Our Europe - Poznańskie Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk



Our Europe - Poznańskie Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk
Angelina Ilieva
Our Europe
Ethnography – Ethnology – Anthropology
of Culture
vol. 3/2014
Issue by
Dorota Skotarczak
Poznań 2014
[email protected]
Danuta Konieczka-Śliwińska
Grzegorz Pełczyński (editor-in-chief), Inga Kuźma (assistant),
Adam Pomieciński (assistant), Piotr Klafkowski (language advisor)
Laurent Sebastien Fournier (Nantes), Grażyna Ewa Karpińska (Łódź),
Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska (Łódź), Katya Mihaylova (Sofia),
Dorota Skotarczak (Poznań), Andrzej Paweł Wejland (Łódź)
Redakcja „Our Europe”
Katedra Etnologii i Antropologii Kulturowej US
ul. Krakowska 71-79
71-017 Szczecin, Poland
e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]
Veronika Bielaeva-Saczuk, Anna Engelking, Chris Korten, Sehiey Segeda
Maciej Pachowicz
Copyright © PTPN and Authors, Poznań 2014
ISSN 2299-4645
Jacek Marciniak
Our Europe. Ethnography – Ethnology – Anthropology of Culture
Vol. 3/2014
From editors............................................................................... 5
Karol Piasecki
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe............ 7
Alena Křížová
Sheep fur coat in the ethnographic area of Haná in Moravia within
the European context................................................................... 29
Daniel Drápala
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia......... 41
Martina Pavlicová
Folklore Festivals in Moravia in the Light of Social Development........ 61
Michał Knychaus
Witches and witch-hunt in Kalisz region in XVI–XVIII century........... 69
Dorota Skotarczak
Crime fiction in the period of PRL (PRL crime fiction)........................ 77
Drodzy Czytelnicy!
Zapraszamy do lektury kolejnego tomu naszego czasopisma. Ten numer zawiera różne
artykuły, choć wyróżniają się te o Morawach, napisane przez morawskich etnologów. Ale
są też interesujące teksty o Europie północno-wschodniej i o Polsce. Poza tym dziękujemy
bardzo za wiele miłych słów uznania ze strony naszych kolegów z różnych krajów. Postaramy się w miarę możliwości uwzględnić ich postulaty i sugestie.
Dear Readers!
We highly recommend a lecture of another volume of our magazine. In this issue you can
find different articles, but the remarkable ones are these about Moravia, written by Moravian scholars. Moreover you can also find interesting texts on Northeastern Europe and
Poland. We also want to thank for the appreciation from many of our colleagues from different countries. We will do our best to take into consideration their demands and suggestions.
The Editors
Our Europe. Ethnography – Ethnology – Anhropology of Culture
Vol. 3/2014
p. 7–20
Karol Piasecki
Uniwersytet Szczeciński
Katedra Etnologii I Antropologii Kulturowej
The Birth of New Ethnoses?
Examples from Northern Europe
Abstract: One of the new phenomena in the contemporary world is the ongoing emancipation of ethnic
groups. This is taking place at various levels both local (regional) and national. The paper presents some
examples of such phenomena taken from the area of the Uralic languages of northern Europe. Two come
from Lappland: the Kvens and the Finns speaking the Meankieli ethnolect. Two are from the Russian Federation: the Izhma Komi (Isvatas’) and the Pomors, The last two come from Estonia: the Setu and the
speakers of the south Estonian Voro language. The Pomors, who are generally regarded to be a Slavic
group, have been included because of their acknowledging their mixed Slavic-Uralic origin. The ethnogenesis and contem­porary situations of each group are in each case very complex and different. These differences are chiefly due to the political and social situations differing in each Scandinavian country and in
Estonia, all of them being different from the same in the Russian Federation.
Keywords: Kvens, Meankieli, Komi-Izhma, Isvatas’, Pomoryans, Setu, Voro, ethnic emancipation,
For years ethnologists and culture scholars have been beating alarm for the
frightening speed with which languages, cultures, and peoples are dying out with no chance
of rebirth. The best-know of such reports listing the names of dying or already extinct ethnic groups concentrate on the non-European areas, those which are rather marginal from
the European point of view. On closer examination we shall that the same problem concerns our own continent. Although it is generally known that the dying out of cultures,
languages, or peoples is a natural process – it has taken place in both medieval and early
modern Europe, not to mention the antiquity – we seem to forget that the same process is
an ongoing one also today. the spectacular cases of Celtic languages (like Manx or Cornish)
and the West Finnish ones (Livian, Votic, Izhoric)1 show that the process is taking place
upon our very eyes. Those languages, and many others, went out of use or will soon do
because of the pressure from their demographically and politically stronger neighbors. We
shall have to consider them dead with the disappearance of their last native speakers, even
though the examples quoted above do show some partly successful rebirth attempts. Most
frequently, though not in every case, the death of a language is followed by the death of its
ethnos for which the language in question was the basic vehicle of culture.
The second half of the XX century, and even more so the early years of the XXI century,
have brought a wholly new phenomenon, the reverse of the above. The wave of new social
processes connected with the emancipation of minority and local communities developed
into movements aspiring to recognize different groups as the minority (ethnic, national,
These are only examples. Over the past several dozen years many more languages died out (or are in the
process of dying out). This concerns all language groups, which is disastrous for the speeding up of the disappearance of cultures that have been expressed in those languages.
Karol Piasecki
language) ones. This phenomenon concerns almost all European countries. It is, of course,
involved with the current politics, and conditioned by the present-day legal status. Even
a general study of this phenomenon in Europe2 would take much more space than this paper allows. Therefore, i would like to concentrate on a few selected examples of the Uralic
peoples (or ethnoses)3 of today’s Northern Europe.
Two examples are taken from Scandinavia: the Kvens and the Meankieli (Meänkieli):
two from North Russia, the Izhma Komi and the Pomors, and two are Estonian: the Setu
and the Voro (Vöro) language (see Plate 1). These, of course do not exhaust the list of NorthEast European ethnoses that are in the process of being born. We have deliberately excluded
the the Saamis4, for their problem concerns the extinction rather than the birth of new ethnoses, even though the example of the Saamis of the Kola Peninsula shows that also in this
group we can come across the examples of a true rebirth4. We have also left out Finland,
where the “dominating” that examples Pan-Finnism obstructs or even prevents the emancipation of the Karelians.5 The examples of Norwegian Kvens or Swedish Tornedalians (the
Meänkieli)6 shows how the emancipation of a minority takes place in a contemporary democracy7. The examples from Russia show the various paths of ethnic emancipation in the
Russian Federation that are usually strongly connected with current politics. The Setu and
the Voru language examples8, are quoted to prove that the emergence of new ethnoses of
ethnolects is not limited to large and well-establi­shed state organisms, but may also turn up
in smaller or younger communities9.
The Kvens
This group has appeared only recently in in official sources and statistics (­Piasecki
2011), but the group of this name is already mentioned in several medieval Nordic sagas10
and is located in the area of present-day Botnia. The legendary kings of Kveneland were
One of the Polish examples here could be the question of the Silesian nation (or ethnos) and the “godka”
or Silesian ethnolect.
The rank of each of them, that means establishing whether we are dealing with an ethnographic, regional,
language groups and with sub ethnos, ethnos, or a nation, is not only a point of controversy among scholars, but
most of all, a political problem (compare: Shabaev, Dronova, Sharapov 2010).
This also proves that the ethnic (national) censuses, if not conducted properly, reflect the current political
situation much more than the nationalone (for example, the number of the Saamis of Kola Peninsula given in
official sources has increased 10 times over the past 50 years!).
Their being ethnically and linguistically different from the Suomenlaiset – that is, the speakers of Finnish or
“Suomi” – is not questioned anywhere outside Finland.
There is no good Polish name for this group at present. The topical literature uses the name “Meankieli”,
but it is the name of the ethnolect, not an ethnonym so it rather should not be used. The Polish language norms
require writing the language names without capitals, and the names of peoples (nations), with a capital letter.
Tornedal – that means the Tornio River valley (Torniojoki in Finnish, Tornealven in Swedish) is itself a Swedish
name, so it’s not correct when referring to the Finnish population.
“Contemporary” has to be stressed in view of the very recent discrimination procedures of the Scandinavian administrations against the Saamis (calling them “Saami minority” would be prejudicial as it was Sapmi,
the Saami motherland, that was taken over by invading states).
The Setu, as explained later on, live on both sides of the Estonian-Russian border and therefore are not
a “purely” Estonian example.
The Russian Federation, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Estonia are not all the states on whose territories
the Uralic peoples live. For the sake of completeness one should also consider the Szekler, a Hun­garian subethnos living in Romania. However, as we have limited the area of our considerations to Northern Europe, and both
the historical conditioning and the present-day situation of the Hungarian diaspora are very different from the
circumstances of Northern Europe. We leave the Szekler to the Balkanists.
Particularly those connected with the legendary Biarmia (Leont’ev, Leont’eva 2007). The famous Egil Saga
(published in Polish in 1974) mentions Farawid, one of the kings of Kvenland.
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
Plate I: General location of the groups discussed in the text (orig.). Abbreviations: S – Setu and Voro,
M – Meankieli, K – Kvens, P – Pomortsi, I – Izhma Komi
supposed to become the future kings of the Orkneys.11 Their country is usually located on
both sides of Northern Botnia, but on the famous Olaf Magnus Magna Carta Marina, that is
dated 1555, Kvenland is missing, but a small-print inscription south of Tromso reads
“Berkara Qvenar”, that is “Kven Berkars” of the Kven itinerant traders. Hilda Ellis Davidson states – though without giving the source of the information – that the Kvens, together
with the Biarms and the Finns (that is, the ancestors of the Saamis of today), supported
themselves hunting wild reindeer and breeding the animal (Davidson 1979), but other
sources are silent about it. Possibly they were one of the numerous West Finnish tribes assimilated by the Suomenlaiset, or Suomi Finns, during their later expansion. One has to
At the moment we can see – particularly in internet – the trend of mythologizing the ancient Kvens and
Kvenland, making them a local power, and placeing their origins in the distant past. However, there are no
grounds to accept the hypothesis of a once-strong, ancient state of the Kvens, On the other hand, the continuity
of remarks on the subject in historical sources right up to modern times seems to suggest that the Kven tribe
must have once played a very important role in the region.
Karol Piasecki
stress that the Kvens of today are a new group that has no genetic continuity with the Kvens
of old, and their name is clearly a transplanted ethnonym12 which in Norwegian originally
designated a Finn as such and a Karelian.
The contemporary Kvens are the descendants of the Finns who have been migrating
from Northern Finland to Norway – to Finnmark and the Tromso province – and who settled the Varanger Peninsula in late XIX century. They gave their new land the name Ruija13.
Their migration was caused by bad harvests and famine in the Tornio River valley. The
Norwegian administration, rather unfavourably disposed to the newcomers thans to “fornorsking” (“Norwegianising”) policy prohibited them to use the Finnish language in
schools and at offices. It is estimated that in 1815 the Kvens, for this is the historical name of
the Finns in Norway, consisted 50% of the population of Tromso and Finnmark (Niemi
1995). Regardless of that14 the Finnish imnigrants have preserved their identity while taking
over the Norwegian name as ethnonym (“Kveeni” in Kven). Their religious confession – the
radical Lutheranism known as Laestadianism – has helped them to preserve their own language (Raisanen, Kunnas 2012). Until the 70s of the XX century the Kvens officially did not
exist, and the racist politics of the Norwegian authorities discriminated against them just as
it did against the Saamis. The changes in Norwegian thinking following the collapse of
global colonialism and the emancipating radicalization of the Saamis (Ryymin 2001) resulted in the official stopping the discrimination. In 1977 King Olav V of Norway, in the
presence of Urho Kekkonen the President of Finland and Carl XVI Gustav the king of Sweden, officially unveiled the monument in Vadso that is dedicated to the Kvens15.
It is difficult to estimate the number of the Kvens, since during the pasts population
censuses they preferred not to declare the Kven nationality thanks to the Norwegian policy
of discrimination against them16. The official figures have for long been deliberately lowered by the Norwegian authorities (Lie 2002). Even today, the estimate of the number of the
Kvens and the Kven language users is conditioned by who makes such attempts: the local
authorities speak of 10-15 thou­sand people. the Kvens, of 50 thousand.17 As late as in the
1980s the number of Kven speakers was estimated at 1,5-2 thousand (Lindgren 1993), while
today the Kven language speakers amount 5-7 thousand (up to 10 thousand according to
the Kven organizations). The long lack of one literary standard and the scattering of the
Kven population reflect in the considerable dialect differentiation of the language (Plate 2).
The society known as Norske Kvener Forbund or Ruijan Kveeniliitto was set up in 1987, and
the struggle for emancipation resulted in gaining by the Kvens the official ethnic minority
status in 1996. In 2005 the Kven language finally got the status of a minority lan­guage (Petryk 2005). The language, called Kveenin or Kainu Kieli, is closest to the Finnish ethnolect
known as Meankieli. It absorbed a number of words from Norwegian, Swedish, and the
Saami languages, while its modern lexicon shows numerous Norwegian borrowings (Raisanen, Kunnas 2012). The standarization of the language, necessary for the development of
This is what I call ethnonyms taken over from the anthropological or cultural substratum by the new,
alien peoples superimposing them­selves upon the substrata or the mythologicalized ethnic “labels” borrowed
for geographic or other reasons (compare the Macedonians of today).
This name already appears in the Kalevala and refers to the northern coasts (of Scandinavia?).
A relief was kept that the finn were a kind of “Russian danger”, as Finland was at that time a part of the
Russian Empire.
This city, situated on the southern coast of the Varanger Penisula, is considered to be an unofficial capital
of the Kvens.
Even today the Kvens, just like the Saamis, feel that they are discriminated against by the Norwegians
(compare Hansen et al. 2008).
Most probably the initial number of the Finnish emigrants in mid – XIX century was several times larger
(ten times larger, according to some sources!).
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
Plate II: Distribution of the Kven dialects and the Meankieli ethnolect area in Sweden and Finland (orig.). Following the pattern by the web page www.kvenskinstitutt.no the figures stand for: – the western dialects: l –
Lungen, 2 – Nordreisa, 3 – Kvaenangen, 4 – Alta, 5 – Porsanger – the eastern dialects: 6 – Tana, 7 – Nord-Varanger, 8 – Sr-Varanger. The Meankieli area is hachured. On the Swedish side the administrative units in which it is
a minority language are marked. On the Finnish side the same is marked only in general, on the basis of several
different sources.
literacy and education in it, has been ongoing since 2007 under the aegis of the Kven Language Council (in Norwegian, spraakraad), and since 2009 under the guidance of the Kven
The partly-lost Kven culture18 is being restituted by the Kven Institutet in Borselv, the
Halti Kvenkultursenter in Nordreisa, and the Ruija Kven Museum in Vadso. The Kven festivals, first organized in 2007, are becoming increasingly popular. Since 2006 the language is
present at the Tromsø University, and the literature in Kvem is emerging. There also exists
the Kven newspaper called Ruijan Kaiku.
It seems of no doubt that the Kven identity is presently being built on the foundation of
language (Petryk 2014). It is of interest that the Kven community, in its emancipation proc-
Until very recently the scholars were convinced that the original Kven culture has already vanished (compare Anttonen 2014).
Karol Piasecki
ess, has not taken advantage of the ideas of Pan-Finnism19 and instead of trying to be recognized as a Finnish minority (Suomenlaiset), has preferred Middle Ages as the key of identity.
However, it may be expected that the current tendencies may result in the mythologising of
the Cvenia of old and the emergence of the foundation myth that is necessary for each and
every ethnos.
Meänkieli – “Our Language”
The present Swedish-Finnish border along the Torne/Tornio River20 follows to
a considerable extent the old border dividing the Western and Eastern Lapps along the
Tornio and Kemi Rivers watershed (Storaa 1971). Before the Swedish and Finnish settlers
made their way north, they had been divided by the lands that had been settled – right until the end of the Middle Ages – by the Kvens of old and the ancestors of the Saami of today.21 Only after the Saamis retreated northwards did the Torne River valley become the
main route of the Finnish settlers’ migration. In 1809, when Finland was annexed by Russia,
the Treaty of Hamina demarcated the border according to the then-customary European
pattern, that means drawing it along the rivers22 (Tornio and Muonio). The frontier split
into two the Finnish community using two closely related dialects (Tornio and Gallivare,
both belonging to the Perapohjola group of the Finnish dialects). Nearly half of the so-divided Finns found themselves in Sweden (ca.8 thousand), the rest remained in the east, in
Finland (11 thousand). As Thomas Lunden (2011) points out, this situation was and still is
typical for the whole of Europe, where most of the borders cut through the language areals.
The Finnish – speaking population of North-East Sweden was officially forgotten in those
days, and the new frontier increased the distinctness of its dialect (Heyerd 1992).
The policy of Swedization of the Finnish population of the Tornio Valley, parallel to the
Norwegianiziation of the Kvens in the north, has been going on since the early XX century.
A new wave of Finnish migration was caused by the revolutions in Russia (Lunden 2011).
The interwar period in Sweden was marked by the clear rise of racist tendencies, reflecting
in the negative attitudes towards the Swedish Pinns. The Meankieli language was officially
persecuted, while schools had an informal prohibition of using any other language but
Swedish by the students. This, obviously, had to have a negative influence on study results,
life success, and unemployment among the Finns of Sweden. Anne Heith states, in so many
words, that the Swedish policy of internal colonization and interwar racism have finally
brought about the reaction of the Finnish-speaking Tornedalians who no longer wanted to
be “the Negroes of Sweden” (Heith 2012). Their feeling of harm is demonstrated by the fact
that the first Meankieli grammar included an antiracist poem as one of the exemplary texts
in the language (Pohjanen, Kenttä 1996)23.
The debate on the place of Finnish in the Swedish community has started in the 1950s.
(Lunden 2011). The Swedish conservatives insisted that bilinguilism leads to the collapse of
the language, and besides, they preferred the standard Finnish language to the Meankieli.
Also the Finns tried to enforce the standard Finnish language in Tornedalen, but the at19
The fear of Pan-Finnism, the idea common in Finnish thinking, might be one of the reasons of discriminating against the Kvens, particularly in the light of Finland’s cooperation with Hitler’s Germany (Ryymin
We use both Swedish and Finnish names here, as the current Polish atlases give double names.
Here we allow some simplification of description, as a detailed explanation of the Saami problem Gould
go far beyond the limitations of the present paper.
In the North, rivers were the main communication router, and not infrequently the only ones, and so they
connected rather than divided, and frontiers followed the watersheds.
That means the valleys of Northern Dvina and Mezen.
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
tempt was rejected. The local population had no doubts that the Suomi-Meankieli relation
were asymmetric. The language problem in Tornio Valley was further complicated by the
fact that the Finnish-side dialect (Tornion Murre), while being de facto Meankieli, was slowly developing towards standard Finnish (Suomi), the developments on the Swedish side
were wholly different. Besides the local Finnish and Swedish Meankieli speakers – and the
local activists tried to make the language different from standard Finnish – there appeared
a number of new Finnish immigrants speaking Suomi, that is standard Finnish (Vattovaara
2009). Although the cross-border contacts are very much alive today and the Finns from
both sides have no problems communicating with each other, the administrative difficulties
are on the increase. The old relationship of the dialects diminishes and there may come the
need of having interpreters or of using schoo1 English as the intermediary language rather
soon (Lunden 2011). Denis Zalamans (2002) quotes an interesting comparison of the situation in two border towns, Harapanda in Sweden and Tornio in Finland (Table 1). Lunden
stresses that being Finnish in Sweden was always humiliating, and therefore the Finnish
self-identification in Harapanda is certainly lowered, similarly to the knowledge of Meankieli in Tornio.
Meankieli, common in preschool education on the Swedish side of the border, gives
way to standard Finnish in schools, which is facilitated by the ease of cross-border educational exchange. The status of Meankieli in higher education is still lower, as most of the
Swedish Finns prefer to study in Finland, even though it has legally been allowed to use
Meankieli at the universities since 2000 (Bodrogi 2008). This is now possible at Lulea, Stockholm, and Umea (Huss, Lindgren 2005).
The first Tornedalian organization – Svenska Tornedalingars Riksforbund-Torniolaaksolaitet
– was set up in 1998, while the first private school with the Meankieli language in Norbotten
was organized at Pajala in 1993. Both the Kvens and the Tornedalians of the late XX century
built their identity on the fundaments of language. The Finns of Finland, who regarded
both as speakers of wrong and impure form of the language (the building of the Finnish
identity in the XIX c. was based on care for language purity), have also contributed to it. As
a result, both the Kvens and the Finns of Tornedalen, already discriminated against by the
Swedes and the Norwegians, have turned to resist their own countrymen and to create their
own self-identification on the basis of this “wrong and impure” language (Bodrogi 2008).
It is interesting that the cultural activity of the Meankieli and the Saami minorities is
higher than the Swedish one in the same areas (Winsa 2005). This may be the result of the
state financial support, but also of the growing self-identification.
The Swedish education system, while supposed to protect the interests of language minorities, is both complicated and extremely formalized.
It allows numerous choices by the students, which in connection with the opportunism
of the youth does not augur well for the teaching of Meankieli which is not a compulsory
language. This is further obstructed by the executory rules and the lack of competent teachers. As a result, the bilingual education plays only a marginal role, and almost in principle
the learning of Meankieli takes place at home under the supervision of the parents. The
distinct status of the language is often questioned, all the more so since the young monolingual Swedes have a negative attitude to Meankieli and the Saami languages, which is painfully obvious to their contemporaries who speak minority languages. This has a negative
influence on the atti­tude to the language and the choice of self-identification. The young of
Tornedalen believe that the Finns who speak standard Finnish also share the negative attitude to them, though this generally does not refer to the Finns living in Tornedalen (Arola,
Kunnas, Winsa 2015).
Finnish (Suomi) is today Sweden’s second language as far as the number of spears is
concerned (ca.200-250 thousand), while the population speaking Meankieli is estimated at
Karol Piasecki
15-45 thousand, though there exist much higher estimations reaching 75-100 thousand. The
number of speakers of it has dropped by 40% over the past 25 years. There are now 18 administrative regions, including Stockholm, where the language is officially recognized
(Parkval 2009).
The Pomors
The identity of no group discussed so far stirs up so much emotions as the question of the Pomors. It is also the only one whose “Uralic character” is a matter of dispute,
The Pomors of today are the remnant of once much larger group living along the coasts of
the White Sea and the Dvina River (Piasecki 2009). Its origins reach to late Middle Ages,
when the Novgorod and “Nizh”24 settlers arrived in the north, assimilating the local population substratum – Karelian, Veps, “Tchud” (“North Finnish”25) and Saami, all of them
linguistically Uralic (Bernstam 1978). The ethnolect based on all this (Pomorskaya govora) is
clearly different from the other North Russian dialects both phonetically and lexically. Its
reach (Plate 3) is the best demonstration of the reach of Pomorian culture. This culture, religiously Orthodox right from its beginnings, has absorbed a large number of local and pagan elements which included hunting (with special reference to sea mammals), fishing,
sub-Arctic nature, and the spiritual borrowings. As the cold climate seriously limited the
possibilities of agriculture ad cattle breeding, the Pomors rather early based their survival
and subsistence on “sea harvesting”. Expanding and penetrating economically more and
more towards north and west, as far as Spitsbergen and Novaya Zemla26, they showed intense development of ship-building. They have also markedly contributed to the first stage
of the conquest of Siberia (Vize 1948, Azjatin et.al. 1979, Ciporukha 2004).
The development of their identity was originally conditioned by the specific demands
of sea-based economy. This was further strengthened by the confessional element. Following the Nikon Reforms (1656-56), they declared themselves on the Old Liturgy side and
became one of the strongest rozkol camps. The Solovetsky Monastery was the main point of
the Old Faith followers’ resistance against the new liturgy and the power of the Tsars. Later
on the St. Michael Archangelsk Monas­tery at the mouth of the Dvina River became the sacral centre of Pomorye and gave its name to the city of Archangel that was raised just next to
the Monastery in 1613. The Pomors had a very special attachment to the cult of St. Nicholas,
the patron of sailors and traders. They called him “speedy helper”, as when in need of help
at high seas he was believed to come to help himself and directly, not merely by taking the
supplications of the faithful to God. The area of Pomorye knows the saying, rhyming in the
original Russian, “It is 33 Nicholses from Kholmogory to Kola”, meaning that there are 33
temples, chapels, and crosses dedicated to St. Nicholas along the sea route from the old
Pomorye capital at Kholmogory to the mouth of the Kola River in the north of Kola Peninsula27. The crosses, when placed at visible sites along the coast and oriented to the sides of
the world, have also functioned as navigation marks. They were also erected on the intention of a successful voyage or in gratitude for saving life. Even today we can see them along
northern shores from Spitsbergen up to Novaya Zemla (Filin, Frizin 2001; Lebedeva 2015).
The so called “lower colonization” included the settlers arriving from the Suzdal-Rostov Russ (Bernshtam 1978, Dubrovin et. al 2001, compare Piasecki 2009, p.15).
Some Uralic scholars tend to distinguish the North Finnish languages the West Finnish ones (Kuratov
1983). These would include some of the lost ethnolects of the area under discussion.
The Britsh and Dutch expeditions report meeting the Pomors in the northern seas in the XVI century. The
Pomorye seamen rescued the castaways of Barents’s expedition in 1597 (de Vejr 2011).
At the turn XIX/XX centuries more than half the chips and sailboats registered in Archangelsk were
named after St. Nicholas.
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
Plate III: The Pomore ethnolect area (Piasecki, in the press). The figures stand for: l – Pomore dialects, 2 – other
North Russian dialects, la and 2a – the areas of mixed population (with non-Russian populations)
Let us come back to the ethnonym. The name Pomors (also Pomory and Pomorianie)
appears for the first time in 1562, when “Pomors from the Ocean sea and Kondalaksha Bay,
as well as the Lapps, requested the building of a church”28. For a long time the term designated those leasing for “Murman”, that is the northern shores of the Kola Peninsula, for
fishing and hunting sea mammals. The “Pomory” version29 spread together with the Old
Faith followers, who have finally united and created the “Pomory Agreement” (Rus. “Pomorske Soglase”). Later on the name Pomor was expanded for the entire coast of the White
Sea and all the inhabitants of the Russian North, and in particular for those living in the
gubernias or districts of Archangel, Vologda and Oloniets (Ul’janov 1984). The name of the
ethnonym was transferred to the country; on the principle: Pomors – the inhabitant of Pomorye. The actual Pomorye is the White Sea coast from Onega to Kem, known as Pomorye
The following teritorial groups of the Pomors are distinguished:
– the actual Pomors living in Pomorsky-, Summer-, and parts of the Karelian Coast
– the Kandalaksha Bay Pomors, also called “Gubyans” (from “guba”, the bay) or
“Pomortsy c moria Okiyana iz Kondolakskoy guby prosili v meste c loplianami ustroistva tserkvi” (Ul’
janov 1984).
In the Polish literature the name “Pomorcy” is more common than “Pomorzanie”, which allows ti distinguish them from the Baltic Pomeranians. The simple translation of the Russian name “Pomory” into the Polish
“Pomory” does not seem appropriate because of its clearly pejorative character.
Karol Piasecki
– the Terski Coast Pomors, also called “Terchans” and “Rokkans”30
– the Ust-Tsylemtsy and the Pustoziertsi31
– the Kanintsi or Kanin Pomors, living in the Kanin Peninsula, in which case only 7 people declared this nationality in the 2002 census32.
It is interesting to have a look at the attitude of those living in the White Sea Pomorye to
the ethnonym “Pomor”, as this is undoubtedly crucial for the Pomorian self-identification.
Depending at which “Coast” they live33, they regarded themselves and their countryman
from other “Coasts” as the true (real) Pomors or non-Pomors. Tatiana Bernshtam quotes the
field work showing that, for example, those living in the settlements at the mouth of Dvina
River did not call themselves Pomors (“no, never not even one word about it”). Those from
the Pomorsky Coast claimed: “They did not go from Kandalaksha to Murman, They may
call themselves Pomors all right, but to us they are not Pomors”, On the other hand, those
living at the Onega Coast say about their neighbours from the Summer Coast: “They are not
Pomors, they planted potatoes and grew cereals” (Bernshtam 1978). One gets the impression that there existed something like “the heart of Pomorian-ship” situated at the Pomorsky Coast, and the farther from it, the weaker the feeling of it, Even though the term Pomors
has become popular some still insist that the only true Pomors are those who sail “beyond
Murman”, that is to the Barents and Norwegian Seas, for their voyages.
There is no doubt that right until the early XX century the population of the White Sea
coasts have not thought of themselves as of one ethnos (Bernshtam 1978). With the setting
up of the city of Archangelsk the importance of the Kola River and the Moscow-Kola route
decreased, and fishing and hunting moved to east-north coasts of the Kola Peninsula. Those
living in the eastern “Coasts” began to take active part in it in the XVII century. and it was
at that time the concept of Pomorye got much extended.
Today we can clearly see the rise of self-identification of Pomors. This is caused by the
collapse of the Soviet Union and parallel cryptodomination of the Velkorus’ ethnos or the
Russians. The process is of much interest to researchers, which is clearly shown by the increasing number of publications on the subject34. The process of Pomors emancipation has
recently become too much political. This resulted in the peculiar mythologization of Pomoreness on one hand, and on the other hand, in accusing the Pomors of nationalism, undermining the unity of Russia, and even of anti-state activities (Sabaev 2011). The Pomors
activists are accused of “destroying” the unity of the “Severyans” (Northern Russians, from
sever – north) and confronting the allegedly non-Slavic Pomors with the Slavic “Northerners”. Ivan Moseev the leading apologist of Pomorian identity, writes: “the native culture of
the Pomorye people cannot be viewed as exclusive Slavic because it preserved the ancient
Finno-Ugric stratum that is of fundamental importance to Pomorian identity” (Moseev
2004). This is totally unacceptable to the contemporary Great Russian nationalists, who
openly accuse the Pomorye intellectual elites of national betreval and willingness to hand
over the Russian Arctic to the West (Shemushin 2013).
The creation of the Soviet Union meant for the Pomors – just like it did for a number of
other ethnic minorities – the enforced loss of self-identity. If we add to it the considerable
internal migrations, particularly the professional ones connected with the sea economy and
the development of the Russian Navy one should not be surprised that the census of 2002
Both “Piakka” and “Rokka” come from the Karelian language.
The Ust-Tsilems, that is the inhabitants of Ust-Tsilema and its surroundings, have been creating their own
identity in the recent years (Shabaev, Dronova, Sharapov 2010).
It has already been singled out by Sergey Tokaryev (Tokarev 1958).
The particular sections of the White Sea shores have been called “coasts”. It was connected with their
non-simultaneous settling, varying characterstics, and it also facilitated navigation.
Compare Vitalij Anufriev (2008): Russkie pomory.Kulturno-istoriceskaia identicnost’.
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
returned the amount of only 6571 Pomors (6295 of them in the Archangelsk District). and
the census of 2010 listed only 3113 of them. So rapid a decline may only be explained by the
anti-Pomors campaign stirred up by central authorities and the Russian nationalists, because in the same period we can see a very clear increase in the activities of Pomorye organizations and institutions as well as in the number of publications devoted to Pomorye
and the Pomors. Even more so, if we compare the above figures with the results of the censuses conducted at all Pomorye “Coasts” in the years 1858-1859 (29,1 thousand) and 1926
(79,7 thousand) (Bernshtam 1978), we can clearly see that if we include the demographic
tendencies the descendants of old Pomors should today number at least a hundred thousand or more. Even assuming that most of them lost their old identity the figure of three
thousand seems considerably lowered.
The Pomorian ethnos was the result of mixing of genes and cultures of the old ethnic
substratum and the earliest Slavic settlers. It was35 and still is surrounded by the various
non-Slavic, Uralic-speaking peoples:
– from the south – the Veps and the Izhma Komi
– from the west – the Karelians
– from the north – the Kola Peninsula Saamis36
– from the north-east – the Nenets.
In the past few dozen years the arranging of mixed marriages, much more frequent today than in days of old, resulted in the dramatic fall of the number of the Pomors. A large
part of it, maybe the largest, could be credited to the marriages of ethnic Pomors with the
ethnic Velikorusy37 and the members of ethnic and national minorities acculturated by
Small wonder, then, that the Pomorian ethnolect developed independently of the Great
Russia dialects which eventually gave rise to the Russian literary language. The richness,
the individual lexicon, and the phonetics of Pomorian ethnolect make it very different from
the modern Russian language in both phonetics and lexicon. In its lexicon we have numerous borrowings from “north Finnish” languages, Saami languages and Germanic (first of
all Norwegian), as well as very rich vocabulary consisting primarily of specific neologisms
concerning the sea, sailing fishing, and hunting (Merkur’ev 1979). They also have a rich
vocabulary connected with various types of ice38, winds39, and types of the coasts. The richness of the Pomorian speech is clearly testified by the fact that the 10 volumes of the Archangelsk District Dictionary, covering the entries from A to D, comes up to 170 thousand
lexical units! (Russki yazyk i ego pomorskie i sibirskie rostvenniki 2008), and the Pomore
grammar “Pomorska govorija” by Ivan Moiseyeev, published in 2005, includes two thousand five hundred words. The Pomorian ethnolect area covers the broadly-understood Pomorye and embraces the White Sea shores up to the Onega Lake in the west, and the river
valleys of lower Mezen and Pechora in the east (Plate 3).
A point of special interest for the Norwegian-Pomorye contacts is the artificial language
known as russenorsk called kak-sperk in Norwegian and moja-po-twoja in Pomorian. It contained about 300-350 words and facilitated communication between seamen and traders of
It remain surrounded so until the early XX century.
The Saamis of the Kola Peninsula, who belong to the East Lappish language group, are not a uniform
ethnos, in spite of the common view. They are called Skolt (“of Kola”) by Western researchers, and linguistically
they divide into four ethnolects: Ter, Kildin, Akkala, and Kolt (the proper Skolt), The last group is also internally
diffe­rentiated as far as the dialect is concerned (Kent 2003).
We use the term in purely technical sense, without ascribing any political coloring to it.
The Pomors use over a hundred, names to designate ice. One of then – gruma or grumana stands for blocks
of ice that fall off icebergs into the sea. This clearly connects with the Pomorian name of Spitsbergen – “Grumant”.
Compare Porch 1983, Gemp 2004, Piasecki 2012.
Karol Piasecki
both countries. It contained 35% of Russian words, 45% of the Norwegian ones, and the
remainder was taken from Finnish and other languages (Pomorska strona… 2004). The
flourishing of this language at the turn of XIX/XX centuries at the time of extremely extensive Pomorye-Norway trade contacts, came to an end with the creation of the Soviet Union.
The rich spiritual and material culture of the Pomors was thoroughly investigated by
ethnographers, anthropologists, linguists, and historians (Bernshtam 1978, 1983, Bulatov
1997-2001; Russkij Sever . . . 2004; Bazarova et. al. 2005; Anufriev 2008; Shemushin 2013).
The role of the Pomors in the conquest of Siberia, the exploration of the Arctic, and in the
development of Russia, is unquestionable. However, when the Pomors Congress held at
Archangelsk in 2007 proclaimed the existence of the Pomorian nationality, the government
treated it as a state-subversive activity. The extent of anti-Pomorye state propaganda makes
one amazed if we are to believe that, according to the last census, there are only some three
thousand of them. Regardless of the future political developments connected with the Pomorye problem it is of no doubt that the role of the Pomors in the history and culture of
Russia is important, and their ethnic self-identification should not be put in doubt.
A part of the Pomorye population, as well as the Izhma Komi discussed below, follows
the traditional economy until today. The fundamental problem for them is whether they
should be placed on the list of the so-called small40 native peoples of the North and Siberia.
The constitutional status of those nationalities is connected with special care of the state and
numerous privileges like fishing quotas, hunting limits, freeing from taxes and free use of
natural resources and environment. After all, the gradual loss of access to the sea resources
was one of the reasons of the disappearance of the Pomors. The neighbouring Saami and
Nenets have no limitations in reindeer pasturing and the use of the environment. They also
have officially granted fish and sea mammal quotas, which they do not make full use of but
resell to the Pomors. At the same time most of the leaders of the Pomors movement are citydwellers, a part of which no doubt connects its political activities with Pomorness (Shabaev
Dronova, Sharapov 2010).
The Izhma Komi
The Finnish-Perm, language branch divides into Permian Komi and Zyrian Komi.
The latter one included several groups (Shabaev 2000) and among them – Izhma Komi. The
Komi-Izhem (their own ethnonym is Izvatas’, from the Komi name of the river Izhma). Their
ancestors – a part of Zyrian Komi – moved north (Lashuk 1956) to escape the pressure from
Moscow Rus’41, and settled the valleys of Vychegda, Izhma, Pechora, and Usa (Zerebcov
2002; Savel’eva, Korolev 2007). The creation process of the ethnos, started in the XVI century, ended, finally in the XVIII c. (Konakov Kotov l999). Superimposing on the local
“­Tchud” (“North Finnish”) anthropological and linguistic substratum, as well as mixing
with the Slavic settlers and the Nenets reindeer shepherds, the Komi created a specific culture based on reindeer breeding for trade (Shabaev, Jironova, Sharanov 2010). Expanding
northwards together with them, the Izhma Komi reached the Kanin and Kola Peninsulas,
Kolguyev Island, and on their travels east word (Filatova 1994) crossed the Ural and Ob
Rivers (Plate 3). Their success was the result of joining elements of the Nenets traditional
economy with the processing of reindeer skins – primarily for suede – with long-range
In the sense of small number (Rus. korennyi malocislennyi narod).
Mostly because of enforced Christianization started in the 80s of the XIV century by bishop Stefan (later
on, St. Stefan of Perm). This coincided with the same expansion that gave rise to the Pomors.
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
trade (even on international scale) without the use of intermediaries. Living a semi-nomadic way of life and settled permanently in village-type settlements, they have originally been
breeding reindeer in their farms, and subsequently, taking advantage of the hired Nenets
shepherds for grazing, have creatively taken over their technology of animal breeding as
well as a large part of their material culture. They developed animal breeding on a large
scale, and their flocks grazing in European tundras increased from 30 thousand in the XVII
c. to 200 thousand in the XIX c (Kotov 2000). Zyrianski reports that in the 40s of the XIX
century the Izhma Komi herds in the Archangelsk district were four times larger than the
Nenets ones (Shabaev, Dronova, Sharanov 20l042). In the forest- tundra areas, just like in
their former homeland, they subsided on hunting and fishing, and to a considerably lower
degree, on agriculture and cattle-breeding. Moving northwards, the Komi have gradually
abandoned cattle-breeding in favour of reindeer-breeding, but without abandoning the settled way of life and still supplementing reindeer breeding with hunting and fishing. They
have first lived in typically Zyrian houses and farms, but as their wealth increased these
were enlarged and ornamented in the Russian style until they looked almost Pomorian
(Rogatchev 2000).
Even though the Izhma Komi way of life did not differ outwardly from the Nenets, the
trade-oriented reindeer breeding decided about their approaching the Russian culture.
Their early accepting the Orthodox faith (most of the Izhma Komi are of Old Faith), their
knowledge of the Russian language and smaller cultural distance between them and the
Russians have also played an important role. At the turn of XIX/XX centuries their level of
life has in fact equaled the one of the rich Pomors.
The distinct way of life, language, and culture originated the Izhma Komi strong emancipation movement that was based on contrasting the Izhma Komiand the Zyrians within
the Komi community (Anufrieva 2007).The Izhma Komi have for long differed from the
Zyrians not only by the specific features of their economy, but also by their dialect, clothes,
and opening onto Russian culture (Terebikhin, Neskanelis 2008) Paradoxically, after the
Komi Republic was established and schooling in Zyrian Komi began, the Izhma Komi demanded schooling in Russian. There were known cases of burning language primers and
school textbooks printed in the Komi language (Shabaev, Dronova, Sharapov 2010). This
was followed by the temporary loss of self-identity in favour of the general Komi, that is
Zyrian one (in the 70s and 80s of the previous century), which gave place to the feeling of “‘
Izhmaness” in the 90s43.
All this culminated in including the Izhma Komi in the census form in 2002 (even though
the. Izhma Komi have already appeared in census forms in 1926, although counted as a variant of the Zyrian Komi identification), which in fact meant recognizing then as a separate
nationality. There were 16.5 thousand of them in 2002, 12.5 thousand of these in the Komi
Republic (Shabaev, Dronova, Sharapov 2010). The remaining ones live mostly in the Murmansk District, the Yamal-Nenets District, and in the Khanty-Mansy Autonomic District.
The broad scale of their distribution, caused by the necessity of having access to newer and
Obviously the renting of pasture grounds and the hiring of shephards must have been to a certain disadvantage to the Nenets (mostly because of overtaking their own grazing grounds). N.A.Aleksejev (1972) in his
review of the collective monograph “Preobrazovanija v khazajstve i kul’ture i etnitcheskie processy u narodov
Severa” (Moscow 1970) remarks that Ludmila Khomitch is not right when claiming that the Izhma Komi did not
exploit the Nenets. With the Izhma civilization superiority it was a natural phenomenon, although it should not
be overestimated. What is really essential is the fact that at the same time the Nenets have suffered the greatest
defeats in their fight for independence with the Tsarist administration. This no doubt must have facilitated the
expansion of the pro-Russian Izhma Komi.
It is interesting that both the Kola and Ob Izhma Komi did not think themselves different from the rest of
the Zyrians (Kotov, Rogatchev, Shabaev 1969).
Karol Piasecki
Plate IV: The contemporary settlements of the Izhma Komi (orig.). Explanation of symbols: a – the approximate
continous area of the Izhmian ethnolect in the Komi Republic (after Konakov 2000), b – the area where the
Izhma Komi scattered (based on a number of sources, primarily on Filatova 1994)
still newer grazing grounds, clearly demonstrates the expansive character of this ethnos
(Plate 4). The distance from the base of the Kola Peninsula to the mouth of the Taz River
comes to two thousand kilometers. The Izhma Komi demand getting the status of the aboriginal peoples of the North, which would make their reindeer-breeding more profitable.
One has to stress that the Izhma Komi identity has always been facilitated by the internal
coherence and solidarity of the group44. It also needs stressing that the Izhma Komi selfidentification concerns all the age groups to the same degree (Shabaev, Dronova Sharapov
The Setu (Seto) and the Voro (Võro) language
The Setu of today, also known as the Setukez, are a part of the old West Finnish
tribes out of which the Estonian nationality has formed. They live in south-east Estonia and
in the Russian Federation (Plate 5). Their ancestors, neighbours of the Polotska Russ, have
accepted Eastern Christianity45 in the Middle Ages (Tokarev 1958, Surowiec 2005, Piasecki
2011). The ethnogenesis of the group remains unclear. It is generally accepted that they are
an ethno-confessional group differing from the rest of the Estonian ethnos only by their
Orthodox faith. This group is the effect of the southward migration of the population of the
As regards organized forums, the Izhem are represented by the Interregional Social Movement
The remaining Estonians were conquered by the Danish and German crusaders in the XIII century and
converted to Catholicism. After the Reformation they bemae Lutheran.
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
Plate V: The area of the Voro or South Estonian language and the Setu population (orig.)
Estonian province of Vorumaa, or possibly the remainder of the “Tchud” tribes46. Some try
to derive them from a separate, autochthonic West Finnish tribe that was supposed to live
in those areas since the third millenium BCE (Jaats 1997). The last proposal, supported by
the majority of the Setu, forms one of the fundamental pillars of their self-identity, The ethnonym derives from the Estonian “sega” – “mixed” – and is usually explained on folk etymology basis “ei see ei tuu” which is supposed to mean “neither this nor that”, that is neither Estonian nor Russian (Grabowska 2000). The weakness of this derivation is almost too
obvious47. Another name, slightly pejorative, is used on the Russian side of the border:
“polvertsi” (literally “half-faith holders, half-believers”) supposedly alluding to their halfpagan character48. The small but compact area settled by them has formed the EstonianSlavic borderland ever since the early Middle Ages (Moora, Moora 1960). Relatively early it
came to be controlled by Polovtsy Rus, and subsequently became a part of the Polotsk administrative units of various kinds. After the Peace of Tartu in 1920 all of Setumaa or “Setu
Land” became a part of Estonia. Towards the end of second world war, when Estonia was
reincorporated into the USSR, a large part of Setu – including their religious centre in the
Pechora Monastery – turned up on the Russian side, and a small group of them found
themselves within Latvia (Plate 5). The 2002 census49 informs us that there are about 10
“Tchud” in old Russia meant either the West Finnish and “North Finnish” tribes in general, or some of
them in particular. The ances­tors of the Estonians of today, who formed a loose tribal federation in the Middle
Ages, called themselves “Maarahwas” (“the people of the land”). It is them who are called “Tchud” in Old Russian sources, while the Peipus Lake in Russian is called the Tchud Lake.
It is most probably an altered tribal name, possibly not Finnish, which might explain the appearance of
paronimic attraction.
Which, by the way, is correct.
The census on the Russian side seems uncertain. Estonia questions the Estonian-Russian border in the
reginn of Pechora (“Petserimaa” in Estonian). In question is the area of 1.585 square kilometres that became
Karol Piasecki
Plate VI: Distribution of the Setu after Richter 1978b, with some changes
thousand Setu in Estonia and 184 persons in the Russian Federation. The Setu are Christian
Orthodox. They speak Voro, one of the dialects of South Estonian. Those in Russia speak the
dialect with numerous Russian borrowings. Their cultural distinctness from the other Estonians remains very clear.
Their Orthodox faith seems to have always been rather superficial. This can be explained
by their frequent ignorance of Russian and almost general ignorance of Setu or Estonian
among the clergy of the region50. This is of no surprise that they have preserved a number
a part of Estonia under the terms of the Peace of Tartu, and is now a part of the Russian Federation, (Reissar
1906). This creates tensions, and the Setu population living on the Russian side does not declare belonging to the
Setu nation in fear of repressions. Even prior to the disintegration of the USSR most of the Setu lived in the Estonian Societ Socialist Republic (Plate 6).
As a result, unfortunately, the Setu were generally much worse educated than the remaining Estonians.
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
of residual pagan beliefs, rites, and customs (Jaats 1998). Their funeral rites are of particular
interest (Richteir 1979b). They have rich folklore, particularly songs, and their own epic
poem “Peko” (Hagu, Suhonen 1995). Peko is also regarded a God by them. The scholars
generally agree that their feeling of self-identification is closely connected with the syncretic character of Setu beliefs (Surowiec 2005).
The feeling of confessional distinctness strenthened the Setu self-identification. However, with the establishment of independent Estonia and her victorious war with Soviet
Russia, belonging to the Setu came to be regarded as evidence of backwardness and lower
social position. The numerous migrations from the Russian part of Setumaa to Estonia in
the XX century have ben parallel with the increasing identification of the Estonian Setu with
the Estonians (Richter 1979a). The Setu self-identification became positive only after tha
disintegration of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, the contacts between the Estonian and
Russian Setu have been interrupted. Their main religious centre – the Pechora Monastery,
uder which the mythological residence of their God Peko is located – became very difficult
to access to the Estonian Setu.
The tribes that gave rise to the Estonian nation (Maa rahwas) spoke related dialects that
consisted of two groups (Plate 5), northern and southers (Okulicz-Kozaryn 1993). In course
of time language differences developed between the two. After the Reformation, when
printing of Estonian religious texts began, there appeared problems connected with the
question of unified literary standard (let us note that there appeared two translations of the
Gospels, into North- and South- Estonian respectively). Eventually, the Northern dialect
became dominating, though the differences between the two ethnolects have always been
clear. The absence of any tendency to distinguish the two languages over the years was
chiefly due to the dominating position of German in Estonian culture which was extremely
strong and practically undeterred until the late XIX century (Lewandowski 2002). The emergence of Estonian feeling of national identity at the turn of XIX/XX centuries have not favored the creation of a second standard of the Estonian language, either.
The last few years and the EU support for regionalisms facilitate the spread of South
Estonian. It slowly becomes a tourist attraction of the south of Estonia. The Voro language
speakers amount to 50 thousand today, and even though it has the status of a regional language, it is not included in the list prepared “by the World Finnish-Language Congress
(IV Vsemirnyj kongres finno-ugorskich narodov 2004), neither is Meankieli.
The above presentation, much abbreviated and simplified out of necessity and regarding only a limited part of Europe, shows that at present – and maybe as never before – the
national (ethnic) matters are conditioned by the current political situation and the level of
democratization. Where the democratic standards are high and and their traditions long,
the ethnic, language, or confessional minorities may themselves decide about their existence, even when the majority of society has a negative attitude towards them. At the low
level of democratization the identity (self-identification) becomes hostage to the current
political situation. Let us hope that preservation and restitution of regional cultural diversity will become an effective counterweight to the danger of cultural globalization in future.
Karol Piasecki
Table I:
S 72%, F 21%
F 98%
S 58%, F 39%
F 96%
Language (fluent or good)
S 80%
F 64% M 24%
F 90%
S 20%
M 22%
Pearcentage relations of the population groups in Harapanda and Tornio (after Zalamans 2002).
S – Swedish, F – Finnish, M – Meankieli
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Northen Norway, “Pro Ethnologia” 15, pp. 49-69 (Internet 25.02.2015).
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[in Russian].
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Context, Working Paper in European Language Diversity 6 (Internet]
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(1979), Historia poznania radzieckiej Azji, Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe [in Polish].
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Naučnyj mir [in Russian].
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[in Russian].
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pp. 123-131.
Bulatov V. N., (1997-2001), Russkij Sever, kn. 1-5, Archangelsk: Izd. Cent PGY im. M. V.
Lomonosova [in Russian].
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Davidson H. E., (1979), Saxo Gramaticus, The History of the Danes Books I-IX, commentary
D. S. Brewer, Cambridge.
Dubrovin G. E., Okorokov A. V., Starkov V. F., Černosvitov P. J., (2001), Istorija severorusskovo sudostroenija, Sankt-Peterburg: Aletejja [in Russian].
Filatova N. V., (1994), Osvoenie komi rajonov Vostočnogo Zaurala, “Etnografičeskoe
obozrenie”, 5, pp. 93-103 [in Russian].
Filin P, A., Frizin N. N., (2001), Krest v promyslovoj kul’ture pomorov Russkovo Severa, Stavropolskij sbornik, Izd. Sovet RPC, Fed. Arch. Služba Rossii, RGADA, Moskva, kn. 1,
pp. 166-198 [in Russian].
Grabowska A., (2000), “Poluwierec”. Analiza religijności etnokonfesyjnej grupy Setu, in:
P. Ładykowski, (ed.) Chata estońska, Warszawa: Uniwersytet Warszawski, pp. 169-187
[in Polish}
Hagu P., Suhonen S., (1995), Setu rahvuseepos – Setukaiseepos – The Setu Epic Peko, Kuopio:
Snellman-instituutin jalkaisuja A,18/1995 (in Estonian].
Hansen K. L., Melhus M., Høgmo A., Lund E., (2008), Ethnic discrimination and bullying in
the Sami and non-Sami population in Norway: The SAMINOR Study, International Journal
of Circumpolar Health, 67, 1, pp. 99-115.
The Birth of New Ethnoses? Examples from Northern Europe.
Hederyd O., (1992), Tornedalens historia. 3, Harapanda efter 1809: kommunhistoria utgiven
med. An leduing av Hapatrandas 150-årsiubileum av Olof Hederyd, Haparanda, Birkkarlen
[in Swedish].
Heith A., (2012), Ethnicity, Cultural Identity and Bordering: A Tornedalian Negro [http://
www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol52/heith.pdf, 24.02.2015]
Huss L., Lindgren A.-R., (2005), Monikielinen Skandinavia, in: M. Johansson, R. Pyykkö,
(eds.) Monikielinen Eurooppa. Kielipolitiikka ja käytäntöä, Helsinki: Gaudeamus, pp. 246280 [in Finish].
Jääts I., (1997), History of the Setu Ethnic Identity: A Brief Survey Stability and Changes, Identity of Peripheries, Minority, Borderlands and Outskirts, “Vanavarevedaja” 5, pp. 66-72.
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Biographical note: Karol Piasecki, dr hab. prof. US, Director of Chair of Ethnology and
Cultural Anthropology of Szczecin University. Area of interest: astronomy, ornitology, entomology, historical and general anthropology, mitology and anthropology of
religion. Researchs in: Near East, Sudan, Central Andes, Russian Federation and
Our Europe. Ethnography – Ethnology – Anhropology of Culture
Vol. 3/2014
p. 29–40
Alena Křížová
Institute of European Ethnology,
Masaryk University in Brno
Sheep fur coat in the ethnographic area of Haná
in Moravia within the European context1
Abstract: Haná is the oldest formed ethnographic area in Moravia with distinctive features in all fields of
folk culture, architecture, clothing, dialect, and folk literature. Sheep coat with jagged hem, called Zipfelpelz in German and cípatý kožich in Czech, which drew the attention of writers and topographers as early
as in the late–18th century, was one of such noticeable characteristics. It represented the peculiarity of
local inhabitants. Although some researchers understand it as an archaic form of clothing, written reports
and pictorial evidences come from the late–18th and 19th centuries, when it was considered to be obsolete
and disappeared. German authors use the term Zipfelpelz for fur coats of different appearance; inhabitants
of the Polish Baltics, in the region of LakeGardno and LakeŁebsko lakes, wore a close form of this fur
Keywords: Moravia, Haná, folk dress, fur coat
The ethnographic area of Haná, which lies in Central Moravia, was mentioned in
the literature as early as in the 16th century; in the first half of the 17th century, it was charted
on Jan Amos Komenský map. Haná is one of distinctive ethnographic areas with peculiar
culture that was determined by good geographical conditions (fruitful lowland and accessibility), some nearby cities (especially the historic city and archbishop’s seat of Olomouc,
or summer archbishop’s residence in Kroměříž), advanced agriculture, and handicrafts.
The local inhabitants prided themselves on distinctive dialect, customs and habits, musical
and dance folklore and traditional clothing (Brouček, Jeřábek 2007: 238–239). These expressions drew attention of higher social classes, that is why the melodies from Haná found
their way into works of Baroque composers, and the villagers performed their dances and
parts of rituals in front of noble audience or at archbishop’s court as early as in the 17th century (Brouček, Jeřábek 2007: 20–25). The ethnographic area of Haná and its inhabitants were
described in the oldest topographic works about Moravia in the second half of the 18th century. These texts include different assessment of their nature and behaviour based on
­author’s personal experience or second-hand information; however, the facts from their
lives are identical.
In entire Moravia, the dress is a bearer of typical regional hallmarks. Therefore, the descriptions of Haná people’s clothing form a significant part of the text. Women are praised
for their cleanliness, carefully smartened-up appearance and becoming folk costume. As to
men’s folk costumes, the texts usually mention their balloon-shaped trousers, a white skirt,
and a vest; the outer garments differ according to the period of their origin and the period
The study was undertaken within the Programme of applied research and development of national and
culture identity (NAKI), project DF12P01OVV015 – Geographical Information System of Traditional Folk Culture (1750–1900), researched by Masaryk University, Brno.
Alena Křížová
fashion. At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, all authors paid their attention to an unusual fur coat made from sheepskin, which undoubtedly was common at that time; it was
worn not only in winter, but also all the year round. In Haná, it was calledocáskový (ocasnatý)
kožich (tailed fur coat);its German name was Zippelpelz, Zipfenpelz, Zipfelpelz, i.e. fur coat with
a jagged hem. Because it has survived neither in the field nor in any museum collection, we
have to rely on its description in written sources, or on numerous pictures in graphic art
prints, paintings, shooter’s targets and three-dimensional objects, for example faience tiles
and vessels.
The appearance of this fur coat is very archaic, making a primitive impression as if its
origin could be traced back to prehistoric times. However, the oldest relevant reports about
its existence and the corresponding depictions come from the mid–18th century. The basic
description is always identical: the body consisting of two pieces of sheepskin is sewn together on the shoulders and below the arms, only an opening for the head remains. Sometimes the fur coat was made like a vest because a coat was worn over it,2but mostly it also
had fur sleeves. Sheepskins used with hair inside were left in their natural irregular shape;
therefore, the front and the back parts ended with a triangle-shaped hem after which the fur
coat got its German name. Because the topographical works were printed in German as late
as in the second half of the 19th century, this also was the only known name, excepting the
literary work by Josef Heřman Agapit Gallaš from the 1820s, which was written in Czech
language and mentioned two tails when describing a fur coat (Gallaš 1941: 184–195). Only
in the Czech publications from the end of the 19th century, the word ocáskový (tailed) was
mentioned, which might have emerged from the fact that sheep tails, which could have
formed a projection at the bottom hem, were not removed from the sheepskin. The fur coat
seems to have this name only in the second half of the 19th century, i.e. in the last period
when this garment was used; moreover, there are reports about foxtails to have been sewn
to the front and back parts, which confirms a photograph from 1893. The fur coat had no
fastening, it was close fitting, and therefore, it could be put on over the head only with difficulties. The literature says that when a man wanted to put the fur coat on or to take it off,
he needed his wife standing behind him on a bench to help him. Alternatively, he could use
a loop at the back of his neck, so called pustina, which had to be caught on a rod above the
stove and then the man could take off his fur coat (Kunz 1956: 169–170).
The occurrence of the tailed fur coat was not limited to Haná only. Different reports
document it in the region of Hřebečsko, Záhoří and northern area of the Kyjov region; in
case it is documented in estates in the region around the city of Brno, then as “a Haná-style
fur coat” (Ludvíková 2002: 24–26).
It also differed in its appearance – it was white in Haná and the northern part of the
Kyjov region, yellow in the regions of Zdounecko (eastern part of Haná), Ždánicko (between the ethnographic areas of Haná and Slovácko), and around the city of Brno, and
brown in the eastern part of Haná and mainly in the region of Záhoří near Hostýn. The neck
and sleeves were trimmed with lamb, dog, or fox furs. It was often embellished with a heart
made of red leather and placed on the breast; sometimes, the heart was edged with green
silk threads and decorated with four leather buttons (Ludvíková 1970–1971: 221–233).
Probably the oldest written mention comes from an ironic notice written in the diary of
Jan Tadeáš Kniebandl, a member of the city council in Olomouc, when Prussian forces besieged Olomouc in 1758. The Prussian soldiers exploited the inhabitants from nearby vil2
This is depicted in the altar picture by Antonín Wolný, Pratet to St. Isidor in parish church of the Birth of
the Virgin Mary in Příbor. See Křížová Alena, Šimša Martin (2012),Lidový oděv na Moravě a ve Slezsku. Ikonografické
prameny do roku 1850. [Folk Dress in Moravia and Silesia I. Iconographic Documents until 1850] Strážnice: Národní
ústav lidové kultury, pp. 100.
Sheep fur coat in the ethnographic area of Haná in Moravia within the European context
lages to excavate trenches and the town defenders could not respect their presence, so even
70 Haná inhabitants were killed on 28 May. Jan Tadeáš Kniebandl glossed this event with
following words:„… [the enemy] exploited the exhausted and miserable villagers from whom
a good many tailed fur coats must have lost a hair through our excellent artillery fire coming especially from side, from Salcergut “ (Hannakischer Zipelpelz Haar lassen müssen).
A more detailed description was written by Balthasar Hacquet (1939/40 – 1815), a French
natural scientist and physician who stayed in Slovenia in the long term and systematically
travelled around countries in Central and South-East Europe to record not only geological
circumstances, but also typical features of those regions. Probably in winter 1894/1895, he
travelled through Moravia and it was the tailed fur coat that drew his attention among
other clothes in the ethnographic area of Haná. In the text about the people from Haná, he
wrote:„Die Haare hat er kurz abgeschnitten, auf dem Leibe trägt er ein langes Hemd mit einem
Wamse, und über das noch einen kurzen weissen Schafpelz (Prsnak), welcher wie ein enges Hemd
gemacht ist und über dem Kopfe angezogen wird. Dieser Pelzrock ist um den Hals am Ende der Ermeln mit schwarzen Hundsfelle ausgeschlagen. Hinten und vorn ist ein Zipfel, nach welcher sonderbaren Tracht man sie scherzweis die gnädigen Herren mit 3 Zipfen nennt. Vorn auf der Brust ist von
rothem Leder ein Herz geschtickt, ein Sinnbild der Geradheit dieses Volks.“ (He has short hair and is
dressed in a long shirt with a jacket on his body, over which he wears a short white fur coat (prsnak)
which is made as a tight-fitting shirt and pulled over the head. This fur coat is trimmed with black
dog fur around the neck and at the ends of sleeves. In the front and at the back, there is a tail and according to these strange folk costumes, they are called lordships with three tails in jest. In the front
on the breast, there is an embroidered heart from red leather as a symbol of the fairness of this nation).
In Balthasar Hacquet´s text, there is mentioned the Czech word prsnak as an explaining
term, whence one can conclude that this fur coat was called like this in the area. Besides the
description, there is a picture of a man and a woman from Haná, as wearing winter folk
costumes, by German painter Georg Vogel. The man is wearing the aforementioned sheep
fur coat with a heart on the breast ( Křížová, Šimša 2012: 113).
Ten years later, it was Joseph Rohrer (1769–1828), a police superintendent and statistician, who stayed in Olomouc for a short period and devoted himself to tailed fur coats:
“Den wesetlichsten Theil seiner Winterkleidung aber stellen zwey Lammfeile bar, die gleich einem
Hemde dergestalt zusammen genähet werden, daß lediglich eine Oeffnung gelassen wird, duch
welche der Hannake mit aufwärts gestrecken Armen hinein kriechen kann, und daß oben bloß ein
kleiner Raum übrig bleibet, aus welchem der Mannskopf hervor steckt. Diesem Kleide wird von den
benachbarten Deutschen des Ollmützer Kreises der Nahme Zipfelpelz beygelegt, weil nähmlich
Enden der weißen Lammfelle, welche durch keinen Schneider zugerundet werden, auf der Vor- und
Rückseite des Hannaken hinab schlenkern, und sich daher mit jedem Schritte bewegen. Wer es wagen
würde, dem Hannaken ein solches Ende des Lammfelles im Scherze abzuschneiden, er wäre nicht
sicher, mit der schneidenden Messerklinge des kleinen, dicken Einlegeniessers (Krziwanek) welches
jeder Hannake mit sich in der Tasche führt und zugleich mit dem Rosenkranze gewöhnlich vor den
Kirchthüren kauft, empfindlich verwundet zu werden! So steif und fest hält dieses Völkchen auf die
hergebrachte Sitte. Merkwürdig ist übrigens der Umstand, daß in der innern Hanna der Greis, so
wie der sproßende Jüngling, vor nicht langem noch ein rothes Herz auf der Brust trug.“ (The most
important parts of winter dress are two sheepskins sewn together like a shirt with an opening at the
bottom hem through which the man with his hands up can squeeze, and at the top, there is another
opening from which a male head sticks out. The Germans living in the region of Olomouc, who are
neighbours of the Haná people, call this garment as “a fur coat with a jagged hem” because no tailor
rounds off both bottom ends of the white fur, and the tails flap in the front and at the back, dangling
with each man’s step. If somebody tried to cut off this tail in jest, he could be sure the Haná man
would wound him dangerously with the handle of his massive clasp knife that each of them has in his
pocket, buying it together with the rosary at the church door! This petit nation holds firm to its cus-
Alena Křížová
toms with great inflexibility and pride. It is peculiar that in the very heart of Haná both old men and
boys in the flower of youth wore a red heart on their breast even recently.) (Rohrer 1804: 86; Jeřábek
Unlike Hacquet, who could gain just cursory knowledge in Haná during his short stay,
Josef Heřman Agapit Gallaš (1756–1840) from Přerov, a military physician and writer, proceeded on his long-life experience with the Haná environment: “Their folk costume is very
traditional, with its origin dating back more than three or four hundred years, especially the winter
one with a fur coat with two tails – called like that in Haná; this fur coat has not other slits except for
a wide one at the bottom and a narrow one at the top; in this way, it can be put on when a man squeezing his arms through the front opening pulls on the fur coat over his head and sticks out his head
through the top opening whereby the top opening of the same white sheep fur coat is usually trimmed
with black fur. On the breast, below the trimming, they usually have a red heart edged with silk or
other colours, especially green threads, and sewn on.” (Gallaš 1941: 184–195; Jeřábek 1997: 168–170).
We do not know the source of Gallaš´s information that this fur coat is three or four hundred years o ld; undoubtedly it must have been his conjecture. As resulting from other
works of his, he often tried to prove the antiquity of traditions of Moravian inhabitants.
Although he mentions two fur coats in his description, he does not recora a particular name
of this garment.
In addition, we have available two short reports from the end of the 1830s. The first one
comes from J. Cluth, an unspecified author, who writes about a man from Haná: “Seine
übrige Kleidung sind: ein cylinderformig den Körper einschlißender Schafspelz (kožuch), der über
den Kopf angezogen wird, bis unter einen Zipfel hat; …“ ( His other dress consists of: a sheep fur
coat (kožuch) fitting closely to his body cylindrically, which is put on over the head and reaches down
to the hips, with a tail in the front and at the back) (Cluth 1837: 324; Jeřábek 1997: 222). The historian Alois Maniak (1804–1843) is the author of the other mention: “In der Tracht, die er angenommen hat, herrscht, die rothbraunen, kurzen und weiten, ledernen Hosen etwa, und den schon
abgekommenen Zipfelpelz abgerechnet, bei weitem nicht das Bizzare, das man darin finden.“ (In the
folk costume, which he accepted, there is no rule of anything like outlandishness that somebody
wishes to find in it, if we do not take into account for instance his red-brown short and broad leather
trousers and the already obsolete fur coat with a jagged hem.) (Maniak 1838: 65: Jeřábek 1997:
Carl Kořistka (1825–1906), Professor at Prague Technical University, was interested in
ethnographical facts in Moravia and Silesia as well and he issued several books concerning
that theme. At the beginning of the 1860s he noticed that a man from Haná wears: “…im
Winter auch eine Pelzmütze, und den ganzen Körper schließt, oft auch im Hochsommer, ein halb
kürzerer halb längerer brauner Schafpelz ein.“ (… in winter also a fur cap and a shorter or longer
brown sheep fur coat thrown over his body, which he often wears in summer as well ) (Kořistka
1861:255; Jeřábek 1997: 318). The Moravian priest and historian Beda Dudík (1815–1890)
stated in 1873 that: “Die sogennanten Zipfelpelze sind ganz verschwunden.“ (The so-called fur
coats with jagged hems had already disappeared.) (Dudík 1873: 1–59; Jeřábek 1997: 332).
The occurrence of the fur coat with tails as to the period and regions is confirmed by
pictorial sources gathered in the period from the mid–18th century until the mid–19th century. One of the oldest illustrations includes the map edge presenting the Domain of Náměšť
and the farmyard in Ludéřov from the year 1746 where three young men working as land
surveyors wear fur coats3. Two works date back to the year 1748, namely a painting by
The map was made by Joseph Surgant. Viz Křížová Alena – Šimša Martin (2012), Lidový oděv na Moravě a ve
Slezsku I. [Folk Dress in Moravia and Silesia I], o. c., pp. 66, The map of the Domain of Holešov comes from 1763, it
was made by Johann Szaloky. In this map there also is depicted a man wearing a tailed fur coat with a remarkable heart on the breast. See Křížová Alena, Šimša Martin (2012), Lidový oděv na Moravě a ve Slezsku. [Folk Dress in
Moravia and Silesia I], o. c., pp. 68.
Sheep fur coat in the ethnographic area of Haná in Moravia within the European context
1. Josef Lederer: Frescoes at the Masquerade Hall, castle and chateau of Český Krumlov, 1748
František Vavřinec Korompay from the year 1748 and a fresco from the Masquerade Hall at
the chateau in Český Krumlov (South Bohemia). While in Korompay´s painting, a kneeling
man dressed in a yellow fur coat with noticeable tails is plausibly depicted from the back,
among people watching the Corpus Christi procession to celebrate the finished reconstruction of St. Paul and Peter’s Church in Brno (Křížová, Šimša 2012: 49). Josef Lederer gave the
figures on the frescoes at the chateau in Český Krumlov a rather stylized character of masks
wearing costumes.
Since the 1780s, we have several pictorial documents available. Some of them constitute
just an illustrative supplement to a larger unit, such a group of people from Haná on the
map of the Domain of Holešov (Křížová, Šimša 2012: 77), but in some cases, we can find
more or less professional studies of figures where undoubtedly the author’s intention was
to capture specific features of the men and women from Haná. The already mentioned
work by Hanke of Hankenstein from the year 1786 is accompanied by several copper engravings by Sebastian Mansfeld, in one of which is a farmer from Haná at the week-market,
as wearing his winter dress, i.e. tailed fur coat (Křížová, Šimša 2012: 114). In the copper
engraving by Christian Brand from around 1790, there is an identical man from Haná wearing a fur coat with a jagged hem (Ibidem: 110). A man from Haná in the coloured copper
engraving by Johann Stephan Capieux from the year 1792 (Ibidem: 112) and the one in the
aforementioned illustration from the work by Balthasar Hacquet from the year 1796 (Ibidem: 113) are depicted identically as well. Not all artists worked based on their own experience and their imagination then distorted the fact considerably. This happened in the case
of coloured copper engravings by Jacque Grasset de Saint-Sauveur from the year 1796, in
Alena Křížová
2. Sebastian Mansfeld: A man from Haná wearing
winter dress. In: Hanke z Hankenštejna, Jan Nepomuk Alois: Bibliothek der Mährschen Staatskunde.
Wien 1786
which both women and men wear bright yellow and green fur coats that, however, are
open in the front; the fur coat of one of the men is fastened by a heart-like clasp (Ibidem:
The popularity of tailed fur coats persisted in the first half of the 19th century and therefore, it is painted on an amateurish map of Haná from the outset of the century (Ibidem:
150), in a gouache from 1814 (Ludvíková 2000: 148) as well as on two Brno vedutas by
František Richter from the years 1820 and 1830, which capture the wayfarers in front of Jewish Gate with a man from Haná in the foreground, dressed in the tailed fur coat with a bag
over this shoulder (Křížová, Šimša 2012: 194; Křížová 2013: 9–18). In lithographs by František
Domek, issued by the publishing house Skarnitzl and Domek in Olomouc, the change in
men’s fashion is remarkable showing new elegant long coats with collars and long brown
fur coats, which replaced strange tailed fur coats and brought the folk costumes in Haná
closer to city fashion.
Besides paintings and graphic prints, or shooter’s targets, the tailed fur coats were captured on three-dimensional objects at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. A kneeling male
figure with a plaited Christmas cake in his hands, a part of the Nativity Scene in Minorite
church of St. Johns in Brno, dated back to the second half of the 18th century, represents
extraordinary evidence. Although today the fur coat is painted-over in dark-blue colour,
the overall appearance does not raise any doubts. More evidences can be found on ceramic
Sheep fur coat in the ethnographic area of Haná in Moravia within the European context
3. Balthasar Hacquet: Hanák. In: Hacquet´s
neueste physikalisch-politische Reisen in den
Jahren 1794 und 95 durch die Dacischen und
Sarmatischen oder Nordlichen Karpathen 4.
Nürnberg: Verlag der Raspischen Buchhandlung, 1796
objects, especially faiences from the region around the towns of Olomouc and Vyškov. The
most famous is a box in the Rococo style with roses, on the cover of which a seated man
from Haná is painted (Ludvíková 2002: 25. A man from Haná, wearing a tailed fur coat,
constitutes the main motif on a mug from the Vysočina Museum in Jihlava, probably made
at the workshop of JanPatrman from Vyškov (Štika, Svobodová 1964: 135), as well as on
a tile from a stove built in Dědice in 1839 and currently preserved in the Museum of the
Vyškovsko Region (Ludvíková 2002: 25) .
The youngest prove for the occurrence of the fur coat in the field consists in the photograph by Josef Klvaňa, for the first time published in the magazine Světozor in 1894, four
years later in the magazine Český lid4 and then again in the chronicle Záhorská kronika in
the year 1925 (Klvaňa 1925–1926: 75–76). In the photographs taken at ethnographical festivals and an exhibition in Dřevohostice (eastern part of Haná called Záhoří, district of Přerov)
in 1893, there is captured František Štěpáník from Žákovice as wearing a fur coat owned by
farmer Severa from Vítonice Nr. 40, where such a fur coat might have been worn by an old
man as late as in the 1860s. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the fur coats are said to
have been worn as cast-offs at threshing and fur coat remnants were discovered in Bezuchov (also eastern part of Haná) as late as in the year 1955 (Kunz 1956: 170). Josef Klvaňa
Kroje ze Záhoří moravského (1898) [Folk Costume from Moaravian Záhoří], “Český lid“ 7, pp. 160–165.
Alena Křížová
4. Josef Klvaňa: A man wearing tailed fur coat, a photograph from the
­ethnographical festival in Dřevohostice in 1893. In: Světozor 29, 23. listopadu 1894
accompanies his photograph with an explanation: “The “tailed” fur coat worn throughout
Moravia in the last century is the most interesting thing, It had no fastening and was put on over the
head; on the breast, it used to have a red heart; it war trimmed with fox fur and it used to have a fox
tail in the front and at the back. For rather plain occasions, it was trimmed just with white sheepskin
and a common tail – sheepskin – used to hang in the front and at the back; the fur coat was made from
two sheepskins. If somebody cut the back tail off the fur coat worn by its owner, a fine of three guldens
was imposed on him. However, if he succeeded in cutting the front tail off the fur coat worn by its
owner, he was free of the fine and the unlucky fur coat owner became an object of ridicule upon such
event.“ Comparing the photograph with older picture, we have to state that the fox tail
(fully unjustified from the point of view of its function) might have been a newer thing,
maybe a kind of attraction to the amusement of young people during the last stage when
this garment was used. This could be considered a feature of the ethnographic area of Haná
and – like in many other cases – its lifetime was extended in order to show the peculiarity
of the regional culture, the professional interest in which rose at the end of the 19th century.
In 1804, Joseph Rohrer mentioned a cut off triangle-shaped end, not a tail.
Sheep fur coat in the ethnographic area of Haná in Moravia within the European context
5. A man wearing fur coat. In: Moszyński, Kazimierz: Kultura ludowa Słowian. Część I. Kultura materjalna. Kraków 1929, p. 439
The word “fur coat with a jagged hem” appears in German literature, however, it is not
very clear, whether the texts always speak about an identical garment. Josef Hofmann
(1858–1943), a West-Bohemian writer and researcher into national history and geography,
in his work about folk costumes and customs of German inhabitants in West Bohemia described men’s fur coats besides other garments. He mentions two types, one of which was
calledZippelpelz and was worn in the entire region of West Bohemia until the 20th century.
He documents this garment with a photo of a farmer wearing a long straight fur coat with
a large fur collar and trimming on the sleeves. He dates this fur coat back to the year 1840
(Hofman 1932: 23). However, based on the picture, it is not at all clear, why this type of fur
coat should be termed as with a jagged hem because it does not show any features like that.
Moreover, it is by no means similar to the garment from Haná. It might be possible to dispute author’s knowledge, but because he spent all his life in West Bohemia, namely in the
town of Karlovy Vary, this is not probable.
Josef Hanika (1900–1963), another German ethnographer, who focused on the culture of
German ethnic group within Czechoslovakia, devoted a chapter to the fur coat with a jagged hem as well as to archaic forms of folk dress in his publication about folk costumes of
Sudetenland (Hanika 1937: 1–7). He opens his text with a Silesian folk song from the second
half of the 18th century. In this song, a son complains to his father that all boys have a fur
coat with a jagged hem and he has nothing but an old coat; the father explains he has no
Alena Křížová
money because he has to pay taxes, thereupon the son threatens he will sign up to join the
army. According to Hanika, this Silesian fur coat was long, made from sheepskin that was
not covered with fabric, and embellished with cords – šňůrování. In German-language islandin the region around the town of Vyškov (Haná), women’s fur coats with three coat-tails
were widespread. They were imported from Poland and Halych and used solely on ceremonial occasions, otherwise they were stored in a chest all the year round. According to
Hanika, tailed fur coats are substantiated in Hřebečsko, another region with German inhabitants, which borders on the ethnographic area of Haná. In the estate documents of a furrier
from Moravská Třebová at the end of 16th century, there were mentioned 31 fur coats termed
as Zipfl Pelzat 20 groschen each, whereby one sheepskin cost 9 groschen. This would refer
to a sleeveless vest made of two sheepskins. Other fur coats, for example a women’s Hungarian fur coat, were valued at one goldgulden and more. Hanika considered the fur coat with
a jagged hem for an ancient type of dress, reminding of similar garments worn by American
Indians, Eskimos, Tungus, Samoyedic peoples, and eastern Yak peoples. A significant notice concerns a Cashubian farmer who lived at Lake Łebsko and his dress was recorded in
1820. Hanika supports the fact, that a garment made of skin but not covered with fabric
comes from the East, with the insistence that the Slavonic term kožuch was used for such
a fur coat even in the German environment, while the fabric-covered fur coat, commonly
worn by Germans, was consistently termed as Pelz. According to Josef Hanika, the fur coat
with a jagged hem spread from Silesia to the West.
Some researchers also describe another very primitive garment, widespread in the Alpine countries, especially in Upper Bavaria and Tyrol, and called Kotze or Wettefleck as being
related to the fur coat with a jagged hem. This is a plaid (pelerine) in the form of a poncho,
made from woollen fabric and substantiated as early as in the Middle Ages. The shepherds
used this garment until the 20th century (Mützel 1925: 22). In this case, however, it is not
possible to compare two garments of a fully different cut. While the fur coat with a jagged
hem is made from a front and a back part sewn together on the shoulders and hips, the
Alpine plaid is just a rectangular piece of fabric placed over the shoulders and falling down
to the breast and back. We have to take into account that the cut is the basic distinguishing
element that defines the type of garment.
It was Josef Hanika who pointed out the occurrence of fur coats with a jagged hem in
Pomerania in Poland. In his books, he also published a picture thereof, which he borrowed
from a compendium by Kazimir Moszyński. We have to leave the more thorough research
to Polish specialists because not all sources are available in the Czech Republic. Therefore,
we beg to remind the information available. Among the fur coats, Kazimir Moszyński mentions an archaic type widespread with Cashubian peoples, which is made from two sheepskins covering just the body. If it had sleeves these were made exclusively from fabric.
While processing of sheepskins was furrier’s labour, the villagers sew the sleeves at home
by themselves. The text is accompanied by the picture “Włościanin słowiński z Cecenova“
(Zezenow in German language, south of Lake Łebsko) from 1820, which was published in
the year 1896 (Moszyński 1929: 438–439). The appearance is identical with that of the fur
coat from Haná. In this connection, Moszyński discusses whether it is a poncho cut, but finally he classifies it as the shoulder-fold cut. Theodora Modzelewska in her work about folk
costumes from the regions of Warmie and Masuria mentions a fur coat made from white
sheepskins and trimmed with black lambskin at the neck and sleeves. In addition, people
also wore trousers made from white sheepskins (Modzelewska 1958: 90).
Separate volumes of the Guide to Polish Folk Dress serve as an important source of
knowledge. The part devoted to the dress of Cashubian peoples mentions that nothing is
known about the appearance of Cashubian fur coats. The fur coats worn by eastern Cashubians in the 17th and 18th centuries might have looked like fur coats worn by the Slovenes
Sheep fur coat in the ethnographic area of Haná in Moravia within the European context
(Słowińcy) who lived in the region around Lake Gardno, and the Kabatians (Kabatkowie)
near the city of Łebo. They were made of two sheepskins, sewn together on the shoulders;
they showed just a round opening for the head, and sleeves sewn on the sides (Stelmachowska 1959: 34). Similarly, there is a short report in the part devoted to folk costumes in
the region of Warmia that speaks about sheep fur coats that were not covered with fabric
(Klonowski 1960: 25). It is Teresa Karwicka (1995: 15, 58). who summarizes the issue. Primitive fur coats made from two sheepskins, with fur inside and sleeves sewn on at home,
were worn by the Lutheran Slovenes (Słowińcy) and Kabatians (Kabatkowie), a Cashubian
ethnographic group, in the proximity of Lake Gardno and Lake Łebsko as late as in the 19th
century. The text is accompanied by a picture depicting a figure from Moszyński´s compendium. Unfortunately, no Polish source mentions any specific name, the garment is called in
general “fur coat”.
All the above pieces of knowledge aim at the conclusion that the appearance of fur coats
in the ethnographic area of Haná was in principal identical with that of fur coats worn in
a part of the Polish Baltics. If there was a difference, this concerned sleeves that were made
from fabric at the Cashubian fur coats; this fact is not known in Moravia, no source speaks
about this. It would be definitely helpful to focus jointly on this theme and attempt to trace
the genesis of this garment, even though it occurred in distant territories of Europe.
Cluth J. (1837), Gebräuche in der Hana. In: Panorama des Universums zur erheiternden Belehrung für Jedermann und alle Ländern. Prag: R. Haase (in German).
Dudík Beda (1873), Catalog der nationalen Hausindustrie und der Volkstrachten in Maehren.
Brünn (in German).
Gallaš Josef Heřman Agapit (1941), Romantické povídky [Romantic Falos], Praha: Evropsky
literarni klub (in Czech).
Hacquet Balthasar (1796), Hacquet´s neueste physikalisch-politische Reisen in den Jahren 1794
und 95 durch die Dacischen und Sarmatischen oder Nordlichen Karpathen 4. Nürnberg: Verlag der Raspischen Buchhandlung (in German).
Hanke z Hankenštejna Jan Nepomuk Alois (1786), Bibliothek der Mährschen Staatskunde I,
Wien: Johann David Hörling (in German).
Hanika Josef (1937), Sudetendeutsche Volkstrachten. Reichenberg: Sudetendeutscher Verlag
Franz Kraus (in German).
Hofmann Josef (1932), Deutsche Volkstrachten und Volksbräuche West- und Südböhmenpp.
Karlsbad (in German).
Jeřábek Richard (1997), Počátky národopisu na Moravě. Antologie prací z let 1786–1884 [Beginnings of Ethnography in Moravia. An Ontology with Works from 1786–1884].
Strážnice: Ústav lidové kultury (in Czech).
Karwicka Teresa (1995), Ubiory ludowe w Polsce. Wroclaw: Polskie Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze (in Polish).
Klonowski Franciszek (1960), Strój warmiński, Wrocław: Polskie Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze (in Polish).
Klvaňa Josef (1925–1926), Kožich ocáskový ze Záhoří. [Tailed Fur Coat from Záhoří],
“Záhorská kronika“ 8 (in Czech).
Kořistka Carl (1861), Abstammung, Sprache, Charakter und Volkstracht der Bevölkerung. In:
Die Markgrafschaft Mähren und das Herzogthum Schlesien in ihren geographischen Verhältnissen. Wien und Olmütz (in German).
Křížová Alena, Šimša Martin (2012), Lidový oděv na Moravě a ve Slezsku. Ikonografické prameny do roku 1850. [Folk Dress in Moravia and Silesia I. Iconographic Documents until
1850] Strážnice: Národní ústav lidové kultury (in Czech).
Křížová Alena (2013), Přínos Franze Richtra pro poznání lidového oděvu na Moravě [Franz
Richter Contribution to the Knowledge on Folk Dress in Moravia]. “Folia ethnographica“ 47, 1 (in Czech).
Alena Křížová
Kunz Ludvík (1956), Lidový kroj na hostýnském Záhoří. Příspěvek k výzkumu lidového kroje na
východní Hané [Folk Costume from Hostýnské Záhoří.A Contribution to Research into
Folk Costumes in Eastern Haná]. “Časopis Moravského musea“ 41 (in Czech).
Ludvíková Miroslava (1970–1971), Ocáskový kožich a halina s kapucí. K otázce jejich geografického rozšíření [Tailed Fur Coat and Halina with a Hood. On the Issue of their Geographical Spreading]. “Národopisný věstník československý“ 5–6, 2 (in Czech).
Ludvíková Miroslava (2000), Moravské a slezské kroje. Kvaše z roku 1914 [Moravian and Silesian Folk Costumes. Gouaches from the year 1914]. Brno: Moravské zemské muzeum, München: Sudetendeutsches Archiv (in Czech).
Ludvíková Miroslava (2002), Lidový kroj na Hané [Folk Costume from Haná]. Přerov:
­Muzeum Komenského (in Czech).
Maniak Alois (1838), Grundlinien zur Darstellung der mährischen Slavenstämme, “Moravia“
17 (in German).
Michna Pavel (1998), Ocáskový kožich za pruského obležení Olomouce z roku 1758 [Tailed Fur
Coat during Prussian Siege in Olomouc from 1758]. “Zprávy Vlastivědného muzea
v Olomouci” 276 (in Czech).
Modzelewska Theodora (1958), Stroje ludowe Warmii i Mazur, Olsztyn: Wydawnictwo
“Pojezierze“ (in Polish).
Moszyński Kazimierz (1929), Kultura ludowa Słowian. Część I. Kultura materjalna, Kraków:
Polska akademia umiejętności (in Polish).
Mützel, Hans (1925), Vom Lendenschurz zur Modetracht: aus der Geschichte des Kostümpp,
Berlin: Widder Verlag, (in German).
Rohrer Joseph (1804),Versuch über die slawischen Bewohner der östereichischen Monarchie,
Wien (in German),
Schwoy František Josef (1786), Topographische Schilderung des Markgrafthum Mähren I, Prag
und Leipzig: Caspar Widtmann (in German).
Stelmachowska Bożena (1959), Strój kaszubski, Wrocław: Polskie Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze (in Polish.
Štika Jaroslav, Svobodová Vlasta (1964), Hanácký kroj v literárních a ikonografických pramenech
do poloviny 19. století [Folk Dress from Haná in Literaty and Iconographic Sources until
the mid–18th Century]. “Český lid“ 51 (in Czech).
Biographical note: Doc. PhDr. Alena Křížová, Ph.D. (1956) studied the history of art,
history, and ethnology at Brno University. First, she was employed at Moravian Gallery in Brno; since 2000, she has been working at the Institute of European Ethnology, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno. In 2005, she was awarded the
degree of Senior Lecture. She specializes in folk handicraft, folk and popularized art
and folk dress.
e-mail: [email protected]
Our Europe. Ethnography – Ethnology – Anhropology of Culture
Vol. 3/2014
p. 41–60
Daniel Drápala
Institute of European Ethnology, Masaryk University
The socio-cultural dimension
of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia1
Abstract: Peddling is one way of selling goods, which, unlike other forms of trade, takes place in the home
of the customer. The first mention of peddlers is found in the Middle Ages and the early Modern period,
but in Central Europe it started evolving in the 18th century. It became a way to get material security for
the poor population, especially in mountainous and foothill areas. Peddlery was subjected to the intense
control of the authorities and was restricted by certain legal standards. In Moravia and Silesia peddlers
were not only local people, but also traders from neighbouring countries of the Habsburg Monarchy (Slovakia, Galicia) or the Balkans. In the majority society a negative stereotype gradually began to form of the
peddler, influenced, for example, by traders and artisans from the towns, by printing, by the anti-Semitic
movement, etc. But in rural communities peddlers who respected basic ethical norms were able to gain
people’s trust.
Keywords: Moravia, Silesia, peddlery, migration
Topography of Moravia and Silesia shows the formation of several distinctive
regions during the 19th century within which a centre of peddlery was formed. It was usually a reaction to the complicated economic and social conditions that prevailed in these
areas. Tens and hundreds of socially unstable people, whose numbers gradually increased,
found a means of subsistence and security of livelihood through peddlery as well as various types of handicraft.
The territorial range of Moravian and Silesian peddlers was markedly variable. It was
influenced by the type of goods offered, the demand and the sales potential of each country
of the Habsburg monarchy and the neighbouring countries as well as the personal inclination of individuals involved in the distribution of goods. In Moravia and Silesia their activities overlapped with the activities of peddlers from the area immediately adjacent
(mainly from Slovakia and Galicia) as well as more distant areas (mainly the Balkans, Southern Europe). In summary, peddlery emerging in this part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy involved a very varied range of traders who offered a diverse array of goods and who
had different ethnic and religious affiliations and social status.
In its characteristics peddlery belongs to a much wider group of door-to-door (sometimes also called ambulatory) activities which have been documented in the past in urban
and rural environments. Although the operations of peddlers were often a feature of some
particular regions characterized by specific socio-economic conditions, we can identify
them in diverse forms throughout Europe (Fontaine 1996; Glass 1987: 133–162; Goïnga 1995;
The study was undertaken within the Programme of applied research and development of national and
culture identity (NAKI), project DF12P01OVV015 – Geographical Information System of Traditional Folk Culture (1750–1900), researched by Masaryk University, Brno.
Daniel Drápala
Grothe 1931; Küther 1983; Kaut 1970; Krammer 1983; Brandstätter 1986: 349). During the
18th and 19th centuries, some dynamic processes can also be observed in this occupational
sphere, which resulted in fluctuations in the structure of the observed occupational groups.
The wide range of door-to-door activities can in principle be divided into the following
categories from a historical perspective (Reiningshaus 1993: 32):
a) domestic manufacturers and tradesmen who ensured sales in this way; this may also
include the area of ​​handicraft production, where originally it was not a product that was
offered door-to-door, but a service (sharpening knives, tinkers) and only over time and due
to various economic and social reasons were goods also offered for sale. This is evident
among tinkers (Gujela 1992; Procházka 1905; Šusteková 20082; other professions offered
both services and sale of goods from the start (glaziers)3 ;
b) originally domestic manufacturers, who partly or completely abandoned their own
production and began to work in the sphere of sales (whether as distributors of the same
type of goods or a completely different type) (Braudel 1986: 73; Pavlištík: 2005: 42–51; Grothe
1931: 165–166);
c) farmers or professional resellers of domestic agricultural products;
d) distributors of products manufactured in a factory. In the second half of the 19th century one would very often come across this category in cases where the peddler who had
previously sold his own goods completely switched to the distribution of mass-produced
products made in factories due to a manufacturing or sales crisis (Demetz 1987: 39).
The first mention of peddlery can be found in the German milieu in the works of the
Minnesingers from the 13th and 14th century, where a peddler of fancy goods is remembered (Jontes 1989: 287). For the Middle Ages and early Modern times, however, Moravia
and Silesia lack credible evidence of the existence of this form of selling (Jontes 1989: 288).
Unlike annual or weekly markets the existence of peddlers is widely documented only
from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The largest number of official regulations in
Moravia and Silesia relating to door-to-door traders are recorded in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries. This is a testament not only to the growth of bureaucracy, but also to
the numerical increase of peddlers – both local and arrivals from other countries of the
monarchy or even from abroad.
The emergence and development of itinerant trade related, among other things, to the
specialization of production and especially the increase in the range of goods that were no
longer produced on site but in remote locations or regions. The key to their success in the
distribution of goods was the growing purchasing power of the rural population and its
consumption needs, which it was no longer possible to meet from its own production resources. The main role of course was played by markets as a proven and surviving instrument of redistribution. However, peddlers facilitated access to certain kinds of goods to the
rural population. Because of their mobility and non-dependence on market terms they were
able to ensure a continuous supply of products which were not readily available in the
country until the emergence of merchant shops. Saving the rural population’s time very
often became a compelling argument for the advocates of peddlers, who opposed the increasing restrictions by the authorities (Zucker 1892: 10–11).
In European countries the operation of peddlery was linked to some local, regional or
national specificities across Europe; however, these traders shared several identical themes.
When subjected to a thorough analysis of the socio-economic conditions of the regions of
Europe where sectors of peddlery or door-to-door trades were formed, we find these were
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Prague. Odpověď na velký dotazník č. 21. Janovice. Registration number 388/86.
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia
Peddler M. Slatinská of Lisen with a pail with fruit on her back, early 20th century
(Ethnographic Institute of the Moravian Museum in Brno)
usually mountainous or foothill territories with limited opportunities for local agricultural
production. Increasing social stratification associated with population increase, together
with the limits in the production potential of agricultural farming caused an increase in the
growth of a socially unstable population. The lack of adequate land area that would be
enough to make a living for all members of the residential areas thus led to the search for
new sources of livelihood – in the agrarian environment and elsewhere. The need to leave
home for a shorter or longer time became a necessary prerequisite in a number of new professions. Besides domestic production, seasonal or year-round wage labour on large farms,
estates or in emerging manufacturing and industrial production, peddlery became a viable
alternative for ensuring at least the basic funds for family life (Grothe 1931: 98).
In Central Europe perhaps the most famous peddlers were the local residents of
Gottschee and the Reifnitz estate, the Slovak tinkers and sellers of saffron, the Slovenian
cloth weavers, the Tyrolean carpet sellers from around Defereggenthal and the traders from
Daniel Drápala
Wadovicka, Andrychów and some border areas of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. The locations of their origins and the type of goods offered in some cases even appeared in legal
regulations in our country in the 18th and 19th centuries (Raesch 1897: 26–27).
The increasing number of peddlers in their own as well as foreign territories was noted
by the official apparatus of the Habsburg monarchy already in the first third of the 18th
century. Home protectionist measures therefore tried to create the largest possible obstacles
against the influx of traders from abroad. By edict of the Emperor Charles VI in 1726 foreign
non-Catholic peddlers were even completely banned from the territory of the monarchy,
only having permission to pass through the area4. They sought to eliminate the possibility
of even short-term penetration of tradesmen from abroad across the border with strict prohibitions of door-to-door trading in any area which was two hours from the border.
Certain attempts to mitigate the negative attitude towards foreign traders can be traced
to the late 18th century. And while even in 1784 the ban on door-to-door tradesmen from
abroad offering goods of foreign origin was repeated (Jontes 1989: 288), a year later in June
1785 a directive was announced giving official permission for foreign tradesmen to work
(but only selling foreign goods)5 . However, as the next few years showed, the activity of
foreign tradesmen was subject to various changes – from ongoing liberalization to complete
bans again6. Although in later years the restrictions were gradually alleviated, special vigilance remained in the border areas, where foreign tradesmen bringing illegal or undeclared
goods might stay short-term7.
Protectionist measures did not apply only to the seller, but also to goods coming from
abroad. The immediate situation with regard to supplies for the population of the Habsburg
monarchy or the need to help the sales of domestic products was reflected in the wording
of restrictive measures for peddlers with foreign goods, especially during the 18th and the
first decade of the 19th century. According to the wording of individual patents numerous
regulations were promulgated across the board, but sometimes the prohibition focused on
certain specific commodities8.
Despite criticism, however, none of these patents or other directives ever completely
eliminated itinerant trade. Although the authorities put many obstacles in the way of its
existence and development, and formulated a number of limitations, a complete uprooting
of all itinerant trading never occurred. Social interests outweighed the economic or political
in many ways.
During the 18th and especially the 19th century peddlery increased in importance, especially in the mountainous and foothill areas of eastern and northern Moravia and often became an important socio-economic factor in connection with developed domestic production
(Janák 1984: 115–116). At a time of limited options for arranging sales, many domestic manufacturers had to rely primarily on sales through weekly and annual markets and in outlying territories also on door-to-door business. For this reason proponents of maintaining the
door-to-door trade very often argued in their works from the late 19th and early 20th cen-
Moravian Archives, Brno.. Fond B17 – Místodržitelství. Patents. Peddlery. Signature H1, box 44. Zygmunt
Gargas (1904). Handel obnośny a państwo, o. c., p. 30–45. These regulations are consistent with the earlier decisions
– eg., from 1544 to 1549 – – Marina Demetz (1987), Hausierhandel, Hausindustrie und Kunstgewerbe im Grödenthal
von 18. bis zum beginnenden 20. Jahrhundert, o. c., p. 59.
Moravian Archives, Brno. Fond B17 – Místodržitelství. Patents. Peddlery. Signature H1, box 44.
Circular C. K. Moravian and Silesian governorate of 4 December 1806 – Moravian Provincial Archives,
Brno. Fond B17 – Governor’s palace Patents. Business. Signature H1, carton 44.
Moravian Provincial Archives, Brno. Moravian Governor’s Office. B14 – Authorisation for door-to-door
licences Inventory number 2113, signature 39/5.
Moravian Provincial Archives, Brno. Fond – Governor’s palace. Patents. Peddlery. Signature H1, carton 44.
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia
Truck loaded with a rake and handles for scythes, Zlín, the first third of the 20th century (Museum of Southeast
Moravia in Zlín)
tury the social aspects of the job, which provided sales for numerous domestic producers
(Raesch 1897: 26–27; Pavlištík 2005).
In the Moravian region in the past there were several parallel ways of referring to peddlers. Some terms were referring to the whole group in general (e.g. hawkers, hauzírník)9. As
well as these there were also more specific terms used to identify a distinctive group of traders. The names were partly based on the way they characteristically addressed customers,
e.g. (the Brothers), the place of origin (the Liseners from the town Lisen u Brna, the Bosniaks
from Bosnia in the Balkans) or on the products the peddlers offered (the Raggies – old rags,
the Limies – lime, the Seedies – vegetable seeds, etc.). All of these names also show that the
concept of itinerant trade is in many ways actually a generalised umbrella term for several
different sub-activities. What connected them was not the goods distributed or social or
regional affiliation of the seller, but the method of sale, which was not bound to the fixed
place of a shop or a market stall (Gargas 1904: 40–45). Unlike other types of business it was
operated at convenient public and private areas – streets, squares and public spaces, such
as, for example, in a house building, on the homestead, or in people’s homes. Hence also the
name door-to-door trader – business was conducted at people’s doors.
The limiting factor that largely shaped the range of traded goods accounted for was the
conditions determining the method of transport. All traded goods had to be carried by the
The word hauzírník is the Czech form of the German term for peddlery – Hausierhandel. The German
environment also had some other designations (Wanderhandel, Ambulanter Handel). For the naming used in
various European countries (France, England, Spain, German country, Bulgaria, Turkey), see Fernand Braudel
(1986), Sozialgeschichte des 15 to 18 Jahrhundertp. Der Handel. oc, p. 72nd Laurence Fontaine (1996), History of Pedlars in Europe, oc . Zygmunt Gargas (1904), Handel obnośny a państwo, oc, p. 40–45.
Daniel Drápala
dealer, or on a simple truck without a harnessed animal 10. For decades and centuries this
regulation limited not only the amount of goods that could be distributed by a trader, but
also the territory in which he was able to wander in carrying the appropriate quantity of
goods. This directive of course also reflected secondarily in the type of goods offered. The
peddler therefore tended to aim at rather small, easily transportable items.
The limits resulting from the ban on the transport of goods other than by their own
strength naturally contributed to the variability of the peddler’s inventory, which facilitated
the transfer of goods. It could have diverse forms11 and in many ways it is this prop that
became one of the generally identifiable characteristics for this group of traders.
Above all traders of small haberdashery goods, but also many other hauzírníci, liked to
use a wooden container or a simple wooden backpack, which were fastened onto his back
or onto his stomach by means of woven leather straps12. To transport goods, wicker baskets
proved to be useful, which were normally hung by a strap over the trader’s shoulder, while
at other times they leaned on the trader’s belly and thus became a simple counter allowing
the goods offered to be displayed. Some Slovaks, Romanians and Yugoslavs worked in the
villages of Moravia and Silesia in a rather more exotic way; alongside the classic wooden
backpacks many of them carried their goods in baskets on their heads. The baskets were
rectangular in shape and just like the Lisen back containers the traders prevented bruising
on their heads by wearing circular-shaped cloths under them13 .
They had to deal with a more difficult situation as a result of the ban on carts for transportable objects which were bulkier and more difficult to carry on their own shoulders.
Most often it concerned home-made products made of wood and wicker. If the trader had
planned a longer route to distant places, they used a simple two-wheel handcart14, which
enabled them to load a considerably greater quantity of goods than what they would have
been able to take with them only on their backs. Prohibition of the use of carts, however,
applied only to their own sales made from house to house. Enterprising individuals therefore established temporary storage in some places. Here, for example, with the help of cart
drivers they imported a greater amount of goods, which they picked up continuously during their travels and subsequently distributed in the accessible area. The railroad development facilitated the situation for itinerant traders in the second half of the 19th century,
allowing the transport of larger quantities of cargo for longer distances. They could thus
expand the geographical locations where they went for their business in an unprecedented
When compared to other forms of barter, attention was always drawn in peddlery to the
blending of social and economic factors. In some respects, the social aspect often predominated over arguments about the economic benefits of this form of employment. Attitudes to
door-to-door traders, however, were shaped by a wider range of issues than just customers’
Moravian Provincial Archives, Brno. Fund. B17 – The government office. Patents. Peddlery. Signature H1,
Box 44 Zygmunt Gargas (1904), Handel obnośny a państwo, o. c., p. 60, 157–158.
Already in the patent of 1722, we read about the equipment of peddlers. Among others are mentioned the
back bucket, the bundle and a variety of other ways. – Georg Ritter von Thaya (1884), Das Hausierwesen in Oesterreich. o. c., p. 7.
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. Odpověď na velký dotazník č. 21. Horní Lideč.
Evidenční číslo 251/86. Hukvaldy-Dolní Sklenov. Evidenční číslo 620/86. Kelč. Evidenční číslo 408/90. Slatinice.
Evidenční číslo 269/86.
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. The answer to the big questionnaire No. 21 Horní
Lideč. Registration number 251/86. Hukvaldy-Dolní Sklenov. Registration number 620/86. Prokopov. Registration number 654/86. Šenov. Registration number 307/86. Vilémov, Registration number 680/86. Alois Bělunek
(2011), Ze života rožnovských Valachů, Rožnov pod Radhoštěm: Town p. 73.
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. The answer to the big questionnaire No. 21. Saratice.
Registration number 330/89.
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia
The Bosnian – peddler from the Balkans, early 20th century (National
Institute of Folk Culture in Strážnici)
bad experiences with dishonourable vendors or the lower quality of certain goods. The factor that significantly influenced the general opinion on peddlers was the numerous official
regulations which appeared to be discriminatory. Especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, the authorities put many obstacles to this type of trade in place (Fontaine 1996; Goïnga 1995; Kienitz 1995; Reininghaus 1993 : 31–46). They repeatedly justified the pointlessness
of itinerant trade for rural residents by stating that they had options such as town merchants or regular markets15. Closing a business transaction in this way was not linked in
addition to fixed dates, as was the case in markets, but could be made almost any time.
Public supervision of this form of commercial exchange was thus weakened. In fact, doorto-door selling did not even have a negative influence on the spread of stable shops in rural
communities, because the range of goods of the two overlapped only particular items.
Moravian Provincial Archives, Brno. Fond Moravian Governor’s Office (elder). B14 – Authorisation for
doorstep licences. Registration number 2113, signature 39/5. Georg Ritter von Thaya (1884), Das Hausierwesen in
Oesterreich, o. c., p. 5–6.
Daniel Drápala
The rationale accompanying each administrative action was then indirectly conducive
to the formation of negative connotations of the word peddler being associated with poor
quality and suspicion, and on the personal level as a person oscillating between legal business and begging (Raesch 1897: 7–10) . The arguments one comes across, for example, in the
19th and 20th centuries, are based not only on the door-to-door trade as a surviving but
declining form of exchange. It often acquired even hidden or open ethno-religious overtones, in which ease particularly the work of Jewish peddlers was criticized (Gargas 1904:
8–9) .
Criticism of this profession was primarily towards the unequal conditions of trade. Itinerant traders were criticised for the lower price of the goods they offered being among
other things due to their minimal operational costs. In comparison with a shopkeeper they
did not have to provide space for the establishment of a stable shop, pay for rent or to issue
funds for its operation. Peddlers tried to defend themselves, enumerating the list of expenses that were associated with travelling to get to the customers, as well as the limited
storage options and purchasing in large quantities at a discount price (Gargas 1904: 121–
123). Door-to-door sellers were often accused of having cheap but low quality goods, which
in many ways could damage the interests of the customer. Concerns were primarily about
distributors who bought damaged or faulty factory goods, even those sometimes meant for
the scrapheap, directly from the producers, and then distributed them at affordable prices
to customers even when some profit was added on (Pavka 1981: 14).
Defenders of the itinerant trade repeatedly tried to argue the social benefit of this type
of exchange. Although they admitted that the goods sometimes did not meet some demands on top quality, but in their opinion, they could still serve a poor rural population
adequately. Similarly, they successfully sold goods which were out of fashion and in an
urban environment they sold slow sellers or things which could barely be used. In this case,
however, their low prices made otherwise hardly accessible goods available to members of
the lower classes of village society Raesch 1897: 7–8). Over the years various defences of the
itinerant trade repeatedly emphasized that it was not a case of consciously damaging the
customer, but rather accommodating consumer demands and economic opportunities. As
proof of the satisfaction of village customers, regular visits of traders to families in various
localities for the purpose of closing new business transactions were commemorated (Gargas 1904: 164).
With the commencement of regulations of a local and regional nature regulating the
operation of the itinerant trade, we can also trace activities of representatives of urban settlements. Within their leadership they held the top places as members of the business class,
with whom peddlers often competed amongst the rural customers (Otruba 1963:154). So,
for example, they repeatedly drew attention to the fact that the activities of the hauzírník led
villagers to unnecessary costs and unnecessary procurement of goods, and that all the consumption needs of rural people could be satisfied in their opinion by markets and stable
buyers. Their argument that thanks to door-to-door traders a tendency for luxury was developed, putting people into debt, however, was only barely demonstrable16. The actual
cause of this attitude stemmed more from fear of competitive business, especially when
peddlers often exhibited greater flexibility in responding to demand among customers.
Statistics on peddlery in Moravia and Silesia from the early 1880s reveal a relatively
stable number of authorizations permitting the operation of itinerant trade. In 1881, a total
of 1782 such documents were issued for Moravia, and 581for Silesia, and a year later, the
number of licences issued was 1775 and 580 respectively. It also interesting to see whether
Moravian Provincial Archives, Brno. Fond Moravian Governor’s Office (elder). B14 – Authorisation for
doorstep licences. Inventory number 2113, 39/5 signature.
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia
Licence of peddler Jan Tomšů from VŠEMINA, 1913 (Museum of Southeast Moravia in Zlín)
these were mere extensions or whether these were completely new licences being issued. In
Moravia in 1881 a prolongation of existing authorizations was reported for three-quarters
of all valid peddler licences (1345). A year later the ratio fell in favour of newly issued ones;
although 1180 renewed existing licences still represented a relatively stable basis. In neighbouring Silesia, the situation was similar (1881: 125 new and 455 extensions; 1882: 95 new
and 485 extensions) (Thaya 1884: 122–124). If we present these numbers in the context of the
statistics for issued peddler licences for Cisleithania, we get an absolute number of 21816
issued peddler licences for the given year (Gargas 1904: 113). The share of certificates issued
for Moravia accounted for just over eight percent of the total, and in the case of Silesia 2.6%.
Statistical data for Cisleithania covering almost the entire 1880s and 1890s show a downward trend in peddler licences being issued. When viewing these numbers, however, we
must also take into account the existence of peddlers who operated their business despite
the absence of an official document. We are only able to guess at a more accurate number
for this group of illegal traders but various police reports regularly make mention of their
existence (Gargas 1904: 113–115).
The causes for a gradual decrease in peddlers’ licences can be found not only in the escalating restrictions and the growing number of various constraints, but also in the improving socio-economic status of certain regions and population groups. In addition, emerging
modern forms of distribution of goods effectively competed with door-to-door trade.
The locality of Moravia and Silesia and of the provinces reporting high numbers of
tradesmen (Galicia, Hungary) led, however, to the fact that in addition to local tradesmen
large numbers of newcomers from other parts of the Habsburg monarchy also found work
there. This is evident particularly in the northern and eastern regions of Moravia and Si-
Daniel Drápala
lesia, or in areas located on transit lines, which the salesmen regularly went through
(Kwaśniewicz 1962:146). At these locations, statistical summaries report the predominance
of Galicians and Hungarians over local traders. Not only traders from the nearby border
regions came to the Moravian and Silesian territories, (mostly sellers of tin and wire goods
from the well-known tinkering Kysuce villages or other locations in Trencsén county), but
also from around the Galician Tarnów and Nowy Sącz or distant sites in the Lower Hungarian country. In rare cases there were several of passing Jewish traders, inhabitants of Prussia, Bosnia, Gorica or Tyrol, or some itinerant vendors such as from the Bohemian
The maximum possible control on the migration of peddlers was supposed to be provided by the trader regularly reporting in all the places he passed through (regardless of
whether the village allowed door-to-door sales or not). On arrival in the village or town
they were therefore required to first report to the appropriate office, where they presented
evidence about their business activities (licence) for checking. In addition to the official authentication indicating the data mentioned, his stay in the area was also recorded in a special register. As ordered by individual patents relating to the regulation of the itinerant
trade, the local gentry had to regularly submit to the competent regional office a monthly
summary of peddlers from other provinces who reported to them (Ottenthal 1828: 87–89).
Among the recorded information not only the expected length of stay was observed, but
also the place where the peddler came from, and where he continued his journey to. In the
event that these records were preserved, they are a very valuable source of information
about the course of peddlery and routes which the traders took18. For example, according to
the census of December 28, 1896 during this year in Kojetin authentication was performed
on 80 tradesmen, who visited the city only once during the 12 months. Kojetin also became
a place of repeat visits. The city was visited by nine peddlers twice, five were there three
times, and two visited the city five times in the same year19 . Not even owing a peddler’s licence necessarily guaranteed the traders full freedom of trade in the places visited20 .
The frequency of visits and the time spacing between them were obviously influenced
by many different factors. Merchants generally had regular routes and they might return to
one location several times during the year. It always depended on the demand for the goods
offered, and whether they were subject to seasonal sales fluctuations. The size of the area
that the person covered was also important. One peddler, Johann Ludwig, visited the town
of Roznov twice during May 1851. The first time he visited was on May 9th. He went to Roznov from Wallachian Mezirící and continued to Frenštát Radhoštěm. He spent the whole
month of May in the foothills of the Beskyds, because at the end of the month he visited
New Jičín before going back to Roznov again, where we find him on May 30th. In the following months of 1851 we can trace his steps to other places, but we meet him again in the
State District Archives Vsetín. Fond Archive of Rožnov town. Evidence of stays of nomadic. Inventory
number 153. State District Archives Nový Jičín. Fond Archive of Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. Reporting book for
peddlers. Inventory number 215 State District Archives Frýdek-Místek. Fond Místek District Office. Records of
the issuance of permits for door-to-door trade 1860–1883. Inventory number 69
Cf. for example. Vsetín State District Archives. Fond Archive of Roznov. Evidence of stays of nomadic
traders. Inventory number 153.
State District Archive Přerov. Fond Archive of Kojetín. Market issues. Inventory number 1372, signature
V/7, box 233.
First of all the sites that tried in the second half of the 19th century to profile themselves as spa and wellness centres focusing on urban clientele, deliberately limited peddlers on their territory to improve their image.
October 4th, 1900 for example, the Ministry of Commerce approved the ban on doorstep trading “... in the periphery of the municipal treatment sites of Roznov during the annual treatment period, i.e. Between 15th May and 15th September each yea” – State District Archive Vsetín. Fond Archive of Roinov. Prohibition of itinerant trade. Inventory
No. 656, Box 26
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia
Local peddlers, who were issued permission for peddlery in 1877 in Místek
foothills of Radhošt on February 7th, 1852, when he arrived in Roznov after a visit to Frenštát.
A year later (21st March 1853) Ludwig changed his route. This time, he visited Vsetin first,
after which he walked to Roznov and then back to Frenštát21. Other traders also made similar changes to their route22 .
The dates of the annual fair certainly played a role for traders in determining their
routes. They sought to make use of them due to the greater concentration of people willing
to spend money. In June 1852 a greater incidence of peddlers was recorded in Rožnov in the
period around the local annual fair held on the Wednesday before the feast of John the Baptist – which was on June 23 that year. On the day before the fair the two peddlers reported
to the Town Hall, and the next day there were nine of them. Peddlers showed an interest in
the following summer annual fair as well (21.7); the total number of traders to arrive in
Rožnov on 20th and 21st in 1852 was eight. In January 1853 Franz Strasspyttl returned to the
town with an interval of only eighteen days since his previous visit just so he could attend
the annual fair on 27th January 185323.
Vendors who set out on long journeys for their business trips not only had a relatively
steady route (often conditional on the existence of intermediate storage space, suppliers,
Cf. for example. Vsetín State District Archives. Fond Archive of Roinov. Evidence of nomadic trader
stays. Inventory number 153 above.
For example, Franz Strasspyttl wandered in early January along the route Wallachian Mezirící → Roinov
→ Frenštát, at the end of January of the same year, however, he chose the opposite route Frenštát → Roinov
→Wallachian Mezirící. We can find more such cases. – Cf. for example. Vsetín State District Archives. Fond Archive of Roinov. Evidence of stays of nomadic traders. Inventory number 153
Cf. for example. Vsetín State District Archives. Fond Archive of Roinov. Evidence of stays of nomadic
traders. Inventory number 153 above.
Daniel Drápala
etc.), but also a regular pattern of when they visited the different places to sell. Seventyyear-old Gallus Naftali of Tarnów – a Jewish hauzírník who bought rags – stopped regularly
in the late 19th century in Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. He passed through the city on June 26th
and then October 3rd 1899; in the following year we find him there again in the last part of
June – 25.6.1900. His fellow professional of the same religious persuasion, Berl Ganger, is
a similar case, as we see him in Frenštát three times in 1899: January 3rd, April 10th and June
27th. A year later the trader visited Frenštát on the first Monday of January (January 2nd).
Innumerable similar cases to that of Berl Ganger can be found in various regions of Moravia
and Silesia24.
Although itinerant trading was accompanied by a number of regulations, the preserved
materials and memories reveal that there was a relatively diverse age range of traders.
Among the registered people were single people of different ages, married people as well
as widows and widowers. Despite the difficult conditions that were associated with peddlery, this type of livelihood was not confined to the male population. Permits to operate
a door-to-door trade were given to some women, whether in connection with her husband’s
business, in whose licence she was usually recorded as a cargo carrier25, as well as independently (Kienitz 1995: 6–22). The proportion of women helping their spouses’ trade was
very varied and in many ways depended on the nature of the trade. Some were really only
limited to passive accompaniment of their husbands and helping with transport or presentation of the goods offered. However, we do come across women who actively entered into
the process of persuading potential customers, and who had various ways of offering goods
and bargaining with people. Sometimes just the simple passive participation of women
alongside the men’s own work in closing the deal could often induce a customer to a successful completion of the transaction. The social sentiment of the buyers could be influenced by an unintentional remark about the hardships of itinerant trading, children left
behind at home, etc. (Pavlištík 2005: 47–48). However, whatever proportion the women took
of the business deal, the authorities clearly required that they be written in the peddler licences (Ottenthal 1828: 69).
Among peddlers we find widows, married and unmarried people. We have documented cases where after her husband’s death the woman continued in the already established
business. In the 1870s and 1880s, Ludwig Richter from Frýdku, for example, is listed as one
of the people who in Místek asked for permission to trade door-to-door in Moravia. He
traded with linen and cotton goods, and in 1873 he named his wife Jenovefa, who was eight
years younger, as his load carrier. But when Richter died his widow did not leave the trade
but continued in it as an individual. The declared object of trade, however, remained unchanged26.
Women in the position of independent peddlers focused primarily on the sale of textiles, and later goods made of textile, slippers, and accessories27.As illustrated by the testimony of Josef Válek related to Trnava domestic manufacturers, women also sold wooden
State District Archives Nový Jičín. Fond Archive of the town of Frenštátu pod Radhoštěm. Reporting
book for peddlers. Inventory number 215
Cf. for example. State District Archives Frýdek-Místek. Fond Místek District Office. Record of the authorization of the door-to-door trade 1870–1928. Asset Number 80: Paul Krmaschek of Frýdek in 1871 obtained permission for himself and his wife Theresa, and a year later, Valentin Pavelčák for himself and his wife Barbara,
and Jenovefa is written in Ludwig Richter‘s permit as his wife.
Ibid. State District Archives Frýdek-Místek. Fond Místek District Office. Record of the authorization of
the trade doorstep 1870–1928. Asset Number 80. Ibid.
Ibid. State District Archives New raj. Fond Archive of Frenštát Radhoštěm. Reporting book for peddlers.
Inventory number 215. Marina Demetz (1987), Hausierhandel, Hausindustrie und Kunstgewerbe im Grödenthal von
18. bis zum beginnenden 20. Jahrhundert, o. c., p. 57.
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia
utensils. But their geographical radius was limited to a smaller territory than their male
counterparts28. A larger proportion of women can be identified among the specific group of
urban street and door-to-door traders, and in the Alpine countries we come across women
such as the famous Croatian onion sellers (Beall 1975; Kaut 1970). According to official statistics in Silesia and Kranjska the number of licences issued to women peddlers exceeded
those of their male counterparts (Gargas 1904: 183–184). One of the cases mainly associated
in general awareness with women was the case of the peddlers of Lisen. Although male
peddlers also operated in this area, it was the female Lisen peddlers who outwardly became
the main representative – a symbol of the community.
The age range of peddlers included mainly people in the fourth to sixth decade of life.
Among the peddlers who reported to the appropriate authorities of individual places we
do not find any people so young that their age did not meet legal standards. This of course
does not preclude their involvement in the operation of trade – this was done, however, on
an illegal basis. For example the Lisen chronicler Eduard Lepl aptly captured the way Lisen
girls were prepared for their profession: „Girls barely out of school put their baskets on their
backs and start to learn the trade” (Altman 2007: 103–117).
The number of active peddlers declined in the official reports after about the age of
sixty. The need for good physical condition, the hardships associated with door-to-door
trading and a number of other factors led to older people being less involved in the itinerant
Even in this regard, we find differences between the types of door-to-door activities. In
this way we can distinguish peddlers who spent most of the year travelling and for whom
this trade meant the only source of livelihood, and the domestic manufacturers dedicated
to peddlery only for short periods of time. One case of these occasional traders was František
Březík of Kostelec u Štípy near Zlín, who at sixty-four sold home-made slippers door-todoor in Central and Northern Moravia. In January 1899, we find him in Frenštát. Březík,
however, was not the only elderly person peddling that year in that place. On April 11th and
later 1st August 1899 a Jew named Majer Leser from Tarnów also arrived in that town. Like
many of his fellow Jews from Galicia he bought local household rags. According to his peddler license in that year he was seventy-four29.
The increase in the geographical area meant that merchants were away from home for
longer. For people involved in the door-to-door sales of their own goods, although more
remote locations increased the possibilities for sales and profits, at the same time there were
problems with having a sufficient supply of goods. The situation could be resolved with rail
transport or by setting up temporary storage, but these necessary expenses increased costs
(Demetz 1987:21; Pavlištík 2005: 45). A somewhat different situation occurred for peddlers
who focussed on commercially available goods (textiles, haberdashery), where they could
just make a stop in a city with the appropriate supplier.
During their travels vendors often had to endure harassment from some farmers who,
because of their higher position socially and economically as members of a stable society,
tended to be very condescending in order to magnify even more the unequal relationship
and make the peddlers feel their subordinate positions. As peddlers of wooden utensils
from Podřevnicka reminisced years later, it was not so much the hard living conditions of
being a peddler as much as accusations like, „You should have looked for decent work”, which
constituted the worst injustice (Pavlištík 2005: 44–45, 48–49).
State District Archives Vsetín. Legacy Fund of Josef Valek. Notes and documents on the map of Moravian
Wallachia. Inventory No. 388, box 20.
State District Archives Nový Jičín. Fond Archive of Frenštát Radhoštěm. Reporting book for peddlers.
Inventory number 215.
Daniel Drápala
Numerous statements of respondents are evidence that this work did not have a particularly high reputation in the general opinion of the rural population (Šebestová 1947:
252). People placed peddlers on a par with other less honourable ambulatory activities –
gypsy boiler smiths, itinerant musicians and jugglers. The villagers themselves saw this
livelihood as only a partial solution to a dismal social situation. Peddlers, however, had to
contend not only with the slights or disrespect of adult members of rural society. Even the
children in the community, through observing adult behaviour, learned that a travelling
hauzírník could very easily become an object of ridicule (Altman 2007:107).
The low social status of peddlers is also demonstrated by some still surviving text boards
written in Czech and German: Peddlery and begging forbidden! / Hausieren und betteln verboten!
(Raesch 1897:46; Eckhardt 1912: 1). Even at the beginning of the 20th century the author of
an article in some professional printed material for stallholders and peddlers complained
of discrimination when they had to annually submit a new application for an extension of
their peddler license. Even owning the license did not guarantee smooth operation of his
Vigilance undoubtedly formed on the basis of a number of their own experiences is
confirmed by one of the memories of Joseph Rohrer in 1803. On his way from Galicia he met
Slovak peddlers in Bielsko, who were refreshing their spirits in one of the taverns of the
Silesian border towns. A Slovak hauzírník responded to the inquisitive glance of the traveller, whom he assumed was an official, with an automatic submission of his licence without
accompanying his actions with any questions. „... he took out his licence and handed it to me.
What good is your licence to me, I said, I’ve got no right to look at it. Oh, excuse me, Sir, said the
honest man, because you have such a beautiful fur coat and a big stick, I thought you were the Commissioner or the town clerk „ (Rohrer 1804: 252).
The roots of this surviving negative view of the peddler can be seen in the 18th century.
For example, an imperial patent of 10.5.1722 argued about the danger of the link between
peddlers and criminals, who abused peddlers to cover up their activities and to explore the
home environment of customers (Thaya 1884: 7). When especially during the 18th and 19th
century there was a significant increase not only in the number of regular tradesmen, but
also of many other, often dubious „travelling people of the world,” of course it did not contribute to improving the majority view on these people30.
However, this does not exclude that the villagers themselves – sometimes perhaps because of certain social empathy – still sometimes treated door-to-door traders leniently and
kindly. Among the many memories we even have a friendly approach to selected peddlers
documented31. As evidenced by contemporary testimony, perhaps every South Moravian
village had a trusty peddler who called the locals by their first names (Altman 2007:108).
Such a relationship is naturally built slowly. The principle of mutual respect and fairness
applied to both sides. Satisfaction with the quality of goods and the seller’s behaviour, of
course, along with his regular visits, showed itself not only in their willingness to purchase
the goods offered, but also in other „bonuses”. Refreshments or lunch were the most frequent kindnesses and when evening came they were offered a bed32. Although this might
Cf. for example, memories of the itinerant profession in the first half of the 20th century, as were contained in the responses to a questionnaire on the traditional order of village life before collectivization. – Archive
of the Czech Ethnological Society, Prague. Answer to the big questionnaire no. 21 (Traditional order of everyday
life in the peasant yard and villages / towns / in the period before the socialist collectivization of agriculture).
oseph Rohrer (1804), Bemerkungen auf einer Reise von der Türkischen Granz über die Bukowina Ost und
durch Westgalizien, Silesia and Moravia nach Wien. Vienna: Anton Pichler, p. 252.
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. Answer to the big questionnaire No. 21. Rudíkov. Registration number 502/86. Šenov. Registration number 307/86. Zárubnice. Registration number 465/86.
For example, Miroslav Robeš of Šaratice recalled how a seller of wooden utensils Josef Sedlak of Držkova
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia
take the form of mere straw spread out in the parlour or on the kitchen floor, it was already
proof of a different approach than that which applied to beggars and other wandering
passers-by. As the memory from Milotice related to the early 20th century affirms, unlike
itinerant vendors, such people were only shown a place in the cowshed33.
The householder and the housekeeper were happy when the seller helpfully gave information about events in the region and afar. Over the years reputable peddlers built up
regular customers in almost every village, where in addition to sales they had at least a symbolic base, and an opportunity for some rest and refreshments (Pavlištík 2005: 44). However,
those sellers who deliberately abused the sentiments of customers and when haggling deliberately mentioned their poverty, sick children, etc., did not usually build up trust with
the customers. Although in the short term this „social pressure” possibly contributed to the
successful conclusion of the transaction, a better price or something additional in the form
of food, if it was repeated or was a stable part of the communication with the customer, it
led to the rejection of those peddlers34.
Of course, living conditions accompanying peddlery were complicated by many factors
– not only due to society’s negative attitude towards this professional group. During their
journey they had to endure bad weather, a poor communication network, and uncertainty
where they could last out another night. Their business was also hampered by restrictions
– particularly those that determined how a seller’s goods were transported. The ability to
endure the difficulties of the itinerant trade was individual, and showed itself not only in
the person’s physical condition, but also in mental stress associated with peddlery. The
length of the stay away from home also had an influence to some extent. While some sellers
set off only on short trips and after two or three days or a week they returned home, others
took significantly longer routes, sometimes even beyond the borders of their own country.
Many a peddler spent much of his life in this way.
A factor which contributed in no small part to the generally low reputation of the doorto-door trade was the large proportion of Jewish merchants, particularly among traders
coming from other countries. Their high representation primarily in the sale of certain commodities (haberdashery, textile leftovers, or purchase of rags, cattle and some others) (Gargas 1904: 60, 185; Volny 1836: 219; Setinský 2007: 40; Dokoupilová 2004: 114–143) was also
reflected in the adverse reactions of the authorities35. Both the Christian peddlers and their
Jewish counterparts often belonged to the socially disadvantaged sections of society. Peddlery thus became an effective tool to ensure the economic stability of less wealthy Jewish
The Jewish share in peddlery grew despite various restrictions from the 18th century
and reached its peak mainly in the following century, when there was a gradual reduction
of individual official restrictions on the number of Jews in the door-to-door trade (Basch
1917: 112–122; Pěkný 2001: 296–306) . The patent of Emperor Joseph II. in the summer of
1787 certainly contributed to the growth in the number of Jewish peddlers, as already in its
second paragraph it allowed Jews to operate freely in this profession in the territory of the
slept regularly in their family – Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. Answer to the big questionnaire No. 21. Šaratice. Registration number 330/89.
„…And sometimes the family paid the price that he left lice in the borrowed blanket, so the whole family
got lice.” – Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. The answer to the big questionnaire No. 21. Hlučín.
Registration number 796/86. Ibid, Milotice. Registration number 827/86. 34
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. The answer to the big questionnaire No. 21. Bystřice
Pernstejnem. Registration number 609/86
Moravian Provincial Archives, Brno. Fond B14 – Moravian Governor’s Office (elder). Authorisation for
doorstep licences. Inventory number 2113, 39/5 signature 39/5. Museum of Kroměřížsko on 12 November 2003
Zlín – Kromeriz:
Daniel Drápala
Crown Lands of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. In other provinces they could act as salesmen only in the Crown country where they were settled36. As years went on, however, the
extent of this territory varied. Especially regions adjacent to the territory of Galicia, or localities situated on roads linking the Habsburg province of Central Moravia and Vienna
showed, in the late 19th and early 20th century significantly more Jewish peddlers from
Galicia focussing mainly on buying old rags or drapery. Just in 1899 and 1900, according to
official records preserved, almost twenty hauzírník Jews originating from Galicia visited, for
example, Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. The number of local peddlers was much smaller, and
moreover they belonged to the nearby Jewish communities (e.g. Prostějov, Hranice na
Moravě)37 .
By their appearance and other external signs (clothing, headdress and beards), Jews
from Galicia contributed to the formation of some of the negative stereotypes surrounding
this group. Considering, moreover, that the buying of leather, old rags, and bones was often
accompanied by a strange and often unpleasant odour, it is no wonder that the arrival of
such a Jewish merchant did not always bring much enthusiasm among members of the village community.
When evaluating the high proportion of Jewish peddlers the organizations, friendliness
and solidarity of their fellow Jews certainly played a role, but at the same time it gave Christians in general a feeling that Jews were „controlling” this form of livelihood. It was often
religious beliefs which limited them in their business. Many retailers only had a limited
geographical area of work which they were able to handle within one working week – from
Sunday to the next Friday. Also, because of this, many of these peddlers directed their activities to ensuring that one day they would be able to exchange the life of a hausírník for
that of a „solid” stable merchant (Schmidt 1987: 229–250; Lederer 1913: 143–152).
The focus of peddlers especially on the rural population naturally required adaptation
to the requirements of not only the consumer, but also the specific composition of the various phases of the working days and holidays of the rural population. While some commodities had constant sales throughout the year, for others, on the other hand, seasonal
fluctuations could be observed. A lower frequency of visits during the winter months can
be seen, for example, in the visits of the haberdashery Brothers, who came to Moravia from
Slovakia and other countries of Southeast Europe. They often used to be seen at the beginning of spring38. Perhaps the most obvious seasonality of visits amongst peddlers was in the
case of timber marketing tools (scythe handles, rakes, hay forks, etc.). The demand for them
increased as a rule before the start of the work for which they were used. In this case, it was
best to make use of this time of need with the timely goods on offer. Producers of wooden
utensils were often small farmers and landless people from the mountainous regions of
Moravia and Silesia. The end of autumn and winter represented for them a period when
they could focus intensively on the production of these tools. With the onset of spring and
an improvement in the accessibility of roads it was time to leave home with their goods to
sell (Pavlištik 2005:45).
Moravian Provincial Archives, Brno. Fond B17 – Governor’s palace. Patents. Peddlery. Signature H1,
karton 44. Philipp Otto von Ottenthal (1828), Der Hausier-Handel in Oesterreich, o. c., p. 55–57, Jontes, G.: Hausieren und Betteln verboten! Wanderhändler in der Steiermark, c. d., p. 289.
State District Archives New raj. Fond Archive of Frenštát Radhoštěm. Reporting book for peddlers. Inventory number 215. The most frequently cited region of origin was Tarnów, or its surroundings. For earlier
periods cf. for example., the State District Archive Frýdek-Místek. Fond Místek District Office. Records of the
issuance of permits to peddlers 1860–1883. Inventory number 69.
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. The answer to the big questionnaire no. 21 Násedlovice. Registration number 440/86. Ibid. Slušovice. Registration number 496/86.
The socio-cultural dimension of peddlery in Moravia and Silesia
The period of main work on the field was certainly not one of those periods of the year
when the farmer had enough time to be persuaded about the pressing need to buy this or
that product, or to haggle about the price. The traders themselves realized that, and in the
interest of successful transactions preferred to choose convenient times when there was no
threat that the farmer would dismiss them because of urgent work.
The type of goods offered was largely conditioned by the frequency of visits of the peddlers to the area. Some came only once, twice or three times a year, while others appeared
at more regular intervals, sometimes monthly or weekly (Heimrichova 2000: 33). Hardly
any country village in Moravia or Silesia in the 19th or early 20th century did not record
a peddler’s visit at least once a week.
Like other components of itinerant trading we can trace sophisticated strategies even in
the selection of appropriate and inappropriate moments to visit potential customers. Peddlers’ visits took place primarily on weekdays. Sundays and holidays were respected as an
inappropriate time to conclude transactions, even though the rule used to be occasionally
broken by some traders according to eyewitnesses, as during the working week there was
often not enough time for trading39. The time of the visit by itinerant traders was also determined by the socio-professional status of the target group of customers. Mostly working
class locations had to be visited primarily on Sundays, which was the only day off for the
local population (Gargas 1904: 172–173).
One of the fundamental requirements of a successful peddler lay in the ability to choose
the most appropriate time to visit during the day. Experienced sellers, who over the years
had created a regular route for their peddlery, were already sufficiently familiar with the
local conditions and practices that they mostly managed to reach the farmers and housekeepers at the right time. An ideal period of the day to visit seemed to be lunch time40 .
Landlords generally stayed on their farms at this time and so there was more time for the
successful conclusion of trade.
Personal experience and knowledge passed on by previous generations of peddlers
were at the root of the specific behaviour that characterised these vendors – often independent of the goods they sold. In comparison with market vendors they had the disadvantage
that they came to the customer’s home environment. The calling out that accompanied the
arrival of a trader in the village played a vital and irreplaceable role, with one purpose: to
attract initial attention and lure buyers out from their homes. But sometimes they had no
choice but to actually go systematically round from house to house offering their products.
And this reality was often at the root of the reluctance of some occasional peddlers (e.g.
domestic manufacturers of wooden utensils, etc.) to engage in such a specific form of sales.
Occasional peddlers from the ranks of small domestic manufacturers, who went out to sell
their own products, generally showed greater diffidence than the people for whom peddlery was their main and only job and who were dependent on it for their living. More than
once we would come across the statement that rather than haggling over the price they
would prefer not to sell something. They often felt that this form of selling, which sometimes verged on pleading with people, was more like wandering from one house to another
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. The answer to the big questionnaire No. 21. Moravianp.
Registration number 418/86. Ibid. Myslibořice. Registration number 348/86. Ibid. Ratiskovice. Registration
number 113/87. As evidenced by the agreement between the Jewish and Christian tailors in Bučovicích of 1755,
according one of the sections of this Convention all Jewish peddlery was prohibited under penalty of a fine on
Sundays and public holidays. – Jiří Setinský (2007), Dohoda mezi židovskými a křesťanskými krejčími v Bučovicích
v roce 1755. o. c., p. 43.
Archive of the Czech Ethnological Society, Praha. The answer to the big questionnaire No. 21. Bohumilice. Registration number 18/87. The popularity of midday visits to peasant farms has been documented from
the German environment. WEBER-KELLERMANN, I.: Landleben im 19. Jahrhundert, c. d., p. 318.
Daniel Drápala
begging. Time or financial difficulties, however, sometimes resulted in situations where in
the interest of making a definite sale they gave up haggling after the first attempt and preferred to sell their goods below cost, just to get some money (Pavlištík 2005: 48). For these
reasons they were also willing to cede a part of the profit to an intermediary trader, rather
than go themselves from house to house ( Pavlištík 2005: 44) Jewish hauzírníci did not usually admit this feeling, instead displaying their persistence.
Moving the act of closing the transaction from a public space into a private one put the
itinerant seller at a disadvantage in many respects. He addressed potential customers in
their domestic environment. The security of their home environment weakened the likelihood of customers of closing the purchase, as they could resist the temptation of buying
attractive purchases for longer. The seller had to expend more effort in persuading the customer of the necessity of buying the product offered.
Obviously, the ability to offer attractive products and mainly to convince the customer
always depended not only the experience of the hauzírník, but also on his own ability, verbosity and some other requirements regarding distinctive behaviour and reasoning. With
regular traders the local population particularly appreciated rather informal two-way communication, evolving beyond a pure business relationship and penetrating to topics about
their personal, family, or community and business life. On the other hand the desperate effort of peddlers to force their goods on customers accompanied by extra intensive persuasion was seen by some customers as an unpleasant intrusion, which generally disadvantaged
the peddler’s status as a trader and contributed to the formation of a not very positive image. Often, these complaints were primarily associated with Jewish peddlers, although in
this respect the differences in religion and ethnicity of the peddlers certainly played a role.
Reducing the originally set price was not always perceived as positive among customers.
Significant differences were often interpreted by people as unfair business practices or business strategies (Moravcowa 1990: 105, which of course reduced the credibility of the peddler and contributed to the formation of adverse stereotypical views of this group of
During the first half of the 20th century we see a gradual decline in the itinerant trade.
Causes can be found in the new constitutional arrangements and the creation of new state
borders and other economic and legal barriers after 1918. Industrialization also had an influence and generally the economic and social conditions in areas with greater incidence of
tradesmen improved. In the second half of the 20th century in Moravia and Silesia only
some specific forms of itinerant trade survived, e.g. buying fur from small livestock breeders. With the change of the political situation after 1989, we see occasional activities of modern peddlers (e.g. laundry detergent, cleaning products, clothing, fruit and vegetables),
although some municipalities have restricted their activity in recent years.
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obchodníkům ze slovanského jihu,“ Český lid“, 1990 (in Czech).
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(in German).
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der Taschenuhr im frühen 19. Jahrhundert, “Zeitschrift für Volkskunde” 83 (in German).
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Daniel Drápala
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Kroměříž: Muzeum Kroměřížska (in Czech).
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Biographical note: Dr. Daniel Drápala, Ph.D. (1976) studied ethnology and history at
Masaryk University in Brno. In the years 1999–2007 he worked in the Wallachian
Open Air Museum in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, and since 2007 he has been working
at the Institute of European Ethnology of the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University. In
the years 2008–2014 he served as Chairman of the top professional organization
of Czech ethnologists – the Czech Ethnological Society. He specializes in issues of
craft, trade and social relations, open air museums and annual customs.
e-mail: [email protected]
Our Europe. Ethnography – Ethnology – Anhropology of Culture
Vol. 3/2014
p. 61–68
Martina Pavlicová
Institute of European Ethnology
Masaryk University
Folklore Festivals in Moravia
in the Light of Social Development
Abstract:The contribution Folklore Festivals in Moravia in the Light of Social Development deals with the
interest in folk culture, or rather folklore expressions and their presentation at ethnographic festivities and
folklore festivals. It pays attention to the first impulses for these activities, the struggles of individuals and
institutions and especially the social connections of the mentioned cultural stream. As to the territory, the
study of this development focuses on Moravia where since the late-19th century the living folk culture
blended with the efforts to safeguard it, and where currently ethno-cultural traditions develop, which many
cases have their roots in the legacy of folk culture.
Keywords: folklore, Moravia
When searching for the beginning of folklore festivals in Moravia, we have to
come back to a spectacular cultural and historical event held in Prague in 1895 – the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition. It took place at time when similar exhibitions in America
and Europe, including the world ones, became an opportunity to present the achievements
of modern society as well as the expansion of science, technology, and culture. The Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition, which followed the General Global Jubilee Exhibition held
in Prague in 1891, emphasized especially the national consciousness and policy. At that
time, the Czech lands were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, similarly to other
ethnic groups within this multinational country, they fought for their own identity. And
what is more, the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition concept, which focused on the
pan-Slavic idea (as reflected in its title), substantiated this process. The final conception of
the Exhibition was concentrated on three main lines: ethnographic group; cultural and historical group covering the whole nation; modern group. (Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition 1895, p. 18). Although the Exhibition included culture of the whole Czech nation, it
was folk culture that became the most important part of the project.
Although the mentioned event (it was held from May 15 to October 23, 1895) was outlined as an exhibition, it also included accompanying programme that approximated the
form of future folklore festivals. Apart from the fact that the organizers “live casted” some
exhibition rooms to increase the attractiveness (e.g. in Slovakian and Wallachian pubs a folk
music band performed daily), the folk festivities running for the duration of the Exhibition
enjoyed a great interest. Between 15 and 21 August, there was held a Moravian festival that
we understand as an augury of the folklore movement development in Moravia. In order to
organize such a festival, it was necessary to choose the materials, to train the performances,
to invite the participants. In Moravia, it was Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) who – as a leading
person – arranged the programme of the Moravian Day, together with his co-operators
Lucie Bakešová (1853–1935) and Martin Zeman (1854–1919) (Pavlicová – Uhlíková 1995:
Martina Pavlicová
32). The world-renowned composer Leoš Janáček was also an important collector of folk
songs and an admirer of folk culture. During the preparations for the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition, he became a member of the Ethnographic musical department for Moravia, which was founded for the purpose to encourage the Moravian phenomenon in this
event. The matter was not easy. Prior to the Exhibition, regional exhibitions and ethnographic congresses were organized, which focused on collecting exhibits. The interest in
collecting folk-culture artefacts as well as folk traditions, especially in the form of tangible
culture (folk costumes, embroideries, folk architecture. – started as early as in the 1870s and
1880s. Interest in folk songs and related activities were even older (they related to European
Romanticism and ideas of mythological school but practical experience with the presentation of folklore expressions was very limited. Even though the so- called popular celebrations (Volksfest) were well- known, these were rather exceptions (Laudová 1991: 14–16;
Pavlicová 2007: 16–17). In 1791, 1792 and 1836 celebrations were held in the Czech lands for
new coronations; sporadic reports about folk music and dance performances at noble courts
have survived (e.g. when Empress Maria Theresa visited Olomouc in 1748). In these cases,
the focus was on the representation of serfs or on the entertainment of nobility. The correspondence between Leoš Janáček, Lucie Bakešová and Martin Zeman, reveals the complications of the preparation and dramaturgy of the Moravian Day, which actually lasted three
days. There were to perform common villagers who were burdened with their daily concerns. The festival took place at the time of harvest, so many selected dancers or musicians
had to leave for home. There was a shortage of money to renew folk garments and many
other problems occurred, as Martin Zeman wrote to Leoš Janáček: “When I negotiate with a
maidservant or a groom, the farmer’s wife is thinking: why cannot our daughter or son go there? If I
take a young married man from his wife, she does not want to let him go, and when I choose young
women, the men wish to follow them…” (Pavlicová – Uhlíková 1995: 34). The authors also tussled with putting the chosen programme on the stage. It became evident for the first time
that it is necessary for those performing to adapt themselves to the rules of the stage and to
show folklore expressions in a brief and “less” raw interpretation to the audience. Leoš
Janáček himself encountered such negative experience before. In 1892, he organized a concert with folk musicians from the ethnographic area of Horňácko (one of distinctive ethnographic regions in South-East Moravia) in Brno and it was not well received by the city
audience. In the Lidové noviny newspaper, Janáček – not by chance – wrote in 1894: “I am
afraid that even at the Prague exhibition, a gesture of refusal would afflict the performances of the folk
musicians and singers – excepting the dancers – if they were not pleasing to the largest possible extent to the ear of much more varied education of the audience.“ (Pavlicová – Uhlíková 1995: 32).
Janaček´s experience with the above concert caused his consideration to alter the conception of the programme at the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition. Instead of featuring
style and skills, it was aimed at what is the strongest feature of folk interpreters –truthfulness and internal sense of their expressions. Simultaneously, however, he put a question to
himself whether even that truthfulness will have an effect on the audience (Krist 1970: 22).
However, the performance of the Moravian group at the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition was met with a good response, and Martin Zeman was even awarded a diploma and
bronze medal for rehearsing the songs, dances, and customs. (Pavlicová – Uhlíková 1995:
The Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition not only augured the beginning of ethnography as a scientific discipline and encouraged the foundation of a central ethnographic museum and the development of the folklore movement in particular regions. However, it also
commenced a movement that began to be characterized as the “folklore movement” in the
20th century and the ethnographic festivities and folklore festivals became its significant
symbol. As early as during the preparations of the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition,
Folklore Festivals in Moravia in the Light of Social Development
such a “touch” of the folklore movement occurred with some activities. For example,
Františka Xavera Běhálková (1853–1907), who was working in the ethnographic area of
Haná in Central Moravia, formed an ensemble whose members were town “gentlemen and
ladies” and travelled with them to perform in the environs. As Ludmila Mátlová-Uhrová
(1908–1978), another collector of folk songs and dances in that region wrote several decades
later, she met the traces of “Miss Xavera” everywhere. (Pavlicová 1993: 12).
After the end of the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition, ethnographic activities
dampened naturally in the countryside, but not in strata of intellectuals. Here there were
still felt the struggles to capture the expressions of folk culture and to present them and – in
many cases – to safeguard them. Significant at that time was the activity of so-called “circles”, which can be understood as the beginning of future folklore ensembles. From the
town environment (the first “circles” were founded in Prague and Brno in the 1890s to associate students who came from the country to study in the town), this interest moved to
the countryside (Krist 1970: 27–38). Circles presented their repertoire brought by students
from different regions of Moravia; stress was put on aesthetical function of folklore expressions; thanks to the work of these circles, many town intellectuals expressed their interest
in folklore. (Krist 1970: 35). Alongside the folk culture, the importance of its prestige grew
in a very distinctive way. The developing activity of clubs and associations (for example
Sokol or Orel in the Czech environment, concentrated mainly on physical education) especially in its cultural part began to take the folk traditions as their basis. Demonstrations of
selected customs, dances, or staged programmes became an important part of official events
and festivals with a strong national sense. Let us mention for example Sokol festival in
Uherské Hradiště in 1911, which was accompanied by a rich programme with participants
from neighbouring villages. A festival on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Sokol took
place in Uherské Hradiště in 1922 as well and a varied ethnographic programme was shown
there again (Pavlicová 2007: 104–106).
The above activities also became a magnet for people who visited the Moravian Year
Festival in Brno in 1914. Its interesting historical adventures were fully explained only in
the 1890s. The Moravian Year was prepared by Sokol sports clubs, and a plethora of documents about rehearsals and programmes of particular groups have survived in archives.
Although the then reports spoke about the successful course of the Moravian Year, they did
not mention that the ethnographic programme, which should take place after the sports
exercises, had not been held at all. The reason for that was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand d´Este, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo and the subsequent cancellation of the event. An alternative date fourteen days later was foiled by weather. Only an accidental report found many decades later and the following research showed
that the prepared ethnographic festival had not in fact been performed (Holý – Ševčík –
Pavlicová: 1993). Nonetheless, the handwriting of the documents connected to the preparation of the event matched those accompanying the programme for the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition. It became obvious that the ways to present folklore material began to be
codified, and a certain stereotype of dramaturgy and presentation of folklore began to
evolve. From traditional culture, customs and rituals, such as wedding, ride of the kings,
maypole erection, or well-established dance and music programmes from particular ethnographic areas or places were selected. Only the researches in the second half of the 20th
century showed that it was the repeated presentation of certain folk culture expressions, to
which the particular locations were invited, that caused these expressions to have survived
in the country. Moreover, local inhabitants identified themselves with these expressions as
with valued cultural expressions. This can be illustrated by a strong example of the ride of
the kings in the region of Slovácko, which was also performed at the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition and then at many festivals and events in the period of the First Republic
Martina Pavlicová
and after the World War II. Although many other expressions of folk culture lost their function in the everyday life, and we can encounter them solely as expressions of folklorism, the
ride of the kings cannot be so simply ranked among them. Even here, several functions
have changed their content and without the care and organization from outside, this originally Whitsuntide tradition would hardly survive as a tradition, yet the development of this
ritual was different. It became a symbol of the locations where it has been safeguarded so
far, and its one-hundred-year long development in the period of the evolving folklore
movement led it to be placed on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural
Heritage of Humanity. Without its presentation at festivals or ethnographic festivities, it
must have developed in a different direction (Pavlicová 2011, 2013).
With the formation of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, a new phase for the folklore
movement and festivities dawned. The strengthened representative function of folk culture
alongside the tradition in place since the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition found their
expression in regional ethnographic festivities as well as in cultural and political activities.
Ethnographic festivities, such as Slovácko Year in Kyjov (1921) or Wallachian Year
in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm (1925), were festivals that continued the aims of the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition and were to stabilize the regional identity. Even today, such
festivities (e.g. Haná Year in Přerov in 1923 and 1928 or Silesian Year in Jablunkov in 1923)
must be perceived as a basis for understanding the regional peculiarity, which was followed throughout the 20th century. On the contrary, Ethnographic Days in Brno in 1925
belong to a completely different type of such activities Having been initiated by the ethnographer František Kretz, they were held on June 28 and 29, 1925. The Provincial Association
of Foreigners for Moravia and Silesia became the major organizer. This Association promoted folk culture even before the World War I but with the formation of the Czechoslovak
Republic in 1918, new circumstances required to make the new state known abroad
(Večerková 1997: 208). According to the resources, groups from Moravia and Silesia arrived
in Brno with altogether 4 000 participants and the festival was of a very official nature. At
the opening ceremony, major scientists and high-ranking politicians took part, even a telegram was sent to President T. G. Masaryk and there a resolution was approved that was
aimed at increasing the state participation in the safeguarding of folk culture (Večerková
1997: 208). Even then, the programme of the festival was similar to what we could observe
at future folklore festivals: a parade through the town, performances at a sports stadium
and assessment of individual performances (there were 44 programme numbers whereby
18 were awarded a prize). At the same time, a congress of experts in ethnography was held
(Večerková 1997: 208). The event was recorded as a documentary, which today is very valuable material for anyone who wishes to become acquainted especially with folk dance expressions and folk dress from the 1920s.
The period between the world wars, i.e. the period of the First Republic, was a very significant historical era within the development of Czechoslovakia. It became evident in the
field of culture that also included public educational activities, which were either carried
out by active individuals or systematically controlled. As early as in 1905, the Culture Enlightenment Union was established, which was followed by the Masaryk Institute for Adult
Education (Jírový 2005: 83–97). In common life, some expressions of traditional folk culture
were slowly disappearing, which was all the more reason to safeguard them. The educational work together with the use of folk culture by different clubs and, of course, with the
interest of experts who studied traditional folk culture and collected its expressions, created
a very strong cultural stream in the Czech environment. It is interesting that apart from all
the mishaps with folk culture understanding since the second half of the 19th century, when
the first more concentrated interest in it appeared, rather romanticizing or aesthetic views
survived. Many socially- oriented researchers were fully aware of the fact that the life in the
Folklore Festivals in Moravia in the Light of Social Development
country (in which the intellectuals were mostly interested, even if the culture of artisans
and workers was gradually studied as well) was not optimal, that there were many problems including poverty, alcoholism and illiteracy. Yet the created picture of folk culture in
the country involved an aesthetic ideal that found expression in the presentation of folk
culture to the public (Pavlicová – Uhlíková 2011). Although some critical voices resounded,
let us remember, for example, the contribution written by the cultural historian Čeněk and
titled Against Ethnographic “Years” (1929) and his statement that “ethnography can exist
without an entrance fee, beer and sausages”; this did not influence the general tendency to
“cultivate” ethnographic festivities and folklore festivals very much. Moreover, the activities of many educated individuals who promoted and supported folk culture and understood it as national wealth were very strong is some regions, leaving a remarkable trace
until now.
The period after World War II was a significant watershed for the folklore movement. It
is necessary to add that the military occupation and the establishment of the Protectorate of
Bohemia and Moravia did not bring many opportunities for the work with the legacy of
folk culture. In Moravia, Ethnographic Moravia was active. It was an officially registered
association that continued the pre-war ethnographic movement in the Slovácko region, but
its collaboration with Nazi-authorities weakened its activity. After the war, its leaders were
brought to justice (Mezihorák 1997). Many activities ran secretly and on a private basis,
such as rehearsals of folk dances and songs.
The post-war period brought a new political situation; nevertheless, free development
of the society was stopped, especially after 1948. This brought about a paradoxical situation
for folk culture and its legacy. The folklore movement greatly expanded, with the creation
of new ensembles and groups, which in many cases took part in field collecting of folklore,
often in cooperation with official expert institutions. Simultaneously, at the turn of the 1940s
and 1950s, the Czech (at that time the Czechoslovak) culture was indoctrinated by the ideological model imported from the then Soviet Union. The suppression of cultural elites in the
society was to be substituted by a “new” art; it was folk culture that was to become the basis
for this. The period of the strongest ideological pressure led to the so-called “new output”,
when formal forms of folklore were injected with “new content”. “Folk” songs about tractors, members of agricultural cooperatives and workers etc., of course, did not survive in
the repertoire of folk ensembles for a long time. However, up today, they have been a reminder of one of many abuses of folk culture, as we can observe them in totalitarian regimes at different times and in different parts of the world. The most exalted period of
ideological pressure on the folklore movement terminated in the mid-1950s; this period is
termed the so-called “burden of folklore”. It cannot be obscured, however, that this attitude
left its mark upon the following praiseworthy work of many important personalities whom
we rank today among the distinctive researchers, choreographers and musicians (Pavlicová
– Uhlíková 2013). Similarly, this period went down in the history of the biggest folklore
festivals in Moravia (and in the Czech Republic in general), which was founded in 1946. Up
to now, it has remained a “laboratory” for work with folklore and legacy of folk culture
(Tomeš 1966). In the festival´s history, one can follow development of the after-war folklore
movement in the Czech (and Czechoslovak) environment, both in the presentation on the
stage and in the attitude of experts. Reconciliation with the “burden of folklore” began to
bring back the work with original folklore materials, as well as educational activities in the
Since its beginnings, the folklore movement, as mentioned above, has never developed
by itself, from inside, but in close collaboration with expert circles– both the artistic and the
scientific ones. When German researchers introduced the term folklorism into the professional life, i.e. folklore or folk culture in its secondary existence or so-called “second-hand”
Martina Pavlicová
folklore, they did not hide the fact this was a term that featured negative phenomena deforming the original folk culture (Luther 2005: 12). If we look at this realm with today’s eyes
and free from prejudice, we can see that without the presentation of folklore, apart from all
the negative peripetias, the traditional folk culture would hardly survive as a legacy for
coming generations.
Impulses for the folklore movement and folklorism are variable today (Jančář – Krist
2007). Fortunately, the ideology is not a deciding aspect anymore; however, other dangerous trends are coming, especially commercialization and tourism. At the same time, on the
other side of the spectrum in the present globalized world, there are situated other aspects:
searching for one´s own identity, enjoying leisure time activities, returning to one´s roots.
These are also the reasons, why ethnology does not focus just on a detectable second existence of folk culture with typical features, but also on expressions that are a source of inspiration for folk culture or that continue it freely. Today we speak about ethno-cultural traditions, which include not only folklore festivals and their programmes showing the original
folklore expressions, but also their high stylization and artistic presentation. Simultaneously, this covers also activities that we can understand – from a larger point of view – as
an opposition to mass culture - in the relation to the memory of place, history and culture
(Pavlicová – Uhlíková 2008: 53). Folklore festivals and festivities fulfil many functions today, and for this reason, their content is manifold: staged folklore presentation with artistic
aims, self-realisation in dance of song contests, places for getting-together. Not only with
friends, but also with culture and ethnic groups (Pavlicová 2005). At the folklore festival in
Strážnice, we can find the profile of all stratums that our essay writes about, including the
relation to official cultural and political realm as well as the actual worldwide theme – the
protection of cultural heritage. The dozens of local festivities and festivals which take place
in many places in Moravia today (different in their range or content, but their quantity
amounts to several tens), take on mainly the functions of strengthening the local identity,
searching for a festivity in the everyday life of local inhabitants. They help keep the domestic folk tradition, and they guide new generations to understand it in a positive way. Regardless of the many different opinions, folklore festivals and festivities occupy an important place in the contemporary society because they constitute a counterbalance to passive
consumerism, and offer values for an active life. For ethnology, they are an ever-changing
theme to study, even with the awareness that many ethnologists use their knowledge to
take part in forming them. Although applied ethnology helps to create the festival environment, the internal mechanisms already work independently. This is the point that should
be of interest for contemporary ethnology as a science of culture and society.
Holý Dušan, Ševčík Vladimír, Pavlicová Martina (1993), O Moravském roku 1914 [About
Moravian Year], “Národopisná revue” 3, pp. 93–102.
Jančář Josef, Krist Jan (2007), Národopisné slavnosti a folklorní festivaly v České republice [Ethnographic Festivities and Folklore Festivals in the Czech Republic], Strážnice: Národní
ústav lidové kultury.
Jírový Zdeněk (2005), Osvětou k svobodě. Jedna z cest české kultury k současnosti [Through
Public Education to Freedom. One of the Ways of Czech Culture to the Present]. Praha:
Národní informační a poradenské středisko pro kulturu.
Krist Jan Miroslav (1970), Historie slováckých krúžků a vznik souborů lidových písní a tanců na
Slovácku. K vývoji některých forem druhé existence folklore [A History of Folk Circles and
Formation of Folk Song and Dance Ensembles in the Slovácko Region]. Praha: Ústřední
dům lidové umělecké tvořivosti.
Folklore Festivals in Moravia in the Light of Social Development
Laudová Hannah (1991), Národní význam prvních veřejných lidových slavností [National Importance of the First Public Folk Festivities], in: J. Jančář (ed.) Slavnosti v moderní
společnosti, Strážnice: Ústav lidové kultury, pp. 14–16.
Luther Daniel (2005), Hranice folklorizmu, [Limits of Folklorism. Ethnological Debates]
“Etnologické rozpravy” 12, 1, pp. 11–15.
Mezihorák František (1997), Hry o Moravu [Games for Moravia]. Praha: Mladá fronta.
Národopisná výstava českoslovanská [The Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition]. Praha
Pavlicová Martina (1993), Postavy z dějin české etnochoreologie II [Figures from the History
of Czech Ethnochoreology], “Národopisná revue” 3, pp. 3–12.
Pavlicová Martina (2005), Folklorní festival – křižovatka kultur? [Folklore Festival – A Crossroad of Cultures?], in M. Pavlicová, I. Přibylová, Irena (eds.) Od východu na západ a od
západu na východ [From the East to the West and form the West to the East], Náměšť nad
Oslavou: Městské kulturní středisko v Náměšti nad Oslavou, pp. 12–23.
Pavlicová Martina (2007), Lidová kultura a její historicko-společenské reflexe (mikrosociální
sondy) [Folk Culture and its Historical and Social Reflections (micro-social probes) ].
Brno: Ústav evropské etnologie.
Pavlicová Martina (2011), Jízda králů v Hluku [The Ride of the Kings in Hluk] in J. Mitáček
(ed.), Hluk: Město Hluk, pp. 603–612.
Pavlicová Martina (2013), Jízda králů [The Ride of the Kings] in J. Mitáček (ed.) Vlčnov.
Dějiny slovácké obce, Vlčnov: Obec Vlčnov pp. 533–558.
Pavlicová Martina, Uhlíková Lucie (1995), „Dílo trvalé – a ne prchavé“. Nad jubileem Národopisné výstavy českoslovanské [A Lasting Work – not a Fleeting One. The Jubilee of the
Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition], “Opus musicum” 27, 1, s. 31–37.
Pavlicová Martina, Uhlíková Lucie, Folklor, folklorismus a etnokulturní tradice. Příspěvek
k terminologické diskusi [Folklore, Folklorism and Ethno-Cultural Traditions. A Contribution to the Discussion on Terminology], in J. Blahůšek, J. Jančář (eds.) . Etnologie –
současnost a terminologické otazníky, Strážnice: Národní ústav lidové kultury, pp. 50–56.
Pavlicová Martina, Uhlíková, Lucie (2011), Romantický obraz lidové kultury jako základ novodobého folklorismu [Romantic Picture of Folk Culture as a Basis for Modern Folklorism]
“Folia ethnographica “45, 1, pp. 3–16.
Pavlicová Martina, Uhlíková Lucie (2013), Folklore Movement and its Function in the Totalitarian Society on an example of the Czech Republic in the 2nd half of the 20th century). “Národopisná revue” 23, supplement, pp. 31–42.
Tomeš Josef (1966), Strážnické slavnosti a jejich místo v renesanci folkloru [ Strážnice Festival
and its Place in Rebirth of Folklore], in Strážnice 1946–1965. Brno: Blok, pp. 15–77.
Večerková Eva (1997), Národopisné svátky Moravy [Ethnographic Feasts in Moravia] in
Pavlicová Martina, Uhlíková Lucie (eds.) Od folkloru k folklorismu. Slovník folklorního
hnutí na Moravě a ve Slezsku [From Folklore to Folklorism. Vocabulary of the Folklore
Movement in Moravia and Silesia], Strážnice: Ústav lidové kultury, pp. 208–209.
Zíbrt Čeněk (1929), Proti národopisným „rokům“[Against the Ethnographic “Years”],
“Český lid” 29, pp. 30–31.
Biographical note: Doc PhDr. Martina Pavlicová, CSc. works at the Institute of European Ethnology, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University Brno. In her work, she focuses
mainly on the study of folklore, folklorism and ethno-cultural traditions. She wrote
two monographs Lidová kultura a její historicko-společenské reflexe (mikrosociální
sondy) [Folk Culture and its Historical and Social Reflections (micro-social probes)]
Brno: Ústav evropské etnologie, 2007, and Cestami lidového tance. Zdenka Jelínková a česká etnochoreologie [On the Ways of Folk Dance. Zdenka Jelínková and Czech
Ethno-Choreology] (Brno: Masarykova univerzita, 2012) as well as many expert studies. She is an editor of Journal of Ethnology, a reviewed professional magazine, and
she also takes part in projects relating to the protection of cultural heritage within
Our Europe. Ethnography – Ethnology – Anhropology of Culture
Vol. 3/2014
p. 69–76
Michał Knychaus
Univesity of Arts in Poznań
Witches and witch-hunt in Kalisz region
in XVI–XVIII century
Abstract: In this article the Author shows, the situation of witch-hunt in Kalisz region in XVI–XVIII century.
He uses, broad, anthropological and historical perspective supporting his work with latests available publications. This text also attempts to build an multifarious image of so called „withches” that could be found
in the historical sources. On the basis of local trials one can precisely observe the genesis, development,
and collapse of the witch hunt in the whole country. Mentioned region played the leading role in creating
the bill that contributed to the end of hunt for accused of witchcraft in Poland.
Keywords: Witches, Witch, occultism, women history, Kalisz, Regional history, Poland
Nowadays, when one hears the word witchcraft or witch, a world of various connotations appear in his or her mind. Fortune-telling, cartomancy, healing with herbs, crystal
balls, broom flights or dowsing are just a few examples. When one combines these connotations into one, a very broad image appears, which, instead of explaining this phenomenon,
seems to be too blurred and fuzzy. In order to create this image we resort to the knowledge
taken from various sources such as fairy tales, movies, proverbs, sagas. Most of them are
rooted in the most important source, namely history. Examining magic (understood here as
a set of all magical actions and rituals) by means of history leads us to a surprising observation. It is a sphere in which fantasy builds historic facts, which, afterwards, lead to fantasies
depicted in myths, movies, tales. Fiction of human mind, fueled by brutal tortures, leaves
its trace in court records, which are used to reconstruct extremely rich spiritual world of
people from bygone ages. In order to understand it, particular notions need to be explained
and confronted with historical reality.
The history of magic and witch trials is present in a range of Polish and foreign publications. The investigators of causes for this phenomenon can be found even in times when the
so called witch madness had not faded completely. Since the end of modern era two trends
in witch historiography can be distinguished: romantic and rational (Pilaszek 2008: 17–20).
In the 20th century, when the emotions evoked by witch hunting began to ebb away, people
started to look at the whole case from a more psychological perspective – especially in
French historiography (Pilaszek 2008: 21). The first Pole to investigate witch trials was Tadeusz Czacki, who conducted his research at the beginning of the 19th century. However,
the best known Polish historian describing Polish witches was Bohdan Baranowski, who
created his works in PRL (Polish People’s Republic). His work had great effect on numerous publications, and among them, a work crucial to this essay containing records of the
court in Kalisz dealing with the trials of women accused of witchery in XVI and XVII century. Contemporary historians, such as Małgorzata Pilaszek, devoted a lot of attention to
Michał Knychaus
witches’ history in our area. Procesy o czary w Polsce w wiekach XV–XVIII by Pilaszek has
recently been published and inspired me to write this work.
My goal is to present in close-up the history of witches and witchcraft trials in Kalisz
district. Furthermore, the context and peculiarity of this phenomenon in my country will be
taken into account. A country, which was believed to be an asylum from burning stakes and
where tolerance and freedom of belief was supposed to reign.
I have chosen Kalisz not only because I was born there, but also because on the basis of
local trials one can precisely observe the genesis, development, and collapse (connected to
the Doruchów case apogee) of the witch hunt in the whole country. It is also worth mentioning that the governor of Kalisz district, August Sułkowski, played the leading role in
creating the bill that contributed to the end of hunt for accused of witchcraft in Poland
(1776) (Pilaszek 2008: 222).
In this chapter I would like to introduce a couple of key notions necessary for better
understanding of the subject and the genesis of the phenomena of witch madness and witchhunt. The nomenclature of wizardry and magic uses two terms: hag and witch that tend to
be considered the same in meaning. Nonetheless, a witch is a woman who needs to learn
magic or receive it as a gift, for instance from an evil spirit. Whereas hag, is a woman who
possesses magical skills since the day of her birth. Both tend to be malicious, yet it is witches
who were believed to be the partners of Satan after the Trident reform (Pilaszek 2008: 48–51).
The term witch-hunt comes from the 20th century and is connected to the USA. When
taken literally, it may mislead and distort the image of the phenomenon as it suggests to be
an organized action of chasing witches, which is out of the question as far as Europe is concerned (Pilaszek 2008: 54–55). Still, I will use this name in my work in much more free manner as it refers to witch trials unconnected with one another and random.
A truly intriguing notion that meets Polish reality is witch madness which is a set of common beliefs and phenomena occurring within that epoch. The witchcraft itself is the name
for all magical actions (usually related to the world of symbols) which are to cause particular effects in material world.
Witchcraft trials were usually a confrontation between the world of men, who were
perceived as perfect beings connected to God, and the world of women, who were believed
to be prone to sin and close to the devil. An ideal example of such belief is a 13th century
cisterian pamphlet about women, in which one may read that Eve passed an element of idolatry injected to her body by a snake (Satan) to her daughters, that is, stupid women (Wrzesiński
2006: 9). It was such works that built the pyramid of hatred towards the opposite sex, which
afterwards lead to so great a number of women sentenced to death.
Who were Kalisz witches? What were their characteristics? We know that our local devil’s associates differed widely from their western sisters and had much more pagan and
folklore roots. They very rarely admitted to maintain contact with the devil unless they
were tortured. Most frequently, as it also took place in Kalisz, they “zamawiały” (were casting spells) in the name of God, Holy Mary, and All Saints. Also our witches would attend
Sabbaths less frequently. If they did, their meetings resembled feasts accompanied by singing rather than usual Sabbaths.
As far as the social background of our witches is concerned, the vast majority of them
were villagers and townswomen, who, yet, claimed to meet with hooded witches that were
Witches and witch-hunt in Kalisz region in XVI–XVIII century
in contact with the devil elite. They meant most probably women nobles, who indulged
themselves in witchcraft as well. When it comes to penalty, however, none of the latter was
sentenced to death (Tazbir 1979: 57). Villagers were believed to be pagan or susceptible to it
even in modern history. As an unknown writer claims, “they would rather go to the woods
instead of going to church. And when they come to the temple, they prefer staying at the
graveyard and having conversations so that they do not have to participate in the celebration” (Tazbir 2000: 108).
Polish witches frequently learned their profession while serving at the court, as it was in
the case of Apolonia Porwitowa, who learned everything in the castle in Sieradz.
People involved in wizardry were often outsiders and they maintained contact with
devils. As Kalisz women confessed after tortures, they could even tell the names of their
demonic lords. The price for devil’s help was an unpleasant physical contact with him.
Devils in Kalisz frequently forced their slaves to sexual intercourse by tossing them around
rooms and inflicting physical wounds, as it was in the case of a group of women from Kucharki in Kalisz district. Occasionally, demons would take their female associates to Łysa
Góra. Yet, the Sabbaths took place on local swamps, where, in addition to previously mentioned demons, various musicians and other witches used to come. Those satanic stories
refer to trials from the beginning of the 16th century for the earlier cases investigated by the
court in Kalisz touched upon devils’ interventions only vaguely.
Confessions made during tortures were in most cases very detailed, as in the case of
previously mentioned women from Kucharki. Combined with the confessions of others,
they created an opulence of demons’ world descriptions, according to which, devils used to
wear nobles’ clothes and tended to be socially divided just as much as the inhabitants of the
real world were.
A woman became a witch at the moment of accusation, the reasons for which might be
various, but I have already mentioned this fact in the previous part of this work.
Who were the witches from Kalisz? The first example described in the following chapter
comes from 1580. The record indicates that the sentenced belonged to lower class in local
society – two wandering thieves and a prostitute, to whom any disgracing activity was not
a novelty. A similar pattern appears in other trials, which seem to relate to peasants and
women living further from the town center. What was the cause of the witches being taken
to court? Most often, slanders which were based on true events. Kalisz women brought to
town council dealt with healing, herbalism. It was enough to posses herbal amulets, and
Kalisz case from 1580 can be an example of (Baranowski 1951: 19–21). Notwithstanding, in
most cases, following priests’ worries, spiritual issues were confused with superstitions, to
which Kalisz witches confessed in the first place. Not until they were tortured did they talk
about Sabbaths, demons, and associations with the Devil.
According to the records gathered by Bohdan Baranowski, the history of witch trials in
Kalisz started at the end of 16th century. It was the time during which the witch madness was
taking a heavy toll. The first cases of Zofia from Łekno and Barbara from Radom described
by Baranowski took place in 1580, and the last, Regina Dereniowa’s trial, in 1616. Baranowski’s publication contains descriptions of six trials, few of which ended with the capital punishment. Only the last ones appeared to be related to contacts with the Devil. I will
introduce two more trials which I found in the books that I inserted in the references list.
The lawsuit against several witches from nearby Doruchów, which took place just before
the constitution of 1776, deserves special attention. It was a mysterious trial which is not
eagerly described by most researchers due to insufficient historical records. Nonetheless,
Michał Knychaus
I will not evade touching upon this particular case since it matches the romantic vision of
witches perfectly, and, because it is veiled in mystery, I find it even more intriguing. I will
present this trial basing on descriptions from Wspólniczki Szatana. Czarownice na ziemiach
polskich by Szymon Wrzesiński as it contains the most reliable information.
It can be assumed that not until 1616 an intensified witch-hunt in Kalisz district took
place. Still, a full reconstruction of these events cannot be provided since we lack historical
sources and records from that period (Baranowski 1951: 8).
The story begins with two market thieves: Zofia from Łekno and Barbara from Radom
(Baranowski 1951: 13–24). They both were claimed to be immoral and dealt with prostitution, theft, and profiteering. They were not even afraid of selling crosses stolen from churches. They got to know each other through another thief, Szymek, and went to Kalisz to steal
goods from stalls. However, somebody saw them wearing herbal amulets which rose suspicions. As a result, they were caught and taken to court. After questioning, Zofia was
found not guilty, yet, it is what Barbara testified that one may consider really interesting.
After she had been tortured she told her story which resembled German witches’ stories.
Barbara learned magic from her mother and acted in Gdańsk where she stole milk and used
bread for wizardry. She was also notorious for performing abortions. Similar to German
witches she celebrated magical events such as Walpurgia night. Further tortures brought
her confession of contacts with devils who were summoned by her to serve her person with
help of magical items. The difference is that the witch called devils to be at her disposal and
not, as it is stated later, that she is devils’ servant. Asked about her confession she said that
the priest had told her initially to redress all the evil she had done. Later, she did not mention any wizardry acts during her confessions. Interestingly, while she was being drowned
she begged the Devil to rescue her from death with the following words: czarcie nie daj mię
jeszcze topić, iż jeszcze będę na tym świecie wojowała i obiecaj mi to, że nie utonę (Oh Devil, do not
let them drown me yet so that I could fight in this world, and promise me you will not
drown) (Baranowski 1951: 23).
The further story of these two witches remains unknown. The following case concerns
Elżbieta from Tyniec, who was accused of witchcraft four years after the first trial (Baranowski 1951: 24–27). The record is very brief and informs us that the witch wore amulets
and washed cattle in the water from a nearby river so that the cows produced more milk.
She used wax for foretelling fetuses’ faith. She did all of this in the name of God, Holy Mary,
and All Saints, which is typical of Polish witches. We know Elżbieta’s faith from the records
presented by Baranowski. She was exiled from the town. One may claim that such a punishment was too lenient. However, taking into account the fact that the exiles did not know the
world outside their town, it often meant a slow and painful demise (Pilaszek 2002: 16–17).
The third witchcraft case is related to wizardry only by its name since the women was
cleared of a charge. The trial concerns Małgorzata from Chmielnik, who was brought to
court by her master, a noble called Paweł Pawłowski, and accused of witchery and theft
(Baranowski 1951: 27–30). The women denied using magic and confessed only of stealing
her master’s chest with some jewelry. She committed that crime only because she got to
know that the man was not going to pay her for six month of her work. She was sentenced
to flogging, and the request of tortures in order to prove her connections with the Devil was
Apolonia Porwitowa from Glinki was a woman whose case from 1593 was entirely different (Baranowski 1951: 30–39). She was accused of witchery by her husband, which was
caused by alleged adultery. Then she encountered an avalanche of further accusations, such
as spoiling beer that belonged to a Mr. Sobek. She said her teacher was Jadwiga Pieczanowska from whom she had learned everything while serving at a castle in Sieradz. She dealt
with casting spells on cattle and beer in order to heal it. According to the sources, she ap-
Witches and witch-hunt in Kalisz region in XVI–XVIII century
peared to help people rather than harm them. An example can be the day when a certain
woman came to Apolonia to ask her for help in poisoning the woman’s husband. Apolonia
did not want to kill that man so she gave the woman ordinary water. The woman initially
thought it was poison, but afterwards she came back and thanked Apolonia for that trick as
she and her husband started to get on well again. During her trial Apolonia mentioned
other women being engaged in superstitions rather than magic, who in fact, just like Apolonia herself, performed all the rituals in the name of God, Holy Mary, and All Saints. Her
greatest adversary whom she accused was town’s executioner’s wife.
A real revolution in witch trials was the case of witches from Kucharki who were sentenced to burning at the stake in 1613 (Baranowski 1951: 39–58). The women depicted in the
records maintained contacts with the Devil and match the definition of a witch perfectly. At
the very beginning Dorotka from Siedlikowo, who was supposed to cast a spell on Maciej
Gorczyca, was accused. The woman was captured in an inn where she was often seen arguing with Maciej. Tortures resulted in her confession of witchcraft. She said she had learned
magic from her mother and fortune-teller Serbica. She claimed that she had been helping
people to find their lost possessions with the help of a devil named Kacper. The devil was
supposed to whisper in her ear about those possessions. She also said that she was choked
and forced to sexual intercourse by devils on one Thursday in the windmill. Dorota betrayed her friend, Magda Młynarka, who also frequently argued with Gorczyca. Magda
told in the questioning that she sold her soul to the Devil in order to make her life easier.
While she was summoning devils, a demon called Marcin appeared. He promised to
help but at the same time he raped her. Another accused woman was Gierusza Klimerzyna,
who denied all charges. Still, after the executioner tortured her by burning with a candle
flame, she admitted that she had had an affair with one of devils. The other women also
confessed of maintaining sexual contacts with devils in exchange for help. They were promised to be under devils’ protection as long as they were having intercourses with them.
Sabbaths (taking place at local swamps) and lycantrophy appear in the case of Kucharki
witches as well. The witches were supposed to cover their bodies with ointment which allowed them to change their physical form to cats. Then they would drink milk straight from
Mrs. Wysocka’s cows. They also presented precise descriptions of their devil lovers. They
said: Ci wszyscy diabli w ręku mieli długie palce u nich pazury długie ostre i czarne, kosmaci byli,
używali z nimi póki kur nie zapiał a mówili im oddawajcie się nam będziecie się przy nas dobrze
miały (Baranowski 1951: 46). (All those devils had long fingers and black sharp claws, they
were hairy, they were having intercourses with the witches till dawn, and they were telling
them: let us make love to you and your lives will be better). After the trial all witches were
burned at the stake, which pleased the locals.
Another witch trial concerned the alleged great fire of Kalisz. The accused, Regina Dereciowa from Stawiszyn, was sentenced to burning at the stake in 1616 (Baranowski 1951:
56–66). She was told to had been an acquaintance of recently burned Marusza. Doreciowa
admitted that she had known Marusza, but claimed that she had learned witchcraft from
a fortune-teller from Cholowo and from Jagnieszka Chorabska. Even though the witch tried
to help people by healing their children, her magic turned out to be ineffective. Most enchanted people died and Dereciowa could not boast of a large number of successful spells.
She also confessed of harming people, but she claimed to had made atonement for her
deeds just as her confessor had ordered her. Still, being accused of setting the town on fire,
she was sentenced to stake.
A less known, yet just as much interesting, trial was the case of Regina Organiścina, who
was accused of witchery by Zygmunt Jaraczewski in 1680 (Pilaszek 2008: 71–72, 261). The
witch lived in a country estate of her lord Adam Kurczewski, the owner of the village of
Kowalew. Kurczewski did not want to give her away to court. However, Jaraczewski en-
Michał Knychaus
couraged his friend Jędrzej Jaroszewski to persuade Kurczewski to taking the witch to the
courthouse. When Jaroszewski accompanied by two servants entered Kurczewski’s land in
order to capture the witch, Kurczewski took his saber and attacked them to protect the
woman. Regina was a well-known witch in that area. She was accused of killing cows and
setting the windmill on fire, to which she confessed while still being free. Jaraczewski sent
a letter of complaint to the castle in Kalisz which was considered as it diseussed public nuisance (assault on Mr. Jaroszewski and his men).
The last and, at the same time, the most controversial trial was the case of several witches from Doruchów. It may be considered controversial for it was a lynching that took place
just before the constitution abolishing death penalty for witchery (Wrzesiński 2006:58–60).
In 1775 Mr. Stokowski was the lord of Doruchów, and his wife went down with so-called
Polish plait. A fortune-teller who was summoned to heal the woman claimed that the illness was a result of a spell cast on Stokowski’s wife. Then, she pointed witches allegedly
responsible for this spell. They were Dobra – a wife to a rich landlord Kazimierz, and an
unknown widow, whom the villagers accused of the most terrible deeds such as murdering
her own child. The third witch was a woman who used to throw leaves in the air claiming
it was her way of creating mice. Stokowski arrested these and other suspicious women. As
a result, five farmers’ daughters, one widow and a servant were accused. A local rector
begged the crowd not to lynch the women, but he failed. Nonetheless, the owner of the village was so motivated to hunt the witches that soon seven more women were captured. The
landlord convinced the mayor of the village and the crowd to perform the trial by water.
However, the women were not stripped off, which was supposed to save them from drowning for their long, thick dresses soaked slowly. Since the women did not drown, they were
considered witches. They were quickly taken out of water and carried to the local granary.
Afterwards, they were put inside barrels, with holes previously cut, which were so small
that the women was able only to kneel. The upper parts of barrels were covered with linen.
Small cards with words Jesus, Mary, Joseph were attached to the sides of the barrels as well.
The women were kept in such conditions for certain time. Stokowski, seeking revenge for
his wife’s illness, called in a group of monks, an executioner, and juries, who came from
nearby Grabów. Prefect’s deputy’s house was converted into a courthouse with a table full
of makeshift torture tools. The trial started with stripping the women and hanging them on
hooks, which was so painful for some of them that they died on the spot. The whole trial
was a theater since the witches’ faith was already known. While the women were being
tortured, a huge stake was placed on the main square of the village. All women, even those
who had already been dead, were burned at the stake. The news about that macabre event
must have spread like wildfire all over Poland since such trials were soon abolished.
In my opinion that horrifying event presents perfectly where might have such distorted
witch trials led to. Although its authenticity has not been confirmed yet, I consider it the last
act of witch madness in Kalisz area. Even if not every piece of information on that trial is true,
it must have been borne in people’s minds as a part of the previously mentioned phenomenon. This is how we finally end the chapter devoted to witch-hunting in Kalisz, the region
which was considered by Baranowski a place, where people fight with the Devil most eagerly (Baranowski 1951: 6).
Soon after the events in Doruchów, the parliament, under the influence of humanitarian
ideals, set a bill abolishing tortures and death penalty for witchery in 1776. King Stanisław
August commemorated it by coining a special medal with the following inscription on it:
Mękami wyciągać zawsze wątpliwe wyznania zbrodni, pociągać do sądu obwinionych o rzekome
Witches and witch-hunt in Kalisz region in XVI–XVIII century
związki z mocą szatańską zakazał sejm roku 1776 na wniosek Króla Stanisława Augusta (Wrzesiński
2006: 60) (to obtain doubtful confession by means of tortures, to take to the court accused of
alleged contacts with Satan, the parliament abolished it in 1776 by King Stanisław August’s
One question that still remains is a suspiciously small number of witch trials in so big
a country as Poland was (in comparison to other European countries). One of the reasons
may be the low level of theological and law education concerning demonology (Pilaszek
2008: 195).
The main goal of my work was to present objectively the witch trials in Kalisz region
that I was able to find in literature. I tried not to be influenced by emotions, which should
never accompany historical facts. I leave the assessment of the reliability of the records to
the reader, who, probably, has already shaped his opinion on the subject through reading
this or other works. We do not have any device that would help us understand what in the
minds of the interrogated women was. Nevertheless, numbers unveil an undisputed truth.
Witch hunting was a cruel movement, merciless, and frequently accompanied by sick and
immoral sexuality, aimed at women. It was fueled by simple human emotions such as envy,
jealousy, fear of the unknown. The witches themselves often were not conscious of what
they were saying or doing and the subsequent consequences. The example of Regina Dereciowa can prove the randomness of their actions effectiveness. All charges, in accordance
with the Church’s worries, concerned superstitions rather than acts of sorcery or pacts with
devils. Still, superstitions were not legally punished. Furthermore, women of that time
should not be blamed for superstitions for even in modern societies certain people believe
in them. Perhaps, the judges’ sentences were only a defense against their own dark sides of
their personalities.
Baranowski Bohdan (1951), Najdawniejsze procesy o czary w Kaliszu [ The oldest trials of
witches in Kalisz], Łódź: Polskie Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze [in Polish].
Pilaszek Małgorzata (2002), Procesy czarownic w Polsce XVI-XVIII wieku [Trials of witches
in Poland in XVI-XVIII century], „Mówią Wieki. Magazyn Historyczny” 1 {in Polish].
Pilaszek Małgorzata (2008), Procesy o czary w Polsce w wiekach XV-XVIII [Trials of witchaft
in Poland in XV-XVIII century] , Kraków: Universitas [in Polish].
Ryś Grzegorz (1998), Inkwizycja [The Holy Office], Kraków: Znak [in Polish].
Tazbir Janusz (1978), Kultura szlachecka w Polsce. Rozkwit, upadek, relikty [Noblemen culure
in Poland. The rise, the decline, relics] Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna [in Polish].
Tazbir Janusz (2000), Państwo bez stosów i inne szkice [The state without Stokes and other
essays] , Kraków: Universitas [in Polish].
Wrzesiński Szymon (2006), Wspólniczki szatana. Czarownice na ziemiach polskich [Confederate of satan. The witches in Poland], Warszawa: Agencja Wydawnicza Egros [in
Biographical note: Michał Knychaus graduated the faculty of History at Adam
­Mickiewicz University. With his work “Contestation, transgression and occultism –
the counterculture of second half of the twentieth century” he defend the master
degree diploma. He wrote several articles about the counterculture and history of
magick. His works are connected mostly with modern history and anthropology of
culture. Nowadays he continue his studies at the University of Arts in Poznań in the
fields of visual arts.
Our Europe. Ethnography – Ethnology – Anhropology of Culture
Vol. 3/2014
p. 77–84
Dorota Skotarczak
Instytut Historii UAM
Crime fiction in the period of PRL
(PRL crime fiction)
Abstract: A novel with a socialist police motif is a subgenre of PRL crime fiction which appeared in the
Communist Blok countries. Its characteristic features are as follows: the over-persuasive function, glorification of the socialist police (MO), inspirations which were taken from the poetics of social realism novels,
and low literary standards. In fact, the PRL crime fiction constitutes a far more complex phenomenon.
Along with ideologically biased novels of poor quality, appear those written at a high, professional level.
The latter concerns the authors like Leopold Tyrmand, Andrzej Piwowarczyk and Tadeusz Kostecki. The
most popular authors are Zygmunt Zeydler-Zborowski, Jerzy Edigey, Anna Kłodzińska and Helena Sekuła.
The writing women, mainly represented by Barbara Gordon, set the female trend in PRL crime fiction,
which is worth attention.
Key words: The culture of PRL, mass culture, crime fiction, a novel with a socialist police motif.
Crime fiction originated in the period of PRL [The Polish People’s Republic].
This phenomenon has so far been given little attention ; only a few papers discussed it
(Barańczak 1975; Barańczak 1983; Barańczak 1990; Jastrzębski 1982; Martuszewska 1997;
Skotarczak 2012). Surprisingly, the genre has regained its popularity (Skotarczak 2010: 101–
110, 363–364) likewise the crime films created in PRL, which are available on DVD, and
have repeatedly been shown on a TV screen. Their literary basis were predominantly books.
PRL crime fiction, also known as “A novel with a socialist police motif” (powieść milicyjna),
is the literary term which was first used by Stanisław Barańczak. It has still been an interesting, historical source of knowledge, which has undoubtedly exerted influence on our vision
of the past.
The political and social conditions for the development of crime fiction in PRL have not
always been favorable and simple. Following WWII cultural revival was natural and spontaneous. Private cafes and restaurants appeared , bands began to play the latest popular
hits. Those films which survived the war were played in the cinemas and places adjusted
for the shows. New cultural institutions such as theaters or libraries were opened. The cultural and social rebirth also concerned the editorial movement. Books of different genres,
concerning both classical and popular literature, were edited. The latter involved criminal
fiction which was issued in newspapers in episodes. “Co tydzień powieść” (“Every week
a novel”) a weekly newspaper was then created. Crime fiction was also part of its content.
The foreign as well as Polish authors were published. Antoni Marczyński, a popular, prewar author, and Tadeusz Kostecki , also known as W.T.Christine, were issued. Zygmunt
Zeydler-Zborowski (also known as Emil Zborowski (also known as Emil Zorr), who later
became the classic of the genre, debuted at the time.
Dorota Skotarczak
After only a few years the editorial conditions in Poland became unfavorable for the
popular literature which attracted strong ideological criticism (as a result of the political
policy of the communist authorities). Crime fiction and romance were classified as the “low
standard literature” which spoiled readers’ literary taste, lowered readership standards,
drew the readers from the good quality “ standard literature”, and , finally, were regarded
as the product of the bourgeois culture. Therefore, popular literature could no longer be
printed. All the remaining issues, including those printed before the war, were banned
from public use. The popular weekly newspaper „Co tydzień powieść” („A novel every
week”) ceased to appear. The year 1949 became decisive for crime fiction. Assumed by the
Polish authorities as a typical product of evil western societies and the bourgeois culture
(Kondek 1999: 137-165)1 crime fiction as a separate literary genre was banned for several
In the period of strictly imposed socialist realism in Poland, some authors tried to attract
readers by introducing an interesting, sensational plot. A representative example can be
„Biblioteczka Przygód Żołnierskich” (”A little library of soldiers’ adventures”) issued during the years 1951-1955 where the authors like Tadeusz Kostecki, Bohdan Arct, Zbigniew
Safjan published their books. The plot usually concerned the struggle against spies and
saboteurs, but its main goal was to fulfill the propaganda guidelines of the socialist ruling
In 1955 along with the first issue of “Zły” ( “The man with white eyes”) by Leopold
Tyrmand the situation altered. The book became a bestseller and a big sensation. The whole
issue was sold out very quickly. This pointed to the symptoms of political thaw in culture
which could be noticed after October 1956.
Crime fiction was favored again. It was published in books, issued in episodes in daily
newspapers. Some books were reprinted in several dailies to the financial benefit of their
authors. Also foreign writers published their books 2.
The second half of the fifties turned out to be a very good period for the development of
crime fiction. The term “powieść milicyjna” (“A novel with a socialist police motif”) did not
exist at the time. It appeared many years later in the publications of Stanisław Barańczak.
Both Barańczak and Matuszewska defined the “novel with a socialist police motif” as the
one which derived from crime fiction. Its characteristic feature was over-persuasive function, a role model of a policeman, and a bipolar picture of the world. In crime fiction, as well
as in all literary work, these were to serve to present the socialist system as superior to the
capitalist one, with a vision of the world which reflected the socialist ruling party guidelines, not the reality. The socialist police (MO) was presented favorably as well as the representatives of the ruling party and its authorities. The police was presented as a positive
character, not a villain, the only one to be able to solve criminal cases. An average citizen
when confronted with a policeman, appeared to be inferior and less clever. Barańczak performed the analysis of the crime fiction based on a book series called „Ewa wzywa 07…”
(“Eve calls 07…”) which began to appear in 1969. Although “a novel with a socialist police
motif” also known as PRL crime fiction did not appear that year, still, the term applies to
the whole literary work of the crime fiction genre from the mid-fifties until 1989.
„Zły” („The man with white eyes”) by Leopold Tyrmand does not seem to comply with
the picture of the “ novel with a socialist police motif” presented by Baranczak in his publication. The world is far from the ideal one. It resembles critical and audacious articles of
Tadeusz Kostecki, Marek Romański, Antoni Marczyński, and Agatha Christie were blacklisted
More information on the editorial market includes an excellent lexicon Serią po kryminałach, czyli katalog
konesera kryminałów z PRL, ( The crime fiction series or the catalogue of crime fiction connoisseur) edited by A. Lewandowska, B. Brzózka and G. Cielecki, Warszawa 2009.
Crime fiction in the period of PRL (PRL crime fiction)
„Po prostu” (“Simply”) weekly newspaper or the black series of a Polish documentary
(Nastałek-Żygadło 2013) rather than a stereotypical “laurka”. Poverty prevails in the society, vodka is overused in large amounts, gangs of youngsters wander along the streets to
spread terror among Warsaw citizens. The police seems to be powerless, only frauds and
criminals lead a comfortable and prosperous life.
A man with white eyes, a protagonist, once a criminal, becomes a converted man, chases hooligans, protects citizens, smashes a gang. Yet, the police chases Zły ( the man with
white eyes). The citizens cannot protect themselves as they are only vulnerable victims who
could only be saved by the police even if it becomes powerless. Tyrmand tried to create
lieutenant Dziarski, as a likeable, positive character, but, the message of the novel is as follows: Zły, the protagonist, is the only one determined to really fight crime whereas the police is unable to keep the citizens safe on the streets. The socialist policemen are far more
eager to catch Zły who only mobilizes people to fight hooligans. Zły is finally arrested by
the police but the reader’s sympathy and the sense of justice are on his side. Zły becomes
a positive character unlike lieutenant Dziarski.
„Zły” by Tyrmand influenced the way crime fiction in Poland evolved. Books that appeared during several years following the issue of “Zły”, resembled or copied the novel to
various extent. In „Oczy Alchemika”(“The Alchemic’s Eyes” ) by Robert Azderball (1959),
a police lieutenant ,colonel Burke turns out to be a criminal and a gang boss, unlike in the
case of “a novel with a socialist police motif”. Other examples can be „Śmierć w galerii”
(„The death in a gallery”) by Jerzy Dudzic and Bogdan Majchrzak (1959), „Czarny mercedes” („The black Mercedes”) (1958), and „Zaczęło się w sobotę” (“It began on Saturday”)
by Zygmunt Zeydler-Zborowski (1960). Andrzej Piwowarczyk wrote novels like „Stary zegar” („The old clock”), „Królewna” („The Princess”) and „Maszkary” (“Scarecrows”) (1955–1957)
where a protagonist, captain Gleb conducts an investigation. Also, „Pięć manekinów”
(„Five Mannequins”), „Przystań Eskulapa” („Esculap’s Marina”) by Edmund Niziurski
(1959), and „Nieznajomy z baru Calypso” („ A stranger from Calypso Bar”) „Ruda modelka” (“ A red model”) by Dominik Damian (real name Adam Bahdaj, 1959). „Druga śmierć
Barbary”(„The second death of Barbara”) by Wanda Balicka (1958) is an interesting example, the protagonist, a repatriate from the Soviet Union represents people the authorities
were reluctant to refer to or talk about. Also „Kwiaty od zaginionej” (“Flowers from a missing person”) by Danuta Bieńkowska is worth to mention as a female protagonist, amateurdetective Tekla seems to be modelled on writer Anna Kowalska , a close friend of Maria
Dąbrowska, also a writer.
These novels constitute a separate subgenre of “ October thaw crime fiction” or “ October thaw novel with a socialist police motif” where the picturesque criminal world in Poland is connected with private businesses which intermingle with state businesses, poverty
among people is common, and the members of the socialist police (MO) and the Safety
Service (SB) are interestingly portrayed. However, unlike such courageously written books,
other novels still follow the official guidelines of the novel with a socialist police motif
The political changes in 1956 and the October Thaw in culture positively influenced the
quality of written work in all disciplines of culture. Unfortunately, this situation did not last
long so the October Thaw achievements were not preserved. Following several years of
relative freedom in politics, business and culture, Władysław Gomułka ,the socialist ruling
party leader, imposed tougher political rules. Socialist realism could no longer be revived
but artistic freedom was soon banned as well , along with „Po prostu” (“Simply”) weekly
and the black series in the Polish cinema.
This situation also affected crime fiction, although, the exact date of the change is difficult to set. The message of the books and portraits of policemen gradually evolved – a po-
Dorota Skotarczak
liceman, according to the political trend, could no longer be flawless. A director of a big
state enterprise appeared as a new, interesting black character, which is characteristic of
crime fiction of the sixties. Also women appeared as writers: Barbara Gordon (i.e. Larysa
Zajączkowska-Mitzner) and Joanna Chmielewska (i.e. Irena Kuehn), who equipped their
novels with specific ,untypical features.
The developing tendency showed depravation of the management elite and the lower
rank authorities, which resulted from political and social situation in the sixties. Numerous
economic scandals were revealed, discussed and publicized in newspapers. The most famous was so called “meat scandal” which ended with the death sentence (Jarosz, Pasztor
2004). Contrary to the requirements of the ruling party to present socialist enterprises only
in a positive light, abuse and thefts in state companies were shown in PRL crime fiction. The
authorities partly lifted a ban on writing about negative aspects of the socialist system. An
interesting example is a novel by Barbara Gordon: „Proces poszlakowy”, (“A Circumstantial
legal case”) 1963; „Klika”, (“The clique”) 1964; „Dwaj panowie w »Zodiaku«”, (“Two men in a Zodiak”) 1969; and „Ćmy”, (“Moths”) 1976 which was edited many years after it had been
written in 1969, the date was included at the end of the book. Also, Kazimierz Kwaśniewski
(real name Maciej Słomczyński): „Śmierć i Kowalski”, („The Death and Kowalski”) 1962,
Andrzej Zbych – (real name Zbigniew Safjan and Andrzej Szypulski): „Bardzo dużo pajacyków, („A lot of Rompers”)1968, and Anna Kłodzińska: „Malwersanci” („ Embezzlers”)
PRL crime fiction in the sixties often presents the hardship of the life of a policeman.
They are not well-off, have family problems due to the lack of time for their wives and children, live in small apartments and their holiday leaves are interrupted. The motif of a policeman who is full of sacrifice for only a small payment often appears in the novel with
a socialist police motif . Policemen seem to be the worst paid employees, with no extra profits for their work. The only price they can receive is a good word of their superior and
­satisfaction resulting from the properly fulfilled duty. Sometimes they are also gratified by
a golden watch, from their superior, with an engraving on it.
The best example seem to be the crime fiction novels by Jacek Wołowski: „Porwano
dziecko”, (“A child was kidnapped) 1959; „Kariera porucznika Chudego”, (“A carrier of
lieutenant Chudy”) 1961; „Uwaga wszystkie radiowozy”, (“Attention all the Police cars”)
1962; and „Oset pleni się w mroku”, (“ Thistle grows rankly in the darkness”) (1963) where
lieutenant Chudy lives in a cramped room with a wife and two children. Bandits threaten
to kidnap his child, he is heavily wounded, often spends long hours at work, does not have
enough sleep, is on a poor diet. Finally, he has prospects for promotion which is a two room
apartment. Lieutenant Mały dies on duty, killed cruelly by some criminals. The widowed
wife visits his grave. Captain Suchy’s wife also becomes a widow. Likewise Mały, Suchy is
killed on duty. Lieutenant Spokojny does not leave his duty even if he receives a telegram
from his wife about a serious illness and operation of their child. The duty is the most important. Spokojny fears his wife’s reproach but she is understanding. Finally, his friends
help to take care of his wife and the child. Hard duty, sacrifice and poverty prevail. The
names of the policemen are also significant : Chudy (Thin), Spokojny (Calm), Mały (Small),
Suchy (Dry) etc. They seem to reflect the peasant ancestry of Wołowski’s characters.
It is not easy for captain Bul, the protagonist of novels by Jan Artur Bernard (real name
Bohdan Patecki), like „Telefonował morderca” (“The murderer called”) (1969), „Noc Robin
Hooda” (“Robin Hood’s night”) (1970), to make the ends meet. At least, he leads a successful personal life, unlike captain Wójcik, the main character of a novel „Czas zatrzymuje się
dla umarłych” (“The time stops for the dead”) (1969) by Artur Morena (real name Andrzej
Wydrzyński). Again, there are interrupted holidays, 24 hours duty, work up till night,
which are common, like in „Skok śmierci” (“The Death Jump”) (1969) by Adrian Czabot
Crime fiction in the period of PRL (PRL crime fiction)
(real name Aleksander Minkowski and Władysław Krupka), or „Uwaga, komunikat specjalny” (“ Attention, a special communique”) by Zbigniew Safjan, (1969).
Love and romantic heart outbursts are familiar to the socialist police officers. Especially
for captain Downar from a novel by Zaydler-Zborowski. Others more seriously think of
women. Lieutenant Chmura is unhappily in love with a beautiful woman, who is a prosecutor „Błękitne Szynszyle” (“Blue Chinchillas”) (1960) by Barbara Gordon. Captain Ziętek
happily falls in love with a girl he is supposed to protect: „Zbrodniarz i panna” (“A criminal
and an unmarried girl”) (1965) by Kazimierz Kwaśniewski. Lieutenant Widerski will most
probably marry Hanka, a student in Zbrodnia w południe” (“The Crime at Noon”) (1970)
by Jerzy Edigey (real name Jerzy Korycki), as in the case of lieutenant Sępłowicz and Rita
– „Kindżał z Magirota” (“A Dagger from Magirot”) (1963) by Emila Cassa-Kasicka (real
name Irena Szymańska-Matuszewska). Mayor Grassus as a modest Mr Sudo makes Miss
Skoroń, the daughter of the killed professor, fall in love with him – „Będę zamordowana”
(“I will be killed”) (1970) by Kazimierz Korkozowicz. Lieutenant Zieliński seems to make
a couple with his old love Ewa, a judge, – „Gdzie jest Joachim Finke” (“Where is Joachim
Finke”) (1962) by Zeydler-Zborowski.
A major, or a lieutenant who wisely and carefully conduct a team of policemen carrying
investigation, appear in almost all of the novels with a socialist police motif. The team of
investigators and experts is always accompanied by a medical examiner who finally helps
to find out the perpetrator. However, each of them alone cannot successfully fulfil their
duty, as the team work is praised over individuality, even if erudition and good education
of the socialist police officer are appreciated („To nie oryginał, Hieronimie”, (“It isn’t an
original, Hieronim”) 1969, by Krzysztof Opatowski, where a lieutenant is an expert in painting. This rule, which is strictly followed mainly in the sixties, fulfills the criterion of the
subgenre of the novel with a socialist police motif . Team work supervised by a kind officer
of a higher rank is important and guarantees success.
An exception to the rule, can be legal advisor Zamojski, who conducts investigation ,in
some novels by Barbara Gordon „Waza króla Priama” (“The King Priam’ Vase”) 1968,
„Proces poszlakowy”) (“The circumstantial trial”), or female prosecutor Anna Swigoń who
cooperates with lieutenant Chmura („Błękitne szynszyle”) (“Blue Chinchillas”).
The Police officers of the Socialist Police Headquarters in Warsaw, the seat in the
Mostkowskis’ Palace, always supervise the investigation, no matter where the plot is set
outside Warsaw. They support their colleagues from the province as if they were unable
themselves to complete the investigation. This shows the absurdity of centralized power,
where every decision had to be accepted by the highest rank officers: „Krawaty kapitana
Obary” (“Captain Obara’s Ties”) (1962) by Maciej Pozim (real name Andrzej Ziemowit Zimowski), „Noc Robin Hooda” (“Robin Hood’s Night”).
In the seventies Edward Gierek became First Secretary of the socialist ruling party. At
the beginning the standard of living significantly increased, but the ruling power became
even more centralized based on the increasingly spreading propaganda of success. In the
second half of the decade the economic situation worsened along with a growing social
discontent, yet, the propaganda of success was continued.
The term a novel with socialist police motif seemed at the time most appropriate than
ever. A captain officer, the protagonist of „Tajemnica gotyckiej komnaty” („The mystery of
the Gothic Chamber”) by Władysław Krupińskio (real name Władysław Krupka), which
appeared in 1971, the first year of Gierek’s rule, says:” We worked together and also together were responsible for its results. We knew that only the collective effort counted in
solving the most difficult mysteries.” (p. 5). The socialist police works collectively. The authors presented the effective political methods of the ruling party. A good and kind boss,
Dorota Skotarczak
police officer or colonel like a father always supports the socialist police officers, sometimes
he reproaches them, yet, is always ready to give a good advice. “He was simply able to gain
the authority on us, conduct us, and we, operational officers found it particularly precious“
– says the captain in the book (p. 5). The characters of a major, colonel or boss can be modelled on Edward Gierek, First Secretary of the ruling party.
Books written by female authors are an exception. In „Nieuchwytny” (“Elusive”) (1977)
by Barbara Gordon, investigation is conducted by Anna , a woman, who has no connections
with the socialist police (MO). However, it is not a comedy, like in the books by Joanna
Chmielewska in which the socialist police (MO) still has the last, decisive word. “Nieuchwytny” (“Elusive”) deals with a baffling subject associated with Marchwicki, a man who
was convicted of numerous murders of women. In „Karolino nie przeszkadzaj” (“Karolina
don’t disturb”) by Barbara Krzysztoń (1976), a grandmother of the man who carries out
investigation, notoriously interrupts the proceedings. In „Kto się bał Stefana Szaleja” („Who
was afraid of Stefan Szalej”) (1973) by Anna Kormik (real name Irena SzymańskaMatuszewska) an investigation is conducted by an old professor, respected by the socialist
police (MO). The women-authors seem to have more freedom in writing, as if they were
treated less seriously.
The effort and sacrifice invariably appear in the portrayal of the socialist police officers
(MO). Cancelled or interrupted holidays, work late at night, 24 hour duty are present in
almost every book of the seventies. However the socialist police officers are no longer poor.
They are not wealthy either, even major Downar owns only a bachelor apartment, but poverty is not emphasized. A socialist police officer becomes a member of the Gierek era society with aspirations of the middle class. The socialist hero, previously created by the socialist propaganda regime, is replaced. Yet, the police officers still sacrifice themselves to protect
the society: „Off side” (1978) by Maciej Z. Borowicz, „Dziewczyna w męskiej koszulce”
(“A girl in a male shirt”) (1973) by Zeydler-Zborowski, „Złote koło” (“The golden wheel”)
(1971) by Ścibor-Rylski, „Świetliste ostrze” (“The lucent blade”) (1977) by Andrzej K.
Bogusławski, „Co lubią tygrysy” (“What the tigers like”) (1975) by Rafał Jedut, „Skradziony
gwóźdź” (“The stolen nail”) (1972) by Tadeusz Kraszewski.
Another constant element put forward is intelligence of the policemen, especially the
police officers. The authors wanted to present them as educated, well-red and broad-minded people who eagerly offer help and advice to the youngers: „Zatrzymaj zegar o jedenastej” (“Stop the clock at eleven”) (1973) by Barbara Nawrocka, „Żmije złote i inne” (“Golden
snakes and others”) (1972) by Bernard, „Arlekinie” (“Dear harlequin”) (1972) by Artur
Morena, „Inspektor ze Scotaland Yardu” (“Inspector from the Scotland Yard”) (1976) and
„Krzyżówka z Przekroju” (“A Crossword from “Przekrój” magazine”) by ZeydlerZborowski (1976). They often are handsome lovers who win attractive girls („Karolino nie
przeszkadzaj” (“Caroline don’t disturb”); „Dwie twarze Krystyny” (“Two faces of Catherine”), 1976, by Jerzy Edigey; „Osiem ramion bogiń Kali” (“The eight arms of Kali’s goddesses”) ,1976, by Danuta Frey; „To strach tylko, kochanie” (“It’s only fear, darling”), 1975,
by Kazimierz Dębnicki.
The novels with a socialist police motif of the seventies do not emanate the strong socialist ideology. However in some books it still prevails: „Dolina nocy” (“The night valley”) by
Barbara Gordon (1980) which shows the heroic beginnings of the socialist police’s activity,
their fight against gangs (which personified the underground of the independent movement) and the nobleness of the socialist ruling power. In „Zatrzymaj zegar o jedenastej”
(“Stop the clock at eleven”) captain Korda says to a former AK soldier (Home Army), who
executed the previous judgment, that the man is worth as much as they serve the society,
Crime fiction in the period of PRL (PRL crime fiction)
and that the mistakes of the AK(Home Army) soldier result from rejecting the communism
and the officers who belonged to the system.
The eighties represent the final, decadent period for the novel with a socialist police
motif, although the genre is still popular. All the previous motifs are continued. The hardship of the socialist policeman’s life, who has little time for his wife and children, is accented. It is often followed by a divorce due to his sacrifice to a difficult but necessary police
duty: („Dzień szósty”) (“The sixth day”), 1985, by Zygmunt Janet; „Skorpion czeka na
mordercę”, 1989, (“The Scorpio is waiting for a murderer”) by Dominik Karo.
The novels by Anna Kłodzińska are to some extent unusual. In „W pogardzie prawdy”
(“Contempt of the truth”) (1982) the wild crowd of people attacks the police car and beats
good and honest policemen. Also appear leaflets which criticize the socialist police (MO)
and call people to boycott it. This may refer to the Solidarity Movement which was officially associated with hostile circles in the West. As a result, crime spreads everywhere.
However, the socialist police (MO) and faithfull major Szczęsny do not give up. Fortunately, 13 December 1981brings the introduction of the martial law in Poland. Kłodzińska’s
books are filled with the strong socialist propaganda likewise in the previous periods. Now
the author clearly supports the socialist ruling power. The policemen are schematic, scathing and flawless: „Zdrajca” (“The traitor”), 1984; „Trzy ciosy sztyletem” (“Three strokes
with a dagger”), 1986; „Za progiem mroku” (“Behind the threshold of darkness”) (1988).
The reckoning motif also appears – again, black characters are directors of state enterprises or influential people of the artistic circles. The socialist police (MO) in the eighties
arouses no suspicion even if a police officer has unclear and suspicious family situation.
Finally, the problem is solved out to his benefit („Zemsta”) (“Revenge”), 1989, by Marianna
Szymusiak, as corruption might have easily happened in the previous decade or be the result of complex business and political links, typical of that period „Dzwonnik z Friedlandu”
(“A bell-ringer from Friendland”) (1985) by Krystyn Ziemski (real name Wiesław Godziemski and Krystyna Światecka), „Za żadne pieniądze” (“For no money”) (1987) by Wojciech
Piotr Kwiatek, „Grzęzawisko” (“Swamp”) (1981)by Anna Kłodzińska, „Inny czas” (“A different time”) (1983) by Andrzej Dziurawiec.
Likewise in the previous period some authors attempt to revive police officers characters who appear to be more schematic in the eighties than before. This sometimes brings
grotesque results, like in the case of police officers, who become sex fiends, and seem to be
modelled on James Bond character. However, the Polish agents turn out to be less convincing „Kryptonim kutyna” (“Cryptonym kutyna”), 1989, by Andrzej Błażej. In other books
this motif is less visibly exposed, instead, an ordinary romance usually leads to a true relationship, like in „Sąsiadka kapitana Kotwicza” (“A neighbor of captain Kotwicz”) by Klara
S. Meralda (real name Olga Zapolska-Więcko) or „Debiut” (“The debut”) by Andrzej Dziurawiec – both from 1983.
Another method to revive the protagonists is to equip them with unusual features of
character, or unique interests :„Msza za mordercę” (“The mass for a murderer”), 1988, by
Jeremi Bożkowski (real name Bożena Ciecierska-Więcko), „U progu miłości” (“At the threshold of love”), 1983, by Jerzy Parfiniewicz „Demon z bagiennego boru” (“The demon from
a swampy forest”), 1981.
Crime fiction in the period of PRL undoubtedly constitutes a complex phenomenon,
altering throughout the time. The most interesting seem to be crime fiction novels from the
second half of the fifties, including “Zły” (The Man with White Eyes”) by Leopold Tyrmand, who set the new standards. In the sixties the main features of a novel with a socialist
police motif developed. The plot mostly concerns a criminal offence, mainly a murder, and
a perpetrator must be punished because the investigation is conducted by the well-qualified
team of socialist police officers, who are full of sacrifice to find him. The emphasis is put on
Dorota Skotarczak
a collective work, therefore, the characters of socialist policemen are little individualized.
These rules of crime fiction are obeyed more strictly in the following decade. In crime fiction written by female authors, especially, by Joanna Chmielewska and Barbara Gordon,
there are some exceptions. The eighties show the slowly upcoming end to the novel with
a social police motif. The authors are looking for a new formula. Likewise Anna Kłodzińska,
some writers are still trying to maintain the apology of socialism, against the altering
Biographical note: Dorota Skotarczak – Professor at the Institute of History, Adam
Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Chair of Visual History. Scientific interests include
history of culture and visual methods in history. Recently published Historia wizualna
[Visual History, Poznań 2013].