Slovakia’s Second City in Times of Turbulence: Košice and its Hungarians, Eastern Rite Catholics and Steelworkers in 1948, 1968, and 1989
Marty Manor Mullins
(Department of History, University of Washington, 2013)
Supervisor: James Ramon Felak
Marty Manor Mullins earned her Ph.D. in East Central European History from the University of Washington in 2013. She conducted research for her dissertation in Košice, Slovakia, with funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in conjunction with the Fulbright Program. She remains passionate about the history and people of eastern Slovakia and since 2000 has worked and lived there for more than six years. Her recent publications can be found in Slovo and the Journal of Church and State.
This dissertation argues that Košice’s experience of the milestone years of 1948, 1968 and 1989 in Czechoslovakia’s history was distinctive from that of Prague or Bratislava due to the city’s unique concentration of Hungarians, Ukrainian-Rusyn Eastern Rite Catholics and steelworkers. These populations were subject to homogenizing agendas from above as the postwar Beneš administration sought to ‘make Košice Slovak’ and the Communist regime implemented industrialization and urbanization plans to change the socio-economic class makeup of the city. Thus, this dissertation is a study of nationalism and ethnicity and religion and class as represented in one city and its nearby districts. It represents the first scholarly analysis of Kosice’s history under Communism and therefore significantly contributes to urban and area studies literature.
The theme uniting these three groups is the two post-1945 governments’ efforts to homogenize the city and its surrounding region. By ridding Košice of its Hungarian majority, by eliminating the Eastern Rite Catholic Church and by establishing a steel mill in Košice to draw in Slovak labor from the surrounding countryside (purging the city of its former bourgeois character), the two Czechoslovak government administrations largely conformed the city and its inhabitants to their desired norms.
This dissertation unearths multiple findings that make Kosice’s Communist experience unique. First, the blow that postwar re-Slovakization dealt to Košice’s Reformed Church significantly contributed to the denomination’s decline across Slovakia. Second, the Eastern Rite Catholic Church was the only confession in the country to be completely liquidated by the Communist regime (in 1950) only to be reinstated in 1968. Third, challenging the assumption that Prague and Bratislava were the only two centers of civic participation in 1968, this dissertation demonstrates that eastern Slovak civil society effected change at local and statewide levels during the 1968 liberalization period. Finally, steelworkers at Eastern Slovak Steelworks (today U.S. Steel) formed the largest collective of blue collar labor in Slovakia during Communism, yet were noticeably absent from initial days of demonstrations in 1989. These findings underline the importance of considering Slovakia’s second-largest city and its surrounding region in any analysis of Czechoslovakia’s postwar years, Prague Spring or Velvet Revolution.
Inspiration to undertake this research
My passions include teaching and Slovakia—a strange combination that afforded me the opportunity to teach at the secondary level in eastern Slovakia and led me to complete my Ph.D. in East Central European History in order to teach at the university level. During my years teaching at Šrobárova Gymnázium in Košice, Slovakia, I discovered that much of what happened in eastern Slovakia under Communism was fascinating history, yet sadly unknown to the English-speaking world. Visits with my neighbors or friends’ parents and grandparents became windows into an incredibly engaging story that I knew I wanted to share both as a teacher and an author. That is why I chose to write my dissertation on the history of Slovakia’s second-largest city during Communism. I hope to publish it in book form in the near future.
An in-depth look into one aspect of the dissertation
My dissertation focuses on the disenfranchised Hungarian minority, the outlawed Eastern Rite Catholics and the state-sponsored steelworkers in the eastern Slovak city of Košice during three pivotal turning points in postwar Czechoslovakia’s history. It is at once a study of nationalism, ethnicity, religion and class as embodied in one city and its nearby districts. The theme uniting these three groups is the two post-1945 governments’ efforts to homogenize the city and its surrounding region. By ridding Košice of its Hungarians, by eliminating the Eastern Rite Catholic Church and by establishing a steel mill in Košice to attract Slovak labor from the surrounding countryside, the two Czechoslovak government administrations largely conformed the city and its inhabitants to their desired norms. My dissertation discusses the noteworthy yet often overlooked contributions these three groups made to the events of 1948, 1968 and 1989 in Czechoslovakia.
Perspective on the fields of nationalism, ethnicity, and race, and reflections on the job market
Although the fields of nationalism, ethnicity and race continue to dominate leading monograph titles, conference agendas and course offerings, the tenure-track job market is unfortunately dismal. This is particularly true in the United States for those of us newly-minted Ph.D.’s in the humanities. Nevertheless, opportunities and outlets for publication do exist and are perhaps even expanding as more publishers incorporate online platforms.
If you recently defended a Ph.D. in the fields of nationalism, ethnicity, identity, and/or race and would like to be featured on our blog, please visit here for more information on how to submit your dissertation abstract.