Slovak Studies Association

Article Alert: “Central to Europe: The Advance of the Visegrád Four”

By SSA member Kevin J. McNamara

Click here to view the article in the July/August 2021 issue of The National Interest

Pre-pandemic economic and social progress looked very good for Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, and troubling for Germany and France. If these trends resume—and there is no reason to think they won’t—the East will soon outshine the West.

Have you published something recently that you’d like us to share? Send it to slovakstudies@gmail.com

Conference Call for Papers

Post-WWII Migration Flows”

January 21, 2022 in Košice, Slovakia  

Click here for: Conference Submission Form and Facebook Page

Article/Book Chapter Prize Announcement

At its annual meeting during the 2021 ASEEES conference, the Slovak Studies Association will award a modest financial prize for the best article or book chapter about Slovakia in the humanities and social sciences published in 2018 or later.  All submissions must be in English, but they can be published anywhere in the world.  The publication’s author or authors are to be members in good standing of the SSA (to join, contact secretary-treasurer Carol Skalnik Leff, leffc@illinois.edu or visit our website Membership Page. First year membership is free.)

The deadline for e-receipt of submissions is July 1, 2021Send entries and any questions to Edward Snajdr, Professor, at esnajdr@jjay.cuny.edu.

The SSA Awards Committee consists of Susan Mikula (Benedictine University, in Lisle, IL), M. Mark Stolarik (University of Ottawa, in Ottawa, Canada), and Edward Snajdr (City University of New York, in New York, NY).

Member Spotlight: Interview with Denisa Nešťáková

As a means of highlighting the recent publications and scholarly work of current members, the SSA will post ‘Member Spotlight’ interviews at regular intervals.

Interested in sharing your current work? Please email us at slovakstudies@gmail.com.

DENISA NEŠŤÁKOVÁ

Denisa is a Research Associate at the Herder Institute in Marburg, Germany and a History faculty member at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia 

Her work focuses on gender issues relating to Czech and Slovak history
Email: denisa.nestakova@gmail.com 

When/how did you first develop an interest in Slovak or Slovak-area studies? 

As a Slovak and a historian who lived, studied, and worked in Slovakia, I was not particularly interested in Slovakia or Slovak-area studies until I moved abroad and understood how much this field of study is under-researched, and thus misunderstood. Wanting to correct the marginalization of the history of Slovakia and to situate it within the broader history of “the East” thus definitely triggered my interest. 

What is your current research/work project?

I am currently working on two projects:

Please say a few words about any activities or projects you’re involved in that link academia with society at large.

I wish to combine quality academic research with the popularization of historical knowledge. Thus, I take part in seminars for teachers comparing the regimes of Tiso and Horthy (along with my Hungarian colleague Borbála Klacsmann), and we discuss sexual violence during the Second World War.

Currently I am also part of a university seminar on Fascism and Neo-Fascism in a comparative perspective, where I give a lecture on Fascism and gendered violence.  My recent article on clandestine abortions during the existence of the wartime Slovak Republic expounds on this theme: “Žena proti štátu. “Kriminálne” potraty v čase Slovenskej republiky 1939-1945” (“Woman against the State: ‘Criminal’ abortions in the Slovak Republic, 1939-1945”).  It was published along with a current best-selling book on the Slovak market titled Tisovi poza chrbát (Behind Tiso’s Back), edited by Jozef Hyrja.  

Lately I also took the opportunity to talk about my research on podcasts. Along with Andrea Pető from Central European University I discussed the Sereď Holocaust Museum, which opened in Slovakia in 2016.

As a guest of the podcast “V ženskom rode” I gave a glimpse into the history of attacks against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and historical parallels with the current political and ideological discussions in Slovakia.

What Slovakia-related book or article would you recommend to readers who wish to learn more about some of Slovakia’s most pressing issues?

Since research and current public debates still discuss the difficult past of Slovakia as an ally of Nazi Germany, I would recommend the outstanding article by Hana Kubátová and Michal Kubát:

And one of the most crucial and still relevant books on the Holocaust in Slovakia:

  • Ivan Kamenec, On the Trail of Tragedy: The Holocaust in Slovakia (Bratislava: Hajko a Hajková, 2007)

What is your favorite place in Slovakia to visit and why?

My hometown of Hlohovec. It is where my family and my friends live, where I belong, and where I can feel history the most. Though, aesthetically I prefer Banská Štiavnica 🙂


2021 Czech & Slovak Studies Workshop: Held Virtually at Univ. of Pittsburgh, March 18-21

Don’t miss these great opportunities. Register soon!
The paper presentations are restricted to an academic audience, the keynote and the special events are open to the wider public.
More information and registration:
Virtual 20th CSSW

The Czech and Slovak Studies Workshop aims to bring together researchers, scientists, faculty members and advanced graduate students to exchange their experiences, research results, and ideas.

The Twentieth Annual Czech and Slovak Studies Workshop will be held virtually at the University of Pittsburgh on March 18-21, 2021. The program committee welcomes proposals for papers on Czech and Slovak topics, broadly defined, in all disciplines. In the past, the areas of interest have been: anthropology, architecture, art, economics, education, film, geography, history, Jewish studies, linguistics, literature, music, philosophy, politics, religion, society, sociology, and theater.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Pavol Demeš, an internationally recognized NGO leader who opened German Marshall Fund (GMF) of the United States office in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, in 2000 in order to oversee GMF’s activities in Central and Eastern Europe. Before joining GMF, Demeš was executive director of the Slovak Academic Information Agency – Service Center for the Third Sector, a Slovak NGO committed to enhancing civil society. Previously, he served his country as foreign policy advisor to the president of the Slovak Republic (1993-1997), minister of international relations (1991-1992), and director of the Department of Foreign Relations in the Ministry of Education (1990-1991).

The workshop is a collaboration of the University of Pittsburgh, the Czechoslovak Studies Association, and the Slovak Studies Association.

Questions should be submitted by email to Marcela Michálková at: michalkova@pitt.edu .


Experts Discuss: Slovak Politics–Current Perspectives

For those who missed this panel at the 2020 ASEEES Convention, here’s your chance to catch up, courtesy of Friends of Slovakia, who hosted the discussion.

Click here to: view ‘Slovak Politics’ discussion.

Panelists – Tim John Haughton (University of Birmingham, UK), Kevin Deegan-Krause (Wayne State University, USA), Karen Henderson (University of Ss. Cyril & Methodius, Slovakia), and Carol Skalnik Leff (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA) – discussed the lessons of the 2020 elections about the role of corruption and political campaigning. They also examined post-election shifts in party relations in both the government and opposition, the role of President Zuzana Čaputová, the influence of extremist and anti-system parties, and the Hungarian parties’ position in the current Slovak political scene. Moderated by Scott Thayer, Chairman of Friends of Slovakia.


Join Dr. Leslie Waters’ Book Talk

Correction: Friday, February 5th, 2021 @ 1:00 – 2:30pm (MST)

Hosted by the Department of History, University of Texas El Paso

Borders on the Move: Territorial Change and Ethnic Cleansing in the Hungarian-Slovak Borderlands, 1938-1948 (University of Rochester Press, 2020)

Dr. Waters currently serves on the Board of the Slovak Studies Association and as Vice President of the Hungarian Studies Association. Her book, Borders on the Move, examines the impact of border changes and migrations on this region between 1938 and 1948. It investigates the everyday consequences of geopolitical events that are well-known from the perspective of international and national histories, but does so explicitly in the context of the borderland. Making skillful use of state and local archival sources in Hungary and Slovakia, author Leslie Waters illuminates the catastrophic effects of state action – including sweeping wealth redistribution and the expulsion of those perceived as enemies of the state – on individuals. This engagingly written and far-reaching work will be invaluable to scholars of the Holocaust and of East Central Europe as well as to those who study forced migration, population exchange, and inter-ethnic relations.

Please join us via zoom:

Time: Feb 5, 2021 01:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/96233619254?pwd=bWV2T01QcHFjbnJxSVFwNE5zQjk0dz09

  • Meeting ID: 962 3361 9254
  • Passcode: a4zcD8

‘The Auschwitz Report’ (‘SPRÁVA’) Film–Free Viewing Jan. 28 only!

Register online at: The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance

Free screening tomorrow only, Jan. 28, 2021, (Int’l. Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 76th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz) 

Slovakia’s entry for Best International Feature Film for the 2021 Academy Awards and Golden Globes

After more than a year of meticulous planning, Auschwitz prisoners Alfred “Freddy” Wetzler and Valér Vrba set forth an escape plan in hopes of sharing detailed evidence about the deadly operations of the Nazis in the Camp. With the resilient aid of their fellow inmates, the pair of Jewish Slovak inmates embarks on a treacherous journey. Emaciated and hurt, they endure numerous obstacles along their way, but none greater than the realization they must convince a world unwilling to believe them that what they experienced was real.

Academy Award®-winning Writer/Director of Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Moriah Films, Richard Trank moderates a discussion with Director, Peter Bebjak and star Noel Czuczor (Freddy) following the screening.

Caution: Viewer discretion advised.


Krúžok: Upcoming Presentations Online

Our new member Orel Beilinson, a doctoral candidate at Yale University, announces the program of Krúžok, a working group for early-career scholars studying the modern history of Central and Eastern Europe.  Presentation themes range across Central and Eastern Europe but include Czech/Slovak topics among them. 

Krúžok aims to…

  1. Encourage scholarly work on the history of the Habsburg Empire, the post-Ottoman Balkans, and the successor states.
  2. Provide a forum for presenting research in progress and receiving constructive feedback.
  3. Facilitate meaningful conversations about the state of the field.
  4. Develop a network of peers working on the region’s history across themes, countries, institutions, and oceans.

The December 17, 2020 online presentation schedule (as well as monthly presentations through June 2021) can be found at the following download link (thanks to the Czechoslovak Studies Association for alerting us!):


Remembering Nov. 17, 1989

31 Years since the Collapse of Communism in Czechoslovakia

Short video introducing the ‘Spytaj sa Vasich’ Project

The importance of preserving memory increases as we move further and further away from the lived experience of Communism in Czechoslovakia from 1948-1989. The ‘Spytaj sa Vasich’ Project aims to do just that and offers a collage of excerpts (written and video) to chronicle what it was like to live under, and eventually overthrow, the Communist regime.

ASEEES Virtual Convention, 2020

ASEEES 2020 Convention

Slovak-Themed Panels and Annual SSA Meeting

This year’s annual Association of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) Convention promises to deliver a wealth of research findings from across the globe as a variety of scholars will present from their own time zones via Zoom!

Download (see below) a list of the Slovak-related panels to be presented online (not in person!) at the 2020 ASEEES Convention: Nov. 5-8 and Nov. 14-15. All times listed are EST.

Please note that the annual Slovak Studies Association meeting will be held on Friday, Nov. 6 from 6:30-8:30pm, ESTVirtual Convention Platform, Room 6.

Member Spotlight: Interview with Kevin Deegan-Krause

As a means of highlighting the recent publications and scholarly work of current members, the SSA will post ‘Member Spotlight’ interviews at regular intervals.

Interested in sharing your current work? Please email us at slovakstudies@gmail.com.

Kevin Deegan-Krause

Associate Professor of Political Science at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

His research focuses on political parties and democracy in Europe with an emphasis on Europe’s new democracies and its newer parties.

His newest book, co-authored with Dr. Timothy Haughton of the University of Birmingham, is The New Party Challenge: Changing Cycles of Party Birth Death in Central Europe and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2020)

Email: kdk@wayne.edu

When/how did you first develop an interest in Slovak or Slovak-area studies? 

I had the great good fortune of teaching English in Czechoslovakia (in Plzen) in 1990-1991 and I was hooked.  When I went back to the US to go to graduate school in political science, I found that the breakup of Czechoslovakia made for a perfect political science experiment and a great excuse to get back to this place I loved, and I realized that while I knew a little about the Czech lands, I knew too little about Slovakia, and I so I started my research and language learning there.  Although I didn’t give much thought to this decision at the time, it was pivotal in providing me with a home not only for my research but for my heart, and though my research now extends well beyond Slovakia, it is always to Slovakia that I return when I do my field work.  And Slovakia has returned the favor by continuing to offer fascinating politics and an endless stream of new parties (though as often happens, what is great for me as a researcher may not be great for the countries that I am researching).

What is your current research/work project? 

My co-author Tim Haughton and I are really happy about the publication of our new book, The New Party Challenge (Oxford University Press, 2020) whose subtitle tells our story: “Changing Cycles of Party Birth and Death in Central Europe and Beyond.”  As often happens, the idea for the book came from small details we noticed in the places we were studying most closely, especially the new parties that popped up in Slovakia in 2002: Pavel Rusko’s Alliance for the New Citizen (ANO) and Robert Fico’s Direction (Smer).  Our new book started from that point but quickly led to a comprehensive analysis of political parties in the entire region in terms of their newness and the qualities that usually went along with newness: low or lightweight organization, strong emphasis on corruption and their own novelty, and a heavy dependence on party leaders who were noted for their celebrity or personal wealth.  Of course this makes these parties more fragile than others and so we see the odd circumstance of party systems with a few old parties that have survived and a whole bunch of new parties in a continual cycle of coming and going.  Slovakia is a leader in that trend but it’s one of many countries that’s currently experiencing those cycles.  And as we’ve wrapped up this book, we’ve decided to go deeper and try to understand more about these new parties (which I hope to do when I get back to Slovakia, as soon as I possibly can) and to start thinking about how we can overcome the shrinkage of our political time-horizons so that we can once again make policy intended for the long term problems we face.

Please say a few words about any activities or projects you’re involved in that link academia with society at large.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Friends of Slovakia (FoS) on public presentations, and participating in Helen Fedor’s Slovak-language conversation group, and for quite a while I was an active blogger on Slovak politics, until the excellent work by the Slovak Spectator and other online resources made my work there unnecessary.  It is so important for us to be able to make our work accessible for people who want to know what we are learning without having to first learn all of the technical frameworks that shape our work.  It is great sometimes to be able to put those to one side (until somebody asks about them) and say “here’s what we found when we looked carefully and here’s why our social science methods allow us to say that we’re pretty sure what we’re saying is correct.

What Slovakia-related book or article would you recommend to readers who wish to learn more about some of Slovakia’s most pressing issues? 

I hope everybody has a chance to read John Gould’s book, Fragile Dreams: Liberalism and Power in Central Europe (University of Michigan, forthcoming in 2021), which is a remarkable comprehensive and accessible history of the region over the last 30 years that looks at all the big themes and manages to explain really big concepts with beautiful little stories taken from his time in the region.  It really is a book everybody with an interest in Slovakia should read.    

For those who want to delve deeper into the scholarship on the region, there has been a torrent of great scholarship about Slovakia’s politics by Slovak scholars, and on the issues that I care most about—political parties and democracy—there are great recent papers by Slovak scholars: Marek Rybář and Peter Spáč (“Social Origin Is No Destiny” in East European Politics and Society in 2019), and Oľga Gyárfášová and Lukáš Linek (“The role of Incumbency, Ethnicity, and New Parties,” in Politologický časopis in 2019) and Darina Malova (Transformation Experiences in Slovakia,” Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in 2017).  

I was also delighted to see that the Czech Journal of Political Science (Politologický časopis), in a show of Czechoslovak solidarity, did a really nice special issue devoted to Slovakia’s elections, with articles from many of the authors above along with Vlastimil Havlík, Aneta Világi, Pavol Baboš, Peter Just, Peter Učeň, Michal Škop, and other amazing scholars I have had the chance to meet during my work in Slovakia. 

On broader lines, I was impressed by Petra Guasti and Lenka Bustikova’s groundbreaking (and sometimes heartbreaking) work on LGBTQ struggles in the region (“In Europe’s Closet” in East European Politics in 2020), and James Ward did a tour de force historical treatment of WWII-era Slovakia in his Priest, Politician, Collaborator: Jozef Tiso and the Making of Fascist Slovakia (Cornell University Press, 2013).  And of course there’s my interviewer’s own “Forgotten Velvet” (in New Perspectives in 2019) which sheds new light on a the distinctive role of eastern Slovakia which so often gets lost in our focus on activity in the capital.

What is your favorite place in Slovakia to visit and why?

I have always been fascinated by Slovakia’s castles and castle towns and I really enjoy Kremnica and Banska Stiavnica and Trencin, but I always gravitate to the bustle of cities and so for me it always comes back to Kosice and Bratislava, especially the 19th century neighborhoods around the castle, but even the 20th century developments such as Karlova Ves and Ruzinov which, though they were not at first sight beautiful, were comfortable and pleasant places to live.


‘Ransacking Democracy’

The Slovak Studies Association, as well as our affiliate organization ASEEES (the Association for Slavic, E. European and Eurasian Studies), support the American Historical Association in their statement regarding the events of January 6, 2021 on Capitol Hill.

From the American Historical Association website: The AHA issued a statement condemning “the actions of those who, on January 6, stormed the United States Capitol, the seat of the nation’s legislature, the heart of its democratic form of governance.” The AHA deplores the “inflammatory rhetoric of all the political leaders who have refused to accept the legitimacy of the results of the 2020 election and thereby incited the mob.”

Approved by the AHA Council, January 8, 2021:

Everything has a history. What happened at the Capitol is part of a historical process. Over the past few years, cynical politicians have nurtured and manipulated for their own bigoted and self-interested purposes the sensibilities of the rioters. We deplore the inflammatory rhetoric of all the political leaders who have refused to accept the legitimacy of the results of the 2020 election and thereby incited the mob-and this on the day when the nation reported 3,865 COVID-19 deaths, the highest number reported in a single day since the pandemic began.

We note with dismay the iconography of the banners carried by the mob—the flag with the visage of the president emblazoned on it, as if loyalty were due an individual and not the rule of law, and the flag of the Confederacy, signaling violence and sedition. Not by coincidence, those people who attacked the Capitol have been described by the current president and his advisers as “great patriots” and “American patriots.” The rioters were neither.

A day that began with two significant “firsts”—the election of Georgia’s first African American senator and that state’s first Jewish senator—ended with Congress performing its duties according to the Constitution. Yet during the day we witnessed the unprecedented spectacle of a group of Americans desecrating the sacred space of the nation’s Capitol, and terrorizing everyone in it.

As historians, we call upon our fellow citizens and elected representatives to abide by the law and tell the truth. Our democracy demands nothing less of ourselves and of our leaders.”

For an updated list of the organizations that have cosigned this statement as well as to find a downloadable version of the statement, please visit the AHA’s website page, ‘Ransacking Democracy.’


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