September 08, 2011
By Allan Stevo
Sometimes when you go to Google.com, there’s a special design on the Google front page commemorating some interesting anniversary. The concept is called “Google Doodles” by the company. A few aspects of Slovak culture have been the subject of these doodles in the 13 years (since 1998) that Google has been playing with their logo for special events.
Incidentally, Google Doodles has a pretty enjoyable webpage for those browsing the internet looking to learn about what figures and anniversaries might be important in other cultures or about what interesting anniversaries take place in the U.S. The Google Doodles page (http://www.google.com/logos/) combined with a Wikipedia search is a playful way to just dabble a little in the history and culture of other places. To suggest an important anniversary deserving of Google altering their logo for a day, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This doodle appeared on Google searches accessed on Mar 28, 2010 from Slovakia and the Czech Republic in honor of Jan Amos Komensky’s 418th Birthday. Jan Amos Komensky, the “educator of the nations,” was written about on 52 Weeks in Slovakia earlier this summer.
Let’s look at a few points from his resume – early proponent of universal education, brought books into education against the strong protest of teachers, recruited (unsuccessfully) by Harvard University for its president lured to Sweden (successfully) by the King of Sweden, writer of the first primer. He’s so important he gets a Google Doodle not just on a round numbered birthday, but also on a number like 418.
This Google Doodle appeared on Google searches accessed from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Slovakia Dec 06, 2010 in honor of St. Nicholas Day. On that day, Slovak kids, like kids in many parts of Europe, polish up their shoes and receive pleasant surprises in their shoes in the morning. Adults are sometimes lucky enough to receive the same.
This Google Doodle appeared on Google searches accessed from Slovakia October 29, 2008 in honor of Ľudovít Štúr’s Birthday. Štúr is the man credited with leading Slovakia’s national re-awakening in the mid-1800s. He had revolutionary ideas such as “Slovak is a language.” Pre-Štúr no codification of the Slovak language had caught on. His codification caught on. Every morning when I walked out of my office at the 400 year old Lyceum in Bratislava where I lectured in British and American literature, I looked at the painting of Ľudovít Štúr hanging on the wall and felt a great sense of purpose.
I, a kid from across the ocean, had the great honor of teaching at the school Štúr taught at. Štúr was removed from the Lyceum under pressure from the authorities, since he was a bit of a rabble-rouser. He was so influential among his students that a handful of them actually left the Lyceum with him when he was kicked out. If there is one influential Slovak revered among others, it appears to be Štúr.
This Google Doodle appeared on Google searches accessed from Slovakia January 01, 2009 in honor of Slovakia Entering the Euro Zone. On that day, the Euro became legal tender in Slovakia and until January 16, 2009 both the Slovak Crown (koruna) and the Euro were used as money in Slovakia, as the koruna was pulled out of circulation. The last character in the logo above is the symbol for the Euro, akin to the symbol of $ for the US Dollar.
This Google Doodle appeared on Google searches accessed from Slovakia May 17, 2010 in honor of 150th Anniversary of Martin Kukucin’s Birthday. This logo presumably shows a Slovak village at the turn of the last century, presumably like the village of Jasenova that both my grandfather and his uncle Matej Bencur (better known in Slovakia as Martin Kukucin) hail from. Kukucin wrote about Slovak life and traveled the world from Croatia to Argentina, living the life of a physician and writer.
Growing up, I knew of Kukucin from the collection of his books that I saw in my home, but not until I came to Slovakia did I realize how significant of a role he seems to play in Slovak culture. If one had to be chosen, it seems that he would be the likely candidate for most well-regarded novelist to have emerged in Slovakia. Now, it seems like he’s important enough to deserve a Google Doodle as well. Like Hviezdoslav (the Slovak national poet) who came from Vysny Kubin, just down the road from Jasenova, Kukucin took a young literary language and used it to capture Slovak life.
If you come across any other good Google Doodles, dealing with Slovakia, or any other topic that you find of special interest, especially to this region, I welcome you to mention them in the space below.
Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.