Identification. The Slovaks are Western Slavs who speak Slovak and live in Slovakia, the easternmost third of Czechoslovakia, in 1992 renamed the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. Slovaks are most closely related to two other Slavic peoples located to their west: Moravians and Czechs.
Location. Slovakia is located between 47° and 50° N and 17° and 23° E. Slovakia occupies an area of approximately 49,995 square kilometers and is bounded on the north by Poland, on the east by Ukraine, on the south by Hungary, on the southwest by Austria, and on the west by the Czech Republic of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. The topography of Slovakia is extremely varied, ranging from the Carpathian Mountains in the north to the Danube Basin and fertile plains in the south and west. The climate is typical of continental Europe with hot summers and cold, snowy winters.
Demography. The 1986 estimated population of Slovakia was 5,200,000 with Slovaks constituting 88 percent of that number. About 1,000,000 live outside Slovakia, with approximately 750,000 residing in the United States and others scattered throughout Europe, Canada, and South America. The population density in Slovakia averages 106 persons per square kilometer, and the population is growing at an estimated rate of 0.3 percent per year. Hungarians, Ukrainians (Rusins), Poles, Romany peoples, and Germans account for the remaining 12 percent of Slovakia's population.
Linguistic Affiliation. Slovak is a Western Slavic language (along with Czech and Polish) of the Indo-European Language Family. It is most closely related to, but distinct from, Czech. Slovak is an inflected language, and stress is fixed on the first syllable of a word; words of more than three syllables also have a secondary accent. Generally, Slovak words have as many syllables as they have vowels. Some words appear composed entirely or mostly of consonants: smrt' (death); slnko (sun); srdce (heart); and yrt (bore, drill boring). There are three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and forty-three letters. The three main dialects represent western, Central, and eastern subareas of Slovakia. The dialect spoken in central Slovakia was the one adopted by Slovak scholars as the norm.