SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Separatista

NORMALLY, you don’t see Slovaks travelling the world and blowing themselves up or beheading people. But allegations by Ukraine that a Slovak citizen was caught fighting for the pro-Russian separatists indicate that there are ideologies which inspire violence even in members of our “dove nation”. Sure, it’s hard to draw any serious conclusions from one case, and acts of war and terror are often the result of personal frustration rather than political conviction.

NORMALLY, you don’t see Slovaks travelling the world and blowing themselves up or beheading people. But allegations by Ukraine that a Slovak citizen was caught fighting for the pro-Russian separatists indicate that there are ideologies which inspire violence even in members of our “dove nation”. Sure, it’s hard to draw any serious conclusions from one case, and acts of war and terror are often the result of personal frustration rather than political conviction.

But still, there needs to be some sort of logic and appeal behind the causes that attract even troubled minds. You can’t really imagine Slovak jihadists.

If one had to guess, the most explosive issue for Slovaks would be anti-Roma sentiment, followed by a deep-rooted dislike of Hungarians, and perhaps by homophobia, which seems to be on the rise, at least politically. But pro-Russian Ukrainian separatism?

A man identified by his passport as Miroslav Roháč was caught in Ukraine on the eve of the 46th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, which turned into a two-decade-long occupation. The communist regime couldn’t have survived without local collaborators, some of whom genuinely believed (and continue to believe) that Moscow is our friend and Washington is our enemy. But is there really enough enthusiasm for Russian imperialism for people to go over and join the fighting?

And there is a further paradox: since the fall of communism, Slovak nationalists keep repeating that one day Hungary will attempt to annex the southern regions, where ethnic Hungarians represent a majority. The paranoia is occasionally fed by Budapest itself with moves such as handing out passports to ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries and giving them the right to vote.

So if there is one continuous geopolitical concern, and not only in extremist circles, it’s that the post-war order will collapse and efforts to redraw borders based on ethnic divisions will appear. Hence Slovakia’s stubborn refusal to recognise Kosovo. Common sense would suggest that Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and the current conflict in eastern Ukraine should be viewed just as critically. But no, many extremist nationalists (including Marian Kotleba, who runs Banská Bystrica Region, where the alleged Slovak militant also comes from) are on the side of Vladimir Putin.

A taste for autocracy, a dislike of the West, and even visions of a pan-Slavic bloc run by Russia form a coherent bloc of beliefs. Let’s hope there are not many people here who wish to spread them with an RPG on their shoulder.

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