Surface area: 49.035 km²
Number of inhabitants: 5.4 million
Form of government: parliamentary republic
Slovakia has a score of 0.845 on the Human Development Index (HDI). This is a composite number that includes numbers related to life expectancy, education and per capita income. This number is used to rank countries in four levels of human development. The higher these factors, the higher the index number. Slovakia ranks number 40 out of the 186 countries worldwide. (source: UNDP)
History and Politics
In the sixth century the first Slavic tribes settled in the area which is now Slovakia. 300 years later, the Great Moravian Empire emerged, which included a part of the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary. At the beginning of the tenth century, the Hungarians invaded the Great Moravian Empire, after which the Slovaks lived under Hungarian rule for a thousand years. From 1526, the area was ruled by the Habsburg house and Slovakia became part of the Habsburg monarchy. After 1867 this monarchy split into two parts: Austria and Hungary which at the time included Slovakia. After the Hungarian rule, there was a lot of poverty and unemployment in Slovakia. Moreover, all people were pressured to become Hungarians. Around that time about 180.000 Slovaks emigrated to America. During the First World War, the Czechs and the Slovaks lobbied to form a united Czechoslovakia after the war so if the Habsburg Empire were to be defeated, the Slavic speaking groups would form a more powerful force against the German and Hungarian-speaking groups. Moreover, Czechoslovakia intented to hold off the Hungarians and Austrians who wanted to recreate a pre-war climate. Between 1945 and 1948 Czechoslovakia was ruled by a coalition government with a majority of communists. However, when the Czechs and Slovaks jointly organized mass protests against communism in 1989, the communist leaders stepped down and were replaced by non-communists within a month.After several elections, Slovakia declared itself a sovereign state in 1992 and Czechoslovakia was replaced by two independent states, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. (source: landenweb)
The current president of Slovakia, Andrej Kiska, took part in the elections in 2014 in which he defeated Robert Fico. Despite his setback, Fico wanted to stay on as prime minister.
Slovakia used to have a socialist economic system. This was until the fall of socialism in 1990, after which mainly larger companies started to initiate privatization. This led to a sharp rise in inflation. Trade with the former COMECON countries (an economic partnership between Eastern European Communist countries) decreased sharply, and the petroleum imports from the Soviet Union declined so much that Slovakia had to start buying its oil on the much more expensive world market. For years, the industrial sector accounts for about a third of the Slovakian GNP. The Slovak industry, which is very intertwined with that of the neighboring Czech Republic, suffered greatly from the economic recession and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2004 Slovakia joined the EU. Four years later the European Commission determined that Slovakia fulfilled the euro criteria and in January 2009 the country was allowed to start using the euro as currency. (source: landenweb)
About two-thirds of the population in Slovakia is Roman Catholic and most holidays are based on this religion. However, one holiday that is only celebrated in Slovakia is the day of the Saints Cyrils and Methods. On this day, the Slovakians celebrate the fact that two apostles came to proclaim the Christian faith for the first time. Slovakia is known for its unique wooden churches. Between the 16th and 18th century, only wood was allowed for the construction of churches. Nails and other construction materials could not be used. Throughout the country, only fifty of these wooden churches are left.