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country

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Slovakia

Capital Bratislava
Continent Europe
Code +421
Currency Euro (€)
Languages Slovak

Description

Slovakia is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the southwest, and the Czech Republic to the northwest. Slovakia's mostly mountainous territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi), with a population of over 5.4 million. The capital and largest city are Bratislava, while the second-largest city is Košice.

The Slavs arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the fifth and sixth centuries. In the seventh century, they played a significant role in the creation of Samo's Empire. In the ninth century, they established the Principality of Nitra, which was later conquered by the Principality of Moravia to establish Great Moravia. In the tenth century, after the dissolution of Great Moravia, the territory was integrated into the Principality of Hungary, which would then become the Kingdom of Hungary in 1000. In 1241 and 1242, after the Mongol invasion of Europe, much of the territory was destroyed. The area was recovered largely thanks to Béla IV of Hungary, who also settled Germans, leading them to become an important ethnic group in the area, especially in what are today parts of central and eastern Slovakia.

After World War, I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the state of Czechoslovakia was established. It was the only country in central and eastern Europe to remain a democracy during the interwar period. Nevertheless, local fascist parties gradually came to power in the Slovak lands, and the first Slovak Republic existed during World War II as a partially-recognised client state of Nazi Germany. At the end of World War II, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent country. After a coup in 1948, Czechoslovakia came under communist administration and became a part of the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. Attempts to liberalise communism in Czechoslovakia culminated in the Prague Spring, which was crushed by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. In 1989, the Velvet Revolution peacefully ended Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Slovakia became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce.

Slovakia is a developed country with an advanced high-income economy, ranking very high in the Human Development Index. It also performs favourably in measurements of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance, and peacefulness. The country maintains a combination of a market economy with a comprehensive social security system, providing citizens with universal health care, free education, and one of the longest paid parental leaves in the OECD. Slovakia is a member of NATO, CERN, the European Union, the Eurozone, the Schengen Area, the United Nations, the OECD, the WTO, the Council of Europe, the Visegrád Group, and the OSCE. It is the world's largest per-capita car producer; it manufactured a total of 1.1 million cars in 2019, representing 43% of its total industrial output.

History

The oldest surviving human artefacts from Slovakia are found near Nové Mesto nad Váhom and are dated 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 Prévôt (Prepoštská) cave in 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 human 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 Zákovská, Podkovice, Hubina, and Radošina. These findings provide the most ancient evidence of commercial exchanges carried out between the Mediterranean and Central Europe.

Geography

Slovakia lies between latitudes 47° and 50° N, and longitudes 16° and 23° E. The Slovak landscape is noted primarily for its mountainous nature, with the Carpathian Mountains extending across most of the northern half of the country. Among these mountain ranges are the high peaks of the Fatra-Tatra Area (including Tatra Mountains, Greater Fatra and Lesser Fatra), Slovak Ore Mountains, Slovak Central Mountains or the Beskids. The largest lowland is the fertile Danubian Lowland in the southwest, followed by the Eastern Slovak Lowland in the southeast. Forests cover 41% of Slovak land surface.

Government and Politics

Slovakia is a parliamentary democratic republic with a multi-party system. The last parliamentary elections were held on 29 February 2020 and two rounds of presidential elections took place on 16 and 30 March 2019.

The Slovak head of state and the formal head of the executive is the president (currently Zuzana Čaputová, the first female president), though with very limited powers. The president is elected by direct, popular vote under the two-round system for a five-year term. Most executive power lies with the head of government, the prime minister (currently Eduard Heger), who is usually the leader of the winning party and who needs to form a majority coalition in the parliament. The prime minister is appointed by the president. The remainder of the cabinet is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister.

Slovakia's highest legislative body is the 150-seat unicameral National Council of the Slovak Republic (Národná rada Slovenskej republiky). Delegates are elected for a four-year term based on proportional representation.

Slovakia's highest judicial body is the Constitutional Court of Slovakia (Ústavný súd), which rules on constitutional issues. The 13 members of this court are appointed by the president from a slate of candidates nominated by parliament.

The Constitution of the Slovak Republic was ratified on 1 September 1992 and became effective on 1 January 1993. It was amended in September 1998 to allow direct election of the president and again in February 2001 due to EU admission requirements. The civil law system is based on Austro-Hungarian codes. The legal code was modified to comply with the obligations of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to expunge the Marxist–Leninist legal theory. Slovakia accepts the compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction with reservations.

Economy

The Slovak economy is a developed, high-income economy, with the GDP per capita equalling 78% of the average of the European Union in 2018. The country has difficulties addressing regional imbalances in wealth and employment. GDP per capita ranges from 188% of the EU average in Bratislava to 54% in Eastern Slovakia. Although regional income inequality is high, 90% of citizens own their homes.

The OECD in 2017 reported:

The Slovak Republic continues exhibiting robust economic performance, with strong growth backed by a sound financial sector, low public debt and high international competitiveness drawing on large inward investment.

In 2021, Slovakia was ranked by the International Monetary Fund as the 45th richest country in the world (out of 195 countries and territories), with purchasing power parity per capita GDP of $34,815. The country used to be dubbed the "Tatra Tiger". Slovakia successfully transformed from a centrally planned economy to a market-driven economy. Major privatisations are completed, the banking sector is almost completely in private hands, and foreign investment has risen.

As of 2021, with a population of only 5 million, Slovakia is the 61st largest economy in the world (out of 213 countries and territories). The Slovak economy is one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and the 3rd-fastest in the eurozone (2017). In 2007, 2008 and 2010 (with GDP growth of 10.5%, 6% and 4%, retrospectively). In 2016, more than 86% of Slovak exports went to the European Union, and more than 50% of Slovak imports came from other European Union member states.

The ratio of government debt to GDP in Slovakia reached 49.4% by the end of 2018, far below the OECD average.

Unemployment, peaking at 19% at the end of 1999, decreased to 4.9% in 2019, the lowest recorded rate in Slovak history.

Slovakia adopted the Euro currency on 1 January 2009 as the 16th member of the Eurozone. The euro in Slovakia was approved by the European Commission on 7 May 2008. The Slovak koruna was revalued on 28 May 2008 to 30.126 for 1 euro, which was also the exchange rate for the euro.

The Slovak government encourages foreign investment since it is one of the driving forces of the economy. Slovakia is an attractive country for foreign investors mainly because of its low wages, low tax rates, well-educated labour force, favourable geographic location in the heart of Central Europe, strong political stability and good international relations reinforced by the country's accession to the European Union. Some regions, mostly in the east of Slovakia have failed to attract major investment, which has aggravated regional disparities in many economic and social areas. Foreign direct investment inflow grew more than 600% from 2000 and cumulatively reached an all-time high of $17.3 billion in 2006, or around $22,000 per capita by the end of 2008.

Slovakia ranks 45th out of 190 economies in terms of ease of doing business, according to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report and 57th out of the 63 countries and territories in terms of a competitive economy, according to the 2020 World Competitiveness Yearbook Report.

Culture

The culture of Slovakia has various folk traditions influenced by its location in Central Europe. It shares similarities with Czech, Austrian, German, Hungarian and Ukrainian culture.

Folk tradition has rooted strongly in Slovakia and is reflected in literature, music, dance and architecture. The prime example is a Slovak national anthem, "Nad Tatrou a blýska", which is based on a melody from the "Kopala studienku" folk song.

Manifestation of Slovak folklore culture is the "Východná" Folklore Festival. It is the oldest and largest nationwide festival with international participation, which takes place in Východná annually. Slovakia is usually represented by many groups but mainly by SĽUK (Slovenský ľudový umelecký kolektív—Slovak folk art collective). SĽUK is the largest Slovak folk art group, trying to preserve the folklore tradition.

Traditional Slovak cuisine is based mainly on pork, poultry (chicken is the most widely-eaten, followed by duck, goose, and turkey), flour, potatoes, cabbage, and milk products. It is relatively closely related to Hungarian, Czech and Austrian cuisine. On the east, it is also influenced by Ukrainian cuisine. In comparison with other European countries, "game meat" is more accessible in Slovakia due to the vast resources of forest and because hunting is relatively popular. Boar, rabbit, and venison are generally available throughout the year. Lamb and goat are eaten but are not widely popular.

The traditional Slovak meals are bryndzové halušky, bryndzové pyrohy and other meals with potato dough and bryndza. Bryndza is a salty cheese made of sheep milk, characterised by a strong taste and aroma. Bryndzové halušky must be on the menu of every traditional Slovak restaurant.

A typical soup is a sauerkraut soup ("kapustnica"). A blood sausage called "Ravnica", made from any parts of a butchered pig is also a specific Slovak meal.

Wine is enjoyed throughout Slovakia. Slovak wine comes predominantly from the southern areas along the Danube and its tributaries; the northern half of the country is too cold and mountainous to grow grapevines. Traditionally, white wine was more popular than red or rosé (except in some regions), and sweet wine was more popular than dry, but in recent years tastes seem to be changing. Beer (mainly of the pilsener style, though dark lagers are also consumed) is also popular.

Images

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Bratislava Castle in Slovakia

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Tatra National Park is one of the nine national parks in Slovakia

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