Slovakia, People living in Slovakia
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The country The Slovak Republic is an independent state situated in Central Europe. • It is bordered by the Czech Republic in the west, by Poland in the north, by the Ukraine in the east, by Hungary in the south and by Austria in the south-west. The borders are mostly natural, made by rivers (the Moravia, the Danube) and by mountains (The Carpathians and the High Tatras). • Slovakia is attractive for foreign tourists because of its history. On the other hand, the services and infrastructure are still not very developed. • Our country is rather mountainous. It has the population of 5,4 mil. people, the area is 49 000 km2. • The official language is Slovak. • The climate is continental with 4 seasons. • The state symbols are the national emblem, flag, seal and anthem. The national flag consists of 3 horizontal stripes- white, blue and red- with its national emblem in its front part. The national emblem is a double cross with mountains in the background. • The capital city of Slovakia is Bratislava. It is the largest city, the center of political, governmental, economic, educational and research institutions. It is the seat of the Slovak president.
People living in Slovakia • Slovaks are said to be hospitable(in the past they welcomed people with bread with salt. Nowadays, friends, families or neighbours visit each other very often, they have some snack or coffee together. People invite a lot of guests to different parties, celebrations or big weddings and they offer a lot of food, drinks, alcohol...). They are also hard-working and willing to help. The other nations say that Slovaks underestimate themselves. They have close relationships with their families. Parents help their children a lot when they grow up. • Slovaks are proud of their folklore traditions (especially in the villages), in every region there exist several folklore groups. • The lifestyle of people in Slovakia has changed radically after the fall of communism and democracy arrival. • The majority of people are Slovaks but there are also some minorities living in Slovakia - Hungarians (in the south), Ukrainian and Ruthenian minorities (in the east), the Romany people live throughout the whole country. There are also some Czech, Polish, German and Vietnamese people living in Slovakia. • Slovak people are mostly Christians - the majority of people are Roman Catholics, then there are Evangelists, Greek Catholics and Russian Orthodox. • Slovakia isn't very densely populated country. Nowadays people move from the villages to bigger towns, or, sometimes they migrate to different countries- to the Czech Republic, Canada, Great Britain, the USA, Austria etc. The most densely populated parts in Slovakia are in the west (Trnava) and the lowest density of population is in the east (Svidník).
The most important events/periods in Slovak history • The Slavonic tribes settled in the Carpathian Valley in the 5th and 6th centuries. • In 623 the princedom Samova ríša originated. • In the 9th century there were 2 princedoms in the territory of the country- Pribina's Princedom and Mojmir's Princedom which in the year 833 formed the basis of the Great Moravian Empire. • In 863 two Byzantine missionaries Constantine and Methodius were called to Great Moravia. They brought Christianity to the region and made the Slavonic script. • After the fall of Great Moravian Empire, Slovakia became a part of the Hungarian state. • In 1465 the first university, Academia Istropolitana was founded in Bratislava • In 1843 Ľudovít Štúr codified the first Slovak language, based on the Central Slovak dialect • In the revolutionary years 1848-1849 Slovaks experienced a national awakening • In 1861 The Memorandum of the Slovak nation was presented • In 1918 The Czechoslovak republic was founded. T. G. Masaryk became the first Czechoslovak president • In 1939 the Slovak Republic was declared a puppet state of the Nazi Germany. • In 1944 there was the Slovak National Uprising against the Nazi Germany. • In 1968 there was an important event called Prague Spring, led by Alexander Dubcek - the censorship was abolished, public meetings continued, religious freedom partly occurred. • On November 17, 1989 the Velvet Revolution caused the fall of the communism and restoration of democracy. • In January 1, 1993 the Slovak Republic became an independent state. • In May 1, 2004 Slovakia became a member of the European Union This membership strongly influenced political and economical life in the country.
The Slovak system of government The system of government is divided into 3 branches: ■ the legislative branch, represented by parliament (the National Council) → it is the law making body consisting of 150 members (Members of Parliament), elected every 4 years. Their task is to pass laws and ratify treaties ■ the executive branch, represented by theGovernment → which consists of the Prime Minister, the vice-prime ministers and ministers – and the President→ he/she is elected every 5 years in direct election, → represents the state abroad, → calls general elections, → grants a pardon to convicted people, → declares amnesty,→ has the power of veto, → is the commander in chief, → appoints judges, ambassadors, university professors ■ the judicial branch which consists of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and regional (district) courts
Places and towns worth seeing • In Bratislava, the capital city, we can find some interesting historical places, such as Bratislava Castle, Michael's Gate, The Old Town Hall, St Martin's Cathedral. There are lots of cultural facilities: Slovak National Theatre, The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Lúčnica and SĽUK, The Slovak National Gallery. We can also mention scientific and educational institutions:The Slovak Academy of Science, Comenius University, the Slovak Technical University, The University of Economics, The Academy of Fine Arts or The Academy of Performing Arts etc. • Other big towns in Slovakia are Košice, Prešov, Žilina, Banská Bystrica, Nitra, Trnava, Martin... • The smallest town is Modrý Kameň, the biggest village is Smižany. • Historical towns or villages in Slovakia are Levoča, Banská Štiavnica, Kremnica, Vlkolínec, Kežmarok, Ždiar etc. • These places have been included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list: Spiš Castle, Žehra, Spišské Podhradie, Spišská Kapitula, Vlkolínec and Banská Štiavnica. • Towns famous for their castles and chateaux: Bojnice, Zvolen, Trenčín, Oravský Podzámok, Krásna Hôrka, Devín, Spiš castle etc. • Spa towns are: Piešťany, Bardejov, Bojnice, Sliač, Trenčianske Teplice, Rajeské Teplice, Vyšné Ružbachy. • Recently, there have been built some modern water parks: Aquacity in Poprad, Tatralandia in Liptovský Mikuláš and Aquathermal in Senec. • Villages of Čičmany, Vlkolínec, Východná, Terchová etc. are famous for preserved folk culture. • Other places worth seeing are national parks: Slovak Paradise, The High Tatras, The Low Tatras, The Little Fatra, The Giant Fatra, The Muráň Plain, The Poloniny, Slovak Karst, The Pieniny National Park. You can see lots of natural beauties, rocks, waterfalls, valleys and lakes. They were created to protect and conserve unique nature, plants, animals. – Some of the typical animals are brown bear, fox, wolf, wild boar (diviak), wild cat, otter (vydra), hare, squirrel, mountain eagle, marmot (svišť), weasel (lasica), muskrat (ondatra), chamois (kamzík), lynx (rys). – the oldest protected plant in Slovakia is edelweiss (plesnivec) • The High Tatras is situated in the north of Slovakia, it creates the natural border between Slovakia and Poland. It is the only mountain range in the country of an alpine character. The highest peak is Gerlach Peak (2655m). Other peaks are Lomnický štít, Kriváň etc. In the High Tatras we can see lots of valleys: Tichá, Mengusovská, Javorová, Bielovodská, Studená etc. They contain more than 90 lakes: Veľké Hincovo pleso is the largest and the deepest one.
Geography • The most important rivers in Slovakia are the Danube (it is the biggest river which connects the country with the Black Sea and the North Sea, it is also the only river used for river transport), the Váh (the longest one), the Moravia, the Hron, the Nitra, the Orava. • There are numerous water dams which are used for water supply, agriculture, hydroenergetics, sport and tourism. Most of them have been built on the rivers Váh and Danube. Some of the water dams include: Oravská Dam, Zemplínska Šírava, Liptovská Mara • Slovakia is a mountainous country, the most important mountains are: The High Tatras, The Low Tatras, The Little Fatra, The Giant Fatra... • Lowlands are mostly situated in the southern and south-eastern parts of Slovakia: Eastern Slovak Lowland, Záhorská Lowland, Danubian Lowland • In Slovakia there is also a high number of caves: Belianska Cave, Demänovská Cave of Liberty, Demänovská Ice Cave, Dobšinská Ice Cave, Domica Cave, Gombasecká Cave.
Economy • In the past, the majority of people worked in agriculture, but in 1898 big changes occurred in the field of economy, industry and agriculture. Recently, there has been a decline in agricultural production, but we still grow: wheat, corn, potatoes, sugar beet (cukrová repa), sunflower, tobacco and hops (chmeľ). • There are also some resources of raw material and fuel: copper, iron ore, brown coal, natural gas, precious metals, antimony, mercury, limestone, mineral salt... • Industry is the most important branch of Slovak economy, it employs 1/3 of the population. Older industries include: coal mining, steel, wood, paper and textile industries. Newer industries include engineering (car manufacturing - Volkswagen in Bratislava, Peugeot in Trnava, Kia in Žilina), energy, steel industry (US Steel Košice), chemical industry (Slovnaft Bratislava, Duslo Šaľa, Chemosvit Svit) • There are 2 nuclear plants in Slovakia: Jaslovské Bohunice, Mochovce
Traditional Slovak food and drinks • Slovak food is based on many different kinds of soups, boiled and stewed vegetables, porridge, cabbage, sauerkraut, roast and smoked meat, dairy products. Slovak specialties include salted and sweetened dishes, made with flour (dumplings). Traditional Slovak meal is called bryndzové halušky - small potato dumplings served with sheep cheese and fried bacon. • The most popular wines are from the Tokai, Nitra and Záhorie regions. Other popular aperitifs are slivovica (plum brandy), borovička (juniper brandy). Some popular beer brands are Šariš, Zlatý Bažant, Topvar, Corgoň, Gemer...
Traditional souvenirs from Slovakia - are dolls dressed in folk costumes, ceramic objects, carved wooden figures, folk instruments (fujara), decorated folk hatches (valaška) etc.
Slovak culture, customs, traditions -----> (multicultural society)
Pros and cons of being a member of the European Union ------> (multicultural society)
SLOVAKIA AS A MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
In 2004 Slovakia became a part of a larger community – the European Union. There are some pros and cons of being a member of the EU: + People can travel to different countries to study or work (some countries opened their labour market), it promises better future for young people – they can learn different languages, discover new cultures, there's a better chance for creating more job opportunities + Improving economic situation in Europe, faster social and economic development + A guarantee of peace in Europe + We can use the same currency – it makes it easier to travel, price comparison, business + Nowadays there are many study programs – students can live and study in a culturally different countries in host families + they provide individual countries with funds for different activities, job possibilities can grow – a lot of bureaucracy, a waste of time and money, a risk of losing cultural identity, sovereignty – instability of the system, lots of restrictions, orders – some countries closed their labour markets for foreigners – you can work there – EU recognizes only some diplomas required for some professions – risks of economic crises (Greece, Portugal)
CUSTOMS AND HABITS
Because of the globalization of society, there are several customs and traditions copied from one society to another. For example, originally Irish (later American) Halloween has been adapted in Slovakia, as well as St. Valentine's Day. The day after originally "pagan" Halloween, people in Slovakia celebrate religious All Saints Day (1. 11.). They visit cemeteries, put flowers and wreaths and light the candles on the graves of their dead friends or family members. Halloween (31. 10.) is a holiday connected with colourful costumes (of ghosts, demons, witches, vampires, monsters), loud singing and dancing, having parties. Children go from house to house, screaming "trick or treat" – they usually get sweets or some coins. People decorate their houses with carved pumpkins, light bonfires, watch horror films, tell scary stories etc. On St Valentine's Day (14. 2.) people in love give one another some greeting cards, chocolate or toys to express their love. This holiday is becoming more and more popular, it is highly commercialized, shops are decorated with red hearts, roses etc. People all over the world love Christmas. Americans put up Christmas trees at the beginning of December. Christmas decorations, trees, lights are everywhere. In Slovakia people open their presents on December 24th. In Britain children hang their stockings for Santa Claus (Father Christmas) to fill them. They open their presents on Christmas Day (December 25th). The traditional British Christmas dinner is stuffed turkey and Christmas pudding. In Slovakia it is fried carp and potato salad, sauerkraut soup with sausages and mushrooms. We also traditionally eat apples as symbols of health, waffles with honey, nuts and garlic. People go to church at midnight to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Four weeks before Christmas it is advent. People in Slovakia prepare advent wreaths with four candles on it. Each Sunday they light one candle. On December 6th we celebrate St Nicholas. Children polish their boots and put them at the window. They believe that St. Nicholas comes and puts some presents in there. Adults put on masks of St. Nicholas, angel and devil. There is no St Nicholas Day in Britain. On New Year's Eve (31. 12.) people stay up till midnight to see the New Year coming. They dance, sing, drink champagne and toast, watch fireworks. New Year's Day (1.1) is a public holiday, we spend the day with the family, we make resolutions. On January 6th there is Epiphany. It is a Christian holiday, celebrating the visit of Three Wise Men (Kings) to the baby Jesus. Easter is a typical spring holiday. It is an ancient symbol of spring and new life. Christians remember Christ's death on the cross (Good Friday) and his resurrection (Easter Sunday). The typical symbols of Easter are eggs, lamb. On Easter Monday boys in Slovakia whip girls with willow and throw water at them, because they want them to stay healthy and fresh. Girls give them chocolate eggs or money. Typical Easter meal is smoked ham, hard-boiled eggs, horse radish etc. In the US sweets and chocolate eggs are left out in the gardens on Easter morning and children have to search for them. They believe that Easter Bunny brought them. Families often paint eggs and decorate Easter trees with them. There are some other holidays or traditions both in Slovakia and Britain: All Fools' Day (April 1st), Mother's Day (in May) etc.
Other traditions: When somebody dies, people send cards and letters to their families, place flowers or wreaths on their graves, light candles. They also send greeting cards at Christmas, Easter, birthday cards, Thank you cards, Valentine's cards etc. Man gives a diamond ring to a woman when he asks her to marry him. Sometimes they also have engagement parties.
NextSlovak public holidays: Labour Day (May 1st) – honouring all workers Victory over Fascism Day (May 8th) – the end of the WW II is remembered on that day. St. Cyril and Methodius Day (July 5th) – we celebrate two priests who brought Christianity to our country as well as the Slavic language Anniversary of Slovak National Uprising (August 29th) Constitution Day (September 1st) Day of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15th) – we honour the patron saint of Slovakia – the Virgin Mary Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day (November 17th) – it honours the students' demonstrations against the Nazis, as well as the protest against the Communists in 1989, the beginning of the Velvet revolution. Later, the day was proclaimed Students' Day.
Folk traditions in Slovakia It is an old tradition in Slovak villages to make a doll called Morena in spring and throw it in the water. It is a symbol of the change of seasons – spring replaces winter. There are folk ensembles, using folk instruments (fujara, dulcimer), wearing folk costumes. Fašiangy festivals are one of the oldest traditions, held at the end of February/beginning of March. People, dressed in funny clothes, dance, sing and celebrate the end of winter and welcome spring. The next day Lent starts – the period of forty days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter, during which Christians give up food or activities they enjoy in memory of Christ's suffering.
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