovakia has become increasingly infiltrated by modern industrial infrastructure, but it still offers breathtaking views of wine-growing valleys, picturesque castles, and historical cities. Its capital, Bratislava, eccentrically located in the extreme southwest of the country, has been known by several different names—Pozsony in Hungarian, Pressburg in German, and Prešporok in Slovak—and for three centuries served as the capital of Hungary. In Košice, the second-largest Slovak city, there is an interesting symbiosis between its distinguished history and the harsh recent past: medieval streets run through the city centre, while the former East Slovakian Iron and Steel Works stands as a monument of communist industrialization. More-authentic Slovak culture survives in the cities of the central highlands and in the country's many villages.

Land
 Slovakia is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, and Austria to the southwest. Its former federal partner, the Czech Republic, lies to the west.

Relief
      The Western Carpathian Mountains dominate the topography of Slovakia. They consist of a system of three regions of east-west-trending ranges—Outer, Central, and Inner—separated by valleys and intermontane basins. Two large lowland areas north of the Hungarian border, the Little Alfold (called the Podunajská, or Danubian, Lowland in Slovakia) in the southwest and the Eastern Slovakian Lowland in the east, constitute the Slovakian portion of the Inner Carpathian Depressions region.

 The Outer Western Carpathians to the north extend into the eastern Czech Republic and southern Poland and contain the Little Carpathian (Slovak: Malé Karpaty), Javorníky, and Beskid (Beskid Mountains) mountains. Located roughly in the middle of the country, the Central Western Carpathians include Slovakia's highest ranges: the High Tatra (Vysoké Tatry (Tatra Mountains)) Mountains, containing the highest point in the republic, Gerlachovský Peak, at 8,711 feet (2,655 metres); and, to the south of them, the Low Tatra (Nízke Tatry) Mountains, which reach elevations of about 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) (see Tatra Mountains). Farther to the south are the Inner Western Carpathian Mountains, which extend into Hungary and contain the economically important Slovak Ore (Slovak Ore Mountains) (Slovenské Rudohorie (Slovak Ore Mountains)) Mountains.

Drainage
 Slovakia drains predominantly southward into the Danube (Danube River) (Dunaj (Danube River)) River system. The Danube and another major river, the Morava (Morava River), form the republic's southwestern border. The principal rivers draining the mountains include the Váh (Váh River), Hron, Hornád, and Bodrog, all flowing south, and the Poprad, draining northward. Flows vary seasonally from the torrents of spring snowmelt to late-summer lows. Mountain lakes and mineral and thermal springs are numerous.

Soils
      Slovakia contains a striking variety of soil types. The country's richest soils, the black chernozems, occur in the southwest, although the alluvial deposit known as Great Rye Island occupies the core of the Slovakian Danube basin. The upper reaches of the southern river valleys are covered with brown forest soils, while podzols dominate the central and northern areas of middle elevation. Stony mountain soils cover the highest regions.

Climate
      Slovakia's easterly position gives it a more continental climate than that of the Czech Republic. Its mountainous terrain is another determining factor. The mean annual temperature drops to about 25 °F (−4 °C) in the High Tatras and rises to just above 50 °F (10 °C) in the Danubian lowlands. Average July temperatures exceed 68 °F (20 °C) in the Danubian lowlands, and average January temperatures can be as low as 23 °F (−5 °C) in mountain basins. The growing season is about 200 days in the south and less than half of that in the mountains. Annual precipitation ranges from about 22 inches (570 mm) in the Danubian plains to more than 43 inches (1,100 mm) in windward mountain valleys. Maximum precipitation falls in July, while the minimum is in January. Snow remains on the higher peaks into the summer months.

Plant and animal life
      Although Slovakia is a small country, its varied topography supports a wide variety of vegetation. Agriculture and timber cutting have diminished the republic's original forest cover, but approximately two-fifths of its area is still forested. Forestland is most extensive in the mountainous districts. The forests in the western Beskid Mountains on the Czech-Slovak border and those in central Slovakia near Žiar nad Hronom are among the most endangered. The major forest types include the oak-grove assemblages of the Podunajská Lowland, the beech forests of the lower elevations of the Carpathians, and the spruce forests of the middle and upper slopes. The highest elevations support taiga and tundra vegetation. The timberline runs at about 5,000 feet (1,500 metres). At these upper elevations, particularly in the Tatras, the tree cover below the timberline consists largely of dwarf pine. At about 7,500 feet (2,300 metres), alpine grasses and low-growing shrubs give way to lichens.

      Slovakia's wildlife is abundant and diverse; the Tatry (High Tatras) National Park shelters an exceptional collection of wild animals, including bears, wolves, lynx, wildcats, marmots, otters, martens, and minks. Hunting is prohibited in the parks, and some animals, such as the chamois, are protected nationwide. The forests and lowland areas support numerous game birds, such as partridges, pheasants, wild geese, and ducks. Raptors, storks, and other large birds are protected.

People (Slovakia)

Ethnic groups
      More than four-fifths of Slovakia's population are ethnic Slovaks. Hungarians (Hungarian), concentrated in the southern border districts, form the largest minority, making up about one-tenth of the republic's population. Small numbers of Czechs, Germans, and Poles live throughout the country, while Ruthenians (Ruthenian) (Rusyns) are concentrated in the east and northeast. There is a sizable and relatively mobile population of Roma (Rom) (Gypsies), who live mainly in the eastern part of the country.

Languages
      Although the majority of the population identifies Slovak (Slovak language) as its mother tongue, a law that came into effect on Jan. 1, 1996, establishing Slovak as the country's official language was controversial primarily because of its impact on Slovakia's Hungarian minority. Widespread fluency in Czech is a legacy of the period of federation. As members of the West Slavic language group, Slovak and Czech are closely related and mutually intelligible; both use the Roman rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. In addition to Hungarian, Polish, German, Ukrainian, Rusyn (related to Ukrainian), and Romany are among the other languages spoken in Slovakia. Croatian speakers, living in a small number of villages in western Slovakia, make up a tiny linguistic minority.

Religion
 Four decades of official atheism ended with the collapse of communist control in 1989, and the widespread persistence of religious affiliation quickly manifested itself in both the sectarian and political spheres. The majority of Slovaks are Roman Catholic (Roman Catholicism), but Protestant churches, particularly the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) and the Reformed Christian Church (Calvinist), claim a significant minority of adherents. Greek Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians are found in Ruthenian districts. More than one-tenth of the population professes no religious belief.

Settlement patterns
      Largely because of its rugged terrain, Slovakia has a relatively low density of settlement. Rural settlements with up to several hundred inhabitants tend to prevail except in the more heavily urbanized southwest. Highland villages, many of them dating from the Middle Ages, conform to linear ridges and valleys. Historically, Turkish invasions from the south, lasting up to the 18th century, forced much of the population to resettle farther north. Dispersed settlement occurs along the Czech border and in the central mountains, reflecting the later colonization of the 17th and 18th centuries. The introduction of mining in central Slovakia led to the foundation of independent mining towns such as Banská Bystrica, Banská Štiavnica, Kremnica, and others. The most concentrated population is found in the Podunajská Lowland (Little Alfold). Collectivization of farmland under Czechoslovakia's communist regime supplanted the ancient small-scale pattern of land use with a giant agricultural grid. Reprivatization of farmland following the Velvet Revolution of 1989 effected a gradual reconfiguration of the arable landscape.

 Industrialization programs during and following World War II increased urbanization in Slovakia. More than half of Slovakia's population lives in urban areas. In addition to Bratislava, regional centres include Nitra, Banská Bystrica, Žilina, Košice, and Prešov. Partizánske and Nová Dubnica, both in the west, are examples of new towns founded, respectively, just before and after World War II.

Demographic trends
      Historically, emigration to Hungary (especially Budapest) and other more urbanized areas of Europe, as well as to the United States, kept Slovakia's growth rate low. Well over half a million Slovaks emigrated to the United States prior to 1914. During communist rule, emigration virtually stopped, but industrialization policies were responsible for significant internal migration. Slovakia's birth rate fell by more than half during the second half of the 20th century.

Miroslav Blazek Richard Horsley Osborne Francis William Carter Milan Hauner

Economy
      The brevity of the fanfare that greeted the rebirth of Slovakia in 1993 was largely an acknowledgement of economic reality. Slovak political autonomy was a popular idea, but many Slovaks viewed the pursuit of it outside the relative security of a Czechoslovak federation as potentially disastrous. Others argued that the conversion to a market economy in a federated Czechoslovakia would favour the Czech region. Geographic and historical conditions, including the central planning (command economy) of the communist era, had left Slovakia more rural and less economically diversified than its Czech neighbour, which had roughly twice Slovakia's population. Indeed, the process of privatization undertaken after the fall of the communist regime in 1989 had proceeded much more slowly in Slovakia than in the Czech Republic.

      The apportionment of government assets posed another vexing challenge at the time of separation. Primary among these were the former Czechoslovak military facilities. Although Slovakia had in the last years of the Czechoslovak federation accounted for as much as two-thirds of the federation's armament production, this industry was in severe decline. The majority of army bases, aircraft, and associated equipment remained on Czech soil, where the frontiers with western Europe had been more heavily protected.

      The complexities of partition aside, both the Czech and Slovak economies felt the drag of economic downturns in the early 1990s. Acceleration of the privatization program was viewed as the most promising means of increasing foreign investment. In January 1995, however, Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's (Mečiar, Vladimir) government canceled the privatization by voucher of a number of state-owned enterprises, effectively suspending the privatization program. The cancellation was declared unconstitutional, and in July the government instituted a program called the National Property Fund, whereby citizens would receive bonds that could be redeemed for shares in privatized industries. Despite the erratic pace of privatization, by the turn of the 21st century it was estimated that more than three-fourths of Slovakia's gross domestic product (GDP) was generated by the private sector.

      Initially, the engineers of the political separation of Czechoslovakia had assumed that the nascent economies of the two independent republics could share, for a limited period, the existing monetary system. Such an arrangement quickly came to be perceived as untenable: Czechs foresaw a contagious inflation in Slovakia, and Slovaks feared economic “shock therapy” by the Czechs. The short-lived plan that finally emerged—in an atmosphere rife with rumour, denial, false starts, and delays—prescribed a stepped transition in which each republic would recall a portion of its Czechoslovak currency supply for stamping with a country mark, and then newly printed bills would gradually replace the stamped ones. The agreement established an initial exchange rate of 1 to 1 for the new currencies, known as koruny, but the Slovak koruna soon became less valuable than the Czech koruna. Following its entry into the European Union (EU) in 2004, however, Slovakia became the first of the two countries to replace its currency with the euro, which it adopted in 2009.

      Although Slovakia started the process of transforming its economy in less-favourable circumstances than the Czech Republic, on average Slovakia achieved greater economic growth and lower inflation rates than its Czech counterpart. Slovakia's macroeconomic performance positioned it as one of the most successful of the former Eastern-bloc countries. A key feature of growth was the burgeoning service sector, which provided employment to about half the labour force. Nevertheless, during the 1990s unemployment remained rather high, and inflation inched upward. Foreign debt continued to increase at a rapid pace, and the country's budget and current account deficits widened. However, by 2004, when Slovakia joined the EU, the economy had expanded, inflation had fallen substantially, the current account deficit had shrunk, and foreign investment in the country had greatly risen.

Francis William Carter Milan Hauner

Agriculture and forestry
 During communist rule, agriculture in the Slovak lands was subordinate to industrialization, and today only about one-third of Slovakia's territory is cultivated. On the fertile lowlands, wheat, barley, sugar beets, corn (maize), and fodder crops are the most important crops, whereas on the relatively poor soils of the mountains the principal crops are rye, oats, potatoes, and flax. Tobacco and fruits are grown in the Váh valley, and vineyards thrive on the slopes of the Carpathian ranges in Západní Slovensko kraj (region). On the plains, farmers raise pigs and cattle. Sheep raising is prevalent in mountain valleys.

      The harvesting of wood and the production of other forest products constitute a small part of the economy. About one-third of Slovakia's forests had been destroyed or seriously damaged by 1989, but reforestation efforts following independence resulted in a modest increase in forested areas.

Resources and power
      Slovakia has limited reserves of brown coal and lignite, located in the foothills near Handlová to the west and Modrý Kameň to the south. The brown coal has been used in thermal power stations, as fuel in the home, and as raw material in the chemical industry. Pipelines import Russian oil (to a major refinery at Bratislava) and natural gas, the latter supplementing existing coal gas supplies. Natural gas began to be extracted near the western town of Gbely in 1985.

      Substantial deposits of iron ore, copper, manganese, magnesite, lead, and zinc are mined in the Slovak Ore Mountains. Imported bauxite and nickel ore are refined at Žiar nad Hronom and Sered', respectively. Eastern Slovakia has some economically significant salt deposits.

      The chief energy source is nuclear power, followed by fossil fuels and hydroelectric power; the latter is generated by a series of dams on the Váh, Orava, Hornád, Slaná, and Danube rivers. In 1977 the Czechoslovak and Hungarian governments signed an agreement to build a major hydroelectric project on the Danube southeast of Bratislava at Gabčíkovo and Nagymaros. The project called for the diversion of the Danube and the construction of two dams to be built by each of the partners. In 1989 Hungary withdrew from the Nagymaros venture because of environmental and other concerns. Slovakia's completion of the project on its own led to a dispute between the two countries that persisted into the 21st century.

Manufacturing
 Prior to independence, Slovakia was the location of some of the least effective state-run industries in Czechoslovakia. By the early 21st century, however, successful manufacturing industries produced a substantial proportion of Slovakia's GDP, and manufacturing workers constituted a significant portion of the labour force. Bratislava, Košice, and the towns along the Váh River are Slovakia's main manufacturing centres. Important industries include automobiles, machinery, steel, ceramics, chemicals, textiles, food and beverage processing, arms, and petroleum products. The former East Slovakian Iron and Steel Works in Košice—one of the last monuments of large-scale Soviet industrial planning in central Europe—was privatized in 1992 after a considerable fall in steel output; in 2000, U.S. Steel purchased the firm's steel-related assets. Slovakia's armaments industry has revived since 1993 and produces military equipment primarily for export. Environmental pollution—the legacy of communist-era industrialization—remains a pressing concern.

Finance
      The National Bank of Slovakia succeeded the Czech and Slovak central bank on Jan. 1, 1993, as the republic's principal financial institution. The bank's first major accomplishment was its conversion to the new republican monetary system. Following decentralization of the banking system, a number of commercial and joint-venture banks came into being. A stock exchange operates in Bratislava.

      Slovakia's well-educated labour force helps attract foreign investors from The Netherlands, Germany, and Austria, as well as other Western countries. For much of the 1990s, foreign investment in Slovakia lagged behind that of other former Soviet satellites, owing to a lack of confidence in Slovakia's financial leadership and institutions as well as to the Mečiar government's restrictive policies toward foreign investment in formerly state-owned properties. In 1998, however, the government announced tax incentives designed to stimulate foreign investment in Slovak enterprises, such as tax grants or credits for every new job created in the country. Consequently, in the early 21st century direct foreign investment increased greatly.

Trade
      Slovakia has depended on foreign trade to boost economic growth. Following the breakup of Czechoslovakia, trade with eastern European countries declined, while that with Western countries expanded. After joining the EU in 2004, Slovakia traded principally with other EU states. The volume and profile of trade between Slovakia and the Czech Republic remain significant in spite of occasional disruptions stemming from political squabbles. Other important trade partners are Germany, Italy, Poland, Austria, Hungary, and the United States. Slovakia's main exports include automobiles, machinery, and iron and steel. Major imports include machinery, automobiles, and mineral fuels.

E.I.U. Richard Horsley Osborne Francis William Carter Milan Hauner

Services
 Service industries, an increasingly important part of Slovakia's economy, account for more than two-thirds of GDP. Since the 1990s tourism has undergone considerable growth. During the communist period, most visitors to the Slovak lands were from other eastern European countries. Since independence, however, many more visitors from western Europe and North America travel to Slovakia. Tourist attractions include spectacular mountain scenery, caves, castles, other historic buildings and monuments, arts festivals, and numerous thermal and mineral springs.

Labour and taxation
      The vast majority of Slovak workers are employed in the manufacturing and service industries. The participation rate of women in the workforce is just under half. Most Slovak employees are members of trade unions (organized labour), which prior to 1989 were controlled by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The 1992 constitution guarantees the right to form unions and the right to strike, and a sizable number of workers continue to pay their membership dues. A number of unions, representing workers in both manufacturing and service industries, are affiliated with the Confederation of Trade Unions of the Slovak Republic.

      Higher wages prevail in the urban and industrial areas, but some inhabitants of less-developed rural areas live at the subsistence level. Unemployment is also a greater problem outside the major cities, though unemployment rates remain high throughout the country.

      Slovakia derives the bulk of its revenue from corporate and personal income taxes and value-added tax (VAT). Taxes were simplified in 2005, when a flat rate was introduced for corporations, VAT, and individuals.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Slovakia has a modernized but relatively low-density transport system. The most important element is the railways, which are especially significant in freight transport—notably of coal, ores, metals, and building materials. The basic network, which was taken over from the Hungarian state, followed a north-south pattern to connect with Budapest. Today, rail lines link Bratislava and the regional capitals, but the system is somewhat inefficient. Many of the lines follow river valleys through mountainous areas. During the communist era, rail links with the Soviet Union were improved by an extensive program of double-tracking and electrification. With assistance from the European Investment Bank, Slovakia further upgraded its rail system in the early 21st century. The work included increased track electrification as well as track modifications to allow high-speed train travel.

      Development of the highway network proceeded at a slower pace than that of the railway system. A superhighway begun in 1938 but completed only in 1980 links Bratislava with Brno and Prague in the Czech Republic. After independence, increased freight transport and automobile traffic resulted in significant congestion in some areas. Slovakia constructed additional highways in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

      The Danube River, forming the western third of the border with Hungary, dominates Slovakia's water transport. Komárno and Bratislava are the country's principal ports. The Komárno road bridge between Hungary and Slovakia, destroyed in World War II, was rebuilt in the early 21st century, with Slovakia and Hungary sharing the construction costs. Slovakia's interior rivers are not navigable.

      There are airports at Bratislava, Košice, Žilina, Poprad-Tatry, Sliač, and Piešt'any. Although the Bratislava and Košice airports are ranked as international, the smaller airports also can accommodate international traffic. Still, most international travelers to Bratislava arrive at and depart from Vienna's airport, some 40 miles (60 km) west of Slovakia's capital.

 Slovakia expanded and modernized its telecommunications system in the early 21st century. Cellular telephones became increasingly popular, and cellular service is now widely available. The rates of personal computer ownership and Internet usage are comparable with those of nearby eastern European countries.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
 The Slovak National Council adopted a new constitution for the republic on Sept. 1, 1992, four months before the partition of the federation. In general philosophy, this document—like its Czech counterpart—reflects the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms passed by the former Czechoslovak Federal Assembly in 1991. The constitution provides for a unicameral legislature (the National Council), consisting of deputies chosen by direct general election. The head of state, the president, is elected for a five-year term. The 1992 constitution specified that the president was to be elected by a three-fifths majority of the National Council; however, in 1999 the government approved a constitutional amendment that changed the procedure so that subsequent presidents would be directly elected. The supreme executive body of the republic is the government formed by the prime minister, whom the president appoints. The prime minister is usually the leader of the majority party or coalition in the National Council.

Local government
      The constitution addresses the issue of local administration only cursorily, defining the single unit of municipality as a territorial and administrative entity exercising jurisdiction over its permanent residents. Actually, Slovakia is composed of eight administrative regions (including Greater Bratislava), with each region divided into a number of districts. In March 1996 the Mečiar government implemented a new scheme of local governments that resulted in a redrawing of the political borders of many southern districts, with borders running from north (where the population is solidly Slovak) to south. The ultimate aim of this reconfiguration was transparent: to reduce the number of ethnic Hungarians elected to the municipal and district councils. However, the reconfiguration of 15 existing southern districts and the creation of 37 new ones did not substantially change the ethnic balance in the southern councils, as was shown in subsequent elections. Mečiar's other attempt to introduce ethnic quotas in municipal elections procedures in 1998 was turned down by the Constitutional Court.

Justice
      The apex of the Slovak judicial system is the Supreme Court, to which district and regional courts are subordinated. The Constitutional Court, comprising a panel of judges appointed by the president, occupies a special position, as it deals with matters arising from the constitution and the application of international treaties. The lower courts of justice resolve civil and criminal matters and assess the legality of administrative rulings. Slovakia's civil law code is based on Austro-Hungarian codes, as amended after 1918 and 1945, but has been revised to eliminate language dating from the communist era and to comply with requirements set by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Political process
      All Slovaks gain the right to vote at age 18. Because delegates to the National Council are elected through a system of proportional representation, many political parties combine in the legislature. Major parties include the populist Smer (“Direction”), the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, the Slovak National Party, the Party of the Hungarian Coalition, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, and the Christian Democratic Movement.

Security
      In 1991, with the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, federated Czechoslovakia assumed control of its own military affairs. This responsibility, in turn, devolved to Slovakia and the Czech Republic on Jan. 1, 1993. The apportionment of formerly federal military property between the two new republics was a major hurdle in the partition process, as was the creation of separate armed forces.

      Slovakia's armed forces comprise an army and an air force. The country also has separate civil defense troops and internal security forces. The right to conscientious objection is enshrined in the 1992 constitution; however, this right does not apply to those who are already serving in the military. In 2004 conscription was reduced from one year to six months of service; in 2006 it was phased out. The transformation from conscript army to professional army was undertaken to comply with the standards of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which Slovakia joined in 2004.

      Since the late 1990s, Slovakia has participated in many NATO and United Nations peacekeeping forces. Slovakia also supported the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq with a small contingent.

      National and local police forces enforce the law. As in the Czech Republic, democratization and liberalization precipitated an increase in crime, which overburdened the existing police forces for a time. Since independence, Slovak police also have had to contend with international criminal gangs.

Health and welfare
      The 1992 constitution retains the federal guarantees of free health care under a public insurance program. The health care system remains largely under state control, though private facilities and private medical insurance have been introduced. Factory and community clinics, first aid stations, and other outpatient facilities supplement the national system of hospitals. In addition, spas such as those at Piešt'any and Bardejov and sanatoria in the High Tatras long have been a feature of Slovak health care.

      An act introduced in 2003 required employers to contribute a percentage of their payroll and the self-employed to contribute a portion of their earnings toward social insurance. Old-age pensions are paid to both men and women.

      Most employed Slovaks enjoy an adequate standard of living. However, members of the Roma minority frequently have a much lower standard of living than the general population, owing to high unemployment and instances of discrimination.

Housing
 A housing shortage continues to be one of the most severe problems affecting the country. In addition, many of the urban high-rise housing estates dating from the 1970s are badly in need of repair. In the cities and towns, almost all housing units are supplied with electricity, water, and bathrooms. Housing in some rural areas is considerably inferior.

Education
      The Slovak constitution guarantees free public education at the primary and secondary levels for all citizens. There are also a number of private and church-affiliated schools. Kindergartens are available for children ages 3 to 6. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15 and usually includes instruction in a major foreign language. General secondary schools offer preparation for university study. Vocational secondary schools provide training in technical and clerical fields and the service industries.

      Slovakia has a number of institutions of higher education, of which the largest and oldest is Comenius University in Bratislava (founded 1919). Also in Bratislava are the Slovak University of Technology, the University of Economics, and several arts academies. Košice also has universities and a school of veterinary medicine. Since independence, additional colleges and universities have opened in Trnava, Banská Bystrica, Nitra, Prešov, Zvolen, and Trenčín. There is a Roman Catholic university in Ruomberok.

      The significant Hungaria (Hungarian)n minority in Slovakia has been provided with primary, secondary, and vocational schools. The training of Hungarian schoolteachers in Slovakia is secured through special classes at the Bratislava and Nitra universities. For the first time, a Hungarian-language university opened in 2004 in Komárno.

Miroslav Blazek Richard Horsley Osborne Francis William Carter Milan Hauner

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
      The antecedents of a distinct Slovak culture date from the Christian mission sent to Moravia in AD 863 by the Byzantine emperor Michael III at the request of the Moravian prince Rostislav; the Moravian state then encompassed at least part of the territory of present-day Slovakia. Byzantine influence was short-lived, however, and did not survive the competition with Latinized western Christianity. Slavic liturgy disappeared from the region after the invasions by nomadic Magyar (Hungarian) tribes toward the end of the 9th century. These Magyar invasions also succeeded in separating the West Slavic ancestors of today's Slovaks, living north of the Danube River, from the South Slavs. Thereafter, until the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918, the history of the Slovaks was closely connected with that of Hungary.

      Slovak culture, particularly the Slovak languag (Slovak language)e, survived despite Hungarian hegemony and the widespread use of Czech, Latin, and German. In the 15th century, Hussites (Hussite) from Bohemia brought the Czech language and culture to Slovakia, and Slovak Lutherans used Czech as both their liturgical and literary language, but they remained a distinct minority. Roman Catholicism continued as the majority religion, and Latin was used not only for liturgical purposes but also as the main administrative language until almost the mid-19th century, when it was replaced by Hungarian. German was widely used by the aristocracy and the urban middle class, owing to the influence of the Habsburg monarchy. The first Slovak intellectuals to be concerned with the preservation of the Slovak language and culture emerged during the Enlightenment and the French revolutionary wars. Although primarily educated in Hungarian, the Slovak intelligentsia—whether priests, lawyers, or doctors—communicated with Slovak peasants and servants in their language and helped to accelerate the spread of modern Slovak literacy. Hungarian nationalists reacted by enforcing Magyarization at every level of education beyond primary school; contemporary experts predicted the extinction of the Slovak nation within a generation. Nevertheless, the number of Slovaks attending secondary schools and colleges in Hungary continued to increase, and selective censorship could not stop the spread of Slovak newspapers and books. With the creation of Slovakia within the new country of Czechoslovakia, the durability of the Slovak language and culture was confirmed. Shortly after Slovakia's independence, Slovak became enshrined as the country's official language.

Daily life and social customs
      The rich folklore and customs of many Slovak regions have survived into modern times. They are on full display in the Catholic parishes, especially during the two main Christian holidays. A genuine Roman Catholic Christmas in Slovakia includes the three days of Christmas (December 24–26) and is carried over to Three Kings' Day (January 6). Traditional Christmas carols are typically a part of the festivities. In some regions Easter, particularly Good Friday, is the biggest religious holiday of the year. Apart from religious celebrations, numerous folk music festivals take place in Slovakia. These may feature both Slovak and Roma performers.

      Slovak food and drink have been influenced by the surrounding, mostly Hungarian and German, cuisine. Traditional Slovak food consists of a wide range of soups, gruels, boiled and stewed vegetables, roasted and smoked meats, and dairy products, especially sheep's milk cheese (bryndza). Bryndzové halušky, small potato dumplings mixed with bryndza, is a Slovak specialty. Viticulture was brought to Slovakia by the ancient Romans as they advanced along the Danube 2,000 years ago, and vineyards still are found along the Danube and Váh rivers. In addition to wine, brandy is a popular drink in Slovakia. Typical Slovak brandies include the plum-based slivovica and the juniper-based borovička.

The arts
Literature and drama
      Although Slovak dialects had been distinct from Czech since the Middle Ages, a Slovak literary language did not develop until the late 18th century. The Catholic priest Ján Hollý (1785–1849) was the first Slovak writer to use the Slovak language successfully in his poetry. The language had been recently codified by another priest, Anton Bernolák, who had based his codification on the Western Slovak dialect. Yet Bernolák's Slovak failed to catch on, owing to a lack of followers and strong opposition by educated Slovak Lutherans, who used Czech as their literary language. Even Ján Kollár (Kollár, Ján)'s Slávy dcera (1824; “The Daughter of Sláva”), considered a principal work of Slovak literature and among the impulses behind Pan-Slavism, was written in Czech. It was up to a younger group of Slovak Lutheran writers, headed by L'udovít Štúr, to abandon Czech in favour of Slovak. This time the codification was based on the Central Slovak dialect. Later poets, using a refined form of literary Slovak, continued to produce nationalistic and Romantic works, such as Marína (1846), by Andrej Sládkovič (Andrej Braxatoris), and the ballads of Janko Král', whose exploits in the Revolutions of 1848 (1848, Revolutions of) made him a legend.

      In the first half of the 20th century, poetry, particularly lyric poetry, continued to be the chief strength of Slovak literature. Notable poets included Hviezdoslav (Pavol Országh), Svetozár Hurban Vajanský, Ivan Krasko (Ján Botto), Martin Rázus, Janko Jesenský, and Emil Boleslav Lukáč. However, important Slovak novelists—such as Timrava (Božena Slančíkova), Milo Urban, and Margita Figuli—also emerged.

      With the foundation of Czechoslovakia and the further expansion of Slovak education, Slovak writings multiplied. The difficulties of World War II and its aftermath of communist rule found vivid, personal expression in the work of Ladislav Mňačko, Alfonz Bednár, and Dominik Tatarka. Mňačko was among the first eastern European writers to criticize Stalinism, in his popular novel The Taste of Power (1967), while Tatarka attacked the Gustav Husák (Husak, Gustav) regime's process of “normalization” in Czechoslovakia after 1969 in Sám proti noci (1984; “Alone Against the Night”). In the years leading up to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, such novelists as Ladislav Ballek, Vincent Šikula, and Ján Johanides asserted a distinct Slovak voice. During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, a new generation of writers—including Dušan Mitana, Pavel Vilikovský, and Martin Šimečka—distinguished themselves.

      Slovak drama developed at about the same time as Slovak literature; Juraj Palkovič's play Dva buchy a tri šuchy (1800; “Two Bumps and Three Rubs”) is considered the first example. Ján Chalupka produced a lively satire, Kocúrkovo, in 1830, while Ján Palárik wrote popular comedies, including Inkognito (1857; “Incognito”) and Zmierenie (1862; “The Reconciliation”). The best-known Slovak playwright of the 20th century was Peter Karvaš, author of The Diplomats, The Midnight Mass, and Antigone and the Others, among many other plays. (See also Slovak literature.)

Robert Auty Z.A.B. Zeman Milan Hauner

      Music occupies an important place in Slovak cultural life. Its development has been traced to Roman times, and it was nurtured by the Roman Catholic Church and by the Magyar nobility. In addition, a strong folk tradition developed; this became an object of scholarly interest in the first half of the 19th century, when a separate national musical tradition began to emerge under the influence of such composers as Frico Kafenda. Modern Slovak music has drawn from both classical and folk traditions, particularly with such 20th-century composers as Ján Cikker, Gejza Dusík, Eugen Suchoň, Andrej Očenáš, and Alexander Moyzes. Slovak opera singer Lucia Popp performed internationally during the 1970s and 1980s. Bratislava and Košice have symphony orchestras and opera ensembles.

      Slovak painters typically have looked outside the country for inspiration, particularly to Prague. At the end of the 19th century, however, Slovakia was “discovered” by Mikoláš Aleš from Bohemia and Jóža Úprka from Moravia. At the same time, a national school of Slovak painters emerged with Peter Michal Bohúň and Jozef Boetech Klemens. After 1918 a number of Slovak painters studying in Prague developed the “descriptive realism” school. In the 1950s and '60s a younger generation of painters began to leave this school behind and follow other European trends. Among the early 20th-century painters, Dominik Skutecký, Lajos Csordák, Július Jakoby, Martin Benka, Mikuláš Galanda, L'udovít Fulla, and Cyprián Majerník became prominent. By the end of the 20th century the following painters made their imprint: Daniel Brunovský, Stano Bubán, Laco Teren, and Ivan Csudai.

      The Slovak motion picture industry emerged in the 1920s. Notable from this period is the silent film Jánošík (1921), based on the life and legend of the so-named Slovak folk hero. Of the films produced after World War II, perhaps the best known internationally is The Shop on Main Street (1965), directed by Ján Kadár (Kadár, Ján) and Elmar Klos. It received an Academy Award (for best foreign-language film), the first ever awarded to a Czechoslovakian production. Among internationally recognized Slovak film directors is Juraj Jakubisko, who first gained acclaim during the late 1960s as part of the Czech New Wave. His strongly visual, metaphorical films include It's Better to Be Healthy and Wealthy Than Poor and Ill (1993) and An Ambiguous Report About the End of the World (1997). Other Slovak directors who have received international attention include Martin Sulik and Dušan Hanák, best known for their documentary Paper Heads (1995). Film continued to be a respected art form in Slovakia in the early 21st century, as evidenced by the country's film festivals and the work of the Slovak Film Institute. Slovak animation also gained in importance.

Cultural institutions
      The Slovak National Library is in the city of Martin, which is also the seat of the foremost Slovak cultural society, the Matica Slovenská (founded 1863). The Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information (formerly the Slovak Technical Library) and the University Library are in Bratislava. The last, founded in 1919, is the oldest and largest academic library in Slovakia. In addition, Slovakia has a large network of smaller public libraries and branch libraries.

      Most major museums, including the Slovak National Museum (founded 1893) and the Slovak National Gallery (founded 1948) are located in Bratislava. The Museum of Jewish Culture, a part of the Slovak National Museum, opened in 1991. The Museum of Carpathian German Culture and the Museum of Hungarian Culture in Slovakia are both in Bratislava, while other regional ethnographic museums are located throughout the country—for example, the Museum of Ukrainian-Ruthenian Culture in Svidník. Other noteworthy museums include the Slovak Museum of Mining in Banská Štiavnica and the Slovak Agricultural Museum in Nitra. A unique museum of visual arts, the Warhol Family Museum of Modern Art, opened in Medzilaborce in 1991; its collection includes a number of works by Andy Warhol (Warhol, Andy), whose parents were from the region.

      The first professional theatre featuring performances in the Slovak language was the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, established in 1920. In addition to plays, the theatre also mounts ballets and operas. A new theatre building was built in 2007, but productions also continued to be mounted at the original Neo-Renaissance theatre built in 1886. The state subsidizes a number of theatre companies, including professional companies focused on ethnic minorities. The Slovak Folk Artistic Ensemble and the dance ensemble Lúčnica perform programs of traditional Slovak music and dance; both have played a role in disseminating Slovak folk culture to other parts of the world. Slovakia's leading orchestra is the Slovak Philharmonic.

      Slovakia boasts several UNESCO World Heritage sites (World Heritage site), including Spiš Castle (World Heritage site), one of the largest castle complexes in central Europe. Among the other sites are the wonderfully well-preserved village of Vlkolínec, the medieval town of Bardejov, and traditional wooden churches in the Carpathian Mountains.

Sports and recreation
 Slovaks take full advantage of the mountainous terrain of their country; hiking, mountaineering, downhill skiing, and rock climbing are popular pursuits. Other outdoor recreational activities—such as fishing, white-water rafting, ice skating, cycling, spelunking, horseback riding, and bathing in thermal or mineral water—also attract large numbers of enthusiasts. Among spectator sports, football (soccer) and ice hockey draw the largest crowds. Slovak athletes participated in the Olympics as members of the Czechoslovak team until 1994, when the republic first competed as a separate country at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Nor. Slovakia won its first Olympic medals in canoe events at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

      The republic has several national parks. Two of these, the Tatry (High Tatras) and the Pieniny national parks, are situated along the Polish border and are administered in cooperation with Polish authorities; the Low Tatras National Park is located in the interior. These areas feature glacial landscapes, alpine flora and fauna, and relict species from the Pleistocene Epoch (about 1,600,000 to about 10,000 years ago). Smaller nature reserves also protect distinctive wilderness areas.

Media and publishing
      Slovakia has a number of daily Slovak-language newspapers. SME and Pravda, the latter formerly the organ of the Communist Party but now independent, have large circulations. The state subsidizes a number of periodicals in such minority languages as Hungarian, Czech, Ukrainian, German, and Romany. The number of book publishers in Slovakia increased dramatically following the collapse of communism, but a substantial number did not survive their first book launchings.

      The state-controlled monopolies on newspaper and book publishing were broken up with greater ease in Czechoslovakia after 1989 than was the monopoly in broadcasting. The division of Czechoslovakia, however, brought about the collapse of the federal broadcasting system, which ended on Jan. 1, 1993. Both state-sponsored and commercial radio and television stations operate in Slovakia.

Z.A.B. Zeman Milan Hauner

History
      For earlier history of the area, including Czechoslovakia, see Czechoslovak region, history of (Czechoslovak history).

      The Slovak Republic came into being on Jan. 1, 1993, following the dissolution of the Czechoslovak federation. The new prime minister, Vladimír Mečiar (Mečiar, Vladimir), and his Czech counterpart, Václav Klaus, had been among the strongest proponents of separation, but their enthusiasm did not extend to the general populace. Although a renewed sense of national pride welled up in Slovakia, so, too, did a feeling of apprehension about the republic's future. This sense of uneasiness was manifested in the large numbers of Slovaks who began applying for Czech citizenship immediately after partition.

      Slovakia generally had been perceived as the junior partner in the federation, but that arrangement also had provided the republic with a degree of political security and economic stability that became less certain with independence. Long-standing political differences and tensions with neighbouring countries that had been suppressed during the period of Soviet hegemony reemerged; notable among these were Hungary's concerns about the future of the large Hungarian minority in southern Slovakia. In addition, economic forecasts for Slovakia generally were less optimistic than those for the Czech Republic. Slovakia inherited an economy dependent on large-scale but obsolete heavy industry, and the country faced rising unemployment and poor prospects for foreign investment. Furthermore, since Czechs had long dominated the federal leadership of Czechoslovakia, the Slovak regional leaders lacked experience at the national level.

      In February 1993 Michal Kováč, the deputy chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (Hnutie Za Democratické Slovensko; HZDS), became president of the republic. Difficulties immediately arose in maintaining a coalition government, with the result that the HZDS and the rather autocratic figure of Mečiar tended to dominate. Mečiar favoured a brand of populist nationalism that left Slovakia's minorities at a disadvantage. Neither was he overly interested in forging alliances with western Europe nor in tolerating dissenting voices from the opposition parties. In March 1994 Mečiar lost a vote of confidence and was forced to resign. A new five-party interim coalition headed by a new prime minister, Jozef Moravčík, adopted a policy of closer alignment with western Europe.

      In the September 1994 elections, however, the HZDS regained power, and Mečiar was reinstalled as prime minister, forming in mid-December a coalition composed of the HZDS, the right-wing Slovak National Party, and the leftist Association of Workers of Slovakia. Once back in office, Mečiar attempted to recentralize state authority by blocking further privatization of state-owned companies. In addition, the rivalry between Mečiar and Kováč, who had never seen eye to eye, deepened. The Mečiar government's stance toward Slovakia's minorities and its tenuous commitment to democratic principles did not go unnoticed by the international community, and in March 1995, under pressure from Western powers, Slovakia and Hungary signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, in which the Slovak government pledged to protect minority rights. The commitment was called into question, however, when in November the government made Slovak the republic's official language, a move that caused great consternation among the nation's Hungarian minority. The Hungarian government declared the policy to be in violation of the treaty. Throughout 1996 there was increasing concern over the Mečiar (Mečiar, Vladimir) government's antidemocratic direction, which included a so-called antisubversion law that would curb freedom of expression, which Kováč refused to sign. The law later passed in an amended form.

      In June 1997 a European Union–Slovakia parliamentary committee made it clear that, in order for Slovakia to qualify for EU membership, the government would have to make adjustments in its policy toward the opposition and its treatment of minorities. Kováč and Mečiar agreed to the stipulations in October. However, at an EU summit held in December, it became evident that Slovakia would not be among the first wave of former Soviet-bloc countries admitted to the union.

      During the early part of 1998, several attempts to elect a new president failed, and on March 2, when Kováč's term expired, a number of presidential duties devolved to Mečiar, in accordance with the Slovak constitution. Mečiar immediately made several unilateral decisions that clearly benefited his own interests. His actions, condemned by the EU and the United States, spawned a series of protests in Slovakia. The country remained without a president for much of the year. Parliamentary elections held in September resulted in the removal of the HZDS from power. A four-party coalition composed of the centre-right Slovak Democratic Coalition, the Party of the Democratic Left, the centre-left Party of Civic Understanding, and the Party of the Hungarian Coalition took over the reins of government, with Mikuláš Dzurinda, the chairman of the Slovak Democratic Coalition, as prime minister.

      Mečiar offered his name as a presidential candidate in the election held on May 29, 1999, but he was defeated decisively by Rudolf Schuster, a member of the Carpathian-German minority and the chairman of the Party for Civic Understanding. The new ruling coalition declared its intention to ready the country for membership in the EU and NATO, to take measures to halt environmental degradation, and to crack down on organized crime, which had become an increasingly worrisome problem in the latter part of the 1990s. The coalition also introduced a wide-ranging austerity program intended to arrest Slovakia's economic decline. The program met with a wave of protests and strikes but was favourably received by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which Slovakia joined in 2000.

      Political difficulties continued into the 21st century; however, the economy began to turn around, and the government continued the privatization of state-owned industries. After parliamentary elections in 2002, Dzurinda retained his post as prime minister. The new centre-right ruling coalition approved additional economic and social reforms but lost its parliamentary majority in 2003. The year 2004 was a momentous one, as the country joined both NATO and the EU. Ivan Gašparovič of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union defeated Mečiar in the presidential election that year, and the economy continued to grow. Parliamentary elections in 2006 resulted in yet another coalition of ruling parties, with the leader of the populist party Smer, Robert Fico, becoming prime minister. Fico promised to fortify social welfare programs.

Z.A.B. Zeman Milan Hauner

Additional Reading

Geography
General works
General descriptive information on the region is available in Ihor Gawdiak (ed.), Czechoslovakia: A Country Study, 3rd ed. (1989); and Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr. (ed.), Czechoslovakia Past and Present, 2 vol. (1968). Vladimír Hajko et al. (eds.), Encyklopédia Slovenska, 6 vol. (1977–82), is a regional encyclopaedia stressing Slovak and Czech topics, personalities, and events since 1968. Milan Strhan and David P. Daniel (eds.), Slovakia and the Slovaks: A Concise Encyclopedia (1994), is a useful English-language reference work.

Land and people
Basic geographic information is discussed in Jaromír Demek et al., Geography of Czechoslovakia, trans. from Czech (1971). Works with sections on the Slovak lands include Dean S. Rugg, Eastern Europe (1985); and Roy E.H. Mellor, Eastern Europe: A Geography of the COMECON Countries (1975). A more recent survey is Richard C. Frucht (ed.), Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture, 3 vol. (2005). G.Z. Földvary, Geology of the Carpathian Region (1988), includes coverage of much of Slovakia. Useful atlases are Jozef Ščipák and Jindřich Svoboda (eds.), Atlas ČSSR, 8th ed. (1984); Emil Mazur and Jozef Jakál (eds.), Atlas of the Slovak Socialist Republic (1983); and Antonin Götz (ed.), Atlas Životního Prostředí a Zdraví Obyvatelstva ČSFR (1992), in English and Czech, a survey of environmental conditions and the health of the population.Slovakia's Roma population is addressed in David Crowe, A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia (1995, reissued 2007); and Will Guy, Zdenek Uherek, and Renata Weinerova (eds.), Roma Migration in Europe: Case Studies (2004). Paul R. Magocsi, The Rusyns of Slovakia: An Historical Survey (1993), discusses another of Slovakia's minorities, the Ruthenians, or Rusyns. A dangerous trend of attacks against ethnic minorities is discussed in Cas Mudde (ed.), Racist Extremism in Central and Eastern Europe (2005).

A historical overview is Alice Teichova, The Czechoslovak Economy, 1918–1980 (1988). The history of economic reform proposals from 1948 to 1982 is treated in John N. Stevens, Czechoslovakia at the Crossroads: The Economic Dilemmas of Communism in Postwar Czechoslovakia (1985). Jaroslav Krejčí and Pavel Machonin, Czechoslovakia, 1918–92: A Laboratory for Social Change (1996), is a socioeconomic study of Czechoslovak life up to the demise of the communist regime. Adrian Smith, Reconstructing the Regional Economy: Industrial Transformation and Regional Development in Slovakia (1998); World Bank, Slovak Republic: A Strategy for Growth and European Integration (1998), and Slovak Republic—Joining the EU: A Development Policy Review (2003); and Ana Revenga and Carlos Silva-Jauregui, Slovak Republic: Living Standards, Employment, and Labor Market Study (2002), are accounts of Slovakia's economic transition.

Government and society
The behaviour of political parties without the tradition of a civil society is discussed in Richard Rose and Neil Munro, Election and Parties in New European Democracies (2003). Stefan Auer, Liberal Nationalism in Central Europe (2004), is a solid analysis with rich material on Slovakia. Jeffrey Simon, NATO and the Czech and Slovak Republics (2004), covers the NATO expansion. An original sociological study is Lubomír Lipták, Changes of Changes: Society and Politics in Slovakia in the 20th Century (2002). The government's role in health care is discussed in Svätopluk Hlavacka, Róbert Wágner, and Annette Riesberg, Health Care Systems in Transition: Slovakia (2004). Owen V. Johnson, Slovakia 1918–1938: Education and the Making of a Nation (1985), offers an original sociological analysis.

Cultural life
Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr. (ed.), The Czechoslovak Contribution to World Culture (1964), is a collection of essays on all aspects of intellectual life, with an extensive bibliography. More-recent Slovak intellectual observations are found in Miro Kollar (ed.), Scepticism and Hope: Sixteen Contemporary Slovak Essays (1999). Peter Petro, A History of Slovak Literature (1995), addresses Slovak literature from medieval times to the present. Specific studies of music and folk art include Vladimír Štěpánek and Bohumil Karásek, An Outline of Czech and Slovak Music, trans. from Czech, 2 vol. (1960–64); Oskár Elschek (ed.), A History of Slovak Music: From the Earliest Times to the Present (2003); and Věra Hasalová and Jaroslav Vajdiš, Folk Art of Czechoslovakia, trans. from Czech (1974), on the art and architecture of both Slovaks and Czechs.

History
Independent Slovakia is discussed in Jiří Musil (ed.), The End of Czechoslovakia (1995); and Minton Goldman, Slovakia Since Independence: A Struggle for Democracy (1999). Very useful reference books are Stanislav J. Kirschbaum, A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival (1995), and Historical Dictionary of Slovakia, 2nd ed. (2007); and Július Bartl, Slovak History: Chronology and Lexicon, 1st Eng. ed. (2002). The new standard history is Peter A. Toma and Dušan Kováč, Slovakia: From Samo to Dzurinda (2001).Jozef Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia (1955, reissued 1985), is a standard work up to World War II, although it is somewhat outdated. Interwar Slovakia is the subject of R.W. Seton-Watson (ed.), Slovakia Then and Now: A Political Survey (1931), a classic text. Slovak nationalism is covered in Peter Brock, The Slovak National Awakening (1976); and Yeshayahu A. Jelinek, The Lust for Power: Nationalism, Slovakia, and the Communists, 1918–1948 (1983). Standard, if slightly outdated, accounts are Joseph A. Mikuš, Slovakia, A Political History: 1918–1950, rev. ed. (1963; originally published in French, 1955); Dorothea H. El Mallakh, The Slovak Autonomy Movement, 1935–1939: A Study in Unrelenting Nationalism (1979); and Yeshayahu A. Jelinek, The Parish Republic: Hlinka's Slovak People's Party, 1939–1945 (1976). Excellent political analyses are Carol Skalnik Leff, National Conflict in Czechoslovakia: The Making and Remaking of a State, 1918–1987 (1988), and The Czech and Slovak Republics: Nation Versus State (1996). Eric Stein, Czecho/Slovakia: Ethnic Conflict, Constitutional Fissure, Negotiated Breakup (1997), offers a sociohistorical perspective on the breakup of Czechoslovakia.Milan Hauner

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Universalium. 2010.

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