Martin M. Šimečka

Martin M. Šimecka (1957) is a Slovak author and journalist, editor-in-chief of Respekt, a Czech intellectual weekly. He lives in Prague and Bratislava. He belongs to the few Slovak authors who had published in the samizdat literature during communism. Šimecka’’s novel The Year of the Frog has been translated to English and French. In 1990 he founded and led an independent publishing house Archa. He later became editor-in-chief of Domino-forum, a Slovak weekly. In 1997 – 2006, he acted as editor-in-chief of SME, the country’’s leading daily newspape in English, before taking up his current position at Respekt.

Dva dny / Komentár

Každý, komu je dnes nad padesát, asi dokáže odpovědět na otázku, co dělal 21. srpna 1968. Tak silný byl zážitek, když do Československa v ten den vtrhlo půl milionu vojáků Varšavské smlouvy. Na stejnou otázku o 21. červnu 1991, tedy dnu odchodu posledních sovětských vojáků, už by mnoho lidí asi tak snadno odpovědět nedokázalo, to však nic nemění na tom, že ten okamžik má obrovský historický význam. Postižení O hloubce národního traumatu z okupace svědčí fakt, že odsun sovětských vojsk a rozpuštění Varšavské smlouvy se stalo jedním z hlavních témat hned po listopadu 1989. Václavu Havlovi, Jiřímu Dienstbierovi, Luboši Dobrovskému, Michaelu Kocábovi a dalším se už koncem […]

The Lady is Ready to Leave? / Commentary

Only a couple of weeks ago the key issue for Slovakia was how the national ice hockey team would fare in the world championship. The unimaginable happened: Slovakia was knocked out following a bitter series of lost matches. At the time of this writing, the key issue is whether Slovakia’s government under Iveta Radičová can survive, her future as unpredictable as the outcome of a hockey match. The only difference is that Radičová can imagine being defeated and is prepared to speak out about it. What is at issue is that on 17 May Slovakia’s parliament will make the umpteenth […]

The Echo of a Gunshot

The single shot was fired on Monday night [of 8 November 2010] in the small village of Limbach in the Lesser Carpathians foothills, a stone’’s throw from Bratislava. On Tuesday morning its echo reverberated through the country since the bullet went through the heart of  Ernest Valko, a lawyer whose reputation and firm were modelled on famous American attorneys. He was assassinated in his own house in a posh suburb whose residents include the ice hockey player Miroslav Šatan and Slovakia’’s President Ivan Gašparovič.   Apart from the grief over the loss of a man who was prominent in the […]

A Lesson in Accounting

It feels a bit like a crash course in economics, one that all of Slovakia seems to be attending. The curriculum consists of only one subject: how can the government reduce an unhealthy level of indebtedness? How much should it cut itself and how much should it squeeze out of its citizens? For the past four years Robert Fico’s left-wing government did not bother the Slovaks with news about the state’’s indebtedness and now they have suddenly woken up to the news that the country is in a big financial mess. However, the problem is that, unlike in the neighbouring […]

The Populist Muddle

The European Union’’s ability to solve problems by muddling through various compromises will help the EU to survive, according to The Economist.  That might be true – provided individual states do not get into a worse muddle, unable or unwilling to find the compromises necessary to get out of it.  This particular muddle is called national populism and the most recent example of wallowing in it has come – perhaps rather unexpectedly – from Slovakia. At first sight it seems a banal issue that no EU member takes seriously. Slovakia under its new Prime Minister Iveta Radičová is the only […]

Orbán Forever

A typical Hungarian joke goes like this: How are you? – Thanks, fine.  –  Can you elaborate?  Well, actually, things are not that good.  Over the past few years the Hungarians have discovered things are not good at all and they have voiced their frustration in the recent election, giving Viktor Orbán and his party Fidesz more power than any other politician in Europe (Belarus’s Lukashenka aside) currently enjoys – a constitutional majority in parliament. The state of the Hungarian economy is well known: last year the International Monetary Fund had to rescue the country from bankruptcy, to which it […]

A Dual World

My wife came home and as soon she came through the door she burst out: Did you know that you can get a driving licence without a test for 500 euros and a secondary school leaving certificate without attending school for a thousand?  Yesterday a friend of mine gave a five hundred euro note to a doctor just so that he would take a look at her sick mother!  Her eyes were wide with horror, as if she had just seen the devil.  Maybe she has. Ten years ago I would have told her not to believe everything people say […]

Central Europe’’s laboratory of freedom

For the past few months a neighbour has been leaving the tabloid Nový Čas by my front door. I guess this is his way of paying me back for the eight years I used to put through his letter box the next day’’s issue of Slovakia’’s largest-circulation serious daily SME of which I was editor at the time. Today I learned from the tabloid that our left-wing Prime Minister Robert Fico, who had won the hearts of the poorest voters, wears a 20,000 Euro watch and that his coalition partner, the nationalist populist Ján Slota has several luxury cars in […]

The Fico Threat

He has been dubbed the Slovak Putin and the European Chávez. He has shown a marked tendency to authoritarianism and formed a cabinet with extreme nationalists and the former Prime Minister Mečiar who had brought the country to the brink of dictatorship. While local elites regard Fico as a threat to democracy, ordinary citizens adore him and his Czech counterpart Paroubek looks up to him as a role model. Will the real Robert Fico please stand up? Summing up Slovakia’’s current Prime Minister ought not be too difficult a task. Fico is a spectre from the Mečiar era. He’’s a politician who […]

Forgetting the crown

The notorious stamp affair, a lawsuit against a group of people accused of forging some hundred million crowns, continues to drag on sixteen years after Slovakia introduced its own currency, the Slovak crown (locally known as the koruna). The case is shrouded in mystery, with one theory claiming that the fraud was perpetrated by the secret services on direct orders of the then Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar; one of those involved, probably a secret service stooge, was assassinated in 1996. In this case, the sluggish work of the Slovak courts has reached truly epic dimensions, and the victim of the alleged fraud – […]