Facts & Figures
President: Andrej Kiska (2014)
Prime Minister: Robert Fico (2012)
Land area: 18,842 sq mi (48,800 sq km); total area: 18,859 sq mi (48,845 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 5,443,583 (growth rate: 0.03%); birth rate: 10.01/1000; infant mortality rate: 5.35/1000; life expectancy: 76.69; density per sq mi: 287
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Bratislava, 434,000
Other large city: Kosice, 240,688
Monetary unit: Koruna
- Slovakia Main Page
- Slovakia Becomes an Independent Republic and Eventually Joins the EU and NATO
- Slovakia Key Player in European Bailout Fund
- 2014 Brings New President
Slovakia is located in central Europe. The land has rugged mountains, rich in mineral resources, with vast forests and pastures. The Carpathian Mountains dominate the topography of Slovakia, with lowland areas in the southern region. Slovakia is about twice the size of the state of Maryland.
Present-day Slovakia was settled by Slavic Slovaks about the 6th century. They were politically united in the Moravian empire in the 9th century. In 907, the Germans and the Magyars conquered the Moravian state, and the Slovaks fell under Hungarian control from the 10th century up until 1918. When the Hapsburg-ruled empire collapsed in 1918 following World War I, the Slovaks joined the Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia to form the new joint state of Czechoslovakia. In March 1939, Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, established a German “protectorate,” and created a puppet state out of Slovakia with Monsignor Josef Tiso as prime minister. The country was liberated from the Germans by the Soviet army in the spring of 1945, and Slovakia was restored to its prewar status and rejoined to a new Czechoslovakian state.
After the Communist Party took power in Feb. 1948, Slovakia was again subjected to a centralized Czech-dominated government, and antagonism between the two republics developed. In Jan. 1969, the nation became the Slovak Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia.
Nearly 42 years of Communist rule for Slovakia ended when Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia in 1989 and democratic political reform began. However, with the demise of Communist power, a strong Slovak nationalist movement resurfaced, and the rival relationship between the two states increased. By the end of 1991, discussions between Slovak and Czech political leaders turned to whether the Czech and Slovak republics should continue to coexist within the federal structure or be divided into two independent states.
Slovakia Becomes an Independent Republic and Eventually Joins the EU and NATO
After the general election in June 1992, it was decided that two fully independent republics would be created. The Republic of Slovakia came into existence on Jan. 1, 1993. The parliament in February elected Michal Kovac as president.
Populist Vladimir Meciar, who served three times as Slovakia's prime minister, exhibited increasingly authoritarian behavior and was cited as the reason Slovakia was for a time eliminated from consideration for both the EU and NATO. Slovakia's very low influx of foreign capital during Meciar's tenure was the result of his government's lack of transparency. Meciar was unseated in 1998 elections by the reformist government of Mikulás Dzurinda. In April 2000 Meciar was arrested and charged with paying illegal bonuses to his cabinet ministers while in office. A three-week standoff with police preceded the arrest, ending only when police commandos blew open the door on Meciar's house and seized him. He was also questioned about his alleged involvement in the 1995 kidnapping of the son of Slovakia's former president, Michal Kovac.
Dzurinda has improved Slovakia's reputation in the West, but his tough economic measures have made him unpopular within the country. Former prime minister Meciar has proven oddly resilient. In Sept. 2002 elections, the ruling coalition held onto power, despite Meciar coming out ahead in the vote. In April 2004, Meciar ran for the presidency against his former right-hand man, Ivan Gasparovic. Gasparovic, however, won the largely ceremonial post by a wide majority. In 2004, Slovakia joined the EU and NATO. In May 2005, it ratified the EU constitution.
Robert Fico of the Socialist Party became prime minister in July 2006, after forming an odd coalition with two right-wing nationalist parties, including Meciar's.
In April 2009, incumbent Ivan Gasparovic won the presidential elections with 46.7% of the vote. Parliamentary elections in July 2010 were inconclusive. Iveta Radicova, a former MP and presidential candidate in 2009, became prime minister, heading a four-party coalition government. The coalition includes her conservative Slovakian Democratic and Christian Union, the liberal Freedom and Solidarity Party, the largely Hungarian Most-Hid, and the Christian Democrat Movement.
Slovakia Key Player in European Bailout Fund
In October 2011, Slovakia found itself in the position of determining the fate of a euro-zone bailout fund. Parliament, responding to outrage among citizens who did not think it was their responsibility to help finance the rescue of much richer and larger countries, such as Greece and Portugal, voted against supporting an expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility, which administers the bailout fund. In voting down the legislation, Parliament also passed a no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Radicova. The legislation passed two days later, however, when an opposition party joined with the government and voted in support of the measure. In exchange for their support, the government agreed to hold early elections in March 2012. In the election, the Smer-Social Democracy Party, headed by Robert Fico, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, won 83 seats in the 150-seat parliament. Fico returned to power, and for the first time since Slovakia gained independence in 1993, a party will govern without having to form a coalition.
2014 Brings New President
Slovakia held presidential elections on March 15, 2014. Ivan Gašparovič, president from 2004 to 2014 and the first to be re-elected to a second term, could not run for a third term because Slovakia's constitution only allows two.
No candidate had a clear majority after the first round of the 2014 presidential elections. However, Prime Minister Robert Fico and Independent candidate Andrej Kiska had enough votes for a runoff which was held on March 29. Kiska won with 59.38% of the popular vote to Fico's 40.61%. An entrepreneur and philanthropist, Kiska had no political experience prior to the election. Kiska was sworn in on June 15, 2014.