"Glory of the Nation is Worth the Sacrifice!" Jozef Miloslav Hurban

The History of Slovak Parliamentarism

By The Slovak Parliament

National Council of The Slovak Republic

Panorama view on the Parliament building with Bratislava CastleThe Slovak Parliament

Panorama view on the Parliament buildingThe Slovak Parliament

Konstantin and Methodius in Great Moravia, oil painting by Martin BenkaThe Slovak Parliament

The Origin of the Nation

After disappearance of the Slavic empire of Great Moravia, for centuries lived the old Slovak nation in multinational state formations and for a large part of its history they struggled to get their basic identity recognized under the rather underprivileged conditions of Hungarian Kingdom and Czecho-Slovakia. Slovakia is in its independent form a young state, but the idea of ​​democratic representation of the Slovaks and the desire for it, has its deeper roots.

Slovakia is committed to the legacy from the 9th century, when Thessalonian (Solun) Brothers, Saint Konstantin-Cyril and Methodius, spread the Christianity in old Slovak language troughout the lands of Great Moravia.

Thessalonian brothers saint Cyril and Methodius, missionaries representing Christian heritage of Great MoraviaThe Slovak Parliament

Devín Castle as a symbol of Great MoraviaThe Slovak Parliament

Great Moravia was the first state of ancient Slovaks (Slavs). Its symbol became Castle Devín (Dovina) near Bratislava. King Svätopluk is the most famous emperor of this era.

Svätopluk, emperor of Great Moravia, statue on courtyard of Bratislava Castle by Ján KulichThe Slovak Parliament

After the demise of Great Moravia in 906 up until the early 20th century, the territory of Slovakia was a part of the multinational Hungarian Kingdom and has never been a separate administrative unit.

On the other hand, it gained an important position in terms of parliamentarism, especially in Hungary as a part of Habsburg Monarchy.

Green House in Bratislava, seat of Hungarian Parliament in 16th centuryThe Slovak Parliament

When the Hungarian administrative authority moved to the territory of Slovakia, because of the Turkish threat in the 16th century, Bratislava became the house of the Hungarian assembly. The Diet initially convened in the Green House on the Main square.

Hungarian Diet in 19th century resided in today’s University library in Bratislava by Photo: Martin LičkoThe Slovak Parliament

Then the assembly moved into the so called State House on Panska Street. Its last seat in Bratislava until 1848 (before moving to Budapest) were the Hungarian Royal Chamber premises on Michalska and Venturska streets. Since the mid-20th century, the building housed the University Library.

Memorial plague of Parliament sessions, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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Hungarian Diet in the pastThe Slovak Parliament

Hungarian Diet in the past, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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Deputy Ľudovít Štúr discussed in Hungarian Diet in 1847, oil painting in Zhupa house by Gejza SzalayThe Slovak Parliament

The Birth of a Separate Policy

History of the Hungarian assembly is inextricably linked to the national emancipatory matches of Slovaks in the 19th century and in the early 20th century. There were not many deputies who promoted these ideas. A leading representative of Slovaks, Ľudovít Štúr, stood out among them, becoming a member of the assembly for the royal city of Zvolen in 1847.

Štúr exhibited progressive attitudes and ideas in the spirit of the French Revolution, advocating especially the civil, but also political and national rights.

Plenary session in Hungarian Diet, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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In the years 1848 – 1849, in the context of revolutionary movements in the Austrian Empire and throughout Europe, the national emancipatory efforts of the Slovaks gained its organized character for the very first time.

Seal of the first Slovak National Council, 1848The Slovak Parliament

The First Slovak National Council and the Slovak Uprising

The highest political and military representative body arose in September 1848 at the two hundred member meeting in Vienna, constituted in a revolutionary way as the Slovak National Council. It has become the executive body of the Slovak uprising. A key role of the National Council has been to organize the volunteer campaigns. 

First Slovak National Council, 1848, seat in MyjavaThe Slovak Parliament

Establishment of the first Slovak National Council was declared publicly on 19th September 1848 at the national assembly in Myjava.

Seal of the first Slovak National Council, 1848, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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It also proclaimed the independence of the Slovak nation and expressed the main goals of armed uprising.

First Slovak National Council, 1848, Myjava, interior, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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The first Slovak National Council resided in the house of Anna Kolényová in little west-Slovak city Myjava.

Jozef Miloslav Hurban (1817 - 1888), daguerreotypeThe Slovak Parliament

Slovak National Council operated under the guidance of the priest, writer, and journalist Jozef Miloslav Hurban and other political and military members.

These men understood that the struggle for political demands of the Slovaks could not be met without a central authority.

Jozef Miloslav Hurban, the first Head of the Slovak National Council in 1848The Slovak Parliament

Jozef Miloslav Hurban, bust in Parliament building by Ján KulichThe Slovak Parliament

Manuscript of future Slovak Anthem from 1844The Slovak Parliament

Lightning over the Tatra Mountains
Lyrics: Janko Matúška
Music: folk tune

Slovak anthemThe Slovak Parliament

Slovak National Anthem

Demands of Slovak Nation, May 1848The Slovak Parliament

The document Demands of the Slovak Nation became the basic political program adopted on manifestation in May 1848.

Its essence was in particular the requirement of respecting rights not only of the Slovaks, but also other nations and nationalities in the Hungarian Kingdom.

One of revolution flagsThe Slovak Parliament

Revolution document, The Slovaks, brothers!, 1848The Slovak Parliament

Document of revolution years 1848 - 1849The Slovak Parliament

Symbolic flag of Hurban´s volunteers in front of Bratislava Castle in 2008The Slovak Parliament

Slovak uprising in the years of 1848 – 1849 was carried out under the Slovak tricolor with three slogans: Brotherhood and Concord; For the King and Slovak Nation; Glory to All Slovaks!

Hurban´s volunteers – Guard of honor in vestibule (Hurban´s hall) of today´s Parliament buildingThe Slovak Parliament

Due to the difficult situation of domestic and foreign policy, it was not likely to succeed, making the first National Council to gradually disappear.

Bratislava in 19th centuryThe Slovak Parliament

Recovery Efforts and Activities till World War I

Starting in 1861, Slovaks began to re-activate. In spirit of the Memorandum of the Slovak Nation adopted in June 1861 in Martin they struggled for political requirement of establishing self-government, Slovak autonomy, with its own political and judicial administration. Austro-Hungarian settlement in 1867 brought a new wave of Magyarisation (Hungarisation) and activity of other nations decreased. However, between the years of 1869 – 1918, the Slovaks were represented in the Lower House of Hungarian Parliament by the persons elected as the Slovak deputies.

Memorandum Manifestation, Martin, June 1861The Slovak Parliament

Hungarian parliament in Budapest with Slovak deputies in Lower House (1869 - 1918)The Slovak Parliament

The elections to the Hungarian Assembly which were not secret, were accompanied by a big amount of violence, threats, and vote buying all in order to avoid the election of non-Magyar candidates. Therefore, the number of deputies representing Slovaks was very low. Seven – at most – came out of the elections in 1906.

City of Martin, center of Slovak national life till 1918The Slovak Parliament

The tensions of 1914 revived the idea of ​​own Parliament. The attempt to establish a representative second Slovak National Council in Martin, however, has been pushed back due to outbreak of the World War I.

Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880 - 1919), Slovak statesman, general of French army, scientist, oil painting, Zhupa house by Gejza SzalayThe Slovak Parliament

The major initiative in the national emancipatory war movement was taken over by the emigration.

It was especially led by the Slovak diplomat, General Milan Rastislav Štefánik.

Bust of Milan Rastislav Štefánik, Parliament buildingThe Slovak Parliament

Pittsburgh agreement on establishing Czecho-Slovak Republic in 1918The Slovak Parliament

The Pittsburgh Agreement was a memorandum of understanding completed on 31st May 1918 between members of Slovak and Czech expatriate communities in the United States of America.

The agreement prescribed the intent of the signatories to create an independent Czechoslovakia with autonomy for Slovakia and its own institutions.

Greater coat of arms of Czechoslovakia 1918 - 1938The Slovak Parliament

Formation of First Czechoslovak Republic and the Slovak National Council

A few weeks before first Czechoslovak Republic and the end of the World War I, Slovak politicians decided on the establishment of a representative institution. Second Slovak National Council as the highest representative body was officially constituted on memorable declaratory meeting in Martin on 30th October 1918.

Building of the second Slovak National Council in Martin, 1918, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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On the morning of 30th October 1918, 108 delegates attended the meeting in the Tatra Bank in Martin and elected a twenty-member Slovak National Council.

Declaration of the Slovak Nation, 30 October 1918, an important document of the second Slovak National CouncilThe Slovak Parliament

The key act of the newly formed SNC was the adoption of the Declaration of the Slovak nation, which under the right of self-determination expressed the political will to withdraw from the Hungarian Kingdom and to live in a common state with the Czechs. It also said that on behalf of the Slovak nation, only the SNC was entitled to speak.

This act was important for the legitimacy of Czechoslovakia and its recognition by the Paris Peace Conference. Even this time, however, the Slovak National Council has failed to gain complete power in Slovakia and its’ existence was only of short duration – in January 1919, it was abolished by the central authorities.

Memorial plague on birth of 1. ČSR, Thun palace, seat of Senat, PragueThe Slovak Parliament

Representation of Slovaks in a Unitary State and the Struggle for Slovak Autonomy

Slovaks in the years 1918 – 1939 had its members in the National Assembly in Prague, but they did not have real power to enforce national requirements. Constitutional Charter of Czechoslovakia from the year 1920 was based on the idea of ​​the existence of so-called "Czechoslovak Nation", enacted a unified Czechoslovak state as a democratic parliamentary republic, but without the Slovak authorities. The Slovak political representation attempts to promote a more equal position of Slovakia in the unified state had no institutional background. Cleveland and Pittsburgh agreements anticipated Slovak parliament remained just a dream of the Slovak autonomists for the next twenty years.

Rudolphinum in Prague, seat of Chamber of Deputies of National Assembly, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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Club of Slovak deputies, Slovak MPs in National assembly 1918 - 1920The Slovak Parliament

Slovakia had its representatives in National Assembly. However, the centralizing tendency of the official politics, relegating the Slovaks back in political, economic and cultural fields, provoked a reaction in the form of the intensification of autonomist movement.

Andrej Hlinka (1864 - 1938), priest, statesman, leader of autonomist movement, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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This was happening especially under the leadership of Andrej Hlinka, the chairman of the Slovak People's Party.

Bust of Andrej Hlinka, leader of the autonomist movement, Ladislav Berák, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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Slovak University 1939, current Comenius universityThe Slovak Parliament

First Slovak Republic (1939 – 1945)

Willingness to negotiate with the Slovaks came too late – in a tense situation associated with the Munich Agreement and the latter Vienna Arbitration, meant great mutilation of Czechoslovakia´s territory. The representatives of Slovak political parties announced the Slovak autonomy with its own parliament and government on 6th October 1938, being legally confirmed in November 1938 by the Prague parliament’s constitutional law. At the time of the complicated international relations, when the Central European region was dominated by the impact of Germany, 57 members of the Slovak Assembly agreed on independence of the Slovak state on 14 March 1939, subsequently confirmed by law.

Comenius University in BratislavaThe Slovak Parliament

In December 1938, first elections to the Slovak Assembly were held. In January 1939, it had the inaugural meeting. Formal sittings of the Assembly were held in the Aula of current Comenius University in Bratislava.

Aula of Comenius University as a venue for important sessions of Assembly of the first Slovak Republic (1939 – 1945) by foto © Vlado KuricThe Slovak Parliament

According to the Slovak Constitution, adopted in Assembly in July 1939, this state became a republic. Legislative power had limited competence in favour of the executive power and due to development at the end of the war, it lost the opportunity to influence the post-war constitutional arrangements.

Emblem of President of the Slovak Republic after 1939, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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Zhupa house, seat of Slovak Parliaments in 1939 - 1994The Slovak Parliament

Residency of the Assembly of the Slovak Republic has become the so called Zhupa House. Originally, it was built as a monastic building of order of the Holy Trinity (Trinitarian), then served the county authorities and finally the Slovak legislature.

Presidency of Slovak Assembly, Zhupa house, 1939, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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Seat of Illegal Slovak National Council in 1944, Banská Bystrica, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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The exile authorities of resistance with different programs became active. At the same time illegal Slovak National Council seated in central-Slovak city Banská Bystrica, in cooperation with the military forces, started an armed uprising in August 1944.

Košice, place of adoption of Czecho-Slovak government program in 1945, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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After the arrival of the Soviet Army on Slovakia’s territory, official Slovak National Council has established. It resided successively in Trebišov, Košice and in Zhupa House in Bratislava.

Coat of arms of Czechoslovakia (1961 - 1989)The Slovak Parliament

The Centralism of the Restored Czechoslovakia

The restored Czechoslovakia became after war part of the Soviet sphere. Slovak politicians’ notions of a state built on a principle of "equal to equal” failed, the powers of the Slovak authorities reduced to a minimum. Moreover, after February 1948, the Communist dictatorship brought the era of oppression and harsh persecution. Parliamentary elections were undemocratic. Slovak resistance against the Prague centralism was one of the important factors of social development, which in 1968 led an attempt to reform the communist regime in the state.

Alexander Dubček (1921 - 1992), Slovak statesman, leader person of the revolutionary year 1968, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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At the head of the renewal process stood the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Alexander Dubček.

Alexander Dubček (1921 - 1992), bust before Parliament building on Dubček Square, nearby the Castle by Ľudmila CvengrošováThe Slovak Parliament

Bratislava Castle, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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In the background of trying to democratize the system, the National Assembly ultimately adopted the Constitutional Act on the Czecho-Slovak Federation, which was signed by the highest state officials in October 1968 in Bratislava Castle.

Memorial plaque in Bratislava Castle on signing the Act on Czecho-Slovak Federation in 1968, with mosaic Hlaholika, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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The process of democratization forcibly cut off the army invasion of Warsaw Pact into the Czechoslovakia in August 1968. The occupation significantly influenced the further constitutional development in the state. Many articles of the Constitutional Act remained only on paper. The Party's bureaucratic decision-making and Prague’s centralism became fixed.

State symbols in Hurban´s HallThe Slovak Parliament

Democratic Revolution and the Establishment of the Slovak Republic on 1st January 1993

Velvet Revolution in Bratislava, November 1989The Slovak Parliament

A turning point came in a changed international atmosphere in November 1989, when society-wide movement known as the Velvet Revolution started.

Its result was the establishment of political pluralism and broad social transformation.

Zhupa house, seat of Slovak Parliaments in 1939 - 1994, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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The 150-seat unicameral Slovak National Council, acting in its 8th legislative term, was co-opted by new, non-Communist deputies. In June 1990 the first free elections were held. National Council in 1990 - 1992 was historically the first ever truly democratically elected parliament in Slovak history.

Coat of arms of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic 1990 - 1992, From the collection of: The Slovak Parliament
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In terms of constitutional development, there was a symbolic dispute over the name of the state, which was ultimately approved by the Parliament in the form of Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (abbreviated Czecho-Slovakia, in Czech it remained as Czechoslovakia).

Zhupa house, seat of Slovak Parliaments in 1939 - 1994The Slovak Parliament

Slovak national movement in Czecho-Slovakia, as in other multinational countries, demanded a radical change of position in the common state, precisely, to create its own statehood.

Speaker of SNC Ivan Gašparovič and Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar signing Declaration of sovereigntyThe Slovak Parliament

In 1992 newly elected deputies of the Slovak National Council completed the steps to the independent state of Slovakia.

On 17th July 1992, they approved the Declaration of the Slovak National Council of Sovereignty of the Slovak Republic as the foundation of a new state.

Declaration of sovereignty of the Slovak Republic, 17 July 1992The Slovak Parliament

Constitution of the Slovak Republic passed on 1 September 1992The Slovak Parliament

The Constitution of the Slovak Republic was adopted on 1st September 1992.

Constitution of the Slovak Republic, prefaceThe Slovak Parliament

Constitution, signing ceremony on Bratislava Castle, 3 September 1992The Slovak Parliament

Following the entry into force on 1st October 1992 name Slovak National Council was replaced by new name National Council of the Slovak Republic.

Slovak Constitution – Celebration of its 20th anniversary in Hall of Constitution in Zhupa house, 2012The Slovak Parliament

In November 1992, members of the Federal Assembly approved the constitutional act on the dissolution of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic on 31 December 1992. The independent Slovak Republic was born on 1st January 1993.

Credits: Story

The exhibition was prepared by the employees of Chancellery of the National Council of the Slovak Republic

Elaborated by Natália Petranská Rolková
Collaboration Vladislav Ivančík
Photos: Matúš Zajac, Pavol Urbánek, Vladislav Ivančík, Ivan Mrva, Martin Ličko, Vladimír Kuric, TASR

Parliamentary Institute, Chancellery of NC SR
October 2016

Credits: All media
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