Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is its largest city, with a population of 450,000. Before 1920 it went by the German name "Pressburg." The city's position on both banks of the Danube River at the crossroads of ancient trading routes predestined it to become a meeting point of various cultures that shaped its development, including Slovaks, Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Austrians, Jews, Croatians, and Bulgarians. Celts, Slavs, Romans, and various Germanic tribes left an imprint on its ancient past. There is a saying that a true "Pressburgian" speaks four languages: Slovak, German, Hungarian, and a combination thereof.
Bratislava was a key economic and administrative center of the Kingdom of Hungary. Subsequently as part of the Habsburg Monarchy, under Empress Maria Theresa the city enjoyed its golden era. Due to its location near Vienna, its opera house is still frequented by visitors from the Austrian capital.
In 1919 Bratislava became the capital of the independent Slovak Republic, which bolstered national consciousness and the sense of importance and sovereignty, and with the emergence of an independent republic once again in 1993, it became the seat of the president and highest executive bodies. Divided into five districts, Bratislava is the seat of the Slovak president, National Council of the Slovak Republic, and government institutions.
Bratislava is an old city which has endured the missteps and obstacles of changing times. The city has held fast, retaining her beauty and standing stoic through various trials; enduring both difficulty and glory in different times in her history. Its favorite sons include Slovak historical figures Milan Rastislav Štefánik and Alexander Dubček.
Bratislava lies on both banks of the Danube River and is the only capital in the world that borders on two neighboring countries, Austria and Hungary. It is only an hour's drive from the border with the Czech Republic. The Little Carpathians (Malé Karpaty) massif of the Carpathian Mountains range begins within its territory. The Austrian capital Vienna is only 50 km away. Two more rivers flow across the city - Morava, which forms the city's northwestern border, and the Little Danube.
Climate: The climate is mild, with frequent winds and marked variations between hot summers and cold, humid winters.
- annual average temperature: 9.9 °C
- annual sunshine hours: 1976.4 (5.4 hours/day)
- annual average rainfall: 527.4 mm (according to 1993 data)
In March 1919, Bratislava was adopted as the official name; it is not known on what grounds. One theory is that the name was invented by U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, another ascribes it to the corruption of the old Slavic "Braslava." It is documented though that a variant of this name was incidentally reconstructed by Pavel Josef Šafařík in the 1830s based on the name of the Bohemian ruler Bretislav I. "Braslava" was used subsequently by members of the Slovak National Movement in the 1840s and occasionally afterwards.Bratislava's names most commonly used before 1920Preßburg German (before the 19th century occasionally and since the German spelling reform of 1996 regularly spelled Pressburg)Prešporok Slovak name; stems from the German one (one of the many variants was Pressporek in 1773)Prešpur(e)k or Presspur(e)k CzechPressburg(h) or Pressborough English (Pressburg Street in southwestern London)Presburgo SpanishPressbourg later Presbourg French (rue de Presbourg in Paris)Presburg DutchPozsony Hungarian (still in use by Hungarians today). Earlier variant Posony (1773)Posonium LatinPožun Croatian, Serbian, BosnianPozhoma RomaniIstropolis Greek, meaning the Danube City
Prehistory and Early Middle Ages
- Bratislava's position in the center of Europe and flanking the River Danube predestined it to becoming a crossroads of trade routes as well as a hub of various cultures. The first traces of a permanent settlement are from the late Stone Age.
- Neolithic Age: the first permanent settlement of the region begins with the Linear Pottery Culture.
- 400 B.C.E. - 50 B.C.E.: Celts settled here. The real door to history, however, did not open until the arrival of the Boii Celtic tribe in the second century B.C.E., who established a strategic power and defense center here. In 125 B.C.E. they founded an oppidum (fortified town) with a coin mint. The most famous coin is the gold Stater with the inscription Biatec. Just as Vienna, Budapest, Paris, and other major European cities, Bratislava stands on the foundations of a Celtic settlement.
- 100 C.E. - 500 C.E.: the border of the Roman Empire (Limes Romanus) runs across the city center; Romans and Germanic tribes form settlements in the area. Around the time of the birth of Christ, the Romans discovered the city's strategic importance. They did not settle the area permanently; instead they built military camps to protect local trade. One of such camps, called Gerulata, was situated on the site of the Bratislava district of Rusovce and represented part of the defense system Limes Romanus, which separated the Roman world from the barbaric tribes. The Romans also laid the groundwork for the city's reputation as one of vintners and viticulturists. Part of the mission of the Roman conquests was namely to introduce vines and wine-making to all inhabited areas. This is how wine-growing eventually spread to other countries as well, such as France, Spain, and Germany.
- sixth century - eighth century: arrival of Slavs (500 C.E. - today) and Eurasian Avars (560 - 800).
Samo's Empire & Great Moravian Empire
- During the migration of nations, Slavs populated the area of Bratislava. Led by the Frankish merchant Samo, they founded the Empire of King Samo, which was the first known organized community of Slavs that served as protection against the raids of nomadic Avars. Avars and their allies terrorized all neighboring tribes. Being a wealthy man operating in the territory of central and eastern Europe, Samo realized that the Slavs, given to feuds and animosity, would benefit greatly from the shipment of weapons, so he armed them and led them to the war against the Avars, and was elected the king of Slavs. He reigned from 623 to 658, having established a Slavic empire in the fashion of the Frankish empire. He is credited for spearheading the process of the pacification of Slavic tribes, who thanks to him, refocused their energies on agriculture and gave up looting expeditions. After his death, the Empire dissolved into principalities, which were later consolidated within the Great Moravian Empire.
- From the late eighth century to 833, Bratislava was part of the Principality of Nitra, and subsequently of Great Moravia (833-907). The Great Moravian Empire enjoyed greatest expansion during the reign of Lord Svätopluk (870-894), who expanded its territory to include the Czech Republic, Slovakia, southwestern Poland, southeastern Germany, Hungary, northern and eastern Austria, and western Romania. This state was built on Christian culture, which was introduced to the Slavs by brothers Cyril and Methodius in 863. The downfall of the Empire came at the hands of nomadic Hungarian tribes. Salzburg chronicles provide the first written record of the Bratislava Castle in a description of a battle between Hungarian and Bavarian troops that took place near the castle in 907. This period coincides with the start of the gradual demise of the Great Moravian Empire. The Hungarians won and occupied the eastern part of Great Moravia.
Part of the Kingdom of Hungary (907-1918)
- From the second half of the tenth century to 1918, except for short interruptions, Bratislava was part of the Kingdom of Hungary and the capital of the Bratislava county (Posonium Comitatus). The Kingdom of Hungary was formed under the rule of Stephan I (1001-1038), and the city was annexed to it. Toward the end of the tenth century, Bratislava was a key economic and administrative center of the kingdom's frontier, which had a downside to it in the form of frequent onslaughts by foreign invaders. In 1042 the city was destroyed by German King Henry I. More plight followed between 1074 and 1077 with the battle for the Hungarian throne.
- In the thirteenth century Bratislava was afforded royal privileges. King Sigismund of Luxembourg, who ruled at the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, reaffirmed the older donations and privileges granted to it by the Houses of Arpad and Anjou and extended new privileges, whereby the city was promoted to a major political and economic hub within the Kingdom of Hungary. Upon Sigismund's decree of 1405, Bratislava began to be referred to as a free royal city and thus assumed the status enjoyed only by the most distinguished cities of that time. In 1436 it was granted by King Sigismund a coat-of-arms deed with escutcheon rights, and as the only city in Europe it had this deed drawn up in two copies, both created by the painter Michal from the Vienna workshop.
Battle of Mohacs; Capital of the Kingdom of Hungary
- The sixteenth century brought with it a turnaround when Hungarian King Louis II died after falling from his horse in the 1526 Battle of Mohacs with the Turks. In spite of resistance from a large part of the Hungarian nobility and a candidate for the throne in the person of John Zapolya, Ferdinand Habsburg ascended to the throne, and the Turks advanced swiftly into the heart of Slovakia. The Hungarian nobility fled Slovakia and abandoned local authorities. In 1530 the Turks partly leveled Bratislava with cannon fire. However, the Battle of Mohacs fiasco paradoxically worked in the city's favor, as the Hungarian nobility and secular and clerical dignitaries looked to the north for refuge following the occupation of the Kingdom of Hungary's capital Buda. In addition, it was conveniently close to Vienna, the seat of King Ferdinand. These factors as well as its relative safety were attributed to Bratislava's becoming a new capital of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1536. The small city of traders, craftsmen, and winemakers was thus transformed into the center of Slovakia and of the lordship and the Church - it became the seat of the Parliament of the Kingdom and the coronation city of Hungarian kings, the seat of the king, the archbishop, and major institutions. Between 1536-1830, some 11 kings and queens were crowned at its Saint Martin's Cathedral.
- 1536-1784: capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, which until 1699 comprised present-day Slovakia and parts of present-day western Hungary. The Turks ruled Buda; the Kingdom of Hungary was part of the larger Austrian Habsburg Monarchy from 1526 to 1918. Bratislava was the meeting place of the Hungarian Diet until 1848.
Empress Maria Theresa and Slovak National Movement
- In the eighteenth century Bratislava became not only the largest and most important city in Slovakia but also of the entire Kingdom of Hungary. This century saw the construction of splendid palaces for the Hungarian aristocracy as well as churches, monasteries, and other clerical buildings as the population tripled. The city pulsed with culture and social life. Its apex came with the ascension to the throne by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (1740-1780) and the start of the management of construction development by the Hungarian royal chamber, which handled the construction of government-mandated buildings in particular. Major construction work was also carried out on the castle, which became the seat of the local royal governor and the center of social and political life.
Joseph II turns back time
- The government of Joseph II of Austria spelled decline for the city, which was quickly stripped of its privilege as the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1783 Joseph ordered the relocation of the governor's council and other central authorities to Buda; soon afterward he took the royal crown, safeguarded at the Bratislava castle, to Vienna. These steps spurred a mass exodus of nobility, and Bratislava once again turned into a mere provincial city.
Napoleonic wars and beyond
- The beginning of the nineteenth century was marked by the Napoleonic wars, and particularly by the Battle of Austerlitz (Slavkov, Czech Republic) in 1805, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors: French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, Russian Tsar Alexander I, and Holy Roman Empire's Frances I. Napoleon won and considered this victory the triumph of his lifetime. It was followed by the signing of the Treaty of Pressburg on December 26, 1805, in Bratislava's Primate's Palace, which forced Austria to cede land to Napoleon's German allies and led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. The treaty did not bring about lasting peace, as Napoleon's army bombarded the city with cannon fire from the right bank of the Danube in 1809.
- Bratislava staged the last major political event as part of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1848, when the Hungarian Diet voted in favor of abolishing bondage. Emperor Ferdinand V visited the city in April 1848 to sign and promulgate the March Laws in the Mirror Hall of the Primate's Palace. The Hungarian Diet was then dissolved and the political center of the Kingdom of Hungary shifted to Pest. This was a major blow for Bratislava, as it deprived it of a great deal of its political significance.
- The 1930s brought a boom in industrial output, facilitated by the arrival of the modern transportation system and steamships capable of sailing upstream.
First Czechoslovak Republic: 1919-1939
- Bratislava was not directly affected by World War I, although it lacked supplies and prices were the highest within the monarchy. The outcome of the war that ended in November 1918 was significant though, as it rewrote the map of Europe - the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved and was succeeded by the Czechoslovak Republic in the Czech and Slovak portions of it. When at the end of 1918 it became imminent that Bratislava would be incorporated into the Czechoslovak Republic, representatives of the city decided to rename it "Wilson City," after U.S. president Woodrow Wilson and demanded a status of the open/free city for it, but the proposal was rejected. Bratislava, with its multiple names of Pressburg (German), Pozsony (Hungarian), and Prešpork (Slovak), became part of the Czechoslovak Republic in January 1919. The name that is in use in present-Bratislava-was approved on March 27, 1919, the day that Bratislava appeared on the map of Europe for the first time.
- In the period between World War I and World War II, Bratislava experienced an urban, architectural, industrial, and manufacturing upsurge. As a model example of tolerance, until the outbreak of World War II it was home to Slovak, German, Hungarian, Jewish, Czech, and Croatian nationals and cultural communities.
World War II: 1939-1945
- Hitler's rising influence in Central Europe culminated in March 1939 with the division of Czechoslovakia: the Czech territory became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia under Nazi administration, while Slovak politicians were given two alternatives by Hitler to decide the future of Slovakia: divide the country among Poland, Hungary, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, or create an independent state. The political leadership opted for the second alternative, giving birth to an independent Slovak state, the six year existence of which continues to be a controversial and unresolved chapter in the history of the country. During the period of the Slovak independent state, Bratislava became the capital for the first time. It lost part of its territory, however - Petržalka and Devín quarters were annexed to Germany. At the end of the war, as the capital of an allied state of Hitler's Germany, Bratislava was bombed by U.S. air forces. It was liberated on April 4, 1945, by the Russian Red Army.
Czechoslovak Republic: 1945-1992
- World War II left Bratislava with very little of the once flourishing Jewish community, whose population had either been annihilated in Nazi concentration camps or chose not to return. In addition, a majority of German and Hungarian nationals were displaced, depriving the city of a great deal of its former unique multicultural atmosphere.
- The successful Communist coup in February 1948 steered Czechoslovakia toward the socialist camp and behind the Iron Curtain, and its position between the Soviet Union and Western Europe predisposed it to becoming a buffer zone between East and West. The border with Vienna, to which Bratislava was linked by the tram service, was sealed, and residents living in those parts of the city that overlapped with the political border, marked by barbed wire, were forced to relocate.
- Construction and reconstruction of the war ravaged areas were in full swing in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Businesses and factories were rebuilt, only to be nationalized in the wake of the Communist takeover in 1948. Severe repression followed in the 1950s, with many imprisoned and thousands accused in contrived Kafkaesque processes and forced out of the city. The 40-year period under the influence of the "Evil Empire," as Ronald Reagan labeled the Soviet Union, was interrupted by the Prague Spring of 1968. The Bratislava-born Alexander Dubček became a symbol of this movement that was an attempt at the reformation of Socialism. However, the democratic revolution-in-the-works was crushed by the occupation armies of the Warsaw Pact. The subsequent “sojourn” of Soviet troops was extended to over 20 years.
- From 1969 to 1992, Bratislava was the capital of the Slovak Socialist Republic within the federal Czechoslovakia.
- The Velvet Revolution in Prague that unseated the Communist regime in November 1989 exacerbated long-standing issues within the federal Czechoslovakia. The inability of political representatives to reach a compromise that would settle the complaints of inequality within the federal framework led to the amicable divorce at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1992, and the emergence of two independent countries: the Czech Republicand Slovakia on January 1, 1993. This was the second time that Czechoslovakia was wiped off the map of Europe, and Bratislava once again became the capital of independent Slovakia and a dynamically developing and prosperous region of Europe.
City in Timeline
- 5000 B.C.E. - archaeologically proven colonization of Bratislava in the late Stone Age (Neolithic) period
- First century C.E. - Celts build fortified settlements at Devin and Bratislava and mint silver coins called "biatecs"
- first - fourth centuries C.E. - the area south of the river Danube under domination of the Roman Empire
- fifth - sixth centuries - arrival of Slavic tribes
- 623 - 658 - Samo's Empire, the first state structure of Slavs
- seventh - eighth centuries - Bratislava becomes an important center of Avarian-Slavic Empire
- ninth century - establishment of the Greater Moravian Empire; with the Castle of Bratislava its military, administration and religious center
- 864 - the first written reference to the Devin Castle as a strong fortress and the border of the Greater Moravian Empire in the Fulda annals
- 907 - the first written reference to Bratislava (as Brezalauspurc) in annals of Salzburg in association with a battle between Bavarians and Old Hungarians
- tenth - eleventh centuries - the Castle of Bratislava forms a boundary of Hungary as the seat of the head of the province's administration and chapter
- 1000 - 1038 - establishment of the commitat (province) of Bratislava by the Hungarian King Stephen I
- twelfth century - settlement on the eastern side of the castle hill
- 1291 - Hungarian King Andrew III grants Bratislava extensive municipal privileges, thus confirming its incorporation into a system of free royal towns and simultaneously laying foundations for the development of trade and crafts
- fourteenth - fifteenth centuries - development of crafts, viticulture, and international trade
- 1430 - the city granted minting rights by the King Sigismund of Luxembourg
- 1465 - King Mathias founds the first university in Slovakia - Academia Istropolitana
- 1526 - King Louis dies in the Battle at Mohacs and Ferdinand I of Habsburg is elected the king in the Franciscan cloister
- 1536 - Bratislava becomes the capital of Hungary, an assembly town, the seat of central offices, and the coronation town of Hungarian kings
- 1563 - 1830 - 11 Hungarian kings and eight royal wives crowned in the city
- seventeenth century - uprisings against the Habsburgs
- 1711 - Great Plague left 3,860 dead
- 1741 - coronation of Maria Theresa of Austria
- 1775 - Maria Theresa orders demolition of the city walls and thus spurs new construction and development
- 1776 - establishment of the Theater of Estates with a permanent company of actors
- 1780 - establishment of the first manufacture
- 1783 - Joseph II of Austria orders central offices to be moved to Buda and coronation jewels to Vienna
- 1805 - Peace of Pressburg ends the Battle of Three Emperors at Battle of Austerlitz between Napoleonic France and Austria; the document is signed in the Primate's Palace
- 1809 - Napoleonic siege
- 1811, May 28 - the Castle of Bratislava burnt down
- 1818 - the first steamboat on the Danube River
- 1840 - first horse-drawn railway
- 1843 - codification of Slovak language by Ludovit Stur and his followers
- 1848 - King Ferdinand V of Austria abolishes serfdom by signing the March Laws in the Primate's palace
- 1886 - Slovak National Theatre built in place of the Theater of Estates
- 1891 - the first bridge over the Danube opens
- 1895 - tram service starts
- 1912 - trolleybus service introduced
- 1918 - October 10 - establishment of the Slovak National Council with Bratislava and adjacent areas in its jurisdiction
- 1919 - January 1 - occupation of the town by Czechoslovak legions and its annexation to the Czechoslovak Republic
- 1939 - March 14 - Bratislava becomes the capital city of the Nazi Slovak State
- 1945 - April 4 - liberated by the Soviet Army
- 1946 - inception of Greater Bratislava by annexing seven villages
- 1948 - February 25 - Communist takeover
- 1969 - October 30 - agreement on the federal Czechoslovakia signed at the Bratislava Castle; Bratislava becomes the capital of the Slovak Socialist Republic
- 1971 - further villages annexed
- 1989 - November 27 - general strike in support of the Public Against Violence and Civic Forum movements; student strike
- 1993 - Bratislava becomes the capital of the independent Slovak Republic
- The Bratislava Castle is situated on a plateau 82 m above the Danube River, a successor to the acropolis of a Celtic town, part of the Roman Limes Romanus, a vast Slavic fortified settlement, and a political, military and religious center of Great Moravia. The stone castle was built in the tenth century, when Bratislava was part of Hungary, and was turned into a Gothic anti-Hussite fortress under Sigismund of Luxembourg in 1430. In 1562 it received a Renaissance makeover and in 1649, Baroque reconstruction took place. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria converted it into a prestigious seat of her son-in-law, the royal governor Albert von Sachsen-Teschen, who set up the Albertina picture gallery there. The collection was later moved to Vienna. In 1784, when Bratislava ceased to be the capital of Hungary, the castle served as a school for Catholic clergy, and later, in 1802, barracks. In 1811, it was inadvertently destroyed by fire by the French soldiers and lay in ruins until the 1950s, when it was reconstructed mostly in its former Maria Theresa style.
- Devín Castle, reduced to ruins, overlooks the confluence of the Morava River, which forms the boundary between Austria and Slovakia, and the Danube. Sitting on the top of a rocky hill, it is one of the most important Slovak archaeological sites and, due to its excellent location, a strategic frontier castle during the period of Great Moravia and the early Hungarian state. It was destroyed by Napoleonic troops in 1809, but it remains an important symbol of the Slovak and Slavic history.
- The historic core of the city is famous for its numerous Baroque palaces. The Grassalkovich Palace, built around 1760, serves as the residence of the Slovak president; and the Slovak government resides in the former summer residence of the archbishop of Esztergom.
- Saint Martin's Cathedral stands on the site of a church built in the thirteenth century. This Gothic edifice dates back to the fourteenth or fifteenth century and saw many a Hungarian king crowned in there. It boasts an 85 m high tower.
- Town hall, built in the fourteenth to fifteenth century.
- Franciscan Church, dating from 1297, is Slovakia's oldest church.
- University Library, erected in 1756, housed the sessions of the Diet (parliament) of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1802 to 1848, and major events of the Hungarian Reform Era took place there, among them the abolition of serfdom and the establishment of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
- Primate's Palace, built in 1781.
- Michael's Gate, from early seventeenth century, is the remnant of municipal fortification. The narrowest house in central Europe is directly behind it.
- Nový Most Bratislava, a bridge across the Danube River, features a UFO-like tower restaurant. The two-storey bridge, over 430 m in length, has been awarded the prize of the "Structure of the Twentieth Century."
- Kamzik TV Tower, with an observation deck.
- Offices of the Slovak Radio Station, which are an inverted pyramid.
- Theater lovers can choose among the Slovak National Theater, Puppet Theater, Astorka Korzo '90, Aréna and others. Modern art is on display at the Museum of Modern Art. The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra caters to classical music audiences. One of the city's popular curiosities is the underground portion of the Jewish cemetery, where Rabbi Moses Sofer is buried.
The 2001 census listed Bratislava's population as 428,672 inhabitants. The ethnic groups represented are Slovaks (91.4 percent), Hungarians (3.8 percent), Czechs (1.9 percent), with small amounts of Moravians, Ruthenes, Ukrainians, Germans, Croats, Roma (gypsy), and Poles.
The population of Bratislava belongs to the Christian faith, with Roman Catholics making up over half the population at (56.7 percent). Lutherans of the Augsburg Confession make up (6 percent), while Greek Catholics, Reformed Christians, Eastern Orthodox and other Protestant denominations make up the remainder of the faithful.
According to the 2001 census, there were seven hundred Jews, and a high percentage of professed Atheists, 29.3 percent.
Bratislava has two major sports interests; soccer ("football") and ice hockey, and has several official teams. Football teams: are:
- Š.K. Slovan Bratislava
- FC Artmedia Bratislava
- FK Inter Bratislava
while Ice hockey: teams are:
- HC Slovan Bratislava
The first university in Bratislava and also in Slovakia was the Academia Istropolitana, established in 1467.
Today, Bratislava is the seat of several colleges and universities:
- Academy of Performing Arts
- Bratislava Technical College
- Comenius University
- Slovak University of Technology
- University of Economics
- Academy of Fine Arts and Design
Bratislava enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in the country. The boom in local economy derives from the services, engineering (Volkswagen auto plant), chemical, and electrical industries. Service and high-tech oriented businesses thrive as well. Many multinational corporations, including IBM, Dell, Accenture, AT&T, Lenovo, and SAP choose to place their outsourcing and service centers here.
The GDP per capita, which was valued at €25,351 in 2002, reaches 120 percent of the EU average, trailing Prague among the recently joined countries (Eurostat). Regional GDP per Inhabitant in the EU 27, February 19, 2007, Eurostat News Release. Retrieved March 19, 2007
- Highway D1 connects Bratislava to Trnava, Nitra, Trenčín, Žilina, and beyond, while Highway D2 connects it to Prague, Brno, and Budapest in the North-South direction. There are five bridges cross the Danube River: Lafranconi Bridge, Nový Most (New Bridge), Starý Most (Old Bridge), Most Apollo, and Prístavný most (Port Bridge).
- The Main Railway Station is an intersection of routes connecting the city to the rest of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. The Petržalka railway station serves traffic with Austria.
- Served by the international M. R. Štefánik Airport, in conjunction with the Vienna International Airport, located some 40 km away.
- Port of Bratislava is an international river port.
- Public transportation is run by the city-owned Dopravný podnik Bratislava, operating buses (serving most of the city and