Slovakia is a nation in Central Europe with a long-standing culture influenced by folk heritage and by Slavic, Germanic and Hungarian traditions. A landlocked nation, Slovakia shares a border with the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary and until 1993, was part of Czechoslovakia when the so-called Velvet Divorce granted independence to both.
The Slavs have had the longest and greatest influence on Slovakian culture. Typically as elsewhere in Central Europe, however, the Slovakian national identity is a complex and ever-changing one, impacted by political, ethnic, religious and national borders. A secular state, Slovakia is a largely Christian nation with around 62% of the population identifying as Roman Catholic.
Slovakian culture is primarily based on a rich folk tradition that has survived repression and control by invading nations and by oppressive regimes such as the Communist one that ruled Slovakia post-Second World War. The folklore is the defining character of culture in Slovakia, giving expression to the peasant class that made up the majority of the Slovak people and evidenced in literature, dance, theatre and song. Ethnicity plays a large part in the folklore with the traditions varying from group to group and town to town but always linking the people to the land.
The best-known folk hero is called Juraj Janosik, an 18th century Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor and whose exploits have been immortalised in literature and in film. The Vychodna Folklore Festival is an annual festival that showcases the best of Slovakian music and art alongside international performers.
Among the many physical manifestations of Slovakian culture are woodcarvings, glass painting and fabric weaving. Wooden architecture, particularly in churches, are considered some of the finest examples in the world and are protected by law as part of the nation’s cultural heritage and are also recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sport plays an important role in Slovakian culture and national identity with winter sports particularly popular. Slovakia is one of the world’s leading nations in ice hockey with more than 8,000 registered players.