History of Slovakia

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This article discusses the history of the territory of Slovakia.

Prehistory[edit]

Slovakia's territory had been inhabited in the Palaeolithic, based on discovery of ancient tools made by the Clactonian technique near Nové Mesto nad Váhom. Other prehistoric discoveries include the Middle Palaeolithic stone tools found near Bojnice, and a Neanderthal discovery at a site near Gánovce. The Gravettian culture was present principally in the river valleys of Nitra, Hron, Ipeľ, Váh and as far as the city of Žilina, and near the foot of the Vihorlat, Inovec, and Tribeč mountains, as well as in the Myjava Mountains. The best known artifact is the Venus of Moravany from Moravany nad Váhom.

Neolithic habitation was found in Želiezovce, Gemer, and the Bukové hory massif, the Domica cave, and at Nitriansky Hrádok. Bronze Age was marked by the Čakany and Velatice cultures, and then the Lusatian culture, followed by the Calenderberg culture and the Hallstatt culture. The major Celtic tribes living in Slovakia were Cotini (Púchov culture) and Boii.

The Roman period began in 6 AD, with the war between the Romans and the resident Germanic Marcomanni and Quadi tribes. The Romans attempted to form a province of Marcomannia in the late 2nd century. The great invasions of the 4–8th centuries saw the emergence of the Huns, followed by the expansion of the Ostrogoths, Lombards, Gepids, Heruli. Eurasian Avars followed, battling the Byzantine Empire, to be replaced by the Slavs.

The Slavs[edit]

Early history[edit]

Main article: Slavic peoples

The majority[citation needed][dubious ] of mainstream historians suggest that the settlement of Central and Western Europe by the Slavs began in the 4th century A.D.[1][unreliable source?] Certain elements attest to the fact that by the beginning of the 6th century, a Slav population had begun to occupy vast territories extending from the Vistula, the Dniestr and the Danube, including present-day Slovakia, Pannonia and Carantania.[citation needed]

Based on their interpretation of recent archeological and literal sources, a minority of historians and linguists has developed an alternative theory holding that Slav tribes emerged on this territory thousands of years BC, evolving from sedentary indigenous peoples in the midst of Celtic and Germanic tribal movements.[citation needed] The best known proponent has been the Russian Slavic and Hungarian linguist Oleg Nikolayevitch Trubatchov, the main editor of the monumental Etymological dictionary of Slavic languages, who wrote a detailed book on this theory.[citation needed] Also, Greek and Roman texts provide possible evidence of an older Slavic presence in the area. For example they contend that the first reference to the Slavs — Venedi — appears in a work by Herodotus of Halicarnassus dated 400 BC.[citation needed]

Mention of the Slav presence also comes in the writings of Pliny the Elder (79 A.D.) and of Tacitus Cornelius (55–116 A.D.).[citation needed] The first designation of the Slavs in the Latin form Souveni appears in the writings of Claudius Ptolemaeus in 160 A.D.[citation needed] The Slavs of the middle Danube before the 8th century, who lived on the present-day territories of Slovakia, of north and west Hungary, Moravia, Pannonia, Austria and Slovenia, used this name in the form Sloveni (*Slověne).[citation needed]

Recent research has discovered evidence of the co-existence of the Slavs and the Celtic tribes in the region of Liptov in northern Slovakia, near the area of Liptovská Mara.[citation needed] Investigators discovered six Celto-Slav colonies and the site of a castle with a sanctuary in its centre, used for Celtic and Slav rites.[citation needed] Slav tribes also coexisted with the Germanic Quadi, according to the latest findings of the Czech archeologist J. Poulík.[citation needed]

The two competing theories are not necessarily mutually exclusive.[citation needed] Contemporary scholarship in general has moved away from the idea of monolithic nations and the Urheimat debates of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and its focus of interest is that of a process of ethnogenesis, regarding competing Urheimat scenarios as false dichotomies.[citation needed][dubious ]

The empire of King Samo[edit]

Main article: Samo

Parts of the Slavic population that settled in the Middle Danube area were unified by King Samo, after a successful Slavic insurrection against the Avar Khaganate in 623. In 631, Samo defeated the Frankish army of King Dagobert I at the Battle of Wogastisburg. Samo's Empire, the first known political formation of Slavs, disappeared after the death of its founder in 665 and its territory was again included into Avar Khaganate.

The rising of Slavic polities[edit]

Main article: Principality of Nitra
Principality of Nitra under Pribina's reign.
Europe around 800.

In the 670s, the new population of the "griffin and tendril" archaeological culture appeared in the Pannonian Basin (identified as Onogurs), and shortly afterwards the Avars could expand their territories even also over the Vienna Basin.[2] However, archaeological findings from the same period (such as an exquisite noble tomb in Blatnica) also indicate formation of a Slavic upper class on the territory that later became the nucleus of Great Moravia.[3]

The Avar supremacy over present-day southern Slovakia lasted until 803 - the year when Charlemagne, helped by the Slavs living north of the Danube (in the nucleus of the future Principality of Nitra),[4] defeated the Avars, who eventually became assimilated into the local Slavic populations.

All information, based on written sources, on the "Principality of Nitra" was recorded in two entries in Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum (The Conversion of the Bavarians and the Carantanians) around 870.[5][6] Nevertheless, during the first decades of the 9th century, the Slavic people living in the north-western parts of the Pannonian Basin were under the rule of a tribal leader (styled prince by later historians) whose seat was in Nitra.[2] An extensive network of settlements developed around the town in the 9th century.[7] In the early 9th century, the polity was situated on the north-western territories of present-day Slovakia.[2]

Around 828, Archbishop Adalram of Salzburg consecrated a church for Prince Pribina in Nitrava.[4] In 833, Mojmír I, Duke of the Moravians expelled Pribina. Pribina went to count Ratbod, who administered the Eastern March of the Carolingian Empire, where Pribina became the head of a Principality of Lower Pannonia under the suzerainty of East Francia, with his capital of Blatnograd near where the Zala River flows into the Lake Balaton.[7][8] Excavations revealed that at least three Nitra castles (Pobedim, Čingov, and Ostrá skala) were destroyed around the time Pribina was expelled.[3]

The era of Great Moravia[edit]

Main article: Great Moravia
Sure and disputed borders of Great Moravia under Svatopluk I (according to modern historians)

Great Moravia arose around 830 when Mojmír I unified the Slavic tribes settled north of the Danube and extended the Moravian supremacy over them.[5] When Mojmír I endeavoured to secede from the supremacy of the king of East Francia in 846, King Louis the German deposed him and assisted Mojmír's nephew, Rastislav (846–870) in acquiring the throne.[7]

The new monarch pursued an independent policy: after stopping a Frankish attack in 855, he also sought to weaken influence of Frankish priests preaching in his realm. Rastislav asked the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to send teachers who would interpret Christianity in the Slavic vernacular. Upon Rastislav's request, two brothers, Byzantine officials and missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius came in 863. Cyril developed the first Slavic alphabet and translated the Gospel into the Old Church Slavonic language. Rastislav was also preoccupied with the security and administration of his state. Numerous fortified castles built throughout the country are dated to his reign and some of them (e.g., Dowina - Devín Castle)[9][10][11][12][13] are also mentioned in connection with Rastislav by Frankish chronicles.[7][14]

During Rastislav's reign, the Principality of Nitra was given to his nephew Svatopluk as an appanage.[10] The rebellious prince allied himself with the Franks and overthrew his uncle in 870. Similarly to his predecessor, Svatopluk I (871–894) assumed the title of the king (rex). During his reign, the Great Moravian Empire reached its greatest territorial extent, when not only present-day Moravia and Slovakia but also present-day northern and central Hungary, Lower Austria, Bohemia, Silesia, Lusatia, southern Poland and northern Serbia belonged to the empire, but the exact borders of his domains are still disputed by modern authors.[3][15] Svatopluk also withstood attacks of the seminomadic Hungarian tribes[4] and the Bulgarian Empire, although sometimes it was he who hired the Hungarians when waging war against East Francia.[16]

In 880, Pope John VIII set up an independent ecclesiastical province in Great Moravia with Archbishop Methodius as its head. He also named the German cleric Wiching the Bishop of Nitra.

After the death of King Svatopluk in 894, his sons Mojmír II (894–906?) and Svatopluk II succeeded him as the King of Great Moravia and the Prince of Nitra respectively.[10] However, they started to quarrel for domination of the whole empire. Weakened by an internal conflict as well as by constant warfare with Eastern Francia, Great Moravia lost most of its peripheral territories.

In the meantime, the Hungarian tribes, having suffered a defeat from the nomadic Pechenegs, left their territories east of the Carpathian Mountains, invaded the Pannonian Basin and started to occupy the territory gradually around 896.[15] Their armies' advance may have been promoted by continuous wars among the countries of the region whose rulers still hired them occasionally to intervene in their struggles.[17]

Both Mojmír II and Svatopluk II probably died in battles with the Hungarians between 904 and 907 because their names are not mentioned in written sources after 906. In three battles (4–5 July and 9 August 907) near Brezalauspurc[18] (now Bratislava), the Hungarians routed Bavarian armies. Historians traditionally put this year as the date of the breakup of the Great Moravian Empire.

Great Moravia left behind a lasting legacy in Central and Eastern Europe. The Glagolitic script and its successor Cyrillic were disseminated to other Slavic countries, charting a new path in their cultural development. The administrative system of Great Moravia may have influenced the development of the administration of the Kingdom of Hungary.[citation needed]

Hungarian and Polish reign[edit]

The settlement of Hungarians in the 10th century[edit]

Europe around 900.

From 895 to 902,[19] the Hungarians (Magyars), progressively imposed their authority on the Pannonian Basin. Although some contemporary sources mention that Great Moravia disappeared without trace and its inhabitants left for the Bulgars, Croats and Hungarians following the latters' victories, but archaeological researches and toponyms suggest the continuity of Slavic population in the valleys of the rivers of the Inner Western Carpathians.[17][17][20] Toponyms may prove that the seminomadic Hungarians occupied the Western Pannonian Plain in present-day Slovakia, while the hills were inhabited by a mixed (Slav and Hungarian) population and people living in the valleys of the mountains spoke Slavic language.[20]

Some references even were made to Moravia in the course of the 10th century, and archaeological findings may also refer to the survival of some noble families of Great Moravia.[citation needed] On the other hand, the chroniclers of the early history of the Kingdom of Hungary, recorded that the prominent noble families of the kingdom descended either from leaders of the Hungarian tribes or from immigrants, and they did not connect any of them to Great Moravia. For example, the ancestors of the clan Hunt-Pázmán (Hont-Pázmány), whose Great Moravian origin has been advanced by modern scholars,[21] were mentioned by Simon of Kéza to have arrived from the Duchy of Swabia (in the Holy Roman Empire) to the kingdom in the late 10th century.[7][22][23]

The territory of the present-day Slovakia became progressively integrated into the developing state (the future Kingdom of Hungary) in the early 10th century. The Gesta Hungarorum ("Deeds of the Hungarians") mentions that Huba, head of one of the seven Hungarian tribes, received possessions around Nyitra / Nitra and the Zsitva / Žitava River; while according to the Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum ("Deeds of the Huns and Hungarians") another tribal leader, Lél settled down around Galgóc / Hlohovec and following the Hungarians' victory over the Moravians', he usually stayed around Nyitra / Nitra.[7] Modern authors also claim that the north-western parts of the Pannonian Basin were occupied by one of the Hungarian tribes.[7]

Between 899 and 970, the Hungarians frequently conducted raids to the territories of present-day Italy, Germany, France and Spain and also to the lands of the Byzantine Empire.[24] Such activities continued westwards until the Battle of Augsburg on the Lech River in 955, when Otto, King of the Germans destroyed their troops; their raids against the Byzantine Empire finished only in 970.[24]

From 917, the Hungarians made raids to several territories at the same time which may prove the decay of the uniform direction within their tribal federation.[25] The sources prove the existence of at least three and maximum five groups of tribes within the federation, and only one of them was lead directly by the Árpáds (the dynasty of the future kings of Hungary) who ruled over the western parts of the Pannonian Basin.[26]

Tercia pars regni or Principality of Nitra? - 11th century[edit]

Duchy of Nitra, 11th century

The development of the future Kingdom of Hungary started during the reign of Grand Prince Géza (before 972–997) who expanded his rule over the territories of present-day Slovakia west of the River Garam / Hron.[27] Although, he was baptised in or after 972, he never became a convinced Christian – in contrast to his son, Stephen who followed him in 997.[27] Some authors claim that following his marriage with Giselle of Bavaria, Stephen received the "Duchy of Nitra" in appanage from his father.[28]

When Géza died, a member of the Árpád dynasty, the pagan Koppány claimed the succession, but Stephen defeated him with the assistance of his wife's German retinue.[27] A Slovak folk song mentions that Štefan kral (i.e., King Stephen) could only overcome his pagan opponent with the assistance of Slovak warriors around Bény / Bíňa.[24] Following his victory, Stephen received a crown from Pope Silvester II and he was crowned as the first King of Hungary in 1000 or 1001.

The Kingdom of Hungary integrated elements of the former Great Moravian state organization.[3][29] On the other hand, historians has not reached a consensus on this subject; e.g., it is still being debated whether the formation of the basic unit of the administration (vármegye) in the kingdom followed foreign ( Frankish, Bulgarian, Moravian or Ottonian) patterns or it was an internal innovation.[30]

Stephen (1000/1001–1038) established at least eight counties ("vármegye") on the territories of present-day Slovakia: Abaúj / Abov, Borsod / Boršod, Esztergom / Ostrihom, Hont, Komárom / Komárno, Nyitra / Nitra, Bars / Tekov and Zemplén / Zemplín were probably founded by him.[30] The scarcely populated northern and north-eastern territories of today Slovakia became the kings' private forests.[30] King Stephen also set up several dioceses in his kingdom; in the 11th century, present-day Slovakia's territories were divided between the Archdiocese of Esztergom (established around 1000) and its suffragan, the Diocese of Eger (founded between 1006 and 1009).[30]

Present-day Slovakia as part of Poland in 1003.

Around 1003[citation needed] or 1015, Duke Boleslaw I of Poland took some territories of present-day Slovakia east of the River Morava, with Hungarian King Stephen recapturing these territories in 1018.[31]

Following King Stephen's death, his kingdom got involved in internal conflicts among the claimants for his crown and Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor also intervened in the struggles.[16] In 1042, the Emperor Henry captured some parts of today Slovakia east of the River Hron and granted them to King Stephen's cousin, Béla, but following the withdrawal of the Emperor's armies, King Samuel Aba's troops recaptured the territories.[31]

In 1048, King Andrew I of Hungary conceded one-third of his kingdom (Tercia pars regni) in appanage to his brother, Duke Béla.[27] The duke's domains were centered around Nyitra / Nitra and Bihar (in Romanian: Biharea in present-day Romania).[7] During the following 60 years, the Tercia pars regni were governed separately by members of the Árpád dynasty (i.e., by the Dukes Géza, Ladislaus, Lampert and Álmos).[7] The dukes accepted the kings' supremacy, but some of them (Béla, Géza and Álmos) rebelled against the king in order to acquire the crown and allied themselves with the rulers of the neighbouring countries (e.g., the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia).[16]

The history of the Tercia pars regni ended in 1107, when King Coloman of Hungary occupied its territories taking advantage of the pilgrimage of Duke Álmos (his brother) to the Holy Land.[27] Although, Duke Álmos, when returned to the kingdom, tried to reoccupy his former duchy with the military assistance of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, but he failed and was obliged to accept the status quo.

Developing counties and towns (12–13th centuries)[edit]

Following the occupation of his brother's duchy, King Coloman set up (or re-established) the third bishopric in present-day Slovakia, the Diocese of Nitra.[27] The royal administration of the territory was developing gradually during the 11-13th centuries: new counties were established with the partition of existing ones or central counties of the kingdom expanded their territory northward Pozsony / Prešporok, Trencsén / Trenčín, Gömör-Kishont / Gemer and Nógrád / Novohrad, while the kings' private forests were organised into "forest counties" around Zólyom / Zvolen and Sáros / Šariš Castle.[7][30]

The colonisation of the northern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary continued during the period; Slavic, Hungarian, German and Walloon "guests" (hospes) arrived to the scarcely populated lands and settled down there.[7] The contemporary documents mention that settlers from Moravia and Bohemia arrived to the western parts of present-day Slovakia, while on the northern and eastern parts, Polish and Ruthenian "guests" settled down.[32] Royal privileges prove that several families of the developing local nobility (e.g., the Zathureczky, Pominorszky and Viszocsányi families) were of Slavic origin.[32] German "guests" settled down in several future towns (e.g., in Korpona / Krupina, Óbars / Starý Tekov and Selmecbánya / Banská Štiavnica already by the first half of the 13th century.[32] The settlers in the Szepes / Spiš region were originally of Hungarian and Slavic (e.g., Polish) origin; from the 1240s, Walloon "guests" arrived to the region and German settlers joined them.[32]

The territory of present-day Slovakia was rich in raw materials like gold, silver, copper, iron and salt and therefore the mining industry developed gradually in the region.[7] The development of the mining industry and commerce enstrengthened the position of some settlements and they received privileges from the kings: the first town privileges were granted to Nagyszombat / Trnava (1238), Óbars / Starý Tekov (1240) and Selmecbánya / Banská Štiavnica (1241 or 1242) in present-day Slovakia.[7][33][34] The inhabitants of the privileged towns were mainly of German origin, but Hungarian and Slavic citizens were also present in the towns.[7]

The presence of Jews in several towns of what is modern Slovakia (e.g., in Pozsony / Bratislava, Bazin / Pezinok) is also documented at least from the 13th century; the Jews' special status was confirmed by a charter of King Béla IV of Hungary in 1251, but decisions of local synods limited the participation of Jews (i.e., they could not hold offices and they could not own lands).[32] The Muslims, living in the region of Nyitra / Nitra, also faced similar limitations; they disappeared (perhaps converted to Christianity) by the end of the 13th century.[32]

Mongol invasion (1241)[edit]

The Mongol invasion in the 12th century led to construction of mighty stone castles, such as Spiš Castle.

In 1241, the Mongols invaded and devastated the north-western parts of the kingdom, only some fortresses (e.g., Trencsén / Trenčín, Nyitra / Nitra, Fülek / Fiľakovo) could resist their attacks.[7] Following the withdrawal of the Mongol troops (1242), several castles were built or enstrengthened (e.g., Komárom / Komárno, Beckó / Beckov and Zólyom / Zvolen) on the order of King Béla IV.[7] He also continued his policy of granting town privileges to several settlements, e.g., to Korpona / Krupina (1244), Nyitra / Nitra (1248), Besztercebánya / Banská Bystrica (1255) and Gölnicbánya / Gelnica (1270).[7] During his reign, new German immigrants settled down in Szepesvár / Spiš (German: Zips) whose privileges were granted in 1271 by King Stephen V of Hungary.[7]

The last decades of the 13th century were characterized by discords within the royal family and among the several groups of the aristocracy.[16] The decay of the royal power and the rise of some powerful aristocrats gave rise to the transformation of the administrative system: the counties that had been the basic units of the royal administration ("royal counties") transformed gradually into autonomous administrative units of the local nobility ("noble counties"); however, the local nobility was not able to stop the rise of oligarchs.[7]

The period of the oligarchs (1290–1321)[edit]

Areas ruled by Matthew III Csák and Amade Aba.

Following the Mongol invasion of the kingdom, a competition started among the landowners: each of them endeavored to build a castle with or without the permission of the king.[22] The competition started a process of differentiation among the noble families, because the nobles who were able to build a castle could also expand their influence over the neighbouring landowners.[22] The conflicts among the members of the royal family also strengthened the power of the aristocrats (who sometimes received whole counties from the kings) and resulted in the formation of around eight huge territories (domains) in the kingdom, governed by powerful aristocrats in the 1290s.[7]

In present-day Slovakia, most of the castles were owned by two powerful aristocrats (Amade Aba and Matthew III Csák) or their followers.[7] Following the extinction of the Árpád dynasty (1301), both of them pretended to follow one of the claimants for the throne, but, in practice, they governed their territories independently.[7] Amade Aba governed the eastern parts of present-day Slovakia from his seat in Gönc.[7] He was killed by Charles Robert of Anjou's assassins at the south gate in Kassa / Košice in 1311.[7]

Matthew III Csák was the de facto ruler of the western territories of present-day Slovakia, from his seat at Trencsén / Trenčín.[7] He allied himself with the murdered Amade Aba's sons against Kassa / Košice, but King Charles I of Hungary, who had managed to acquire the throne against his opponents, gave military assistance to the town and the royal armies defeated him at the Battle of Rozgony / Rozhanovce in 1312.[7] However, the north-western counties remained in his power until his death in 1321 when the royal armies occupied his former castles without resistance.[7]

Pozsony / Požoň county was de facto ruled by the Dukes of Austria from 1301 to 1328 when King Charles I of Hungary reoccupied it.[16]

The Late Middle Ages (14–15th centuries)[edit]

King Charles I strengthened the central power in the kingdom following a 20-year long period of struggles against his opponents and the oligarchs.[7] He concluded commercial agreements with Kings John of Bohemia and Casimir III of Poland in 1335 which increased the trade on the commercial routes leading from Košice (hu. Kassa) to Kraków and from Žilina (hu. Zsolna) to Brno.[7]

The king confirmed the privileges of the 24 "Saxon" towns in Spiš, strengthened the special rights of Prešov and granted town privileges to Smolník (hu. Szomolnok ) The towns of present-day Slovakia were still dominated by its German citizens. However, the Privilegium pro Slavis, dated to 1381, attests notably to nation-building in the wealthy towns: King Louis I gave the Slavs half of the seats in the municipal council of Žilina. Many of the towns (e.g., Banská Bystrica, Bratislava, Košice, Kremnica and Trnava) received the status of "free royal cities" (liberæ regiæ civitates) and they were entitled to send deputies to the assemblies of the Estates of the Kingdom from 1441.[35][36]

In the first half of the 14th century, the population of the regions of the former "forest counties" increased and their territories formed new counties such as Orava, Liptov, Turiec, Zvolen in the northern parts of present-day Slovakia.[30] In the region of Szepes / Spiš, some elements of the population received special privileges: the 24 "Saxon" towns formed an autonomous community, independent of Szepes county / Spiš county, and the "nobles with ten lances" were organised into a special autonomous administrative unit ("seat").[7] In 1412, King Sigismund mortgaged 13 of the "Saxon" towns to King Władysław II of Poland so they de facto belonged to Poland until 1769.[36]

From the 1320s, most of the lands of present-day Slovakia were owned by the kings, but prelates and aristocratic families (e.g., the Drugeth, Szentgyörgyi and Szécsényi families) also hold properties on the territory.[37] In December 1385, the future King Sigismund, who was Queen Mary of Hungary's prince consort at that time, mortgaged the territories of present-day Slovakia west of the Váh River to his cousins, the Jobst and Prokop of Moravia; and the former held his territories until 1389, while the latter could maintain his rule over some of the territories until 1405.[16] King Sigismund (1387–1437) granted vast territories to his followers (e.g., to the members of the Cillei, Rozgonyi and Perényi families) during his reign; one of his principal advisers, the Polish Stibor of Stiboricz styled himself "Lord of the whole Váh" referring to his 15 castles around the river.[22]

Following the death of King Albert (1439), civil war broke out among the followers of the claimants for the throne.[16] The Dowager Queen Elisabeth hired Czech mercenaries led by Jan Jiskra who captured several towns on the territory of present-day Slovakia (e.g., Kremnica, Levoča and Bardejov) and maintained most of them until 1462 when he surrendered to King Matthias Corvinus.[16]

Habsburg and Ottoman administration[edit]

The Ottoman Empire conquered the central part of the former Kingdom of Hungary, and set up several Ottoman provinces there (see Budin Eyalet, Eğri Eyalet, Uyvar Eyalet). Transylvania became an Ottoman protectorate vassal and a base which gave birth to all the anti-Habsburg revolts led by the nobility of the Kingdom of Hungary during the period 1604 to 1711. The remaining part of the former Kingdom of Hungary, which included much of present-day territory of Slovakia (except for the southern central regions), northwestern present-day Hungary, northern Croatia and present-day Burgenland, resisted Ottoman conquest and subsequently became a province of the Habsburg Monarchy. It remained to be known as the Kingdom of Hungary, but it is referred to by some modern historians as the "Royal Hungary".

Ferdinand I, prince of Austria was elected king of Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary. After the conquest of Buda in 1541 by the Ottomans, Pressburg (the modern-day capital of Slovakia, Bratislava) became, for the period between 1536 to 1784/1848 the capital and the coronation city of the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary. From 1526 to 1830, nineteen Habsburg sovereigns went through coronation ceremonies as Kings and Queens of the Kingdom of Hungary in St. Martin's Cathedral.

Due to the Ottoman invasion, the territories that formerly were administered by the Kingdom of Hungary became, for almost two centuries, the principal battleground of the Turkish wars, and the region paid dearly for the defense of the Habsburg Monarchy (and, moreover, of the rest of Europe) against Ottoman expansion. The territory paid not only with the blood and the goods of its population, but also by losing practically all of its natural riches, especially gold and silver, which went to pay for the costly and difficult combats of an endemic war. In addition, the double taxation of some areas was a common practice, which further worsened the living standards of the declining population of local settlements.

During Ottoman administration, parts of the territory of present-day Slovakia were included into Ottoman provinces known as the Budin Eyalet, Eğri Eyalet and Uyvar Eyalet. Uyvar Eyalet had its administrative center in the territory of present-day Slovakia, in the town of Uyvar (Slovak: Nové Zámky). In the second half of the 17th century, Ottoman authority was expanded to eastern part of the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary, where a vassal Ottoman principality led by prince Imre Thököly was established.

After the ousting of the Ottomans from Budin (which later became Budapest) in 1686, it became the capital of the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary. Despite living under Hungarian, Habsburg and Ottoman administration for several centuries, the Slovak people succeeded in keeping their language and their culture. The survival of the Slovaks was aided by the fact that the greatest loss of life were in the areas populated more heavily by Hungarians.

Slovak National Movement[edit]

During the 18th century the Slovak National Movement emerged, partially inspired by the broader Pan-Slavic movement with the aim of fostering a sense of national identity among the Slovak people.[38][39][40] Advanced mainly by Slovak religious leaders, the movement grew during the 19th century. At the same time, the movement was divided along the confessional lines and various groups had different views on everything from quotidian strategy to linguistics. Moreover, the Hungarian control remained strict after 1867 and the movement was constrained by the official policy of magyarization.

The first codification of a Slovak literary language by Anton Bernolák in the 1780s was based on the dialect from western Slovakia. It was supported by mainly Roman Catholic intellectuals, with the center in Trnava. The Lutheran intellectuals continued to use a Slovakized form of the Czech language. Especially Ján Kollár and Pavel Jozef Šafárik were adherents of Pan-Slavic concepts that stressed the unity of all Slavic peoples. They considered Czechs and Slovaks members of a single nation and they attempted to draw the languages closer together.

In the 1840s, the Protestants split as Ľudovít Štúr developed a literal language based on the dialect from central Slovakia. His followers stressed the separate identity of the Slovak nation and uniqueness of its language. Štúr's version was finally approved by both the Catholics and the Lutherans in 1847 and, after several reforms, it remains the official Slovak language.

A map of the northern part of the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary in 1850, showing the two military districts which had administrative centres in the territory of present day Slovakia

Hungarian Revolution of 1848[edit]

In the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Slovak nationalist leaders took the side of the Austrians in order to promote their separation from the Kingdom of Hungary within the Austrian monarchy. The Slovak National Council even took part in the Austrian military campaign by setting up auxiliary troops against the rebel government of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. In September, 1848, it managed to organize a short-lived administration of the captured territories. However, the Slovak troops were later disbanded by the Vienna Imperial Court. On the other hand, tens of thousands of volunteers from the current territory of Slovakia, among them a great number of Slovaks, fought in the Hungarian Army.

After the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution, the Hungarian political elite was oppressed by the Austrian authorities and many participants of the Revolution were executed, imprisoned, or forced to emigrate. In 1850, the Kingdom of Hungary was divided into five military districts or provinces, two of which had administrative centers in the territory of present-day Slovakia: the Military District of Pressburg (Bratislava / Pozsony ) and the Military District of Kaschau ( Košice / Kassa).

The Austrian authorities abolished both provinces in 1860. The Slovak political elite made use of the period of neo-absolutism of the Vienna court and the weakness of the traditional Hungarian elite to promote their national goals. Turz-Sankt Martin (Martin / Túrócszentmárton) became the foremost center of the Slovak National Movement with foundation of the nationwide cultural association Matica slovenská (1863), the Slovak National Museum, and the Slovak National Party (1871).

Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867[edit]

The heyday of the movement came to the sudden end after 1867, when the Habsburg domains in central Europe underwent a constitutional transformation into the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary as a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The territory of present-day Slovakia was included into the Hungarian part of dual Monarchy dominated by the Hungarian political elite which distrusted the Slovak elite due to its Pan-Slavism, separatism and its recent stand against the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Matica was accused of Pan-Slavic separatism and was dissolved by the authorities in 1875 and other Slovak institutions (including schools) shared the same fate.

New signs of national and political life appeared only at the very end of the 19th century. Slovaks became aware that they needed to ally themselves with others in their struggle. One result of this awareness, the Congress of Oppressed Peoples of the Kingdom of Hungary, held in Budapest in 1895, alarmed the government. In their struggle Slovaks received a great deal of help from the Czechs. In 1896, the concept of Czecho-Slovak Mutuality was established in Prague to strengthen Czecho-Slovak cooperation and support the secession of Slovaks from the Kingdom of Hungary.

At the beginning of the 20th century, growing democratization of political and social life threatened to overwhelm the monarchy. The call for universal suffrage became the main rallying cry. In the Kingdom of Hungary, only 5 percent of inhabitants could vote. Slovaks saw in the trend towards representative democracy a possibility of easing ethnic oppression and a break-through into renewed political activity.

The Slovak political camp, at the beginning of the century, split into different factions. The leaders of the Slovak National Party based in Martin, expected the international situation to change in the Slovaks' favor, and they put great store by Russia. The Roman Catholic faction of Slovak politicians led by Father Andrej Hlinka focused on small undertakings among the Slovak public and, shortly before the war, established a political party named the Slovak People's Party. The liberal intelligentsia rallying around the journal Hlas ("Voice"), followed a similar political path, but attached more importance to Czecho-Slovak cooperation. An independent Social Democratic Party emerged in 1905.

A map of the federalization of Austria-Hungary planned by Archduke Franz Ferdinand, with Slovakia as one of the member states

The Slovaks achieved some results. One of the greatest of these occurred with the election success in 1906, when, despite continued oppression, seven Slovaks managed to get seats in the Assembly. This success alarmed the government, and increased what was regarded by Slovaks as its oppressive measures. Magyarization achieved its climax with a new education act known as the Apponyi Act, named after education minister Count Albert Apponyi. The new act stipulated that the teaching of the Hungarian language, as one of the subjects, must be included in the curriculum of non-state owned four years elementary schools in the frame-work of the compulsory schooling, as a condition for the non-state owned schools to receive state-financing.

Ethnic tension intensified when 15 Slovaks were killed during a riot on occasion of the consecration of a new church at Černová / Csernova near Rózsahegy / Ružomberok (see Černová tragedy). The local inhabitants wanted the popular priest and nationalist politician Andrej Hlinka to consecrate their new church. Bishop Párvy according to the canon law refused to consent and appointed ethnic Slovak canon Anton Kurimsky, former parish priest of Rózsahegy / Ružomberok for the task. Local gendarmes, all of them ethnic Slovaks, shot dead 15 Slovak protesters among a crowd of app. 400 rioters who attacked on the priests' convoy escorted by the gendarems. All this added to Slovak estrangement from and resistance to Hungarian rule, and the incident became the topic of a propaganda campaign against Austria-Hungary.

Before the outbreak of World War I, the idea of Slovak autonomy became part of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's plan of federalization of the monarchy, developed with help of the Slovak journalist and politician Milan Hodža. This last realistic attempt to tie Slovakia to Austria-Hungary was abandoned because of the Archduke's assassination, which in turn triggered World War I.

Czechoslovakia[edit]

The formation of Czechoslovakia[edit]

After the outbreak of World War I the Slovak cause took firmer shape in resistance and in determination to leave the Dual Monarchy and to form an independent republic with the Czechs. The decision originated amongst people of Slovak descent in foreign countries. Slovaks in the United States of America, an especially numerous group, formed a sizable organization. These, and other organizations in Russia and in neutral countries, backed the idea of a Czecho-Slovak republic. Slovaks strongly supported this move.

The most important Slovak representative at this time, Milan Rastislav Štefánik, a French citizen of Slovak origin, served as a French general and as leading representative of the Czecho-Slovak National Council based in Paris. He made a decisive contribution to the success of the Czecho-Slovak cause. Political representatives at home, including representatives of all political persuasions, after some hesitation, gave their support to the activities of Masaryk, Beneš and Štefánik.

During the war the Hungarian authorities increased harassment of Slovaks, which hindered the nationalist campaign among the inhabitants of the Slovak lands. Despite stringent censorship, news of moves abroad towards the establishment of a Czech-Slovak state got through to Slovakia and met with much satisfaction.

During World War I (1914–1918) Czechs, Slovaks, and other national groups of Austria-Hungary gained much support from Czechs and Slovaks living abroad in campaigning for an independent state. In the turbulent final year of the war, sporadic protest actions took place in Slovakia—politicians held a secret meeting at Liptószentmiklós / Liptovský Mikuláš on 1 May 1918.

First Czechoslovak Republic (1918–1938)[edit]

At the end of the war Austria-Hungary dissolved. The Prague National Committee proclaimed an independent republic of Czechoslovakia on 28 October, and, two days later, the Slovak National Council at Martin acceded to the Prague proclamation. The new republic was to include the Czech lands (Bohemia and Moravia), a small part of Silesia, Slovakia, and Carpatho-Ukraine. The new state set up a parliamentary democratic government and established a capital in the Czech city of Prague.

As a result of the counter-attack of the Hungarian Red Army in May–June, 1919, Czech troops were ousted out from central and eastern parts of present Slovakia, where a puppet short-lived Slovak Soviet Republic with capital in Prešov was established. However, the Hungarian army stopped its offensive, later the troops were withdrawn on the Entente's diplomatic intervention.[41][42][43]

In the Treaty of Trianon signed in 1920, the Paris Peace Conference set the southern border of Czechoslovakia further south from the Slovak-Hungarian language border due to strategic and economic reasons. Consequently, some fully or mostly Hungarian-populated areas were also included into Czechoslovakia. According to the 1910 census, which had been manipulated by the ruling Hungarian bureaucracy,[44] population of the present territory of Slovakia numbered 2,914,143 people, including 1,688,413 (57.9%) speakers of Slovak language, 881,320 (30.2%) speakers of Hungarian language, 198,405 (6.8%) speakers of German language, 103,387 (3.5%) speakers of Ruthenian/Ukrainian language and 42,618 (1.6%) speakers of other languages.

In addition, in Carpatho-Ukraine, which was also included into Czechoslovakia in this time period, 1910 manipulated Hungarian census recorded 605,942 people, including 330,010 (54.5%) speakers of Ruthenian/Ukrainian language, 185,433 (30.6%) speakers of Hungarian language, 64,257 (10.6%) speakers of German language, 11,668 (1.9%) speakers of Romanian language, 6,346 (1%) speakers of Slovak/Czech language, and 8,228 (1.4%) speakers of other languages. Czechoslovak census of 1930 recorded in Slovakia 3,254,189 people, including 2,224,983 (68.4%) Slovaks, 585,434 (17.6%) Hungarians, 154,821 (4.5%) Germans, 120,926 (3.7%) Czechs, 95,359 (2.8%) Ruthenians/Ukrainians and 72,666 (3%) others.[44]

Czechoslovakia in 1928.

Slovaks, whom the Czechs outnumbered in Czechoslovak state, differed in many important ways from their Czech neighbors. Slovakia had a more agrarian and less developed economy than the Czech lands, and the majority of Slovaks practised Catholicism while the Czechs had less likelihood of adhering to established religions. The Slovak people had generally less education and less experience with self-government than the Czechs. These disparities, compounded by centralized governmental control from Prague, produced discontent among Slovaks with the structure of the new state.[citation needed]

Although Czechoslovakia, alone among the only east-central European countries, remained a parliamentary democracy from 1918 to 1938, it continued to face minority problems, the most important of which concerned the country's large German population. A significant part of the new Slovak political establishment sought autonomy for Slovakia. The movement toward autonomy built up gradually from the 1920s until it culminated in independence in 1939.[citation needed]

In the period between the two world wars, the Czechoslovak government attempted to industrialize Slovakia. These efforts did not meet with success, partially due to the Great Depression, the worldwide economic slump of the 1930s. Slovak resentment over perceived economic and political domination by the Czechs led to increasing dissatisfaction with the republic and growing support for ideas of independence. Many Slovaks joined with Father Andrej Hlinka and Jozef Tiso in calls for equality between Czechs and Slovaks and for greater autonomy for Slovakia.[citation needed]

Towards autonomy of Slovakia (1938–1939)[edit]

Territorial losses in 1938–39.

In September 1938, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Nazi Germany concluded the Munich Agreement, which forced Czechoslovakia to cede the predominantly German region known as the Sudetenland to Germany. In November, by the First Vienna Award, Italy and Germany compelled Czechoslovakia (later Slovakia) to cede primarily Hungarian-inhabited Southern Slovakia to Hungary. They did this in spite of pro-German official declarations of Czech and Slovak leaders made in October.

On 14 March 1939, the Slovak Republic (Slovenská republika) declared its independence and became a nominally independent state in Central Europe under Nazi German control of foreign policy and, increasingly, also some aspects of domestic policy. Jozef Tiso became Prime Minister and later President of the new state.

On 15 March, Nazi Germany invaded what remained of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia after the Munich agreement. The Germans established a protectorate over them which was known as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. On the same day, the Carpatho-Ukraine declared its independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine. But Hungary immediately invaded and annexed the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine. On 23 March, Hungary then occupied some additional disputed parts of territory of the present-day Eastern-Slovakia. This caused the brief Slovak-Hungarian War.

World War II[edit]

Tiso's independent Slovakia in 1941.

The nominally independent Slovak Republic went through the early years of the war in relative peace. As an Axis ally, the country took part in the wars against Poland and the Soviet Union. Although its contribution was symbolic in the German war efforts, the number of troops involved (approx. 45,000 in the Soviet campaign) was rather significant in proportion to the population (2.6 million in 1940).

Soon after independence, under the authoritarian government of Jozef Tiso, a series of measures aimed against the 90,000 Jews in the country were initiated. The Hlinka Guard began to attack Jews, and the "Jewish Code" was passed in September 1941. Resembling the Nuremberg Laws, the Code required that Jews wear a yellow armband, and were banned from intermarriage and many jobs. The Slovak Parliament accepted a bill (May 1942) unanimously deciding the deportation of the Jews. It may be interesting to note that the only voice (vote) disagreeing came from the representative of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia János Esterházy.[45][dubious ]

Between March and October 1942, the state deported approximately 57,000 Jews to the German-occupied part of Poland, where almost all of them were killed. The deportation of the remaining 24,000 was stopped after the Papal Nuncio informed the Slovak president that the German authorities were killing the Jews deported from Slovakia. However, 12,600 more Jews were deported by the German forces occupying Slovakia after the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. Around a half of them were killed in concentration camps.[46] Some 10,000 Slovak Jews survived hidden by local people and 6,000–7,000 got official protection from the Slovak authorities.

On 29 August 1944, 60,000 Slovak troops and 18,000 partisans, organized by various underground groups and the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, rose up against the Nazis. The insurrection later became known as the Slovak National Uprising. Slovakia was devastated by the fierce German counter-offensive and occupation, but the guerrilla warfare continued even after the end of organized resistance. Although ultimately quelled by the German forces, the uprising was an important historical reference point for the Slovak people. It allowed them to end the war as a nation which had contributed to the Allied victory.

Later in 1944 the Soviet attacks intensified. Hence the Red Army, helped by Romanian troops, gradually routed out the German army from Slovak territory. On 4 April 1945, Soviet troops marched into the capital city of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava.

Czechoslovakia after World War II[edit]

The victorious Powers restored Czechoslovakia in 1945 in the wake of World War II, albeit without the province of Ruthenia, which Prague ceded to the Soviet Union. The Beneš decrees, adopted as a result of the events of the war, led to disenfranchisement and persecution of the Hungarian minority in southern Slovakia. (The affected Hungarians regained Czechoslovak citizenship in 1948.) The Czechs and Slovaks held elections in 1946. In Slovakia, the Democratic Party won the elections (62%), but the Czechoslovak Communist Party won in the Czech part of the republic, thus winning 38% of the total vote in Czechoslovakia, and eventually seized power in February 1948, making the country effectively a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

Strict Communist control characterized the next four decades, interrupted only briefly in the so-called Prague Spring of 1968 after Alexander Dubček (a Slovak) became First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Dubček 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 Dubček had gone too far led to the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia on 21 August 1968, by Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian, East German, and Polish troops. Another Slovak, Gustáv Husák, replaced Dubček as Communist Party leader in April 1969.

Czechoslovakia 1969–1990.

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 régime. Political, social, and economic life stagnated. Because the reform movement had had its center in Prague, Slovakia experienced "normalization" less harshly than the Czech lands. In fact, the Slovak Republic saw comparatively high economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s relative to the Czech Republic (and mostly from 1994 till today).

The 1970s also saw the development of a dissident movement, especially in the Czech Republic. On 1 January 1977, more than 250 human rights activists signed a manifesto called Charter 77, which criticized the Czechoslovak government for failing to meet its human rights obligations.

Velvet Revolution (1989)[edit]

On 17 November 1989, a series of public protests known as the "Velvet Revolution" began and led to the downfall of Communist Party rule in Czechoslovakia. A transition government 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. In the latter half of 1992, agreement emerged to dissolve Czechoslovakia peacefully. On 1 January 1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic each simultaneously and peacefully proclaimed their existence. Both states attained immediate recognition from the United States of America and from their European neighbors.

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, the playwright and former dissident Václav Havel won election as President of Czechoslovakia in December 1989. The Slovak counterpart of the Civic Forum, Public Against Violence, expressed 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 régime — they proved less effective as governing parties. In the 1992 elections, a spectrum of new parties replaced both Civic Forum and Public Against Violence.

Czecho-Slovakia or Czechoslovakia (1918–39; 1945–92)

Austria-Hungary
(until 1918)

(Bohemia, Moravia, a part of Silesia, northern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary (Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia)

Czecho-Slovak/Czechoslovak Republic (ČSR)
(1918–38)

County Sudetenland + other German territories
(1938–45)

"Highland territories" of Hungary
(1938–45)

Czechoslovak Republic (ČSR)
(1945–60)

Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ČSSR)
(1960–90) Czech Socialist Republic
Slovak Socialist Republic

Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (ČSFR)
(1990–92) Czech Republic
Slovak Republic

Czech Republic
(since 1993)

Slovakia
(since 1993)

Czecho-Slovak Republic (ČSR) incl. autonomous Slovakia and Transcarpathian Ukraine
(1938–39)

Protectorate
(1939–45)

WWII Slovak Republic
(1939–45)

(further) "Highland territories" of Hungary
(1939–45)

part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
(1945/1946–91)

Zakarpats'ka oblast' of Ukraine
(from 1991)

Nazism

1948–89
a satellite of the Soviet Union

Govern. in exile

Independent Slovakia[edit]

A map of modern Slovakia.

In elections held in June 1992, Václav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party won in the Czech lands on a platform of economic reform, and Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerged as the leading party in Slovakia, basing its appeal on the fairness of Slovak demands for autonomy. Mečiar and Klaus negotiated the agreement to divide Czechoslovakia, and Mečiar's party — HZDS — ruled Slovakia for most of its first five years as an independent state, except for a 9-month period in 1994 after a vote of no-confidence, during which a reformist government under Prime Minister Jozef Moravčík operated.

The first president of newly independent Slovakia, Michal Kováč, promised to make Slovakia "the Switzerland of Eastern Europe". The first prime minister, Vladimír Mečiar, had served as the prime minister of the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia since 1992.

Rudolf Schuster won election as president in 1999. Vladimír Mečiar's semi-authoritarian government allegedly breached democratic norms and the rule of law before its replacement after the parliamentary elections of 1998 by a coalition led by Mikuláš Dzurinda.

The first Dzurinda government made numerous political and economic reforms that enabled Slovakia to enter the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), close virtually all chapters in European Union (EU) negotiations, and make itself a strong candidate for accession to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, the popularity of the governing parties declined sharply, and several new parties that earned relatively high levels of support in public opinion polls appeared on the political scene. Mečiar remained the leader (in opposition) of the HZDS, which continued to receive the support of 20% or more of the population during the first Dzurinda government.

In the September 2002 parliamentary election, a last-minute surge in support for Prime Minister Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) gave him a mandate for a second term. He formed a government with three other center-right parties: the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), the Christian Democrats (KDH) and the Alliance of the New Citizen (ANO). The coalition won a narrow (three-seat) majority in the parliament. The government strongly supports NATO and EU integration and has stated that it will continue the democratic and free market-oriented reforms begun by the first Dzurinda government.

The new coalition has as its main priorities—gaining of NATO and EU invitations, attracting foreign investment, and reforming social services such as the health-care system. Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, which received about 27% of the vote in 1998 (almost 900,000 votes) received only 19.5% (about 560,000 votes) in 2002 and again went into opposition, unable to find coalition partners. The opposition comprises the HZDS, Smer (led by Róbert Fico), and the Communists, who obtained about 6% of the popular vote.

Initially, Slovakia experienced more difficulty than the Czech Republic in developing a modern market economy. Slovakia joined NATO on 29 March 2004 and the EU on 1 May 2004. Slovakia was, on 10 October 2005, for the first time elected to a two-year term on the UN Security Council (for 2006–2007).

The latest elections took place on 17 June 2006, where leftist Smer won elections with 29.14% (around 670 000 votes) of the popular vote and formed coalition with Slota's Slovak National Party and Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Their opposition comprises the former ruling parties: the SDKÚ, the SMK and the KDH.

See also[edit]

Lists:

General:

References[edit]

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