Borderland city - fortress or bridge?
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One of the phenomena of Central Europe is border culture. The location on the border of two or several countries determined the existence of cities as strongholds defending against the attack of enemies or enabled rapid development due to intense trade exchange. The place that shows this phenomenon in a special way is the small town of Kőszeg located just off the border between Hungary and Austria. In this charming, picturesque place we can see the complexity of the cultural landscape of the region.

The origins of Kőszeg date back to the 13th century and the Mongol invasion of Central Europe. There was already a castle there, which in subsequent years was the subject of dispute between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Empire. At the end of the thirteenth century, the area of ​​today's Burgerland came under the control of the Kőszegi family, who moved their court here from nearby Güssing. The name of the city comes from the family, which in 1328, thanks to the decision of King Charles Robert, became a royal city and became a strategic fortress. Great history entered here at the beginning of the 16th century with the Turks invading Hungary. In 1532, under the leadership of the Croatian nobleman Nikola Jurišić, the army arrested the Ottoman army attacking Vienna in Kőszeg. Standing at the head of an eight-hundred-strong squad, he held Suleymaniye the Magnificent army over 100 times in check for nearly a month.

Successful defense made the proud city from the western flank of the Hungarian kingdom become the eastern bastion of the Habsburg lands and the border of two civilizations. In the following centuries, despite the weakening of Turkey and the further taking over of Hungarian territory by the Habsburgs, Kőszeg still belonged to key military centers and was an important stop on the road from Vienna to Buda. At the same time, the lack of real threat and wars meant that the city survived mostly in the medieval shape. The idyllic landscape was supplemented by numerous new buildings and investments created during the Austro-Hungarian period, when a new main square was marked out on the southern side of the city and a neo-Gothic church was erected. Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The fate of the picturesque village surrounded by vineyards changed profoundly after the end of World War I and the fall of Austria-Hungary. The place that until now connected two capitals and was an important point for postal activity suddenly found itself just near the border of two different countries. Located no longer on the road from Vienna to Budapest, but on the outskirts of Hungary, Kőszeg lost the chance for further development becoming a provincial, frozen in its historical form a city-monument. In the interwar period, extensive conservation work was undertaken and the Gate of Heroes belonging to the city's symbols was rebuilt. How different life became Kőszeg is evidenced by the fact that suddenly the nearest road to nearby Sopron led through another country.

The sense of dismissal and abandonment strengthened after 1945. Although during the war the city was not bombarded like nearby Szombathely, it lost the entire Jewish community, deported by one of the last transports from Hungary to Auschwitz. After the war, on the border between Hungary and Austria, an iron curtain ran. Kőszeg was in a restricted zone - not only could it not be possible to leave for Austria, but it also became difficult to travel to other cities on Hungarian territory. For almost half a century, his fate was determined by the needs of the army. The function of the Cold War garrison of Warsaw Pact troops "froze" the space of the city, which only in the seventies did the first breezes of normality reach. In 1989, barbed wires separating Austria and Hungary, West and East were cut near Sopron. Kőszeg once again found himself on the route connecting the two countries and began to attract guests from Austria and other places of the region. In 1994, the city established the Institute for Social and European Studies, an international organization that attracts students from around the world teaching about the complicated history of Hungary and Central Europe.





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