Post-Communist City on its Way from Grey to Colourful: The Case Study from Slovakia
The paper is a case study of the city of Banska Bystrica in Slovakia in the light of political, socio-economic and cultural changes. It discusses urban diversity and integrity from an anthropological qualitative perspective. On the example of three different historical periods (1918 – 1948: the democratic Czechoslovakia; 1948 – 1989: the communist Czechoslovakia; 1989 up to the present: building new democracy in a new state) the study shows transformations of the city and urban life. The research results show how political systems influence conditions, in which urban diversity and heterogeneity develop. During the democratic period of the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918 – 1948 with the exception of the World War II), Banska Bystrica was a multicultural city with a rich ethnic, religious and social differentiation of the inhabitants. Diverse social and cultural life was flourishing in tolerance until the World War II. After the communist coup in 1948, the situation dramatically changed. Totalitarian regime was systematically suppressing any diversity or pluralism in public spaces for fear of a mass protest against the regime. Diversity in public spaces was replaced by homogeneity that does not tolerate any difference. After the ‘velvet revolution’ in 1989 and the ‘velvet divorce’ in 1993 dramatic political, economic, social and cultural changes transformed the face of the city. Reconstruction of the city centre opened the door to diversity. For the inhabitants diversity and plurality is a symbol of ‘Western’ democracy, which is in contrast to uniformity of the communist past. Yet, although the change from homogeneity to diversity has been welcomed by most citizens, everyday life in heterogeneous society asks for more tolerance and understanding. The study demonstrates that diversity can grow and flourish only in democracy, which allows differences and pluralism leading to richer and diversified urban life.