Local Communities and Post-Communist Transformation: Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia

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period around independence (in January 1993) inevitably affected SZOPK too. In response to leadership and policy changes the majority of the more active groups and sections within SZOPK broke away and founded independent environmental organisations. Some, however, given the loose organisational structure which SZOPK adopted after 1989, found sufficient space within the organisation to retain an affiliation. This applies to the Bratislava organisation, some centres of environmental education and the Alternative Energy Fund. 3 But during this era SZOPK increasingly lost its role and authority as the figurehead of Slovak environmentalism, particularly among the young, and for the first time one can speak of new environmental organisations which do not owe their origins to SZOPK. This process of pluralisation was aided by the increasing activity of established international organisations such as Greenpeace in Slovakia, and the increasing dependence of the NGO sector as a whole on foreign sources of funding during the Mečiar era.

Today SZOPK has practically ceased to exist as a nation-wide organisation. It survives in the form of several regional or local branches engaging mostly in traditional forms of nature protection and environmental education. 'New' environmental NGOs are much more popular, ambitious and influential. Ironically, many of these have their roots in SZOPK. It is for this historic role, as the agent of first pre-revolutionary social and civic mobilisation and then post-revolutionary organisational transformation within the emerging NGO sector, that the Slovak Union of Nature and Landscape Conservationists, and especially its Bratislava branch, merits scientific consideration and public acknowledgement. For the same reasons it also shares the blame for the absence of a truly modern, self-confident and influential environmental movement in Slovakia today. The prospects for environmentalism seemed very good in 1989, given the debt owed by the 'velvet revolution' to the ideals and the human potential of pre-1989 conservationism (and in particular to the community within and around SZOPK). But instead of being the symbolic launchpad for fulfilment of this potential within a wide social and political context, November 1989 was 'stolen' from the environmental movement and retrospectively imbued with a range of significations among which the desire for a 'greener' future no longer figures prominently.


Notes
1
A second NGO, Strom Života (Tree of Life) was formed in 1979 as a youth organisation oriented towards organising conservationist brigades and environmental education, but without an overall conception of the environment as a problem, let alone a political issue.
2
A lengthy, painstakingly researched document published in 1987, summarising the environmental problems of the capital city region, as well as touching upon its social and cultural 'ecology', Bratislava/nahlas represented an indictment of

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