8
Slovak Exceptionalism

MIROSLAV KUSÝ

The 'Slovak question', or the question of 'Slovak exceptionalism', became the focus of domestic and foreign analyses of the process of disintegration of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic a long time before 1 January 1993. The inevitability of the break-up, the impossibility of further coexistence between Czechs and Slovaks, was argued in many cases on the very basis of this 'exceptionalism'. Slovakia was too different, it was claimed: it was oriented in quite a different direction from the Czech Lands; Slovaks were too different from Czechs, and so their joint state was only an artificially and forcibly maintained entity, incapable of an independent and democratic life.

At the time stereotypes abounded relating to the specific position of Slovakia and of the Slovaks in the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. Some of these stereotypes described reality truthfully, but only superficially, while others distorted or simply contradicted reality. Many of these stereotypes dated back a long way – as can be seen in the case of the 1943 study of the Slovak national character by a well-known Slovak professor of psychology, Anton Jurovský.1

Jurovský analysed primarily the psychological side of the Slovak character, and specifically the allegedly higher degree of emotionality or over-sensitivity of the Slovak national character. He came to the conclusion that 'emotionality', i.e. the ability to experience emotions, was greater in Slovaks than in the case of other ethnic groups. 'It is a sign of a higher emotional 'stimulativeness', of a higher sensitivity, which means that the subject needs relatively fewer stimuli to put all of his emotional life in motion… This emotional vitality also becomes emotional expressiveness, i.e. the ability to manifest emotions by gestures, by speech and by other actions. Slovaks are quite outstanding in all of these respects.'2

According to Jurovský, the so-called 'legend of Jánošík' (very similar to the Robin Hood legend) had a special influence on the Slovak national character:

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