Slovakia, officially the Republic of Slovakia, is a country of rugged mountains, with vast forests and pastures. Slovakia came into existence as a small and independent country since January 1, 1993 in the heart of Europe. The pivotal position of Slovakia in Europe is justified by the fact, that, the centre of the continent is located not far from the historic Slovakian town of Kremnica. Bordered by Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary, this country is a melting pot of western and eastern cultural backdrop.
Slovakia still remains a largely unexplored country with its wild country side and pure and pristine locales. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. Other cities of the country are Banska Bystrica, Kosice, Levice, Levoca, Nitra, Piestany, Presov, Trencin and Zilina. The River Danube and Vah, Hron and Nitra are the prominent water source of this landlocked country. The country is home to the ethnic Slovaks from all over the world and about 85% of them form the majority of the population inside the territories. Other groups that comprise the multi-featured populace are Hungarians and Gypsies. But it is the Czechs who stand out in the crowd with separate history and cultural traditions despite being ethnically and linguistically related to the Slovaks.
The parliamentary democracy of Slovakia has come a long way since the days of the shared identity of Czechoslovakia and a Communist Nation of former USSR. Leaving behind the dark days of oppression and fighting, the economy of the country has recovered considerably with a growth rate of 4.4 percent in 2002.
Slovakia is a land of mountainous terrain dotted with lowlands that are rich in natural mineral resources. It shares its borders with the Czech Republic in the west, Austria in the southwest, Hungary in the south, Ukraine in the east, and with Poland in the north. Slovakia is spread across an area of 18,859 sq mi (48,845 sq km) with population strength of approximately 5,431,363. Most of the population resides on the lowlands of the country that is situated on the south western and south eastern side, by the banks of the River Danube that also forms a natural boundary with Hungary. This part is also known as the Little Alföld plain where the fertile soil is created by the tributaries of Danube, Vah being the most prominent among them.
The Carpathian Mountains dominate the northern topography of Slovakia. The ranges of High Tatras, the Low Tatras, Mala Fatra and Velka Fatra are part of the region with the highest peak in Gerlachovsky of the Tatra Mountains. A major tourism industry has bloomed around the snowy slopes of the mountains that are ideal for skiing and hiking. There are a number of lakes, rivers and wetlands and about twelve thousand springs of thermal and mineral waters in Slovakia. These natural springs also work wonders as healing therapies due to their natural chemical composition. The Tatras National Park is Slovakia’s largest preserved forest area and home to a wide variety of wild life.
The climate of Slovakia is a temperate one with warm summers and cold winters. The winters sometimes get chilled with occasional rains and clouded sky. Although the mainland of the country has no access to the sea, so you may miss out the warmth of sun and sand. But the mountains, plains and rivers with easy-to-adjust weather conditions make it a place well worth the visit.
Slovakia acquired a distinct status for itself when it peacefully parted ways with the Czechs and shed the shared identity of Czechoslovakia. But the Slovakian history has its share of ups and downs. Before the arrival of the Slavic Slovaks in the fifth and sixth centuries, Celts and Germanic tribes inhibited the country. The carvings and remnant potteries inside the numerous caves of Slovakia, specially the Dominica, are the evidence of that time. In the ninth century the Slavic tribes of Morovia, Bohemia and Slovakia politically united under the Great Morovian Empire.
The country enriched culturally and expanded by all means during this period and adopted Christianity under the influence of Saints Cyril and Methodius. But the age of prosperity came to an end with conquest of Magyars from Hungary. Starting from tenth century, Slovakia became part of the Hungarian rule that lasted for over nine hundred years. The Hapsburg rule came in after the Ottoman Turkish victory at Mohács in 1526. Bratislava served as the capital of this reign and Slovakia continued to be a den of eminent Hungarian intellectuals. In 1867 Slovakia became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when Hungary joined Austria. But the revolutionary efforts of the Slovaks continued with support from the Austrians to break away from the oppressive Hungarian rule.
The Hapsburg-ruled Empire collapsed in 1918 following the World War I. The Slovaks joined the Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia to form the new joint state of Czechoslovakia. Till 1938, Slovakia held the status of a simple province, although the Slovak language was official within its boundaries. But during Second World War, the country was invaded by Germany and Czechoslovakia was broken apart with the Munich agreement.
The German domination was hindered in 1944 following the National Slovak Uprising against Nazi Germany. Eventually, it became a communist state, part of Eastern Europe under the influence of the USSR. However, the four decades of Communist rule for Slovakia ended on the eve of disintegration of USSR in 1989. The democratic political reform began with Vaclav Havel as Czechoslovakia's President.
In 1993 the Czechs and Slovaks decided to separate (the Velvet Divorce) forming the two separate independent states of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Michael Kovac became the first President of the Slovak Republic.
Slovakia became member of the European Union and The NATO in 2004.
Slovakia’s economy failed to take a rising trend till the end of twentieth century but revived considerably from the 2000-2001. Though the process of industrialisation and urbanisation started since World War II, it came into full bloom after the government made extensive provisions to convert the centralised economy to a free market place. Privatisation was implemented in major scale to facilitate smooth economic progress and generate employment.
The efforts are visible in a structured labour market, a comfortable tax system and remarkably low inflation rate. After the membership of European Union the path to foreign investment broadened and now nearly the entire banking sector is under the control of overseas companies. Though the high rate of unemployment at 15% has still remained a section to worry about, the overall growth was overwhelming. The Slovakian economy passed the acid test of financial difficulty when it remained untouched by the financial crisis of its trading partner nations like Germany, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, and other Eastern European countries.
The southern part of the country is dotted with lowlands that shelter farms, vineyards, orchards, and pastures for stock. But the agricultural sector of the Slovakia provides employment to less than ten percent of the total workforce. The industry and construction business fairs better with an employment rate of about forty percent. But majority of the population is employed in the services sector that mainly comprises of the banking and tourism industry. Tourism has grown in leaps and bounds in Slovakia surrounding its historic buildings, beautiful countryside and spa towns that attract the millions of tourist from all over the world. Slovakia now boasts of an approximate GDP/PPP of $78.89 billion with a per capita figure of $14,500.
Slovakia is a parliamentary democracy functioning around a unicameral legislature. The parliament of Slovakia is known as the National Council of the Slovak Republic and the 150 strong member of this house execute the legislative power. Each of them serves four-year terms after being popularly elected by proportional representation in the domestic region.
The executive part of the Slovakian political system comprises of the president, the prime minister and his cabinet members. The president is considered the head of state and is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The president holds the right to appoint the prime minister who works as the head of government. The prime minister is usually the leader of the majority party or the majority coalition that comes into parliament following the legislative elections. The president also, on the recommendation of the prime minister, appoints the cabinet. The main political parties are the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, Party Direction–Third Way, the Hungarian Coalition party, the New Civic Alliance, and the Slovak Communist party.
The judiciary of the country revolves around the Constitutional Court, which is the supreme authority in judicial matters. The court deals with all kind of constitutional issues and clears any dispute or confusion arising out of it. The parliament nominates the 13 members of this court who are later formally appointed by the president.
For administrative convenience, the Slovakia is divided into 8 regions and 79 districts and each of these regions serve as counties.