Right at the heart of Europe with a history closely intertwined with its neighbours, Slovakia has managed to preserve its own language and distinct culture.
It was part of Czechoslovakia until the "velvet divorce" in January 1993.
Independent Slovakia went through an initial period of political turbulence, but it weathered the 2008 financial crisis to emerge as a prosperous and stable parliamentary democracy. The country joined the European Union in 2004, and the eurozone in 2009, and sent troops on peacekeeping missions to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo.
Slovakia has a significant Romany population, which suffers disproportionately high levels of poverty and social deprivation.
Population 5.5 million
Area 49,033 sq km (18,932 sq miles)
Major language Slovak
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 74 years (men), 81 years (women)
President: Zuzana Caputova
Opposition candidate Zuzana Caputova beat the government's Maros Sefcovic in the second round of the March 2019 presidential election, with 58% of the vote.
A lawyer and long-standing anti-corruption campaigner, she is noted for a decade-long fight against a poisonous landfill in her hometown of Pezinok.
Ms Caputova was moved to stand for the presidency during protests over the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak, who was investigating links between politicians and organised crime when he was shot dead along with his fiancée in February 2018.
Prime Minister: Eduard Heger
Finance Minister Heger took over as head of government in April 2021, changing places with Prime Minister Igor Matovic in an attempt to resolve a long-standing crisis in the four-party left-right coalition over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their anti-corruption Ordinary People (OLaNO) party had won the February 2020 election on a wave of public anger over the Kuciak killings.
TV is the most popular medium. Two Slovak financial groups own many of the top media outlets.
Freedom House says the media are generally free and independent. But the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée highlighted the increasing exposure of reporters to intimidation and abuse, says Reporters Without Borders.
Facebook is the leading social network.
Some key dates in the history of Slovakia:
1918-1992 - Republic of Czechoslovakia includes Czech, Slovak and Ruthenian lands. The "velvet divorce" results in two independent countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
2004 - Slovakia joins Nato and European Union.
2009 - Slovakia adopts the euro.