On October 27, 1907, fifteen ethnic Slovaks were killed and dozens more were wounded when gendarmes fired into a crowd of people gathering for the consecration of the local Catholic church in Černová, situated in the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary, in modern-day Slovakia.
At the initiative of controversial Slovak Catholic priest Andrej Hlinka, the people of Černová raised money for the construction of a new church in their predominantly Slovak village, located in the the north of the Kingdom of Hungary.
Thanks to donations from Slovak Americans, the construction started in April 1907 and by October, the church was ready for consecration. But by then, Andrej Hlinka, had been suspended and sentenced to two years of imprisonment for his pro-Slovak agitation during the election campaign of 1906.
The people of Černová demanded that the consecration be postponed until Hlinka would be able to perform the ceremony. But the diocese denied their request and appointed a Hungarian speaking priest in his stead.
The official procession arrived at the village accompanied by a squad of fifteen gendarmes who escorted the newly appointed priest. But the people of Černová protested and attempted to block the procession, even throwing stones to the members of the gendarme escort, according to some accounts.
Sergeant Ján Ladiczky, who was an ethnic Slovak himself, then ordered his squad to open fire into the crowd without prior warning, killing fifteen of the protesters and seriously wounding 52 others.
The Černová tragedy, as it came to be known, sparked protests in European and American press and turned the world’s attention to the treatment of minorities in the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary, seriously tainting the image of Hungary in the eyes of the world, despite the fact the majority of the members of the Hungarian gendarmes involved in the shooting were of Slovak origin.
Andrej Hlinka was eventually released from prison, where he led the translation of the Old Testament into the Slovak language, and finally consecrated the church in Černová in 1910. He then went on to become one of the most important Slovak public activists in Czechoslovakia before Second World War.
But the Černová tragedy is still exploited today by certain Slovak politicians, especially the members of the Slovak National Party, who continue to perpetuate the myth that it was Hungarian gendarmes who shot at innocent Slovaks…
Find out more about Central European history in our new On this Day series.