Culture and Identity of the Slovak people

Anthropology: Explore the Wondrous Slovak Cultural Identity

Slovakia is a country of people with distinctive and tenacious cultural identities that have suffered and survived multiple invasions. The local culture is named Slovak.

This blog tries to explore the cultural aspects of the country, along with trying to answer the “Slovak question”. The history of the Slovak people is filled with a series of invasions and cultural assimilation attempts. Despite all the hurdles, however, the Slovak people held fast to their culture.

Let me take you on a short tour of the Slovak culture. It will help you understand the essence behind the “Slovak question” and its long journey of the discovery of the national conscience.

Introduction to the Slovak culture

traditions of the Slovak people
by Pinterest

The name Slovak originated from Slav; Slovak.  The culture in the province is divided into three regions; eastern, western, and central. The Slovak Republic is often called Slovensko as well. You can experience different dialects, customs, traditions, and even religions in different regions, but the culture remains constant. The Hungarian populace residing in the province tries to remain bilingual and preserve their culture.

Location

Austria, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary surround the Slovak Republic. You can visit its port at Komarno in Bratislava, residing along the Danube river. Slovakia is publicly known to be stretched out in an area of 49,035 square kilometers. If you’re from the United States, it means 18,928 square miles. Its highest peak reaches up to the height of 2655 meters or 8711 feet, and the lowest is 294 meters or 308 feet.

You can visit the highest peak of the province, the Gerlachovsky peak, at the High  Tatras, despite being a place of such a condensed area, but the topography is phenomenally varied.

Demography

The Slovak Republic is known for its cultural diversity. Despite 85.7% of the population being ethnically Slovak, the rest, 14.3%, is a blend of different ethnicities. Hungarians occupy the position of being the biggest minority, being 10.7% of the population. The Hungarian population in the province is found to be majorly concentrated around the Southend lowlands. It’s just near the Hungarian border.

The Roma occupied 1.5% of the population but that actually may have been underreported during the census. Experts point out that Roma people choose to identify themselves as Hungarians during most of the census reports. Moreover, Czechs occupy 1.4% of the total population, Ukrainians occupy 0.3% of the total population, and Rusyns occupy 0.3%. According to the census, Germans and Poles occupy 0.1% of the total population.

Languages of the Slovak people

The national language of the province is known as Slovak.  It uses the Roman alphabet. The language slow-up is actually quite similar to the Czech language. While the political separation about 1000 years ago may have helped divert both languages from it, they are still hard to tell apart.

The eastern, western, and central regions each have a different dialect of the language. On January 1, 1996, the government of the Slovak state declared Slovak as the official language. Other than the majority of the populace, the minority are known to be mostly bilingual. Czech, German, Russian, as well as English, are some of the other languages along with Magyar and Rusyn that is spoken in the province.

History of the Slovak state

Slovakia map
by everyculture.com

During the fifth to the sixth centuries, the Slavic people are known to have settled in the Carpathians and the Danube region. Their origin is known to have been around the frontier of the European-Asian region. The agricultural success in the region led to the formation of permanent settlements in the Nitra River valley, along with Torsya, Morava, Vah, and Impel’.

Early period

The permanent settlement of the Nitra River Valley eventually became the focal point of regional government. Many Slavic rulers made the settlement their base. The region saw rapid development in the coming times. Eventually, the First Christian Church of the Central European region was founded here. The great Moravian empire continued the progressive development in the region and it reached the point where it occupied all of the Slovenian regions during the 9th century.

The battle of Bratislava that happened in 907 concluded with the defeat of the great Moravian empire. Hungarians ruled the province for about 1000 years. World War One saw the end of this rule. The region was broken up into many parts and the concept of nationalism did not originate until about the 1700s. Quite a few nationalistic movements propagated this sentiment, which resulted in the origin of written Slovak.

Period of suppression of Slovak customs

Slovakia in the first world war
by the world remembers

The Austro-Hungarian state, which originated in 1867, propagated efforts to try and assimilate Slovaks and their cultural identity. In 1875, the suppression of the Slovak institute of science and arts which was established in 1863, the closing down of slower secondary schools, and forced language transition to Hungarian by Slovak children, were some of the measures taken. Hungarian was then declared the official language. Despite all the efforts, however, the more the pressure was applied, the more the Slovaks clung tightly to their identity.

Their cultural identity, folk traditions, customs, language, and music survived the siege. It continued being regularly practiced and passed down from generation to generation even after all the pressure. After World War One ended, the nationalist movements finally gave rise to the complete Slovak identity. Slovakia associated with Czechia and both the western Slavic nations combined to become Czecho-Slovakia in 1919.

The modern history of the Slovak people

Modern history of the Slovak people
by Danube on Thames

On January 1, 1993, Slovakia declared itself an independent country. The journey of formation of national identity started in the 1700s and matured after the end of World War One.

There have been many assimilation attempts on the identity of the Slovak people by other ethnicities. This sort their relation with many ethnicities in the surrounding area.

The history of conquest and cultural assimilation attempts cost a bitter relationship with Russians, Hungarians, and Germans. As you read above, the conquest of nomadic Hungarians by Slovakian ancestors during 907 C.E. left behind a scar that has yet to completely heal.

The Slovaks united with the Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. Despite this union, the Slovaks felt taken for granted.

The union lasted from 1919 to 1992, yet the sentiment of a separate independent Slovak identity remained. This is known as the “Slovak question”. The Declaration of Independence by the Slovaks on January 1, 1993, finally granted a sense of freedom to have their own identity. The event is popularly known as the “velvet divorce”.

Food culture in the Slovak state

Slovak food guide
by Urban Adventures

The regional food culture is mostly based around soups, vegetables that are boiled, stewed foods, smoked meats like sausages, dairy dishes, and a variety of roasted meat. Small dumplings filled with sheep’s cheese are one of the traditional dishes that are most popular among poorer citizens. The most popular beverage in all the provinces is tea with sugar. Almost every meal of the day is accompanied by bread.

Similarly, in all the main known meals, you can find hot soup as a common fixture. It’s also the time when most of the meat-related dishes are served. More often than not, the evening meal is light. It may contain vegetables, bread, and cheese. One of the more popular distilled beverages is the plum Brandy as well as Poorvika (gin).

Ceremonial food customs

Many religious holidays are also when special varieties are food or prepared in almost all households. For example, the meal on Christmas Eve is accompanied by wafers with honey, which is also usually blessed. No meat is present in the meals on Christmas Eve. On the various occasions that present an opportunity for feasting, the usually roasted goose is often solved. Sausages, which may be made from pork meat, rice, or even barley, are served from time to time.

Traditionally made alcoholic beverages also appear on various special occasions. Little cakes made of cheese fillings are food fillings that sometimes appear as desserts on the menu. Sliced cucumbers dressed in sour cream are usually presented as salads.

Family structures in Slovak households

The image shows men cutting grass in Ladomirova. Along with family in the field
by everyculture.com

The citizens of the nation are free to choose their partners. But, in most cases, it is expected for the partners to be of the same religion. The prevalent sentiment in the case of marriage is monogamy. Back in time, it was a rural belief other than for those disabled. However, almost everyone should get married. Despite the ancient belief, however, in modern times, people can choose to get married or not. Even live-in relations are not so easily frowned upon in more urban areas.

Despite the freedom of choice offered by the government to citizens, a great majority decide to get married each year. This may be a result of lingering social expectations as well as the economic benefit that they may receive. Parents are offered a bonus as well as maternity leave in the country when children are usually born.

While there is much to the wave of modernization to the current Slovak state, same-sex marriages have not been declared legal. The sentiment of lifelong partnership in marriages of the old times has declined at a different rate and has increased since 1980.

Inheritance of the property

At present, usually, all children inherit equally. In the past, back when the dowry system was still in function, women usually sold their part of the property and received cash from their siblings. As with most developing countries, younger people no longer stay in their villages after the arrival of adulthood. Most turn towards urban areas, even western civilizations, looking for an opportunity to turn their lives around.

Etiquette of the Slovak culture

Like in western culture, they usually keep a distance of about three feet from each other. In polite conversations, people usually greet each other with good morning, good evening, good day, and goodnight. Usually, people shake each other’s right hand. This may be with newly met strangers or less familiar acquaintances. In the presence of close people, whether they be friends or family, both cheeks are kissed as a form of greeting.

In business situations, men usually wear suits with ties and women follow the dress code involving two-piece suits or formal skirts and blouses. Lunch can be a lengthy affair because of being the main meal. Guests in any home are offered food and drink. If you are invited into any local household in the Slovak state, then you should take a flower bouquet, a cake, or some kind of beverage along with you.

Religion, rituals, and beliefs

Bratsilava culture
by welcome to Bratilava

Christianity was introduced to this province far back in time during the Moravian empire by the popular monks, Methodius and Cyril. This happened in the 9th century.

However, evidence has been found that there used to be a local religion that even preceded Christianity in the region. This early religion consisted of a pantheon of supernatural spirits.

Almost 75% of the local populace are known to be Christians. And the majority of this percentage is known to be Roman Catholic. Some of the other legends present in this nation consist of orthodox Christians, about 4.1%, evangelical Lutherans, about 7%, as well as Judaism, just about 1%.

Almost 10% of the population is considered to be atheists. Before 1989, the political leaders of the Slovak state helped control and directed the activities of religious leaders to influence the local populace.

One of the most important places of religious significance in the nation is the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Jacob.

Belief

The local Christian community believes that there is a life after death. it is believed that the soul survives through the experience of death with only the physical body being lost. The locals are known to bury their dead rather than creating them.

Society houses like House of sorrow were introduced, the weeks were held at homes. The ritual of mourning a dead family lasts for about a year in slower communities. Wearing subdued colors is considered good during the time of mourning.

Arts and literature in Slovak communities

The Centre for Folk Art Production (ULUV), supports the local traditional artists in nurturing their talent. There is an old tradition of Slovak folklore storytelling. The origin of the different folklore is less likely to be involved, as many of the stories usually originated back in a few generations and individual families.

These folk flowers tend to die after fusion missions as well, but most have their individual origin. The written form of still-looking language appeared during the 18th century in the nation. It was codified and made popular during the 19th century. The various waves of nationalism that tried to sow a sense of Slovak identity eventually succeeded in the independence of the nation.

Art

art and dance culture of the Slovak people
by Slovak.e.eu

The cultural heritage of Slovakia is extraordinarily rich. Modra, a site in South-Western Slovakia, has continued to be a hub for fine ceramic production. Ever since the 1600s, even now, it is known for its unique designs featuring folk art forms of ancient origins.

Performance arts are one of the most significant aspects of the cultural identity of the Slovak people. It can be mainly be categorized into three aspects, namely classical folk and contemporary. You can visit rural areas to see folk performances on special occasions. Folk dances are usually accompanied by folk music. There are several theatres in the nation that feature some famous places and puppet shows and traditional folk art performances for the audience.

The Slovak culture has a rich history of folk art and crafts. Modern-day Slovakia may divert from old beliefs but, the customs and culture have been passed down and survived.

Despite all the suppressive efforts by different invaders throughout the years, the Slovak identity survives. If you are planning a trip to Slovakia, this article might help you understand the region and its people thoroughly.

Happy adventures!

 

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