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A young country that Slovakia is, celebrates its Constitution today. Why does it matter so much that it was declared a public holiday?

It is easy to forget that the Constitution is the bedrock of the young Slovak democracy, the foundational law on which all the other laws maintaining order in the country are built. It is the highest law in the land.

Let us take a look at the constitutional history of Slovakia.

Slovaks received their first constitutional law in 1849 in the aftermath of the wave of revolutions that swept through Europe demanding basic human and national rights of people on the old continent. It was short lived and certainly not shaped by Slovaks, yet it was a historic first.

The constitutional development continued with the Czechoslovak Constitution of 1920, one of the most progressive constitutions on the planet.

However, bourgeoning democracy was crushed in 1939 when Czechoslovakia was broken up and the ‘independent’ Slovak State was founded on the territory of Slovakia.

This country was far from sovereign. A vasal of Hitler, its government presided over the holocaust and other tragic policies. This is a dark chapter of Slovak history and a blemish on its constitutional record.

After the Second World War, the Communist Party took power in Czechoslovakia in a bloodless coup in 1948 and democracy in the heart of Europe received another hit. Several amended constitutions were passed during the Cold War.

Democracy returned to the country after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Constitution reflected that. But the days of Czechoslovakia, a nation state of Czech and Slovaks, were counted.

When it was clear that Czech and Slovak Federative Republic would be dissolved, talks began about the construction of the legal system of the soon to be independent Slovakia.

The first draft of the new constitution was ready in the summer of 1992. It was discussed at the historic meetings of leading Czech and Slovak political representatives in Brno on August 26th. The meeting was crucial as the Czech and Slovak prime ministers definitely decided to that the joined republic that was a home to Czechs and Slovaks for nearly 7 decades would cease to exist on January 1st, 1993.

The foundational document of independent Slovakia went through a number of rounds of discussions, consultations and re-drafting to be finally approved by the Slovak Parliament on September 1st, 1992. Two days later, it was signed by President Michal Kovac and Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar in the Knights' Hall of Bratislava Castle, where the royal coronation jewels of the Kingdom of Hungary were kept.

In honor of the new Constitution, 21 artillery salvos were fired and fireworks were held on the Danube embankment. The Constitution of the Slovak Republic entered into force on October 1, 1992.

The road of democracy in the heart of Europe was long and perilous. It is reminder that democracy and freedom is not to be taken for granted. That is also why September 1st was declared a public holiday.

The birthday of modern Slovak democracy is certainly an occasion to celebrate!

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