The Republic of Slovakia is an independent country in Europe. Its capital, largest city and main industrial center is Bratislava.
Slovakia is known for its numerous and impressive mountain ranges. Many of the country’s mountains give way to rolling hills and river valleys, where agriculture, winemaking, and livestock raising are practiced. Slovakia’s mountainous terrain has also influenced settlement patterns within the country.
The Carpathian Mountains, a major mountain system of central Europe, extend across much of northern and northwestern Slovakia. It contain the country’s highest peak, Gerlachovský Štít, which rises to an elevation of 2,655 m.
Southwestern Slovakia is dominated by the Danubian Lowlands, a fertile region that extends to the Danube River on the Hungarian border. Much of the country’s agriculture is produced in this area.
Slavic tribes settled near the Danube in the area that is now Slovakia during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. In about 623, Samo, a Frankish merchant, organized these tribes into a kingdom that also included tribes from other parts of central Europe. Samo ruled over this Slavic kingdom until his death in 658. Beginning in the early 9th century, Slavic tribes of two different principalities, Morava and Nitra, were united by a Slavic chief known as Mojmír I and ruled as a new state, the Empire of Great Moravia. In the beginning of the 10th century, Magyar tribes from Hungary invaded the region and conquered the empire. Slovakia remained under Hungarian rule, in different forms, for nearly 1,000 years.
In the 1400s a period of religious wars began in the Czech regions of Bohemia and Moravia; many Czech nobles fled the fighting and settled in the territory of Slovakia. Between 1438 and 1453 a Czech noble controlled much of southern Slovakia. In 1526 the Ottomans defeated Hungary at the Battle of Mohács. While much of Hungary fell under Ottoman domination, Slovakia and the remaining parts of Hungary came under the control of the Habsburg dynasty. Slovakia became the center of Hungarian culture and politics, with Bratislava (then called Pozsony) serving as the Habsburg capital. Under Hungarian rule, Slovaks were pressured to give up their language and cultural identity and become Hungarian. Mainly rural, landless peasants, the Slovaks had little economic status and virtually no role in the political life of Hungary.
During the 18th century, a Slovak national movement was founded with the aim of fostering a sense of national identity among the Slovak people. Advanced mainly by Slovak religious leaders, the movement grew during the 19th century. A key component was the codification of a Slovak literary language by Anton Bernolák in the 1700s, and the reform of this language by L’udovít Štúr the following century. Hungarian control remained strict, however, and a large Slovak movement did not emerge until the 20th century.
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