While the Celts arrived in what is now modern-day Slovakia in the 4th century, the territory had been occupied by many cultures in earlier years. By the 5th century, the Slavic tribes arrived, and by the 9th century, the land had come under the Great Moravian empire. Leading into the Middle Ages, the Magyars laid claim to the territory making Slovakia part of Hungary into the Middle Ages.
This relationship with Hungary continued for centuries as Slovakia aligned itself with the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Late in the 18th century, nationalist movements began to spark in the country. However, with the advent of the 20th century came a new alliance when Slovak intellectuals suggested a union with neighbouring Czechs. The result was the formation of Czechoslovakia following the First World War.
Initially, this union proved fruitful for both nations as the new country prospered. However, the prosperity wouldn’t last as Nazism began to storm through Europe. The day before Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1938, Slovak leaders declared Slovakia a German protectorate. Slovakia came under German power and the leaders’ decision was very unpopular. In the years following the war, many Slovaks wanted a democratic government, but the Yalta Agreement, decided upon by the world’s superpowers, once again grouped the Slovaks and the Czechs together again. After the reunion of the two nations came a communist takeover.
The year 1989 witnessed the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. As a result of the revolution, the “iron curtain” was brought down and the country experienced democratic reforms. Václov Havel was elected president and new opportunities came to the nation. Despite these opportunities, there were many Slovaks worried about the economy. Elections in 1992 saw a shift towards the left and a sense of nationalism emerged. The desire for a democratic Slovakia was strong and on 1 January 1993, the Czechoslovak federation came to an end peacefully. This meant that Slovakia was truly independent for the first time in the area’s long history.
By 2004, Slovakia had been accepted into both NATO and the European Union, adopting the Euro in 2009. Slovakia remains one of Europe’s hidden gems, yet those who visit have a great deal in store for them. Nature and mountains offer modern skiing infrastructure while castles dot the landscape. Slovakia may be a young country, but there is much to see and do.
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