|History of Slovakia|
This article is part of a series
|Principality of Nitra|
|Kingdom of Hungary
|History of Czechoslovakia|
|Slovaks in Czechoslovakia
|Slovak People's Republic
|Slovak Soviet Republic
|Slovak National Uprising
|Slovaks in Czechoslovakia
|Slovak Socialist Republic (1969–1990)|
This article discusses the history of the territory of Slovakia.
Radiocarbon dating puts the oldest surviving archaeological artifacts from Slovakia - found near Nové Mesto nad Váhom - at 270,000 BCE, in the Early Paleolithic era. These ancient tools, made by the Clactonian technique, bear witness to the ancient habitation of Slovakia.
Other stone tools from the Middle Paleolithic era (200,000 - 80,000 BCE) come from the Prepost cave (Prepoštská jaskyňa) near Bojnice and from other nearby sites. The most important discovery from that era is a Neanderthal cranium (c. 200,000 BCE), discovered near Gánovce, a village in northern Slovakia.
Archaeologists have found prehistoric Homo sapiens skeletons in the region, as well as numerous objects and vestiges of the Gravettian culture, principally in the river valleys of Nitra, Hron, Ipeľ, Váh and as far as the city of Žilina, and near the foot of the Vihorlat, Inovec, and Tribeč mountains, as well as in the Myjava Mountains. The most well-known finds include the oldest female statue made of mammoth-bone (22 800 BCE), the famous Venus of Moravany. The statue was found in the 1940s in Moravany nad Váhom near Piešťany. Numerous necklaces made of shells from Cypraca thermophile gastropods of the Tertiary period have come from the sites of Moravany-Žákovská, Podkovice, Hubina and Radošina. These findings provide the most ancient evidence of commercial exchanges carried out between the Mediterranean and Central Europe.
Discovery of tools and pottery in several archaeological digs and burial places scattered across Slovakia, surprisingly including northern regions at relatively high altitudes, gives evidence of human habitation in the Neolithic period. The pottery found in Želiezovce, Gemer, and the Bukové hory massif is characterized by remarkable modeling and delicate linear decoration. It also reveals the first attempts at coloring. This deliberate adornment shows a developed aesthetic sense of the Neolithic craftsmen.
Important archaeological discoveries have been made in several formerly-inhabited caves. For example, humans inhabited the famous Domica cave, almost 6000 meters long, to a depth of 700 meters. This cave offers one of the biggest Neolithic deposits in Europe. The tribes who created the pottery from the Massif Bukové hory inhabited Domica continuously for more than 800 years.
The transition to the Neolithic era in Central Europe featured the development of agriculture and the clearing of pastures, the first smelting of metals at the local level, the "Retz" style pottery and also fluted pottery. During the "fluted-pottery" era, people built several fortified sites. Some vestiges of these remain today, especially in high-altitude areas. Pits surround the most well-known of these sites at Nitriansky Hrádok. Starting in the Neolithic era, the geographic location of present-day Slovakia hosted a dense trade-network for goods such as shells, amber, jewels and weapons. As a result, it became an important hub in the system of European trade routes.
The Bronze Age on the territory of Slovakia went through three stages of development, stretching from 2000 to 800 BCE. Major cultural, economic, and political development can be attributed to the significant growth in production of copper, especially in central Slovakia (for example in Špania Dolina) and north-west Slovakia. Copper became a stable source of prosperity for the local population. After the disappearance of the Čakany and Velatice cultures, the Lusatian people expanded building of strong and complex fortifications, with the large permanent buildings and administrative centers. Excavations of Lusatian hill forts document the substantial development of trade and agriculture at that period.
The richness and the diversity of tombs increased considerably. The inhabitants of the area manufactured arms, shields, jewelry, dishes, and statues. The arrival of tribes from Thrace disrupted the people of the Calenderberg culture, who lived in the hamlets located on the plain (Sereď), and also in the hill forts located on the summits (Smolenice, Molpí]). The local power of the "Princes" of the Hallstatt culture disappeared in Slovakia during the last period of the Iron Age after strife between the Scytho-Thracian people and the Celtic tribes, who advanced from the south towards the north, following the Slovak rivers.
The victory of the Celts marked the beginning of the late Iron Age in the region. Two major Celtic tribes living in Slovakia were Cotini and Boii. Cotini were probably identical or made significant part of so-called Púchov culture. The Celts built large oppida in Bratislava and Liptov (the Havránok shrine). Silver coins with the names of Celtic kings, the so-called Biatecs, represent the first known use of writing in Slovakia. Celtic dominance disappeared with the Germanic incursions, the victory of Dacia over the Boii near the Neusiedler See, and the expansion of the Roman Empire.
The Roman epoch began in Slovakia in 6 CE, inaugurated by the arrival of Roman legions on this territory that led to a war against the Marcomanni and Quadi tribes. The Kingdom of Vannius, a barbarian kingdom founded by the Quadi, existed in western and central Slovakia from 20 to 50 AD. The Romans and their armies occupied only a thin strip of the right bank of the Danube and a very small part of south-western Slovakia (Celemantia, Gerulata, Devín Castle). Only in 174 CE did the emperor Marcus Aurelius penetrate deeper into the river valleys of Váh, Nitra and Hron. On the banks of the Hron he wrote his philosophical work Meditations. In 179 CE, a Roman legion engraved on the rock of the Trenčín Castle the ancient name of Trenčín (Laugaritio), marking the furthest northern point of their presence in this part of Europe.
In the second and third centuries CE the Huns began to leave the Central Asian steppes. They crossed the Danube in 377 CE and occupied Pannonia, which they used for 75 years as their base for launching looting-raids into Western Europe. In 451, under the command of Attila, they crossed the Rhine and laid Gaul to waste; then crossed even the Pyrenees, devastating the countryside of Catalonia. However, Attila's death in 453 brought about the disappearance of the Hun tribe.
In 568 a proto-Mongol tribe, the Avars, conducted their own invasion into the Middle Danube region. The Avars occupied the lowlands of the Pannonian Plain, established an empire dominating the Carpathian Basin and they made several raids against the Byzantine Empire whose emperors sent gifts regularly to them in order to avoid their attacks. In 623, the Slavic population living in the western parts of Pannonia seceded from their empire. In 626, the Avars and the Persians jointly besieged but failed to capture Constantinople; following this failure, the Avars' prestige and power declined and they lost the control over their former territories outside the Carpathian Basin.
The majority of mainstream historians suggest that the settlement of Central and Western Europe by the Slavs only began in the sixth century CE. However, certain elements attest to the fact that by the beginning of the sixth century, a Slav population had begun to occupy vast territories extending from the Vistula, the Dniestr and the Danube, including present-day Slovakia, Pannonia and Carantania.
Based on their interpretation of recent archeological and literal sources, a minority of historians and linguists has developed an alternative theory holding that Slav tribes emerged on this territory thousands of years BCE, evolving from sedentary indigenous peoples in the midst of Celtic and Germanic tribal movements. The best known proponent has been the Russian Slavic and Hungarian linguist Oleg Nikolayevitch Trubatchov, the main editor of the monumental Ethymological Dictionary of Slavic languages, who wrote a detailed book on this theory. Also, Greek and Roman texts provide possible evidence of an older Slavic presence in the area. For example they contend that the first reference to the Slavs — Vénèdes — appears in a work by Herodotus of Halicarnassus dated 400 BCE.
Mention of the Slav presence also comes in the writings of Pliny the Elder (79 CE) and of Tacitus Cornelius (55-116 CE). The first designation of the Slavs in the Latin form Souveni appears in the writings of Claudius Ptolemaeus in 160 CE. The Slavs of the middle Danube before the 8th century, who lived on the present-day territories of Slovakia, of north and west Hungary, Moravia, Pannonia, Austria and Slovenia, used this name in the form Sloveni (*Slověne).
Recent research has discovered evidence of the co-existence of the Slavs and the Celtic tribes in the region of Liptov in northern Slovakia, near the area of Liptovská Mara. Investigators discovered six Celto-Slav colonies and the site of a castle with a sanctuary in its center, used for Celtic and Slav rites. Slav tribes also coexisted with the Germanic Quadi, according to the latest findings of the Czech archeologist J. Poulík.
The two competing theories are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Contemporary scholarship in general has moved away from the idea of monolithic nations and the Urheimat debates of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and its focus of interest is that of a process of ethnogenesis, regarding competing Urheimat scenarios as false dichotomies.
The remnants of the Slavic population settled in the Middle Danube and they were unified by King Samo, after a successful Slavic insurrection against the Avar Khaganate in 623. In 631, Samo defeated the Frankish army of King Dagobert I at the Battle of Wogastisburg. Samo's Empire, the first known political formation of Slavs, disappeared after the death of its founder in 665 and rejoined to Avar Khaganate.
In the 670s, the new population of the "griffin and tendril" archaeological culture appeared in the Carpathian Basin (identified as Onogurs), and shortly afterwards the Avars could expand their territories even also over the Vienna Basin. However, archaeological findings from the same period (such as an exquisite noble tomb in Blatnica) also indicate formation of a Slavic upper class on the territory that later became the nucleus of Great Moravia.
The Avar supremacy over southern Slovakia lasted until 803 - the year when Charlemagne, helped by the Slavs living north of the Danube (in the nucleus of the future Principality of Nitra), defeated the Avars, who eventually became assimilated into the local Slavic populations.
All our information, based on written sources, on the "Principality of Nitra" was recorded in two entries in Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum (The Conversion of the Bavarians and the Carantanians) around 870. Nevertheless, during the first decades of the 9th century, the Slavic people living in the north-western parts of the Carpathian Basin were under the rule of a tribal leader (styled prince by later historians) whose seat was in Nitra. An extensive network of settlements developed around the town in the 9th century. In the early 9th century, the polity was situated on the north-western territories of present-day Slovakia.
Around 828, Archbishop Adalram of Salzburg consecrated a church for Prince Pribina in Nitrava. In 833, Mojmír I, Duke of the Moravians expelled Pribina. Pribina went to count Ratbod, who administered the Eastern March of the Carolingian Empire, where Pribina became the head of a principality under the suzerainty of East Francia, with his capital of Blatnograd near where the Zala River flows into the Lake Balaton. Excavations revealed that at least three Nitra castles (Pobedim, Čingov, and Ostrá skala) were destroyed around the time Pribina was expelled.
Great Moravia arose around 830 when Mojmír I unified the Slavic tribes settled north of the Danube and extended the Moravian supremacy over them. When Mojmír I endeavoured to secede from the supremacy of the king of East Francia in 846, King Louis the German deposed him and assisted Mojmír's nephew, Rastislav (846–870) in acquiring the throne. The new monarch pursued an independent policy: after stopping a Frankish attack in 855, he also sought to weaken influence of Frankish priests preaching in his realm. Rastislav asked the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to send teachers who would interpret Christianity in the Slavic vernacular. Upon Rastislav's request, two brothers, Byzantine officials and missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius came in 863. Cyril developed the first Slavic alphabet and translated the Gospel into the Old Church Slavonic language. Rastislav was also preoccupied with the security and administration of his state. Numerous fortified castles built throughout the country are dated to his reign and some of them (e.g., Dowina, sometimes identified with Devín Castle) are also mentioned in connection with Rastislav by Frankish chronicles.
During Rastislav's reign, the Principality of Nitra was given to his nephew Svatopluk as an appanage. The rebellious prince allied himself with the Franks and overthrew his uncle in 870. Similarly to his predecessor, Svatopluk I (871–894) assumed the title of the king (rex). During his reign, the Great Moravian Empire reached its greatest territorial extent, when not only present-day Moravia and Slovakia but also present-day northern and central Hungary, Lower Austria, Bohemia, Silesia, Lusatia, southern Poland and northern Serbia belonged to the empire, but the exact borders of his domains are still disputed by modern authors. Svatopluk also withstood attacks of the nomadic Magyar tribes and the Bulgarian Empire, although sometimes it was he who hired the Magyars when waging war against East Francia.
After the death of King Svatopluk in 894, his sons Mojmír II (894-906?) and Svatopluk II succeeded him as the King of Great Moravia and the Prince of Nitra respectively. However, they started to quarrel for domination of the whole empire. Weakened by an internal conflict as well as by constant warfare with Eastern Francia, Great Moravia lost most of its peripheral territories.
In the meantime, the Hungarian (Magyar) tribes, having suffered a defeat from the similarly nomadic Pechenegs, left their territories east of the Carpathian Mountains, invaded the Carpathian Basin and started to occupy the territory gradually around 896. Their armies' advance may have been promoted by continuous wars among the countries of the region whose rulers still hired them occasionally to intervene in their struggles.
Both Mojmír II and Svatopluk II probably died in battles with the Hungarians (Magyars) between 904 and 907 because their names are not mentioned in written sources after 906. In three battles (4-5 July and 9 August 907) near Pozsony / Pressburg (Bratislava), the Hungarians (Magyars) routed Bavarian armies. Historians traditionally put this year as the date of the breakup of the Great Moravian Empire.
Great Moravia left behind a lasting legacy in Central and Eastern Europe. The Glagolitic script and its successor Cyrillic were disseminated to other Slavic countries, charting a new path in their cultural development. The administrative system of Great Moravia may have influenced the development of the administration of the Kingdom of Hungary.
From the beginning of the 10th century, the Magyars (Hungarians), progressively imposed their authority on the Carpathian Basin. Although some contemporary sources mention that Great Moravia disappeared without trace and its inhabitants left for the Bulgars, Croats and Hungarians (Magyars) following the latters' victories, but archaeological researches and toponyms suggest the continuity of Slavic population in the valleys of the rivers of the Inner Western Carpathians. Toponyms may prove that the nomadic Magyars occupied the Western Pannonian Plain in present-day Slovakia, while the hills were inhabited by a mixed (Slav and Hungarian) population and people living in the valleys of the mountains spoke Slavic language.
Words borrowed by the Hungarian from Slavic people also prove their coexistence, although it is sometimes difficult to decide whether a certain word was borrowed from a West Slavic or a South Slavic language. The Hungarians (Magyars) adapted numerous Slavic words, connected to various fields of life, from state organization to agriculture and social relations; around 10% of the word roots of the modern Hungarian language originates from Slavic languages.
Some references even were made to Moravia in the course of the 10th century, and archaeological findings may also refer to the survival of some noble families of Great Moravia. On the other hand, the chroniclers of the early history of Hungary, recorded that the prominent noble families of the kingdom descended either from leaders of the Magyar tribes or from immigrants, and they did not connect any of them to Great Moravia. For example, the ancestors of the clan Hunt-Pázmán (Hont-Pázmány), whose Great Moravian origin has been advanced by modern scholars, were mentioned by Simon of Kéza to have arrived from the Duchy of Swabia (in the Holy Roman Empire) to the kingdom in the late 10th century.
The territory of the present-day Slovakia became progressively integrated into the developing state ( the future Kingdom of Hungary ) in the early 10th century. The Gesta Hungarorum ("Deeds of the Hungarians") mentions that Huba, head of one of the seven Hungarian (Magyar) tribes, received possessions around Nyitra / Nitra and the Zsitva / Žitava River; while according to the Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum ("Deeds of the Huns and Hungarians") another tribal leader, Lél settled down around Galgóc / Hlohovec and following the Magyars' victory over the Moravians', he usually stayed around Nyitra / Nitra. Modern authors also claim that the north-western parts of the Carpathian Basin were occupied by one of the Magyar tribes.
Between 899 and 970, the Hungarians (Magyars) frequently conducted raids to the territories of present-day Italy, Germany, France and Spain and also to the lands of the Byzantine Empire. Such activities continued westwards until the Battle of Augsburg on the Lech River in 955, when Otto, King of the Germans destroyed their troops; their raids against the Byzantine Empire finished only in 970.
From 917, the Hungarians (Magyars) made raids to several territories at the same time which may prove the decay of the uniform direction within their tribal federation. The sources prove the existence of at least three and maximum five groups of tribes within the federation, and only one of them was lead directly by the Árpáds (the dynasty of the future kings of Hungary) who ruled over the western parts of the Carpathian Basin.
The development of the future Kingdom of Hungary started during the reign of Grand Prince Géza (before 972-997) who expanded his rule over the territories of present-day Slovakia west of the River Garam / Hron. Although, he was baptised in or after 972, he never became a convinced Christian – in contrast to his son, Stephen who followed him in 997. Some authors claim that following his marriage with Giselle of Bavaria, Stephen received the "Duchy of Nitra" in appanage from his father. When Géza died, a member of the Árpád dynasty, the pagan Koppány claimed the succession, but Stephen defeated him with the assistance of his wife's German retinue. A Slovak folksong mentions that Štefan kral (i.e., King Stephen) could only overcome his pagan opponent with the assistance of Slovak warriors around Bény / Bíňa. Following his victory, Stephen received a crown from Pope Silvester II and he was crowned as the first King of Hungary in 1000 or 1001.
The Kingdom of Hungary integrated elements of the former Great Moravian state organization. On the other hand, historians has not reached a consensus on this subject; e.g., it is still being debated whether the formation of the basic unit of the administration (vármegye) in the kingdom followed foreign (Bulgarian, Moravian or German) patterns or it was an internal innovation.
[Stephen I of Hungary|Stephen]] (1000/1001-1038) established at least eight counties ("vármegye") on the territories of present-day Slovakia: Abaúj / Abov, Borsod, Esztergom, Hont, Komárom / Komárno, Nyitra / Nitra, Bars / Tekov and Zemplén / Zemplín were probably founded by him. The scarcely populated northern and north-eastern territories of today Slovakia became the kings' private forests. King Stephen also set up several dioceses in his kingdom; in the 11th century, present-day Slovakia's territories were divided between the Archdiocese of Esztergom (established around 1000) and its suffragan, the Diocese of Eger (founded between 1006-1009).
Around 1003 or 1015, Duke Boleslaw I of Poland occupied some territories of present-day Slovakia east of the River Morava, but King Stephen recovered these territories already in 1018.
Following King Stephen's death, his kingdom got involved in internal conflicts among the claimants for his crown and Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor also intervened in the struggles. In 1042, the Emperor Henry occupied the parts of today Slovakia east of the River Hron and granted them to King Stephen's cousin, Béla, but following the withdrawal of the Emperor's armies, King Samuel Aba's troops reoccupied the territories.
In 1048, King Andrew I of Hungary conceded one-third of his kingdom (Tercia pars regni) in appanage to his brother, Duke Béla. The duke's domains were centered around Nyitra / Nitra and Bihar (in Romanian: Biharea in present-day Romania). During the following 60 years, the Tercia pars regni were governed separately by members of the Árpád dynasty (i.e., by the Dukes Géza, Ladislaus, Lampert and Álmos). The dukes accepted the kings' supremacy, but some of them (Béla, Géza and Álmos) rebelled against the king in order to acquire the crown and allied themselves with the rulers of the neighbouring countries (e.g., the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia).
The history of the Tercia pars regni ended in 1107, when King Coloman of Hungary occupied its territories taking advantage of the pilgrimage of Duke Álmos (his brother) to the Holy Land. Although, Duke Álmos, when returned to the kingdom, tried to reoccupy his former duchy with the military assistance of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, but he failed and was obliged to accept the status quo.
Following the occupation of his brother's duchy, King Coloman set up (or re-established) the third bishopric in present-day Slovakia, the Diocese of Nitra. The royal administration of the territory was developing gradually during the 11-13th centuries: new counties were established with the partition of existing ones or central counties of the kingdom expanded their territory northward Pozsony county / Prešporok, Trencsén county / Trenčín, Gömör-Kishont county / Gemer and Nógrád / Novohrad, while the kings' private forests were organised into "forest counties" around Zólyom | Zvolen and Sáros / Šariš Castle.
The colonisation of the northern parts of the Hungarian kingdom continued during the period; Slavic, Hungarian, German and Walloon "guests" (hospes) arrived to the scarcely populated lands and settled down there. The contemporary documents mention that settlers from Moravia and Bohemia arrived to the western parts of present-day Slovakia, while on the northern and eastern parts, Polish and Ruthenian "guests" settled down. Royal privileges prove that several families of the developing local nobility (e.g., the Zathureczky, Pominorszky and Viszocsányi families) were of Slavic origin. German "guests" settled down in several future towns (e.g., in Korpona / Krupina, Óbars / Starý Tekov and Selmecbánya / Banská Štiavnica already by the first half of the 13th century. The settlers in the Szepes / Spiš region were originally of Hungarian and Slavic (e.g., Polish) origin; from the 1240s, Walloon "guests" arrived to the region and German settlers joined them.
The territory of present-day Slovakia was rich in raw materials like gold, silver, copper, iron and salt and therefore the mining industry developed gradually in the region. The development of the mining industry and commerce enstrengthened the position of some settlements and they received privileges from the kings: the first town privileges were granted to Nagyszombat / Trnava (1238), Óbars / Starý Tekov (1240) and Selmecbánya / Banská Štiavnica (1241 or 1242) in present-day Slovakia. The inhabitants of the privileged towns were mainly of German origin, but Hungarian and Slavic citizens were also present in the towns. The presence of Jews in several towns of today Slovakia (e.g., in Pozsony / Bratislava, Bazin / Pezinok is also documented at least from the 13th century; the Jew's special status was confirmed by a charter of King Béla IV of Hungary in 1251, but decisions of local synods limited their activities (i.e., they could not hold offices and they could not own lands). The Muslims, living in the region of Nyitra / Nitra, also had to face similar limitations and they disappeared (probably became Christian) by the end of the 13th century.
In 1241, the Mongols invaded and devastated the north-western parts of the kingdom, only some fortresses (e.g., Trencsén / Trenčín, Nyitra / Nitra, Fülek / Fiľakovo) could resist their attacks. Following the withdrawal of the Mongol troops (1242), several castles were built or enstrengthened (e.g., Komárom / Komárno, Beckó / Beckov and Zólyom / Zvolen on the order of King Béla IV He also continued his policy of granting town privileges to several settlements, e.g., to Korpona / Krupina (1244), Nyitra / Nitra(1248), Besztercebánya / Banská Bystrica (1255) and Gölnicbánya / Gelnica (1270). During his reign, new German immigrants settled down in Szepesvár / Spiš (German: Zips) whose privileges were granted in 1271 by King Stephen V of Hungary.
The last decades of the 13th century were characterized by discords within the royal family and among the several groups of the aristocracy. The decay of the royal power and the rise of some powerful aristocrats gave rise to the transformation of the administrative system: the counties that had been the basic units of the royal administration ("royal counties") transformed gradually into autonomous administrative units of the local nobility ("noble counties"); however, the local nobility was not able to stop the rise of oligarchs.
Following the Mongol invasion of the kingdom, a competition started among the landowners: each of them endeavored to build a castle with or without the permission of the king. The competition started a process of differentiation among the noble families, because the nobles who were able to build a castle could also expand their influence over the neighbouring landowners. The conflicts among the members of the royal family also strengthened the power of the aristocrats (who sometimes received whole counties from the kings) and resulted in the formation of around eight huge territories ("provinces") in the kingdom, governed by powerful aristocrats in the 1290s.
In present-day Slovakia, most of the castles were owned by two powerful aristocrats (Amade Aba and Matthew Csák) or their followers. Following the extinction of the Árpád dynasty (1301), both of them pretended to follow one of the claimants for the throne, but, in practice, they governed their territories independently. Amade Aba governed the eastern parts of present-day Slovakia from his seat in Gönc. He was killed by Charles Robert of Anjou's assassins at the south gate in Kassa / Košice in 1311.
Matthew Csák was the de facto ruler of the western territories of present-day Slovakia, from his seat at Trencsén / Trenčín. He allied himself with the murdered Amade Aba's sons against Kassa / Košice, but King Charles I of Hungary, who had managed to acquire the throne against his opponents, gave military assistance to the town and the royal armies defeated him at the Battle of Rozgony in 1312. However, the north-western counties remained in his power until his death in 1321 when the royal armies occupied his former castles without resistance.
King Charles I strengthened the central power in the kingdom following a 20-year long period of struggles against his opponents and the oligarchs. He concluded commercial agreements with Kings John of Bohemia and Casimir III of Poland in 1335 which increased the trade on the commercial routes leading from Kassa / Košice to Kraków and from Zsolna / Žilina to Brno.
The king confirmed the privileges of the 24 "Saxon" towns in Szepes / Spiš, strengthened the special rights of Eperjes / Prešov and granted town privileges to Szomolnok /Smolník. The towns of present-day Slovakia were still dominated by its German citizens. However, the Privilegium pro Slavis, dated to 1381, attests notably to nation-building in the wealthy towns: King Louis I gave the Slavs half of the seats in the municipal council of Zsolna / Žilina. Many of the towns (e.g., Besztercebánya / Banská Bystrica, Pozsony / Bratislava, Kassa / Košice, Körmöcbánya / Kremnica and Nagyszombat / Trnava ) received the status of "free royal cities" (liberæ regiæ civitates) and they were entitled to send deputies to the assemblies of the Estates of the Kingdom from 1441.
In the first half of the 14th century, the population of the regions of the former "forest counties" increased and their territories formed new counties such as Árva / Orava, Liptó / Liptov, Turóc / Turiec, Zólyom / Zvolen in the northern parts of present-day Slovakia. In the region of Szepes / Spiš, some elements of the population received special privileges: the 24 "Saxon" towns formed an autonomous community, independent of Szepes county / Spiš county, and the "nobles with ten lances" were organised into a special autonomous administrative unit ("seat"). In 1412, King Sigismund mortgaged 13 of the "Saxon" towns to King Władysław II of Poland so they de facto belonged to Poland until 1769.
From the 1320s, most of the lands of present-day Slovakia were owned by the kings, but prelates and aristocratic families (e.g., the Drugeth, Szentgyörgyi and Szécsényi families) also hold properties on the territory. In December 1385, the future King Sigismund, who was Queen Mary of Hungary's prince consort at that time, mortgaged the territories of present-day Slovakia west of the Vág | Váh River to his cousins, the Margraves Jobst and Prokop of Moravia; and the former held his territories until 1389, while the latter could maintain his rule over some of the territories until 1405. King Sigismund (1387-1437) granted vast territories to his followers (e.g., to the members of the Cillei, Rozgonyi and Perényi families) during his reign; one of his principal advisers, the Polish Stibor of Stiboricz styled himself "Lord of the whole Váh" referring to his 10 castles around the river.
Following the death of King Albert (1439), civil war broke out among the followers of the claimants for the throne. The Dowager Queen Elisabeth hired Czech mercenaries led by Jan Jiskra who occupied several towns on the territory of present-day Slovakia (e.g., Körmöcbánya / Kremnica, Lőcse / Levoča and Bártfa / Bardejov) and maintained most of them until 1462 when he surrendered to King Matthias Corvinus.
The catastrophic defeat of the Hungarian armies from Suleiman I ("the Magnificent") in the Battle of Mohács in 1526, and the conquest of Buda in 1541 by the Turks, brought about the reduction of the Kingdom of Hungary to the territory of what was called Royal Hungary, while the remaining Hungarian territories became part either of the Ottoman Empire or of the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom, which later became the Principality of Transylvania. Southern central regions of her was part of Ottoman Empire as provinces of Budin, Egri and Érsekújvár / Nove Zamky.
The Ottoman Empire occupied the central part of the Kingdom of Hungary (roughly corresponding to present-day Hungary), and set up a Turkish provinces there (see Ottoman Hungary). Transylvania became a Turkish protectorate vassal and a base which gave birth to all the anti-Habsburg revolts led by the nobility of the Kingdom of Hungary during the period 1604 to 1711. The third part of the Kingdom, on present-day territory of Slovakia (except for the southern central regions), northwestern present-day Hungary, northern Croatia and present-day Burgenland, resisted Turkish occupation and subsequently became a direct part of the Habsburg Monarchy which is referred to by historians as the "Royal Hungary". Ferdinand I, prince of Austria was elected king of "Royal Hungary". After the conquest of Buda in 1541 by the Turks, the modern-day capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, then called Pressburg in German, Pozsony in Hungarian and Prešporok in Slovak became, for the period between 1536 to 1784/1848 the capital and the coronation city of Hungary. From 1526 to 1830, nineteen Habsburg sovereigns went through coronation ceremonies as Kings and Queens of Hungary in St. Martin's Cathedral.
Due to the Ottoman invasion, "Royal Hungary" and the southern regions under Turkish control, became, for almost two centuries, the principal battleground of the Turkish wars, and the region paid dearly for the defense of the Habsburg Monarchy (and, moreover, of the rest of Europe ) against Turkish expansion. The territory paid not only with the blood and the goods of its population, but also by losing practically all of its natural riches, especially gold and silver, which went to pay for the costly and difficult combats of an endemic war. In addition, the double taxation of the area was a common practice, which further worsened the living standards of the declining population of Hungarian settlements.
After the ousting of the Turks from Buda 1686 (which later became Budapest), it became later again the capital of Hungary. However, the Slovakian people succeeded in keeping their language and their culture. The survival of the Slovaks was aided by the fact that the greatest loss of life were in the areas populated more heavily by Hungarians.
During the 18th century the Slovak National Movement emerged, partially inspired by the broader Pan-Slavic movement with the aim of fostering a sense of national identity among the Slovak people. Advanced mainly by Slovak religious leaders, the movement grew during the 19th century. At the same time, the movement was divided along the confessional lines and various groups had different views on everything from quotidian strategy to linguistics. Moreover, the Hungarian control remained strict and the movement was constrained by the official policy of magyarization.
The first codification of a Slovak literary language by Anton Bernolák in the 1780s was based on the dialect from western Slovakia. It was supported by mainly Roman Catholic intellectuals, with the center in Trnava. The Lutheran intellectuals continued to use a Slovakized form of the Czech language. Especially Ján Kollár and Pavel Jozef Šafárik were adherents of Pan-Slavic concepts that stressed the unity of all Slavic peoples. They considered Czechs and Slovaks members of a single nation and they attempted to draw the languages closer together.
In the 1840s, the Protestants split as Ľudovít Štúr developed a literal language based on the dialect from central Slovakia. His followers stressed the separate identity of the Slovak nation and uniqueness of its language. Štúr's version was finally approved by both the Catholics and the Lutherans in 1847 and, after several reforms, it remains the official Slovak language.
In the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 the Slovak nationalist leaders took the side of the Austrians in order to promote their separation from the Kingdom of Hungary within the Austrian monarchy. The Slovak National Council even took part in the Austrian military campaign as setting up auxiliary troops against the government of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. In September, 1848, it managed to organize a short living administration on the occupied territories. However, the Slovak troops were later disbanded by the Vienna Imperial Court. On the other hand, tens of thousands of volunteers from the current territory of Slovakia, among them a great number of Slovaks, fought in the Hungarian Army. After the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution, the Hungarian political elite was oppressed by the Austrian authorities, many participant of the Revolution being executed, imprisoned or forced to emigrate. In 1850, with the division of the Kingdom of Hungary into five military districts or provinces, two of them had administrative centers in the territory of present day Slovakia: the Military District of Pressburg ( Bratislava / Pozsony ) and the Military District of Kaschau ( Kassa / Košice). The Austrian authorities abolished both provinces in 1860. The Slovak political elite made use of the period neo-absolutism of the Vienna court and the weakness of the traditional Hungarian elite to promote their national goals. Túrócszentmárton / Martin became the foremost center of the Slovak National Movement with foundation of the nationwide cultural association Matica slovenská (1863), the Slovak National Museum, and the Slovak National Party (1871).
The heyday of the movement came to the sudden end after 1867, when the Habsburg domains in central Europe underwent a constitutional transformation into the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary as a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The territory of present-day Slovakia remained part of Hungary dominated by the Hungarian political elite which distrusted the Slovak elite due to its Pan-Slavism, separatism and its recent stand against the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Matica was accused of Pan-Slavic separatism and was dissolved by the authorities in 1875 and other Slovak institutions (including schools) shared the same fate.
New signs of national and political life appeared only at the very end of the 19th century. Slovaks became aware that they needed to ally themselves with others in their struggle. One result of this awareness, the Congress of Oppressed Peoples of Hungary, held in Budapest in 1895, alarmed the government. In their struggle Slovaks received a great deal of help from the Czechs. In 1896, the concept of Czecho-Slovak Mutuality was established in Prague to strengthen Czecho-Slovak cooperation and support the secession of Slovaks from Hungary. At the beginning of the 20th century, growing democratization of political and social life threatened to overwhelm the monarchy. The call for universal suffrage became the main rallying cry. In Hungary, only 5 percent of inhabitants could vote. Slovaks saw in the trend towards representative democracy a possibility of easing ethnic oppression and a break-through into renewed political activity.
The Slovak political camp, at the beginning of the century, split into different factions. The leaders of the Slovak National Party based in Martin, expected the international situation to change in the Slovaks' favor, and they put great store by Russia. The Roman Catholic faction of Slovak politicians led by Father Andrej Hlinka focused on small undertakings among the Slovak public and, shortly before the war, established a political party named the Slovak People's Party. The liberal intelligentsia rallying around the journal Hlas ("Voice"), followed a similar political path, but attached more importance to Czecho-Slovak cooperation. An independent Social Democratic Party emerged in 1905.
The Slovaks achieved some results. One of the greatest of these occurred with the election success in 1906, when, despite continued oppression, seven Slovaks managed to get seats in the Assembly. This success alarmed the government, and increased what was regarded by Slovaks as its oppressive measures. Magyarization achieved its climax with a new education act known as the Apponyi Act, named after education minister Count Albert Apponyi. The new act stipulated that the teaching of the Hungarian language, as one of the subjects, must be included in the curriculum of non-state owned four years elementary schools in the frame-work of the compulsory schooling, as a condition for the non-state owned schools to receive state-financing. Ethnic tension intensified when 15 Slovaks were killed during a riot on occasion of the consecration of a new church at Černová / Csernova near Rózsahegy / Ružomberok (see Černová tragedy). The local inhabitants wanted the popular priest and nationalist politician Andrej Hlinka to consecrate their new church. But bishop Párvy according to the canon law refused to consent and appointed ethnic Slovak canon Anton Kurimsky, former parish priest of Rózsahegy / Ružomberok for the task. Local gendarmes, all of them ethnic Slovaks, shot dead 15 Slovakian protesters among a crowd of app. 400 rioters who attacked on the priests' convoy escorted by the gendarems. All this added to Slovak estrangement from and resistance to Hungarian rule, and the incident became the topic of a propaganda campaign against Austria-Hungary.
Before the outbreak of World War I, the idea of Slovak autonomy became part of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's plan of federalization of the monarchy, developed with help of the Slovak journalist and politician Milan Hodža. This last realistic attempt to tie Slovakia to Austria-Hungary was abandoned because of the Archduke's assassination, which in turn triggered World War I.
After the outbreak of World War I the Slovak cause took firmer shape in resistance and in determination to leave the Dual Monarchy and to form an independent republic with the Czechs. The decision originated amongst people of Slovak descent in foreign countries. Slovaks in the United States of America, an especially numerous group, formed a sizable organization. These, and other organizations in Russia and in neutral countries, backed the idea of a Czecho-Slovak republic. Slovaks strongly supported this move.
The most important Slovak representative at this time, Milan Rastislav Štefánik, a French citizen of Slovak origin, served as a French general and as leading representative of the Czecho-Slovak National Council based in Paris. He made a decisive contribution to the success of the Czecho-Slovak cause. Political representatives at home, including representatives of all political persuasions, after some hesitation, gave their support to the activities of Masaryk, Beneš and Štefánik.
During the war the Hungarian authorities increased harassment of Slovaks, which hindered the nationalist campaign among the inhabitants of the Slovak lands. Despite stringent censorship, news of moves abroad towards the establishment of a Czech-Slovak state got through to Slovakia and met with much satisfaction.
During World War I (1914 - 1918) Czechs, Slovaks, and other national groups of Austria-Hungary gained much support from Czechs and Slovaks living abroad in campaigning for an independent state. In the turbulent final year of the war, sporadic protest actions took place in Slovakia - politicians held a secret meeting at Liptószentmiklós / Liptovský Mikuláš on 1 May 1918.
At the end of the war Austria-Hungary dissolved. The Prague National Committee proclaimed an independent republic of Czechoslovakia on 28 October, and, two days later, the Slovak National Council at Túrócszentmárton / Martin acceded to the Prague proclamation. The new republic was to include the Czech lands (Bohemia and Moravia), a small part of Silesia, and Slovakia; and Carpatho-Ukraine. The new state set up a parliamentary democratic government and established a capital in the Czech city of Prague.
As a result of the counter-attack of the Hungarian Red Army in May-June, 1919, Czech troops were ousted out from central and eastern parts of present Slovakia. However, the Hungarian army stopped its offensive, later the troops were withdrawn on the Entente's diplomatic intervention.   In the Treaty of Trianon signed in 1920, the Paris Peace Conference set the southern border of Czechoslovakia further south from the Slovak-Hungarian language border due to strategic and economic reasons. Consequently, fully or mostly Hungarian-populated areas were annexed to Czechoslovakia. According to the 1910 census conducted by the Central Statistical Office of Hungary, 884,309 ethnic Hungarians constituting 30.2% of the population lived on the present territory on Slovakia, and another 160,000 in Carpatho-Ukraine attached also to Czechoslovakia in the era. Czechoslovak census of 1930 recorded 571,952 Hungarians.
Slovaks, whom the Czechs outnumbered, differed in many important ways from their Czech neighbors. Slovakia had a more agrarian and less developed economy than the Czech lands, and the majority of Slovaks practised Catholicism while the Czechs had less likelihood of adhering to established religions. The Slovak people had generally less education and less experience with self-government than the Czechs. These disparities, compounded by centralized governmental control from Prague, produced discontent among Slovaks with the structure of the new state.
Although Czechoslovakia, alone among the only east-central European countries, remained a parliamentary democracy from 1918 to 1938, it continued to face minority problems, the most important of which concerned the country's large German population. A significant part of the new Slovak political establishment sought autonomy for Slovakia. The movement toward autonomy built up gradually from the 1920s until it culminated in independence in 1939.
In the period between the two world wars, the Czechoslovak government attempted to industrialize Slovakia. These efforts did not meet with success, partially due to the Great Depression, the worldwide economic slump of the 1930s. Slovak resentment over perceived economic and political domination by the Czechs led to increasing dissatisfaction with the republic and growing support for ideas of independence. Many Slovaks joined with Father Andrej Hlinka and Jozef Tiso in calls for equality between Czechs and Slovaks and for greater autonomy for Slovakia.
In September 1938, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Nazi Germany concluded the Munich Agreement, which forced Czechoslovakia to cede the predominantly German region known as the Sudetenland to Germany. In November, by the First Vienna Award, Italy and Germany compelled Czechoslovakia (later Slovakia) to cede primarily Hungarian-inhabited Southern Slovakia to Hungary. They did this in spite of pro-German official declarations of Czech and Slovak leaders made in October.
On 14 March 1939, the Slovak Republic (Slovenská republika) declared its independence and became a nominally independent state in Central Europe under Nazi German control of foreign policy and, increasingly, also some aspects of domestic policy. Jozef Tiso became Prime Minister and later President of the new state.
On 15 March, Nazi Germany invaded what remained of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia after the Munich agreement. The Germans established a protectorate over them which was known as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. On the same day, the Carpatho-Ukraine declared its independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine. But Hungary immediately invaded and annexed the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine, the territory of which belonged to Hungary before 1920. On 23 March, Hungary then occupied some additional disputed parts of territory of the present-day Eastern-Slovakia. This caused the brief Slovak-Hungarian War.
The nominally-independent Slovak Republic went through the early years of the war in relative peace. As an Axis ally, the country took part in the wars against Poland and the Soviet Union. Although its contribution was symbolic in the German war efforts, the number of troops involved (approx. 45,000 in the Soviet campaign) was rather significant in proportion to the population (2.6 million in 1940).
Soon after independence, under the authoritarian government of Jozef Tiso initiated a series of measures aimed against the 90,000 Jews in the country. The Hlinka's Guard began to attack Jews, and the "Jewish Code" was passed in September 1941. Resembling the Nuremberg Laws, the Code required that Jews wear a yellow armband, and were banned from intermarriage and many jobs. Between March and October 1942, the state deported approximately 57,000 Jews to the German-occupied part of Poland, where almost all of them were killed. The deportation of the remaining 24,000 was stopped after the Papal Nuncio informed the Slovak president that the German authorities were killing the Jews deported from Slovakia. However, 12,600 more Jews were deported by the German forces occupying Slovakia after the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. Around a half of them were killed in concentration camps. Some 10,000 Slovak Jews survived hidden by local people and 6,000–7,000 got official protection from the Slovak authorities.
On 29 August 1944, 60,000 Slovak troops and 18,000 partisans, organized by various underground groups and the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, rose up against the Nazis. The insurrection later became known as the Slovak National Uprising. Slovakia was devastated by the fierce German counter-offensive and occupation, but the guerrilla warfare continued even after the end of organized resistance. Although ultimately quelled by the German forces, the uprising was an important historical reference point for the Slovak people. It allowed them to end the war as a nation which had contributed to the Allied victory.
Later in 1944 the Soviet attacks intensified. Hence the Red Army, helped by Romanian troops, gradually routed out the German army from Slovak territory. On 4 April 1945, Soviet troops marched into the capital city of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava.
The victorious Powers restored Czechoslovakia in 1945 in the wake of World War II, albeit without the province of Ruthenia, which Prague ceded to the Soviet Union. The Beneš decrees, adopted as a result of the events of the war, led to disenfranchisement and persecution of the Hungarian minority in southern Slovakia. (The affected Hungarians regained Czechoslovak citizenship in 1948.) The Czechs and Slovaks held elections in 1946. In Slovakia, the Democratic Party won the elections (62%), but the Czechoslovak Communist Party won in the Czech part of the republic, thus winning 38% of the total vote in Czechoslovakia, and eventually seized power in February 1948, making the country effectively a satellite state of the Soviet Union.
Strict Communist control characterized the next four decades, interrupted only briefly in the so-called Prague Spring of 1968 after Alexander Dubček (a Slovak) became First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Dubček 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 Dubček had gone too far led to the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia on 21 August 1968, by Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian, East German, and Polish troops. Another Slovak, Gustáv Husák, replaced Dubček as Communist Party leader in April 1969.
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 régime. Political, social, and economic life stagnated. Because the reform movement had had its center in Prague, Slovakia experienced "normalization" less harshly than the Czech lands. In fact, the Slovak Republic saw comparatively high economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s relative to the Czech Republic (and mostly from 1994 till today).
The 1970s also saw the development of a dissident movement, especially in the Czech Republic. On 1 January 1977, more than 250 human-rights activists signed a manifesto called Charter 77, which criticized the Czechoslovak government for failing to meet its human-rights obligations.
On 17 November 1989, a series of public protests known as the "Velvet Revolution" began and led to the downfall of Communist Party rule in Czechoslovakia. A transition government formed in December 1989, and the first free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1948 took place in June 1990. In 1992, negotiations on the new federal constitution deadlocked over the issue of Slovak autonomy. In the latter half of 1992, agreement emerged to dissolve Czechoslovakia peacefully. On 1 January 1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic each simultaneously and peacefully proclaimed their existence. Both states attained immediate recognition from the United States of America and from their European neighbors.
In the days following the "Velvet Revolution," Charter 77 and other groups united to become the Civic Forum, an umbrella-group championing bureaucratic reform and civil liberties. Its leader, the playwright and former dissident Václav Havel won election as President of Czechoslovakia in December 1989. The Slovak counterpart of the Civic Forum, Public Against Violence, expressed the same ideals.
In the June 1990 elections, Civic Forum and Public Against Violence won landslide victories. Civic Forum and Public Against Violence found, however, that although they had successfully completed their primary objective — the overthrow of the communist régime — they proved less effective as governing parties. In the 1992 elections, a spectrum of new parties replaced both Civic Forum and Public Against Violence.
Czecho-Slovak/Czechoslovak Republic (ČSR)
County Sudetenland + other German terrirories
"Highland territories" of Hungary
Czechoslovak Republic (ČSR)
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ČSSR)
Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (ČSFR)
|Czecho-Slovak Republic (ČSR) incl. autonomous Slovakia and Transcarpathian Ukraine
WWII Slovak Republic
(further) "Highland territories" of Hungary
In elections held in June 1992, Václav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party won in the Czech lands on a platform of economic reform, and Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerged as the leading party in Slovakia, basing its appeal on the fairness of Slovak demands for autonomy. Mečiar and Klaus negotiated the agreement to divide Czechoslovakia, and Mečiar's party — HZDS — ruled Slovakia for most of its first five years as an independent state, except for a 9-month period in 1994 after a vote of no-confidence, during which a reformist government under Prime Minister Jozef Moravčík operated.
The first president of newly-independent Slovakia, Michal Kováč, promised to make Slovakia "the Switzerland of Eastern Europe". The first prime minister, Vladimír Mečiar, had served as the prime minister of the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia since 1992.
Rudolf Schuster won election as president in 1999. Vladimír Mečiar's semi-authoritarian government allegedly breached democratic norms and the rule of law before its replacement after the parliamentary elections of 1998 by a coalition led by Mikuláš Dzurinda.
The first Dzurinda government made numerous political and economic reforms that enabled Slovakia to enter the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), close virtually all chapters in European Union (EU) negotiations, and make itself a strong candidate for accession to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, the popularity of the governing parties declined sharply, and several new parties that earned relatively high levels of support in public opinion-polls appeared on the political scene. Mečiar remained the leader (in opposition) of the HZDS, which continued to receive the support of 20% or more of the population during the first Dzurinda government.
In the September 2002 parliamentary election, a last-minute surge in support for Prime Minister Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) gave him a mandate for a second term. He formed a government with three other center-right parties: the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), the Christian Democrats (KDH) and the Alliance of the New Citizen (ANO). The coalition won a narrow (three-seat) majority in the parliament. The government strongly supports NATO and EU integration and has stated that it will continue the democratic and free market-oriented reforms begun by the first Dzurinda government. The new coalition has as its main priorities - gaining of NATO and EU invitations, attracting foreign investment, and reforming social services such as the health-care system. Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, which received about 27% of the vote in 1998 (almost 900,000 votes) received only 19.5% (about 560,000 votes) in 2002 and again went into opposition, unable to find coalition partners. The opposition comprises the HZDS, Smer (led by Róbert Fico), and the Communists, who obtained about 6% of the popular vote.
Initially, Slovakia experienced more difficulty than the Czech Republic in developing a modern market economy. Slovakia joined NATO on 29 March 2004 and the EU on 1 May 2004. Slovakia was, on 10 October 2005, for the first time elected to a two-year term on the UN Security Council (for 2006-2007).
The latest elections took place on 17 June, 2006, where leftist Smer won elections with 29.14% (around 670 000 votes) of the popular vote and formed coalition with Slota's Slovak National Party and Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Their opposition is comprised from the former ruling parties: the SDKÚ, the SMK and the KDH.
|Timeline of Czechoslovak statehood|
|Timeline||Origins||1918–1938||World War II
|crown lands of the
|First Republic of Czechoslovakia
the 1920 constitution
annexed by Nazi Germany
|Third Republic of Czechoslovakia
(without a formal name change)
|Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
Czech Socialist Republic &
Slovak Socialist Republic
|Czech and Slovak Federal Republic
Czech Republic &
|Czech Republic (since 1993)|
autonomous regions of
Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia
|Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
|Slovakia||part of the
Kingdom of Hungary
|Southern Slovakia and Carpatho-Ukraine
Awarded to Hungary
|Carpathian Ruthenia||Zakarpattia Oblast of the Ukrainian SSR
|Zakarpattia Oblast of Ukraine