Komárno/Komárom. Cezhraničné vzťahy v dvoch stredoeurópskych sesterských mestách (1960–1985)
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Komárom/Komárno: Cross-border Relations in Two Affiliated Central-European Towns, 1960–85
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The town of Komárno, on the north bank of the River Danube, was originally settled by Hungarians. In the peace settlement after the First World War, it was awarded to the new state of Czechoslovakia. During the Second World War it was incorporated into Hungary, but was returned to Czechoslovakia after the war and part of the original population was expelled to Hungary. In the meantime, on the other bank of the Danube, the village of Újszőny became the parallel town of Komárom, which remained part of Hungary. This article examines the development of offi cial and unoffi cial relations between the inhabitants of the town of Komárno/ Komárom, which was divided by a state frontier during the Communist régimes, and how these relations were refl ected in everyday life there. The article focuses on the regulating of the border regimen, and discusses the cultural agreements that were related to it, as well as cooperation in the sphere of economics and in the employment of labour between the two sides. It also searches for an answer to the question of how the proximity of a ‘mother nation’ and the Kádár variant of Socialism infl uenced the Hungarian majority in Komárno and the local relations between Hungarians and Slovaks. Since 1948 the closed frontier made relations between the populations of the two towns practically impossible. That began to change in the early 1960s, when visa requirements were gradually lifted for Hungarian citizens travelling to Czechoslovakia, an agreement on border relations was signed, and getting a passport was made easier. In the mid-1960s a lively tourist trade thus existed between the two halves of the divided town, family visits both ways were numerous, and institutional relations began to develop between partners on both banks of the Danube. The inhabitants of both towns met at events related to sports and the arts and travelling over the border was made easier by bus service. The local governments endeavoured to present these new opportunities as evidence of intensifying Socialist solidarity, but many people also used them for semi-legal and illegal transactions, such as trans-border trade in foodstuffs, furniture, and household goods. The social movement of the Prague Spring 1968 seems to have been observed with sympathy by members of the Hungarian minority in south Slovakia and the inhabitants of Komárom. The involvement of Hungarian units in the military intervention in Czechoslovakia was then met with great disapproval by both Slovaks and Hungarians in Komárno. In the 1970s functionaries in the border areas of both countries were inclined to mutual cooperation and emphasized not only arts and sports events but also, indeed mainly, the mutually advantageous employment of labour. Thanks to the signing of agreements hundreds of men and women workers travelled over the border for work, to the textile factory in Komárom and the Slovak Shipyards in Komárno. Ritualized joint celebrations of important anniversaries were held four times a year. The limits of ‘internationalist’ cross-border cooperation, however, began to appear in the 1980s, when, after the signing of a Hungarian-Czechoslovak agreement on minimum hard-currency exchange requirements, tourism both ways began to stagnate and ultimately declined.
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