Development of Slovak Public Diplomacy in the Post-Independence Period

Development of Slovak Public Diplomacy in the Post-Independence Period

Alexander Marchukov (Southern Federal University, Russia)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8392-9.ch004
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The chapter is devoted to the history of public diplomacy development in Slovakia after independence. The process is seen non-linear and can be divided into two stages. The first stage covers a period since joining Slovakia the EU, and public diplomacy is characterized by using traditional methods of cultural diplomacy, advocacy, international broadcasting. At this stage, public diplomacy practices were a reflection of national debates over the European identity. The second stage lasts from 2001 to the present day and focuses on new approaches to the country promotion (e.g., nation branding). Public diplomacy activities were influenced mainly by efforts of the Slovak government to reinvent the national identity during this period. As it is discussed, Slovakia should invest more in cultural and digital diplomacy nowadays, so it could help the Slovaks not only improve relations with neighbors, but also contribute to the development of their national identity.
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After the collapse of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, some countries of the region faced the necessity of transforming their national identity. The main reason of changes of the previous sense of nation was not the only commitment of the former Soviet bloc states to self-identify themselves in the new political environment, but also their ardent aspiration to be a part of the European Union (Szondy, 2008).

Public diplomacy, understood as ‘international actor’s attempt to manage the international environment through engagement with a foreign public’ (Cull, 2009:12), had close ties with self-identification processes in post-communist countries. The need to promote a positive country image among foreign audience including thorough national culture required from diplomats rethinking current cultural heritage. At the same time, national discourse about self-identification had an impact on public diplomacy, stimulating practitioners to find approaches, which would reflect historical past in an appropriate way.

Apart from self-identification processes, public diplomacy practice of post-communist states had been influenced by collective memory related to relations with neighbours. As such interactions could have resulted in historical traumas; public diplomats struggled to cope with serious contradictions between countries. It is not amazing that France and Germany needed several decades to minimize negative perceptions about each other dramatically (Cull, 2009).

Modification of the national identity in the Slovak Republic represents a special case because the country was compelled not only to refuse from its communist past like many Central and Eastern Europe states (Szondy, 2008) but also reinvent its national identity. Being an extremely young state (throughout its history Slovakia was predominantly incorporated into the rest of other countries, except The First Slovak Republic), it seems that nation-building in Slovakia faced more challenges than in Poland, Hungary or Czechia.

Collective memory, based on the history of interactions of Slovaks with Hungarians, had been an important part of the national process of self-identification. Reflections on the times when the nation was under the Hungarian rule are in particular painful for the Slovak society. In 2016 the public opinion poll demonstrated that only 30 per cent of the population had a sense of trust towards Hungarians (Gyárfášová & Mesežnikov, 2016). For comparison, almost four-fifths of respondents among the Slovaks trusted the Czechs (Gyárfášová & Mesežnikov, 2016), although there were also tensions between nations in the 20th century.

Relations with Hungary are extremely important for Slovakia not only because both states have a common border, but also because the Hungarian ethnic minority is about 10 per cent of the Slovak population (Macháček, 2011). Unfortunately, the problem is that collective memory has become an obstacle for the development of bilateral cooperation and mutual trust between Hungary and the Slovak Republic. It is not a surprise that Slovakia used public diplomacy methods to solve the issue of interaction with the Hungarian state during the last twenty-five years.

Like many small states, the Slovak Republic did not have enough resources to spend on public diplomacy campaigns. That is why it would be presumptuous to expect that Slovakia could compete with the lead countries in this field on equal footing. However, the lack of funding does not necessarily mean that a small country cannot have at least a limited success in public diplomacy. For instance, Slovak political scientist J. Batora believes that ‘for small and media-seized states PD represents an opportunity to gain influence and shape international agenda in ways that go beyond their limited hard power resources’’ (Batora, 2005:6).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Diplomacy: Use of Internet and social media in diplomatic practice.

Nation Branding: Dimension of public diplomacy, which focuses on the promotion of the positive brand of the country abroad.

Public Diplomacy: Direction of foreign policy with the aim to influence public opinion and behavior abroad to achieve foreign policy goals.

Collective Memory: Perceptions and beliefs about the past, shared and constructed by members of the social group.

Foreign Policy: Policy, aimed at achieving certain state goals in the field of economics, politics, culture, defense, etc.

National Identity: Set of self-perceptions and shared memories of the nation.

Cultural Diplomacy: Dimension of public diplomacy, which based on the organization of cultural events abroad and the national language promotion.

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