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  • 10, 2008, 2 (ENG)
  • Jolana Darulová: MESTO PRIESTOR ETNOLOGICKÝCH VÝSKUMOV. NA PRÍKLADE BANSKEJ BYSTRICE (A City, Space for Ethnological Research. On the Example of Banská Bystrica)

Jolana Darulová: MESTO PRIESTOR ETNOLOGICKÝCH VÝSKUMOV. NA PRÍKLADE BANSKEJ BYSTRICE (A City, Space for Ethnological Research. On the Example of Banská Bystrica)

Blanka Soukupová

Cities constitute worlds in relation to

other cities, but, at the same time, each

city is a multitude of worlds. Jolana Darulová,

assistant professor at Matej Bel

University in Banská Bystrica (Slovakia)

decided, in her long-awaited synthesis,

to present the most transparent worlds of

a city that is regarded as the most beautiful

urban center in Slovakia. Banská

Bystrica (founded in 1255) was a medieval

mining center that was transformed

(17th–19th centuries) into a trade and craft

center. Then, in the first half of the 20th

century, it belonged mainly to businessmen,

craftsmen and white-collar workers.

In 1930, Banská Bystrica had 11,347

inhabitants; in 1950, 13,045 (p. 42). In

1991, the number of inhabitants increased

to 85,007 (p. 43). Until the Second World

War, the city was multiethnic, multiconfessional

(Catholic-Protestant-Jewish)

and multicultural (bilingual and trilingual):

alongside Slovaks, who became the

majority in the interwar period (in 1919,

they represented 77% of the more than

10,000 inhabitants), lived Jews – Neologs

(from the second half of the 19th century),

Germans, Hungarians (in the 19th century,

Banská Bystrica was pro-Hungary

oriented), Bulgarian vegetable growers

(from 1890), Czechs – representatives of

the pro-Czechoslovak intelligentsia (from

1919) – and Roma. The uniqueness of the

city, however, also came from its position

between two distinctive Slovak ethnographic

regions.

Darulová, an author of many microprobes,

decided this time to present Banská

Bystrica as a whole organism. She

bases her data on oral-history interviews,

personal observations, excerpts from the

local press, memoirs, biographies, diaries,

archives, and collections of local folklore.

In view of the quality of the sources and

with regard to the methodic approaches

of contemporary Slovak anthropology,

however, she focused primarily on the

middle class as a city-creating class during

the period between the two world

wars (understandably with time lapses).

The author’s highlighting the delayed

urban processes in Slovakia and, connected

with them, the development of

urban anthropology (ethnology) in Slovakia,

must be called stimulating. Attempts

at grasping the development of tradition

of urban research in Slovak ethnology,

like attempts at periodization of their

development, are among the most interesting

parts of the text. Along with Darulová,

I advocate a wider comparative view

of the “western” and “eastern” European

city. However, comparative research of

the so-called post-Socialistic cities seems

to me to be very meaningful.

The presentation of the Banská

Bystrica material itself is thematic, while

the author connected the micro- and

macro-space of the population of the city.

She followed the historical development

of the city and its social stratification. The

author accentuated the fact that industrialization

began in Banská Bystrica in the

last quarter of the 19th century and markedly

influenced the spatial structuring

of the city. Further, she focused on the

relation of the majority population to the

minority (including their views), on the

function language and folklore, etc.

She devotes a separate chapter to the

typology of the Banská Bystrica family

and, generally, to the functioning and

importance of the middle-class patriarchal

family in the city. The researcher studied

its everydayness, festivities, child-rearing,

values and morals as related to the needs

of the city. As with family space, she wrote

about public city space (streets, squares,

places of traditional enjoyment, the corso

[promenade], magic places, water sources)

– in the words of the French ethnologist

Gérard Althab, communication spaces, and

traditional urban activities (markets and

fairs, club membership, but also excursions

and walks) or communication events.

Jolana Darulová’s book is interesting

and, in many aspects, inspirational.

I would see a certain problem only in

chronological imbalance (time leaps) of

the work, in the lack of connection of the

development of the city with the development

of the entire Slovak society and in the

interpretation of the city on the basis of the

lifestyle of only one (even if determining)

social level: the Slovak middle class. At

the same time, however, it is necessary to

emphasize the difficulty of writing a monograph

of a city and open methodic search

of a new field – urban anthropology.


Blanka Soukupová


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