This week Jan Kuciak was reported murdered, along with his fiancee. The murder happened some time between Thursday and Sunday. It’s highly probable that he was murdered for his anti-corruption work.

The local media reacted in horror. DennikN had a completely black front page on Tuesday morning.

It seems politicans are trying to capitalize on the state of shock by organizing marches.

Comments on Facebook events connected with this are sometimes bizarre.

‘If you don’t like the way things are in Slovakia you are welcome to get lost’

Some people say: ‘Well, on the one hand I feel really sorry for him, but on the other hand Slovak journalists are prostitutes of the west who always write against Slovakia. It’s the European Union that always screws Slovakia over.’

So revealing corruption scandals is somehow anti-Slovak. If you write about scandals in Slovakia you are a ‘prostitute of the west’.

Quite a few other comments say something like:  ‘If you don’t like it here you can leave our beautiful country’. Beautiful is to be taken literally, in its visual meaning, as many Slovaks are very proud of Slovak nature and this should make up for everything that could possibly go wrong in this country. Why talk about corruption if you can go hiking in the mountains? This may seem outrageous, but there are really a lot of Slovaks who are completely averse to anything connected to politics. They have this ‘live and let live attitude’, meaning: you can be as corrupt as you want, as long as I can get drunk in a cabin in the woods during the weekend’. As long as a Slovak has a job and enough free time to travel a bit and be active in the mountains, everything goes.

Other comments are more clear about their apolitical nature: ‘It’s too cold for a march today, I’m staying in’.

Most comments respectfully express their sympathy for the victims and their families.

Plenty of comments accuse politicans of using this horrible murder to promote their own political profile.

A step too far? The murder was not only gruesome, but also a huge tactical mistake

Slovaks always say how apolitical they are. When you try to talk about politics with Slovaks they usually say they don’t want anything to do with politics. Students reject it as a possible topic for lessons, they are not interested in their newspapers or political magazines such as the highly professional -although often very biased, especially in its anti-communism and pro-Catholic, pro free-market articles- Tyzden.

You could say that this murder was not only horrible, but also horribly stupid. Given that Slovaks are notoriously apolitical and cannot sustain a long, organized protest to oust politicians (the politicans that were accused by the murdered journalists are still safely in office), it seems stupid to kick this hornets’ nest. This murder is so shocking that some Slovaks do show a big willingness to march in the streets. Eventually this combativeness will fade away again, although it will strengthen a nucleus of people who are devoting their lives to safe Slovakia from corruption. Those people do exist, it’s just that they are struggling to build a real movement.

Political satire in the theatre followed by one minute silence for Jan Kuciak and Martinu Kušnírová

Yesterday my wife and I attended a play in the city center. It was an experimental comedy involving lots of political satire. In a playful way the cast showed pretty much everything that goes wrong in this country:

  • politicians get away mumbling the most senseless answers to serious questions
  • anyone who speaks up in any sensible way is quickly shouted down
  • Slovaks are too busy organizing their busy personal life that they have eyes for little else than food and drink
  • Slovaks are not proud of their country and think everything is better in the west, although ‘the west’ is one hour by train away, starting with Vienna
  • Slovaks can more easily list the challenges this country faces and its assets
  • Slovaks struggle to show good manners, especially in public settings, especially when they have to wait for something
  • Women face a big risk of violence by the hands of their partner, bt the actresses were potrayed as being exceptionally forgiving, painting a picture of Slovak women as docile and self-abnegating
  • Slovak police is entirely incompetent. The audience was reminded of that infamous incident when the Slovak police sent a bomb to Dublin! See:
  • You can’t get medical help unless you bribe the doctors and even then the assistance you get is shitty

This was the first time I saw a play in Slovakia that didn’t solely revolve around the actors getting drunk and one guy – THE Slovak hilarity classic – dressing up like a woman.

At the end of the show the cast asked for one minute silence for the journalist and his fiancee. Everyone in the audience stood up and the silence was solemnly kept. Every seat in the theatre was taken, and this for political satire, and this on a freezing Tuesday evening (it was minus 9 in Bratislava).

There are definitely a substantial number of Slovaks, perhaps even the majority, who condemn what is going on this country. The great pity is that so far it’s been impossible to unite their outrage and channel their rejection of ‘business as usual’ in Slovakia into a real political force that can change something for the better.

In the end we are all more pre-occupied with something that happened at work, some deadline we need to meet, a child with a bad cold, a scratch on our car or a leaking kitchen sink to devote enough of our time and energy to bring power hungry individuals in high places to heel…

And those that do stick out their necks risk getting murdered. Even in a country where many things go wrong, but almost never sees physical violence, like Slovakia.