Bratislava with its 500,000 inhabitants is the capital city of Slovakia. While it is the capital, by no means does it feel like the most culturally important place in Slovakia. In fact, I am sometimes left with the feeling that “Bratislava is not Slovakia.” Bratislava feels so very capable of putting on airs. It’s a nice city, one that I’ve chosen to live in, but not as important of a city as some people seem to think it is.
Its inhabitants, especially the inhabitants who have no contact with life east of Bratislava engage in a post-1992 form of Pragocentrism, adjusted for the new borders. It’s Blavocentrism – the mistaken idea that Bratislava (or Blava) is the center of the world. People in big cities all over the world (some more deservedly than others) believe that their big city and their isolated experiences are indicative of the experience of all people living in their country. Blavocentrism also insists that Bratislava is the center of Slovak culture, when in reality, so many of the displays of culture in the capital city are simply second class imitations of some more original display of culture from some other part of the world. That can leave a visitor feeling like more authentic displays of Slovak culture can be found outside of the capital city.
This is not to say that I do not have a fine appreciation for Bratislava, only that I realize that this city of 500,000 people (about 8.5% of the population) is in many situations not the best Slovakia has to offer. Furthermore, Bratislava seldom has the best anything in the world, as far as I have experienced. This makes it feel a little foolish to me when Blavocentric ideas come out, since the ideas make the speaker seem so divorced from reality.
A common Blavocentric opinion is something like this. While never spoken, it is easy to find if you read between the lines. “Bratislava is Slovakia. Slovakia is Bratislava. The rest of Slovakia is almost entirely worthless. What is not entirely worthless is only worth visiting for a short time, because it is filled by worthless people who are inferior forms of Slovaks.”
Blavocentrism can be especially frustrating, because it exists alongside another (probably more significant) trend in Slovak culture in which so many of the people in the capital city have close connections to village life. This connection to the village is part of what makes meeting people in Bratislava so enjoyable – at least half the people I meet are from somewhere else and many of them regularly return there. At the time of this writing – August 13, 2011 – a Google search shows no occurrence of the term Blavocentrism. See also Pragocentrism.
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.