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Interview with Slovak journalist Rudolf Sivý: "Extremist" is not the four-letter word it once was

19.7.2016 16:03
Rudolf Sivý. (PHOTO: personal archive of Rudolf Sivý)
Rudolf Sivý. (PHOTO: personal archive of Rudolf Sivý)

Slovak journalist Rudolf Sivý, who covers human rights, nationalism and political extremism, is interviewed in the June edition of Romano voďi magazine, where he says the term "extremist" is no longer the epithet it used to be in Slovakia. In the interview, he discusses how a particular ultra-right party made it into the Slovak Parliament, how radicalization of society happens, and what role the media plays - a discussion that is very instructive for the Czech Republic as well ahead of next year's elections.

Q: In what direction do you believe public debate in Slovakia is shifting when it comes to concepts like nationalism, patriotism, radicalism?  

A: In my view we are returning to the past. Right now the situation is very similar to how those concepts were perceived at the beginning of the 1990s, when we began a new era as an independent, democratic state. In those days there were very strong nationalist groups active in Slovakia, such people could usually be seen walking down the street. It was not a pleasant time. Today we have neo-Fascists even in Parliament, and at the same time their rhetoric is becoming a kind of standard, something that is not as worthy of condemnation now as it used to be. Mentally, therefore, we have moved about 20 years backwards. The question, on the one hand, is why, and on the other hand, whether this development will keep going in the same direction, i.e., perhaps moving back 70 years into the past, or whether we can succeed in reversing it.

Q: Are you referring to the Fascist period in Slovakia?   

A:  There is no doubt that we find the roots of this in the Fascist Slovak State. The extremists in the Slovak Parliament make no secret of that. This is not, of course, connected directly with Fascism, but is part of Slovak history. If I were to compare it with the Czech Republic, it's the same thing that's going on with [singer] Daniela Landa, with his "Žito" persona, his nostalgia for heroic deeds, for liberation, for the Middle Ages. In Slovakia, these are the same people who fought the cops on the streets during the 1990s. Exactly those guys are now in Parliament. Their intellectual world has not developed since then - they've just learned not to wear their uniforms in public, and in their twisted world they are exploiting, paradoxically, precisely the tools of democracy in order to work against democracy.    

The full interview is available in Czech only in the print edition of Romano voďi (June 2016). You can order a copy online at

Lenka Jandáková, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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