Who are the Slovakians?

The Slovak Republic is located at the precise geographic center of Europe. Hence, this Central European country is referred to as the "Country at the Heart of Europe." Slovakia borders five other countries: Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine. Slovakia is a modern European country mixed with a deep rural tradition. Geographically, it is primarily a mountainous country with numerous winter activities. It has a continental European climate with moderate winters and warm summers. Most infrastructure and many of the tourist facilities are on par or near Western European standards. The 5 million Slovaks are Slavic people, having a common cultural, historic and linguistic heritage with their fellow Slavs. Slavs number over 300 million and are the largest European ethnic and linguistic body. The group includes these nationalities: Belorussians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Croats, Czechs, Macedonians, Montenegrians, Poles, Russians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians. Other ethnic Slavs such as Ruthenians, Sorbs and Wends do not have national homelands. The Slavic peoples are divided into three linguistic groups, West, East and South. Slovaks are part of the Western group that also includes Czechs and Poles. About 15% of the population of Slovakia is non-Slovak. Composed mainly of Hungarians, Roma, Czechs, Ruthenians and Ukrainians, these minorities enjoy full protection of their language, culture and history under the constitution and subsequent legislation enacted into law.

The separation of Slovakia from Czechoslovakia in 1993, which is referred to as the "Velvet Divorce," was executed in a democratic and largely uneventful way. Consequently, this clean breakup has been a model for other peoples who wish to forge their own identity via the nation-state. For example, leaders in the province of Quebec in Canada have studied the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic and hope to attain a similar separation.

There has been some debate as to whether the breakup was truly democratic. Although the decision was made by both Czech and Slovak leaders who were elected by the citizens of each part of the nation, no question about separation was ever posed to the people of Czechoslovakia. The mandate to separate came through representative democracy rather than a direct plebiscite. There are indications that the majority of the public opinion in both parts of the country was against the break-up. Considering that Czechoslovakia on two occasions (1918 and 1945) and Slovakia once before (1939) were created in a dictatorial and wholly undemocratic way, namely by oligarchs and external fiats, the separation of Slovakia in 1993 was comparatively more democratic than both previous separations and conglomerations. Indeed, it was argued that Czechoslovakia was no more a true nation state than the USSR or Yugoslavia. Such geo-political constructs, which were masterminded by a small minority of citizens and glued together by force, were fundamentally flawed due to the domination of one ethnic group. As such, many historians argue, they were destined to fail.