Language is not only an Instrument of Communication. Casting Doubt on Slovak – Causes and Consequences

This is a translation of my contribution to the conferenc „Insight into Slovak-Magyar Relation“ which was held in Bratislava on 18 September 2009 at the Slavistic Institute of Slovak Akademy of the Sciences. It is published in the booklet with same name in Bratislava 2009.

Language policy has played, still plays and will continue to play a very
important role in our region. It is necessary to say that even at the time of the
entry of the Slovaks into European history, the problem of language formed a
key and vital question of state sovereignty and independence. Always, when
the question of language appeared as a political question in our history, it was,
above all, about the ontological essence of the Slovak nation, not about language
as such. Prince Rastislav did not send his ambassadors to Rome and later to
Constantinople primarily so that they could help to Christianize the Slovak people.
In his time, that was no longer the main problem. The population of Great
Moravia was most probably baptized – according to the latest archaeological
finds at Bojná1 – at least one, if not two generations before Rastislav’s accession
to the throne. The summoning of a mission from the Byzantine Empire was
mainly intended to secure separation from the Bavarian hierarchy, and in this
way to strengthen the sovereignty of the state. Therefore, the introduction of
Old Slavonic to the liturgy was not primarily a matter of religious teaching. The
Bavarian and Aquilean missionaries must have also explained the basics of the
religion to the people in their own language. Latin was used only in the liturgy
and those who experienced the pre-Vatican II liturgy know that Latin was not a
problem for us. The introduction of Old Slavonic to the liturgy had the aim of
strengthening the sovereignty of Great Moravia by detaching it from the legal
authority of the Bavarian episcopate and founding a separate Church province.
This was successfully achieved by the establishment of a Church province of
Moravia-Pannonia. Svätopluk I’s later loss of interest in the Old Slavonic liturgy
can also be understood in this context. After the establishment of a separate
Church province, the direct influence of the Bavarian episcopate was eliminated
and the language question no longer had such an important role, but caused
problems for Svätopluk in connection with his policy of expansion to the west.
It is interesting that language again appeared as a political issue at the
time of the establishment of the Hungarian state. The famous statement of St.
Stephen to his son (Regnum unius linguae et moris imbecile et fragile est – A
kingdom with only one language and custom is weak and fragile) is often quot-
ed, but, at least in the literature accessible to me, I have not found its geopolitical
explanation. Why did St. Stephen actually feel the need to leave such a message?
I am convinced that it was because he was aware of the reality of the given
period. This reality was the fact that in the Early Middle Ages only a country
with clearly defined natural frontiers could survive for the long-term. The early
Magyars, who lived only in the lowland plains of Hungary, would sooner or
later succumb to pressure from the marginal territories of the Carpathian Basin
inhabited by non-Magyar groups. St. Stephen solved this geopolitical question
by working from the beginning, not to built a Magyar national state, as was usual
in that period in the rest of Europe, but a multi-national state. This was the basic
idea on which his state was built, Latin was used as its common language,2 and
this situation continued until the 18th century, even in a situation when the ethnic
Magyar territory was separated from the state by Ottoman occupation. Violation
of these principles by those, who most loudly proclaimed and still proclaim the
heritage of St. Stephen, and the effort to build a „regnum unius linguae et moris”
from the end of the 18th century by means of Magyarization, can be regarded as
the main cause of the break up of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1918.
Magyarization in relation to the Slovaks had many forms – from humiliation
of members of the nation (Tót nem ember „a Slovak is not a human being”),
through obstructing the unification tendencies associated with use of a standard
written language, to deliberate splitting of the national community on the basis of
dialects. The aim of my paper is to point to these methods, which did not entirely
end with the break up of the Kingdom of Hungary. They were continued under
the First Republic, after the Second World War and surprisingly even today. In
my view, they are appearing again in various veiled forms. We should not underestimate
them, because, for example, by under-estimating efforts to achieve linguistic
disintegration on the basis of dialect, we lost territories in northern Orava
and Spiš. My paper will certainly not give a complete account of the problems
it outlines, but I want to point out that the protection of language is an important
political task for the state and cannot be neglected. I will devote attention in my
paper to the given question in the period, when the linguistic unification was culminating,
but I realize that this problem was „not born” in the given period.
When the modern Slovak standardized language was established in the
1840s and national integration of the Slovaks on its basis made rapid progress,
the first attempts appeared to stop this process by struggle against Štúr’s reform.
The attacks on Štúr’s Slovak from the old conservatives led by Ján Kollár are
well known. They feared that the introduction of a new written language for the
Slovaks would divide the forces of Slavdom in the struggle against the Germans
and Magyars. It is less well-known that, as Ján Marták pointed out, the attempts
to defend „Biblical” Czech as the written language of the Slovaks did not develop
only from fears about splitting the forces of Slavdom. The opponents of Štúr’s
Slovak and supporters of continued use of „Biblical” Czech also included supporters
of Magyarization (Launer and Lanštiak), who realized the great strength
of the new standard language in the national integration process of the Slovaks
and in their defence against Magyarization.3 However, they were not able to significantly
influence the penetration of Štúr’s Slovak and its application as the written
language of the Slovaks. In the course of the 1860s, standard written Slovak
became an indisputable fact, and so played an important part in uniting the nation.
By means of Matica Slovenská, the Slovak grammar schools and Slovak press, it
gained a significant role and was applied in all spheres of cultural, scientific and
political life. The new intensification of Magyarization after the Austro-Hungarian
Ausgleich of 1867 did not avoid the standard written language of the Slovaks.
After the closure of Matica Slovenská and the Slovak grammar schools, there was
also an attack on the national integration function of standard written Slovak.
The Magyar ruling circles used a tradition of using eastern Slovak dialect as well
as the standard form of Slovak in eastern Slovakia. In the 1870s, they published
textbooks for people’s schools of this region in the Šariš-Zemplín dialect.4 The
aim of this measure was clear: to hinder the integration process of the Slovak nation
and accelerate the Magyarization of eastern Slovakia by restricting the use of
standard written Slovak. These efforts were not directed towards disintegration of
the Slovaks, but towards assisting the implementation of Magyarization.
A new situation came at the end of the 19th century, when the process of
national integration was essentially complete, and when the Slovak politicians
emerged from passivity, they achieved their first successes in the struggle with
Magyarization. In this period, the Magyar ruling circles made direct attempts to
misuse dialect differences in Slovak to achieve the national disintegration of the
Slovaks into dialect areas. The most extensive of these attempts was to present
the population of the eastern Slovak dialect area as an independent national unit,
as the so-called Slovjaks. However, it is possible to say that activity in northern
Slovakia had no less far-reaching consequences. In this regions, Galician Poles
began to be active among the Goral population of northern areas of the counties
of Trenčín, Orava and Spiš, in support of „renewal” of the alleged Polish identity
of these people. The first attempt to use the dialect differences in the territory of
Slovakia to achieve the disintegration of the Slovak nation was the agitation of
certain circles from Galicia, beginning in 1904 in northern Orava, under the leadership
of the Krakow advocate F. Wojciechowski and J. J. Teisere. Especially J. Wismierski
continued this work in the northern areas of Spiš. It acquired an organized
form only under the leadership of the district doctor of medicine from Nowy Targ
J. Bednarski and the writer F. Gwiżdż, whose activities included publication of
the magazine Gazeta Podhalanska from 1913. It promoted the Polishness of the
Slovak Gorals.5 Without more extensive research in the Hungarian archives, it is
impossible to ascertain to what degree the Magyar ruling circles stood behind this
action with the aim of using it to break up the national unity of the Slovaks and so
create favourable conditions for Magyarization. However, from the point of view
of the old principle of Roman law „who does it favour,” it is possible to suppose
that it at least suited the Magyars, even if they did not organize it. The local Magyar
and Magyarone figures in northern Orava and Spiš, directly supported pro-
Polish activity as a means of weakening the ethnic and national consciousness of
the local people, so that they could be Magyarized more quickly.6 The agreement
in time of the Polish action in northern Orava and Spiš with the similar Magyar
actions in the rest of Slovakia, testify at least to the intermeshing of the agitation
of the Galician Poles with the Magyarization plans in Hungary. It is necessary to
say that without the break up of the Kingdom of Hungary, the action of the above
mentioned Galicians could not bring the desired results for the Poles. The Gorals
rejected it at that time and so it had no meaning. There was no way of predicting
that the Kingdom of Hungary would break up in 1918 under the influence
of national and democratic revolutions. After 1918, when 25 communities from
northern Orava and Spiš were attached to Poland, and when the ruling circles in
landowner dominated Poland demanded further areas of Slovakia, this question
became a serious obstacle to Polish-Czecho-Slovak relations. It had further consequences
at the time of Munich in 1938 and later.
The attempts of Budapest to stop the spread of national consciousness and
national integration in eastern Slovakia by limiting the use of standard written
Slovak, appeared, as I already said, in the 1870s in connection with the publication
of textbooks for people’s schools in the eastern Slovak dialect. However, it
turned out that overcoming of backwardness in this region was also expressed in
the growth of national consciousness among the eastern Slovak people. Slovak
emigrants to the USA played an important part in spreading national consciousness
in eastern Slovakia. They were nationally awakened by the situation in
the USA, and if they returned home, they influenced their surroundings.7 The
flourishing of national-political life in Spiš, Zemplín and Šariš surprised the
Magyar ruling elite and stimulated a reaction from them. In this case, it could
not be only a matter of holding back the development of national consciousness
and national integration, because this had proved to be ineffective and had not
brought results. Instead they attempted to break up the national unity of the Slovaks
on the basis of the eastern Slovak dialects. Some renegade members of the
intelligentsia from eastern Slovakia were employed to implement these plans of
the Magyar ruling circles. Under the leadership of the landowner Z. Dešöfi, the
magazine Naša zastava began to be published at Prešov in the Šaris dialect from
27 October 1907.8 In our literature and in general knowledge, this action is associated
with the activity of the county archivist in Prešov V. Dvorčák. However,
its origin was associated with various people, including the above-mentioned
landowner Dešöfi and clergy from various confessions, such as G. Žebracký,
L. Liptai and J. Repák.9 The aim of the „Zastavists” was substantial. Using financial
resources from the Hungarian government, they wanted to instil in the
people of eastern Slovakia the idea that they had nothing in common with the
Slovaks in the rest of Slovakia, but that they formed a separate group independent
of the other Slovaks. The final result was intended to be the estrangement of
the eastern Slovaks from the rest of the Slovak nation, which would facilitate the
penetration of Magyarization.10 Struggle against standard written Slovak played
an important role here. Publication in the standard written language was limited
and dialect with variable usage was applied, so that the language was inappropriate
for communication in higher intellectual spheres. Competition from the
nationally conscious press, written in standard written Slovak, was prevented
by the county authorities, which used terror to prevent its distribution in eastern
Slovakia.11 The „philanthropy” of the spreaders of Naša zastava is shown not
only by the clearly reactionary program of the whole movement, but also by the
fact that it was backed by the greatest enemies of the Slovak national movement
and representatives of Magyarization in the region.12
During the First World War, the organizers of the movement around Naša
zastava progressed from propagation of hidden separatism in form of attacks on
standard written Slovak, propagation of the Šariš dialect and absolutization of the
ethnographic differences, to open separatism. In 1916, certainly also under the
influence of the first successes of the Czecho-Slovak struggle abroad, V. Dvorčák
published a pamphlet in which he openly propagated the national distinctness
of the so-called Slovjaks.13 In this period, Budapest already adopted measures,
of which the full meaning was shown in 1918 and 1938. Their meaning was to
geopolitically mutilate the territory of Slovakia so much that the right of the Slovaks
to self-determination would become entirely illusory. This was precisely the
aim of the action of Dvorčák and his supporters, and the organization of eastern
Slovak „separatism” by the Magyar ruling elite. The creation of the so-called
Eastern Slovak National Council headed by V. Dvorčák in November 1918 essentially
served this aim. When it was proved that the so-called Eastern Slovak
National Council with its program of breaking up the Slovak ethnic unit, could
not succeed, the initiators of Eastern Slovak „separatism” changed their tactics.
The Budapest government wanted to keep the whole of the territory of Slovakia
within its state, not only part of it. Therefore, on 11 December 1918 they attempted
to create the so-called Slovak People’s Republic in opposition to the
establishment of the Czecho-Slovak Republic in the territory of Slovakia.14 The
pro-Magyar groups around Naša zastava even found a relationship to standard
written Slovak. This fact also shows the degree of sincerity of their „Slovjak”
identity, its real purpose and for whom they were working. However, in the given
power-political situation, they could no longer thwart the right of the Slovak
nation to self-determination, and in the course of the first months of 1919 the
whole territory of Slovakia came under the sovereignty of the Czecho-Slovak
state. However, little is written about the fact that the so-called Slovak Soviet
Republic, declared in Prešov with the assistance of the Magyar Red Army, drew
its personnel especially from the activists of Eastern Slovak „separatism,” apart
from Czech A. Janoušek, and it published its documents in Šariš dialect.15
It might appear that after the origin of the Czecho-Slovak Republic, when
the indivisibility and unity of the Slovak nation was very clearly proved in all
the dialect areas of Slovakia, in bourgeois-democratic conditions, the attempts to
break up the unity of the Slovaks on the basis of dialect differences within Slovak,
should have ended, but this did not happen. The Magyar ruling circles outwardly
abandoned these practices, because their irredentist and revisionist policy
was not aiming at partial, but at complete revision, that is at return to the pre-war
frontiers of the Kingdom of Hungary. The leading representative of Eastern Slo-
vak „separatism” V. Dvorčák, in the service of Horthy’s Hungarian government,
had to temporarily give up his original dream of a „Slovjak nation” and join F.
Jehlička in forming the so-called Slovak Council at Geneva in 1933. This was
supposed to represent the „wish” of the Slovaks to reunite with Hungary.16 Since
the aims of the Magyar ruling classes concerning the question of the territories of
the former Kingdom of Hungary and the nationalities living in them, remained
constant in this period, they could not entirely abandon the „Slovjak question.”
In the 1930s, the dialect differences in Slovakia again received attention
from some groups in the ruling classes of land-owner dominated Poland. Their
plans were basically a matter of „scientifically” proving the Polishness of some
parts of Slovakia. It was not only a matter of the traditional untrue claim that the
Slovak Gorals are actually Poles without national consciousness, and so extensive
territories in Orava, Spiš and the Čadca district must be added to Poland. The circle
of Krakow „Slovakophils” around Prof. W. Semkowicz, included experts such
as senior lecturer Zd. Stieber, who „scientifically” proved in 1935 that the eastern
Slovak dialects are of Polish origin and the inhabitants of eastern Slovakia are
Poles.17 It is obvious that the aims of these Polish circles were not nation building.
This „proof” was intended to serve the blind imperialist policy of claiming the
whole of Eastern Slovakia and its wealth of raw materials. They had even worked
out a plan to create a Polish strategic triangle, which would be based on the natural
resources of Eastern Slovakia up to Košice.18 It is surprising that a whole wing
of Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party headed by K. Sidor, did not notice the aims of
these „friends” of Slovakia around W. Semkowicz. In spite of an adequate number
of warning signals,19 they considered it useful to cooperate with the Poles in their
anti-centralist and autonomist policies. The aim of these circles was to get the
Slovak political elite into such a position that they could, as Semkowicz himself
stated: „openly pose to the Slovaks the question of the above-mentioned changes,
and gain recognition of our truth on a friendly platform.”20 This meant forcing acceptance
of the Polish territorial claims in Slovakia. The Poles wanted to actively
bring about such a situation with the support of Hitler’s anti-Czecho-Slovak plans.
However, the Poles did not find Slovak understanding for their claims to Slovak
territory, and so Beck’s Poland had to obtain its insignificant territorial gains by
force. After less than a year the results of this policy were clearly revealed in the
fates of both nations and especially that of the Poles.
Munich opened the way to the opening of the so-called Slovjak question.
A supplement to the Munich agreement, which also demanded solution of the
territorial disputes between Czecho-Slovakia and Hungary, again enabled the
Magyar ruling circles to attempt such a mutilation of Slovak territory, that any
possibility of independent life for Slovakia would be geopolitically liquidated,
and this would automatically lead to Slovakia’s attachment to „St. Stephen’s
state.” This was also the main aim of the far-reaching demands for territorial
concessions, including Bratislava, Nitra and Košice, which the Magyar government
submitted at Komárno,21 and Eastern Slovak „separatism” was also revived
with the same aim. The justification of the partition of Slovakia into four
parts by the referendum foreseen and demanded by the Horthy regime after the
removal of the territory inhabited by the Magyar minority, was based on the
claim that „the Slovaks living in the counties of Užhorod and Zemplín with the
inhabitants of Spiš and Šariš are linguistically and ethnically different from the
Western and Central Slovaks,” and one of their „ethnic” peculiarities was supposed
to be that they wanted „unreservedly to belong to Hungary.”22
In spite of the fact that it harshly violated the right to self-determination
by awarding to Hungary extensive territories in southern Slovakia, the Vienna
Arbitration of 2 November 1938 did not satisfy the revisionist appetite of the ruling
circles of Horthy’s Hungary, which were very surprised by the opposition of
the Slovak people to the renewal of their rule in Slovakia. However, they failed to
mutilate Slovakia as much as they had wished. A new arbiter had appeared in Central
Europe in the form of Nazi Germany, whose decision had to be accepted. The
Nazis had their own plans for Slovakia, which were not compatible with the idea
of „Greater Hungary.” However, in case things changed or a different situation
arose and with the intention of weakening the national unity of the Slovaks in the
occupied territories, Budapest again revived Eastern Slovak „separatism.”23 Naša
zastava reappeared and was smuggled into Eastern Slovakia in large numbers.24
Apart from this, especially the priest Siladi was very active on the ground, making
a great effort to prove the separate identity of the „Slovjak nation,” and get
Eastern Slovak dialect introduced into the schools.25 For the purpose of confirming
the separateness of the Slovjaks, the activists of the movement held a meeting
in Košice in September 1939. They invited the professor of Slavonic studies
J. Melich, who was expected to provide scientific proof of the existence of the
Slovjaks. However, to the great disappointment of the participants, he explained
to them that the Eastern Slovak dialect is an integral part of the Slovak language,
and its division from the Slovak language was scientific nonsense.26
However, the organizers of the whole movement forgot that the 1940s was
no longer the pre-revolutionary period, when the Magyar ruling circles in the old
Kingdom of Hungary had almost unlimited power over the nationalities. They
could establish a small organizational base of egoistic, pro-Magyar and careerist
elements, in the form of Naša gazdovská strana (Our Farmers’ Party),27 and
introduce the Šariš dialect as the language of worship in some churches, but they
could not succeed in pushing standard written Slovak out of the public and cultural
life of the people of Eastern Slovakia, or even out of the schools in the occupied
territories. The local population was strongly opposed to this,28 and they were not
alone and defenceless in their struggle. The tragedy of the Magyar political elite as
a whole was that it could not detach itself from the artificial constructions in the nationality
policy they had created. They clung to it at a time, when the whole fascist
bloc, to which the Horthy regime belonged, was collapsing before the advance of
the anti-fascist forces. No force was found in its ranks, which could find a way to
join the democratic anti-fascist forces from other Central European nations in their
struggle, and so they had to drink the bitterness of military defeat to the bottom.
With the fall of the Horthy regime in Hungary, the attempts to divide the
Slovak nation on the basis of dialects came to a definitive end. The role of the
society and magazine Svojina (Our Own), which appeared in the period 1946-
-1950, in this question is not entirely clear. It showed elements of Eastern Slovak
separatism and was allegedly founded by supporters of Beneš’s Czechoslovakism
with similar aims to those of Naša zastava. This problem has still not been researched,
although it deserves to be. I will not devote further attention to it here.
From the 1860s, standard written Slovak was an essential factor, which
penetrated into all social spheres, as the national written language. It was applied
not only in literature, but also in science and other social spheres, where
standard written language is used. The attempts of Budapest described above,
already could not stop its development. However, the change in the constitutional
position of Slovakia brought a new phenomenon into the development of
the Slovak language: that of ethnic Czechoslovakism. Ideological and partially
also power political means were again used to limit the use of the Slovak language
or to cast doubt on its ability to fulfill all the functions of a standard written
language. On the ideological level, especially M. Hodža opposed Slovak in
his work Československý rozkol (The Czechoslovak Split), as did A. Pražák in
a whole series of articles and studies. A whole series of ideologically influenced
linguists and theorizing politicians naturally joined in.
The basic concept of the people casting doubt on the Slovak written
language was to ignore the real linguistic development of Slovak and claim
that Slovak was not an independent Slavonic language, but only a dialect of
Czech. The origin of Slovak was denounced as linguistic separatism, even as
Hungarianism.29 The constitutional act no.122 from 1920 declared that the official
language was „Czechoslovak” with two variants – Czech and Slovak – and
§ 4 enacted that official business in Slovakia would be done in the Slovak language,
but this situation was considered only temporary. Various surveys30 tried
to persuade the Slovaks that clinging to Slovak was nonsense, that it was necessary
to abandon it and that Slovaks should go to Prague and accept Czech, just as
Scots went to London. Allegedly this was the only way to reach the higher aims
of civilization.31 Others, for example, A. Pražák, did not deny the importance of
Slovak as a language of fine literature, but they strove to exclude it from the field
of science, where Czech had to dominate.32 The Učená společnost Šafaříkova
(Šafarík Learned Society), which was active at Comenius University in Bratislava,
put this theory into practice.
However, all these attempts failed. The attempt of Professor V. Vážný to
forcibly bring the Slovak language closer to Czech by means of Czechizing the
rules of Slovak grammar and the vocabulary of the Slovak language was also condemned
to fail. It can be said that the Matica revolution of 1932 struck a strong,
perhaps fatal blow against these tendencies.33 Paradoxically, it was actually the
Slovak pupils of the Czech professors H. Bartek,34 Ľ. Novák35 and others, who
scientifically proved the unsustainability of the conception of a Czechoslovak
language and confirmed the independence of the Slovak language. This reality
was also later confirmed by the publication of the Rules of Slovak Orthography
(Pravidlá slovenského pravopisu) in 1940, and especially in 1953.
Whatever view we take of the period 1948-1989 from the political point
of view, it was extraordinarily positive from the point of view of the development
of standard written Slovak. It brought the culmination of projects such as the
Dictionary of the Slovak language,36 and other dictionaries, unfortunately still
not including an etymological dictionary, guides to grammar and speech, considerations
of theory and scientific proof of the early Slavonic origin of the Slovak
language.37 The standard written language was systematically cultivated and
language correctors in offices and institutions using the standard language cared
for its purity. It was unthinkable that a person, who had not comprehensively
mastered the standard written language, could become an editor for Slovak radio
or television. Although we did not have a language act, a system of control of
editors was worked out in these media. Every violation of the norms was traced
and evaluated. Naturally in the end there were penalties, especially of a financial
nature. For the authorities of the time, it was unthinkable that a weaver in a factory
should be penalized for poor quality work, but not editors and reporters.
The road to the independence of the Slovak Republic after 1989 also
included struggle to give the Slovak language an appropriate, legally sanctioned
position in Slovak society. Although this was more complex than could have
been expected, it has finally been achieved after almost twenty years with the
passing of an act corresponding to modern trends and the needs of society, but
only in one area – the use of the Slovak standard written language as a universal
means of communication in Slovakia. However, hardly anything has been done
for the internal protection of the Slovak standard written language and against
its exclusion from spheres not directly connected with state and public administration.
In spite of the vociferous arguments of some representatives of Slovak
linguistics38 on the best position for the Slovak language, I must state that not
everything is rosy with the position of the Slovak language in our society. In
the 1920s and 1930s, some people argued that Slovak should not be used in
scientific works. People realize that financial questions also play a role here, and
publishers will offer what people want to buy, but I think that the state should
also regulate this sphere.
Especially the word stock has been seriously affected, and not only by
Czech, but also by English. We do not even take English words directly from
English, but through Czech, which means that we are further adapting the phonetics
of the Slovak language to those of our brother nation. I sometimes get the
impression that somebody has an interest in the greatest variability in the norms
and semantics of Slovak words to reduce the clarity of their meaning.
It is also necessary to point to the revival of some tendencies, which endeavour
to show that the Slovaks speaking Goral dialects are really Poles.39 In
connection with the activities of Polish priests and members of religious orders
in these regions, we must again ask whether we underestimate some things.
Let us mention only the unsuccessful supplementary educational materials for
schools, which arose from cooperation between Slovak and Polish authors, and
in which the Poles came out with explicitly revisionist views.40 Their Slovak
version did not get into Slovak schools, but the Polish version is fulfilling its
„mission.” In this context, it is necessary to welcome the universality of the
Language Act, which will remove the abnormal situation in some northern Slovak
communities, where, for purely commercial reasons, Polish language signs
have appeared like mushrooms after rain, so that the malevolent observer might
regard them as an expression of the Polishness of this region.
In conclusion, I must state that the linguistic situation in the territory of
Slovakia requires the active protection of the Slovak language as the state language
of the Slovak Republic. Therefore, I welcome the passing of the Language
Act, which, compared to the 1995 version, again introduces sanctions for violations
of the act. We have seen that the Language Act was not observed, and in a
very ostentatious way. At the same time, it is not only a matter of some backward
mayors of villages mainly populated by ethnic minorities, who refuse, and I hope
not for very long, to make accessible information about their activities in the state
language, for those who are not members of the Magyar national minority. But
let us move on. The authorities of the capital city of Slovakia and representatives
of many other Slovak towns very openly refuse to follow the rules of Slovak
grammar, when they do not respect the rule that the names of personalities from
our national history have to be written in Slovak orthography.
However, the passing of the Language Act does not solve all questions
connected with active protection of the Slovak standard written language. It
is also necessary to adopt measures to protect it against degradation and degeneration.
It is necessary to make sure that directors of both public-service and
commercial mass media will not select their editors and presenters according to
their blue eyes or similar criteria, but according to their mastery of the standard
written language. I am not against development of the Slovak language, its enrichment
with new words and phrases, but this cannot happen at the expense of
equally valid Slovak elements, inherited from preceding generations. Therefore,
I do not understand claims of the type: The frequency of the word prasačí (pig,
swine – adjective) is three times greater than that of the word prasací, so it is
necessary to consider, which is correct.41 They already taught us in our education
that science is a system. Statistics is good for knowledge of the real state, but
cultivation should lead above all to systematization. I also do not understand the
conception of publishing a Dictionary of the Contemporary Slovak Language,
rather than a Dictionary of the Slovak Language. Are we supposed to understand
that archaisms are not part of the contemporary Slovak language and do not
need to be preserved for future generations? The Slovak language has struggled
for its place in the Sun throughout history. We cannot comfort ourselves with the
idea that this struggle has ended. Linguistic confrontation is still continuing. The
pressure of globalization will create conditions for the more predatory, stronger
languages, at the expense of the weaker and less agile. Slovak will be resilient in
this environment only if it will be an effective and independent instrument. To
achieve this, it must be constantly cultivated and enriched, but also defended.
Legislation is obviously required as part of this protection, but it is not enough.

1 PIETA, K. et al.: Bojná, hospodárske a politické centrum Nitrianskeho kniežatstva (Bojná, the
economic and political centre of the Principality of Nitra). Institute of Archaeology of the Slovak
Academy of Sciences and Ponitrianske múzeum 2006.

2 A similar linguistic situation exists today in India. The government has to use English as the state
language to hold the country together. Attempts to introduce Hindi as the state language after independence
failed because of opposition from the other language groups.

3 See MARTÁK, J.: Útok na spisovnú slovenčinu roku 1847/1848 a jeho cieľ (The attack on standard

written Slovak in 1847-1848 and its aim). Martin: Matica slovenská 1938.
4 See: TAJTÁK, L.: K otázke vydávania učebníc vo východoslovenskom nárečí (On the question of
the publication of textbooks in the eastern Slovak dialect). In: Nové obzory 6/1964, p. 43-57.

5 One of the organizers of the whole movement, F. Machay also admitted this inadequacy. See

MACHAY, F.: Moja droga do Polski (My route to Poland). Krakow 1938, p. 89-102.
6 BIELOVODSKÝ (A. Miškovič): Severná hranica Slovenska (The northern frontier of Slovakia).
Bratislava 1947, p. 61-62.

7 MIŠKOVIČ, A.: Maďarské úmysly so Slovákmi (Magyars plans for the Slovaks). Bratislava 1944, p. 8.
8 TAJTÁK, L.: Naša zastava – nástroj politiky maďarských vládnych tried (Our flag – an instrument
of the policy of the Magyar ruling classes). In Nové obzory 8/1966, p. 82-84.

9 Ibidem.
10 TAJTÁK, L.: K niektorým otázkam koncepcie dejín východného Slovenska obdobia uhorského
kapitalizmu (On some questions of the conception of the history of eastern Slovakia in the period of
Hungarian capitalism). In: Historica Carpatica 7/1976, p. 276.

11 L. Tajták, Naša zastava, p. 101.
12 Ibidem, p. 102.

13 A. Miškovič, Maďarské úmysly, p. 11-12.
14 TAJTÁK, L.: Úsilie maďarských vládnucich tried o udržanie Slovenska v rámci Maďarska roku
1918 (The effort of the Magyar ruling classes to keep Slovakia within the framework of Hungary in
1918). In: Historický časopis, 4/1966, p. 577-580.
15 GREGUŠ, P.: Slovjaci – výtvor maďarónskej propagandy (The Slovjaks – a creation of pro-Magyar
propaganda). In: Slovo, no. 30/2001.

16 TILKOVSZKY, L.: Južné Slovensko v rokoch 1938-1945 (Southern Slovakia in the period 1938-
1945). Bratislava, Veda 1972, p. 80.
17 Slovenský národný archív (Slovak National Archive) (SNA), fond Krajinský úrad (Regional Office
Collection), šk. 263, č. 20777, Správa čsl. konzula z Krakova z 18. 3. 1935 (Report from the
Czechoslovak consul in Krakow from 18 March 1935).
18 Ibidem.
19 Archív FMZV, pol. sekcia III, šk. 1278, dok. 26785, Správa čsl. veľvyslanca z Varšavy z 24. 2.
1936 (Report of the Czechoslovak ambassador in Warsaw from 24 Feb 1936).
20 Archiw Akt Nowych, Warsaw MSZ 10412, P III, Report on a session of the committee on the issue
of Orava, Spiš and Čadca from 15 Dec 1937.

21 Országos Levéltár, Miniszteri elnőkség. Flachbart’s memorandum from the end of 1938.
22 SNA, fond MZV, šk. 112, 11334/39. Správa slovenského vyslanca v Budapešti (Report from the
Slovak ambassador in Budapest).
23 The reaction of the Slovak government to the revival of „Eastern Slovak separatism” is interesting
also from the present-day point of view. It testifies to the permanent sensitivity of the Slovaks to
stimuli in the field of language. At a session on 29 August 1939, the government passed a resolution
banning state employees from using dialect in business or private communication. SNR, MV, šk. 7,
15934/39. Obežník Ministerstva vnútra (Circular of the Ministry of the Interior) from 11 Sept 1939.
24 DEÁK, L.: Autonómia Slovenska v plánoch horthyovského Maďarska v roku 1938 (The autonomy
of Slovakia in the plans of Horthy’s Hungary in 1938). In: Historický časopis 3/1988, p. 409.

29 HODŽA, M.: Československý rozkol (The Czechoslovak Split); most recently published in the framework
of the publication: Polemika o československom rozkole. Bratislava: Matica slovenská 2009.
30 Slovenská otázka. Anketa Kostnických jisker (The Slovak Question, a survey by Kostnické jiskry).
Prague: Nákladem Kostnických jisker 1926.
31 Ibidem.
32 PRAŽÁK, A.: Češi a Slováci. Literárně dějepisné poznámky k československému poměru (The
Czechs and Slovaks. Literary historical comments on Czechoslovak relations). Prague: Státní nakladatelství
33 For more details see e. g. WINKLER, T. – ELIÁŠ, M. et al.: Matica slovenská. Dejiny a prítomnosť
(The Matica slovenská cultural organization. History and present state). Bratislava 2003, p. 135-138.

34 For example in the work: Príspevok k dejinám slovenčiny (A contribution to the history of Slovak).
Trnava 1936.
35 Jazykovedné glosy k československej otázke (Linguistic comments on the Czechoslovak question).
Martin 1935, can be regarded as his most important in this field.
36 Slovník slovenského jazyka. Bratislava 1959-1968.
37 For example PAULINY, E.: Dejiny spisovnej slovenčiny od začiatku po súčasnosť (A history of
standard written Slovak from the beginning to the present day). Bratislava 1983.
38 See for example, the interview with S. Ondrejovič, director of the Ľudovít Štúr Institute of Linguistics
of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in the magazine Týždeň no. 21, 2009.

39 For more details see e. g. MAJERIKOVÁ, M: Vojna o Spiš. Spiš v medzivojnovom období v kontexte
česko-slovensko-poľských vzťahov (The war for Spiš. Spiš in the inter-war period in the context
of Czecho-Slovak-Polish relations). Krakow 2007, and more popular style works by M. Andráš,
J. Ciągwa and others.
40 ANDRÁŠ, M.: Ako možno vy(zne)užívať program PHARE (How to (mis)use the PHARE program)

41 S. Ondrejovič in the cited interview.

14 Responses

  1. Avatar Yorick 6. februára 2010 / 23:44

    Výborný článok, pán Hrnko. Len by som upravil názov SAV na Slovak Academy of Sciences. A tiež by som výraznešie oddelil podtitul od hlavného titulu, pričom by som v prvom menovanom ešte vypustil predložku „of“, aby sa zbytočne nevytváral dvojitý genitív: „Language is not only an Instrument of Communication. Casting Doubt on Slovak – Causes and Consequences“.

    Nedá mi nespomenúť skutočnosť, že naši južní susedia majú akurát na pultoch kníhkupectiev zánovnú publikáciu „A szlovákok története“, kde sa okrem iného pranieruje problematika historickosti nášho štátneho znaku. Neviem síce po maďarsky, ale mám silný dojem, že v takýchto chvíľach som tomu celkom rád… Ušetrím si aspoň dobrý krvný tlak.

  2. Avatar Morse 8. februára 2010 / 9:15

    Ej, také 3-4 generácie dozadu sa tu ľudia bežne dorozumeli 3-4 jazykmi… Pán Hrnko tu opisuje z pozvánky „to be held in Bratislava on 18 September 2009“ nechápajúc, že ide o budúci čas, Yorick upozorňuje na článok, ktorému nerozumie, nuž civilizačný regres je tu navidomoči…

    Pritom Zoltánov komentár k Yorrickovmu článku je presne to, čo hľadáte:
    „Bodrí slovenskí rodáci si skonštruovali jazyk, „zohnali“ k nemu krajinu, ukradli štátny znak a vycucali z prsta vlastné dejiny. Takto je príbeh úplný…“

  3. Avatar otokar 8. februára 2010 / 13:00

    Pán Hrnko,
    tu máte excelentný príklad „konšpiráčnej teórie“ v praxi, ten link, ako aj reakciu od pána Morse-ho.

    Pokúšal som sa o „dešifráciu“ predmetného linku a zaujala ma tam veta:

    “ III. Béla Bizáncban nevelkedett, anyja a kijevi Msztyiszlav fejedelem leánya volt, valószínűleg haláláig megmaradt az ortodoxiában.“

    Preto by som sa rád opýtal: „Akú materinskú reč mal Hongrois König Béla III., syn dcéry kyjevského kniežaťa?

    A ešte celkovo. Toto „hluboké“ nedorozumenie je ukážkovým príkladom problému prekladu Uhor-Magyar, ele teraz nie na slovenskej strane, ale na maďarskej, či lepšie pevedané – absencia slova Uhorsko, Hungary v maďarskom jazyku. Pretože Hungary nie je Hungary 21.storočia.!

  4. Anton Hrnko Anton Hrnko 8. februára 2010 / 22:43

    aspoň vidíte, aký to bol úbohý štát, na akých hlinených nohách stál, keď stačilo „pár bodrých slovenských rodákov“, ktorí „si vycucali z prsta vlastné dejiny“, aby ho položili a poslali na veky do minulosti. Treba asi poslať do minulosti aj „hrdinské, resp. vitézi magyar torténetet“; teda správne do kýbla, keď tento vraj „uri nép“ obrali o dve tretiny jeho országu „niktoši“, ktorí si vymysleli svoje dejiny. Myslím si, že aj cigánsky vajda by si svoj kmeň uhájil lepšie, ako magyar vitézek. Alebo vám všetkým treba ešte trošku poštudovať dejiny ako mne angličtinu? Aby ste konečne pochopili, že v Európe neznamenáte ani o cm viac ako národy, s ktorými ste kedysi zdieľali spoločný osud? To je tak ťažké zmieriť sa s realitou?
    PS: Neviem, kto si viac vycucal svoje dejiny z prsta, či my Slováci alebo Maďari. Veď celé maďarské dejiny sú lakovaním skutočnosti na ružovo! A čuduj sa svete! Minulosť má všetky farby spektra! To je pre vás novinka, čo?

  5. Anton Hrnko Anton Hrnko 8. februára 2010 / 22:51

    to nie je nič nové. Väčšina Arpádovcov mala ženy z miestnych slovanských kniežacích rodín alebo kráľovských rodín. Určite, aj keď nevedeli písať, rozprávali viacerými miestnymi jazykmi. Ale z hľadiska výkladu dejín to nemá rozhodujúci význam. Ono to s tou absenciou slova Uhor v maďarčine nie je tak, žeby nemohol byť, aj v dnešnej maďarčine sa dá presne preložiť slovo uhorský a maďarský (magyarországi – magyar), ale jednoducho oni to nechcú, lebo by tým museli prestať lakovať svet o údajnej krivde z Trianonu. V tom je podstata.

  6. Avatar morse 8. februára 2010 / 23:27

    Konečne Kvítku,
    tak sme nakoniec predsa len dospeli k poznaniu, že v maďarčine MOŽNO rozlíśiť maďarské od uhorského. Bravo !
    Ako je to so slovenčinou ? Vedeli by ste mi rovnako rozlíšiť niečo etnicky slovenské od miestne príslušného slovenského ?

    Ja byť na Vašom mieste by som nebol taký skeptický k Uhorskému štátu:
    SR má za sebou nejakých 17 rokov existencie, skoro je súdiť. ČSR mala oveľa ďalekosiahlejšie ambície a hľa kde skončila ?
    Zaujímavé, že práve Vy nazývate Maďarov „úri nép“ súc posadnutý neustálym dokazovaním, kto je na Slovensku pánom (úr=pán). V mene Vašich predkov by som si pre nich rád vyprosil, aby ste ich nazýval Niktośmi, raz boli lojálni uhorský obyvatelia. Uhorsko rozdelili veľmoci, a Vaša pretenzia si túto historickú udalosť prisvojovať, je komická. Samozrejme, že Maďari v Európe neznamenajú viac, než ktorýkoľvek iný národ, zato špecificky na Slovensku sú naďalej v pozícii občanov druhej kategórie. Až dospejete k poznaniu, že aj na Slovensku by nemali znamenať menej ako ktorýkoľvek iný národ prihláste sa 🙂

  7. Avatar otokar 9. februára 2010 / 19:03

    Pán Hrnko,
    trochu ste „uhol“ od podstaty otázky: „Akú mal materinskú reč Bella III?“,
    nepýtal som sa na „otcovskú reč“, pretože materinská reč sa
    “pije s materinským mliekom z pŕs matky“
    Nakoniec aj slovo „prsia,cecky,ňadrá“ prevzali akože „starí Maďari“ zo slovenčiny! (Mikloschich)
    A logicky z toho vyplýva, že akože „staré“ Maďarky potom zrejme nemali „prsia, cecky, ňadrá“. Aj tieto slová patria do základnej výbyvy každého etnického jazyka!

    V otázke neochoty maďarských politikov nechať maďarskou akadémiou vied vytvoriť ekvivalentné slová pre „Uhor, uhorský, Uhorsko“ sa plne zhodneme.
    Podarilo sa mi nájsť v jednom slovníku slovo „uhorský“ = „ugrós“.
    Ale čo nám predsa bráni, aby sme tieto prepotrebné do maďarčiny zaviedli u nás tu na Slovensku a pre našich maďarsky hovoriacich spoluobčanov a aj s patričným historickým výkladom pre ich správne pochopenie!
    Jednoducho napísať malé pomôcky k výuke maďarského jazyka, dejapisu, občianskej výchovy, ako aj hudobnej výchovy.
    22.10.2011 bude mať výročie narodenia vrcholný predstaviteľ akože „maďarskej“ hudby Franz Liszt.
    Pritom jeho umenovedné diela neboli dodnes preložené ani len do jeho akže „materinského“ maďarského jazyka, čo nám vytvára vhodnú príležitosť ponúknuť práve našim maďarsky hovoriacim občanom jeho dielo v ich materinskom jazyku.

    Tento link je excelentná ukážka týchto zákonitých nedorozumení, ktoré ale sú spôsobené len a len politikmi a ich „logickou neochotou“ zaviesť tieto slová do maďarčiny.
    Samozrejme problém je i na našej strane pri prekladoch Uhor=Maďar, čo nie je pravda v ponímaní spred maďaróna Bernoláka!

    Treba nájsť „odvážneho“ politika, ktorý túto požiadavku dá na pretras.

  8. Avatar otokar 9. februára 2010 / 19:15

    Pán morse,
    logika slovenského hovorí, že mieste príslušne slovenské je vždy automaticky etnicky slovenské a je jedno ako ho doplňujúco označíte.
    O tom označení „Niktośmi“ s pánom Hrnkom plne súhlasím, i keď s doplnkom, že nie každý a nie vždy by mal byť takto označený.
    Uhorsko rozdelili veľmoci na základe „žatvy“ ktorú „zasiali“ práve tí nespratní „Niktośi“.
    Keď sa nejaký „Niktoś“ nevie spratať do kože, tak mu treba pristrihnúť krídelká.
    A práve naopak si myslím, že Maďari vzhľadom na svoje “príbuzenské” prepojenia hrajú v Európe poprednú úlohu.
    Viete mi konkretizovať, v čom by mali byť, podľa Vás, „Maďari“ na Slovensku občanmi druhej kategórie? A prečo by mali znamenať menej?

  9. Avatar otokar 9. februára 2010 / 19:23

    Ešte k tomu maďarskému erbu z linku vyššie.
    Nie som odborník na heraldiku, ale pri porovnaní erbov z obrazu od Dürera, ako aj ukážok
    Uhorských erbov z dobovej dokumentácie s pred rakúsko-maďarského vyrovnania môžem konštatovať.
    Erb s korunou na obrázku je:
    miléniovým ošiaľom sfalzifikovaná uhorská kráľovská koruna zastrešujúca pôvodný uhorský kráľovský erb spolu s erbom Panónie.
    Pôvodný erb Uhorska (=územia podstatnej časti dnešného Slovenska) bol bez malej korunky na trojvrší.
    Samotné trojvršie v erbe je náš spoločný heraldický symbol so Slovincami do čias nášho rozdelenia.
    Ten dvojkríž je jedna z foriem ranného kresťanstva z 13.storočia.

  10. Avatar otokar 9. februára 2010 / 19:58

    Pán Morse ,Február 8, 2010 o 9:15,
    keby ste miesto „3-4 generácie“ uviedol „8-10“, tak by nám postačil len jeden jazyk!
    (Latinčina bola len pre pisárov)

  11. Anton Hrnko Anton Hrnko 10. februára 2010 / 22:43

    v písomnom prejave má každá čiarka význam. Keby ste vedeli nielen čítať, ale aj napísanému rozumieť, tak by ste si všimli napr. úvodzovky a nekydali na mojich predkov, ktorých mám v otcovej línii doložených do r. 1460.

  12. Avatar Yorick 26. februára 2010 / 0:55

    Morse, a čo je na tom, že upozorňujem na článok, ktorému nerozumiem? Veď si stačí pozrieť tie grafické doplnky a človek sa veľmi ľahko dovtípi, o čo tu ide. A okrem toho – nebol som úplne presný – isté najakútnejšie základy maďarčiny predsa len ovládam. Navyše, hoci je to smutné konštatovanie, iba ťažko možno od Maďarov očakávať, že vyprodukujú netendenčnú a objektívnu prácu, ktorá sa na národné dejiny Slovákov bude pozerať asertívnym spôsobom. A neviem-neviem, či ten tvoj „civilizačný regres“ sa netýka skôr duševného stavu maďarskej spoločnosti, príslušníci ktorej si, mimo iného, ostentatívne lepia na svoje automobily ŠPZ-ky s mapou Uhorského kráľovstva, ktoré (definitívne) zaniklo v roku 1918. Tebou zmienenú citáciu nejakého maďarského extrémistu (“Bodrí slovenskí rodáci si skonštruovali jazyk, ´zohnali´ k nemu krajinu, ukradli štátny znak a vycucali z prsta vlastné dejiny“) sa mi bridí aj komentovať. Jasne to ukazuje, aké úbohé vedomosti máš o krajine, v ktorej žiješ. Ale to je pre teba a všetkých tebe podobných symptomatické.

  13. Avatar sex offender map 9. augusta 2013 / 3:28

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