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Our Prices are in Forints

Zsófia Sivák

The tavern, the pub was the defining and fundamental venue of provincial life for a long time. The pub was the place where the laborers threw back the cheapest kind of shots at dawn in order to gain strength for the daily sweat; the place where the retired policeman and firefighter met during the mornings to discuss the weekend’s football matches over a fröccs. It was the place where abandoned husbands could lean on the counter and whine about their problems that life is not worth a dime without a wife who left them on their own for good only a week ago. The pub was the place where no one asked you but someone always listened to you.

In the recent years several rural taverns had to close its doors permanently or had to transform themselves into something totally different, deprived from their original functions. In my photo series I am going to visit and photograph the pubs which are still in business in Heves county's settlements under the population of 3000 inhabitants.

I was born and raised in the county of my project, therefore my choice was a rather personal one. Heves county is located in the northeast part of Hungary, in the Northern Hungary region. It is composed of 107 villages, 3 towns and 11 cities. According to the census carried out in 2018 the population of the county is around 295.000 people, however the tendencies of the past years are showing a constant decrease of this number. The rural life as I know it has started to transform entirely due to the desolation of smaller settlements.

"In our country, and especially in peripheral and semi-peripheral regions, this atrophy is not the result of past decades. The anti-rural politics of nearly 40 years of state socialism, the extermination of traditional agricultural societies in villages via the forced establishment of agricultural cooperatives, and the processes of urbanization have caused enormous damage. The situation was further exacerbated by the loss of about one third of jobs during the change of regime. As a result, unemployment, which had not been formally existing before, has increased dramatically. Although decline naturally cannot be generalized over, there are well-prospering rural areas as well - a prevalence of hopelessness and lack of vision characterizes a significant part of our villages. In the case of many settlements the only reason we cannot say that its destiny will be depopulation and extinction is that misery there reproduces itself."

Besides finding the topic visually interesting and appealing, I can interpret pubs as a kind of pattern as well, through which intend in a way to demonstrate and illustrate the current state of Hungarian countryside together with the social class who lives here.

The current state of pubs is changing accordingly to the above mentioned process. Based on my brief interviews conducted with publicans everyone agreed on the fact that pub culture is decaying and slowly disappearing. There are several reasons that can be held accountable for these drastic changes, mainly the smoking ban on public indoor smoking (introduced in 2012); the banning of slot machines; the appearance and spread of tobacco shops and the expansion of the Internet. Furthermore the innkeepers listed the reducing number of pensioners and the youngsters who are going out in bigger cities among the problems as well.

It was also mentioned several times that people living in small villages can not afford to go to taverns anymore, instead they buy the liquor in shops and consume it at home. Most of the places are working as family businesses, nonetheless the offsprings do not take over the business in most cases, which leads to closure as well.

Reference: Tünde Bogdári, 2018: Társadalmi helyzetfeltárás Dél-Hevesben, Doctoral dissertation, Szent István University, p4

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