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Slovakia History

for Genealogical Researchers

 Chronology | Reference Books | Local History | Social History | Military History

Territory

The territory known today as Slovakia (Slovak Republic) has existed under the dominance of of other empires for the majority of all time.  Effective family research must include a general understanding of the political situation at the time of emigration.   As the most significant immigration period was during the late 1800's and early 1900's, while a territory of Hungary, I will focus many of most comments on this period.

This chronology is purposely incomplete and narrow in its focus.  It highlights major events which affect genealogical research in Slovakia only.  The twentieth century history of this history is quite complex and thus this material is of an introductory nature only.

National Chronology

1st Century - The region was a Roman outpost.  For the next four hundred years, the regions of Slovakia were borderlands between "civilized" and "barbaric" society.

400s - Slavs inhabit region

800-904 - Great Moravian Empire

904    Magyars conquer the Great Moravian Empire and establish the nation of "Hungary" which persists until 1848.

1521 - Turks invade and conquer Hungary

1526 - Beginning of Hapsburg Rule - Battle of Mohacs

1536 - Bratislava becomes the capital of Hungary until 1784

1646 - Union of Uzgorod (Uzhorod)

The Orthodox churches in this region switch allegiance from the Patriarch in Constantinople to the Pope in Rome, while retaining their customs and liturgy.  This new rite of the Catholic Church in Rome is known as "Uniate" or "Greek Catholic."

1683 - Turkish armies under Kara Mustafa unsuccessfully lay siege to Vienna.

1685 - In August, troops led by Charles of Lorraine retook Nove Zamky from the Turks and, one year later, Buda. The struggle with the Turks continued for another 13 years and became known as the War of Liberation (of Hungary).   Source: Concise History of Slovakia by Elena Mannova.

1740-1780 - Reign of Maria Theresa, period of Enlightenment and social reforms.  Reduction (but not elimination of serfdom "robota" (forced labor on the Lord's land).  Lutheran and Calvinist freedom to worship.

1784 - Vienna becomes capital of empire   

1787 - Codification of the Slovak Language

1804 - Austrian Empire Created at the conclusion of the Napoleonic War during which the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved.  This new empire includes the Kingdom of Hungary

1848-49 - Paris Revolution, Hungary Revolution - struggle for Hungary, Czech and Slovak Autonomy

1849 Emancipation of the Serfs                    Hungary

Peasants no longer bound to the land.  Net effect was nearly negligible for most peasants.  Through a series of loans and other obligations, the peasants remained obliged to work for the landowner.

1867  Austria-Hungary Dual Monarchy Formed         Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungary Empire

Compromise of 1867.  Establishment of the dual-monarchy of Austria-Hungary.  Formed as a result of  the revolution of 1848/9 and the weakening power of the Austria Empire.  The Magyars were allowed autonomous internal control over the Kingdom of Hungary, in return for support for the Austria monarch (Hapsburg.)  The Austria monarch became both the king of Hungary and the emperor of Austria.  The Austro-Hungary Empire developed one army, one foreign policy and a single monetary system.  Both Austria and Hungary had their own separate legislative branch.

It was also at this time that the serfs were emancipated.  The region we know today as "Slovakia" and bits of Ukraine were taken under the power of Hungary.  The lands were known as "Upper Hungary".  Hungary did everything in it's power to make all things as Magyar (Hungarian) by imposing their language and culture on all regions, including Slovakia.  This included first names, surnames, villages, geographical features, and so on.  Read more about the empire.

1869 - First Complete Population Census of Hungary and Austria

1880 - 1914 - Peak period of emigration from Hungary

1895 - Civil Registration

The government of Hungary declared all vital records will now forward be kept by the civil authorities.  Until this time, the local church was responsible for birth, marriage and death records.

1910

Around 1910, Hungary embarked on a Magyar language "modernization" program.  This is an important event for genealogical researchers, since surnames, given names and place names were altered.   Most village names reverted to their Slovak names at this time.  For immigrants, this resulted in considerable confusion over what to call their place of birth, with all three names being used until 1918.

Until the end of World War I in 1918, today's Slovakia (known then as "Upper Hungary") and a good chunk of south western Ukraine (known as Zakarpatska) had been ruled by Hungary for nearly 900 years.  Likewise, a good chunk of today's Southern Poland was ruled by Austria (known then as the province/crown lands of "Galicia".)

The majority of Central/East European immigrants arrived during the years from 1890 to 1914.  The bulk of emigration occurred in the traditionally Rusyn regions.  The overwhelming reason for departure was abject poverty.

1912-1915 Balkan Wars

1914-1918 World War I

  • June 24, 1914 - Archduke Francis Ferdinand is assassinated in Sarajevo
  • July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
  • October 24, 1914 - Ottoman Empire joins the war
  • 1915-1916 Armenian Genocide
  • March 15, 1917 - Russia - Romanov tsar, Nicholas II abdicates
  • April 6, 1917 - U.S.A. enters the war
  • Nov 16, 1917 - Bolshevist government formed in Russia

 

  • Sep 3, 1918 - US Government (Wilson) recognizes Czechoslovakia as a nation
  • Oct 14, 1918 - Provisional government of Czechoslovakia formed in Paris
  • Oct 16, 1918 - Austria allows the formation and sanctioning of National Committees (except for Hungary, which was excluded)
  • Oct 27, 1918 - Vienna (Austria) concedes defeat
  • Oct 28, 1918 - Prague National Committee declares an independent Czech state from Austria-Hungary
  • Oct 30, 1918 - Prague National Committee adopts a resolution of self-determination
  • Oct 30, 1918 - Slovak National Council votes for union with Czech, thus forming Czechoslovakia
  • Nov 1, 1918 -  After a violent overthrow, an independent government was formed in Hungary
  • Nov 3, 1918 - Austria-Hungary negotiates an Armistice with Allied Powers
  • Nov 4, 1918 - Czechoslovak Republic officially formed
  • Nov 11, 1918 - German Armistice ends fighting
  • Nov 11, 1918 - Austria-Hungary Armistice is signed
  • Nov 12, 1918 - Kaiser (King) Karl I abdicates his throne in Austria
  • Nov 13, 1918 - King Karl I abdicates his throne in Hungary
  • Nov 14, 1918 - Czechoslovak National Assembly meets in Prague, confirms Thomas Masaryk as president.

1919 - Paris Peace Conferences

January 12 - Paris Peace Conference begins - Five treaties (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) were created to deal with the defeated powers. 

  • March 28 - Hungary declares war on Czechoslovakia
  • April 16 - Czechoslovakia passes land reform bill, confiscating large estates and distributing land to peasants in 25 acre parcels.
  • June - Germany signs 1 Treaty of Versailles
  • September - Austria signs 2 Treaty of St. Germain
  • November - Bulgaria signs 3 Treaty of Neuilly

1920    Trianon Treaty   4 (disposition of Hungary)                          Czechoslovakia (First Republic)

Feb 29 - Czechoslovakia ratifies a national Constitution

June 4 - Turkey signs Treaty of Trianon at the Grand Trianon Palace in Versailles, France.  This international treaty recognized the division of the Austria-Hungary Empire into several pieces.  It reduced Hungary's population by two-thirds.  One of those pieces was the newly-formed Czechoslovakia, which composed the territories of a) Bohemia, Moravia and Austria-Silesia (which constitute today's Czech Republic), b) Upper Hungary (Today's Slovakia) and c) Carpatho-Ukraine [Zakarpats'ka oblast', the Ukrainian term]  (today's western Ukraine). 

August - Turkey signs 5 Treaty of Sevres and Treaty of Lausanne (July 1923).

1920s - U.S. Immigration Policy Changes

US Immigration policy severely restricts immigration from these regions.  Many people continue to flee the region, altering their destinations to Canada, France and Australia.

1932-33 - Ukraine Famine

Stalin knowingly raises Ukraine's grain quota to the point that there was not enough food for sustenance.  Between six and seven million people perished.  See Notes 3 and 4.

1938 - Munich Agreement, Germany invades Czechoslovakia - World War II  begins                                                                                       Czechoslovakia

  • March 12-13 - Germany Occupies and Annexes Austria
  • September 29 - Munich Agreement between Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy - cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory
  • October 15 - Germany occupies Bohemia and Moravia (Germans called it their "Sudetenland") , Czech government resigns.
  • November - Nazi Germany invades Czechoslovakia, and carves up the nation once more.   Hungary, as an Axis power is given Transcarpathia/Ruthenia [Zakarpats'ka oblast', the Ukrainian term] calling it "Carpatho-Ukraine", and southerly fringes of today's Slovakia. 
  • November 2 - Vienna Award - Territory transfer to Hungary

A more complete 1938 Timeline

1939 - Slovakia is formed (First Republic)  (Nazi puppet regime)           Slovakia (First Republic / German Protectorate)

  • March 14 - Parliament votes to form an independent Slovakia under Hitler's strong urging. This territory generally encompasses today's Slovakia along with Transcarpathia.
  • March 15 - With Hitler turning a blind eye, Hungary invades and annexes additional territories as far west as Stakcín. 
  • March 16 - Slovakia becomes a German Protectorate
  • September 1 - Germany invades Poland, assisted by troops from Slovakia
  • September 29 - Slovakia receives small sections of Poland territory.

A more complete 1939 Timeline   1939 World War II Timeline

1940

  • November 20 - Hungary Joins Axis alliance with Germany

1942                                                                                    Slovakia - German Protectorate

  • March 25 - first Jewish deportations began
  • October 20 - Two-thirds of Jewish population (57,628) of Slovakia had been deported to concentration camps in Poland.  Orchestrated by an agreement between Joseph Tiso and Hitler.  Slovakia appeared to be a safe haven for Jews after this deportation event until 1944.

1944  - WWII Slovak National Uprising (SNP)                      German Protectorate

August-October 27 -  The Germans invade Slovakia (August 29) and crush the Slovak National Uprising and dissolve the nation of Slovakia.  Banska Bystrica falls October 27th.  Germans disband Slovakia army, occupy and de-nationalize the region for the remainder of the war.  Nazis resume Jewish deportations.

1944 November - WWII - Eastern reaches of Slovakia liberated by the Soviet and Czechoslovak Armies.  (Fourth Ukrainian Front)

Soviet and Czechoslovakia (1st Volunteer) armies jointly sweep east to west across the territory (Fourth Ukrainian Front).  American troops (Under General Patton) hold short at Pilsen (Plzen) (present-day Czech Republic) under a prearrangement which allowed Soviet troops to liberate Slovakia.

  • March 18 - Germany invades Hungary and seizes control (Operation "Margarethe")

  • April 8 - Soviet forces, (1st Ukrainian front) positioned at eastern border of Carpatho-Ukraine (Ruthenia) Czechoslovakia

  • June 6 - Allied forces Invade Normandy, France, D-Day

  • August 29 - Slovak National Uprising begins in Banska Bystrica

  • September 8 - Dukla Pass Operation offensive begins

  • September 21 - Kalinov was the first Slovakia village liberated by Soviet troops.

  • September Soviet 4th Ukraine front presses towards Uzgorod-Mukachevo (Ukraine)

  • October 6 - Dukla pass taken by Soviet Troops

  • October 7 - Runina liberated by Soviet Troops

  • October 15 - Hungary announces end of hostilities

  • October 16 - Nova Sedlica liberated

  • October 18 - Zboj liberated

  • October 25 - Rusky Potok liberated

  • October 26 - Ulič, Uličske Krive, Kolbasov, Topoľa, Prislop liberated

  • October 27 - Slovak National Uprising suppressed by Germans

  • October 28 - Uzgorod (Uzhorod) (Ukraine) liberated

  • November, first half - Czechoslovakia Army fights from Certizne SE along the Carpathian ridge to Sobrance then to Michalovce.  Snina/Stakcin/Kolonica hold out until 25 Nov.

  • November - Fourth Ukraine front stalled for 6 weeks (until January 1945)

  • November 23-26 - Remainder of Snina region (Stakcin, Snina south to Sobrance & Blatna Polianka/ Vyšne Revištia, Michalovce, ) liberated by 1st Army (Snina, Ptcice (and presumably Humenne) liberated by 3rd Mountain Div.,AJ Vedninom.)

1945 April - WWII - Western territories of Slovakia liberated by the Russian Army

  • January - Presov liberated by Soviet troops
  • January 19 - Kosice, Presov liberated by Soviet troops
  • January 21 - Hungary declares war on Germany
  • February - Germans troops in Hungary defeated
  • March 14 - Zvolen liberated by Soviet troops
  • March 26 - Banska Bystrica liberated by Soviet, Czechoslovak, Romanian and Polish armies.
  • April 1 - Joseph Tiso and 5,000 Slovak government officials flee to Austria.  
  • April 4 - Bratislava liberated by Soviet troops
  • May 2 - Soviet Guns cease firing in Berlin
  • May 6 - Patton's American troops enter Plzen(Pilsen)
  • May 7 - German government unconditionally surrenders
  • May 8 - German forces in Prague surrender to Russian troops
  • May 9 - Hostilities in Europe cease.
  • May 10 - Eduard Benes establishes National Front Government.  Sweeping political purges begin.
  • May 13 - Last pockets of German resistance in Czechoslovakia are defeated
  • June - Czechoslovakia Socialist Government formed
  • June 29 - Czechoslovakia cedes Ruthenia to the Soviet Union.
  • August 3 - Germans and Magyars expelled from Czechoslovakia.
  • Sept. 2 - Japan surrenders

 

  • The Potsdam Conference of 1945 agrees to the the expulsion of about 3,000,000 Germans from Czechoslovakia.  An  exchange of minorities between Hungary and Czechoslovakia was also approved.

1946-47

  • War Crimes Trials - Tiso convicted of treason, sentenced to death
  • Prague Agreements

1947 - Operation Vistula - Purge of Lemkos from Southern Poland

1948 - Czechoslovakia is reformulated a second time    Czechoslovakia

  • May 9 -  New constitution is signed forming the Ceskoslovenska Socialisticka Republicka (CSR)

This reconstitution is done without the territory of Zakarpatska Ukrajina, which is given to the USSR as part of the new Ukraine.  Under Communist rule.  Collectivization of farms, socialist political structure.

1949

  • All churches put under state control.
  • Agricultural Collectivization legislated.

1950 Greek Catholic "Sobor of Presov" - Religious Suppression Begins                     Czechoslovakia

  • March 16 - All Seminaries ordered closed
  • April 28 - Through a forced church meeting (Sobor) in Presov, the Czechoslovak government shuttered the Greek Catholic church.  Members were forced to join Russian Orthodox Church.  The clergy (including priests, ministers, nuns and monks) either fled, were imprisoned into so-called "concentration monasteries", deported or murdered and the physical church buildings and property were given to the Russian Orthodox church (note 1).  In the Ukraine, the expunging was more severe, with church buildings becoming derelict, used for chemical storage.  (note 2)   A similar fate beset Roman Catholics and other faiths shortly thereafter.
  • Jan 10, 1951 - Catholic Church bishops condemned to prison.
  • Many citizens from East Slovakia migrate to the "Czech Lands" for employment.

1952 - Pre-1895 records to State Archives

All church vital records prior to 1895 were removed to regional State Archives.

1968 - "Prague Spring"                                                         Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubcek attempts to take democratization further than any other Communist state.  Soviets perceived this as a national security threat and in August invade.  Socialist government is restructured.  Greek Catholic church is allowed to reformulate  Troops remained until 1989.

1972  Agricultural Collectivization is complete               Czechoslovakia

The last of the private farms in East Slovakia is collectivized (Ulic).

1989 - "Velvet Revolution"                                                    Czechoslovakia

November 17 - In concert with other Soviet satellite nations, Czechoslovakia breaks its political bonds with the Soviet Union.  The free flow of citizens between its boundaries begins.

1990 - Czech and Slovak Federated Republic (CSFR)

1993 - "Velvet Divorce" Slovakia Second Republic                     Slovakia

January 1 - By mutual agreement, Czechoslovakia is dissolved.  The second Slovak Republic and first Czech Republic are formed, with a new constitution and parliamentary democracy government are installed.  Greek Catholic churches are returned to their rightful owners shortly thereafter.  It's been a brave new world ever since.

1995 - Codification of the Rusyn Language, (Presov Variant)

Reference Books, Narratives, Maps

All references are on-line unless noted otherwise.

National Political History

"A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival", Stanislav J. Kirschbaum, May 1996, In-print, paperback.  Highly recommended introductory high-level history.

Corvinus Library of Hungary (Highly recommended by me)
Hungarian History at Historical Text Archive
Austria-Hungary and Poland, A Short History,  by H. Wickham Steed, et al.
Hungary: A Short History, TRIANON HUNGARY, C. A. Macartney
Hungary and Her Successors C. A. Macartney
A People without a Country: The Carpatho -Rusyns, Michele Parvensky
History of Czechoslovakia - A Country Study
History of Slovakia - Nationmaster
History of Slovakia - Slav states
Austro-Hungary Buffet, Course 1 Introduction to History/Geography - Heritagequest Magazine, October 2003 - Contains nice interrelationship map of parliamentary organization of Austria and Hungary.
 Hungarian Ethnography and Folklore - Balassa and Ortutay, 800+pp, 1979, out of print.

Brief National History

History of Slovakia, Slovak Republic Embassy, Washington, D.C.
Prague's History of Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia
Local, Regional  History
History of Ulič, Slovakia (PDF) (1996) - Translated to English
History of the Ulič Valley - A 2002 rewrite
History of Wetlina, Poland (1996) - Translated to English
Below Snina Rock (1964) - Translated to English
Under the Carpathians (1946) - Translated to English
The Valley of Ulič' (2002) - Fall '03  - Translated to English
A History of Ukraine, Paul Robert Magocsi, Paperback, November 1996 In-print

Social and Cultural History

History of the Grisak Family, John Grisak,  (1873-1950) life in Slovinky, Slovakia & immigration to the USA (PDF) AN IMPORTANT WORK
Reasons for Emigration, Why Our Ancestors Didn't Want to Talk

Pre-1848 Social Status in the Villages of Present-day Slovakia, Vladimir Bohinc

Slovak Family Traditions 1997

Many Things Rusyn

The Occurrence of Hungarian (Magyar) Surnames in the Stropkov Area of Upper Zemplin by Miles Lambert (2003)

 Proper Peasants - Fel and Hofer - An intensive study of one village.

Related History

Galicia and Bukovina : a research handbook about Western Ukraine, late 19th
and 20th centuries by John-Paul Himka

World War II

"Road To Berlin", John Erickson, Westview Press, 1983 ISBN 0891587950

Battle for the Dukla Pass, 1944

1939 Annexation of Eastern Slovakia by Hungary

World War II European Battle Maps

"The Great March of Liberation", Konev, Zakharov, Zheltov, Grechko, Sharokhin, Telegin, Progress Publishers, USSR, 1972

"Dukla", Vydavatelstvo Osveta, Vychodoslovenske Vydavatelstvo & Dukla Museum in Svidnik, 1979, CSSR

Maps

Survey Historical Maps of Hungary & Environs for Genealogists - more links and map descriptions

World War I Dismemberment of Hungary - Treaty of Trianon - Illustrates how Hungary was broken into several pieces, forming Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania and what pieces other nations got.

"Historical Atlas of Central Europe", Paul Robert Magocsi, Paperback, October 2002 In-print
ATLAS AND GAZETTEER OF HISTORIC HUNGARY 1914, Talma Publishing, Hungary
TOPOGRAPHICAL/HISTORICAL MAP FINDS

Many other webs sites also recommend other fine books.  This is by no means a complete list.

 

Note 1 - "The Night of the Barbarians", Jan Chryzostom Cardinal Korec, S. J.

Note 2 - "Church In Ruins" - Oleh W. Iwanusiw

Note 3 - "Execution by Hunger", Miron Dolot, 1985

Note 4 - "The Harvest of Sorrow" Robert Conquest, 1986

 

Thanks to Vladimir Kovalsky for clarifying material regarding Pilsen in WWII and Zakarpatska Ukrajina.

Thanks to Rich Custer for place name advice.

Thanks to Alan Antoska for updates to the events of 1683 & 1685. (3/2005)

                           

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Last Update: 27 April 2013                                                    Copyright © 2003-2013, Bill Tarkulich