Young Slovaks Show Extremism in Europe Can Be Defied

Young Slovaks Show Extremism in Europe Can Be Defied


Antigovernment demonstrators marched in Bratislava, Slovakia, last week.

Vladimir Simicek/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Given the sad retreat from democracy in many of their Central European neighbors, it is heartening to witness the determination of so many thousands of Slovaks who have been marching across their country “for a decent Slovakia,” as they’ve dubbed their protests.

The protests were prompted by the murders last month of a journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, both 27. Though the killings remain unsolved, the police said they were most likely related to Mr. Kuciak’s investigation of ties between top Slovakia politicians and Italy’s ’Ndrangheta organized crime group.

The demonstrations rapidly swelled into mass protests against the corruption and arrogance of the government, which many younger Slovaks see as betraying the struggles their parents waged against Soviet-imposed Communist rule. Under slogans like “Slovakia is going the wrong way” and “We want elections,” tens of thousands of have marched repeatedly under sleet, snow or rain in the capital, Bratislava, and across the small country of 5.4 million.

At first, the prime minister, Robert Fico, tried to deflect the protests, firing some ministers and assailing the liberal president, Andrej Kiska, for purportedly failing to explain why he met with the American investor George Soros in September. Mr. Soros’ support of democratic causes across the former Soviet empire has made him the premier target of vile conspiracy theories and denunciations, and anti-Semitism, among reactionary populists in Central Europe.

Mr. Fico’s feint went nowhere, and he was compelled to resign. But he made no effort to conceal that he intended to remain the real power behind the government, and the demonstrations continued.

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