The German Marshall Fund (GMF) held a roundtable discussion on, “Trends in Central Europe: Addressing Liberal Democracy” on Sept. 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. The event featured former Slovak Ambassador to the U.S., Rastislav Káčer, who served from 2003-2008. Amb. Káčer currently serves as Chairman, GLOBSEC-Bratislava, a non-governmental organization promoting transatlantic relations and values. The session featured a presentation of recent GLOBSEC public opinion research by Amb. Jakub Wiśniewski, former Polish Ambassador to the OECD, and currently GLOBSEC Vice President and Director of the GLOBSEC Policy Institute. Comments were also provided by GLOBSEC President Robert Vass, and the roundtable was moderated by GMF Senior Fellow Johnathan Katz. FOS Board members Ken Bombara and Richard Marko attended the session along with numerous government, embassy, and NGO representatives.
Kenneth Bombara, Amb. Kacer, Martina Hrvolova, and Richard Marko
The GLOBSEC survey covered a representative sample of the population in the ‘V-4’ countries (Czech Rep., Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) during the period Feb/Mar 2018. The survey asked a number of questions about perception of the EU, NATO, Russia and other topics and issues. The data show a complicated picture across the V-4 countries when it comes to these topics. For example, a significant percentage of citizens in the V-4 see their geopolitical position as ‘somewhere between East and West’ with many preferring the West. Slovaks overall however, are showing a slight lean to the East recently, compared with their V-4 neighbors. Slovak youth (aged 18-24) in contrast are substantially leaning away from the East recently. While a bare majority of Slovaks overall perceive the EU as ‘good thing’, Slovak youth are more positive about it. While only 50% of Slovaks would vote in a referendum to ‘stay in NATO, percentages have increased in 2018, particularly among Slovak youth. The GLOBSEC study provides a range of intriguing and nuanced insights and findings. The transatlantic community of nations is facing many challenges. Amb. Káčer believes that increased engagement by the E.U and U.S. will be essential to effectively address current trends in Central Europe and strengthen transatlantic bonds.
Friends of Slovakia (FOS) again this year was one of the sponsors of this Center for European Policy Analysis CEPA Forum concerning security issues involving particularly Central Europe, NATO and Transatlantic cooperation. This year the CEPA Forum was organized under the auspices of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group (Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Hungary & Poland) and included presentations by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak and Slovak Ambassador to Washington Ivan Korcok. A number of FOS Board members and supporters attended. FOS is pleased to draw your attention to this excellent summary of the Forum presentations prepared by CEPA, the leading think tank in Washington with respect to Central European and Baltic security issues.
The Slovak American Society of Washington, D.C.
Friends of Slovakia present:
“The American Formation of Czecho-Slovakia: the Cleveland Agreement and the Pittsburgh Pact”
by Prof. Gregory C. Ference, Salisbury University
Saturday, September 29th, 2:00 pm
Columbia Pike Branch Library
816 South Walter Reed Dr.
Gregory C. Ference is a professor of history at Salisbury University in Maryland. He received his BA in history, with a certificate in Russian and East European Studies, from the University of Pittsburgh. He holds an MLS, an MA, and a PhD in East European History from Indiana University in Bloomington, concentrating on Czechoslovakia, its predecessor, and successor states. While at Indiana, he was the assistant Slavic bibliographer, and currently, is the secretary-treasurer of the Czechoslovak Studies Association.
Admission is free, but RSVP is required, by 11 pm, Wednesday, September 26th, to firstname.lastname@example.org
With the outbreak of war in 1914, American Slovaks started looking for alternatives to remaining in Austria-Hungary. They eventually settled on an independent Czecho-Slovakia, but were afraid of assimilation by the larger Czech population in such a state. In October 1915, representatives of American Czechs and Slovaks met in Cleveland in order to end such fears and adopted an accord that called for Slovak autonomy in a joint republic. Yet, concerns remained. In May 1918, Tomáš G. Masaryk, the leader of the Czecho-Slovak liberation effort visited Pittsburgh. The American Slovaks wanted him to sign the Cleveland Agreement to allay their apprehensions about the joint union. Masaryk, however, believed it out of date and then wrote, to replace it, what became known as the Pittsburgh Pact. Although the leaders of the American Czechs and Slovaks enthusiastically endorsed the agreement, it soon caused much discord in the new Czechoslovakia.
“Borders on the Move: a Look at Southern Slovakia’s Tumultuous 20th Century” was the subject of an evening lecture at the Slovak Embassy on June 15 sponsored by Friends of Slovakia and the Slovak American Society of Washington DC (SASW). Professor Leslie J. Waters of Randolph-Macon College addressed a full house audience of SASW and FOS supporters. She described the dramatic changes in the Slovak-Hungarian border in 1918 and again in 1938, 1939 and after World War II.
Prof. Leslie Waters receives M.R. Stefanik mug from FOS Founding Chairman Ted Russell
Prof. Waters provided the political context for these changes and described the dramatic impact on local populations suddenly finding themselves ruled by a radically different political regime. Members of the audience, including some who had lived through World War II in Slovakia, had a chance to ask questions and then socialize with Dr. Waters after the lecture.
Prof. Waters, SASW President Brian Belensky, Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.), Dr. George Mesko.
Left to Right: Katarina Csefalvayova, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of the Slovak Republic; Lucas Parizek, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic; Peter Kmec, Slovak Ambassador to the U.S., ; Tod Sedgwick, former U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia; Vince Obsitnik, former U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia, display the Pittsburgh Agreement document.
During this special anniversary year of 2018, a number of events have been held, most recently in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., commemorating the historical events of 100 years ago. The major event, a gala reception commemorating the ‘Pittsburgh Agreement’ was held on May 31 in Pittsburgh, at the Heinz History Center. It was organized by the Slovak and Czech honorary consuls and the embassies of both countries. Nearly 300 attendees and guests heard from local officials and Czech and Slovak government officials commemorating and interpreting the event that took place 100 years ago in downtown Pittsburgh. There, Prof. Thomas G. Masaryk met with representatives of the Slovak-and Czech-American communities to endorse an agreement that Slovaks and Czechs would support the formation of an independent republic following the end of World War I and the dissolution of the Hapsburg Empire. From this ‘Pittsburgh Agreement’ and a number of other keys events, the nation of Czecho-Slovakia (or Czechoslovakia) emerged. The resulting nation experienced both a glorious and torturous path within Europe throughout the middle of the 20th century (1918-1992).
Slovak Ambassador to Washington Peter Kmec was honored at a Friends of Slovakia farewell reception hosted on May 19 by FOS Treasurer Dr. Eva Jenkins and her husband Robert in their lovely home in Great Falls.
40 guests including FOS and Slovak American Society of Washington members feasted on American BBQ fare with a “touch of Slovakia”. FOS Vice Chairman Ken Bombara presented an elegant tray with an American flag motif to Ambassador Kmec and wished him and his lovely spouse Monika, away in Europe on that date, Godspeed and great future success. FOS Founding Chairman Ambassador Ted Russell (Ret.) then presented Ambassador Kmec with the FOS Medal of Honor for his distinguished service in building ties of Slovak-American cooperation and friendship. Ambassador Kmec responded with a summary of some of his objectives in Washington extending back to his time as Slovak Deputy Chief of Mission when he was instrumental in gaining US Senate support for Slovakia’s 2004 NATO membership bid and moving forward to his successful efforts as Ambassador to increase commercial, political and military security ties between Slovakia and the USA, including extensive travels around our country.
On May 4 at the Slovak Embassy, Ambassador Ted Russell (Ret.) discussed his experiences as Deputy Chief of Mission in Czechoslovakia during and after the 1989 Velvet Revolution and then as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia after the 1993Velvet Divorce. He described the role of U.S. diplomacy during these turning points in Czech and Slovak history and the U.S. Embassy’s interaction with Czech and Slovak leaders, including Václav Havel and Vladimír Mečiar. Ambassador Russell emphasized how the Communist government in Czechoslovakia, which lacked public credibility and the promise of Red Army support, simply dissolved in the face of growing, massive demonstrations beginning November 17, 1989. He then described the bumps in the road towards democratization during Meciar’s leadership of newly independent Slovakia after the 1993 Velvet Divorce. He underscored how the popular vision of rejoining Western democratic institutions, including the EU and NATO, helped buffer some of Mečiar’s autocratic tendencies and opened the way to successful reform efforts once Mečiar left office in 1998.
Prof. James Krapfl then discussed the Slovak transition. He pointed out that most studies of revolutions ignore their most important actors: the citizens, without whom a democratic system of government cannot (by definition) be created. He explained how citizens across Slovakia took myriad concrete steps in 1989 and the early 1990s to create a democratic political culture. He pointed out the social, geographic, and temporal patterns in the revolutionary process, explaining how and why the joyous sense of unity that characterized 1989 gave way to frustration, factionalism, and in some quarters despair—though never to the point of Slovak citizens becoming incapable of concerted action for the sake of the public good. He described how the civil society forged in the Slovak revolution of 1989 has proved remarkably resilient, enabling the country to overcome repeated crises since becoming independent 25 years ago, and setting it apart from its neighbors.
Video of Amb. Ted Russell’s talk
Video of Prof. James Krapfl’s talk
Ambassador Theodore E. Russell (Ret.) served 36 years as a Foreign Service officer, including postings in Prague during the 1968 Prague Spring and Warsaw Pact invasion, and as Deputy Chief of Mission during the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He then served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia 1993-96. Since 2001, he has served as Founding Chairman of Friends of Slovakia, a non-profit organization of volunteers promoting U.S.-Slovak friendship.
Prof. James Krapfl teaches modern central and eastern European history at McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of Revolution with a Human Face: Politics, Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992 (Slovak edition 2009, English edition 2013), which won the George Blażyca Prize for the best book of 2013 in East European studies, and the Czechoslovak Studies Association Prize for best book of 2013-14 in Czech and Slovak history. He earned his Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted research in over 50 local, regional, and national archives in the Slovak and Czech Republics.