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Czechoslovakia: Hungary and the Slovaks
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > The Dual Monarchy, 1867-1918 > Hungary and the Slovaks


In Hungary the government gave full sway to Hungarian nationalism. Only a year after the Compromise of 1867, the Nationalities Act established Hungarian as the exclusive official language. Slovak was relegated to private use and was regarded by the authorities as a peasant dialect. Franchise laws restricted the right to vote to large property holders (approximately 6 percent of the total population), thus favoring the Hungarian aristocracy. As a result, Slovaks rarely elected parliamentary representatives. The Slovaks, nevertheless, formed the Slovak National Party. Supported by Catholics and Protestants, the Slovak National Party was conservative and pan-Slavic in orientation and looked to autocratic Russia for national liberation. It remained the center of Slovak national life until the twentieth century.

Fearing the evolution of a full-fledged Slovak national movement, the Hungarian government attempted to do away with various aspects of organized Slovak life. In the 1860s, the Slovaks had founded a private cultural foundation, the Slovak Matica, which fostered education and encouraged literature and the arts. At its founding, even the Austrian emperor donated 1,000 florins for the Slovak Matica. In 1875 the Hungarian government dissolved the Slovak Matica and confiscated its assets. Similar attacks were made against Slovak education. In 1874 all three Slovak secondary schools were closed, and in 1879 a law made Hungarian mandatory even in church-sponsored village schools. The Hungarian government attempted to prevent the formation of an educated, nationally conscious, Slovak elite.

It is remarkable that the Slovak national movement was able to survive. Most Slovaks continued to live as peasants or industrial laborers. Poverty prevailed, and on the eve of World War I about 20 percent of the population of Slovakia had emigrated to other lands. This emigration aided the national movement, for it received both moral and financial support from Slovaks living abroad, particularly in the United States. The Slovak national movement was aided also by the example of other nationalities struggling against the Hungarians (particularly the Romanians) and by contacts with the Czechs.

Data as of August 1987

Last Updated: August 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Czechoslovakia was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 27 of 170


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