Slovakia Essay

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A landlocked country in central Europe, the Slovak Republic, or Slovakia (population 5,455,407 in 2008, gross domestic product $75 billion in 2007), is a developing country in the last stages of the transition from its communist past to its 21st-century capitalist present. The country was admitted to the European Union in 2004 and intends to adopt the euro as its currency in 2009, and is a member of NATO, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization.

Settled by Slavic peoples during the second phase of the Migration Period—the 6th century, when Slavic tribes settled throughout central and eastern Europe at a time when Germanic tribes controlled much of western Europe—most of the Slavic states in present-day Slovakia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary by the 11th century, and thus part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in later centuries. Slovakia seceded from the empire after World War I and formed the state of Czechoslovakia with Bohemia and Moravia. During World War II, Slovakia temporarily seceded from Czechoslovakia in order to acquiesce to Nazi control in exchange for self-governance (rather than being given to Hungary). Postwar Slovakia reintegrated with Czechoslovakia, expelling thousands upon thousands of Hungarians and Germans, some of whom had settled in the area recently and others of whom had lived there for generations. In the early years of the Cold War, Czechoslovakia was increasingly influenced by the Soviet Union, and in 1969 became a Socialist Republic. This lasted 20 years, until the Velvet Revolution ended communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989, and in 1993 Slovakia and the Czech Republic dissolved their union in the Velvet Divorce. They remain close allies.

Now a multiparty parliamentary democratic republic, Slovakia is governed by a president (directly elected for five-year terms) and a prime minister (with whom most executive power rests, appointed by the president and usually the leader of the majority party in parliament). The unicameral parliament, the National Council of the Slovak Republic, consists of 150 delegates elected to four-year terms.

Slovakia has enjoyed high economic growth and fares considerably better than many other post communist states. The country is often called the Tatra Tiger, in reference to the rapid growth in the 21st century (and the country’s Tatra mountain range), paralleling the nicknames of the Asian Tigers of the 1960s and the various other “tigers” of recent decades. In 2004 and 2005, Slovakia’s gross domestic product grew faster than nearly any in the European Union, bested only by some of the recovering Baltic States, and the 12-month growth in the third quarter of 2006 was at least 10 percent.

These economic improvements are largely the work of the right-wing coalition that came to power in 2002, which is criticized by the Slovakian public for the losses associated with these changes: unemployment rose (about 8.4 percent in 2007, but it jumped to nearly 20 percent in the first years of the reforms), government programs have been cut, a flat tax has replaced the progressive income tax, and so on. Currently some market regulations are being considered to deal with the global economic crisis, notably price ceilings on essential goods. In 2008, the government’s budget deficit was about 10 percent of the budget. Inflation is about 2.5 percent.

The service sector accounts for more than half of Slovakia’s economy, with construction at about 9 percent and agriculture about 6 percent, but industry is at 30 percent and rising. Automobile manufacturing and electrical engineering take the lead in the industrial sector, and Slovakia manufactures more automobiles per capita than any other country, primarily at Volkswagen, Peugeot Citroen, and Kia plants. Sony operates a large factory manufacturing LCD televisions. Metallurgy, chemicals, petroleum refining, construction materials, and nuclear fuel are other subsectors of Slovakian industry. About 40 percent of the country’s land is cultivated, and agricultural activity includes the raising of livestock and the growing of wheat, rye, beets, and fruit.


  1. Karen Henderson, Slovakia (Routledge, 2002);
  2. Ian Jeffries, Eastern Europe at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to Economies in Transition (Routledge, 2002);
  3. Lawrence Peter King, The Basic Features of Postcommunist Capitalism in Eastern Europe: Firms in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia (Praeger Publishers, 2000);
  4. Stanislav J. Kirschbaum, A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005);
  5. Adrian Smith, Reconstructing the Regional Economy: Industrial Transformation and Regional Development in Slovakia (Edward Elgar, 1998).

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