Slovakia's Political Journey: The Paradoxical Stance of Robert Fico

Political Landscape of Slovakia: From Past to Present

Slavic people are one of the major ethnic groups in Europe, alongside Celtic and Germanic tribes. The original Slavic homeland is believed to be Polesia (a region known as Europe's Amazon), located in Southern Belarus, Northern Ukraine, and a small part of Poland and Russia. Slavic tribes settled in Central and Eastern Europe during the first millennium AD and spread across a vast area of the continent in the early medieval period (5th to the 10th century). Today, countries with notable Slavic heritage include Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and more.

Vladimir Putin and Robert Fico

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Vladimir Putin and Robert Fico

Located in the heart of Europe as a landlocked country, Slovakia boasts a complicated and varied political history, reflecting its stunning landscapes. From ancient times to the present day, this small nation has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, the birth of nations, and the struggles for independence and democracy. Its history is intertwined with various empires and kingdoms, including the Great Moravian Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1918, it became part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia.

However, after World War II, it fell under the Soviet Union's geopolitical influence, becoming part of the Eastern Bloc. The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 marked the beginning of Slovakia's journey toward independence, which it peacefully achieved in 1993 with the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Since then, Slovakia has pursued its path as a sovereign nation, joining NATO and the European Union in 2004. This article provides a concise overview of the political landscape of Slovakia, spanning from the formation of Czechoslovakia to the recent event of the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico on 16 May 2024.

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Czechoslovakia to the First Slovak Republic: 

During World War I, new nations arose from the collapse of the Habsburg Empire. Czechoslovakia (October 28, 1918) and Yugoslavia (December 1, 1918) emerged as independent states on the territories previously controlled by the Habsburgs. Czechoslovakia emerged as the most democratic and prosperous of the Habsburg successor states. Its democratic principles and progressive policies set it apart in Central and Eastern Europe. Under the leadership of President Tomáš Masaryk, Czechoslovakia became known for its commitment to democracy, human rights, and social welfare.

The new nation was characterized by its ethnic and cultural diversity, with Slovaks, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, and other ethnic groups coexisting within its borders. Despite these challenges, Czechoslovakia achieved significant economic growth and industrial development, becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the region. It also provided a model for democratic governance that inspired other nations in the region. 

However, this era of prosperity and stability was short-lived. The rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe, particularly Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, significantly impacted Czechoslovakia. Adolf Hitler's plans to expand his territory, as shown by the Munich Agreement (1938), directly threatened Czechoslovakia's independence, which resulted in the German occupation in March 1939

As a result, Czechoslovakia was dismembered by Nazi Germany and its allies, leading to the establishment of the Independent Slovak Republic. The southern region, predominantly inhabited by Slovaks, became the basis for the formation of the Independent Slovak Republic. Under the leadership of Jozef Tiso, the new German satellite state emerged, with its capital in Bratislava.

The Slovak National Uprising, taking place from August 29 to October 28, 1944, in German-occupied Slovakia, was an armed resistance movement against Nazi occupation and the puppet Slovak government. Its primary goal was to overthrow the fascist regime and restore Czechoslovakia's independence.

Despite being suppressed by German forces, the uprising played a significant role in weakening German control in the region. It contributed to the eventual liberation of Slovakia by Soviet and Allied forces as Germany faced significant defeats in World War II. With the arrival of the Soviet Army, Czechoslovakia was re-established on May 10, 1945, marking the end of the First Slovak Republic, which had existed from March 14, 1939, to April 4, 1945. 

After Germany's surrender, approximately 2.9 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia under the Benes Decrees, which had the approval of the Allies.

German Units of the Slovak army joined in victory celebrations after Slovak invasion of Poland during World War-II

Image Credit:, German Units of the Slovak Army


The 1948 Coup: Communist Takeover in Czechoslovakia

After World War II, Czechoslovakia held national elections in the spring of 1946, hoping to establish a democratic government under President Eduard Benes. However, despite democratic aspirations, the Czechoslovak Communist Party won 38% of the vote and gradually consolidated power, neutralizing anti-communist forces. Initially intending to participate in the Marshall Plan, the communist-led government was coerced by Moscow to withdraw. 

In late February 1948, backed by the Soviet Union, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) seized power through a coup d'état under the guise of legality. This event marked the start of the party's four-decade-long (1948-1989) rule in the country. Extensive purges followed, mirroring Stalinist practices in other Eastern European states. 

In November 1952, 14 former leaders were tried, with 11 sentenced to death. The Communist Party, led by Antonín Novotný, maintained strict orthodoxy in Czechoslovakia for over a decade.

During the political period of Slovakia under communist rule, which lasted from 1948 to 1989, the country was part of the Eastern Bloc and under the influence of the Soviet Union. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) held absolute power, implementing a centrally planned economy and suppressing political opposition.

Under communist rule, Slovakia experienced political repression, censorship, and limited civil liberties. The regime established a command economy, with the state controlling major industries and implementing collectivization in agriculture. This resulted in economic stagnation, inefficiency, and limited individual freedoms.

The communist government imposed strict control over media, education, and cultural institutions, promoting socialist propaganda and suppressing dissenting voices. Political opposition was suppressed, and dissenters faced persecution, imprisonment, or forced exile.

Slovakia's communist regime also aligned itself with the Soviet Union in foreign policy, participating in the Warsaw Pact and supporting Soviet military interventions, such as the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The Dissolution of Czechoslovakia:

The political period of communist rule (1948-1989) in Slovakia came to an end with the Velvet Revolution in 1989. This peaceful popular uprising led to the downfall of the communist regime and marked a significant turning point in the country's history.  The Velvet Revolution facilitated the transition from a single-party communist system to a democratic government, opening the path for political and economic reforms. This pivotal event not only ended decades of authoritarian rule but also set the stage for Slovakia's future as an independent, democratic nation.

After the fall of communism, Czechoslovakia underwent a peaceful dissolution known as the Velvet Divorce. The split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia was driven by various factors, including different economic interests, governance concerns, and ethnic differences. Due to these divergent factors, the Czech and Slovak populations chose to go their separate ways. The Velvet Divorce officially took place on December 31, 1992, leading to the formation of two independent states on January 1, 1993: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This amicable separation allowed each country to pursue its own path and focus on its unique political, economic, and cultural aspirations.

In the newly established Slovak Republic, the parliament elected Michal Kováč of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (MDS) as the first president. Vladimir Mečiar, also from the MDS, was appointed as prime minister, leading a coalition government. This period was crucial as Slovakia navigated its early years of independence, setting the foundations for its political and economic structures as a sovereign state.

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Slovakia's Journey: Balancing Russian and Western Influences

After gaining independence in 1993, Slovakia embarked on a journey to establish its political identity and navigate its relationships with major global powers. While Slovakia sought to forge its path, the influences of Russia and the US-led Western world played significant roles in shaping its political landscape.

In the immediate post-independence period, Slovakia maintained close ties with Russia due to historical and cultural connections. Russian influence was evident in various aspects, including economic cooperation, military relations, and energy partnerships. However, as Slovakia aspired to integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures, such as the European Union (EU) and NATO, it also sought to establish relationships with the US-led Western world. Slovakia recognized the benefits of aligning with Western democracies in terms of economic development, security cooperation, and political stability.

Over time, Slovakia's political direction increasingly leaned towards the Western world. It pursued EU membership and successfully joined in 2004, aligning itself with the values and norms of the EU. Additionally, Slovakia became a member of NATO on 29 March 2004, further solidifying its Western orientation and security cooperation with Western powers. While Russian influence persisted in certain sectors, the country focused on strengthening democratic institutions, implementing market-oriented reforms, and fostering closer ties with Western allies.

Paradoxical Stance of Robert Fico:

Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia, has exhibited a paradoxical political stance, navigating a delicate balance between the Western world and Russia. While Slovakia actively participated in European Union (EU) and NATO structures, Fico's responses to the Russia-Georgia War of 2008 and the Invasion of Ukraine in 2022 showcased a complex and contradictory approach.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico believed that Georgia was the party responsible for provoking the military conflict in the Caucasus during the Russo-Georgian War of 2008. Fico expressed his view that the situation was not simply black or white, but rather that one side had initiated the conflict. He called for an immediate cessation of fighting, emphasizing the need to stop the violence, sit down at the negotiation table, and work towards a peaceful resolution. Fico aligned himself with the balanced stance of the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry, which expressed serious concern over the armed conflict in the South Ossetia region and called on all parties involved to use all available means to halt the military operations.

The 'Velvet Revolution' in Prague, 1989, symbolizing the peaceful uprising and demand for democracy during the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Velvet Revolution

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has reiterated his controversial stance on the Ukrainian crisis, maintaining a pro-Russian perspective and opposing Ukraine's accession to NATO. Fico suggested that the only way to end Russia's war against Ukraine is for Kyiv to compromise by giving up some of its territory to the invaders. He expressed skepticism about the possibility of Russia leaving Crimea, Donbas, and Luhansk, deeming it unrealistic. 

Fico, the leader of Slovakia's pro-Russia Smer party pledged to stop sending weapons to Ukraine, block its NATO membership, and oppose sanctions on Russia. These stances indicate his alignment with Russia's perspective on the conflict.

He further denounced Ukraine as being under total influence and control of the United States, stating that he would veto Ukraine's NATO membership. Fico's controversial views have drawn criticism, with him accusing Ukraine of corruption and supporting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in blocking an EU aid package for Ukraine. Additionally, Slovakia's Culture Ministry has announced the resumption of cooperation with Russia and Belarus, which had been suspended following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.


Slovakia's political journey from its formation as part of Czechoslovakia to its modern-day status as an independent nation reflects a complex history marked by significant events and transformations. The Velvet Revolution and the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia paved the way for Slovakia to emerge as a sovereign state, aligning itself with Western institutions like the EU and NATO. However, under the leadership of Robert Fico, Slovakia's political stance has often appeared paradoxical, balancing its Western affiliations with a notable pro-Russian orientation. This duality highlights the intricate and often conflicting dynamics that continue to shape Slovakia's political landscape in the 21st century.