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This paper compares the methods of organisation of cultural and social life in three municipalities which were awarded the “Village of the Year” title, namely the municipalities of Oravská Lesná, Liptovská Teplička and Spišský Hrhov. The research in these three municipalities suggests several historical and socio-economic similarities between the villages of Oravská Lesná and Liptovská Teplička, which contrasts with the situation in Spišský Hrhov. These similarities and differences between the municipalities are also manifested at the level of their cultural and social life and development strategies. On one hand, we have the traditional mountainous villages with stable long-term and internally driven demography; on the other hand, a changing municipality with a high rate of immigration. In the former case, activities related to the identity of a traditional municipality are being developed, while in the latter case, the identity of the municipality is being actively created also through new cultural and social activities. The key factors of the municipalities’ cultural and social life in both cases are initiative inhabitants and proactive self-governments open to their initiatives.
This study is based on an analysis of local economic, environmental, social and cultural activities in the municipalities which were awarded the “Village of the Year” title, with a special focus on the Hrušov hillsides and the settlements in Oravská Lesná.
The basic historical and ethnological features of these villages include dispersion of the population, since the development period until the establishment of collective farms was characterised mainly by self-employed farmers. In both cases, it happened with a delay – in the 1970s and the 1980s. Ever since, the hillsides and settlements have become depopulated, mainly as a result of the growing construction of family houses or municipal (cooperative) flats in the central parts of municipalities.
Inspired by the theoretical and methodological framework of the authors who have dealt with the transformation of hillsides/settlements (Priečko, 2003, 2015; Huba, 1989, 1990, 2009), four possible development processes influencing the hillsides/settlements over the past decades can be hypothetically assumed:
1. Strengthening the original residential and economic function through a set of incentives.
2. Complete functional transformation of the sites from residential to recreational areas.
3. Exclusion of the sites from the category of built-up areas and delimitation of agricultural land to forest land category;
4. Combination of two and more functions with a view to a rational use of the landscape potential and preservation of the genius loci, which, however, requires the ability and willingness of the original or new users to respect the natural and cultural values of places of habitation and of the country, traditional agro-technical processes as well as landscaping in connection with the local/regional cultural heritage.