Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Local Practice

By C. M. Hann | Go to book overview

Chapter 14

'Socialism is dead' and very much alive in Slovakia

Political inertia in a Tatra village 1

Peter Skalník

The sudden demise of socialism and of the unconstrained rule of communist parties in Central Europe was something nobody could predict. The November 1989 revolution in Czechoslovakia was mainly the work of urban masses (see Holy, this volume) and it was at first hardly understood and welcomed in the countryside. Especially in Slovakia, people were suspicious and doubted its meaning. Under the long rule of a Slovak president, Dr Gustáv Husák, their living standards had improved steadily and there was little for them to complain about; even the Government's policy towards the Roman Catholic church had softened during the 1980s. But to understand what ordinary rural people in Slovakia really felt about the revolution and the direction their society has taken since 1989, there is no better method than a close examination of a particular community.

In 1991 the northern Slovak village of Šuňava could still create an impression of prosperity. From a distance it forms a long string of mostly recently built houses, with some as yet unfinished large houses on the outskirts suggesting considerable affluence. There are two churches and at each end of the village one can see the large and well-equipped agricultural centres of the Unified Peasant Cooperative Šuňava. The village is surrounded by rolling fields, meadows, and forests, with a breathtaking view of the nearby high Tatra mountains. It is accessible on three paved roads and lies only 6km from the E85 highway, and 9km from the train station. Frequent bus connections allow villagers easy access to the regional centres, and also to the High Tatra national park.

Out of 421 permanently inhabited houses in 1980, more than half were built after 1961 and three-quarters after 1946. All of these houses are classified, with the exception of the presbytery, as family houses, and were built by the families themselves, with the help of relatives and friends. The more recent houses tend to be large and comfortable, many have interior toilets and central heating, and almost all have television (including many colour), refrigerators, and washing machines. A significant number of households own private motor vehicles. According to data from the last census taken in 1980, out of 1,742 permanent residents in the village, 910

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