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Along with Czech and Polish, it is classified as a western Slavic tongue in the Indo-European language family. Political circumstances beginning nearly a thousand years ago separated populations, but Slovak and Czech are still mutually intelligible.
There are three main dialects of Slovak, corresponding to the western, central, and eastern regions.
The empire's estimated one million inhabitants included all the western Slavs (peoples who became the Czechs, Moravians, Slovaks, and Poles).
After the invasion of nomadic Hungarian peoples in the tenth century, the peoples who became the Slovaks were isolated from other western Slavic groups as a result of the conquest of the Great Moravian Empire after the Battle of Bratislava in 907.
This measure curtailed the use of minority languages in the public sphere and mostly affected the Hungarian minority.
The language law has now been revised and is less restrictive.
Superimposed over the bands on the left (hoist) side is a shield displaying the national emblem: a double apostolic cross in white sits atop the middle peak of three blue mountaintops, all on a red background.
The population growth rate is estimated to be 0.08 percent (1998), with an age structure of 0-14 years, 21 percent; 15-64 years, 68 percent; and 65 and over, 11 percent. Slovak, the national language, uses the Roman alphabet.
Rom occasionally self-identify as Hungarian in census records.
Other groups include Czechs, 1.4 percent; Ruthenians (Rusyns), 0.3 percent; Ukrainians, 0.3 percent; Germans, 0.1 percent; and Poles, 0.1 percent.
For example, the fujara , or shepherd's flute, a bassoonlike tube of wood over a meter long, and the valaška , or shepherd's ax, are markers of Slovak culture, along with folk costumes and designs. Slovaks trace their origins to the Slavic peoples who migrated from the European-Asian frontier to the area between the Danube and the Carpathians in the fifth and sixth centuries As increasingly sophisticated agricultural peoples, those Slavs established permanent communities in the Morava, Ipel', Torysa, Vah, and Nitra river valleys.
This region of early western Slavic occupation, especially east of the Morava River, correlates almost exactly with the historical and contemporary geographic distribution of Slovaks.