Leopoldov Prison

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Leopoldov Prison
Vstup do leopldovskej vaznice.jpg
Location Leopoldov, Slovakia
Gucmanova Street 19/670
priečinok 7, PSČ 920 41
Coordinates N 48° 26' 45,72" E 17° 46' 35,14"
Status Operational
Security class Medium-High (male)
Capacity 1426
Opened 1855
Managed by Zbor väzenskej a justičnej stráže
Director pplk. Ing. Michal Halás

Leopoldov Prison (Slovak: Nápravnovýchovný ústav a Ústav na výkon väzby Leopoldov) is a 17th-century fortress built against Ottoman Turks that was converted into a high-security prison in the 19th century in the town of Leopoldov, Slovakia. Once the largest prison in the Kingdom of Hungary, in the 20th century it became known for housing political prisoners under the communist regime, notably the future communist President of Czechoslovakia Gustáv Husák.

After the dismantling of communism in 1989, Leopoldov Prison was the place of a series of violent revolts requiring intervention of highest-ranking government officials including Ministers and the Prime Minister, who personally conducted negotiations inside the prison. The building complex was damaged during the riots and in 1990, the Slovak parliament voted to close the prison down. However, it continues to serve until today. Leopoldov Prison was the place of the 1991 prison break, where a group of prisoners fought their way out, murdering several prison guards in the process.


A memory on Leopoldov's cemetery dedicated to graecocatholic bishop from Prešov Pavol Peter Gojdič (died on 17 July 1960) and Metod Dominik Trčka who died in Leopoldov Prison on 23 March 1959.

Construction of a fortress against Ottoman Turks started in 1665 and was finished in 1669, on the initiative of Leopold I,[1] after the Nové Zámky fortress fell to the Turks. The fortress was built in a star shape, with two entrance gates. During the reign of Maria Theresa of Austria, it was used as a military warehouse. After loss of military importance in the 19th century, it was rebuilt as a prison in 1855, with a capacity of around 1000 inmates, what was the biggest prison in the Kingdom of Hungary at that time.[2] Since that time it is used as a prison continuously until present. During the Communist Czechoslovakia, the Communist government used the prison for holding and liquidating political prisoners, particularly in the 1950s. The conditions were harsh for prisoners, and the prison was one of the most notorious in the former Czechoslovakia.[3] Among the inmates was Gustáv Husák (from 1954 to 1960),[4] who would be later communist president of Czechoslovakia.[1] The prison was modernized and reconstructed in the second half of the 20th century. Before 1989 there were approximately 2,600 inmates in the prison. As of 1990, it was the biggest prison in the present-day Slovakia.


The Leopoldov Prison complex consists of a 267,651 meters squared area. It is divided into an administrative part, prisoner cellblocks and workshops. Some parts of the complex are protected as cultural and historical landmarks.

The prison includes four general practitioner offices, one dentist's office, one psychiatrist's office and place for bedridden patients. Leopoldov Prison specializes in treating prisoners suffering from tuberculosis and diabetes and convicts in court-appointed protective anti-drug treatment (usually for alcoholism).

Prisoner revolts[edit]

In December 1989, shortly after the Velvet revolution a wave of unrest swept the Czechoslovak prisons. After a wide-ranging amnesty by president Václav Havel from January 1990, the prisoners in Leopoldov prison revolted. At this point there were approximately 2500 inmates in Leopoldov, including some 200 murderers, 170 rapists, 370 burglars and 320 thieves, most of them falling under the provisions of paragraph 41 about serious recidive thus not being the subject of the president's amnesty. About 552 prisoners were to be released but this process started gradually. Besides reconsidering their cases in face of the amnesty, revolting prisoners also demanded that many wardens compromised under the communist regime or brutal towards inmates be fired. First hunger-strikes and unrest in January were suppressed.

On March 1, 1990 217 inmates barricaded themselves inside a structure called the Castle (sleeping rooms of the III. and IV. regiment). They managed to hold the object for some time, demolishing the furniture in the process, but this uprising was suppressed.

On March 15, 1990, the prisoners started a revolt, resisting arrest for two weeks, barricading themselves and using iron rods, razors, petrol bombs and improvised flamethrowers as their weapons. The revolt climaxed on March 28, 1990 when hundreds of prisoners managed to set the roof of the Castle on fire. After the end of the revolt, the damage was estimated at 27 million Kčs and a big part of the prison was not habitable. In fact, the damage was so great that authorities seriously considered closing the whole prison down.

The situation in Leopoldov prison remained tense, as many leaders of the previous revolts were still among the inmates, including Tibor Polgári who took part in a famous prison break a year later. In November 1991, seven escapees from Leopoldov prison murdered five guards.[1] After spending four hours fleeing Leopoldov prison, stealing several cars in the process, they managed to take a train which took them back to Leopoldov.

1999 murder[edit]

In the early hours of September 2, 1999 in cell no. 2 on the VI. regiment of Leopoldov prison Jozef Vígh from Čenkovice and Stanislav Zimmermann from Malá Lehota strangled their cellmate with a leather belt and laid his body in a way to suggest suicide. At this time, both men were already serving a 15 and 17 year long sentences. They were both convicted of the murder and their sentences have been changed to life imprisonment.


Although the Slovak National Council voted to close the prison in 1990, this decision was reversed in 1993. Today, the prison is used as a medium and high security prison, for 1,426 inmates. Some objects are protected as historical monuments.[5]

Notable inmates[edit]

See also[edit]


Coordinates: 48°26′39″N 17°46′40″E / 48.44417°N 17.77778°E / 48.44417; 17.77778