It is an attractive summer event held every year in mid-June in the county city of Svidník which is having a big time because of this Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainian Culture in Slovakia. The city of Svidník at that time comes to be the centre of Rusyn-Ukrainian culture.
The festivities are a source of unlimited cultural wealth and heritage passed on from previous generations.
The Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainian Culture in Slovakia is not only promotion of folklore culture but it is also accompanied by other important cultural events such as ethnographic expositions and visual arts exhibitions, seminars, scientific conferences etc. The festival is organized by The Union of Rusyn-Ukrainians of the Slovak Republic and the city of Svidník. Many local community folklore ensembles and guest artists and ensembles from other regions of Slovakia and foreign countries take part and perform at the festival.
The Festival of Rusyn –Ukrainian Culture in Slovakia did not originate all of a sudden. In this part of Carpathian region village folk dance parties were organized at county borders amongst villages as early as in 13th and 14th century.
From 15th century the most important feast day for Rusyns-Ukrainians of Eastern Slovakia was pageant festive day at the monastery of fathers Basilians in Krásny Brod. It was held at the time of Pentecost (also “Rusadľové sviatky” – Rusadlian festum days). Every year several thousands of people gathered there.
In the mid-19th century many school choirs were set up in many villages of Eastern Slovakia. Village ensembles, choirs and bands often organized unrestrained lively regional parades known as rag days.
In the summer of 1933 the first “nationwide” manifestation called The Day of Russian Culture was organized in Prešov. Within the course of this celebrations the Alexander Duchnovič Monument was unveiled and Alexander Duchnovič Society (“Obščestvo” - Obshtsestvo) was establish in Prešov with its branch societies and athenaeum halls in villages. These progressive traditions of the early postwar years of 1946-1948 were followed by The Days of Russian Culture in Prešov, Stropkov, Topoľa and other towns. They were organized by Ukrainian National Council Prjašivščyny, Review for Ukrainian Schools and Carpathian Youth Association. In the early 1950s the single organization of The Ukrainian Workers Cultural Union was established and it defined and set a program aimed at development of folk artistic work.
In February 1953 the first professional Ukrainian Series of songs and dance was established in Medzilaborce. It was this Series that inspired massive setting up of amateur music bands, choirs and dance ensembles.
The first Parade of folk and artistic work of the Ukrainian population of Czechoslovakia took place in Medzilaborce on 4 to 5 June 1955. 61 ensembles performed at this parade. It was a real nationwide celebration of folklore which was demonstrated by numbers of visitors (8 000 people) who came to see the parade.
Since 1956, the Festival Venue of Folk Artistic Work and Creativity of Ukrainian Workers of Eastern Slovakia was held in Svidník.
8th Festival was held in 1962 on two places at the same time in Svidník and also in Medzilaborce but this way of organizing the festival was a failure and in such way did not happen anymore.
On the occasion of 20th Svidník's Festival the scientific conference on the Issues of Cultural Development of Ukrainian Population of Czechoslovakia took place and during the conference the most active individuals in department of folk artistic work and creativity were awarded a prize. They were Juraj Kosťuk, Juraj Prochádzka, Štefan Bittner, Ivan Ivančo, Eduard Zachariáš, Andrej Kucer a Ivan Stebila.
In the late 1960s folk ensembles and groups were being set up in villages of Eastern Slovakia. Since 1987 section of the festival venue called TREASURES OF THE PEOPLE was earmarked for the informal groups and ensembles. This venue takes place on Sunday at noon at the Museum of folk architecture above the open-air amphitheatre.
40th Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainian Culture of Slovakia organized on 17 to 19 June 1994 in Svidník showed how the Rusyn-Ukrainians of Eastern Slovakia can make great effort in representing folk art and creativity. The reports and responses on this anniversary festival were very positive both in regional Ukrainian periodicals as well as in the means of mass communication in Slovakia and abroad. The Festival acknowledged the fact that it is not only the celebration and purely the matter of culture, but that it is also a venue with high political impact and in a big scale it can influence the future developments and also the future of this ethnic group depends on it. 40th Festival, like 1st one, was marked by the spirit of pride of this ethnic group on its origin. 46 folk ensembles with 1 493 performers performed at this anniversary festival and its seven session programs.
Despite the fact of difficult economic situation the festival is being organized every year.
Over 1000 performers performed at 45th Festival with 1 guest ensemble, 8 ensembles from abroad and 26 local ensembles.
46th Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia in Svidník was held under the auspices of the President of the Slovak Republic on 16 to 18 June 2000. It opened with International Scientific Conference “Ten Years of Democracy 1989-2000” whose initiator was Academician Mikuláš Mušinka, longtime author of program series “From Our Ancestors”. Part of the program series called “Sunday Welcomes” was as usually broadcasted live on the Slovak Television.
47th Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia in Svidník was held on 22 to 24 June 2001. The program of the Festival changed and was composed of 5 program sessions. 31 ensembles performed at the Festival with 920 performers. Seven ensembles were from abroad - Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Croatia. There were also two guest ensembles from Prešov - Dúbrava and PUĽS (Dukla Artistic Folk Ensemble).
48th Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia in Svidník was held on 22 to 24 June 2002. 32 ensembles performed at the festival, 8 of them being from abroad and all together there were 980 members of the cast that performed on both days.
49th Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia was held in Svidník on 20 to 22 June 2003. 34 ensembles performed at the festival, 8 of them being from abroad and all together there were 990 performers.
50th Anniversary Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia was held in Svidník on 18 to 20 June 2004. On Friday two art openings took place and program series called “Dance With Us” have liven up the pedestrian zone in the evening. On Saturday the festival's program culminated at the amphitheatre with ceremony fireworks seen by more than 5 000 visitors. Even then the party was not over and people enjoyed themselves until the early morning because the music bands were still playing and entertaining the visitors. On Sunday holy liturgy was held at the open-air museum and thereafter you can feel the vibe of lively tunes of folk songs and dance. On Sunday, a rich cultural program continued until the evening hours. All together there were 1 133 artists performing in individual program series, 42 ensembles from which 2 were guest ensembles and 8 ensembles were from abroad – Ukraine, Poland, Croatia, Serbia – Montenegro, the Czech Republic and Germany.
51st Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia was held in Svidník on 17 to 19 June 2005. The Festival's program was opened on Friday by Children's competition at the pedestrian zone, then there was a discussion with Ukrainian authors and writers in Slovakia, it continued by art opening and in the afternoon the folk songs and dances had liven up the pedestrian zone. The program on Friday was closed The Poetry Theatre. On Saturday the program continued at the amphitheatre and was followed by performances of home ensembles and the ones from abroad. The last program series on Saturday was intended for the youth. On Sunday the Festival culminated with the performance of the most famous Slovak folklore ensemble called Lučnica.
52nd Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia was held on 23 to 25 June 2006 in Svidník. The program on Friday opened with 2nd children’s competition called Painting on the Asphalt, it continued with the exposition of Ukrainian literature and there was a discussion with Ukrainian writers, theatre performance and the visitors were invited to see the performances of folk ensembles at the pedestrian zone on Saturday and Friday. At the same time there happened to be two-day international scientific conference which included a formal ceremonial academy. In the afternoon the visitors could enjoy the performance of Cossacks who presented supreme art of riding. Saturday evening program started at 7 p.m. with performances of folk ensembles from abroad and guest ensembles and it ended with the program series for the youth. The last day of the Festival traditionally began with holy liturgy at the wooden church and was followed by the program series The Treasures of the People at the open-air amphitheatre. At 1 p.m. the parade of the members of the cast performing at the festival in their folk costumes started from various part of Svidník heading towards the open-air amphitheatre. The Sunday program ended with the performance of National Academic Ukrainian Folk of H. Verjovka.
53rd Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Slovakia was held in Svidník on 15 to 17 2007. The Festival comprised of six program series that took place on pedestrian zone in the centre of the city of Svidník, open-air museum SNM-MUK and at the local open-air amphitheatre. The programs were performed by ensembles from our country and ensembles and individual artists from Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Russian Federation presented themselves as well.
54th Festival of Rusyn-Ukrainins of Slovakia was held in Svidník on 20 to 200 June 2008. There were performing 29 ensembles of different genres (3 professional and 7 from abroad), 9 solo artists and also 726 performers. Besides seven major program series there were other accompanying events: the holy liturgies in all churches in Svidník, laying wreaths at the memorials and monuments commemorating Czechoslovak and Russian heroes of WWII in Dukla and in Svidník, exhibition of folk embroidery from Veľký Berezný (Ukraine) and Ukrainian literature published in Slovakia. Main program series was also attended by the President of the Slovak Republic Ivan Gašparovič. Closing program series of the festival called "There Come Our Friends" was performed by folk ensemble Magura from Kežmarok and National Academic Hucul series of songs and dances from Ivano-Francovska (Ukraine). Their performances were respectable and grand finale of the whole 54th Festival. Especially ensemble from Ivano-Francovska presented to the visitors its high artistic and professional qualities.
The Festival is almost for half a century the place where admirers can experience our folk art and culture and where they can meet with its creators, performers, people who preserve such art and also professional artists from Slovakia and from abroad for whom the folk music, songs, poetry, dance shows and visual arts expressions became the well, the spring and the source of inspiration.