THE FINAL weekend of August was longer than usual for Slovaks, as the country marked two major national holidays on August 29 and September 1. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people attended the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising (SNP) in Banská Bystrica on August 29, SNP Museum Director Stanislav Mičev estimated for the SITA newswire.
The official portion of the festivities started in the piety room of the SNP memorial, and continued with a gathering attended by Slovakia’s highest constitutional officials and delegations from some 40 countries, SITA wrote. The highest-ranking foreign guests were Czech President Miloš Zeman and Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu.
Polish President Branislaw Komorowski, who was expected to attend the event from its start, changed plans at the last moment and only came to lay a wreath at the memorial in the afternoon. Officials and organisers did not specify the details of the change, but Slovak media speculated it was in order to avoid meeting the Russian minister.
Later that day, Poland delayed the departure of Shoygu from Slovakia when it would not allow his plane to fly through its airspace. The plane was only authorised to fly over Poland when it changed its status from military to civilian.
SNP needs to be passed on
“Our freedom, democracy and state independence, the position of Slovakia in Europe and in the world, our opportunities, and our historical conscience: all that is based on the decision of the SNP participants from 70 years ago, their courage, and their sacrifices,” said Slovak President Andrej Kiska, who was the first to address the crowd gathered in Banská Bystrica for the occasion. He labelled the SNP as the second biggest armed revolt against fascism.
The SNP is such an important event in Slovakia’s history that it is impossible to avoid, which is also why politicians and their ideologues have tried to twist the facts, abuse, defame, or steal the legacy of the uprising for themselves, Kiska said. The SNP has been turned into a political slogan over the decades, as the uprising’s democratic, anti-fascist and civic characteristics were often ignored in the process.
“We shall be thankful to all those who have in the past contributed to the truthful picture of the uprising, and who at present maintain, cultivate and pass on this true image,” Kiska said, calling particularly on teachers to make sure the next generations will understand and feel the importance of the SNP.
Kiska’s Czech counterpart, Zeman, claimed in his speech that the SNP sped up the end of the war, and labelled it one of the most important events in the history of the Slovak nation, the Sme daily reported.
Paška targets extremists
Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška in his speech focused on extremists who deny the legacy of the SNP and call it a black day in the history of the nation. One is Banská Bystrica regional governor, Marian Kotleba, who was not invited to the celebrations in relation to these views.
Paška called it the biggest paradox of Slovak history that “the confused and the children” who are acting as the biggest Slovak patriots prefer to celebrate the fascist and Nazi politicians who assisted in the self-destruction of their own nation, Sme reported.
“They would have beaten and enslaved us all,” Paška said, as quoted by Sme. “It is insane that today some confused Slovak nationalists and neo-Nazis claim their support for this.”
Kotleba displays banner
Paška in his speech hinted at the fact that in the autumn of 2013, Banská Bystrica Region elected a far-right extremist as governor.
Kotleba was the only one of Slovakia’s eight regional governors not to be invited to the celebrations due to his negative stance towards the uprising. He unfurled a banner on the regional government building that read “Yankees go home! Stop NATO!”
Regional councillors at their September 2 session passed a declaration distancing themselves from Kotleba’s conduct, calling on the regional governor not to abuse the property of the citizens for the promotion of a political party. They also apologised to the citizens for Kotleba’s abuse of his post, the SITA newswire reported.
Parliament closed on Constitution Day
While the anniversary of the SNP was marked in a grand fashion this year, Constitution Day, another public holiday on September 1, went largely unnoticed.
At the official level, however, the day was marked accordingly. President Kiska received congratulatory letters for the occasion from several heads of state and representatives of royal families, according to SITA.
President Barack Obama in his letter to Kiska commended Slovakia for sharing its experience transitioning to a democratic government with its neighbours who are still on their way to democracy, SITA wrote. German President Joachim Gauck reminded Kiska of the very close and friendly relations between their two countries. Other heads of states who congratulated Kiska on the day included the Czech President Miloš Zeman, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic and Belgian King Phillip.
On Constitution Day, which this year marked the 22nd anniversary since the constitution was passed, an open day is typically held in parliament, but this year Paška cancelled it, citing the Finance Ministry’s call on the parliamentary office to save expenses.
The doors of the parliamentary building remained locked. This was heavily criticised by OĽaNO MPs who had a public gathering in front of the parliament building on that day and wanted to take their visitors around parliament.
“We consider this arrogance and an expression of fear of the public,” OĽaNO MP Jozef Viskupič told SITA.
8. Sep 2014 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani with press reports