pdfVolume 6 Issue 1 CONTENTS


The Habsburg Empire: A New History. By Pieter M. Judson. Cambridge, MA–London: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 2016. 567 pp.


In recent decades, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the changes of regimes in Eastern and Central Europe, interest has grown in the histories and ultimate falls of the empires that once ruled the region. It is thanks, in part, to this new interest in the pre-World War I history of the region that numerous new, engaging works of scholarship on the Habsburg Monarchy have been published. In contrast with earlier assessments, which were rather one-sided and negative, a new “revisionist” trend has emerged, which is particularly prominent in the United States. The earlier scholarship tended to present the Habsburg Monarchy as an anachronistic state or a so-called “prison of nations,” the fate of which was allegedly sealed from the outset, and the decades immediately preceding its fall were characterized as a time of chronic crises and death throes (the mere titles of the monographs and articles that were published on the subject in the 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s exemplify this tendency). The newer literature, in contrast, reassesses these schematic views. The roots of this earlier “master narrative” are found in the scholarship that was published in the period leading up to the Great War and the period immediately after the war. The arguments that were made by R. W. Seaton-Watson and Oszkár Jászi (to mention only two of the more emblematic names), which rested on the notion of tensions between centripetal and centrifugal forces, exerted a decisive influence on the scholarship on the Monarchy and its fall for a long time. Works of history that approached the region from the perspective of the nation state did not really know how to deal with the many peculiarities of the Habsburg Monarchy, though to paraphrase an article by Gary B. Cohen in 1998, with regards to the monarchy of the Dualist Era, one can speak neither of absolutism nor of anarchy (“Neither Absolutism nor Anarchy: New Narratives on Society and Government in Late Imperial Austria” [1998]). As Cohen suggests, when historians concentrate too narrowly on the collapse of the monarchy and study its internal conflicts according to an approach that is too narrow in its perspective (first and foremost the national conflicts and, in connection with them, the failure of the state to democratize), then a number of other important processes are pushed to the margins. One of the great merits of the reviewed book is that it does not repeat the notion—at this point a wearisome cliché—that the empire was “doomed to collapse from the outset.”

The other side of the coin (the factors that contributed to the Monarchy’s relative stability and functionality) were neglected for a long time. Beginning in the 1970s, one could see signs of a shift. In Hungary one might think of the work of Péter Hanák as perhaps the most illustrative example.

In the emergence of the aforementioned trans-national tendency in the United States, along with Cohen, John W. Boyer, the Hungarian-born American professor István Deák, and their students, Pieter M. Judson, the author of the book under review, played a significant role. In his earlier works, Judson, who is now a professor at the European University Institute in Florence, studied the transformation of liberal politics and political culture (Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire, 1848−1914 [1996]). In other works, he examined the process of nationalization which came in the wake of the work of the “national activists” on the language border, and the phenomenon of the national indifference. Alongside the books by Cohen, Jeremy King, and Tara Zahra, Judson’s Guardians of the Nation (2006) constitutes one of the fundamental works in the new assessments of national identity. It offers a lively analysis of complex and highly malleable identities, the very complexity and malleability of which seemed to have escaped entirely the notice of the earlier approach, which tended towards simplification.

Judson’s new monograph on the last two centuries of the Habsburg Monarchy fits into this narrative well. It places emphasis not on nation building, but rather on state building. The book begins with a story from 1911: in a multiethnic small town in Galicia, passions and tempers flare in connection with the election. The soldiers sent to quell the disturbance shoot into the crowd and 26 people were killed. The story, however, is not about electoral corruption, national antagonisms, or the brutal measures taken by the authorities. Rather, it is about the odd unity among the linguistically, ethnically, and denominationally diverse people of the crowd, for whom the election (i.e. the future of the monarchy) was at stake. Judson offers the following explanation of the purpose of the book: “This book is about how countless local societies across central Europe engaged with the Habsburg dynasty’s efforts to build a unified and unifying imperial state from the eighteenth century until the First World War. It investigates how imperial institutions, administrative practices, and cultural programs helped to shape local society in every region of the empire, from the late eighteenth century until the first decades of the twentieth century. It also examines how citizens in every corner of the empire engaged with these various practices and institutions, often appropriating them from their own purposes or reinterpreting them to fit their interests. Taken as a whole, these complex processes of empire building gave citizens in every corner of the empire collective experiences that crossed linguistic, confessional, and regional divides” (p.4.). Judson considers it important to show that, alongside the ruler, the bureaucracy, and the military, the imperial Habsburg state “was also an ongoing project that engaged the minds, hearts, and energies of many of its citizens at every level of society” (p.5.).

The book is captivating from the outset. The writing is elegant and precise, and the manner of presentation is enthralling. Judson shows a remarkable gift for balance as he mixes a presentation of the events (knowledge of which is indispensable to understanding) with a discussion of processes and innovative approaches. The antecedents and the annals history are painted with broad brush strokes, with all of the advantages and disadvantages that this involves. With regards to the annals history, Judson is very judicious in his selection (though in some cases readers ought to have already some knowledge of the topics). He strives to use individual stories to shed light on and bring the reader closer to a given era and the theme at hand, but his goal is not to provide yet another account of the events, but rather to build his own quite innovative interpretation of these events. Rather, building on the ideas and interpretations presented in the first paragraph of this review, he focuses on the ways in which the empire functioned, and he examines how the empire was part of the everyday lives of its citizens and how its citizens identified (or did not) with it.

Judson presents the history of this unusual Central European state formation (which, as the book itself demonstrates, was actually not so unusual) from the second half of the eighteenth century to its fall (though in the epilogue he even goes a bit further). He contends that the Habsburg Monarchy was a perfectly viable formation in which, from the middle of the eighteenth century until the outbreak of World War I, numerous attempts were made to modernize the structure of the state, attempts which were always aimed at improving the quality of life and the circumstances of the subjects or citizens of the state. Thus, the most emphasis is placed on presenting this process of development, while aspects which are not tied (or not directly tied) to this concept are given significantly less consideration. Judson examines the monarchy from a “Gesamtmonarchie” point of view, but he gives each of the individual countries and crownlands considerable attention, being moderate and balanced. Interestingly, one has the impression that, in this delicate balance, the peripheral regions, first and foremost Galicia, are given greater emphasis than, for instance, the Austrian hereditary provinces.

The point of departure for the narrative is the period of the reign of Maria Theresa and Joseph II. It was under their rule that the desire for a unified, centralized monarchy first began to exert sway. New institutions were created in pursuit of this goal, and numerous reforms were introduced. While these reforms and institutions undoubtedly yielded results in many spheres of public life, they were not sufficient to allow the monarch to achieve the goal of creating a united empire. There were many reasons for this failure: the traditions of autonomy in the provinces and the opposition of the traditional elites to Joseph II’s reforms, not to mention the national movements that were emerging in the colorful linguistic and ethnic mix of the monarchy. Even Joseph II’s personality contributed in part to the failure of these efforts. In the wake of the work of the reformers, however, a bureaucracy and system of rules took form that constituted the principal uniting force of the monarchy. In Judson’s estimate, the Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (issued in 1811) played a role of particular importance in this process as a tool of state integration, which established the preconditions for civic equality, linking citizens of the state directly to the monarchy, and not to the feudal estates or provincial bodies. In principle, this and the creation in 1804 of the Austrian Empire established a unified state and the unifying institution of state citizenship (even if the Hungarians saw this very differently, both at the time and later).

After the death of Leopold II and in the wake of the French revolution, the empire in Central Europe became a bastion of ossified conservatism for a few decades, but the tradition of the Rechtsstaat endured, and beneath the surface a new economic and social order was beginning to take form. Liberalism and nationalism—the two most influential ideologies of the nineteenth century—were spreading to ever wider circles. The revolutions of 1848 brought about the decisive turn. In the chapters on the revolution, Judson offers a vivid picture of the complex and often mutually contradictory efforts, but he emphasizes that, with the exception of the Italians and, later, the Hungarians, the other ethnic and national groups of the empire and their elites remained loyal to the dynasty. They did not seek to bring down the empire, only to transform it better to suit their needs and interests. Given the overall interpretation presented in the book, it is perhaps not surprising that there are only a few references to the civil war in this chapter. The revolution, however, also cast light on the fundamental problems faced by the empire.

The subsequent period attempted to find various solutions to these problems, and it was in this period that the united empire was actually made a reality, even if only for a short time. In the previous section of the books, Judson adheres for the most part to the traditional periodization. For the period between 1849 and 1914, however, he diverges from the norm. To be more precise, he regards the decades between 1849 and the 1880s as a single, unified period, since, in his assessment, as of 1849, the government was essentially liberal. A process of reform had begun, according to Judson, the result of which would be the emergence of a liberal empire (as the title of the fifth chapter, “Mid-Century Modern: Emergence of a Liberal Empire,” suggests). However, his argument is not entirely convincing when he tries to characterize the Silvesterpatent (with which Franz Joseph, still a young man and relatively unseasoned ruler, withdrew the Imposed March Constitution), as the beginning of what was “an ambitious and in many ways forward-thinking program of economic, social, and cultural renewal.” Although both recent Austrian and Hungarian historiography have offered nuanced portraits of the neo-absolutist era, with regards to the intentions of the monarch and his most influential advisors one can hardly harbor any illusions. (See for instance Stickler, “Die Herrschaftsauffassung Kaiser Franz Josephs in den frühen Jahren seiner Regierung: Überlegungen zu Selbstverständnis und struktureller Bedeutung der Dynastie für die Habsburgermonarchie” [2014]). Furthermore, some of the reforms, for instance the decision to abolish what remained of the feudal system, had been a consequence (and arguably victory) of the 1848 Revolution, which the regime would not have been able to undo in the wake of the conflict. Judson acknowledges that the price of reforms was the introduction of a police state (since the empire was compelled to use force to compensate for its lack of legitimacy, primarily in the Italian provinces and Hungary), but in his assessment, the attempt to forge a unified, centralized empire had far greater and more general significance. Although various attempts were made to make the system and the dynasty itself more popular (Franz Joseph’s wife Elisabeth or “Sissi” was given an important role in this), the period beginning in 1849 was clouded by foreign policy failures (the threat of Italian and German national unification), financial difficulties, and internal discontent (in particular, the openly oppositional conduct of the Italians and the Hungarians). The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 was a consequence of the Italian fiasco and the gradual marginalization of the Austrian Empire in the wake of German unification, but this disrupted the unity of the state and thus, at least in Judson’s assessment (though he does not emphasize this) it was a step backwards. Hungary never really fits neatly into Judson’s interpretation of events up until 1867, and it fits even less into his assessment of the empire after the Compromise. He does not really find a persuasive solution to this, but he raises many questions and dilemmas that merit further thought in connection with Hungary and many other matters.

The most exciting part of the book is chapter six (“Culture Wars and Wars for Culture”) and seven (“Everyday Empire, Our Empire”). The ever increasing authority and jurisdiction of the state and the ever increasing number of tasks it had to address in the spheres of infrastructure and social politics, combined with the transformation of politics itself (the involvement of ever wider circles of the masses instead, merely, of the narrow elites in politics as part of the process of democratization), gave rise to challenges that were confounding not only for the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, but for all of the old monarchies of Europe. One of the virtues of this book is that it demonstrates how, in many cases, the problems facing the Monarchy were merely local variations of the great problems of the era. Judson offers convincing examples of how the state attempted to address the cultural differences among its peoples, first and foremost in Cisleithania. While the central bureaucracy made noble efforts to modernize the Monarchy and make the state apparatus effective and efficient (as persuasively argued recently by John Deak: Forging a Multinational State: State Making in Imperial Austria from the Enlightenment to the First World War [2015]), a partly contrary process was also underway. The local elites and, first and foremost, the political activists were “attempt[ing] to both manage and take advantage of the entrance of larger numbers of people into political life” (p.271).

According to Judson, in whose earlier work the notion of national indifference already played a significant role, in the local societies in which they lived, people who spoke various languages did not necessarily perceive cultural differences as such. The significance of these differences grew in the wake of political mobilization. The efforts of the political activists to attain institutional protected rights for the people who spoke a given language contributed to the tendency among people in local communities to see themselves and one another “in terms of language based-categories” (p.272). Thus, political conflicts were given a linguistic, cultural, and ultimately national tinge, but the nationalizing elites (political activists, representatives, journalists) played a significant role in this. As the electoral base in Cisleithania broadened as a consequence of parliamentary reforms, the popularity of cultural principles and arguments grew in politics: “Activists naturalized their particular political agendas by expressing demands in the more inclusive language of ethnic nationhood. This language made cultural commonalities the basis for group identification” (p.272). Nation building was a difficult and tiring process, and for precisely this reason Judson feels that, in order to understand this process, we need a concept of “event-driven” or “situational” nationalism. In a manner familiar from his earlier works, Judson contends that “nationalist conflicts” (he deliberately uses this term instead of “nationalities conflicts”) were a product of institutions. Institutions and administrative practices made significant contributions to the deepening of a sense of cultural difference. The story begins, according to Judson, with the bitter fight between the conservative federalists and the liberal Vienna government (the so-called Bürgerministerium) in power after the Compromise, and Judson considers the symbolic implications of this fight. Nationalists later continued to add to the tools used in the “culture wars” of the 1870s. The press and the societies that began to appear in ever larger numbers in the 1860s played a significant role in this. Given the focus of his earlier research, Judson concentrates primarily on Cisleithania, and the vast majority of his examples are drawn from these territories of the empire.

The presentation of the paradoxical process of the elevation of language and language use to the critical and decisive factor in identity (i.e. the principal criterion of membership in the “nation”) is extremely interesting, in particular the presentation of how the state’s efforts to guarantee equal linguistic rights for all of its citizens led to the rise of separate, closed national groups that defined themselves on the basis of language. In connection with this, the emphasis shifted from individual rights to group rights, and in administrative and legal practice nations became legitimate legal actors. Indeed, the political activists who stood up in the name of the nation sought increasingly to use the law in order to compel people to make the “correct” decision, for instance when it came to the question of children’s schooling, as studied by Tara Zahra. In other words, in the end, there was a battle underway over national upbringing, and it displaced the national indifference (Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900−1948 [2008]). The last stage of this came with the Moravian (1905) and then later the Bukovinian (1910) and Galician (1914) compromises, which put new tools for the cultivation of national identity in the hands of political activists. Thus, the language rights of the individual were transformed into the right of the national community over its members: “the liberal constitutional guarantee of language rights to the individual gradually became transformed into the right of the national community over its members. This steady legal transformation was the culmination of cultural arguments that had long maintained first, that an individual hat a fundamental and authentic national identity, and second, that the cultural gulf between national communities was unbridgeable” (p.316).

It is unfortunate that Hungary, the other half of the monarchy, is presented less elaborately. Either it is not mentioned in these analyses or Judson merely adds a shade of nuance to the traditional image. (Though this is in part a consequence of the lack of similar research and the paucity of scholarship on the subject in English, it is primarily due to the fact that Hungary simply does not fit well into the larger interpretation.) Yet careful consideration of the consequences of the two diverging political practices would have been interesting from this perspective.

Parallel to this, Judson presents the efforts of the liberals to emphasize the new civilizing mission of the empire and their attempts to achieve this mission in Galicia and Bosnia. The conclusion he reaches following a presentation of an instance of corruption in Galicia, however, is an exaggeration at best, particularly if one takes into consideration the antecedents: “The liberals had also made the East a site of corruption, of arrogant chicanery, and worst of all, of downright failure”, and liberalism, furthermore, “had been revealed as simply one more sectarian political party or set of ideologies that benefited only a part of Austro-Hungarian society at the expense of other parts of society” (p.327).

Judson then presents the developments that took place in the monarchy over the course of its last three decades, including increasingly rapid urbanization, the development of infrastructure, the spread of literacy, and, parallel to all this, the growth of the state bureaucracy. Social questions, the workers’ movement, the appearance of social democratic parties, and expansion of the right to vote in Cisleithania and, in contrast, the freeze of suffrage in Hungary created new problems. However, the monarchy produced fascinating phenomena, such as the use of many languages in the military. The activities of veteran organizations, which were used in an attempt to strengthen a sense of patriotic attachment to the empire, offer a clear example (as Laurence Cole has shown in his research) of the complex role that patriotism played in everyday life, and they shed light on the interesting intertwining of imperial patriotism and regional and ethnic identity. The political storms of the turn of the century were partly national conflicts, but the “nationalist movements shaped their demands around the institutions and expectations created by empire,” and the actors thought within these frameworks (pp.381–82). Following the crisis of the turn of the century, the decade before the outbreak of World War I was again a period of consolidation. People who were engaged in fierce debates in parliament were eager to reach compromises in the wings. “Habsburg bureaucrats and party politicians had long demonstrated a flexible creativity in negotiating structural modifications intended to make the empire function more effectively and to give it greater longterm political stability” (p.376). World War I interrupted this complex but fundamentally positive process. In Judson’s view, the processes of modernization and integration essentially had been successful. The national movements and conflicts had not significantly weakened the state, and they certainly did not contribute to its fall. The monarchy fell because of the war and the consequences of the war.

At the time of World War I, destructive tendencies and processes were set in motion which led to the collapse of the monarchy. First and foremost, the military leadership (the Armeeoberkommando, or AOK) bore responsibility for pushing the bodies of civil administration to the side and harassing, for the most part, citizens of the empire who were Serbian, Ruthenian, or members of other nationalities that had been branded “suspicious.” By doing so, they alienated these people from the monarchy. The military dictatorship (the term is borrowed from Josef Redlich) caused a rupture in the traditions of the constitutional state. In addition, the state was no longer able to perform the tasks it was expected to perform, and members of the civilian population who were indigent received assistance primarily from the nationalist organizations. This further undermined the legitimacy of the monarchy and contributed to its disintegration. The last chapter offers a short overview of the afterlife of the monarchy and the ways in which the multinational successor states, which presented themselves as nation states, in many ways passed on the repudiated legacy of the monarchy. The maps and the attentively chosen illustrations offer an excellent complement to the book.

Many comprehensive works have been written on the history of the Habsburg Monarchy, and they have all had to address the fundamental difficulty of writing on what was a composite state formation. The authors not only had to plough their way through the swollen body of secondary literature, they also had to be able to incorporate the histories (written in seven or eight different languages) of the individual lands and provinces into their work. And any author writing on the Habsburg Monarchy had to have a true gift for synthesis in order to grasp the history of the empire in all its complexity. From this perspective, Judson is the ideal scholar, for he knows the most recent secondary literature in English and also uses the secondary literature in German, Czech, and other Slavic languages. He also merits recognition for his efforts to devote adequate attention, alongside Cisleithania, to Hungary. The fact that the most recent works of Hungarian historians are the least frequently mentioned in his inquiry is less his fault and more due to the shortcomings of Hungarian historiography. This also explains the unevenness of the sections of the book that deal with Hungary. Since the writings of Hungarian historians have not been adequately spread in international scholarly forums (first and foremost in English), they have not become part of the larger circulation of ideas among historians outside of Hungary, although recently, there have been numerous efforts to change this, for instance the very journal in which this review is being published. I would mention only a few of the mistakes or misunderstandings in connection with Hungarian history as examples: allegedly the national assemblies of the Reform Era did not deal with the peasantry or the cities (p.152); in 1848, Hungarian citizenship was tied to the use of the Hungarian language, and this was one of the reasons behind the Serbian uprising (p.200); Judson repeats a mistake often found in the works of history of the successor states according to which after the so-called Lex Apponyi, (a law passed in 1907 on the legal state of non-state schools), all instruction in the schools of the non-Hungarian nationalities had to take place in Hungarian (pp.304–05); and until 1896 the Jews were not eligible for election to public office (p.518, note 31). Judson’s treatment of the various layers of the nobility is often vague, and it is often unclear what the terms “noble” or “gentry” actually are intended to mean, precisely. However, these kinds of small imprecisions are insignificant given the many merits of the book.

Judson’s efforts to remain balanced and impartial are clear in his use of settlement names and proper names. In the case of settlement names, he uses several variants, depending on the ethnic makeup of the given community. This merits praise in part because it is hardly common practice at Anglo-Saxon publishing houses. Judson also avoids normative terms when dealing with the nationalities. Instead, he prefers phrases like “German speaking” or “Czech speaking,” and he also uses the word Hungarian instead of “Magyar”. Proper names are given on the basis of the professed ethnicity of the given person, though there are a few exceptions to this rule (for instance Julius Andrássy instead of Gyula Andrássy).

Judson is clearly biased in favor of the Habsburg state which forms the subject of his book, but he is not frustratingly apologetic. Thus, a great work has been written on the eve of the centennial of the fall of the Habsburg Monarchy which rethinks the existing scholarship on the subject and challenges the old paradigm. It paints a new, balanced picture from an interesting perspective of this multifaceted Central European state.

Judit Pál

Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj


Thinking through Transition: Liberal Democracy, Authoritarian Pasts, and Intellectual History in East Central Europe After 1989. Edited by Michal Kopeček and Piotr Wciślik. Budapest–New York: CEU Press, 2015, 599 pp.


If there is one methodological point upon which classical historians of intellectual history such as Quentin Skinner, post-structuralist theoreticians such as Judith Butler, or social historians of the political field such as Gareth Stedman Jones would undeniably agree (in spite of their conspicuous differences), it is that the primary purpose of intellectual history or the history of ideas is not essentially to retrieve or recuperate the (real or accurate) meanings (of texts). Rather, it is about activity. In other words, intellectual history is above all about linguistic action; it is in the first place an analysis of the situational employment, or, more aptly phrased, the strategic deployment of language in order to generate meaning in, or in dialogue with, specific or variable contexts (these may consist of other texts, particular historical constellations, configurations, or traditions, counter positions, etc.). Precisely this act presupposes an audience and attests to the social and public character of the utterance as activity, particularly in the realm of political philosophy.

The edited volume assembled by Michal Kopeček, Head of Department of Late- and Post-Socialism at the Institute for Contemporary History and Assistant Professor at Charles University, Prague, and Piotr Wciślik, PhD candidate at the Central European University, represents not only a successful example of good practice in consideration of the above; more importantly, it offers a novel and refreshing take on the history of the political transformations of East Central Europe (ECE) in the post-communist era, a field that has been long and eminently dominated by the normative and often ahistorical prescripts of “transitology” scholarship (and business). The volume is the result of an exploratory workshop convened in 2011 by a group of East Central European intellectual historians under the auspices of the Institute for Contemporary History (Prague) and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, in cooperation with the ERC-funded research project “Negotiating Modernity: History of Modern Political Thought in East-Central Europe,” the innovative and bold aim of which is to provide a synthetic and comparative history of political thought in the region. (The first volume, which covers the nineteenth century, has already been published, see Trencsényi, Janowski, Baar, Falina, and Kopeček, A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe, vol. 1 [2016]). Thinking through Transition brings together 18 essays by scholars from the region and beyond, combining the strengths of history, political science, sociology, and anthropology. It focuses on the political and ideological metamorphoses of actors and institutions in ECE with a greater and more systematic emphasis on the cases of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, but it also includes contributions on ex-Yugoslavia and Romania (one essay on each). A series of essays tackles the transitions from a comparative perspective, and this enhances the analytical strength of the book.

The specific contribution of intellectual history in general and this volume in particular to a subtler understanding of Zeitgeschichte lies in its analyses of the transfer and circulation of ideas from a bottom-up perspective. In other words, it endeavors to contextualize the circulation of ideas in the specificities of local cultural discourses, historical trajectories, and political configurations, without, however, neglecting their interregional, European, and/or global entanglements. Intellectual history is operationalized through a variety of paradigms, testifying to the methodological pluralism in the field, from classical Begriffsgeschichte, which examines mutations of concepts like “totalitarianism” or “civil society,” to the worldview of specific intellectuals and their cohorts, from the legal history of rights and constitutionalism to the history of transfer, from the sociology of knowledge to history and memory politics. The political field appears as a rapidly shifting and dynamic arena involving a constant and (in contrast to transition theories) unpredictable restructuring of positions. Going against the grain and challenging the frequently encountered picture of a glorious passage from immobile dictatorship to liberal democracy, the volume discusses 1989 as a reconfiguration of the political field rather than as a sudden break with the past. Though 1989 functions as the springboard of narration, several essays trace and connect discourses back to earlier intellectual genealogies; they demonstrate how both past intellectual standpoints and present concerns provided the particular ideological admixture and the choice of positionality in the present, drawing upon an arsenal of actual or fictitious continuities, discontinuities, and/or reconfigurations of political discourse, a circumstance perhaps best exemplified in the transformations of “1989” itself: from an initial symbol of consensual politics to a floating signifier and, eventually, a convenient moment of contestation in order to redraw the lines of the political. Moreover, this volume exemplifies the fact that intellectual history is not only about the life-cycle of ideas but also about the performativity of the political, in other words, the capacity of actors to occupy timely key political/ideological spaces in relation to their political opponents and therefore not only to define the political agenda but also to capture public space and social imagination. Here, the interplay between ideological choices, socioeconomic factors, and power becomes most apparent. Organized around five comprehensive thematic blocks—liberalism, conservativism, populism, the left, and the politics of history—the volume charts the political and ideological landscape of the post-1989 era as it was framed through the tension between the “space of experience” and the “horizon of expectations.”

The first thematic section addresses the transformation of dissident liberal discourses and the unspectacular career of liberalism in post-communism. Ferenc Laczó analyses post-dissident liberal discourses in Hungary based on a sample of five leading liberal intellectuals involved in the publication Beszélő. In spite of their varying and ambiguous content, most post-dissident concepts of liberal democracy in Hungary showed paradoxically stronger affinities with the left than with the right. Often articulated in a polemical and abstract style, they most probably contributed to the marginalization of political liberalism after its heyday in the early 1990s. The remarkable afterlife of the concept of “totalitarianism” in post-communist Poland is the focus of Piotr Wciślik’s essay. He demonstrates how the boundaries of the political were redrawn via the contestation of the post-totalitarian divide. This involved the transitional reconfiguration of political languages in the merger between formerly competing concepts of totalitarianism of the ex-dissident elite and the liberal “new realists” of the late 1980s. In the rapidly-polarizing political field, radical anti-communism emerged as the strongest language of political contestation. The mutation, which constituted an almost outright setback of Václav Havel’s idea of civil society as conditioned by Havel’s contestations with his neoconservative political rivals of the ODS, is the focus of Milan Znoj’s essay. Though initially conceived as a concept based on the dissident experience but also drawing upon the local intellectual tradition of the first republic, Havel’s concept ebbed in a moral populism that eventually contributed to the rise of anti-communism. Paul Blokker offers a comparative analysis of the rise of legal constitutionalism after 1989, understood initially as an antidote to the ideological instrumentalization of law in the previous period. Though representing the dominant paradigm, legal constitutionalism also saw the parallel rise of alternative models, such as democratic and communitarian constitutionalism. Finally, Blokker expounds on the reasons why a radical form of communitarian (nationalistic/conservative) constitution could be established in countries like Romania and Hungary.

The three case studies in the second thematic block are devoted to examining the impact of conservative ideas. Petr Roubal looks at a small yet influential group of Czech post-dissident neoconservatives and their alliance with neoliberal economists around the Civil Democratic Alliance (ODA). They shaped the belief in neoliberal shock therapy and advocated a radical break with the past, playing a leading role in pressing for the denunciation of the communist regime and the adoption of an uncompromising stance towards Slovak demands for greater autonomy, which they interpreted as left-wing nationalism. How conservativism, though lacking strong continuity and even an independent political organization, nevertheless imposed itself as the language of the right in Poland is the focus of Rafał Matyja’s essay. He examines the ideational convergence of intellectual groups around the publication Res Publica, the Young Poland Movement (RMP), and right-wing liberals of the 1980s. Conservativism was a school that arose out of a religious outlook on reality, but it gladly borrowed from the language of Anglo-Saxon neoconservatives. Zoltán Gábor Szűcs analyzes the aborted constitution-making project of the socialist-liberal government in Hungary between 1994 and 1998. Though initially indifferent to constitutional amendment, Fidesz was able to base its own conservative and highly contested constitutional revolution (the so-called Basic Law of 2011) on the systematic promotion of a conflicting vision of politics, thus turning the tables on the consensualist politics and the predominantly technocratic policy approach followed by the socialist-liberal coalition after 1989.

Is populism the antithesis of or a constituent part of democracy? In other words, is populism a syndrome of the region or a symptom of the age? The third section of the volume focuses on these questions. Camil Alexandru Pârvu pleads for a wide characterization, and he contends that populism is a symptom not merely of fringe parties in contemporary Romania, but also of mainstream ones. The roots of populism lie in a succession of blockages of political representation and the endemic constitutional crisis that accompanies them. As a result, most political parties relatively easily shifted their political identities towards a strong populist mode. The Janus face of populism is at the center of András Bozóki’s contribution regarding the populist phenomenon in Hungary. He examines populism’s inherent paradox, namely the promise of broad inclusion of the people in the political process while in essence populism serves the opposite goal. In the case of Hungary, not only has populism been applied flexibly to different and contradictory political platforms, it has also been used for exclusionary political purposes. Viktor Orbán’s policies of pampering the middle classes at the expense of the lower classes offer perhaps the most illustrative case. Finally, Juraj Buzalka deals with “political necrophilia” in Slovakia, that is, the popular practice of ritual reburials of political leaders in post-communist states as a political symbol for legitimizing actual political power. He explains why the reburial of interwar prime minister Milan Hodža seemed best to fulfill the qualifications for Slovakia’s return to Europe, even though in popular memory Hodža would never match the popularity of the authoritarian leader of the Slovak People’s Party, Andrej Hlinka.

The fourth thematic block of the volume addresses the left’s soul-searching between communist legacy, neoliberal challenge, and global protest movements. Ágnes Gagyi examines attempts to formulate the agenda of the political left in post-1989 Hungary beyond the official successors of the Hungarian Communist Party. These attempts were made by various groups and activists (“Politics Can Be Different,” Anarchism, the United Hungarian Left, Left Alternative, Erzsébet Szalai, András Lányi, “Protect the Future,” 4K!, etc.) operating within and outside of the Marxist tradition, their common ground being a diagnosis of the social effects of post-socialist neoliberal politics and concomitantly the incubation of a new extreme right. Though liberalism and the right have had a firm grip on politics in Poland since the 1990s, the left’s vitality of ideas after 2002 is disproportionate to its political weakness, argues Maciej Gdula. By tackling issues related to memory, gender, populism, neoliberalism, and the knowledge society, the Polish left has managed to distance itself from the previously common use of naturalized concepts of liberal democracy and the market, which had effectively functioned as imaginary standards with which to “discipline” and frame the political body. Stanislav Holubec focuses on the Czech case by analyzing seven figures of the post-communist intellectual left and their endeavors as public intellectuals. They allow a certain typologization along the lines of five different traditions and generations: reform communism, the anti-Stalinist radical left, new party members after 1970, sympathizers of environmental politics in the 1980s and 1990s, and, finally, a group of outright converts to the left. In the last contribution to this section, Zsófia Lóránd takes a closer look at feminist discourses in Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s and the ways in which feminists resolved to redefine democratic politics in order to counter dominant political discourses that equated democracy with the free (allegedly liberal) expression of nationalism. The feminists’ agenda targeted essentially three topics: 1. civil society and active citizenship, 2. the inclusion of women in politics and 3. critiques of patriarchy.

The last section in the volume deals with the politics of history and memory. The article “1989 After 1989” by James Mark et al. scrutinizes the memory of 1989 in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia from a comparative perspective. It demonstrates how the wrangling for the canonization and interpretation of 1989 related either to questions concerning the reconfiguration of the nation and its history or served as a point of distinction between left and right. The authors analyze the specific constellations, which resulted either in positive identifications with 1989 postulating a national identity based on democracy and freedom or negative identifications, which stage 1989 as a betrayal of expectations and a moment of great lost opportunities. Gábor Egry deals with concepts of history and the nation in 1989–2010 and shows how and why the community of destiny (nation) came to predominate over the community of will (republic) in contemporary Hungarian politics. 1989 offered an opportunity to redefine community and brought up several neglected or taboo topics (such as 1956, the Treaty of Trianon, and the end of World War II), which eventually led to mutually exclusive interpretations of the past by political actors and signaled the loss of a common history. In this stalemate, the concept of suffering emerged as the nation’s strongest identity marker. Stevo Đurašković shows how the nationalist Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) was able to gain power in the 1990s by appropriating the national identity-building discourse developed by Slovak communist intellectuals in the post-1968 normalization period. Relying largely on the historical concoction devised by Vladimír Mináč, the HZDS was able to promote the self-image of a state-founding, all-embracing people’s movement. Finally, Zoltán Dujisin discusses the transregional cooperation of post-communist memory entrepreneurs, who via a state-driven institutional apparatus pursue the establishment of a mnemonic regime based on the equalization of communist and Nazi crimes and the externalization of the communist experience from the region. This “usable totalitarianism,” which is based on a crime-centered narrative, is crafted through the cooperation of portions of the political and academic elite, who are also backed with appropriate financial and institutional resources. Their interpretation of history, stylized as the “politics of truth,” is presented as an allegedly “specific” Eastern European contribution to the European memory regime; it contrasts and clashes, however, with the prevailing West European memory consensus, built upon the “politics of regret.”

Thinking through Transition is not a book for beginners; it does not offer a comprehensive history of the East European transition. Rather, it provides compact, thoughtful, and dense analyses of transitional politics through the lenses and methodological instruments of intellectual history. It brings together essays with varying strengths and emphases, and with its focus on local contextualization, it certainly keeps its promise to engage with the origins, genealogies, adaptations, and dynamics of ideas, not as simple transplants, but as energetic and resourceful local processes with their own historical trajectories. The volume is truly informative and thoroughly analytical, and it offers a persuasive example of the capacity of intellectual history to offer a different historicization of the East Central European transition. Narrating the history of this transition is a daunting task, perhaps first and foremost because it means charting and framing an as yet non-existent scholarly field and doing so without the comfort and reassurance of hindsight. Furthermore, historians find themselves faced with open-ended, dynamic, and mutating processes, which in the twenty-first-century information society develop unprecedented forms of acceleration. In addition, in view of the abundance of normative paradigms (transition studies, modernization theory, democratization studies, path dependency etc.) that have been used to explain the transition, developing a new structure of narration where ECE is not the object but becomes the subject requires imagination and creativity. Finally, it is challenging because of the project’s ambitious aim of simultaneously accommodating a comprehensive narrative and a comparative perspective.

The time frames used in the individual essays are rather variable (from a couple of years or decades to genealogies traced back to the nineteenth century), so it is quite hard to assemble them into a bigger and consistent picture in spite of their thematic ordering into ideological currents and the volume’s insightful introduction, which binds them together very intelligibly. The comparative perspective is applied occasionally but not consistently throughout the whole volume. Missing is a systematic and coherent thematic and chronological framework of comparison for East Central and Southeastern Europe capable of accommodating synchronic and a-synchronic developments in each case and explaining them adequately as parallel or contrasting developments (though this is provided to a certain extent by the introduction). In what respect and to what degree do they react to similar or different challenges, in what respect are they or were they reacting to similar or different influences, and in what respect and to what degree have they had similar or diverging historical trajectories?

Second, there is little emphasis on inter-regional intellectual cross-influences between the countries of East Central and Southeastern Europe. In my view, this represents a desideratum not only for the post-1989 period, but also for the era of the Cold War. It is common knowledge that the Cold War imposed its own geography upon the globe, a specific way of seeing and understanding the world but also a particular way of structuring networks of information. An interesting question here is to what degree and in what way is the post-1989 period a reshuffling of this geography and its networks. Can we discern or fashion interesting patterns here for intellectual history? And furthermore, to what degree and in what form did foreign interventions in the form of think tanks, foundations, capacity building, etc. help structure or delineate the lines of the political internally (locally)?

Third, the issue of sample representativity might need to be considered more closely and thoroughly, since it frames and structures the comparative endeavor. Nolens volens, a certain selection, prioritization, typologization, and structuring of topics will have to be made. At times, I had the impression that the concept of intellectual history was perhaps stretched a bit too far (burial rituals, memory politics, etc.); not that I feel compelled to defend some kind of imaginary or purist borders of intellectual history, which do not exist anyway, and one of the volume’s definite assets is its inclination towards experimentation; however, given the abundance of themes and areas that might potentially be covered and integrated (for example, the intellectual history of economic or religious thought, both of which are absent from the volume), such an overstretching might prove tricky in the long run.

Fourth, in spite of the indisputable merits of local contextualization, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture with respect to European and global developments. Some of the essays reflect individually on this, but this is insufficient for an analysis which makes the explicit claim to narrate a regional history. Also, it is crucial to provide an approximate or stringent time frame in order to further an understanding of the directionality of transfers and their interdependence. Neoliberalism and the way in which it bounced back and forth between Eastern Europe and the Western world during the Cold War as exemplified by Johanna Bockman’s innovative study on the left-wing origins of neoliberalism” (Bockman, Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism [2011]) is a good example. Another good example is populism and its spectacular resurrection in the West. Greater attention will therefore need to be paid to global temporalities and the ways in which they affect the contents of discourses. Where the East European left took the stage in the 1990s (for instance in Hungary), it did so not only after the fall of communism, but simultaneously with the rise of “New Labour,” which was itself a capitulation to capitalism. The sensitive question here is the extent to which local timing shaped the events and the extent to which global timing was decisive or at least significant, and also how the local and global trajectories paralleled each other and how they diverged.

Fifth, in contrast to the nineteenth century, when Europe represented predominantly an idea, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries it also represents concrete structures and policies and communicating public spheres. How does this affect the ways in which we narrate European intellectual history?

Sixth, although the individual essays are assembled under traditional and established ideological currents (liberalism, conservativism, etc., which in fact is quite comforting and reassuring for an intellectual historian), it would seem to me that the major challenge for contemporary intellectual historians is how to provide intelligible categories for the present blurring of ideological borders (for example, the appropriation of the defense of social rights by the extreme right wing, the patriotic turn of both the left and the right, the anti-EU positions of both the radical left and the radical right) so typical of post-industrial society. Do we group them according to well-known and established political categories? According to their self-ascription? According to their institutional affiliations to transnational party unions and associations? When I discuss the intellectual development of Viktor Orbán with my Hungarian liberal-democratic (and anti-communist) friends, they all tend to push him into the communist corner, the official justification being that this is the milieu out of which he initially emerged. However, Fidesz belongs formally to the European conservative party block, and Orbán’s politics are explicitly populist. Which political category can digest all this?

Thinking through Transition provides unique insights into the complex constellations described above. Nevertheless, local contextualization cannot deliver better answers unless it maintains the dialogue with bigger contextual frameworks by demonstrating their affinities, cross-fertilization, cleavage, or distance. The volume is particularly successful in avoiding a portrayal of Eastern Europe either as an aberration from European and global developments or as a mere passive recipient of ideas. This paradigm would need to be elaborated and developed further in its full complexity—admittedly not a simple task. Thinking through Transition is certainly a brave and important step in the right direction.

Augusta Dimou

Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg


pdfVolume 6 Issue 2 CONTENTS


The Routledge History of East Central Europe since 1700. Edited by Irina Livezeanu and Árpád von Klimó. Abingdon–New York: Routledge, 2017. 522 pp.

The Routledge History of East Central Europe since 1700 is a multi-authored textbook which introduces the state-of-the-art in the multifaceted historiography of modern East Central Europe without aiming to impose a single coherent perspective. The volume conceives of East Central Europe in rather broad and flexible terms: in the editors’ own words, East Central Europe lacks fixed boundaries, but it contains both “Central Europe” and “Southeastern Europe” (p.8). The volume consists of a brief introduction and ten long chapters, eight of which are thematic and cover the modern era since approximately 1700. The remaining two chapters are essentially chronological and somewhat narrower, focusing on the period of communism and its legacy and the post-89 years and ambiguous process of Europeanization, respectively.

The altogether twenty-one contributors cover mainstream topics in the political, socioeconomic and cultural history of East Central Europe, while also devoting significant attention to several newer scholarly subjects, such as gender, territoriality, migration, and commemorations. The book begins with an exploration of the momentous territorial changes in East Central Europe in modern times and the overarching shifts among its various “regimes of territoriality.” Drawing on Charles S. Maier in particular, the insightful overview penned by James Koranyi and Bernhard Struck plead for a conceptualization of the 1860s and the 1960s as the two key caesuras in the reorganization of political space. In their interpretation, the 1860s meant a shift from imperial rule over multiethnic spaces to attempts to “right-size” the nation through new infrastructures and territorial control. The 1960s brought the beginnings of a still ongoing global opening, in which territoriality no longer appears to be at the forefront of politics.

Koranyi and Struck combine an interest in high-level and local-level politics to provide a crisp narrative of how, by the nineteenth century, the epicenter of geopolitical struggles had shifted from the northern part of the region to the south, and how the map of the region was settled. They perceive stark continuities in the defining ideas, territorial ambitions, and homogenization projects which were characteristic of the region from the 1860s until the post-World War II period, while also fully acknowledging the novelty of imposing well-policed borders after World War I. While the two authors do not question that Nazi and Soviet policies fundamentally reshaped East Central European societies, they view these imperial projects as a drastic acceleration of preexisting trends, rather than as ruptures. They subsequently note that the practice of redrawing ethnic boundaries and spaces seems to have largely petered out by the 1960s, sourly adding that this has to do with the fact that the brutal process of “right-sizing the nation” had basically been completed by then. Koranyi and Struck could have devoted more attention to the varied conceptualizations of the region across time (beyond the period to which they aptly refer as the rise of Eastern Europe), their narrative nonetheless remains a theoretically informed and richly detailed overview which amounts to a seminal contribution to the volume.

While recurrently drawing on the cases of Hungary and, to a lesser extent, Bulgaria for examples, Krassimira Daskalova and Susan Zimmermann’s chapter on women’s and gender history similarly belongs among the highlights of the volume. Viewing gender as a primary way of signifying power relations which intersects with questions of class, religion, and the nation, the two authors emphasize that East Central European gender history has tended to be marginalized within both gender history and studies on East Central Europe. Their ambition is therefore to reveal several fruitful ways in which a gender-conscious history of this multifaceted region could help further reinterpretations of dominant paradigms in both of these larger fields.

Their clearly structured and nuanced chapter examines primarily the history of women’s lives, status, and experience to highlight historically changing gender norms and social practices in six major realms: education; work and social politics; law and citizenship; empire, nation, ethnicity; gendered scripts of sexualities and intimate relationships; and women’s activism and movements. Particularly noteworthy are Daskalova and Zimmermann’s depictions of the mixed blessings for women brought by the introduction of the modern legal system and, later, the socialist state. They show, for instance, that contrary to mainstream (and gender-biased) narratives on the rise of modern equality, the nineteenth century made the legal differences between men and women more pronounced. The authors subsequently show how, during the period of state socialism, formal equality was combined with persistent practices of gender difference. They argue that, on the one hand, socialist regimes did more than West European states to abolish the legal subordination of women, and state socialist education policies in particular greatly improved the latter’s social standing and opportunities. On the other hand, the enormous and forceful mobilization of women into the world of paid labor produced largely segregated and stratified labor markets, while the gendered division of care-taking remained widely ignored. In addition to the fact that it is complex and balanced, another key strength of the chapter is that it highlights several possibilities for further research. Daskalova and Zimmermann plead in particular for the need for more entangled histories across macro-regions, which would simultaneously recognize and explore the major effects material scarcity had on East Central Europe.

The single chapter of the volume devoted entirely to cultural history focuses on the creation of literary cultures, broadly conceived. In other words, it aims to connect the production of cultural representations to social and political currents. Irina Livezeanu, Thomas Ort, and Alex Drace-Francis trace various movements, networks, and schools of thought, while highlighting the often underestimated connections among intellectuals within the region. The three coauthors assert that under communism, literary and cultural life achieved unique social and political relevance. They argue that this was the culmination of earlier trends, the origins of which can be traced all the way back to the absolutist experiments of the eighteenth century and the various attempts to rethink the relationship between government and the citizenry since then.

The three coauthors show early on that, contrary to the assertions typically found in national narratives, language-building and print development went hand in hand with projects to consolidate imperial rule and standardize public education. They subsequently sketch how, at the time of the rise of modernism, the cultural life of East Central Europe still remained less differentiated and more holistic than some of the “major cultures” further west. As Livezeanu, Ort, and Drace-Francis perceptively explain, the interwar period brought more militant and ideologically-driven intellectual and artistic agendas and, therefore, sharper polarization, but also much more of nationalization. Moreover, the coauthors focus on the wartime cultural transformation that facilitated the postwar revolutions. Their treatment of the postwar period strikes a balance between the tragic cases of individual intellectuals and the unprecedented availability and accessibility of high culture. Its erudite longue durée explorations and emphasis on the postwar relevance of literary culture make this one of the paramount contributions to a volume in which cultural history is rarely given detailed attention and several chapters arguably treat the postwar period a bit hastily.

Patrice M. Dabrowski and Stefan Troebst, for instance, trace the uses and abuses of history from the eighteenth century to 1989. They offer numerous valuable insights, especially into the rather hesitant Ottoman and the rather drastic post-Ottoman politics of history. While their perspective is broad and the number of cases analyzed impressive, Dabrowski and Troebst slightly underplay the communist experience in order to buttress their claim that the long nineteenth century, the interwar period, and World War II were all of greater relevance in determining the new-old patterns of remembrance since 1989.

Similarly, Ulf Brunnbauer and Paul Hanebrink are interested in the successes and failures of a broad variety of political visions and ideologies, but they cover only visions and ideologies of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. They offer an excellent brief survey of major trends in political-ideological thinking on a regional scale, covering the liberals, the left, the agrarians, and the right in an equally balanced manner (even if, understandably for such a short narrative, the depth of coverage cannot match that found in the new A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe). However, Brunnbauer and Hanebrink end rather abruptly with the communist takeover, leaving the reader somewhat perplexed about what they refer to as the stubborn persistence of certain key political ideas, despite the massive subsequent transformations.

The chapter entitled “Communism and Its Legacy” provides ample compensation for these choices. In this chapter, Malgorzata Fidelis and Irina Gigova explore four themes, namely state-building and nation-building, social relations, East-West interactions, and the decline and fall of communism. Viewing the departure from the limiting totalitarian framework of omnipresent state control and the new interest in everyday life as welcome developments in scholarship, the authors are interested primarily in new scholarship that complements or directly challenges previous scholarly and popular understandings of the epoch and its impact. Highlighting that the study of communism remains very much a work in progress, Fidelis and Gigova provide brief overviews of several of the most fruitful avenues for new research. These avenues include the continuities across 1945, which may help contextualize and explain the rise of Stalinism; state-society negotiations under communist regimes; new forms of leisure and consumption; the experiences of and meanings attached to socialist spaces; East–West entanglements; and, last but not least, how East Central Europeans imagined the West during the Cold War. This is a perceptive, up-to-date overview of English-language publications, even if the exclusive focus on the latter and the neglect of studies on the Soviet Union constitute notable self-imposed limitations.

Joel Brady and Edin Hajdarpasic’s chapter on religion and ethnicity examines how the legitimating power of religion, ethnic solidarities, and nationalism interacted across different periods and regimes in East Central Europe. Approaching recent discussions of ethno-religious fusion and the ascendance of secularism in a rather critical manner, the authors develop an intriguing anti-teleological narrative with a marked focus on the Ottoman and post-Ottoman history of Southeastern Europe. Their main aim seems to be to challenge the rather popular millet-to-nation narrative. Brady and Hajdarpasic explain first that historians who emphasize the millet concept tend to overstate the systematic aspects of religious differentiation in Ottoman societies. Brady and Hajdarpasic continue by underlining that Muslim–Christian confessional distinctions, ambiguities, and antagonisms may have already been profoundly transformed by the violence of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but that the toppling of Ottoman structures also produced deep divisions and exacerbated older ones within Orthodox Christianity. At the same time, several attempts were made even in later times to bridge the Christian–Muslim divide (most notably, the successful Albanian one and the much less successful South Slavic one). These are all valuable insights, which add up to a convincing reinterpretation of the relationship between religion and ethnicity in modern Southeast Europe. The chapter is both sketchier concerning the countries further north and rather brief and somewhat unspecific with regards to what it calls the “complex alignment of conservative, nationalist, and fascist forces with Christian religious organizations” in the first half of the twentieth century (p.198) and what it introduces as the complex relationship “between socialist states, religious institutions, and nationalist currents during the Cold War” (p.200).

Bogdan Murgescu and Jacek Kochanowicz´s chapter on the economic history of the region poses an implicit challenge to most of the other chapters in this volume and to much of what qualifies as mainstream today, more generally. Eager to suggest sharp dichotomies, Murgescu and Kochanowicz assert that the economic underdevelopment of East Central Europe compared to the West (its persistent backwardness, as they insist) has been all too real. In their sobering though fairly old-fashioned overview of economic development, Murgescu and Kochanowicz assert that the project of catching up with the Western core has been centrally important in modern times, but has remained basically unaccomplished, despite what the authors present as the continuous and unidirectional import of ideas, institutions, investment, and innovation from the West. Without analyzing entanglements with the Western core in a more complex fashion, they explain that East Central European history has been characterized by overly sharp discontinuities, so that, some fluctuations notwithstanding, wealth, knowledge, expertise, and practices could not be sufficiently accumulated.

Reinhard Heinisch’s political science contribution on party politics and the European Union is arguably even more at odds with the agenda and general tenor of the rest of the volume. Whereas the rise of “Europragmatism” traced by Heinisch may indeed be viewed as a seminal process of recent years, the author’s somewhat homogenizing perspective on a highly diverse region and his strong reliance on simple survey results make this a less than fully satisfying addition. In my assessment, less or more would both have yielded better results; the process of Europeanization might well have merited more attention on the longue durée too, and the history of the post-89 transition period could already have been discussed in a more encompassing fashion. Last but not least, the chapter on demography and population movements explores demographic and economic pressures, as well as the increasing roles of the state and violence in population movements. Theodora Dragostinova and David Gerlach focus on key developments in migration history, such as the shift from imperial mixing to national “unmixing,” from routine and seasonal to sustained and long-distance migration, and from the Cold War-era restrictions to the most recent patterns.

In sum, The Routledge History of East Central Europe since 1700 strikes an admirable balance not only between the many diverse areas it covers, but (partly through the strategic pairings of authors) also between the two, traditionally separately treated macro-regions it studies under the label “East Central Europe.” At the same time, the volume devotes limited sustained attention to more peripheral regions, including the recently much discussed borderlands. More crucially for a textbook of this kind, the volume achieves a fine balance between historical facts and narrative, on the one hand, and historiographical analysis and reflection, on the other. The themes chosen are large, important, and diverse enough that, with the single and only partial exception of the post-89 chapter, no individual choice appears questionable. Although the coverage is thus fairly representative, the emphasis which is put on some issues and questions in the volume (along with the failure to place emphasis on some other issues and questions) may nonetheless be viewed more critically. Despite the remarks on the key importance of social and cultural history made in the introduction, the volume contains no summary of social transformations and, as noted above, only one of the chapters focuses on cultural history. Other major themes, such as the transformation of state institutions and the recently much discussed roles of wars and violence, are recurrently hinted at rather than substantially discussed. Last but not least, most of the chapters make limited attempts to contextualize East Central European trends in broader continental or global frameworks. Even so, the volume manages to convey and reflect on several of the dominant historiographic trends and key research findings in the English-language scholarship of recent decades, and it presents a rich, thoughtful, and accessible new history of a highly complex region over three centuries.


Ferenc Laczó

Maastricht University

pdfVolume 6 Issue 2 CONTENTS


Central Europe in the High Middle Ages: Bohemia, Hungary and Poland, c. 900–c. 1300. By Nora Berend, Przemysław Urbańczyk, and Przemysław Wiszewski. (Cambridge Medieval Textbooks.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 550 pp.

This book introduces the history of Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary between the tenth and the thirteenth centuries. The first chapter, written by Nora Berend, provides a detailed discussion of what is understood by the phrase “Central Europe,” and how this concept can be applied to the history of the Middle Ages. Passing in review the complex historiography of this term and related terms, including the studies of Oskar Halecki and Jenő Szűcs, who both strongly advocated for the importance of this region in the history of Europe as a whole, and countless others, who outlined the specific features of this historical region, Berend concludes that there are many equally valid and legitimate ways of describing this part of the European continent. However, she notes that the concept of such a region did not exist in the Middle Ages, nor did the three polities form a unity. She nonetheless argues that Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary did share common features in their early development. Berend insists that she and her co-authors do not intend to essentialize the region by describing its unique features, and they are wary of entering the debate about whether or not the region belongs to the West or the East; instead, they are “attempting to evacuate value-judgments inherent in proving that these countries belonged to Western civilization,” and they are not “trying to isolate the region through the use of this term (i.e. Central Europe) from ‘the East’” (p.38). Taking an innovative approach, the authors want to explore in a systematic manner the similarities and differences between the three polities, but not with the intention of defining indicators of a fundamental difference with the rest of Europe.

The book is organized into thematic chapters that follow a chronological framework; each chapter is divided into sections which treat the three principalities side by side, providing an opportunity for comparisons and pointing out similarities and differences. Berend wrote the sections on Hungary; Przemysław Urbańczyk and Przemysław Wiszewski, an archaeologist and a historian respectively, were commonly responsible for the sections on Poland and Bohemia. A chapter describes the state of research regarding Slavic and Hungarian migrations and the connections between early Slavs and the Avar Empire. The subsequent one describes the formation of the three polities and the role of Christianization in this process. The focus then shifts to political developments, social and economic processes, and Church history in the formative period of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The last chapter deals with the “new developments” of the thirteenth century, including social transformations, the impact of the Mongol invasion, urbanization, and cultural changes. Altogether, the book alternates between narrative sections which outline the political framework and thematic chapters which describe cultural and social processes.

The result is a lot more than a mere introduction to the history of this region. Paying attention to details and providing an up-to-date overview of recent research, the book explains often complex subjects in an approachable manner. The bibliography favors publications in western European languages, but it is not limited to them, and thus it provides Anglophone readers with references to easily accessible publications, while acknowledging scholarship which only a smaller subset of the intended readership will be able to consult. This is a very fortunate and balanced approach. Although few (too few) scholars outside of Central Europe might read Polish, Czech, or Hungarian, even fewer (if any) read all three of these languages. Thus, this book, while intended primarily for students or instructors not familiar with the region, will certainly also be useful to many who study one of these three polities, but are less familiar with the other two; it will facilitate access to this historiography for a younger generation of scholars and hopefully inspire some to learn these languages.

The book, however, is much more than a survey of research. The combination of the expertise of Berend, Urbańczyk, and Wiszewski allows for systematic comparisons of medieval Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary with a depth of coverage that is unusual. The systematic parallel presentation of developments in the three polities for each aspect discussed allows the reader to see similarities and differences, which are usually summarized at the beginning or end of each section. For instance, the parallel discussion illustrates that in Poland and Hungary, Christianization and the consolidation of central power were interrupted by pagan rebellions, but this did not take place in Bohemia, where such processes had begun earlier. The relationships between the three polities and Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire were shaped differently: Bohemia was integrated into the latter, while the rulers of Poland and Hungary were involved in varying alliances and were seeking to strike a balance of power with other polities. Similar problems of succession and the role of seniority were dealt with in varying circumstances, but led everywhere in some degree to forms of territorial subdivisions.

If this were not enough, the book also provides an original revision of prevalent ideas and even misconceptions about Central Europe. For example, some readers might find it surprising that no chapter is devoted specifically to “German colonization” (or whatever other terms of phrases might be used), but that a chapter on social changes deals with the integration of immigrants and the appearance of a “multi-ethnic society” (p.465, for Poland). One could argue that this is just a new way of describing the same phenomenon, or that it provides an entirely new perspective, free from the ballast of past ideologies and more relatable to readers of the twenty-first century. Few, however, would deny that there is a lot in this book to stimulate reflection and discussion on a fundamental period of the history of this part of the continent, whatever term one prefers to use to refer to it.

Sébastien Rossignol
Memorial University Newfoundland and Labrador

Deserting Villages – Emerging Market Towns: Settlement Dynamics and Land Management in the Great Hungarian Plain: 1300–1700. By Edit Sárosi. (Archaeolingua. Series minor, 39.) Budapest: Archaeolingua, 2016. 320 pp.

It is a commonplace that there are “two Hungarys,” one to the west of the Danube and one to the east. Transdanubia is an area with hundreds of small villages, sloping vineyards, hills, a dense network of rivers, and relatively extensive woodlands, while the lowland that falls to the east of the Danube has a rather sparse settlement network, mostly mid-sized towns, and the land between them is dotted by only a few scattered houses. There are hardly any significant rivers between the Danube and the Tisza, and the extent of the woodlands is low compared to the western part of the country or the Northern Hungarian Mountains. This landscape, the so called puszta, the “cultural desert,” became an integral part of Hungarian identity. The book by Edit Sárosi discusses the process during which this landscape came to existence.

As indicated by the title of the book, the goal of the inquiry is to discuss long-term changes in the settlement network and land management strategies in the Danube–Tisza Interfluve area, which covers more or less the central third of present-day Hungary. Sárosi not only provides an overview of the development and the transformation of the settlement network of the region, she also discusses in detail the center of the interfluves area, specifically the town of Kecskemét, and she puts the development of the town and the surrounding villages in the context of the environmental and economic changes of the region. As stated in the introduction, the book aims not only to discuss the specific context of the changes which took place in the settlement network of the region, but also to give a methodological tool for further research into historical landscapes (including human landscapes).

The book consists of eight chapters, including the conclusions. The first presents the main research problem and gives a brief but useful overview of the available sources (documentary evidence, maps, toponyms, and archaeological records). For some reason, the environmental archaeological data was omitted, which however does not mean that Sárosi did not use findings from this discipline.

The second chapter provides a general image of the landscape of the Danube–Tisza Interfluve. The landscape as explained by Sárosi has changed significantly over the course of the last millennia. The process during which the “cultural desert” came into existence can certainly be connected to human activity. It is rather unclear, however, when this landscape became dominant. According to Sárosi, from the foundation of the Hungarian state (around the year 1000) and the intensification of arable farming, the forest steppe started to shrink and gave way to the puszta, a process which was very much accelerated by forest clearance in the Ottoman period. Although there is no question that by the early eighteenth century the region lacked woodlands, as nicely described by contemporaries such as Matthias Bel (whom Sárosi quotes), the extent to which the woodlands were victims of the Ottoman occupation is rather unclear.

The third chapter is dedicated to the study of the network of villages in the surroundings of Kecskemét. This is a critically important issue, since until now it has been rather unclear when the relatively dense network of villages in the period between the tenth and the thirteenth century were deserted and when the lands belonging to these villages became properties owned or leased by the inhabitants of Kecskemét. The author carefully presents the major waves of settlement abandonment based on the written sources and the archaeological data, and she analyzes how the present settlement network was formed. She convincingly argues that the networks of isolated farmsteads between the towns in the region are only partly products of the Ottoman-period economy. The formation of farmsteads the people of which lived off of gardening in the proximity of market towns can be associated with the Ottoman period, but in the case of farmsteads at the sites of former villages, there is no persuasive evidence of any such continuity. This is perhaps one of the most important lessons of the book, and Sárosi devotes more attention to it in chapter seven.

The next chapter is dedicated to the perishing villages themselves. The book provides a detailed morphological analysis and a description of the elements of the villagescape in the late medieval period. Chapter five, however, turns to the discussion of the centers, namely the market towns, as a special type of town, of which Kecskemét is certainly a perfect example. The introduction of this chapter may be a bit longer than necessary, but the second half of the chapter offers a well-written discussion of the role of the town in the urban network of the early modern Great Hungarian Plain. There are references to the other major market towns in the region, such as Cegléd and to some extent Nagykőrös, but more detailed comparisons with these settlements may have been yielded more insights.

Chapter six is dedicated to the topographic development of Kecskemét, of which Sárosi is without a doubt the most important authority. She provides the reader with a very precise analysis of the topographical development and the features of the townscape. The lack of Franciscan friaries in the region up to the eighteenth century, which is a phenomenon peculiar to the area (and mentioned by the author in this chapter), would certainly be worth a detailed study.

As already mentioned, the seventh chapter is probably the most important section of the book, since to some extent it wraps up the preceding chapters. It very clearly demonstrates that agriculture and its major restructuring in the late medieval period and, moreover, in the sixteenth century fostered the development of Kecskemét as a town. Chapter eight summarizes the main findings of the book, which are broken into two categories; settlement patterns, and land-management and settlement morphology.

The book is rich in visual supporting materials, most of which are not simply included but are used and referred to by the author, which makes the book reader-friendly. There are a few terminological inconsistencies, the most important of which is the Great Hungarian Plain, which in most cases is referred to as the Great Plain by Sárosi, and this may be a bit confusing for the international readership. The bibliography is exhaustive, the only possible oversight being the recently published works of Kyra Lyublyanovics on Cuman farming in the Great Hungarian Plain.

Despite these minor shortcomings, the book is unquestionably a major contribution to the settlement history of the Danube–Tisza Interfluve area, but in fact it is much more than that. It is a book which truly integrates different research perspectives and traditions, using English landscape archaeology as a reference point, but also integrating archaeology, landscape history, environmental history, and settlement history. Thus, it offers a path that hopefully many similar monographs will follow.

András Vadas
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Das Reich als Netzwerk der Fürsten: Politische Strukturen unter dem Doppelkönigtum Friedrichs II. und Heinrichs (VII.) 1225–1235. By Robert Gramsch. (Mittelalter-Forschungen 40.) Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 2013. 456 pp.

The original goal of this book by Staufer Prize-winning historian Robert Gramsch was to offer a new look at the history of the German interregnum (1254–73), though both the beginning date of this period and the precise definition of the term itself proved complex, since the interregnum in fact meant a permanent dual kingdom, the prototype of which had already existed in the period between 1225 and 1235. Gramsch focuses in his inquiry on the period in which Frederick II and Henry VII shared power (he considers this the precursor to the interregnum). In his assessment, the renunciation of the crown by Henry VII in 1235, which given the manner in which it took place and the collaboration of the imperial princes seemed to be the high point of the reign of Frederick II and the Hohenstaufen dynasty, in fact was the beginning of the end. However, the emperor had brought down a legally elected king who had wielded power, and this dramatically undermined the institution of the kingdom itself, creating a dangerous precedent (pp.55–56). Since the followers of Heinrich Raspe (1246–47), the later rival king, earlier had been supporters of Henry VII and, according to the earlier secondary literature, Henry’s imprudent politics had played a serious role in the weakening of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, Gramsch focuses in his inquiry on Henry himself and his reign.

Perhaps the most distinctive and innovative feature of Gramsch’s book lies in the methodology he has chosen, specifically the sociological study of networks. He strives to uncover the positive, negative, and neutral ties between the Church and secular princes of the Empire and the relationships between its most important towns. This tendency to place local actors in the foreground of inquiries into historical events is not uncommon in the German scholarship on the Middle Ages. However, this method has only been used effectively in studies on the period of Henry the Lion. Gramsch, however, departs down this road, but he offers considerably more, for he has two essential goals: first, he seeks to demonstrate the usefulness of research on networks in the scholarship on the Middle Ages and, second, he offers a reinterpretation of the reign of Henry VII on the basis of information and networks of relationships brought to the surface with this methodology.

The first chapters deal with network research itself, familiar only in recent decades in German scholarship, but quite well-established among Anglo-Saxon historians. The style of this section is entirely comprehensible even to a lay-reader, if perhaps at times a bit dry. This methodology makes it possible for the historian to offer a reconstruction of interrelationships which, because the sources were either scattered or only tangential, earlier had been largely ignored. Thus, it becomes possible to offer a more complex picture. The network models that are thus brought into the foreground are not rigid snapshots, since both the networks and the actors within them influence one another, and the complex new interrelationships that emerge constitute an excellent foundation for historical analysis (though the dynamic processes and individual shifts in values cannot be brought into the discussion).

By examining the politically relevant acts which took place between 1225 and 1273, Gramsch creates his own database, on which his study rests. Of the 153 actors in this database, he focuses on 68 who, because of their influence and their involvement in the various conflicts, are particularly important to his model of the ties between the imperial princes. The book includes 22 color tables, which show year by year the relationships of the individual federative groupings to one another, relationships which were determined by ties of blood and marriage, hostile or friendly acts, the so-called series dignitatum in charters, and the presence of the Hoftag (a kind of informal imperial diet).

The larger section of the book presents the conflicts that arose in the course of Henry VII’s reign, conflicts which played key roles in the development and transformation of the imperial network. In the course of this discussion, Gramsch places in a new light several questions which have been regarded essentially as answered in the secondary literature. Just to mention but a few, the goal of the assassination of Engelbert, archbishop of Cologne, on 7 November 1225, for instance, was not actually to kill, but rather to kidnap him. It was motivated not by envy of the territorial power of the neighboring princes, but rather by the confrontation on several fronts between Herman II, lord of Lippe and his allies on the one hand and Cologne on the other (pp.140–57). Gramsch offers a similar reinterpretation of the persecution of heretics by Konrad von Marburg in 1231–32, which have become infamous for their brutality and which can be tied to the landgrave of Thuringia’s offensives against Cologne and Mainz (pp.290–300).

Gramsch’s examination of the Empire’s networks also casts light on two fundamental reasons for the break between the emperor and his son, reasons which have been largely ignored in the secondary literature. The first was Henry’s marriage, or to be more precise, the decision of the emperor to make Margaret of the House of Babenberg the queen consort of Germany instead of Agnes of Bohemia. The Austrian secondary literature offers no explanation for this decision, but Gramsch suggests that it was perhaps influenced by the machinations of Louis IV, landgrave of Thuringia, and Leopold VI, duke of Austria (pp.104–05). The other neuralgic point was the relationship with the House of Wittelsbach, which was essentially the only serious subject of political discord between father and son. While Frederick II began to pursue demonstrably anti-Bavarian politics in 1225 (p.220)—and the appointment of Louis I as imperial regent in no way contradicts this—with the exception of a short intermezzo in 1229, Henry VII remained pro-Bavarian until 1233.

Though the book focuses on the networks and political turns within the Holy Roman Empire, in the case of some of the events the narrative also touches on the Kingdom of Hungary, though the theories it presents concerning the rule of Andrew II of Hungary are easy to be refuted. The most interesting of these concerns an (alleged) agreement which was reached at the same time as the Graz agreement. Gramsch suggests that, according to this other agreement, Andrew II withdrew his support for his niece, Agnes of Bohemia, and in exchange, Leopold VI withdrew his support for the Order of the Teutonic Knights, which the Hungarian king longed to see driven out. Indeed, Andrew even prevailed on the pope to do the same, as allegedly proven by the passage of the bull which begins “Intellecto iam dudum,” according to which the severed crownlands lying in the territory of Prince Béla could be retaken. Since Prince Béla only came to the fore in Transylvanian politics in 1226 the authorization could not have applied to the estates of the Order in Burzenland. Moreover, in the course of the Austrian–Bohemian–Hungarian conflict of 1233 (which is given considerable emphasis), according to contemporary sources there were two (not one) Hungarian military campaigns, and the notion of an allegedly anti-royalist conspiracy of the Hungarian magnates of 1235 (mentioned in Gramsch’s narrative) cannot be considered plausible, given the testimony of the chronicler Master Roger.

These debatable theories, however, in no way detract from the significance of this monograph as a serious contribution to historical scholarship, for Gramsch offers a fundamentally new and persuasive picture of Henry VII: he emerges as a ruler who knew how to handle the imperial princes, sensed shifts in the networks of relationships, was capable of taking action, and was gifted with political foresight. Thus, his fall was not a consequence of his personality or his political clumsiness, or even bad luck. Rather, Frederick II, having recognized the unviability of the system of a dual kingdom (which he had created), made use of the unusually balanced internal network of relationships in the Empire and deprived him of power. Because of the influence of the imperial propaganda, Henry was seen by his contemporaries and the historians of later centuries as the rebellious son, even though he only “slipped into” revolt (pp.345–52).

Gramsch’s book persuasively demonstrates that research on networks of relationships does indeed have an important place in the (German) scholarship on the Middle Ages, and the book itself will occupy an important place in the libraries of historians interested in the Hohenstaufen period.

Veronika Rudolf
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Ritual and Symbolic Communication in Medieval Hungary under the Árpád Dynasty. By Dušan Zupka. (East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450–1450, 39.) Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2016. 224 pp.

The introductory part of the book contains a short description of the sources, in which Zupka states that the main source of the book will be the fourteenth-century Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle. Zupka then gives a short historiographical introduction to the Slovak and Hungarian secondary literature. The first chapter of the book gives an overview of the terminology and the general historiography of the rituals, focusing mainly on the German and English scholarship while the second deals with the rituals of power and the royal symbols. This latter chapter contains analyses of the different types of coronations, the laudes regiae (royal acclamation), cingulum militiae (the girding by sword), and court festivities. Chapter 3 focuses on the rituals of reconciliation, which reference to several examples. The fourth chapter focuses on the solemn royal entries (adventus regis) in medieval Hungary and in particular the ritual acts that were performed in Dalmatia. Following the discussion of the royal entries, the fifth chapter focuses on the greeting rituals among royalties. The final, sixth chapter is a conclusion which highlights the roles of rituals, offers some discussion of the ways in which these rituals may have been acquired as well as how they continued to evolve in the late Middle Ages.

Zupka has made a significant contribution to the literature with this book, since it is the first comprehensive work that deals with the royal rituals in Hungary in the Árpádian period in such detail and subtlety. He draws attention to the rituals and the symbolic communication used by the Hungarian kings, and he puts every chapter and topic of the book in a larger European context and interprets the results of his analyses in light of the roles played by the rituals in medieval society. The chapters start with a general introduction based on European history. Zupka then presents the Hungarian cases, and each chapter ends with a short conclusion. The work is well-structured and clearly arranged, and the construction of chapters helps the reader put the Hungarian cases in the European context.

Zupka has examined a topic which, until now, has been neglected in the secondary literature, and this deserves recognition, but I nonetheless must make a few critical observations which highlight the main problems with the methodology and the findings of his study. First, while the author gives a detailed summary of the English and German secondary literature and makes broad uses of Slovak historiography, some crucial Hungarian works, such as Ágnes Kurcz’s research on chivalry and girding by sword and András Vizkelety’s work on the wedding-ceremony of Prince Béla, are conspicuously absent from his discussion. Moreover, while Zupka deals with several Dalmatian and Croatian cases, such as the royal entries into Dalmatian towns, royal acclamations, royal oaths, etc., he completely neglects the Croatian historiography, for example the works of Mladen Ančić on the image and rituals of the Hungarian kings or Ana Marinković’s research on King Coloman’s royal chapel in Zadar, which helps further an understanding of early Hungarian royal symbolic ceremonies and artifacts in Dalmatia.

The other major problem is that the whole book, which deals primarily with the eleventh and twelfth centuries, is based on a single narrative source, the fourteenth-century Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle. The author mentions in the introduction that the dating and the credibility of this source is highly debated, and he also indicates that Hungarian and non-Hungarian historians have reached a fairly widespread consensus that the eleventh-century and twelfth-century parts of the chronicle are based on an older text and are reliable. The author accepts that some parts of the source are probably unreliable for the examined period, and others may be reliable, and then for the rest of the book essentially sets aside the question of source criticism. In my opinion, if an inquiry is based as exclusively as Zupka’s book on one later narrative text, the historian is obliged to examine the credibility of the texts critically, not treating them as if their authors were eyewitnesses to the events. The fact that the earlier parts of the Chronicle are based on an older text and the events described in it are probably factually reliable does not necessarily mean that the descriptions of the rituals are accurate and credible and not simply embellishments crafted by a chronicler which reflect the original author’s aims, but not the actual events. The other problem with Zupka’s use of sources is that he made little use of legal sources. For example, throughout the first half of the twelfth century, the kings of Hungary took oaths when they visited Dalmatian cities, and these oaths were later put in written form that came down to us. However, when Zupka examines these oaths, he uses only the thirteenth-century chronicle of Thomas of Split, instead the contemporary charters from Trogir or Zadar. Some overlooked charters preserved the composition of the royal entourages during the royal entries in Dalmatia, and others provide information about gift-giving rituals which had an important place in maintaining the relationship between the coastal cities and the Hungarian royal court, both in ecclesiastical and secular contexts.

As a minor critical note, sometimes it seems that Zupka aims to show similarities between Hungarian and European rituals, and he fails to emphasize the uniqueness and distinctiveness of some acts which were customary in Hungary. For example, he does not appear to realize that the structure of the Hungarian royal visits in Dalmatia had changed by the end of the twelfth century, and the royal oaths were no longer part of the ceremonies. He also fails to deal with the rituals of the dukes of Slavonia in the thirteenth century, who had rituals similar to the rituals of the kings. The dukes of Slavonia, who were the royal governors of the territory and often the crown princes of Hungary, made solemn ducal entries in Dalmatian towns (for instance, Duke Andrew in 1200 and Duke Coloman in 1226). Their visits to their territory were marked by shows of great pomp, and they probably had symbolic first visits too, along with gift-giving rituals. They also had their own entourages, which resembled the king’s company in many respects.

As a second smaller critical note, it should be mentioned that Zupka uses toponyms inconsistently: the cities and places that are in present-day Slovakia are mentioned in their Slovak version in the case of Bratislava and Nitra. When a city is outside the border of modern Slovakia or is not in Hungary, Zupka sometimes mentions the cities by their Hungarian names and sometimes indicates also the city’s official name today, but sometimes he mentions only the modern, non-Hungarian toponym (e.g. pp.43, 58, 63). I also do not understand the distinction he draws between Hungarian and “Magyar” history (p.191).

In conclusion, Zupka has produced a well-structured supplementary monograph which highlights several issues which have either been forgotten or simply neglected in the secondary literature on Hungarian and Central European history. Zupka exhaustively knows and uses the international secondary literature on the rituals and acts of symbolic communication in Hungary of the Árpádian period, and he successfully puts the Hungarian cases in a wider European context. However, the use of sources, the complete lack of source criticism, the failure to take into consideration the Croatian secondary literature, and the failure to address the uniqueness of certain Hungarian rituals leaves unanswered questions for the reader and throws into question the reliability of the author’s findings.

Judit Gál
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Székesfehérvár története az Árpád-korban [The history of Székesfehérvár in the Árpádian period]. By Attila Zsoldos, Gábor Thoroczkay, and Gergely Kiss. Székesfehérvár: Városi Levéltár és Kutatóintézet, 2016. 365 pp.

In November 1490, after having captured the town of Székesfehérvár as part of the campaign he had launched in order to acquire the Hungarian crown, the king of the Romans, Maximilian I recounted the events of the conflict in a pronouncement that was highly propagandistic in nature. In his account, he referred to the town as the capital and strongest town of Hungary (“la principalle et plusforte ville dungrie”). Without throwing into question the merits and might of Maximilian’s military, as it so happens, in the late Middle Ages Székesfehérvár was not considered the capital of Hungary, the ruler’s claim notwithstanding. Indeed, it was not even considered a particularly well-fortified settlement. The town was significant at the time first and foremost because it was the site of coronations. Thus, as was by then established Hungarian tradition, a ruler was only regarded as legitimate if he had been crowned in the basilica in Székesfehérvár, the royal church which had been founded by the first Hungarian king, Saint Stephen of Hungary, and which was under the direct authority of the Apostolic See. The prestige of the town rested not simply on the role it played during the reign of Saint Stephen, but also on the acts of his descendants and successors, who added to its fame. Thus, it is hardly surprising that the town enjoyed the most prominence under the rulers of the Árpádian dynasty, i.e. in the period between 1000 and 1301. Hungarian scholarship has something of an outstanding debt, in that it has failed to devote sufficient attention to the history of the town during the Árpádian period. Attempts have been made over the course of the past few centuries to offer a narrative of the history of the town in the Middle Ages, i.e. from the earliest times until the Ottoman occupation in 1543. These forays, however, do not bear comparison with the current undertaking of Attila Zsoldos and his co-authors, neither from the perspective of their methodologies nor from the perspective of their use of sources. Fejér vármegye története [The history of Fejér County], a several-volume narrative written by János Károly at the end of the nineteenth century, focuses on Fejér County. Only the second volume is dedicated to the county seat, Székesfehérvár. Károly’s narrative thus focuses on the history of a region, in which the history of the town is only a little more than a chapter. Gyula Lauschmann’s Székesfehérvár története [The history of Székesfehérvár], which was written in the first half of the twentieth century, focuses exclusively on Székesfehérvár, but in the narrative of the history of this town, which obviously stretches over the better part of a millennium, only a small section is devoted to the Árpádian period. The work of Attila Zsoldos, who is an internationally renowned scholar of the Árpádian period, situates the history of the town under the Árpádian dynasty in the larger political history of the age. Zsoldos adopts a methodology, in his study of the first three centuries of the town’s history, which breaks with the accepted approaches to urban history in Hungary. Only two of the five chapters are devoted to a chronological presentation of the events which influenced the development of the settlement and which can be reconstructed on the basis of the available written sources. Zsoldos narrates these events like a chronicler presenting the history of the town. He divides his linear account of the history of the town, which relies strictly on written sources, into two parts. The pivotal moment comes in 1241 with the Mongol invasion, which constituted an important turn in the development of Székesfehérvár. As a consequence of the Mongol invasion, which swept aside almost everything in its path, the privileges which had been enjoyed by the people from Western Europe who had settled in the suburbs (“suburbium”) and moved to the walled town (“castrum”), first and foremost Walloons (the so-called Latins) became privileges of the entire town. The two narrative parts of the book are found between four chapters which focus on specific questions in the history of the town in the Árpádian period. In these chapters, Zsoldos sheds the garb of chronicler and dons instead the robes of the researcher, examining in each a question that was decisive from the perspective of the development of the town. In the first chapter (“The Beginning”), he attempts to identify the geographical, economic, and historical factors which played a role in the decision to found a town on a site at which there had been no earlier settlements in Antiquity. Zsoldos places considerable emphasis on the fact that, at the time of the Hungarian Conquest, the area around what would later become the town was part of the tribal occupation territories of the Árpáds. In connection with this, the question of the origins of the name of the town, which literally means “white castle” and which was used very early on, comes up. Zsoldos takes time in this chapter to refute myths concerning the town, for instance the notion that Grand Prince Géza, Saint Stephen’s father, was buried in Fehérvár. Zsoldos also explains in this chapter the essential (in his assessment) difference between the center of castellany, which came to constitute the inner town of the medieval town, and the center of principality, a term which is more generally known. The third chapter (“The Capital”) examines the ways in which contemporaries considered Székesfehérvár the capital in the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. Unquestionably the most important factor from this perspective was the fact that the town was the holy center of the Árpáds, since it was home to the Basilica of the Virgin Mary and the Provostry, both of which had been founded by the first Hungarian Christian king. Two younger scholars, Gábor Thoroczkay and Gergely Kiss, present the history of the royal basilica, its privileges, and its estates. The town was important in the Árpádian period not simply as a religious center, but also as the site of coronations and royal burials. Furthermore, some important institutions functioned from the outset in Székesfehérvár, and this added to the role of the town as a seat. These institutions included the royal assizes of Fehérvár sometime around 15 August, which were first held in the twelfth century. At the royal assizes it was the ruler himself who adjudicated on the matters of his subjects. While the king saw to his responsibilities in the administration of justice, inevitably events of national significance arose which created opportunities for the passage of new laws, which the ruler did with the cooperation of his prelates and notabilities. Thus, Székesfehérvár also served as the site of the “congregatio generalis”, a form of assembly which was the precursor to the later national assemblies. As the “loca credibilia”, the cathedral chapter in Székesfehérvár continued to enjoy national jurisdiction, which makes it even more likely that the royal archive was also held in the cathedral chapter. In contrast with the third part, the fourth, entitled “The Town of the Bourgeoisie,” examines not what the town was able to give to the kingdom, but what it was able to give its own denizens, first and foremost the settlers from Western Europe, who must have been present, alongside the center of castellany, as of the middle of the eleventh century. It is worth asking how the privileges of the Latins became the privileges of an entire community, in particular since this later served as a kind of legal precedent in other towns of the Hungarian kingdom. The more interesting question in the scholarship, however, is not which rights and privileges the people who came to and lived in the town were able to obtain and assert in the course of time, but rather whether or not the contents of the original charter, which did not survive, can be determined on the basis of the privileges that were later confirmed or strengthened. Zsoldos carefully examines whether the denizens of the town who lived either in its suburbs or in various parts of the inner town actually were under the jurisdiction of the town or rather were under the authority of the chapter or in some cases some other Church institution. The privileges which gave economic advantages to people involved in commerce and crafts were an important subset of the privileges of the town burghers, as were the privileges which applied to the properties they acquired with the wealth they had obtained. The last chapter of the book, the title of which is not terribly informative (“Fehérvár at the End of the Árpádian period”), presents the topography of the town in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. Zsoldos moves from the “castrum”, that is the center of the settlement in the direction of the suburbs, which means that he moves from the parts of the town about which we have the most information and sources to areas on which we have almost no information at all. He redraws the map of the town in the Middle Ages, since he persuasively shows that the suburb given the name Nova villa was connected to the town not from the south (as has been contended in the secondary literature). Rather, it joined the area of the earliest “Budai suburb” from the south. Zsoldos takes into consideration the religious, administrative, and economic institutions and public spaces of the settlement, and on the basis of the number of office-holders and the order in which the various suburbs figure in the documents issued by the town in the late Middle Ages, he establishes a hierarchy among the various parts of the settlement. This part of the inquiry unquestionably goes beyond the history of the town in the Árpádian period. Zsoldos, Thoroczkay and Kiss have placed the genre of the urban history monograph on new foundations. Moving from national political events, the defining social changes of the period, the general historical trends and tendencies of the Árpádian period, and the general sources on which historical inquiries have relied, they arrive at the distinctive features of the town of Fehérvár itself. The chronologically arranged history of events and the interpretive sections of the narrative are complemented with relatively substantial summaries in German and English, which follow the structures of the chapters and subchapters. The book, which is indeed impressive as a work of fine scholarship, also contains an array of arresting visual materials, and familiar illustrations are presented to the reader in images of very high quality.

Renáta Skorka
Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Das Wiener Stadtzeichnerbuch 1678–1685: Ein Bettlerverzeichnis aus einer frühneuzeitlichen Stadt. By Sarah Pichlkastner. (Quelleneditionen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 12.) Vienna: Böhlau, 2014. 417 pp.

Contemporary social and political problems and questions almost always raise questions concerning history, and historians, when dealing with the problems of the present, strive to respond appropriately, searching in the past for answers to the problems societies face today. This is particularly true of questions and issues connected to social and economic history. The question of social welfare, the fate of the poor, and people living on the border of poverty has been one of the more prominent of these issues for a long time now. Clearly, this question is made even more pressing by the crisis of the welfare state, which has emerged as the states of Western Europe have found themselves increasingly unable to sustain the social network that was developed and financed in the decades following World War II and the state’s role in the provision of social welfare has diminished.

Sarah Pichlkastner agrees that there are important links between historical scholarship and the social problems we face today. In her introduction, she insists on the relevance of this question by examining the measures taken in the European Union and, more narrowly, Austria to address poverty. Pichlkastner and her work in the publication of sources form an integral part of the research that has been underway in the Institute of History of the University of Vienna, since under the leadership of Herwig Weigl and with the participation of historians from the countries neighboring Austria several conferences have been held and conference volumes and sources have been published.

The sources which Pichlkastner has published were originally compiled when state relief for the poor was being institutionalized, a process which reflected medieval and (perhaps more palpably) early modern attitudes concerning beggars and the indigent. In her introduction, Pichlkastner offers a detailed presentation of this process, i.e. the institutionalization on the municipal level of relief for the poor, one of the most important aspects of which was the classification of the poor, or in other words, the decision concerning whether or not someone deserved succor or not. One of the most important criteria in this process was whether or not the person in question was a denizen of the city. Similarly important was the question of what lay at the cause of the person’s indigence and whether or not he or she was capable of working. The Wiener Stadtordnung of 1526, which brought an end to the revolt of the Vienna City Council, introduced regulations similar to the regulations in other major European cities. These regulations established limits on begging and a more organized form of providing for the poor. Sources on the basis of which a separate volume of records was kept in Vienna are essentially tied to this. A volume based on these sources from the period between 1678 and 1685 survived among the documents of the Vienna general hospital. A “Bettelzeichen” was essentially a form of identification indicating that the person who bore it was worthy of (i.e. eligible for) the support of the burghers of the city and the municipal government. As was usually the case in questions of municipal administration in the Habsburg Monarchy, the changes moved in the direction of increased state authority and oversight. Pichlkastner makes no specific mention of this, but the issue of relief for the poor was one of the aspects of administrative and governmental life in the city that the commissioners who were delegated to oversee the elections (earlier the so-called Eidkommissar, later the Wahlkommissar) had to audit and oversee. According to the instructions they were given, they were expected to inspect the alms houses and paupers’ asylums maintained by the city and audit their management. They were also expected to examine the conditions in which the indigent lived and determine who the people were for whom the city provided support. The decrees of Leopold I (1693) and Joseph II concerning the poor limited the provision of relief for the indigent to care given in alms, houses and hospitals under state supervision and regulation. In these institutions, in compliance with the earlier principles, care could only be provided for people who, according to the state regulations, had been classified as worthy of support.

The source materials that Pichlkastner has now made available are based for the most part on the inspections and audits concerning the poor and measures taken to provide relief for the poor. The reader is presented with the visitations that were conducted by the commissioners. The information in the Vienna source consists of these inspections. Pichlkastner has done a superb job with this source publication, and the source itself is unique in that one rarely if ever finds so much information in one place. The published documents of the inspections contain 1,100 entries, which would be sufficient as the foundation for a complete social history inquiry. The “Wiener Stattzaichen” does not simply offer the reader a mechanical publication of the source (though accompanied with excellent notes). Rather, it offers a complete analysis of the information published. The documents clearly show the relationship between the state and society on the one hand and the issue of the indigent on the other. They also shed light on the determinations that were made concerning who was eligible for the support of the community. The most frequently cited justifications for providing someone with support included advanced age, many children, various illnesses, and a disability which prevented someone from working. As the capital of the Habsburg Monarchy, a demographically large city with 50,000 inhabitants and a wealthy settlement, Vienna was an attractive destination for people who for whatever reason found themselves on the margins of society. The pivotal events of the period also played a role in this, as illustrated by the fact that the number of people who received care grew dramatically in 1663, when the Austro–Turkish War broke out, and during the siege of Vienna in 1683. Since archival sources deal for the most part with people who were in the highest echelons of society (since in general only people belonging to higher social strata were involved in the legal cases for which written sources were created and kept), the group of sources published here sheds light on a social stratum on which historians heretofore had very little data. The information contained in this source material will be useful from the perspective of social history, for instance the information included alongside the names, such as place of origin, place of residence, age, reasons for needing assistance, denominational affiliation, general health, and family status. One finds no comparable plethora of data concerning a relatively coherent social group anywhere in the region.

Making excellent use of the materials at her disposal, Pichlkastner presents the group of sources she has made available. Her analysis sheds light on the circumstances under which the sources were created, the administrative system which oversaw the social welfare system at the time, and the system of oversight and inspection that emerged. Though her analysis focuses first and foremost on the issue of relief for the poor, one can nonetheless find parallels in it that are interesting from the perspective of municipal politics, since one finds traces of the controlling role of the external council in the case of Vienna, much as one finds signs of its influence a few decades later in the case of the Hungarian royal free cities. The map indicating the institutions where the indigent were taken in (mostly churches and monasteries) also shows the situation of relief for the poor in the seventeenth century.

The second large chapter contains an excellent analysis which sheds light on the reasons for the creation of the “beggar’s identification paper” (“Bettelzeichen”), the ways in which the information included in these identification papers evolved over time, and the distinctive features of other kinds of sources that were also related to the issue of relief for the poor. Pichlkastner also presents the antecedents and secondary literature connected to this group of sources. This is followed, in the third section, by a presentation of the published archival sources. Pichlkastner makes excellent use of the approach characteristic of the younger generation of Austrian archivists. These researchers consider the “Quellenkunde” and “Aktenkunde” analyses found primarily in German scholarship important, first and foremost from the perspective of methodology. Pichlkastner’s analysis presents the emergence, evolution, and distinctive features of the identification papers used in Vienna (the “Stadtzeichen”), as well as the circumstances and timing of their inclusion in the archives. In other words, she provides a description of the source materials she has made available that adheres to the guidelines for a General International Standard Archival Description set by the International Council on Archives. In her analysis, she presents the entire series (not just the published volume) in detail, indicating which kinds of source we are dealing with and whether the series can be considered a municipal book or not. Pichlkastner then presents the content of the group of sources and draws attention to the shifts in their structure. This is followed by a brief presentation of the source critical characteristics. In the fourth part, we find a codicological analysis of the published volume, which presents its external and internal characteristics. Pichlkastner separates and offers a detailed analysis of the handwritings in which the notes from the different parts (which to some extent were compiled separately) were written, and she tries to determine the identities of the people who wrote the notes.

The clarification of the fundamental principles of the publication reveals that there was no standard Austrian practice, since had there been, it would have sufficed to refer to a given norm. The basic principles of the publication strive rather for comprehensibility, using letter for letter transcription, but also noting abbreviations and corrections. Adhering to the basic principles established, Pichlkastner provides an excellent source publication with an appropriate quantity and quality of notes. Given the nature of the source, these notes concern primarily the settlements mentioned. The people identified were usually regiment owners or members of larger families. When identifying place names, in general Pichlkastner uses today’s administrative and state borders, though she is not consistent in this, since in the case of territories outside of the Habsburg Monarchy, she also refers to the administrative units that existed at the time. In the case of Vienna, she briefly identifies the sites of the municipal buildings, hostels, and churches mentioned. The source critical notes are given in alphabetical order beginning anew page by page, and they are clearly separate from the notes concerning content.

The last chapters contain a source analysis stretching to some 70 pages. Pichlkastner provides a comprehensive analysis of the circumstances of the creation and publication of the source. Her analysis clearly demonstrates that a source can indeed provide important information on a social stratum that is otherwise almost absent from the typical sources used by the historian. This information allows us to map both individual life stories and common characteristics, as well as the circumstances that caused people to fall into poverty. It is particularly worth noting, for instance, that in general the assessments were made concerning women, women who remained, either alone or with their children, without support in Vienna. In contrast, many of the men were either married or no information was provided concerning their family status (this confirms our knowledge of the family model in the early modern era). The difference between men and women living in poverty is also clearly illustrated by the fact that almost every man lived together with children, while in the case of women only 40 percent lived with a child or children. In many cases, external reasons had brought about the fall into poverty: the Swedish war, the currency depreciation in the 1620s, various epidemics, and the Ottoman siege of 1683.

The data also makes it possible (and Pichlkastner takes excellent advantage of the opportunity) to glean insights into the livelihoods of people who had fallen into poverty before their fall. The picture she draws reveals that most of the people who had become impoverished had been day-laborers or vine-dressers. The other notable groups were soldiers and servants. 14 percent of the people fallen into poverty were artisans and 2 percent were peasants, which shows that in general skills as a craftsman or peasant land holdings were enough to ensure someone a living. In addition to the analyses noted above, which are particularly important from the perspective of social history, Pichlkastner also provides a discussion of place of residence (the 1683 Ottoman siege of the city can be considered the dividing line in this), and we also learn of the begging nodes in the city (which are indicated in the identification papers), information which makes the analysis of the cities spaces distinctive and interesting.

In summary, this volume constitutes a remarkable source for the study of institutional relief for the poor in the early modern era. From the perspective of social history, it is unique in the region, since one does not find any comparably informative or comprehensive sources on the stratum of people who had fallen into poverty.

István H. Németh
National Archives of Hungary

A test a társadalomban: A Hajnal István Kör Társadalomtörténeti Egyesület 2013. évi sümegi konferenciájának kötete [The body in society: Proceedings of the conference of the Hajnal István Circle – Hungarian Social History Association, Sümeg, 2013]. Edited by Emese Gyimesi, András Lénárt, and Erzsébet Takács. Budapest: Hajnal István Kör Társadalomtörténeti Egyesület, 2015. 435 pp.

The annual conferences of the Hajnal István Circle, a prominent association of social historians in Hungary, always revolve around a theme which offers a variety of opportunities for reflection on and discussion of topical problems and issues in history and society. The 2013 conference, organized in Sümeg, focused on a theme which is paramount to our understanding of historical narratives, as each human experience is strongly shaped by it: that of the body. The proceedings of the conference, organized into six main thematic units (customs, norms, beliefs; body images; body narratives; body politics; the healthy body – the sick body; sexuality) were published as a collection of essays in 2015.

Though the editors of the collection kept this structural organization more or less (the book consists of six main chapters under the same headings), however arbitrary it might be, the book begins with an oversight. While the book is a conference publication, so the background information could be found on the Internet (for example, the theoretically well-supported call for papers), an introductory paper would have been useful. Such an introduction could have been used not only to inform the reader about the goals and the results of the conference, but also to prompt reflection on the broader theoretical background and the current trends in body history, in which these findings could be contextualized. The first article (which may well have been strategically selected as the first) by Gábor Klaniczay offers some compensation for this oversight. Klaniczay begins with a few critical remarks, and he reflects precisely on this issue of theoretical background and current trends. As part of the Body-narratives – Body-images chapter, his article deals with the question of the human body and stigmatization. Klaniczay aims to give a short theoretical-historiographical overview of the most seminal works in this field. These theories then reappear in the articles throughout the book.

The first chapter deals with textual and figural representations of the body in a variety of contexts, from, for example, stigmatization and body metaphors to transsexuality. It highlights the diversity of readings and approaches that could be taken to the central theme. This multiplicity of readings remains something of a background issue in the subsequent chapters as well. Above, I mentioned the arbitrariness of the structural organization, since most articles could be put into several categories (not simply representation, healthsickness, or sexuality). Nevertheless, in this instance, this arbitrariness should be emphasized as a merit, since it puts in the foreground the multilateral approaches to the different themes. For instance, Franciska Dede’s treatment of her topic is exemplary in this sense. She focuses on the figure of Zsigmond Justh (1863–94), a young late nineteenth-century writer who suffered from tuberculosis. Approaching Justh’s illness from several possible interrelated readings, she gives a complex image of the perception of the self in the contexts of health and sickness, as well as in a variety of social settings and networks of relationships. Tibor Takács has chosen a more or less similar method of exploring the murder case of a party functionary; the afterlife and treatment can be clearly traced in a number of disparate documents (indictments, reports, verdicts, autopsy reports) which provide possible understandings and perception(s) of the body.

The subsequent chapter, under the heading The Healthy Body – The Sick Body, focuses on a rather traditional and indispensable theme in body history. However, the inquiries do not approach the issue exclusively from the perspective of medical history, but also from the perspectives of historical demography, social history, and sports history. Several of the authors aim to give an overview of their topic in a broader timespan. Ferenc Tar, for instance, summarizes the development of healthcare at Hévíz, and Szilvia Czingel reflects on the hygienic culture of Budapest at the turn of the century, though the articles often fail to maintain their focus. Miklós Zeidler’s article on the interrelated issues of sports, health, and ideals of beauty, however, gives a rather balanced image of the transitions in the connections between exercise and ideals of beauty between the eighteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.

Sexuality, which by now is another traditional perspective from which to consider the history of the body, is central to the third chapter. Most of the authors, however, managed to find a less-discussed context or angle from which to consider it. Boldizsár Vörös approaches it from the viewpoint of representations: the use of nudity in Hungarian advertisements at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, showing both sides of the coin (the supporters and the counter-arguments), along with the functionalist application of nudity and the changing legislation. Emese Gyimesi’s treatment of the marriage of Júlia Szendrey and Árpád Horváth is an investigation into the separate discourses on the sexuality of husband and wife that served as a basis of conflict in their marriage, and Orsolya Völgyesi, also focusing on a marital conflict from the first half of the nineteenth century, examines a criminal act (adultery culminating in homicide) through the filter of judicial documents and the letters of Ferenc Kazinczy. Gábor Szegedi discusses a probably less known chapter of the history of marriage and sexuality in Hungary, the history of sexual counselling in the first half of the twentieth century, embedding it in the theoretical context of Foucault’s ideas on biopolitics. Szegedi argues that sexuality can be both a punitive and controlling instrument of the authorities, and he also highlights that the Hungarian example underpins another component of Foucault’s theoretical approach, notably the role of racism, especially “scientific” racism in the management of modern (bio-politic) states.

The authoritative control of the human body forms the bulk of the subsequent two chapters, which examine the question from two main angles: the control of and the punitive or injurious measures against the body. One of the obvious examples of body control is abortion, the legislation of which often carries ideological underpinnings. In his article, Gábor Koloh examines the increasingly strict legislation and the criminalization of self-induced abortions in the interwar period, while Henrietta Trádler discusses the “fetal politics” of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in the context of socialism, feminism, and psychoanalytic theories.

Another often emphasized approach to the theme of authoritative control is the workings of the secret police in dictatorial states. Rolf Müller, however, examines the operation of the State Protection Authority (Államvédelmi Hatóság, ÁVH) from a quite unusual angle—not from the viewpoint of the victims of state violence, but on the basis of the documentation produced by the authorities. He differentiates between the separate levels of violence (demonstrative, direct, and hidden), and he emphasizes that the secret police were anything but secret. Because of its means of operation (measures carried out against the “enemies of the state”) and the lack of sufficient infrastructure to hide its activity, the so-called secret police gained symbolic importance in everyday language. Though spatially and temporally farther, the article by Veronika Novák also discusses the logic of state violence (in this case, executions), linking the intensifying focus on deviance and criminal activity in fifteenth-century and sixteenth-century Paris to the changing perception and use of space by authorities.

Taking violence and the possible injuries suffered by the body to the level of individuals, several of the articles explore the actual consequences of state control and violence. Within the framework of punitive and transformative institutions (the prison and the military), the human body is exposed to deterioration and injuries, as a consequence either of punishment or self-mutilation. This issue forms the focus of the inquiries by Tamás Dobszay and Julianna Erika Héjja. Tamás Dobszay examines the stages of physical-mental deterioration in the context of the deprivation model, drawing on the example of Ferenc Kazinczy’s captivity narrative, and Julianna Erika Héjja shows, by examining military recruitment, how state control can lead to self-mutilation as a means of avoiding compulsory military service in the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century.

The last chapter deals with the customs and traditions connected to the human body, though with the exception of Tamás Bezsenyi’s article showing the (urged) change in Turkish women’s fashion as the catalyst of social transformation, the treatment of the topic seems a bit unilateral. Of all the customs and traditions which could have a bearing on the human body (customs surrounding marriage, birth, etc.), only the questions of death and burial are discussed in traditional (though a bit outdated) contexts and approaches, for example by Tünde Noémi Farkas. Farkas examines the transformation of the approaches to death on the basis of Transylvanian funeral orations and obituaries between the Early Modern and the Modern periods, partly within the context of Philippe Ariés’ disputed theory on changing attitudes to death.

My critical remarks notwithstanding, I find this volume a very important contribution to the writing of body history in Hungary. Although the articles vary in quality, the reader can gain valuable insights, for example, into the use and applications of some of the seminal theories in Hungarian source material, or into ongoing or nearly completed research initiatives, and also into the possible further directions for study in body history. Furthermore, one significant merit of the volume is that it gives voice to the younger generation (MA and PhD students), as their ongoing projects (MA theses, PhD dissertations) will shape in part the agenda for further research in this field.

Janka Kovács
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Metternich: Stratege und Visionär. Eine Biografie. By Wolfram Siemann. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2016. 983 pp.

Metternich has long served as a bugbear and whipping-boy. Victor Bibl’s books Zerfall Österreichs and Metternich: Der Dämon Österreichs with their German-nationalist agenda supplied blunt and salty invectives, while Heinrich von Srbik’s massive biography from 1925 and Hanns Schlitter’s useful collection on pre-1848 Austria were more appreciative of Metternich’s self-conception as “rocher d’ordre”. Wolfram Siemann’s massive Metternich: Stratege und Visionär makes a new case for a nuanced understanding of Metternich, who, Siemann suggests, needs to be liberated from the clutches of his detractors. The best way of rescuing Metternich from liberal and nationalist vilification is an extensive source-based biography, and Siemann succeeds admirably well in tapping fresh material from the Vienna Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv and from the rich collections of Metternich’s papers at the Prague National Archives.

Wearing his erudition lightly, Siemann manages to cover his ground in elegant and highly accessible prose. It is in the area of international relations that his narrative reaches full stride. His findings parallel Miroslav Šedivý’s splendid Metternich, the Great Powers and the Eastern Question (2013), which demolishes many clichés about Austria’s allegedly stolid and reactionary politics towards the Ottoman Empire. Siemann also sheds rich new light on Metternich as paterfamilias, admirer of the arts, lover, and entrepreneur, discussing his manorial governance and the establishment of ironworks on his land at Plaß/Plasy (the chapter heading Frauenversteher und Majoratsherr is a gem of historical prose). Siemann offers a very valuable discussion of Metternich’s 1819 Italian journey in Emperor Franz’s retinue and adduces a striking letter in which Metternich highlights that pagan and Christian art were irreconcilable in late Antiquity. The early Christians, Metternich argues, had to “extirpate” the superior pagan arts “root and branch” (mit Stumpf und Stiel auszurotten, p.621). Strikingly, this contention harmonizes with the perceptions of Franz Grillparzer, who also was in the emperor’s retinue, yet Grillparzer was reprimanded by Metternich for calling for the removal of the cross from the Coliseum in his poem Campo vaccino. Metternich’s abolition of feudal dues on his domains, his modernization of harvesting and viticulture, and his advocacy of the Monarchy’s participation in the Zollverein have been overlooked by previous historians, and Siemann provides a superb discussion of these matters (pp.751–63, 786–91).

Siemann’s book is highly remarkable because it offers a reappraisal of Metternich as a conservative Enlightener: Siemann ably reconstructs Metternich’s early experience of the Revolution, bringing to life the ransacking of the Straßburg town hall by the urban crowd, which included young Metternich’s tutor Johann Friedrich Simon, and Metternich’s experience of his father’s management of the riot-riven Austrian Netherlands from Brussels. In this key, Siemann convincingly analyzes Metternich’s 1794 sojourn in London as a formative period. Having experienced Edmund Burke’s oratory skills in the House of Commons during the impeachment trial of Warren Hastings, Metternich also purchased and devoured the first edition of Reflections on the Revolution in France while in London.

After having provided a novel and nuanced account of Metternich’s diplomatic achievement at the Vienna Congress, Siemann goes on to discuss the fields of policing, political repression, and surveillance after the 1819 Karlsbad decrees. Here Siemann provides an excellent foil to Andrew Zamoyski’s glossy and gesticulatory Phantom Terror: The Threat of Revolution and the Repression of Liberty, 1789–1848 (2014). He carefully reconstructs the horror of violent conspiracies, plots, and planned coups that made Europe tremble in the 1820s; Karl Ludwig Sand’s 1818 murder of playwright August von Kotzebue appears as part of a proto-Salafist killing spree of prim fanatics which was directed against lax ancien régime morals as much as it was against political repression (p.662). Siemann highlights the social hardships of a young academic precariat which drove its members into radicalization. In connection with this, Siemann also dismantles the verdict of Gentz and Treitschke, according to which Metternich, obsessed as he was with the machinations of diabolic “demagogues,” refused to connect the rise of new liberal and radical political forces to tangible transformations in society. Siemann tries to determine the real threat conspirators posed, and he seeks to show that Metternich, while fighting rabble-rousing “demagogues,” also sought to quell radicalism by ensuring prosperity: Metternich was convinced that a rising living standard would diminish the appeal of nationalism across Europe.

Refreshing as readings like these are, they also clearly indicate the limits of Siemann’s study. Metternich emerges from Siemann’s book as something of a “genius” of statecraft, so much so that Alexander Cammann, in his review for Die Zeit (“Gerechtigkeit für ein Genie,” 3 March 2016), suggested that the volume would make good bedside reading for Angela Merkel. Metternich’s credentials as a peacemaker and prescient, responsible critic of modern nationalism seem impeccable here, but Siemann’s treatment of Metternich as a benign advocate of a Europe of multilingual and multi-religious empires remains strangely lopsided. Siemann’s account should be compared with older Austrian post-imperial literature on Metternich’s benign role in the nationality conflicts of the old Monarchy (e.g. with the writings of Hugo Hantsch), many of whose basic premises it shares. Siemann makes much of Metternich’s moderate “liberalism” (p.166), but his hero’s general politics in the Germanies contradict this assessment (one need only think of his thwarting of Hardenberg’s constitutional scheme for Prussia).

Siemann’s overall argument suffers from a serious weak spot: Metternich’s role in the internal workings of the Habsburg Monarchy is surprisingly absent from the book. Siemann does provide a helpful, fresh account of Metternich’s rivalry with Franz Anton Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky. He debunks Kolowrat’s self-fashioning as a “liberal” as mere window-dressing designed to denigrate Metternich as “reactionary.” Siemann argues that this served to disguise Kolowrat’s system of patriotic patronage, which cemented the dominance of the Bohemian nobility in the higher bureaucracy (pp.819–24). In March 1848, Kolowrat posed as one of the heroes who brought down the “system” Metternich, with the prince serving as a welcome scapegoat for the old regime (pp.832–40). Siemann reminds us that this “system” was an effective myth created by Metternich’s adversaries and that the powers of the prince in domestic affairs were much more limited than critics and admirers would concede. This is a point Metternich himself repeatedly made after 1848: “Mit meiner Allmacht muß es wohl übel gestanden haben!” But this cannot justify the omission of Metternich’s role in the internal workings of the Empire, an omission that effectively undercuts Siemann’s account of Metternich the “liberal.”

Since Siemann chooses to say rather little about Metternich’s domestic activities, he remains unable to establish whether there was any solid timber under the beguiling veneer of Metternich’s “reformism” and “federalism” (pp.623–27). What reformism, what federalism? Given that the book only briefly discusses Lombardo-Venetia, but completely neglects Galician and Hungarian affairs, Siemann fails to produce tangible evidence in support of his assertions. Quite surprisingly, István Széchenyi and Palatine Joseph are barely mentioned, and the relevant literature in Western languages is completely absent from the bibliography. No reference is made to the works of Gyula Szekfű (for instance État et nation; Iratok a magyar államnyelv kérdésének történetéhez, 1790–1848, which contains a highly valuable primary source material in German and Latin), Erzsébet Andics (Metternich und die Frage Ungarns, the appendix to which contains the rich correspondence between Metternich and Palatine Joseph), or Sándor Domanovszky’s edition of Palatine Joseph’s political writings, not to mention the older studies by Eduard Wertheimer, Franz Krones, and Mihály Horváth.

Siemann’s remarkable and eminently readable book will remain an indispensable point of reference for Metternich’s political life and intellectual profile up to 1815, as well as for the key role he played in the unmaking of the Napoleonic empire. It shows that Metternich’s worldview was shaped in the crucible of the Revolution, and it sets new standards for the study of his activities as manorial lord and industrialist. It is in these domains that the study breaks rich new ground. Here Siemann’s achievement is massive, but his omission of Metternich’s role in the internal affairs of the Monarchy is equally glaring. Given this imbalance, Siemann’s claims about Metternich’s moderate “liberalism” and “federalism” remain ultimately inconclusive. The Metternich that emerges from Siemann’s monumental study is quite simply too good to be true.

Franz L. Fillafer
University of Konstanz

Experten und Beamte: Die Professionalisierung der Lehrer höherer Schulen in der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Ungarn und Preußen im Vergleich. By Márkus Keller. (Studien zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Ostmitteleuropas 24.) Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015. 276 pp.

The publication under review is the German translation of a dissertation originally published in Hungarian in 2010. Keller worked on the dissertation at the Berlin College for Comparative European History, and further support, encouragement, and contacts were provided through an Immanuel Kant Scholarship and through close cooperation with the graduate program in social history at the Eötvös Loránd University.

The dissertation offers a comparative study of the professionalization of the teaching profession in secondary schools in Hungary and Prussia. The temporal framework is the second half of the nineteenth century, and the focus is on the last third of the century.

Keller provides a detailed chapter on theory and methodology in which he offers an overview of the most important social science theories concerning professionalization in the German and Hungarian science of history (regrettably, he does not offer a more detailed overview on this subject). He does, however, quite accurately note the different terms used in the German and Hungarian social historiography (“Bildungsbürgertum” versus “intelligencia”), and he discusses the most important German literature on the comparative method in the science of history. He thus justifies, more or less convincingly, the selection he made of the things compared and presents the sources on which his inquiry is based (for the most part, print publications of teachers’ associations, union statutes, the corpus juris, notices, statistical data, and newspapers). In the case of Hungary, the most important source was the newspaper of the National Association of Secondary School Teachers (Országos Középiskolai Tanáregylet, or OKTE), which was most active from the 1870s onwards. In the case of Prussia, where at the time similar teachers’ associations emerged as bodies representative of the interests of people in the profession, Keller draws heavily on Zeitung für das höhere Unterrichtswesen, in which the proceedings of the union assemblies were published.

Another chapter is devoted to the foundation of this interest in the comparison of the situation in Hungary and the situation in Prussia. One learns with astonishment that the Prussian union law, which was in force as of 1850, was more liberal than the Hungarian law “in the time leading up to the Compromise” (p.77). As a source, Keller refers to the state lexicon (Staatslexikon) published by Julius Bachem in 1904. He seems completely unaware of the research found in the eighth volume of Habsburgermonarchie (“Politische Öffentlichkeit und Zivilgesellschaft,” second sub-volume, Vienna, 2006), which is an essential source for any research on this subject.

The most informative chapters are the next two (chapters four and five), in which Keller presents the findings of the comparative research on two important questions, the “self-image” of pedagogues and their relationship to the state.

The “self-image” of pedagogues in Hungary, we learn, differed significantly from the “self-image” of pedagogues in Prussia. In Hungary, teaching was an increasingly self-confident profession which, thanks to a vibrant sense of solidarity, was able to assert its moral and material social value (and autonomy). In Prussia, teachers constituted a professional group with considerably less solidarity. Moreover, this group was divided into “humanist” and “natural sciences” (Realfächer) factions, and this division prevented teachers from effectively adopting a unified stance and thus left the profession itself in a weaker social position. The treatment of the subject of “nationality problematics” in Hungary in this chapter merits attention. According to Keller, by the 1870s the question of nationality played only a secondary role, since within the profession people were (Keller claims somewhat uncritically) essentially in agreement with the necessity of “Magyarization” policies through education and schooling. Keller offers no discussion of this subject in the case of Prussia. He focuses more on the internal division and the less successful efforts of teachers to achieve financial and social recognition.

Keller examines the relationship between the teaching profession and the state, which is closely intertwined with the question of “self-image” in the long last chapter. The focus of the discussion is first and foremost on the contributions of teachers to education policy and to the reforms in education policy in the late nineteenth century. Here too, one finds parallels and differences. In Hungary, only later was there an increase in the “power advantage” of the state with regard to the requests and reform ideas of the people in the teaching profession although from the perspective of professional level they were equal in rank. Beginning in the 1970s and lasting until the important law for secondary schools of 1883, there was a growing rift between the Ministry and OKTE which, contrary to what one might expect, made it possible for the teaching profession to attain a certain autonomy. In Prussia, in contrast, schooling had been a state matter for a considerably longer time as was reasserted by the school supervisory law of 1872. But even in Prussia, state intervention grew in the last third of the century, which the teaching profession welcomed since it hoped thereby to achieve a better place, both materially and from the position of social standing. This also explains the process of making teachers in Prussia civil servants, which stood in stark contrast with the situation in Hungary where this was not possible, in particular given the influence of non-state (i.e. Church) schools.

Keller provides a short summary in which he contends that his inquiry refutes an all too familiar view concerning teaching and education according to which the professionalization and modernization of teaching in Hungary and East Central Europe was a “belated development.” His refutation of this view is unquestionably one of the merits of his work.

One cannot avoid noting the numerous editorial oversights and failures (typos, grammatical errors, passages that are poorly translated, etc.). The book does not include a register of persons nor a list of abbreviations (the reader is left to her own devices to learn the meaning of the frequently used acronym OKTE, for instance). Some “professional” assistance, both from the perspective of the underlying scholarship and from the perspective of the editing, would have been helpful.

Brigitte Mazohl
University of Innsbruck/Austrian Academy of Sciences

Habsburg neu denken: Vielfalt und Ambivalenz in Zentraleuropa. 30 kulturwissenschaftliche Stichworte. Edited by Johannes Feichtinger and Heidemarie Uhl. Vienna–Cologne–Weimar: Böhlau, 2016. 261 pp.

At a time when flows of immigrants across borders, the experiment of European unification, and other developments have called forth furious national reactions in parts of formerly Habsburg Europe, the publication under consideration here reminds us that modern nations and nationalism are comparatively recent historical phenomena. Consisting of 30 short essays each subsumed under a keyword (from Auswanderungen [Emigrations] to Zerfall [Disintegration]), this volume enquires into the historical experiences of plurality, difference, and ambivalence in Central Europe with an eye to the challenges today’s societies face. In an opportune way, it documents the attempts by scholars to overcome the national perspectives that long dominated and still influence understandings of late Habsburg history. Until not so long ago, the Habsburg Monarchy was thought of as having been inhabited by a relatively small number of discrete, often mutually hostile nations (whose outlines conveniently corresponded to the conceptions of nationalists and the national power structures that emerged in the twentieth century). This volume reveals that the self-understandings of Central Europeans and their views of one another and the larger world were more ambivalent and conditional, even well into the twentieth century, than nationalists would have us believe.

A short review can hardly do justice to the abundance of essays in this book, which are from a range of disciplines, including literature and languages, anthropology, and the history of music and theater. The few contributions highlighted here seem to me to offer especially promising or interesting samples of current work. Where nations (or their construction) remain at the center of historical interest, the findings of recent scholarship continue to call the old nationalist “master narratives” of political emancipation and progress into question. In an article on “Democrats” (Demokrat/inn/en) written from the standpoint of gender history, the historian Heidrun Zettelbauer shows that a nationalist commitment did not necessarily entail a commitment to the expansion of democratic rights—paradoxically even among women. A prominent German nationalist activist in Styria such as Lina Kreuter-Gallé, for example, did not regard the achievement of women’s suffrage as a primary political goal: “Democracy as an objective aside from nationalist visions was and remained suspect for many female players [Akteurinnen] on the political right until well into the twentieth century” (p.48).

In recent years, the study of the use of language(s) has become one of the most promising ways of approaching the difficult question of perspective and self-understanding among those subject to Habsburg rule. This is especially notable given that the spoken and written word have traditionally been regarded as crucial markers of nationality. As the contributions on “Antagonisms” (Feindschaften), “Historical Representations” (Geschichtsbilder), “Multilingualism” (Mehrsprachigkeit), “Pluriculturality” (Plurikulturalität), and other topics suggest, the inhabitants of Central Europe were far more flexible in daily language practices than historical and popular accounts of clearly distinguishable “peoples” continue to allow. In large urban agglomerations as well as in small towns and villages there were “areas of crossover, of cultural hybridity, and multilingualism” (Simon Hadler, p.59). In the real social world, as Elena Mannová and Jozef Tancer point out, there were “no essentialist linguistic communities, as nationalists imagined them, but rather groups of speakers who made up intended and situational communities of communication” (p.136). Anil Bhatti usefully distinguishes what is labelled “pluriculturality” from “multiculturalism,” a term which implies closed parallel societies (such as those imagined by nationalists) existing side by side with little meaningful contact. The pluricultural world refers, by contrast, to “complicated nets of similarities which overlap and cross” (p.175).

Several of the contributions, such as those on “Orientalism” (Orientalismus) and “Austrian Islam” (Österreichislam), draw highly topical attention to a phenomenon which was apparent in the relationships among other groups in the Central and Southeast European area: the long experience of living side by side or in close proximity bred familiarity which did not necessarily set aside strong elements of strangeness or foreignness. The form of “frontier orientalism” (as opposed to “classical colonial orientalism” p.161) which Andre Gingrich suggests prevailed in Central Europe brought about the transfer from the Near East of themes and motifs in all manner of both high and popular culture, from architecture to figures of speech and place and street names. Franz Fillafer’s article reminds us that the Habsburg Monarchy was a legislative pioneer (1912) in the treatment of (Bosnian) Muslims among its subjects. The “Islam law” passed in 2015 by the Second Austrian Republic improved on the earlier achievement, even as it built on the Monarchy’s “confessionalizing” (p.167) strategies with respect to religious groups.

Pieter Judson’s contribution offers a helpful introduction to the term “national indifference,” which thanks to his efforts and those of other scholars has become one of the most promising analytical tools with which to move beyond dominant nationalist historical discourses. The notion of “national indifference” was in fact a contemporary one employed by nationalist activists as of the 1880s “to describe the behaviors, attitudes, [and] choices of people who appeared to live their daily lives ignorant of nationalist concerns” (p.151). Nationalism was the tool activists then employed to combat indifference, and it therefore should be understood, according to Judson, as a question of “political practice” rather than “cultural authenticity” (p.152). Hence, if we accept linguistic-ethnic-cultural reductionism, then we also accept the premises of nationalism. This is a valuable insight for future scholarship.

Though the book under review is entitled “Re-thinking Habsburg,” the Habsburg Monarchy as a discrete polity composed of distinct territories and existing for a long time as one of Europe’s leading powers is oddly absent from most of the contributions. What did its existence mean to its subjects and citizens, and how did these meanings change over time? To what extent did its existence evoke a (cultural) sense of belonging among its people(s)? How might this sense of belonging have differed from place to place? In a volume devoted to questions of culture and forms of belonging, one might note with some regret the absence of keywords such as “religion” and “Catholicism” or “territory” and “locality.” If people were indifferent to nation, then what influences might have induced affinity? Even after 1900, affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church must still have constituted the most frequent form of culturally conditioned belonging. Precisely in the case of the Habsburg Monarchy, with its long and intimate association with Catholicism, the question of this affiliation needs to be added to the cultural-historical research agenda. Werner Telesko’s fine essay on the widespread revival of the “Baroque” in the nineteenth century recalls the link between this “dynastic-supranational style” (p.30) and the Counter Reformation, which was one of the formative experiences in Habsburg history. Thus, Telesko suggests ways in which the early modern and later history of the monarchy might fruitfully be reconnected.

William D. Godsey
Austrian Academy of Sciences

Eugenics and Nation in Early 20th Century Hungary. By Marius Turda. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 343 pp.

For a long time, eugenics remained a largely under-researched subject within the scholarship on Hungarian intellectual history and the history of science. The topic was rarely discussed, and its controversial nature led to a series of misunderstandings. However, the last 15 years have seen a significant increase in the number of contributions to this field in the form of numerous journal articles and book chapters. The most active author behind this growing body of literature is Marius Turda, and Turda is also the author of the first monograph on the subject reviewed here.

The lack of comprehensive secondary literature on Hungarian eugenics meant that Turda could not follow or challenge any historiographical interpretations; he was forced to develop a new historical narrative practically from scratch. When doing so, he laid down the following three guiding principles: first, “to identify the most important Hungarian eugenicists and to contextualize their arguments within their discursive cultures” (p.12), second, to analyze the connections between eugenics and nationalism, and, finally, to discuss “eugenics in Hungary as part of an international movement of social and biological improvement” (p.12).

Turda´s narrative begins at the turn of the century and ends in 1919, after the demise of Austria-Hungary. These two moments in time could not be more different. The chapters themselves focus on the abovementioned aspects while following the history of Hungarian eugenics chronologically. Some of the milestones in this account are world events like the outbreak of World War I, while other significant turning points are related to the development of the eugenics discourse.

Fin de siècle Hungary and especially Budapest, which at the time was an emerging metropolis with a vibrant intellectual life, were hotbeds of new ideas. They formed the world in which Hungarian eugenics first appeared. Turda convincingly argues that the Hungarian version of eugenics should be classified as a social science (p.16.) Although many eugenicists came from scientific or medical backgrounds, eugenics still enjoyed a position comparable to that of the emerging sociology of the time. It is therefore unsurprising that it was roughly the same circle of intellectuals who showed interest in these two disciplines. These intellectuals were receptive to new ideas and eager to learn about the latest scientific developments, but they were also very keen on using the new theories to understand and critique contemporary Hungarian society. The book demonstrates how eugenic concepts gained influence in Hungary’s intellectual and scientific circles and how the participants in the debates were up-to-date on the latest literature on eugenics from the outset.

Turda is not only a scholar of Hungarian eugenics, but also a historian of Romanian and South East European eugenics who has even published on the general history of the movement. Thus, his description of the international context, including the intellectual influences on the Hungarian eugenicists, is especially intriguing. Similarly captivating are the passages in which he discusses the thoughts and impact of Géza Hoffmann, the only Hungarian eugenicist who managed to gain international recognition.

The book also explains the dissemination of eugenic thought in Hungary and its later institutionalization. According to Turda, from the beginning, these ideas were not considered obscure and they were regularly given attention in various public forums. For instance, the topic was extensively covered in the influential journal Huszadik Század from the mid-1900s onwards. Still, over the years, eugenics became more and more influential. By the time World War I had broken out, eugenics enjoyed considerable significance in wartime health and welfare policies and in a widespread infrastructure of different associations and publications. It even enjoyed recognition in Hungarian officialdom as illustrated by the appearance of eugenic arguments in parliamentary debates.

The influence of eugenics is also indicated by the number of prominent figures who endorsed such ideas. As is commonly known, Count Pál Teleki, who served twice as prime minister (for under a year in 1920–21 and then again in 1939–41), had an avid interest in eugenics. However, it is not common knowledge in Hungary today—and it is to the credit of the book that it draws attention to this—that the similarly influential and equally controversial Bishop Ottokár Prohászka, the leading intellectual behind political Catholicism and Christian socialism, also shared such interests (p.90). But right-wing or conservative intellectuals were hardly the only people to participate in the eugenic discourse. Left-wing intellectuals, socialists, and feminists saw in eugenics a method of social progress (if one accepts a pliable definition of progress, of course).

While most historians who specialize on early twentieth-century Hungary tend to concentrate on the political divisions between left and right, according to Turda, this was only one of the important dividing lines between eugenicists. Dichotomies like the one between the followers of the classical Galtonian interpretation of eugenics and those advocating the German school of racial hygiene were crucial too. Similarly, the nurture vs. nature debate and the debates concerning state intervention further divided eugenicists. These positions cannot be explained merely with reference to the political leanings of the people who espoused them. For instance, József Madzsar was a strong proponent of state enforced eugenic measures despite his firm leftist sympathies.

Perhaps the most interesting and thought-provoking aspect of Turda’s analysis concerns “the problem of nationalism and eugenics.” Initially, the main problems discussed by Hungarian eugenicists paralleled the problems faced by their Western European and North American colleagues, i.e. social issues and public health concerns, such as alcoholism and sexually transmitted diseases. However, Turda argues that in the context of the ethnic tensions of late dualist Hungary, nationalist eugenicists attempted to redefine the Magyar race in a biological framework and develop their study into a bio-political project that combined the eugenic concept of heredity with Hungarian nationalism.

The monograph on this previously understudied topic is not only an important step towards a better understanding of early twentieth-century Hungary’s intellectual landscape. It will also further our understanding of some later developments, such as important aspects of Hungary’s interwar nationalist discourse. In addition to the main body of the volume, the appendices will also be of great benefit to future scholars. Since no similar list of works by Hungarian eugenicists has ever been published, Turda’s 25 page-long bibliography makes it not only useful but downright necessary for anyone planning to do research in this field in the future. The biographical information is similarly helpful, since many of these people remain unknown to historians even today.

Attila Kund
University of Pécs

Etnicitás, identitás, politika: Magyar kisebbségek nacionalizmus és regionalizmus között Romániában és Csehszlovákiában 1918–1944 [Ethnicity, identity, politics: Hungarian minorities between nationalism and regionalism in Romania and Czechoslovakia, 1918–1944]. By Gábor Egry. Budapest: Napvilág, 2015. 560 pp.

Until recently, historians in East Central Europe have analyzed the fates of Hungarian minorities in the various successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy separately, with a focus on the political parties of minorities and ethnic conflict. Gábor Egry, director-in-chief of the Budapest-based Institute of Political History, has embarked on a comparative investigation of Hungarian minorities in his recent 500-page monograph, Ethnicity, Identity, Politics. Hungarian Minorities between Nationalism and Regionalism in Romania and Czechoslovakia 1918–1944. The book brings two welcome innovations: it is comparative in nature and Egry resists the temptation to analyze Hungarian minorities in a vacuum. Slovak, Czech, and Romanian reactions to Hungarian identity politics feature prominently in his monograph. His extensive use of Romanian archival records concerning the German, Hungarian, and Romanian populations is especially remarkable.

Based on years of in-depth archival research in Bucharest, Budapest, Cluj-Napoca, Timişoara, and Târgu-Mureş and other cities in Transylvania with important archives, Egry offers crucial insights into the history of Hungarian minorities and the study of national identity in East-Central Europe more generally. He confidently draws on the so far less thoroughly studied records of the Directing Council (Consiliul Dirigent), reports of provincial agents of the state security police, the mandatory Romanian language exams taken by minority state and municipal officials, and personal correspondence, along with other sources.

Ethnicity, Identity, Politics analyzes the networks among the Budapest, Bucharest, and Prague governments, as well as Slovak, Transylvanian Romanian, and Transylvanian Hungarian political elites. The monograph focuses on how these elites attempted to influence the national identity of Hungarian populations in Transylvania and Slovakia, with particular emphasis on the activities of the administration in Budapest. For Slovakia, Egry overwhelmingly relies on the rich collection of the Hungarian National Archive, which is understandable given that a substantial portion of the book is devoted to a reconstruction of the “Felvidék” [Slovakia] policies of Budapest governments. The author concentrates on policy makers who wielded considerable power in their efforts to influence the ethnic identities of Hungarians and he pays less attention to alternative attempts at identity politics coming from the marginalized political left, liberal writers, and the press. Egry concludes that it was impossible to create a homogenous Hungarian national identity out of the various Hungarian ethnic identities and identifications in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Romania between 1918 and 1944.

Egry asks how Hungarian identities evolved in the interwar period and during the Second World War in Slovakia and Northern and Southern Transylvania, and how changes in these Hungarian ethnic identities contrasted with the identity politics promoted by Budapest governments. The analysis of policies aimed at shaping national identity, which is broken into two parts entitled “Identities” and “Policies and Ethnic Categories,” takes up two-thirds of the book. The third part, which focuses on “Everyday Life,” examines how populations reacted to policies concerning ethnic identity by complying with, ignoring, or selectively conforming to them. While Ethnicity, Identity, Politics compares Hungarian ethnic identities in Romania and Czechoslovakia, it avoids any affirmation of simplistic conceptions of Transylvania or Slovakia as homogenous regions with solid boundaries, and it draws attention to variations in forms of ethnic identification city by city and sub-region by sub-region (p.65).

The geographical and social differences in Hungarian ethnic identity serve as a background to explain both the divergent impact of the Treaty of Trianon on Hungarian populations and the difficulties of Hungarian state-building during the Second World War. In both Slovakia and Transylvania, Hungarians opted for definitions of “Hungarianness” that differed sharply from the one promoted by Budapest, and these initial differences became even more pronounced between 1918 and 1944. Transylvanian Hungarian elites promoted a regional national identity that radically differed from Budapest’s homogenizing and centralizing agenda. This Calvinist-inspired “theological” narrative of ethnic identity stressed differences between Hungarians in Trianon Hungary and Transylvania by pointing to the importance of ethnic community building and community service (népszolgálat) in the latter, for instance. Hungarians and Hungarian elites in Slovakia, on the other hand, represented a geographically, socially, and politically more fragmented group, which did not develop a unified narrative on Hungarian ethnic identity in Slovakia (pp.156–67, 196–204).

Although Hungarian crowds cheered Miklós Horthy during the re-annexation of Southern Slovakia and Northern Transylvania, Egry argues that the buildup of differences in ethnic identity since 1918 threw into question the extent to which the re-annexation actually united minority Hungarians with those in Trianon Hungary. Finally, Egry points out that the territorial revisions of the Treaty of Trianon produced traumas and shifts in national identification comparable to the dissolution of historical Hungary, partially because the nationalizing Hungarian state pushed forcefully to readjust the national identities of Hungarians in the re-annexed territories (p.489).

Egry’s work also serves as a contribution to currently popular debates in Hungary concerning the so-called “Trianon trauma,” which centers on the impact of the demise of Greater Hungary on Hungarian populations. Importantly, Ethnicity, Identity, Politics situates the disintegration of historical Hungary in the history and recent historiography of the “Long First World War” in East Central and Eastern Europe (Heather Jones, Jennifer O’Brien and Christoph Schmidt-Supprian, eds.: Untold War. New Perspectives in First World War Studies [2008]; Jochen Böhler, Włodzimierz Borodziej, and Joachim von Puttkamer, eds.: Legacies of Violence: Eastern Europe’s First World War [2014]). Egry marshals case studies in support of his contention that Hungarian populations went through a series of “traumas,” such as World War I and the subsequent revolutions in the 1910s and 1920s. This argument ultimately questions the uniqueness of the “Trianon trauma” in our understanding of modern Hungarian history. In addition, he points out that the dissolution of the pre-1918 Hungarian state had sharply different impacts on various social groups and in different parts of the former Kingdom of Hungary.

Egry oscillates between arguing that the period of the Second World War marked an important turning point in the national identities of ordinary people and between showing that Hungarian populations had indeed comparably flexible attitudes towards ethnic identity in the 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s. This ambiguity partially stems from the methodology and source base: the analysis is driven by a series of case studies, some of which clearly represent outliers, such as the story of one Hungarian-Jewish railway operator who decided to move to Moldova in Greater Romania at a time when Hungarian populations from Transylvania were fleeing to Trianon Hungary (pp.466–69). Nonetheless, these case studies show that it was possible to go against the current of ethnic nationalism well into the period of the Second World War.

Given the persistence of flexible ethnic identities and flexible uses of ethnic identity (labeled “everyday ethnicity”) throughout the period under study, it is nonetheless difficult to prove that the ethnic identities of Hungarian populations solidified during the Second World War. While case studies in this book do not allow for sweeping conclusions, they nevertheless persuasively point to the persistence of flexible ethnic identities in the first half of the twentieth century. The inclusion of voices from small town pubs, crowded train carriages, and middle-class dining rooms enriches our understanding of interwar East Central Europe and questions the extent to which Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Greater Romania managed to nationalize populations.

Egry convincingly stresses the importance of East Central European middle-class cultures for both the mediation of ethnic identification and as non-ethnic venues of identity politics, an often overlooked aspect of the interwar history of this region (pp.444–62). The legacy of Austro-Hungarian middle-class culture in Transylvania managed to create bonds among Transylvanian Hungarian and Romanian bourgeoisies vis-à-vis “outsiders,” such as Romanians from the pre-1918 Kingdom of Romania after the collapse of the Monarchy (p.459). Egry shows that an important impact of middle-class sociability in Transylvania was the performance of cultural superiority by educated Transylvanians (both Romanians and Hungarians) against “intruders” from the pre-1918 Kingdom of Romania. At other instances, however, middle-class sociability and the performance of social difference towards majority peasant populations served as a tool with which to erase boundaries between the Hungarian and Romanian bourgeoisie of Transylvania and the Old Kingdom of Romania (pp.457–62).

One of the many important insights Egry offers is that Hungarians and Slovaks in interwar Czechoslovakia had fewer venues for shared middle-class sociability or the construction of joint fronts in identity politics. One reason for this was that the cultural superiority of Hungarians and Slovaks in Slovakia vis-à-vis “petit-bourgeois” Czech culture or the “oligarchic” society of post-1920 Hungary was questionable; Hungarian, Slovak, and Czech ethno-political entrepreneurs were inheritors of Austro-Hungarian “middle-class culture” and thus could not be “stigmatized” as “Balkanic,” unlike the Romanians from the prewar Kingdom of Romania (p.460).

Whereas works published in East Central Europe rarely draw on English-language scholarship on the theory and practice of nationalism, Egry’s work stands out in its unique contribution to both English-language historiography on the region and debates among historians in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Through the integration of Czechoslovak, Hungarian, and Romanian perspectives on ethnic identity, Egry rethinks Rogers Brubaker’s 1996 “triadic nexus,” which described the interplay of “nationalizing state,” “the national minority,” and the “external national homeland” as relational fields which explain ethnic mobilization (Rogers Brubaker: Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe [1996]). Egry adds to this nexus regional non-minority elites, in this case, Slovaks and Transylvanian Romanians, an addition which draws attention to the fact that within “nationalizing states” there were important internal divisions; these divisions allowed for more agency for minorities (pp.18–29). Moreover, Egry argues that the boundaries between regional minority and non-minority elites were often blurred. His addition of regional minority elites to Brubaker’s “triadic nexus” stresses that the binary opposition between Hungarian and Romanian or Slovak and Hungarian national histories can be overcome, and that the history of populations in Slovakia and Transylvania was often “entangled” and impossible to understand from the perspective of national histories (pp.29–30).

Egry’s confident narrative voice connects the dots among the often disparate case studies: the reader should expect a series of brief stories of the manifestations of ethnic identity rather than detailed case studies, which are common in works of this kind (Pieter M Judson: Guardians of the Nation. Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria [2006]; Jeremy King: Budweisers into Czechs and Germans. A Local History of Bohemian Politics, 1848-1948 [2002]; Tara Zahra: Kidnapped Souls. National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1948 [2008]). The voice of ordinary people is mediated by both contemporary state officials who produced the sources and often by Egry himself, who mostly resorts to paraphrasing rather than directly quoting this rich material—an understandable approach given the breadth and depth of his monograph. A divergence from this approach comes mostly in the third part of the book on “Everyday Life,” in which “freely speaking individuals” come to the fore (pp.362–84).

The main focus on political elites as the people who crafted politics aimed at influencing ethnic identity is less convincing, especially given that Egry shows how even interwar states believed that literature and popular culture (de)formed ethnic identities, which led to the censorship of even inane operettas such as Imre Kálmán’s Countess Maritza in Transylvania (p.451). Writers, left-wing and liberal journalists, and editors of literary journals (even of papers with limited circulation, such as Cluj’s Korunk) likely impacted the ethnic identity of broad middle-class audiences, despite the lack of their direct impact on policy making; more attention to Hungarian Jewish identity politics in Czechoslovakia and Romania could have strengthened Egry’s point that Hungarian ethnic identities were far from homogenous and contradicted the Budapest government’s expectations.

What needs to be stressed is that the breadth and depth of Ethnicity, Identity, Politics makes it one of the most significant contributions to Hungarian historiography in recent years. This monograph is a crucially important reading for historians interested in the politics of ethnic identity in East Central Europe, and it is also useful as an in-depth survey of the history of Hungarian populations in Romania and Hungary between 1918 and 1944. Graduate students will find inspiration in Egry’s use of archival material, while Ethnicity, Identity, Politics will hopefully inspire future comparative studies of the region.

Máté Rigó
Yale-NUS College

Két évtized: A kolozsvári zsidóság a két világháború között [Two decades: The Jewry of Kolozsvár between the two world wars]. By Attila Gidó. Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület, 2016. 356 pp.

Attila Gidó is a skilled and successful young Transylvanian historian associated with the Cluj-based Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities. In recent years, he has conducted several valuable research projects involving research in the major Romanian, Hungarian, and Israeli archives. Dealing with the interwar history of the Jewish community in Cluj (Kolozsvár in Hungarian), one of the major cities and cultural centers of Transylvania, his new book is an expanded version of his doctoral dissertation, which was first published in Romanian (Două decenii: Evreii din Cluj în perioada interbelică [2014]).

The Jews of Cluj were proud Hungarians before 1920, and they were almost fully integrated into the society of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. Later, under Romanian rule, they tended to refer to the previous period as the Golden Age of the Hungarian/Transylvanian Jewry. After acquiring Transylvania, the Romanian authorities did practically everything in their power to dissociate Transylvanian Jews from the Hungarians, promote the dissimilation of the community from its Hungarian language and culture, and force the assimilation of the Jewish inhabitants of the region into the Romanian state. At the time, this strategy was an essential demographical and political matter for the young nationalizing state of Greater Romania.

Gidó is convinced that without a full understanding of the identity strategies of the Transylvanian Jewry, one cannot understand the anti-Semitism of the 1930s or the Hungarian reproaches and anti-Jewish accusations of the early 1940s. Neither, according to Gidó, can one comprehend the post-Holocaust Jewish disillusionment with anything and everything connected to Hungarian identity and culture. Accordingly, Gidó states already in the introduction that the period under scrutiny is of key importance in the history of the integration of Jews. This is probably why he extended and contextualized his research period: to analyze first the situation of the Jewish community of Cluj before the First World War and to conclude with a presentation of the situation of the community after 1940, when under the provisions of the Second Vienna Award the city, together with the northern and southeastern parts of Transylvania, became part of Hungary again, followed less than four years later by the deportation of the Jews in these territories to Auschwitz.

Gidó adopts an unusually complex approach: in addition to using classic historical research methods, he also employs a variety of anthropological and sociological tools. Consequently, his work is not simply historical writing, but rather an interesting experimental attempt at a comprehensive monograph of the Jewish community of Cluj. It is therefore not surprising that the author examines his topic with particular focus on the questions of identity strategies and social integration.

The book is divided into ten chapters, each analyzing the history of the community from a different perspective: historiography and sources; the frames of the research; the history of the community before the First World War; demographic and settlement structure; occupational structure and economic potential; exclusion and restrictions of rights; internal organization of the community, including religious and secular institutions; education and schooling strategies; various identity policies; and the fate of the Jews of Cluj after 1940.

The author offers a clear description and in-depth analysis of the condition of the Jews of Cluj after the First World War, when their history, together with that of the city, went through many dramatic changes, affecting most of all the economic environment and behavior, but also political, social, and cultural relations, as well as religious and minority institutions. Demanding more and more space for themselves in the city and in Transylvania, the Romanians used a wide array of tools to expel Hungarians and Jews from public institutions, prominent places in economic life, liberal professions, and in many cases even from their own homes. The existence of Jewish institutions was also greatly impeded or made impossible. For example, in 1927, the Tarbut, the only Jewish high school of the town, was closed. The institution was accused of being “the nest of Hungarian irredentism,” and it was not permitted to function because the Romanian administration sought loyalty from the Jews to the new state. Furthermore, they also questioned the citizenship of Jews, and this condemned many families in the community to poverty, because there were several occupations which one could only pursue if one had Romanian citizenship.

An intriguing part of Gidóʼs work is his presentation of the activity of the Romanian student movements in support of the introduction of the numerus clausus principle (already adopted by Hungary) as a defining expression of anti-Semitism in interwar Romania. He describes the psychological and the physical acts of aggression against Jewish students, intellectuals, merchants, craftsmen, village barkeepers, and simple citizens during the first years after the Trianon Peace Treaty. He elaborates on the most severe instances, such as the student protests of December 1927, which culminated in the so-called “traveling pogrom,” during which the Romanian students of the Old Romanian Kingdom, traveling by a special train, vandalized and set to fire numerous Jewish religious and secular institutions and businesses on their way through Oradea (Nagyvárad), Huedin (Bánffyhunyad), and Cluj.

An unspoken question seems to run through the book: did the Jews of Transylvania in some sense betray the Hungarians during the interwar period, as alleged by some Hungarian contemporaries and historians, or did they simply try to find workable personal solutions in order to adapt to the new realities and conditions of Greater Romania? Gidóʼs analysis is not confrontational, he does not argue for or against these anti-Jewish accusations. Rather, he tries to exploit and parse an impressive amount of press, archival, and bibliographical information to reveal historical facts, influences, conditions, traps, and, ultimately, the historical truth.

Based on the results of the Romanian census of 1930 and his own approximations, Gidóʼs conclusion is that around 1930 more than half (54 percent) of the Jews of Cluj declared themselves to be of Jewish ethnicity, while the rest of the community continued to identify as Hungarian. Although the author notes that the great majority of the Jewish population of Cluj continued to speak Hungarian at home and in public, consumed Hungarian cultural products, and had many ties with the Hungarian minority society (and thus continued to act as a kin-minority), he is somewhat reluctant to admit that such a dramatic change could not have take place in the period of one decade. In fact, the Jews of Cluj, like many other members of the Transylvanian Jewish community, realized that the political options of the Hungarians and of the Jews living in Transylvania were not always convergent, and by establishing a Jewish Party, an important part of the community started to cast “Jewish votes” instead of Hungarian ones. Otherwise, when for example the non-Jewish Hungarians were supporting the party of Octavian Goga in droves, Jews would have been forced to vote for a political party with an anti-Semitic program.

Nonetheless, Gidó provides an excellent and highly suggestive example how impossible far-reaching dissimilation proved in a short period of time: that of Mór Deutsch, who in November 1918 filed a request to change his last name from Deutsch to Dévényi. The Hungarian Ministry of the Interior informed him on January 30, 1919 that his request had been approved, but by then Mór Deutsch was already living under Romanian rule, and the Romanian authorities did not recognize the decision of the Hungarian administration. We know from other sources that eventually Deutsch changed his name to Dévényi, probably sometime between 1940 and 1944, because in October 1943 his son was enrolled as András Gábor Dévényi in the Jewish High School of Kolozsvár. Beginning in 1953, András Gábor Dévényi lived and worked as a renowned physicist in Bucharest, and when he passed away in December 2015 he still bore the same last name: Dévényi. The Deutsch-Dévényi example may illustrate how advanced the Hungarian assimilation of the Transylvanian Jewry was.

Gidóʼs well-documented book, which contains some 1,260 footnotes and an exhaustive bibliography, offers us a good opportunity to clarify the origins of many clichés and stereotypes, and to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of the complicated history of the Jewish community of Cluj and, through it, of Transylvanian Jews as a whole as part of Hungarian and Romanian history.

Zoltán Tibori Szabó
Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj

Căpitan Codreanu: Aufstieg und Fall des rumänischen Faschistenführers. By Oliver Jens Schmitt. Vienna: Paul Zsolnay, 2016. 288 pp.

While there is a plethora of biographies on Hitler and Mussolini, the life of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the founder and leader of the Legion of the Archangel Michael (also known as the Iron Guard), is less known. Apart from Codreanu’s autobiography For My Legionaries or hagiographic works like Ion Banea’s Căpitanul, so far there are no other attempts at a comprehensive portrayal of the leader of the third biggest fascist movement in interwar Europe. This is why Jens Oliver Schmitt’s biography Căpitan Codreanu – Aufstieg und Fall des rumänischen Faschistenführers [Captain Codreanu – Rise and Fall of the Romanian fascist leader] is a novelty on a variety of grounds. Schmitt, professor of South-East European History at Vienna University, seeks to provide a meticulous account of Codreanu’s political, ideological, and private life, drawing on a variety of source documents from Romanian archives, contemporary writings and theoretical works on comparative fascism. Crucially, too, the author attempts to place Codreanu’s life in the broader political context of the interwar period. The biography spans the period beginning with Codreanu’s birth in Huşi in 1899 and ending with his violent death in 1938. It is divided into 48 short chapters which are grouped thematically, a chronological table, and an index of names.    

While Schmitt’s volume is at first glance a comprehensive narrative of Codreanu’s political life, its real strength lies in its examination of how Codreanu’s closest allies shaped his ideology and leadership. Schmitt focuses on Codreanu’s immediate circle of friends and family, aspects of his life which until now have been neglected, yet which Schmitt argues are significant for an understanding of his political career. There is much to support this assumption, as nationalist narratives were intrinsically tied to the Codreanu family’s self-image. In 1902, Codreanu’s father, Ion, a German teacher from Bukovina, changed his family name from the Polish Zelinski to the Romanian-sounding Zelea. “Codreanu” referred to the Romanian broad-leafed forest (codru), an element of the national imaginary. By making the national myths part of his family’s identity, Codreanu’s father expressed his devotion to the Romanian nation, and this was to shape his son’s political convictions. (It is hardly surprising that the family’s genealogy later became the subject of anti-Legionary propaganda, which claimed that the Codreanus were of Slavic ancestry). According to Schmitt, even Codreanu’s military ideals, which were to shape the organizational structure of the Legionary Movement, stemmed from his father and, to a lesser extent, from his education at the Mănăstirea Dealu military school. As for Codreanu’s allies, the author claims that historians have tended to overstate the impact of Bucharest-based intellectuals such as Mircea Eliade or Emil Cioran on Codreanu and his movement. Instead, Schmitt directs his reader’s attention to members of the aristocracy, such as Prince Nicholas of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and members of the Cantacuzène family, such as Gheorghe (Zizi) Cantacuzino Grănicerul, the leader of the Legionary party All for the Fatherland [Totul pentru Ţară]. Their connections to the royal house were to become Codreanu’s life insurance after 1933. At the same time, Schmitt manages to debunk many of the more lurid stories which emerged concerning Codreanu by noting the lack of evidence. 

The middle chapters offer many insights into Codreanu’s personality and beliefs. Schmitt depicts the founder of the Legionary Movement as a disciplined mystic who regularly withdrew to a hermitage in the Rarău mountains, as a leader who emphasized silence over the loquacity of the political establishment, and as a person who preferred pictures over words. This was indeed a novelty in Romanian politics which stood in sharp contrast to how the satirist Ion Luca Caragiale depicted Romanian archetypical characters. For Codreanu, the promotion of moral rigorousness as a Legionary virtue went hand in hand with the sanctification of violence. He raved about medieval knights and placed more emphasis on chivalric honor than the code of law. These findings are supported by recent research on Codreanu’s charismatic leadership and his and the Legionaries’ religious activism. Schmitt argues that Codreanu’s charisma was not simply a product of his own ostentatiousness, but rather was also sustained by his devotees, who occasionally regarded Codreanu as a demigod or reincarnation of the Archangel Michael. Likewise, Codreanu’s own Christian Orthodox faith was not merely metaphoric or instrumental, but rather constituted a promise of transcendental salvation to the Romanian people. However, his messianism and religious mysticism came increasingly into conflict with his role as a fascist leader. Codreanu’s inability to bring these contrasting identities in line resulted in an irresolute leadership and led to the movement’s collapse in 1938. Correspondingly, Codreanu failed to arbitrate between the different factions which emerged in the 1930s within his organization. Schmitt refers to a “moderate” royalist faction represented by intellectuals like Nae Ionescu on the one hand and a social-revolutionary faction represented by various violent-prone groups and the Legionary Worker Corps on the other. By shedding light on the role workers played within the Legionary movement, Schmitt applies findings from recent studies on this group, which until now has only rarely been made the subject of historical inquiries.

Schmitt’s biography provides new insights into a person who has come to be regarded as one of the most notorious and charismatic fascist leaders in interwar Europe. One strength of the book is that it explores the life of the Legionary leader in settings and from perspectives often overlooked by scholars of fascism. Moreover, it is stimulating to see emphasis placed on the persons and the networks whose impact on Codreanu have been overlooked in the earlier secondary literature. For those less familiar with politics and personae from interwar Romania, the volume is at times less accessible. Some chapters introduce numerous politicians, parties, and places and are so dense that readers may lose track. A slight tendency occasionally to depart from Codreanu’s development in order to incorporate broader historical events notwithstanding, Schmitt’s biography is balanced and well-written, and it presents enough strong arguments to make it worth a read for any scholar of comparative fascism or East European or Romanian history. Overall, Căpitan Codreanu can be regarded as the first authoritative account of the life of the Romanian fascist leader, an account which has been long overdue.

Radu Harald Dinu
Jönköping University

Demokrácia negyvenötben [Democracy in 1945]. By Éva Standeisky. Budapest: Napvilág, 2015. 247 pp.

Éva Standeisky has written an unusual account of circa two crucial years in Hungarian history. Unlike most authors who have dealt with the delicate issue of immediate post-World War II Hungary and its Sovietization, Standeisky does not start from or devote much space to politics, parties, or the intricacies of diplomacy. Nor is the book focused on the rapid social changes that swept through the defeated country. Similarly, the horrors of war and the abusive Soviet occupation only linger in the background. Instead of dwelling on these already familiar aspects of the period, Standeisky attempts to further a nuanced understanding of the elusive concept of democracy in a fluid historical context, and she studies how this elusive concept impacted the trajectory of the country.

These choices do not make the book less politically charged. Connecting 1945 to the topic of democracy is a political statement in today’s Hungary, in which the country’s so-called Basic Law made “constitutional” one specific understanding of national history by declaring that the country’s sovereignty was lost on March 19, 1944 and the subsequent years did not constitute part of “authentic” national history. Neither is Standeisky deterred by such legal “niceties,” nor is she willing to swim with the current of the recent wave of research eager to uncover dictatorial tendencies in all areas starting as early as 1944. Instead, she boldly attempts to reveal people’s agency, a crucial prerequisite of functioning democracy. While a single academic definition of democracy would be difficult to arrive at (the book provides ample illustration of this through the example of intellectual discussions in 1945), Standeisky argues that after the collapse of the old regime and with the slow crystallization of the new, a space for individual agency appeared (köz in the original). Standeisky defines this concept not simply as a social sphere in which people could act and interact, but rather as a view of society beyond its individualist understanding, a view which creates the opportunity but also the moral obligation for everyone to act in the defense of the common good and public interests. In 1945, due to the collapse of the state, she argues, people not only had a chance to engage with the public, this engagement was a necessary precondition of social reconstruction.

In the course of these attempts, democracy was the main guiding principle for most people, understood as a clean break with the undemocratic past (and the cornerstone of reconstruction). But, as Standeisky shows, democracy was as elusive and contested seven decades ago as it is today. One of the most important disagreements unfolded between an egalitarian understanding of the concept (democracy as a system that strives for the greatest possible equality between people in material terms) and an interpretation of democracy as the guarantor of individual liberties (a system that tries to defend individual freedom from the intrusion of others and the state). It was this contestation that enabled the Communist party to divide and weaken its opponents, because the egalitarian interpretation was more popular than the individualistic (which was chiefly represented by intellectuals), and this enabled the Communists to curtail individual liberties.

Intellectuals and ordinary people are both in the focus. However, given the huge difference from the perspective of the paper trails they left, it is hardly surprising that the former’s presence is more prominent. Standeisky does not provide an all-encompassing narrative. Rather, she uses meaningful episodes to illustrate her point: democracy was contested, often elusive, but a powerful idea that defined Hungary for a short period when it was equally important for politicians, intellectuals, and ordinary people. Thus, the book includes chapters on a lecture series at the Budapest Pázmány Péter University that provided a platform for politicians and intellectuals to discuss democracy. The views expressed ranged from a communitarian/egalitarian perspective (Péter Veres from the National Peasant Party) to the idea that democracy is a form of government based on consensus building to provide freedom for individuals (professor of law Gyula Moór). In another chapter, Standeisky examines the views of intellectuals concerning the moral foundations of democracy. She shows how sober and generally pessimistic the evaluations by contemporaries tended to be who felt that Hungarian society neither had the necessary democratic experience nor had properly come to terms with its own responsibility for the tragedy that had befallen the country in 1944. These themes recur in a later chapter that presents the views of Gyula Szekfű (of whom Standeisky has an unusually positive opinion) and Imre Kovács from 1945–47.

Standeisky connects her discussion of democracy and morals with politics, demonstrating how instrumental the debate about democracy and the lack of democratic experience was to the success of the Communists. In this context, they were able to “hijack” the debate and position themselves close to the center. Another chapter is devoted to Világ (1946–47), a short-lived journal edited by Lajos Kassák and published by the Hungarian Council of Artists, which was the home of Western artistic Modernism in a country rapidly sliding towards dictatorship. Finally, a sadly all too brief chapter is dedicated to a local emanation of the “public,” the so-called Republic of Dévaványa, a spontaneous popular attempt that exemplifies how local society could be reconfigured in the absence of the state and would be dominated by a strong figure, but also how the new state gradually compelled these local attempts to submit to its will.

The framework connecting these disparate examples is the concept of the public and democracy as an idea embraced by all of the actors permitted to participate in public life. It is certainly a promising approach, although the book remains a somewhat traditional work in the history of ideas. This lack of methodological innovation becomes especially visible in the case of the analyses of debates on democracy, as Standeisky does not use any of the more recent analytical concepts, such as populism or communitarianism, which would have meaningfully complemented her take on the dichotomous interpretation of democracy. Her argument that brief periods like 1945–47 can offer new insights into prior and subsequent periods is an appealing one, but it remains to be more fully explored in further case studies on ordinary people. Nonetheless, Standeisky largely succeeds in presenting a refreshing perspective on a short period that is often too easily lost amidst the large-scale processes of Sovietization. She thereby aptly demonstrates that emphasis on the anti-democratic politics of the Communists from late 1945 onwards should not necessarily lead to a general condemnation of 1945 or its erasure from the history of democratic traditions.

Gábor Egry
Institute of Political History

A magyar irodalomtudomány szovjetizálása: A szocialista realista kritika és intézményei, 1945–1953 [The Sovietization of Hungarian literary studies: Socialist realist criticism and its institutions, 1945–1953]. By Tamás Scheibner. Budapest: Ráció, 2014. 314 pp.

Tamás Scheibner’s book does not seek to map the ways in which literature functions on the basis of literary historical and aesthetic contexts which focus on the oeuvres of individual authors, nor does Scheibner seek to understand how the aesthetics of Socialist Realism functioned on the basis of poetical analyses of individual works. He works from the presumption that in the given era, critical judgement was held captive by individual institutions which were dominated by politics, not literature. He approaches the subject first and foremost from the perspective of interrelationships in cultural history, thus adopting the approach of the current international (primarily Russian and Anglo-Saxon) theoretical literature. Following in the path of Evgeny Dobrenko and Katherina Clark, Scheibner writes about the discourse of Socialist Realism, which as a complex communicational system contains the critical language with which the single accurate narrative concerning external “reality” can be produced. As an aesthetic ideology, Socialist Realism constitutes an unusually closed system, and the symbolic universe which reigns within it determines the single language with which the ideological problems of the era can be discussed and examined and the political and cultural strivings can be expressed. Furthermore, the political, linguistic, and power technique of Socialist Realism was not so much the distinctive property of the people who were actually involved in the practice of literature (in other words, not an internal requirement) as it was a technique of the representatives of political power. In Hungary, József Révai played this role, even as György Lukács assumed a similar role in the field of theory.

Before diving into the substance of the work, it is worth offering some brief discussion of the term Sovietization, which figures in the title of the book. Drawing first and foremost on the works of American scholars (though also taking into consideration the views of some Hungarian authors), Scheibner comes to the conclusion that the notion of Sovietization can only be used in a limited sense. His stance is nuanced, since he does not treat Sovietization as a practice that was implemented on the basis of carefully developed plans, but rather as a technique of domination that evolved and was implemented gradually. The linguistic and methodological nuances of his inquiry notwithstanding, he nonetheless dates the beginning of Sovietization to 1945, and in my assessment he finds himself on “thin ice” in this because he bases his conceptualization on the views of political historians. By this, I only mean to suggest that the scholarship on the era is hardly sufficiently detailed or nuanced to allow us to venture holistic views concerning the entire country on the basis of political decisions, particularly when it comes to social sub-systems.

Given his conceptualization, Scheibner logically begins by examining the institutional steps that were taken by the Hungarian communists in order to seize control of literature. One of the most important ideas took root in Szeged before the liberation of the country from the occupying German forces. Essentially, the idea was that—regardless of any and all financial or infrastructural problems that might arise—the party should have its own printing press, which would be called Szikra (Spark). Scheibner uses all of the tools in the toolbox of the cultural historian to provide a detailed reconstruction of the tasks that the leadership of the printing press would have to address concerning material culture, organization, circulation, and delivery. He then examines the publication politics of the Szikra printing press and comes to the conclusion that – in contrast to the ideologically motivated success stories told in the Kádár era and in spite of the fact that at its launch in the wake of the war it enjoyed a tremendous advantage – it proved a failure. As the author shows, this was due, above all, to logistical blunders and mistakes in publication policy.

The second chapter of the first part of the book examines the cultural and diplomatic background of the establishment of the Hungarian–Soviet Cultural Society, which was created in order to win the sympathies of the urban middle class or at least to temper some of the hostility to the Soviet Union. The Society was emphatically not political in nature. Its primary purpose was to spread knowledge of the culture, sciences, language, and value system of the Soviet Union among the Hungarian citizenry. In the actual activities in which it engaged, however, the Society made clear that the communist elite not only had no desire to nurture any notion of cultural continuity with non-communist and partly even communist left wing initiatives of the inter-war years, it actually sought to dismiss them as a kind of heterodoxy or misunderstanding— separate paths to be scorned. At the creation of a new literary canon and the new intellectual elite, neither political commitment nor artistic calling was the primary question. What mattered, rather, was whether or not the person in question would be able to accommodate and fit into the frameworks of the new system, and also whether or not, with his or her name and reputation, the party might be able to gain some legitimacy.

One of the key questions of the literature of the era concerns what Scheibner—drawing on György Lukács—refers to as the “unity” of Hungarian literature, a symbolic goal that was intertwined with the fashioning of a new literary canon. In my assessment, this question makes vividly clear the difficulty of drawing boundaries between historical eras. It would be problematic and perhaps impossible to understand the emergence and crafting of this canon if one were to take into consideration only trends and events after 1945. Scheibner continuously alludes to the activities of Lukács before the war and outside the borders of Hungary, and indeed he situates all this in the context of the debates concerning Soviet literature and cultural politics. In my view, however, it still would have been worthwhile to have offered a more detailed analysis and discussion of the historical context and nature of Lukács’s vision of canon formation. After all, so-called workers’ literature or the literature of the working class included a significant body of theoretical literature even in the interwar period, which offered critical assessments of potential aesthetic and ethical dilemmas.

Scheibner devotes considerable attention to the so-called Lukács debate (1949–51). He presents the context in which the debate took place, both from the global and the domestic perspectives, and then offers a detailed analysis of the individual standpoints. These events were discursive in nature, much as the political and sociological positions of the individual participants and their places in the party hierarchy played a role in the debate. From this perspective, even Lukács, who is treated as an institution, was not an exception. At the same time, one might well ask, if there was in fact a fixed plan to dismiss or marginalize him (and there may well not have been any such plan), then why the need for a debate at all? In my assessment, which concurs with that of the author, the debate was needed because (though we often forget, in our efforts to understanding the communist concept of politics, that the exercise of power was centered on text and interpretation) the Lukács debate had a function: the introduction of the Socialist Realist discursive style and the establishment of this style as a matter of routine. If we put the whole affair in a larger context and we string the debates together to form a kind of chain that seems reasonable, then—in the shadow of the Rajk trial—we have the Lukács debate (1949–51), the big architects’ debate (1951), and the debate concerning Felelet [Answer] (1952), the first two volumes of a novel by writer Tibor Déry which was initially intended to be a trilogy. As Scheibner argues, on the one hand, these de-bates concerned the accurate interpretation and the introduction of Socialist Realism, while on the other, they also signified a kind of changing of the guard within the party – the communist intelligentsia that was educated in the professional sense was being pushed out of the party.

In the last two chapters of the book, Scheibner logically takes his analysis further in this direction: the First Hungarian Writers’ Congress, which was held in 1951, was essentially the last phase of the process described above. It was a ritual of acceptance, in that Hungarian literature was significantly reorganized and was given a new central forum in the form of Irodalmi Újság [Literary News] and, in the person of Béla Illés, an unusual past master. The long-term goal of all of this was the creation of a new literary and critical language: what was the role of Soviet literature and sentimental evocativeness, and how should the attitudes of writers and readers be transformed? The final chapter before the conclusion deals with the transformations in the structure of the Hungarian Society of Literary History and the content of its journal Irodalomtörténet [Literary History]. This was a move that took place on the level of politics of the profession, and the essential question was how to introduce the aesthetic ideology of Socialist Realism (which in theory was in use) and Marxism into a traditionally Humanist branch of the sciences and how to assure that work would begin and progress in a manner that was acceptable from a political point of view.

In Hungary, after the change of regimes, very little emphasis was placed on the importance of critical self-examination in the individual branches of the sciences, in spite of the fact that there is a great deal in the recent history of the disciplines of philosophy, history, literary history, and of course several other branches of the sciences that would merit rigorous examination. Scheibner’s book is an example of the new modes of thought of a new generation, and if one takes into consideration, alongside this book, the work of scholars like Gábor Rieder, Dávid Szolláth, Gábor Reichert, Ádám Ignácz, and András Ránki, it seems this new generation has a marked interest in (and is making a demand for) a critical reassessment and rethinking of the era in question. Scheibner’s book is based on a well-developed methodology, a serious study of sources, and rich international scholarly references. It is to be hoped that his scholarly efforts will be continued – by himself and many others.

Zsolt K. Horváth
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

The Emergence of Historical Forensic Expertise: Clio Takes the Stand. By Vladimir Petrovic. New York–London, Routledge, 2017. 258 pp.

Over the past century, the number of legal proceedings in which historians have been called on to provide expertise has grown significantly. Depending on the nature of the case, judges and representatives of parties have sought answers to all kinds of questions, such as the history of a particular community and its presence in a geographical space, the ideas that have driven the adoption of legal documents, and the functioning of various institutions which were involved in the oppression or extermination of a particular ethnic, national, racial, or religious group. Practitioners needed answers concerning history and, in particular, political and social history. Historical forensic expertise has thus been called on to contribute in legal settings, and it has done so, with varying levels of success. In this book, Vladimir Petrovic traces the development of this inclusion of historical expertise in a setting to which it had previously largely been foreign: the courtroom.

The book begins with a question: is there a role for the historian in court? The issue of historians participating in proceedings has been controversial and has caused heated debates, even if, by now, it is hardly a practice without precedent. Scholars strongly disagree with one another, and they tend to treat the question as a zero-sum game. For some in the field of historical research, historians should not participate in courtroom proceedings at all, while for others, the contributions of historians are both valuable and necessary to the desired outcome, i.e. a fair legal decision. For the former, law and history are simply fundamentally incompatible methodologically, epistemologically, and in purpose, while for the latter, they are based on similar principles and can work together. After all, historians and judges do, fundamentally, establish truth based on evidence (p.6). Disagreements aside, history is inevitably brought into the courtroom, in criminal and civil cases, in numerous jurisdictions, when the courts are called upon to decide on claims that simply cannot be addressed without reference to history in one way or another.

To help address this problem of the role of the historian in the courtroom, Petrovic turns to the past, investigating “history on trial,” “history of trial,” and “history in trial” (p.4). These three themes run through the book, and Petrovic presents the intriguing aspects of each to the reader. By approaching the subject through these themes, he manages to map successfully the different ways in which history and law have interacted. When he began his research, Petrovic found that, somewhat ironically, the story of historical expert witnesses was largely obscure, even though some of the cases in which historians were involved were exceptional and impacted the societies involved strongly. In many ways, some of these legal proceedings influenced how events from the past are remembered and talked about. In Petrovic’s view, a monographic overview of the evolution of historical expert witnessing was needed to help resolve some of the lingering questions on the roles of historians in the courtroom. Petrovic studied sources on several key cases in countries such as France, the United States, Germany, and Israel. Many of the cases aimed to provide a measure of justice for some of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, such as the murder of Jews in Europe and the oppression and segregation of black Americans. The various types of proceedings were conducted in both civil law and common law jurisdictions, which differ considerably from the perspective of how proceedings are conducted. Insights presented in this book on cases as iconic as Brown v. Board of Education (decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954) or the Eichmann and Auschwitz trials in Israel and Germany in the early 1960s greatly enrich the reader’s understanding of legal history.

The book is structured largely chronologically, analyzing the shifting relationships between history and law in six chapters organized in three parts: one focusing on the preconditions for the emergence of historical forensics, the second part on experiments with this expertise in court, and the third on institutionalizing the practice. These three phases began to become significant in legal practice in the late nineteenth century, and they are not neatly separated. The process of including historical expertize in courtroom proceedings was gradual and multifaceted. In the chapters, important questions concerning the purpose of legal proceedings are raised, especially in criminal cases involving individuals charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Do these trials have only the narrow purpose of establishing the guilt or innocence of an individual, or do they have a broader social function, such as to inform, educate, and even reconcile populations? These questions are still passionately debated in academia and in legal and policy circles, especially those working in the field of transitional justice.

Given this, some discussion of the experiences of the international, hybrid, and domestic tribunals that have conducted criminal trials would have greatly enriched Petrovic’s inquiry. Ever since professor James Gow of King’s College in London provided testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its first ever trial (that of Dusko Tadic), historical expertise has been both heavily relied on in investigations and included as expert testimony. Scholars like Robert Donia have appeared in the courtroom in The Hague dozens of times over the course of the past two decades, and this emerging tradition of relying on experts in the courtroom, which present the conclusions of historical research, continues to the present day at the International Criminal Court. Richard Ashby Wilson’s 2011 book Writing History in International Criminal Trials was important in bringing to light the relationship between history and law in international trials, and Petrovic’s contribution is important in that it expands on this broad theme. These trials, after all, also produce an incredible amount of records which are themselves subjects of historical inquiry.

Petrovic succeeds in his efforts to depict the evolution of the use of historical forensic expertise in legal proceedings over the course of the past century. The book is incredibly rich in detail, describing individuals who took part in the inclusion of historical expertise in legal proceedings and the struggles they faced on this path. This in-depth study is, by all means, a significant contribution to scholarship. It establishes a foundation for even better-informed discussions on the still controversial questions: do historians “belong” in the courtroom, and when their expertise is used, how can this practice be improved? Historians are now regular participants in proceedings in the courtroom, and they are likely to remain there. Therefore, the task is now to improve their contributions, and this process of improvement begins with an increasingly subtle understanding of past experiences, the experiences so eloquently presented by Petrovic. Beyond this vital purpose, the book discusses the crucial question of the social role of historians, which in these turbulent times seems even more pertinent.

Iva Vukusic
Utrecht University

pdfVolume 6 Issue 3 CONTENTS


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.

Veronika Novák

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.

Laura Fábián

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.

Iván Gerát

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,” [2005]) and another on France by Sarah Ferber (Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France [2004]). 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.

Márton Simonkay

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.

Péter Bencsik

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. 

Róbert Kerepeszki

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.

Ákos Bartha

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.

Gergely Kunt

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.

Dániel Bolgár

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.

Peter Hallama

École des hautes études en sciences sociales

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.

Gábor Csikós

Hungarian Academy of Sciences


pdfVolume 6 Issue 2 CONTENTS


Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918. Band XI. Die Habsburgermonarchie und der Erste Weltkrieg. 1. Teilband. Der Kampf um die Neuordnung Mitteleuropas. Teil 1. Vom Balkanenkonflikt zum Weltkrieg. Teil 2. Vom Vielvölkerstaat Österreich-Ungarn zum neuen Europa der Nationalstaaten. Edited by Helmut Rumpler. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2016. 1521 pp.

For more than 40 years, the “Habsburgermonarchie” series has been a shining lighthouse for every scholar of Central Europe in the nineteenth century. Launched in 1973 with the first volume on the economic history of the Habsburg Empire, it has already yielded eleven large thematic overviews, very often consisting of several volumes, which now are considered standard works of reference in the field. The changing editorial team, with its core at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, has thus been able to coordinate the emergence of a unique book series. After more than 40 years of continuous publishing, the whole series today not only offers valuable insights into the history of the Habsburg Empire in the second half of the nineteenth century, but has also become a monument in the history of historiography.

Until last year, however, the volumes concentrated largely on the history of the Monarchy prior to World War I. The history of the war itself started to become an integral part of the series only in 2016, most probably in part as a consequence of the boom in the scholarly and popular activity connected to the 2014 centenary. Like the whole series, the shift towards the history of World War I is very deep and elaborate. The first of the two volumes entitled From the Balkan Conflict to World War deals with the prelude to the war and the overall history of the Dual Monarchy during the war. The second volume, From Multinational Austria-Hungary to New Europe of Nation States, includes essays on the war history of particular nations and closes the two-volume work with a focus on the diplomatic outcomes of the war and general reflection on the last years of the Habsburg Empire. The editorial team does not intend to bring the discussion of the history of the war to an end with these two volumes, which are supplemented by a separate work on the war statistics, and one more volume on the historiography of the war as it emerged throughout the twentieth century will follow.

As the title of the first volume and the overall structure of both volumes suggest, the work examines the war as the culmination of developments which took place in the preceding decades. Manfried Rauchensteiner, Günter Kronnenbitter, and Hew Strachan trace these developments in the cultural and political climate of the late Habsburg Monarchy, in the system of its political and executive power, and in the changing international role of the “regional empire,” as Strachan refers to the Monarchy. All three opening essays trace continuities which connect the war and the prewar period and provide a brief yet useful introduction to the following part, which deals with the war itself.

Here, the work tackles selected issues beyond the national framework, concentrating on the actual military operations, the mobilization of the hinterland, and the economic and cultural aspects, leading to the demise of the monarchy. Martin Moll and Erwin Schmidl trace the changed nature of the total war, which demanded a completely new institutional, social, but also mental setup. The restructuring of economic production, far-fetched use of social-Darwinist thought for the cultural framing of the war, and the large number of displaced persons all generated a completely new context in which the very meaning of statehood and citizenship was reshaped. Lutz Musner complements this discussion with an examination of the experiences of soldiers on the frontlines, where individuals were considered “human material.”

The section on “economic exhaustion and cultural change” emphasizes predominantly the economic aspects of war restructuring. Tamara Scheer, Anatol Schmied-Kowarzik, and Ágnes Pogány provide an informative and factually rich overview of the economic legislation and practices brought about by the outbreak of war and its long duration, which drove the state deeper and deeper into debt. Mark Cornwall traces the reshaping of the cultural sphere on the basis of the example of propaganda that was able to use some of the most prominent writers and journalists of the empire and shaped not only the war morale of the citizenry, but also a large segment of contemporary cultural production. Alfred Pfoser and Wolfgang Maderthaner devote attention to the view from below, and capture the changing cultural patterns predominantly in the German-speaking part of the monarchy, beyond the state-driven propaganda. They examine the other side of the coin, i.e. the widespread frustration with and depression because of the protracted war, which eventually climaxed in widespread revolts, paving the way to the dissolution of the monarchy.

The first volume of the two-volume work suggests at first sight that it tries to capture the history of war beyond the national framework, and the topics seem to have been chosen so as to transcend traditional national narratives. However, most of the contributions use predominantly sources written in German in support of their arguments. The authors also contextualize their studies by drawing on recently published scholarship in English and, where appropriate, Hungarian. There is only sparing mention of sources in other languages, however, limited often to only a few references to older articles and books, and the inquiry occasionally seems to forget the complexity and, indeed, plurality of its subject, i.e. the Habsburg Monarchy as a whole. Hence, the first volume can serve as an outstanding introduction to the current state of the scholarship on the policies and experiences of war. The contributions present a large methodological and topical overview and provide primarily a lively and informative read. On the other hand, by prioritizing sources and literature in German, they also, if in a very subtle way, tend to reproduce the German-centered perspective of the warring empire itself.

As has already become something of a custom in the whole series, this should be outweighed by the second large part that accommodates chapters separated by particular nationalities living in the empire. Entitled “The Nations of the Empire,” this section follows the compartmentalized histories of Germans, Czechs, Poles, Slovenes, and the other nationalities, which were often written by local authors. The frequently underlying script is the gradual alienation of the respective nation from the state. The reproduction of old imperial hierarchies becomes clear when one looks at the structure of the volume. The first two chapters are devoted to the Austrian Germans and the Hungarians. Germans, according to Holger Afferbach, tried to unite loyalty towards the multinational Empire with their German nationalism. Afferbach traces the intricate relations between Berlin and Vienna and the internal engagement of the German national political elites in the Habsburg Monarchy to paint a picture of a self-confident group, which was gradually losing ground. Dániel Szabó provides a very dense narrative, which follows a similar trajectory. By examining nationalistic Hungarian politics, he is able to show the growing alienation of some of the leading Hungarian politicians from the idea of a joint state.

Ivan Šedivý, Dušan Kováč, and Marko Trogrlic tell a similar story for the Czech, Slovak, and South Slav cases. The total mobilization for war, they argue, created unsurmountable divisions between the respective nations and the state, and this contributed to the increasing prominence of the separatist movements, paving the way for the postwar creation of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The chapters in this section present a predominantly political history of Habsburg repression and anti-Habsburg resistance, which was accompanied by growing social protests and disillusionment with the non-functioning state. Piotr Szlanta offers a similarly intense political narrative for the Poles, in which he traces the impact of Russian occupation and the subsequent deepening crisis of the late war years, which preceded the collapse of Habsburg rule in Galicia. According to Harald Binder, like the Poles, Ukrainians living in the monarchy saw their bond with the Empire disappear primarily because of the clumsy state policies, which were unable to exploit original loyalties to the dynasty. Binder also provides a lot of statistical information to show the enormous humanitarian burden that the Ukrainian population had to suffer. As was true in Polish case, the peace of Brest-Litovsk provides a turning point for the narrative, from which Binder follows the political negotiations leading toward the Ukrainian independent state.

In contrast with the overall title, which emphasizes “The Nations,” the chapters present narratives focused more or less on politics and centered around “big men,” declarations, negotiations, and political alliances within as well as outside of the Habsburg monarchy. They deftly summarize what we already know about the political history of the last years of the Habsburg Empire and hence provide a fundamental source of information for anyone interested in the topic. However, the deep but at the same time somehow narrow focus also has limitations. The reader is left in confusion when it comes to the broader issues of the social and cultural history of the war. The essays often generally treat whole nations as given and stable units which were represented by a few politicians, and they only rarely ask questions which challenge the unifying narrative of vanishing loyalty.

For the Romanians of the empire, Razvan Paraianu tries to go beyond this horizon of classical political history. In his chapter, he also gives the reader an introductory overview of the Romanian historiography of the war, of the war in Romanian national memory, and of the gender and cultural history of Romanians during the war. The reader is given a wide overview of the Romanian experience of the war and its postwar framing, but once again, the nation is treated as a stable unit of analysis, and its political unity is presented as a teleological end of the war. In the Italian case, as was true in the eastern regions of the Monarchy, migration and refugees constituted a formative issue of the war. Elena Tonezzer and Stefan Wedrac summarize the most recent research (mostly written in Italian) and convincingly show how the mass movement of people, from evacuated civilians to the victims of Habsburg political repression, helped foment the radical nationalist program of Italian separatism.

If Habsburg history is compartmentalized into separate national sections, only one group is left as a loyal pillar of the state. Marsha L. Rozenblit´s chapter on Habsburg Jews is thus the only part that tells a somewhat different story. Rozenblit emphasizes the ongoing loyalty of the Habsburg Jews, for whom the Habsburg state was the guardian against rising nationalisms with their indivisible anti-Semitisms. Even in this case, the issue of refugees from the eastern provinces played the key role, but the chapter also tackles the numerous charities that were intended to help the Habsburg state survive and evolve, as well as the widespread grief and nostalgia over the lost Empire.

After elaborating on the particular “national” experiences of the war, the two-volume opus magnum ends with a section entitled “Times are changing” (Gezeitenwechsel). Here, four essays, symptomatically authored by three Austrian historians and one Hungarian, trace the international dimension of the Empire´s demise. Lothar Höbelt examines deeply and informatively the diplomatic history of the Empire in its last four years. His study is supplemented by Helmut Rumpler´s informative overview of the various reform plans and changes in the internal organization of the imperial administration. Imre Ress complements Rumpler´s chapter with a Hungarian perspective and tackles the debates about the changing status of the Hungarian Kingdom within the dualist state.

The work concludes with the Saint-Germain and Trianon treaties, as the diplomatic epilogues to the war and, with it, to the Habsburg Empire. The title of the respective essay, “The Imperialist Peace Order of Central Europe in the Treaties of Saint-Germain and Trianon,” already gives away the main argument. Arnold Suppan argues that the vanquished were pushed to respect the “capitalist economic and social order” (pp.1325–26). This might well leave an informed reader feeling a bit confused. Austria-Hungary and, even more so, imperial Germany had already been indispensable parts of the capitalist order before the war, whether through their position in global trade or through the internal organization of their societies and economies, which were structured around private entrepreneurship and the accumulation of profit. While there were attempts in the tumultuous postwar years to overthrow this setup in favor of radical leftist ideals, Germany and Austria retained major features of capitalist market economies in the 1920s. Suppan, however, not only reproduces the decades-old Marxist notion of the “bourgeois triumph” brought to central Europe by the victory of Entente powers. He also tries to show the irreparable damage that the new international order did to the vanquished states, and ends with an ominous citation of George Clemenceau, according to which the Paris peace order only planted the seeds of a long and deep crisis of the future.

This quote brings to an end not only the whole two-volume work on World War I, but at the moment also the series itself. Hence, it provides the reader with a retrospective interpretation not only of the war, but also of the whole history of Habsburg Monarchy from 1848 until its demise. This interpretation draws on Marxist vocabulary together with the conservative post-Habsburg nostalgia to suggest that the war brought a triumph of the Western capitalist class which in the long run, however, only fostered the rise of Fascism and the cataclysm of World War II. After having read this as the final statement, the reader remains a bit puzzled, since this conclusion does not seem to correspond with many of the preceding essays, let alone the other volumes of the series.

Nevertheless, the two volumes still provide probably the factually richest and most comprehensive overview of the last years of the Habsburg Empire. Many chapters (predominantly in the first volume) are inspired by the social and cultural history of the war, and they provide a very interesting read, mainly on the experiences of the German speakers of the monarchy. The second part summarizes the political history of the Empire´s nations and offers deep insights into the alienation of respective national political elites from the ideal of a common state.

However, if one reads the various chapters as a whole, an old imperial narrative from the prewar period comes to mind. Imperial ethnographers and popularizers of science in the nineteenth century often portrayed the Habsburg Empire as “united in diversity.” The ethnic, linguistic and cultural varieties of its nations were seen as one of the monarchy´s greatest assets, which, however, were united by the common high culture and administration emanating from the Empire´s German and, later, Hungarian-speaking centers. Along this line, most of the topics of the two volumes, which are intended to go beyond the national narratives, is found in the first volume and written by German-speaking and, to lesser extent, Hungarian-speaking and English-speaking authors. A seemingly unifying narrative is presented which should connect the experiences of all of the peoples of the Monarchy, but which is based primarily on German or Hungarian sources and the perspectives of Vienna and Budapest. It is the second volume that gives place to the diversity of particular nations and invites local authors to contribute with their distinctive national perspectives. This perspective focuses primarily on the activities of national political representatives, which it then substitutes for the nations these people were claiming to represent.

Historiographically, the two volumes thus represent disparate works. While the first one offers insight into a wide range of social and cultural topics on which historians have written since the 1990s, the second tends to reproduce the old political history approaches, firmly grounded in older narratives of particular national historiographies. Nevertheless, both volumes together still confirm the central position of the whole book series within the scholarship on the history of the late Habsburg Empire. For anyone dealing with World War I and the Habsburg monarchy, it is an outstandingly valuable reference work, which can serve as a useful introduction for further study as well as a source of rich details on a wide range of topics.

Rudolf Kučera

Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences

pdfVolume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS


Az első 300 év Magyarországon és Európában: A Domonkos-rend a középkorban [The first 300 years in Hungary and Europe: The Dominican Order in the Middle Ages]. Edited by József Csurgai Horváth. Székesfehérvár: Alba Civitas Történeti Alapítvány, 2017. 335. pp.

In 2016, the Dominican Order celebrated the 800th anniversary of its papal confirmation. For this occasion, two scholarly conferences were held in Hungary, one of which dealt with the medieval history of the Order. The 16 papers which were held at the conference have been published in a collection edited by József Csurgai Horváth, the director of the Municipal Archives of Székesfehérvár. Since the papers are very different in geographical range (which spanned from Italy to Central Asia), time (from the beginnings to the middle of the sixteenth century), and topic, I review them according to theme.

The study by Balázs Kertész, entitled “The Settlement of the Mendicant Orders in the ‘Middle of the Country’,” presents the appearance of the four mendicant orders (Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinian Hermits, and Carmelites) in the central part of Hungary in the thirteenth century. Kertész examines the early history of 22 cloisters and notes the important role of the towns in this region.

The following six papers deal with hagiography (half of them focus on Saint Margaret of Hungary). Thus, they reveal the most important tendencies of the Hungarian historiography on the Dominicans. In her article “Saint Margaret of Hungary and the Medieval Lay Piety,” Viktória Hedvig Deák analyses the connection between Margaret and the medieval lay piety by examining prayers. Using the Legenda Vetus and the canonization report of 1276, she points out that the piety of the Hungarian princess went beyond the usual requirements of her age. Ildikó Csepregi also uses the canonization report to study the miracles performed by Margaret in her article, entitled “The Miracles of Margaret of Hungary.” She adopts a very modern typology according to which she groups the miracles: 1. unique miracles; 2. timeless miracles; 3. miracles of the New Testament and early Christian period; 4. miracles with theological problems; and 5. miracles that were characteristic of the region and the age. Finally, in his article “King Matthias and Margaret of Hungary,” Bence Péterfi examines Margaret from a different perspective: during his reign, King Matthias tried to prevail on the Church to canonized the princess. Péterfi has found a hitherto unknown group of sources in Rome regarding this effort, some of which are included in the appendix of this volume. As he points, the canonization of Margaret was nearly successful, but ultimately it was delayed until 1943 due to quarrels inside the Dominican Order in the second half of the fifteenth century.

In his contribution, entitled “Blessed Helen of Hungary and the Medieval Dominican Stigmatics,” Gábor Klaniczay deals with the stigmatization of another Dominican nun, Blessed Helen. He emphasizes that the case of Helen was just an act of the medieval Franciscan–Dominican dispute about the stigmas, and her legend was compiled only in the fourteenth century to promote the canonization of Catherine of Siena. In her article, entitled “Saint Catherine of Siena in Hungarian Codices,” Eszter Konrád examines the cult of Saint Catherine in Hungary. Using two Latin and two Hungarian late medieval codices, she reveals that the veneration of Catherine was brought to Hungary mainly by the Dominican observance practices in the fifteenth century.

In the last paper with a hagiographical topic, Ottó Gecser deals with the problems of the canonization of Saint Elisabeth of Hungary (“Cult and Identity. Saint Elisabeth of Hungary and the Dominicans in the 13th Century”). The princess, who during her life was attracted rather to the Franciscans, was canonized in the Dominican Convent of Perugia by Pope Gregory IX. Gecser examines the unusual circumstances: why Perugia and why the Dominicans? The Pope spent a year in Perugia because of his argument with the Roman city council, so this was accidental. The Dominicans, who went to Perugia only very recently, were chosen because within the Franciscan Order there were several quarrels about the third order. Furthermore, through the relationship of Elisabeth and Konrad von Marburg, Gregory could connect her person with the Inquisition and the proselytization in Germany led by the Dominicans.

The next thematic group of four papers addresses the question of literacy. The study and catalogue by Balázs Zágorhídi Czigány, entitled “The Charters and Seals of the Medieval Hungarian Dominican Provincials,” analyses the 27 surviving charters of the Dominican provincials of Hungary from the point of view of the content and 16 seals showing a very conservative manner of use because of the early settlement of the Order. Since the legal documents concerning the life of the Hungarian Dominicans did not survive, in “The First Period of the Dominican Literacy,” Kornél Szovák examines the literary heritage of the Dominicans in the country, who had a very significant intellectual background. As he points out, the era was characterized by a diversity of genres, including university and cannon law notes through Paulus Hungarus, geographical and ethnological works thanks to the missions of friars Riccardus and Julianus, the Vitas of Blessed Helen and Saint Margaret, and finally a history of the order.

While the contributions by Zágorhídi and Szovák deal mainly with the source materials, the subsequent studies enrich our knowledge of the Dominicans with examinations of specific sources. In an article entitled “Use of the Language and Vernacular Literature in the Hungarian Dominican Reform. The Readings of the Hungarian Dominican Nuns,” Sándor Lázs examines 16 codices in Hungarian owned by the Convent of the Island of Rabbits, on the basis of which he draws conclusions concerning the literacy of the nuns. He connects the phenomenon of the spread of vernacular literature in the middle of the fifteenth century with the Dominican observance practices which were brought to Hungary from the German territories, and he points out that these kinds of books were intended not only for the nuns but for the wider public. The contribution by Adrien Quéret-Podesta, entitled “Blessed Paul the Hungarian in the “De ordine predicatorum de Tolosa in Dacia,” offers an analysis of a short Danish-Swedish-Estonian chronicle as evidence of how Paulus Hungarus attracted the attention and admiration of someone in the far north.

Two of the last five papers deal with the missions of the Dominicans, while the other three deal with the general history of the order. Bálint Ternovácz examines the Dominican missions of Bosnia between 1230 and 1330 in an article entitled “Dominicans in Bosnia from the Settlement of the Order until the Middle of the Fourteenth Century.” Through an examination of the careers of the bishops, Ternovácz points out why the Dominicans’ strategy was unsuccessful in this region: they treated the population as heretics, but the locals were simply ignorant of the message of the Church. Szilvia Kovács takes the reader all the way to Chagatai Ulus in Central Asia, where an almost total ecclesiastical hierarchy formed thanks to the positive remarks of the Dominican missionaries (“Dominicans in the Central Asian Chagatai Ulus at the Turn of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries”).

Of the papers dealing with the general history of the order, Mária Lupescu Makó’s contribution, entitled “Benedict, the First Professed Bishop of Transylvania,” deals with the career of Benedict, who was the bishop of Transylvania of the Dominican Order in the early fourteenth century. The essay by Beatrix Romhányi, entitled “A Non-Mendicant Mendicant Order: The Dominicans in the Late Medieval Hungary,” examines how the Hungarian Dominicans flourished economically after 1475 thanks to the observance practices. The author draws attention to the ways in which the Order, which was already officially not a mendicant order, how could finance its operations and how it mixed traditional activities with more modern tendencies. Romhányi also emphasizes the shadows which were cast over the prospering community.

The paper by Radu Lupescu, entitled “Utriusque ordinis expulsi sunt. Kolozsvár, March 15, 1556,” examines the end of the order. Since the mendicant orders, which settled in Kolozsvár in the age of the Hunyadis, became part of the society of the town, the evolving Reformation roused hostility among the local population against them. First the cloisters were sacked, and in 1556 the town council expelled the Franciscans and Dominicans.

In conclusion, this collection of essays constitutes a useful volume on the medieval history of the Dominican Order in Hungary, which will be of interest to readers curious to learn more about Church history, hagiography, and vernacular literature.

András Ribi

Eötvös Loránd University

Hatalom, adó, jog: Gazdaságtörténeti tanulmányok a magyar középkorról [Power, tax, law: Studies on the economic history of medieval Hungary]. Edited by István Kádas and Boglárka Weisz. Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2017. 601 pp.


The book under review is the second collection of essays published by the Economic History of Medieval Hungary Research Group (allocated to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for the Humanities), which was founded in 2015 under the leadership of Boglárka Weisz. The essays are primarily the “customary” papers delivered at the conference held the previous year, which have been published now in an impressively voluminous tome. Like the previous collection, the work includes essays which are based on historical approaches and studies which are written from the perspectives of archeology and art history. Most of the essays share close affinities, since they tend to focus on the cities of the Hungarian Kingdom.

In his essay, Tibor Neumann addresses the question of royal taxation in the free royal cities of the Hungarian Kingdom at the end of the fifteenth century, both from “above” and from “below,” i.e. from the perspective of specific cities (Pozsony [Bratislava] and Bártfa [Bardejov], today both in Slovakia). He examines the extent to which the rulers’ taxation policies could be characterized as consistent, how much room for maneuver the cities had, and how constant the sums paid in taxes were. Years in which taxes were high were generally followed by milder years, and the royal taxes which were imposed were not carved in stone. In other words, there were always opportunities for haggling. In total, the urban burgesses paid surprisingly little in taxes per capita.

Judit Gál and Katalin Szende approach the question of the relationship between the cities and the king from above. Gál compares the royal and ducal privileges and gifts that were given to the Dalmatian cities and churches and the consolidation of these gifts and privileges. While earlier these two favored groups may have had very similar significance from the perspective of their numbers, by the end of the thirteenth century, far fewer gifts were bestowed on the churches. In the earlier period, the support of the church was necessary in order to maintain control over the city. By the end of the century, this was no longer the case, in part because of conflicts between the church and the city. This shift is reflected in the drop in the number of gifts bestowed on the churches. Szende examines the history of trade in the second half of the fourteenth century and the permissions that were given to cities to allow large multitudes to live within their boundaries (these permissions were first given under the reign of King Louis the Great of Hungary, who ruled from 1342 to 1382). As Szende shows, these permissions, which were given in part at the initiative of private landowners and in larger part at the initiative of the royal court, were part of a deliberate trade policy. The king’s primary goal may have been to strengthen foreign trade. It led to rearrangements in the social structures of the affected cities, and the rise of long-distance trade had an effect on the numbers and kinds of buildings in the cities.

In her generously illustrated essay, Judit Benda examines the sites at which local and long-distance (from London to Cracow, or from Lübeck to Florence) trade took place. She divides the buildings up into different groups on the basis of their form (from the small merchants’ stalls to the large market halls), and she makes a catalogue of them. The region in which the types of buildings she is seeking are found can be very clearly demarcated. The best parallels are found in central Europe, or more precisely, in the German cultural sphere or the cultural sphere strongly influenced by it.

Katalin Gönczi’s article on the role of the so-called Saxon-Magdeburg rights in the Hungarian Kingdom can be considered the other angle from which to approach this topic. Gönczi examines the various factors one by one, including the way in which the Magdeburg rights came to Hungary (in the form of legal transfer) and the spheres and milieus in which they gained relevance, as well as the influences they had among the Saxons of the Zips region (Szepes in Hungarian and Spiš in Slovak) and on the so-called Ofner Stadtrecht, a book of laws written in Middle High German in the beginning of the fifteenth century and used in Buda. It is particularly interesting to compare these organizational measures with the developments in the Polish territories. In the Kingdom of Hungary, the legal system did not lose its foreign ties, though with regards to questions of the dispensation of justice, the authorities customarily turned not to the city of Magdeburg, but rather to the master of the treasury (magister tavernicorum). The explanation for this lies in the strongly centralized power of the Hungarian king.

Matching nicely to the remarks of Katalin Göncz, Renáta Skorka offers an explanation, in connection with the conflict between the tanners and cobblers of Nagyszeben (Hermannstadt in German, today Sibiu in Romania), of why the city of Buda played a prominent role in the court of the master of the treasury and the administration of justice in connection with the cities of Hungary. She also works with the assumption that the systematic summarizing of rights in Buda in all likelihood played an important role in the emergence of the city’s leading role.

István Kádas examines the relationship between county society and two free royal towns, namely Sáros County and the towns of Bártfa and Eperjes (today Bardejov and Prešov, both in Slovakia), from “below.” While the county did not have any authority over the royal towns, the burghers and the nobility of the county had innumerable ties, and many of them profited from these ties, as Kádas illustrates with several revealing examples. Closely tied to this is Adrian Andrei Rusu’s article on the material culture and financial relationships of the nobility of “eastern Hungary.” Rusu examines the opportunities the nobility had (in farming, mining, commerce, etc.), and Kádas’ conclusions and examples also offer answers to some of the questions he raises.

Dorottya Uhrin uses a wide variety of source materials in order to shed light on the cults of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Barbara in the mining cities of Upper Hungary (what today is Slovakia). She examines the possible thirteenth-century origins of the veneration of the two saints and then considers the various physical artifacts which can be tied to the cults (the mining city seals, coats-of-arms, churches, and altarpieces). In cases in which the cult of the saint was tied to a city seal (the cities of Körmöcbánya [Kremnica] and Szomolnok [Smolník] in Slovakia), she also clarifies, for the sake of thoroughness, the uses of the seal in the given city in the Middle Ages.

The book also includes three valuable archeological essays on medieval settlements and materials, which are important and revealing from the perspective of the economic history of the Middle Ages. Szabolcs Rosta presents the hand scales which were found in the course of the excavation of the former settlement of Pétermonostora in southern Hungary, as it so happens in remarkably large numbers. The spread of this implement, which clearly is a sign of vibrant commerce, was by no means restricted to the important economic centers of the country. We should also expect to find them in settlements of regional significance (such as Pétermonostora some 120 kms south of Budapest). The Mongol invasion of Hungary in 1241/42 was a genuine caesura in the life of the Árpád-era settlement, and it was probably then that the hand scales ended up underground. György V. Székely and Csaba Tóth examine the weights that were used with the Pétermonostora scales in a separate essay. They identify the three divisions of weights that were used (one half, one fifth, and one twelfth). The standard unit matches the unit used in Buda almost exactly. Since the weights, like the hand scales, were also hidden during the Mongol invasion and the first reliable mention of the Buda mark is from 1271, the question of the precise relationship between the two is a task that still awaits an answer. Ágnes Kolláth and Péter Tomka add to the number (and our understanding of the relevance of) the weights and scales with their presentation of the findings of excavations currently underway on the main square of the city of Győr in western Hungary. The most interesting aspect of their article, however, is perhaps not the findings, which are indeed significant from the perspective of economic history, or even the archeological materials, but rather the fact that they offer answers to old topographical questions. Certain signs suggest that the irregular network of roads may have existed as early as the thirteenth century. In other words, historians who have contended that the urban planning which took place in the settlement was undertaken in the sixteenth century are mistaken.

The volume also includes essays that are less directly related to the urban economy. The contribution by Boglárka Weisz on the so-called Jazygian people, one of the peoples which settled in the Hungarian Kingdom in the Middle Ages about which we know the least, adds more to our knowledge of economic history than it does to urban history. Until now, historians have remained uncertain as to what kinds of taxes and sums the Jazygian people had to pay to the king. Weisz uses the cases of other, similar peoples (for instance the Cumans and the Saxons) who settled in the Hungarian Kingdom as analogies and arrives at a methodical grasp of the taxation system in Hungary in the late Middle Ages. Along with her fellow contributor, Renáta Skorka, Weisz uses newly discovered charters to examine the careers of two people in Hungary who played roles in the chambers in the cities of Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia) and Körmöcbánya in the 1420s and 1430s. Presumably, they both came from Thorn (today Toruń, Poland), a city found in the territory under the control of the Teutonic Order. Weisz and Skorka use the existing secondary literature and sources newly discovered in and outside of Hungary to dispel persistent misconceptions and shed light on the roles of the two men.

Two essays deal with the topic of customs, transportation, and trade routes, which are particularly important in the study of economic history. Magdolna Szilágyi offers a general overview. She shows a particular interest in the routes that were used between the eleventh and the fourteenth centuries and, to a lesser extent, the people who used them. She approaches the question less from the perspective of an archeologist and more from the perspective of historians. She draws on a broad base of secondary and primary sources in her discussion of the protections that were used for the routes and the people who traveled on them and the measures that were taken by the king in connection with the travel routes. Viktória Kovács examines how the Roman legal principle ‘qui prior est tempore, potior est iure’ was used in fourteenth-century trials concerning customs duties. This kind of reasoning was used in other types of cases in the 1300s. By the first quarter of the fifteenth century, it was found in judgement letters and royal command letters. In other words, by that time it must have become familiar in wider circles.

I left the ambitious essay by Pál Lővei, which is the most loosely tied to the subject of the book, to the end of my review. Lővei offers a detailed examination of the activities and products of a stone masonry workshop in Buda over the course of several generations. The most distinctive works created in the workshop were the gravestones which were ordered by individuals or families who were members of the Order of the Dragon established in 1408 by King Sigismund of Luxemburg. Lővei demonstrates that, because of certain parallels with Salzburg, the store and stock of the Buda workshop was later probably refreshed.

In sum, the value of the individual essays as innovative or new contributions to the secondary literature varies, but the book itself nonetheless addresses a significant need, since it makes an attempt—hopefully successful—to restore and even popularize a discipline which has vanished almost entirely from the secondary literature in Hungarian today. One can only hope that this effort will prove enduring (in the form of additional works of scholarship) and even contagious and will inspire other ambitious researchers to pursue further study of the subject.


Bence Péterfi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences


The Noble Elite in the County of Körös (Križevci) 1400–1526. By Tamás Pálosfalvi. MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Történettudományi Intézet, 2014. (Magyar Történelmi Emlékek: Értekezések.) 526 pp.


Since the 1990s, there has been a proliferation of works by Hungarian historians on the history of the lands we think of today as Croatia. As the many Croatian-Hungarian conferences (which have become almost a regular fixture in academic life), the research projects involving the region from the Árpád era until the era of national awakenings, and the many collections of essays by Hungarian and Croatian historians make vividly clear, a vibrant and productive relationship has developed between the historians of the two nations. The new book by Tamás Pálosfalvi, a seasoned scholar at the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, is part of this trend, and from the perspective of its depth and focus, it is an outstanding part.

Pálosfalvi’s book is essentially an edited version of his dissertation, which he defended in 2012 at Central European University in Budapest. The scholarly work on which it is based, however, stretches back to the beginnings of his academic career. Even in his earliest articles, Pálosfalvi wrote on the problems of government and governance in Slavonia in the late Middle Ages, and thus he began to study “noble elite,” to use the term used in the title of the book, of Körös (or Križevci in Croatian) County.

This ambitious book consists of four long chapters and appendixes with carefully organized data that will help the reader get her bearings. In the introduction, Pálosfalvi begins by clarifying what he means by “noble elite.” In the secondary literature in Hungarian, one finds a variety of ideas concerning the nature and characteristic features of the nobility, but these ideas and concepts create a very broad framework within which the group most frequently referred to in the sources as “egregius” moves. For the sake of precision, Pálosfalvi excludes baronial families from his inquiry. From the perspective of upward mobility in this hierarchy (i.e. seen from “below”), the border was much more flexible, and in Pálosfalvi’s enquiry a mere mention did not suffice to put someone in the group examined. With regards to the individuals mentioned in the sources, Pálosfalvi only considers them “egregius” if this status is confirmed several times. Pálosfalvi needed to draw this clear distinction, because even with this limitation there were still some 100 families or individuals belonging to the “noble elite,” which constitutes a larger number than in other parts of the country. As his discussion makes clear, the “egregius” worked in the service of aristocratic families and families of the court. Their estates were somewhere between 50 and 500 tax-paying plots, but this did not actually determine whether or not they belonged to the noble elite of the county.

In the Middle Ages, Körös County was one of the largest and most developed counties in the country. Before Pálosfalvi’s book, we knew almost nothing about noble society in the county. Given the family ties and the county officers presented in the book, however, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps it would have made sense to include the neighboring Zagreb County in the discussion, since the local families of Körös had innumerable ties to Zagreb County. Considering the nature of the sources, however, Pálosfalvi’s decision was entirely justified, for in the absence of written sources from the county level, he was compelled to examine the structure of the noble society on the basis of family and local archives.

The second chapter (pp.25–307), which contains biographies of the individual families, constitutes the bulk of the book. First, Pálosfalvi explains the criteria he used in order to decide whether or not to include a given family. This is followed by the biographies of the families or individuals in alphabetical order. The reader is given more than 250 pages of detailed narratives of families’ “lives,” as it were, beginning with the first ancestors who are mentioned in the sources or who moved to the region from other parts of the kingdom. Pálosfalvi then gives an overview of the most important family ties, in some cases information concerning schooling and education, and services performed in the courts of aristocrats or the king. As his overview illustrates, almost all of the individuals who occupied positions of influence at the beginning of the sixteenth century began their careers in the court of John Corvin, natural son of King Matthias, and claimant to the Hungarian throne after his father’s death. One might think, for instance, of members of the Alapi, Gersei Pető, or Batthyány families. The other major patrons of the “egregius” were the bishops of Zagreb, which makes it clear why the Catholic Church was able to maintain its influence in the region even after the defeat of the Hungarian army by the Ottomans at the Battle of Mohács in 1526. It is also clear from the narrative that Pálosfalvi used almost exclusively primary sources, and the data he provides offer a good portrait of everyday life in the province.

The next chapter contains a social examination of the landed gentry (pp.307–415). Pálosfalvi divides the individual figures and families into groups on the basis of their ancestry, and he explains the ways in which they are mentioned in the sources. As his inquiry makes clear, most of them began to rise to prominence in the fifteenth century. Their rise was due less to the patronage of the king or titles bestowed by the royal court and more to their ties to the aristocracy. People who relocated to the region came for the most part from other parts of the Kingdom of Hungary. Only three people are mentioned in the sources from Croatia and Bosnia. Similarly interesting is the question of which families were in possession of the individual market towns, manor houses, and castles in the period under discussion. As far as one can tell from the sources, each family had at least one “castellum,” and the wealthiest families had considerably more estates. Nonetheless, very few of them actually managed to make it into the circles of barons. Even if they held baronial titles (for instance, the title of palatine), once they left office they were again denoted as “egregius.” It might have been preferable, instead of offering a study of social ascent, to have considered the question at hand in a longer timeframe. For as it so happens, in the sixteenth century, many of the families did manage to acquire the title of baron, for instance the Kerecsény family (1559), the Ráttkay family (1559), the Dersffy family (1564), the Kasztellánffy family (1569), the Alapi family (before 1582), and the Túróci family (1599). They won this recognition through service in the court and in the military. Thus, it seems that for a few decades—precisely at the time when Slavonia was becoming a genuine “regnum”—some of the Slavonian “egregius” families successfully adapted to the new situation.

It is interesting and worth noting that for these families a career in the Church was less of a goal, though the large chapter of Zagreb and the influential chapter of Csázma (or Čazma, to use the Croatian name) would have offered promising opportunities. It is true that no member of this group ever managed to hold the position of bishop of Zagreb until the middle of the sixteenth century, when Farkas Gyulai and Pál Gregorjánci were given this distinction. Later, however, the familiar system was restored, and the bishop of Zagreb was usually someone from one of the lower social strata. Careers in the Church did indeed offer poorer members of the lesser nobility a promising alternative. János Csezmicei and István Brodarics, for instance, who were both members of this social stratum, were both given titles as bishops after they had completed studies in Italy.

The book contains several appendixes, a kind of registry of the nobility, and an archontology of palatines and vice palatines, as well as family trees which provide a good overview of the family ties discussed in the book.

In the case of a monograph like this, one makes critical remarks only because of the obligations one has as a reviewer. In all likelihood, the use of English versions of the proper names detracted from instead of adding to the value of the book. Since the readership will consist first and foremost of Hungarians and Croatians, it might have been preferable to have used the Latin versions of the names (and the foreseeable readership might have preferred this). It is not immediately obvious why Pálosfalvi included the map at the end of the book. It is tremendously useful to the reader on the one hand, but on the other, it is quite difficult to find some of the settlements on it. It would have been considerably more useful if it had been made in color and it had included the granges and estate centers of the noble families. The almost innumerable small settlements, alas, do not further an easier or more subtle understanding of the text, and the title of the map is a bit misleading too (“Körös County in the Fifteenth Century”), since most of the market towns indicated on the map were only mentioned in the sources at the very end of the fifteenth century or the beginning of the sixteenth.

These minor shortcomings detract in no way from the value of the book. A good book does not need a preface or an afterword, and Tamás Pálosfalvi’s book is encumbered by neither. It will undoubtedly be cited innumerable times in upcoming decades by scholars of Hungarian and Croatian history, and it will be indispensable to the next generation of scholars.


Szabolcs Varga

Theological College of Pécs

Keresztesekből lázadók: Tanulmányok 1514 Magyarországáról [From crusaders to rebels: Studies on Hungary in 1514]. Edited by Norbert C. Tóth and Tibor Neumann. Budapest: MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont, Történettudományi Intézet, 2015. 376 pp.


The rebellion known in historical scholarship as the peasant war of György Dózsa (May–July 1514) has, despite its brevity, long been thought to have played a crucial role in shaping late medieval Hungarian history. Before 1945, emphasis was put on the consequences of the revolt: the supposed general ban on the freedom of movement of the peasantry, which would have led to the emergence of a so-called “second serfdom,” and the prohibition forbidding peasants from bearing arms, which contributed, it was claimed, to the quick and definitive military breakdown of Hungary between 1521 and 1526. After 1945, attention inevitably shifted to the social roots of the movement, and the Hungarian peasant war quickly took its place among the great “anti-feudal” revolts of late medieval Europe. Ironically, it was a “fictive anniversary,” officially created to commemorate the supposed birth of Dózsa in 1472, which (partly undermining the very intentions of the communist regime) yielded the scientific findings which have since framed all approaches to the issue: a meticulous reconstruction of events based on the overwhelming majority of the surviving source material; the realisation that the social basis of the revolt was not constituted by the destitute masses of the landless peasantry oppressed by their lords, but rather the economically most active tenants of market towns, whose commercial activities were being blocked by the rival interests of the nobility; and an equally thorough reconstruction of the ideological background of the movement, with the observant Franciscans and their ideas of social justice taking center stage.

After 1990, the 1514 peasant war quickly lost its ideological connotations, retaining only, before all in non-scholarly public circles, its pivotal role as a symptom of the corruption and internal decomposition of Jagiełło Hungary, especially when compared to the vitality and military might of Matthias Corvinus’s Central European “empire.” Another memorial year, however, this time commemorating the five-hundredth anniversary of the revolt itself, has recently revitalized the languishing interest in Dózsa and his crusader peasants, and it has produced a set of essays which claim to undermine several of the assumptions which have been widely shared elements of the “Dózsa problem” since the 1970s.

The essays in the volume reviewed here all contribute to reassessment and demystification. In the first paper, Árpád Nógrády argues, on the basis of evidence exclusively from the western fringes of Hungary, that if crisis there was, it was certainly caused not by economic depression but, on the contrary, by a land hunger effected by a marked agrarian boom and the parallel increase, within the peasants’ landed assets, of the proportion of leased lands as opposed to customary seigneurial tenements, and the consequent decrease of the number of “tenant” peasants in the traditional sense as compared to the swelling ranks of “landless peasants” (inquilini). Examining the evidence from Slavonia, Szabolcs Varga questions the key role now traditionally attributed to the market towns and the Franciscans in triggering the revolt of 1514: the fact that the region between the Drava and Sava Rivers, which was densely spotted with market towns and was certainly sufficiently populated by Franciscan friaries, remained completely immune to the rebellion certainly calls for a revision of the prevailing understanding of its social roots.

Apart from these two, rather short, papers, no effort is made in the book to examine the social background and potential causes of the peasant war. The two papers authored by Norbert C. Tóth endeavor to reexamine the origins of the crusade initiated by archbishop Tamás Bakóc and the political and military events that led to the first major encounter between the rebel troops and their noble opponents. In addition to examining the composition of and the decisions taken by the hitherto unknown diet held in the spring of 1514, he also seeks new answers to the questions of why the crusade was eventually proclaimed despite the serious misgivings voiced by some of the Hungarian political elite, as well as what its original aims may have been, why it deviated from the original idea, and why the would-be rebels took the route which finally led them to the crossing of the Maros River at Apátfalva. The long paper by Tibor Neumann examines the events of the peasant war in Transylvania and the neighboring regions, with a clear focus on the young voivode of Transylvania, János Szapolyai. He proposes a radically new and very convincing interpretation of events, arguing, among other things, that the revolt left the whole of Southern Transylvania intact. He also emphasizes the unprecedented level to which taxation had been brought in the years immediately preceding the revolt, though these tax increases were not accompanied by any parallel military achievements against the Ottomans, thereby drawing attention to a possible reason for discontent which has not been considered so far. In a paper consisting of a chain of case studies, Richárd Horváth refutes the long-held view according to which the peasant armies successfully besieged major fortifications, proving that the fortified sites that were taken by the rebels were in fact either abandoned by their defenders or opened through voluntary collaboration, or, in some cases, the siege story itself was construed by noblemen who tried to profit from the troubles to consolidate their contested lordship.

The remaining papers in the volume address themes which are only indirectly connected to the history of the peasant war itself. Bálint Lakatos examines the circulation of news in connection with the events in Hungary, establishing an extremely careful typology according to form, source of information, and news communicated. He also contributes to the establishment of a better chronology of events in some cases. He reconstructs the international network within which the news from Hungary was received, transformed, and eventually transmitted, drawing into focus a great number of hitherto unused documents. Gábor Mikó, the author of two essays in the volume, explores the process through which the decrees accepted by the postwar diet gained their final formulation. This is a sensitive issue, given the supposed consequences of the punitive measures taken against the peasantry. Comparing all the extant copies, Mikó convincingly argues that the “official” ratification of the dietary decrees was preceded by heated debates and frequent alterations to the text, a process that went on long after the diet itself had been dissolved. He also highlights and accounts for the conspicuous antagonism which can be observed between the two notorious passages dealing with the ban on the peasants’ freedom of movement, one apparently proclaiming a general prohibition, the other limiting punishment to tenants who had been convicted of participation in the revolt. The closing paper, by Bence Péterfi, examines the peasant war that ravaged the Inner Austrian provinces in 1515 and looks for possible connections and influences, essentially in vain, for, as he argues, neither did the Austrian rebels refer to the Hungarian example nor did the neighboring Hungarian territories, which had not been affected by the revolt led by Dózsa, show any sign of sympathy with their Austrian fellows.

As emphasized in the preface, this volume is not a comprehensive history of the Dózsa revolt, but a collection of studies the authors of which, depending on their respective fields of research, examined various aspects of a complex problem. This accounts for the occasional contradictions between the individual contributions. For instance, whereas C. Tóth opines that originally the crusade was intended as an essentially defensive operation, with the participation of both crusaders and regular forces in anticipation of a major Ottoman attack (e.g. p.71), Neumann calculates with an offensive plan designed to restore the Ottoman–Hungarian border to its pre-1512 state (p.117). The problem obviously concerns the contested issue of the Ottoman–Hungarian truce and the reasons for the quick foray of voivode Szapolyai into Ottoman Bulgaria just before the outbreak of the revolt. These problems certainly need further inquiry. I would raise at least two questions. First, if an offensive campaign was indeed considered, why did the Hungarian government publicize the Ottoman–Hungarian truce officially as early as May, thereby risking popular indignation, instead of using the gathering forces to accomplish the original plan, at least in a more modest version, before the agreement with the distant sultan was officially confirmed? And, second, if the crusade was initially conceived as a defensive move, why did Szapolyai venture into Bulgaria, only to return two weeks later, without even waiting for the other troops and the crusaders to gather? And why did he attack at all if his fellow commanders (István Bátori and Péter Beriszló) were apparently ordered to stay put and wait for reinforcements? Was his campaign really part of the planned operations?

While the great majority of new interpretations and reassessments offered by the contributors to the volume are persuasive and thoroughly documented, and the achievements of a previous generation of scholars (especially those of Gábor Barta, who was forced to complete his monograph in a hurry in preparation for the commemorations of 1472) are repeatedly emphasized, in some instances the rejection of earlier views and approaches seems unwarranted. It is certainly somewhat presumptuous to relegate the ideas of Jenő Szűcs about the potential role of the Observant Franciscans in forging the crusaders’ ideology to “the realm of legends” in a single footnote (p.89), especially since several of the regions known to have been affected by the revolt are not even examined in the book. After all, Szűcs himself never argued that this supposed ideology was created ex nihilo during the six weeks of the revolt.

These critical remarks by no means detract from the merits of this volume, which has successfully reopened an issue which seemed settled for more than four decades. The essays, which are accompanied by excellent maps, tables, and occasionally source publications, have broken new ground and raised questions which need to be addressed. Each aspect of the peasant war, including its aims, the events themselves, the ideology which may have shaped it, and the terminology with which it is described, has to be revisited by applying the exemplary methodology used by the authors in the volume. Only then will it be possible to offer a new history of this tragic year and its consequences. For, regardless of the term with which we refer to it and quite independently of the actual number of rebels (which we will never know exactly) or their (in)ability to seize fortified sites, a rebellion broke out in 1514 which ravaged considerable sections of Hungary. A bishop was impaled, tax collectors were killed and robbed, and noble residences were devastated and burned down. Obviously, this cannot be “relegated to the realm of legends.”


Tamás Pálosfalvi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

The Teutonic Order in Prussia and Livonia: The Political and Ecclesiastical Structures 13th–16th C. Edited by Roman Czaja and Andrzej Radzimiński. Cologne–Weimar–Vienna–Toruń: Böhlau Verlag / Towarzystwo Naukowe w Toruniu, 2016. 423 pp.


This work is dedicated primarily to a description of the organization and internal structure of the territorial authority wielded by the Teutonic Knights in Prussia and Livonia. The book is a collection of essays written by Polish and German historians and art historians from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and translated into English.

In order to give a broad overview of the power of the Teutonic Knights, the authors approach the topic from different points of view and discuss a wide range of topics. These topics include the formation of political borders, administrative divisions, defensive architecture, the urbanization of the country, and ecclesiastical structure and divisions.

The work is basically divided into three main parts. The first describes the internal structure and territorial authority in Prussia, and the second is devoted entirely to Livonia. The second part is especially valuable, since most of the existing German and English literature on this topic deals with Teutonic Prussia, and in most cases Livonia is neglected. The third and final main part of the book contains lists of different dignitaries and officials in Prussia and Livonia. The first chapter of the third part enumerates dignitaries and officials (including vogts, procurators, and commanders) of the Teutonic Order between the end of the twelfth century and the sixteenth century (it was compiled by Bernhart Jähnig). The second chapter deals with these positions in Livonia starting with the time of The Brothers of the Sword and concluding with the end of Teutonic rule (it was compiled by Klaus Militzer). In the last chapter of the third part, one finds a collection of names of archbishops, bishops, and episcopal vogts (compiled by Andrzej Radzimiński).

The essays on varying topics are included in the first two parts of the book. In most cases, articles dealing with a given topic both in Prussia and Livonia were written by the same author. For example, Janusz Tandecki examines the administrative divisions of the state of the Teutonic Order both in Prussia and Livonia, and Andrzej Radzimiński considers church divisions in Prussia in the first main part and the same topic in Livonia in the second one. The only exception is Marian Biskup who wrote about two different topics. Biskup examines parishes in the state of the Teutonic Knights in the first main part, but in the second he writes about territorial governance in Livonia. This general structure of the book furthers a comparative understanding of the political and ecclesiastical systems in Prussia and Livonia. This is one of the most important merits of this work. Given the limits of this and any review, I would like to call attention only to two important lessons provided by the different chapters on the parallels and differences in developments in Livonia and Prussia.

Marian Arszyński highlights the main features of fortification architecture of Teutonic Prussia and Livonia. He argues that, since the Teutonic Order exercised absolute territorial sovereignty from the outset, it was the only agent in the development of castles and strongholds. The Order decided on their functions, forms, and territorial distribution. In contrast, in Livonia one had to take different political entities into consideration, from the bishoprics and the archbishopric of Riga (who exercised or usurped territorial self-government) to The Brothers of the Sword (1202–37), not to mention the Danes (1219–1364), who held the northern part of Estonia. As a result, numerous autonomous construction projects took place in Livonia led by different entities. It is also worth emphasizing the significance of local Cistercians and the secular vassal knights who made no contribution to fortified masonry architecture in Prussia.

Another interesting topic is the comparison of the urban networks in these two territories by Roman Czaja. As Czaja shows, the most important difference was the lower degree of urbanization of Livonia in comparison with Prussia. In Prussia, there was one town for every 700 km2, though they were very unevenly distributed, as most towns were located along the Vistula River and in the western and central part of Prussia proper (75 of the total 96). However, in Livonia, by the mid-sixteenth century there were still only 19 towns in total, which was one for every 6,000 km2. An interesting phenomenon was the importance of the small Livonian towns in the great Baltic trade. It should be noted, however, that their commercial role was limited to local trade, and they acted mostly as intermediaries between producers and large towns (Riga, Reval, and Dorpat). It is remarkable that until the mid-fourteenth century these large towns had closer connections to other Hanseatic towns than to one another. Only after 1350 were there signs of cooperation among the large Livonian cities, when local conventions became common. These conventions served rarely for debates regarding internal matters concerning Livonia. Rather, they were forums for the discussion of maritime trade and the election of delegates who would represent Livonian interest at the Hanseatic conventions.

As was the case in Prussia, where 93 percent of the cities were under 10 hectares in territory, the Livonian towns were also mostly confined to small areas. The biggest ones did not exceed 30 hectares, and smaller ones covered an area ranging between 5 and 8 hectares and had only about 80 plots on average within their boundaries. Regarding the residents of these towns, while roughly 8,000 people lived in Riga in the fifteenth century, and Reval and Dorpat also had a population of around 5,000, most of the towns were inhabited by only a few hundred people. In contrast, the population of the largest Prussian towns could well reach 10,000 people. The ethnic diversity of Livonian towns was characteristic of urban development. By analyzing local tax lists, Czaja showed that in spite of the dominance of the Germans in larger cities (in Riga more than 50 percent of the population, and in Reval more than 40 percent), the indigenous population formed a considerable share of the population (Livs and mostly Latvians made up 33 percent of the population of Riga and Estonians made up 41 percent of the population of Reval). Furthermore, the smaller towns, with the exceptions of Alt and Neu Pernau, were dominated by indigenous population and even by Ruthenians. However, the high proportions of the native residents as a percentage of the total population did not correspond to a similarly proportional share of power, since the Germans constituted the richest layer of the society because of their prominent role in trade. Most of the locals (hired laborers and craftsmen) hailed from the middle or the poorest layers of the society. Rich Livs, Estonians, and Latvians who tried to increase their influence in urban affairs met with strong opposition from the Germans as of the end of the fourteenth century (in Reval, only as of the beginning of the sixteenth century). The leading circle of Germans tried to hinder or even forbid the “Undeutsche” from acquiring property in the cities or entering merchant guilds by issuing discriminative statues. In Prussia, Germans dominated in the ruling groups and the middle classes, but the cities were also inhabited by many Prussians and Slavs, especially in cities near the Polish border. By 1450, in Kulm and Thorn their proportions reached 23–27 percent of the population within the city walls and 52 percent in the suburbs.

It is regrettable that the book does not include detailed footnotes, so in some cases it is a bit hard to find the original source to which an author is referring. However, each article is followed by an extensive and excellent bibliography, which makes up for this shortcoming. Nevertheless, this book will be of great interest to anyone curious to glean comparative insight into the territorial authority of the Teutonic Order in Prussia and Livonia.

Benjámin Borbás

Eötvös Loránd University

Alchemy and Rudolf II: Exploring the Secrets of Nature in Central Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Edited by Ivo Purš and Vladimír Karpenko. Prague: Artefactum, 2016. 870 pp.


This lavish volume makes a striking first impression with its sheer dimensions and weight, and the cover, which features the painting “Allegory” by the Dutch master Hendrick Goltzius (in which Hermes offers Pandora to King Epimetheus), further suggests something rich and meaningful. The sensory experience continues when one opens the book and browses through the nearly six hundred beautiful illustrations, many of which are color illustrations from contemporary manuscripts. The sumptuousness of this volume befits its subject, Emperor Rudolf II, and the various ways in which he and quite a few his subjects in Central Europe delved into alchemy. The editors, Ivo Purš and Vladimír Karpenko (who also authored many of the articles in the volume), have dedicated decades to the research on this subject, and they invited some of the best-known scholars of the history of alchemy in the Early Modern era to contribute. This edition is the English translation of the Czech original published in 2011 with only one new article and some additional bibliographical notes.

The result is a rich collection of articles indeed, covering the widest range of subjects while also acknowledging that there is always room for further research and never aiming to have the last word. Still, what is immediately clear about this book is that it is a work of love, or, as Purš puts it, “a humble homage to the philosophers ‘per ignem’,” (p.13) i.e. the men, including the emperor himself, and a few women who devoted much of their time and money to exploring the secrets of nature in laboratoria set up in households, workshops, or any suitable space.

With a subject so vast, complex, and often elusive, the volume had to be structured around four main topics. The first part offers a more general overview of alchemy in Central Europe and imperial Prague. The introduction by Karpenko aims to provide an up-to-date definition of what alchemy is. Karpenko accepts Maurice Crosland’s 1962 formulation, according to which “alchemy may be viewed as a lengthy experiment that compares human abilities to natural processes, with the former attempting to surpass the latter” as closest to grasping the essence of it. The article he coauthored with Purš in this section and the one by Purš look at the fortunes of alchemy in the lands of the Bohemian crown, from the interest of the Habsburg rulers to the involvement of their aristocratic subjects. The timeline of alchemical interests in these territories shows that in Bohemia alchemy was known and practiced as early as the fourteenth century. One could mention Konrad Kyeser, for instance, the author of Bellifortis and the personal physician to Wenceslas IV, or Jan of Láz, who published the first alchemical treatise in Czech in 1457. As is noted in the introductory articles, Rudolf II was not the first Habsburg to take an interest in alchemical medicine. His grandfather Ferdinand I probably met Paracelsus in person, and he was open to the new medicine propagated by the Swiss physician. Alchemy thus had strong roots both in Bohemia and Moravia, and in the Habsburg family itself.

After this overview of antecedents, William Eamon’s article also looks at beginnings as Eamon redraws the picture of Rudolf’s education at the Spanish court and its long-term effects on his personality. In contrast to the earlier scholarship, he emphasizes the rich cultural milieu that surrounded the young Habsburg prince in Madrid and the positive influences to which he may have been exposed, given the scientific projects supported by Phillip II. These projects included a search for a panacea and attempts to manufacture “Lullian” quintessences, which may very well have fueled Rudolf’s later interest in Lull’s works. Purš’s last contribution in this section is a massive overview of Rudolf II’s patronage of the “natural sciences,” which meant support for the stars of the show, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, but also lesser-known but highly important figures in the emperor’s circle, such as Johann Anton Barvitius and Johannes Matthias Wacker, who were friends of Kepler. Purš even gives some clues as to where the laboratoria in Rudolf’s time might have been in the Prague castle.

Rudolf Werner Soukup continues this line of research into the material evidence of alchemical experimentation in his article. Soukup considers the actual (chemical) processes that were carried out in the emperor’s circle. Drawing in part on reports from the Imperial laboratorium in Prague, Soukup depicts a very vivid image of the type of experiments, characters, and promises (some of them naive, others simply false) surrounding Rudolf II. In the subsequent study, Karpenko provides an analysis of the sixteenth-century processes, and especially transmutation, from the point of view of modern chemistry.

The second part of the volume contains a series of individual case studies, each focusing on a particular personality and his work: Michael Sendivogius, Michael Maier, Oswald Croll, Matthias Erbinäus von Brandau, Tadeáš Hájek, Tycho Brahe, Erdward Kelly, Anselm Boëthius de Boodt, Martin Ruland (both the Elder and the Younger), Simon Thadeas Budek, and Cornelius Drebbel. It also includes an article on how the First Chamber Servants of Rudolf II encountered alchemy.

The third part of the book contains four studies on various aspects of science and economy in Rudolf’s time. John Norris looks at the highly successful developments in the Jáchymov and Kutná Hora silver mines and the way metallic transmutation and the mercury-sulfur theory of metallic composition (generally associated with alchemical literature) found their way into sixteenth-century mining treatises. Pavel Drábek’s contribution deals with pharmacy and the growing popularity of chemically prepared medicine from the second half of the sixteenth century on. The fourth and last part of the volume focuses on the period that followed Rudolf II’s loss of the throne. Karpenko dedicates an article to Daniel Stolcius and his emblematic alchemy, and Josef Smolka’s study deals with Joannes Marcus Marci, an outstanding and highly influential scholar in the second half of the seventeenth century. In conclusion, the editors sum up, once again, what they deem important about the beginnings of alchemical interest in Bohemia, the key figures surrounding Rudolf II, and the generation that followed, i.e. those whose work built on this legacy.

The book is a beautifully presented and important contribution to our knowledge of the science of alchemy under Rudolf II’s reign which sheds light on both the precursors to the developments in this science and its aftermath in the lands of the Bohemian crown. It can almost be read as a picture book which tells the story through allegorical and technical illustrations from alchemical literature, but the texts also deliver topnotch scholarship in which every reader can find something new and intriguing.


Dóra Bobory

Indepent scholar, Budapest

‘Das Fluidum der Stadt…’ Urbane Lebenswelten in Kassa/Košice/Kaschau zwischen Sprachenvielfalt und Magyarisierung 1867–1918. By Frank Henschel. (Veröffentlichungen des Collegium Carolinum, Band 137.) Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017. 360 pp.


“The spirit of the town was Hungarian, but after dinner, in slippers and without their jackets, even the gentlefolk switched to German.” This remark is among the recollections of writer Sándor Márai of the language situation in the city of Košice (Kassa in Hungarian, Kaschau in German) in the early twentieth century. Until now, shifts in the ethnic composition of the multilingual and multi-confessional city in the eastern part of what today is Slovakia have mainly attracted the attention of Hungarian historians, as Košice is a significant site of memory in the Hungarian national narrative. Only a few Slovak and German scholars have taken much interest in this topic. Recently, Frank Henschel, a researcher at the University of Kiel, began dealing with the spheres of urban life “between linguistic diversity and Magyarization” at the time of the Dual Monarchy. The book under review contains his reworked doctoral thesis, which he defended at the University of Leipzig in 2014.

Henschel examines the agents and tools of ethnic and nationalist practice and the penetration of national patterns into the “Lebenswelten” (i.e. specific areas of everyday life) in Košice, where individuals and institutions formulated, negotiated, and used national and non-national semantic schemes. He offers a detailed examination of the ways in which the inhabitants and institutions bordered one another in the specific “Lebenswelten,” for instance in local politics and elections, the local theater, cultural and social societies, churches, public schools, economic and labor unions, public remembrance culture, and the politics of identity.

Henschel considers the main result of his research to be a confirmation of the hypothesis that Magyarization (the promotion of the exclusive use of the Hungarian language in public and private life and the creation of individual emotional bonds to the Hungarian nation) was never fully successful in Košice. In Košice, traditional dynamics and characteristics endured in spite of the efforts of the Hungarian state before 1914 to craft policies that would ensure the use of Hungarian in almost all spheres of public life, and the communities within the city, which as noted were linguistically, culturally, and denominationally diverse, did not allowed themselves to be “magyarized” or completely integrated into the state narrative of national loyalty. Even by the time of the outbreak of World War I, most of the inhabitants of the city had not begun to structure their everyday lives around ethnic or national classifications. (p.306). Henschel’s conclusions concerning the lack of success of Magyarization in the territory of present-day Slovakia are not new. Slovak ethnocentric historians have emphasized the violence of the policies implemented by the Hungarian state on the one hand and, on the other, the ineffectiveness of these policies, each of which, they often contend, contributed to the rapid Slovakization of the public sphere after 1918. Hungarian historians, in contrast, have concentrated on different factors, specifically migration, the allegedly voluntary and spontaneous nature of assimilation, models of social prestige, and the processes of linguistic homogenization before the onset of violent Magyarization. In recent decades, more scientific works have appeared which move beyond the ethnocentric dichotomy of the “perpetrator and victim of violent nationalization.” They analyze the overlap of language-cultural urban spaces and interpret the transformation of ethnic identification or loyalties through the concepts of situational and hybrid identities and national indifference. The most recent review of this secondary literature (including an evaluation of it) is found in the dissertation by Ondrej Ficeri, defended in Košice in 2017.

Henschel’s work is of great importance because it analyses, in depth and in its entirety, the process of the nationalization of the cities in what, before 1918, was known as Upper Hungary. Henschel’s study examines this process many of the spheres of everyday practice, and without the construction of limited ethnic groups. He consistently writes about “Germans,” “Magyars,” and “Slovaks” and the German speakers, the Hungarian speakers, and the Slovak speakers. He comments that the local political institutions were neither ethnically nor religiously segregated, and that by the 1890s the town published its official decrees in three languages. Municipal politics were the exclusive domain of the townsmen (burghers or the Bürgertum). When modernizing the infrastructure, they preferred the town center at the expense of the suburbs, which were inhabited by the socially inferior, predominantly Slovak-speaking classes, so local politics had features of social discrimination enriched by ethnic categories. In municipal elections, importance was given to competence, professionalism, and pragmatism. In parliamentary elections, most of the candidates were elected according to party affiliation, not nationality.

The theater, which served as an important arena for culture and communication for the Bürgertum, was dominated by the Hungarian language. The theater committee did not allow performances in other languages beginning in 1877. Henschel devotes considerable attention to voluntary associations. After the publication of his work, Nikoleta Lattová defended her dissertation thesis, in which she essentially confirmed Henschel’s conclusions and empirically documented them on an even wider scale (although she refined his estimate of the number of voluntary associations from more than 50 societies at the beginning of the century to 77 in 1910 and 88 in 1913). In principle, the social societies (especially the casinos) of the Košice upper class were not the primary arenas of Magyarization, because the nationalist models and Hungarian language habits had already been integrated into the Bürgertum’s everyday life in the public arenas. The parallel functioning of three Magyar Educational Societies was counter-productive. They competed with one another, they were also financially overburdened and their administration and activities were time-consuming. State and county activists were members of numerous societies, so they constituted an integral part of civil society. In most societies, however, despite the nationalist rhetoric, the traditions of non-national perception and practice prevailed, and the societies preferred to meet the cultural, religious, and social needs of members with their activities.

While the followers of ethno-national models in communal politics and cultural institutions primarily interacted with one another, larger and more heterogeneous audiences met in non-elite societies, churches, and public educational areas. These more open and less exclusive spheres could therefore remain multilingual despite political and social pressure throughout the Dual Monarchy. Basically, campaigns for economic nationalism in Hungary notwithstanding, the economic unions and labor movement essentially maintained a similar character. The ethnic labeling of economic activists and social groups gradually changed. At the turn of the century, “guardians of the nation” focused on the displacement of the German language and criticized “Germanizing” businessmen and middle-class traders. Henschel does not deal with the reasons why German-speaking inhabitants were willing to recognize Hungarian supremacy in public life. However, he notes that the German language did not disappear and that it continued to be an important means of social distinction between the townsmen and the members of the lower classes. After 1900, Hungarian national activists focused more on disrespecting Slovak as the language of day laborers and servants, and they labeled Slovak-speaking salesmen and workers collaborators with the “Pan-Slavic” movement.

For the promotion of Hungarian as a measure of national loyalty, the Hungarian national ideal was important as a representation of unity within the (for the present) multilingual and multi-ethnic political nation. Since this idea was based in part on an assertion of its legitimacy through a particular interpretation of history, in the public reminders of the Revolution of 1848/49, the Hungarian millennium of 1896, the rule of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elizabeth, and the celebration of the central cult of Ferenc II Rákóczi in Košice, promoters of the Hungarian nationalist ideal did not seek examples of segregation, but rather strove to produce evidence of former cooperation in the struggle against a common enemy. In her 2015 book on public festivities, Alica Kurhajcová, who has studied the celebration of opposing traditions (anti-Habsburg or “kuruc” and pro-Habsburg or “labanc”) in two “Slovak” towns in Upper Hungary (Banská Bystrica and Zvolen) and two “Hungarian” towns (Lučenec and Rimavská Sobota), reaches similar conclusions. Although Košice was stylized as a “kuruc town,” the figure of the king crowned with the sacred Crown of Saint Stephen and the presence of the imperial and royal garrison required the reconciliation of conflicting memorial narratives. The extensive Magyarization of street and square names came relatively late, in 1912. Henschel examines the results of the politics of identity on the basis of a census, the results of which he does not consider representative, and changes made to family names.

Unlike in the Cisleithanian towns, in Košice,a variety of separate, competing movements, camps, or milieus based on national stereotypes never emerged. As Henschel convincingly points out, through solid historical analyses of the specific “Lebenswelten” of this medium-sized town, a policy of Magyarization existed, but it was a townsmen project for townsmen, and most of the inhabitants remained indifferent to national classifications in everyday life. This approach may help scholars move beyond historiographical disputes about the “ethnic” character of Košice before and after 1918.


Elena Mannová

Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

A Modern History of the Balkans: Nationalism and Identity in Southeast Europe. By Thanos Veremis. London–New York: I. B. Tauris, 2017. 188 pp.

Thanos Veremis’s new history of the Balkans attempts, in the words of its author, “to pursue the pervasive nationalist theme that went hand in hand with other significant Western influences in the Balkans” (p.vii). His short book is concerned, in essence, with modernity’s impact on the region, assessed primarily through the prism of nationalism, irredentism, and state-building processes since the early nineteenth century.

The book is organized into three parts. Part I (“The Balkans from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-first Century: The Building and Dismantling of Nation States,” pp.3–92) is by far the longest, with ten chapters, which are largely historical in nature and account for half of the book. Part II (“The Balkans in Comparative Perspective,” pp.95–138) has four chapters which are thematically structured and look at identity politics, economic development, the role of the army in Balkan politics, and “Western Amateurs and the End of History.” This last chapter (chapter 14 in the book) examines Western misconceptions of the region and appears to be based on one of Veremis’ previously published articles. Part III (“Unfinished Business,” pp.141–81) has three chapters, which examine the current problematic status and possible futures of Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. An epilogue (“The Chances of Post-Modernity in the Balkans,” pp.182–88) serves as a conclusion of sorts.

This short book is by no means a conventional history of the nation state in the Balkans, but rather combines a narrative (or chronological) account in Part I with a more thematic discussion in Parts II and III. For the most part, the conventional historical sections are concise, and they also provide a cursory assessment of the broader historical trends over the past two centuries. There is very little in the way of detailed analysis of the political and socioeconomic trends in any of the individual Balkan states, while the discussion is often somewhat imbalanced from one Balkan state to the next. The author undoubtedly knows Greece best, and his discussion of Greek domestic and foreign policies is well-informed and often incisive. But here too his discussion is often imbalanced and has serious omissions. For instance, in chapter 13 (“The Army in Politics”), Veremis provides an overview of the military’s role in Balkan politics, but he focusses almost entirely on the communist states during the Cold War. There is oddly no reference to the army’s significant role in Greece in the twentieth century, most recently during the so-called Regime of the Colonels (1967–74). And while Veremis treats the post-communist dissolution of Yugoslavia at length and puts substantial blame on Western pressures and underlying economic causes (e.g. p.107), there is no discussion of the origins of the Greek sovereign debt crisis which has loomed large over the region over the last decade. Nor is there a section on the European Union’s role in the consolidation of the post-authoritarian transitions in the Balkans after 1989 or in Greece after 1974.

The book is based largely on English-language secondary sources, although several Greek-language publications are cited. The bibliography is by no means exhaustive, however, and it is highly selective on most topics with several important gaps. Furthermore, many proper names (mainly South Slavic and Albanian) are misspelled (e.g. pp.35, 65, 153, 157) and there are some factual errors. Emir Kusturica would surely be surprised to see that he has been characterized as a Bosnian Muslim (p.138), and the Croat politicians Franjo Rački and Josip Juraj Strossmayer did not advocate “the creation on the ruins of the Habsburg monarchy of a federal south-Slavic state that would include Serbia and Montenegro” (p.35). Similarly, the discussion of some contemporary problems in the Balkans lacks appropriate balance and historiographical nuance. While I do not agree with some of Veremis’s interpretations, notably concerning the causes of the former Yugoslavia’s demise, his discussion of the Macedonian Question in particular is largely consistent with the official Greek narrative. Veremis is highly critical of the Republic of Macedonia’s allegedly irredentist and implicitly expansionist positions, which imperil Greek borders, but allows no room for the existence of a Macedonian Slavic minority in Greece, to which he refers to simply as “slavophone Greeks” (e.g., p.70) or people of “alleged ‘Macedonian’ ethnicity” (p.73). The characterizations represent views which most scholars outside of Greece regard as inconsistent with the facts and the historical record.

The book is well-written and interesting, and it raises legitimate and occasionally provocative questions about the inconsistent role of the international community in the Balkans over the last two hundred years and especially since the collapse of the communism. Veremis is correct when he concludes that the resolution of the region’s remaining issues, whether in Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, or Kosovo, “will not depend entirely on foreign priorities. Self-determination is a powerful medicine that should be applied equitably. To attain post-modernity states must first resolve their modern conflicts” (p.188).

Mark Biondich

Carleton University

Staatskunst oder Kulturstaat? Staatliche Kunstpolitik in Österreich 1848–1914. By Andreas Gottsmann. Vienna: Böhlau, 2017. 245 pp.


The entanglement of the Habsburg dynasty in the creative work of artists, composers, and writers in the late nineteenth century has been discussed seemingly endlessly. Carl Schorske’s groundbreaking studies published some fifty years ago focused on the disaffection this caused: Viennese modernism was a kind of revolt against the stifling effects of the imperial court. Surprisingly, however, there have been very few analyses of the attitudes of the court and government to culture and the arts. This important topic is the focus of this book. It asks some fundamental questions: to what extent can the imperial government in Vienna be said to have had a policy towards the arts? What was this policy and what were its aims? There was certainly no shortage of government or court support for the arts, but to what end? Based on extensive archival research, Gottsmann attempts to answer these questions by examining policy papers of government ministries.

As Gottsmann declares, this is very much a top-down inquiry, focusing on the reasoning and motivations of officials in Vienna-based ministries. The book is particularly useful because of the examinations it provides of the attempts by Count Leo Thun, Minister of Culture and Education in the 1850s, to initiate a coherent policy towards the arts. Central to this was reform of the key institutions: the art academies in Vienna and Milan, which had singularly failed to train Austrian artists to a standard comparable with those in France or even in major German centers, such as Munich and Düsseldorf.

This focus on institutions characterizes the basic approach of the book as a whole, and it provides useful summaries of the founding and early histories of important organizations, such as the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry, the School of Design, the Modern Gallery (later the Austrian State Gallery), and the Central Commission for Monuments. The book also examines support for the artworld in all the crownlands, and it provides valuable information on government funding for theaters, academies, and museums in, for example, Bohemia, Tyrol, Galicia, and Moravia. Although financial subventions were provided only sporadically, evidence suggests that officials in the central administration in Vienna took seriously the notion of supporting institutions and artists in the various crownlands in order to create a common Austrian cultural landscape and identity.

There is much to admire about this book. Its focus on policy-making, rather than on art world actors at a local level, provides a valuable additional layer of insight into the workings of the cultural landscape. Yet it is difficult to ignore the questions raised by its approach. Commendably, the book covers the whole of Habsburg Austria, but this makes it all the more baffling that all the sources on which it is based are in German. This could perhaps be explained by the fact that the focus is on policy making in Vienna, but then the absence of other voices makes it difficult to assess the successes or failures of these policies; we are offered a view of the crownlands as seen through a telescope from the imperial capital. It is also a pity that virtually no reference is made to Hungary, except to a now outdated opposition between a cosmopolitan Austria and a Hungarian administration concerned with imposing a unitary Magyar national identity. Yet we know that the debate was much more nuanced than this simple duality suggests; institutions such as the Hungarian National Museum were far more than an expression or instrument of a narrow nationalist ideology. At the very least, proper comparison of Hungarian and Austrian cultural policy might have brought the specificities of Austrian policy into sharper relief, as might comparison with other European states. Rudolf Eitelberger, who was influential in cultural policy from the 1850s to the 1870s, saw France as the model, even though it was a major competitor. He also envied the centralized power of the French government over cultural affairs.

The focus on ministerial papers ensures the book is underpinned by impressive source material, but it lacks a compelling narrative or framework that might allow for more probing and self-reflective scrutiny. We learn that Thun’s first objective was to improve the quality of the arts, but to what end? And what did that mean? The Museum of Art and Industry, for example, was founded to improve the competitiveness of Austrian design, but Eitelberger understood this purely in terms of taste, whereas others, such as Wilhelm Exner, argued that the priority should be embracing the latest technology. Likewise, the desire to improve artistic prestige could be read in different ways. Long ago, the Marxist critic Herbert Marcuse talked about the affirmative function of art; in other words, it provided an imaginary resolution of social problems and acted as a kind of safety valve. The Habsburg cultivation of the arts has often been seen in a similar light, for it is only a short step to the embrace of the theatricality of which many contemporaries were so skeptical. This issue is implicit in the book’s subtitle: Staatskunst oder Kulturstaat? which promises a debate that is never held. The meaning of this opposition is thus not properly explored. Liberalism is mentioned, but its pertinence also requires analysis. There was a remarkable convergence of the ideas of Conservatives such as Thun and the ideas of Liberals such as Eitelberger, and this surely deserves some kind of comment. Similarly, Liberal attitudes towards the question of national identity informed cultural policy making, and also ensured its limitations, but there is little discussion of this issue here.

This book addresses an important topic, but it tries to cover too much material in too little space. To do justice to such a major topic would require a considerably larger study, but due to its length, this book offers a schematic account with little interpretative depth. It should be seen as providing valuable preliminary work, and in this sense, it is of unquestionable value, but its omissions and self-imposed limitations mean that analysis of the successes, failures, and significance of cultural policy in the Habsburg domains still remains to be done.


Matthew Rampley

University of Birmingham

Dealing with Dictators: The United States, Hungary, and East Central Europe, 1942–1989. By László Borhi. Translated by Jason Vincz. Bloomington–Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2016. 548 pp.


László Borhi’s thoroughly researched Dealing with Dictators is based on evidence drawn from various Hungarian archives, the U.S. National Archives, U.S. presidential libraries, the Library of Congress, published documents, interviews with U.S. and Hungarian diplomats and policy-makers, and a wide range of secondary sources in several languages.

The book can be read, to great advantage, on two levels. Its declared focus is U.S.–Hungarian relations. Starting in 1942, perhaps the darkest year of World War II, it moves steadily from the Nazi occupation through the Communist takeover of postwar Hungary, the revolt in 1956, the harsh return of pro-Soviet orthodoxy, and the slow but steady domestic liberalization under the surprisingly shrewd János Kádár to the implosion of the Communist system in 1989. In addition to discussing these comparatively familiar events, it delves into a number of less well-known but important episodes, such as the case of Cardinal József Mindszenty, the István Deák affair, and the return of the Crown of St. Stephen to Budapest.

But Borhi offers much more than an overview of nearly five decades of the asymmetrical relationship between Washington and Budapest. He paints a larger picture of the U.S. (and also British) attitude toward Eastern Europe, addressing parallel events in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. The recurring theme here is that the United States and other Western powers preferred to keep Eastern Europe stable and quiet, even if it amounted to de facto acceptance of the Red Army occupation, which they occasionally denied for the record. This is not to say that Washington and its allies did not exploit fissures in the Eastern “bloc.” But when they did, as Borhi shows, they tended to offer enticing benefits to the wrong recipients, most notoriously to the tyrannical Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu.

Borhi knows well that these observations are not altogether new, but he strengthens our understanding of the matter by providing original insights and valuable details. His book demonstrates that Washington came to regard Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe as permanent and irreversible. Some U.S. policy-makers went further and began to construe it as a cause of the region’s “unprecedented stability” (p.184). This attitude was strongly promoted by, among others, Henry Kissinger and Helmut Sonnenfeldt. Borhi quotes the latter as telling a shocked Romanian official in 1976, “Countries have areas of national interest. . . . One cannot change geography . . . the USSR cannot help but have an interest in you” (p.292). It is precisely this sort of “geographic” argument that was used by the Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš, who had to defend himself in Washington in late 1943 against accusations of being pro-Soviet. By the 1970s, the view that “the map trumps everything” had been adopted by State Department officials.

This sort of prudent pragmatism was practiced in Washington even by those who were later given laurels as alleged liberators of Eastern Europe from communism (Ronald Reagan) or who falsely claimed them for themselves (George H. W. Bush, Helmut Kohl, and Margaret Thatcher). When Reagan talked about the “crusade for freedom,” when he sent Marxism-Leninism to the “ash heap of history,” and when he invited Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” he presented his “ultimate vision,” not “immediate goals,” according to John Whitehead, deputy secretary of state (p.356). Borhi quotes another source who confirmed that Reagan had “absolutely no intention of detaching the states of Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union” (p.326). It is a curious paradox that, as Borhi notes, Reagan took the declaration of martial law in Poland in December 1981 “as a personal affront” (p.339). This is quite possible. But what is still missing from the historical record is an explanation of why the Reagan team did nothing with the detailed, accurate, and actionable intelligence it had obtained from Colonel Ryszard Kukliński regarding the imminent assault on Solidarity— intelligence it had possessed since the colonel’s arrival in the U.S. thirty-one days before the imposition of martial law on December 13, 1981? The chasm between the Reagan administration’s sense of affront and their twiddling their thumbs at a time when Solidarity activists could have been warned was symptomatic of Washington’s ambivalent attitude toward Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

As Borhi notes, the super-pragmatic George H. W. Bush went further than his predecessor and repeatedly praised Kádár (formerly known as the Butcher of Budapest) for Hungary’s “human rights record” (p.398). Wojciech Jaruzelski, the man who had worked in the service of the Soviet occupation of Poland his whole life and had imposed the martial law that had so offended Reagan, could hardly have imagined that he would one day receive a personal letter from president Bush praising him for “advancing the cause of democracy in Poland” (p.398). One understands the requirements of diplomatic comity, but this probably seems surreal to many Poles who lived under the general’s regime.

The book begins in 1942, when Miklós Horthy’s Hungary secretly approached the Allies to explore the possibility of withdrawing Hungarian troops from the front, improving the conditions of Jews, and discussing terms of surrender. U.S. Intelligence, which was already devising methods to separate the satellites from the Third Reich, was interested. The OSS sensed that Hungary would accept “unconditional surrender” in return for being treated as “a liberated country, like Austria, and not to be saddled with a government unsupported by popular will” (p.41). In the spring of 1944, the allies were focused on the impending invasion of occupied France. In March, the United States launched Operation Sparrow, headed by Colonel Florimond Duke, who came to Hungary to discuss armistice terms. Only three days later, Hitler invaded Hungary, one of the few places in Europe where close to one million Jews had been relatively safe, beyond the reach of the Nazis.

Borhi states that, after the war, Duke speculated that, possibly, “his mission had been designed to provoke the Germans’ invasion of Hungary,” thus removing from the battlefields in France some of the Wehrmacht divisions Hitler had to deploy to occupy Hungary. Borhi makes clear that there is no direct evidence to support this theory but, he notes, “such a response [by Hitler] had to have been foreseeable” (p.45). The occupation of Hungary was followed by the near-annihilation of the Jewish community, cost the lives of countless Hungarian civilians, and brought about the destruction of Budapest. Borhi concludes that Hungarian politicians were tragically unrealistic if they thought they could simultaneously satisfy the demands of the Allies and avoid Hitler’s brutal reaction to their clandestine contacts with the enemy.

The rest of Borhi’s story is better known but no less tragic. The book covers the imposition of a communist dictatorship in postwar Hungary and follows the more than four decades of U.S. policy toward Hungary under its Communist rulers and Eastern Europe in general. As Joseph Stalin continued to build his empire, America was initially passive and confused. This evolved into an “‘explosive and dynamic’ policy of liberation,” which was followed by the policy of “gradual transformation” (p.110). Eventually there came acceptance, even appreciation that the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe contributed to stability and predictability on the international scene. In the fall of 1989, as multitudes celebrated the fall of Communism, undersecretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger confessed his nostalgia for the “remarkably stable and predictable atmosphere of the Cold War” (p.397). Members of Thatcher’s cabinet shared this view and said so at the time.

I found very few factual misstatements in this book, which is impressive if only because it is more than 500 pages long. Borhi says that Czechoslovakia received back the gold that had been seized after the war by the United States in the “mid-seventies” (p.64), but this in fact took place in 1982. Vladimir Kazan-Komarek was most definitely not an agent of U.S. Intelligence. He was recruited by and carried out missions for the French Deuxième Bureau. He could not have been “sent back from the United States [to Czechoslovakia] in 1948 to organize an anticommunist resistance network” (p.103), since his first trip to the U.S. took place in 1953. William E. Griffith was not “president of Radio Free Europe” (p.225). Rather, he was its senior political advisor. When writing about the spy-ring that the Hungarian Communist intelligence services ran in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, Borhi states that U.S. authorities learned of its existence from István Belovai, the former Hungarian military attaché in London (p.361). This is quite likely, but I doubt that Belovai’s cooperation with the U.S. was then revealed to the Communists by Aldrich Ames, as Borhi claims, because Ames started his treasonous contacts with the KGB in April 1985, while Belovai was arrested in 1984.

Although László Borhi’s new book is scholarly in every respect, it reads like a fine novel, and I enjoyed it immensely. His detailed study of U.S.-Hungarian relations will be informative even for specialists, while his treatment of Washington’s attitude toward Eastern Europe overturns the self-serving and misleading record established post factum by several Washington policy-makers.


Igor Lukes

Boston University

A magyar sajtó és újságírás története a kezdetektől a rendszerváltásig [The history of the Hungarian press and journalism from the early years to the political transition]. By Géza Buzinkay. Budapest: Wolters Kluwer, 2016. 548 pp.

Over the course of the past two decades, several attempts have been made to renew the study of the history of the media. An increasing number of monographs with a strong focus on methodological questions have been published, and they have sparked discussions and led to a restructuring and novel rethinking of our existing knowledge. Media historians have started using models borrowed from cultural studies, political science, and media studies/communication sciences. For example, the 2015 conference of the Communication History Section of the European Communication Research and Educational Association in Venice concentrated on this interdisciplinary challenge. This tendency resulted in the increasingly prominent discussion of new and exciting topics, such as historical audience research (Wagner et al, “Historische Rezipient innenforschung,” 2017).

The new book by Géza Buzinkay is linked to these efforts aimed at the reform of media history, while at the same time it is also a traditional, so-called first-generation work on media history. With regard to the latter aspect, the book discusses the history of journalism and the press chronologically, presenting the main editorial offices and media outlets and offering glimpses of the great journalists of the given period. The periodization is essentially traditional, with two exceptions: the period between 1918 and 1921 is discussed as a separate era (pp.319–30), and the decades between 1945 and 1989 are treated as one single period (pp.391–447). Neither solution is fully warranted. First, from the perspective of the history of journalism and the media, the disparity is too large between the 1918 democratic regime and the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, or even between the 1945–47 period and the Stalinist dictatorship. Furthermore, in the latter case, the periodization is based on the efforts of two actors, the Communist Party and the Soviet Union (“pre-Stalinization”), while the other players (other parties, journalists, publishers, readers) are simply ignored. Second, this solution disregards continuities, for example, the fact that 1945 cannot be considered a “year zero” from the perspective of media history.

Buzinkay’s work belongs to the newer strands of media historiography in the sense that the most important aspect of the narrative is the history of the journalistic profession in Hungary. This is basically a “modernized” history of journalism, in the sense that the author examines the “evolution” of the profession in a broader context: the book is an example of the application of journalism’s sociology model (McNair, The Sociology of Journalism, 1998), although Buzinkay does not state this. Yet this is precisely what he practices by recurrently covering the economic, legal, political, cultural, and social circumstances which influenced the work of journalists. And although Géza Buzinkay does not focus on readers (reading newspapers), they nonetheless play a major role in the narrative, as the popularity and circulation of certain types of papers are frequently analyzed.

The perspective chosen by the author has a great advantage and one drawback. The advantage is that the book’s clearly-stated central issue (the history of journalism) narrows down the possible topics in a justifiable way and along straightforward lines. For example, the non-Hungarian press is only important if it influenced journalism, the journalistic profession, and the development of the journalism sector in Hungary. Thus, some German-language outlets of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are mentioned (Pester Lloyd is presented in detail, for instance), but minority journals are ignored, and in the chapters on the twentieth century, there is practically no mention of German-language papers. One might nonetheless come to believe that Buzinkay’s narrative is ethnocentric, since he writes about the minority Hungarian press in the neighboring countries in two subchapters without actually discussing the organs of this press from the main perspective of his inquiry. Readers are left wondering how the Hungarian press in Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, or the Soviet Union is linked to the major trends of journalism in Hungary.

With regard to the drawback of Buzinkay’s choice, one shortcoming stands out. It is hard to justify the fact that the book includes practically no mention of the radio or television, or, to be more precise, if the book’s narrative revolves around the history of journalism, radio and television should have been included in the chapters on the years following 1945, since they shaped journalism, too. (The absence of any discussion of radio, the cinema, and newsreels in the Horthy era is perhaps justified, since the intermedial conditions that could be observed in Great Britain by the 1930s had not yet emerged in Hungary.) Radio and television shaped journalism the same way as it did the visual elements of newspapers, from layout to illustrations, and these elements are mentioned in the presentation of the individual papers. However, even here, visual elements are not given sufficient emphasis: in the chapter “The periphery of politics: Humor Magazines and Caricatures,” the discussion is detailed (pp.297–300), but more of the descriptions of the picture weeklies and magazines from the turn of the century or the Horthy era is devoted to the writings than to the pictures (pp.300–04, 374–77).

Of course, one cannot expect a book presenting the complete history of the Hungarian press and journalism to cover all aspects of this history with equal thoroughness. And as there is only one author, it would be even less fair to expect this. This is particularly true in the case of this book, since the analysis of pictures requires a different methodology than that of texts, and these kinds of differences in analyses make it difficult to write a uniform history of the media: one only has to consider the fact that historians of film and historians of the press regard different issues as relevant, so it is extremely difficult to develop a uniform methodology. I mentioned the lack of discussion of the visual elements of newspapers not only because only one product is discussed (so more attention to the topic would have been easily justifiable), but also because Buzinkay has published scholarship on the history of visual communication (Buzinkay, Borsszem Jankó és társai: Magyar élclapok és karikatúrák a XIX. század második felében [Borsszem Jankó et al.: Hungarian humor magazines and caricatures in the second half of the nineteenth century], 1983; Buzinkay, ed., Mokány Berczi és Spitzig Itzig, Göre Gábor mög a többiek... A magyar társadalom figurái az élclapokban 1860 és 1918 között [Berczi Mokány and Itzig Spitzig, Gábor Göre and the others… Figures from Hungarian society in humor magazines between 1860 and 1918], 1988).

Géza Buzinkay’s work is basically a handbook which summarizes the research results of others, adding conclusions from Buzinkay’s studies. This raises the question of whether a single author is able to provide a nuanced overview of such a large and complex topic. In the case this book, the answer is a resounding yes. One reason for the success of the volume is Buzinkay’s work as a teacher (he is a professor of journalism and the history of the press at the Eszterházy Károly University of Eger) and his many “preliminary studies” (Kókay and Buzinkay, A magyar sajtó története I: A kezdetektől a fordulat évéig [The history of the Hungarian press I: From the early years to the year of the transition], 2005; Buzinkay, Magyar hírlaptörténet 1848–1918 [History of Hungarian newspapers 1848–1918], 2008; Buzinkay, Hírharang, vezércikk, szenzációs riport [Newsmonger, editorial, sensational report], 2008; Magyar sajtótörténeti antológia 1780–1956 [Anthology of the history of the press in Hungary 1780–1956], 2009). This does not mean that scholars of a specific period might not find an error or a debatable contention in the book, but this work will provide new information and insights for all readers, both experts on the subject and the wider public.


Balázs Sipos

Eötvös Loránd University

Gendered Wars, Gendered Memories: Feminist Conversations on War, Genocide and Political Violence. Edited by Ayşe Gül Altınay and Andrea Pető. London–New York: Routledge, 2016. 300 pp.


A methodologically versatile volume with a broad variety of case studies encompassing a wide array of materials and geopolitical locations, Gendered Wars, Gendered Memories: Feminist Conversations on War, Genocide and Political Violence emerges as a concise, focused book. The focus falls on the thus far only sporadically explored interconnections between memory studies and military and war studies, which the volume investigates through a feminist analytical lens. In doing so, it touches on delicate subjects, such as militarized sexual violence, repressed and sanctioned memorializations of gendered wartime experiences, and the instrumentalization of victim-narratives for present-day political purposes. A laudable feature of the book is that most of the papers go beyond the methodological preparedness and courage necessary for any serious discussion of such difficult questions and show a resolute commitment to creating an increasingly complex and inclusive discursive arena. This inclusivity and the readiness to challenge disciplinary, methodological, and political confines marks the agenda of the editors, Ayşe Gül Altınay and Andrea Pető.

The volume aims to offer cutting-edge feminist insights into the overlapping—and thus for mainstream analyses often obscure or downright invisible—areas of gender, memory, and war research, and it does so with the adoption of editorial solutions which also make it accessible to the wider academic audiences. One such solution is the inclusion of expert commentaries at the beginning of each of the four main sections of the book. Each of these sections—Sexual violence: silence, narration, resistance; Gendering memories of war, soldiering and resistance; Fictionalizing and visualizing gendered memories; Feminist reimaginings—is comprised of case study-oriented papers, most of which, while digging deep into their specific topic, also show an awareness of and offer reflection on the state of research in their respective field or subfield. The expert commentaries help the reader orient him or herself among the various layers, e.g. past and present research agendas, debates, commonly held views, and radical alternatives from many ends of the spectrum, thereby furthering a more nuanced understanding of the disciplinary and political conditions and circumstances with which the papers deal. Furthermore, the expert commentaries also bring to the fore the common aspects of the papers within each section, so the transversal interconnections among texts discussing geographically and temporally distant events and their effects become more apparent.

For instance, the common denominator of the section on militarized sexual violence (Part I) is resistance to the temptation to use ready-made dichotomies, such as dichotomies, which place victims into the categories of honorable or dishonorable or their stories into the told or the untold. The case studies engage with sexual violence against Jewish women during World War II, the atrocities against women in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong, and narratives of torture in incarceration during the Greek (1967–74) and the Turkish (1980–83) military juntas. However, the essays all manifest an aspiration to reach beyond dichotomies in order to reveal the factors that influenced sexual violence in these instances and address the questions of who broached the topic, with what intentions, and to what effect. The recurring theme of Part II, which focuses on how women’s militarized subjectivities were constructed in a range of settings, such as the Warsaw Uprising, Mussolini’s Italy, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, is an attempt to address a perceived deficiency in the existing scholarship. According to these papers, most conceptions of women’s military service fail to take into consideration a great variety of factors which may have affected an individual’s decision to join or abandon the armed forces.

The third part of the book, which deals with fictional and visual accounts of gendered wartime and conflict-zone experiences (accounts found, for instance, in memoirs on the Spanish Civil War, photographs of female perpetrators convicted by the people’s tribunals in post-World War II Hungary, and art installations in the service of conflict reconstruction in Aceh, Indonesia), takes as its leading thread reflections on the meanings of absence, lack, and silence in the sources. Papers in the final part of the book, while engaging in longitudinal studies of intergenerational and intercultural accounts of violent experiences, also address the limits of such explorations. Dealing with deeply traumatized communities (Armenian women survivors of the genocide and women peace activists in Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Palestine, respectively), the two closing papers consider the sometimes unavoidable failure to make meaning and the knowledge—or perhaps wisdom—which may arise as a result.

As this brief overview of the four sections suggests, the volume is characterized by a relentless complexification of the issues at hand and a constant alertness of the researcher’s own positioning. This is mainly because, as noted in the book’s editorial “Introduction,” two classic feminist conceptual grids are at the forefront of the book’s methodological choices. Intersectionality theory defines the way in which the authors of the volume aim to approach their subjects; and awareness of the situatedness of knowledge production practices (in other words, a reflection on one’s own positionality) marks how the researchers approach themselves while approaching their subjects. Thinking intersectionally incites constant attention to detail, even more so if it shakes up the existing, entrenched views on a subject. On the other hand, awareness of the situatedness of knowledge production and its effects entails a continuous dialogue with oneself, with one’s material, and with one’s fellow researchers. The editors of this volume used both of these techniques, resulting in a book which—though it consists of semi-autonomous units—reads as an engaging, often subversive, and almost always thought-provoking exchange among expert partners. The subtitle of the book, Feminist Conversations, could not be more fitting.

Petra Bakos

Central European University

Jeanssozialismus: Konsum und Mode im staatssozialistischen Ungarn
By Fruzsina Müller. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2017. 277 pp.

Fruzsina Müller’s Jeanssozialismus: Konsum und Mode im staatssozialistischen Ungarn is the first cultural historical monograph on the history of consumption in socialist Hungary which enquires into the politically stabilizing role of fashion. Based on the author’s dissertation submitted at the University of Leipzig and winner of the award for junior researchers of the Southeast Europe Association (SOG) in 2017, the book draws not only on archival sources of state and factory records but also on oral history interviews with central actors within the state bureaucracy and the producing entities, as well as on published sources in professional magazines and to a lesser extent on literary sources. It is somewhat surprising that a monograph on this subject was only published nearly thirty years after the political changes, especially since the case of Hungary is in many ways unusual within the socialist bloc. Taking both legal and informal forms of purchase into consideration, Müller characterizes Hungary as a “consumer paradise” (p.9), and the country indeed offered a more colorful, diverse and Western world of consumption to its citizens than any other country in the Soviet sphere.

Those acquainted with the contemporary self-description and identity-shaping categories of “Goulash Communism” and “Fridge Socialism” in Hungary might think that Müller is trying to coin a comparable third category with the introduction of the term “Jeans Socialism” into academic discourse. However, she actually emphasizes that “Jeans Socialism” is not meant as an analytical category, but should merely be understood as a play on words. Nonetheless, she underlines the importance of jeans as both a clothing and a fashion item which was practically as central in the rise of consumerism as food and household durables (p.12). This particular commodity is surely a good choice as a marker for a consumer society which by the beginning of the 1970s was experiencing a relatively stable provision of everyday goods, while prestigious fashion items, pieces of furniture, and the purchase or construction of properties were becoming much more central to the lives of Hungarian citizens. The importance of jeans throughout all strata of society, but especially among members of the younger generations, and the changing nature of jeans due to fashion trends also serve as an excellent indicator of how the regime and the population were engaged in negotiations. At the same time, as Müller emphasizes, the shift towards a progressive consumption policy after the uprising of 1956 was calculated in order to secure the political power of the Hungarian Socialist Worker’s Party (Herrschaftssicherung) (p.20).

The author rightly points to the growing economic difficulties in the 1970s, especially in the context of two global oil crises in 1973 and 1979. Nonetheless it is noteworthy that individual consumption was continuously on the rise and that the economic crisis started to affect Hungarians in a more tangible way only towards the end of the decade. Therefore, Müller asserts, the 1970s witnessed a loss of faith in the communist utopia, and the party strove to compensate for this with new techniques of domination (Herrschaftstechniken), including a further stress on consumption (p.17).

However, this statement might be a simplification of what was in fact a more intricate picture. We could equally raise the question as to whether the shift in policies to consumption played a role in the loss of the vision of a communist utopia, while nonetheless taking into consideration the fact that consumption was an integral part of how the socialist party imagined a communist utopia. Müller would have done well to have examined the relationship between the projected utopia and actual policymaking in a more complex manner and striven for a more nuanced understanding of the role of consumption in the legitimation of the party state.

Müller’s book is divided into two major parts: the first deals with the official discourse on consumption and fashion and the second focuses on the agents and their space for manoeuver. Müller first examines the perceptions of the Hungarian Socialist Worker’s Party of consumption and fashion, including in relation to growing Western influences. In the subsequent chapter, she analyzes the “lifestyle” debates of the 1960s as pursued in the official media about the degree to which consumption was encouraging petty-bourgeois behavior in opposition to collectivist values. Müller highlights these debates as self-legitimizing strategies of the party state which in her assessment had only a marginal impact on the population (p.74). Chapter three in turn is devoted to the specific consumer group of teenagers. The state attached importance to gaining the support of the younger generations by responding to their articulated needs, which they used to distance themselves from the generation of their parents.

In chapter four, blue jeans are discussed in depth as a key part of these articulated needs. At first a controversial and marginalized clothing item in Hungary, jeans finally gained acceptance during the 1970s. According to Müller’s analysis, the party state managed to neutralize the symbolic but also political and ideological value of blue jeans by depoliticizing them (p.116). Thanks to this strategy, jeans could finally become a ubiquitous fashion item in a socialist society. In the final chapter of the first part of the book, Müller deals with various consumption practices, such as queuing, shopping tourism, black market activities, and “virtual shopping,” such as visiting consumer fairs and browsing catalogues and magazines from the West. She points to the legitimizing role of informal shopping practices as they enriched the consumer world in a command economy (p.133).

The second part of the monograph describes the agents within the state and the fashion industry. Whereas chapter one of this part introduces the major economic reforms of 1968 as having a positive effect on the fashion industry, chapter two concentrates on state and later cooperative-based retail spaces, like the Skála department store, and private initiatives, such as fashion boutiques, which began to spread mainly in the 1980s. As Müller shows, the mix of retail outlets was, especially from the mid-1970s, beneficial for the development of a more competitive and up-to-date fashion industry. Focusing more specifically on the development of a jeans industry, the subsequent chapter addresses the conditions of socialist jeans production while aiming to assert the role of political will. As blue jeans became a notable economic factor, many different production sites started to be inspired by them, and they likewise applied modern (and Western) means of marketing and advertisement; the socialist brand Trapper became a landmark of domestic jeans production.

In chapters four and five Müller explores the concrete examples of cooperation with Western brands like Levi’s and the sport shoe producer Adidas, and in this context she also discusses the conditions for the establishment of brands in the 1970s. Interestingly, by then, Hungary was already committed to legal protection of consumer brands. Although socialist brands were very successful in establishing themselves on the domestic and broader socialist market, as Müller points out, they never attained the same popularity as their Western counterparts; Levi’s jeans and Adidas sport shoes were considered state of the art both during and after socialism. Nonetheless, in the context of nostalgic tendencies, certain socialist brands grew in popularity again after 2000.

In her conclusion, Müller highlights the often contradictory standpoints of the Hungarian party state, which at the same time promoted and rejected consumption, and with it also fashion, something that became obvious in the public debates of the 1960s and 1970s. Likewise, Müller considers the Hungarian case revealing as part of an Eastern European history of consumption, and she also makes the point that Hungary was relatively successful at providing for its population (p.247). Widespread and identity-shaping practices such as shopping tourism, smuggling, and black-market activities were as central for Hungary as they were for the other socialist countries.

At the same time, it is noteworthy that Hungary was the only socialist country producing authentic jeans fabric. In this context, Müller shows how fashion was promoted as beneficial to the economic performance of the country after the introduction of reforms in 1968 with a stress on teenagers as an important group of emerging consumers. Throughout the book, Müller argues for the cultural and communicative importance of blue jeans in a socialist society. However, for a more precise assessment of the socialist characteristics, she would have needed to offer a more detailed contextualization of the Western youth movements.

Müller states in her conclusion that the distribution of Western fashion items and international trends led to the downfall of the socialist regime after having maintained that the consumption policy of the party state helped the regime secure its hold on power (p.241). This argumentation is not entirely convincing, as she does not provide any deeper explanation as to how Western products undermined the legitimacy of socialist rule. Furthermore, she is very right when pointing to growing social inequalities, especially in the 1980s, which meant increasingly vast differences in the participation of different strata of the population in the world of consumerism (p.247). However, her argumentation should have examined how growing social inequality affected individual perceptions of opportunities for consumption and what this implied for the stability of a socialist society. Similarly, the book would have benefited had Müller drawn on more recent English publications on socialist consumption, e.g. the pioneering volume Communism Unwrapped, edited by Paulina Bren and Mary Neuburger.

Although Müller remains somewhat vague about broader questions concerning socialist consumer culture, through the example of blue jeans she provides an insightful and highly readable account of the mechanisms of how fashion was produced, communicated, used, and interpreted during socialism. She manages to shed new light on the question of how command economies adapted to meet the various demands of their citizenry. The Hungarian example is one which to a certain degree challenges the famous characterization of the Soviet-dominated party states as “dictatorships over needs,” to borrow the term from the title of the 1981 book by Ferenc Fehér, Ágnes Heller, and György Márkus. In sum, Müller’s book is a must-read for all those who wish to understand better the cultural and political relevance of consumption in socialist countries.

Annina Gagyiova

University of Regensburg/Charles University Prague

Corresponding Authors

Zoltán Hidas: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Zsombor Bódy: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

László Vörös: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

András Keszei: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Oliver Kühschelm: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ádám Takács: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

pdfVolume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS


Genocide in the Carpathians: War, Social Breakdown, and Mass Violence, 1914–1945. By Raz Segal. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016. 211 pp.

Most of the characters of this drama were poor Ruthenians and Jews who survived through hard labor in remote villages isolated in the thick forests on the slopes of the mountains in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, a northeastern boundary region of the old Kingdom of Hungary at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Life against this backdrop may not have been idyllic, but there was a practice of peaceful coexistence in which ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity was viewed as natural and in which the lives of Jews and non-Jews were connected by a thousand threads in their everyday struggles. This is the picture Raz Segal draws at the beginning of his narrative, which is then followed by an account of how this world fell to pieces as it was caught in the maelstrom of global wars, changes of regime, and ethnic persecution and mass violence perpetrated as part of drives for nation and state building.

The threadwork of the social fabric of Subcarpathian Ruthenia began to unravel after World War I, when the region was transferred from Hungary to the new state of Czechoslovakia, the nationalizing policies of which (along with the national ideologies which were largely exported to the region) caused the local ethnic communities to feel for the first time that their collective interests were inherently in conflict. Carpathian Ruthenians and Jews, finally alienated from each other in the tempest of the new border changes and the next (the coming) world war, were faced simultaneously, but not side by side, with the oppressive measures and acts of the new Hungarian rulers, who launched an ethnic reengineering of the region in order to (re)integrate it as part of an ethno-national “Greater Hungary.” By the time the storm of war had subsided, the material and social world of the region lay in ruins. The greatest losses were suffered by the Jewish community, who were, first, in 1941, victims of mass massacres near the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi. Three years later, in the spring of 1944, following the German occupation of Hungary, nearly all of the surviving members of this Jewish community were deported to death camps and murdered.

What distinguishes Segal’s narrative from more traditional accounts of the Holocaust in Hungary is that he does not focus mostly or exclusively on the destruction of the Subcarpathian Jewry. Instead, he presents an integrated analysis of the multilayered ethnic discrimination and persecution that culminated during the period in which this region was under Hungary’s rule. To this end, he follows recent trends in Holocaust scholarship that shift the focus from German genocidal plans and practices to the Nazi-allied countries’ endeavors to build their own ethno-national states in accordance with and in the broader context of German ambitions. These policies were often most pronounced in the multiethnic wartime borderlands of these countries, where they formed a complex system of violence against all ethnic groups which were seen as obstacles to the creation of a society structured according to a strict ethnic hierarchy and were ultimately meant to be shaped into parts of an ethnically homogeneous state.

Though the body of secondary literature that deals, in one way or another, with the history of the multiethnic border regions that were a bone of contention between Hungary and its neighboring states is vast and rich, in Hungarian historiography, and especially in Hungarian(-related) Holocaust literature, the integrated approach used by Segal has few predecessors; from this viewpoint, Genocide in the Carpathians is clearly a pioneering work. Segal’s general effort to delineate the initiatives taken by the Hungarian state in the ethnic persecution and genocide against peoples living in its extended wartime territory is also praiseworthy. However, one of his foremost goals is based on a serious misperception. I am thinking of his effort to urge historians to rethink what he perceives as the established narrative about the Holocaust in Hungary, which, he claims, portrays the country as a mere collaborator in German genocidal politics. According to Segal, “Scholarship on the Holocaust in Hungary (…) ascribes mass violence in Hungary mostly to German influence and, after March 1944, German policies, while portraying pre-1944 mass atrocities as anomalies to a general atmosphere that provided Jews with safety, even as they faced stigmatization and a whole host of restrictions and discriminatory measures” (p.15).

It is a sad fact that the recognition of Hungary’s responsibility has been a neuralgic point in public discourses on the events of the Holocaust, and since the current right-wing Hungarian government’s official memory policy promotes a nationalistic and apologetic interpretation of the past, the problem has become even more acute in recent years. It is similarly disturbing that some figures in Hungarian public life who claim to be historians have aimed to reinforce these kinds of interpretations and omissions. This viewpoint, however, is simply not shared by established researchers on the Holocaust in Hungary, and it is indeed difficult to understand how Segal came to this conclusion, unless the explanation lies in his clearly limited use of the secondary literature in Hungarian or his misreading of works by Hungarian scholars, like László Karsai, Zoltán Vági, Gábor Kádár, and László Csősz, whose writings have been published in international languages.

In connection with the above, Segal’s other main goal is to integrate the extreme policies adopted against Jews and other ethnic minorities in Subcarpathian Rus and Hungary’s other multiethnic wartime borderlands into the whole of Hungary’s anti-Jewish policies and, more generally, the country’s ethnopolitics. While such an effort could yield seminal results, Segal’s overall narrative leaves one with the impression that he has not studied these issues in a comprehensive manner. Rather, he has examined them through the magnifying glass of events in Subcarpathian Rus; he effectively suggests that the mass atrocities which were committed in the border regions were generally and inherently characteristic of the nature of Hungary’s anti-Jewish policies as such. This interpretation leads to a conclusion which is as misleading as the portrayal of these extreme acts as anomalies that were somehow alien to Hungary’s general anti-Jewish policies.

Hungary’s Jewish (ethno-)policies were a complex and dynamic system of ideas and acts shaped by various and often conflicting domestic and foreign political, social, and economic interests, expectations, and goals. An examination of these policies cannot neglect the fact that they were by no means straightforward or evenly unfolding processes: they were pursued by different governments under changing circumstances. These policies were further influenced by the choices made by decision-makers and executors at various levels of administration and by the interplay between central decisions and local and regional initiatives. It is clear that the extreme atrocities committed in the border regions were integral elements of Hungary’s anti-Jewish policies, yet it is also clear that overall these kinds of measures were not dominant throughout Hungary before the spring of 1944 and, from the spring of 1942 until the spring of 1944 (i.e. under the administration of Miklós Kállay), they were atypical even in the border regions. No serious scholar claims that Hungary was a “safe haven” for Jews before the country’s occupation by Germany, but it is similarly indisputable that the situation was more stable for the majority of Jews in Hungary prior to 1944 than it was for Jews in many other places in Nazi-ruled Europe. Many of the Jewish inhabitants of the (re-)occupied territories believed that mass atrocities would not be committed by the Hungarian state: their tragic experiences soon showed just how mistaken they were. Still, in general, Jews in Trianon Hungary could with some justification continue to feel safer long into the war years. If Genocide in the Carpathians had more thoroughly exposed the structural and other factors that help explain this, it would have brought us much closer to an understanding of the mechanism of the Holocaust in Hungary.

The most remarkable parts of the book include those in which Segal analyzes the changes in ethnic relations between Carpathian Ruthenians and Jews. Disturbances arose first between the two World Wars in what until then had been a generally conflict-free coexistence. Over the course of the interwar years, ever more Carpathian Ruthenians began to strive for the development of a national-ethnic communal identity, while Jews also faced new dilemmas. Many Carpathian Ruthenians, who were developing a Ukranophile orientation and were increasingly frustrated by Prague’s refusal to grant the region the autonomy which had been promised, observed with a sense of betrayal that Jews seemed to switch loyalties from their Carpathian Ruthenian neighbors to the new Czechoslovak state. For many, Jews came to be seen as agents of the state’s “Czech-ification” efforts, who thus helped thwart the collective aspirations of the Carpathian Ruthenians. During the short existence of an independent Carpathian Ukraine between October 1938 and March 1939, Carpathian Ruthenians committed anti-Semitic atrocities. This was one of the key reasons why many Jews greeted the entry of the Hungarian Army into the region as the harbinger of their salvation (they were clinging, as it quickly turned out, to false hopes) and why they remained passive witnesses to the violence committed against Carpathian Ruthenians by the Hungarian troops. Although the Carpatho-Ruthenians in Subcarpathian Rus were themselves victims of discrimination, their limited agency was not the only, perhaps not even the main reason that the majority of them – although they shared a rather similar fate to the Jews – were unwilling to express solidarity or to cooperate with the latter against Hungarian oppression. Segal argues that it was rather anti-Jewish resentment growing out of the specific conjunctures of the two ethnic groups’ shared past during, first and foremost, the Czechoslovak era that eventually made most Carpathian Ruthenians choose to avert their gaze and prompted some of them to express malice towards Jews and even a willingness to collaborate when their Jewish neighbors faced the violence of the Hungarian state (esp. pp.45–50, 84–85, 104–08).

With these analyses, Segal contributes to a growing body of scholarship which urges us to look beyond the literal meaning of the word “bystanders” and its misleading implication of lack of engagement and action when trying to understand behaviors and motives of people who were neither victims nor perpetrators of mass violence. Instead, as Segal points out, only a close examination of the circumstances, contexts, and collective histories of the people involved furthers a nuanced understanding of why they acted in the ways they did, including in situations in which failing to act can and should be interpreted as an active choice (see also: pp.9–13).

Segal poses a similar challenge to the concept of anti-Semitism. As he observes, this catch-all term tends to obscure rather than illuminate why people turned against their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust (and at other times in history), especially because it is so commonly associated with hatred. Instead of accepting “anti-Semitism,” a term which tends to imply an abstract and timeless emotional-ideological position, as an explanation, Segal suggests the examination of specific motivations, attitudes, and patterns of behavior, including or even especially those in which hatred does not play a central role. Applying methodologies and findings from the study of emotions, he concludes that the term “resentment” is more fitting as a characterization of the sentiments of Carpathian Ruthenians towards Jews, a resentment which arose primarily as a response to the failure of the attempts of Carpathian Ruthenians to gain autonomy and the real or perceived roles played by Jews in this.

Segal’s suggestion may add to our understanding of the phenomenon, but it is not entirely convincing. He is undoubtedly right to point out that the concept of anti-Semitism should be applied to concrete social phenomena and processes in a nuanced way if we wish to grasp their true nature and the actual motivations behind them. Many scholars fail to do this, even if the simple and direct association of the term with hatred is perhaps not as widespread in historical scholarship as Segal suggests. While the term “bystanders” bears the connotations of passivity and indifference and thus ought to be used with reservations, the term anti-Semitism appears more neutral and does not come with clear-cut explanations of its meaning(s), much less its causes: thus, it may allow less simplistic scholarly elaborations. If we use “anti-Semitism” as a summary and descriptive term which covers various expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment and practice (emotions, attitudes, acts, and policies) and we do not use it as if it were self-explanatory, then we might arrive at a more multi-dimensional and multi-layered understanding of its nature than if we simply reject the term altogether, not least of all since in the scholarly debates, the term “anti-Semitism” is more widely known, used, and recognized.

I would also add that Segal ends up using the term “resentment” in much the same way in which he claims others use “anti-Semitism”: that is, as a general concept to explain motivations for effectively all sorts of anti-Jewish social practices and acts. In the end, we may get a more accurate portrayal of the dominant emotional-attitudinal position in the Carpatho-Ruthenian community, but all other presumably existing positions remain hidden.

Segal also fails to make a similar effort to clarify the attitudes of ethnic Hungarians towards Jews. Ironically, he seems largely satisfied to characterize these attitudes with the term “anti-Semitism” or even simply hatred. Does he really believe that the anti-Jewish sentiments of ethnic Hungarians, in contrast to those of Carpathian Ruthenians, were driven simply or primarily by hatred? If so, what are the historical-political-social reasons for this difference?

Presumably, however, he has neglected the whole issue. Indeed, one of the most unfortunate deficiencies of the book is that it fails to provide an analysis of social relations between ethnic Hungarians (or for that matter Czechs, or any ethnic group other than Carpathian Ruthenians) and Jews in Subcarpathian Rus.

The very limited amount of secondary literature on the role of “bystanders” in the Hungarian Holocaust has dealt almost exclusively with ethnic Hungarians, and so Segal’s study of Carpathian Ruthenians as “bystanders” is of unquestionable value. However, the reason he gives for limiting his inquiry to relations between Jews and Carpathian Ruthenians (that is, because they were the only two ethnic groups present throughout the region and that many settlements were inhabited solely by them) is problematic (p.137). In Hungarian-occupied Subcarpathian Rus, ethnic Hungarians constituted around 10 percent of the population, though in some larger towns their proportions were around 25-30 percent. Independently of their sheer numbers though, Hungarians composed the politically dominant ethnic group, and they enjoyed a privileged status as the main beneficiary of the state’s “re-Magyarizing” efforts and the associated discriminatory practices and policies against Jews, Carpathian Ruthenians and others. Thus, ethnic Hungarians could take the most advantage of the oppression of ethnic minorities, but also had the greatest ability to help the persecuted in some way. Moreover, Segal explains the attitudes of Carpathian Ruthenians towards Jews with reference to developments in interwar Czechoslovakia, but he ignores the fact that the communal history of Subcarpathia’s Hungarians as members of an ethnic minority in interwar Czechoslovakia could also have exerted a decisive influence on their social relations with Jews. These circumstances surely produced regionally-specific “bystander” attitudes and actions among ethnic Hungarians, which would merit further study. One of the author’s primary aims was allegedly to study the region in its multi-ethnic and multi-cultural entirety. He has failed, however, to do this and so the picture he drew of it remained two-dimensional.

In contrast, one of the book’s strengths lies in the sections focusing on the experiences and reactions of Subcarpathian Jews facing discrimination and violence (esp. pp.81–85, and 98–100). However, it would have been nice to have found a more systematic analysis here too, that goes beyond the Jewish participation in the small-scale communist resistance (p.84) and presents the various coping, survival, and resistance strategies adopted by Jews. Regardless of how “successful” these strategies were or how much opportunity there was to pursue them, a more detailed description of them would have provided a way to see the victims in a less passive position. Apart from this, Segal introduces his general conclusion in a convincing manner, and here his local examples are in harmony with phenomena described in the broader secondary literature: his finding is that most of the Jewish community was unable to grasp the reality of mass murder, deportations, and death camps, despite the warnings they had been given and the information they had received. Most of them were overwhelmed and paralyzed by the persecution and violence they had experienced, which resulted in internal and external crises, a denial of incomprehensible realities, and a tendency to grasp for false hopes instead of taking action. Additionally, active resistance and self-rescue could not become widespread, because most Jews who faced deportation belonged to the more vulnerable strata (women, children, and the elderly), since most of the men had been pressed into forced military labor. In the generally indifferent or even hostile social environment surrounding them, an environment which included both ethnic Hungarians and Carpathian Ruthenians, very few of them could have counted on effective help in any case. Chances to escape or hide were drastically reduced in the spring of 1944, when, with the advance of the Red Army, the Jews of Subcarpathian Rus were rushed into ghettos and deported before all the other Jewish communities in Hungary (pp.81–85, 98–101).

Last but not least, while Segal briefly deals with the issues of the theft and redistribution of Jewish property before and after the German occupation (pp.67–70, 96–98), he generally downplays the significance of the economic aspects of ethnic discrimination and persecution. In these policies, the interrelationships between economic, socio-political, and ethno-national factors composed such a coherent system that neglect of any of these factors, or emphasis on one of them at the expense of others, can only lead to misunderstanding. For example, Segal claims that the confiscation of Jewish lands “probably affected most Jews in the region in a rather minor way. The significance of this anti-Jewish legislation, however, lay in the political, not the economic, realm: like the change of street names, it attempted to realign space according to ethnonational criteria” (pp.69–70). The second part of this statement is indisputable. But it is not clear, in a country in which the issue of land distribution was one of the most acute problems, how the economic and social significance of such measures could be secondary, or how such a policy could have had only minor effects on the Jews of a region in which their percentage in agriculture was uniquely high. Segal dispenses with the issue of Carpathian Ruthenians as beneficiaries and profiteers of the theft of Jewish belongings with the simple claim that since Hungarian authorities did not intend to provide Carpathian Ruthenians with property seized from Jews, the Carpathian Ruthenians did not substantially benefit from the plunder of their Jewish neighbors (pp.109, 187–88). The fact that Carpathian Ruthenians did not get more or did not get much, however, does not mean they did not try to do so. As the earlier secondary literature shows (esp. by Kinga Frojimovics), non-Jews in Subcarpathian Rus, regardless of ethnicity, tried to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the Hungarian state; in certain places, most of the people who made requests for “Jewish land” were not ethnic Hungarians, but rather Carpathian Ruthenians.

Notwithstanding its occasional shortcomings and controversial claims, Raz Segal’s concise study offers an innovative and insightful summary of international, state-level, and regional policies, as well as some of the social interactions and ethnic conflicts in the history of the Subcarpathian region in the first half of the twentieth century. The book’s integrated analysis, which puts anti-Jewish persecution and genocide into their broader contexts of nation and state-building, ethnic re-engineering, and multilayered violence, will hopefully serve as inspiration for similar research efforts in Hungary and beyond.


Linda Margittai

University of Szeged



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