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Slovakia

History

Slavic tribes wandered west into what would become Slovakia sometime around the 5th century; in the 9th century, the territory was part of the short-lived Great Moravian empire. It was about the same time that the Magyars (Hungarians) set up shop next door and subsequently laid claim to the whole territory. When in the early 16th century the Turks moved into Budapest, Hungarian monarchs took up residence in Bratislava (known then as Pressburg in German, and Pozsony in Hungarian). Because Slovakia was the Hungarian frontierland, many fortresses were constructed here during the Middle Ages, and can still be seen today.

It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the Slovak intellectuals cultivated ties with neighbouring Czechs and took their nation into the united Czechoslovakia post-WWI. The day before Hitler’s troops invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Slovak leaders declared Slovakia a German protectorate, and a brief period of sovereignty ensued. This was not a popular move and in August 1944 Slovak partisans instigated the ill-fated Slovak National Uprising (Slovenské Národné Povstanie, or SNP), a source of ongoing national pride (and innumerable street names).

After the reunification and communist takeover in 1948, power was centralised in Prague until 1989 when the Velvet Revolution brought down the iron curtain here. Elections in 1992 saw the left-leaning, nationalist Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) come to power with Vladimír Mečiar, a former boxer, as prime minister. Scarcely a year later, without referendum, the Czechoslovak federation dissolved peacefully on 1 January 1993, bringing Slovakia its first true independence.

Despite changing government leadership that alternately rejected and embraced economic and social reforms, Slovakia was accepted into NATO and the EU by 2004, became a Schengen member state in 2007 and adopted the euro as the national currency in January 2009. Bratislava and the High Tatras were the first areas to bounce back from the subsequent global economic downturn. Investment and development are once again going strong there, but the provinces have been plagued with a series of floods that have hampered recovery.