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HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF SLOVAK SERBIA?

Updated: Apr 3


Just like Slovaks in North America, Slovaks in the Balkans also created a ‘Little Slovakia’ for themselves in what was then known as the Lowlands of the Kingdom of Hungary.

We had the great privilege to visit the Slovak communities in Vojvodina, Serbia and experience first-hand the nearly 300 year-old Slovak settlements.

We invite you to learn about this fascinating Slovak heritage.





Let’s start at the beginning. Why did Slovaks settle in present-day Serbia?


To find the answer, we have to go back in time to the 17th century. Much of the Balkans was devastated and exhausted by the prolonged war with the Ottomans Empire. When the Ottomans were eventually pushed out of central Europe and much (but not all) of the Balkan area, parts of the Kingdom of Hungary were depopulated, destroyed and in need of people to work the land.

Slovaks from the mountainous northern regions of Upper Hungary were attracted to the fertile, but now empty lowlands by the policies of Empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph. The trend was encouraged and supported even a century later.

And so those adventurous or desperate enough took a leap of faith. Entire families moved from Slovakia to the fertile ‘Lowlands’ of the Empire.



However, the call of the Balkans was heeded especially by those seeking religious freedom. Protestants had a difficult life in Upper Hungary during the 17th and 18th centuries, due to the Catholic pushback. As a result of their religion, considered ‘new’ at the time, they had to face prejudice and even persecution.

When push can to shove, many opted to choose a life of religious freedom away from Upper Hungary. The southern regions of the Kingdom were much more tolerant.

The first Slovak settlements in Serbia was founded in Bacsky Petrovec in 1745. It did not take long for more and more families to relocated and the community grew in strength and size. Soon, Slovak schools, churches and even theaters came into being.

A ‘Little Slovakia’ was indeed rising in the Balkans.


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HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF SLOVAK SERBIA?

Just like Slovaks in North America, Slovaks in the Balkans also created a ‘Little Slovakia’ for themselves in what was then known as the Lowlands of the Kingdom of Hungary.

We had the great privilege to visit the Slovak communities in Vojvodina, Serbia and experience first-hand the nearly 300 year-old Slovak settlements.

We invite you to learn about this fascinating Slovak heritage.

Let’s start at the beginning. Why did Slovaks settle in present-day Serbia?

To find the answer, we have to go back in time to the 17th century. Much of the Balkans was devastated and exhausted by the prolonged war with the Ottomans Empire. When the Ottomans were eventually pushed out of central Europe and much (but not all) of the Balkan area, parts of the Kingdom of Hungary were depopulated, destroyed and in need of people to work the land.

Slovaks from the mountainous northern regions of Upper Hungary were attracted to the fertile, but now empty lowlands by the policies of Empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph. The trend was encouraged and supported even a century later.

And so those adventurous or desperate enough took a leap of faith. Entire families moved from Slovakia to the fertile ‘Lowlands’ of the Empire.

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However, the call of the Balkans was heeded especially by those seeking religious freedom. Protestants had a difficult life in Upper Hungary during the 17th and 18th centuries, due to the Catholic pushback. As a result of their religion, considered ‘new’ at the time, they had to face prejudice and even persecution.

When push can to shove, many opted to choose a life of religious freedom away from Upper Hungary. The southern regions of the Kingdom were much more tolerant.

The first Slovak settlements in Serbia was founded in Bacsky Petrovec in 1745. It did not take long for more and more families to relocated and the community grew in strength and size. Soon, Slovak schools, churches and even theaters came into being.

A ‘Little Slovakia’ was indeed rising in the Balkans.

The community in Vojvodina was so significant it attracted a number of leading Slovak men and women of the time. Writers, scholars, poets, diplomats, activists and priests alike flocked to Vojvodina to leave their permanent mark there. The movement of people back and forth, was followed by an exchange of goods and ideas that flowed between the high and lowlands of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire. Magyarisation was also weaker here and so the Slovak community in Vojvodina could mature and develop its own strong sense of identity.

WW1 and the fall of the Kingdom of Hungary led to a redrawing of national boundaries on the Old Continent. This is how and why -Slovaks in Slovakia and Slovaks in Vojvodina found themselves all of a sudden living in different countries. Czechoslovakia and Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes replaced the Old Empire. Yet, the flourishing Slovak community in Vojvodina continued. The first grammar school was established, alongside with the first publishing house.

When WW2 broke out, matters took a turn for the worse, as they did for everyone on the continent. After the war, Czechoslovakia turned communist and Yugoslavia had a special arrangement with the Soviet Union. While it was much easier for Slovaks to travel to Yugoslavia compared to the Western world, it was far from a walk in the park and contact between the two countries started to weaken. Moreover, Slovaks in Serbia had to also face assimilation attempts, during a time when Yugoslavia aimed to create a coherent ‘Yugoslav’ identity and nation. However, the future looked optimistic when Slovaks in Vojvodina -gained the status of an autonomous region in 1970s.



However, the Balkan wars of the 1990s wreaked havoc on the country and once again disrupted the centuries old ties between Slovaks in Slovakia and Slovaks in Serbia. Until today, Slovaks in Vojvodina feel that they are ‘forgotten’ by Slovaks in Slovakia and Slovakia as a whole.

Yet, they continue to nurture their Slovak identity that they are proud of. The difficult developments of the 20th century meant that Vojvodina Slovaks created a unique expression of Slovak culture – ornamental, colorful and distinctively different from Slovak folk culture in Slovakia.

What the community struggles with today is the departure of countless Vojvodina Slovaks who head to Slovakia first to study, and then to work. Others explore even further horizons, building on the legacy of their forefathers who ventured as far as Canada and Argentina in the first half of the 20th century.

This is what we experienced during our visit.




Less and less young people are choosing to stay in Vojvodina. The community grapples with not enough support coming from their original homeland – political, economic or cultural. Indeed, the Office for Slovaks Living Abroad that made our tour of Vojvodina possible, and the dedicated individuals within the organization, do what they can to channel money, books and activities into the community and its many organizations, schools, centers, newspaper and book publishers.


The passionate members of the Vojvodina always seem to find a way...

Global Slovakia was honored to contribute with our work – bringing the history Slovakia and the personalities that helped to shape her, to Vojvodina’s children and youth.



Due to disrupted ties with Slovakia on a whole, Vojvodina pupils and students have little space available to them to explore the fascinating history of their motherland. It was joy and pleasure to talk to them about the key events of Slovakia’s fascinating past and about the outstanding Slovak men and women made that history happen.

At the Etno Dom (Ethno House) in Silbas, we assisted with planting of two beautiful Linden trees and had the pleasure to receive genuine gratitude from teachers and community leaders throughout our stay.



Seeing the children’s eyes sparkle as they reconnected with their motherland through our books that were also donated to their schools, thanks to the support of the Office for Slovaks Living Abroad was truly priceless.



We would also like to thank all the Slovak media in Vojvodina that helped to spread the word not just about our visit, but about the mission of Global Slovakia.

We hope to return to Slovak Serbia soon, and we are already plotting plans to help you discover more of this unique Slovak heritage in the Balkans.






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