Societies as well as individuals are members of some group or groups, observe
similarities and differences, perceive time continuity and/or identify with the
environment. What is more important, they can be emotionally linked to
a cultural, ethnic, religious or other tradition or group.
In contrast to rural existence, life in a town is socially and culturally
much more differentiated; people participate in activities of various interest
groups, clubs, religious or national organizations, cultural, sport or alternatively-
oriented associations which, with their sub-cultural manifestations,
participate more or less in activities of the town.
identity, mental memory, development of the town
The cultural potential of a society involves not only various material and
spiritual values but also, in a broader sense, its objective (phenomenal) and
socio-cultural surroundings. The way of life (festal and everyday life) of the
inhabitants is influenced and formed by their surroundings. At the same time,
these surroundings are reshaped and influenced by people with their various
social activities, requirements, and interests. People expect the following from
− identification with the place where they live;
− fulfillment of the need to belong somewhere, to feel affection for the
place where they live, its traditions, history and culture;
This work was supported, in part, by the EU 6th Framework Programme Project: Sustainable
Development in a Diverse World (SUS.DIV), CIT3-CT-2005-513438.
− security in the material, social and emotional sense;
− human surroundings and quality of life;
− possibility of communicating socially and of gaining some knowledge.
Nowadays, we prefer new possibilities of interpersonal communication.
They are connected with the disappearance of borders and the overcoming of
distances that help us to gain new emotional experiences and knowledge. We
are overloaded with information and influenced by homogenization – not only
with technical homogenization but also with spiritual homogenization. Surroundings,
culture, fashion, entertainment, food, etc., are also homogenized
(Petrusek, 2007). Such globalizing surroundings, complexity of cultural trends
and aspects force scientists (especially social and cultural anthropologists, philosophers,
sociologists, ethnologists, historians and psychologists) to think
about the sense of the existence of national, regional, local, urban and rural
cultures; about the importance of preserving and developing the cultural heritage,
identity and humanization of the surroundings and society.
According Petrusek, abandon of tradition, one’s own history, culture, and
identity is not a step which “society can afford without any risk… Each generation
has some problems with its tradition; each generation ignores or even
despises some aspects of tradition” (Petrusek, 2007, p. 316-317).
Experience and knowledge, coming from history, warn us that loss of identity
always means a fast or slow end of a community, which is usually followed
by gradual dissolution into foreign cultural surroundings. A community without
identity and its own history (more precisely, a society which is unable to
express its identity through cultural expression), trying to enter into European
integration processes, is sentenced to the above-mentioned dissolution (Hajko,
Societies as well as individuals are members of some group or groups,
observe similarities and differences, perceive time continuity and/or identify
with the environment. What is more important, they can be emotionally linked
to a cultural, ethnic, religious or other tradition or group.
The identity of an individual is created and developed in a cultural and
social-historical context and area. Memory of history and symbols connected
with identity provide awareness of the line joining us with our ancestors and
awareness of our development in time (Bačová, 1996).
In contrast to rural existence, life in a town is socially and culturally much
more differentiated: people participate in activities of various interest groups,
clubs, religious or national organizations, cultural, sport or alternatively-oriented
associations which, with their sub-cultural manifestations, participate
more or less in activities of the town.
In this paper, I concentrate on activities of two interest groups – “Friends
of the Pustý hrad Association” and “Sport Fans of the Pustý hrad Association”
(Pustý hrad means Deserted Castle or Desolate Castle) and how their activities
help to create awareness of the historical background and image of the town of
Zvolen. I will show activities of these two groups for the town and its inhabitants.
These activities focus on creating and propagating the historical feeling
of “Old Zvolen,” alias the “Deserted Castle.” At the same time, I will try to find
the answer to the question of whether the inhabitants of the town are aware of
the historical background of Pustý hrad and, if so, how they perceive this historical
background. I will try to analyze which visions, strategies and activities
toward stronger regional and historical identity will be planned and organized
in the future by the town for its inhabitants.
In this paper I use information from interviews with respondents, observations,
questionnaires, the regional press, photo documentation, strategic plans
of town development and the results of a public questionnaire made by the Zvolen
Town Hall focused on the development of tourism in the town.
The town of Zvolen is situated in Central Slovakia and was a royal town in history.
This year, we are celebrating the 765th anniversary of its foundation. The
first reliable document of the independent royal town of Zvolen is the royal
charter of King Belo IV of December 28, 1243, reinstating Zvolen’s town privileges.
The town has approximately 45,000 inhabitants. The town has always
had a very favorable location and represents an important national and international
Pustý hrad alias Old Zvolen Castle
Old Zvolen Castle (Vetero Zolium), called, since the 19th century, the Deserted
Castle , is situated above the town on the confluence of the Hron and Slatina
Rivers. In the 12th century, Old Zvolen Castle was the seat of the royal “komitat,”
that is, a territory extending over the whole area of today’s Central SloThe
ruins of the Deserted Castle belong to the Slovak cultural heritage thanks to their historical
and architectonical importance.
vakia. Although the castle is located very high above sea level, its foundation
before the 13th century is indubitable (according to the latest research) (Zvolen,
The location of the town and royal “komitat” was not chosen by accident,
but it was a question of a reasonable choice. The advantageous strategic-geographic
location and the continuity of an ancient Slav settlement played an
important role in the choice of Zvolen as an economic, administrative and military
center in the later colonization process (Hanuliak, 1998).
Pustý hrad (the Deserted Castle) creates the typical panorama of the town.
Between 1241 and 1255 a large fortification – refugium was built. Since then,
the castle’s area of 7.6 hectares has remained the same; all the buildings were
constructed within this fortification. The ruins show that there were actually
two castles (the Upper and Lower Castle) which were only 1 kilometer apart
and were not built at the same time. In the first half of the 15th century, the
importance of Pustý hrad faded away a little after the construction of the new
Gothic castle right in the town. The towers, palaces and bastions of the castle
served only as living quarters for the numerous troops of Ján Jiskra of Brandýs.
At the time of the conquest of the castle by Ján Huňady the castle buildings
were destroyed by fire (1452) and since then Pustý hrad has been in ruins. It
has been slowly disappearing from the mental memory of the inhabitants.
The first systematic excavation work in Pustý hrad was realized between
1886 and 1889. Since 1992, the archaeological research has been renewed. .
The present archeological research is also closely connected with the presentation
of the revealed architecture.
Characteristics of the group
The “Friends of the Pustý hrad Association” (the Association) was established
in 1998. The main goal of the Association is the preservation and systematic
publicity of their historical cultural heritage – the castle called Pustý hrad.
Activities of the Association are focused on the following:
− cooperation and support by organizing archeological works;
− protection of the area of the castle against vandalism;
The Deserted Castle is one of the largest castles in Europe; e.g., the Castle of Spis has only 4.95
Preservation of the castle of Pustý hrad is systematically financed within the framework of the
budget of the town of Zvolen.
− publicity of the castle in different ways (more or less traditional);
− cooperation with the town of Zvolen and other organizations on the
realization of events connected with the castle;
− presentation of the results of the archeological research for their preservation
and for public interest
The group and the urban community
One of the main goals of the Association is better publicity for the castle and
organization of traditional and alternative events which should support historical
awareness (not only of the inhabitants of Zvolen) and increase interest
in this town. The interest of the people is an important factor in their participation,
although their interest is mostly only latent. The Association prepared
two multimedia CDs about the history of the castle. The CDs were distributed
to elementary schools, where they serve as a teaching aid for regional history.
The Association also organizes many events for the public – regular lectures
on Pustý hrad (its history, archeological research and discoveries); literary
and art competitions connected with the castle; a regular climb on the
castle hill in September, etc.
The urban community and Pustý hrad
Group climbs to historical, symbolical or memorial places play an identification,
cultural-social, educational and memorial importance in Slovak history,
e.g., a climb with Štúr and his followers on Devín hill (in 1836), on Kriváň hill
(in 1846); a climb within the framework of an international youth meeting on
Rysy hill; ascent to the monument of M. R. Štefánik in Bradlo, and a climb on
Sitno hill are well-known.
In the first weekend of September, a regular climb on the hill of Pustý hrad
takes place in the town of Zvolen. It is a socio-cultural and hiking event connected
with the end of the archeological season on the castle. It is organized
by the town of Zvolen in cooperation with the Association and other socio-cultural
and sport organizations. The year 2007 saw the 15th annual climb to the
castle. Mostly inhabitants of Zvolen but also people from all over Slovakia who
The first CD (2000) is focused on the history and research of Pustý hrad. The second CD (2002) is
an extended edition in English and German with more information about the town and its surroundings.
In the period of socialism, a climb on Rysy Hill was organized in 1913as a memorial to V. I. Lenin.
are interested in history and hiking participate in the climb. The above-mentioned
event is enriched by a performance of historical sword-play, musical
groups or theater.
A Ride through History on bicycles is organized by the “Sport Fans of the
Pustý hrad Association.” The 6th annual ride started in different places representing
the countries of the Visegrad Four (the Castle of Spiš in Slovakia,
Slavkov near Brno in the Czech Republic, Wisla in Poland, and the Visegrad
Castle in Hungary) and finished in the town of Zvolen and at the castle. Billboards
in the town contained the message: “Greetings from and to Pustý hrad
through Poland, Moravia, Hungary and Slovakia are sent by the team of cyclists
who represent the town of Zvolen and Pustý hrad.”
Responses of participants in the climb prove that people feel the need to
identify with the place where they live and feel affection for this place and its
“I am an old Zvolen inhabitant and Pustý hrad is a significant piece of history
of our town” (male, 1930).
“It is awareness of our history. I live in Zvolen and therefore I feel proud of
Pustý hrad and also of Zvolen Castle” (female, 1961).
“I visit the castle not only during the organized climb. I prefer to be here when
there are not so many people. Once we heard a lecture by Dr. Hanuliak. It lasted
maybe two hours and I got so much information. I find the castle a cultural attraction
today” (male, 1975).
“I was at the castle as a pupil. There was only a grassy hill and nothing more.
Now, it is totally different. I like to walk here with my family and have a barbecue
with the children” (female, 1970).
In the mental memory of the inhabitants of Zvolen, the Deserted Castle
is connected with various events and activities that publicize it. There are also
ecumenical masses besides the above-mentioned sport, hiking and cultural
events. There are also informal club evenings, meetings of friends and colleagues
with a guitar. Sport competitions and history contests are organized
for children (called “International Children’s Day on Pustý hrad”; the sport
competition is called the “Key to Zvolen’s Fortress”).
Town strategy and cultural-historical awareness of the inhabitants
Regardless of the aim of the visit to the castle (historical, sport, hiking, cultural,
social, etc), it is important that Pustý hrad is an integral part of the mental
memory of inhabitants of the town of Zvolen, as is shown in a questionnaire
realized by the Town Hall in 2005. The questionnaire helped to prepare marketing
strategies for the development of tourism in the town.
One of the questions in the questionnaire: What is most interesting for
tourists in the town and in its surroundings? The order of places was following:
1. Zvolen Castle
2. Pustý hrad (the Deserted Castle)
3. Spas of Sliač and Kováčová
4. Square of the Slovak National Uprising
5. The Môťová dam
6. nature in the surroundings
7. Kráľová – ski center
8. Wood and Forest Museum
9. J. G. Tajovský Theater
10. Evangelical Church and Catholic Church
11. Borová hora Arboretum
One question in the questionnaire was open and many respondents wrote
many interesting tips for tourists, but mostly they think that what is most interesting
for tourists are historical sites. The Gothic Zvolen Castle, part of the
national cultural heritage, is in first place along with the Slovak National Gallery,
and the castle of Pustý hrad is in second place.
Another question in the questionnaire requested tips and comments for
better development of tourism in our region. The respondents suggested better
publicity for town and cultural sites. The inhabitants expressed greater interest
in more cultural events connected with the history of the town.
One of results of the questionnaire is that the inhabitants of Zvolen consider
their town as quite attractive for tourists. They consider the historical
sites, theater, music and folkloric events as the most attractive. At the same
time, the inhabitants expressed only average satisfaction with the level and
choice of cultural activities in the town. It is necessary to use the cultural-historical
potential of the town more efficiently, to emphasize better publicity for
the historical sites and cultural events, and to support the interest of the inhabitants
in their historical and cultural heritage (Koštialová, 2006).
The above-mentioned fact is included in the program of economic and
social development of the town of Zvolen, which determines the goals and
development priorities for the town. Support for activities aimed at education
of the inhabitants concerning the town/region and its cultural-historical
and natural heritage is one of the priorities. The document also defines strong
and weak aspects of the town. On one hand, the fact that the town of Zvolen
is a place with a rich history and cultural heritage is a strength. On the other
hand, a weakness is that the inhabitants lack a feeling of civic responsibility,
which is connected with low participation in the activities and administration
of the town. According to results of the document, strategy for the preservation
of the cultural heritage and a system of educating people to be proud of the
town and region are also missing (PHSR, Enclosure 2 – Analysis).
Visions of further development of the town, incorporated in complex longterm
suggestions, should tend to develop an awareness of the historical background
and help build a feeling of identity with the town. The “Old Zvolen”
Project offers several ideas connected with publicity of the history of the town
and Pustý hrad: foundation of an archeological open-air museum, lighting of
the area, construction of a cable railway, building of an observation tower, etc.,
which can emphasize the historical and cultural importance of the town’s heritage.
The castle of Pustý hrad, or rather Old Zvolen Castle, exists in the mental
memory of the majority of the inhabitants of Zvolen, thanks to the above-mentioned
activities and events and contributes to creating an emotional membership,
identity and affection toward the place where they live.
Katarína Košti alová has been doing scientific research in the Science and
Research Institute of Matej Bel University since 2005. Before that, beginning
in 2000, she worked at the Social and Cultural Studies Institute of the Faculty of
Humanities of Matej Bel University. Recently Dr Koštialová has been studying socioprofessional
and network groups in urban surroundings and urban folklore and
folkloristics. In conjunction with Grant Project 6RP SUS .DIV (Sustainable Development
in a D iversity World) she has focused on themes connected to life in an urban
society and social- and cultural-diversity phenomena.
In conjunction with Grant Project 5RP she has also studied gender questions,
especially in regard to women in civil and political life. Teaching: University teaching
and, recently, referee of the Museology and Cultural Heritage study programs
and the European Cultural Studies program of the Faculty of Humanities of Matej
Many inhabitants of the town and also members of the Association prefer the name Old Zvolen
Castle because the castle is not “deserted” or “desolate” any more.
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Slovenska. Bratislava: Veda, Vydavateľstvo SAV, Spoločenskovedný ústav.
Bačová, V. (1996). Identita v sociálnej psychológií. In: Výrost, J., Slaměník, K. (Eds.).
Sociální psychologie. Praha: ISV nakladatelství. s. 211–234.
Gajdoš, P. (2002). Človek Spoločnosť Prostredie. Bratislava: Veda, Vydavateľstvo SAV,
Hajko, D. (2005). Globalizácia a kultúrna identita. Nitra: Univerzita Konštantína
Filozofa v Nitre, Filozofická fakulta.
Hanuliak, V. (1998). Pustý hrad nad Zvolenom. Pamiatky a Múzeá, 1, roč. 47
Koštialová, K. (2005). K problematike mestského cestovného ruchu. Etnologické
rozpravy. 2, s. 66–75.
Petrusek, M. (2007). Společnosti pozdní doby. Praha: Sociologické nakladatelství
SLON. Zvolen. (1993). Martin: Gradus.
Archive materials and information sources
Zvolenské noviny. Vol.: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2007
Nový Vpred žurnál. Vol.: 2000, 2001
Kronika Združenia priaznivcov Pustého hradu
Program sociálneho a hospodárskeho rozvoja mesta Zvolen (PHSR).
Akčný plán mesta Zvolen 2007–2013. Materiály MsÚ Zvolen
Marketingová stratégia rozvoja cestovného ruchu. Materiály MsÚ Zvolen