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Tartar terror at Tornaľa

SEVERAL interesting details can be observed in this postcard from the 1950s depicting Tornaľa, an inconspicuous little town situated in the southern part of the Gemer region, on the left bank of the Slaná River. The most striking is the fact that although we are looking at the town centre there is only one parked car. Moreover, only a single light bulb is hanging over the street. This is how a majority of smaller Slovak towns looked in the middle of the 20th century.

SEVERAL interesting details can be observed in this postcard from the 1950s depicting Tornaľa, an inconspicuous little town situated in the southern part of the Gemer region, on the left bank of the Slaná River. The most striking is the fact that although we are looking at the town centre there is only one parked car. Moreover, only a single light bulb is hanging over the street. This is how a majority of smaller Slovak towns looked in the middle of the 20th century.

But in its more distant history Tornaľa played an important role in the region. On April 11 in 1241, one of the Hungarian empire’s most tragic battles took place nearby. Around 60,000 invading Tartars and about the same number of locals met on the fields around the Slaná in a battle to decide the fate of the empire. The Hungarian soldiers did not manage to defend their homeland against the invasion.

King Belo IV had not maintained good relations with the local nobility and they were consequently not very willing to support him. In addition, the strongest part of the Hungarian army, made up of Cumans, so disliked King Belo that they did not come to the battlefield at all. The ensuing fiasco scattered the Hungarians and many were killed. The king only narrowly escaped. As the Tartars continued to pursue him even after the battle, he saved himself by fleeing to an island in Dalmatia.
Though the Tartars stayed in the region for only a few months, it took Hungary at least a century to recover from the battle near Tornaľa.

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