Left: Map of Subcarpathia; Ungvár fortress (Wikimedia Commons); Right: Lamplighter (photo: Anzhelika Gladkaia); Bottom: Byzantine cathedral (photo: Thaler Tamás).
Erika Papp Faber
The Hungarian tribes, entering the Carpathian Basin by way of Verecke Pass in the year 894, captured Ungvár from a leader named Laborc (whom I could not trace). According to the Gesta Hungarorum, the chronicle authored by King Béla III’s scribe Anonymus, it was at Ungvár that the chieftain Álmos handed over leadership of the Hungarians to his son Árpád.
A fortress stood on the site in the 9th-10th centuries, which some say was built by the Slavs, but others claim was established by the Hungarian settlers. At any rate, it became one of the important Hungarian border fortresses during the Árpád dynasty’s rule.
The Mongolian invasion of 1241 brought serious damage to Ungvár fortress as it devastated the rest of the nation. In 1248, King Béla IV endowed Ungvár with city rank and rights, making it a part of Ung County.
Around the year 1320, Ungvár came into possession of the Drugeths, a family with Italian origins. They were the ones who began to rebuild the fortress. A new bridge was built, spanning the Ung River, and commerce flourished.
It was also about this time that German, Flemish and Italian settlers arrived in the city, probably as part of royal efforts to repopulate the country which had not yet recovered from the Mongolian onslaught. (According to credible historic sources, in the one year they were ravaging the country, 40%-50% of the population of Hungary had been exterminated by the Mongolians!)
King Károly Róbert elevated Ungvár to the privileged rank of free royal city, which brought about the development of a middle class. In the 16th-17th centuries, various factories opened in the city.
During the Reformation, Ungvár became an important Protestant center, but due to the efforts of the Jesuit Pázmány Péter, Drugeth György returned to the Catholic faith, and the widow of another Drugeth brought the Jesuit monastery from Homonna to Ungvár. Consequently, religious battles broke out between the Protestant German settlers and the Jesuits.
It was in the chapel of Ungvár fortress that the agreement now known as the Union of Ungvár was finalized on April 24th, 1646. According to its terms, the Rusyn2 clergy, which had been part of the Orthodox Church3, agreed to rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. The agreement stipulated that they would retain the Eastern liturgy in its entirety; that bishops were to be chosen by a synod of the clergy and confirmed by the Apostolic See; and that the united clergy were to receive all the ecclesiastic and civil privileges accorded to the Roman Catholic clergy.4 This meant the beginning of a new denomination, that of the Byzantine, or Greek Catholics.
After the defeat of the Rákóczi freedom fight against the Habsburgs in 1711, Ungvár gradually lost its privileges, although it eventually became the County seat (1769). Following Emperor Joseph II’s edict of toleration, Jewish settlers swarmed into Ungvár, mostly from Galicia, taking over much of the commerce previously handled by Greeks.
After the Freedom Fight of 1848-49, Ungvár began to develop, with the paving of streets, installation of a sewer system, reconfiguration of fire-prone roofing structures. Incorporating of the railroad line into the Hungarian rail network brought a great upswing of the cultural and economic life of the city, with the establishment of financial and other public institutions.
The Trianon ”Treaty” (1920) gave Ungvár to Czechoslovakia, until 1938. Then the First Vienna Award returned it to Hungary, until 1944, when Russian troops took over. In 1945, Ungvár, as all of Subcarpathia, came under Ukrainian, and as such, Soviet jurisdiction. In 1991, Ukraine became independent, and so Ungvár is now Uzhhorod and is under Ukrainian jurisdiction.
In addition to Kolodko Mihály (see article about his mini statues elsewhere in this issue), other famous people born in Ungvár include Lipschütz Salomon/Samuel, born on July 4th, 1863. He emigrated to New York in 1880, and was a US Chess champion between 1892 and 1894. He wrote a 122-page American Appendix to George H.D. Gossip’s ”The Chess-Player’s Manual”, which, according to the Oxford Companion to Chess, ”helped make this one of the standard opening books of the time.”
Another famous son of Ungvár is Bodnár András, born April 9, 1942, an Olympic water polo champion at the Tokyo Games in 1964. He was also seven-time Hungarian water polo champion and twice European champion.
1Uzhhorod in Ukrainian means ”City on the Uzh”
2Rusyns are the local ethnic group originating in the Carpathian Mountains.
3The Orthodox Church broke away from the Western (Roman) Catholic Church in 1054.
4While the Roman Catholic clegy is not allowed to marry, the Byzantine, or Greek
Catholics may marry. Bishops, however, are elected only from among the unmarried priests.