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Zemská banka, Prague (Bratislava and Uzhgorod branches)

Zemská banka (Land Bank), Prague, up to 1920 called Zemská banka kráľovstva Českého (Land Bank of the Czech Kingdom), was established in 1889.

By a decree of 4 January 1923 implementing Act No 238 of 11 July 1922 on expanding the jurisdiction of region credit institutions to Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia and in accordance with an order of the Regional Administrative Committee in Prague of 9 November 1921, the Government of the Czechoslovak Republic authorised the institution to establish a branch in Bratislava. The branch was open on 29 June 1924 together with a branch of Hypotečná banka česká. It was entered in the Companies Register on 25 October 1924. Another branch was opened in Uzhgorod on 28 July 1937. The state provided the Zemská banka’s branch with operating capital of 16 million Czechoslovak crowns (Kč). The branch was authorised to issue securities with a state guarantee. The securities - bonds were placed mainly with customers in Czechia. Their interest rates ranged from 3.75 to 5%. The main activity of the branch was to provide municipal loans, loans for land improvement and railway construction. The majority of loans were municipal loans that helped the construction of water supply and sewage systems, asphalt roads and sidewalks, schools and other public buildings, electrification, and the introduction of public transport.

Zemská banka, Praha - budova filiálky v Bratislave, 1924By a decree of the Ministry of Finance of 18 December 1924, Zemská banka was entrusted with the task of transporting the deposits of Czechoslovak citizens from Hungary to Czechoslovakia. Government Regulation No 49 of 27 March 1925 ordered that court deposits and deposits of custodial authorities be deposited with Zemská banka. When in 1924 Zväz roľníckych vzájomných pokladníc (Association of Farmer Mutual Treasuries) was established in Bratislava, the Ministry of Finance declared the Bratislava branch of Zemská banka as its financial headquarters. With the aim of increasing savings ratios by improving deposit protection, Všeobecný fond peňažných ústavov v Republike Československej, Bratislava (General Fund for Financial Institutions in the Czechoslovak Republic) was established in the same year. It was funded from interests on deposits, from which a 1.5% levy was transferred to Zemská banka responsible for related accounting and treasury services.

The bank also provided treasury and deposit services for Československý reeskontný a lombardný ústav (Czechoslovak Rediscount and Lombard Institute), established in 1934. In 1936, Pomocný fond pre úpravu dlhov okresov a obcí na Slovensku (Assistance Fund for Adjustment of Debts of Slovak Districts and Municipalities) and Pomocný fond pre úpravu dlhov okresov a obcí v Krajine Podkarpatskoruskej (Assistance Fund for Adjustment of Debts of Districts and Municipalities in Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia) were established at the Zemská banka branches in Bratislava and Uzhgorod, respectively. Their main objective was to improve the financial situation of municipalities, in particular those that did not receive provincial allowances. They were subsidised from the surpluses of districts and municipalities with better economic results and from provincial allowances. The two funds took over payments of interest and amortisation of debt, while Zemská banka provided administrative support for the funds.

The Bratislava branch of Zemská banka was located in its own building in Ondrejská Street (today Gorkého) which was built in the years 1922 – 1924. The neighbouring buildings in Ondrejská and Lorencova (today Laurinská) Streets were bought in 1931. The Zemská banka branch in Uzhgorod had its seat at 2 Žatkovičova Square. The branch’s board of directors was nominated by the Minister of Finance, based on an agreement with the Minister of Interior and the bank’s general director, for a period of 5 years. The branch and the bank had a common administration, current account and balance sheet. Loan approvals were reserved for the directorate in Prague even when they were chargeable to the branch’s account. Staff matters were also decided by the bank’s directorate, or the Regional Administrative Committee, which allocated officials and auxiliary staff to the branch. The highest supervisory and authorisation powers related to the branch’s administrative matters and transactions were exercised by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior and the Regional Administrative Committee, which was represented in the bank by a government commissioner acting in an advisory capacity. He supervised and authenticated bond issues and could review the activities of the branch.

The branch’s board of directors consisted of the chairman, his deputy and 6 members. The chairman and his deputy became temporary directors in the Zemská banka headquarters in Prague. The first chairman of the board of directors was Ján Krno, a public notary, and his deputy was Jaroslav Dvořák, a lawyer in Bratislava. After the death of Ján Krno, Jozef Kállay became chairman of the board of directors from 1927 to 1939 (also until his death). The branch began with a legal department and commercial department, and later a secretarial department was added. Each of the departments was headed by a principal who had a deputy and several advisers. The legal department’s first principal was Antonín Zámečník and the commercial department’s principal was Jozef Jirásek; both of them were also members of the board of directors. The branch started with 25 employees, who had all previously worked for the headquarters and came from Prague to Bratislava. Only the positions of a boiler man and night doorkeeper were filled by locals. In 1938, the branch had 102 employees, of whom 61 were Slovaks and 1 was Ruthenian.

The occupation of Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia by Hungary after the First Vienna Arbitration was the reason for evacuation of the Uzhgorod branch of Zemská banka to Bratislava on 4 November 1938, while a part of its assets (securities, deposits, bills of exchange receivable) were deposited in Prague. In Bratislava it was not entered in the Commercial Register and did not start operation. It became subject to foreign exchange regulations of three countries – Slovakia, Hungary and Czechia. Eventually, it was ordered to move to Prague.

By Slovak Act No 77 of 24 April 1939 Slovenská hypotečná a komunálna banka was established to take over all transactions in tangible assets of the Zemská banka branch and the branch of Hypotečná banka česká in Bratislava on 1 July 1939. A framework agreement on the takeover was signed between the participating parties; Anton Mederly, later the director of Slovenská hypotečná a komunálna banka, was a commissioner in this matter. The branch ceased operation on 20 October 1939 and its activities were transferred to Prague where it operated as a department of the headquarters. In 1940, long-term credit transactions in the Slovak territory were ceded to Slovenská hypotečná a komunálna banka. In the territory occupied by Hungary, the loans continued to be managed by the headquarters in Prague.

After the Second World War, Act No 183 of 20 July 1948 merged Slovenská hypotečná a komunálna banka, Zemská banka pre Moravu a Sliezsko, Zemská banka pre Čechy – ústredná banka sporiteľní v Čechách a na Morave, and Československý reeskontný a lombardný ústav into a single financial institution, Investičná banka, by universal succession without liquidation. The bank had a country office and regional branches in Slovakia and its headquarters was in Prague. The organisational units of Investičná banka in Slovakia were incorporated, together with most of its business activities, into Štátna banka československá in 1958.

In the years 1958 – 1963, documents from the corporate archives of Investičná banka were stored in Bratislava at 12 Leningradská Street (today Laurinská) and then moved to 1 Nedbalova Street. A part of the archival documents were discarded and destroyed in the 1950s. A part of the preserved documents and books of the Zemská banka branch in Uzhgorod (17 packages) were delivered to the Slovak National Archives in Bratislava in 1965. A part of accounting books were moved from Investičná banka in Prague to the office of Investičná banka in Bratislava. Following the transfer of the office’s activities to Štátna banka československá – the Regional Institute for Slovakia in 1969, documents concerning the bank’s business in the Slovak territory occupied by Hungary after the First Vienna Arbitration were moved from the headquarters of Investičná banka in Prague to Bratislava. These included 158 files and 47 books. The documents were deposited in the former monastery at Marianka, which served as the archives of the Regional Institute for Slovakia of Štátna banka československá. In the years 1975 – 1977, the archival records were moved to a new building of the archives at 27 Krajná Street in Bratislava and later, in 2003, they were transferred to the Archives of Národná banka Slovenska at 8 Cukrová Street in Bratislava.

The first inventory of the fonds was prepared in 1966. An inventory observing the original method of file circulation was prepared in the Archives of Národná banka Slovenska in 2009. The preserved documents include mainly loan documents, partial deposits, annual reports, documents concerning the establishment and liquidation of branches (and the related archival photographs), and minutes of meetings of the board of directors. The archival fonds can be used for the study of mortgage and investment banking history in Slovakia and in the territory of Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia.

Last updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2019