Land and People
Most of Slovakia is traversed by the Carpathian Mts., including the Tatra and the Beskids. Gerlachovka (8,737 ft/2,663 m) in the High Tatra, is the highest peak. S Slovakia is a part of the Little Alföld, a plain. Its fertile soil is drained by the Danube and its tributaries, notably the Váh. Several of its rivers have been dammed for hydroelectric power. Major cities include Bratislava and Komárno, which are the major Danubian ports; and Košice, Trnava, and Nitra.
Slovaks comprise more than 85% of the population; other groups include Hungarians (about 10%), Romani (Gypsies), and Czechs (who are ethnically and linguistically related to the Slovaks, but have a separate history and cultural traditions). A law passed in 1995, and strongly opposed by Hungarians and other minorities, made Slovak the sole official language; additional minority language restrictions in 2009 led to new tensions (as have laws in Hungary granting ethnic Hungarians special rights). Hungarian is widely spoken in S Slovakia. About 70% of the population profess Roman Catholicism, and there are significant Protestant (mainly Lutheran), Eastern Orthodox, and Uniate minorities.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.