Slovak-Ukrainian relations

Slovak-Ukrainian relations. Slovak relations with Ukraine, which date from medieval times, have been limited. Slovaks have maintained strong ties, however, with Ukrainians (Ruthenians) living south of the Carpathian Mountains, especially those living in the Prešov region (since 1918, within the boundaries of Slovakia) (see Slovak-Ukrainian relations in the Prešov region).

In medieval times trade routes from princely Halych and later Lviv to Hungary passed through Slovak towns, such as Bardejov, Prešov, and Košice. But not until the Slavic national revivals of the 19th century was a mutual awareness of the distinctness of the Slovak and Ukrainian peoples developed. The influential Slovak Pan-Slavist Pavel Šafařík was one of the first in Europe to argue that Ukrainians were a people distinct from both the Russians and the Poles. Relations throughout the rest of the 19th century took the form primarily of translation of Ukrainian writers for publication in Slovak periodicals. The most active translator was B. Nosák-Nezabudov (1818–77). Both Ivan Franko and Pavlo Hrabovsky translated the Slovak poet S. Chalupka.

After 1918 Slovak-Ukrainian relations were basically limited to ties with Ukrainians living in the Prešov region and Transcarpathia. Beginning in 1948, however, when Communist Czechoslovakia became part of the Soviet bloc, Slovak-Ukrainian relations expanded. Communist Ukrainian and Slovak governments encouraged the publication of translations of the other people's classic and contemporary writers, the exchange of folk ensembles, the twinning of cities (Bratislava and Kyiv), and the holding of annual festivities, such as the ‘Days of Ukrainian Culture in Slovakia’ and ‘Days of Slovak Culture in Ukraine.’ There were also unofficial links between dissidents in Ukraine and the Ukrainian national minority in Slovakia. Of particular importance in that regard was the publication program of the Ukrainian branch of the Slovak Pedagogical Publishing House, based in Prešov. The opportunity enjoyed by banned Soviet Ukrainian authors of being published in Prešov, as well as the existence of a liberal Ukrainian-language media (radio and newspapers) in Czechoslovakia during the 1960s, contributed to the Soviet decision to intervene militarily in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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