Welcome to the third blog post in our four-part series about Cities of Steel, featuring cities around the world that have helped shape the steel industry and have themselves been shaped by the economic benefits of being at the centre of global steel production.
In our third post of the series, we’re looking at Košice, the second largest city in Slovakia. Today, Košice’s is as proud of its position on the Eastern Europe tourist trail as it is of its long and significant history at the cultural and geographical crossroads of East and West.
Košice’s importance as a town and later a city is largely due to its strategic location on the trade route which linked central Hungary to Poland, which itself was a key part of the greater international route that linked the Baltic, Adriatic and Aegean seas.
Like many other eastern European towns and cities, Košice has a long list of historical affiliations. Since the 13th century, Košice has been part of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Austrian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia and since the breakup of Czechoslovakia, the Slovak Republic: Slovakia.
Creating the building materials for the Eastern bloc
Košice’s fate as a city of steel was sealed in 1948 when the Communist Party seized control of Czechoslovakia. During the 1950s, the Soviet Union selected Košice as the centre of steel production for the Eastern bloc, and the first blast furnace was fired up in 1960, producing hot rolling steel. The East Slovakia Ironworks would go on to produce the bulk of the steel that fuelled the massive infrastructure and housing revolution that took place across Eastern Europe for the next few decades. This was also the turning point in the town becoming a thriving city, with Košice’s population growing by five-fold over the next decade.
In 2000, the steelworks, Východoslovenské železiarne Košice (VSŽ Košice – “Eastern Slovak Iron Works in Košice”), was bought by U.S Steel and is now the largest integrated steel producer in Central Europe. US Steel Košice currently employs approximately 13,500 people and produces steel and stainless steel products for the packaging, construction, automotive and energy industries, including structural steel, micro-alloyed steel, high-strength interstitial-free steel and the full range of hot rolled and cold rolled steel products.
SteelPark – blending education and entertainment
The continued importance of steel to the city of Košice is proudly displayed at SteelPark – an innovative and creative collaboration between U. S. Steel Košice and three educational and scientific institutions, The Košice Technical University, University P. J. Šafárik and the Slovak Academy of Sciences.
SteelPark features over 50 interactive exhibitions that demonstrate the story of steel and goes far beyond the basics of steel production and steel manufacturing, with artists and technical experts working together to create displays about metallurgy, geology, physics, chemistry, safety, engineering and biometrics.
In 2013, Košice was nominated as the European City of Culture and the town has firmly established itself as a highlight on any tour itinerary of Eastern Europe, proudly showcasing its cultural and industrial heritage.