The Barricade
On the Barricades
Unveiling the Enigma of Slovakia: A deep dive into the realm of Robert Fico

Unveiling the Enigma of Slovakia: A deep dive into the realm of Robert Fico

Interview with Silvia Ruppeldtová

In this episode of "On the Barricades," we delve into the intricate tapestry of Slovakia's political. Boyan Stanislavski is joined by the distinguished Slovak journalist and author, Silvia Ruppeldtová, whose recent work, "The other face of modernity," sheds light on the unseen facets of international politics.

This episode promises an unprecedented exploration of Robert Fico's tenure as Slovakia's Prime Minister, a figure who commands both respect and controversy in equal measure. Fico's political odyssey, often marred by polarized media portrayals and contentious policies, is dissected to reveal a man whose actions and ideology are far more nuanced than the public persona crafted by headlines.

Through this in-depth discussion Stanislavski and Ruppeldtova navigate the complex landscape of Slovak politics, illuminating the forces that have shaped Fico's career and the nation's policy direction. From the roots of Fico's political ideology to the significant yet controversial reforms he has championed, this episode is an invitation to look beyond the surface and grasp the multifaceted nature of political leadership in Slovakia.

➨ Introduction to Robert Fico and his public image (00:00:00 - 00:05:00)
↠ The video opens with an introduction to Robert Fico, Slovakia's Prime Minister, addressing his controversial image in the media as a Kremlin-aligned figure and his opposition to pandemic measures.

➨ Fico's political journey and ideological stance (00:05:00 - 00:10:00)
↠ A deep dive into Fico's evolution from a Social Democrat to being accused of various ideological stances, highlighting his longstanding role in Slovak politics.

➨ Media portrayal vs. public perception (00:10:00 - 00:15:00)
↠ Discussion on the exaggerated negative portrayal of Fico in the media, especially regarding his stance on Russia and Ukraine, versus the actual public opinion and electoral support.

➨ Controversial policies and achievements (00:15:00 - 00:20:00)
↠ Examination of Fico's notable policies on healthcare and education, their societal impacts, and the public debate surrounding their perceived populism.

➨ Slovak national identity and political landscape (00:20:00 - 00:25:00)
↠ Insights into the broader context of Slovak national identity, the rural-urban divide, and how Fico taps into the national sentiment to maintain political support.

➨ European Union and NATO relations (00:25:00 - 00:30:00)
↠ Analysis of Fico's critical yet pragmatic stance towards the EU and NATO, and the implications for Slovakia's international relations.

➨ Public response to Fico's leadership (00:30:00 - 00:35:00)
↠ Discussion on the public's response to Fico's leadership, focusing on his re-election and the significant support despite widespread media criticism.

➨ Cultural and historical influences on politics in Slovakia (00:35:00 - 00:40:00)
↠ Exploration of how historical narratives and cultural factors influence Slovakia's political dynamics and Fico's political strategy.

➨ Conclusion and reflections on Fico's impact (00:40:00 - 00:48:02)
↠ Concluding remarks on Fico's impact on Slovakia's political scene, reflecting on the themes discussed and the complex interplay between leadership, identity, and governance.


Transcript of the interview

Boyan Stanislavski: Hello and welcome "On the Barricades". My name is Boyan Stanislavski. I'm going to be your host today. And I invited Silvia Ruppeldtová. Hello, and welcome to the show.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Hi.

Boyan Stanislavski: All right, so Silvia is a journalist and a writer from Slovakia, author of books and nerous articles. And I invited her because I'd like to discuss this new demonic figure that is now your prime minister in the Republic of Slovakia. One, Robert Fico. And we've heard so many things about him that, you know, he's being groomed by the Kremlin that, you know, he supports Russia in this war with Ukraine, that he is against any kind of measures or he used to be against any kind of measures during the years of the pandemic and so on and so forth. Anyway, he is evil walking evil. That's the kind of thing that you get when you read the mainstream press, including in our region, the former Eastern Bloc. So I'd like you to begin, perhaps, before we reply, whether it's these smears make any sense, I'd like you to perhaps begin, , by describing a little bit like who Robert Fico actually is and what he stands for.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, okay. Well, you mentioned that he's a new evil or a new demon. No no no no, no, he's being an evil or a demon for ages.

Boyan Stanislavski: In Slovakia,

Silvia Ruppeldtová: In Slovakia, in Slovakia. Well, yeah, probably he was not so much known abroad. He became actually a prime minister for the first time in 2006, I think, or seven. And, so he's absolutely not a new figure. He started as a Social Democrat, and he still represents himself and his party as a Social Democratic party. Then he was from the very beginning, he started to be accused of all those things that are unacceptable. First, he was a Bolshevik, then he was a communist. Then as the time passed, he became, russophile and nationalist and racist and etc. and so on and so forth. But that was especially during his first and second second government. And there were many things to criticize, of course. The problem is that now when he was reelected, very clearly reelected in the last elections, there was a huge mess. The half of the country wanted to emigrate because in the press you could you could only read that he supported Putin and not Ukraine, which is not true, actually that he will destroy Slovakia's international reputation.

Boyan Stanislavski: Because Slovakia of course has a fantastic international reputation.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah. And that the Slovakia has no future. And so everything was very, very, very much exaggerated of course. Even if you want to be critical to Robert Fico, this was something really. Absolutely not appropriate. And it happened in very specific situation. You know, when Robert Fico stopped being prime minister four years ago or so because there was this upheaval after the murder of Ján Kuciak, the journalist.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah. Let's talk about it a little bit because you said, because that's that's an important part of the past of Robert Fico's past, or at least past attached to him, because there was this horrendous murder in 2018, if I remember correctly.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, the beginning of the year.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah. Of a journalist and his wife or fiancée.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah.

Boyan Stanislavski: Right. And then Robert Fico well, the only thing that apparently he had to do with it, quote unquote, was that it happened under his reign. But there was there is no evidence, from what I gather. Correct me if I'm wrong connecting him or his administration to anyone even remotely close to this criminal act.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Right? Yeah, as I notice that the foreign media now and he's reelected again, not for the first time, that they write that he is directly connected somehow with the murder, which poses Slovakia then in a very strange light, because that would say that the Slovaks now voted for him in spite that he is a murderer. But of course, he was never accused officially of having killed someone. The only thing is really that it happened when he was a he was a prime minister and there was this massive hill, really, that people were protesting in the street, the movement, so-called Slušné Slovensko and the media, especially the media, represented it as the murder as an act as a consequence of the regime of Robert Fico as the corruption and which he was accused of and of course, in his government, there were cases of corruption, but there were absolutely. No clues to connect him.

Boyan Stanislavski: I'd like to focus on for a little while are the achievements, because I think that if there's anything that prompted people to actually vote for Fico again, despite this campaign that's been launched and relaunched pretty much every step of the way during his career. Then it's precisely because, I mean that's the kind of intuition that I have, it's precisely because people remember the achievements and please add to the list. But off the top of my head he removed the initial payment that you had to make every time you go to see a doctor. He made the train rides free for students, for elderly people, and, yeah, what else?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Well, these things, they were considered rather to be cosmetic, but they already were like signs of Bolshevism or communism that was perceived by the media as something very problematic. And so then you can then you can imagine that, that if you have the tendency to privatize completely those color and health care system, then of course it is a problem. And already in that time, many big institutions were already privatized. So what he did in those times, he prevented the health care system to be privatised. And also there were tendency for the universities to be paid and so on. And so this didn't happen and this was much of his achievement. But again, it was very bad perceived very bad, perceived in the media. And so especially the young people, they somehow tend to criticize it or to, to see it as something problematic.

Boyan Stanislavski: So they criticized the fact that they have university education free.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: I mean, not generally, but yeah, they were tendencies to criticize it because they say that then you will have average education, for instance, or average, health care system if you do not pay. And especially, of course, if the old people do not pay because they go there every five minutes and then you have to wait and, you know, all these kind of things. So, yeah, I mean, the massive propaganda there, it was always okay.

Boyan Stanislavski: Well, so, you know he was demonized pretty much from, well, ever since, right? But then the the campaigns against him are nothing new. But again, he was reelected, well, on the basis of the fact that people remember those achievements, right?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: I think partly.

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: I think of course, partly, but the other reasons are especially connected. It was also an act, I would say, of revolt. I don't think that the majority of people who voted for him were, like, extremely satisfied with him. But you know, we have to remember that he stopped being a prime minister after the murder of Ján Kuciak of the journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, and he was shortly replaced by Peter Pellegrini, and then the people quite massively voted for Igor Matovič as a really adventurous party. And it was really adventurous government, who said that they were struggling, that they were fighting against the corruption established by Fico. And people really voted for this because somehow they believed in a corruption. But what happened was that the pandemia came and the new government was resulted to be absolutely incapable of managing anything because there were no experts, no politicians, no people with any sort of specialized education. And so after the four year of complete chaos and just the vengeance that was against Fico and his people, but not only against those politicians. But, you know, what happened is that the society is completely devised, and you have those who who now voted for Fico, all of them are labeled as someone who is degenerated retrograded.

Boyan Stanislavski: But that's the majority of the electorate, so...

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And that's the majority of the electorate. So actually this...

Boyan Stanislavski: So there's a small group of Slovaks who consider themselves to be very exclusionary. And then the rest are basically useless.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah. And this exclusive Slovaks or this elites or elitists, I would say they say, of course, that the former government was a catastrophe, but it still was better than Fico because now with Fico we are going to be a new colony of Russia.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, okay.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: I mean, many of them believe so because Fico said that he is against delivery of guns to Ukraine. Continuing delivering guns to Ukraine.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, okay. So let's talk a little bit about the the demonization that's going on now. So first of all, he does not want to support Ukraine endlessly until the last Ukrainian, as the saying goes. And, I wonder, is this the only thing that they spin this around right now? Because that's a very fashionable thing, you know, or that used to be at least until a couple of months ago. Now things are changing a little bit, but, that's something that, you know, in Poland, for example, saying that you're against supplying Ukraine with weapons that basically a couple of months ago would end your career, you know, and yet, despite similar atmosphere, I'm sure developing in Slovakia at the time, he was able to not only not end his career but become a prime minister, partially thanks to saying that. So how do you how do you explain this?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Well, the first to say the elites explain it with a new theory that it somehow in the Slovak DNA and somehow retrograde DNA. Because we are..

Boyan Stanislavski: So now it's genetics.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, genetics, yeah. It's rather genetics and that there are many people who somehow. And that is also, for instance, an influence of Russia mentality, some Russian traditions in the Slovak national development and that this russophilia is something in our genes even though we belong to the Western society, somehow we are influenced by the Byzantines and the orthodoxy which is retrograde, you know, sort of really conspiracy nonsense.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, and where are they getting this from? I'm very curious.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And so nobody is really, really reflecting the reality. And the reality is that the majority of the population of Slovakia really voted for Fico, and not because they like them. Or so, but because they saw it as the only one solution to the complete chaos. And I would say also an attack on the human dignity. I really would say so because, for instance, I myself, if I can say so, I never thought about voting for Fico, but as I was really during a weeks or really observing the situation, how the people who wanted to vote for him or were thinking just somehow differently, that they were immediately labeled or pro-Putin, pro-Fico. So that's the one group, of course, because if we're voting for Fico, that means that we are pro-Putin, that you are somehow who is old and who has no education, doesn't speak any languages, who has actually no right to vote. And all those peasants from the countryside, who need to be taught how to vote and what to think and how to be remade in a way. So I think this was also very, very essential attack of the human dignity. And maybe for some people, also the national dignity, I would say, yeah, well.

Boyan Stanislavski: I think this question of dignity is pretty important, in our region, you know, in Eastern Europe, the former Eastern Bloc, because that's, what you just said reminds me a lot about the situation in Poland, because for the last almost ten years now, almost nine years, really, we've had this government led by law and justice and you know, the chairman of Law and Justice, Jarosław Kaczyński, who, you know, used to be really a kind of petty dictator of the internal political process here. And everybody that were against law and justice would be saying exactly this. Oh, dictatorial mentality, Byzantine, whatever, Russian influence eastern, anti-Western and so on and so forth, which made no sense, I mean, on its face, it's just ridiculous. I can't think of any of a single person that would go and vote for Kaczyński or his party going like, oh, I'm against the West. You know, I really want to, you know, I want to have Kaczyński. I'm against the West or I don't know, I really want Russia to come or something like that. Of course. Kaczyński, unlike Fico or unlike Orbán, he's very hawkish against Russia and that's one of the major differences. But then, you know, the way he was actually flirting with the people and flirting with the electorate was that, look, I'm going to give you something and I'm going to give it to you, not because I want to throw money at the society or at a problem, at a social problem, but because you deserve it. And that was the narrative, and because you deserve it, because you're Polish, because it doesn't matter whether you speak foreign languages, it doesn't matter whether you don't live in more. So it doesn't matter whether you're vegan or eco vegan or whatever or you know what? Like your identity is very traditional and so on and so forth. You go to church. That's very good. You know. So he was playing this dignity card all the time. And finally it just became a war between those who were empowered by Kaczyński and those who were basically waiting to rearrange the things again in a way that the plebeian part of the society is subordinate to the rule and to the diktat of the enlightened part of society. So is it is it something similar?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, it's very similar, actually. It's more or less more or less the same. Again, the problematic thing with Fico from my point of view, well, it's it's not so much connected with the war in Ukraine because Fico said immediately after being reelected that he was not going to stop the aid to to to Ukraine. He was just not going to.

Boyan Stanislavski: Send arms.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Send arms, which is not the same thing. But of course it was interpreted like that very easily and immediately, but there was like Orbán, which is true, this very strong anti-migration rhetoric, which is of course, very easy in Slovakia. And, and he or his party members, especially, were using it regularly, even before, in a way, in an aggressive way, in a, in a way of resisting way.

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay. But this was this was not so much, I suppose, because he really is a genuine racist, but probably because he wanted to be more populist. That's the kind of and this works in our, our, you know, geographical the area here.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, definitely, definitely. That was not his racism or his fascism or anything like that. In my opinion. It should have been done in a different way. But I don't think that it was especially racist or so that was just a political and it still is a political calculation.

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay, but let's talk a little bit about the political culture that actually allows this combination, because for Western viewers and, you know, you can see it even on the, you know, in the comment section, , of our videos, you will see that people are asking questions about like, how is it possible that you have, you know, this kind of party that represents this sort of political tradition and then it would incorporate something from other political traditions? I personally think that this happens, that now the political compass is completely broken anyway. And, you know, the left does things that the right wing used to do and the other way around. So I don't really think it's so important, but I think it is. What is essential is to describe the kind of political culture that is characteristic for our region. And I think it is important to say that people like this combination. I mean, our people like this combination of, like a traditionalist elements with social democratic basis. And this is just this is just something that, you know, to many appears strange, weird, maybe dangerous, but this is what we are. This is the way we function. This is the way our societies are kind of motivated politically to, you know, participate in in the political process, you know, to the extent that, you know, it is of course, possible structurally, but that's that's what we are. That's why I think that many parties traditionally, well, not traditionally, but new right wing parties like those who model themselves on the American libertarians, like, you know, they want they want everything to be very conservative and very liberal at the same time, in terms of economy, those parties never take root in our countries because this is so alien to the DNA, to the political DNA of our societies. And I feel that Fico is just, you know, he is representing a trend which is massive, not only in Slovakia but pretty much everywhere. And I wonder to what extent those people who are attacking him are aware of this, that he's a typical product of typical political understanding, perception?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: You know, this is maybe more typical for the East European society like ours. But there are other tendencies also also in the West Europe, maybe in France or in Spain, you can see it also with the rise of nationalism or these right wing parties like Marine Le Pen, etc. and Fico also was accused of being such a nationalist like in that way of Marine Le Pen and Orbán and whatever. And there is, there is this strange moment, well, which is not so strange, I think that it again, it has to do with the dignity and especially with the dignity of the so-called common people from the countryside, who politically might be more manipulative or manipulated, maybe. But those, those people are somehow those who lost in the transformation process, who somehow stayed in the periphery and about whom nobody takes care. And so, again, I would say that this is more about the blessed dignity of the societies and the gap between the so-called elites from the cities or the educated people who are not so educated at all, but they consider themselves so. And the countryside, which is somehow.

Boyan Stanislavski: The province.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: The province. The province which tend to be more traditional, of course, more religious. More. Well, they they have different they have different values and perceive things and changes in the society differently. And they feel they really feel they are frustrated and they feel that they are abandoned. So..

Boyan Stanislavski: And they are, they are...

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And in fact they are about that. So I think that Robert Fico and many others can feel somehow that in this way is also blessed, something that should not be blessed. And this is the dignity of the ordinary people.

Boyan Stanislavski: Exactly.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And this is also something which sounds very archaic, but it's something like the national identity. And in Slovakia specifically, it has to do with some, in my opinion, it has to do with some cultural specialty that that we have that we still somehow aren't there is there is no such self-confidence as you have in Poland, for instance or, I don't know, in Bulgaria, and it's something very un-modern in the 21st century, but it's something also that we've taken from the 19th century that we consider ourselves someone who is very young and who has no traditions, no rulers, no historical elites. And so really, we have to prove to the world that we are as good as the others, even without the the elites, which in my opinion is nonsense completely. But this lack of cultural continuity somehow in the 21st century or in the modern age creates this specific situation that we have generally in Eastern Europe. But I mean, not not only.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah. Yeah.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: So, so yeah. So, Fico, he tries somehow to connect the traditions of the ordinary people and the dignity of the ordinary people.

Boyan Stanislavski: So social democratic measures.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So somehow to be traditionalist somehow to respect the tradition, who respects the religion, who respects the ordinary tea and ordinary people and to be modern also in a social democratic way.

Boyan Stanislavski: Do you think it has to do also I mean, the question of dignity and the question of respecting the ordinary person, the average person, you know, the average citizen. Do you think it also has to do with the fact and perhaps the question of patriotism or however you want to refer to it, the set of ideas that you just explained. Do you think that this has to do also with some kind of that this is a response to this self-hatred that is offered by the liberal people or liberally, you know, people who like to present themselves as liberals in Eastern Europe. It's not like they necessarily are actually liberal, but this is how they think about themselves. And there is a lot of, you know, in Poland, in Bulgaria, in many other countries, I'm sure there's a lot of hatred towards their own nation, you know, and this is something that the right wing. Yeah. like, so can you can you speak a little bit about this phenomenon in Slovakia and how it developed and how, you know, Fico is reacting against that?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah. It's very complex issue. Of course, the fact is that somehow we identified ourselves as a nation 200 years ago or so. Well, before it was not a question because there were no national states, in we were a part of a greater Hungary. And so and then as a part of First Czechoslovak Republic. So it's only something more than 100 years ago and as an independent state, it's only 30 years. And we always thought during the 20th century, we would be thought that we are the peasant nations. We had no elites, we had no kings, we had no whatever. During the communism, many intellectuals were just calm down and just erased from the history, which was which is a pity. And so many people really think that we have no history and we have to do our own history. During the 20th century, there were very there were a lot of problematic chapters because, as you know, during the Second World War, the so-called independent Slovakia was a satellite of fascist Germany. And they were deliberate deportations of 60,000 Jews from Slovakia. So and the president was a Catholic priest. So someone who represented the ordinary people, the common or..

Boyan Stanislavski: The cultural...

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, yeah. And then in Slovakia, it's very, very, very important somehow it's still inherently it leaves someone in the heads. You cannot be surprised if someone asks you and are you Lutheran? Or are you Catholic? This is not a nonsensical question in Slovakia, because usually those who were connected with Lutheranism were those enlightened.

Boyan Stanislavski: So even has that aspect. Yeah.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, yeah. Very, very, very, very much. The members of the national movements and literary movements in 1970 were all almost all Lutherans. Ordinary people with no education were almost all Catholics. So there is really this aspect city and the elite.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, but.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And the ordinary people and it leaves. And then you had. And then you had the Second World War and the Catholic priest as a fascist president of the state. And this traa, of course, never disappeared completely. It's not so many years ago.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah. Okay. But that's something that you obviously want to discuss, right? I mean, it happened not so many years ago. This is something that can be disputed. And but I believe that it can easily be discussed without demonization of people who are present in today's politics. Like...

Silvia Ruppeldtová: It should be possible.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, it should be possible. You're right. But then you know, the question of mathematics, it's not it's not a question that I often pose in our programs, but, look, people, ordinary, so-called ordinary people, okay? Let's, quote unquote, ordinary people. There is more ordinary people than extraordinary people. So how. Yeah, it's just the extraordinary people. Do they even sometimes think about it like there is more of the other. So they will they can vote us out every once in a while. And also, you know, the hegemony of the extra ordinary citizens is very fragile because it can always be undermined even in this quantitative terms like, you know, just people can go and vote...

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah. Like now, like like like it happened now actually. And. Yeah, exactly. And they are so surprised. But they...

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah exactly. They are surprised. But they are surprised at an obvious fact. I mean this is just there is more villages and more small towns than big cities. Right. So why are they surprised? Because they hope, like in Poland, for example. They hope that you know, those people will be will stay there in their homes. They're going to stay. They're going to stay there, go to church, I don't know, maybe go somewhere, well, hang around their village, but they would not, they should be kept in a state where they don't vote, where they don't take part in the public life.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah. Actually...

Boyan Stanislavski: And that's what the Polish extraordinary citizens would be hoping for.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Our extraordinary, our extraordinary people, they didn't have the tendency to completely forbid voting, but they had the tendency somehow to re-educate and to say that the younger members of the family should somehow re-educate their grandparents, even though it can be really very complicated and nerve breaking.

Boyan Stanislavski: But I like it, because that's at least, you know, they are trying to prompt someone to have a discussion. So that's good because here, for example, we had this sort of call, steal your grandma's identity card so that she cannot vote.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: You know, you could say on Facebook, young, quite young people were were posting the photographs of their grandmothers and grandfathers. You know, this is my grandmother. She is 85 years old, and she voted for Progressive Slovensko, for Progresívne Slovensko. Be like my grandmother because she..

Boyan Stanislavski: That's much better than the Polish kind of idea.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: That's not maybe so aggressive than in Poland. But I found it really really ridiculous. And they were trying to convince the grandparents to do something for the future because they are already old, but the grandchildren are young and they, they need to have some future, so that they can stay in Slovakia. This was the very, very slogan, before the election, we want to stay in Slovakia. And if you want to stay in Slovakia, you cannot vote for Fico. And I will emigrate to, I don't know if it Fico,

Boyan Stanislavski: But that's blackmail, like blackmail, right? I mean, I'm going to emigrate if you vote Fico in...

Silvia Ruppeldtová: That was really quite massive.

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: This was quite massive. That was like everywhere. And people were like, no, it won't be possible to stay in the fascist dictatorship. And it will be like in Hungary under Orbán.

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay. But of course, I, you know, just for the record, there is no evidence that there is any attempt of establishing any sort of, even remotely any sort of regime even remotely close to dictatorship, let alone fascist dictatorship.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: So even though the journalists really tried to they try to do their best. When Fico had his first press conferences in, , in Brussels and in Bratislava, I think that he was doing very well. I think that he was quite calm. And he knows how to speak and he's convincing. He's not stupid at all.

Boyan Stanislavski: And he's a seasoned politician.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And he's exactly, exactly, probably the only one I don't know if there is in Slovakia. In Slovakia. Well, maybe not the only one, but I cannot think of anybody else in the moment. And, you know, the journalists who were there were people around 25 years old or 20 from, I don't know, French medid on that media and that media, and they only repeated what they had learned. Exactly.

Boyan Stanislavski: Phrases I've heard. But that's all.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Right. Yeah. And and Fico was quite okay. But when he heard that Mr. Fiko, Mr. Fiko, you are very much connected with the case of the murder of the journalist in Slovakia. Well, he lost his nerve,

Boyan Stanislavski: He exploded.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And he explained, like, how come that. What are you telling to me? What do you know about it? And of course, she knew nothing. And of course.. So this enrages many people. Well, how dare Fico say something like this to the French journalist.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, because French journalist is more important than your prime minister.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Something more.

Boyan Stanislavski: I know. I mean, this is part of the self-hatred. Like, this is amazing. Yeah.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, exactly. And then it was the same with the help or not help to Ukraine. I saw the press conference. It was in Brussels, and there were a lot of Slovak journalists, some of them I know. And they were really just to try him, to provoke, to say something that they could really accuse him.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, so this was not a genuine press conference on his part, but this was not a genuine participation of journalists on, well, on the part of the media, in a sense that they were not trying to figure out what he stands for or he's going to do whatever his actions, whatever his plans are for, you know, the upcoming period. No, it was just an attempt to basically provoke him to say something that they can spin around their propaganda afterwards right now. But tell me a little bit, because I understand why he's a Putinist, because he doesn't want to arm Ukraine. And, you know, he doesn't want to have this war until the last Ukrainian or whatever. But why when they speak about him as a fascist or something like that, how what what arguments quote unquote, are they using?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah. Okay. Well, he's not being spoken as a fascist usually. Or maybe some, maybe some..

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay. But what about this? But dictatorship.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah. The dictatorship or some tendencies that he's aligned with the fascists and well that and well, if he's anti-immigration, then he's a racist, etc.. , well, that's also has to do with the self-confidence of the Slovaks. The the better Slovaks and the worse Slovaks, of course, the ordinary and the extraordinary. Because it was Fico who in 2006 or 2007, when he for the first time became a prime minister, and his party SMER they really tried to reestablish the celebration of International Day of Women or the end.. No, not the end of the Second World War. Not that that was always okay, but the celebration of the Slovak National Uprising, which during communism, during the period of communism was very popular, of course, because it was interpreted as a fight of communists against fascists, which, of course, that was not so simple, because they were not only communists who were fighting fascism, but we were thought so during socialism. So somehow it kept the minds of the people that somehow who would like to celebrate Slovak national uprising..

Boyan Stanislavski: Is a dictator.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Is a dictator, is a communist.

Boyan Stanislavski: All right, so I understand how they position him as a Putinist or something just because he doesn't want to arm Ukraine until the last Ukrainian and so on and so forth. But what about fascism? Dictatorship? Why would he be like, what kind of argents, quote unquote, are used to promote this kind of smear?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, yeah. Then don't say that he is a fascist. That would be really too much even for them, for the extraordinary, but that he is aligned with fascists and well, that's, that's something that sometimes he's accused of.. Well, so when he started as a social democrat in 2006 or 2007, he really immediately wanted to celebrate the Slovak National uprising, for instance, which was a which is a National day and it always was. And during communism, it was one of the one of the biggest memorial days. And somehow it sticked in the heads of people that were only communists who fought against fascism. So it was just some communist celebration. And everybody who wants to celebrate Slovak National uprising must be a communist and.

Boyan Stanislavski: Must be a dictator.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And and must subsequently must be a dictator. And of course, that was really ridiculous those times that's just very interesting. The liberal media in those times are writing about national Slovak National Uprising as something that helped to open the road to Gulag.

Boyan Stanislavski: Oh my God.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Really, these people, these pro-Western, pro-Democratic people were writing about this as someone as something that it helped to open the way to Gulag.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And so Fico celebrating this opening to Gulag, of course, must have been a Bolshevik.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And they augmented with something which is partly true that during communism, we were taught that Slovak National Uprising was something completely communist to fight against the fascism, which was not true. But somehow this stayed in the minds even of the very well so-called very well educated people. And I think that they should have been happy that Fico wanted to celebrate it. But no, at that time they were not. But as the time, as the time passed. And then in 2016, I think for the first time, a real nationalist party or a real fascist party became a part of Parliament, the Kotleba Party. Well, suddenly everybody was shocked. How come that we have real fascists in the Parliament? And suddenly everybody started to celebrate the Slovak National uprising because it was really something, some movement that fought fascism during the Second World War. And since then, every good citizen, every extraordinary citizen is celebrating the Slovak national uprising as a symbol of a fight against fascism. And somehow Fico now, because he sometimes collaborates.

Boyan Stanislavski: Just confusing everyone.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, yeah. It's so, so now Fico has nothing to do with the fight, fight with with the celebration of Slovak National Uprising. And this year we had two commemoration which.. one official. Well, it was not official. One big, in Banská Bystrica led by Fico who spoke there, and the second one for the exclusive part of society led by our president, Zuzana Čaputová.

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay, you know, one more thing that popped up in my mind while you were discussing that, you know, he would be accused of, like, Fico would be accused of being a Bolshevik because he wanted to reestablish the tradition of celebrating certain uprising and so on and so forth. You know, that makes me think of how convoluted is the anti-communism in Eastern Europe, because it's so ideologically, so heavy, so thick, you know, so dense, it's almost part of the identity of the political classes, like throughout the former Eastern Bloc. And I'm just thinking that it's so ridiculous because, you know, you can't celebrate an anti-fascist uprising because that would be communism. You can't have free health care because that would be communism. You can't have properly functioning public transit available or cheap or for free, because that would be communism. You know, I mean, this this obsession with like, oh, we have to be very careful. We we have to make sure that life is not so easy because that would be communism. I mean, that's just so ridiculous. And I wonder, does it really play out this way in Slovakia too? And is Fico somehow, you know, part of a victim sort of of this mechanism..

Silvia Ruppeldtová: From the beginning as I told you, everything what he did was communism. And still is.. Now it may be replaced by the russophilia for a time, then I don't know what will come.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, yeah. Okay. But what are you trying to say, I understand, is that those people are creative. So we will see what comes next as a kind of campaign.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Definitely. Definitely, definitely. But I think that it's also a part of some bigger movement that it's not only typical for Slovakia or Eastern Europe, but actually that that something that really has to do with this expanding neoliberal capitalism we live in and with the tendencies and the pressures that really the people are victim of, even the exclusive ones.

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. But, you know, for the end, I just want to ask this, do you think that the opposition of the extraordinary citizens and their parties, do you think that this opposition is strong enough to maybe sabotage some you know, the functioning of Fico's government? Do you think they could they could really make trouble?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Well, they will try probably to do really everything possible to provoke Fico's government.

Boyan Stanislavski: But to provoke to do what?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: I don't know, maybe some some...

Boyan Stanislavski: Riots or?

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Some strong messages or some inappropriate vocabulary, but. Well, but but but who knows. You know, speaking about the murder of Ján Kuciak in 2018, for instance..

Boyan Stanislavski: Which again, Fico had nothing to do with.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Fico had nothing to do, and everybody, even in Slovakia, as I heard probably that some people really believed that he personally somehow is involved in it, you know, nobody was then the people just stopped asking if it really was him or not. They just took it for they somehow they took it for granted. So and they never ask what would it have been good for? So but because it was just a problem for him, he was complete zero at that time. Nobody I mean, he really was seen as someone as a symbol of a corruption. And he completely lost. So he was seen as someone who politically is forever gone. And now he is victoriously here, victoriously. He was never so strong, I would say. And and even people who didn't vote for, who didn't want to vote for him, voted for him because there was no other option, because they they saw him as the only one.

Boyan Stanislavski: The adult in the room.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: The adult in the room, only one responsible politician. That was my case, actually. I was not. Not especially happy, but, yeah.

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay, and do you do you are you anticipating that the people who are part of the political opposition in the parliament or in the institutions, are they going to try and mobilize, I don't know, the European Union, for example, to support them in order to remove Fico, because this is what we've had, the kind of conflict between the Polish government and the European Union's institution and the European Union's institutions was precisely because the European Union was favoring Donald Tusk, the leader of the opposition. And that was so clear and so obvious to everyone. You know, it had the contrary effect because it actually mobilized the support for "Law and justice" even more, because they thought, like, people would think that this is an unjust competition. Like, why would you have the European Union behind you against the government that's been voted in by the people democratically? Okay, that's..

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, maybe they will try to do or something like that. But, you know, Robert Fico, he is, sometimes he's nervous and sometimes he says something..

Boyan Stanislavski: So they will be counting on that.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah, they will be counting on that. But, you know, he he criticizes the European Union. He criticizes then and that sometimes he's very anti-American rhetoric. But in the same time he never forgets to reply. Well, it's not a question for me to change the status of a member of European Union. We are members of European Union. We are going to stay. So he will actually be a good member of European Union. And he will also stay a good member of NATO because even though he says many things against NATO, he..

Boyan Stanislavski: Yeah, but you know, I understand that, but I also think that this is part of this is something that I probably perceive as a good thing about him, because that's, you know, the point that a large part of the society is trying to make. I mean, I have the feeling that this is the situation is not so much that we want to be out of the European Union or we want to be out of NATO, or we want to be, you know somewhere else, maybe in BRICs or whatever. The point that they're trying to make is that you don't have to follow blindly every step of the way. I mean, the people in Brussels can sometimes hear the word no.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Yeah.

Boyan Stanislavski: And this is what they're and look at Orbán. I mean, Orbán, you can have all kinds of ideas about his, you know, policies, okay? You can be critical or you can be you can be cheerful about it. But the point is that he's a flexible politician. He's not leaving the European Union. He's not leaving NATO. He's just playing the card of what he refers to as national interest and the way that he perceives it. And I suppose that it's likely, judging by what I've seen so far from Fico, is that he's going to follow you know, the same..

Silvia Ruppeldtová: Actually, Viktor Orbán was very happy seeing Fico again where he is, and that's why also why Fico is labeled as someone as terrible as Orbán. But it's like you like you describe it. And yes, it should be good even for the European Union to be sometimes criticized. But that's not how is it seen in European Union, as we know, and it's not so seen in the extraordinary or extraordinary society. Because really the mentality, eh the mentality. I don't like to talk about these things like.

Boyan Stanislavski: Ideology maybe.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: But, yeah, but the ideology, the official ideology that it's very it's very childish in a way, because it's either pro or against either you are for or against and so act if you are against, if you were against NATO, now you have to be pro-nato, for instance, because there is a war. And if you are, if you vote for veto, it means that you love him especially. So you have really..

Boyan Stanislavski: No nuance.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: No, no, no nuance. So if you criticize the European Union, it means that you are against the European Union. And I'm often asked, how are you? So so are you happy that we are in European Union? And I always say, like Gandhi, Gandhi used to say, it would be a good idea because I would like to be. I mean, we are members of European Union, but the European Union acts like it acts.

Boyan Stanislavski: And yeah, that's the that's one of the problems actually, which I think is going to pop up and maybe we can discuss that sometime later. We will see how things unfold in Slovakia. But you know, what is what I think is the important point to make is that indeed European Union is not the same thing that I'm not the same thing that it used to be, in a sense, that I voted during the referend in Poland in favor of joining the European Union. But if I were to actually vote in the same referend today, I would vote against it because the European Union is a completely different animal right now. So there is a lot to talk about and I think that there's going to be some interesting events. Absolutely, in Eastern Europe.

Silvia Ruppeldtová: But you know there will be those who are talking about possible Maidanization of the Slovak politics that the opposition would try to do everything so that there would be something like Maidan. Well, I actually do not think so that so in such things in Slovakia there are the tendencies. But I...

Boyan Stanislavski: Well but they did attempt something like, you know, something along the lines of Colored Revolution in 2018 when they actually took down the Fico. So I don't feel that Slovakia is perhaps so important for the West now to sort of invest there a lot of effort in order to overthrow the government. I think Fico is not really endangering anything. He's not a good example, maybe, but he's not really endangering any kind of processes that are, you know, still ongoing and...

Silvia Ruppeldtová: And, you know, and the foreign media only speak about Slovakia when there is such problem like Fico, so actually everybody should be very happy that we are spoken about.

Boyan Stanislavski: Okay. All right. So on this note, a very optimistic one although a bit paradoxical, we're going to end this program. Thank you very much. Thank you, Silvia, for taking the time to be with us. And to our viewers and listeners and readers, please, you know, take a while to subscribe to our channel, to hit the like button and perhaps to leave a comment and to share our productions with your friends, family, acquaintances and so on and so forth. And to the extent that you feel you can afford it, you can support us financially, either by monthly subscriptions or one off donations. The links to support us are in the description section of each of our videos. Thank you very much and see you in the next segments.

The Barricade
On the Barricades
“On the Barricades” is a thought-provoking podcast that offers in-depth commentary on international events, with a strong focus on systemic critique rather than daily news. Proudly presenting an Eastern European perspective, we delve into the underlying processes and political dynamics shaping our world, drawing on our unique historical experiences with Soviet-style socialism to provide intellectually and politically refreshing insights.