Settlements, archaeological discoveries
Due to its favourable position and available resources, Michalovce was sought after and settled in from the Palaeolithic till the Middle Ages. During the Late Bronze Age, which meant the supreme period of the processing bronze as the civilization metal, this area was probably the north-east centre within the Carpathian Basin and, together with the area of the southern Tisa River Basin, represented a huge share regarding the relations with the areas off the Carpathians. The history of Michalovce was significantly influenced by the presence of the Celts and later by the Roman influences. The archaeological research confirmed the Slavonic settlements in this area, including during the period of the migration of people in the 6th century. The lack of written records about Michalovce from the period of Early Feudalism is balanced by the archaeological discoveries from the 9th – 11th centuries found in the area of Michalovce – Hrádok as well as the discoveries of the oldest architecture on the present-day Church Square.
The oldest written record, first records
The oldest written record up to the present comes from 1244, mentioning Michalovce as the settlement – “possessio Mihal”. A document from 1258 mentions Michalovce as “praedium Mihal”, which means the manor centre. The favourable position of Michalovce on the banks of the Laborec River and on the crossroads helped the village grow into a town. It probably happened in the 13th century because as soon as in 1290 there is a record about a presbytery and a church consecrated to Virgin Mary. In the same year there is a record about four millhouses and in 1335 there is a record of a Latin school with its own building functioning within the local presbytery. To the oldest part – Slovak Street, new settlements and farmsteads are built. In the second half of the 13th century German settlers come to the town.
Records from the 14th century give evidence of the growing importance of Michalovce and its status, particularly the right to collect tolls from 1346, the right to organize Saturday market from 1374 and the right to organize the annual market from 1399. The first record speaking of Michalovce as of “oppidum” (town) is dated back in 1416 whereas the next important step proving its economic advancement was when in 1449 it was granted the right to organize two annual markets. Good conditions of the roads were important for the development of trade and that is why in 1441 marshlands are made crossable and a bridge across the Laborec River is built.
15th to 18th centuries
In the 15th century Michalovce became the most important market centre out of the 12 towns situated in the East Slovak Lowland. The centre of the town was represented by a castle – the residence of the feudal family of the Sztárays who ruled the town and the area of the Vihorlat foothills for almost 7 centuries. The first guild, the shoemakers’, was founded in Michalovce in 1651. In 1674 more guilds were established, like the tailors’, button-makers’, furriers’ and in 1698 the cobblers’ and butchers’ guild. The town of Michalovce is characterized as a landlords’ town. Within the Zemplín province it became the centre of the 4th servant’s district, the name of which was in 1773 changed to Michalovce district. Relatively steady development until the mid 16th century was replaced by a period of stagnation and decline, which lasted until the beginning of the 18th century. By the end of this unblissful period 65 settlements and the castle ceased to exist. In the 17th century the castle was rebuilt into a Renaissance castle and in 1772 the construction of a Greek Catholic parochial church was finished.
19th – 20th centuries until 1945
The 19th century brought back a significant development of the town. In 1828 there were 49 craftsman workshops representing all the 22 kinds of crafts production with the crafts licences in the region of Zemplin. Until 1874 there were a few industrial factories of the local importance in the surroundings of Michalovce (starch factory, destilleries, millhouses, brickworks) with a small number of work opportunities. The construction of the railway Michalovce – Medzilaborce in 1874 as well as the construction of the first Hungarian – Galician railway in 1871 had very important meaning for the development of the production and business. Thus, more food-processing factories and industrial factories – a brewery, two brickworks and a steam millhouse – were established. From 1876 doctors are employed in the town as the same year a hospital is established, from 1896 a newspaper called Felso Zemplén is published, in 1805 a common school is founded, later changed into a state school, from 1804 the town possesses a post office and from 1873 a printing office. In 1885, by a decision of the municipal council, a fire brigade is founded as well as the first public lighting is provided. Unemployment, being a widespread side-effect of the 18th century, results in emmigration of mainly farmers to seek a job in mines in the USA, Belgium and France.
Michalovce after 1945
The agricultural character of Michalovce until 1945 was changed by a number of newly established industrial factories after 1945. In the 1950s and 1960s factories processing agricultural products, textile, engineering and construction companies arose, Agricultural Business and Supply Company, East-Slovak Dairy, East-Slovak Bakery and Confectionery, Slovak Malt Plant, East-Slovak Pultry Plant, Clothing Company and Odeta – a production company, being some of them. Vihorlat Snina becomes one of the biggest plants exporting its products, other important plants being Oil Drilling Plant, Ceramic Tiles Plant and the construction companies.