These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.

Cradle of the revolution?

By James Thomson

Life is hard for many people in Slovakia. The record-breaking economic growth of recent years may have brought the dubious charms of consumerism to more people than ever before. But its effects have been patchy and a lot of run-down pockets remain.

This is not a recent phenomenon: some parts of Slovakia were dubbed, in the first half of the twentieth century, 'hungry valleys'. Life, because of bad transport connections, difficult weather or poor soil, was a struggle, and for as long as America welcomed newcomers, thousands emigrated from these regions in search of a better life. Krompachy, home to a steel mill and not much else, still looks pretty peckish.

It was a side-effect of this economic hardship that brought the town fame. Near the railway station is a monument dedicated to 'The people who died here on November 21 1921 in the struggle for work and bread.'

It marks the site of a violent incident - which later became known as the Krompachy Uprising - between factory workers, managers and the police.

In the economic crisis which followed World War I, even food was in short supply. When a dispute arose over claims of sub-standard flour, things got out of hand and in the ensuing violence six people, including the factory manager, were killed.

The fact that some of the workers were shot by police meant that the incident lent itself to later reinterpretation.

The factory, which closed after the violence, was re-opened with fanfare under the communist regime, the town was given special privileges. One of the Krompachy workers, Július Maurer, later became Czechoslovak prime minister.

Like so much that was given weight under communism, the claims of a nascent revolutionary movement are now viewed with some scepticism. There were certainly communist sympathisers in the town in 1921, but the dispute seems to have been as much the result of mutual incomprehension between the workers, who were mainly Hungarian, and the police, who were mainly Czech, as any genuinely popular desire to institute a dictatorship of the proletariat.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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