Topoľčany (Veľké Topoľčany before 1920; (Groß) topoltschan; Nagytapolcsány) is a town in the Nitra Region of Slovakia. The population as of 2006 was 28,685. The town's population is nicked "Žochári" (sing. Žochár).
The name Topoľčany was assumed to be derived from "topoľ", Slovak for poplar tree. Groves of these trees were once abundant on the banks of the Nitra River. Recent studies show that this name is derived from Old-Slavonic "topol" meaning "warm, hot", for there were hot springs in early medieval times.
Topoľčany Castle was built in the 13th century 18km to the NW of the town owing this distance to lowland location of Topoľčany. The castle lies on slopes of Považský Inovec.
During the 12th century and 13th centuries, Topoľčany was owned by Csak family, its most famous member being Matthew Csak. In the 15th century, the castle was conquered and held by the Hussites for 3 years, who only abandoned it for a fee of 9 thousand ducats in 1434. In 1443 the countryside was pillaged by a rogue-noble who had captured the castle, but was later evicted by the king and sent to Moravia. The same year the town (and much of Carpathia) was struck by an earthquake, and again in 1444.
During the 16th and 17th centuries there were a few large-scale fires that destroyed substantial parts of the town. Because the town was only 60 km north of the border between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy, Topoľčany was often raided by the Ottoman Turks during the Ottoman wars in Europe, notably in years 1599 and 1643, when many citizens were taken into slavery. The town's population stagnated as a result. The town's location in lowland thus proved a disadvantage in times of war as the town never grew sufficiently enough to erect city walls.
For most of its history Topoľčany's population was ethnically mixed. While the rural population was almost purely Slovak, the urban population consisted of Carpathian Germans, Jews, and Magyars. Jews immigrated to the town during the 16th-18th centuries. This ethnic mix came to an end in the first part of the 20th century, as industrialization attracted Slovaks from surrounding areas and the number of Magyars decreased after the creation of Czechoslovakia following World War I.
The Jewish (about 3,200 people) and German population substantially decreased during World War II. The 550 Jews from Topoľčany who survived the Holocaust and returned to their homes found themselves strangers in their native town, without property and in many cases without citizenship. Because most of the Jews in Topoľčany spoke Hungarian or German, they had declared their ethnicity in the last pre-war Czechoslovak census as Magyar or German instead of Jewish or Slovak. The Beneš decrees after World War II expelled Hungarian and German-speakers, both Jewish and Christian in religious creed. Also, most of Topoľčany's pre-war businesses were owned by Jews, but were taken over by Slovaks during the war. Jews that survived the war fled after a pogrom of 24 September 1945 that injured a few dozen people (some say it was because of a rumour that a Jewish doctor was injecting children with a poisonous serum, another version states that the Jews wanted to take over local monastery school). Because of these actions, all of the remaining Jewish population emigrated.
The majority of the population is Roman Catholic (there are two churches of this denomination including one on the central square), although there is also a minority of Protestants (one church). The historical synagogue was destroyed by fire during World War II.