Early morning wake-up alarm, physical exercise, flag raising ceremony to the chant of the old (clero-fascist) Slovak anthem. Then a kickboxing class, exercises in survival and then singing of the old anthem again. This is not a military drill but a camp for the young members of Folk Youth (Ľudová mládež), a popularization of the neo-fascist political party Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia (Kotleba – Ľudová strana Naše Slovensko).
A forest just 40 kilometers from heart of Europe is hiding a settlement with more than 25 hectares of private land, where the first camps of Folk Youth were organised. The land was bought by the Kotleba political party for 160 thousand euros in 2017.
As Folk Youth write on their own site, teenagers undergo “kalokagatia” training, where body and mind are simultaneously developed. This would be a noble goal for the camp organizers, if not for the smell of propaganda and the dubious selection of “trainers”. A 24 years old MP Milan Mazurek can be seen taking part in most of the activities inside the camp. He is “famous” for shouting ‚”fuck your Allah” at a Muslim family during a protest in Bratislava. Another “expert” who has been teaching teenagers how to fight (kickboxing) is an ex-policeman Marián Mišún, who is viewed as a right extremist with a holocaust denial record. One of the visitors to the camp is also the leader of the party, Marian Kotleba, whose name is included in the name of the party.
In 2018, teenagers were lectured on the Turkish wars in Slovakia in the middle ages. They were taught that young people should remember how Muslim hordes attacked Europe. This is all in line with Kotleba’s party narrative. The extreme-right neo-nazi party is attracting most of young voters, according to an October public opinion poll. More than 20% of voters aged 18 to 24 would vote for Kotleba. And, as we see, the extremists know their voters. They are focusing on teenagers and even younger children. In addition to their “military-like” camp for teens, they have prepared a handful of children’s camps across Slovakia.
The camps are usually themed very similarly to regular ones – fairy tales, cartoons, games for children or kids’ disco. But subtly placed lessons and opinions on history, Muslims, patriotism or the military (how to start a fire, live in the woods, use a map) are always present in the camps. Also visits by the party’s leaders, so the young future voters remember that these politicians are “taking care” of them.
This approach can not only bring more votes and popularity for the extremist party but it can create strong “militia-like” units. In Slovakia, even more dangerous and military-focused groups are active. Such as Slovak Recruits (Slovenskí Branci) which are training military tactics and undergoing military-like trainings. Therefore, there is a rising problem of militias whose loyalty to the Slovak west-oriented foreign policy is uncertain. Especially members of Slovak Recruits are a very unpredictable schizophrenic mix of far-right (Kotleba-like) supporters on the one hand, and anti-fascist pro-Russian backers on the other.
This article is a part of a research supported by the IJ4EU grant. The IJ4EU fund is not responsible for the content and any use made out of it
Peter Sabo is investigative reporter of Aktuality.sk. He is uncovering corruption using mostly data-driven approach. He was wroking in IT sector as analyst before joining Aktuality.