Slovak National Uprising - forgotten in the Czech Republic?

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August 29th is an ordinary working day in the Czech Republic, and few people recall that until the split of Czechoslovakia, it was a national holiday, commemorating the anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising.

On August 29th, 1944, some 80,000 Slovaks, and members of 30 other nationalities, including 3000 Czechs, took up arms against the fascist Slovak government, an ally of Hitler's Germany during World War II. They fought for democracy and the renewal of Czechoslovakia, which was broken up at the start of the war. In post-war Czechoslovakia, the anniversary was celebrated as a symbol of unity between the two nations. But on January 1st, 1993 Czechoslovakia ceased to exist, and August 29th is now virtually ignored by the Czechs. Olga Szantova has more.

Libor Konvicka of the STEM public opinion research institute says there is nothing surprising in the way the anniversary is ignored.

"I'm sure nobody remembers the anniversary of the battle of Dukla either, and that was a major battle fought on Czechoslovak territory in World War II, to mention just one example. After the many years when the communists took over most anniversaries for propaganda purposes, everybody is happy to forget them. We are not a nation to celebrate anniversaries."

So it has nothing to do with Czech - Slovak relations, it's not a sign that Slovakia is seen by the Czechs as a completely foreign country and our joint history has been forgotten?

"All sociological surveys show the opposite, the Czechs feel close to the Slovaks and Czech-Slovak relations have improved in recent years. If you read the Czech papers, you'll find that Slovakia is dealt with in great detail and with great interest. Not just current affairs, but also history, our two nations had much in common in the past, and this is important for our traditions. It's just that we are allergic to official anniversaries, that's all."

And so, only old timers see August 29th as a red letter day. Colonel Jan Faèko is one of the thousand or so survivors of the uprising still living in the Czech Republic. And he says keeping traditions alive is more important than commemorating the anniversary itself.

"There are people in charge in both countries who are really interested in good relations between our nations. The Czech Republic is helping Slovakia in its preparations for NATO membership. And relations between ordinary people on both sides of the border are really good. I think that's the best commemoration of the Slovak National Uprising."

Author: Olga Szantová
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