President: Andrej Kiska (2014)
Prime Minister: Robert Fico (2012)
Land area: 18,842 sq mi (48,800 sq km); total area: 18,859 sq mi (48,845 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 5,443,583 (growth rate: 0.03%); birth rate: 10.01/1000; infant mortality rate: 5.35/1000; life expectancy: 76.69; density per sq mi: 287
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Bratislava, 434,000
Other large city: Kosice, 240,688
Monetary unit: Koruna
Slovakia is located in central Europe. The land has rugged mountains, rich in mineral resources, with vast forests and pastures. The Carpathian Mountains dominate the topography of Slovakia, with lowland areas in the southern region. Slovakia is about twice the size of the state of Maryland.
Present-day Slovakia was settled by Slavic Slovaks about the 6th century. They were politically united in the Moravian empire in the 9th century. In 907, the Germans and the Magyars conquered the Moravian state, and the Slovaks fell under Hungarian control from the 10th century up until 1918. When the Hapsburg-ruled empire collapsed in 1918 following World War I, the Slovaks joined the Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia to form the new joint state of Czechoslovakia. In March 1939, Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, established a German “protectorate,” and created a puppet state out of Slovakia with Monsignor Josef Tiso as prime minister. The country was liberated from the Germans by the Soviet army in the spring of 1945, and Slovakia was restored to its prewar status and rejoined to a new Czechoslovakian state.
After the Communist Party took power in Feb. 1948, Slovakia was again subjected to a centralized Czech-dominated government, and antagonism between the two republics developed. In Jan. 1969, the nation became the Slovak Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia.
Nearly 42 years of Communist rule for Slovakia ended when Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia in 1989 and democratic political reform began. However, with the demise of Communist power, a strong Slovak nationalist movement resurfaced, and the rival relationship between the two states increased. 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.