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Brief history of Kecskemét

Thanks to its geographical position, Kecskemét has always been the meeting point of different religions, cultures, and traders of all nationalities.

The name “Kecskemét” originates from the word “kecske” - meaning goat, and “mét” - meaning district. The goat can be seen in the coat of arms with the motto of the city: ‘Neither height, nor depth deters us’.

Archaeological excavations have proved that the territory of Kecskemét was inhabited already 3000 years Before Christ.  Sarmatians, Huns, Avars used to live here before Hungarian tribes arrived from the East in the 9th century. Situated at the cross-roads of ancient trading routes our settlement started to develop. In the middle of the 13th century due to the disastrous invasion of Tatars the habitations were destroyed such as many others in the Carpathian basin. However, Kecskemét found its feet again; it became a significant settlement during the 14th century.  In 1368 it was identified as a market-town (oppidum) in a charter of King Anjou Louis the Great. Kecskemét celebrated its 650th anniversary in 2018. 

The oldest building in town is the church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, patron of traders thus of Kecskemét, too. This “old stone church” was built in the second half of the 14th century. During the time of Reformation of the Church it was used by both Catholics and Protestants. The Calvinist Church was built during Turkish rule with the permission of the Sultan himself, and was consecrated in 1684. Besides exhausting taxes Kecskemét enjoyed a kind of independence from the Turks, and people from neighbouring uninhabited villages preferred to move here. The first guilds were established at that time and by the end of this dark period Kecskemét became stronger again. It was already the most significant town between the rivers Danube and Tisza.

The 18th century brought the greatest tragedies of Kecskemét through a destroying attack from a horde fighting under the flag of the Habsburg Empire, the plague and the burning down of the town. It was generally believed that people could survive and have their living by keeping livestock and trading with animals.

In the first half of the 19th century our ancestors found long term solutions for the most vital questions. The utter sand territories - on which the town was situated - was parcelled out to be afforested and for vine plantation. Simultaneously urbanisation started with building roads and creating new districts of the town. The first capitalist enterprise established here was a printing house which started its operation in 1841.

The revolution of 1848 against the Habsburg Empire was warmly welcomed by the people of Kecskemét, too, who participated bravely in the coming war of independence at each and every scene. After the so called “Compromise” of the Hungarian politicians with the Habsburgs in 1867 the urbanisation got an impetus. Kecskemét became a town with municipal law which meant significant rights. Great mayors led the town who had talent to lay the foundation of the future of Kecskemét. This period is considered as “The Golden Age” in the history of Kecskemét marked with vine and fruit plantations of large dimensions, the growth of farms, railway constructions, famous markets and vast fruit exports. By the turn of the century Kecskemét became the town of apricot and Art Nouveau. The marvellous buildings on the main square and the palaces in the connecting streets - that are the treasures of Kecskemét - were erected at this time. The spectacular development was paused by the earthquake in 1911 and World War I.

Between the two World Wars the city fathers put great emphasis on the development of schools, horticulture, markets, trading and tourism - that was the reason behind launching the oldest existing festival of Kecskemét “Hírös Week” in 1934. In World War II Kecskemét was an important logistic centre. Buildings of public institutions, schools were refurnished to hospitals. Many soldiers died and were taken to captivity and “malenky robot”. The town had to be emptied and people could only come back months later to the robbed settlement.

After the rebuilding the ruins of the town deprivatisation and collectivization of fieldlands started in 1948 that created hurtful situation for the people. However, Kecskemét became the seat of Bács-Kiskun county in 1950. Old and newly established factories provided employment to locals and many other people who moved to Kecskemét from neighbouring villages. The urban townscape was developed by vast buildings of new districts with blocks of flats, and service institutions; hospitals, schools etc. Significant development took place in the 1970’ies with the establishment of unique cultural institutions such as the “Kecskemétfilm” animation film studio, Kodály Institute, artistic enamel and ceramic workshops which all became world-famous in their fields of activity.

After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989 the privatisation of companies started soon in Kecskemét and a new era started. Kecskemét kept its open attitude and by a civil initiation “Future of Europe” Children and Youth Festival was established in 1990 to let children of Kecskemét get in closer relationship with children of other European countries; and developed to a huge international festival with the participation.

The optimum geographical location and many other favourable conditions provided by the town made Kecskemét an attractive target for investments. The greatest turning point in industrialisation was the green-field investment of Daimler in Kecskemét in 2008.

Kecskemét today is a city with municipal rights, the most significant settlement in the region between the rivers Danube and Tisza; economic, religious, educational centre with numerous cultural institutions and events. Kecskemét is a living symbol of how to survive and how to bring the best out of even the worst situations. The people of Kecskemét have created a flourishing city on unfertile field with their spirit to live.


2019. november 4.