Meaning of SLOVAKIA, HISTORY OF in English

history of the Slovak Republic from its formation in 1993 to the present. For earlier history of the area, including Czechoslovakia, see Czechoslovak region, history of. The Slovak Republic came into being on Jan. 1, 1993, following the dissolution of the Czechoslovak federation. Slovak politiciansespecially the new prime minister, Vladimir Meciarhad been the strongest proponents of separation, but their enthusiasm did not extend to the general populace. The federation had provided Slovaks with access to western Europe and had helped Czechs maintain contact with the Slav hinterland. Although a renewed sense of national pride welled up in Slovakia, so, too, did a feeling of apprehension about the republic's future. Perhaps indicative of this uneasiness, large numbers of Slovaks 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 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. In February 1993, Michal Kovc was elected president of the republic. Kovc, who had been a member of the Communist Party until he was expelled from it in 1970, had served as finance minister and as the last parliamentary chairman of Czechoslovakia after the overthrow of the communists in 1989. Z.A.B. Zeman Additional reading 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History of Modern Slovakia (1955, reissued 1985), is a standard work up to World War II, although it is somewhat outdated.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 by Peter Brock, The Slovak National Awakening (1976); Joseph A. Miku, Slovakia, A Political History: 19181950, rev. ed. (1963; originally published in French, 1955); Dorothea H. El Mallakh, The Slovak Autonomy Movement, 19351939: A Study in Unrelenting Nationalism (1979); and Carol Skalnik Leff, National Conflict in Czechoslovakia: The Making and Remaking of a State, 19181987 (1988). Z.A.B. Zeman The 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 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. Furthermore, since Czechs had long dominated the federal leadership of Czechoslovakia, the Slovak regional leaders lacked experience at the national level. These factors only compounded the burden of Slovak independence. 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 plan that finally emergedin an atmosphere rife with rumour, denial, false starts, and delaysprescribed a stepped transition in which each republic would recall a portion of its Czechoslovak currency supply for stamping with a country mark, and newly printed bills would gradually replace the stamped ones. The agreement established an initial exchange rate of one to one for the new currencies. The apportionment of government assets posed another vexing challenge. 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 appeared the most promising means of increasing foreign investment. Most Slovak employees are members of trade unions, which prior to the events of 198990 were controlled by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. With the economy in a period of transition, so, too, were the unions; their main concerns were burgeoning inflation and unemployment. The 1992 constitution guarantees the right to form unions and the right to strike. Francis William Carter Resources and power Limited but economically important reserves of brown coal and lignite are located in the foothills near Handlov to the west and Modr Kamen to the south. The brown coal is used in thermal power stations, as fuel in the home, and as raw material in the chemical industry. Pipelines (installed during the federal period and controlled by Czech authorities pending construction of Slovak facilities) import Russian oil and natural gas, the latter supplementing existing coal gas supplies. A natural-gas field was discovered 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 Ziar nad Hronom and Sered', respectively. Eastern Slovakia has some economically significant salt deposits. The chief energy source for industry is hydroelectric power, generated by a series of dams on the Vh, Orava, Hornd, and Slan rivers. The Slovakian government elected to complete construction of a major hydroelectric project on the Danube southeast of Bratislava at Gabckovo; the project had been a joint Czechoslovak-Hungarian venture before Hungary's withdrawal over concerns about shipping and the environment. Nuclear power generation also is important. The people Ethnic composition The population is about 85 percent Slovak. Hungarians, concentrated in the southern border districts, form the largest minority. Czechs, Germans, and Poles are found throughout the country, while Ruthenians (ethnic Ukrainians) are concentrated in the east and northeast. There is a sizable and relatively mobile population of Gypsies (Roma), who are found mainly in the eastern part of the country. Languages The majority of the population speak Slovak as their first language, but widespread fluency in Czech is a legacy of the period of federation. As members of the West Slavic language group, these closely related and mutually intelligible languages use the Roman rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. Slovak as a literary language dates to the 19th century. Hungarian, Polish, German, Ukrainian, Russian, and Romany are among the other languages spoken in Slovakia.

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