Slovakia is the least known among the West Slavic group of nations: Poland, Bohemia, and Slovakia. That is also true of its poetry. The reasons are mainly historical. The Slovak nation dates its beginnings to the ninth century Great Moravian Empire that, in its flourishing under Svätopluk, included the territory of the former Czechoslovakia, southern Poland, parts of Austria, and most of Hungary. Attempts to Christianize this territory go back to the eighth century missions from the West, but it was in 863 that the apostles of the Slavs, Saints Cyril and Methodius, arrived from Constantinople with the Old Church Slavonic liturgy. In the tenth century, the Great Moravian Empire, after a period of decline, was defeated by the Magyars, and Slovakia became a part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Slovakia remained under Hungarian rule until 1918, when the new state of Czechoslovakia was established.
Slovak literature in general, and Slovak poetry in particular, reflect this tragic history. The lack of independence for more than a millennium forced Slovak poets, historians, and scientists to use other languages: Latin, Hungarian, German, and biblical Czech. While such literary works are usually mentioned in Slovak literary history, they are also claimed by others. There was, then, a long period when Slovak poets wrote their poetry predominantly in foreign languages: the Multilingual Period (tenth through sixteenth centuries). The Revival Period (1790-1863) saw a great flourishing of Slovak literature, especially of poetry. In the Period of Struggle (1863-1918), this revived literature met the challenge of Magyarization, the campaign by Hungarian authorities to stamp out the Slovak nationalist aspirations and to suppress the Slovak language. Large-scale emigration to the United States was one consequence of this harsh policy. The Modern Period (1918 to present) has been shaped by the increasing influence of foreign literary trends, by the ideological influence of the former Soviet Union, and by the resurgence of Catholic poetry.