29 August, Slovak Republic: Anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising (Výročie Slovenského národného povstania)

Celebrated on 29 August, this anniversary marks the beginning of the Slovak National Uprising in 1944.

18th Anti Aircraft Artillery Batery, that took part in Slovak National Uprising in autumn 1944 (Wikimedia Commons)

This was a failed insurrection against the Hitler-allied “independent” wartime Slovak state and its leader, Jozef Tiso, Catholic priest and head of the Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party (HSĽS- Hlinková slovenská ľudová strana).

While partisan guerilla forces and some other scattered resistance movements had been engaging in limited operations throughout Slovakia, the Uprising was a formal military plan born out of an agreement by the Czechoslovak government in exile and the partisans operating in the country.

The forces of the Uprising consisted of deserters from the Slovak army, who in turn joined partisan groups or division of the Red Army, as well as some other existing resistance groups. Headquartered in central Slovakia, the operations included several armored units as well as the eastern portion of the Slovak Air Force.

The Uprising, which was supposed to receive support from nearby allied troops, started on August 29th and was crushed by German occupation forces and SS reinforcements within the next two months. Despite the quick defeat, forces of the Uprising continued small campaigns and guerilla actions until the end of WWII.

Symbol of national unity

In the months leading up to the Slovakia’s officially-declared independence on 1 January, 2003, the anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising was chosen as the National Day of the Slovak Republic.

The day was chosen as a symbol of national unity and as a moment when Slovaks across all strata of society joined together against dictatorship; however, not all share this particular view of history.

Because the communist regime had embraced the symbol of the Uprising and had emphasized its anti-fascist/pro-communist nature, some felt the commemoration to be out-of-place in a new democratic Slovakia.

Furthermore, certain members of the political establishment felt the Uprising to be somewhat anti-Catholic in nature, since it fought against a government founded in Catholic doctrine. In reality, the Uprising had partly been a popular revolt against the German forces in Slovakia, but to some, the rebellion had been anti-fascist, anti-clerical and pro-communist.

Just as there had been multiple motivations for supporting the Uprising in 1944, there appeared numerous interpretations of the event after the fall of the communist regime.

Political use

Especially because of the intense communist connotations of the event found across Slovak society, many politicians steered clear of connecting themselves with this holiday, ignoring commemorations and abstaining from the vote concerning the official nature of the anniversary.

Other politicians, especially the Catholic nationalists, actively denounced the Uprising commemoration in public speeches.

Despite objections, significant political will was found to pass the anniversary of the Uprising as the National Day of the Slovak Republic. The Anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising invited additional controversy to the fledgling Slovak government, but this controversy did not extend much beyond the walls of government.

Even with its status as an official National Day, it is not a day to which a majority of people in Slovakia hold a large emotional attachment.

Published Aug. 24, 2010 12:02 PM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2010 2:48 PM