Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Perceptions of Slovak Politicians and Their Discursive Reification at the Celebrations of the Slovak National Uprising in 2016 1

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Perceptions of Slovak Politicians and Their Discursive Reification at the Celebrations of the Slovak National Uprising in 2016 1

Article excerpt

Introduction

National holidays related to days marking significant historical events and the public celebrations of these holidays form an important research terrain for the study of current political processes. Holidays and their celebrations do not only serve as a remembrance of a (more or less glorious) past, they are a fundamental mechanism that serves to preserve the dominant political and normative order. Suitable and desired perceptions of events such as the Slovak National Uprising (SNU)2 play an important role in national mythology also because they create and eternalize specific cultural notions, thus strengthening political order. This is because political order is supported by references to a suitably organized past - something every ideology (ergo the basis of political order) needs in order to look natural3.

"All national histories, although they seem to have taken place in the past, actually deal mainly with the present and perceive the past through the prism of interpretations required by the present."4

A convenient past can be used to justify various political steps and decisions5 made by politicians, who shield their efforts behind references made about glorious histories. And, because historical events can be interpreted in different manners, they can be used to legitimize often contradicting political demands - something we deal with in the article below.

SNU is without a doubt one of the most significant events of Slovak national history and mythology. It plays a crucial role in public debate and holds large significance for contemporary political order6. SNU and its celebrations play an important role in the symbolic affirmation of Slovak statehood by referring back to former successes. Thus, it is possible to refer to arguments made by Ernst Gellner7, who claims that states and nations to a large degree artificially (re)construct their past while highlighting potential successes and attempting to evoke the appearance of an "old-timeyness" and glorious national history.

In addition to the events themselves, the observance of these events is also important for the dominant political order. Then former (and now again incumbent) Prime Minister Robert Fico proclaimed that 2008 was a year for strengthening Slovak national identity. In one of his most recent interviews, he confirmed this stance by stating that he and other political representatives were attempting to express their attitude toward Slovak history by participating in public events. By making these statements, he defined the line along which political representatives would become active in the process of commemorating and canonizing selected events in history, e.g. via their presence at public events related to these historical events (or national myths)8. Fico does in fact regularly attend a whole array of public events that are related to various aspects of Slovak history - e.g. their relations with Hungary, the origin of Slovak statehood, or the legacy of the WWII-era Slovak State and the Slovak National Uprising9. All of this can be reflected in the collective identities of post-communist Slovakia10.

The aim of this paper is to provide a complex dramaturgical analysis of the celebrations of the 72nd anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising (SNU) that took place on August 29, 2016 in Banská Bystrica, the center of the uprising. The city is also home to the Museum of SNU, and it holds an extensive annual day-long celebration with an accompanying cultural program that often takes place over the course of several days. Data for the analysis was constructed via semi-participant observation of these celebrations. Our analysis has been carried out in two main lines. The first is the line that we will call organizational, and the theoretical-methodological tool for carrying it out will be E. Goffman's dramaturgical analysis. In this line, we will focus on factors such as the technical organization of the event, its security measures, the memorial ceremony, the formal elements of speeches given by attendees, or the actual selection of the speakers themselves. …

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