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Letter to the Editor: Slovakia has "suffered" under "malevolent Czecho-Slovak" ideology

I would like to respond to the anonymous letter to the editor in Vol. 2. No. 13, August 14-27, 1996. Slovakia and Slovaks are in a very curious situation. Slovak independence existed once upon a time in the Great Slovak Empire (incorrectly called Great Moravia), then again in the first Slovak Republic and now in the second Republic. Adding the years of the two Slovak Republics together still results in a very short time to develop a fully functional state.

Therefore, critics should always keep in mind that Slovakia needs a little bit of time - other nations have had much more time to develop their own modern society than Slovakia has had. Slovaks will soon overcome this handicap, but it needs some time.

The Slovak terms národ, občan, národnosť, and národnostná menšina do not translate exactly to the English terms nation, nationality, citizenship, and ethnic minority. Very often, when a Slovak means národ, it comes out in English as nation, but it is not the same. In English, nation means all the citizens of a state, not just a distinct nationality, as it can in Slovak. This leads to misunderstanding.

The letter by the unknown author - I myself prefer to sign my letters - seems to have come from one of those people in Slovakia, who, when hearing the words "independent Slovakia" gets furious and aggressive. Those people are trying to push Slovaks into the Procrustean bed of "Czecho - Slovak" ideology.

Why did the author criticize Róbert Letz as a person and not his ideas? History is not a matter of majority or minority, but a matter of the truth - approximately reached that is, I don't mean absolute truth. In a democratic discussion, the old saying auditur et altera pars has to be known and appreciated. This is clear in the sense that the activities of 1944 are recalled by some as the Slovak National Uprising and by the others a coup détat against their own state. (It does not matter how this state was established - it was). And another point - if the author insists on majority, he or she must acknowledge the majority in the 1994 election, but according to his or her remarks, the author does not.

Ján Benko stated that national history must have pride. Unfortunately, this nation's history has suffered until now from misinterpretations of so-called Czecho-Slovaks, from their malevolent remarks. I do not agree with the author, I believe national pride comes from a nation's achievements. This nation was taught something else for 70 years. Now is the time to reestablish this lack of self pride. There are many great Slovaks who are supposedly Magyars (not Hungarians - it was a kingdom, the národ is called Magyars) or Czechs thanks to historical misinterpretations.

Patriotism cannot be grown; it comes from self-confidence, from having one's own state, own culture, own economy, own heroes. Those are the main pillars of patriotism and democracy.

I agree that good education and good government are needed. But you must say what "good" government and education are, because I think everybody could define this for him or herself in a very different way.

It should be noted that there were no patriots or proud nationalists in the positive sense of this word during communism. There were only internationalists, some dissidents, and emigrants. Many of them became freedom fighters and advisors on how democracy should work in Slovakia, but they are not working on actually establishing democracy. So they can harshly criticize the work of those who are trying to make democracy work. I grew skeptical reading the words of somebody who does not want to publish - or allow the publishing of - facts about the destiny of Slovaks from 1918 to the present - facts denied to the public by the Masaryk-Beneš governments and by communist rulers as well.

I think "good" education means that people, especially young people, should be made familiar with all the facts from history, not with the biased history of facts selected by Czecho-Slovaks and Marxists. The truth always comes to the surface, to use the author's own words. So it should not be forbidden or forgotten facts - only truth.

Regarding the remark about Terezín - do not forget that Terezín is in the Czech lands, not in Slovakia, so Slovakia has nothing in common with it. To that end - one should read more books from non-Marxist historians such as František Vnuk, Konštantín Čulen and others to fill the fact gaps in Slovak history - and to have a balanced view, which is the basis for free thinking and democracy. Books like "Zamlčaná pravda o Slovensku" ("The undisclosed truth about Slovakia") could bring something to this effort.

Fridrich Hláva, Bratislava

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