Situated in the heart of Europe on political fault lines running north to South and East to West, Slovakia's history has been typified by invasion, occupation, ideological struggles and a burning desire for self determination. Since independence in 1993, it has enjoyed rapid economic growth and political crises, yet has emerged to join the EU and NATO, and will shortly embrace the Euro as its currency. Thanks to the era of budget airlines it is attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and has a fascinating indigenous culture. Consequently, a well researched and scholarly account of its complex history should be a cause for rejoicing and on some levels it is: Kirschbaum clearly knows his country and offers a sound account of the Slovak people from earliest times including many of its more notable personalities and national events. One can imagine referring back to the book to check dates or to refresh one's memory about the complex and sometimes bitter debates which have surrounded the direction of the Slovaks. Nonetheless it is difficult to wax lyrical about this volume principally because its whole argument is seen through the prism of nationhood. Clearly the desire for an independent state has been central to the aspirations of the Slovak people for centuries, but so have their economic prosperity, culture, and daily life. Kirschbaum has very little to say about the lives of ordinary Slovaks over the centuries, about the lot of women or the character of the diverse regions. This focus becomes a liability as massive events like World War I or the 1968 uprising are given no more than cursory attention, as they are not central to the independence agenda. The worst chapter of the book is Kirschbaum's vacillating account of the Slovak state `under the German sphere of influence' during World War II where the issues of collaboration and the country's role in the `final solution' are acknowledged, but not explored with anything like the necessary depth and analytical rigour.
Yet ultimately I want to be positive about this book: Slovakia is a country well worth learning more about-buy this book use it as a starting point for an exploration of a fascinating land, but don't take this volume as the last word: better works will come in future years.
Good book and one of the few in the English language speaking about Slovakia, but this isn't the book for a tourist wants to visit since it goes into an extensive amount of detail. If you're someone interested in the history of this part of the world, a reasonable knowledge of Hungarian history would be recommended before purchasing this book. But overall the book was quite worth it to understand the history of the Slovak People.
This is a very thorough work but unfortunately it is not impartial: the author has far too much sympathy for the Nazi puppet state, and his attempts to try to apologise for its role in the deportation of Jews and others to the death camps are both transparent and offensive. The basic historical material may well be accurate, but the obvious bias prevents this being a book that could be recommended.