The main legislative acts regulating the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage are: Act No. 4/1958 (Digest) of the Slovak National Council on Folk Art Production and Arts and Crafts; Act No. 61/2000 Coll. on Adult Educational and Cultural Activities; and the Declaration of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on the Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage adopted in 2001. The main policy documents that form part of the state policy related to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage are: the Concept of care for traditional folk culture; the Concept of the development of local and regional culture; the Strategy for the development of local and regional culture; and the Strategy for the development of adult educational activities.
The national body with overall responsibility for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is the Ministry of Culture through its Directorate for Intangible Cultural Heritage within the Cultural Heritage Section, which carries out conceptual and systematic activities for the safeguarding and promotion of intangible cultural heritage at the level of a central state administration body. A Council for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was created as the advisory body to the Minister of Culture (2007). The Slovak Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre, an organizational unit of the Slovak State Traditional Dance Company (SĽUK), was designated in 2008 as the competent centre for this area.
There are three institutions that offer training programmes in intangible cultural heritage: (1) the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (Department of Ethnology and Ethnomusicology), which focuses on traditional artistic expressions and folk music and dance with an emphasis on the ability to use acquired knowledge in practice or in the pedagogical process (curricula include theoretical and practical subjects); (2) the Comenius University in Bratislava (Department of Ethnology and Museology), which qualifies graduates to work in research and education institutions, museums, cultural awareness centres, in positions relating to the safeguarding and promotion of cultural heritage, editorial roles and in the mass media and other institutions; and (3) the Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica (Institute of Social and Cultural Studies), which advances the science of ethnology by linking and applying theoretical knowledge with various areas of social practice (traditional culture in contemporary society, local and regional development, tourism, civil society and community activities).
Several institutions that documented intangible cultural heritage existed before the Convention was ratified. These include: the Slovak National Museum; the Ethnographic Museum in Martin; the Institute of Ethnology and Institute of Musicology (Slovak Academy of Sciences); and the National Cultural Centre (folk encyclopaedia projects). The results of the work of these institutions are available on their respective websites. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre implements an Electronic Encyclopaedia project of the Traditional Folk Culture of Slovakia and is preparing an Intangible Cultural Heritage Archive.
Inventorying is the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture, which cooperates closely with the Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre. This takes two forms: (1) the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Slovakia and (2) the Representative List of the Programmes, Projects and Activities that Best Reflect the Principles and Goals of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. (The first round of proposals for the latter in 2013 did not result in any inscriptions.)
The criteria used for inclusion of an element on the first Representative List are that the element: constitutes intangible cultural heritage as defined in Article 2 of the Convention; has roots in the cultural traditions or cultural history of the given community; plays an important role in the creation and reinforcement of the cultural identity of the given community; and is an important source of inspiration and intercultural exchange and promotes closer contacts amongst people and communities. The viability of intangible cultural heritage elements is taken into account through a section on the inventorying form entitled ‘Need for urgent safeguarding … assessment of viability, evaluation of risks’. Specific measures for the safeguarding of listed elements (for four years) that enable the relevant community, group or individuals to continue to practise and transmit them constitute a significant part of the nomination file. The Council for Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding monitors their implementation in coordination with the applicant/s and proposes other measures.
Communities and associations participate in the identification and definition of intangible cultural heritage and in the compilation of the lists by submitting nomination files in which they describe the intangible cultural heritage elements. This is a bottom-up approach. All the elements have been recorded based on initiatives by communities or bearers. Proposals for inclusion on the List are submitted by cultural and social institutions, local communities and non-governmental organizations. There is an annual call for the submission of proposals, requiring electronic registration and the submission of a complete nomination file. The website of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre contains all the information related to the process of recording the elements in the lists, the brief characteristics of the individual elements along with photographs. This information is in Slovak, German, English and French.
Educational activities are intensively implemented within the communities and groups involved and state support is provided at the demand of intangible cultural heritage bearer communities. Traditional Folk Culture was introduced into formal education in the 2009-2010 academic year with the aim of fostering understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of a specific region (cultural heritage, history, nature, architecture, folk art, traditions, etc.). As a capacity-building measure, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre has published guidelines for all municipalities, owners and administrators of local, private and other archives interested in acquiring, safeguarding and presenting intangible cultural heritage elements. Thus, an information system that will provide data from all the Slovak regions is gradually being created. As part of this process, educational seminars on ‘Traditions for the Future’ are held on a continuous basis in various villages and towns throughout Slovakia, with the aim of building capacities for the collection and archiving of intangible cultural heritage at the local level. Education also forms part of amateur artistic activities and competitions organized by the National Culture Centre (especially in the fields of traditional folk culture, scenic folklorism and non-professional theatre). Support is provided to projects directed at the education of children, young people and adults through cultural educational activities, the teaching of traditional skills, education related to local and regional culture and the dissemination of information about the elements.
Bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation is exemplified by a symposium organized in 2010 by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre, with the participation of experts from Czechia, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria and Switzerland. Slovakia also participated in a discussion on the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage organized by the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna and the Austrian Commission for UNESCO on 3 November 2010. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre arranged for Slovakia’s participation in the international event Turíčne dni (Pentecost Days) at the Hungarian Open Air Museum in Szentendre, and intangible cultural heritage was an item on the agenda of a Slovak-Hungarian meeting on cultural issues in 2011. Days of Traditional Culture is an international cooperation project (primarily with Czechia) of the National Cultural Centre intended to contribute, through close cooperation with central state administration bodies, local government and national non-governmental organizations, towards the improved implementation of the 2003 Convention.
Slovakia has one element on the Representative List: the Fujara and its music (incorporated in 2008, after being proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005). An important consequence of inscription is that the notion of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ has found its way into public discourse and people are increasingly aware of its importance in a wider context than simply traditional folk culture. Publications on the Fujara have subsequently been released (e.g. dealing with the technology of its making, its ornamentation, playing the instrument). Space for the Fujara’s continued practice is provided through many folk festivals and workshops, and the Ministry of Culture supports the annual Creativity of Fujara and Flute Workshops and the National Festival of Fujara Players (of the Javorie Civic Association) through its subsidy system. A Craft School event is organized by the Regional Centre of Artistic Production in Banská Bystrica, with special attention paid to making the Fujara and other folk instruments. The practitioner community provided significant input and personal experience for the present report.