What impact did the savings bank idea have in Central and Eastern Europe after its implementation in Vienna in 1819? How did this concept of self-provision develop in a region shaken by history? Looking back on and reappraising the past is essential to sustaining an organisation’s memory. The CEE (Savings) Banks History Project is a long-term research undertaking dealing with the heritage of Erste Group members. It investigates corporate archives as well as the dreams and expectations of individuals and societies.
To a large extent, the culture of an organisation is based on values that must be communicated both within the organisation and to the outside world. In order for these values to reflect society when viewed from a historical perspective, the organisation must continuously update its biography, keep record of its production in the form of publications, promotional products, annual and business reports and the like, and collect objects relevant to the organisation’s history. An organisation that – thanks to its founding idea – is firmly established in society and seeks to remain an integral part of it, has a certain responsibility. Its memory is also the memory of a particular community and its individuals.
ERSTE Foundation is the main shareholder of Erste Group. From a historical and institutional perspective, our social responsibility is based on the savings bank idea which we inherited from the Erste österreichische Spar-Casse, founded in 1819. We undertook a scientific reappraisal of Austria’s role in this history when ERSTE Foundation took up operations in 2006. The CEE Savings Banks History Project is now taking the next step. Embedded in an organised collection strategy and archive structure, research into the historical roots of Erste Group’s banks in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine safeguards Erste’s historical heritage in the long term and allows us to use it productively.
The history of savings banks in Eastern Europe is as chequered as the historical developments that accompanied it. While the banks of Erste Group differ in their origins, there are many parallels when it comes to turning points in their corporate biographies. The CEE (Savings) Banks History Project looks into both individual corporate histories and the savings bank history itself, with the ultimate aim of writing a “history of saving”. From a historical perspective, the history of saving becomes a “history of the future”. It recounts how people – as well as society and the banks themselves – believed it was possible to shape the future and have done so by putting money aside: making personal provisions by saving money opens up new horizons, creates hopes and dreams and helps overcome all disruptions and crises. An ethnography of saving emerges from the perspective of cultural science, linking the historical approach with an analysis of the Central and Eastern European region. Based on a “culture of saving”, it describes cultural identities. The complex development of this sophisticated cultural area thus also becomes an integral part of the history of saving.
The CEE (Savings) Banks History Project researches the corporate heritage and the archives of Česká spořitelna, Slovenská sporitel’ňa, Erste Bank Hungary, Erste Bank Croatia, Erste Bank a.d. Novi Sad, Banca Comerciala Romana and former Erste Bank Ukraine. The team is looking for historical data (documents, photographs, films, objects), which are either archived within the company or kept in external archives (state, regional or private). In addition to the archive materials directly related to the company, general historical documents related to the history of saving banks and the history of saving in the region (from the 19th century until today) are also relevant.