The Slovak Republic
Area: 49,035 sq. km. (about the size of West Virginia).
Cities: Capital--Bratislava (pop. 452,053). Other cities--Kosice
(240,915), Zilina (86,685), Nitra (87,357), Presov (92,687), Banska
Terrain: High mountains in the north, low mountains in the center, hills
to the west, Danube river basin in the south.
Climate: Temperate; average temperature in January 26.5°F; in July 68°F.
Annual precipitation 24"-40".
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Slovak(s).
Population (1996 est.): 5,374,362.
Annual growth rate (1996 est.): 0.34%.
Ethnic groups: Slovaks 85.7%, Hungarians 10.7%, Roma 1.5%, Czechs 1%,
Ruthenians 0.3%, Ukranians 0.3%, Germans 0.1%, Poles 0.1%, other 0.3%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 60.2%, Protestant 8.4%, Orthodox 4.1%, Jewish
0.1%, other 17.5%. 9.7% report no affiliation.
Languages: Slovak (official), Hungarian, Ruthenian, and Ukrainian.
Health: Life expectancy--69 yrs. males. 77 yrs. females.
Work force (2.5 million): Industry, construction, commerce 59%. Government
and other services 29%. Agriculture 12%.
Type: Parliamentary republic.
Independence: The Slovak Republic was established January l, 1993 (former
Czechoslovak Republic established 1918).
Constitution: Signed September 3, 1992.
Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister
(head of government), cabinet. Legislative--National Council of the
Slovak Republic (150 seats). Judicial--Supreme Court,
Political parties: Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) 43 seats;
Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) 42 seats; Party of the Democratic Left (SDL)
23 seats; Party of the Hungarian Coalition 15 seats; Slovak National Party
(SNS) 14 seats; Party of Civic Understanding, 13 seats.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
Administrative divisions: Eight administrative regions, 79 districts.
Flag: Three horizontal bands of white (upper), blue (middle), and red
(lower), with heraldic insignia near staff consisting of double white
cross on red field above blue base.
GDP: $18.15 billion (1998).
Nominal per capita income (est.): $3,360.
Natural resources: Antimony, mercury, iron, copper, lead, zinc, magnesite,
Agriculture: Products--milk, eggs, poultry, cattle, hogs, potatoes,
oils, grains, vegetables.
Industry: Types--iron and steel, chemicals, automobiles, light
industry, food processing, engineering, building materials.
Trade: Exports--$9.37 billion: iron and steel, vehicles, machinery
and energy equipment, plastics, fiber optics. Imports--$11.41
billion: mineral fuels and oils, machinery, audio/video equipment,
vehicles. Trading partners--Germany, Czech Republic, Austria,
Russia, Hungary, Italy, Poland.
Foreign Investment: $1.42 billion.
Top of page
The majority of the 5.3 million inhabitants of the Slovak Republic are
Slovak (86%). Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority (11%) and are
concentrated in the southern and eastern regions of Slovakia. Other ethnic
groups include Roma, Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Poles.
The Slovak constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The majority of
Slovak citizens (60%) practice Roman Catholicism; the second-largest group
are Protestants. About 3,000 Jews remain of the estimated pre-WWII
population of 120,000. The official state language is Slovak, and
Hungarian is widely spoken in the southern region.
Despite its modern European economy and society, Slovakia has a
significant rural element. About 45% of Slovaks live in villages of less
than 5,000 people, and 14% in villages of less than 1,000.
Top of page
From the 11th until the early 20th century, present-day Slovakia was under
Hungarian rule. The Slovak national revival was begun in the 19 century by
intellectuals seeking to revive the Slovak language and culture. The
formation of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 following World War I
satisfied the common aspirations of Czechs and Slovaks for independence
from the Habsburg Empire.
Although Czechoslovakia was the only east-central European country to
remain a parliamentary democracy from 1918 to 1938, it was plagued with
minority problems, the most important of which concerned the country's
large German population. In 1938, the Allies concluded the Munich
agreement which forced Czechoslovakia to cede the predominantly German
region known as Sudetenland to Germany. Then, in March 1939 Germany
invaded what remained of Bohemia and Moravia and established a German
protectorate. Slovakia had already declared its independence on March 14,
1939, and had become a Nazi German puppet state led by Jozef Tiso.
On August 29, 1944, 60,000 Slovak troops organized by the underground
rose up against the Nazis and the Tiso regime in what became known as the
Slovak National Uprising. Although ultimately unsuccessful, this act of
resistance became an important historical landmark for the Slovaks. At the
close of World War II, Soviet troops overran all of Slovakia, Moravia, and
much of Bohemia.
Reunited after the war, the Czechs and Slovaks held elections in 1946.
In Slovakia, the Democratic Party won the elections, but the Czechoslovak
Communist Party won 38% of the total vote in Czechoslovakia and eventually
seized power, in February 1948. The next four decades were characterized
by strict communist rule, interrupted only briefly in 1968 when Alexander
Dubcek, a Slovak, became party leader. Dubcek proposed political, social,
and economic reforms in his effort to make "socialism with a human
face" a reality. Concern among other Warsaw Pact governments that
Dubcek had gone too far led to the invasion and occupation of
Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, by Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian, East
German, and Polish troops. Dubcek was removed as party leader and replaced
by another Slovak, Gustav Husak, in April 1969.
The 1970s and 1980s became known as the period of
"normalization," in which the apologists for the 1968 Soviet
invasion prevented, as best they could, any opposition to their
conservative regime. Political, social, and economic life stagnated.
Because the center of the reform movement had been in Prague,
normalization was less harshly felt in Slovakia. In fact, the Slovak
Republic saw comparatively high economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s
relative to the Czech Republic.
The 1970s were also characterized by the development of a dissident
movement, especially in the Czech Republic. On January l, 1977, more than
250 human rights activists signed a manifesto called Charter 77, which
criticized the government for failing to meet its human rights
On November 17, 1989, a series of public protests known as the
"Velvet Revolution" began and led to the downfall of communist
rule in Czechoslovakia. A transition government was formed in December
1989, and the first free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1948 took place
in June 1990. In 1992, negotiations on the new federal constitution
deadlocked over the issue of Slovak autonomy, and in the latter half of
1992, agreement was reached to peacefully divide Czechoslovakia. On
January 1, 1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic were
simultaneously and peacefully founded. Both states attained immediate
recognition from the U.S. and their European neighbors.
Top of page
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Slovakia's highest legislative body is the 150-seat unicameral National
Council of the Slovak Republic. Delegates are elected for 4-year terms on
the basis of proportional representation. The Slovak political scene
supports a wide spectrum of political parties ranging from the successors
to the Communist Party--the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL)--to the
nationalistic Slovak National Party (SNS) on the right.
In the days following the "Velvet Revolution," Charter 77 and
other groups united to become the Civic Forum, an umbrella group
championing bureaucratic reform and civil liberties. Its leader was the
dissident playwright Vaclav Havel who was elected President of
Czechoslovakia in December 1989. Its Slovak counterpart, Public Against
Violence, was based on the same ideals.
In the June 1990 elections, Civic Forum and Public Against Violence won
landslide victories. Civic Forum and Public Against Violence found,
however, that although they had successfully completed their primary
objective -- the overthrow of the communist regime--they were less
effective as governing parties. In the 1992 elections, both Civic Forum
and Public Against Violence were replaced by a spectrum of new parties.
In elections held in June 1992, Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party
won in the Czech lands on a platform of economic reform, and Vladimir
Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerged as the leading
party in Slovakia, basing its appeal on fairness to Slovak demands for
autonomy. Meciar and Klaus negotiated the agreement to divide
Czechoslovakia, and Meciar's party--the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia
(HZDS--ruled Slovakia for most of its first 5 years as an independent
state, except for a 9-month period in 1994, during which Slovakia was
ruled by a reformist government under Prime Minister Jozef Moravcik. The
Moravcik government succeeded the country's initial HZDS-SNS coalition
government led by Meciar after a vote of no confidence in March 1994, but
Meciar returned to power in December 1994.
In the run-up to elections in October 1998, Meciar's government was
accused of thwarting democratic principles and imposing a biased election
law. A record 84% of voters participated in the vote, giving the Dzurinda
government a clear mandate for change to a reformist coalition led by
economist Mikulas Dzurinda and made up of four diverse parties--the Slovak
Democratic Coalition (SDK), SDL, the Party of the Hungarian Coalition
(SMK), and the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP). Since the election, the
new government has exposed widespread corruption and economic
mismanagement by the previous government, which had seriously undermined
efforts to maintain economic growth and integrate into Euro-Atlantic
Under the original Slovak Constitution, the president was elected by
Parliament to a 5-year term. Since the Parliament was unable to agree on a
successor to President Michal Kovac when his term ended March 2, 1998,
most presidential powers reverted to the prime minister. In January 1999,
Parliament passed a constitutional amendment allowing for direct election
of the president. Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster was elected president in a
May 1999 run-off with former PM Meciar and took office on June 15, 1999.
The president serves as commander in chief of the armed forces, appoints
ministers, grants pardons, and has the right to dissolve Parliament under
certain circumstances. The president also signs laws and has the right to
return legislation to Parliament, but Parliament can override this veto
with a simple majority vote.
The country's highest court of appeals is the Supreme Court, elected by
and responsible to the National Council. The 10 members of the
Constitutional Court, who rule on constitutional issues, are appointed by
the president from a choice of candidates nominated by Parliament.
The Slovak Armed Forces have a total of approximately 39,000 personnel,
including two Army Corps and one Air and Air Defense Corps. These forces
include a Rapid Reaction Battalion designed to participate in peacekeeping
operations. It became operational in December 1996. Slovakia contributed
an engineering battalion to the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern
Slavonia (UNTAES), and has been an active participant in Partnership for
Peace exercises. Opinion polls consistently show the Army to be the
nation's most trusted institution. The defense budget is increasing
slightly, but cuts in personnel to 36,000 are planned. Slovakia aspires to
become a member of NATO, and is actively working to meet membership
Principal State Officials
Prime Minister--Mikulas Dzurinda
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Eduard Kukan
Ambassador to the United States--Martin Butora
Chargé d'Affaires to the United Nations--Peter Tomka
Ambassador to NATO--Peter Burian
Ambassador to the EU--Juraj Migas
Slovakia maintains a temporary chancery in the United States at Suite
380, 2201 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20007. Construction on a
permanent chancery is due to be completed in 2000.
Slovakia maintains a foreign trade office in New York and honorary
consulates in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.
Top of page
Since the establishment of the Slovak Republic in January 1993, Slovakia
has continued the difficult transformation from a centrally planned
economy to a modern market-oriented economy. This process slowed somewhat
in the 1994-1998 period due to the crony capitalism and irresponsible
fiscal policies of the Meciar government. While GDP growth rates and
macroeconomic performance indicators rose steadily during this period,
public and private debt and trade deficits soared, and privatization,
often tarnished by corrupt insider deals, progressed only in fits and
starts. GDP growth peaked at 7% in 1996, declining to about 5% for 1998.
Much of this growth, however, was attributable to high government spending
and over-borrowing rather than productive economic activity. Economic
growth slowed to 1.8% in the first quarter of 1999 and will probably not
exceed 1% for the year. Inflation, which had dropped from 26% in 1993 to
6% in 1997, is again rising, standing at about 7.5% at the end of 1998. It
may reach 12-13% in 1999. The trade and current account deficits reached
11% of GDP in the first half of 1998. Gross foreign debt was about $12
billion at the beginning of 1999, more than 60% of GDP, but is expected to
decline to $10 billion by the end of the year due to a change in monetary
instruments of the National Bank. In May 1999, the Government of Slovakia
approved a wide-ranging package of austerity programs to cut state
spending, lower social benefits, and deregulate various prices, such as
those for electricity, natural gas, and public transportation. These
measures are expected to lower the budget deficit to 2.5-3% of GDP, down
from 6% in 1998.
Slovakia continues to have problems attracting foreign investment,
although the Dzurinda government has introduced incentives to foreign
direct investment. The most egregious privatization scandals of the Meciar
period are being reviewed and many state-held companies, including banks
and telecoms, will be privatized in the next 1-2 years. The new
government's ambitious economic plans could founder if the coalition lacks
unity on some of the more painful economic decision. Encouraging words
from the EU, OECD and foreign creditors should help Dzurinda and his team
boost public support for their program within Slovakia.
Germany is Slovakia's largest trading partner, purchasing about 23% of
Slovakia's exports and supplying more than 25% of its imports. Other major
partners include the Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, and Italy. Slovakia
imports nearly all of its oil and gas from Russia. Slovakia's export
markets are primarily OECD countries and the European Union. More than 50%
of its trade is with EU members. The United States accounts for about 3%
of total trade with Slovakia. The Slovak Republic has Most Favored Nation
status and receives duty-free (GSP) benefits for many of its products.
The government has applied for membership in the OECD and the EU.
Slovakia signed an Association Agreement with the EU in October 1993,
which went into effect in February 1995. In 1994, Slovakia was one of the
original members of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).
Top of page
Since Slovakia became an independent state in 1993, the government has
stated that integration into Western economic and security structures is
its chief foreign policy objective. While Slovakia has generally met the
economic requirements for membership in these institutions and was
initially favored to be in the first round of integration, international
concerns about the state of democratic development are currently an
obstacle for EU and NATO accession. Slovakia is in the accession process
for membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Slovakia and the Czech Republic entered into a Customs Union upon the
division of Czechoslovakia in 1993. The Customs Union enables a relatively
free flow of goods and services. CEFTA similarly has improved market
access for Slovakia's neighbors. Hungary and Slovakia signed a Basic
Treaty in 1995 and are currently negotiating its implementation.
Slovakia is a member of the United Nations and participates in its
specialized agencies. It is a member of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It
maintains diplomatic relations with 135 countries of which 44 have
permanent representation in Bratislava.
Top of page
Millions of Americans have their roots in Slovakia and many retain strong
cultural and familial ties to the Slovak Republic. President Woodrow
Wilson and the United States played a major role in the establishment of
the original Czechoslovak state on October 28, 1918, and President
Wilson's Fourteen Points were the basis for the union of the Czechs and
Slovaks. Tomas Masaryk, the father of the Czechoslovak state and its first
president, visited the United States during World War I and used the U.S.
Constitution as a model for the first Czechoslovak Constitution.
Relations were cool between the two governments during the 50 years of
communist rule. When the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968,
the United States referred the matter to the UN Security Council as a
violation of the UN Charter, but no action was taken against the Soviets.
The fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the
subsequent split of the two republics on January 1, 1993, allowed for
renewed cooperation between the U.S. and Slovakia. The United States has
delivered more than $200 million since 1990 to support the rebuilding of a
healthy democracy and market economy in Slovakia, primarily through
programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Slovakia and the U.S. retain strong diplomatic ties, cooperate in military
and law enforcement areas, and engage in economic partnership. The
election of a pro-Western, reformist government in late 1998 has further
boosted close ties between the countries.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Vacant (Ambassador-designate--Carl Spielvogel)
Deputy Chief of Mission--Douglas Hengel
Political Officer--Michael Martin
Economic/Commercial Officer--Mark Bochetti
Senior Commercial Officer--Stephen Craven (resident in Vienna)
Administrative Officer--Heather A. Townsend
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--Richard O. Lankford
Defense Attache--Lieutenant Colonel John Markowicz
USAID Representative--Paula Goddard
Peace Corps Director--Nelson Chase
The U.S. embassy in Slovakia is located at Hviezdoslavovo namestie 4,
81102 Bratislava (tel: 421-7-5443-08-61 or 421-7-5443-33-38; fax:
421-7-5443-00-96). Duty hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30
p.m. The embassy is closed on U.S. and Slovak holidays.
Top of page