There is a monstrous Russophobia in Slovakia. This was stated by the former prime minister Robert Ficocongratulating citizens on Victory Day. According to him, against the background of “monstrous Russophobia in the Slovak ruling coalition,” the manifestation of respect for the heroes of the Red Army is especially important.
“During the liberation of the territory of Czechoslovakia, a huge number fell – up to 70 thousand Red Army soldiers, 10 thousand Romanian soldiers and 3 thousand soldiers of the Czechoslovak army corps. The death toll and civilian casualties has reached 8 thousand people “, – emphasized Fico.
He also noted that on this important day he cannot ignore the decision of the Slovak authorities to expel Russian diplomats as an “act of false solidarity with the Czech Republic.” This caused a serious deterioration in relations with Russia, he stated.
We will remind, Slovakia announced the expulsion of diplomats in April. Moscow has promised to respond to the actions of the Slovak authorities. According to the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Maria Zakharova, this situation is a manifestation of pseudo-solidarity with Prague on a trumped-up case.
We will also remind that in March there was a scandal due to the attempts of the Slovak government to buy the Russian vaccine against coronavirus, which led to the resignation of the cabinet.
It seems that Fico is not exaggerating when he speaks of “monstrous Russophobia” in the Slovak elites?
– Let’s just say that we are not talking about the monstrous dimensions of Russophobia, but about the monstrous dimensions of Russophobic propaganda, – believes Associate Professor of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation Gevorg Mirzayan. – The main mass media of the West work for this propaganda, they are “grunt” by local publications. And in this situation, even if a person treats Moscow neutrally or well, then his consciousness is being reformatted.
“SP”: – Where did this Russophobia come from? Slovaks do not seem to have historical claims to us, like Poles or the same Czechs … Or do they just want to be “like everyone else”, to be “in trend”?
– Until recently, Slovakia was indeed one of the countries of Eastern Europe, where Russia did not have any particular problems. However, there are several things to take into account here. First, as I said above, there is a powerful wave of Russophobic propaganda. It is total, it reformats consciousness. Secondly, the Slovak society is under the great influence of the Czech media – and there, Russophobia is all right. And finally, thirdly, the Slovak elites and the journalistic community are part of the European ones, which means they must march alongside them.
“SP”: – At the same time, the Slovaks do not seem to remember very much that they fought on Hitler’s side and that it was the Soviet Union that rushed to help the participants in the Slovak uprising, and that the Slovak units were formed in the USSR? Are they also bad with historical memory?
– Everyone is bad. Many do not understand why they should be grateful to Moscow for the events of bygone days. This is partly due to the education system, and partly to the fact that the memory of the decisive contribution of the USSR to the war is being blurred. And movies where Hitler are won by the Americans, and the tales that Stalin along with Hitler, he was responsible for starting the war.
Well, of course, in this situation we release a lot on the brakes. For example, we do not produce any cultural products “for export” in order to educate Eastern Europeans.
“SP”: – Still, not all Slovak politicians are subject to Russophobia? Are there normal ones?
– As elsewhere, there are inadequacies, and there are also normal ones. Moreover, the normal ones are not only those who feel gratitude to Russia for liberation and close themselves off from Russophobia. These are those who understand that one can and should be friends with Russia, if only because one can make good money on it.
“SP”: – By the way, has this scandal spoiled Russian-Slovak relations? Are there any expectations that the trend towards their degradation will continue?
– Unfortunately yes. The trend towards the degradation of Russian-Slovak relations will continue as long as the trend towards the degradation of Russian-European relations continues. And the trend towards the degradation of Russian-European relations will continue as long as the trend towards the degradation of Russian-Western relations continues.
Unfortunately, all these issues are interconnected. And the normalization of relations between Russia and one of the countries of Eastern Europe, included in the European Union and NATO, is extremely unlikely until a general rethinking of Moscow’s relations with the West as a single community of countries comes. Well, or, more precisely, a society of countries, which positions itself as something unified.
Trade, tourists, investments, access to the Russian market – all this is necessary and important for Slovakia. Especially considering that the country needs to somehow get out of the economic consequences of the pandemic …
“SP”: – Slovaks, by the way, did not even buy our vaccine, although they were going initially. As a result, there was a scandal that led to the resignation of the government. What was it? Pressure from Big Pharma lobbyists or, again, a manifestation of Russophobia?
– All of the above plus internal political conflicts. In the ruling coalition, the parties did not like each other, they had a long-standing conflict. So Sputnik V was used to attack the Prime Minister.
SP: – How important is relations with Slovakia to Moscow? How much does it weigh in the EU, how can it be useful to us? Do we have a large turnover with her? Is she an important buyer of our gas? Is she interesting to us in any way?
– This is not an entirely correct question. Slovakia may not be our first trading partner, and it does not have much of a voice in the EU (of course, there is a veto right, but who will give it to be used?). However, with all this, Slovakia is a country located not far from us, which has a border with the same Ukraine and is a member of the EU – our most important trading partner. Therefore, we must make efforts to create and strengthen our positive image even in Slovakia. That is, to deal with soft power, which our authorities do not know how to deal with …
– The statement about Slovak Russophobia from Robert Fico, who is the leader of the center-left party in opposition to the current ruling coalition, should be perceived primarily as an internal political discussion, – I am sure Evgeny Valyaev, political analyst of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society Institutions “People’s Diplomacy”… – His words were spoken in opposition to the position of the current leadership of Slovakia, which showed solidarity with the Czech Republic and expelled Russian diplomats from the country. Fico’s statement is unpopular for the European establishment, but you need to understand the motives behind his words.
The former Slovak prime minister consistently defends the leftist view of the results of World War II from attacks, defending the ideology within which his party exists. He does not benefit from attacks on communism and socialism, he does not benefit from accusations against the Soviet Union – as this may affect his electoral ratings. You can see a little populism in these words of Fico, but you definitely don’t need to try to see Euroscepticism in it. Fico is not in favor of Slovakia’s withdrawal from the EU and NATO, but he wants his country to pursue an independent foreign policy, abandoning the pro-American course of 1998-2006.
Fico advocates a pragmatic approach that implies good relations with Washington, Brussels and Moscow. In these difficult times, when there is polarization in world politics and the language of sanctions is the main one, this approach looks a bit idealistic.
Moscow will definitely not be profitable if Fico scares European officials with a “Russian bear”. This is often the sin of Eurosceptics, who not so much see Russia as a political and ideological pole, but use the image of Russia for blackmail and shocking.
Vladimir Mechiar, who ruled Slovakia after gaining independence, just admitted populist statements that the East, represented by Russia, could become an alternative for the new independent republic, if they are not reckoned with in the West. I would not like Fico to use the image of Russia in his bright speeches, opposing Russians to the Western world, exploiting the archetypes of the Cold War.
According to the Czech case, Moscow suffers noticeable reputational losses, and it is very beneficial for the appearance of a lawyer in the person of Roberto Fico, who can utter such unpopular words for European politicians.
Slovakia, unlike many of its neighbors, has no historical differences with Russia, therefore Russian-Slovak relations have always been built on mutual respect. In Slovakia, as in other countries of the Eastern Bloc, after gaining independence, the National Institute of Remembrance began to operate, which is associated with an anti-communist interpretation of the past, and the law establishing the institute was adopted as part of a de-communist package in the early 90s. At the same time, anti-communist sentiments, and therefore anti-Russian, are not so pronounced in Slovak society – and this is noticeable in various sociological polls.
The level of Russophobia in Slovak society, in the media and among politicians is much lower than in neighboring Czech Republic. This is important to take into account when looking for a response to the actions of official Bratislava – it is necessary that Moscow’s response does not harm the future of Russian-Slovak relations, because Slovakia can be a consistent and strong ally of Russia among the EU countries.
Former Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico has already earned the reputation of a friend of the Russian people. I will hint that this politician has an instagram through which the Russians can thank him for the kind words about Russia and Victory Day.