From medieval times to the current day, historical accounts of Slovakia and the Slovak people have often been either sketchy, romanticized versions of a pastoral society or nationalistic, exaggerated exaltations of the past. Now Slovakia: From Samo to Dzurinda (Studies of Nationalities series, Hoover Press, 2001), by Peter A. Toma and Dušan Kovác, at last offers a true history of the Slovak people without prejudice: their struggle for national identity, their aspirations for independence and economic development, and their ambition to become a democratic state.
The product of painstaking research by the authors—Toma, a naturalized American from Slovakia, and Kovác, a Slovak historian—this book is the definitive volume for readers in the English language who wish to acquire a more sophisticated understanding about past and present Slovakia.
The book is "written not from a Slovak but from a scholarly point of view for readers in the English-speaking world who desire to learn about the Slovaks, who, on account of the circumstances of history, lived for many years in obscurity," explain the authors.
From the seventh-century empire of Samo, the first Slav king, to the present-day struggle for democracy, the authors detail all the region's significant history. They examine the Slovak's Slavic ancestors and the emergence of a modern Slovak nation, the postwar communist dictatorship and the "Prague Spring," the fall of socialism from the "Velvet Revolution" to the breakup of the Czechoslovak Federation, and the ongoing process of trying to establish democratic institutions in today's independent Slovakia.
"As we glean from the past history of the Slovaks, from the early medieval period to the present, we can soon discover that on the relatively small piece of real estate in Europe called Slovakia, various hordes, tribes, clans, troops, and armies of non-Slovaks moved back and forth for centuries, which brought about intermarriage, migration, and displacements of Slovaks," the authors write. "In our study, we do not advocate any Slovak racial purity and for this reason treat the Slovaks and Slovakia conceptually as members of the modern nation-states."
This historical survey of the Slovaks and Slovakia offers an illuminating new perspective on a people whose history has often been clouded by the interests of those who wrote about them.
Peter A. Toma is a professor emeritus of political science and international relations at the University of Arizona. He is former director of an Educational Professions Development Act (EPDA) institute in international affairs at the University of Arizona and former director of an area program on Europe and the USSR at the National War College.
Dušan Kovác is a historian and research specialist who since 1968 has worked at the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, where he now functions as a scientific secretary. From 1990 to 1998 he was director of the Institute of Historical Studies specializing in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Central Europe.
The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the 31st president of the United States, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic and international affairs.