Medieval Buda in Context. Edited by Balázs Nagy, Martyn Rady, Katalin Szende, and András Vadas. (Brill’s Companions to European History 10.) Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2016. 577 pp.
Written by leading Hungarian, English, American, and Czech medievalists, historians, archeologists, and art historians, the volume Medieval Buda in Context fulfils all the promises made in its title. Its detailed, richly-documented chapters, maps, and illustrations offer the reader a thorough presentation of the capital city of medieval Hungary. The volume is well-balanced in its discussion of the distinctive features of the development of the town in the early and late medieval period and, perhaps most importantly, it provides a sophisticated set of different thematic and geographical perspectives on a unique settlement.
The general objective of the volume was not simply to synthesize in English the findings of earlier and more recent research, but also to offer the international public a useable handbook on an East Central European city. The references tend to cite secondary literature available in the main languages, the geographical index enumerates the various names a locality bore in the multiethnic milieu of the Carpathian Basin, the annexes contain a comprehensible list of the Hungarian rulers and the Latin text of the privilege charter of Pest (which was then taken over by Buda), and a select bibliography (Hungarian, English, German, and French primary sources and secondary literature). The book also has symbolic importance, since it can be considered a tribute to the late András Kubinyi, a historian and archeologist who specialized in the history of Budapest. The inspiring breadth of his vast œuvre is palpable in the contributions to the volume (for instance in the multiple references to his research), and the editors also included an article by Kubinyi as one of the chapters of the book.
The structure of the book reflects the difficulty of arranging the specialized analyses, which are sometimes of a limited scope, in thematic groupings and at the same time showing the chronological development of a locality and its surroundings, near and far.
The volume begins with a good introduction by the editors, which offers a short summary of the historiography of medieval Buda and the main lines of its history. This is followed by two introductory chapters which outline the possible avenues of research (the first two chapters are grouped under the heading “Buda: History, Sources, Historiography”). The first chapter, “The Budapest History Museum and the Rediscovery of Medieval Buda,” describes the Budapest History Museum, its exhibitions on the early history of Buda, and the archeological projects linked to the institution (it was written by Zoltán Bencze). The second, “The Fate of the Medieval Archives of Buda and Pest,” shows the quality, quantity, and state of conservation of the written documents concerning medieval Buda (it was written by István Kenyeres).
The central part of the book consists of three thematical blocks on 1) urban topography (“The Topography of Buda”), 2) the institutions and political and diplomatic events related to the city (“Buda as a Power Center”), and 3) the court culture of Buda (“Court Culture of a ‘Capital’”).
There are three chapters preceding these thematic sections, however, which describe the situation of the area and its early localities before the foundation of Buda in the middle of the thirteenth century (these three chapters are grouped under the heading “Buda before Buda”). The chapter by Enikő Spekner shows the importance of Óbuda and Pest (fused with Buda in 1873 to become Budapest). Each settlement was home to important ecclesiastical institutions, early royal residences, and far-reaching commercial activities. József Laszlovszky and James Plumtree analyze the archeological remains of Óbuda and the legends about them. This section of the book concludes with a chapter by Péter Szabó, who examines the natural hinterland of the city of Buda and highlights the role of the Pilis Mountains as a royal hunting forest in close proximity to multiple residences of the Hungarian kings and as a favorable landscape for the foundation of monasteries.
The three central thematic parts are followed by a section offering an overview, both chronological and geographical (“Buda beyond Buda”). Two chapters examine the city at the very end of the Middle Ages, one by László Veszprémy on the events of the half century before the Ottoman occupation of the city in 1541 and one by Antonín Kalous on a moment of symbolic significance, namely the vast pageant of King Louis II and his army departing from Buda for the disastrous battle of Mohács in the summer of 1526. The last chapter, written by Katalin Szende, puts Buda in the wide network of East Central European capital cities and princely residences (20 localities in all, from Karlštejn and Prague to Stari Ras and Bucharest). Szende compares the location and urban layout of these cities, surveys their ecclesiastical and secular buildings and infrastructures, and concludes with the contention that the city of Buda may have been something of a model for these regional centers.
From the perspective of the thematic clusters of chapters, there is a certain emphasis on economics. Judit Benda describes the specialized marketplaces and shops in the city, and István Draskóczy, widening the focus, shows the broad-ranging economic network of Buda, including its ties to German, Czech, Polish, and Italian centers, ties which were maintained by relations among mobile and entrepreneurial German merchant families.
Culture and art also constitute important elements of the chapters. Károly Magyar summarizes the architectural history of the consecutive royal residences, which culminated, as it were, in the splendid late medieval palace complex situated on the southern part of Castle Hill in Buda. Szilárd Papp proposes to resolve the mystery of the attribution of the high-quality stone statue group made undoubtedly for the royal residence of King Sigismund of Luxembourg. Although the sculptors of the ensemble remain unknown, ongoing research suggests very concrete ties to the style and the artists of the French royal and princely courts around 1400. Valery Rees argues in her chapter that late medieval Buda became a regional center of Humanism and Renaissance due to the invitation and royal patronage of Italian and Italian-educated Hungarian artists and intellectuals. Orsolya Réthelyi, after describing the structures and personnel of the Jagiellonian court of the early sixteenth century, shows how the arrival of queens and their retinues influenced and enriched court culture.
Concentrating on institutions and power relations, Réthelyi’s chapter, which highlights the structure of the royal court of Buda, finds its parallel in the description by Martyn Rady of the institutions and working of the urban government, which followed a German model and was modified during the fifteenth century due to the influx and growing importance of Hungarian citizens and weakened by the closeness of the royal residence and some royally appointed officials. Wider in its approach, the chapter by the late András Kubinyi explores the presence of the royal, judicial, and ecclesiastical institutions, together with rituals and language use in support of the contention that Buda was a full-fledged capital city by the end of the Middle Ages.
Curiously, urban society and its stratification do not figure among the problems covered by the chapters of the volume. The subject is raised from time to time in the chapters, first in the general introduction by the editors, but the question is not made an individual approach of its own. On the contrary, the issue of urban space and its configuration, uses, and representations clearly constitutes the main problem of the volume, partly due to close cooperation between historians and archeologists, but also reflecting the recent international and Hungarian interest in the history of urban space, embodied for instance in the flourishing series of the European Historic Town Atlas project (launched by the International Commission for the History of Towns), for which contributions on Hungary began to be published in 2010.
The first element of the study of space is the meticulous reconstruction of urban topography, and many of the chapters are devoted to this objective. As the most general of them, the text by András Végh offers two topographical snapshots, thus highlighting the chronological changes in the urban layout of Buda between 1300 and 1400. Károly Magyar describes the spatial development of the royal palace, and Judit Benda examines the places of commerce. Beatrix F. Romhányi draws a detailed picture of the monastic topography of Buda and its surroundings, showing the preponderance of mendicant orders, the importance of the royal foundations, and a strong presence in the urban territory of monastic buildings and holdings.
The second approach explores the ceremonial and political uses of space. The chapter by János M. Bak and András Vadas analyzes, for example, symbolic representations of power through the emplacement of secular assemblies, synods of the leaders of the realm, and general assemblies of the estates, which were regularly held in Buda, Pest, and the nearby fields and thus contributed to the image of Buda as the capital city. The ceremonial meetings of Hungarian and foreign monarchs took place for the most part under the rule of the Angevin and the Luxembourg kings of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, when Buda became one of the most important places of international diplomacy, as Balázs Nagy shows in his chapter. The aforementioned texts by András Kubinyi and Antonín Kalous further explore the world of royal entries and pageants, burials, and processions in the urban milieu.
The third aspect of social space concerns the symbolic meanings attached to the elements of urban space, and the chapters dealing with this topic go beyond the chronological borders of the Middle Ages. The chapter by Gábor Klaniczay studies the different sacral spaces around Buda, Margaret Island, Gellért Hill, and the Pilis Forest, rich in religious significations and giving shelter to monasteries, and also sites of (alleged) miracles, foundation myths, and hermit communities up to the Early Modern Era. József Laszlovszky and James Plumtree go even further in their chapter, in which they show how the legends and myths attached to the ruins of Óbuda, mistaken for the palace of Attila the Hun, served the construction of heroic national identities in the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century and continue to intrigue amateur archeologists today.
The importance of topography and spatial development demands a strong cartographic background, and the volume fulfils this requirement with the inclusion of a sensible number of maps and figures, which persuasively support the arguments presented in the texts. They are particularly useful for readers with no previous knowledge of the geography of medieval Hungary. Some minor differences in the nomenclature of the maps might be a bit confusing, but the overall impression suggests clarity and usefulness.
Finally, it is worth noting that the third word of the title of the volume, context, bears a strong spatial connotation too, highlighting a general intention, a thread running through most of the chapters. First, the analyses systematically include in their frameworks the close environment of Buda, i.e. villages and urban settlements of varying sizes and legal statuses. Thus, they clearly suggest that the medieval city can and must be considered as part of a complex, cooperating agglomeration. The second spatial context of Buda is very clearly the so-called medium regni, the central part of the medieval kingdom of Hungary, including old and new secular and sacral centers of power, such as Székesfehérvár (the coronation and burial site of kings), Esztergom (the early royal center and seat of the first archbishopric), Visegrád (the royal residence in the fourteenth century), and Buda and its suburbs (the capital of the kingdom at the end of the Middle Ages). More open and more civic, the third spatial context consists of the network of German-speaking towns of Central Europe, linked by family ties, economic activities, and the adoption of similar legal models. Finally, the fourth spatial context is the numerous Central European and even European capital cities, Residenzstädten, and power centers, which are systematically compared to Buda’s urban layout, royal palace, and legal structures.
The twenty-one chapters of Medieval Buda in Context capture the essence of the most important city in medieval Hungary, and they offer studies on urban topography which are exemplary in their theoretical subtlety and attention to detail, offering a geographical overview and chronological account of the creation of a capital city, a royal court, and urban life in the environment of a medieval community.
Eötvös Loránd University
Reneszánsz utazás: Anna királyné 1502-es fogadtatásának ünnepségei Észak-Itáliában és Magyarországon [Renaissance journey: The festivities held to welcome Queen Anne to Northern Italy and Hungary in 1502]. By Attila Györkös. Máriabesnyő: Attraktor Kiadó, 2016. 218 pp.
Attila Györkös’ new study focuses on the journey of Queen Anne de Foix-Candale, the third wife of Wladislas II (1490–1516), from France to Hungary, a voyage which took her through Italy in 1502. Györkös bases his account on French manuscripts. His monograph was published by the “Hungary in Medieval Europe Research Group” in 2016, as part of the series Scriptores Rerum Hungaricarum in Debrecen. The book vividly illustrates that, in addition to charters, foreign narrative sources can also be of major importance in the study of medieval Hungarian diplomacy. Györkös has done the community of historians a considerable service by publishing a previously known but not fully edited account in a bilingual, Hungarian-French edition, making it accessible to a wide range of readers.
The book contains ten chapters and can be separated into two larger parts. The first part is a historical examination of the journey, while the second is the source edition itself. Anne de Foix’s itinerary was recorded by a Breton herald, Pierre Choque, who traveled as part of Queen Anne’s entourage. The first short chapter discusses the manuscript tradition, since Choque’s work, which is preserved in three manuscripts held in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, was not available in Hungarian translation before the publication of Györkös’ work. Györkös discovered a fourth manuscript in the British Library in London, which is the only illustrated variant. The second part of the volume, the bilingual Hungarian-French source edition, contains both the Paris and London manuscript traditions. Choque referred to images several times, and the book is supplemented by an Appendix which includes the images from the London manuscript.
In the second chapter of the book, Györkös discusses the complex political and diplomatic situation of the era with special regard to the background of the marriage of Anne and Wladislas. Györkös highlights that the marriage should be understood in the context of an anti-Turkish alliance. However, as Györkös argues, in reality the Valois-Jagiellonian approach from the side of the French was more of an expansion against the Duchy of Burgundy than anything else. The meetings started in 1498, and Wladislas II’s idea of a wedding emerged during the course of the intensive negotiations as an alternative solution to the situation. The French king Louis XII offered his two nieces as brides, and in the end, Anne, a relative of the French king on a side branch of the family, was chosen. The preparations for the marriage were halted until 1502, when the embassage embarked on the road to Hungary. The herald was entrusted with the task of recording the details of the journey for his lady, Anne of Bretagne. In the following three chapters, Györkös examines the journey’s phases, and he underlines that sometimes the details of the discussion are repetitive, possibly because it was not easy to give the numerous sumptuous events varying descriptions. Györkös points out that Choque’s narrative has three important features. Choque wanted to fulfill his commissioner’s goal, but at the same time he was a foreign “tourist” and wannabe diplomat. Györkös identifies several names, for example one person who is referred to as the “Czech man” in the earlier historiography and who was identical with Jiří z Běšin, a royal official from Bohemia. Györkös integrates control-sources as well. He consults the Venetian emissary’s reports, letters, and contemporary eyewitness accounts (such as those of Angelo Chabrielis, Girolamo Priuli, and Marino Sanuto), and this enables him to analyze the circumstances of the entries more profoundly. According to Choque’s account, Anne and her entourage set out from Blois in June. After reaching Crema and then Brescia, they arrived in Verona on July 18. Though Choque exaggerated the number of participants in the procession, he discussed in detail the banquets and performances held as part of the dinners in the Italian towns. He highlighted, for instance, the vestments worn by the Queen and the nobles and the various places in Padua visited by Anne, such the cathedral and the famous icon of the Virgin, attributed to Saint Luke in the Middle Ages. The number of sources describing the journey increased after Anne reached Venice. She celebrated for days, enjoying tournaments and visiting the cathedral of Saint Mark in Venice. Choque wrote about a mobile theatre stage in Murano, where the actors performed the Trojan legend during an evening feast. Hence, the volume is useful not only in the study of medieval diplomacy, but also for scholars interested in court culture and symbolism and Italian urban self-representation. Györkös notes that the courts frequently filled pageants with political symbolism, like the Trojan myth, which derived from the Burgundian court. Pageants were strongly influenced by the Italian Renaissance, which included stories borrowed from classical antique tradition. Actresses sometimes dressed up as antique goddesses, for instance Venus, or as Helen of Troy, while male actors played Cupido.
On August 23, the entourage reached Senj, where John Corvin, the illegitimate son of King Matthias Corvin, welcomed Anne with an army to protect her from the neighboring Ottoman threat. One of the images published in Györkös’ book depicts the procession which was led by John Corvin, who wore armor. When the entourage arrives in Hungary, the account becomes less detailed, and the precise route at the end of September remains unclear between Zagreb and Fehérvár. Györkös reconstructs the coronation and wedding by comparing them with the marriage celebration of Matthias Corvinus and Beatrice of Naples, described in the account of Peter Eschenloer, a burgher of Buda. According to Györkös, the protocol of the ceremony is not clear, and he refers to Géza Pálffy, who concludes that the ceremony returned to the previous tradition, altered from the closed, strict Renaissance character. Györkös states that in the entries this opened ordo is not so apparent.
Pierre Choque stayed in Buda from September to December, and he had a chance to acquaint himself with the Hungarian court and the famous sites in the city. He described the queen’s domains and the knightly tournaments, and he praised the good wines, highlighting in particular a spectacular wine-well in Buda. This well is depicted in the London manuscript, but Györkös notes that it was not from the period in question (the period of King Matthias), but was perhaps a later creation. Images like the wine-well call for further detailed analyses by art historians. Aquincum (that Choque identified with Sicambria) piqued the curiosity of the members of the French entourage because the myth of Trojan origins was widespread in the French medieval tradition too. In the French histories, King Priam escaped from Troy, and in the course of his journeys he and his people established Pannonia. This settlement was named after a Frank tribe, the sicambers. Choque finished his text with a report on the economy and military of the Kingdom of Hungary.
In summary, Attila Györkös’ book yields new insights into the travel itinerary of a queen in Italy and the various ways in which influence and place were given symbolic expression through ritual, all on the basis of an eyewitness account, i.e. the travelogue of Pierre Choque. The detailed study of this period suggests several new directions for research, for instance the study of the aforementioned images or Anne’s influence on her surroundings. Györkös has shed light on the background of the contemporary French–Hungarian approach, which lies in the marriage of Anne and Wladislas II, and he has also firmly reconstructed the manuscript tradition. The volume includes a useful map, which helps the reader follow the path taken by the group, as well as a genealogy and indexes. It will capture the interest of scholars of the history of queenship in the late Middle Ages.
Eötvös Loránd University
The Visual World of the Hungarian Angevin Legendary. By Béla Zsolt Szakács. (Central European Cultural Heritage 1.) Budapest: Central European University Press, 2015. 350 pp.
The fragmentary codex, which is held in the Vatican library (Vat. lat. 8541), is arguably the most important textual source associated with the pictorial hagiography of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Until recently, the main sources about this codex were two facsimile editions published in the twentieth century. The first, which was the result of a long-term commitment by Ferenc Levárdy and was published in Budapest (in Hungarian and Polish versions), because of its price remains more easily accessible in East Central Europe up to the present-day. The second (which is gorgeous and expensive and which imitates the original appearance of the parchments to very high degree of detail) was prepared by Giovanni Morello, Heide Stamm, and Gerd Betz for the Belser Publishing House in Zurich. The Vatican codex is a product of rather complicated and mysterious history. The history of the fragments, which originally belonged to the valuable whole and are preserved in New York, Saint Petersburg, Paris, and Berkeley, is similarly complex. The recent book by Béla Zsolt Szakács will be of great assistance to anyone who wants to know more about the fate of this fascinating material and the related scholarly investigations. And, of course, there is much more to learn and enjoy from this publication, which is the first in a new series at Central European University Press bearing the proud title “Central European Cultural Heritage.”
Szakács has devoted a great deal of research to this topic. It was the subject of his dissertation, defended in 1998, and of his monograph in Hungarian, which was published almost a decade later (A Magyar Anjou Legendárium képi rendszerei [Iconographic program of the Hungarian Angevin Legendary] [Budapest, 2006]). The present publication (a translation by Lara Strong) is almost identical with the Hungarian book in its structure and argumentation. Some inclusions in the text and several additions in the bibliography offer testimony to Szakács’s continued interest in the cycle’s mysteries but the integration of the recent literature is m rather haphazard, and not systematic. I would like to have seen at least a brief commentary on important publications which have provided new knowledge about the saints depicted in the legendary. These omissions are regrettable, because in his earlier works, Szakács strove to find and evaluate virtually every relevant contribution to the questions under scrutiny. Even in its present form, however, it is a map of a very complex intellectual undertaking, aimed primarily at the precise reconstruction of the original object. The result is overwhelmingly convincing, because it is based on a genuine critical assessment of existing hypotheses. There is almost nothing to add to this balance of what has been and can be known about the original material, though I would add one point, which is much clearer from beyond the borders of present-day Hungary. Not all of the saints who were canonized by King Ladislas I in 1083 were considered equally important, and this is something worth further consideration. The assertions that Stephen’s legend could have been or was a part of the original legendary are repeated several times in the book. On the other hand, the figures of holy hermits St. Andrew (Zoerard) and Benedict of Skalka are not mentioned. The question of whether they could originally have been included in the legendary is not even posed. Does this disproportionate focus reflect medieval reality, or only a selective appropriation of the saints in the small states on the late kingdom’s territory?
Szakács had always preferred hard facts to abstract reasoning. His interdisciplinary working method is firmly rooted in the best traditions of positivist art history, iconography, codicology, and historiography (to name only the most important impulses), but he seems much less inspired by philosophical discussions. Even his interest in current theoretical discussions in the field of pictorial hagiography is limited. Important works are not discussed (Barbara Fay Abou-El-Haj, The Medieval Cult of Saints. Formations and Transformations [Cambridge, 1994], Barbara Baert, Caput Johannis in Disco: Essay on a Man’s Head, Visualising the Middle Ages [Leiden and Boston, 2012], and Cynthia Hahn, Portrayed on the Heart. Narrative Effect in Pictorial Lives of Saints from the Tenth through the Thirteenth Century [Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2001]). This approach is handy for anyone who wishes to avoid complicated reasoning about the possible anthropological, philosophical, and psychological lessons to be learned from pictorial hagiography. Some authors of recent theoretical works can hardly compete with Szakács’s extremely diligent and meticulous work, which pays close attention to numerous small details and is undoubtedly a virtue of his approach. On the other hand, a reader might be disturbed by some of the details in his text, such as the frequent use of the word “natural” and its grammatical derivatives (which are found on almost every page). Frequently, it is just a rhetorical figure, but in certain contexts it masks a certain lack of interest in fine distinctions and intersections between the binding causality of natural forces and free decisions made by creative people. These questions are relevant to interpretations of image types, which are so persuasively identified in many of the passages of this book. Szakács tried to find a balance between “the power of these image types” and “the convenience of an already established image type” (p.239). The conventions of pictorial hagiography were a product of complicated negotiation processes which lasted for centuries. People who adopted a specific stance had to take care consistently to follow certain path of sanctity. The stereotypes of the genre were frequently results of very complex and even dramatic human acts, and they played important roles in sharp social conflicts. In explanations of these phenomena, there is a strong tension between a complex human understanding, personally involved in the question under consideration, and a distanced “scientific” approach, which has the considerable advantage of impartiality. Szakács has chosen the second approach, for the most part. This decision undoubtedly has certain charm and can even include restrained humor. Nevertheless, with regards to the functions of image types in the codex, it leads to a certain preference for immediate historical contexts, but the lack of sources, as the author justly observes, makes it very hard to make definite statements. There are several strong indications that the legendary was really “Angevin,” but do we have a conclusive proof?
These objections and questions notwithstanding, the book offers many valuable insights, which will be indispensable to future international research on this unique gem of medieval hagiography. There are many promising areas for future research. Among them is the relationship between the Hungarian Legendary and the large fourteenth-century hagiographic collection (Cod. Vind. 370), which came to Vienna from Český Krumlov and is known to modern scholars by the name Liber depictus. Szakács’s book raises several fascinating questions concerning a comparison of the two most important pictorial legendaria from East Central Europe. Alas, he could have gone much further in this direction had he used at least the facsimile of Liber depictus, published in 1967.
University of Trnava
A zombori ördögűző: Egy 18. századi ferences mentalitása [The exorcist of Zombor: The mentality of an eighteenth-century Franciscan monk]. By Dániel Bárth. (Vallásantropológiai tanulmányok Közép-Kelet-Európából 3.) Budapest: Balassi, 2016. 316 pp.
A Franciscan monk named Rochus Szmendrovich performed several exorcisms in Zombor (today Sombor, Serbia) between 1766 and 1769, and because of his acts he was removed from the local Franciscan Convent. The letters concerning these events are found in the Archive of the Archdiocese of Kalocsa. A scholar is often curious to find something interesting in his or her own birthplace. Dániel Bárth (head of the Folklore Department, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest) luckily found these letters, and he studied them for 14 years.
Bárth inquiry reflects not only his earlier interest in the anthropology of religion (cf. Benedikció és exorcizmus a kora újkori Magyarországon [Benediction and Exorcism in Early Modern Hungary] [Budapest–Pécs, 2010]), but also his knowledge of the fields of history and ethnology. He presents nine interpretations of the case. The chapters are ordered like building blocks, so the reader can follow the researcher’s inquiry step by step. Through a biographical approach (Chapter 1), the reader learns about Rochus’ lower-nobility family and the notable events of his early life, such as witnessing a great witch hunt during his childhood. Later, when he joined the clerical order, parish work was simply not enough for him. He wanted to be a missionary, and he became a Franciscan monk. Chapter 2 is an overview of the series of events between 1766 and 1769. Citations of source texts comprise almost half of the chapter, which, one might think, is somewhat excessive.
The following two chapters (Chapters 3 and 4) outline the local society of Zombor. Bárth states that there were no strict borders of nationality or religion (p.138), and social mobility at the time was high, because the city had only recently undergone a transformation from a military to a civilian administrative center. The presentation of local Church institutions in the fourth chapter gives the reader an overview of conflict and coexistence between (and within) monastery and city. In general, these chapters merited greater emphasis, and this betrays Bárth’s preference for cultural explanations as opposed to social ones.
Beyond doubt, the most thorough and detailed part of the book is the section belonging to the focus of Bárth’s research: demonology and healing (Chapters 5–7). As far as categories and periods are concerned, Bárth relies on Brian P. Levack’s 2013 The Devil Within. Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West, and in particular on a work about demonology in Bavaria by David Lederer (“Exorzisieren ohne Lienz,” ) and another on France by Sarah Ferber (Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France ). According to Bárth, unfortunately in Hungary there are no case studies on exorcism in the Early Modern period (p.232), but historians have determined that in eighteenth-century Hungary, the Church’s healing ministry was performed less by exorcists than by the Virgin Mary in Marian shrines (p.201). In Chapter 6, Bárth reflects on Szmendrovich’s readings on demonology, categorizes the signs of obsession, and points out that there were no strict borders between types of demons, neither in general (p.213) nor in the monk’s practice. In the seventh chapter, Bárth deals with public exorcisms, and he offers two explanations for why these public rituals were so spectacular: the tools of the exorcist (and the reactions they provoked) and the latent sexuality (victims were frequently women).
In Chapter 8, Bárth concurs with Levack that the Catholic Enlightenment was the main reason why exorcisms such as those performed by Szmendrovich were rejected by the Church (p.255). Educated prelates (as opposed to priests like Father Rochus) no longer accepted supernatural explanations for all problems in life, and in that regard, they did not live up to the expectations of the common people. With regard to this “cultural rift,” Bárth cites Eric Midelfort’s Exorcism and Enlightenment (2005), a book which presents a similar social rupture and life path, that of exorcist Johann Joseph Gassner from Bavaria. In the ninth chapter, offering a reading of Rochus’ letters as ego-documents, Rochus arrives at the conclusion that the Rochus’ personality, which was marked by an ambivalence between humbleness and self-awareness, very much stimulated the situation (pp.267–72).
The structure of the book, each chapter of which presents a different approach to Szmendrovich’s case, is a strength and a weakness at the same time. This “puzzle game” (p.12) may enrich our understanding without offering a single narrative, but it also makes it hard to follow the storyline. The various interpretations lead us in different directions, and Bárth does not specify which is the most important. To describe his own book, he uses the terms “history of mentality” and “history of events” (p.12). These expressions indicate that the work is not intended as a simple case study. First, it is not about a single case, but rather a series of events. Second, the book oscillates between different scales: it moves between the closest view (the monk’s soul), the city and its surroundings, and cultural history, including a comparison with other European territories. Third, Bárth detects a change of mentality in Zombor which (according to his interpretation) is related to the Catholic Enlightenment, which was affecting other territories of Europe at the time.
Because it suggests a link between a micro-event and a “great historical question,” the book meets the definition of microhistory set forth in István Szijártó’s What Is Microhistory? Theory and Practice (2013). The author builds on two seminal books representing the two main wings of microhistory. Giovanni Levi’s 1988 social historical study Inheriting Power about an exorcist from Santena is discussed in Chapter 5 (pp.195–99), and in Chapter 7 Bárth draws on Carlo Ginzburg’s 1980 cultural historical work The Cheese and the Worms: Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (pp.268–69). The title of Bárth’s monograph also echoes these two works. Acknowledging the influence of microhistory, Bárth emphasizes Edoardo Grendi’s notion of the eccezionalmente normale, the exceptional normal, with reference to the use of a specific source and specific incidents as potential gates of entry into general edifices, such as Early Modern popular culture. Furthermore, the discussion of Rochus’ readings is very similar to the readings of Menocchio’s in Ginzburg’s book. Defining the book as microhistory would have given the authors’ arguments more edge.
The site of the events, Zombor, and, more generally, the southern territory of the Kingdom of Hungary (now Voivodina, Serbia) is interesting in and of itself. Its multiple liminalities have shaped historical events and merit a detailed explication. There is 1) a geographical border between the Hungarian Great Plain and the Dinaric Alps; 2) a political border between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire; 3) a linguistic border between Hungarian, Serbian and Croatian, and German; 4) a religious border between the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Churches; 5) a cultural border between learned Catholic prelates and less educated monks. However, Bárth emphasizes only the fifth: in his view, the most important change that took place (and he characterizes this as a change in mentalities) was a shift in the view according to which exorcism was no longer the only way to heal.
Given the emphasis he places on the alleged importance of this shift, it is perhaps no surprise that Bárth chooses to hide the nationalities of the actors. The sources of the story were written in Latin, and Bárth considers it questionable to classify actors as Hungarians, Serbs, and so on, because we do not have enough data to determine their nationality. His solution to this problem is use Latin first names. This may seem somewhat strange, but one finds similar examples in other historical works, e.g. Matthias Benad’s Domus and Religion in Montaillou (1990). In this work (itself a rewriting of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s famous Montaillou in a new conceptual framework), Benad also uses Latin names instead of the French versions used by Le Roy Ladurie. The explanation for this practice lies in the fact that in the sources, the Occitan names of the contemporary figures were given in Latin. This solution reveals the variety and complexity of nationalities in pre-revolutionary France and in Hungary, and thus it could be accepted as a common principle by historians in the Carpathian Basin, regardless of their nationality.
As far as structure and style are concerned, one finds only minor problems. For example, the term “mendication” in local practice is used as a self-explanatory concept in several chapters well before Bárth actually provides a clear explanation of its meaning on p.175. The phrasing is amusing, but sometimes a little inconsequent. The book contains several long citations, and it is hard to distinguish them from the author’s text (the typesetting is almost the same). One solution would have been to include them in the appendix, especially in the case of Chapter 2, where the author uses many citations in the narration.
The detailed biographical presentation notwithstanding, there remain unsolved enigmas in Rochus’ life. Were historians to shed light on these enigmas, this might add nuance to our grasp of his motivations. For instance, we don’t know enough about his accumulated wealth, the Szmendrovich Foundation, though some knowledge of this might enrich our understanding of his financial motivations. Research on these questions would be possible if one were to consult the sources not used by Bárth (pp.49–60). Similarly, Rochus’ journey to Rome (p.46) might have resulted in the creation of sources in the Vatican. Maybe the best way to reveal someone’s motivations is to study their personal relationships (a similar and justified criticism was levied against Carlo Ginzburg in a 2001 essay by András Lugosi entitled “A tünetektől az interpretációig. Esszé egy homeopata jellegű történetírói gyakorlatról: a mikrotörténelemről” [From Symptoms to Interpretation. Essay on a Homeopathist-like Historian Practice: About Microhistory.]) Bárth even indicates that there was tension in Rochus’ life between his identity as a rich traveling diocesan priest and a Franciscan missionary living in voluntary poverty (pp.276–77). Finally, we might learn more about the ruptures within the society of Zombor as well. Were there palpable tensions among the inhabitants, as was true in the case of the witchcraft trials of Salem in 1692 as presented by Boyer and Nissenbaum in Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (1974). Bárth clearly sees his the limitations of his work. This is reflected by several sections in his text in which he writes about his methodological doubts, e.g. the omission of the foundation’s sources and any discussion of the relationship between Rochus and his fellow monks (p.181).
All in all, the book’s main virtue is that it puts the practice of exorcism in context, presenting it not simply as a liturgical practice and a chain of events, but also as a symptom of both cultural and social processes. Like the abovementioned books by Le Roy Ladurie, Midelfort, Lederer, and Boyer and Nissenbaum, The Exorcist of Zombor could be a good example of how to write about micro-events, particularly for historians in Central Europe.
Eötvös Loránd University
A multietnikus nemzetállam: Kísérletek, kudarcok és kompromisszumok Csehszlovákia nemzetiségi politikájában 1918–1992 [The multiethnic nation state: Attempts, failures, and compromises in Czechoslovakia’s nationality policy from 1918 to 1992]. By László Szarka. Dunaszerdahely/Dunajská Streda–Pozsony/Bratislava: Kalligram, 2016. 374 pp.
László Szarka requires no introduction to Hungarian and Slovak readers; as the author of several books and hundreds of studies on the nationality problems of East Central Europe with a primary focus on the Slovak national movement and the Hungarian and Czechoslovak nationality policies, he is a well-established authority in his field. His newest book can be regarded as a summation of his previous writings about Czechoslovakia’s nationality issues. No wonder that the book is based on an unusually large amount of scholarship, including the most recent studies in Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, English, and German; the bibliography comes to some forty-five pages, and it contains archival and published sources, as well as a long list of secondary literature.
The book is divided into an introduction and four chapters, but it lacks a concluding chapter and summary. In a sense, however, the introduction is already a kind of summary, as Szarka states in advance that the Czechoslovak attempt to make a democratic multi-ethnic state failed. Although the book is not meant to be read as a crime novel, this method is a little strange. The author adds that the concept of the “Czechoslovak political nation” was very similar to the concept of the “Hungarian political nation” during the Dualist period. Each of the two states tried to assimilate minorities and therefore contributed to nationality tensions. It is clear that Czechoslovakia had the most liberal nationality policy in East Central Europe when it was founded, but Szarka argues that the image of Czechoslovakia as a democratic nation state was little more than a myth.
The first chapter deals thoroughly with the theoretical background (the elaboration of which amounts to one of the great strengths of the book, although the remainder of the text has a descriptive rather than an argumentative character), nation-forming and state-forming nationalisms, the changes during the Great War, and the making of the Czechoslovak state. The main aim of the book is to examine “what attempts were made to create the constitutional framework of a democratic nation state [in Czechoslovakia]” (35, all translations by the reviewer – PB). As we have seen, by this point readers already know that these attempts failed. However, Szarka thinks that Czechoslovakia can hardly be considered an “artificial country” (p.85). He argues instead that not only the Czechs but also Slovaks and Rusyns regarded the country as their true homeland. What is more, he presumes that its founding fathers (Masaryk, Beneš, and Štefánik) recognized the incongruities and contradictions between the idea of the Czechoslovak political nation and the real minority situation. According to him, Masaryk proposed a “democratic nationalism” (p.109), and the political elite had three different plans to create a democratic nation state, the most famous of which was the idea of an “Eastern Switzerland.” It is indeed a great pity that none of these plans were realized. I would add here that members of the Hungarian political elite also had rather progressive and liberal ideas in the 1860s, but the realities on the ground were rather different, very much like the situation in Czechoslovakia after 1918.
The second chapter (Nation State – Minority Policy) deals with the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918–38). This period is characterized as “nationalism with a human face.” Surprisingly, the chapter starts with reiterations of statements made in the previous chapter, and there is relatively little information about the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s. The most relevant element here is the self-organization of the Hungarian minority and the roles of the elites. In other words, the focus is on the strategy of the Hungarian minority instead of Czechoslovak minority policy. Szarka sums up three different interpretations of the Hungarian minority history: the so-called grievance policy, self-organization through activism, and the so-called realist option, which combined the first two methods. The next sub-chapter, “Between the Status Quo and Revision,” is about the period between 1935 and 1938. Emphasis is on the international situation, but nationality policies are also discussed. There were several attempts to find a way to a more democratic minority policy: drafts of a minority statute were created, and different plans for Slovak and/or minority self-governance or autonomy were discussed. It was probably too late for such reforms to succeed, but Szarka somewhat generously assumes that “in theory, under peaceful circumstances, they [Beneš and Hodža] would have been able to shape a new, more democratic minority policy” (p.180). We shall, of course, never really know what might have happened under less turbulent circumstances.
Chapter three, “In the Shadows of Hitler and Stalin,” discusses the years between 1938 and 1948, but the sections on 1938/39 and 1945–48 are much more detailed than those on the war years. Szarka suggests that “the dissolution of Czecho-Slovakia in March 1939 was a process with many causes” (p.206). In other words, contrary to the later claims of the Czechoslovak state, it was not simply the work of the minorities. Szarka showed insight in his decision not to separate the years before and after 1945 and to emphasize instead that these years had much in common. After all, forced migration, deportations, and disregard for human and minority rights were carried out under Nazi rule and postwar Czechoslovak rule, and some cases involved little more than a reversal of the roles of the oppressor and the oppressed. There are long pages about increasing German influence on Hungary, which fall outside the expected scope of the book. For his Hungarian readers, the years 1945–48 promise to be among the most interesting. However, this period has been widely discussed already, and Szarka was prudent not to go into too much detail.
The title of the last chapter is “(Inter)nationalism in the Party-State.” This is not the most convincing choice, since the first pages deal with the expulsion of the Germans between 1945 and 1948 (which should have been discussed in the previous chapter), and the period of the regime change is also included. A mere 26 pages are devoted to minority issues between 1948 and 1989. In other words, the longest period is dealt with in the shortest way. While the events of 1968 are depicted in some detail, the coverage of the Husák era is given altogether four pages. Clearly the nationality problem became much less important after 1948, when the only remaining larger nationality group in the country was the Hungarian minority (the actual prime subject of this work). Even the local impact of the 1956 revolution is left unmentioned, although the subject was thoroughly researched in the previous decade by Slovak and Hungarian historians. The only moment during which open debates were held about the minority issue under the communist regime was the Prague Spring of 1968. Szarka summarizes the draft programs of the Hungarian minority leaders and also the various Czechoslovak responses to them. This section of the book discusses only minority issues, devoting little attention to the international situation (e.g. the intervention of the five Warsaw Pact states, etc.). In some sense, this part of the book suits the subtitle of the volume best.
Otherwise, the contents of the book tend to differ from what the title and subtitle suggest in three notable ways. First, the notions of “multiethnic” and “nation state” contradict each other. In my assessment, it would have been more apt to use Rogers Brubaker’s term, “nationalizing state,” instead of “nation state,” and not only in the book itself, but also on the cover. However, it is possible that Szarka intended to make an ironic gesture by choosing this title. Second, although the German, Polish, and Rusyn issues are all mentioned in the book, by far the greatest emphasis is placed on the Hungarian minority. Thus, it would have been more accurate to indicate in the title that this book is mainly about Czechoslovakia’s Hungarians. Third, long sections of the book analyze the international situation, with a focus on Czechoslovak and Hungarian foreign policy, and one recurrently finds passages about the Romanian and Yugoslav minority situations too. As we have seen above, minority strategies are an integral part of the book. In fact, they are given more attention than the minority policy of the Czechoslovak elites. Last but not least, the book seems to be disproportional. While nearly half of it deals with the formation of Czechoslovakia between 1918 and 1921, the years between 1922 and 1935 and also the period between 1969 and 1988 are almost absent.
Despite these reservations, the book remains a highly useful one. It is based on decades of research, which have made Szarka one of the leading experts on the topic. The gravest problem with the book, however, is that it appears to be a “published manuscript” on which no serious editorial work has been done. To sum up, the book has great merits, but it appears unfinished; it is not only unedited, it also requires careful restructuring.
University of Szeged
A Horthy-kultusz 1919–1944 [The Horthy cult 1919–1944]. By Dávid Turbucz. Budapest: MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Történettudományi Intézet, 2015. 461 pp.
For those interested in the Horthy era, Dávid Turbucz should already be familiar. Miklós Horthy, one of the most controversial and significant personalities of Hungarian history in the twentieth century and the eponym of a 25-year-long period, has long been one of the focal points of the young historian’s research. Turbucz published a widely received scholarly biography (which also met with interest among lay readers) of Horthy in 2014. His works since have been characterized by thoroughness and impartiality, as is true in the case of his current monograph on the Horthy cult, which is based on his successfully defended 2014 PhD thesis.
The volume is a synthesis of research begun in 2007. It is no exaggeration to say that the choice of topic is bold and timely, since even today Horthy’s historical legacy provokes lively debates, and thus the question itself is inevitably riddled with traps for the historian. Most readers will surely take a book on Horthy in hand with strong preconceptions and expectations. Turbucz is fully aware of this, and he avoids this trap by emphasizing that he does not intend to politicize the subject from any point of view. Instead, he dissects the highly polarized simplification two contentions made frequently today according to which Horthy was either the “father of the nation” or a “fascist dictator.” One of the most significant precursors to the notion of Horthy as the father of the nation is the Horthy cult between the two World Wars, whereas the latter view draws primarily on the simplistic rejection of Horthy as a Nazi collaborator after 1945. Turbucz is no doubt correct in his contention that assessments aiming at unbiased objectivity will not prevail over colloquial language (and this is unlikely to happen in the near future, even if Turbucz’s volume facilitates this process).
The book is not about the person and deeds of Miklós Horthy, but on how his contemporaries depicted him during his time in office. Turbucz defines the fundamental objectives of his work as follows: “I did not wish to re-enact what sort of person Miklós Horthy was, even if this cannot be avoided at certain points, but to show what scenes may have influenced the opinions of contemporaries on the Regent between 1919 and 1944. […] In this book, the character of Miklós Horthy appears as he existed in the imagination of others and as the product of cult-construction” (p.19). In short, Turbucz tries to present and interpret one of the most typical expressions of symbolic politics of the interwar period, the Horthy cult, placing it into its own age.
Like most cults, Horthy’s appeared as a supposed panacea in times of crisis, and this is why it could closely “cohabit” with revisionist thought. The substance of the cult was that the restoration of the glorious past could be expected from Horthy and Horthy only. Like other cults, Horthy’s had its negative effects, which Turbucz points out, namely that by the end of the era, Horthy, like practically everyone who has ever been the object of a cult, started to believe what had been said of him, namely that he was an extraordinary personality without whom everything would collapse. This can most particularly and fatefully be noticed in the expressions and behavior of the Regent during the occupation of Hungary by German troops in March 1944. The cult not only distorted the Regent’s ability to perceive himself and his role, it affected his followers too, hampering their ability to think critically and worsening their appreciation of political realities and responsibilities.
According to the well-established, professional definition used by Turbucz, Horthy was an “authoritarian leader,” and the cult surrounding him was an integral part of a system which can be considered “restrainedly parliamentary, authoritarian, a transition between democracy and dictatorship” (p.39).
The volume is mostly chronological and partially thematic. In the introduction and the chapter which follows, which examines the theoretical framework, Turbucz clarifies the conceptual basis of his inquiry, provides a detailed bibliography, and presents his interdisciplinary approach. He draws not only on the toolkit of historiography, but also on approaches used in other disciplines, such as political anthropology, explanatory political science, and media studies. He also refers to the “evolution of his research.” We find reflections on his former works in which he refines some of his earlier conclusions. Turbucz is aware of the fact that even a comprehensive and elaborate examination of the cult has to admit to certain limitations. Further significant questions would be to what extant did Hungarian society endorse the Horthy cult, how deeply was it embedded, and how intensely did it affect public opinion and widespread sentiment. Turbucz underlines that in the absence of authentic sources (e.g. public inquiries), no exact answers can be given to these questions. Thus, he does not approach the issue from the point of view of the intended audience of the cult (presumably the larger public), but from the angle of the people who crafted it, concentrating on the factors that influenced the vernacular and the channels that they used.
Turbucz laudably devotes a whole chapter to a discussion of other European leader-cults and, consequently, the historiographical context, searching for similarities and differences with which he determines the place of the Horthy cult in the history of political thought. He considers the cults of Stalin, Hitler, Codreanu, Churchill, Franco, Hindenburg, Mannerheim, Masaryk, Metaxas, Pavelić, Pétain, Piłsudski, and Salazar. Faith placed in strong men with military backgrounds was part of the European Zeitgeist, which was connected to the crisis of parliamentarianism and was further strengthened by the Great Recession, which began at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s. However, it is worth noting that while many of the “strong military leaders” became de facto dictators, Horthy gradually transformed into a conservative head of state starting from the initial stage of Count István Bethlen’s consolidation policy (1921/22). Subsequently, perceptions of Horthy’s role changed: the Regent became less involved in shaping governmental policy, with the exception of military affairs, so everyday political tasks belonged to the prime minister’s sphere of authority. According to Turbucz, this is important because it clearly suggests that Horthy did not think he could understand and find solutions to all of the problems faced by the state (p.99). At the same time, he was not the only political figure around whom a cult was formed in Hungary. An analogous phenomenon developed around Gyula Gömbös and Ferenc Szálasi, the latter of whom effectively turned into a dictator by the end of the era. In his comparison of local and foreign examples, Turbucz does not endeavor to offer a complete analysis; this could surely be the subject of further research and another book.
The subsequent chapters of the volume survey the development, evolution, and thematic alterations of the cult chronologically, from the beginning to its end, namely the time of the German occupation of 1944. Turbucz primarily undertakes to analyze the functions of the subsegments of the official Horthy image. Thus, he does not offer a detailed examination of the narratives that differed from the official and dominant Horthy image. He places considerable emphasis on identifying and presenting the mediums of the cult, and to this end he examines a vast amount of material from the press, including writings published in 18 contemporary daily newspapers. In addition to the print media, Turbucz also considers the ever-spreading radio and newsreel of the era, which offered new means for cult-building (for example, the volume includes a complete list of newsreels in which Horthy appeared, pp.397–400).
The fact that the Horthy Cult can be divided into sections is well-illustrated by the chapters of the volume. At first, the radical right, mainly members of the military, was the primary architect of the cult, but later in the 1920s, the circle expanded to include levels of the administration, which resulted in the alteration of its substance. In 1919/20, Horthy was presented as the “savior of the country,” while over the course of the next fifteen years this image transformed into the “builder of the country,” and by the end of the 1930s, as a result of revisionist successes, the Regent was apostrophized as “the expander of the country.” Turbucz also highlights that anti-Semitic shades emerged and were strengthened within the layers of the cult during World War II. In the chronological chapters, he lists occasions which were essential and symbolic moments in the construction of the cult (e.g. the anniversaries of Horthy’s entry into Buda and his election as Regent, his birthday, and his name day), the “scenes” of cult building (military sites, spaces of public education, churches, the parliament, the seats of social organizations), and cult-building techniques (e.g. the naming of public spaces after the regent, and the aforementioned mediums). Turbucz also takes Horthy’s family members into account, who “played significant parts” in the cult surrounding the Regent.
Questions regarding the builders of the cult and their motivations are raised throughout the volume. With regard to the latter, Turbucz concludes that some people contributed to the process out of sincere faith in the regent’s abilities, while others did it out of career ambition or simply because they were guided by compulsive conformity. At the same time, Turbucz mentions several organizations and people who played a major role in constructing the cult (e.g. author Cécile Tormay, author Ferenc Herczeg, army officer and later politician Gyula Gömbös, the Etelközi Szövetség [League of Etelköz], the Magyar Országos Véderő Egyesület [Hungarian National Defense Association], the Vitézi Rend [Order of Vitéz], etc.)
The message of the book is supported by two data-driven supplements, the first of which contains thirty-two tables and the second of which includes six picture charts. Both add nuance not only to the examination of the themes of the cult, but also to the discussion of its dynamics. A name index and subject index are also included to facilitate orientation within the volume. The many images found in the last thirty-two pages of the book (fifty-five photographs, posters, and other illustrations) provide an impressive visual addition to the main text. The book amounts to an original and well-balanced professional work of scholarship, which invites further reflection on the issue and furthers a more impartial and thorough understanding of the interwar era.
University of Debrecen
Szabadkőművesből református püspök: Ravasz László élete [From freemason to reformed church bishop: The life of László Ravasz]. By Pál Hatos. Budapest: Jaffa Kiadó, 2016. 332 pp.
László Ravasz (1882–1975) was probably the most important public actor of the Hungarian Reformed Church in the twentieth century. It may thus come as a surprise that Pál Hatos’ work is the first book-length biography of Ravasz, in which Hatos reinterprets Ravasz’s whole controversial lifework. To clarify the larger context of his work, Hatos contends that in the twentieth century, Protestantism lost some of its intellectual influence and social-political importance. At the same time, he underlines that “the interrelationships between politics and religion had significant effects on the development of society” (p.13) in the period.
The first chapter includes a brief historiographical overview sufficient to demonstrate many open questions. Hatos’ goals are twofold: he aims to interpret how Ravasz was shaped by history on the one hand and how he was able to shape history on the other. Hatos convincingly argues that “the life of László Ravasz can be divided into three periods” (p.15). The first period is the first three decades of his life (1882–1921), which he lived in Transylvania. This is followed by the interwar period (1921–45) during which he served as a bishop in Hungary. The third distinct period in his career came after World War II (1945–75). Interestingly, the structure of the book does not strictly follow this temporal framework, since the text is divided into six main chapters and 35 sub-chapters. The focal point of previous studies tended to be the second period in Ravasz’s, with particular emphasis on his political role during World War II. Hatos balances this by placing similar emphasis on the earlier and later periods.
The chapters on Ravasz’s Transylvanian period also describe the intergenerational mobility of the family. The depiction of the bucolic milieu of Kalotaszeg (Ţara Călatei), where the ancient and the modern were profoundly intertwined, offers ample testimony to Hatos’ excellent storytelling ability. In his introduction of Ravasz’s ancestors, many of whom were in the service of the Reformed Church, Hatos aptly contextualizes his subject. Ravasz studied at a grammar school in Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc), in a largely Catholic region, where he learned what minority life meant. However, as Hatos argues, since Ravasz had not yet become a profound believer in the doctrines of the Calvinist Church, his relationship to it was more a matter of role play at the time. In the course of his theological studies in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca), Ravasz attended lectures at the faculty of the arts, since he wanted to become a poet or a writer. Hatos examines the impact that some notable professors (Albert Molnár, Károly Nagy, Károly Böhm) had on him. It is very important that the young theologian became familiar not only with the religious revival and the so-called “inner mission” (or “innere Mission,” a movement led by German evangelists who sought to kindle a “rebirth” of Christianity) in Cluj, but also with modern life in an urban environment. Thus, the young litterateur and editor-theologian praised the erotic poems of Renée Erdős and was enthusiastic about cosmopolitanism.
The early phase of Ravasz’s life ended in 1903, when he started to work as a secretary and assistant pastor at the Transylvanian Reformed Church with bishop György Bartók. I would have been curious to learn more on the roots of Ravasz’s new orientation and the reasons behind this career change. Bartók was a representative of Transylvanian rational and liberal theology, and he did not endorse the idea of religious revival. Ravasz at the time supported the politics of Count István Tisza, and he worked hard not only in the administration, but also as an assistant pastor. Hatos traces his path from the bureau back to the University, where the young scholar filled a vacancy at the Department of Practical Theology in Cluj. To complete the requirements for his degree, Ravasz spent two semesters in Berlin, where he was influenced by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Georg Simmel. Moreover, he wrote articles about the inner mission, referring to demographic trends of Transylvania as well. This kind of openness remained an important element of his worldview.
Two remarks have to be made. First, Hatos describes Károly Böhm’s value theory and its impact on Ravasz in this chapter. He should have clarified these influences in the earlier subchapter, in which “value theory” is part of the title (pp.39–51). More importantly, Hatos fails to offer definitions of “inner mission” and “revival.” After his studies in Germany, Ravasz came to describe inner mission as a “saint perversity” (p.63), but in interwar Hungary he already followed Albert Molnár’s (one of his teachers in Cluj) “ecclesiastical inner mission method” (p.44). We also read about the “inner mission program of Budapest,” which Ravasz adapted “into Transylvanian ecclesiastic life” (p.120) during World War I. Furthermore, the apostles of inner mission supported him in 1921 (p.154), and as a bishop he supposedly put religious revival and the centralized inner mission in the focus of the ecclesiastic work. Moreover, after World War II, a “revival wave” (p.245) dominated the Reformed Church, resulting in a countrywide boom in religious life. At the beginning of the communist dictatorship, however, this community provided a basis for collaboration. The question that arises here is whether Ravasz domesticated different methods, as was his intention, or inner mission and revival can be interpreted without such a precise meaning, like other generally used phrases, such as populism or racialism. Biographers may understandably prefer not to deal with conceptual dilemmas as their primary task, but an important question is left open.
By the time World War I had broken out, Ravasz had emerged as a well-known practical theologian, pastor, and orator in his region. Hatos gives an extensive overview of the ideological context of his activities. Hungarian Protestantism was being put back on the defensive by secular radicalism and Catholicism, not to mention its inner conflicts. Ravasz realized that the Reformed Church had to adopt new identity politics using modern devices, such as the press and, later, the radio. In 1916, he gave up his scientific and literary ambitions and devoted himself to organizational work for several decades. Hatos cites a forgotten article from 1908 in which Ravasz lays out a “reactionary” (p.91) reform plan against “anarchistic, destructive trends” (p.92) like positivism, historical materialism, sociology, and l’art pour l’art tendencies in the arts. In this document, he preached a Protestant-based new conservatism against the Jews and the Catholics.
However, Ravasz’s spiritual turn was completed only the following year (1909), when he was evangelized by an American Methodist. At the same time, he joined Freemasonry, which may be perceived (as the title of Hatos’ book suggests) as surprising from the perspective of today. However, Hatos contends that quite the opposite is true: membership was a social convention, and what was more remarkable was that Ravasz left the Lodge in 1917. During World War I, Ravasz appeared optimistic, and he contributed to the sacralization of the war. In 1914, he took the editorship of Protestáns Szemle (Protestant Review) over from Dezső Baltazár, and this soon made him known nationwide. He edited the periodical in the spirit of his “reactionism,” thus, like the Catholic ideologist Ottokár Prohászka, it was not the revolutions of 1918/19 that caused his conservative and anti-Semitic turn.
After the Hungarian collapse, Ravasz rethought the idea of cultural supremacy and developed an alternative theory of “minority Messianism” (p.135). However, his minority life was not to last long in Romania. After a long campaign, he was invited to serve as the bishop of the Danube Region in 1921. He proved to be a modern, mobilized evangelizer, who visited his ecclesiae often. He was a spiritual leader, a “professional communicator” (p.84), and a top manager of his Church in one. Hatos offers descriptions of Ravasz’s financial incomes, and he shows how hard Ravasz worked for what he earned. Social constellations and interests meant that the Reformed Church provided an important platform for political reformers, like the népi (or “folkish”) movement.
Hatos analyzes Ravasz’s role as Bishop (1921–48) and his presidency of the Hungarian Reformed Church’s Convent and Synod (1937–48). In addition, he deals with the role of the National Pastoral Association of the Reformed Church (ORLE), where Ravasz served as president between 1936 and 1948. Hatos details the “increasingly close correlation” (p.188) between centralization in ecclesiastical politics and strengthening etatism. Ravasz was a member of the Upper House as well, where he voted for the first anti-Jewish Law in 1938. While he was himself very much a member of the political establishment, Ravasz recognized the dangers of etatism and the spread of anti-Christian ideas. Nonetheless, he was grateful to Hitler and Mussolini for the Second Vienna Award in 1940, and he supported Hungarian participation in the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Hatos presents Ravasz’s anti-Semitic parliamentary and radio speeches, and he emphasizes their wide-ranging impact on society. He does not fail to consider contemporary writings, such as Ravasz’s correspondence, either, which document the anti-Jewish climate of opinion and the pressures that the right-wing exerted on him. Hatos claims that later, during the rapid mass deportation and extermination of hundreds of thousands of from Hungary in 1944, Ravasz proved “the most dynamic Christian leader to organize protests and rescue efforts” (p.245).
Hatos interprets the Hungarian regime change in 1945 as a political, economic, and social “earthquake” (p.16), and he considers “year zero” as the beginning of Sovietization (p.256). Indeed, 1945 is an important landmark, used mostly by historians of politics and international relations, but this importance has been disputed from the perspectives of the history of society, economy, and culture. National and international syntheses convincingly demonstrate that 1949 can be viewed as an alternative endpoint of the interwar period in a broader sense, as Hatos indeed does when he emphasizes that churches were filled with churchgoers in 1945. At that time, Ravasz struggled to maintain the Church as an independent, decentralized institution, and he paid visits conscientiously and frequently to the communities in his district. Hatos offers several examples in support of his contention that “penance became one of the most important discourses of the Hungarian Reformed Church in the decade after World War II” (p.252). It can be presumed that this attitude became the basis of the new Calvinist Church policy during the communist dictatorship. In 1948, Ravasz took a back seat in the Reformed Church, as people like Albert Bereczky and János Péter were being promoted in the hierarchy. During the relatively short-lived Hungarian revolution of 1956, Church collaborators were displaced and Ravasz was brought back into a position of prominence. But after the glory days, which in fact lasted for several months within the Reformed Church, Ravasz lived in retirement with his family in Leányfalu. However, he maintained his intellectual curiosity and followed the newest trends in Hungarian literature and international Protestant theology. He died in 1975, at the age of 93.
In summary, with the minor exception of some incorrect wording (e. g. pp.73, 237, 246, and 279), Hatos has produced an eminently readable biography which is based on serious research into archival sources and press materials and also drawing on previous scholarship. Unfortunately, numerous citations lack endnote references, and the book does not contain an index of names. The book nonetheless remains a significant intellectual product and a must read for scholars dealing with the history of the Hungarian Reformed Church in the twentieth century, and it will be of interest to anyone curious to know more about the person or the era as a whole.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Lélektan és politika: Pszichotudományok a magyarországi államszocializmusban 1945–1970 [Psychology and politics:
The psycho-sciences under state Socialism in Hungary]. By Melinda Kovai. (Károli könyvek.) Budapest: L’Harmattan Kiadó, 2016. 514 pp.
The new book by Melinda Kovai is a groundbreaking undertaking which presents the history of the institutionalization and politicization of the science of psychology in Hungary from the middle of the nineteenth century to the 1970s (the slightly misleading title of the book notwithstanding). Kovai offers not a traditional history of an institution or science, but rather a sociological history in which she adopts a decidedly interdisciplinary approach. Indeed, her use of the term “psycho-sciences,” which she borrows from the work of British sociologist and social theorist Nikolas Rose, is one of the clear indications of the innovativeness of her approach. Thus, in her study, Kovai, who herself has training in sociology and psychology, covers a far broader spectrum than psychology or psychiatry, expanding her inquiry to fields like mental hygiene, psychoanalysis, eugenics, and political psychiatry. Kovai examines the creation or domestication of these psycho-sciences in Hungary as social constructs, processes in which mutual interactions among different actors (politicians, doctors, therapists, etc.) played important roles at varying times. These factors exerted a decisive influence on the institutionalization of these sciences, determining for instance which social groups were put into these categories. Kovai also examines a wide range of autobiographical writings (including memoirs, interviews, etc.) in order to shed light on the micro-worlds of the aforementioned actors, and this is another one of the innovative features of her study. Most of these writings were composed by psychologists and psychiatrists, and thus they offer personal perspectives on the institutionalization of the psycho-sciences.
The book is divided into two long chapters. In the first, Kovai examines the precursors to the phenomenon in question, tracing the emergence of the community of specialists from the Compromise of 1867 to end of World War II. The Lipótmező asylum (the name of the institution indicates the part of the city in which it is found, Lipótmező, or “Leopold field,” named after Lipót Göbl, who purchased the area from the city of Buda in the early nineteenth century), which was the largest asylum in Hungary, plays a key role in this chapter, and Kovai uses it as an example with which to present the institutionalization of the psycho-sciences in Hungary. In Hungary as in the rest of Europe, this process was part of the larger process of modernization. The first state lunatic asylum was created in 1868 as one of the signs of the country’s recently won independence. State-of-the-art treatment for the patients was considered an important task and criterion of the civilized modern state. Lipótmező became one of the most important bases for the science of psychiatry in Hungary, though physicians were trained not here, but rather in the clinics. Kovai shows the importance of World War I in the evolution and spread of the sciences of psychiatry and psychology, since large numbers of soldiers who suffered terrible neuroses because of their experiences in the war desperately needed treatment. In other words, suddenly the psycho-sciences became strategically important in Austro-Hungarian and German military affairs. This played an important role in the institutionalization of something which earlier had been regarded and had functioned merely as a movement. Thus, it contributed to its emergence as a medical science.
Psychoanalysis, which was prominent for the most part in left-wing circles and among intellectuals curious about trends in the West, was not given an institutional form before the outbreak of World War I, but the so-called Aster Revolution of 1918 (which saw the brief rise of a parliamentary republic) and, in particular, the Soviet Republic of Béla Kun gave it new momentum. Under these two governments, psychoanalysis enjoyed considerable state support, in part because individual representatives of the science were given positions in state institutions and in part because state institutions the essential function of which was to cultivate it were founded. The Soviet Republic in Hungary followed the example which had been set by the Soviet Union, where psychoanalysis enjoyed a place of distinction into the 1920s as a branch of the sciences that strove to understand the human psyche. The fall of the Soviet Republic in Hungary led to various forms of discrimination in the interwar period, in which anti-Semtism played the most prominent role. Therapists had to clear themselves of any accusation of having communist sympathies. Nonetheless, one can still speak of a sort of golden age of psychoanalysis in the interwar period in Hungary, though because of the aforementioned factors it was never given an institutional framework by the state and existed more as a kind of movement practiced inconspicuously, unlike psychiatry, which during the Horthy era was an important, if not central, part of health care and education policy. Ethnic fault lines were particularly sharp in the medical profession, and this affected psychiatry. Non-Jewish representatives of the science tended to be members of the National Society of Hungarian Physicians, which supported anti-Semitic laws (like the numerus clausus, which limited the number of Jews who could be admitted to university) and government policies (Jews were not admitted to the Society).
These circumstances notwithstanding, the institutionalization of psychiatry in Hungary can still be said to have begun in the interwar period, since it began to become increasingly present and prominent in schools, the military, and the workplace. While the nationalist cultural politics of the era played a role in the institutionalization of children’s pedagogy, economic factors dominated in the career counseling that was provided and the introduction of tests to determine people’s suitability for work. Though there were institutions with profiles in psychology that were maintained by the state at the time, for the most part the professional elite frequented seminars and lectures held in private apartments and studios, i.e. in the kind of semi-open sphere of the urban middle class. People who were unable to attend institutions of higher education or get positions in state offices (either because they were Jewish or because they were women) took part in this semi-open world in which the psycho-sciences were nurtured.
But the real subject of the book is the history of the politicization of the psycho-sciences after World War II. After the war, a shift took place in the institutionalization of the psycho-sciences, first and foremost because there was a radical changing of the guard, as it were, in the elites. As part of this change, in the new state people who earlier had been excluded from the profession because of the discriminatory laws were given positions. At the same time, as Kovai reveals, the politicization of the psycho-sciences in Hungary was determined first and foremost by ideological dependence on the Soviet Union. The rapid institutionalization and short-lived rise of the psycho-sciences after World War II was linked first and foremost to the transformation of public education, and as part of this, psychologists and psychiatrists who earlier had worked within the frameworks provided by societies and the semi-open sphere (or simply as volunteers) became state employees.
The institutionalization of the psycho-sciences in Hungary was brought to an abrupt halt, however, by the ideological assault which, as part of the Cold War, called psychiatry and psychology into question in the Soviet Union and stamped both as Western sciences. In the 1920s, the psycho-sciences had remained open in the Soviet Union to Western developments, but as the Cold War came to dominate every sphere of life in the postwar world, the scientific nature of psychology was questioned, though psychiatry enjoyed a more protected position, as it was considered a medical science and therefore one of the so-called natural sciences. Thus, it could easily defend itself from ideological attacks according to which it rested on materialistic foundations. Psychology, in contrast, was in a much more vulnerable position, first and foremost because of its ties to the West. This was unacceptable during the Cold War, since one of the goals of political power in 1949 and 1950 was the creation of a Russian (i.e. again, a non-Jewish) psycho-science. So-called Pavlovism was one part of this. Pavlovism was built on the politicization of the lifework of Pavlov, and its primary goal was the transformation of the psycho-sciences into a natural science (first and foremost neural science). As a consequence of all this, “true scientificness” only came back after Stalin’s death. The psycho-sciences never got the kind of state support or re-institutionalization in Hungary that they had enjoyed in the immediate aftermath of the war, before the communist takeover of the country. Kovai shows that in the Kádár era, psychology simply was not a primary concern for the regime, and so in the 1960s and 1970s, it found a place in public education and children’s social services only by coming from the bottom up. As it became gradually easier to establish and maintain relations with the states of the West, Hungarians in the psycho-sciences also became part of the international circulation of ideas.
According to the title of her book, Kovai’s inquiry ends with the year 1970, though in her summary she also makes references to the 1980s. This alone suggests that perhaps the somewhat arbitrary choice of temporal framework was not ideal, and indeed Kovai herself was unable to adhere to it strictly. Furthermore, the second half of the Kádár era (i.e. the period after the fall of Khrushchev) is almost completely absent from the book. It would have been worthwhile to have extended the study of the history of the politicization of the psycho-sciences to the change of regimes, since the phenomena which she describes would have been more easily analyzed and interpreted. I would also note as a point of criticism that Kovai uses terms in her writing which, though they remain in use in sociology and social history to the present day, earlier had strong ideological and political overtones, for instance class, class relations, class conflict, and proletariat. Kovai would have done well to clarify exactly what she meant by these terms. As I have already observed (and characterized as a strength of the book), she uses a wide array of autobiographical texts, but in general, she does not analyze them. Rather, she uses the recollections of people in the field for the most part as illustrations. This constitutes a remarkably positivist use of sources, as if she were assuming that the citations she has chosen will tell us what actually happened. It would have been worth devoting a separate chapter to a discussion of the circumstances under which these sources were written, and it would have been prudent to have dealt with them a bit more critically, and not simply as a means of creating the illusion of the “reality” at the time. However, Kovai herself does indicate some of the lacunae of her account, for there are many blank spots in the history of the politicization of the psycho-sciences. One hopes that similarly complex research will be done and similarly engaging studies will be written on this history.
University of Miskolc
Az első aranykor: A magyar foci 1945-ig [The first Golden Age: Hungarian football up to 1945]. By Péter Szegedi. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2016. 504 pp.
Péter Szegedi has been researching the history of Hungarian football (I use the term used globally for the sport instead of the American term, soccer) for nigh on twenty years. His writings have played a key role in ensuring that the history of sport is no longer a glaring hole in Hungarian historiography or a minor topic left to amateur researchers, but a serious, legitimate field of study. His first monograph, Riválisok (Rivals), which examines the social history of football in Debrecen, was published in 2014. His latest book looks at the first “Golden Age” of Hungarian football, now all but faded from the nation’s collective memory: the age before 1945, which culminated in the first Silver Medal in the World Championships in 1938.
The book begins with the observation that by the first decades of the twentieth century, a well-developed football culture had evolved in three different parts of the world. The first was Great Britain, followed at some distance by Uruguay and Argentina, and then by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (or Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary; more specifically Vienna, Prague, and Budapest). Though they were far behind Britain, they nonetheless established leagues ahead of everyone else.
Szegedi’s work seeks to understand the continental hegemony of Austro-Hungarian football and, specifically, the success of Hungarian football within that. After a survey of the foundational myths of Hungarian football, Szegedi turns to the question of why MTK, Ferencváros, and eventually Újpest stood out so prominently among the other clubs in Budapest and its environs. He goes on to demonstrate how the Hungarian provinces (i.e. the rest of the country, apart from the capital) slowly came to take part in competitive football. He conducts a careful analysis of the increasing commercialization of football, and the discourses surrounding it. He provides a wealth of detail in his chronicle of how Hungarian footballers and trainers spread throughout the world and the significant roles they played in the rise of Mediterranean football in particular. He goes on to demonstrate the strengthening role of state intervention in football, and so on.
In the foreword, two paradigms of sports historiography come together. The book begins thus: “In the summer of 1945, after a forced hiatus of almost two years, the Hungarian National football team was preparing for its first post-War match. The opponents were our old rivals, the Austrians, against whom we played two matches, one after the other. On 19 August, we won 2-0, while the next day, we won again, 5-2, in the Stadium in Üllői Avenue” (p.7). As this citation illustrates, Szegedi starts off using the first-person plural, a characteristic of traditional sports histories borrowed from old-fashioned national and local historiography. He pursues the history of a given community as a member of that community in order to recount that history to the very same community. Within this paradigm, the body and sports are not a historical-social construct, but a phenomenon outside history, a timeless natural given, thus, endless lists of sports successes can serve to demonstrate the greatness of the “we.”
But though the book begins with this traditional language of sports historiography, the work itself consciously avoids this approach. There are in fact no further instances of the author writing in the first-person plural. At most, we could say that Szegedi’s account takes on a nostalgic tinge and keeps slightly less distance from its subject when looking at the lives of the three eccentric aces of this Golden Age (Ferenc Plattkó, Alfréd Schaffer, and Béla Guttmann). But he does not delete this part in the interests of narrative unity, fortunately, as this is one of the most exciting passages in what is already a well-written book, documenting a period when the rules of the media discourse surrounding football apparently had not yet solidified, and footballers occasionally told the media not what they were expected to say, but what they really thought.
It becomes clear from the second half of the foreword that Szegedi does not regard himself as a traditional sports historian at all. According to him, “football is much more [...] than [...] just a game” (p.10). For him, what happened on the pitch is very much connected to what was happening off the pitch. His starting point is that the results of matches are a socio-historical product, which, as he puts it, “are an expression of competing identities.” (Zoltán Barotányi, “‘Ha nyer a csapat’: Szegedi Péter a régi idők magyar focijáról” [‘If the team wins:’ Péter Szegedi on the Hungarian football of yore], Magyar Narancs, August 25, 2016, 20.) In other words, the stadium appears here as the site of civilized social conflict. Every World Cup is a World War without bullets, every domestic championship match is a bloodless civil war. We could say that Szegedi and the social historians of football believe that football is, week after week, a measure of the power relations between various social groups and the positions of various collective identities. In this sense, teams tend to be more or less successful, depending on the power of the social groups they represent (a class, an ethnicity, a religion, a settlement, etc.) and the intensity of the conflicts among these groups.
This conceptual framework seems useful but unfinished. There are many elements of Hungary’s pre-1945 footballing success which it cannot explain. The nations within the Dual Monarchy really were engaged in sharp conflict with one another, but this in itself cannot explain the high quality of the football matches that were played. If that were the case, why were the French and German teams not the best on the continent at the time? We can apply the same logic within the Monarchy as well: if it was heady national feeling or sharp inter-ethnic conflict that lay behind the high standard of football, then why did Vienna, Budapest, and Prague become the capitals of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’s football, and not Lemberg (today Lviv), Krakow, or Sarajevo? Or, if the hegemony of MTK and FTC within Hungarian club football found such fertile soil to develop into a Jewish/bourgeois versus non-Jewish/plebeian competition, then why did the peasantry, by far Hungary’s largest social class at the time, not express its yearning for emancipation on the pitch? Why was there not a single football club representing the peasants?
So history does not quite fit the model offered in the book, but furthermore, The First Hungarian Golden Age also applies it inconsistently. When, for instance, Szegedi is faced with the question of how Újpest finally managed to join the ranks of FTC and MTK in the late 1920s, he abandons this conflict-centered approach and links the high quality of football not to social conflict, but to specific social situations. He believes that teams were successful that were from settlements 1) that were relatively well-populated, 2) in which a significant proportion of employment was provided by industry, and more specifically, factories, and 3) in which a significant proportion of the population consisted of Jews. Of the provincial cities, this description perhaps fits Nagyvárad (Oradea) best, but this city was not part of Hungary for part of the period under discussion. And indeed, the first champions of the Hungarian League to come from outside Budapest and its environs were Nagyváradi AC in 1943/44, but this had nothing to do with the significant Jewish population of the city, and very little with its overall population and industrial development. Nagyvárad managed to get their hands on the title thanks in large part to government support. (Bence Barát, “Futball, társadalom és politika a két világháború közti Magyarországon: Az erdélyi labdarúgás és az államilag irányított futball” [Football society and politics in Hungary in the interwar period: Football in Transylvania and state controlled football], MA thesis, Eötvös Loránd University, 2016.) In his discussion of the popularity of Ferencváros, Szegedi at one point explains that FTC, like most popular football teams, owed its popularity to their outstanding results. Here, therefore, the author claims that success in football was independent of the world outside the pitch and that it was not the result of the social circumstances behind the various teams, but could be rather accidental at first and a self-reinforcing trend later. We still do not have, therefore, a comprehensive and working explanation of the success of Hungarian football from a social scientific standpoint. The book, in the end, does not tell us why pre-1945 Hungarian football developed to such a high standard, but rather only how.
But Szegedi’s book nonetheless fulfils a very important function: it reexamines in a critical and empirical way the generalizations, half-truths, and suppositions regarding the history of Hungarian football. The analysis of Hungarian football from a social-historical viewpoint began with Miklós Hadas and Viktor Karády’s 1995 article, and they began their analysis thus: “this article feeds off the common repository of knowledge present in a substantial proportion of Hungarian men, whose elements very often seem self-explanatory.” (Miklós Hadas, and Viktor Karády, “Futball és társadalmi identitás” [Football and social identity], Replika 6, no. 17–18, (1995): 89.) Szegedi is more or less going after such “general knowledge,” checking up on the facts and adjusting and correcting them. He demolishes the myth that violence on the pitch is a sign of the crisis of our disordered age. The widespread assumption that the stands of the Hungarian stadiums were always full of spectators and it is only recently that they have emptied out also turns out to be false. He investigates the social backgrounds from which the players were recruited and whether the widespread suppositions about the divergent ratio of Jewish players on the various teams were true, as well as the original meaning behind the colors of the Ferencváros club. He uncovers a wealth of data on the financial operation of the clubs (incomes, taxes, hidden payments to the pseudo-amateur players), systematically analyses the results of the national team’s and Hungarian clubs’ international matches, and looks at the career trajectories of Hungarians abroad. On some points, however, Szegedi’s empirical research leaves something to be desired. He mentions several times that football fans came predominantly from the lower strata of the middle class, but there is nothing to support this in the book. The most significant shortcoming of Szegedi’s work from a researcher’s point of view, however, is that the book is not properly academic in form. Though there is a bibliography at the end, there are no footnotes, so the sources on which Szegedi relies would be very difficult to locate.
Nonetheless, the book is not only an enjoyable read for a wider audience, but also useful for academics. It is in fact a fundamentally important work. But Szegedi does not develop a comprehensive model to explain the success and failure of football from a social scientific point of view, though there is plenty of call for this. I do not claim to have a general explanation, but let me sketch the outlines of a model that may help us understand the social conflicts played out on the pitch. Long-term success comes to the teams that 1) represent social groups that are sharply in conflict with others but 2) their conflict is not so sharp that the members of these groups prefer to resort to bloodshed, as they are satisfied with symbolic victory over their rivals (which is also a recognition of the other’s right to exist). But only civilized conflicts that 3) can be expressed physically, which is to say those in which the various camps have physical stereotypes about each other, are suitable as a foundation for lasting football success. Another necessary factor for success is that 4) the parties to the conflict be able to spend significant amounts of money on football, which is to say on the representation of their interests, and this is possible if there are many of them, they live in geographical proximity to one another, and they have large disposable incomes. But all this will only lead to success if 5) football is played out in a free-market environment, and the capabilities of the teams are not subject to political decisions. If the competition is not fair or, in other words, if the league tables no longer actually express the power relations of the various social groups, but merely the will of those in power, then spectators will gradually lose their interest in football. The result of this, sooner or later, will be a game of lower quality.
Eötvös Loránd University
Jüdische Museen in Ostmitteleuropa: Kontinuitäten – Brüche – Neuanfänge: Prag, Budapest, Bratislava (1993–2012). By Katalin Deme (Veröffentlichungen des Collegium Carolinum; 133.) Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016. 317 pp.
In her new book, which is based on her PhD thesis (defended at the School of Culture and Society at Aarhus University), Katalin Deme analyzes three Jewish museums in East Central Europe each of which has a different history and different institutional relationship with the state and the local Jewish community. To be more specific, she looks at the Jewish museums in Prague, Budapest (both traditional institutions founded and now run again by the Jewish communities), and Bratislava (an official undertaking of post-socialist Slovakia). Deme is particularly interested in two questions: first, how did these museums respond to the collapse of state socialism in 1989, and how did they use new opportunities to present Jewish history and culture “independently from the normative patterns” of the communist period (p.4)? Second, how did the three museums define their Jewish identity, how did they represent Jewish history within the respective national master narratives, and what concepts of “national loyalty” did they develop in doing so? Both issues converge around the question concerning the processes of questioning and renegotiating Jewish identity from 1989 on (including again, according to Deme, the problem of the national and ethnic belonging of the Jewry) within a context that was marked by the redefinition of an ethnic and national identity of post-socialist societies as a whole. In short, how did the museums try to reconcile the “Jewish” and the “national” master narratives?
Deme’s central questions are highly interesting and promise to yield new insights into the social, political, and national dynamics of the transition era from socialism to post-socialism. Her findings constitute an important contribution not only to the discussion about nationalism and anti-Semitism in East Central Europe, but, as a result of her focus on Jewish actors, also about post-socialist Jewish life.
While focusing on the period from the early 1990s on, Deme devotes considerable space to the description of the history of the Jewish Museums in question, combining an institutional history with an analysis of the museums’ narratives of Jewish history and culture. One could certainly be critical of this choice, as these sections do not present the findings of original research, and at times one feels lost in the many themes that Deme addresses. Also, it is not clear what Deme understands by “institutional typology” (p.22), which she defines as her objective with regards to the pre-1989 period. Nevertheless, for readers who might be familiar with only one of the cases, this relatively extensive discussion of the historical background can help further a better understanding of the differences and similarities among the three museums.
Deme succeeds in highlighting the continuities and the importance of the past for the situation after 1989 too. This becomes very clear in her discussion of the legacies of the Nazi past, an issue which is important not only for the Jewish Museum in Prague (owing to the richness of its collections partly due to the Nazi project of a Central Jewish Museum), but also for the Jewish Museum in Budapest, which tragically became a very concrete lieu de mémoire of the Holocaust and the collections of which grew considerably after 1945, as it took over the collections of local Jewish communities which had dwindled or vanished (or been destroyed) entirely. Deme’s critical analysis of the ways in which the institutions deal with this difficult legacy, i.e. the ways in which they “come to terms” with their own past, is certainly one of the most fascinating parts of the book, and they make it relevant from the perspective of the current policies and future orientations of Jewish Museums in East Central Europe and beyond.
Her last chapter about the future prospects of Jewish museology in the twenty-first century makes it clear, once more, that Deme does not content herself with an analysis of recent developments, but aims rather to contribute to the discussion about the future orientations and identities of Jewish museums in Europe. For instance, she advocates overcoming narrow national narratives through emphasis on international and transnational aspects and the presentation of Judaism not as a stable category, but in its relations and interactions with the non-Jewish environment.
While the Holocaust is integrated quite differently into the museums’ narratives (as an integral part of the Bratislava exhibition but treated separately, in distinct monuments, in Prague and Budapest), there are several similarities when it comes to the question of the inclusion of the Jews in the national master narratives. The three Jewish Museums tell the histories of old-established minorities and stress the belonging of the Jews to the respective national communities. This is symbolized, for instance, in the emphasis placed on the Jewish contributions to the struggle for national independence (the Czech-Jewish movement in the nineteenth century or the Jews fighting in the Slovak National Uprising in 1944). For the Jewish Museum in Budapest too, Deme demonstrates convincingly how the museum’s focus on Jewish life prior to the Holocaust contributes to a reaffirmation of the narrative of a shared Jewish-Hungarian history, a narrative that would become much less coherent if a critical discussion of World War II formed an integral part of the museum’s narrative.
Whereas the overall conception and the main questions and results (even in the absence of archival research) are all stimulating, several individual parts are less inspiring. The author’s deviations from the main subject and the occasional lack of focus and coherence clearly hamper the reading of the book. Deme’s introduction, for instance, in which she aims to discuss concepts and methodological approaches, is not fully convincing. Her understanding of ethnicity and national identity and its opposition to (exclusively) religious Jewishness does not enable her to discuss multiple and shifting identities with adequate subtlety. She fails to include recent discussions about the concept of “loyalty,” a term she uses only when it comes to memory cultures in her explanations of the attempts of the curators to embed Jewish historical narratives into national master narratives.
When she recapitulates recent academic approaches to museums, she does not go beyond commonly accepted (at least within cultural studies and new cultural history) propositions to understand museums as arenas, for instance, which reveal less about what happened in the past than they do about how this past is interpreted and used in the present. When, in her discussion of the interactions of visual and textual components in museums, she identifies a “double discursive level” (p.10), she overlooks a third important dimension, namely the materiality of objects and the position of the visitor within the exhibition space. Thus, she also undervalues the importance and performative potential of monuments (the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague or the memorials in the courtyard of the Jewish Museum in Budapest), which she does not treat as equal parts of the museums’ narratives because they are non-textual. Furthermore, Deme is interested primarily in the museums’ permanent exhibitions, and she devotes less space to an analysis of the roles of the museums in different areas, such as education, cultural activities, public discourse, and historical research. If, then, Deme concludes that the museums are active agents of cultural memory and “disturbing stumbling blocks” for the majority society which compel them to discuss the “suppressed segments of their own totalitarian past” (p.256), this may be true, but it does not follow as a logical conclusion on the basis of her research.
Last but not least, one has to wonder about her conceptualization of 1989 as a clear watershed in the history and culture of East Central Europe and her generalizations concerning the socialist period. Since she is interested in the “new” possibilities that the “post-totalitarian” (p.12) period offer Jewish Museums, her view of the socialist period is altogether negative, stressing the ideological manipulations and political instrumentalizations of the museums, their “totalitarian identification models” (whatever that means; p.122), and the museums’ decades-long “institutional stagnation” (p.50).
These limitations and weaknesses do not minimize the overall importance of Deme’s book, both as a historical analysis of the Jewish Museums in East Central Europe in the transition era and as a critical discussion of their role in the respective societies, the self-perceptions (or identities), and their possible future orientations.
Lázadó falvak: Kollektivizálás elleni tüntetések a vidéki Magyarországon, 1951–1961. [Villages in uprising: Demonstrations against collectivization in the Hungarian countryside, 1951–61]. By Gyöngyi Farkas. Budapest: Korall, 2016. 405 pp.
In his book Csendes csatatér (Silent battlefield), Sándor Oláh refers to Transylvanian villages in which the farmers tended to resist collectivization passively. Supposedly, this type of resistance was typical in Hungary too, unlike in the Soviet Union, the Balkans, or parts of Romania, where, according to the research of, for instance, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Viola Lynne, and Denis Deletant, sporadic peasant riots erupted to hinder collectivization.
Gyöngyi Farkas’ book contests this view by focusing on mass demonstrations against communist rule in Hungary (and in this her study is unusual). The cover image captures the author’s intention clearly: the black and white picture depicts peasant women yelling and making threatening gestures. They are among the main actors in her volume, which aims to present the movements initiated by this relatively powerless group.
Accordingly, (inter)national political decisions are shown mostly from this perspective, and very little attention is paid to the state elites. Local elites do appear in Farkas’ account, but, as she persuasively shows, their position proved rather insecure at the time. Local party members were pushed more by the Communist Party to set an example and take part in agitation in favor of the collective farms, but even the membership of the collectives remained reluctant Cadres often experienced the inequities of the communist system from close up, and they were blamed for poor decisions made by the central authorities. These conflicts are revealed in individual stories which show for example how a party secretary was turned into a scapegoat (pp.173–92), or how a chairman of a committee went into hiding to escape agitators arriving from cities (pp.31–35). State employees (e.g. teachers, engineers, and doctors) also generally obeyed calls issued by the Party to show support for collectivization and they represented the official policy of the party more than local cadres.
In addition to delaying implementation of collectivization, hiding was one of the most commonly used and most efficient means of resistance in addition to delaying implementation of collectivization. Female family members could simply stay at home, accomplish the necessary tasks, and refuse to join the collective farms in the absence of their fathers and husbands. Otherwise, passive people adopted forms of active resistance only when they had reached their ultimate limits. In general, the Hungarian peasantry did not favor active resistance. In 1956, many farmers who had had conflicts with agents of the communist state did not take part in the revolution and tried to remain invisible to the authorities. But those who did take part fell into the trap of being branded “counterrevolutionaries,” the label which came to replace “kulak” and “exploiter” as the primary term used by the regime to denounce people (pp.80–82).
Farmers viewed collectivization as a temporary phenomenon. Although they “offered” their lands to the collective or started working in the industrial sector, they returned to their farms at the earliest opportunity. This happened twice, first with the reforms introduced by Imre Nagy in 1953 and then right after the establishment of the Kádár regime in 1957. As life stories show, there were still some limited ways of avoiding joining the collectives (p.43), but this was, of course, exceptional. Most farmers were forced to join the collective farms during the campaigns.
The era of campaigns, specifically the decade between 1951 and 1961, is the temporal framework of Farkas’ study. This choice indicates Farkas’ preference for a social historical approach rather than a political historical one. She focuses, in other words, on the actual experiences of collectivization, rather than on the frequent changes in policies. Furthermore, Farkas highlights features common to both the Rákosi and the Kádár regimes. These kinds of continuities were seldom mentioned before 1989 (Károly Makk’s film Egymásra nézve [Another Way], based on a 1980 novel by Erzsébet Galgóczy entitled Törvényen belül [Within the Law] is a notable exception). Zsuzsanna Varga and József Ö. Kovács have amply demonstrated the widespread nature of state violence prevalent in the countryside until the early 1960s, but their findings remain contested. Farkas marshals new examples and arguments as further evidence of the everyday physical and psychological terror endured by the rural population of the country after 1956.
Farkas’ study reveals differences not so much in the methods used by the elites, but in the reactions of the victims. While in 1951 the whole village stood united in its opposition to the state policies, in 1960 only women tried to oppose or object to the statements on joining the collective (pp.239–78). What caused these changes? As Farkas shows, the decade-long campaign broke the spirit of many of the farmers who earlier had put up some opposition, and it reshaped the group of resisters. The peasantry was under siege during this decade, and it functioned as a slowly waning opposition to the communist dictatorship, which was intent on abolishing private property. This constant war is examined in the second major part of the book.
The first section (“A kollektivizálás elleni védekezés formái,” or “Forms of defense against collectivization,” pp.21–108) is a theoretical overview of resistance based mainly on the ideas presented by James C. Scott in Weapons of the Weak. The virtue of this chapter is the use of this theory in a study on Hungary, with a wide range of examples taken from different parts of the country. These examples consist primarily of individual acts for which the passive assistance of the community was necessary and which themselves often preceded collective acts. Farkas gives more emphasis to leaflets, writings on walls (pp.80–82), and symbolic acts (pp.103–07) than other historians of the period have.
The four chapters in the second part of the book offer a series of case studies from Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County, which was the most turbulent of the counties: even in the final months of collectivization in February 1960, five out of eight demonstrations against the collectives were held here. Former years proved to be also eventful. The demonstrations (protests in Tyukod and Porcsalma in 1951, people abandoning collectives in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county in 1953, and protests in Nyírcsaholy in 1960 and Bököny in 1961) represented different political courses and different forms of resistance. The demonstrations in 1951 (pp.109–86) remained an isolated affair, but later, upheaval spread to nearby communities, mostly due to rumors. For the most part, collective acts began not during the process of collectivization, but after the establishment of the collective farms, at a time when the local officials lacked the help of urban agitators. However, the demonstrations in Nyírcsaholy (pp.239–78) followed a different path: in Nyírcsaholy the whole village tried to cooperate in order to limit the work of the agitators, their primary aim being not to avoid collectivization, but to reduce the level of violence.
Farkas examines the villages and local communities on the micro level, and sometimes on the level of individuals. Her approach is multidisciplinary, and she devotes considerable attention to psychological and anthropological factors in her attempts to reconstruct individual strategies and the processes by which news was spread. Scattered evidence suggests that many people did not listen to the official radio news, but got most of their information through private conversations (p.209). In a truly captivating section of the book, Farkas compares the turns of phrase used by a lawyer and his client, a peasant. (pp.369–77).
Gyöngyi Farkas’ work is an important contribution to the historiography of Hungarian collectivization, which can no longer be discussed as a history of passive resistance only. Although opposition was stronger and more noticeable in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg than in any of the other counties of Hungary, new insights could surely be gleaned from the thorough study of active resistance in the other regions of the country between 1951 and 1961.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences