Slovakia Constitution Day

September 1st is celebrated in Slovakia as Constitution Day, commemorating the creation and adoption of the country’s first constitution after gaining independence in 1993. The Slovak Constitution established the framework for the nation’s parliamentary democracy and outlined the structure, rights, and guiding principles of the newly formed government. This foundational document cemented the country’s sovereignty following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.

Slovakia Constitution Day

The adoption of their constitution was a pivotal moment in Slovakia’s history. This article will provide an overview of Constitution Day, the history leading up to it, the significance of the constitution, and how Slovaks celebrate this important holiday.

The Path to an Independent Slovakia

Background on Czechoslovakia

  • Formed in 1918 after WWI, joins lands of Czechs and Slovaks
  • Slovakia remains less developed than the Czech lands
  • Calls for reform and autonomy for Slovakia grow post-WWII
  • In 1968 the Prague Spring is crushed by Soviet invasion

Drive for Slovak Sovereignty

  • Slovak national aspirations increase in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Dissent grows calling for democracy and Slovak independence
  • In 1989 the Velvet Revolution peacefully overthrows communist rule
  • Czechoslovakia peacefully splits into 2 independent states on January 1, 1993

First Democratic Elections

  • Slovakia holds its first free democratic elections in June 1992
  • Vladimír Mečiar becomes Prime Minister, leads Movement for a Democratic Slovakia
  • The Constitution is drafted by Mečiar’s government in Summer 1993

September 1st, 1993

  • The constitution is approved by the Slovak National Council
  • With its ratification, Slovakia’s independence is affirmed
  • Mečiar signs the constitution at Bratislava Castle, it becomes law

Purpose and Structure of the Constitution

The constitution defines Slovakia as a sovereign, democratic, and law-abiding state grounded on principles of equality and human rights. Key elements include:

Outlining Government Structure

  • Establishes Slovakia as a parliamentary republic
  • Dictates a unicameral National Council as the sole constitutional and legislative body
  • Defines the roles and limits of the President, Cabinet, and Prime Minister
  • Sets qualifications, term lengths, and parameters for elections

Protecting Freedoms and Rights

  • Guarantees civil rights like religion, speech, press, assembly, and privacy
  • Bans discrimination and upholds equal treatment under the law
  • Affirms rights of ethnic minorities like Hungarians and Roma
  • Abolishes the death penalty and protects human dignity
  • Allows citizenship for Slovaks living abroad

Guiding Foreign Policy

  • Declares neutrality and bans hosting foreign military bases
  • States intentions to integrate into European and transatlantic institutions
  • Allows transfer of powers under international treaties and alliances

Amending the Constitution

  • Permits amendments with 3/5 vote of parliament members
  • Prohibits amendments restricting sovereignty or democratic principles
  • Sets process for nationwide referendums on amendments

Impact and Importance of the Constitution

The constitution had profound effects on Slovakia:

Affirming Independence

  • Enshrined sovereignty and self-determination of the Slovak nation
  • Prevented reversal back to a Czechoslovakia union
  • Provided continuity despite later changes in government

Legitimizing Democracy

  • Established Slovakia as a democratic republic
  • Set ground rules for democratic institutions and elections
  • Protected political rights and multiparty system

Reflecting European Aspirations

  • Expressed desire to integrate with Europe for security and identity
  • Led to 2004 entry into NATO and European Union
  • Signaled commitment to European values and standards

Strengthening Rule of Law

  • Made constitution highest law, supersedes all other laws
  • Defined separation of powers and checks and balances
  • Ensured judicial independence and civil rights

Limiting Extreme Nationalism

  • Tempered ethnic nationalism by protecting minorities
  • Committed to principles of equality and human dignity
  • Moderated earlier stances favoring greater Slovak autonomy

Celebrating Constitution Day

Constitution Day is celebrated as a public holiday with various events centered around this history-altering document:

Official State Ceremonies

  • The President, Prime Minister, and other officials attend functions in Bratislava
  • Speeches and wreath laying ceremonies are held at monuments to the constitution
  • The original signed copy is put on public display at the Slovak National Museum

Town Festivities

  • Municipalities organize community concerts, fairs, and social gatherings
  • People dress in traditional Slovak attire for parades and festivals
  • Reenactments depict the medieval coronation of Slovak kings and queens

Family Observations

  • Many Slovaks celebrate at home with special meals and family gatherings
  • Children often receive gifts of sweets, fruits, books, and school supplies
  • Families discuss the meaning of democracy and their national heritage

Patriotic Displays

  • Citizens fly the Slovak flag outside homes, businesses, and on vehicles
  • Public buildings, monuments, and lamps are decorated with flags and wreaths
  • People wear clothing with symbols of the country to show national pride

For Slovaks, Constitution Day commemorates their establishment as a modern democratic nation rooted in ideals of equality, justice, and liberty. The constitution remains the foundation supporting Slovakia today.