Introduction

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    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
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                         July, 1994

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                    Introduction
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The first co-operative in Slovakia (then part of Hungary) was
the Union of Farmers. It was founded by a Slovak teacher,
Samuel Jurkovic (1796 - 1873) on February 9th, 1845, in
Sobotiste village. This happened two months after the
foundation of the Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale.

The Union of Farmers was a credit and financial co-operative.
At the time of its foundation it had 12 members;  by the end
of the year it already had 60. The majority of its members
were peasants and craftsmen, some of whom were descendants of
Swiss Anabaptists who left Geneva and emigrated to West
Slovakia in the 16th Century in order to escape persecution. 

The Union's regulations set out the rights and duties of
members, and stated the principle of voluntary membership
without regard to religious or national allegiance. In order
to prevent pub visits, members' meetings were always organised
on Sunday afternoons. Each member was required to plant two
trees and two shrubs every year. Membership was not open to
anyone who indulged in alcohol, was a convicted thief, or
whose lifestyle was considered to be immoral.

Samuel Jurkovic  wrote that the Union's original orientation
was purely materialistic - to collect money and to help one
other. However, he pointed out that in good hands even clay
can be transformed, so the orientation of the Union became
moral and spiritual. Members grew to be more and more
generous, moral, diligent, and conscientious in their
occupation, and began to exercise prudence in their dealings
with money.

After the foundation of the Union of Farmers, similar
co-operatives began to appear in Slovakia. When co-operatives
started to be founded according to the Schultze-Delitzsch and
Raiffeisen principles elsewhere in Europe, Slovakia already
had 20 co-operatives which adhered to the principles of the
Union of Farmers. Whilst the Schultze-Delitzsch and Raiffeisen
schools of thought influenced the development of co-operatives
also  in Slovakia, to this day Slovak co-operators acknowledge
their indebtedness to Samuel Jurkovic . Even 40 years of a
totalitarian regime was not able to eradicate these
traditions.