U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Slovak Republic, April 1998
Official Name: The Slovak Republic
Area: 49,035 sq. km. (about the size of West Virginia).
Cities: Capital -- Bratislava (pop. 452,053).
Other cities: Kosice (240,915), Zilina (86,685), Nitra (87,357),
Presov (92,687), Banska Bystrica (84,919).
Terrain: High mountains in the north, low mountains in the
center, hills to the west, Danube river basin in the south.
Climate: Temperate; average temperature -- in January 26.5 degrees
in July 68 degrees Fahrenheit; Annual precipitation -- 24 - 40 in.
Nationality: Noun and adjective -- Slovak(s).
Population (1996 est.): 5,374,362.
Annual growth rate (1996 est.): 0.34%.
Ethnic groups: Slovaks 85.7%, Hungarians 10.7%. Roma 1.5%, Czechs
1%, Ruthenians 0.3%, Ukranians 0.3%, Germans 0.1%, Poles 0.1%,
Religions: Roman Catholic 60.2%, Protestant 8.4%, Orthodox 4.1%,
Jewish 0.1%, other 17.5%. 9.7% report no affiliation.
Languages: Slovak (official), Hungarian, Ruthenian, and
Education: Literacy -- 99%.
Health: Life expectancy -- 69 yrs. males. 77 yrs. females.
Work force (2.5 million): Industry, construction, commerce -- 59%.
Government and other services--29%. Agriculture -- 12%.
Type: Parliamentary republic.
Independence: The Slovak Republic was established January l,
1993 (former Czechoslovak Republic established 1918).
Constitution: Signed September 3, 1992.
Branches: Executive -- president (head of state), prime minister
(head of government), cabinet.
Legislative -- National Council of the Slovak Republic (150
seats). Judicial -- Supreme Court, Constitutional Court.
Political Parties: Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)
61 seats; Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) 13 seats; Christian
Democratic Movement (KDH) 17 seats; Democratic Union of Slovakia
(DU) 13 seats; Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS) 11 seats;
Hungarian Coalition (Coexistence, Hungarian Christian Democratic
Movement (MKDH), and Hungarian Civic Party (MOS) 17 seats; Slovak
National Party (SNS) 9 seats; independent, 9 seats.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
Administrative divisions: Eight administrative regions, 79
Defense (1997): 2.1% of GDP.
Flag: Three horizontal bands of white (upper), blue (middle), and
red (lower), with heraldic insignia near staff consisting
of double white cross on red field above blue base.
(figures are for the first nine months of 1997)
GDP: $14.05 billion.
Nominal per capita income (est.): $2,800.
Natural resources: Antimony, mercury, iron, copper, lead, zinc,
magnesite, limestone, lignite.
Agriculture: Products -- milk, eggs, poultry, cattle, hogs,
potatoes, oils, grains, vegetables.
Industry: Types -- iron and steel, chemicals, light industry,
food processing, engineering, building materials.
Trade: Exports -- $6.56 billion: iron and steel, machinery and
energy equipment, plastics. Imports -- $7.72 billion: mineral
fuels and oils, machinery, audio/video equipment, vehicles.
Trading partners -- Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Russia,
Hungary, Italy, Ukraine.
Foreign Investment: $1.08 billion.
The majority of the 5.3 million inhabitants of the Slovak
Republic are Slovak (86%). Hungarians are the largest ethnic
minority (11%) and are concentrated in the southern and eastern
regions of Slovakia. Other ethnic groups include
Roma, Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Poles.
The Slovak constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The
majority of Slovak citizens (60%) practice Roman Catholicism;
the second-largest group are Protestants. About 3,000 Jews remain
of the estimated pre-WWII population of 120,000. The official
state language is Slovak, and Hungarian is widely spoken in the
Despite its modern European economy and society, Slovakia has a
significant rural element. About 45% of Slovaks live in villages
of less than 5,000 people, and 14% in villages of less than 1,000.
From the eleventh until the early twentieth century, present-day
Slovakia was under Hungarian rule. The Slovak national revival
was begun in the nineteenth century by intellectuals seeking to
revive the Slovak language and culture. The formation of the
Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 following World War I satisfied the
common aspirations of Czechs and Slovaks for independence from the
Although Czechoslovakia was the only east-central European country
to remain a parliamentary democracy from 1918 to 1938, it was
plagued with minority problems, the most important concerning the
country's large German population. In 1938, the Allies concluded
the Munich agreement which forced Czechoslovakia to cede the
predominantly German region known as Sudetenland to Germany.
Then, in March 1939 Germany invaded what remained of Bohemia and
Moravia and established a German protectorate. Slovakia had
already declared its independence on March 14, 1939, and had
become a Nazi German puppet state led by Jozef Tiso.
On August 29, 1944, 60,000 Slovak troops organized by the
underground rose up against the Nazis and the Tiso regime in what
became known as the Slovak National Uprising. Although ultimately
unsuccessful, this act of resistance became an important
historical landmark for the Slovaks. At the close of World War
II, Soviet troops overran all of Slovakia, Moravia, and much of
Reunited after the war, the Czechs and Slovaks held elections in
1946. In Slovakia, the Democratic Party won the elections, but
the Czechoslovak Communist Party won 38% of the total vote in
Czechoslovakia and eventually seized power, in February 1948. The
next four decades were characterized by strict communist rule,
interrupted only briefly in 1968 when Alexander Dubcek, a Slovak,
became party leader. Dubcek proposed political, social, and
economic reforms in his effort to make "socialism with a human
face" a reality. Concern among other Warsaw Pact governments that
Dubcek had gone too far led to the invasion and occupation of
Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, by Soviet, Hungarian,
Bulgarian, East German, and Polish troops. Dubcek was removed as
party leader and replaced by another Slovak, Gustav Husak, in
The 1970s and 1980s became known as the period of
"normalization," in which the apologists for the 1968 Soviet
invasion prevented, as best they could, any opposition to their
conservative regime. Political, social, and economic life
stagnated. Because the center of the reform movement had been in
Prague, normalization was less harshly felt in Slovakia. In fact,
the Slovak Republic saw comparatively high economic growth in the
1970s and 1980s relative to the Czech Republic.
The 1970s were also characterized by the development of a
dissident movement, especially in the Czech Republic. On January
l, 1977, more than 250 human rights activists signed a manifesto
called Charter 77, which criticized the government for failing to
meet its human rights obligations.
On November 17, 1989, a series of public protests known as the
"Velvet Revolution" began and led to the downfall of communist
rule in Czechoslovakia. In the days following this momentous
event, Charter 77 and other groups united to become the Civic
Forum, an umbrella group championing bureaucratic reform and civil
liberties. Its leader was the dissident playwright Vaclav Havel
who was elected President of Czechoslovakia in December 1989. Its
Slovak counterpart, Public Against Violence, was based on the same
A transition government was formed in December 1989, and the first
free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1948 took place in June
1990, with Civic Forum and Public Against Violence winning
landslide victories. Civic Forum and Public Against Violence
found, however, that although they had successfully completed
their primary objective -- the overthrow of the communist regime -
- they were less effective as governing parties. In the 1992
elections, both Civic Forum and Public Against Violence were
replaced by a spectrum of new parties.
In the election of June 1992, Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic
Party won in the Czech lands on a platform of economic reform, and
Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)
emerged as the leading party in Slovakia, basing its appeal on
fairness to Slovak demands for autonomy. Negotiations on the
federal constitution remained deadlocked over the issue of Slovak
autonomy, and in the latter half of 1992, Meciar and Klaus
negotiated an agreement that led to the division of Czechoslovakia
into two independent states at the end of the year. On January 1,
1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic were
simultaneously and peacefully founded. Both states attained
immediate recognition from the U.S. and their European neighbors.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Slovakia's highest legislative body is the 150-seat unicameral
National Council of the Slovak Republic. Delegates are elected
for 4-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. The
Slovak political scene supports a wide spectrum of political
parties ranging from the successors to the Communist Party -- the
Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) -- to the nationalistic Slovak
National Party (SNS) on the right.
Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's party, Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia (HZDS), returned to power in December 1994 after winning
a substantial plurality in the elections. HZDS has formed a
narrowly based coalition governing with two smaller parties -- the
Slovak National Party (SNS) and the leftist Association of Slovak
Workers (ZRS). This is the third government since Slovak
independence. The previous government was composed of the
Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), the Party of the Democratic
Left (SDL), and the Democratic Union (DU), and was headed by Prime
Minister Jozef Moravcik. The Moravcik government succeeded the
country's initial HZDS-SNS coalition government led by Meciar
after a vote of no confidence in March 1994.
The president is elected by parliament to a 5-year term.
President Michal Kovac's term ended March 2, 1998. Since the
Parliament was unable to agree on a successor, most presidential
powers have reverted to Prime Minister Meciar. Under the Slovak
constitution, the president serves as commander in chief of the
armed forces, appoints ministers, grants pardons, and has the
right to dissolve parliament under certain circumstances. The
president also signs laws and has the right to return legislation
to parliament, but the parliament can override this veto with a
simple majority vote.
The country's highest court of appeals is the Supreme Court,
elected by and responsible to the National Council. The 10
members of the Constitutional Court, who rule on constitutional
issues, are appointed by the president from a choice of candidates
nominated by parliament.
The Slovak Armed Forces have a total of approximately 42,000
personnel, including two Army Corps and one Air and Air Defense
Corps. These forces include a Rapid Reaction Battalion designed
to participate in peacekeeping operations. It became operational
in December 1996. Slovakia contributed an engineering battalion
to the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia
(UNTAES), and has been an active participant in Partnership for
Peace exercises. Opinion polls consistently show the Army to be
the nation's most trusted institution. Defense budget cuts
threaten the preparedness of the military, and cuts in personnel
to 36,000 are planned.
Principal State Officials
President -- vacant
Prime Minister -- Vladimir Meciar
Minister of Foreign Affairs -- Zdenka Kramplova
Ambassador to the United States -- Branislav Lichardus
Chargˇ d'Affaires to the United Nations -- Olga Keltosova
Ambassador to NATO and the EU -- Emil Kuchar
Slovakia maintains a temporary chancery in the United States at
Suite 380, 2201 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007.
Construction on a permanent chancery is due to be completed in
Slovakia maintains a foreign trade office in New York and honorary
consulates in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh.
Slovakia began an economic turnaround in 1994 when it posted a
4.8% rise in real GDP. Since then, the Slovak economy has been
growing rapidly by 7.2% in 1995 and 6.9% in 1996. Through the
first three quarters of 1997, real GDP growth has been 6%.
Slovakia's recovery was originally based on impressive export
performance as the largest firms captured new markets in Western
Europe for their inexpensive and primarily semi-finished products.
Subsequently, domestic consumption has been responsible for the
economy's growth, leading to a trade deficit of about $2 billion
in 1996 and a $1.1 billion deficit through the third quarter of
Tight monetary policy continues to be the key factor in keeping a
lid on inflation, although there has been a small upward trend in
1997. Inflation hit its lowest point -- 5.4% -- at the end of
1996. Through the first three quarters of 1997, inflation moved
up to 5.7%. Interest rates rose above 30% in 1997. Unemployment
is estimated at 13% for the first nine months of 1997.
Slovakia's record on privatization is mixed. While privatization
is virtually complete (the private sector share of GDP is more
than 85%), some of the most lucrative state-owned firms have been
placed off limits to privatization. The nature of Slovakia's
privatization process, particularly the preference for domestic
buyers and the low prices paid by most of those buyers, has
ensured a lack of new capital for the country's resource-poor
From 1990 through the first half of 1997, Slovakia had received
just over $1 billion in foreign direct investment. German
companies represent the largest share of foreign investment in
Slovakia followed by Austria and the United Kingdom. U.S.
companies place fifth, having invested $81 million.
In 1997, Slovakia's trade imbalance, while more than $1 billion,
began to narrow slightly due in large part to new barriers and a
limited availability of credit. By the end of the third quarter
of 1997, Slovak exports had increased 12.2% while imports were up
9.1% compared to the same period in 1996.
The Czech Republic is Slovakia's largest trading partner,
purchasing almost 27% of Slovakia's exports and supplying 23% of
its imports. Other major partners include Germany, Austria, and
Russia. Slovakia imports nearly all of its oil and gas from
Russia. Slovakia's export markets are primarily OECD countries
and the European Union. The United States accounts for about 3%
of total trade with Slovakia. The Slovak Republic has Most
Favored Nation status and receives duty-free (GSP) benefits for
many of its products.
The government has applied for membership in the OECD and the EU.
Slovakia signed an Association Agreement with the EU in October
1993, which went into effect in February 1995. In 1994, Slovakia
was one of the original members of the Central European Free Trade
Agreement (CEFTA). During the first 9 months of 1997, Slovakia
sent almost 39% of its exports to its CEFTA partners.
Since Slovakia became an independent state in 1993, the government
has stated that integration into Western economic and security
structures is its chief foreign policy objective. While Slovakia
has generally met the economic requirements for membership in
these institutions and was initially favored to be in the first
round of integration, international concerns about the state of
democratic development are currently an obstacle for EU and NATO
accession. Slovakia is in the accession process for membership in
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Slovakia and the Czech Republic entered into a Customs Union upon
the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993. The Customs Union enables
a relatively free flow of goods and services. CEFTA similarly has
improved market access for Slovakia's neighbors. Hungary and
Slovakia signed a Basic Treaty in 1995 and are currently
negotiating its implementation.
Slovakia is a member of the United Nations and participates in its
specialized agencies. It is a member of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the World Trade
Organization (WTO). It maintains diplomatic relations with 135
countries of which 42 have permanent representation in Bratislava.
Millions of Americans have their roots in Slovakia and many retain
strong cultural and familial ties to the Slovak Republic.
President Woodrow Wilson and the United States played a major role
in the establishment of the original Czechoslovak state on October
28, 1918, and President Wilson's Fourteen Points were the basis
for the union of the Czechs and Slovaks. Tomas Masaryk, the
father of the Czechoslovak state and its first president, visited
the United States during World War I and used the U.S.
Constitution as a model for the first Czechoslovak Constitution.
Relations were cool between the two governments during the 50
years of communist rule. When the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia
in August 1968, the United States referred the matter to the UN
Security Council as a violation of the UN Charter, but no action
was taken against the Soviets.
The fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the
subsequent split of the two republics on January 1, 1993, allowed
for renewed cooperation between the U.S. and Slovakia. The United
States has delivered more than $200 million since 1990 to support
the rebuilding of a healthy democracy and market economy in
Slovakia, primarily through programs administered by the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID). Slovakia and the
U.S. retain strong diplomatic ties, cooperate in military and law
enforcement areas, and engage in economic partnership.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador -- Ralph R. Johnson
Deputy Chief of Mission -- William P. Schofield
Political Officer -- Anthony A. Pahigian
Economic/Commercial Officer -- Eugene S. Young
Senior Commercial Officer -- Stephen Craven (resident in Vienna)
Consul -- Thomas Rogan
Administrative Officer -- Heather A. Townsend
Public Affairs Officer (USIS) -- Richard O. Lankford
Defense Attache -- Lieutenant Colonel John Markowicz
USAID Representative -- Paula Goddard
Peace Corps Director -- Nelson Chase
The U.S. embassy in Slovakia is located at Hviezdoslavovo namestie
4, 81102 Bratislava (tel: 421-7-533-08-61 or 421-7-533-33-38; fax:
421-7-533-00-96). Duty hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m.
to 4:30 p.m. The embassy is closed on U.S. and Slovak holidays.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
Information Program provides Travel Warnings and Consular
Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department
that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular
Sheets exist for all countries and include information on
practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of
crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses
of the U.S. posts in the country. Public Announcements are issued
as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist
threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers.
Free copies of this information are available by calling the
of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand
202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets
also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB,
dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to
33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no
parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100.
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case
is required). The CABB also carries international security
from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's
of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and
a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954,
PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may
be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202)
647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-
7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators
8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The
is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users
(for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
A hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health
immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food
and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S.
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency
and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of
to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a
country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country,
see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous
areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival
in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials"
listing in this publication). This may help family members contact
you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S.
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes
Notes; Dispatch, the official magazine of U.S. foreign
policy; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides;
directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc.
DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov.
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information
on the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes
an array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the
present. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To
order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department
of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related
It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov)
and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more
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