Horpács Summary

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Horpács, this small settlement in Nógrád county has less than two hundred people. The village has never been significant for all the centuries that elapsed since it was born. It is hidden in one of the small dents of the Vértes and the Cserhát mountains, but due to the military road going alongside the village, and connecting the mining towns in Upper-Hungary, it has been always exposed to frequent attacks. It was surrounded by several castles in Nógrád during the Turkish castle wars. It was mainly the fortress of Nógrád, which was close to the settlement, but there were also those in Gyarmat, Szanda, Drégely, Szécsény and Ság. Thus, the population of the village had to conduct an everyday struggle with the tax-and work-imposing, and robbing Turks, Germans and Hungarian soldiers fighting in the castles along the border.
As a matter of fact, the village could never combat the harsh realities of life deriving from its geographic position. Its population earned their bleak living mainly from agricultural production. They grew wheat, rye and oat on the arable land. The graze land of the village has always been of poor quality. It had hardly any forests, and there was no vine-growing culture. There were no mills in Horpács, neither were there any tradesmen (except one blacksmith), any significant buildings, and it did not belong to the unique folk island of the ethnic group of the Palots – although they are considered to form part of this geographic region. It only had one public building, the church, not very interesting from an architectural point of view. It did not even have an independent parish, but it belonged to Borsosberény. A couple of dozens of students were taught in the only classroom of its school year by year. Modernisation avoided this settlement for a long time. The local government always had to manage with a poor budget.
And still, there was an important change that came with modern times: since the end of the XIX century, most of the male population in their active age commute to work in Budapest, mostly in the building sector. Due to this fact, both their way of living and their system of social norms have largely changed. In the years after 1945, at the time when they at last had some opportunities to move forward, everything was taken back from them. They belonged to a regional council, a regional school, and a regional cooperative. The young people left the village. The new era in the history of the settlement started only after the changes of the political system. Although the local government still did not have a sufficient budget, but thanks to some grants applied for and won, the village was equipped with all conveniences, its streets received a hard cover, a wastewater treatment plant was built, the stream was regulated. The Mikszáth Publishing House and Museum also settled here. In these changed circumstances, the community with its renewed spirit is beginning to recover.
The extraordinary heritage of Horpács definitely played a role in its recovery. The village had something that made it stand out from all the surrounding settlements, and which elevated it to a high rank, still kept today. Thanks to destiny or some other miracle, five notable figures of our national culture came in close contact with the village in the second half of the XIX century. Pál Szontagh, the prominent politician lived here, who had a close, friendly relationship with Imre Madách. He, the author of a large national drama, Szontagh’s friend visited him regularly in the village in the 1850-ies and 1860-ies. Then, Iván Nagy, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences also moved here, and stayed here until his death. This outstanding personality of the Hungarian historical science was also the village mayor for three years. And the most important event only followed then: in 1904, the estate of Pál Szontagh was bought by Kálmán Mikszáth, the top figure of Hungarian prose literature, who wanted to come back to Nógrád county, his birth-place in the evening of his life. And although he did not receive many years from destiny to spend in Horpács, he still had a manor-house built here, and wrote three excellent short stories about his experiences in Horpács.
These few years were like an escape for him, and he spent the summers and the holidays in the village. He was roaming in the woods and on the meadows, and was talking with the old shepherds and farm-servants. In 1910, which was his jubilee as a writer, the nation made a contribution to enlarge his estate. He received the forest in Szomolya, which made his happiness full. He was the first Hungarian writer that received a dominium from his nation in exchange for the eternal literary experiences he offered.
His family continued to live here in the village after his death. There is a significant commemorative museum in their home today, and Horpács has become one of the sacred places of the Hungarian history of literature. Probably, its future is also determined by this to a certain extent: if it can make use of the benefits that its tourism may offer, if it preserves the Mikszáth legacy well, if it takes care of its natural and built values also honouring the harmony of the landscape, another one thousand years may be ahead for the village as a home for future generations.



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