Slovakia played a notable part in the events of 1938 which led to the collapse of the first Czechoslovakian republic. The agitation of the Slovak People’s Party (of the so-called “autonomists”) coincided closely with the pressure of the Sudetic Germans, supported by the Nazis of the whole Reich.
According to Homosociety, the opposition in Prague by these Slovak autonomists (whose head was the priest Andrei Hlinka, who died in 1938) stemmed from various and complex reasons. The government’s work in terms of education, health, construction, etc. was not entirely denied. But it was claimed that the Slovak nation did not possess sufficient autonomy within the “vague”, “Czechoslovakian” formula; protested against the presence of an “excessive” number of Czech officials in the country, the “Christian base” of the Slovak nation was said to be threatened by the secular and anticlerical currents of Prague; finally it was argued that a foreign policy, dominated by the left, would lead the country to catastrophe, in a period in which the totalitarian powers seemed to be passing from triumph to triumph. Hlinka was, after all, an autonomist and not a separatist; but the extreme currents ended up gaining the upper hand in his party: meanwhile the situation worsened and Hitler’s Germany wanted to use the Slovak “popular” to destroy the last remnant of Czechoslovakia and to dominate central Europe entirely.
In March 1939, the Czechoslovakian central authorities tried to curb the increasingly clear demonstrations of Slovak “separatism”. Slovak-German associations had formed, with intentions not clearly stated; unveiled threats were expressed in Prague; Monsignor Tiso, head of the Slovak government, eliminated Czech officials with unilateral acts. On March 10, the president of the Czechoslovak republic issued a cry of alarm against the “illegal” aspects of Slovak separatism. The most prominent Slovak separatists (Bela Tuka, Sano Mach) were arrested. The military authorities took some belated measures, in a situation no longer dominable by Prague, but determined exclusively by the will of Hitler. Some Slovak ministers were dismissed; “weakness” was blamed
However, these measures had no practical value. If anything, they did nothing but precipitate the situation. Hitler had by now decided the total annihilation of Czechoslovakia. The Slovak diet met secretly on March 14, openly proclaiming the independence of the Slovak state. Monsignor Tiso constituted the new government, entrusting all the offices to well-known exponents of the old Slovak separatism: the vice-presidency was entrusted to Tuka; Mach went to Propaganda, Ferdmand D’určanský to Foreign Affairs, Sidor to Social Security. In a message to Hitler, Monsignor Tiso announced that the Slovak people had shaken “the Czech yoke”. The immense majority of the nation was, according to Tiso, behind the new government. The new paramilitary organization, of a fascist type, in defense of the regime, it was called, “Hlinka’s guard”. Hitler immediately (23 March) placed the new Slovak state under his protection and Germany obtained the right to occupy strategically important regions with military garrisons.
The new state also had to cede to Hungary a strip of territory located near the border with sub-Carpathian Ruthenia. Previously (Vienna arbitration of November 2, 1938), Hungary had already obtained a strip along the southern border of Slovakia (with the locality of Košice-Kassa). Slovakia, on the other hand, obtained, following the German-Slovak agreement of 21 November 1939, an adjustment of the borders (sq. Km. 586) towards Poland.
Slovakia therefore found itself bordering on the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia (with which the border was marked by the border between Austria and Hungary in 1918), with Germany (for a short distance, SE of Teschen), with the General Governorate (ancient border between Czechoslovakia and Poland, marked by the ridge of the Carpazî) and with Hungary; in this longer stretch the line traced the limits between Hungarians and Slovaks and cut the tributaries of the Danube and Tisza in a hilly area. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, was within easy reach of both the Germanic and Hungarian borders.
From an administrative point of view, Slovakia was divided into 6 committees (divided in turn into 59 districts). The main statistical data relating to these committees emerge from the following mirror.
The population was made up largely of Slovaks of Catholic religion. Groups of Slovaks were also included in neighboring states (especially in Hungary), but the group of Slovaks who emigrated to the United States (675,000) was much more numerous, who gave a strong economic help to the distant motherland. The largest group of foreigners was made up of Jews (88,951 in number, of which 14,900 in Bratislava), whose evacuation from the country was scheduled for September 1942.
The life of the state was regulated by the corporate system; the population was distributed in 5 corporations: farmers, order of commerce, industry, communications, finance and insurance; free intellectual professions; free employees and intellectual workers.
The ideology of the new regime referred to Hlinka. Moreover, in practice, it consisted of a curious and eclectic mixture of concepts inspired by Christian doctrine and Nazi formulations. While the pagan ideas inherent in National Socialism were not accepted, Hitler’s “new order” and racism itself were accepted. The persecution of the Jews had, wholesale, the same phases as in the other countries that fell under the Nazi yoke.
The pro-Hitler regime found far more adherents in Slovakia than in Czech lands. Old sentimental and political traditions made Hitler not disliked by socially very different strata of the population. Antisemitism and the new national mysticism did not find, after all, an unprepared ground. A small Slovak army collaborated with the German troops in the war against the USSR.
Moreover, the forces opposed to the new regime rapidly increased in number and energy, as the military situation turned more and more in favor of the Allies. The Russian victory of Stalingrad and the Anglo-American successes in Africa and then in Europe were, in this respect, decisive. More and more the Tiso regime seemed to lack a solid base in the country. In the late summer of 1944 and again in the following autumn, several districts of Slovakia were in the hands of insurgent partisans, who minimized the area of territory dominated by the government and greatly hampered the German rear. The insurrection, which came quite early, erroneously calculated on a very rapid advance of the Russian armies.
Subsequently Slovakia was the first part of the Czechoslovakian territory occupied by Soviet troops. Beneš and the other leaders of the nation arrived from their London exile in Slovakia, before being able to travel to Prague, where the Germans were able to hold out longer.
The ethnic and linguistic personality of Slovakia was to take on a more marked aspect in the reconstituted Czechoslovakian republic. The German population left DSlovakia en bloc. The great majority of Hungarians also had to flee the country. Numerous Slovaks, recently Magyarized, recalled their old nationality to live in Slovakian territory. The main collaborators – first of all Msgr. Tiso – after the war, they were sentenced to death; others, minors, were sentenced to severe penalties.
In the political elections of May 26, 1946, the Slovak Democratic Party (born from the merger of various moderate parties: from the center-left to the center-right) achieved considerable success in front of its opponent (and former ally in the anti-German struggle): the Communist Party. However, the tension between the two political formations did not diminish. In the second half of March 1948, following the general situation created in Czechoslovakia, the Communists also increased their pressure in Bratislava and, after a few days, practically dominated all of Slovakia.
The current political order. – In May 1945 after its reconstitution, Czechoslovakia benefited (treaty of 10-February 1947 between Hungary and the United Nations, part I, art. 4) from a rectification of the border in the vicinity of Bratislava. Slovakia has therefore repurchased the territory that had been ceded to Hungary: it now extends over 48,895 sq km. and counts (1947) 3,402,300 residents Together with Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia it forms one of the four countries that make up Czechoslovakia. However, it achieved administrative decentralization and the creation of a Slovak National Council; but it cannot be said that the frictions with the Bohemians have completely ceased. For the economic and financial conditions, see Czechoslovakia, in this App.