Slovakia, officially the Slovak Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south. Slovakia's territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi) and is mostly mountainous. The population is over 5 million and comprises mostly ethnic Slovaks. The capital and largest city is Bratislava. The official language is Slovak.
The Slavs arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 7th century, they played a significant role in the creation of Samo's Empire and in the 9th century established the Principality of Nitra. In the 10th century, the territory was integrated into the Kingdom of Hungary. After World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Slovaks and Czechs established Czechoslovakia. A separate (First) Slovak Republic (1939–1945) existed in World War II as a client state of Nazi Germany. In 1945, Czechoslovakia was re-established under Communist rule as a Soviet satellite. In 1989 the Velvet Revolution ended Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Slovakia became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce.
Radiocarbon dating[dubious – discuss]puts the oldest surviving archaeological artefacts from Slovakia – found near Nové Mesto nad Váhom – at 270,000 BC, in the Early Paleolithic era. These ancient tools, made by the Clactonian technique, bear witness to the ancient habitation of Slovakia.
Other stone tools from the Middle Paleolithic era (200,000 – 80,000 BC) come from the Prévôt (Prepoštská) cave near Bojnice and from other nearby sites. The most important discovery from that era is a Neanderthal cranium (c. 200,000 BC), discovered near Gánovce, a village in northern Slovakia.
Archaeologists have found prehistoric human skeletons in the region, as well as numerous objects and vestiges of the Gravettian culture, principally in the river valleys of Nitra, Hron, Ipeľ, Váh and as far as the city of Žilina, and near the foot of the Vihorlat, Inovec, and Tribeč mountains, as well as in the Myjava Mountains. The most well-known finds include the oldest female statue made of mammoth-bone (22,800 BC), the famous Venus of Moravany. The statue was found in the 1940s in Moravany nad Váhom near Piešťany. Numerous necklaces made of shells from Cypraca thermophile gastropods of the Tertiary period have come from the sites of Zákovská, Podkovice, Hubina, and Radošina. These findings provide the most ancient evidence of commercial exchanges carried out between the Mediterranean and Central Europe.
The Slovak landscape is noted primarily for its mountainous nature, with the Carpathian Mountains extending across most of the northern half of the country. Amongst these mountain ranges are the high peaks of the Fatra-Tatra Area (including Tatra Mountains, Greater Fatra and Lesser Fatra), Slovak Ore Mountains, Slovak Central Mountains or Beskids. The largest lowland is the fertile Danubian Lowland in the southwest, followed by the Eastern Slovak Lowland in the southeast. Forests cover 41% of Slovak land surface.
Slovakia has hundreds of caves and caverns under its mountains, of which 30 are open to the public. Most of the caves have stalagmites rising from the ground and stalactites hanging from above. There are currently five Slovak caves under UNESCO's World Heritage Site status. They are Dobšinská Ice Cave, Domica, Gombasek Cave, Jasovská Cave and Ochtinská Aragonite Cave. Other caves open to the public include Belianska Cave, Demänovská Cave of Liberty, Demänovská Ice Cave or Bystrianska Cave.
Most of the rivers stem in the Slovak mountains. Some only pass through and the others make a natural border with surrounding countries (more than 620 kilometres (385 mi)). For example, the Dunajec (17 kilometres (11 mi)) to the north, the Danube (172 kilometres (107 mi)) to the south or the Morava (119 kilometres (74 mi)) to the West. The total length of the rivers on Slovak territory is 49,774 kilometres (30,928 mi).
The longest river in Slovakia is the Váh (403 kilometres (250 mi)), the shortest is the Čierna voda. Other important and large rivers are the Myjava, the Nitra (197 kilometres (122 mi)), the Orava, the Hron (298 kilometres (185 mi)), the Hornád (193 kilometres (120 mi)), the Slaná (110 kilometres (68 mi)), the Ipeľ (232 kilometres (144 mi), forming the border with Hungary), the Bodrog, the Laborec, the Latorica and the Ondava.
The biggest volume of discharge in Slovak rivers is during spring, when the snow melts from the mountains. The only exception is the Danube, whose discharge is the greatest during summer when the snow melts in the Alps. The Danube is the largest river that flows through Slovakia.
There are around 175 naturally formed tarns in High Tatras. With an area of 20 hectares (49 acres) and its depth of 53 metres (174 ft), Veľké Hincovo pleso is the largest and the deepest tarn in Slovakia. Other tarns in the High Tatras include Štrbské pleso, Popradské pleso, Skalnaté pleso, Zbojnícke pleso, Velické pleso, Žabie pleso, Krivánske zelené pleso or Roháčske plesá. Other than in the High Tatras there are Vrbické pleso in Low Tatras, Morské oko and Vinné jazero in Vihorlat Mountains or Jezerské jazero in Spišská Magura.
The largest dams on the river Váh are Liptovská Mara and Sĺňava. Other well-known dams are Oravská priehrada in the north, Zemplínska Šírava and Domaša in the east, Senecké jazerá, Zlaté piesky or Zelená voda in the west.
The Slovak climate lies between the temperate and continental climate zones with relatively warm summers and cold, cloudy and humid winters. Temperature extremes are between −41 to 40.3 °C (−41.8 to 104.5 °F) although temperatures below −30 °C (−22 °F) are rare. The weather differs from the mountainous North to the plain South.
The warmest region is Bratislava and Southern Slovakia where the temperatures may reach 30 °C (86 °F) in summer, occasionally to 39 °C (102 °F) in Hurbanovo. During night, the temperatures drop to 20 °C (68 °F). The daily temperatures in winter average in the range of −5 °C (23 °F) to 10 °C (50 °F). During night it may be freezing, but usually not below −10 °C (14 °F).
In Slovakia, there are four seasons, each season (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter) lasts three months. The dry continental air brings in the summer heat and winter frosts. In contrast, oceanic air brings rainfalls and reduces summer temperatures. In the lowlands and valleys fog is often, especially in winter.
Slovakia signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 19 May 1993, and became a party to the convention on 25 August 1994. It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 2 November 1998.
The biodiversity of Slovakia comprises animals (such as annellids, arthropods, molluscs, nematodes and vertebrates), fungi (Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, Chytridiomycota, Glomeromycota and Zygomycota), micro-organisms (including Mycetozoa), and plants.
Over 4000 species of fungi have been recorded from Slovakia. Of these, nearly 1500 are lichen-forming species. Some of these fungi are undoubtedly endemic, but not enough is known to say how many. Of the lichen-forming species, about 40% have been classified as threatened in some way. About 7% are apparently extinct, 9% endangered, 17% vulnerable, and 7% rare. The conservation status of non-lichen-forming fungi in Slovakia is not well documented, but there is a red list for its larger fungi.