Article | Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1 | National Museums in Slovakia: Nation Building Strategies in a Frequently Changing Environment

Title:
National Museums in Slovakia: Nation Building Strategies in a Frequently Changing Environment
Author:
Adam Hudek:
Download:
Full text (pdf)
Year:
2011
Conference:
Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1
Issue:
064
Article no.:
034
Pages:
817-846
No. of pages:
30
Publication type:
Abstract and Fulltext
Published:
2011-09-30
Series:
Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISSN (print):
1650-3686
ISSN (online):
1650-3740
Publisher:
Linköping University Electronic Press; Linköpings universitet


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The concept of Slovak nation building in the 19th and 20th centuries was influenced by various loyalties; pragmatic political decisions and changing ideologies. The crucial stages in the development of Slovak museums are closely connected with frequent changes affecting the Slovak territory and its inhabitants. Four such key periods can be defined:

  1. The Hungarian chapter (till 1918) - In 1895; resulting the activities of Slovak political leaders; the Museum of the Slovak Museum Society was established. It had a clear political and nation-building pattern opposing the official idea of state and national unity of the Hungarian Kingdom.
  2. First Czechoslovak republic (1918 - 1938) - Rivalry between two nation-building strategies. One promoted the existence of a Slovak nation; the other one was based on the idea of a Czechoslovak nation.
  3. Communist Czechoslovakia (1948-1989) - Museums were state controlled ideological institutions used for propaganda and indoctrination of the population. Historical exhibitions about national history had to legitimize the communist rule.
  4. Post-communist Slovak republic since 1993 - After the fall of communism; museums ceased to be strictly ideological or political institutions. They were adapting to the new conditions and searching for the new themes.

It is usual for multi-ethnic and multi-religious regions like Central Europe to provide competing identities. The Slovak case of nation making is characterized by ambiguity and ambivalence of national identity concepts. In the 19th and 20th centuries; Slovaks defined themselves in the process of confrontation with two national groups: Hungarian and Czech. This confrontation fundamentally influenced the development of Slovak museums aspiring for national status. Until 1938; two states Slovakia was a part of (the Kingdom of Hungary and the first Czechoslovak republic) did not officially acknowledge the existence of a separate Slovak nation. This caused lasting antagonism between nation-building strategies of Slovak museums and the official state ideas enforced by the ruling political elites.

Since 1948; the ideologists of the ruling Communist party considered the national questions only a tool for strengthening the official Marxist-Leninist ideology. Communists considered themselves the heirs of progressive national historical traditions; which should justify their rule. Slovak museums had to document the struggle for national independence but at the same time they had to promote the official state policy of Czechoslovak socialist patriotism. On the other side; this era brought massive growth; systematization and professionalization of the museum network and their exhibitions.

The fall of communism brought fundamental changes for the Slovak museums. Democratization brought considerable de-ideologization and de-politization of museums. New economic and political realities offered more flexibility; but also new (mainly financial) challenges. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia; the Slovak National Museum became the central museum of the newly created state in need of a state-building narrative. However; Slovak museums demonstrated skepticism regarding the appeals for a more patriotic and primordial presentation of Slovak history. The Slovak National Museum laid aside the controversies accompanying the nationalization of Slovak narrative. At the same time; its representatives focused on uncomfortable themes of modern Slovak history. These topics; together with the reinterpretation of the past regarding the common Central European history and European project were reserved for the central museums. These were; in the first place; the Slovak National Museum and the Museum of Slovak National Uprising.

Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1

Author:
Adam Hudek
Title:
National Museums in Slovakia: Nation Building Strategies in a Frequently Changing Environment
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Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1

Author:
Adam Hudek
Title:
National Museums in Slovakia: Nation Building Strategies in a Frequently Changing Environment
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