There comes a point at which foreigners living in Slovakia lose their sense of social alienation and begin to accept officious doorkeepers, slovenly waiters and obnoxious bureaucrats as important Slovak cultural artefacts. At the same moment, they start to wish they understood more of what goes on around them in politics, economics and society.
As of May, 1998, foreigners living and working in Slovakia finally have access to a book that explains Slovak current events and recent history in plain English. Slovakia, 1996-1997: A Global Report on the State of Society, is a collection of well-written and clearly-presented essays on everything from minority rights and privatization to media and religion.
"This book is for people who read English and are interested in Slovakia," said Tom Skladony, an American Slovak who edited the English version of the Global Report. "That includes the diplomatic community, the business community, political scientists, tourists as well as a huge domestic audience."
Skladony is also Director of Communications at the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), the liberal Bratislava think tank which produced the Global Report. Although IVO has never been a supporter of the current Slovak government since its founding in February 1997, Skladony insisted that the Global Report is a serious and objective work of scholarship.
"Every one of the authors of this book is a recognized expert in his or her field," he said. "It's clear if you look at the list that these authors are identified with the opposition, but I tried to ask each author to make sure they included the best case the government could make for each of its laws, for its foreign policy and so on. I wanted the book to reflect both sides of these very contentious issues."
Among the book's authors are former Slovak Minister of Privatization Ivan Mikloš, former Culture Minister Ladislav Snopko and former Czechoslovak Constitutional Court Chief Justice Ernest Valko. The Global Report covers events and trends from 1996 particularly well, and uses this as a base on which to build an analysis of the most important events of 1997 and early 1998 (see excerpt, page 15).
"I think that people on the government side will criticize this book," continued Skladony, "but I would really welcome an academic criticism or response to what we have published. On the other hand, most serious academics in this country side with the opposition."
18. Jun 1998 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson