Słowacja - Slovensko - Slovakia

Our main focus is both the past and the present of the Slovaks which is reflected in their culture and identity. On clear days we can see from our office windows the massif of Babia Góra on the horizon; working on this issue we wished to make Slovakia and its culture not only equally visible to but also better understood by its closest and more remote neighbours.
Authors in this issue include Vladimir Beskíd, Dana Bořutová, Juraj Buzalka, Magdalena Bystrzak, Rudolf Chmel, Mária Ferenčuhová, Naďa Hrčková, Andrzej S. Jagodziński, Ľubica Kobová, Milan Lasica, Rafał Majerek, Peter Michalík, Miroslav Michela, Maria Pötzlová Malíková, Magda Vášáryová and Teresa Worowska.

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      Jacek Purchla, Magda Vášáryová

      When almost ten years ago we jointly organised a meeting of Slovak and Polish intellectuals at the International Cultural Centre, we gave it a provocative title "Who Are the Slovaks?".
      The independent Slovak Republic had existed for a decade but the proximity of our countries did not result in a mutual familiarity. Professor Csaba G. Kiss made us realise that Poles were not an exception in this respect and that things looked much the same way with Slovakia’s other neighbours.
      The next decade enriched our neighbourly coexistence with another dimension – the European Community, in which we became equal partners. Today, we regard the road we have travelled as a success story, although we are more and more concerned with the crisis and the fears it engenders. We cannot ignore these problems when preparing an issue of Herito which attempts to paint a picture of today’s Slovakia. Nevertheless, our main preoccupation is the history, both past and present, of the Slovaks as reflected in their culture and identity.
      On clear days from the windows of our office, we can see the massif of Babia Góra on the horizon, so when editing this issue we focused on making Slovakia and its culture not only more visible, but also better understood by its closest and more remote neighbours.

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      Worth a look

  • Slovakia
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      In search of a lost Slovakia
      Magda Vášáryová

      We voluntarily, zealously and gladly relinquished not only the kings and castle gentry, but also the enlightened ones, urban craftsmen and merchants, that is all people who did not fit the myth of our plebeian, rural pedigree.

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      Who are the Slovaks? The revival sources of Slovak identity
      Rafał Majerek

      Finding testimonies of the presence of the Slovak nation on the historical stage was a difficult task; proving one’s existence in history required a rejection of strictly rational principles and a turn towards myth.

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      Two Slovalkias
      Rudolf Chmel

      Paraphrasing Witold Gombrowicz and using some of his formulations, a Slovak also had to be defended from Slovakia; to be liberated from the narrow, local Slovak reality and make him free and spiritually mature, capable of dealing with history and the world.

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      On the future of a certain idea
      Juraj Buzalka

      The nation state is neither a universal nor a historically permanent method of human co‑existence. Its oldest Western European variants have not even reached two hundred years. There are two issues which allow us to analyse the development of Slovak society against the background of longer‑lasting processes.

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      Recreating and preserving the past. Reflections on the margins of several discussions on Slovak history
      Miroslav Michela

      Every society aims at taking control over memory and constructing the image of the past, which leads to efforts meant to stabilise a single ideological (for example, historical) discourse and symbolic model. A challenge for today’s historiography is therefore the role it plays in this process.

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      Peter Michalík

      Three monuments, of a totalitarian leader, a Habsburg monarch and a Slovak raiser of national awareness, originated in various circumstances but have one ambition in common: to reassess the image of the city.

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      Tracing the story of Slovak music
      Naďa Hrčková

      Otakar Zich offered methodical instructions for how a Slovak composer should write music: he should know folk songs, use the native tongue, be a native of Slovakia and be able to meet the requirements of contemporary music, but above all he must “reject pure experimentation typical for the epoch… for “the young, nascent music does not yet have solid foundations.”

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      Messerschmidt – a forgotten artist?
      Maria Pötzlová-Malíková

      The sculptor Franz Xavery Messerschmidt deserves a prominent place among Central European artists from the late‑18th century. He deserves recognition for the quality of his work and the ability to follow the changes in aesthetic views in his epoch. But Messerschmidt transcends the horizons of his era, within which all his contemporaries functioned, in his Characters.

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      Slovak architecture on the path of emancipation
      Dana Bořutová

      Architecture is closely connected with the life of society – it shapes space, defines the framework of events, explains values, goals and ideals of the people who create it in a given historical moment. Many challenges as well as promises of new prospects appeared after the ordeal of the First World War in the period of building democratic Czechoslovakia. Architects were also confronted with these changes.

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      Young Slovakia. About the meanders of modern art between Žilina and Košice
      Michał Burdziński

      Slovaks, the willy‑nilly function under a multicultural reality, albeit amicable in principle, aimed at a dialectics of openly Slovak elements, and Czech, Hungarian, German and Ruthenian elements, which have been coexisting in the Republic, although not always smoothly, for centuries. Such conclusions and differences in methodology among people writing about art gave rise to the current revision of the comprehensive picture of visual arts in the Slovak lands.

  • interview
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      With a pinch of salt
      Milan Lasica

      Milan Lasica talks to Andrzej S. Jagodziński

      Like many of our artists, I’ve always felt a strong connection with Czech culture, so I was not in favour of the separation. I simply saw it as a loss. Slovaks, however, had always strived to achieve the status of an entity.

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      Milan Lasica

      Excerpts from Milan Lasica’s opinion, satire essays and interviews between 1990–2000, selected from the collection "Piesne a iné texty" ("Songs and Other Texts"), Vydavateľstvo Q111, Bratislava 2006.

      It is really ridiculous, us – the Slovak nation – like to brag about, among other things, that we’ve never oppressed anyone, we’ve never been aggressors in war, and this super‑pacifism of ours has remained unrivalled in the history of the whole world. It’s easy to say for the people who have never had a state. It’s like the legless invalid boasting that he has never kicked anybody’s ass.

  • European Capital of Culture
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      Creative Košice
      Vladimír Beskid

      Vladimír Beskid talks to Joanna Sanetra-Szeliga

      I think it is a real challenge – on the one hand to create a new city, and on the other hand to make the inhabitants accept the new vision and teach them how to use it.

  • ideas in practice
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      Places of cultural commotion

      Creative industrial cluster, Bratislava
      Žilina‑Záriečie Railway Station
      Divadlo Pôtoň Professional theatre in the countryside
      Culture factory Tabačka

  • Reflections, impressions, opinions
    • 193
      Theatre in Slovakia 2011 / 2012
      Marián Amsler

      Although contemporary Slovak theatre has made significant artistic progress in recent years – bolder plays are staged, theatrical methods are slowly shedding the inherited residue of socialist and realist practices, a new generation of powerful young artists is emerging (Lukáš Brutovský, Ján Luterán and Júlia Rázusová have recently caught my interest), although a relentless critique of the present is lacking. This means that the theatre ceases to be relevant, it is turning into an outdated luxury and viewers are treating it as a kind of bonus added to what they get at home in a light, easy and pleasant form – “television art”. And they are also seeking rest and entertainment at the theatre – “wellness of the soul”.

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      Mária Ferenčuhová

      In 2003 the full‑length 66 Seasons (66 sezón) by Peter Kerekes was shot, launching an era of Slovak documentary film. Young creators of documentaries, having no access to production facilities, started to found small production companies looking for co‑producers, usually in the neighbouring Czech Republic. The full‑length documentary debut by Kerekes presents the history of Central Europe on the example of a metaphoric‑metonymic model of the world in miniature – a public swimming pool in Košice, “where history took a bath” and which becomes a place of rebirth of the first common state of the Czechs and Slovaks, the Slovak State (although Košice in 1938 belonged to Horthy’s Hungary), deportations of Jews living in the interwar Czechoslovakia, the postwar nationalisation of private industries and building the new constitutional model, the liberalisation of the 1960s, the occupation in 1968, and normalisation etc. Kerekes used the metaphoric‑metonymic principle again in his next film, Cooking history (Ako sa varia dejiny, 2009), although the Central European context turns into a pan‑European context, describing the war and armed conflicts in 20th‑century Europe as seen by military cooks and through their experiences.

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      A new perspective. The history of gender in Slovakia
      Ľubica Kobová

      Na ceste k modernej žene. Kapitoly z dejín rodových vzťahov na Slovensku
      (Towards a modern woman: Sketches from the history of gender relations in Slovakia)
      Joint publication edited by Gabriela Dudeková
      VEDA Publishing House, Bratislava 2011

      Editor Gabriela Dudeková points out in her introduction that the objective of the publication was to “delineate a historical framework of the development of gender relations and changes in social structure with regard to gender in Slovakia in a broader historical context (that is, between the beginning of the Modern Era and the 20th century), as well as to characterise major factors responsible for these changes”. The lack of specific dates or historical events which would systematise the issues discussed in the book may have been aimed to legitimise the authors’ innovative approach, but also to lay the ground for the problematisation of historical periodisation, specific places of memory, or – as the editor stresses – “factors” and “frameworks”. Some of these things are invoked directly, whereas others are left untold. Readers who go weak at the knees when they see the term “gender” should be aware that neither the frameworks nor the factors mentioned above are discussed in the context of any particular feminist or gender studies. In many of the articles, the feminist perspective, the source of what the authors have called “gender history”, is acknowledged and referred to; in some, however, these issues are ignored completely – or they are merely mentioned in the “Women and…” type of texts (for example, Daniel Hupka’s article on female aristocrats around 1900). Something else seems much more important (in my opinion at least), namely, that gender history has been determined by the following three main factors: education, work, and nationalism. It is noteworthy that, in each remark or conclusion, the obvious points of reference have been class divisions, that is to say, the vertical social structure.

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      The Slovak‑Hungarian borderland as a story of contemporary Central Europe
      Juraj Buzalka

      Péter Hunčík Hraničný prípad
      (A Borderline Case)
      Kalligram Publishing House
      Bratislava 2011

      Péter Hunčík’s book A Borderline Case is a colourful picture of a Central European town in the late 20th century. The inspiration for the author was his native town of Šahy. This town has, in the past, inspired the Slovak writer Ladislav Ballek, whose work also testifies to a fascination with a multiethnic agrarian community situated at the meeting point of several national groups. The small‑town atmosphere of Levice close by was aptly portrayed by Lajoš Grendel, perhaps the greatest writer and participant of Hungarian cultural life in Slovakia.

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      Central Europe in practice
      Magdalena Bystrzak

      Kalligram Publishing House, Bratislava

      But the outreach of this concept is rather limited. The attitude of Kalligram was, is and will be very much elitist. Although Kalligram targets a wide audience, the publishers are aware that the chances of a wide‑ranging response are small, for it is constantly faced with the paradox, as mentioned by Grendel: “The success of Kalligram is like the success of a gentleman who is invited to various social events, saunters around the world in a fine tail coat and feeds on pheasant stuffed with chestnuts, but when he returns in the evening back to his tiny flat, he doesn’t have the resources to heat it up. He knows that any day his water supply may be cut off and his phone disconnected.” I have the impression that we also see Central Europe in practice here.