Šumperk (Czech pronunciation: [ˈʃumpɛrk]; German: Mährisch Schönberg) is a town in the Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic. It has about 26,000 inhabitants. It is the centre of the north of Moravia and, due to its location, is known as "The Gate to the Jeseníky mountains."
The original German name is a compound of an adjective "schön" (meaning "beautiful") and a noun "berg" (meaning "hill"), later supplemented by a distinguishing adjective Mährisch (= Moravian). The Czech name evolved from a direct phonetic transcription of Schönberg – "Šenberk" (schön=šen; berg=berk), later "Šumberk" and finally "Šumperk". (There are many place names with similar origins across the Czech Republic, such as Šumbark or Žumberk, also cf. Croatian Žumberak and Polish Szymbark.)
After World War II and the expulsion of Germans, there was a suggestion of giving the town a name with Czech origins. Suggestions included approximate translations such as Krásná Hora or Loučná nad Desnou and names unrelated to the original name, such as Svobodov, Velenov, and Jeseník (which was ultimately used for nearby Frývaldov). In the end the name of Šumperk remained unchanged.
Prehistory, antiquity, Early Middle Ages
The Šumperk Basin area was probably not permanently inhabited. It has been speculated that the Desná Valley was an alternative route of the Amber Road.
High and Late Middle Ages
Šumperk was probably established in the second half of the 13th century, by German settlers from Silesia. The town rapidly became prosperous due to rich deposits of precious metals and copper. Šumperk belonged to the Margrave of Moravia. The first written record of Šumperk is from 1281. This document refers to Jeneč of Šumperk, a town administrator who lived in a small fort on the outskirts. The fort has not been preserved. A
Dominican monastery was founded in 1297.
Šumperk was sold to the house of Páni z Lipé by Margrave Charles in 1340. The house of Páni z Lipé built Šumperk Castle and erected a defensive stone wall. Parts of both of these structures have been preserved. Šumperk was regained for the Margrave of Moravia in 1352.
In 1391, Jobst of Moravia granted Magdeburg Rights for Šumperk including "The Mile Right" (Czech: mílové právo; German: meilenrecht), guaranteeing a production and trade monopoly for the inhabitants of the town up to a distance of 1 German mile (about 7.5 km or 4.7 international miles) from town gates. Šumperk inhabitants were also granted permission for brewing.
During the Hussite Wars, the town was pawned to Catholic nobleman Beneš of Valdštejn, therefore Šumperk was opposed to the Hussite Reformation. The Hussite armies successfully completed their campaign in East Bohemia on 14 September 1424, and moved into North Moravia on 23 September. Šumperk was not the principal target of the Hussite warlords, whose primary goal was to conquer the Moravian Margraviate capital in Olomouc, but an attack on Šumperk was initiated by local lord Proček Bouzovský of Vildenberk, the owner of Loštice. The siege was short because the town gates were opened by Hussite sympathizers in Šumperk. Proček Bouzovský of Vildenberk ruled the town until 1445, when Šumperk was besieged by Catholics from Olomouc. Again, town gates were opened by disloyal inhabitants.
In 1490, Šumperk was the location of a meeting of Bohemian and Moravian provincial diet members (Czech: české a moravské stavy), at which they came to an agreement about Vladislav Jagellonský's candidature for Czech throne.
Šumperk was bought by The House of Zierotin in 1496, who significantly cultivated the town.
Early modern era
In a relatively peaceful 16th century, the town became prosperous, producing copper and fine clothing known across Europe. The prosperity enabled the town to buy itself out of serfdom, and it became directly subordinate to the Czech king in 1562. Šumperk Council built an aqueduct and canal system.
During the Thirty Years War, Šumperk collaborated with utraquist opposition against the Catholic Habsburgs. The town was heavily damaged by Catholic armies and finally became property of the House of Lichtenstein, who owned the town until the fall of the feudal system in 1848.
A large fire struck Šumperk in 1669, destroying 126 houses, and a great deal of valuable Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
Between 1679 and 1693, 48 people were killed in witch trials.
Vienna industrialist Johann Ernst Klapperoth established a factory producing corduroy in 1785. The number of factories in the town rose gradually through the 19th century. In 1800, the Wagner brothers established a linen factory. In 1818, Eduard Oberleithner opened a textile factory, which employed over 4900 people. A flax spinning mill was opened in 1842. By 1852, eleven major textile companies were operating in the town, producing in particular damask table and bed sets, silk clothing, and flax canvases.
Other local businesses included a brewery (opened 1861), a foundry (opened 1868), a factory producing earthenware (opened 1868), a mineral oil refinery (opened 1871), a textile machine factory (opened 1898), a factory producing iron goods (opened 1903), three large sawmills (in 1905), three brickworks (in 1905), two factories producing flying shuttles and bobbins (in 1905). Other businesses operating in the early 20th century were two leather factories, a factory processing fats, a cardboard factory, a slaughterhouse, a power plant and gasworks.
In 1871, a railway line between Šumperk and Zábřeh was completed.
Sudeten Germans on the Austria-Hungary Imperial Council did not accept the establishment of Czechoslovakia and declared sovereignty for German-inhabited Moravia, including Šumperk, under the name Sudetenland. One of these rebels was the Mayor of Šumperk, Gustav Oberleithner, who became vice-prime minister. The town was taken by the Czechoslovak army on 15 December 1918 without any shots being fired. The town council published an official order that people should not show any resistance. Gustav Oberleithner was not punished, as the international status of Czechoslovakia was complicated and Czechoslovak sovereignty over Šumperk was not clear from an international law perspective.
The town remained prosperous. The Pramet metal tool factory was established in 1931, and is still operating today.
The Czech population, previously small, grew substantially during the interwar period, causing ethnic tension. In 1910, 353 Czechs lived in the town, but by 1930, this number had increased to over 2,000, concentrated in the "Czech quarter" (Czech: Česká čtvrť).
Konrad Henlein's Nazi Sudeten German Party, openly supportive of Adolf Hitler, received 64% of the votes in the elections of 1935.
After the Munich agreement, Šumperk District was occupied by the Wehrmacht, and was attached to the Third Reich as part of Sudetenland province. Most of the Czechs moved inland. Sixteen anti-Nazi rebels, of Czech and Sudeten German descent, were killed at Bratrušovská shooting range, between Šumperk and Bratrušov.
Šumperk was liberated by the Red Army on 8 May 1945 without significant damage.
The German inhabitants of the town were expelled, with 9,531 people being moved in 11 convoys to Saxony, Bavaria and Austria. Šumperk was rapidly repopulated, initially by Czechs and Slovaks, and later by Roma, refugees from the Greek Civil War and Czech minorities from Volhynia and Romania, so that the population of the town even increased compared to before the expulsion.
Almost all German-owned businesses were confiscated by the state. The textile factories were united into one corporation named Moravolen, and the other factories were sold to Czechoslovak citizens.
Although the Communist Party won the Šumperk election in 1946 with 34.7% of the vote, the council was ruled by a coalition of social democrats. After the coup d'état in 1948, all businesses, without exception, were confiscated by the state and united into large entities.
The North Moravian Theatre (Czech: Severomoravské Divadlo) opened in 1951, operating up to the present.
During the 1960s, extensive concrete residential tower blocks were erected on the outskirts of the town.
On 21 August 1968, Šumperk was occupied by the Polish People's Army, which was replaced by the Red Army on 3 October 1968. Jan Zajíc, a student of the Šumperk Industrial School, committed suicide by self-immolation as a political protest against Soviet occupation, following Jan Palach.
The Soviet army left Šumperk in May 1990 after the Velvet Revolution.
Šumperk was a significant centre of the textile industry throughout the Austria-Hungary, interwar and Communist eras. Communist rule nationalised every company in Šumperk and united them into a small number of large entities with low productivity. The Communist administrators also supported the development of metalworking industry in the town.
During the 1990s, after the Velvet Revolution, the textile industry was not able to compete with cheap imports from Asia and many textile companies went bankrupt, leaving large areas of brownfield land. The metalworking industry has survived the economic transformation relatively intact. As a result, Šumperk has a significant industrial sector. Pramet is a producer of industrial tools with worldwide distribution. The Epcos factory produces ferrites for automotive purposes. Urdiamant processes synthetic diamonds into tools. Pars Nova renovates old trains and trams; its best known product is the RegioNova train.
Several companies in the town produce construction elements such as windows, windowsills, doors, and louvers. Also present in the town but less important is food production, including bakeries and meat processing. Wholesale and retail distribution across Šumperk District is another important source of income.
History of population numbers
1869 – 9,651 people in 836 houses
1900 – 14,658 people in 1,034 houses
1921 – 16,006 people in 1,330 houses
1930 – 18,739 people in 1,756 houses
1950 – 17,192 people in 2,014 houses
1970 – 23,683 people in 2,013 houses
1991 – 30,422 people in 2,328 houses
2001 – 29,490 people in 2,328 houses
Cultural institutions located in Šumperk include: a cinema, Kino Oko; a theatre named Severomoravské divadlo (North Moravian Theatre); a private art gallery, run by Jiří Jílek; and a museum focused on local nature, art and history. The Šumperk Cultural Centre (Czech: Kulturní dům Šumperk) is used for balls, music, performances, meetings, and lectures, and the town's library contains 71,039 books.
Several festivals are staged annually in the town:
International Folklore Festival – featuring folklore groups from around the world
Hrnečku Pař – a music and literature festival focused on local authors
Blues Alive – a blues festival, with a large number of performers, including from the United States
Džemfest – a pop music festival
Špek fest – a two-day music festival
Klášterní hudební slavnosti – a series of classical music concerts during the summer
Divadlo v parku – a theatre festival. Plays are staged in the town's park by professional actors from other towns and cities
Leo Slezak (1873–1946), tenor singer
Jan Balabán (1961–2010), writer, journalist and translator
Ivana Kubešová (born 1962), middle distance runner
Jaroslav Mostecký (born 1963), author
Jiří Dopita (born 1968), ice hockey player
Ondřej Sokol, (born 1971), director, actor and translator
Aleš Valenta (born 1973), freestyle skier
Alena Kupčíková (born 1976), contemporary artist
Jan Hudec (born 1981), skier
Jakub Kindl (born 1987), ice hockey player