Slovak heritage institution co-operates with Russian counterpart headed by spy chief

Slovak heritage institution co-operates with Russian counterpart headed by spy chief
Prime Minister Robert Fico (centre) at a Matica Slovenska event. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera April 8, 2024

Slovak heritage institution Matica slovenska signed a cooperation agreement with the Russian Historical Society headed by the chief of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin.

Matica slovenska, which has long been under the influence of pro-Russian 19th-century historical narratives, has been promoted by the current Kremlin-friendly cabinet of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, joint investigative platform Cez ciaru of liberal daily SME and anti-corruption NGO Zastavme korupciu [Let’s Stop Corrruption] reported.

“We have found out that Matica slovenska in 2019 signed a cooperation memorandum with the state Russian Historical Society chaired by foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin,” Eva Mihockova of Cez ciaru reported.   

Matica slovenska stated the cooperation agreement from 2019 is aimed at the “carrying out of exhibitions and exchange of archive and historical documents” and was concluded at an event by the Museum of Slovan National Uprising in Banska Bystrica. The cooperation did not evolve further due to COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, say Matica administrators.

However, the Cez Ciaru investigation found that the cooperation never ended despite the ongoing war in Ukraine and that last year the Matica administration invited the Russian Historical Society to the 160th anniversary of Matica in the central Slovak city of Martin.

Moreover, Ruslan Gagkuev of the Russian Historical Society has repeatedly praised the cooperation with Matica on pro-Russian media channels, stressing that “the Slovak people consider sacred the memory of the Red Army soldiers and officers who died for the liberation of Europe from Nazism” and that “it is gratifying that this is happening despite any political circumstances,” Cez ciaru reported.   

The Russian Historical Society has promoted the chauvinist narratives of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s other nationalist leaders about the Russian nation in the post-Soviet area, Cez ciaru noted. Cooperation with heritage institutions abroad is frequently used as a launchpad for promoting ultranationalism and Russian propaganda.

“Such cooperation is not only extremely dangerous, but it also could derail Slovakia for years ahead,” Victor Breiner of the Institute for Building Resilience told Cez ciaru.   

The administrator of Matica Slovenska, Maros Smolec, has regularly denied any activities channelling pro-Russian propaganda.

“Matica slovenska does not comment on the Russian state regime, does not support it and is not a tool of any foreign power in Slovakia,” Smolec stated in February, stressing that Matica’s interests are “pro-Slovakian” and that its activities are “built on cultural, expert and scientific cooperation”.  

Slovakia has a bustling pro-Russian disinformation scene, which often replicates official Kremlin lines and propaganda and is frequently inspired by the 19th nationalist movement.

“Russians have always tried to help Slovaks. Our cooperation emanates also from genes – from the characteristic features of the Russian and Slovak man,” Smolec stated in 2016, adding that “we will have to seek shelter under the wings of Russian eagle against non-European and anti-Christian attacks of the globalised world”.