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EDITORIAL

Pumping iron; channelling SNS

THE NATIONALIST slogan “Slovensko Slovákom”, meaning Slovakia for Slovaks, is no longer confined to rallies organised by extremist groups or social sites where those who call themselves “decent Slovaks” refer to minorities as “parasites”, suggesting that they should be either deported or disciplined and given help only if they obey the rules set by the majority. A couple of days after Prime Minister Robert Fico proved his masculinity by doing 1,001 push-ups during a visit to a special army unit in Žilina, outshining elite commandos who could apparently manage only 500 or so, he made sure that voters with nationalist sentiments understand that he is also a true Slovak patriot.

THE NATIONALIST slogan “Slovensko Slovákom”, meaning Slovakia for Slovaks, is no longer confined to rallies organised by extremist groups or social sites where those who call themselves “decent Slovaks” refer to minorities as “parasites”, suggesting that they should be either deported or disciplined and given help only if they obey the rules set by the majority. A couple of days after Prime Minister Robert Fico proved his masculinity by doing 1,001 push-ups during a visit to a special army unit in Žilina, outshining elite commandos who could apparently manage only 500 or so, he made sure that voters with nationalist sentiments understand that he is also a true Slovak patriot.

“We did not establish our independent state in the first place for minorities, although we respect them, but mainly for the Slovak state-forming nation,” Fico said in a speech to mark the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Matica Slovenská, a state-funded cultural heritage institution based in Martin.

In Slovakia, 105,738 people identified themselves as Roma in the last census. But in reality the number of the Roma people in Slovakia could well be three times that number. There are 458,467 ethnic Hungarians and 33,357 people of Czech ethnicity who live in Slovakia and a further 33,482 Ruthenians and 7,430 Ukrainians who want to call this country home. Then there are 4,690 ethnic Germans, 3,084 Slovak citizens of Polish origin, along with 1,022 of Croatian origin and 1,051 of Bulgarian ethnicity. There are also 3,386 people who declared themselves Moravians in the last census and 9,825 who ticked the ‘others’ option. They all presumably live here, pay taxes here and want to consider Slovakia in some way their home. In all probability, many of them voted for Robert Fico. Yet what they got in return was a rather unflattering depiction by the prime minister, who said that it is becoming a tradition for minorities in Slovakia to be seen with outstretched hands pressing their demands but “without any responsibility towards the state” and without what he called a “cultivation of civic virtues”.

The prime minister of Slovaks earlier this year even singled out one minority – Roma – who in his opinion need a tougher approach from the state because “extreme situations” call for “extreme solutions”: one such solution, he said, would be to place Roma children in boarding schools: “You have to take out those children from [their home] environment and place them somewhere else.”

Then the prime minister of Slovakia, which in his words was not “in the first place established for the minorities” told students at Bratislava College of Management and Economy that “we either tell everyone that the situation in Slovakia is extreme, and as such, calls for extreme solutions” or there will be only talking and nothing will get solved. Fico also said that if the government took into consideration “human rights goody-goodies who are sponging off this issue” it would expose Slovakia to extremism.

Anyone who recalls the reasons why Fico’s Smer party withdrew its own candidate, Juraj Kalina of the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, for the top post at the Nation’s Memory Institute (ÚPN), might say Fico’s talk is hardly surprising.

Kalina was dropped after being critical of a sculpture of ninth-century regional leader Svätopluk in front of Bratislava Castle that several historians say is historically inaccurate and a heavily mythologised representation that attracts right-wing extremists.

Now the boss of Smer says that he has detected what he called a “strange tendency to put forward the problems of minorities” to the disadvantage of the Slovak nation “as though Slovak men and women do not live in Slovakia at all”.

Last year several anti-Roma protests took place, indicating what local and international human rights watchdogs say is a negative shift in public opinion against Slovakia’s Roma minority.

Watchdogs have warned of extremists becoming more sophisticated and of the public becoming more susceptible to racist sentiment. Earlier this month, an American basketball player of Bahamian origin who currently plays for a Slovak club, was seriously assaulted in front of a nightclub in Nitra, reportedly by a group of six people shouting racial slurs.

One might have hoped that slogans like “Slovensko Slovákom” and “Na Slovensku, po slovensky” had left Slovak politics after voters kicked the Slovak National Party (SNS) and its controversial leader Ján Slota out of parliament. One might also have thought that someone who took power in a landslide victory in the same election would not need to appeal to the basest nationalist instincts of voters just a year later. But one would, apparently, be wrong.

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