The name Spisz (Slovak Spis, German Zips, Hungarian Szepes) denotes not only a geographical and administrative area in the Carpathian Mountains but also an autonomous historical region with a distinct cultural identity. Spisz lay at the crossroads of different national and religious traditions and its multilingual inhabitants developed a common, though not homogeneous, culture. It was provincial (the region had no noteworthy urban centres), and yet by no means parochial. In some ways Spisz was, from the Middle Ages onwards, one of the bright spots in Eastern Central Europe. It was never short of educated people, who formed something of a local intelligentsia, and artists -painters, writers, and musicians. Among the late 19th-century celebrities who bad a connection with the region were Alexander Bela, the pioneer of roentgenology in Hungary, and Laszlo Mednyanszky, a major contemporary painter. Spisz could also boast of a welldeveloped school system, which covered all rural areas. The Lutheran Gymnasium in Kezmarok and the yeshiva in Hunovce had a reputation which extended well beyond the borders of the region. Although the development of regional culture was greatly assisted by the Hungarian Carpathian Society and the Spisz Historical Society, the contribution of grassroot social and cultural associations, which were run by local enthusiasts in almost every small town was of no less importance.
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