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SLOVAKIA

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Slovakia description

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Between 1942 and 1944, approximately 70,000 Slovak Jews and others were sent to concentration camps, and although some Slovaks supported the government, a growing underground resistance movement against German control was gaining strength.

In 1944 that movement culminated into the Slovak National Uprising, an armed insurrection launched in an attempt to overthrow the Slovak State of Jozef Tiso. The rebel forces were defeated by Nazi Germany, but that guerrilla warfare continued until the Soviet Army liberated Slovakia from the Germans in 1945.

In February of 1948, the Communist Party took control in Czechoslovakia (and Slovakia) and reshaped the economy and government. The state took control of the country's factories and many businesses; private property was nationalized; and farmers were forced to join collective farms in which all land and equipment were jointly owned.

The Communist Party aggressively prohibited any opposition, and did so by force. They also moved to decrease the influence of churches and remained the only effective political party in Czechoslovakia for the next 41 years.

In 1989 revolts against the Communist governments swept through many eastern European countries, including East Germany, Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. In November of the year Slovaks joined with Czechs in mass protests against the Communist government.

The first free elections (since 1946) were held in June 1990, and Vaclav Havel's was chosen president of Czechoslovakia and democratic political reform began.

One of the major tasks facing the new government of Czechoslovakia was the reestablishment of an economy based on free enterprise. The country began a mass privatization program with the goal of shifting hundreds of state-owned companies into private hands.

But because of their economic differences, Czechs and Slovaks held opposing views about the appropriate pace and nature of economic reform and those differences complicated the reform process and prevented the adoption of a new federal constitution.

By the end of 1991, discussions between Slovak and Czech political leaders turned to whether the Czech and Slovak republics should continue to coexist within the federal structure or be divided into two independent states.

In July 1992 Slovakia declared itself a sovereign state, meaning that its laws took precedence over those of Czechoslovakia's federal government, and in January of 1993, Czechoslovakia was replaced by two independent states: Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Slovaks quickly gathered for celebrations in their new nation's capital of Bratislava.

Like many newly-independent nations before it, coalitions, interim governments, parliaments, political parties and prime ministers also came and went in Slovakia over the next decade.

Initially, Slovakia experienced more difficulty than the Czech Republic in developing a modern market economy and when Slovakia joined NATO in March 2004 and the EU in May of 2004, it made two giant steps forward.

Today farming, forestry, mining and manufacturing are important industries, as well as a flourishing tourism business, especially the ski resorts in the Ore and Carpathian Mountains.

Slovakia is a peaceful country of hospitable people. It has recently become one of Europe's new focal points for travel and tourism. Slovakia's capital city Bratislava is a growing hub of culture, and with a thousand year history it presents a most interesting destination.

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