by Ján Blažej
On 31 March 2014 the Slovak Republic had a population of 5,416,727, which is 19,691 more than at the time of the last census of the population, houses and dwellings in 2011 (at that time Slovakia had a population of 5,397,036). The majority of the population are Slovaks, who made up 80.7 per cent of the population in 2011.
MINORITIES IN SLOVAKIA
At the time of the last census of population, houses and dwellings in 2011, Hungarians made up 8.5 per cent of the population (458,467, which was 61,791 (0.7 per cent) less than 10 years previously). 2 per cent of the population is Roma (105,738, an increase of 15,818 (0.3 per cent) in comparison to the results from 2001). Many representatives of the Roma community and communal politicians believe that the Roma population is larger (up to 5.6 per cent) because during the previous census people classified themselves imprecisely as Slovaks and Hungarians. If this number is accepted then the percentages for Slovaks and Hungarians should be reduced by nearly four per cent.
Minorities making up less than one per cent of the population are, according to the census from 2011, Czechs (44,620 persons, 14,220 fewer than in 2011), Rusyns (33,482, an increase of 9,221 in 10 years) and Ukrainians (7,430 persons, a decline of 3,421 since 2001). These minorities are followed by Germans (4,690 persons), Moravians (3,286 persons), Poles (3,084 persons), Russians (1,997 persons) and Croats (1,097 persons) minorities. Another nationality in 2011 reported 9,825 Slovak citizens. In the census the nationality of 382,493 inhabitants was not found.
While Czechs live practically all over Slovakia and especially in the towns, the Hungarian nationality is concentrated mainly in the southern areas of Slovakia, especially in the countryside. Large towns with a significant Hungarian population are Košice, Nitra and Bratislava.
The Roma community is represented in practically every town in the south of Central and Eastern Slovakia and in some regions (eg Spiš); over 600 Roma settlements have a very low standard of living, high unemployment and a predominance of people without education or qualifications.
Rusyns and Ukrainians are concentrated in Eastern Slovakia. Members of minorities, especially those with a higher education and skilled workers, are increasingly likely to migrate.
All the larger minorities have their own national associations. The Hungarian Workers’ Cultural Association of Slovakia (CSEMADOK) has a large number of members and a long tradition. The Ruthenian population in Eastern Slovakia is represented by the groups Rusyn Revival and the Association of Rusyn Intelligence of Slovakia, while the Ukrainian population is served by the successor of the Ukrainian Workers Cultural Association (since 1990), the Union of Ruthenians-Ukrainians of the Slovak Republic. Other national organisations include the Polish Club, the Croatian Cultural Association in Slovakia, and the ‘Christo Botev’ Cultural Association of Bulgarians and their Friends in Slovakia. The Roma have a number of associations and non-profit organisations (Cultural Association of Roma in Slovakia, the Reform Association of Roma Youth, the Institute of Roma Public Policy, the Association of Young Roma and so on), some of which have an educational or support character.
MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS
After 1989 Slovakia became an important transit country for migrants from the Balkans and countries outside Europe. Nowadays we can see the trend of migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa heading towards Western European countries. At the same time a slight but limited interest in settling in Slovakia has increased. To a significant extent this is related to the reunification of families (for example from the Czech Republic, Ukraine and other European countries, the return of Slovak emigrants of retirement age to their homeland). A few hundred Russians, Vietnamese and Chinese who do business in Slovakia have permanent residence with a view to acquiring citizenship, while Indians, Pakistanis and citizens of a number of countries in the former Soviet Union seek asylum.
In recent years the contribution of immigrants to population growth has increased.
According to the estimates of Slovak embassies and expatriate associations, there were approximately 2,016,000 Slovaks living abroad in 2001. These people identify themselves as having Slovak nationality, many of them still speak Slovak but usually have the citizenship of the country in which they live.
The largest Slovak community is in the USA where there are estimated to be between 821,000 and 1.2 million. Most of these are descendants of Slovaks who emigrated in the 19th and 20th centuries. A number of famous personalities of Slovak origin spent a certain part of their life in the USA or were born there to Slovak parents. These include inventor and wireless telecommunications pioneer Jozef Murgaš (1864-1929), who was the first person to transmit the spoken word, and parachute inventor Štefan Banic (1870-1941). Eugene Cernan (b 1934), the last person to walk on the moon, came from a family of Czech and Slovak emigrants, famous Hollywood actor Steve McQueen (1930-1980) had Slovak roots and the parents of Pop Art king Andy Warhol (1928-1987) were of Rusyn nationality and came from the village of Miková in Eastern Slovakia.
In Canada, between 50,000 and 100,000 people claim Slovak origin, being mainly the descendants of emigrants from the 19th and 20th centuries.
There are currently approximately 200,000–350,000 Slovaks in the Czech Republic. They or their parents settled there during the existence of the former Czechoslovakia. Migration to the Czech lands was highest after the Second World War – many settled the Czech-German border region that was depopulated after the war, while others settled as professional soldiers. Some settled in the Czech lands after completing their studies or getting married.
In Hungary between 17,000 and 110,000 people claim Slovak origins depending on the methodology of counting and the sources. Some of these are the descendants of people who lived there even before the coming of the Hungarians. Many of them are the descendants of people who migrated to the ‘lowlands’ between the end of the 17th and the 19th century to settle the empty land that had been pillaged by the Turks. Construction workers settled in Budapest during the construction of the Hungarian capital city and many scientists and educated people also moved to the centre of the Kingdom of Hungary to advance their careers. Various sources state that between 145,000 and 500,000 Slovaks lived in the territory of modern Hungary at the time of the breakup of the old kingdom of Hungary. Rapid assimilation took place in the 20th century because there was little if any opportunity for education or worship in the Slovak language. The population declined further after the Second World War as a result of population exchanges. In the Hungarian countryside there are a number of towns where Slovaks make up the majority of the population. Békešská Caba (Békescsaba) is a district capital with a significant Slovak population. The Slovak Republic maintains a consulate general in the town.
In the period following the expulsion of the Turks, Slovaks settled in the territory of modern day Serbia (60,000, concentrated mainly in Vojvodina – the Department for Culture of Vojvodina Slovaks) and Croatia (approximately 5,000).
More than 40,000 Slovaks live in the border regions of Poland, partly as a result of border changes in the 20th century. Approximately 17,000 descendants of Slovak settlers live in Romania and there are approximately 16,000 Slovaks in Ukraine (mainly in Transcarpathian Ukraine which was a part of Czechoslovakia in the inter-war period). There are also strong Slovak communities in France, Belgium and Great Britain. Further afield, Slovak families can be found in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.
The numbers of Slovaks in individual countries are extremely imprecise and are falling as a result of natural assimilation through large-scale mixing, marriages with members of other nationalities and the small number of Slovak schools abroad. Sometimes communication between Slovaks is established for social, ideological or confessional reasons, a deep sense of solidarity and a relation to the former homeland or the country of their parents or ancestors. Between 1991 and 2001 the loss was around half a million.
CAUSES OF EMIGRATION
Only mentioning three major waves of emigration in the last 150 years, about a million inhabitants have left Slovakia. Large-scale migration of Slovaks was traditionally to find work. In the 18th and 19th centuries many went to Vienna and Budapest and, from the second half of the 19th century until the start of the Second World War, individuals and sometimes whole families from rural areas of the poorest parts of the country (Eastern and Central Slovakia) left en masse to North America (up to 800,000 people) and to a lesser extent to South America and some Western European industrial regions (mines in Belgium). After the Second World War Slovaks travelled to work in the border towns of the Czech lands, from which the German population had been deported, and to industrial centres.
Under the threat of fascism a large part of the Jewish community emigrated from Slovakia. At the end of the Second World War several exponents of the wartime fascist regime emigrated. Two waves of political emigration took place after the Second World War – when the Communists took power in 1948 and after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and four of its satellite countries. Since the 1960s migration for economic reasons has gradually increased.
After the political and economic changes of 1989 and Slovakia’s accession to the European Union in 2004 more than 175,000 Slovak citizens have left to work abroad. Most work in the Czech Republic (73,100), Great Britain (28,800), Hungary (21,800), Austria (11,800) and Ireland (9,000). This is not actually emigration because most of them have short-term employment contracts and declare an interest in returning home.
SLOVAK ASSOCIATIONS ABROAD
The World Association of Slovaks Living Abroad is an umbrella organisation for 66 active Slovak organisations and 63 important personalities as individual members. It united the Slovak community across historical, political and religious divisions and different periods in which Slovakia was left.
In the USA, the best-known associations are the Slovak League of America, the First Catholic Slovak Union and the Slovak Catholic Sokol, in Canada the Slovak Canadian National Council, Kanadská základina pre umenie a divadlo and the Canadian Slovak League, and in Argentina the Slovak Cultural Association.
There are expatriate organisations in the majority of European countries. In the Czech Republic there is the organisation Obec Slovákov v CR, Klub slovenskej kultúry, Klub slovenských dotykov, and the Limbora Slovak Folklore Association. In Hungary Slovaks have the National Slovak Administration, the Association of Slovaks in Hungary, the Caba Organisation of Slovaks (Cabianska organizácia Slovákov), the Slovak Administration in Budapest, the Szeged Group of Slovaks (Spolok segedínskych Slovákov). The Matica slovenská organisation in Serbia has local sections in 32 towns and villages. In France there is the French–Slovak Friendship Association (Association Amitie Franco-Slovaque), in Germany the Association for the Dissemination of Slovak Culture in German-Speaking Countries and the Slovak-German Union, in Ukraine the Matica slovenská in Transcarpathia and the M R Štefánik Slovak Society). There are also expatriate associations in Great Britain, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Spain, Poland, Italy, Belgium and Cyprus. Outside Europe, there are Slovak expatriate associations in Israel, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa.
Relations between the Slovak Republic and Slovaks living abroad and the possibility for them to receive state aid is governed by the Act on Slovaks Living Abroad, which was adopted by the Slovak parliament on 23 September 2005. This act established the Office for Slovaks Living Abroad, financed by the Slovak Republic Government Office. This office can provide financial subsidies for activities for the support of Slovaks living abroad. The state provides support in the areas of education, science and research, culture, information and the media for Slovaks living abroad. The office also incorporates the Centre for Slovaks Abroad (Dom Zahraničných Slovákov).