Slovakia, which was left reeling on Wednesday after an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico, is a relatively young country whose history is closely intertwined with that of its central European neighbors.

Slovakia is one of two nations born out of the former Czechoslovakia amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the waning years of the 20th century.

Czechoslovakia was a multiethnic nation established at the end of World War I that endured dismemberment by the Nazis and more than four decades of Communist rule. But during the fall of Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when independence movements gained strength throughout the Soviet Union, a series of largely peaceful protests called the Velvet Revolution led Czechoslovakia first to independence and then to a split, often referred to as the Velvet Divorce, that left two nations: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

After several years of economic and political upheaval following its independence, Slovakia joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, and adopted the euro in 2009. As the country navigated the establishment of its national identity, some tensions remained with the Czech Republic, its richer and larger neighbor, which has roughly twice Slovakia’s population of five million.

Like much of Europe, Slovakia has been deeply polarized over the past decade. Mr. Fico, who has been a leading politician in the country since its independence, was forced to resign from office in 2018 amid sweeping protests over the murder of a journalist who was investigating government corruption.

He was re-elected last fall, after taking a pro-Russian campaign stance that capitalized on Slovakia’s historical Russian sympathies.


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