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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Pamír

THE PAMIR Mountains, known as the ‘Roof of the World’, are getting some unexpected attention, and not thanks to any mountaineer. Instead it is to journalist and speechwriter Drahoslav Machala that they owe their current prominence.

THE PAMIR Mountains, known as the ‘Roof of the World’, are getting some unexpected attention, and not thanks to any mountaineer. Instead it is to journalist and speechwriter Drahoslav Machala that they owe their current prominence.

The communist-turned-nationalist, who before the 1989 revolution worked for the ŠtB state security agency under the codename Pamír, has caused outrage by allegedly assaulting elderly comedian Tomáš Janovic, a man with whom he’s had long-running differences. The episode illustrates an important point.

“Throughout the ages the Slovaks have been saved by a forceful genetic pool, shielded by the hills and valleys of mountainous Slovakia. Today, the mass media consciously divide society, they have penetrated the Slovak valleys and rocky lands, to destroy the final remains of moral and vital society. We have to protect ourselves against this invasion of modern barbarians.” This is the type of language and thinking Machala brought into the public debate – nationalist, paranoid, clumsy, full of pathos.

It would have little relevance had he not acted as a collaborator of President Ivan Gašparovič and a chief ideologue of Robert Fico’s first government, an administration characterised by attacks on the Hungarian minority, the media, and civil society. Fico owes much of his success to the fact that he became a champion of former HZDS and SNS voters – the more xenophobic, authoritarian element in the nation.

One question now is whether he can retain their support without public displays of arrogance and aggression, and take Slovakia up a rung or two on the ladder of civilisation. Or whether necessity and his own instincts force him to remain surrounded by people such as Machala (who was reported to be in line for another prominent advisory role) – by people who see the Tatras as the roof of their world and are always ready to attack those who don’t.

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