CULTURAL institutions are hardly left out of the 70th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising (SNP), as myriad exhibitions, films and theatre events attest. Much of the focus remains on how this 1944 uprising against the Nazi-allied Slovak government of the time should be interpreted today. As the 20th century communist regime sought to use the uprising for its own means, the interpretations of this key historical event are changing and developing with the flow of time. Artists, past and present, are among those reflecting on such issues.

The SNP Museum in the city that was the centre of the uprising – Banská Bystrica – regularly exhibits collections commemorating this milestone. To mark the 70th anniversary of the SNP, which began on August 29, 1944, the SNP Museum borrowed 78 historical items from the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow, including a jacket worn by Adolf Hitler and other artefacts that belonged to the German leader obtained during the siege of his office in Berlin in 1945. Uniforms of important Red-Army officers, like Marshall Zhukov, are also on display. The collection – which had only been shown in the US and France, but not for long and not to this extent – opens during the celebrations on August 29 and runs through May.

“After 1989, the theses about the leading role of the communists and the communist party implanted during the communist regime concerning the SNP faded away,” Marek Syrný, a historian at the SNP Museum, told The Slovak Spectator. “The wider public, also thanks to recent displays, has understood that the SNP was not a single or isolated action during the war; that it was part of European resistance in the war years, and – just like in other countries – many political and social groups, communists and non-communists, participated in it. The main burden of the uprising was on the rebelling army supported by guerrillas.”

That collection is supplemented with experiential activities like the Carriage project, the armoured train, exhibitions in open city spaces and parks, Syrný added.

“The most numerous visitors are pupils and students in school trips,” Syrný said. While the permanent exhibition has remained consistent over the years, the museum does have regular visitors who “tend to visit smaller exhibitions in the museum, focused on the war and the uprising, which are changing and are offered for a few weeks – or for a maximum of months,” he continued.

He added that many of these people are either interested in the SNP and the war for personal, family reasons (as they may have had relatives who participated in the uprising), or professionally (historians, teachers or students). There are of course many people who take on history as a hobby, as well, with the World War II among the most popular eras.

A smaller exhibition in the State Scientific Library (ŠVK) in Banská Bystrica presents an overview of newspapers and magazines that were published in the city which was the heart of the rebellion, lasting until September 5.

In the nearby town of Zvolen, the Forestry Museum pays tribute to the SNP with an exhibition, in cooperation with clubs of military history Zolium and Mor Ho! It focuses on ammunition, armaments, equipment and uniforms of soldiers from various armies that fought on Slovak territory. It lasts until September 25.

In the nearby town of Zvolen, the Forestry Museum pays tribute to the SNP with an exhibition, in cooperation with clubs of military history Zolium and Mor Ho! It focuses on ammunition, armaments, equipment and uniforms of soldiers from various armies which fought on the Slovak territory. It lasts until September 25.

SNP in art

Art galleries also seek to reflect on the SNP anniversary, and an exhibition comparing the work of older, more traditional, and younger, more conceptual, artists has opened in the Hall of Art, Kunsthalle, in Košice.

Called (Not) Obligatory Exhibition / (Ne)Povinná Výstava, it lasts until September 11. It is curated by Radko Mačuha and Martin Piaček, along with Petra Hanáková and Alexandra Kusá, who oversaw the older work lent by the Slovak National Gallery. The venue is a curious space that formerly housed a public swimming pool and creates a suitable atmosphere especially for the newer works.

The more traditional artists include big names like M. A. Bazovský, Štefan Bednár, Ladislav Guderna, Ferdinand and Vincent Hložníks, Viliam Chmel, Alojz Klimo, Július Koller, Jozef Kostka, Peter Matejka, Janko Novák and Koloman Sokol. Among contemporary artists are Adam Novota, Nóra Ružičková, Maja Štefančíková, Jarmila Mitríková, Dávid Demjanovič, Jaroslav Kyša, Marek Kvetan, Aneta Mona Chisa, Lucia Tkáčová, Svätopluk Mikyta, Jaro Žiak, Milan Tittel, Anton Čierny, Peter Kalmus, Rudolf Sikora, Jozef Jankovič and Juraj Bartusz.

The exhibition offers both old and new art. Some of the works were created specifically for this exhibition. Even among the still active artists who have contributed, some of the works already existed, with others going on display for the first time, according to the organisers.

During the communist regime, the SNP was a canonical motif in visual art, as it was used to glorify the role of the communists in the uprising. But after the fall of the regime in 1989, it lost its force and importance. Gradually, since 2000, it has started to return to at least regional interest and the national history has regained a certain value again. However, artistic techniques have changed, ranging from soft statues to installations, and performance and themes have become more abstract: resistance, freedom, (de)colonisation, an individual’s role in society, among others.

Another exhibition uniting older and newer works dealing with the SNP is on display in the Western Terrace of Bratislava Castle through the end of August.

“There are works here by direct participants of the Uprising, like Anton Hollý or Štefan Bednár,” curator Ladislav Skrak told the TASR newswire, “but also rare artefacts from the heritage of actor František Zvarík, who worked for a front-line theatre.”

The show is comprised of big-sized works by Janko and Šárka Alexys, artworks by Milan Rašla, Vincent, Ferdinand and Zuzana Hložníks, Elena Lazinovská, Štefan Bobota, Jozef Baláž, Michal Jakabčic, Ľubomír Zelina, Stanislav Harangozó, Milan Medúz, Milan Gašpar, photos by Karol Kállay, statues by Jozef Kostka, Teodor Baník, Ján Kulich, František Gibala, Pavol Bán, Klára Pataki, Rudolf Pribiša and plaque by Mikuláš Palko.

More SNP events

There are more events arranged to mark the big anniversary of the revolt: two lectures, one in the Podtatranské Museum in Poprad and one in the Liszt Garden of the University Library in Bratislava, film screenings in the Lumiére cinema in the capital, and a theatre piece combining works of several contemporary Slovak and Czech authors, put together and directed by Sláva Daubnerová, to be performed in the Aréna theatre in Bratislava (premiere on August 28-29).

An exhibition in the Slovak Institute in Prague will show the SNP as seen through the eyes of reputed Slovak artists, including both Orest Dubay Sr and Jr, and Rith Dubay, and co-organised by the Club of Visual Artists and Theoreticians and the Slovak Association of Anti-fascist Fighters.