Remembering 20 years

INTERESTING fragments from Slovakia’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of November 1989 keep appearing in public even now, nearly six months after the country marked the Velvet Revolution. One of them is the recently published book by Slovakia’s Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) think tank, entitled Kde sme? Mentálne mapy Slovenska (Where Are We? Mental Maps of Slovakia).

INTERESTING fragments from Slovakia’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of November 1989 keep appearing in public even now, nearly six months after the country marked the Velvet Revolution. One of them is the recently published book by Slovakia’s Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) think tank, entitled Kde sme? Mentálne mapy Slovenska (Where Are We? Mental Maps of Slovakia).

“The charm of this publication is in the fact that it’s too rich to allow us to reduce it to a couple of sentences,” said Martin Bútora, one of the editors of the publication, at its presentation at the Open Gallery in Bratislava. “Exacting academic analyses are wedded with intuition, the logic of evidence with a wide scale of emotions, the views of insiders with observations from outside.”

The form and content of Kde sme? are new to IVO since unlike any of the think tank's other publications it poses a very broad question – and answers it in numerous ways via 40 different texts by authors from all walks of life: a sociologist, a photographer, a diplomat, a journalist, an environmentalist, a politician, a fiction writer, a historian, an economist, and others. Each looks at the country and what it has become in the 20 years since the fall of communism and each author has a unique perspective – and tells the reader exactly what they see.

A team of four editors from IVO – Martin Bútora, Zora Bútorová, Grigorij Mesežnikov and Miroslav Kollár – assembled this mosaic comprising both topics which resonate in society as the most urgent ones and those that many people often do not have a reason, or a chance, to think about.

Each of the texts featured in Kde sme? fulfils a valued place in the book and each of them begs to be read, and re-read again. On the wake of the 2010 election campaign in Slovakia one might, perhaps, browse through the pages of the book and certainly make a stop at Oľga Gyarfášová’s analysis of past Slovak elections and voters.

Apart from that useful analysis, the pages of the book tell much about the history of Slovakia since 1989, reflect on the political situation and the state of civil society in the country, and discuss Slovakia’s EU membership and the feeling of belonging to Europe.

The authors look back on the post-communist economic transition, criticise decades of corruption, and worry about media freedom and relations towards minorities living in the country.

The essays also touch upon topics that Slovakia has not progressed through yet to the same extent as its western neighbours: feminism, gender equality, environmental issues, constructing a knowledge-based society, and honouring cultural heritage. One of the texts also deals with the relationship between the state and churches, a topic which often brings frowns to the faces of most Slovaks.

Insights of artists are not missing either – Slovakia’s architecture, cinematography and music have found their way into the book.

A full-stop to the book comes after an exquisite series of photographs by Slovakia’s well-known documentary photographer Andrej Bán entitled “My dear Slovakia”.

The book is published only in Slovak.


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