The history of Slovakia has been marked by the country’s domination by its powerful neighbours. At the end of the 8th century, the territory was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greater Moravia and was subsequently attached to the Kingdom of Hungary in the 10th century. The Hungarian presence continued in 1867 under the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Bojnice Castle, Bratislava © Slovak Tourist Board
- 19th century Awakening of Slovak national feeling.
- 1918 Creation of Czechoslovakia following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Slovakia and the Czech lands are brought together in a single State.
- 1938 The Munich agreements are the prelude to the dismantling of Czechoslovakia and the annexation of the Sudetenland.
- 1939 The first independent State of Slovakia is created, closely allied with Nazi Germany.
- 1945 Liberation of the country by Soviet troops to the East and Americans to the West. Czechoslovakia is re-established.
- 1948 The communists take power and set up a centralised “People’s Republic”.
- 1968 Prague Spring: the process of reforming the communist system, launched by Alexander Dubcek, is brought to an end by Soviet troops. This nevertheless leads to the introduction of a form of federalism, recognising the existence of a Slovak State alongside a Czech State.
- 1989 The Velvet Revolution brings about the fall of communism and the introduction of democracy in Czechoslovakia, with Vaclav Havel coming to power.
- 1993 Creation of the Slovak Republic. The country joins the Council of Europe.
- 1993-1998 Governed by the populist leader Vladimir Meciar, Slovakia finds itself internationally isolated once again, with its democratisation and EU-membership processes temporarily stalled.
- 1998 A policy of normalisation is introduced following the victory of Mr. Dzurinda in the parliamentary elections. In 2002, Mr. Dzurinda is re-appointed as Prime Minister at the head of a center-right coalition government.
- 2004 Slovakia joins NATO and the European Union.
- 2006 Robert Fico (social-democtratic party) becomes Prime Minister of a coalition between the right extremist party, SNS, and the people’s party, HZDS.
- 2009 Slovakia joins the euro zone.
- 2009 Ivan Gasparovic becomes Head of state, again.
- 2010 Iveta Radicova becomes Head of government.
In each of the various kingdoms into which Slovakia has been incorporated at various times in its history, Bratislava has always played a central role. It was mentioned for the first time under the name of Brezalauspurc at the time of Greater Moravia, in the 10th century, when it was a military, religious and administrative center. As the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1526 to 1783, the Hungarians referred to it as Pozsony and the Austrians as Pressburg. In 1919, as part of Czechoslovakia, the town adopted the name of Bratislava. Built on the foothills of the Little Carpathian range, along the Danube, Bratislava boasts a rich cultural heritage. The town has a wealth of monuments to be discovered, including Saint Martin’s Cathedral and the Blue Church. Overlooking the town, Bratislava Castle is its main monument. No less than 11 Hungarian kings and 7 queens have been crowned here. The castle is a fascinating combination of the various architectural styles to be found throughout the Slovakian capital. The foundations include remnants from the Roman period, while the various reconstruction work and extensions characterize the Gothic style of the 15th century, the art of the Renaissance period, and the 16th century baroque style. Today, the castle is home to the magnificent collections of the Slovak National Museum. Bratislava is now a cultural and tourist attraction, but also an industrial center.
Bratislava © Slovak Tourist Board
Spis Castle is the largest fortified castle in Central Europe. Located at the crossroads of Europe, the construction of fortified sites was very much a necessity in order to be able to resist foreign incursions. As a result, Slovakia is today famous for its many castles and fortresses. Located in the east of Slovakia, Spis Castle is perched on a rocky peak 634 metres high, overlooking the surrounding countryside. Rebuilt during the 12th century on the site of an earlier castle, of which certain parts still remain, it features impressive ramparts and fortifications of every kind, making it one of the few castles to have successfully resisted the Tartar invasion of the 13th century. Originally the property of the kings of Hungary, along with the cathedral and the episcopal palace of Spis, the castle formed a complex making the region an administrative and economic center. Since 1993, this collection of monuments has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Spis Castle © Slovak Tourist Board
Almost 4,100 caves, caverns and chasms are listed in Slovakia. Most of these are located in the Low Tatras mountain chain in the Southeast of Slovakia, on the border with Hungary, or in central Slovakia in the High Fatra range. Only twelve caves are open to the public, the others being under the protection of the Slovakian environmental protection agency. The fact that four of these caves have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List bears witness to their great value. Among these many sites, two are particularly interesting. The first of these is the Ochtinska cave, which is an aragonite cave unique of its kind in Slovakia, with concretions dating back more than 100,000 years. Different in nature, the Dobsinska ice cave is certainly one of the finest in Slovakia. Discovered in 1870, this cave was formed in the rocks as a river passed through. Its total length is 1,232 meters, although only 475 metres is accessible. This cave (with an average interior temperature of – 1C°) contains 145,000 m3 of ice in the form of stalactites, ice chutes, and columns.
The caves of Gombasecká © Slovak Tourist Board