Social and professional groups create a significant part of an urban community.
It can be proved that business activities have existed ever since the Middle
Ages in the town of Banská Bystrica: there were activities connected with
mining and metallurgy (mines, smiths, etc.) and there were sawmills, textile
factories, mills, and distilleries in the period of the establishment of manufactories
and factories. Powerful local business families were formed in this
context. The period between the two world wars was especially prosperous.
A number of trades and shops were reconstructed. Later, during the socialist
period, the tradition was interupted and, after 1989, business activities
did not continue in the tradition of family business. Commercial activities in
the town have now been influenced and homogenized by the establishment of
famous-brand retail chains and restaurants offering foreign cuisine.
A professional group of miners in Banská Štiavnica had helped to create
mining traditions. These traditions have been reproduced today – even after
mine closings. Social activities of the town also reflect tradition.
urban anthropology, industrial and commercial districts
The main aim of this study is to point out significant changes in public town
spaces which created town cores and were centers of trade, crafts and businesses
for centuries. My hypotheses are as follows:
1) In 1989, after a long period of a totalitarian regime, when all the functions
of the town were centralized under the aegis of Communist ideology, the
town attracted its original functions back. It was closely connected with a growing
number of small businesses based on the private ownership of former owners and entrepreneurs and the free running of businesses by former owners
2) Mental images of industrial and market sections of the town depend
on our preservation and presentation of crucial periods of our economic history
and technical heritage.
Considering the time factor, I decided to analyze two periods: the period
between the First and the Second World Wars and the period after 1989. Spatially,
I focused on the town of Banská Bystrica because I have been dealing
with this issue for more than two decades. I decided to do a survey of the middle
class with the main focus on social and spatial stratification. I deal with
three questions in this study:
1. What were the specifics and features of the town of Banská Bystrica in
terms of its history? What created the special atmosphere of the town?
2. How did industry, trade, crafts and businesses support such specifics
and features? What are the most significant changes when we compare those
two above-mentioned periods?
3. How do the current inhabitants perceive their own historical facts and
do the images of the industrial and commercial districts of the town belong to
the mental maps of the Banská Bystrica?
1. Economic and industrial features of the town
The town of Banská Bystrica (one of the seven royal copper-mining towns
– Kremnica, Banská Štiavnica, Nová Baňa, Pukanec, Ľubietová and Banská
Belá), flourished as a regional mining center and had a crucial position in the
economic history of Slovakia, especially in the 15th and 16th centuries. During
the next centuries, the economic importance and activities of the town changed
significantly, but in 1925 an unknown author wrote the following words: “Banská
Bystrica is very significant in the area of market, finance and industry; it has
many important factories, many historical buildings in the centre and it is a real
town” (Lupták, 1932).
The history of Banská Bystrica was connected with the exploitation of its
abundant deposits of copper (and to a lesser extent of silver, gold, and iron).
Banská Bystrica, together with other mining towns of Banská Štiavnica (nickThis
study is a part of VEGA grant No. 1/2225/05 “Identita vybraných profesijných skupín
v stredoslovenských mestách” and a prepared monograph entitled Banská Bystrica – mesto obchodníkov,
remeselníkov a živnostníkov.
named “Silver Banská Štiavnica”) and Kremnica (nicknamed “Golden Kremnica”),
was the most famous and the wealthiest free royal mining town in
the region. The affluent Fugger and Thurzo families founded the prosperous
“Ungarischer Handel” company (German for “Hungarian Trade”) in 1494.
Depending mainly on the mines around the town of Banská Bystrica, the company
had become a leading world producer of copper by the 16th century (the
company was dissolved in 1548). The copper deposits had been all but depleted
by the 18th century, but there are still many places in the town which recall its
rich and famous mining history (for example, some names of town districts and
residential quarters – Na Troskách, meaning “On the Debris” or Hámor, meaning
metallurgic manufacture). In the next centuries, the town became a center
of several public and municipal institutions. Development of new industries
also influenced the town of Banská Bystrica. Many new manufactories and factories
were established, but they were of little influence and importance, particularly
because of the Great Depression in the first half of the 20th century.
But we can say that smaller businesses and crafts greatly influenced the town.
Industrial zones of the town were situated in the close distance from the historic
town centre. Most small shops and businesses were situated on the town
square and in the nearby streets and most of them were family businesses.
Shopkeepers and entrepreneurs lived in the centre of town (for example at the
end of Lazovna Street near a former textile factory; today it is the well-known
Slovenka Textile Factory).
During the period between the two World Wars of the 20th century there
were tens of small shops and businesses situated right on the town square and
in the nearby streets. (See also Darulova, 2006). Together with local industry,
they supported the economic development of the town because they employed
more than one-third of its inhabitants.
At the beginning of the twenties of the 20th century the wood-products
industry was the leading industry in terms of the number of factories as well
The first manufactories were established at the end of the 18th century (production of textile
and copper dishes). A textile manufactory was established around 1725. Workshops focused on dyeing
of textiles were mechanized in the 19th century. Metallurgic manufactory in the town quarters
“Kráľová” and “Kostiviarska” produced weapons. Melchior Smrtník started to produce millstones in
the 17th century. A sugar manufactory was established in 1830, but it had only a short existence. It was
closed in 1840.
In the second half of the 19th century manufactories were replaced by modern factories. The first
factory ever established in the town of Banská Bystrica was a wood-industry factory which produced
goods by 1919. The first factory producing ceramics and cement was established in 1905. The textile
factory of the Furdik family was established in 1906.
as employees. The second most important industry was construction; the food
industry, the textile industry, the chemical industry, metalworking or leatherworking
were also of great importance. Banská Bystrica became a real commercial
centre. There were more than 110 shops with various goods. A 1932
publication focused on the town stated: “…the town has many shops and you
can buy everything you want. There is a network of small businesses. Most small
shops and businesses are located in the town. There are many nice coffeehouses,
hotels, and restaurants in the town” (Almanach a adresár mesta Banskej Bystrice,
In 1932, the Business Community of the town consisted of more than
1,408 tradesmen of various types and registered around 400 apprentices.
According to demographic statistics of 1930 that was one-tenth of all the
inhabitants (the town had 11,321 inhabitants). As for the original ethnic composition
of the town, there were 9,600 Czechs and Slovaks, 470 Germans, 435
Hungarians, 600 Jews and 235 others (Krupa, 1998, p. 65).
There were 55 trades and 31 shops of various types in the town of Banská
When we talk about the multiplicity of commercial enterprises, we can say
that the most frequent businesses were inns and restaurants (35), canteens or
dining halls (3) and hotels (5). Other numerous groups were tailors (38), shoemakers
(49), hansom cab drivers (16) and bakers (10). There were also 19 lawyers,
17 doctors and 5 dentists.
In 1932, there were 31 types of shops in the town of Banská Bystrica.
Inhabitants witnessed a growing number of groceries, some of which were
considered luxurious because they were affected by a luxury tax (e.g., shops
which sold jewelry, sweets, chocolates, perfumes, etc.). According to the statistics,
there were 39 “luxury” shops in the town in 1920 (e.g., there were 12
watchmakers and jewelers).
The social status of tradesmen and shopkeepers was very different. For
example, the revenue from business activities (we are talking about grocery
shops) was from about 5,000 to 2,700,000 crowns per year. The lumber trade
was one of the most profitable. Constructors and butchers were also very sucThe
main aim of the Business Community was to support humanitarian, economic and educational
interests of its members. (Almanach a adresár mesta Banskej Bystrice, 1932, p. 18). Membership
in the Business Community was obligatory. (Almanach a adresár mesta Banskej Bystrice, 1932, p. 18)
As for confessions, 6,611 identified themselves as Catholic, 2, 444 as Protestants, 76 as Calvinists
and 1,146 as Jewish.
cessful. Craftsmen such as bakers, watchmakers, jewelers, tailors and shoemakers
had lower social status and lower incomes.
If we want to emphasize the original ethnic composition of the shopkeepers
we have to say that the Jews had a significant position; they controlled
about 63% of all the shops in the town. But at the end of the 19th century former
tradesmen and craftsmen were replaced by industrial production. That was
the main reason why only few trades and crafts survived. But those trades and
crafts were not controlled by Jews.
From the economic point of view, the most successful were shopkeepers
and tradesmen; craftsmen were less successful (Darulová, 2005, p. 119).
Middle-class shopkeepers and craftsmen were considered public representatives
of the town because they were in everyday contact with visitors, foreigners
or customers. They represented the town and its features. Names of individual
shopkeepers, signs on shops or workshops are closely connected with the town
and its history. Family businesses often advertised in local newspapers.
2. Changes of the town in terms of the structure
of businesses, crafts and trades between 1918 and 1945/48
in comparison to the period after 1989
The non-violent revolution of November 1989 that saw the overthrow of the
Communist government symbolizes, in some ways, the return of our society
to the period before 1948, the period of the First Republic. We witnessed the
change from “state employee” to tradesmen. To sum it up, we can say that the
middle class survived its “liquidation” and all businesses were brought to an end
after 1948, but suddenly they were resurrected in the 1990s (Marek, 2006, p. 8).
Today, only few shops are named after their previous, original owners (for
example, the “U Klimov” grocery, the “U Mihálikov” bakery or the “U Kemov”
shopping center). Only a few family businesses are still “named” after their
original owners, for example, the building of the Hotel Rak – meaning “Crayfish,”
named after its original owner Juraj Krebs (in Slovak Rak). But today
this name is closely connected with a building other than the original one, the
building of the “Červený rak” restaurant.
Dissolution of the guilds was a crucial historical moment. In 1884, the Law on the Adaptation
of Craft as a Trade was adopted. The position of tradesmen in Czechoslovakia was defined by the socalled
Law on Trades in 1924.
The original building of the Hotel “Rak“ is located on the town square. It is the seat of T-Mobile today.
Picture No. 1: Original building of the “U Mih álikov ” bakery (before 1928)
Picture No. 2: “U Mihalikov ” bakery (present day )
Direct family members of former private owners of family businesses
could demand return of their property (firms, shops buildings etc.) after 1989,
but only a few of them decided to do so and, later, only a small group of them
decided to continue and revitalize the family business. Most rightful owners
decided to sell or rent their property.
According to our survey we can divide the rightful owners into three basic
– rightful owners who decided to sell their property;
– rightful owners who decided to renovate and rent their property;
– rightful owners who decided to start renovations and revitalization of
the family businesses.
After 1989, only a few rightful owners decided to use the original shop
names (e.g., the “U Klimov” grocery , the “U Mihálikov” bakery or the
Many owners decided to rent their property for other purposes. For example,
the family of former butchers rented their properties to the owners of
a gambling room; another butchers’ family rented their house to the owners of
the Positivo café, and …“the G… family wanted to revitalize the family tradition
and open a grocery but they could not compete with the general merchandising
retail chains” (G. P.).
There are also other reasons why owners decided not to revitalize family
businesses, for example…“we did not revitalize our original family business
because our grandchildren are the rightful owners and they are either not skilled
enough to continue or they lost their emotional connections with the former family
business” (G. P.).
We witnessed a growing number of restaurants (rating 2 and 3 stars), a decline
of boutiques and an increase in the number of small shops full of Chinese
goods (textile, shoes, clothing etc.) after 1989. They can also be seen on the
town square and in the nearby streets. There is also an increase in the number
of jewelry stores run by businessmen of Italian or former Yugoslavian origin.
Shops of today that are located in the centre have already lost their specific
atmosphere. There were also significant changes in the number and types
of shops. Today we are witnessing a certain homogenization of shops in Slovak
towns and cities; we can see an increase in the number of shops similar
to French-type restaurants (Copaline), fast-food restaurants (McDonald’s) or
The rightful owners decided that the new owner of the bakery may use original name.
Picture No. 3:
“U Havelkov ” (1928)
Picture No. 4:
The “U Havelkov ”
(present day )
pizzerias; there are many shoe shops (Baťa) or sport shops (Kenvelo, Adidas,
O’Neill, etc.). In 2006, the situation in the town dramatically changed after
a new shopping mall (the Europe Shopping Center) was opened to the public.
It caused many small shops in the town center to close, particularly boutiques
and sports shops, which were replaced by new restaurants.
Basic commercial functions of the town were relocated from the center to
uptown, where a new network of hypermarkets was built after 1989 – Tesco
Stores, Baumax, Nay, showrooms or warehouses.
3. Reflections, mental maps and preferences
Throughout the centuries, a number of residential quarters, industrial and
commercial districts, fortifications, places of entertainment and dominants
were built in the town of Banská Bystrica. They had certain specific functions.
Today many of them have lost their original functions or have just disappeared.
So the history of the town can be seen only in archives, books or short historical
remarks and that is the main reason why it is very hard to define the whole
historical image of the town.
There were periods in the history of the town when all the industrial and
market sections became an inseparable part of mental maps of the inhabitants.
It was the period connected with mining and metalworking. Because this
period ended two hundred years ago, there are no sites in the town which could
recall our memories. These sites either disappeared or were renovated by new
owners (mainly mills, sawmills etc.). Companies built in the 19th century had
only local importance (the textile and wood industries). Many of them were
closed, except the Slovenka Textile Factory. Only the names of individual areas
recall their original industrial functions. Few of them are still used and wellknown,
– The “Na Troskách” area was closely connected with a silversmith and
debris produced there. Today the term “Na Troskách” is closely connected with
the newly established Europa Shopping Center;
– The “Hušták” area, located beyond the town gates, was a suburb full
of workshops; many of those buildings were destroyed during the period of
– The “Uhlisko” area is also closely connected with the mining history of
the town. This quarter was full of wood piles used in the process of copper production.
If we consider that mental maps are created by personal memories on the
one hand and institutional bases on the other (schools, museums, memorials
etc.), then traditional industrial and market areas of the town will be a part of
the mental maps of former tradesmen and shopkeepers, or perhaps inhabitants
who were born in the inter-war period. The survey proved that only old people
know something about the prewar and Socialist industrial and commercial
areas of the town. The younger generation is closely connected with Zvolenská
Street, which is full of hypermarkets and showrooms. Our mining history
is almost forgotten and the younger generation knows nothing about quarters
such as Na Troskách or Medený Hámor. These quarters are not connected with
Considering the comparative study of tradesmen, shopkeepers and craftsmen
(comparing years 1918 to 1945/8 and after 1989) we claim that:
– most rightful owners decided to sell or rent their property; only a small
group decided to revitalize former family businesses (e.g., the “U Mihálikov”
bakery or the “U Havelkov” stationery store);
– many renters do not continue in the family traditions and do not revitalize
family businesses, we also witness frequent change of renters because of
– there is a change in the system of presentation of the owners; whereas,
at the beginning of the 20th century, they tried to advertise their names and
shops were named after their owners, today owners try to hide their identity
and focus on the goods or services they sell;
– small tradesmen or craftsmen are primarily focused on selling goods
during fairs or celebrations; they produce small presents made of wax, wood,
clay or they sell gingerbread cookies;
– our historical experience with political persecutions and the existence
of an irrational ideological attitude of hostility directed against the middle class
(together with its isolation for more than fifty years) caused traditional crafts
and businesses to decrease and current owners not to revitalize the small- and
medium-size family businesses of their ancestors.
Considering the change of central parts of the town and inhabitants’ (or
visitors’) preferences, it is necessary to claim that:
– there is an enormous effort to preserve or revitalize the historical atmosphere
of the town; some shopkeepers, in particular, try to support this general
tendency (e.g., preservation of the original name of one of the oldest restaurants
in the town – Červený rak – meaning “red crayfish,” the original name of
an old grocery store U Klimov – the name of the shopkeeper, historical portals
of buildings, etc.);
– on the other hand, the more changes we witness the more similarities
with to other Slovak (or European) towns and cities we can find; the town is
more open and diversified – e.g., various restaurants in the centre (18 restaurants
on one square): the most interesting being Positivo – Cuban style, Olivo
– Italian cuisine, Barbakan – a luxurious restaurant for foreigners (Barbakan
– a historical building with a music garden), a French crêperie, a Staroplzenska
restaurant – foreign cuisine, a Slovak restaurant (1 star rating) etc.
Jolana Darulová has been the director of the Science and Research Institute
of Matej Bel University since 2005. Before that she worked in the Social and Cultural
Studies Institute of the Faculty of Humanities of Matej Bel University. In her
earlier works, she focused on oral folk tradition, especially mining folklore. For the
past two decades, her themes have been connected to life in urban society in the era
between the two World Wars and socio-cultural phenomena of the transformation
of society after 1989. In conjunction with EU Grant Project 5RP she has also studied
gender questions, especially the admission of women in civil and political life.
She has several book publications; three monographs of ethnological research of the
urban societies of Banská Bystrica and Banská Štiavnica; numerous village monographs;
chapters in publications of the Ethnology Institute of the Slovak Academy
of Sciences (Ethnicity and the town; Ethnic and religious minorities in a city). The
majority of the publications are connected to projects: the national VEGA , MVTS
and the international 5RP EU and 6RP EU .
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“Slovan” v Banskej Bystrici.
Darulová, J. (2005). Obchodníci, živnostníci, remeselníci – výkladná skriňa mesta
(K problematike stredného mestského stavu v Banskej Bystrici v medzivojnovom
období). In Minulosť a prítomnosť Banskej Bystrice 2. (pp. 115-122). Banská
Bystrica: Katedra histórie UMB, Štátna vedecká knižnica v Banskej Bystrici.
Darulová, J. (2006). Banská Bystrica podnikateľská a priemyselná. Banská Bystrica:
Ústav vedy a výskumu UMB.
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v druhej polovici 19. storočia. In Minulosť a prítomnosť Banskej Bystrice 2.
(pp. 43-64). Banská Bystrica: Katedra histórie UMB, Štátna vedecká knižnica
v Banskej Bystrici.
Krupa, P. (1998). Vývoj hospodárstva Banskej Bystrice v rokoch 1918-1922. In
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Bystrica: Inštitút sociálnych a kultúrnych štúdií Fakulta humanitných vied UMB.
Koštialová, K. (2005). Profesijné skupiny a subkultúry mesta (Východiská a súvislosti).
In Subkultúry v meste: Etnologické štúdie socioprofesijných skupín. (pp. 9-24).
Banská Bystrica: Ústav vedy a výskumu UMB.
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Banská Bystrica: Slovan.
Marek, P. (2006). České živnostnictvo 1945-1960: Likvidace živnostníku, řemeselníků
a obchodníků v českých zemích. Brno: Nakladatelství Doplněk.