Slovakia: Slovaks as the constituting nation and national minorities

The constituting nation thus asserts its positive distinctiveness via asserting its dominance over national minorities. The present analysis also confirmed that particularly SMER-SD construes nation as a tangible entity with human agencies – will to act and a capacity to think and make decisions:

“From the whole declaration of the sovereignty shines first and foremost the courage and determination that the Slovak nation has decided to establish its own state – free and democratic Slovak Republic."

SDKÚ-DS x SMER-SD

The nation thus isn't something that people create or constitute; it is rather an entity existing on its own in some objective reality. People do not have national identity; the national identity simply exists and includes some people while excluding others based on its nature. On the other hand, SDKU-DS construes the nation rather as a community that has its representatives speaking and acting on its behalf (“Legitimately elected political representatives showed the will to re-define the constitutional arrangement.”).3

Ethnic plurality has been proved to be a concept that some political elites (mainly SMER-SD and their former coalition partner Slovak National Party) refuse as it poses a risk of the state's authority fragmentation. Ethnic homogeneity is thus a norm that some political elites strive to achieve. Due to their distinct ethnic identity minorities are conceptualised as a deviation from this norm.4

Our moral selves vs. their moral decay

It was revealed that polarization between “us” and “them” was the means of maintaining positive group identity, particularly with respect to the Roma.

Such discourse on minorities was confirmed also in the present analysis. However, there were no specific mentions of the Hungarian minority in the collected data but substantial attention was paid to the Roma.

SMER-SD

The relations between the ethnic majority (i.e. the constituting nation) and the national minorities are constructed via sink-or-swim perspective. That is, any minority rights are at the expense of the majority's rights:

It is a strange tendency that problems of minorities are intentionally emphasized at the expense of the constituting nation. As if Slovaks didn't even live in Slovakia. In twenty years we have built an independent and democratic Slovak Republic that provides equal opportunities to all, that does not prefer anybody neither does it trivialise anyone's rights. I wish that minority rights are no longer used for blackmailing; it doesn't matter if it's a Roma minority, people with different orientation, minority with a different worldview or ethnic minority. The state is national and the society is civic. We did not found our independent state for national minorities, no matter how much we esteem them, but first and foremost for the Slovak nation because it was the Slovaks who could not nurture their skills and talents in the former Czechoslovakia. It is fashionable to see only gimmes from the minorities but no obligations to the state; rather outstretched hands but minimum civic virtues.6

The PM's quote contains several key representations of minorities and the majority in Slovakia. First of all, these two groups are put in a stark contrast by evoking minorities' privileged status which is at the expense of the ethnic majority. Such myth of oppression is further corroborated by the emphasis on the Slovaks' subjugated status in the former Czechoslovakia which implies that dominant position in the state is their prerogative deserved by decades of servitude. Minority claims are here presented as if minorities were trying to undermine the just nature of the independent Slovak Republic as they want special treatment, special privileges that would negate the equality of opportunities that the PM presents as an essence of the Slovak Republic. By emphasizing that minorities only take but do not give the PM suggest their parasitism on the good will of the constituting nation. Minorities are thus construed as a threat to the state's very nature. By saying that “we did not found our independent state for national minorities” it is implied that members of national minorities are perceived as second-class citizens with a patronizing show of respect (“no matter how much we esteem them”).

The PM implies individualism and meritocratic approach towards one's status in the society. Interestingly enough for a social-democratic party, with respect to the Roma, unemployment is conceptualised as an individual failure. The PM expects the Roma to “normally work and take care of themselves” to deserve the state's respect while the party promises people the state's protection and promotes that “people deserve social security.7 It seems that social security is not universal and with respect to Roma even social-democratic party practices meritocracy as is the case of SDKU-DS and SaS.

There is hardly doubt about the fact that Roma settlements, their way of life and solutions to this problems are a serious issue...Through various allowances welfare benefits reached the amount of a salary. For many people it was not worth going to work any longer. But on the other hand, there was a baby boom and natality in Roma settlements became a money making business....We need to apply the same duties for all including welfare benefit recipients. Today it is not the case. And first and foremost, we have to stop paying for giving birth to babies.8

SDKU-DS

Interestingly, SDKU-DS does not stand united on the issues of the Roma minority and various discourses were identified even within this party. The most obvious split occurred after two SKDU-DS MPs introduced their bill on demolition of the so called 'black constructions'. As a venue for their press conference they chose an impoverished Roma settlement suggesting that their primary motive is to deal with so called illegal Roma dwellings. The bill ensued from them ignoring the structural roots of Roma exclusion and origins of Roma settlements and expressed their assumption that Roma deliberately build houses and shacks on other people's private property.9 Only a minority of SDKU-DS MPs refused such proposals:

I declare a personal boycott of all better or worse opposition bills that will solve the Roma problem in Slovakia by a wave of a hand. Don't take it personally but I am no longer willing to participate in this fratricidal struggle (for a better or a worse, a more or a less radical, a comprehensive or a non-comprehensive bill) while being quietly watched by amused SMER MPs. The right has always had courage to enforce big and often unpopular measures. But it has never intentionally incited negative emotions.10

The MP refused the radicalisation of the opposition's rhetoric and introduction of shortcut solutions.11 Use of these discourses within a single party, their interactions and negotiations would merit a separate research and is outside the scope of the present analysis.

The only party that somewhat refrains from generalizations and homogenization of the Roma population is the Most/Híd which endorses ethnic diversity and is in fact mainly composed of members of Hungarian minority. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, several Roma were on their ballot but did not make it to the parliament. The Most/Híd party has recently drafted a strategic document Vision 2016 which addresses social exclusion of a significant proportion of Roma population while avoiding overt stereotypisation and overgeneralisations.12


1 c.f. Chudžíková, A. (2011). National Identity in the Political Discourse in Slovakia. Romanian Sociology, IX (1), 110-127.

2 The Prime Minister’s Speech commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Slovak Republic. Available at http://www.vlada.gov.sk/slovensko-si-pripomenulo-20-vyrocie-prijatia-deklaracie-o-zvrchovanosti-sr/.

3 Frešo, P. (2012). Pripomínať si treba 17. júl, ale aj 1. január a 28. október. Available at http://www.sdku-ds.sk/article/showArticle/pripominat-si-treba-17-jul-ale-aj-1-januar-a-28-oktober.

4 Chudžíková, A. (2012). Minorities in the Political Discourse. In Jarmila Lajčáková (ed.), Minority Policy in Slovakia in 2011. Annual Report. Bratislava: CVEK. Available at http://cvek.sk/uploaded/files/Minority%20policy%20in%20Slovakia%20in%202011_Annual%20Report.pdf.

6 The Prime Minister’s Speech at the conference “Matica slovenská in the National History”, 26.02.2013. Available at http://www.vlada.gov.sk/robert-fico-na-konferencii-matica-slovenska-v-narodnych-dejinach/.

7 The Programme Manifesto of SMER-SD. Available at http://www.strana-smer.sk/3239/nas-program

8 Kaník, Ľ. (2012). Necigáňte, pán premier. Available at http://moje.hnonline.sk/node/10510.

9 Kaník, Ľ. (2013). Máme sa tváriť, že čierne stavby a krádeže poemkov nevidíme? Available at http://ludovitkanik.blog.sme.sk/c/333860/Mame-sa-tvarit-ze-cierne-stavby-a-kradeze-pozemkov-nevidime.html

10 Žitňanská, L. (2012). Všetkým mojim opozičným kolegom. Available at http://zitnanska.blog.sme.sk/c/310064/Vsetkym-mojim-opozicnym-kolegom.html

11 Beblavý, M. (2012). Médiá: Rómovia rozdelili SDKÚ, Žitňanská štrajkuje. Available at http://www.beblavy.sk/2012/10/media-romovia-rozdelili-sdku-zitnanska-strajkuje/

12 Most/Híd (2014). Vízia 2016: Politika riešenia chudoby a rómska politika. Available at http://www.most-hid.sk/sites/default/files/spravy-files/most-hid_vizia_2016_-_politika_riesenia_chudoby_a_romska_politika.pdf