Soukupová Blanka

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
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
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

Vydání: 10, 2008, 2