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A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival Paperback – September 15, 1996

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

When Czechoslovakia split into two separate nations in 1993, the world shrugged. Compared with the reunification of Germany and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the creation of Slovakia and the Czech Republic was a minor political development. However, for Slovaks, their independence came after centuries of dominance by other nations. Kirschbaum (political science, York Univ.) has given the Western world the first popular history of Slovakia. Up until now, readers-and libraries-have had to make do with Jozef Lettrich's History of Modern Slovakia (Praeger, 1955) or Kirschbaum's own hard-to-find Slovak Politics: Essays on Slovak History (Slovak Inst. of Cleveland, 1983). Kirschbaum traces the development of Slovak culture from the Great Moravian Empire of the eighth century through the Middle Ages and Hapsburg rule. A Slovakian national identity finally emerged in the 1700s, and Kirschbaum skillfully chronicles the political fortunes of the 19th and 20th centuries. The impact of the world wars and Communist rule is balanced by the exhilaration of the democratic revolution in 1989 and the Slovaks' subsequent autonomy. This is a rich historical work, diligently researched (there are over 600 footnotes) and compellingly written. An important contribution to the literature on Eastern and Central Europe, it is highly recommended for academic or large public libraries.
Thomas Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, Pa.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Kirschbaum has given the Western world the first popular history of Slovakia...This is a rich historical work, diligently researched and compellingly written. An important contribution to the literature on Eastern and Central Europe...." - Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (September 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312161255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312161255
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,546,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 18, 1997
Format: Hardcover
One has to hand it to Stanislav Kirschbaum; He has successfully written the first all-encompassing history of Slovakia in the post- communist era, no small task when Slovak history is as complex and multi-faceted as it is. The scope of his research and factual grounding is impressive, and his writing stlye is entertaining enough, for a history text. However, it is very easy to tell that Mr. Kirschbaum has an extremely biased pro-Slovak view of the nations history, especially as regards Slovakia's involvement in World War II and the Holocaust. Astute readers will pick up references to a Jozef Kirschbaum who was, for a short time during the war, a government official in Slovakia; This Jozef Kirschbaum is presumably a close relative of the author's, due to the fact that the author has edited a book in memory of Jozef Kirschbaum. Still, all in all, an indispensable book for students of Slovak history.
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66 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Matyola on October 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am a Slovak-American and a Rusyn-American. As such, I have stongly mixed feelings about this book.
It is the only currently available attempt to chronicle the complete history of the Slovak people. In many parts, it is superb. It exudes a sense of pride for a culture that has often been ignored or undervalued, even by the Slovaks themselves and their children and grandchildren.
This made it even harder for me to accept the anti-Czech bias of this book and its efforts to justify and lionize Tiso, who was the pro-Nazi dictator of Slovakia during World War II.
Certainly, the Czechs have looked down on their "little brothers" in Slovakia from time to time. Had the Slovaks not joined with the Czechs after WWI to form Czechoslovakia, however, they would undoubted have remained as part of Hungary, and their culture might have disappeared entirely. Kirschbaum considers Czechoslovakia as a Czech attempt to dominate the Slovaks, and the goal of a completely independent Slovakia as the only acceptable outcome of Slovak history. It is still far from clear that Slovakia is better off on its own, rather than as part of a democratic Czechoslovakia.
Most troubling of all for me was Kirschbaum's defense of Father Josef Tiso, who took power in Slovakia with Hitler's blessing after Germany created the "Protectorate" of Bohemia and Moravia. Under Tiso, Slovakia colaborated with the Nazis to keep the appearance of being an independent state. This was justified, according to the author, because it meant that the Catholic Slovak majority could have control of their own country for the first time in history.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on February 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
My desire to learn about this obscure Central European country over-rode my hesitancy ... a hesitancy which stemmed from potentially being over-whelmed with names, dates, and historical events of which I knew litte. Not being a historical buff yet wanting to learn, I forged ahead. Fortunately, the writing style of the author allayed my concerns with the first few chapters which set the pace for a comfortable reading experience.
Starting at the beginning, Greater Moravia was the region's name in the 900s (A.D) which was a vassal of the German Frankish empire. The Slavic nobles and people resented this relationship from which territorial disputes arose along with new winners. The area was called Pannonia under the Roman Empire. In 907 A.D. the Magyar tribes conquered the ruling German Franks. The Magyars settled in the region, having an intimate relationship with the Slovaks until the 20th century. Of note, the Slovaks maintained their Slavic language and culture despite this apparent and at times very real domination by another people. Under the Magyars, there was a form of autonomy allowing the separate culture to propigate. Numerous monarchs rose to power and forged political alliances adding to the volatility of the region. The future survival of both Hungary and Slovakia were placed constantly at risk. The author does a superb job of describing political decisions and alliances which affected the direction of the future -- which form the basis of current events. During the Middle Ages, various wars with the Germans and Mongolian invaders eventually brought the reigning Hungarian monarchs to the forefront of both countries. The Ottoman victory in Mohacs, Hungary in 1526 led to the partition of Hungary.
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34 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Edward Bosnar on June 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a relatively easy-to-read book, as Kirschbaum largely avoids the oblique and dry writing style that characterizes so much of contemporary historiography. "A History of Slovakia" provides a something of a good summary of Slovak history (from a decidedly Slovak point of view), with reference to the major historical events and personalities considered important by the Slovaks. But that's about as far as it goes. Kirschbaum is a political scientist, not a historian - this means that he depends almost exclusively on the works of other mainly Slovak historians, with little critical analysis of primary sources. The latter is particularly true of everything preceding the 20th century. Therefore, in the chapters dealing with the Middle Ages and the Great Moravian state, Kirschbaum very uncritically and rather naively states that a "Slovak national consciousness" had already developed by the 10th century. Most historians, sociologists, etc. tend to agree that it's generally questionable to speak of anything resembling the modern notion of national consciousness before the late 18th century. This sets the tone for the entire book, as Kirschbaum views Slovak history as having a theme, i.e. the Slovak nation's "struggle for survival" (the book's subtitle) and everything is viewed through this prism. This is an almost exclusively political history, and a rather middling one at that. When dealing with the last 70 or so years of Slovak history, when the country was a part of Czechoslovakia, Kirschbaum dwells on Slovakia's inferior political (and economic) position and the (often exaggerated) hegemony exercised by the central government in Prague. Also a bit disturbing is his treatment of the independent Slovak state that existed from 1939 to 1944 as an Axis ally.Read more ›
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