Department of Slovak History
Briefly about Department
The Department of Slovak History of the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University is a top scientific, research and pedagogic department with long tradition at the oldest continuously active university in Slovakia. The dynamic workteam of specialists concentrates on tracking a broad frame of Slovak history in the sense of the history of the Slovaks, the territorial Slovak history and other specific history specializations in relation to it. The researchers analyze the whole time spam of history from pre-history era to recent past while using a spectrum of themes and approaches. They ensure the application of modern methods of research and their results in the ongoing comparison with the results and contents of the European national historiographies. The members of the department dedicate long time and big effort to scientific research adn they are coordinators and parttakers in many scientific projects. Besides the active pedagogic function, supporting all stages of study – bachelor, MA and PhD, the departments plays the role of scientific results´ promotor and stresses greatly the popularization and spreading of its findings to the broad public. With such approach the department belongs to one of the most renowned special departments of its kind in Slovakia.
History was one of the first academic disciplines introduced when the Faculty of Arts was established in 1921. The first professor of history, J. Heidler, and V. Chaloupecký, after Heidler’s premature death the most prominent personality of the then Czechoslovak historiography, both came, like many others, from the Czech academia. They were convinced adherents of the idea of a united Czechoslovak nation. This ideology also formed the foundations of professional historical science in Slovakia. Both scholars specialized mainly in research within disciplines with a focus on Slovakia or possibly Czechoslovakia. They built up schools as centres of study and teaching for students, where the first Slovak professional historians, D. Rapant (appointed associate professor in 1928) and B. Varsik (appointed associate professor in 1933), spent their formative years. They later opposed their teacher, Prof. V. Chaloupecký, for his view of the oldest medieval history of Slovakia, rejecting his Czechoslovakist starting points. After the forced departure of V. Chaloupecký and other Czech teachers both from the faculty and Slovakia in 1939, the weight of historical research and educating new generations of historians rested on the shoulders of these young Slovak scholars as the Faculty of Arts was, until the Slovak Academy of Sciences was established, the only fully professional academic institution in Slovakia.
In 1937 A. Húščava received an associate professorship in auxiliary historical sciences. During his time with the faculty, he laid the foundations of archival science, which, together with Czechoslovak or possibly Slovak history, formed one department in 1950-2000. The School of History was originally situated in a building on Dunajská Street. After the acquisition of the central building of Comenius University in Šafárik Square, it moved to its fourth floor, where the Department of History and the Department of Archival Science have resided until now.
February 1948 brought significant changes in the life of the entire faculty. A new organizational structure was created with departments bringing together professors, associate professors, assistant professors and other technical staff. The number of teachers grew. However, as a result of the increasing numbers of students, departments had to involve even assistants without full qualification in the teaching process. The new Department of the History of the Czechoslovak Republic and Archival Science was at that time comprised of experts in Slovak history, archival science and auxiliary historical sciences. In 1954 professors of general history (J. Perfeckij and B. Varsik) were included in the same department as archaeologists and ethnographers and later they shared a department with their colleagues specializing in Slovak history. In 1964 an independent Department of General History was finally founded.
The new communist authorities were eager to ideologically subjugate the Faculty of Arts, which had succeeded in maintaining its democratic and academic traditions even during the Slovak State. Disciplines with a focus on Slovakia were particularly sensitive. The faculty parted ways, among others, with Prof. D. Rapant, who was “removed” to the University Library. The development of the faculty in line with the reform proposed by the new University Act of 1950 was entrusted to new scholars belonging to or related to the communist party and sympathizing with Marxism. In 1951 M. Gosiorovský was appointed Professor. Together with other Communist intellectuals well-read in Marxist theory, he was expected to perform this transformation. Gosiorovský specialized in a new principal discipline of historical science – the history of the Slovak labour movement and the communist party – and published the first pioneering works in the field. He was a valuable asset to the Department of Czechoslovak History and Archival Science for more than a quarter of a century. He systematically worked to make it a prominent department of Slovak history and made room for the growth of a young generation. As he also worked for the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and the Slovak Academy of Sciences, M. Gosiorovský established cooperation between the department and the academy, especially its Institute of History.
Erudite young scholars like J. Dubnický or D. Lehotská were joined in the mid-1950s by a new generation of Slovak historians, including L. Haraksim, H. Hrozániová-Tkadlečková, J. Novák, J. Hučko, M. Kučera, E. Paulinyová and M. Písch. Several of them later moved to focus on general history. After the demise of the Teachers’ College, the faculty was reinforced by J. Butvin and J. Goláň (who, however, stayed only for a short time). The faculty’s research activities gradually covered the entire timeline of Slovak history from the Early Middle Ages to the 20th century. They published the results of their research in monographs, academic journals, as well as in HISTORICA, a journal published by the Faculty of Arts. This generation made a fundamental contribution to Slovak historiography by publishing modern syntheses of Slovak history in the 1960s and 1970s. The generation that had joined the department in the 1950s was reaching scholarly maturity in the 1960s and 1970s when the expansion of their creativity was partly hampered by normalization. Although nobody was forced to leave the department in that period, normalization restrained and impeded their professional growth and restricted the freedom of research and the publication of its results.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the department was gradually rejuvenated by a new generation of assistant professors who obtained full-time employment almost immediately upon graduation or joined the faculty after having worked for the Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences for some time (J. Baďurík, R. Holec, J. Lukačka, L. Sokolovský, A. Sopušková, D. Škvarna, P. Zelenák and the slightly younger M. Homza). In the first half of the 1990s, the department was enriched by the appointment of Assoc. Prof. L. Lančarič, who had previously worked for Comenius University’s Institute of Marxism-Leninism and whose teaching and research activities contributed to the development of the disciplines of economic and social history.
Over the past decade, the ranks of the faculty have been filled with the youngest generation of doctoral students and assistant professors. They fit in the broad spectrum of the department’s thematic and chronological focus.
After Prof. M. Gosiorovský’s death in 1978, charge of the Department of Czechoslovak History and Archival Science was handed over to Prof. Ján Hučko, who remained its head for more than 15 years. In 1993 he was succeeded by Prof. J. Baďurík, yet the department he took charge of had been renamed as the Department of Slovak History and Archival Science. Between years 2008 and 2016 the Department of Slovak History has been run by Prof. J. Lukačka. Since 2017 to nowadays is in charge of the department Prof. Martin Homza.