photo: Spectator archives
Although it was doubtful that Slobodník would have kept his seat in parliament after the upcoming 2002 elections, as HZDS leader Vladimír Mečiar told The Slovak Spectator in October 2001 that he intended to give his party a more youthful look, the HZDS mourned Slobodník as "truly a renaissance personality", in the words of HZDS MP Augustín Marián Húska.
Slobodník, who served as Culture Minister from 1992 to 1994, was a strongly pro-Slovak force, a literary theorist, critic and member of various international literary organisations. He translated over 80 Russian, French and English original works during his lifetime.
Slobodník, a Pezinok native, found himself in the centre of attention in July 2001 due to a Strasbourg Court of Human Rights ruling which ended Slobodník's nine-year legal battle with Slovak poet Ľubomír Feldek.
Slobodník had sued Feldek over a poetry line which said "an SS man hugged an ŠtB man", referring respectively to the Nazi storm troopers group and the Czechoslovak secret police. Slobodník felt personally attacked by the line, which he felt insinuated he had been a part of both organisations. After the Slovak court system ruled Feldek guilty, the poet turned to Strasbourg pleading that his freedom of expression had been violated. The European court upheld Feldek's complaint.
Slobodník's party colleague Katarína Tóthová said since the court decision his health had worsened.
In his recently reprinted book Article: Polar Circle, Slobodník said that "Feldek knowingly and treacherously attempted to break into my life because politically we're not on the same side".
Slobodník's past, however, was indeed a colourful one.
In 1945, short before his secondary school final exams, he was called up to serve at a training camp for the Slovak pro-Hitler Hlinka Youth organisation. Hlinka's Youth was a part of the Hlinka Guard paramilitary group during the first independent Slovak state, 1939 to 1945.
Slobodník said he was excluded from the Hlinka Youth on the basis of his "unreliability". However, he was arrested by Soviet military police and sentenced to 15 years of forced labour in one of Jozef Stalin's gulags in 1945.
He spent almost nine years in the work camps and was granted amnesty after Stalin's death by President Nikita Kruschev in 1954.
Paradoxically, he then studied Russian and Slovak at Bratislava's Comenius and Prague's Charles Universities. He received a PhD in philosophy in 1972 and in 1990 became head of the World Literature Institute with the Slovak Academy of Sciences.
22. Dec 2001 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová