Political Rituals in Post-communist Slovakia

Focusing on political symbolism, I will analyze how the representation of Slovakia and its citizens is constructed in both internal and international context. The images of country, nation, or state, as well as various forms of their symbolic representations are created mainly by so-called “cultural elites”. The aim of my lecture is to identify the maintenance of and ruptures in the construction of self-images and stereotypes in the sphere of political memory, rituals, and mythology. I shall focus on major trends, such as the effort to “populate” Slovak history with hero-martyrs and the constant prevalence of self-critical approaches to the Slovak national identity building. Successful reconstruction of political memory has been accomplished through organized collective remembering and forgetting. Within these processes, Slovaks’ attempt to redefine their national identity by manifesting the symbolic representation of their state in the form of official state symbols (coat of arms, flag, or anthem); and by establishing state holidays and memorial days that manage, in a concentrated ritual way, to express the basic political values of the official regime.

I shall concentrate on the situation in the field of political symbolism in Slovakia, especially in the area of setting state holidays, in connection with the division of Czechoslovakia. The basic sources for the analysis are the legislative norms, prevailing trends in public discourse and records of the parliamentary discussions of the relevant legislation. The centre of controversial interpretations lies in symbols and the parties involved in public discourse, which organize a ritualized defense of their positions through manifestations, meetings, petitions, open letters, and strikes.

Wednesday 12 November, at 14.15, room 706, Niels Treschows building

Professor Silvia Mihalikova, PhD, is director of the Institute of European Studies and International Relations, director of the UNESCO Chair for Human Rights Education, and vice-dean of the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences of Comenius University in Bratislava. Since 2003, she has also been guest professor at the Institute of Political Science, Vienna University. She has written the following books: Between Cross and European Star. Political Symbolism in Slovakia (LIT, Munster, 2004), Political Culture and Civil-Military Relations in Slovakia (Harmonie Papers 11, Centre for European Security Studies, Groningen, 2000), Democratic Political Culture – Dream or Reality? The Case of Slovakia after 1989 (Essex University Press, 1995). She is also co-author of a number of other publications.