OF THE four historical characters that are celebrated by national holidays in Slovakia, two come from Greece.
Each July 5, Cyril and Methodius are remembered for bringing to the region not just Christianity, but also an alphabet. Although their primacy is now widely disputed, their contribution to local culture is something to keep in mind when listening to the Greek-bashing slurs of local politicians, especially members of the SaS party, who initiated last week’s special parliamentary session on the terms of future financial aid to Greece.
It’s not that we owe the Greeks for something two of them did twelve centuries ago. But Cyril and Methodius could remind the political class that a little humility is in place. Whether in the Middle Ages, or in the middle of a financial crisis, Slovakia has rarely been in a position to mentor others or get by without outside help. Were it not for the Russians, we’d remain controlled by the Nazis; were it not for the West, we’d have stayed in the arms of Soviets. The defeat of the authoritarian Vladimír Mečiar was possible in great part thanks to the US, and European countries, who sponsored opposition groups, and set tough conditions on further integration with the West. EU entry led not only to a huge modernisation of public institutions and the legal system, and to the opening of markets, but also gave society a goal worth striving for.
The country is still a net recipient of EU funds, a result of a Europe-wide system of redistribution of wealth, which many now criticise when it comes to paying others. The economy works thanks to foreign investment. That local society struggles to find enough energy to deal with its problems on its own is best seen in the judiciary, or the education system, where outsiders have little say.
That is not to say that Slovakia is incapable of taking responsibility for itself, although some still feel that the split with the Czechs left the country too small and too immature to create properly functioning institutions. Nor is it the case that we should say yes to any nonsense Europe comes up with. But at all times we need to remember that Slovakia too needs the help of outsiders.
After all, Jesus and the Virgin Mary, the two other figures with a national holiday, were also foreigners.
11. Jul 2011 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila