History of the Faculty

History of the Faculty

Original premises of the Faculty of Arts on Kapitulská Street in the centre of Bratislava. © Juraj Šedivý

After the establishment of the Czechoslovakia in October 1918 it became necessary to deal with the task of establishing a university in Slovakia. In contrast to the Czech lands, there was no university in Slovakia at that time. Professors of the Elisabeth University, which had been established in Bratislava shortly before the First World War, terminated their activity after the disintegration of Austria-Hungary and most of them emigrated to Hungary. Already at the issuing of the Act of 27 June 1919 on the creation of a Czechoslovak state university in Bratislava it was clear that this Slovak university would suffer from an acute shortage of professors and associate professors capable of lecturing and running schools. In spite of this situation, political circles realized the need to prepare high school teachers and the need to undertake scholarly research into the nation’s history, language, literature and art. The Faculty of Arts was the third faculty of Comenius University after its establishment in 1919 to begin its activity, doing so on 23 September 1921. At the faculty’s constitutive meeting, seven newly-appointed professors met and decided to commence with lectures and seminars for the first 30 full-time students and 34 students with individual courses of study from the middle of October of that year. Dr Josef Hanuš, Professor in the History of Czech Literature, was elected dean and Jozef Škultéty, Professor of Slovak Language and Literature, was elected vice-dean.

The faculty was organized into ‘chairs’, which were always held by one professor at a time. At the same time schools with specialized libraries and study rooms were developed, where a professor’s assistant was in attendance. In addition to lectures, the development of these schools was key to the learning process for the individual studies of students and the research work of professors. The professorial body of the faculty saw in this its main role as being the development of the foundations of disciplines focusing on Slovakia, where the Faculty of Arts had an irreplaceable place as the only professional centre for such branches of academia. However, the faculty also gradually widened the ranks of professors in other disciplines, and thus in the 1927/1928 academic year there were more than 20 professors in 13 programmes of study.

In addition to teaching, a space for research was also developed in the faculty’s disciplines. Already in 1922 the first issue of the scholarly periodical Zborník FiF UK was published, which was divided into 13 thematic sections and whose tradition is still maintained today. This periodical creates a place for the publication of the research work of the teaching staff of the faculty. It was practically the first academic periodical in the social science disciplines in the inter-war period in Slovakia. Along with this, the Spisy FiF UK series of monographs was also published. Among the publishing activities of the Learned Society worthy of mention are the eleven volumes of the periodical review Slovanská Bratislava (Slavic Bratislava).  The professors of the Faculty of Arts took part in the popularization of scholarship and work with the wider non-academic public. Whether this was in the Extenzie Univerzity Komenského (Extension of Comenius University) programme or outside of this framework, professors made the public aware in Bratislava and beyond of the results of their work. There was also the opportunity to cultivate contacts with the Slovak intelligentsia in the regions, who eagerly awaited the latest findings in the social sciences.

In the inter-war period 760 full-time students graduated from the faculty. Most were future high school teachers, but there were also amongst them new experts in a number of areas of the social sciences and humanities. Space for the Faculty of Arts was another contentious issue in the establishing of academic life. Initially the faculty used the premises on Kapitulská Street of the former Elisabeth University. Later on the faculty got more classroom space in the Girls’ Grammar School on Dunajská Street. The faculty moved into premises more befitting its standing only in 1936 when Comenius University secured the building on Šafárik Square, which had been initially planned as a mercantile exchange.