Brezova pod Bradlom

The town of Brezova pod Bradlom lies in western Slovakia, in the southern part of the Myjava hills. It is surrounded by a chain of hills and mountains of the Brezova range, forming a component part of the Little Carpathians, with the dominant position of Bradlo in the North. The first traces of man right in the Brezova territory lead to the beginning of the Bronze Age (the period around the year 1800 B.C.). The oldest reference on the environs of Brezova found in writing comes from the year 1263 and it refers to the name of a brook. The year of foundation of the locality is not known. It is presumed that it got considerably populated round the year 1550 by the streams of fugitives from southern Slovakia, who were taking refuge from the Turks. In the neighbourhood of the locality extensive farms were consequently founded on the newly cleared land. The relation of the locality towards the sovereigns underwent rather a complicated development since then. In the period of feudalism the development of Brezova was influenced by two feudal castles and domains - Dobra Voda and Cachtice.

Since the year 1678 Brezova used its own seal and in the year 1709 it gained the privileged status of a market-town (oppidum), with the right to hold annual markets three times a year. The change in the status of Brezova from a villein township to a market-town was of great significance for its inner life, for the town council, its rights and duties. The head of the town represented the elected mayor. The year 1848 represented one of the most famous chapters in the history of Brezova, playing a significant role from the national point of view even. There it was where the Demands of the Slovak Nation were declared in the Nitra district and where the first phase of the Slovak uprising took place in September 1848. In the period after the revolution a heavy atmosphere set in over Brezova, the whole region and the whole of Slovakia, lasting for seventy years, until the coup d’etat. They were the years of hopes, of new events, and of disappointments, as well. The people of Brezova got known as the most nation conscious Slovaks. However, the economic development of Brezova was stagnating. Yet, the educational system, in connection with the church, underwent positive development and the national life got developed too. The part on the history of Brezova is also supplemented with contributions of Martin Tatara on the history of the tanners’ guild, Stefan Mosný on people of Brezova in the world, Miloš Gavora’s memories from the world war, the contributions of Tomaš Tvarožek on coup d’etat in Brezova, and Jan Lichner on the first days following the coup d’etat. The circle of these authors gets closed by Dušan Jurkovic and his essay ”Workshipping the Heroes”. The history of Brezova pod Bradlom in the years 1918-1945 is dealt with by Ladislav Hubenak. He is emphasizing the fact that after a century of life within the Austria-Hungarian monarchy the time arose for the Slovaks to free themselves from the subjection of national oppression and to bring the process of national liberation to its culmination. It took place with the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic.

The inhabitants of Brezova accepted the news on the end of the World War I with enthusiasm. As early as on November 2nd, 1918 the local Slovak National Council was established in Brezova. The impulse for its foundation was given by Tomaš Tvarožek, who was informed on Martin declaration by Stefan Krcmery. In the years 1920-1923 Brezova was overcoming the consequences of the economic crisis that affected the tanning industry as well. The number of tanners got radically reduced. However, the economic life got gradually consolidated. There were three monetary institutions successively operating in Brezova, and there were also leather processing factories founded there. Thanks to Bradlo the locality was a place of intense tourist traffic, of foreigners, as well. The town was renovated, it was provided with regular bus connection, etc. In spite of that Brezova and its neighbourhood had to face another intense emigration wave. Nevertheless, gradually the town advanced and its rise was visible in the spiritual sphere, as well. As early as in 1919 the first Slovak burgher school was established in Brezova, and later on even moved to a new building. There were primary schools built directly in the farm districts and the number of qualified teachers was growing.

Great attention is paid by the author of this part to the Barrow of General Milan Rastislav Stefanik. His description starts with preparations for the construction, he describes its course, financial provisions, its significance, and he evaluates it as a monumental work of architecture of an exceptional level.

In the period of the pre-Munich republic the cultural life in Brezova flourished too. There was a permanent sound cinema in the town. In 1925 the National House of M. R. Stefanik was established there, as an important centre of cultural and national life. In the second part of this passage the author describes the wartime period, the manifestations and the growth of the resistance movement up to its culmination in the Slovak National Uprising.

The movement of resistance in Brezova and its environs during the World War II is described by Stefan Mikulcik, its active participant. He describes the origin of the movement, the course of the uprising, the deeds and the significance of the partisan group of Jan Repta. In the passage entitled ”On My Illegal Activity” Martin Kostolný recalls his activities in the above partisan group and he also points out the high degree of financial support to the Slovak National Uprising on the part of the Brezova inhabitants.

The part on Brezova pod Bradlom since 1945 up to the present gradually reveals the post-war development and the principal changes that took place in the life of the town. It was the period of both many negative phenomena (liquidation of leather-processing factories, tanning manufacture, wool-cleaning shops, trading activities), but positive ones as well, e.g. Brezova pod Bradlom was proclaimed to be a town, the plants like Kovove tkaniny (Metal Fabrics) and Kanapa (Sofa-furniture production), as well as some others were established and developed. In a due course the housing construction got developed later on, changing the appearance of the town. This trend of development of the town and similarly the development in the sphere of agriculture are dealt with by Stefan Ciran. Considerable attention is paid by him to the course of collectivization and its consequences for the life of the farmers in Brezova and their families, as well as to gradual development of the collective farm. Of high standard and large extent in Brezova were the gardening activities, concentrated in several colonies.

The development and the character of cultural life, physical training, and sports since post-war years up to the present are described by Peter Uhlik. With the enthusiasm of the first post-war years the cultural activity started to grow, too. Undertakings of various kinds were restored. The cultural institutions like the Local Committee of Matica Slovenska and Živena, the church choir of men, and the amateur theatre continued in their activities. The life of the town was efficiently supported by the Bratislava Guild of Tartars (association of people from Brezova in Bratislava) and by the Patriotic Society of Tomaš Tvarožek. The important events of post-war years in the field of cultural and social life are represented also by celebrations of the centenary of the Slovak uprising in 1848-49, by unveiling of the Historical Memorial at the cemetery and of a barrow for the killed followers of Hurban on Prietržska road.

However, after the year 1948 some of the agile associations in Brezova were stopped in their activities. Attached to the Local National Committee a king of an Educational Society was established, comprising several circles that were gradually performing various educational and cultural activities. The revival of this sphere began in the sixties. The National House of M. R. Stefanik was re-established and since 1966, as a united Trade Union club, it served as a centre of cultural activities of the town up to 1989. Afterwards it was organizationally transformed into a Municipal Cultural Centre and got under the direct control of the mayor of the town.

Within these institutions all kinds of valuable cultural events were systematically organized. It is necessary to point out expecially the great number of academies that had their tradition in Brezova and were gladly visited by the inhabitants. They represented an important factor in cultivating the cultural-historical consciousness and in uniting the people. Of great significance in this respect was also the activity of the theatre company of Jozef Miloslav Hurban. In 1966 the Folklore Ensembel was established in Brezova, soon reaching the level of the best ones in Slovakia. In 1981 also a successful child folklore ensemble ”Iskierka” (The Sparkle) was attached to it. The extensive activities of the brass band that came into existence in 1957 at the Metal Fabrics factory also met with a great success and similarly successful were the pop-music bands and the creative art circle. The municipal library also had its share in cultural activities. It organized numerous debates with writers, artists and other representatives of our cultural and national life. The activity of the even nowadays still active Evangelic choir of men in Brezova and its neighbourhood was very valuable, as well.

Similarly, since 1945 also the development of physical training and sports had a considerably rising tendency. As early as in 1947 the football team started its activity, with its level constantly growing. Outstanding were also the results of the handball team of women, and there were several representatives that grew out of it.

The second major part of the monograph Brezova pod Bradlom is devoted to folk culture. In a succession it deals with the folk architecture , occupation and food, tanning, national costumes, social and family life with a short characterization of the folklore, dance and music. We are directing your attention to the last of the themes mainly, since it does not appear in the first edition and it represents a contribution both from the material point of view, as well as professionally. The author managed to give a true picture of social entertainments connected with dancing in the town of Brezova and its nearest neighbourhood (Stverniky, Priepasne and Košariska), in the period of the years befor the World War I up to the present, and to characterize the folk and the popularized dances of the above period. In all the region the dances were traditionally musically accompanied by string folk bands mainly. The play of many a band leader achieved a high standard. In the inter-war period Brezova and its surroundings represented the main place of activity of the band of Jan Kolarik, who in the years after the World War II (at the beginning of the fifties) was replaced by Jan Petrucha, an outstanding musician. The descriptions and characterizations of folk dances and the samples of songs to folk dances are also interesting.

The passage on the Brezova dialect, by the prominent Slovak dialectologist Konštantin Palkovic, provides a detailed characterization of the dialect on a very good expert level The passage is supplemented with literary texts and it represents a contribution for the Slovak dialectology, as well.

Another valuable contribution represents the inventory of territorial names of Brezova. Many of them are no longer stored in the memory of younger generation and thus their recording is very useful and important.

The passage by the writer Jan Juricek on the depiction of Brezova and its inhabitants in belles-lettres is also attractive for the readers. In numerous instances the specificities of this environment are pointed out, as well as the characteristic humour, markedly concentrated round the figure of uncle Ragan - in the book by Elo Sandor ”Uncle Ragan from Brezova”.

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