Role of language in formation of the nation: example of Slovak language

Specialists from Glebov translation agency are always glad to translate documents from Slovak or into Slovak. It can be the translation of diplomas into Slovak or translation of the documents from Slovak: reports, registration or setting up documents, agreements etc. Our specialists prepared this article in order to show how interesting and unusual the Slovak language is, and also to show how important it is to learn Slovak on your own or at the specialized courses. It is also very important to understand that the development of the language is closely connected with history, culture and political establishment of the nation.

Language is one of the most powerful elements of national identification, especially in Europe - both in central and in eastern. In this region of Europe, the language often was the only weapon to fight against austro-hungarian imperialism. The example of creation and establishment of Slovak language - that is an example of the language identification function, and also of the role played by the language in formation of the nation.

The creation of the Slovak language at the same time activated political, cultural and religious factors. To some extend the political or the language factors participated in the creation of the Slovak nation; the cultural factors favored to creation and spreading of specific works connected with the national idea; religious factors had a huge religious meaning, as Slovak language became the language of catholic church opposing itself to Czech used by protestants. To what extend does the Slovak language participated in formation of the Slovak nation?

Birth of Slovak language

For Slovak historian Lubomir Liptak the birth of SLovak nation is dated by year 1797, when a book written by Anton Bernolak - Dissertatio philologico – critica de litteris Slavorum - was issued. That was a first book devoted to Slovak language. The Slovak scientific society set up in Trnava in 1792 actively supported this initiative. This society not only systematized the Slovak language, but also identified the Slovaks as a separate and autonomous nation.

In Slovakia the representatives of national idea were not connected with aristocracy, they were from simple people. These people met and integrated the democratic principles more easily and freely, but exactly these people were the main obstacle in development and establishment both of Slovak language and of Slovak culture, as the Slovak society of those times were extremely exfoliated and a huge split between the catholics and protestants weakened that movement.

This exfoliation also hid the real purpose of using language in Slovakia: Czech was used by protestants and poets; the priest and linguist Jan Kollar and Slovak Anton Bernolak and also the catholics - all of them based on the dialect of western Slovakia.
Liptak: 'The accepted written language, set up by Anton Bernolak, became the equivalent of recognition of the identity of Slovaks in the family of Slovak nation'
The faith of protestants to Czech can be explained besides other by the sentimental reasons, as the protestant priests were adhered to so called biblictina; for them this language symbolised Czech and the Czechoslovakian concept of protection from magyars. This language also was used by Church that had been suffering under suppression within three centuries, in this case the language became the distinctive sign of the minority.
As for Kollar goes for him Czech and Slovaks were the one nation within the frames of one Slavic family. And for many Czechs, e.g. for Josef Dobrovsky, the "father" of Czech national renaissance, the Slovaks were the part of Czech nation.

A lot of supporters of Slovak development showed the tendencies to "Czechoslovakian" unity. Kollar was inspired with Herder ideas and was charmed with Slovak nation, together with Pavlo Jozef Safarik, "apostle of Slovak independence" - as he was named by Antoune Mare - and partisan of linguistic and language unity of Czech and Slovakia, inclined to so-called compromise - to create the literary "Czechoslovakian language" basing on the principles of Czech and Slovak, but this idea was unacceptable for both parties.

In 1830 the Slovaks had to face with national development of Hungarians, the Hungarian language became to assert itself, that was a kind of reaction on the tries of Vienna germanization in administrative, judicial and even religious sphere.

Bratislava lyceum was the heart of cultural life of protestants, as exactly here the reactive movement was born as a reply to magyarisation. Starting from 1803 it was offered to learn Czechoslovakian language and literature here, and the students of the lyceum themselves in 1829 set up the Czechoslovakian society. The very origin of national renaissance became more and more powerful: now here participated not only Slovaks such as Kollar or three other important figures of Slovak policy of 1840s: Michal Miloslav Hodža, Jozef Miloslav Hurban and Ludovít Štúr, - also Czechs participated in this movement, e.g. František Palacký. Štúr was one of the key figures of the modern Slovakain history: philosopher, historian, linguist, writer, publicist, pedagogue, diplomet, but first of all, as he was described by Lubomir Liptak, "the political mind". His ideological arsenal reflected his epoch and Russo and Hegel ideas were widely used there. His interpretation of Hegel historical development resulted into the conclusion that Slavic studies are the historical future.

In 1842 Štúr and his friends turned with petition to Metternich demanding the protection from magyarisation, but it did not give any results. He also understood, that Slovak unity should result from language unity. To form the literary language the dialect from central Slovakia was chosen. Štúr and his friends started to work, society Tatrin, Slovensky narodni novyny and almanac Nitra became the main vectors of this new language.

For Štúr this linguistic battle became the political one, as now all the Slovaks had so-called tribune giving them an opportunity for self-expression. It was much more easier to create a Slovak language as there were no prestigious history, and there was a lack of urban population and the elite and bourgeois representatives were too weak.

Ludovit Štúr and the political programme

Ludovit Štúr combined effort with his friends in Saint-Nicolas in Liptov, where he proclaimed and announced on the 11th of May, 1848 the most important text from Slovak epoch: "Requirements of Slovak nation". This is the text, where four main requirements are being proclaimed, and this text may be considered to be the first political programme. The Slovaks required the complete national recognition on the background of magyarisation. The reaction of Hungarians was rather negative as they considered these actions a provocation, so they issued an order to arrest Štúr, Hurban and Hodža, who ran to Czech. Despite the intimidation from Hungarians the movement did not stop and on the 19th of May in Miava the Committee announced the separation of Slovakia from Hungary and came into open fight against armed forces of Hungary.

The representatives of National Council in March of 1849 turned to young Francois-Josef with a request to form the autonomous Slovak land with appropriate bodies subordinated directly to Vienna. But this petition was left on paper.

At the end, when the Hungarian revolutionaries in July, 1849 came to agreement of important rights of national minorities, the tsar forces were almost exhausted.

Starting from 1849 the Slovaks had to resign themselves to the same regime of dictatorship as Hungary. And just starting from 1859 a certain from of constitutional system opened the doors to new era. The voices started to raise to require the autonomy of Slovakia; Štefan Marko Daxner refused in his brochure named Voice of Slovakia, and turned to representatives of Slovak policy with the thesis of political unity of Hungarians and appealed to admission of Slovak Unity; in reply on the 6th and 7th of July the Memorandum of Slovak nation was proclaimed, the base of which was political and territorial recognition of Slovak people.

The institutes, protestants Slovak lyceums were opened in Revuts in 1862, in Martyn in 1867, and in Klashtor under Zhniev in 1869. But the defining element was the establishment Matika slavatska, that in 1863 celebrated the thousands years from the date of arrival of Kiril and Mefodiy to Grand Moravia. This establishment, with its patriotic, cultural and scientific actions, with its publications became the partisan in Slovak issue. Unfortunately, these cultural acquisitions were not accompanied by political success.

There are two main directions: one fought for autonomy and grouped around the edition Pešt’budínské vedomosti that later were named Národni Noviny, and later formed the National Slovak party; others supported the union with Budapest.
The followers of Memorandum were mainly Slovaks, the turning point was 1874-1875.

The creation of Slovak language became the determinant in formation of Slovak nation instead of Austro-Hungarian empire, exactly from the moment when the Czechoslovak Republic was set up in 1919 the Slovak language started to develop and established itself as an independent one. Finally the situation was solved on the 1st of January, 1993 when the Czechoslovak Republic was separated into two independent countries, when the Slovak language and the Slovak nation were distinguished on the background of other nations and unity. But one of the results after separation of Czechoslovak Republic was rather unexpected: even if the Czech and Slovak are analyzed as two separate languages, an unbelievable mutual understanding is developed among the nations, but this understanding is disappearing with the development of Czech and Slovak. Quite probably in several decades the new generations of Czechs and Slovaks will have difficulties communicating with each other.

The usage of Slovak language in Slovakia is a political issue. Slovak is an inseparable element to form the Slovak nation. The Slovak language for a long period of time was considered to be the tool of political fight with Hungarian monarchy and establishment of Slovak identity on the background of Czech neighbour, that is why the language issue is still an actual issue.

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