100 years of freedom – Anniversary of the Declaration of the Slovak Nation
Posted On 2. August 2019
Today’s TripTip is going to be a bit unusual and it’s an event for which you’ll have to wait probably another 100 years! On the occasion of the centenary of Czechoslovakia and the independence of our nation, we visited Martin to celebrate the Declaration of the Slovak nation!
Although you can no longer participate in this event, we think, that this event is held on such an important occasion that we need to turn it into an article! In the morning at 11 pm we set off by car on our way to Martin. Even at the entrance to the city there was a festive mood. The Slovak flags were hung around the city and there were tricolors everywhere, many cops were moving around the city and we passed around a black limousine on which hood the flag of Kazakhstan fluttered in the wind. And only for this one day were along the roads guidance boards referring to a single event – Celebrations of 100 years of Czechoslovakia.
After following these signs, we got to the city center, where we were guided by city police. Although they did not allow us to park in the VIP parking area reserved for the armed forces, apparently did not believe our version that we are military veterans, but despite the initial failure we managed to find a suitable parking space and went to the square, the heart of the celebration.
First, let us say something about the reason for celebrating this day. Before the establishment of the first Czechoslovakia, the Slovaks have lived not freely in the Kingdom of Hungary for nearly 1000 years! The whole millennium is an incredible and very respectable fact, as the Slovaks managed to maintain their culture even after all these years. Especially when their national rights and the right to self-determination have been largely suppressed by the Hungarians as the dominant nation in the Kingdom of Hungary for the last 150 years. Almost since the demise of Great Moravia, we did not have our own state department in which we could emancipate freely. The only exception was a small light at the end of the tunnel, which was the empire of Matúš Čák Trenčianský, which in the 14th century gave the Slovaks the opportunity to live in isolation from the Hungarian population in the Kingdom of Hungary for some time. However, all this was only the beginning, because in the 19th century heavy Magyarization came (the process of Magyarization of the Slovak population). Even though another light of hope appeared in the form of establishment of Matica slovenská, which you can see in the photo below, as well as the opening of three Slovak grammar schools, but this light also went out in a few years. Slovak language could not be taught in schools, Slovaks did not have the right to pursue their own national interests and were often persecuted. Remember, for example, the issuance of the arrest warrant for Ľudovít Štúr, the closure of Matica slovenská, and the fact that Hungarian ganders went to young T. G. Masaryk with bayonets when laying wreaths on Kollar’s grave. Perhaps the last nail in the coffin of the Kingdom of Hungary by the Slovaks was the Černová massacre, when the gendarmes shot 15 people because they refused their own church to be consecrated by Hungarian priests. They wanted their church consecrated by their priest, Andrej Hlinka. On this day many Slovaks notionally broke up with the Hungarians.
And so it came to the fact that on October 30, 1918, the highest national leaders and Slovak intelligence gathered in Martin, officially at a meeting of the Slovak National Party, but unofficially they came to establish the Slovak National Council and decide on further direction. On this festive day, a document was signed in the Tatra bank building by the President of the Slovak National Council Matúš Dula and thus the Slovaks gave their last goodbye to the Kingdom of Hungary. In this document, based on the right of self-determination of each nation, we declared independence from the monarchy and declared our state together with the Czechs. And not only that, but in the declaration itself, which, according to the city in which it was sighn is called also Martin Declaration, they thought not only about our nation but also about all of humanity. And here we would like to paraphrase this part of the Martin Declaration about the Slovak Nation:
… so that it could evolve according to his own character and contribute according to his strength to the general progress of mankind.
It was this sentence that explained the idea of the independence of the Slovaks was based not only on their own desire for freedom, but also on our will to contribute and participate in our progress on mankind development.
The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Declaration was attended by various international guests, but above all by the highest constitutional officials of the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic. The program began at 11.00 with a commemorative act of laying wreaths just to the aforementioned Tatra Bank building, where this important document was signed leading to the annexation of Slovakia to Czechoslovakia. Later, the program continued with the ceremonial arrival of Czech and Slovak soldiers. A zigzag corridor was formed among the people, through which they solemnly marched and with them the honor guard of the Slovak Republic. The honor guard is also a component of the armed forces, but it is mainly used for ceremonial purposes and also guards at the presidential palace. At least I personally was very happy about this, as the uniforms of our honor guard are probably the oldest of us and our neighboring countries. They are created on the basis of uniforms used by the Slovak Volunteer Army in the Slovak uprising against the Hungarians from years 1848/1849. Their blue-white combination and a wide black hat with a white bird pen can be recognized from afar. They tend to be armed with sabers or rifles with bayonets (bayonets at the end of the rifle). On this solemn occasion, the honor guard carried the flags and banners of the Czechoslovak legions who fought for our state before it was formed.
Before the program itself started, started to rain – first just a little bit, later a little more. It was a pity, as many people decided to leave rather than participate in the celebrations. But as we saw in the smiles of Czech soldiers facing us, we think that they probably did not worry about it. The program began with a ceremonial flight of Slovak military helicopters, Mil Mi-17 of Russian production and UH-60 Blackhawk of American production. It was a very interesting association to the history of our state, where we could observe how we have always stood between East and West.
The opening flight was followed by the beginning of the ceremony. A large Slovak flag was projected on the big screen, and the choir on the stage began singing our national anthem. Surely you can hear it on TV, in the radio, find it on Youtube, but only when you hear it being sung by more than a 50-member choir you get cold chills.
After the Slovak anthem, Czech anthem was sung as well and then the program was opened by the President of the Slovak Republic Andrej Kiska with his speech. This was followed by another presidential speech and the Czech Republic’s President Milos Zeman took the stage, who after his speech received the greatest applause among all the speakers and even thrown some jokes. The Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, and the Chairman of the National Council of the Slovak Republic Andrej Danko, also spoke to the audience. It was during his speech that there was a small incident, when a group of three young men began to shout abusively after him, disrupting the high standard of this event. One may have an opinion on politics, but to express it on event like this, which aims to celebrate and commemorate the emergence of our state with the Czechs, is not really correct and defeats the idea of the event itself and what Czechoslovakia represented.
The whole event, however, was not only about speeches, but also Slovak music played there. For example, we could listento Terchová music, but also something more serious, such as the song About the native land (O rodnej zemi), sung by Peter Dvorský. At the end of the event came a military volley of cannons, which took place on the outskirts of Martin, but the sounds of it came to us. The biggest culmination of the whole event, however, should be a group flight fleet MiG-29 aircraft, which in the sky should “paint” our Slovak tricolor, as it once did the Slovak aerobatic group White Albatrosses. Unfortunately, the fighters arrived even before the presenter managed to introduce them, they did not create our flag in the sky and even they made only one flight, so some people may not even see them.
Although the event has come to an end, but despite the fact that it has welcomed us with rain, it was cold, the wind was blowing and the weather was not good, a few rude people created political action, rather anti-political, and fighters that were supposed to be a cherry on the cake were not even seen properly (but they were heard a lot), people did not leave disappointed. When leaving, people could see joy and friendliness. The clouds broke and the last rays of October began to shine on the crowd in the square. Despite everything, there was a very happy atmosphere, some parents spoke to children about Štefánik, others talked with humor that the pilots were flying like crazy, and others were watching with astonishment the gentleman who had steadfastly kept the Slovak flag from the beginning and he continued to walk with it proudly among the people so that they could all see the tricolor on which the double cross stands on the three hills. We must admit that we felt really as if we had gone back 100 years. Apparently such an atmosphere prevailed in that afternoon at Martin Square. Sincere, friendly and finally free…
Matej is a talktive person who comes from city which used to be known as “the pearl on the Váh river”. We are talking about the Žilina city! This beautiful agglomeration is surrounded by spectacular Slovak nature and plenty of old mediavel castles. Enviroment he grew up in became an object of his fascination and inspired him in interest of a local culture and history, as well as the history of his lovely Slovakia. These factors made Matej to becomes a guide at the nearby Budatín castle. Thanks to his passion you could be looking for the right amount of historical and interesting facts in articles written by him. He likes to stare at the country from the heighest floor of the 32 meters tall tower of Budatín castle, but much more he prefers literally sky views as he is a pilot. That’s why you would wait for some pictures of sights taken from the sky he writes about in his interesting reviews!