Transitions and Growth in Post-Soviet Europe
12. Will the Slovaks stay the course?* When I was eight years old, Fascism came to Slovakia. When I was eighteen we got communism. Democracy didn’t come until I was already of retirement age. I never had the opportunity to be a democrat. Neither did most other Slovaks. (Lubomir Liptak, Historian, Slovak Academy of Sciences)1 The ﬁgures still don’t make their way down to people. People must feel the ﬁgures. (Mikulas Dzurinda, Slovak Prime Minister)2 During the Soviet period of domination of Central and Eastern Europe, Slovakia was an integral part of the multinational federation of Czechoslovakia. Its political history of the winning of independence from the Soviet Union is therefore substantially the same as that for the Czech Republic, from which it separated in 1993. For this reason we will not repeat the discussion (in Chapter 8) of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and the 1993 Velvet Divorce. Slovakia has historic differences from the Czech Republic, both cultural and economic, and so the two countries have progressed in markedly different ways since the Divorce. Slovakia’s 5 million people live in an area of 50,000 square kilometers. In area, it exceeds Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and in population it is larger than Denmark, Finland and Ireland. It borders Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine. About 84 percent of its people are Slovak. Their treatment of the Hungarian minority, around 11 percent of the population, has been a problem. It continues to improve, but slowly....
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