|General background: In 1918 the Slovaks joined
the closely related Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. Following
the chaos of World War II, Czechoslovakia became a Communist
nation within Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe. Soviet influence
collapsed in 1989 and Czechoslovakia once more became
free. The Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate
peacefully on 1 January 1993. Historic, political, and
geographic factors have caused Slovakia to experience
more difficulty in developing a modern market economy
than some of its Central European neighbors.
Area comparative: About twice the size of New
Climate: Temperate; cool
summers; cold, cloudy, humid winters.
Rugged mountains in the central and northern part and
lowlands in the south.
Population: 5,422,366 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Slovak 85.7%, Hungarian 10.6%,
Roma 1.6% (the 1992 census figures underreport the
Gypsy/Romany community, which is about 500,000), Czech,
Moravian, Silesian 1.1%, Ruthenian and Ukrainian 0.6%,
German 0.1%, Polish 0.1%, other 0.2% (1996)
Religions: Roman Catholic 60.3%, atheist 9.7%,
Protestant 8.4%, Orthodox 4.1%, other 17.5%
Language: Slovak (official), Hungarian
Government type: Parliamentary democracy
Legal system: Civil law system based on Austro-Hungarian
codes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction;
legal code modified to comply with the obligations
of Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) and to expunge Marxist-Leninist legal theory.
Economic overview: Slovakia has mastered much
of the difficult transition from a centrally planned
economy to a modern market economy. The DZURINDA government
made excellent progress in 2001 in macroeconomic stabilization
and structural reform. Major privatisations are nearly
complete, the banking sector is almost completely
in foreign hands, and foreign investment has picked
up. Slovakia's economy exceeded expectations in 2001,
despite recession in key export markets. Revival of
domestic demand, partly due to a rise in real wages,
offset slowing export growth to help drive the economy
to its strongest expansion since 1998. Solid domestic
demand is expected to boost economic growth to 3.4%
in 2002, and about 4% in 2003. Unemployment, rising
to 19.8% at the end of 2001, remained the economy's
Achilles' heel. The government faces other strong
challenges in 2002, especially the maintenance of
fiscal balance ahead of the September 2002 parliamentary
election, cutting budget and current account deficits,
and privatisation of the Slovak energy and power monopolies.
Communication/Telephone system: A modernization
and privatization program is increasing accessibility
to telephone service.
Places of interest: The capital, Bratislava,
is small and cheerful with a surprisingly accomplished
cultural life; the High Tatras are as rugged a range
as any in Eastern Europe and the peasant traditions
of rural Slovakia are still evident in the villages.
Travel tips: You'll find the Slovaks to be
extremely warm, friendly people prepared to go out
of their way to help you enjoy their country.