1. Domov
  2. Slovensko
  3. History
  4. Slovak statesman Milan Hodža was ranked among the fathers of the European Union

Slovak statesman Milan Hodža was ranked among the fathers of the European Union

A politician, journalist, publicist, thinker and visionary, the first Slovak prime minister of Czechoslovakia, one of the first proponents of European integration. On February 1, 145 years will have passed since Milan Hodža's birthday, offering the opportunity to remember one of the most significant figures of 20th century Slovakia. 

Hodža was born in Sučany, northern Slovakia, in 1878. Throughout his youth and early adulthood he studied in what is today Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Austria. In the late 19th century he started his career as a journalist in Vienna. He was also a member of the Slovak National Party, the sole Slovak party in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
After 1910, he became the Slovak close Slovak aide of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, to whom he proposed a detailed plan to make the empire a federative monarchy, with Slovakia an autonomous state. The archduke was hoping that such a move would strengthen the bond between the monarchy and the nations in the Kingdom of Hungary that had experienced a forced assimilation called Magyarization. Obviously, the idea was strongly opposed by Hungarian politicians. Still, it was at this point that Hodža made himself known for the idea of a tighter cooperation among central European countries.

World War I provided an opportunity for the creation of independent Czechoslovakia, and Hodža was involved in the process. In 1918, he signed the Martin Declaration, which announced the separation of Slovaks from the kingdom and their union with the Czechs. 

In the following years Hodža held a number of posts in the new Czechoslovak parliament and governments.
Between 1935 and 1938 Hodža served as the first Slovak prime minister of Czechoslovakia. During this time he did his best to bring the central European countries and Yugoslavia closer together, integrating them within the region. However, the Munich Agreement of 1938 forced him to abdicate from his post after disagreeing with Czechoslovakia's partitioning.
Following the events he emigrated first to Switzerland, then to France where he established the Slovak National Council. After the country was conquered, he moved to London, and later to the United States in 1941. 

Once again Hodža returned to the idea of a greater European alignment, which he developed and published in the book “Federation in Central Europe”. And once again, his dream could not come to fruition; the Cold War ensued in the aftermath of World War II. However, Hodža did not live to see this, prematurely dying in 1944 and buried in Chicago.
His last wish was to be interred in his homeland. However, political complications meant that Hodža's request was left unfulfilled until 2002, when his remains were transported to Slovakia and laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Martin, the final resting place of many important personalities in Slovak history.

He was a political visionary whose work was appreciated by renowned US diplomat DeWitt Clinton Poole, who said that, "With his international-political concept, Milan Hodža not only belongs to Slovaks and Czechs. He represents the greatest contribution to the creation of a unified Europe so far. As such, Hodža belongs to all Europe."

Photos: Slovak National Library – Literary archive