The forest epoch of Slovak history

STILL in the first centuries of the Middle Ages, Europe was covered by dense forests. The first more compact settlements were established by laborious logging, and it could have lasted for decades before a town came to exist. 

(Source: Courtesy of B. Chovan)

On the Slovak territory, the forestation remained for much longer than in other parts of Europe: partially because of its location outside the main European events, and also the much mountainous terrain.

Thus, it is no surprise that in this landscape of forests and mountains people engaged in activities so close to he primary stubbing: logging and charcoal burning.

Also in the wilderness of the Low Tatras, several lumberjacks’ hamlets arose. However, their story was quite specific, to a certain degree. They lied in the hinterland of a big mining city, Banská Bystrica, and their founding can be connected with this activity.

Sometime between 1401 and 1550, metallurgical Jelenec appeared. The staff of the local iron mill was also the inhabitants of Jelenec. We know, thanks to the historical records, that ironworks bailiff used to live here, smelters, loggers and charcoal burners who secured the charcoal for the ironworks. 

The iron mill later ceased to exist, and the direct successor of Jelenec became, with all probability, the hamlet of Dolný Jelenec which we can see in this period postcard dating back approximately to the 1900s. In the course of the 17th century, more lumberjacks’ settlements came to exist in the nearby valleys: Horný Jelenec, Rybie, Prašnica, Haliar, and one century later also Valentová and Bachlačka. Along these hamlets, an ancient road led across the mountains to the region of Liptov – however, there are almost no traces left of it these days.

In this picturesque postcard, we can see – under the Hungarian name Alsó Szarvas (i.e. Dolný Jelenec) – also Zólyomvármegye – Zvolenská župa, or Zvolen Region. It is really remarkable how strong the phenomenon of falling under a certain region was quite recently.

 

By Branislav Chovan 

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