TO THE country's discredit, making judgments based on religion and ethnicity is a part of everyday reality in Slovakia, and it is reflected in all levels of society and all walks of life.
Three out of four parties of the ruling coalition - the Christian Democratic Movement, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, and the Hungarian Coalition Party - use religion or ethnicity in their names. The message to the voters is clear: Vote for us because we share the same god and the same blood.
Because this approach seems to work, it is unlikely to stop in the future. If the Slovak National Party and the Real Slovak National Party manage to unite, it is very likely they will make it into parliament after the next elections. And many more parties use nationalistic rhetoric, although the others do not emblazon their ideology in their names.
Politics aside, many actions in everyday situations are also influenced by ethnicity. Most Slovaks would admit that they hold on to their wallets when getting onto a crowded bus along with a "Gypsy".
In the same way, most Slovaks would admit in private that they consider Jews to be greedy, well organized, and in control of nearly everything. "Jew spotting", attempting to identify Jews in important positions, is a popular game for bored middle-class Slovaks chatting over a beer.
It seems Slovak society is too involved with dealing with more pressing issues to really focus on anti-Semitism or, indeed, intolerance in general. It can only be hoped that the clash of cultures that awaits Slovakia after it joins the EU will lead Slovaks to judge people on criteria other than religion and ethnicity.
10. Feb 2003 at 0:00