Slovakia -- Geography --
Official Name: Slovak Republic
Capital City: Bratislava. Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital and largest city, had an estimated population of 447,345 in 2001. Other important cities include Kosice (242,080), an industrial city; Nitra (87,575), a food-processing center; Presov (94,058), known for electrical-engineering; Banska Bystrica (84,000), in a mining and manufacturing area; and Zilina (86,679), a business center.
Languages: Slovak (official), others
Religions: Catholic, others. About 68 percent of Slovaks are Roman Catholics.
Population: 5,388,000. The Slovaks are descendants of a Slavic people who settled near the Danube between 400 and 500 AD. Slovaks comprise about 86 percent of the country’s inhabitants. At the time of the 1991 census, Slovakia’s total population was 5,274,335; the 2005 estimated population was 5,431,363. The population density in 2005 was 111 persons per sq km (288 per sq mi). Some 57 percent of the population lived in urban areas.
Land Area: 49,036 sq km
Landforms: The rugged Ore Mountains dominatethe central region while the Carpathian Mountainscover the north. Those Mountains slope into fertile lowlands of the Danube River plain. Major Rivers include the Danube, Morava, Hrou and Horuad.
Land Division: regions including Banskobistricky, Bratislavsky, Kosicky, Nitriansky, Presovsky, Trencinsky, Trnavsky and Zilinsky.
Slovakia -- History --
Since c. 450 BC, Slovakia was inhabited by Celts, who built powerful oppida in Bratislava and Liptov. Silver coins with the names of Celtic kings represent the first known use of writing in Slovakia. Since AD 6, the expanding Roman Empire maintained a chain of outposts around Danube. From 20 to 50 AD, the Kingdom of Vannius, a barbarian kingdom founded by the Germanic tribe of Quadi, existed in western and central Slovakia.
Slavic population settled in the territory of Slovakia in the 5th century. Western Slovakia was the centre of Samo's Empire in the 7th century. A proto-Slovak state, known as the Principality of Nitra, arose in the 8th century and its ruler Pribina had the first Christian church in Slovakia consecrated by 828. Together with neighboring Moravia, the principality formed the core of the Great Moravian Empire since 833. The high point of this (Proto-)Slovak empire came with the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius during the reign of Prince Rastislav and the territorial expansion under King Svatopluk.
After the disintegration of the Great Moravian Empire in the early 10th century, Slovakia became a part of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 11th through 14th centuries. Due to its high level of economic and cultural development, Slovakia also retained its important position in this new state. For almost two centuries, it was ruled autonomously as the Principality of Nitra and the Nitrian Frontier Duchy. Slovak settlements extended for long to the northern half of present-day Hungary, while the ethnic composition of present-day Slovakia itself became more diverse due to arrival of Germans (since the 13th century), Vlachs (since the 14th century), and Hungarians (since the late Middle Ages).
A huge population loss resulted from the invasion of Mongols in 1241 and the subsequent famine. However, medieval Slovakia was characterized rather by burgeoning towns, construction of numerous stone castles, and development of art. In 1467, Matthias Corvinus founded the first university in Bratislava, but the institution was short-lived.
After the Ottoman Empire started its expansion into present-day Hungary in the early 16th century, the center of the Kingdom of Hungary (under the name of Royal Hungary) shifted towards Slovakia, and Bratislava (known as Pressburg/Pressporek/Posonium/Posony at that time) became its capital 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 retreated from Hungary in the 18th century, Slovakia's influence decreased.
During a 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 eventually failed to achieve this aim. During the period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from 1867 to 1918, the Slovaks experienced severe oppression in the form of Magyarisation promoted by the Hungarian government. For example, all three Slovak high schools and Matica slovenska were closed down in 1874-1875.
In 1918, Slovakia joined the regions of Bohemia and neighbouring Moravia to form Czechoslovakia. During the chaos following the breakup of Austria-Hungary, a Slovak Soviet Republic was created for a very brief period. During the Interwar period, democratic and prosperous Czechoslovakia was permanently threatened by revisionist governments of Germany and Hungary, until it was finally broken up by the Munich Agreement of 1938, when Slovakia became a separate state that would be tightly controlled by Nazi Germany. However, the anti-Nazi resistance movement launched a fierce armed insurrection, known as the Slovak National Uprising, in 1944. After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reassembled and came under the influence of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact from 1945 onward. In 1969, the state became a federation of the Czech Socialist Republic and Slovak Socialist Republic.
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. Slovakia and the Czech Republic went their separate ways after January 1, 1993, an event sometimes called the Velvet Divorce. Slovakia became a member of the European Union in May 2004.
Slovakia -- Economy --
Slovakia has mastered much of the difficult transition from a centrally planned economy to a modern market economy. The Slovak government made progress in 2001 in macroeconomic stabilisation and structural reform. Major privatisations are nearly complete, the banking sector is almost completely in foreign hands, and foreign investment has picked up. Slovakia's economy exceeded expectations in the early 2000s, despite recession in key export markets.
Revival of domestic demand in 2002, 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 boosted economic growth to 4.4 % in 2002. Strong export growth, in turn, pushed economic growth to a still-strong 4.2 % in 2003, despite a downturn in household consumption. Thå estimated GDP growth was around 5.7 % in 2005. It was the highest rate from the Visegrad group. It is expected to reach at least 6 % in 2006, and 6.5 % in 2007. The growth in Slovakia's gross domestic product, which reached 7.5 percent p.a. in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2006 according to the Statistics Office estimate, came as a surprise to local analysts, given that big foreign investors, such as Peugeot or Kia have not launched their production yet.
Unemployment, rising from 14.9 % at the end of 1998 to 19.2 % at the end of 2001 (seasonally adjusted harmonised rate) during the radical reforms introduced by the Slovak government since 1999, decreased again to 11.8 % (January 2006).
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 due to necessary increases in taxes and regulated prices. Nonetheless, CPI fell below 3 % in 2005.
Slovakia plans to adopt the Euro currency on 1 January 2009 and has already entered the ERM for this purpose (Slovak euro coins).
Slovak crown reached its new historical maximum value in 1 March 2006, with the day's best exchange rate against the reference currency the euro reaching 36.940 SKK/EUR
In a survey of the German Chamber of Commerce held in March 2004, as much as 50 % of German enterpreneurs chose Slovakia as the best place for investment.
Slovakia -- Culture --
Nearly all of Slovak adults are able to read and write. Compulsory education begins at age six, when children enter primary school; primary education takes nine years to complete. After completing primary school, students may choose among three types of secondary education: vocational or technical schools, schools of general education (gymnasia), or teacher-training institutes. Slovakia has 14 institutions of higher education. Comenius University of Bratislava was founded in 1467 and is the country’s oldest university. Technical universities are located in Bratislava, Kosice, Zilina, and Nitra.
The development of Slovak culture reflects the country’s rich folk tradition, in addition to the influence of broader European trends.
There are 12 state scientific libraries in Slovakia, 473 libraries affiliated with universities and institutions of higher learning, and 2,600 public libraries. The University Library in Bratislava, founded in 1919, contains more than 2 million volumes and is the country’s most important library. The Slovak National Library (1863), located in Martin, includes a collection of materials relating to Slovak culture.
Slovakia is also home to more than 50 museums. The Slovak National Museum (founded in 1893), located in Bratislava, contains exhibits on Slovak history, archaeology, and musicology, and is probably the country’s best-known museum. Other museums include the Slovak National Gallery (1948), also in Bratislava; the Slovak National Uprising Museum (1955), located in Banska Bystrica; and the Museum of Eastern Slovakia (1872), in Kosice.
Poetry remained an important literary form into the 20th century, and was used by some Slovak writers to address the experience of World War II and the rise of Communism. During the Communist period, Slovak literary culture suffered from heavy governmental control. The works of Dominik Tatarka, Lubos Jurik, Martin Butora, Milan Simecka, and Hana Ponicka were exceptions to the pattern of politically influenced works.
Music has long occupied an important and distinguished place in Slovak cultural life. In the first half of the 19th century, a national musical tradition began to develop around Slovakia’s impressive folk heritage. Modern Slovak music has drawn from both classical and folk styles. Well-known works from the 20th century include the compositions of Alexander Moyzes and the operas of Jan Cikker.
A Slovak school of painting emerged in the mid-19th century. Sculpture and architecture also developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, much of it heavily influenced by western European styles. Folk arts and crafts, which include wood carving, fabric weaving, and glass painting, have a long and popular tradition in Slovakia, especially in rural areas. Examples of folk architecture, such as wooden churches and brightly painted houses, are found throughout the country, particularly in the Ukrainian communities of Eastern Slovakia.
As in many of the other post-Communist countries of Eastern Europe, the Slovak motion-picture industry has been affected by the reduction in state subsidies and increased competition from international filmmakers. Although the main film studio has been closed, filmmakers Jakubisko and Uher, as well as Martin Sulik and Stefan Semjan, continue to make important and innovative films.
The Slovak diet relies heavily on pork. Bryndzove halusky (noodles with goat cheese) and Hungarian dishes including goulash
are also widely enjoyed. Wine, beer, slivovitz (plum brandy), and borovicka (an herb-flavored drink), are popular beverages.
Slovakia -- Political system, law and government --
Slovakia is a parliamentary democracy. Two rounds of Presidential elections took place on April 3, 2004 and April 17, 2004. The Parliamantary elections are scheduled for June 17, 2006.
The Slovak head of state is the president, elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. Most executive power lies with the head of government, the prime minister, who is usually the leader of the major party or a majority coalition in parliament and 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 (Narodna rada Slovenskej republiky). Delegates are elected for four-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. Slovakia highest judicial body is the Constitutional Court (Ustavny sud), 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 is a member state of the European Union since May 1, 2004 and of NATO since March 29, 2004. As a member of the United Nations (since 1993), Slovakia was, on October 10, 2005, for the first time elected to a two-year term on the UN Security Council for 2006-2007. Slovakia is also a member of WTO, OECD, OSCE, and other international organizations.