PAVOL CARNOGURSKY was a leading Slovak politician whose life mirrored the changing fortunes of the Slovak nation during the 20th century.
As an anti-Communist and devout Catholic, Carnogursky was harassed by the post-war Communist regime as an alleged Fascist sympathiser for his role in the independent Slovak republic established under Nazi tutelage during the Second World War. Carnogursky saw the close link between his nationalism and his faith, describing the Church as 'that historical force which created Catholic Slovakia with all its spiritual, moral and cultural riches'.
Carnogursky was born in Mala Frankova, a village near Poprad in the Habsburg Empire, in 1908. He trained as a teacher, but became an MP in the Slovak parliament in 1938, belonging to the moderate wing of the Slovak People's Party. He served for a time in the party's armed militia, but was expelled for anti-German activity before it fought alongside the Nazis. He remained an MP during the whole of the independent republic, even when parliament introduced controversial Nazi-inspired racial laws. Carnogursky abstained during the vote. Such legislation culminated in the deportation of almost the entire Jewish population of Slovakia to Nazi death camps in 1942. For that the suspended Catholic priest Josef Tiso, who headed the independent Slovak state, was executed after the war. Following the Slovak Uprising of 1944, Carnogursky left Bratislava for his home village.
After the May 1946 elections in Slovakia, where the Communists did badly, an operation directed from Prague was mounted to facilitate the Communist takeover. The secret police rounded up leading Slovak politicians who opposed Communist rule. Carnogursky was one of many arrested and interrogated. The secret police were particularly interested in plans made in spring 1946 to found a clerical Catholic party, hoping to use such a party to divide the anti-Communist vote, Carnogursky was eventually charged with wartime collaboration and imprisoned for two years. On release he was banned from working as a teacher.
Carnogursky continued to protest at Communist rule, particularly state oppression directed at the Catholic Church. In 1976 he was imprisoned again after writing to the few remaining Slovak bishops to condemn what he saw as the state's attempts to 'exterminate' the Church. He later became involved in the increasingly bold underground Catholic Church, which defied the state's restrictions. The Communist regime recognised him and, later, his son Jan as leading instigators of the underground Church and the growing Slovak national movement, and directed press campaigns against father and son, vilifying them as 'clerical fascists'. The secret police scoured the files for evidence of Nazi collaboration to use to discredit Pavol. Both had to endure interrogations and house searches.
After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 removed the old regime in Prague and Bratislava, Pavol had the joy of seeing his son Jan become federal deputy prime minister in Prague, then Slovak prime minister in Bratislava. This joy was short-lived as the Carnogurskys' brand of nationalism was overtaken by that of Vladimir Meciar and the former Communists.