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17182Re: article about my (Slovak) mother

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  • Martin Votruba
    Nov 26, 2006
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      > http://www.codypublishing.com/goska/slovakwoman.html

      Thank you for the link to your paper Danusha. I understand that your
      mention of accents need not be taken quite literally, but I wonder --
      did your mother who arrived at the age of 8 retain Slovak accent in
      her English?

      The following picks up on some of your themes. Your thoughts about
      Slovak immigrants' perceptions of their place among other cultures
      certainly sound familiar. They show a common underlying thread -- a
      propensity to compare themselves to the few dozen ethnic groups that
      have a major representation in other cultures of the world. While
      that may be a continued source of frustration for some, their apparent
      low representation actually lines up the Slovaks with the overwhelming
      majority of the world cultures.

      > Slovaks have few world-famous authors, politicians, or artists
      > to claim as their own."

      There are 3-6 thousand languages in the world, many multiple times
      larger than the Slovaks, and but a tiny fraction of them has anything
      that can be called world-famous. Kerala has about 33 million
      inhabitants, about 30 million of them are Malayam speakers, but few
      Americans and Europeans have ever heard about them, not to mention a
      world-famous person from their culture. There are hundreds more
      examples like that.

      > Their rulers were not inspired to produce written works
      > reflective of their lives."

      There are about 3-6 thousand languages in the world, and cultures are
      even more difficult to count. Only a fraction of them had rulers who
      produced written works about them. Even the Romans wrote rather
      little about anyone in their realm, including the Latin-Roman farmers
      and artisans, by comparisons to writing about their ruling elite. The
      same applies to most European rulers of the past -- most of what they
      wrote was about themselves and their wars, not about their subjects at
      large and about their subjects' cultures.

      > In the academic world, Slavic studies do not have relatively
      > high prestige or funding; even within this marginalized realm,
      > Slovaks are remarkable for their relative invisibility."

      The Slovaks are probably getting their share in the amount of
      publications about them by comparison to some other Slavic groups.
      The Slavic population (100%) consists approximately of:

      50.6% Russians
      14.9% Poles
      13.5% Ukrainians
      _5.3% Serbs, Montenegrins, Bosnians
      _4.0% Czechs
      _3.1% Belarusians
      _3.1% Bulgarians
      _2.2% Croats
      _1.7% Slovaks
      _0.6% Slovenes

      If more than 1-2% of the writing about the Slavs in the US concerned
      the Slovaks, they'd be overrepresented. My estimate is that there's
      actually been more writing about the Slovaks than about the
      Belarusians, for instance, which has changed only recently due to the
      political situation in Belarus. This is just an incidental example:
      at the most recent US national Slavic conference a week ago, 6
      panelists addressed Bulgarian topics, 12 Belarusian, and 13 spoke on
      Slovak topics although there are 80% more Bulgarians and Belarusians.

      > it has been said that the Hungarians, who ruled over Slovakia
      > directly previous to the birth of the informant for this paper,
      > regarded the Slovaks as non-human"

      It might be safer to say "some Hungarians". It's also useful to
      clarify that this didn't begin until the 19th century. There are no
      records of Slovak--Hungarian ethnic tensions during the first 600
      years of the Kingdom.

      > Before 1918, there were no secondary schools in Slovakia.

      That would be like saying that there are no secondary schools in
      Southern California today. There are and they teach in English, not
      in Spanish. There were many secondary schools as well as two colleges
      in Slovakia. They taught in Hungarian, and during the centuries
      before about 1850 the high schools and colleges in the whole Kingdom
      taught in Latin regardless of whether the students were ethnically
      Slovak, Hungarian, German, etc. The Slovaks got or didn't get
      high-school diplomas and university degrees like any other ethnic
      group, just like the Hispanics in Southern California do. Literacy in
      Slovakia was the highest of all the regions of the Kingdom.


      votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
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