Slovakia

Slovakia

[sloh-vah-kee-uh, -vak-ee-uh]
Slovakia or the Slovak Republic, Slovak Slovensko, republic (2005 est. pop. 5,431,000), 18,917 sq mi (48,995 sq km), central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic in the west, by Austria in the southwest, by Hungary in the south, by Ukraine in the east, and by Poland in the north. Bratislava is the capital. Slovakia became an independent nation on Jan. 1, 1993, when Czechoslovakia was dissolved.

Land and People

Most of Slovakia is traversed by the Carpathian Mts., including the Tatra and the Beskids. Gerlachovka (8,737 ft/2,663 m) in the High Tatra, is the highest peak. S Slovakia is a part of the Little Alföld, a plain. Its fertile soil is drained by the Danube and its tributaries, notably the Váh. Several of its rivers have been dammed for hydroelectric power. Major cities include Bratislava and Komárno, which are the major Danubian ports; and Košice, Trnava, and Nitra.

Slovaks comprise more than 85% of the population; other groups include Hungarians (about 10%), Gypsies, and Czechs (who are ethnically and linguistically related to the Slovaks, but have a separate history and cultural traditions). A law passed in 1995, and strongly opposed by Hungarians and other minorities, made Slovak the sole official language; additional minority language restrictions in 2009 led to new tensions. Hungarian is also spoken. About 70% of the population profess Roman Catholicism, and there are significant Protestant (mainly Lutheran), Eastern Orthodox, and Uniate minorities.

Economy

Farms, vineyards, orchards, and pastures for stock form the basis of S Slovakia's economy. The main crops are wheat, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, hops, and fruit. Pigs, cattle, and poultry are raised. The mountainous part of Slovakia has vast forests and pastures, used for intensive sheep grazing, and is rich in mineral resources, including coal, high-grade iron ore, copper, manganese, lead, and zinc. There are also numerous mineral springs, notably at Piešt'any, and many popular resorts. Slovakia has undergone considerable industrialization and urbanization since World War II. Its industries produce metals and metal products, foods and beverages, electricity, oil and gas, coke, nuclear fuel, chemicals, synthetic fibers, machinery, paper, ceramics, motor vehicles, textiles, electrical and optical instruments, and rubber products. Exports include vehicles, machinery, electrical equipment, metals, chemicals, minerals, and plastics. The main imports are machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, fuels, and chemicals. Its main trading partners are Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and Poland.

Government

Slovakia is governed under the constitution of 1992 as amended. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president with the approval of the legislature, as is the cabinet. The unicameral legislature, the National Council, has 150 members who are popularly elected by proportional representation for four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 8 regions.

History

The Slovaks in History

The area now constituting Slovakia was settled by Slavic tribes in the 5th-6th cent. A.D. In the 9th cent. Slovakia formed part of the great empire of Moravia, under whose rulers Christianity was introduced by Saints Cyril and Methodius. From the Magyar conquest of Slovakia early in the 10th cent. until 1918, Slovakia was generally under Hungarian rule. German and Jewish settlements in Slovakian cities date from the Middle Ages; most of the Slovaks remained peasants in the countryside, although some became burghers. Czech-Slovak contacts, broken after the demise of the Moravian empire, were restored by the 14th cent.; and the 15th-century Hussite movement in Bohemia enjoyed influence in Slovakia.

After the Ottoman Turkish victory at Mohács in 1526 over Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia, Slovakia, along with western Hungary, fell under Hapsburg rule. It thus escaped Turkish domination but became a stronghold of the great Hungarian nobles, who owned most of the land and treated the Slovaks with contempt. Slovakia, however, played an important political role, with Bratislava serving as the Hapsburg capital, until all of Hungary was finally freed from the Turks in the late 17th cent. Slovakia also enjoyed more religious toleration than much of the Hapsburg empire, and Protestantism thrived.

In the 18th cent. Maria Theresa and Joseph II pursued religious freedom and social reform in Slovakia but greatly intensified Germanization. This policy spurred a Slovak national revival, which grew steadily in the 19th cent. The Catholic clergy, which constituted the only sizable body of Slovak intellectuals, exercised the main leadership of the nationalist movement. L'udovít Štúr became the father of the modern Slovak literary language. During the anti-Hapsburg revolutions of 1848, Štúr joined Czech representatives in a Pan-Slav congress at Prague. Also in 1848, the Slovaks formulated a set of demands for increased political and linguistic rights.

Some clashes between Slovaks and Hungarians occurred, and Magyarization lessened temporarily; but after the Ausgleich establishing the dual Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1867, Magyarization again intensified, thus further heightening Slovak nationalism. Large-scale immigration (1900-1910) of the landless Slovak peasants to America gave the Slovak independence movement considerable support in the United States during World War I, during which the Slovaks and other nationalities of the Hapsburg empire agitated for freedom.

The Birth of Czechoslovakia

The so-called Pittsburgh Declaration, signed by Czech and Slovak patriots in May, 1918, provided for a united Czechoslovak republic, in which Slovakia would retain broad autonomy, with its own governmental institutions and official language. On Oct. 30 the Slovak National Council formally proclaimed independence from Hungary and incorporation into Czechoslovakia. The new republic's boundaries, established in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon, encompassed areas where more than one million Hungarians lived. Hungary, meanwhile, continued to claim at least part of Slovakia, while a large Slovak People's party, led by Monsignor Andrej Hlinka, accused the Czechoslovak government of denying Slovakia the autonomous rights promised. Indeed, from 1918 until 1938, Slovakia held the status of a simple province, although the Slovak language was official within its boundaries.

The minority problem was complicated by religion: the majority of Slovaks were Catholic, while the Prague government was distinctly anticlerical. Monsignor Hlinka and his successor as leader of the Slovak People's party, Father Jozef Tiso, demanded full autonomy for Slovakia on a basis of complete equality for both Czechs and Slovaks. After the Munich Pact of 1938, Slovakia became an autonomous state within reorganized Czecho-Slovakia, with Father Tiso as Slovak premier. At the same time a large part of S Slovakia was ceded to Hungary and some northern districts to Poland. When the Prague government dismissed (Mar., 1939) Tiso as premier, he appealed to Adolf Hitler, who used this appeal as a pretext for making Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia a German protectorate.

Slovakia became a nominally independent state under German protection and Tiso's one-party rule. Tiso allowed German troops to occupy Slovakia in Aug., 1939, and entered World War II as Germany's ally. A Slovak underground movement gained strength, however, and powerfully aided the Soviet troops who drove the Germans out of Slovakia late in 1944. The Allied victory in 1945 restored Slovakia to its territorial status before the Munich Pact, and the constitution of 1948 recognized Slovakia as one of the constituent states of a reestablished Czechoslovakia; the other state was composed of Bohemia, Moravia, and a small part of Silesia. The constitution also established separate government organs for Slovakia.

The Rise and Fall of Communism

The accession in 1948 of a Communist government in Czechoslovakia revived the old antagonism between Czechs and Slovaks. The Catholic clergy in Slovakia, militantly opposed to Communism, was persecuted, and the Slovak government came entirely under the control of the Czechoslovak Communist party, which began to transfer authority from Bratislava to Prague. In 1960 a new constitution seriously curtailed Slovakia's autonomy. The liberal Communist regime of Alexander Dubček, which came into power in 1967, responded to Slovak discontent by promising federalization of Czechoslovakia.

Despite the invasion (1968) of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, the new Socialist Federal Republic came into being on Jan. 1, 1969; the constituent Czech and Slovak republics received autonomy over local affairs, with the federal government responsible for foreign relations, defense, and finance. The fall of the Communist regime at the end of 1989 revived Slovakia's drive for autonomy. Dissatisfied with their minority status in the federal government, many Slovaks called for a loose confederation of the Czech and Slovak Republics, while others advocated complete independence.

An Independent Slovakia

In 1992, as free-market reforms brought on economic problems and widespread dissatisfaction, nationalists led by Slovak premier Vladimír Mečiar came to power. A constitution for an independent Slovakia was approved and on Jan. 1, 1993, the country became independent. An inefficient and obsolete industrial base, rising inflation, and high unemployment were among the problems facing the republic. Mečiar was ousted in Mar., 1994, and Jozef Moravčík became prime minister. Following elections in Oct., 1994, Mečiar returned to power at the head of a coalition government.

A continuing stalemate between Mečiar and Slovakian president Michal Kováč hindered Slovakian efforts to win credibility abroad and join the Western community. The Mečiar government was criticized for its handling of the privatization of state-owned businesses and for its backing of controversial legislation, including a law making Slovak the sole official language. Slovakia's inefficient, defense-oriented industrial base contracted, and the country did not receive needed foreign investment. When Kováč's term was up in Mar., 1998, a divided parliament was unable to appoint a successor; the constitution was amended to allow for direct election of the president.

The Mečiar government was defeated in Sept., 1998, by a four-party center-right coalition, and Mikuláš Dzurinda became prime minister. Mečiar ran for president in 1999, but was defeated by Rudolf Schuster, who pledged to steer a more pro-European course. Dzurinda's government overhauled the tax and social welfare systems and worked to attract foreign investment; the economy subsequently experienced significant growth. Dzurinda's coalition retained power after the 2002 parliamentary elections.

Slovakia became a member of NATO in Mar., 2004, and of the European Union in May. In April, Ivan Gašparovič was elected as Schuster's successor. Mečiar again mounted a campaign for the presidency and won the first round of voting, but he was soundly defeated in the runoff. In the June, 2006, parliamentary elections the leftist party Smer [direction], led by Róbert Fico, won the largest number of seats, and the following month Fico became prime minister of a coalition government that included Mečiar's party and the right-wing Nationalist party. The country adopted the euro in 2009. President Gašparovič was returned to office in Apr., 2009, following a runoff election.

Bibliography

See J. Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia (1955); G. L. Oddo, Slovakia and its People (1960); E. Steiner, The Slovak Dilemma (1973); S. J. Kirschbaum, Slovak Politics (1983); B. Chnoupek, A Breaking of Seals: The French Resistance in Slovakia (1988).

officially Slovak Republic

Country, central Europe. Area: 18,933 sq mi (49,035 sq km). Population (2007 est.): 5,396,000. Capital: Bratislava. More than four-fifths of the population is Slovak; Hungarians form the largest minority. Language: Slovak (official). Religion: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic; also Protestant, other Christians). Currency: euro. The Carpathian Mountains dominate Slovakia, with lowlands in the southwestern and southeastern regions. The Morava and Danube rivers form parts of the southern and western borders. Grain, sugar beets, and potatoes are grown and pigs, sheep, and cattle are raised, but the economy is based on services and manufacturing. 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. In the 9th century, part of what is now Slovakia belonged to Great Moravia, which was conquered by the Magyars in the early 10th century. The Slovak territory then 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. The fall of the communist regime in 1989 led to a revival of interest in autonomy, and Slovakia became an independent nation in 1993. It joined both NATO and the European Union in 2004.

Learn more about Slovakia with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Slovakia (long form: Slovak Republic; Slovak: , long form , is a landlocked country in Central Europe with a population of over five million and an area of about 49,000 square kilometres (almost 19,000 square miles). The Slovak Republic borders the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south. The largest city is its capital, Bratislava. Slovakia is a member state of the European Union, NATO, OECD, WTO, and other international organizations.

The Slavic people arrived in the territory of present day Slovakia between the 5th and 6th century AD during the Migration Period (Migration of Nations). Various parts of Slovakia belonged to Samo's Empire, the first known political unit of Slavs, Great Moravia, the Kingdom of Hungary, Habsburg (Austrian) monarchy, Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia throughout history. Slovakia became independent on January 1, 1993 with the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia in the Velvet Divorce; it was with Czech Republik the last European country to become independent in the 20th century.

Slovakia is a high-income economy with one of the fastest rates of growth in the EU and OECD. It joined the European Union in 2004 and will join the Eurozone on 1 January, 2009.

History

Before the 5th century

From around 500 BC, the territory of modern-day Slovakia was settled by Celts, who built powerful oppida on the sites of modern-day Bratislava and Havránok. Biatecs, silver coins with the names of Celtic Kings, represent the first known use of writing in Slovakia. From 2 AD, the expanding Roman Empire established and maintained a series of outposts around and just north of the Danube, the largest of which were known as Carnuntum and Brigetio. Near the northernmost line of the Roman hinterlands, Limes Romanus there existed the winter camp of Laugaricio (modern-day Trenčín) where the Auxiliary of Legion II fought and prevailed in a decisive battle over the Germanic Quadi tribe in 179 AD during the Marcomannic Wars. The Kingdom of Vannius, a barbarian kingdom founded by the Germanic Suebian tribes of Quadi and Marcomanni, as well as several small Germanic and Celtic tribes, including the Osi and Cotini, existed in Western and Central Slovakia from 8–6 BC to 179 AD.

Slavic states

The Slavic tribes settled in the territory of Slovakia in the 6th century. Western Slovakia was the centre of Samo's Empire in the 7th century. A Slavic state, known as the Principality of Nitra, arose in the 8th century and its ruler Pribina had the first known Christian church in Slovakia consecrated by 828. Together with neighboring Moravia, the principality formed the core of the Great Moravian Empire from 833. The high point of this Slavonic empire came with the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius in 863, during the reign of Prince Rastislav, and the territorial expansion under King Svatopluk I.

Kingdom of Hungary

After the disintegration of the Great Moravian Empire in the early 10th century, the Hungarians gradually annexed the territory of the present-day Slovakia. In the late 10th century, south-western territories of the present-day Slovakia became part of the arising Hungarian principality, which transformed to the Kingdom of Hungary after 1000. The territory became integral part of the Hungarian State as it was the case until 1918. The ethnic composition became more diverse with the arrival of the Carpathian Germans in the 13th century, Vlachs in the 14th century and Jews.

A huge population loss resulted from the invasion of the Mongols in 1241 and the subsequent famine. However, in medieval times the area of the present-day Slovakia was characterized rather by burgeoning towns, construction of numerous stone castles, and the development of art. In 1465, the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus founded the first university in Pozsony/Pressburg/Bratislava, but it was closed in 1490 after his death.

After the Ottoman Empire started its expansion into Hungary and the occupation of Buda in the early 16th century, the centre of the Kingdom of Hungary (under the name of Royal Hungary) shifted towards Pozsony/Pressburg (now Bratislava), which became the capital city of the Royal Hungary in 1536. But the Ottoman wars and frequent insurrections against the Habsburg Monarchy also inflicted a great deal of destruction, especially in rural areas. As the Turks withdrew from Hungary in the late 17th century, Slovakia's importance within the kingdom decreased, although Bratislava retained its position as the capital city of Hungary until 1848, when the capital moved to Budapest.

During the revolution in 1848-49 the Slovaks supported the Austrian Emperor with the ambition to secede from the Hungarian part of the Austrian monarchy, but they failed to achieve this aim. Thereafter the relations between the nationalities deteriorated (see Magyarization), resulting in the secession of Slovakia from Hungary after World War I.

Czechoslovakia and World War II

In 1918, Slovakia and the regions of Bohemia and Moravia formed a common state, Czechoslovakia, with the borders confirmed by the Treaty of Saint Germain and Treaty of Trianon. In 1919, during the chaos following the breakup of Austria-Hungary, Slovakia was attacked by the provisional Hungarian Soviet Republic and one-third of Slovakia temporarily became the Slovak Soviet Republic.

During the inter-war period, democratic and prosperous Czechoslovakia was under continuous pressure from the revisionist governments of Germany and Hungary, until it was finally broken up in 1939, as a result of the Munich Agreement concluded a year before. Southern Slovakia was lost to Hungary due to the First Vienna Award.

Under pressure from Nazi Germany, the First Slovak Republic, led by the clerical fascist leader Jozef Tiso, declared its independence from Czechoslovakia in 1939. However, the government was strongly influenced by Germany and gradually became a puppet regime. Most Jews were deported from the country and taken to German concentration camps during the Holocaust. An anti-Nazi resistance movement launched a fierce armed insurrection, known as the Slovak National Uprising, in 1944. A bloody German occupation and a guerilla war followed.

Communist era

After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reconstituted and Jozef Tiso was hanged in 1947 for collaboration with the Nazis. More than 76,000 Hungarians and 32,000 Germans were forced to leave Slovakia, in a series of population transfers initiated by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference. This expulsion is still a source of tension between Slovakia and Hungary.

Czechoslovakia came under the influence of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact after a coup in 1948. The country was occupied by the Warsaw Pact forces in 1968, ending a period of liberalization under the leadership of Alexander Dubček. In 1969, Czechoslovakia became a federation of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic.

Establishment of Slovakia

The end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, during the peaceful Velvet Revolution, was followed once again by the country's dissolution, this time into two successor states. In July 1992 Slovakia, led by Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, declared itself a sovereign state, meaning that its laws took precedence over those of the federal government. Throughout the Autumn of 1992, Mečiar and Czech Prime Minister Václav Klaus negotiated the details for disbanding the federation. In November the federal parliament voted to dissolve the country officially on December 31, 1992. Slovakia and the Czech Republic went their separate ways after January 1, 1993, an event sometimes called the Velvet Divorce. Slovakia has remained a close partner with the Czech Republic, both countries cooperate with Hungary and Poland in the Visegrád Group. Slovakia became a member of NATO on March 29, 2004 and of the European Union on May 1, 2004.

Geography

The Slovak landscape is noted primarily for its mountainous nature, with the Carpathian Mountains extending across most of the northern half of the country. Amongst these mountain ranges are the high peaks of the Tatra mountains. To the north, close to the Polish border, are the High Tatras which are a popular skiing destination and home to many scenic lakes and valleys as well as the highest point in Slovakia, the Gerlachovský štít at 2,655 metres (8,711 ft), and the country's highly symbolic mountain Kriváň.

Major Slovak rivers are the Danube, the Váh and the Hron.

The Slovak climate lies between the temperate and continental climate zones with relatively warm summers and cold, cloudy and humid winters. The area of Slovakia can be divided into three kinds of climatic zones and the first zone can be divided into two sub-zones.

Climate of lowlands

Dominance of oceanic influences

The average annual temperature is about 9–10 °C (48–50 °F). The average temperature of the hottest month is about 20 °C (68 °F) and the average temperature of the coldest month is greater than −3 °C (26 °F). This kind of climate occurs at Záhorská nížina and Podunajská nížina. It is the typical climate of the capital city Bratislava.

Climate of lowlands with dominance of continental influences

The average annual temperature is about 8–9 °C (46–48 °F). The average temperature of the hottest month is about 19 °C (66 °F) and the average temperature of the coldest month is less than −3 °C (26 °F). This kind of climate can be found at Košická kotlina and Východoslovenská nížina. It is the typical climate of the city of Košice.

Climate of basins

The average annual temperature is between 5 °C and 8.5 °C (41–47 °F). The average temperature of the hottest month is between 15 °C and 18.5 °C (59–65 °F) and the average temperature of the coldest month is between −3 °C and −6 °C (21–26 °F). This climate can be found in almost all basins in Slovakia. For example Podtatranská kotlina, Žilinská kotlina, Turčianska kotlina, Zvolenská kotlina. It is the typical climate for the towns of Poprad and Sliač.

Mountain climate

The average annual temperature is less than 5 °C (41 °F). The average temperature of the hottest month is less than 15 °C (59 °F) and the average temperature of the coldest month is less than −5 °C (23 °F). This kind of climate occurs in mountains and in some villages in the valleys of Orava and Spiš.

Demographics

The majority of the inhabitants of Slovakia are ethnically Slovak (85.8%). Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority (9.7%). Other ethnic groups, as of the 2001 census, include Roma with 1.7%, Ruthenians or Ukrainians with 1%, and other or unspecified, 1.8%.

The official state language is Slovak, a member of the Slavic Language Family, but Hungarian is also widely spoken in the south of the country and enjoys a co-official status in some municipalities, and many people also speak Czech.

The Slovak constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The majority of Slovak citizens (68.9 %) identify themselves with Roman Catholicism (although church attendance is much lower); the second-largest group are people without confession (13%). About 6.93% belong to Lutheranism, 4.1% are Greek Catholic, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, Calvinism has 2.0%, other and non-registered churches 1.1% and some (0.9%) are Eastern Orthodox. About 2,300 Jews remain of the large estimated pre-WWII population of 90,000.

In 2007 Slovakia was estimated to have a fertility rate of 1.33. (i.e., the average woman will have 1.33 children in her lifetime), which is one of the lowest numbers among EU countries.

Politics

Slovakia is a parliamentary democratic republic with a multi-party system. The last parliamentary elections were held on June 17, 2006 and two rounds of presidential elections took place on April 3, 2004 and April 17, 2004.

The Slovak head of state is the president (Ivan Gašparovič, 2004 - 2009), elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. Most executive power lies with the head of government, the prime minister (Robert Fico, 2006 - 2010), who is usually the leader of the winning party, but he/she needs to form a majority coalition in the parliament. The prime minister is appointed by the president. The remainder of the cabinet is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister.

Slovakia's highest legislative body is the 150-seat unicameral National Council of the Slovak Republic (Národná rada Slovenskej republiky). Delegates are elected for a four-year term on the basis of proportional representation. Slovakia's highest judicial body is the Constitutional Court of Slovakia (Ústavný súd), which rules on constitutional issues. The 13 members of this court are appointed by the president from a slate of candidates nominated by parliament.

Slovakia has been a member state of the European Union and NATO since 2004. As a member of the United Nations (since 1993), Slovakia was, on October 10, 2005, elected to a two-year term on the UN Security Council from 2006 to 2007. Slovakia is also a member of WTO, OECD, OSCE, and other international organizations.

Controversially, the Beneš Decrees, by which, after World War II, the German and Hungarian populations of Czechoslovakia were decreed collectively guilty of World War II, stripped of their citizenship, and many deported, have still not been repealed.

Regions and districts

As for administrative division, Slovakia is subdivided into 8 kraje (singular - kraj, usually translated as "region", but actual meaning is "county"), each of which is named after its principal city. Regions have enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy since 2002. Their self-governing bodies are referred to as Self-governing (or autonomous) Regions (sg. samosprávny kraj, pl. samosprávne kraje) or Upper-Tier Territorial Units (sg. vyšší územný celok, pl. vyššie územné celky, abbr. VÚC).

  1. Bratislava Region (Bratislavský kraj) (capital Bratislava)
  2. Trnava Region (Trnavský kraj) (capital Trnava)
  3. Trenčín Region (Trenčiansky kraj) (capital Trenčín)
  4. Nitra Region (Nitriansky kraj) (capital Nitra)
  5. Žilina Region (Žilinský kraj) (capital Žilina)
  6. Banská Bystrica Region (Banskobystrický kraj) (capital Banská Bystrica)
  7. Prešov Region (Prešovský kraj) (capital Prešov)
  8. Košice Region (Košický kraj) (capital Košice)

(the word kraj can be replaced by samosprávny kraj or by VÚC in each case)

The "kraje" are subdivided into many okresy (sg. okres, usually translated as districts). Slovakia currently has 79 districts. The districts are then subdivided into zuj ("village" or "municipality").

In terms of economics and unemployment rate, the western regions are richer than eastern regions; however the relative difference is no bigger than in most EU countries having regional differences.

Economy

Slovakia has achieved a difficult transition from a centrally planned economy to a modern, high-income market economy. Major privatizations are nearly complete, the banking sector is almost completely in private hands, and foreign investment has picked up.

Slovakia is characterized by sustained high economic growth. In 2006, Slovakia achieved the highest growth of GDP (8.9%) among the members of OECD. The annual GDP growth in 2007 is estimated at 10,4%, with the record level of 14,3% reached in the fourth quarter.

Unemployment, peaking at 19.2% at the end of 1999, decreased to 7.84% in February 2008 according to the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic. In addition to economic growth, migration of workers to other EU countries also contributed to this reduction. According to Eurostat, which uses a calculation method different from that of the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, the unemployment rate is still the second highest after Spain in the EU-15 group at 9.9%.

Inflation dropped from an average annual rate of 12.0% in 2000 to just 3.3% in the election year 2002, but it rose again in 2003-2004 because of increases in taxes and regulated prices. It reached 3.7 % in 2005.

Slovakia will adopt the euro currency on 1 January 2009 as the 16th EU country to do so and has already entered the ERM II for this purpose. The euro in Slovakia was approved by the European commission on 7 May 2008. The Slovak koruna was revalued on 28 May 2008 to 30.126 for 1 euro, which will also be the exchange rate for the euro.

Slovakia is an attractive country for foreign investors mainly because of its lower labour costs, low tax rates and well educated labour force. In recent years, Slovakia has been pursuing a policy of encouraging foreign investment. FDI inflow grew more than 600% from 2000 and cumulatively reached an all-time high of $17.3 billion USD in 2006, or around $18,000 per capita by the end of 2006.

Despite a sufficient number of researchers and a solid secondary educational system, Slovakia, along with other post-communist countries, still faces many challenges in the field of modern knowledge economy. The business and public research and development expenditures are well below the EU average. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Slovak secondary education as the 30th in the world (placing it just below the United States and just above Spain).

In March 2008, the Ministry of Finance announced that Slovakia's economy is developed enough to stop being an aid receiver from the World Bank. Slovakia will become an aid provider by the end of 2008.

Tourism

Slovakia features natural landscapes, mountains, caves, medieval castles and towns, folk architecture, spas and ski resorts.

More than 1.6 million people visited Slovakia in 2006, and the most attractive destinations are the capital of Bratislava and the High Tatras. Most visitors come from the Czech Republic (about 26%), Poland (15%) and Germany (11%).

Culture

Cuisine

Pork, beef and poultry are the main meats consumed in Slovakia, with pork being the most popular by a substantial margin. Among poultry, chicken is most common, although duck, goose, and turkey are also well established. A blood sausage called jaternice also has a following, containing any and all parts of a butchered pig. Game meats, especially boar, rabbit, and venison, are also widely available around the year. Lamb and goat are also available, but for the most part are not very popular. The consumption of horse meat is generally frowned upon.

Wine is common throughout all parts of Slovakia. Slovak wine comes predominantly from the southern areas along the Danube and its tributaries; the northern half of the country is too cold and mountainous to grow grapevines. Traditionally, white wine was more popular than red or rosé (except in some regions), and sweet wine more popular than dry, but both these tastes seem to be changing.

Beer (in slovak language Pivo) is also popular throughout the country.

Music

Popular music began to replace folk music beginning in the 1950s, when Slovakia was a part of Czechoslovakia; American jazz, R&B, and rock and roll were popular, alongside waltzes, polkas, and czardas, among other folk forms. By the end of the '50s, radios were common household items, though only state stations were legal. Slovak popular music began as a mix of bossa nova, cool jazz, and rock, with propagandistic lyrics. Dissenters listened to ORF (Austrian Radio), Radio Luxembourg, or Slobodna Europa (Radio Free Europe), which played more rock. Czechoslovakia was more passive in the face of Soviet domination, and thus radio and the whole music industry toed the line more closely than other satellite states.

After the Velvet Revolution and the declaration of the Slovak state, domestic music greatly diversified as free enterprise allowed a great expansion in the number of bands and genres represented in the Slovak market. Soon, however, major label brought pop music to Slovakia and drove many of the small companies out of business. The 1990s, American grunge and alternative rock, and Britpop gain a wide following, as well as a newfound popularity in musicals.

International rankings

See also

Culture

Holidays

Miscellaneous topics

References

Further reading

  • Anton Spiesz and Dusan Caplovic: Illustrated Slovak History: A Struggle for Sovereignty in Central Europe ISBN 0-86516-426-6
  • Elena Mannová (ed.): A Concise History of Slovakia ISBN 80-88880-42-4
  • Pavel Dvorak: The Early History of Slovakia in Images ISBN 80-85501-34-1
  • Julius Bartl and Dusan Skvarna: Slovak History: Chronology & Lexicon ISBN 086-5164444
  • Olga Drobna, Eduard Drobny and Magdalena Gocnikova: Slovakia: The Heart of Europe ISBN 086-5163197
  • Karen Henderson: Slovakia: The Escape from Invisibility ISBN 0415274362
  • Stanislav Kirschbaum: A History of Slovakia : The Struggle for Survival ISBN 0312161255
  • Alfred Horn: Insight Guide: Czech & Slovak Republics ISBN 088-7296556
  • Rob Humphreys: The Rough Guide to the Czech and Slovak Republics ISBN 1858289041
  • Michael Jacobs: Blue Guide: Czech and Slovak Republics ISBN 0393319326
  • Neil Wilson, Richard Nebesky: Lonely Planet World Guide: Czech & Slovak Republics ISBN 1864502126
  • Eugen Lazistan, Fedor Mikovič, Ivan Kučma and Anna Jurečková: Slovakia: A Photographic Odyssey ISBN 086-5165173
  • Lil Junas: My Slovakia: An American's View ISBN 8070906227

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