Slovakia (Slovak: Slovensko) is a landlocked republic in Central Europe. It borders the Czech Republic in the northwest, Poland in the north, Ukraine in the east, Hungary in the south, and Austria in the southwest.
Slovakia is officially also called the Slovak Republic (in Slovak: Slovenská republika). The short form is linguistically and historically as correct as the long one, just like with French Republic vs. France, Republic of Slovenia vs. Slovenia etc.
The recent practice, especially in economic texts, of using the name Slovak Republic instead of Slovakia, when the terms Hungary, Slovenia etc. are used in the same text, is therefore wrong. This wrong usage arose in analogy to the use of the term Czech Republic, but that is (partly) another problem (see Czech Republic, Czech lands).
Main article: History of Slovakia
The original Slavic population settled the general territory of Slovakia in the 5th century. Slovakia was part of the center of Samo's empire in the 7th century. The highest point of the 9th-century proto-Slovak state known as Great Moravia came with the arrival of Cyril and Methodius and the expansion under King Svätopluk.
Eventually, Slovakia became a part of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 11th-14th centuries. In the 10th century, the ethnic Slovak territory included the northern half of present-day Hungary, and in the 14th century it still extended to present-day northern central and northern eastern Hungary (down to present-day Vác (in Slovak Vacov), Visegrád (Višegrad/Vyšehrad), Miskolc (Miškovec)). Slovak origin noblemen represented a major share of nobility in the kingdom.
After the Ottoman Empire started its expansion into present-day Hungary in the early 16th century, the center of the Kingdom of Hungary (renamed Royal Hungary now) shifted towards Slovakia, and Bratislava (known as Pressburg/Pressporek/Posonium/Posony at that time) became its capital in 1536. By the end of the 18th century Slovakia's influence decreased.
In the revolution of 1848-49 the Slovaks joined the Austrians to separate from the Kingdom of Hungary within the Austrian monarchy, but finally they did not achieve this aim. During the time of Austria-Hungary, i.e. 1867 - 1918, the Slovaks experienced one of the worst oppressions in their history in the form of Hungarisation (Magyarisation) promoted by the governement.
In 1918, Slovakia joined with 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 short time. Czechoslovakia lasted until it was broken up by the Munich Agreement of 1938. Slovakia became a separate republic that would be tightly controlled by Nazi Germany. After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reassembled and came under the influence of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact from 1945 onward.
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. (Velvet Divorce) Slovakia became a member of the European Union in May 2004.
See also: Bratislava - History, and History of Bratislava
Main article: Politics of Slovakia
Slovakia joined NATO on March 29, 2004 and the EU on May 1, 2004. There were Presidential elections in Slovakia on April 3, 2004 and April 17, 2004.
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 (Národná rada Slovenskej republiky). Delegates are elected for 4-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. Slovakia highest judicial body is the Constitutional Court (Ústavný súd), which rules on constitutionall issues. The 13 members of this court are appointed by the president from a slate of candidates nominated by parliament.
See also: List of rulers of Slovakia
Main article: Regions of Slovakia
As for administrative division, Slovakia is subdivided into 8 kraje (singular - kraj, usually translated as regions, but actually meaning rather county), each of which is named after their principal city. As for territorial division and the definition of self-governing entities, since 2002, Slovakia is divided into 8 Upper-Tier Territorial Units (sg. vyšší územný celok, pl. vyššie územné celky, abbr. VÚC) called samosprávny kraj (Self-governing (or: autonomous) Region):
(the word kraj can be replaced by samosprávny kraj in each case)
The "kraje" are subdivided into many okresy (sg. okres, usually translated as districts). Slovakia currently has 79 districts.
Main article: Geography of Slovakia
The Slovak landscape is noted primarily for its mountainous nature, with the Carpathian Mountains extending across most of the northern half of the country. Amongst them are the high peaks of the Tatra mountains, which are a popular skiing destination and home to many scenic lakes and valleys as well as the highest point in Slovakia, the Gerlachovský štít at 2,655 m. Lowlands are found in the southwestern (along the Danube) and southeastern parts of Slovakia. Major Slovak rivers, besides the Danube, are the Váh and the Hron.
The Slovak climate is temperate, with relatively cool summers and cold, cloudy and humid winters.
Main article: Economy of Slovakia
In a survey of the German Chamber of Commerce held in March 2004, as much as 50 percent of German enterpreneurs chose Slovakia as the best place for investment.
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 percent in 2002. Strong export growth, in turn, pushed economic growth to a still-strong 4.2 percent in 2003, despite a downturn in household consumption.
Unemployment, rising from 14.9 percent at the end of 1998 to 19.2 percent at the end of 2001 (seasonally adjusted harmonised rate) during the radical reforms introduced by the Slovak government since 1999, decreased again to 16.6 percent at the end of 2003.
Inflation dropped from an average annual rate of 12.0 percent in 2000 to just 3.3 percent in the election year 2002, but it rose again in 2003-2004 due to necessary increases in taxes and regulated prices. Nonetheless, the CPI is widely expected to fall below 4 percent by 2005.
Slovakia would like to adopt the Euro currency in January 2009, although the public sector deficit needs to be cut in the draft budget from its current 3.8 percent of GDP to below 3 percent in order for this to be possible.
Main article: Demographics of Slovakia
The majority of the inhabitants of Slovakia are ethnically Slovak (86 percent). Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority (10 percent) and are concentrated in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Other ethnic groups include Roma, Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Poles. The percentage of Roma is 1.7% according to the last census (that is based on the own definition of the Roma), but around 5.6% based on interviews with municipality representatives and mayors (that is based on the definition of the remaining population). Note however that in the case of the 5.6%, the above percentages of Hungarians and Slovaks are lower by 4 percentage points in sum.
The Slovak constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The majority of Slovak citizens (60.3 percent) practice Roman Catholicism; the second-largest group consider themselves atheists (9.7 percent). About 8.4 percent are Protestants, and 4.1 percent are Greek Catholic, i.e., Eastern Catholic and some 0.9 percent are Eastern Orthodox. About 2,300 Jews remain of the estimated pre-WWII population of 120,000. The official state language is Slovak, a member of the Slavic languages, but Hungarian is also widely spoken in the south and enjoys a co-official status in some regions.
Main article: Culture of Slovakia