1918 - Creation of the Common State of Czechs and Slovaks
The First World War led to a fundamental change in the way the Czech and especially Slovak questions were dealt with. From the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which had included both the Czech and Slovak peoples, the optimal solution seemed to be the creation of a joint state of Czechs and Slovaks. Although the exile resistance had played an important role in its inception, the clear political agenda for Slovakia’s future was drawn up by the Slovak political elite at the end of May 1918 in Turčiansky Svätý Martin, where the strategic lines of Slovak politics were decided upon: a definitive break with Austria-Hungary and, following Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of the right to self-determination, backing for the creation of an independent Czechoslovak state. The decision taken in Martin was preceded by the efforts of the Slovak and Czech community in America (the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Agreements); the coordination of the overseas resistance; the organization of the legia, the armed troops of Czechs and Slovaks who fought on the side of the Allies; the establishment of the Czecho-slovak National Council and, of course, the diplomatic activities of Tomáš G. Masaryk and Milan R. Štefánik.
Milan Rastislav Štefánik, co-founder of the Czechoslovak Republic, diplomat, scientist, general of the French army
Milan R. Štefánik with American Slovaks and Czechs in front of the Capitol in Washington, D. C., USA
In Prague, on 28 October 1918, the Czechoslovak National Committee officially announced the founding of Czechoslovakia. Two days later, on 30 October 1918, independently of the events in Prague, key Slovak politicians in Martin adopted the Declaration of the Slovak nation. This declaration became known as the Martin Declaration, which officially confirmed the earlier decision that Slovakia would not remain a part of Austria-Hungary, but would instead co-exist with the Czechs in a common state. As a nation, for the first time in their history, the Slovaks would be able to freely develop their own language, education and culture and have their own cultural and political leaders. The declarations of Prague and Martin were key historical events that paved the way for more than 70 years of shared history for the people of both nations within the Czechoslovak Republic.
The Martin declaration of October 1918
Following its inception, Czecho-slovakia’s international status was quickly acknowledged, especially once the post-war peace treaties had been concluded. For Slovakia and the Slovaks in Czecho-slovakia, the peace treaty with Hungary signed in Trianon on 4 June 1920 was crucial. One of the signatories was the Slovak diplomat Štefan Osuský. The Treaty of Trianon defined the border with Hungary and confirmed the existence of the Czechoslovak Republic in law.
Štefan Osuský, Czechoslovak minister to France and League of Nations delegate
Milan Hodža, politician, former Czechoslovak prime minister (1935–1938)
1938 - Munich Agreement and Vienna Arbitration
The Munich Agreement of 29 September 1938 between the four great powers – Germany, Italy, Great Britain and France – ceded the Sudetenland to Germany, while the Vienna Arbitration of 2 November between Germany and Italy handed the southern area of Slovakia to Hungary by diktat. Both settlements diminished Czechoslovakia territorially, prompting the quick and dramatic end of the Republic. The declaration of the independent Slovak State and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia followed. Despite the circumstances and its status as a satellite of the German Third Reich, the Slovak State was the embodiment of the idea of a Slovak independent nation state. Nonetheless, it was a totalitarian political entity. Parliamentarism, democracy and civil liberties were suppressed, while Slovak nationalism, a Christian world view and the leader principle were all celebrated in political life. The adoption of the Jewish Code systematically stripped Slovak Jews of their civil, political and economic rights, leading in 1942 to their mass deportation, which culminated in the Nazi final solution of the ‘Jewish question’ in concentration camps.
The wartime Slovak State collaborated with the Third Reich until the very last moment, not only promoting Hitler’s criminal plans, but also the criminal methods he used to implement them, and it acted against the goals of the anti-Hitler coalition. Not surprisingly, strong resistance developed in Slovakia.
1944 - Slovak National Uprising
In 1943, the various Slovak resistance movements united to form the Slovak National Council and concluded the Christmas Agreement – the programme of the anti-fascist movement in Slovakia. The illegal Slovak National Council operated within the Slovak army, the government and the political, economic and judicial institutions of the Slovak State, which co-operated to organize the anti-fascist uprising. The uprising started in late August 1944, when the German army began occupying Slovak territory. The driving force behind it was the rebel army, partisan groups and local people. Following the military suppression of the uprising, guerrilla warfare continued until the arrival of the Red Army in the spring of 1945. The military defeat of the rebels was also accompanied by severe reprisals, leading to mass executions of the population and the burning of villages. To this day, Kremnička, Nemecká, Ostrý Grúň, Kľak and other villages are synonymous with the Nazi atrocities.
|The Slovak National Uprising, among the largest anti-Nazi revolts of the Second World War in strategic and military terms, clearly signalled that the Slovaks had joined the anti-Hitler coalition fighting for the survival of European civilization. They radically distanced themselves from the Slovak State, its crimes and its collaboration with the Third Reich, identifying instead with the values and traditions of democratic Europe. The Slovak National Uprising not only foresaw a constitutional renewal of the common state of the Czechs and Slovaks on the principle of ‘to be equal with the equal’, which would become the basis for the future federal arrangements in the Czechoslovak Republic, but also a continuum of the tradition of democratic political forces working together. The day the Slovak National Uprising began – 29 August 1944 – was therefore made a national holiday in 1992, and the national and European tradition of the struggle against the Nazis became part of the independent Slovak Republic’s fundamental democratic tradition after 1993.|
DEATH TO NAZISM, a period poster
1945 - Post-war Development
The history of Slovakia, from its liberation from Nazi Germany in 1945 to the fall of the communist regime in 1989, includes two self-contained periods, both known as the ‘People’s Democracy’. This was the name of the regime in place after the liberation of Slovakia from 1945 to February 1948 and then, the rule of the communist party, from the February coup of 1948 until November 1989. The People’s Democracy from 1945 to 1948 was a transient and hybrid political regime. It is most commonly described as a political system with a closed and restricted democracy and limited pluralism. In national terms, the most important encounter between the forces of democracy and totalitarianism took place in February 1948 in Prague. The Communists used the government crisis of the time to assume political power. The ‘non-violent’ political coup of 25 February 1948 was the work of non-constitutional forces. It led to the incorporation of Czechoslovakia and its domestic political regime into the Soviet bloc in Europe. The Cold War divided East from West. The years 1948 and 1989 mark the beginning and end of the long Czech and Slovak communist era, which was characterized by a communist experiment along Soviet lines that emerged, evolved and terminated in a past that is gone forever.
Vladimír Clementis, politician, left-wing intellectual, journalist