1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Slovaks

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SLOVAKS (Slovák, fern. Slovenia, adj. slovenský, formerly called Slovene, but to be distinguished from the Slovenes of Carinthia, in Magyar Tót), a Slav people numbering about 2,500,000 and mostly living in the northern counties of Hungary. On the west they extend into the neighbouring districts of Lower Austria and Moravia where they march with the Germans and the kindred Moravians, being bounded by the river Morava and the Jablunka Mountains; on the north they touch the Poles along the frontiers of Silesia and Galicia; on the east about 22 E. they meet the Little Russians along an indented boundary; on the south they have the Magyars as neighbours along a line joining Pressburg and Zemplin. Within these limits, save for the Germans in the towns, the Slovaks are not much mixed: they have isolated settlements throughout the western half of Hungary extending far enough south to meet similar settlements of Servians. Their chief centre is S. Marton on the Turocz. The Slovaks seem to have occupied this territory in the 5th or 6th century A.D. and also to have stretched far to the south; they formed part of Samo's empire (middle of 7th century), but were subject to the Avars and the Franks, and then formed part of Great Moravia until that kingdom was in 907 conquered by the Magyars, who displaced or assimilated the southern Slovaks and have ever since been lords of the rest, save for a short time when they were under Boleslav the Brave (A.D. 973) of Poland, and early in the 14th century when a local magnate, Count Matthew of Trenan, made himself an independent ruler. In 1848–1849, when the Magyars rose against Austria, the Slovaks rose against the Magyars, but were handed back to them on the conclusion of peace. The Magyars have always treated the Slovaks as an inferior race and have succeeded in assimilating many districts where the prefix Tót in place-names shows the former presence of Slovaks: those who take the Magyar language and attitude are called Magyarones. The Magyars, in pursuance of this policy, do their best to suppress the Slovak nationality in every way, even to the extent of taking away Slovak children to be brought up as Magyars, and denying them the right to use their language in church and school. The result is a large emigration to America. (See letters by Scotus Viator in Spectator, 1906 sqq.)

The Slovaks are a peaceful, rather slow race of peasants (their aristocracy is Magyarized), living almost exclusively upon the land, which they till after the most primitive methods. Where this does not yield sufficient, they wander as labourers and especially as tinkers all over Austria-Hungary and even into South Russia. They are fond of music, and their songs have been collected.

The Slovak language is most closely connected with Cech, the difference being bridged by the transitional dialects of Moravia: though Miklosich has classed it as a variety of Čech, it is better to take it separately, since it has not been subjected to the special changes which have in that language assimilated the vowels to the foregoing palatal consonants, nor developed the ř which is characteristic of the other North-Western Slavonic tongues, but has remained in a more primitive stage and preserved (as might be expected from its central position in the Slavonic world) many points of agreement, phonetic, morphological and lexical, with South Slavonic and Russian. The alphabet is founded on the Čech, the accent is always on the first syllable, long vowels are indicated by acute accents. There are usually reckoned to be three groups of dialects, Western, Central and Eastern; the first being nearest to Čech, the last to Little Russian; the Central dialects exhibit less decided features. The Slovak dialects spoken in Moravia have been well investigated by Bartoš, the others still await satisfactory treatment, as does the question of the relation of Slovak to other Slavonic groups.

From the time of the Hussites and still more after the Reformation, Čech missionaries, colonists and refugees had brought with them their Bible and service books; Čech became the literary language, and is still the church language of the Slovak Protestants. The use of the local tongue was the result of a desire on the part of the Roman Catholic clergy to get at their people. A. Bernolák (1762–1813), who first systematized the orthography and made a dictionary, taking Western Slovak as his basis, was a priest, and so was Jan Holly (1785–1849), who wrote epics and odes in the classical taste. A new start was made in the 'forties by L'udevit Štur, Josef Hurban and M. Hodža who adopted the central dialect, united the Catholic and Protestant Slovaks in its use and successfully opposed the attempts to keep the Slovaks to the use of Čech. However, Šafařik the great Slavist and the poet Kollar continued to write in Cech, the argument being that Slavs should unite to oppose the enemies of the race: but without their language the Slovaks, having no traditions of inde- pendent political life, would have nothing to cling to. The chief Slovak writers since Štur (mostly poets) have been O. Sladkovič, S. Chalupka, V. Pauliný-Tót, and at present Ország-Hviezdoslav and Svetozár Hurban-Vajanský. During the 'sixties the Slovaks founded three gymnasia and a Matica, or literary, linguistic and educational society, such as has been the centre of revival for the national life of other Slavonic nations. These were all closed and their property confiscated by the Magyars in the early 'seventies, but the struggle continues, and national self-consciousness is too strong for the attempts at Magyarization to have much probability of success.

Bibliography.R. W. Seton-Watson, Racial Problems in Hungary: a History of the Slovaks (1909), gives all that can be required, with special chapters on Popular Art, Poetry and Music by D. Jurkovič the architect, S. Hurban-Vajanský and M. Lichard the composer. See also T. Čapek, The Slovaks (New York, 1906); Dr E. Stodola, Prispevok ku Statistike Slovenska (contribution to statistics of Slovakland) (Turocz S. Marton, 1902) ; Fr. Sasinek, Die Slovaken (Prague, 1875); S. Czambel, in Die österreichische Monarchie in Wort und Bild; Ungarn; vol. v. pp. 434 sqq. (Vienna); K. Kálal, Die Unterdruckung der Slovaken (Prague, 1903); J. Borbis, Die evangelisch-lutheranische Kirche Ungarns (Nordlingen, 1861), gives the religious history; J. Vlček, Dejiny Literatúry Slovenskej (history of Slovak literature) (Turocz S. Marton, 1889; Russian trans., Kiev, 1889); Sbornik Slovenských Národnich piesní (collection of Slovak Popular Songs, &c), published by the Matica (1870–1874); Slovenské Spevy (Slovak Ballads) (Tur. S. Mart., 1882); D. Jurkovič. Les Outrages populaires des Slovaques, text in Cech, headings in French (Vienna, 1906) ; J. Loos, Wörterbuch der slovakischen, ungarischen und magyarischen Sprache (Budapest, 1871); L. Štur, Nauka reči Slovenskej (Science of Slovak Speech) (Pressburg, 1846) ; J. Victorin. Grammatik der slowakischen Sprache (Practical) (Budapest, 1878); S. Czambel, Prispevky h dejinám jazyka Slovenského (Budapest, 1887); Rukovät Spisovnej reči Slovenskej (Handbook of Literary Slovak) (Tur. S. Mart., 1902); Slováci a ich reč (Slovaks and their speech) (Budapest, 1903), cf. a review in Archiv f. Slav. Phil. xxvi. p. 290 ; Fr. Pastrnek, Beiträge zur Lautlehre der slowakischen Sprache (Vienna, 1888); Fr. Barto, Dialektologie Moravská with specimens (Briinn, 1886); A. Šembera, Základové Dialektologie Čecho-slovenske (Foundations of Čecho-Slovak Dialectology) (Vienna, 1864).  (E. H. M.)