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Svidnik Folk Festival

Svidnik Folk Festival — the oldest and largest Rusyn traditional cultural festival held annually in Svidnik, Slovakia. It began in 1955 in the town of Medzilaborce as the Review (Ohliad) of Traditional Culture and Amateur Folk Ensembles among the Ukrainian Inhabitants of Czechoslovakia. The following year it moved to Svidnik, where it has been held ever since. Over the years the name of the festival has varied; it has been known as the Festival of Song and Dance of the Ukrainian Inhabitants of Eastern Slovakia (1958-1960), and later of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1961-1976), and as the Festival of Culture of the Ukrainian Workers of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1977-1989). Since 1993 it has been called the Festival of Culture of the Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia/Sviato kul’tury rusyniv-ukraintsiv Slovachchyny.

The Svidnik Folk Festival lasts two days each June, during which time anywhere from 20 to 60 amateur ensembles from Rusyn villages in the *Presov Region perform songs, dances, and at times skits recalling traditional village life (weddings, children’s games, bringing in the harvest, etc.). The second day usually concludes with a review (estrada) of folk ensembles from neighboring countries and the region’s own professional *PULS Folk Ensemble from Presov.

Established during the height of the Cold War, the Svidnik Folk Festival has always been heavily politicized. Until 1989 it was routinely attended by high-level officials of the Communist party, whose introductory speeches stressed loyalty to the socialist system of Czechoslovakia and its closest ally, the Soviet Union. An integral part of the festival has been a visit to the nearby World War II battle site at the *Dukla pass and the laying of wreaths at Svidnik’s cemetery honoring the Soviet war dead. The festival has also been considered an important instrument for stressing the alleged “Ukrainian” national identity of the local Rusyn population. Throughout its history, the Svidnik Folk Festival has been organized by the *Cultural Union of Ukrainian Workers of Czechoslovakia and its successor, the *Union of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia. In the post-Communist era, it continues to attract officials from the Slovak government as well as from independent Ukraine. Despite the politicized context of the festival, its wide-range of Rusyn and other Slavic folkloric performances attracts large audiences. Some 4,000 people attended the first festival (1955); since the 1960s attendance has ranged from 30,000 to 50,000.

Bibliography: Iurii Bacha, Narod spivaie (Bratislava and Presov, 1965); Ivan Chyzhmar, Dvadtsiat’ rokiv Sviata pisni i tantsiu ukrains’koho naselennia ChSSR—Svydnyk/Dvadsat’ rokov Slavnosti piesni a tancov ukrajinskeho obyvatel’stva v CSSR—Svidnik (Svidnik, 1974); Ivan Chyzhmar, XXV rokiv Sviata kul’tury ukrains’kykh trudiashchykh ChSSR—Svydnyk/XXV rokov Slavnosti kultury ukrajinskych pracujucich CSSR—Svidnik (Kosice, 1979); Mykola Mushynka, Zapovit predkiv/Odkaz predkov (Presov, 1994).

Paul Robert Magocsi

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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