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SLOVAK MATTERS

What does the street roar?

REVOLUTION! Revolúcia! Let the cry ring out again, and again, and again. Attendant to the upcoming summit in Bratislava between US President George Bush and Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is a protest titled "ani Putin ani Bush" - neither Putin nor Bush.

REVOLUTION! Revolúcia! Let the cry ring out again, and again, and again. Attendant to the upcoming summit in Bratislava between US President George Bush and Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is a protest titled "ani Putin ani Bush" - neither Putin nor Bush.

While the two heads of state will surely have their statements translated into as many languages as necessary, the protesters may not be able to afford such a luxury. In the interest of open communication then, Slovak Matters sets out to prime spectators for what they might read and hear on the peripheries of the late February meeting.

All observers of the protest should take the classic slogan (slogan) "pravda zvíťazí" ("truth triumphs") as the foundation of their education. We can all agree on this truism (banalita) and happily continue to disagree. Another pair of fundamentals to be found on union webpages is "v jednote je sila" ("in unity there is strength") and "len spoločne sme silní" ("only together are we strong").

Such must have been the spirit of the crowd (dav) during the Prague Spring of 1968, when the Czechoslovaks pushed for reforms in the Communist Party. Antonín Novotný, the party's first secretary and the country's president at that time, was the target of the rhyming disparagement (znevažovanie) "Novotný a jeho vláda, nech si prácu v bani hľadá!" ("Novotný and his government let look for work in a mine"). That year Alexander Dubček replaced Novotný as first secretary and Ludvík Svoboda took the post of president, backed by streets full of people hollering out (vykrikujú) "Dubček, Svoboda, to je naša obroda!" ("Dubček and Svoboda are our future!")

A search on the internet reveals reports of graffiti (grafiti) from that time such as "Why bother to occupy our State Bank? You know there is nothing in it," and "An elephant cannot swallow a hedgehog."

The end of Communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989 saw manifestations (prejavy) as well, with calls against politicians such as Miloš Jakeš, chairman of the board of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, like "Jakeša do koša" ("throw out Jakeš"). As the leader of the Civic Forum, the party heading the charge of the Velvet Revolution, Václav Havel enjoyed a chant (pokrik) calling for him to lead the government - "Havel na hrad!" ("Havel in the castle!")

Since then, priorities have changed. The protest against the NATO summit in Bratislava in 2004 saw anti-capitalist mottos such as "nie je kapitalizmus bez vojen" (there is no capitalism without wars). On a side note, vojen is also apparently a word for a rolling pin, more commonly known as a valček. There was also a banner (transparent) that read "NATO chráni záujmy bohatých a mocných - nenecháme ich ovládať naše životy" (NATO protects the interests of the rich and powerful - we will not let them control our lives). Harassment by the police, of which protesters complained during the NATO summit, lead to cries like "policajný teror!" ("police terror").

Other slogans popular today are greatly varied. Anti-capitalists in Slovakia actually find themselves opposing both market powers and nationalism, leading to banners reading "proti fašizmu a kapitalizmu za slobodu a samosprávu" (against fascism and capitalism for freedom and autonomy). Anarchists also favour statements like "sloboda, samospráva, solidarita" ("freedom, autonomy, solidarity").

Then there are calls to boycott different companies, products, or even all consumption on Buy Nothing Day, a protest celebrated during the weekend after Thanksgiving. The slogan is simple; "bojkot ______," you fill in the blank. The movement against consumption abuts that part of the environmentalist lobby that wants cars taken off the road, resulting in critical masses of bikeriders calling for "život bez áut" ("life without cars").

What slogans might we hear this week? The organizers have considered the sarcastic "servilne vítame!" ("we subserviently welcome you!") and "Bush a Putin - zhnité plody demokracie" ("Bush and Putin - rotten fruit of democracy"). However, they are tight-lipped (mlčanliví) about what other slogans they are busily crafting. Readers will have to keep their ears to the street to find out

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