Reaching the Nations

Slovakia

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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SlovakiaGeography

Area: 49,035 square km.  Landlocked in Central Europe, Slovakia borders Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria, and Czech Republic.  Terrain consists of lowlands in southern areas and rugged mountains in the central and northern regions subject to a temperate climate.  Summers are cool whereas winters are cloudy and humid.  Air pollution and acid rain are environmental issues.  Slovakia is divided into eight administrative regions. 

 

Population: 5,463,046 (July 2009)       

Annual Growth Rate: 0.137% (2009)    

Fertility Rate: 1.35 children born per woman (2009)   

Life Expectancy: 71.47 male, 79.53 female (2009)

 

Peoples

Slovak: 85.8%

Hungarian: 9.7%

Roma: 1.7%

Ruthenia/Ukrainian: 1%

Other/unspecified: 1.8%

 

Slovaks constitute the majority of the population.  Hungarians are concentrated along the Hungarian border. 

 

Languages: Slovak (83.9%), Hungarian (10.7%), Roma (1.8%), Ukrainian (1%), other and unspecified (2.6%).  Slovak is the official language and is the only language with over one million speakers (4.58 million).  

Literacy: 99.6% (2001)

 

History

Celts populated present-day Slovakia starting in the 6th century BC.  The Roman Empire pushed into the region for a couple centuries following the birth of Christ.  The Huns invaded between the fourth and seventh centuries.  Slavs settled during this period and gained influence and political power.  Hungary annexed Slovakia and maintained control until the 20th century.  Following World War I and the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovaks and Czechs united to create Czechoslovakia.  Communism spread to Czechoslovakia following World War II and the region remained under the Soviet sphere of influence until 1989.  A peaceful division between Czechs and Slovaks occurred in 1993.  In 2004, Slovakia joined the European Union and NATO. 

 

Culture 

Slovakia possesses a respected legacy of artists, scholars, and athletes.  Cuisine is characteristic of Central Europe and primarily consists of meat, potatoes, and soups.  Alcohol consumption rates are high and comparable to Russia.  Cigarette consumption rates compare to most of Europe. 

 

Economy

GDP per capita: $21,200 (2009) [45.7% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.880

Corruption Index: 4.5

Slovakia has achieved strong economic growth and has experienced a rapid transformation from a centralized economy to a free market economy since independence.  This has resulted in successful integration into Central Europe and the European Union.  Further economic development is needed as the unemployment rate was 12% in 2009 and 21% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2002.  Services and industry employ 69% and 27% of the workforce, respectively.  Industry is well diversified and includes metal production, food, electricity, oil, nuclear fuel, machinery, paper, and printing.  Primary trade partners include Germany, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. 

 

Corruption is perceived as more prevalent than in most European Union nations and influences all sectors of the economy.  Bribes to obtain medical care and higher education are commonly paid.  Many report corruption in the judicial system.[1]  

 

Faiths

Christian: 83.8%

Other: 3.2%

None: 13%

 

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Roman Catholic  3,764,039

Protestant  590,009

Greek Catholic  223,985

Jehovah’s Witnesses  11,211  161

Seventh-Day Adventists  2,182  41

Latter-Day Saints  161  4

 

Religion

Most Slovakians identify as Catholic.  Orthodox Christians tend to live in the east and many members of Protestant churches live along the Hungarian border.[2]  Slovakia has one of highest percentages of those reporting regular church attendance in the European Union at 33%.[3]

 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom and government typically upholds this right.  There is no official religion but ties exist between the government and the Catholic Church.  Registration is not required for religious groups to assemble, but is needed to obtain special government benefits such as conducting legal marriages.  The 2007 registration law requires a religious group to have 20,000 adult members who are citizens or permanent residents.  This legislation limited the rights of smaller religious groups.  There have been some reports of anti-Semitism.[4]

 

Largest Cities

Urban: 56%

Bratislava, Kosice, Prešov, Nitra, Žilina, Banská Bystrica, Trnava, Martin, Trencín, Poprad. 

 

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregation.  Five of the 10 largest cities have a congregation.  23% of the national population lives in the 10 largest cities. 

 

LDS History

Missionary work began in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s when the Church obtained legal recognition in 1928.  Slow growth occurred for the following two decades due to a depression and World War II.  The first member was baptized in present-day Slovakia in 1939.[5]  Missionary work occurred between 1946 and 1950 until the mission was closed.[6]  The Church dedicated Czechoslovakia for missionary work in 1929 and a mission was organized.  The Czechoslovak Mission was discontinued in 1950 and reopened in 1990, the same year the Church regained legal recognition.[7]  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf dedicated Slovakia for missionary work in 2006.[8]  Known colloquially as the Slovakian Miracle, in September 2006 missionaries throughout the Czech Prague Mission obtained over 30,000 signatures from those who agreed to have the LDS Church enter the country.  In addition to their signatures, Slovakian citizens also had to provide their personal identification number, home address, and full name.[9]  Slovakia belongs to the Europe Area and was previously administered by the Europe Central Area until consolidated with the Europe West Area in the late 2000s. 

 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 161 (2009)

There were approximately 200 members in Czechoslovakia in 1990.[10]  In 2000, there were 102 members in Slovakia.  Slow growth has occurred during the 2000s as membership reached 120 by 2004 and 124 by 2007.  The largest membership increases occurred in 2008 and 2009 with 15 and 17 new members, respectively.

 

Congregational Growth

Branches: 4 Groups: 1

The first branch was created in Trencín in the early 1990s followed by a second branch in Bratislava.[11]  By 2000 a third branch functioned in Žilina.  In 2007, a fourth branch was created in Kosice.  In the late 2000s, missionaries opened Banská Bystrica and a group was formed. 

 

The Brno Czech Republic District administers to three branches.  The Kosice Branch does not belong to a district and reports directly to the Czech Prague Mission. 

 

Activity and Retention

56 members and missionaries attended the dedication of Slovakia in 2006.[12]  In 2009, the Bratislava Branch had approximately 30 active members.  Other congregations appear to have fewer than 30 attending regularly.  Seminary and institute programs have not been established.  Active members likely number no more than 70, or 40-45% of total membership. 

 

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Czech,  Hungarian, Ukrainian

Slovak is mutually intelligible with Czech, in which all LDS scriptures and many church resources are available.  However, Slovaks value their own national identity and language, which has become increasingly differentiated from Czech since independence for nationalist reasons, and do not like to use Czech materials.  All LDS scriptures and a wide selection of Church materials are translated into Hungarian and Ukrainian, although few Slovaks speak these languages, and there are no LDS congregations in border regions where these populations are concentrated.  Church materials translated in Slovak consist of several unit, temple, Priesthood, Sunday School, Primary, and family history materials.  

 

Meetinghouses

All congregations meet in rented spaces or renovated buildings. 

 

Humanitarian and Development Work

Dutch Relief Society members made quilts for orphanages in Croatia and Slovakia in 2002.[13]

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

 

Religious Freedom

The Church has enjoyed the benefits of government recognition only since late 2006.  Prior to registration, missionaries only served in Slovakia on a temporarily basis.  Recently received government registration allows for greater allocation of mission resources.  No laws restrict missionary activity. 

 

Cultural Issues

Slovakia has one of the most religiously active populations in the European Union.  Increasing materialism and wealth during the past two decades may lessen the receptivity of the population to mission outreach.  Those who adhere to traditional religious groups face greater challenges from family and friends if they join the Church.  

 

National Outreach

Slovakia lacks a mission of its own but depends on outreach directed by the Czech Prague mission, and has received much less attention, missionary manpower, and resources than the Czech Republic.  

Notwithstanding its relatively religious population, Slovakia remains one of the least reached nations in Europe by LDS mission efforts as the combined population of cities with a mission outreach center amount to 16% of the population.  Three of the eight administrative regions have no congregations and account for 38% of the national population.  Some mission outreach in the city Martin occurred in the late 2000s.  Most cities with congregations have had a gospel witness for a short duration and only few missionaries, and so the scope and impact of past and present mission outreach has been very small.  Approximately 60 cities range from 10,000 to 50,000 inhabitants have no congregations and little if any concentrated proselytism efforts.

 

The small size of current membership and a less receptive population after two decades since the fall of communism complicate expanding national outreach, although the limited member base largely reflects the small missionary complement and few resources that have been allocated to missionary work in Slovakia. 

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Member activity rates appear higher than most former communist nations in Europe.  The limited involvement of full-time missionaries in finding, teaching and baptizing converts likely fostered greater self-sufficiency among members in these tasks.  Convert retention appears moderate to high as most converts develop habitual church attendance prior to baptism.  The opening of additional cities and the establishment of congregations also indicates that converts are being retained.  Strong involvement of local members in missionary activity as well as the allocation of additional full-time missionaries and outreach resources will be required to accelerate membership growth.

 

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The small size of membership and an overrepresentation of foreign members limit greater growth and self-sufficiency among Slovakian membership.  In Bratislava, half of the active membership is Slovak, and foreign members hold many callings.  Hungarians in the south and other minority groups remain unreached by mission outreach.  Hungarians appear more receptive to the Church, which may allow for greater membership growth once proselytism efforts occur in Hungarian-speaking regions.  Tension between Hungarians and Slovaks complicate outreach among both groups in border regions. 

 

Missionary Service

Prior to obtaining government recognition, missionaries could only work in Slovakia on temporary visas.  60 missionaries were serving in the Czech Prague Mission in 2006.[14]  By early 2009, around 20 missionaries served in Slovakia.  Four elders served in Kosice in early 2010.  Very few Slovak members have served full-time missions. 

 

Language Issues

Although some Church materials are translated in Slovak, no LDS scriptures have been translated despite a more than two-decade history of Slovak-speaking membership.    The lack of scriptures in Slovak has slowed membership growth over the past two decades, which in turn relegates Slovak to a low-priority language, perpetuates delays in the translation of LDS scripture and reduces the scope, efficacy, and vision of mission outreach: a self-perpetuating cycle of neglect and stagnation based in circular logic .  Like Georgian and some other languages with few local members and no translations of LDS scripture, the Slovak language will require greater vision from mission planners grounded in long-term commitment to the local population and not merely the small number of present members.  Some initial investment of resources to commission scripture translations and establish a better footing for indigenous membership strength and future growth.

 

Church services in Bratislava are held in both English and Slovakian.  There are few non-Slovakian speakers in other congregations. 

 

Leadership

All four branches appeared to have local branch presidents with the possible exception of Kosice in May 2010.  The small size of active membership and a lack of leadership in Banská Bystrica have prevented the creation of an independent branch.  Local leadership remains too limited to justify the creation of a district for congregations in Slovakia. 

 

Temple

Slovakia belongs to the Freiburg Germany Temple district.  Temple trips occur regularly under the Brno Czech Republic District.  Slovakian members benefit from close proximity to the temple despite their small numbers. 

 

Comparative Growth

Slovakia has the lowest percentage of LDS members out of any European nation with an official Church presence. Only one in approximately 34,000 people is nominally LDS.  Few European nations besides Slovakia with an official LDS presence have fewer than 100 active members.  Some European nations have had the Church arrive more recently and have experienced greater growth.  In Moldova, the Church began its operations in the mid-1990s and obtained legal recognition from the government at the same time as Slovakia, yet in early 2010 had a district and about twice as many members. 

 

Missionary-minded Christian groups have experienced slow to moderate growth in Slovakia in recent years but have a significantly larger membership base than Latter-day Saints.  Evangelical groups have seen little growth.  Seventh-day Adventists have increased by only 100 and the number of churches decreased by two over the past decade.  Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced the most steady membership growth due to a heavy emphasis on member proselytism and the development of indigenous leadership.

 

Future Prospects

Government registration may allow for greater church growth in Slovakia; however, greater vision and commitment of mission resources are also needed.  Increasing materialism and the lack of any Slovakian-language scriptures limit missionary efforts in finding, teaching, baptizing, and retaining converts.  Increasing materialism has further eroded receptivity, and the Church faces an increasingly competitive environment from better organized outreach-oriented faiths with strong indigenous membership. Continued increases in membership may result in the strengthening of functioning congregations to allow the creation of a district.  The Church has yet to experience a breakthrough with attracting Slovak converts in greater numbers, although few missionaries or resources have been allocated.

 



[1]  “Corruption in Slovakia,” retrieved 6 May 2010.  http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWBIGOVANTCOR/Resources/slovrep44.pdf

[2] “Slovak Republic,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127336.htm

[3]  Manchin, Robert.  “Religion in Europe: Trust not filling the pews,” Gallup, 21 September 2004.  http://www.gallup.com/poll/13117/religion-europe-trust-filling-pews.aspx

[4]  “Slovak Republic,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127336.htm

[5]  “1995-1996 Church News Almanac expands historical research,” LDS Church News, 3 December 1994.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/25154/1995-96-Church-News-Almanac-expands-historical-reach.html

[6]  “LDS Czechs celebrate first hall,” LDS Church News, 1 December 2001.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/40958/LDS-Czechs-celebrate-first-hall.html

[7]  “Commemorate 75 years in Czech Republic,” LDS Church News, 4 September 2004.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/46075/Commemorate-75-years-in-Czech-Republic.html

[8]  “Slovakia dedicated,” LDS Church News, 9 September 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49409/Slovakia-dedicated.html

[9]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Daunting task known as Slovakian miracle,” LDS Church News, 11 November 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49733/Daunting-task-known-as-Slovakian-miracle.html

[10]  “Eight new missions announced,” LDS Church News, 3 March 1990.   http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/19805/Eight-new-missions-announced.html

[11]  “1995-1996 Church News Almanac expands historical research,” LDS Church News, 3 December 1994.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/25154/1995-96-Church-News-Almanac-expands-historical-reach.html

[12]  “Slovakia dedicated,” LDS Church News, 9 September 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49409/Slovakia-dedicated.html

[13]  “Helping children in Slovakia, Croatia,” LDS Church News, 7 September 2002.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/42398/Helping-children-in-Slovakia-Croatia.html

[14]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Daunting task known as Slovakian miracle,” LDS Church News, 11 November 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49733/Daunting-task-known-as-Slovakian-miracle.html