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10 Facts about Slovakia
Slovakia is an independent state formed on Jan. 1, 1993, by the partitioning of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (formerly, Czechoslovakia) into two successor states: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, the latter of which is popularly known as Slovakia. Here are 10 facts about Slovakia:
1. Slovakia is a landlocked country, with the Carpathian Mountains -including the Low and High Tatras- occupying the greater part of its northern and eastern regions. The southern part of the republic is a fertile plain eminently suitable for farming. It is drained by the Danube River and its tributaries, in particular the Váh and Hron rivers. Bratislava is the republic's capital and seat of government. Other important cities include Košice, Prešov, Nitra, and Žilina.
2. According to the 2011 census, Slovaks represent 80.7% of the republic's population, Hungarians 8.5%, Roma (Gypsies) 2%, and Czechs and other minorities each less than 1%. Some estimates put the number of Roma as high as 9%–10%. More than 90% of Roma live below the national poverty line. Some 62% of the nation's citizens adhere to the Roman Catholic Church.
3. Slovakia's educational institutions include a number of colleges and professional and trade schools, as well as Comenius University in Bratislava, Šafárik University in Košice, and the University of Žilina.
4. The country is a parliamentary democracy. Legislative power resides in the National Council, which is composed of 150 deputies who are elected by popular vote for four-year terms. The president is the head of state and serves a five-year term. The president, whose role is largely ceremonial, has been directly elected since 1999. Officially, the president appoints the prime minister and, upon the latter's recommendation, the government, but they are answerable to the legislature. The judiciary consists of the constitutional court and the Supreme Court, as well as district and regional courts. Judges of the constitutional and Supreme courts are nominated by the president; all others are elected by the National Council.
5. Although Slovakia has some deposits of iron ore, copper, lignite, lead, and other minerals, amounts are limited and industry depends on imports of raw materials. The principal sources of energy are dams, which generate hydroelectric power, and a nuclear power plant. Oil and gas are imported from the Russian Federation.
6. Slovakia's industries employ approximately 36% of the nation's labor force. After the collapse of the Communist regime, Slovakia's industries were substantially restructured. The dominant role of defense industries was reduced in favor of light manufacturing. Metallurgical, engineering, and chemical industries also expanded. Other important industries are the manufacturing of textiles and wood products.
7. Agriculture employs about 10% of the workforce and accounts for about 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Farming is concentrated in the lowlands and river valleys, while grazing and sheep breeding predominate in the mountainous areas. Among the republic's major crops are cereals, potatoes, flax, sugar beets, fruits, and vegetables. Animal husbandry includes cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry. Most of the agricultural land communalized by the Communist regime was privatized by a 1990 law.
8. The state's infrastructure consists of railroads, roads, and waterways, of which the Danube is the most important. Railroads are state owned, while road transport is being increasingly privatized. The wide-rail Russian-type railroad that runs from the Ukrainian border to Bratislava is a major European transportation link for trade with the Russian Federation. Czech Airlines (ČSA) serves Slovakia. The creation of a national carrier, Slovak Airlines, was approved by the government in 1997.
9. From 1990 until the declaration of independence in September 1992, the conversion of the Slovak centralized economy to a market-oriented system was covered by the blanket policies of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. In September 1992 the Slovak government issued its own economic program. It confirmed adherence to the previously accepted goals of achieving macroeconomic stability through the liberalization of prices and foreign trade and the privatization of state-owned properties but questioned the idea of market autoregulation and advocated that the government take an active role in lessening the social impact of the new economic reforms. The departure from federal policies was most visible in the sphere of privatization. Of the three methods federally employed -direct sales, public auctions, and voucher privatization- preference was given to the first two in Slovakia, while voucher privatization was set aside.
10. In the early 1990s the economic prospects of the new Slovak Republic did not appear bright. Previously, much of its income had been generated by supplying arms to the Communist countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation (COMECON), a market that had collapsed. The unemployment rate was extremely high. Over the next several years, however, the Slovak economy performed better than expected. By the late 1990s the country had inflation under control and had privatized approximately 80% of the economy. On the other hand, unemployment still remained a problem, and inconsistent government policies contributed to a dearth of foreign investment.