The Formation of the Historical Memory about Andrej Kmeť (1908 - 1914)

Formovania historickej pamäti o Andrejovi Kmeťovi (1908 - 1914)

The author of the paper focuses on the process of memory creation about Andrej Kmeť (1841-1908) from the beginning of 1908 until the middle of 1914. His important position in the society of Slovak nationalists was mainly due to the fact that he was the chairman of the Slovak Museal Society (SMS), which was the only central Slovak cultural institution in Hungary at the turn of the 19th century. Moreover, his personality was determined by the fact that he was a Catholic priest and supporter of the scientific research. The author of the paper identified two crucial approaches influencing the process of memory creation about Andrej Kmeť. The first one was represented by a conservative core of the Slovak National Party (SNP) in Turčiansky Sv. Martin. The main protagonist of this approach was Jozef Škultéty, who tried to substantially modify the conception of SMS after the death of Kmeť. Originally, the idea of A. Kmeť was to establish Slovak Scientific Society that would be concerned with various scientific disciplines, including natural sciences. SMS, however, did not fulfill this idea. The society was primarily museal institution, so it was only partially following the Kmeť ´s conception. After the Kmeť´s death J. Škultéty tried to change SMS into a more „national" institution. The main goal of the institution would be to collect Slovak written artifacts, at the expense of cultivating natural sciences, which were considered to be „unnational". Also the image of A. Kmeť and the history of SMS presented by J. Škultéty were intentionally modified in order to fit this goal. Following the notion of Jerzy Topolski, who analyzed manifestations of ideology in historical narratives, we may call this modification as a mystification. The second approach was represented by Catholic intellectuals František Richard Osvald and Karol Anton Medvecký. While within the first approach the mystifications were concerned with the Kmeť´s image as a figure of public life, within the second approach they were mainly concerned with Kmeť as an individual and a priest. Through the second approach, the image of Kmeť as a member of Slovak national movement reflected often complicated relations with other representatives of this movement. Moreover, SMS was not portrayed as a fulfillment of the original idea of Kmeť. The author also points out to other variations of the image of Kmeť's life. Pro-governmental newspaper Slovenské noviny presented a positive picture of Kmeť, but it declared that he was merely a priest and a scholar who was not politically active. The only periodical that was critical about Kmeť was Slovenský obzor. In general, however, Kmeť was the object of idealization, because of the great potential of his legacy to stimulate nationalistic activities. In the paper the author analyzes organized waiting for the Kmeť´s death, his funeral, obituaries and other articles in the newspapers, published photographs of Kmeť and also creation of the gravestone as well as of his artistic portraits. While giving this account the author identifies several forms of Kmeť´s heroization. The leaders of the SNP core in Turčiansky Sv. Martin approached the legacy of Kmeť with great piety and attributed to him divine features. On the other hand, while in 1908 they presented Kmeť as an ideal proponent of nationalist movement and his death was depicted as the irreplaceable loss for the nation, in the middle of 1914 it was publicly claimed that Kmeť supported collecting of „non-Slovak" artifacts and that he is in fact replaceable. The paper supports theoretical assumption that hero is the product created by society and that his existence is determined by a consensus within the given society (J. Topolski). There was no consensus about the primarily nationalistic image presenting Kmeť as a model for the national unity and this image did not take over. Nowadays, Kmeť is mainly viewed as „the last Slovak polyhistor" and the pioneer in the area of creating museums. This view is reflected in the official account explaining reasons for producing commemorative silver coin depicting A. Kmeť, which was produced this year by the National Bank of Slovakia to commemorate one hundred years which passed from his death.