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History

The Department of Economic and Social Geography, Demography and Territorial Development belongs to the oldest geographical institutions in Slovakia (altogether with current Geographical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University). It is important to mention that during its history; the department changed its name for a few times. Original name – Department of Economic Geography (since 1952), had been replaced by name Department of Social and Economic Geography in 1986. Since 1992 the department had used name Department of Human Geography and Demogeography and since 2012 it used name Department of Human Geography and Demography. Current name had been approved in 2019. At present, the department belongs to the largest university geography departments in Slovakia, the only one specialised in human geography and demography.

Although established officially in 1952, the department follows earlier traditions of „anthropogeography“ that had been evolving within the Comenius University since twenties of the 20th century, predominantly thanks to Czech geographers (first lectures in geography could attend students at Comenius University in school year 1921/1922). Besides foundation of separate organisational unit for geography („Geographical Seminar“) within Comenius University Faculty of Letters (1923), substantial shift documented foundation of separate „Anthropogeography Seminar“ in 1938. Professors J. Král and J. Hromádka can be considered as the main representatives of anthropogeography at that time Comenius University (although their interests were manifold).

More strengthened position of geography at the Comenius University (but in Slovak science in general) had been achieved in year 1940, thanks to formation of Geographical Institute (chaired by J. Hromádka) within the framework of newly established Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Slovak University (name used in 1939-1945). It opened possibilities for formation of new generation of Slovak geographers also after the World War II (within anthropogeography we can mention Š. Fekete, J. Verešík, J. Kosír).

Key historical point concerning the development of the department had been foundation of Faculty of Geological and Geographical Sciences at Comenius University. Geographical Institute had been divided into Department of Economic Geography and Department of Physical Geography (in 1952). Because of these processes, first specialised university department had been established focusing on research and university education in economic geography in Slovakia. Its first chair had been A. Šíma. Working position within the department obtained for example V. Lobotka, M. Čorný, K. Ivanička. The department had been again integrated into Faculty of Natural Sciences in 1959, as a result of reorganisation processes at the faculty level. At that time, K. Ivanička became the chair of the department. The department had been growing afterwards, thanks to increase in number of employees (among them we can mention O. Bašovský, J. Paulov, J. Mládek, J. Slosiarik, later also E. Otrubová, P. Miššeje). Members of the department substantially contributed to the development of that time Slovak geography. Their research focused on issues in geography of industry, settlement and population studies, tourism, as well as introduction of numerous methodological innovations. Large number of extensive research projects outcomes in economic geography had been published, for example in special journal editions of Acta Facultatis Rerum Naturalium Universitatis Comenianae – Geographica. The department strengthened its status by obtaining the rights to complete degrees at the third level of university education (comparable to current PhD studies). In seventies, the department contributed to foundation of the third geographical department within the Comenius University (Department of Regional Geography) by transfer of part of its staff (1974). New chair of the department had been M. Zaťko. New staff members included later life long department members P. Korec, P. Spišiak and V. Slavík. They intensified research in geography of transport, agriculture and settlement studies. Most of the department’s that time members significantly contributed to elaboration of the representative Atlas of the Slovak Socialist Republic (1980). In 1981, J. Mládek had been appointed as new chair of the department. Personal growth supported transfer of staff previously working at the Pedagogical Faculty in Trnava (J. Sabaka), and contracting of new scientific workers as V. Sameliak, D. Jurčová, J. Buček (during second half of eighties). Numerous books, university textbooks, scientific articles had been completed in this period. The department covered at that time majority of standard partial disciplines of economic and social geography, as well as set of additional disciplines (as statistics, informatics).

Deep societal changes after year 1989 generated new challenges for the department and initiated massive revitalisation in its work. New chair of the department had been V. Slavík and later P. Korec. Besides traditional themes in research, increased attention to newly emerging issues like unemployment, regional social and economic differentiation, transformation processes (e.g. in cities), or public administration reorganization. New courses, also reflecting rising number of students and their diverse needs were introduced into study programmes. As a response to labour market demand, the department started to provide also distant form of education focusing on needs of transformed public administration. In 1997, J. Mládek had been again appointed as the chair of the department. Afterwards (in 1998), growing department had been divided into two parts – Human Geography Division (led by P. Korec) and Demogeography and Demography Division (led by J. Mládek). It also reflected rising attention to population development issues. The department has been the only one providing education in demography and population studies in Slovakia. Personal composition of the department enhanced new colleagues, for example D. Kusendová, M. Horňák, I. Bučeková.

In 2000, P. Korec had been again appointed for the position of chair of the department, J. Mládek for chairing demogeography and demography division, and J. Buček for chairing human geography division. The department expanded in its staff number during this period, thanks to new research and teaching contracts given to R. Fila, G. Nováková, A. Rochovská, B. Bleha, V. Bačík. Such expansion led to growing number of research projects and publication outcomes. Distant studies started to be provided also at the master level. Among the most important joint results, we can consider Population Atlas of the Slovak Republic, altogether with Demographic Analysis of Slovakia (2006). Since this year, B. Bleha started to chair the demogeography and demography division. This decade after year 2000 had been typical by rising attention to research in regional development and policy, urban structures, population development and structures, population forecasting, marginal regions, poverty and social exclusion, public policies and public administration organisation, cross-border and inter-municipal cooperation, geoinformatics, local economic development etc. Education quality had been improved thanks to set of new university textbooks completion. To the end of this decade among new colleagues we can find M. Káčerová, J. Majo and S. Ondoš.

The next decade in the history of the department brought new dimensions of activities. The Department enjoyed great interest among students at all levels and the expansion of its research activities. Within the accreditation process, the content of study programs had been updated at all levels, and e.g. range of courses taught in English expanded. Management of the department has changed in 2011. J. Buček has been appointed as chair of the department and P. Korec and B. Bleha as chairs of its two divisions. Thanks to new research projects and opened position at the department working contracts obtained J. Rusnák, M. Plešivčák, M. Klobučník and P. Ďurček. In this period, the importance of work for the decision sphere (central authorities, self-governments) is growing. We can mention among them e.g. a significant share in the preparation of the economic and social development strategy of Bratislava, regular cooperation in the preparation of prognoses of the Slovak population development, or numerous analyses prepared for selected ministries. Several members of the department have long been active in advisory bodies of central institutions, national associations, and actively participate in the preparation of national strategic development documents and reports (e.g. HABITAT III). The scope of cooperation on many projects with the commercial and non-profit sector is growing, which confirms our involvement in solving real problems of societal development. Several monographs are edited at the department, including those of them being published in the world's leading publishing houses (Springer, Ashgate) and original college textbooks (with increasing attention to textbooks for master's degree). The importance and involvement in international projects are growing (e.g. GRINCOH - Growth - Innovation - Competitiveness: Fostering Cohesion in Central and Eastern Europe - 7FP; YOUMIG - Improving Institutional Capacities and Interoperability). Within our research strong position obtained themes as regional competitiveness, demographic behaviour (various aspects), aging, governance, electoral geography, public administration reform options, urban development and urban shrinking processes, social exclusion and segregation, quality of life, industrial reorganization, sport geography, territorial development etc.

During last decades, members of the department hold important positions within the Faculty of Natural Science of the Comenius University. J. Mládek, P. Korec and B. Bleha had been working as Vice-Deans. As a Chairs of the Academic Senate of the Faculty had served P. Spišiak and J. Buček. Intensive is involvement in national and international scientific bodies and associations (e.g. J. Buček hold position of IGU Commission on Geography of Governance Chair in 2008-2016).

Historic location of the department had been Rajská street No. 12 in Bratislava city centre, until 1986. This was the site of geographers since the second half of thirties of the 20th century. Since 1986 the department is based in its current location in Mlynská dolina, not far from Danube river and Comenius University Botanic Garden, within the buildings of the Faculty of Natural Sciences. The premises of the department underwent extensive reconstruction in year 2017.


Heads of the Department
1952-1958 - Prof. Anton Šíma
1958-1974 - Prof. Koloman Ivanička
1974-1981 - Prof. Michal Zaťko
1981-1990 - Prof. Jozef Mládek
1990 – Assoc. Prof. Vladimír Slavík
1990-1997 - Prof. Pavol Korec
1997-2000 - Prof. Jozef Mládek
2000 - 2011 - Prof. Pavol Korec
Since 2011- Assoc. Prof. Ján Buček



 
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