“Borders on the Move: a Look at Southern Slovakia’s Tumultuous 20th Century” was the subject of an evening lecture at the Slovak Embassy on June 15 sponsored by Friends of Slovakia and the Slovak American Society of Washington DC (SASW). Professor Leslie J. Waters of Randolph-Macon College addressed a full house audience of SASW and FOS supporters. She described the dramatic changes in the Slovak-Hungarian border in 1918 and again in 1938, 1939 and after World War II.
Prof. Leslie Waters receives M.R. Stefanik mug from FOS Founding Chairman Ted Russell
Prof. Waters provided the political context for these changes and described the dramatic impact on local populations suddenly finding themselves ruled by a radically different political regime. Members of the audience, including some who had lived through World War II in Slovakia, had a chance to ask questions and then socialize with Dr. Waters after the lecture.
Prof. Waters, SASW President Brian Belensky, Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.), Dr. George Mesko.
Left to Right: Katarina Csefalvayova, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of the Slovak Republic; Lucas Parizek, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic; Peter Kmec, Slovak Ambassador to the U.S., ; Tod Sedgwick, former U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia; Vince Obsitnik, former U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia, display the Pittsburgh Agreement document.
During this special anniversary year of 2018, a number of events have been held, most recently in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., commemorating the historical events of 100 years ago. The major event, a gala reception commemorating the ‘Pittsburgh Agreement’ was held on May 31 in Pittsburgh, at the Heinz History Center. It was organized by the Slovak and Czech honorary consuls and the embassies of both countries. Nearly 300 attendees and guests heard from local officials and Czech and Slovak government officials commemorating and interpreting the event that took place 100 years ago in downtown Pittsburgh. There, Prof. Thomas G. Masaryk met with representatives of the Slovak-and Czech-American communities to endorse an agreement that Slovaks and Czechs would support the formation of an independent republic following the end of World War I and the dissolution of the Hapsburg Empire. From this ‘Pittsburgh Agreement’ and a number of other keys events, the nation of Czecho-Slovakia (or Czechoslovakia) emerged. The resulting nation experienced both a glorious and torturous path within Europe throughout the middle of the 20th century (1918-1992).
Slovak Ambassador to Washington Peter Kmec was honored at a Friends of Slovakia farewell reception hosted on May 19 by FOS Treasurer Dr. Eva Jenkins and her husband Robert in their lovely home in Great Falls.
40 guests including FOS and Slovak American Society of Washington members feasted on American BBQ fare with a “touch of Slovakia”. FOS Vice Chairman Ken Bombara presented an elegant tray with an American flag motif to Ambassador Kmec and wished him and his lovely spouse Monika, away in Europe on that date, Godspeed and great future success. FOS Founding Chairman Ambassador Ted Russell (Ret.) then presented Ambassador Kmec with the FOS Medal of Honor for his distinguished service in building ties of Slovak-American cooperation and friendship. Ambassador Kmec responded with a summary of some of his objectives in Washington extending back to his time as Slovak Deputy Chief of Mission when he was instrumental in gaining US Senate support for Slovakia’s 2004 NATO membership bid and moving forward to his successful efforts as Ambassador to increase commercial, political and military security ties between Slovakia and the USA, including extensive travels around our country.
On May 4 at the Slovak Embassy, Ambassador Ted Russell (Ret.) discussed his experiences as Deputy Chief of Mission in Czechoslovakia during and after the 1989 Velvet Revolution and then as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia after the 1993Velvet Divorce. He described the role of U.S. diplomacy during these turning points in Czech and Slovak history and the U.S. Embassy’s interaction with Czech and Slovak leaders, including Václav Havel and Vladimír Mečiar. Ambassador Russell emphasized how the Communist government in Czechoslovakia, which lacked public credibility and the promise of Red Army support, simply dissolved in the face of growing, massive demonstrations beginning November 17, 1989. He then described the bumps in the road towards democratization during Meciar’s leadership of newly independent Slovakia after the 1993 Velvet Divorce. He underscored how the popular vision of rejoining Western democratic institutions, including the EU and NATO, helped buffer some of Mečiar’s autocratic tendencies and opened the way to successful reform efforts once Mečiar left office in 1998.
Prof. James Krapfl then discussed the Slovak transition. He pointed out that most studies of revolutions ignore their most important actors: the citizens, without whom a democratic system of government cannot (by definition) be created. He explained how citizens across Slovakia took myriad concrete steps in 1989 and the early 1990s to create a democratic political culture. He pointed out the social, geographic, and temporal patterns in the revolutionary process, explaining how and why the joyous sense of unity that characterized 1989 gave way to frustration, factionalism, and in some quarters despair—though never to the point of Slovak citizens becoming incapable of concerted action for the sake of the public good. He described how the civil society forged in the Slovak revolution of 1989 has proved remarkably resilient, enabling the country to overcome repeated crises since becoming independent 25 years ago, and setting it apart from its neighbors.
Video of Amb. Ted Russell’s talk
Video of Prof. James Krapfl’s talk
Ambassador Theodore E. Russell (Ret.) served 36 years as a Foreign Service officer, including postings in Prague during the 1968 Prague Spring and Warsaw Pact invasion, and as Deputy Chief of Mission during the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He then served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia 1993-96. Since 2001, he has served as Founding Chairman of Friends of Slovakia, a non-profit organization of volunteers promoting U.S.-Slovak friendship.
Prof. James Krapfl teaches modern central and eastern European history at McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of Revolution with a Human Face: Politics, Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992 (Slovak edition 2009, English edition 2013), which won the George Blażyca Prize for the best book of 2013 in East European studies, and the Czechoslovak Studies Association Prize for best book of 2013-14 in Czech and Slovak history. He earned his Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted research in over 50 local, regional, and national archives in the Slovak and Czech Republics.
Ambassador Peter Kmec has dutifully served Slovakia and its citizens for nearly 30 years. Since September 2012, he served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the United States. Now, it is time to say farewell and godspeed to Ambassador Kmec and his wife at a reception held in his honor.
At A Reception In Their Honor At the Home of Eva and Robert Jenkins
Saturday, May 19th 3– 6 pm 606 Kentland Drive Great Falls, VA 22066
On April 21, Dr. Leff shared her insights about the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968 and the role of the issue of Czech-Slovak institutional relations. She argued that the federalization that survived the Prague Spring had an impact in 1989 … Continue reading →
A wreath laying ceremony was held on March 8 commemorating the 168th anniversary of the birth of the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. Remarks were made by Czech Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek, Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec, AFoCR President Tom Dine … Continue reading →
The Year 2018 is a special anniversary year for Slovakia, with celebrations commemorating the events of 100, 50 and 25 years ago. The Slovak Embassy kicked off the year’s celebrations with a special reception held in Washington, D.C. on January 19 in the ornate Members’ Room of the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill. The focus of the reception was on the 25th anniversary of Slovakia’s independence, when it split from the former Czechoslovakia in 1993, and its remarkable achievements in terms of integration with Europe and transatlantic institutions, as well as strong bilateral relations with the U.S. under the theme, Together for Freedom and Democracy. At the same time the events that led to the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 following WWI were commemorated, along with the spirit of freedom and democracy displayed during the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968.
Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec led the celebration and spoke of the Slovakia’s struggles and achievements on the road to independence. He acknowledged the support of a number of American individuals and organizations, including Friends of Slovakia, the Slovak fraternal organizations, the Slovak League and many others. Also giving remarks at the event were the co-chairs of the Congressional Slovak Caucus, Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and Peter Visclosky (D-IN). In addition, remarks were provided on
behalf of the U.S. State Department by Matthew A. Palmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Following the event, the publication Diplomatic Connections (Mar-Apr issue) published an excellent interview with Ambassador Kmec that summarized Slovakia’s achievements in the past 25 years, and also provided some nice photos of the Capitol Hill event. See this link and turn to page 14 for the story.
Dr. Pavol Demeš celebrates publication of a revised edition of his excellent book “Friend-Partner-Ally” in a book launch sponsored by Ambassador Adam Sterling at the US Embassy in Bratislava on February 6.
A link to the book launch and to the pdf version of the book is attached. Friends of Slovakia sponsored a well-attended talk by Dr. Demeš on US-Slovak relations entitled “Slovakia and the United States: The Ties that Bind” at the Slovak Embassy in Washington onNovember 13.”
On Monday, November 13, 2017 Pavol Demeš, a well-known Slovak expert on international relations and civil society, author and photographer, spoke about “Slovakia and the United States: The Ties that Bind” at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Washington D.C. The event was co-sponsored by Friends of Slovakia (FOS) and the Embassy of the Slovak Republic. The evening affair was attended by an inquisitive audience including members of FOS, the Embassy, think tanks and US government agencies. FOS President Joe Senko presented Pavol Demeš with a custom-made General Rastislav Štefánik coffee mug at the conclusion.
Pavol Demeš’ personal observations included how Slovakia, as a respected member of the European Union and the Visegrád Group, is doing today both domestically and in its foreign relations. He also covered a variety of societal trends and key challenges faced by Slovakia including in the areas of education and the judiciary. Pavol Demeš assessed the current state of Slovak – United States relations in today’s political environment and concluded by positing what could be done to improve these relations via enhanced contacts. Audience members posed at least a dozen excellent questions to which he provided thoughtful and eloquent responses. The evening ended with a wonderful reception of goulaš and knedle, orechovnik for dessert and, of course, delicious Slovak Wine.
About the presenter: Pavol Demeš served in the Slovak government, first at the Ministry of Education and later as Minister of International Relations (1991-92), and then as Foreign Policy Advisor to Slovak President Michal Kováč (1993-97). In 1999 he was awarded a six-month public policy research fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. From 2000 until 2010 he was the Director for Central and Eastern Europe of the German Marshall Fund of the United States based in Bratislava. Since then, he has been a non-resident Senior Fellow with German Marshall Fund and board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. In 1998 he received the EU-US Democracy and Civil Society Award and in 1999 the USAID Democracy and Governance Award. In 2011 he was awarded a Medal of Honor from the Friends of Slovakia and in 2017 he received the Czech and Slovak Transatlantic Award.
Pavol Demeš with Terezia Filipejova with the Slovak Embassy
(left to right) Martina Hrvolova, Terezia Filipejova, Sharon Fisher, Carrie Slease
(left to right) Dr. Sharon Fisher of FOS, Pavol Demeš, Carrie Slease of IJM
Amb. Ted Russell of FOS with Martina Hrvolova who works with the Center for International Private Enterprise
(left to right) Joe Senko, Pavol Demeš, Ted Russel, Amb. Tod Sedgwick