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At the beginning of our era, the territory of present-day Slovakia was occupied by the Germanic Quadi tribe, which was defeated in the 2nd century by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. After invasion by the Huns (at the turn of the 4th and 5th centuries) Slavic tribes appeared in Slovakia, yet from the half of the half of the 6th century they were under the rule of the Avars who came from Asia.

Upon collapse of the Avar Khaganate (at the close of the 8th century), a small state of the Prince Pribina was created in the area of Nitra. Between 833 and 836 it was joined to Great Moravia by the Prince Mojmír I. In the 10th century the territory of Slovakia was the subject of rivalry between Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland (it was occupied by Boleslaus the Brave for a short time 1003–18/31); it was finally integrated into Hungary under the rule of Saint Stephen I. The Christianisation of the Slovak land, initiated by missionaries from Bavaria in Pribina’s principality, was continued in Great Moravia and resumed under the rule of Saint Stephen I. In the 11th century Hungarian settlement started in Slovakia (in particular in the area of Podunajsko). Colonists from Germany appeared in the next century. Colonisation (including Vlach colonisation) intensified in the second half of the 18th century after Mongolian invasions.

Polish settlement (mainly in Spiš and Orava) started in the 15th century. During the times of the last Árpáds (the dynasty died out in 1301), under the rule of the House of Anjou (14th century) and during the rivalry between the House of Habsburg and the Jagiellons for the Hungarian throne in the 15th century Slovakia was a peripheral part of Hungary. The cultural influence of the Czech Republic strengthened at that time. From 1526 it was under the rule of the House of Habsburg. When the Turks seized central Hungary (1541), archbishops of Esztergom and the Hungarian Seym moved to Slovakia (to Trnava and Pressburg, present Bratislava, respectively).

In the 16th century the Reformation spread across Slovakia. Re-Catholicisation activities of the House of Habsburg, together with introduction of absolutism, contributed to supporting several uprisings against the dynasty (under the command of rulers of Transylvania: I. Bocskay (1604–06), G. Bethlen (1619–22), George I Rákóczi (1644–45), I. Thököly (1678–85) and Francis II Rákóczi (1703–11)) by the society. After liberation of central Hungary from the Turks (1683–99) the territory of Slovakia became again the borderland of the country, although the Hungarian Seym debated in Pressburg until 1848.

At the end of the 18th century, Slovak national consciousness started to shape among the small group of intelligentsia. Among the national activists there were mostly Evangelical (L. Štúr) and Catholic clergymen. During the Hungarian Revolution (1848–49) Slovaks adopted their national postulates (e.g. national Seym and own education system) at a rally in Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš (May 1848). The refusal of the Hungarians caused the Slovak leaders to remain faithful to the House of Habsburg. However, the Emperor Franz Joseph I did not agree to the autonomy of Slovakia (1861). Young activists managed in 1862–63 to reach an agreement with the Hungarians as regards concessions in education (e.g. teaching in Slovak in secondary schools) and establishment of a national cultural centre – Matica slovenská. The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 was an opportunity for the Hungarians to intensify Magyarisation of the Slovaks; recent concessions in education were revoked and (so-called lex Apponyi 1907) education in the Hungarian language was introduced also in elementary schools. In 1875 the activity of Matica slovenská was prohibited. In such conditions the cultural influence of the Czech Republic grew in strength and the Charles University in Prague attracted many young Slovaks.

During World War I the Czech and Slovak emigration circles in the USA were in favour of creating a common state. The Pittsburgh Agreement (May 1918), signed by the Chairman of the Czechoslovak National Council, T.G. Masaryk, provided for considerable autonomy for the Slovaks. In view of the defeat of Austria-Hungary, the Czechs proclaimed in Prague on 28th October 1918 the establishment of Czechoslovakia, to which the Slovaks acceded at a rally in Turčianský Svätý Martin (30th October 1918). The evaluation of the Hungarians took place only after the French ultimatum at the end of 1918. In early spring 1919 the territory of Slovakia was temporarily occupied by troops of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. At the same time, Slovak politicians were in dispute. Some of them, mostly Evangelical, supported Czechoslovakism (M. Hodža) and were not in favour of autonomy. Others, active in the Catholic Slovak People’s Party, treated the Pittsburgh Agreement as binding for all politicians in the country and strived for its observance and granting Slovaks broad autonomy with own Seym. In September 1919 their leader, Rev A. Hlinka (aided by Poland), tried to present this postulate at the Paris Peace Conference.

External borders of Slovakia were defined by treaties concluded by Czechoslovakia and Austria in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919), Hungary in Trianon (1920), and Poland – power arbitration (1920–21), supplemented by the so-called Kraków Protocol (1924). Post-war political life in Slovakia was dominated by the fight of members of the Slovak People’s Party for autonomy.

Soon after the Munich Agreement in 1938, the Slovak People’s Party and other Slovak parties declared autonomy of Slovakia in Žilina and on 6th October 1938 established government with Prime Minister Tiso. Tiso, called to Berlin and faced with the alternative: declaration of independence or occupation, convened the Slovak Seym, which on 14th March 1939 proclaimed independence of the Slovak Republic. The head of state was President Tiso. Several days later, Slovakia accepted the ‘protection’ of the Third Reich and became politically and economically dependent on it.

In 1943, under the influence of news about the defeat of Wehrmacht at the eastern front (Slovak formations fought there as well) underground organisations composed of adversaries of the Slovak People’s Party appeared in Slovakia. On 29th August the Slovak Uprising broke out, which spread across the central part of the country. The political supervisor of the Uprising (suppressed by Germans in October) was the Slovak National Council, which was in favour of a common state with the Czech Republic, with preservation of Slovak autonomy.

At the end of March 1945 the Czechoslovak government was formed in Moscow. It was composed of representatives of the emigration cabinet of J. Šrámek (operating from 1940 to 1945 in London), the Slovak National Council and communists. The guidelines on the operation of the government (Košice Government Programme), which were announced in Slovakia, provided for establishment of a democratic state of two equal nations: Czechs and Slovaks. Right after the war, the Democratic Party, which supported autonomy, became quite popular in Slovakia (within borders from before 1938). In 1946 during the elections to the Slovak National Council it received twice as many votes as the communists. In autumn 1947 it was accused by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (supported by other Czech parties) of an anti-state plot and, as a consequence, it was marginalised. After the communists assumed dictatorial powers in Czechoslovakia (February 1948), autonomy of Slovakia became an illusion. In the first years of post-war terror communists abolished market economy.

During the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968 work was commenced to federalise Czechoslovakia, which became reality in 1969, after invasion of states of the Warsaw Pact. In the following years, so-called normalisation was taking place in Slovakia, yet the scope of repression of reform supporters was smaller than on the Czech territory and the dissident movement, initiated at the end of the 1970s, was more modest.

In September 1989 the Velvet Revolution started in Prague, which overthrew communism in Czechoslovakia. Two parties were formed at that time: the Civic Forum (in the Czech Republic) and the Public Against Violence (in Slovakia), which managed the process to restore democracy in the state (since April 1990 the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic). In June 1990, the Public Against Violence and the Christian Democratic Movement received the greatest number of votes in free parliamentary election in Slovakia. The rule of V. Mečiar (until April 1991) and J. Čarnogursky (until June 1992) initiated the process of privatisation and economic transformation.

In 1991 a new party called Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, under the leadership of Mečiar (1992–98 ruled in coalition with other parties), split off from the Public Against Violence. In July 1992 Mečiar and his supporters led to the establishment of sovereignty of the republic by the Slovak National Council. On 25th November 1992 politicians of both nations forced through at the Federal Assembly an act on division of Czechoslovakia into two states from 1st January 1993. Under the rule of Mečiar as the Prime Minister (until 1998) the privatisation process was inhibited and the relations with Hungarians were not regulated.

In the years 1998–2006 the power was exercised by the right-wing government of M. Dziurinda, based on coalition of several parties, which accelerated privatisation and actions for the benefit of integration with the EU and NATO. In spring 2004 Slovakia joined both organisations. After the election of 2006 the government was formed by the Direction – Social Democracy with populists and nationalists.

Source: Encyklopedia PWN

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