Slovakia (Slovensko; Ukr: Словаччина; Slovachchyna). A republic in the southwestern Carpathian Mountains region, at around the midpoint of the Danube River Valley, bordering on Poland to the north, Hungary to the south, the Czech Republic to the west, and Ukraine to the east. Slovakia covers an area of 49,000 sq km and has a population of 5,415,949 (2013), of whom nearly 86 percent are Slovaks, 12 percent are Hungarians, and just over 1 percent are Czechs. Official figures (2011) indicate that 40,912 Ukrainians and Ruthenians live in the republic, although the actual number is probably somewhere between 130,000 and 145,000. The capital is Bratislava (2013 pop 462,603).
Ukrainians and Slovaks share a 200 km-border in the Prešov region, and both peoples have had similar social structures, daily life, language, and folk art. Both Slovaks and Ukrainians, especially those living in Transcarpathia and a small area of Galicia, also lived for a long period of time under Hungarian rule (see Hungary).
Important trade routes that tied Ukraine to eastern, central, and western Europe have passed through Slovakia since the Middle Ages. Itinerant Slovak merchants and tradesmen traveled to Kyivan Rus’. A number of leading Transcarpathian clergymen, who later became bishops or professors at theological seminaries, studied in the 18th century at the theological seminary in Trnava. That city was also a publishing center for Transcarpathian Ukrainians and produced works such as Katekhyzys (Catechism, 1698), Bukvar (Primer, 1699), and Kratkoe prypadkov moral’nykh sobraniie (A Short Collection of Moral Parables, 1727).
The first Slovak scholars to develop a serious interest in Ukraine were Jan Kollár (1793–1852) and Pavel Šafařík (1795–1861). They maintained direct contact with Ukrainian activists and supported the development of the Ukrainian national revival. Šafařík was one of the first Europeans to come out in defense of Ukrainian national, linguistic, and cultural autonomy. In the 1840s L. Štúr began studying Ukrainian folk oral literature. The most notable exponent of Slovak-Ukrainian relations in the 19th century was B. Nosák-Nezabudov (1818–77), whose Slovak translation of the ‘Duma about the Escape of the Three Brothers from Oziv’ (1848) was the first Ukrainian work to be published in Slovakia. J. Hurban, A. Radlinský, P. Kellner, and others also devoted much attention to Transcarpathian Ukrainians. At the Slavic Congress in Prague, 1848, Slovaks supported motions by Galician and Transcarpathian Ukrainians. In 1850 the first Ukrainian (Ruthenian) literary association was formed, in Prešov (see Prešov Literary Society); it included four Slovaks. Adolf Dobriansky, the Transcarpathian Ukrainian who contributed most to Slovak culture, was one of the cofounders (in 1863) of the Matica Slovenská cultural-educational association. In the late 19th century Pavlo Hrabovsky published several of his translations of Slovak literary classics in the Galician press.
In the late 19th century Slovak interest in Ukraine waned as the Slovakian intelligentsia grew increasingly Russophile in orientation. In the early 20th century F. Votruba, a Czech, translated selections of works by Ivan Franko (collected for a single volume in 1914), Borys Hrinchenko, Bohdan Lepky, Lesia Ukrainka, and Vasyl Stefanyk into Slovak, and published a number of articles about the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian literature. Taras Shevchenko's works became widely known in Slovakia in 1911–14 because of translations and articles by J. Slavík, S. Vajanský, and I. Lah. Meanwhile Volodymyr Hnatiuk, Franko, and Stepan Tomashivsky published articles on Slovak community affairs in the Galician press. Nevertheless, Slovak-Ukrainian relations in the Prešov region deteriorated significantly after the Slovak national movement began to display an expansionist attitude toward Ukrainians. Many Ukrainians still preferred to identify with the Slovaks rather than the non-Slavic Hungarians, and many Ukrainian settlements subsequently were Slovakized.
Pressure on Ukrainians in Slovakia to assimilate increased after 1919, when a section of Ukrainian Transcarpathia west of the Uzh River was included in the Slovak republic. The leaders of the Slovak People's party followed a policy of Slovakization toward Ukrainians and declined to enter into a working relationship with Ukrainian politicians from Transcarpathia (although they did work with the Magyarone Andrii Brodii). In response, Ukrainians cultivated ties with Czech political parties that were either neutral toward or supportive of Ukrainian concerns.
Understandably, Ukrainian-Slovak cultural ties were minimal at the time. A club of friends of Transcarpathia in Bratislava published Podkarpatoruská Revue; a few books about Transcarpathia were published; and a few works by Transcarpathian authors were translated. The other Ukrainian territories and their cultural characteristics remained totally outside the sphere of Slovakian interest. Ukraine was similarly uninterested in Slovakia.
In 1938–9 there were official contacts between the governments of Carpatho-Ukraine and Slovakia which led them to issue joint declarations against Hungarian and Czech aggression. The regime of the Slovak Republic (1939–44) did not tolerate any manifestations of local Ukrainian national activity, and in 1942 President J. Tiso even declared that the Ukrainian-Ruthenian question no longer existed. This action led some of the Ukrainian population to sympathize with the USSR and to support the partisan movement. During the German-Soviet conflict in Ukraine, there were two divisions of the Slovakian army on Ukrainian territory, but they did not participate directly in battle. Many Slovaks, along with Transcarpathian Ukrainians, joined in the Czechoslovak army corps led by Gen L. Svoboda. In 1944 they fought alongside the Soviet Army in Ukraine. In 1944 and early 1945 the Ukrainian Division Galizien was stationed in western Slovakia. In 1945–6 detachments of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army crossed into Slovakian territory.
The lot of Ukrainians improved dramatically after 1945, in no small measure owing to their influence in the Czechoslovakian Communist party. The Ukrainian minority did not manage to secure any political autonomy in Slovakia, but it did make some cultural gains. Ukrainian culture was popularized in Slovakia, and Slovakian in Ukraine. In 1948–89 more than 150 titles in Ukrainian literature were translated (by J. Andričík, J. Kokavec, M. Krno, P. and M. Ličko, A. Pestremenko, I. Rusnak, R. Skukálek, and others) and published. A number of scholars specializing in Ukrainian (including F. Gondor, P. Hapak, L’udovít Haraksim, J. Hrozienčik, V. Khoma, Vasyl Latta, Mykhailo Molnar, and Mikuláš Nevrlý) were given positions at the Slovak Academy of Sciences and Bratislava University. They have published monographs on the works of Ivan Franko and Taras Shevchenko, on Ukrainian history, and on numerous other subjects. Bratislava and Kyiv were proclaimed twin cities, and exchanges of writers, artists, exhibitions, and theater productions between them took place frequently. A Ukrainian cultural society (named after Shevchenko) with its own dramatic collective operates in Bratislava. In 1988–9 a telebridge program was broadcast between Kyiv and Bratislava.
Another center of Ukrainian studies in Slovakia is Prešov, where, at Šafařík University, there is a chair of Ukrainian language and literature and a research department of Ukrainian studies. Ukrainian plays and operas have also been staged in Slovakia, notably those of Ivan Kotliarevsky, Semen Hulak-Artemovsky, Ivan Franko, Liubomyr Dmyterko, Oleksnder Korniichuk, Yulii Meitus, Taras Shevchenko, Vadym Sobko, Mykhailo Starytsky, and Hryhorii Tsehlynsky, many of which have also been broadcast on radio and television. Concert tours of the Verovka State Chorus, the State Dance Ensemble of Ukraine, the State Banduryst Kapelle of Ukraine of Kyiv, the Transcarpathian Folk Chorus, the Kyiv Ukrainian Drama Theater, the Duklia Ukrainian Folk Ensemble, and the Prešov Ukrainian National Theater have served to popularize Ukrainian culture. Official ties were established between the Kyiv Ukrainian Drama Theater and the Záborský Theater of Prešov, which resulted in yearly exchanges of productions. A similar affiliation exists with the Ukrainian theater in Uzhhorod. There have also been a number of exhibits of Ukrainian books and paintings in Slovakia. Official ‘Days of Ukrainian Culture in Slovakia’ and ‘Days of Slovak Culture in Ukraine’ have also been important, as have annual festivals of folk songs and dance held by Ukrainians in Czechoslovakia and, later, the independent Slovak Republic. The Ukrainian branch of the Slovak Writers' Union and the Ukrainian department of the Slovak Educational Publishing House (which has issued more than 430 Ukrainian publications) also strengthen Ukrainian-Slovak literary ties.
The equating of Slovak and Czech culture has made the popularization of Slovak culture in Ukraine more difficult. Of 152 titles of Czech and Slovak authors published in Ukraine before 1968, only 8 were by Slovaks (the first translation appeared in 1951). In order to compensate for this inequality the department of Ukrainian literature of the Slovak publishing house in Prešov printed 15 translations of Slovak works in 1958–62, the Cultural Association of Ukrainian Workers published 6 Slovak plays in Ukrainian translation, and the literary journal Duklia published translations of contemporary Slovak literature. Few of these publications reached Ukraine, however, and eventually such editions were halted. In 1964 an anthology of Slovak poetry was published, which included the verse of 51 Slovak authors translated by Ivan Drach, Hryhorii Kochur, Volodymyr Luchuk, Andrii Malyshko, Maksym Rylsky, Dmytro Pavlychko, Ivan Svitlychny, Vasyl Symonenko, Borys Ten, V. Zhytnyk, and others.
Despite improvements in Slovak-Ukrainian cultural relations, Slovakia has maintained a systematic policy of Slovakization of its Ukrainian population in the Prešov region in political, cultural (by closing Ukrainian schools), and religious matters (a Slovak was appointed as administrator of the Prešov eparchy in 1968). National hostility to Ukrainians was most openly expressed in 1968–9, during the Dubček administration, when calls were made for the deportation of all Ukrainians from the Prešov region to the Ukrainian SSR. The other Ukrainian settlements in Slovakia are found mainly around Košice, a large industrial center that draws many Ukrainians from the Prešov region. Every year there is a Ukrainian folk festival at Svydnyk (see Ukrainian Cultural Festival in Slovakia). Ukrainians are organized in the Union of Ruthenian-Ukrainians of the Slovak Republic (formerly called the Cultural Association of Ukrainian Workers), which has its own choir (Karpaty) and a theater group (Dumka). Ukrainians also live in Bratislava.
The difficulties in Slovak-Ukrainian relations have been carried over into émigré affairs, particularly in the United States. Attempts have been made to Slovakize Ukrainian emigrants from the Prešov region on the grounds that there are no longer any ‘Ukrainians’ there and that all Greek Catholics are Slovaks. As well, the Vatican has appointed Slovak administrators to a number of Transcarpathian Greek Catholic communities in Canada.
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Mol’nar, M. Slovaky i ukraïntsi (Bratislava–Prešov 1965)
Nevrlý, M. Bibliografia ukrajiniky v slovenskej reči 1945–1964 (Bratislava 1965)
Pazhur, O. Ukraïntsi Chekhoslovachchyny 1945–1964 (Prešov 1967)
Chuma, A.; Bondar, A. Ukraïns’ka shkola na Zakarpatti ta Skhidnii Slovachchyni (Prešov 1969)
Sirka, J. The Development of Ukrainian Literature in Czechoslovakia, 1945–1975: A Survey of Social, Cultural an[d] Historical Aspects (Frankfurt am Main 1978)
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[This article was updated in 2014.]