Historians usually trace Slovakiaís roots to the Great Moravian Empire, founded in the early ninth century. The territory of Great Moravia included all of present western and central Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and parts of neighboring Poland, Hungary, and Germany. Saints Cyril and Methodius, known for the creation of a Cyrillic alphabet, came to Great Moravia as missionaries upon the invitation of the king in the early 10th century to spread Christianity. The empire collapsed after only 80 years as a result of the political intrigues and external pressures from invading forces. Slovaks then became part of the Hungarian Kingdom, where they remained for the next 1,000 years. Bratislava was the Hungarian capital for nearly two and a half centuries after the Turks occupied the territory of present-day Hungary in the early 16th century.
Revolutions inspired by nationalism swept through Central Europe in 1848, which led to the codification of the Slovak language by Ludovit Stur in 1846 and later the formation of the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1867. As language and education policies favoring the use of Hungarian, which came to be known as Magyarization, grew stricter, Slovak nationalism grew stronger. Slovak intellectuals cultivated cultural ties with the Czechs, who were themselves ruled by the Austrians. After the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian State following World War I, the concept of a single Czecho-Slovakian unified state came to fruition. Tomas Masaryk signed the Pittsburgh Agreement, declaring the intent of the Czechs and Slovaks to found a new state in May 1918, and a year later became Czechoslovakia's first president.
After the 1938 Munich agreement forced Czechoslovakia to cede territory to Germany, Slovakia declared its autonomy. Slovakia became a Nazi puppet state led by the Catholic priest Jozef Tiso. During this period, approximately 70,000 Slovak Jews were sent to concentration camps to perish in the Holocaust. Roma, while persecuted under the Tiso regime, were not deported by the Slovak Hlinka guards. An undetermined number of Roma were deported from the southern part of Slovakia when it was occupied by Hungary in 1944. The Slovak National Uprising, a brief insurrection against the fascist powers in August-September 1944, was put down by Nazi forces.
At the conclusion of World War II, the reunified Czechoslovakia was considered within the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union. The communist party, supported by the U.S.S.R., took over political power in February 1948 and began to centralize power. The next four decades were characterized by strict communist rule, interrupted only briefly during the Prague Spring of 1968. The Slovak-born Communist leader Alexander Dubcek presided over a thawing of communist power and proposed political, social, and economic reforms in his effort to make "socialism with a human face" a reality. Concern among other Warsaw Pact governments that Dubcek had gone too far prompted an invasion and Dubcek's removal from his position.
The 1970s were characterized by the development of a dissident movement. On January 1, 1977 more than 250 human rights activists signed a manifesto called Charter 77, which criticized the government for failing to meet its human rights obligation. The so-called "Candle Demonstration," which took place in Bratislava in March 1988, was the first mass demonstration of the 1980s against the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. The demonstration, organized by Roman Catholic groups asking for religious freedom in Czechoslovakia, was brutally suppressed by the police.
On November 17, 1989, a series of public protests, known as the "Velvet Revolution," began and led to the downfall of communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Dissident groups, such as Charter 77 in the Czech Republic and Public Against Violence in Slovakia, united to form a transitional government and assist with the first democratic elections since 1948. Several new parties emerged to fill the political spectrum.
After the 1992 elections, Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which demanded Slovak autonomy as a matter of fairness, emerged as the leading party in Slovakia. In June 1992, the Slovak parliament voted to declare sovereignty, and the federation dissolved peacefully on January 1, 1993. Meciar's party ruled Slovakia for its first 5 years as an independent state. His authoritarian style as Prime Minister created international concerns about the democratic development of Slovakia. In the 1998 elections, HZDS received about 27% of the vote, but was unable to find coalition partners and went into opposition.
An anti-Meciar coalition formed a government led by Mikulas Dzurinda, the chairman of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) and began to pursue critical economic and political reforms. The first Dzurinda government enabled Slovakia to enter the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), begin accession negotiations with the European Union (EU) and close virtually all chapters of the accession acquis, and make the country a strong candidate for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) accession. However, the popularity of the governing parties declined sharply, and several new parties gained relatively high levels of support in public opinion polls.
In the September 2002 parliamentary elections, a last-minute surge in support for the SDKU gave Dzurinda a mandate for a second term. He formed a government with three other center-right parties: the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), Christian Democrats (KDH), and Alliance of New Citizens (ANO). The main priorities of the coalition were ensuring a strong Slovak performance within NATO and the EU, fighting corruption, attracting foreign investment, and reforming social services, such as the health care system. Following a summer 2003 parliamentary shake-up, the government lost its narrow parliamentary majority and controlled only 69 of the 150 seats; however, because of conflicts among the opposition parties, the coalition was able to remain in power with the tacit support of Meciarís HZDS.
Slovakia became a member of NATO on March 29, 2004, and joined the EU on May 1, 2004. All parliamentary political parties strongly supported Slovakia's NATO and EU accession.
After parliamentary elections on June 17, 2006, Robert Fico became Prime Minister, leading a coalition of Direction (Smer-SD), the Slovak National Party (SNS), and the Peopleís Party - Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LS-HzDS).
Information by U.S. Department of State