Arts and Artists as Intermediaries in Identity Management and Ethnomanagement: Examples from the German Minority in Hungary and the Hungarian and German Minorities in Transylvania
My research on arts and artists in connection with minority issues centers around the fact that both serve as crucial instruments in the creation of the collective identity of a particular ethnic group. Moreover, my results should demonstrate that arts and artists passively are used and actively act as intermediaries in the identity management and ethnomanagement of minorities.
Further issues of this broad heading will be: the visible effects, if an artist belongs to a minority, if an artist feels he or she belongs to a minority, and the influence of this on his or her work. What are the reasons for an organizational commitment to the identity management and ethnomanagement of his/her ‘own ethnic group’ and vice versa?
Answers to these questions are based on research on the German minority in Hungary (Ungarndeutsche) and the Hungarians (erdélyi magyarok) and Germans (Siebenbürger Sachsen, Banater Schwaben) in Transylvania. The examples will be divided on the basis of the different genres of literature and the fine arts: concerning minority literature the focus will be on the interaction of literature and the intentional use of the minority language as an ethnic marker. Furthermore, the reciprocity of minority literature and ethno-political careers will be reflected in some biographical examples. Fine arts have the advantage, unlike literature, that they are a priori a universally understandable medium, and the paper will elaborate on the following topics: the question of which artistic works (e.g. statues, emblems on buildings, monuments) are directly linked to the culture of remembrance of the abovementioned ethnic groups and to what extent is fine arts important as a means of representing the German and Hungarian minorities in public space as a form of the “visual materialization” of ethnic identity and ethnic politics?
Keywords: ethnomanagement, arts, ethnic groups, Germans in Hungary, Hungarians and Germans in Transylvania, minority politics, culture of remembrance
A Theoretical Approach to Identity and Ethnomanagement
A short survey of the notions of identity management and ethnomanagement should be introduced into the theoretical aspects of the topic before I present my research on the role of the arts and artists within the wide range of ethnicity and minority policies.1 This creates a framework for comparison of my examples from literature, the fine arts, and the performing arts in connection with the concept of ethnomanagement, which I have developed in my habilitation thesis.2
Although the two terms, “identity management” and “ethnomanagement” are put on equal footing, I prefer the use of the term ethnomanagement in my research, instead of the notion of identity management, because the common state-of-the-art use of the term identity management was monopolized by the IT branch to delineate the administration of personal data. The first part of the compound ethno-management refers to basic terms like ethnos, ethnic group and ethnicity; simultaneously the term is structured like ethnopolitics or ethnopolicies. The second part of the compound ethno-management refers to the action that what will happen to the first part: the semantic weight of the notion of management finds itself between ‘to service, to guide’ and ‘to administrate, to head’ and, it expresses its close affinity to its close affinity to the term identity management.3
Moreover, this ethnomanagement concept draws attention more to the protagonists, who make use of the constructedness of ethnicity to its full capacity. The protagonists, called ethnomanagers, try to gain influence on important ethnic markers,4 which constitute ethnicity in the end. Both identity management and ethnomanagement are per se active and goal oriented terms or quantities. That means, at a semantic level, that these managers must have had clear intentions.
In my field work the main focus was laid on the protagonists of the societies of the German5 and Hungarian ethnic groups, where ethnomanagers clearly perform their activities, and furthermore, on those of various cultural institutions of the minorities. I ascertained that i) in a narrower sense ethnomanagers intentionally work in the field of minority politics; ii) in a broader sense people who teach in minority schools or work in minority media or in minority arts are themselves actors, as these institutions exert implicit control over minority monitoring and they can be considered ethnomanagers in certain cases.
Another invariable in this context is the adherence to the nation state model and its majority versus minority structure, as well as the assertion of the rights of the particular minority the political participation of minorities within the institutional framework of the nation state.6 The best brief example is the double identity of Germans in Hungary—the German term Ungarndeutsche(r) demonstrates it more descriptively—because any solution that demanded a full commitment to belonging to the minority would misrepresent the everyday culture of the Hungarian–German double identity.7 And one should not ignore the fact that each majority population within a nation state tends towards assimilatory cultural practices, and with regard to the Germans in Hungary Küpper predicts that in the near future the members of the German minority in Hungary will not be fully committed to this minority identity, and even the hitherto “half commitment” would fail to appear.8
So, each ethnic group,9 whether it is a majority or minority, develops specific strategies of ethnomanagement in close interdependence with political, legal and socioeconomic conditions. What they all have in common is that the essential parameters of inclusion and exclusion will be presented as “naturally grown,” very much like the essential ethnic markers, heritage and language. Therefore, ethnomanagers refer simply to these key aspects of preserving their own cultural identity to legitimize ethnomanagement activities in the first place. Furthermore, each symbolic representation of an ethnic group is constituted of overlapping political and cultural symbols, and it seems obvious that this subarea brings the political aspects of ethnomanagement together with arts and artists by developing a particular concern to interfere in the cultural life of the particular ethnic group and its representations.
Examples from German and Hungarian Minority Literature
Concerning the literary genre “minority literature” focus will be laid on the interaction of literature and the intentional use of the minority language as an essential part of ethnomanagement. This mirrors the alternatives of language perception as a dialect and minority language in contrast with majority language, not to mention language as an artistic means of expression and ethnic marker. Further topics and questions include the reciprocity of minority literature concerning the selection of literary themes with regard to the recipients, as well as with regard to subvention funds. Is it enough if an author considers himself “deutsch”, or is it advantageous to address issues concerning the culture or the past of the German minority in Hungary or Transylvania—and does this also apply to the Hungarians in Transylvania and the use of the Hungarian language in literature? However, I do not intend to become entangled in a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of fictional versus non-fictional means of expression.
My few examples begin with the work of a Nobel Prize winner. In 2009, when the German author Herta Müller, who was born in the Romanian village Nitzkydorf, won the Nobel Prize, the Germans in Romania had set a process into operation that aims to monopolize her and her literature for their own ethnopolitical purposes. Hence, Paul Philippi, former chairman and since 1998 honorary chairman of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (Landesforum or just Forum), satirized this monopolizing strategy in his speech given to delegates of the Landesforum in October 2009:
And yes: ‘We’ did not only get the Nobel Prize, which spans the world, but also the most famous German award for literature, the Büchnerpreis – again won by a compatriot from Hermannstadt, who left us a long time ago: Oskar Pastior, who, much as Herta from Nitzkydorf did later, had berthed in Berlin. […] Highlights for us, certainly not by ourselves, highlights by single persons, who belong to us. We, the Forum, may possibly benefit from it, but in relation we contributed little or nothing to it. (Translated by the author.)10
These words should dampen the demonstrations of self-praise by members of the Forum, which rose after these prizes had been given to the writers, who were for them still Germans from Romania in spite of the fact that they had emigrated to Berlin. And Philippi expresses his conviction that the delegates should focus on their obligation to work harder in their political business of ethnomanagement, instead of resting on other’s laurels.
The quotation also shows the commingling of the literature from (famous) members of a certain ethnic group with the political ethnomanagement of the same group. I do not want to dwell on the well-researched work or life of Nobel Prize winner Herta Müller. Instead I give a few examples from the field of the minority literature of Germans in Hungary and their relationships to the ethnomanagement of the German Minority in Hungary (Ungarndeutsche). The following examples show that there have been close connections between production preconditions of German minority literature in Hungary and the ethnomanagement of the German minority. In 1974, after a pause of three decades after World War II, the literary section of the Democratic Alliance of Germans in Hungary11 published an anthology entitled Tiefe Wurzeln [Deep Roots]. Alfred Coulins stated later that this anthology had the ambition of setting a literary and a political goal.12 At the time of publication, many hopes were pinned on that anthology: above all, that it might give birth to an independent literature of the Hungarian–Germans within German literature, and the Democratic Alliance would have played the role of the midwife. Given this, the acceptance of Tiefe Wurzeln was euphoric in Hungary. It culminated in the principal topic of love of the German mother tongue and, at the same time, the Hungarian home.13
During the second half of the 1970s the Democratic Alliance of Germans in Hungary published two further literary anthologies entitled Die Holzpuppe [Wood Doll] (1977) and Bekenntnisse-Erkenntnisse [Denominations-Knowledge] (1979). The reviewer Heidi Ritter assigned the leading role to the Alliance of the Germans in Hungary, when it was about encouraging creativeness within the German minority in Hungary.14
From the perspective of the present the goal of creating an independent Hungarian–German literature within German literature was unsuccessful on the German literature market. This was primarily because the subjects of the Hungarian–German literature innolved the minority itself. This limited the potential readership. Literary forms of expression flattened out because of low demand. Regarding the Hungarian–German literature of the 1980s, János Szabó contended that the publication of crude texts and the absence of a functional public would have made everything more difficult, an overcautious rather than constructive criticism.15 If that was not bad enough, at that time the Hungarian–German author Georg Wittmann postulated that for writers of the German minority in Hungary it was most important to place the literature in the service of Hungarian Deutschtum.16 That claim suggests, more or less, that writers should not only subordinate their literature to Hungarian–German ethnomanagement, but their literature should obviously be even more one-sidedly part of Hungarian–German ethnomanagement itself. In contrast, the present generation of young Hungarian–German authors is well aware of the debate about their artistic and sociopolitical significance. The Verband ungarndeutscher Autoren und Künstler (VUdAK)17 holds workshops every year for that purpose. Furthermore, the Hungarian–German author Angela Korb, who is also an active member of VUdAK, assumed during an interview with me that of the 20 male and female authors within VUdAK there are only two professional writers.18
The targeted use of the language is arbitrary in the focus of a literature of a language minority. The Germans in Hungary have the following options: i) German (Standard German); ii) German (dialectical versions of German – Danube-Swabian dialects); iii) Hungarian.19 Angela Korb noted that dialect versions of German were used more and more rarely and that they served mainly as regional markers.20
The most famous Hungarian–German author was Valeria Koch. She wrote her poems in both languages, German and Hungarian. In the 1980s an academic discussion on the translatability of poetry began, because Koch provoked translation studies in the sense of which word choice she used in which language.21 But it was not only through this bilingual approach that Valeria Koch created a caesura in the history of Hungarian–German literature: she used a different approach from the working man, home-bound, or dialect-authors, who “produced literature” for their consumers.22 Since Valeria Koch rose to prominence, the whole spectrum has shifted. The German philologist Eszter Propszt identifies this shift: “von der Wir-Dichtung der Alten zu der Ich-Dichtung der Jüngsten”23 [from we-poetry of the old generation to me-poetry of the youngest; translated by the author].
In the 1980s the group of Hungarian–German writers that took this direction included e.g. Nelu Bradean-Ebinger, Martha Fata, Claus Kotz, Valeria Koch and Josef Michelisz. In spite of the (assumed) content-related opening of the Hungarian–German minority literature, the audience remained small, and even Valeria Koch could not succeed on the all-German literature market. It sounds like something of a sour grapes excuse when German philologists in Hungary claim today that Valeria Koch did not aspire to make that breakthrough.24
The situation on the literature market did not change until recent times: in her 2006 dissertation on the history of the development of Hungarian–German literature Rita Pável observed that it was an apodictic minority literature. Furthermore, Pável restrains the efficiency of the literature in relation to the local environment. The literature of the German minority in Hungary only exercised local tasks and responsibilities of literature.25 Nevertheless, Hungarian–German literature from her point of view was a corporate body of language identity, and minority literature was still able to play the role of a cultural bridge.26 This awareness coincides with the work of Eszter Propszt, who published a monograph on Hungarian–German literature 2007. She perceives, however, a considerable caesura between the identity characteristics that are determined by the Hungarian language and those that are determined by the German language: in recent times the identity construction of Germans in Hungary has been much more complexly nuanced by the Hungarian language. If anywhere, texts in German have realized their function as a means of identity creation in Hungary with regard to the collective identity of the Germans of Hungary.27 This is the outcome of the development of literary production on the one side and changing language and reading practices of the Germans in Hungary over the course of recent decades. This observation is—from my point of view—another basic requirement for observing the intermediary function of Hungarian–German literature within the larger framework of Hungarian–German ethnomanagement.
And now, let us expand on the activities of Hungarian–German ethnomanagement and their interplay with “their own” minority literatures: the interrelation between the umbrella organization Landesselbstverwaltung der Ungarndeutschen (LdU) [National Self-government of the Hungarian Germans], Magyarországi Németek Országos Önkormányzata in Hungarian, and the literary production of German writers in Hungary is plainly apparent. The aforementioned anthologies and further essential works were published by the LdU itself, so we can conclude with some assurance that the authors accepted that their texts would be published by a forum that is above all responsible for Hungarian–German minority politics. Generally speaking, these anthologies suggest an “ethnic corporate identity” of Hungarian–German writers. One may assume that this was just what the National Minority Self Government (LdU) had intended, and the willingness of the authors to publish their texts in an anthology under the label “ungarndeutsche Literatur” (Hungarian–German literature) meets these requirements.
The most intensive interrelationship between Hungarian–German ethnomanagement and the minority’s creative minds is given in the aforementioned association VUdAK, which was founded in 1992. One main goal was to bring together authors and artists of German ethnic origin for joint workshops and to establish different publication platforms for authors and artists—from the perspective of the ethnomanagement instigated integration into the structures of the LdU. The paper Signale gives an overview of the various activities of VudAK. It is released annually in December as a supplement of the Hungarian–German weekly Neue Zeitung.28 In the case of poetry, VUdAK assigns itself the role of canonicalization of Hungarian–German literature.29 This approach seems to be in accordance with ethnomanagement, because the literary canon is ethnically motivated: boundaries are limited by Germanhood in a Hungarian–German sense.
Signale 2009 lists 12 volumes altogether in the literary book series of VUdAK, Reihe Literatur [Literature Series].30 This series provides an opportunity for publication for authors writing in German because, since the time of the political transformation, the Hungarian government has withdrawn a lot of government support programs for publication houses and the distribution of literature, as well as for authors themselves. A minimum of support comes from German speaking countries, and this might be one more reason for the formation of such a closed production-reception circuit (of which Hungarian–German literature is an example).31
With regard to “competitiveness” Angela Korb stated that members of the youngest generation of writers are too anxious to encourage one another.32 Generally speaking, philologists do not expect a high degree of competitiveness in the literature of minorities: e.g. the Transylvanian scholar of German literature Michael Markel explains this lack of competitiveness in the small number of active writers, and he mentions that a good working climate depends on the number of active writers, because it would advance competitiveness at least.33
Korb also stated that there was strong social control in the literature of minorities, and Hungary itself was easy to overlook.34 Therefore, the National Minority Self Government (LdU) was able to influence Hungarian–German literature easily via subventions and valuation. Even recently both elements, social control and the exercise of influence from LdU, are essential to the choice of subjects in literature. This leads to a strong interrelationship between the identity constructions of the Hungarian–German minority and Hungarian–German literature. Eszter Propszt analyzed the praxis of that interdiscourse and observed the use of German in contrast to the use of Hungarian in Hungarian–German literature:
Identity construction in the (Hungarian) German language goes far beyond simplistic problem reduction with regard to the suspension of fundamental practices […] identity construction in the (Hungarian) German language does not require such a complex socialization of the readers as in the Hungarian language.35
Her conclusion contains considerable significance regarding the reciprocity between Hungarian–German literature and its readers. It also mirrors the present situation, in which the younger generation of Germans in Hungary speaks Hungarian better than German. Therefore, it is not surprising that the German language stands symbolically for simplifying social practices, and this goes hand in hand with the demands of many of the recipients, who still claim that Hungarian–German subjects should be written about in understandable German, and not as part of the German of literary arts.
Another example related to Hungarian–German ethnomanagement affects the search for and recruitment of talented aspiring writers. The primary responsibility in that case is with—not surprisingly—the National Minority Self Government. The LdU tries to create loyalty to their “own” institution as early as possible, and tries to bind pupils and teenagers who write in German to its causes. This takes place primarily in the Nationalitätenschulen (minority schools under the rule of the Hungarian–German minority). Another instrument with which to find young writers is the annual Valeria Koch-Preis [Valeria Koch Award], an essay and diploma thesis competition in German that is open exclusively to adolescents of Hungarian–German origin. The 2011 Valeria Koch Award, for instance, was titled: “Was bedeutet mir, Ungarndeutsche/r zu sein?”36 [What does it mean to me to be Hungarian–German?] This remarkable title is obviously self-referential, because it urges adolescents of the Hungarian–German minority to reflect on their Hungarian–German identity construction. Another aspect linking the Valeria Koch Award closely to Hungarian–German ethnomanagement is institutionally based: the nomination process for this award is highly bureaucratic, e.g. the school nominates the relevant pupils, and academics can be nominated by their department chairs or by a local minority’s self-government or Hungarian–German society.
As stated above, the ethnomanagement of the Germans in Hungary and Romania tried more or less to emphasize a self-contained local originality within the field of German literature and, in contrast with the ethnomanagement of the Hungarians in Transylvania (erdélyi magyarok), tried to affiliate the Hungarian minority literature with the overall literary production in Hungarian. Ádám Bodor puts the position of Hungarian literary studies in a nutshell when he suggests that people have attempted to “smuggle” (visszacsempészni in orig.) the oeuvre of Hungarian authors who lived or live outside of Hungary “back” to the Hungarian literary canon.37 This demand corresponds well with the fact that the Erdélyi Magyar Írók Ligája38 [Transylvanian Hungarian Writers’ League] (E-MIL), which represents the interests of the Hungarian authors in Transylvania, works together with the Magyar Írószövetség [Hungarian Writers’ Union] in Budapest. Moreover, the E-MIL is financed by the Communitas foundation, which is under the roof of the Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség [Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania] (RMDSZ), the political representation of the Hungarian minority in Romania and, of course, in Transylvania.
The most significant difference between German authors in Hungary or Romania and Hungarian authors in Transylvania is illustrated by the fact that the last two chairmen of the above named RMDSZ are poets.
Firstly, I want to name the lyricist, literary critic and translator Béla Markó who entered the executive board of the RMDSZ in 1992 and in 1996 was given the Hungarian József Attila Award for literature. Béla Markó was chairman of the Union from 1993 to 2011, and during his long political career he held the office of a Minister of State in the Tăriceanu cabinet (2004–2007) and Deputy Premier in the Boc government (2009–2012). He wrote his first poetry in 1967 and his first volume of poems, entitled A szavak városában [In the City of Words], was published in 1974. The long list of publications includes the anthology Szétszedett világ. Egybegyűjtött versek, 1967–1995 [Torn World. Collected Poems, 1967–1995], published in 2000, and his recent volumes of poetry, entitled Visszabontás [Reinstate] 2011, Hasra esett a Maros (Gyermekversek) [The Marosch Fallen on the Belly, Poems for Children] 2012, and from same year the volume with Haiku poems entitled Boldog Sziszyphos [Lucky Sisyphos].39 Furthermore, an anthology entitled A feledékeny Európa [A Forgetful Europe], which contains Béla Markó’s speeches, lectures and interviews from 1990 to 1999, was published in 2000.
Secondly, Hunor Kelemen who succeeded him as the chairman of the RMDSZ is a lyricist and poet, too. Kelemen has been a member of the Romanian chamber of deputies since 2000, and he held the office of Minister of Culture during the Boc and Ungureanu governments (2009–2012). In 1995 Hunor Kelemen published his first volume of poetry, entitled Mínuszévek [Minusyears], and he was awarded with the debut prize from the Writers’ Union of Romania (Uniunea Scriitorilor din România) in 1996. A second volume of poetry followed in 2001, entitled A Szigetlakó [The Islander]. Between these two volumes of poetry, in 1999, Kelemen published a novel entitled A madárijesztők halála [The Scarecrows’ Death].40
Another character of Hungarian ethnomanagement in Transylvania is the lyricist and comedy writer György Csávosi who simultaneously fills the position of chairman of the Romániai Magyar Gazdák Egyesülete [Society of Hungarian Farmers in Romania]. He also participates in meetings of the Erdélyi Magyar Egyeztető Tanács [Consensus Forming Council of the Hungarians in Transylvania], which are of strategic relevance to the Hungarian minority in Transylvania. Hungarian lyricists and poets who are directly involved in minority politics include the following individual: from 1992 to 1996 the lyricist Lajos Magyari held the position of senator for the comitate (county) of Kovászna in the Romanian Parliament; István Ferenc, who has published eight volumes of poetry, holds a position on the board of the RMDSZ in the comitate of Csík in the heart of the Szeklerland (Székelyföld). The graphic artist, poet and journalist Éva Emese Gál is a collaborator of the RMDSZ in the Szeklerland as well, and she is also a member of the Hungarian Writers’ Union. The lyricist and dramatist Géza Szőcs has published more than ten volumes of poetry since 1975. In 1990 and 1991 he was General Secretary (főtitkár) of the RMDSZ, and until 1992 he also held a seat as a Senator in the Romanian Parliament. From 1993 to 2010 Géza Szőcs edited the periodical A Dunánál [At the Danube] in Hungary. In May 2010 Géza Szőcs was appointed to the position of State Secretary for Culture at the Ministry of National Resources, and in June 2012 he resigned. His example indicates that the combination of being a Hungarian writer, i.e. writing in Hungarian, together with experiences in Hungarian minority politics in Romania may form an adequate basis to be lifted on the shield in a Hungarian Ministry.
Contrary to an increasing Hungarian national ideology apostrophizing the Hungarian poets as “defenders” of the Hungarian language and culture in Hungary, the bilingual situation in Transylvania generally affects the recent Hungarian literature scene more and more, because the corporate feeling of the Hungarian minority, which was strengthened during the period of political oppression in Socialist Romania, loses its significance and as a consequence the production of literature is shifting towards individuality. The Transylvanian Hungarian Writers’ League (E-MIL) nowadays looks to a greater extent at the quality of the Hungarian literature than the commitment of the author the Hungarian (minority) identity. Nevertheless, one should not forget that E-MIL stands close to the Hungarian Writers’ Union, as mentioned above, and this of course “has a political background,” as noted by the Transylvanian poet Noémi László, who grew up in Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca, in an interview.41
A different group of writers comes from the elder generation and it ties into the more traditional local cultural backgrounds called “Transylvanism.” It is connected with poets like Árpád Farkas, Aladár Lászlóffi and with the Székelyföld [Szeklerland], where Transylvanian Hungarianness is related to the notion of a “preserved Hungarian language,” “pure soul” and “true Hungarianness.” As a reaction to this Transylvanism, a workshop of young poets under the leadership of the publishing house Előretolt Helyőrség [Avantgarde] goes in the opposite popular, frivolous and sometimes radical direction, and they introduce primarily erotic topics. Until recent times this workshop and publishing house has served as a springboard for young authors in Transylvania.
In recent times one also notes an opening and liberalization towards the Romanian audience, in literature as well as in works for the theater. Regarding this, I continue with a comment of Transylvanian author Imre József Balázs:
If we invite authors to our Literature Academy whose books are also available in Romanian, such as Ádám Bodor, György Dragomán or Attila Bartis, we of course organize a reading in a book store of Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca for a Romanian audience as well. There are always 30-40 enthusiasts of literature.42
János Dénes Orbán, a Brassó/Braşov born poet, former leader of E-MIL and present owner of the coffee shop “Bulgakov” in Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca, stated that under communism the majority of the literature written in Transylvania was translated into both languages. In an interview conducted by Judit Schoblocher in November 2011 Orbán noted that in present-day Romanian literature was also translated, and “Romanians are not that active, but they also do some translating.”43
Examples from the Fine Arts of the German and Hungarian Minorities
In contrast to literature, the fine arts have the advantage that they are a priori a universally ‘understandable’ medium,44 and the reciprocity between minority artist and minority audience therefore appears different. The perceived value of the ethnic marker language—which is more or less hyperbolically represented in relation with language minorities—levels off, and there is no further need to deliberate over the question of local dialect versus standard language as another marker. The following examples should not lead to the use of categorizations like ‘folk art’ versus fine arts, and neither do I wish address the question of whether typical ungarndeutsche, rumäniendeutsche or erdélyi magyar (folk) art exists at all.
The relationship between ethnomanagement and the arts is primarily established by the ethnic origins of the artists. Furthermore, the examples illustrate the relationship between the self-localization of the artist within the minority and the thematic motifs of his/her art. The acceptance of a public contract often goes hand in hand with the choice of the motif, and it is therefore frequently rooted somewhere in the culture of remembrance of the minority. Another form of acceptance is given by any system of subventions coming from the public sector, with its contemporary political and sometimes ideological and ethnically motivated guidelines prescribing which types of arts and which artists are eligible for subsidies (and which are not). So far, this is another obvious aspect of ethnomanagement.
In 1992 VUdAK was constituted as an association of the former Ungarndeutscher Schriftstellerverband [Hungarian–German writers association founded in 1990], together with Hungarian–German artists. As is the case for Hungarian–German authors, for some of them VUdAK is the closest tie to the LdU. As was mentioned above, the umbrella organization LdU subsidizes VUdAK activities. Concerning the literature series, VUdAK set up the publication series Kunst [Arts].45 The Hungarian–German Neue Zeitung reports weekly on current and ongoing exhibitions. The abovementioned annual revue Signale gives a broader overview.
The following two examples will show certain interlinkages between ethnomanagement and the fine arts, embedded within the framework of the culture of remembrance of the German minority in Hungary:
Figure 1. Ferenc Trischler, bronze sculpture in the courtyard of the Lenau house in Pécs/Fünfkirchen, erected in 1995. Photo courtesy of the author
The statue cast in bronze refers to the expulsion (kitelepítés in Hungarian) of the Germans from Hungary, which took place from the end of World War II to June 1946.46 The sculptor, Ferenc Trischler, is of Hungarian–German origin and the statue itself was commissioned for the Hungarian–German cultural center Lenau house in Pécs/Fünfkirchen.
Trischler was born in 1945 in Németbóly/Deutsch-Bohl (today Bóly/Bohl). He first served his apprenticeship as a house painter. Then, after his friend, the sculptor János Meszlényi, had persuaded him to pursue a career as an artist, he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, where he got his degree in 1975. The human “form” is at the center of his work, and his sculptures express symbolic and allegorical concepts. In most cases Trischler uses bronze. He created many works for public spaces and his bronze sculptures can be found all over Hungary, but primarily in the southwestern part of the country, named Dél-Dunántúl [Southern Transdanubia]. The bronze sculptures are commissioned for communities or public institutions. Ferenc Trischler calls up symbolic and allegorical concepts of Hungarian history by depicting important personalities, such as Szent István király [King St. Stephen] (Heves and Döbrönte, both 2001), István Széchenyi (Pécs 2010), József Rippl-Rónai (Kaposvár 2009), Turul and the Trianon monument (Lajosmizse 2001), and Mátyás király [King Matthew] (Lajosmizse 2003).47
The second example concerns the memorial in Elek,48 a small town in southeastern Hungary close to the Romanian border. The bronze sculptures were inaugurated on August 18, 2001 and commemorate the 5,000 Hungarian–Germans who had to leave Elek in 1946 forevermore. The sculptor, Sándor Kligl, is also of Hungarian–German origin.
After the inauguration ceremony the issue of the Neue Zeitung wrote the following on the memorial: “[…] the stylized street front of a farm house, where the avenging angel stands proudly triumphant in front of the home of a Danube-Svabian family at the very last moment before they were displaced.” (Translated by the author)49
Sándor Kligl calls himself Kliegl, too. The second form is the German spelling of his name and in this way he may symbolically switch between his Hungarian and his German identities.50 Kligl completed his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest in 1975. Like Ferenc Trischler, Kligl has also created many bronze sculptures for the public spaces of Hungarian communities. Furthermore, in connection with the culture of remembrance, Kligl is a specialist in bronze memorial plaques (emléktáblák in Hungarian),51 which have been installed in public spaces of Hungarian communities, too. The motifs of the sculptures and memorial plaques were commissioned for the officials and are interwoven with motifs of Hungarian history. Sándor Kligl has created, for example, the following bronze sculptures: Kovács Béla (Budapest, Kossuth Square, 2002); József Attila (in a center of a group with altogether five sculptures, Hódmezővásárhely, 2005) as well as King Stephen and his wife Gizella (Szeged, 1996).52
Returning to the close connection between works of art—here within the framework of the culture of remembrance—of Hungarian–German artists and Hungarian–German ethnomanagement I would like to give another citation from the inauguration ceremony of the memorial in Elek:
The local German minority self-government and the German society for the Cultivation of Traditions were glad that the chairman of LdU Otto Heinek and Agnes Szauer, senior councilor in the Department for National and Ethnic Minorities, were among them. (Translated by the author.)53
Both examples of sculptors demonstrate the connecting line between the history of the German minority in Hungary—in both cases the traumatic displacement of the Germans after World War II—and the commission of the artists, as well as the Hungarian and the Hungarian–German public, and, last but not least, Hungarian–German ethnomanagement.
At the Hungarian Day of Painting in 2011 in Újbuda art historian Zoltán Vécsi Nagy stated that during the Ceauşescu era the Hungarian artists in Romania were caught between a rock and a hard place because the nationalist education policy at the time eclipsed the minority arts on the one side of the border and the art historians in Hungary were not interested in Hungarian art outside of the borders of the state.54 After the breakdown of communism and during the transformation period one observes a ‘rediscovery’ of the historical past and national affiliation in contemporary Hungarian minority art, if as a supplementary aspect. The main focus—also in the identity formation of minority arts—still refers to the relationship between belonging to a minority and being an artist. Moreover, everything together has to be considered with the role and capabilities of the arts within a certain society and its political and cultural institutions.
The outstanding institution supporting Hungarian fine arts in Transylvania is the Barabás Miklós Céh [Miklós Barabás Guild] (BMC) in Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca. It serves officially as the Erdélyi Magyar Képzőművészeti Egyesület [Transylvanian Hungarian Art Society], founded after the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 by Károly Kós and Sándor Szonay. The foundation of this BMC was necessary because of basic disparities between Hungarian and Romanian art history. It was simply a question of ethnic boundaries between the two different ethnic groups. It was the history of the arts in general, because the Hungarian art school orientated itself around the Munich school, in contrast with the Romanian art school, which was more tied to Paris. Hungarian art always tended to constructiveness with even more temperament than the German role model, and later on Hungarian art took over elements from the Novacentist school in Rome. So Miklós Jakobovits, the chairman of the BMC, which was reinstalled in 1994 after a long mandatory break, argues that the present value system of the BMC is still founded on this historical basis, but nowadays a Hungarian heritage is not required to become a member of the guild, and it is not required to have graduated from an art academy. Today, the Jury of the BMC is more or less responsible for the recruitment of new members, and they tend to focus on Transylvanian traditions, although they remain aware, of course, that art is international, and Transylvanian artists sometimes became famous in foreign countries.55
The BMC is a member of the Hungarian umbrella society Magyar Képzőművészek és Iparművészek Szövetsége [Association of Hungarian Fine and Applied Artists] (MKISZ) in Budapest,56 but in Transylvania it maintains close relationships with Romanian art associations. The art historian, Júlia Németh, vice chairperson of the BMC, argues that Transylvanian Hungarian artists had to fight against stereotypes like “conservative,” “traditional” or “hermetical” for a long time. At the moment the attribute “Transylvanian,” together with the noun art, may “rather positively imply a crossover of cultures boding something good.” In this context “Transylvanian Hungarian fine arts” (in the Hungarian sense of erdélyi magyar) is at present more a “cultural historical notion, and the formerly stressed attribute Hungarian is shifting towards Transylvanian.”57
From the Romanian point of view art critics nowadays do not only “accept” Hungarian arts from Transylvania, they subsume it easily under the notion of “Romanian art.” Moreover, Hungarian Transylvanian artists can get a lifetime achievement award from Romanian institutions, and they can represent Romania abroad at exhibitions. Under these conditions and preconditions, even the local connections to the abovementioned “Transylvanism” recede within the younger generation of Transylvanian Hungarian artists and open up to the question as to whether nationality will work as a group regulative in a globalizing European society. As an example of an artist collective, one might mention the Bázis csoport [Basis Group] in Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca, where the absence of official funding led to the formation of this self-organized group. In the beginning, in 2008, the artists Zsolt Berszán, István Betuker, István Duka Kudor and Szabolcs Veres rented the buildings of a bankrupt factory from the (at the time) new owners. The buildings serve as galleries and offer space for dance and theater performances. Furthermore, the Basis Group publishes the bilingual Bázis magazine in Hungarian and Romanian, concentrating on critics and art reviews as well as on their international network. The quick high profile of the Basis Group resulted in the submission of many applications for exhibitions (submissions continue to arrive). Nevertheless, the Basis Group is self-organized, and the main part of the costs could only be covered by the sale on the international market of their own artworks.
Another example of an essential link between arts and Hungarian–German ethnomanagement is the Deutsche Bühne Ungarn/Magyarorzági Német Színház [German Theater in Hungary] (DBU) in the small town of Szekszárd in the Dél-Dunántúl area. German performing arts started there in 1982 on the bilingual (German/Hungarian) stage Schaubühne [Playhouse] placed in the Mihály Babits Kulturhaus [Mihály Babits Arts Centre]. The name has been transformed into DBU in 1989 and the DBU has moved in the current location in 1994.58
Figure 2. Main entrance of the DBU in Szekszárd, which is based in the building of the former Világ Mozgó [World Cinema]. Photo courtesy of the author
The theater celebrated its 25th anniversary in June 2009. So, Otto Heinek, the chairman of the LdU, underlined the important role of the theater in his commemorative speech, and he mentioned that it was not only “an integral part of our Hungarian–German cultural landscape but also an important column of our cultural autonomy”59 (translated by the author).
The DBU is the only professional German speaking minority theater. Furthermore, it is integrated into the theatrical landscape in Hungary. When I visited the Deutsche Bühne in 2008 it employed 35 people of Hungarian, Hungarian–German, German, or Romanian–German ethnic origin. The theater management wants to give a vital example to preserve the German language. Every year the ensemble tours Hungary, holding about 40 performances. The language of the performances is strictly Hoch-Deutsch [Standard German], and interpreting equipment with written captions in Hungarian guarantees that everyone in Hungary can understand the plays.
The theater manager Ildikó Frank (an actress from 2001–2004 and manager since 2004) characterizes the principal role of the DBU: “If we do our job well, we’ll win supporters for the German language, identity and culture.”60 A very close connection to Hungarian–German ethnomanagement is based on the fact that Ildikó Frank is the daughter of Gábor Frank, who was the director of the Valeria Koch Schulzentrum [V. K. School Centre] in Pécs before he became director of the Ungarndeutsches Pädagogisches Institut (UdPI) [Hungarian–German Pedagogical Institute] in Pécs; above all he is vice chairman of the LdU for education and he was for many years chairman of the Komitatsselbstverwaltung [self-government of the county] of the Hungarian–Germans in the county of Baranya/Branau in Pécs. Ildikó Frank stated in the interview that she had learned a lot from her father in connection with German with regard to the Hungarian–German identity, and that his experience had had a positive influence on her work.61 This father-daughter constellation shows symbolically the tight-knit inner structure of Hungarian–German ethnomanagement.
The Hungarian theater in Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca has a long lasting tradition since it was founded in 1792. The house hosts the theater and the opera together, and the opera has been a separate institution since 1948. After the transition, the Kolozsvári Állami Magyar Színház [Hungarian National Theatre in Kolozsvár] tried to tread a new path, breaking with the tradition and becoming predominantly an instrument for national education seeking to evolve into a theater that interacts with the audience. Therefore, three to four times a year the theater management invites local or even foreign directors, who have a talk with the audience after the performance. The language in the theater is Hungarian, but the performances are subtitled in Romanian or if necessary in foreign languages, like English, French or German.62 These dynamics resulted in a move away from local Transylvanian or Hungarian nationalist attitudes, and this was praised in the Romanian press and also won the theater fully booked performances. The writer, art director and advisor of the Hungarian national theater in Kolozsvár, András Visky, stresses that “it has been good to identify with being a city theater and not necessarily a minority theater, because it has been good for the minority to communicate to others and to prevail against each form of closedness.”63 The financial needs of the Hungarian national theater are covered mainly by the Romanian Ministry of Culture, as well as the RMDSZ, the Hungarian political party in Romania.
Another quite different Hungarian theater in Transylvania is the Váróterem Projekt [Waiting Room Project], which calls itself Alternatív színházi törekvések Erdély szívében [Alternative Theatrical Ambitions in the Heart of Transylvania].64 The Váróterem Projekt was founded in 2009 in Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca by Zsolt Csepeli, András Visky and Levente Imecs, three friends who met at the Acting school of the University. Since 2010 the Váróterem Projekt has been an official society, and the collaborators are members of this society. At the end of 2011 the staff included seven actors and eight other staff members, such as the dramaturge and the costume designer. In accordance with the financial resources, two new performances per year are within a realistic framework. All performances are in Hungarian, subtitled in Romanian. There is no direct cooperation with the abovementioned Hungarian Theater in Kolozsvár, although András Visky, one of the founders of the Váróterem Projekt, is the son of the homonymous art director of the Hungarian Theater. Levente Imecs put the artistic potential of the Váróterem Projekt in a nutshell:
I am sure that we are able to create performances to our tastes. Classical theater will be performed perfectly by the Hungarian Theater in Kolozsvár. We are not able and we do not want to reach that level, and therefore it is evident that our path is marked by ”direct indirectness”.65
Moreover, the Váróterem Projekt tours with its performances in Transylvania and Hungary, and they participate in festivals too, but when they are asked to perform traditional or popular plays, they refuse.
Each of the three categories—literature, the fine arts and the performing arts—exemplifies a different approach to the ethnomanagement of the German minority in Hungary and the Hungarians and Germans in Transylvania. The poets are strongly obligated to the minority language, and this is likely the key to the question as to why in many cases they have readily assumed the role of sustainers in the sense of “a minority can only survive as long as the minority language is used.” German and Hungarian ethnomanagement takes advantage of the writers’ language dependence and ennobles the poets in this role. But writers do not lodge any (independent culture) protest against this ennoblement. One of the main reasons for this might be that many of them are in certain ways dependent on subsidies granted directly by ethnomanagement societies like the LdU and the Forum to the Germans and the RMDSZ to the Hungarians.
The institutions of the performing arts, namely the Deutsche Bühne Ungarn and the Hungarian Theater in Kolozsvár, are placed in the role of cultural sustainer too, and in comparison to semi-professional writers or artists they are even more dependent on subsidies. Therefore, one observes a much closer conjunction of the German and Hungarian minority theaters to ethnomanagement on a monetary basis. The Váróterem Projekt works in a manner that is more or less out of the ordinary, although it is also a means of embodying and transmitting the Hungarian language in Transylvania via the performing arts.
This leads us to the fine arts, which have no particular obligation to the German or Hungarian language. The ethnic marker heritage with regard to the belonging to the German or Hungarian minority is the key to ethnomanagement. My two Hungarian–German examples, however, show that the abovementioned sculptors created their bronze memorials in the majority of cases for the culture of remembrance of Hungary—I intentionally listed many other bronze memorials of the sculptors in this paper—and only in very special cases for the culture of remembrance of the German minority in Hungary.
An examination of the work of Transylvanian Hungarian artists shows the differences in the sequence of generations of artists. The elder and midlife generation sticks to Hungarian ethnic affiliations and to local “Transylvanism”. The younger generation mirrors much more a social community that has been formed by Transylvanian cultural diversity, where ethnicity stands for one element within the increasingly individualized forms of artistic expression.
As a last note, I wish to underline that poets, artists and performers resemble one another predominantly in their economic relationships to “their” minorities’ ethnomanagement, and furthermore, this dependent relationship is in most cases stronger than any subordination under the terms and conditions of ethnicity.
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1 This article is based on research done during the Austrian FWF-funded project P 20 060; I also wish to thank Judit Schoblocher, MA for assisting me with interviews.
2 Klaus-Jürgen Hermanik, “Ethnomanagement: Deutsche und Ungarn im südöstlichen Europa (im ausgehenden 20. und 21. Jahrhundert)” (Habilitation, University of Graz, 2012).
3 The German version Identitätsmanagement was introduced into the scholarly community in 1981 by Ina Maria Greverus and Christian Giordano. Ina-Maria Greverus, “Ethnizität und Identitätsmanagement,” Schweizer Zeitschrift für Soziologie 7 (1981): 223–32; and Christian Giordano, “Ethnizität: Soziale Bewegung oder Identitätsmanagement?,” Schweizer Zeitschrift für Soziologie 7 (1981): 179–98.
4 Richard McElreath, Robert Boyd, and Peter J. Richerson, “Shared Norms and the Evolution of Ethnic Markers,” Current Anthropology 44 (2003): 122–29.
5 The translated version Hungarian–German or Hungarian–Germans should be closely related to the German original Ungarn–Deutsch or Ungarn–Deutsche(r).
6 On Minority Rights and Minority Rights Practice related to Hungary and Romania see: Sergiu Constantin, “Romania,” in European Integration and its Effects on Minority Protection in South Eastern Europe, ed. Emma Lantschner et al. (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2008), 139–66; Ferenc Eiler and Nóra Kovács, “Minority Governments in Hungary,” in Minority Governance in Europe, ed. Kinga Gél (Budapest: ECMI, 2002), 171–97; Herbert Küpper, Das neue Minderheitenrecht in Ungarn (Munich: Oldenburg, 1998); József Petrétei, “Die verfassungsrechtliche und einfachrechtliche Ausgestaltung des Minderheitenschutzes in Ungarn,” in Minderheitenschutz in Mittel- und Osteuropa, ed. Gerrit Manssen, and Boguslaw Banaszak (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 2001) 167–89.
7 Cf. Györgyi Bindorffer, Kettős identitás. Etnikai és nemzeti azonosságtudat Dunabogdányban (Budapest: Új Mandátum, 2001).
8 Cf. Küpper, Minderheitenrecht, 259.
9 While Rogers Brubaker demands ethnicity without groups, we have to consider that—especially during/after the times of transformation—in Southeast Europe and Southeast Central Europe ethno-nationalism grew stronger and politics are made first and foremost by ethnic groups. Cf. Rogers Brubaker: Ethnicity Without Groups (Cambridge, Mass.–London: Harvard University Press, 2004).
10 Paul Philippi, “Ohne ‘Wir’ wird es nicht gehen: WIR sind Nobelpreisträger und Fast-premier. Aber was haben WIR dafür getan?,” Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien, October 27, 2009, accessed October 30, 2009, http://www.adz.ro/m091027.htm#1.
11 The Demokratische Verband der Deutschen in Ungarn/Democratic Alliance of Germans in Hungary was the precursor to the present Landesverband der Deutschen in Ungarn (LdU).
12 Cf. Alfred Coulin, “Neue ungarndeutsche Literatur,” in Ungarndeutsche Literatur der siebziger und achtziger Jahre. Eine Dokumentation, ed. János Szabó and Johann Schuth (Munich–Budapest: Mixtus, 1991), 17.
13 Cf. Helmut Rudolf, “Ungarndeutsche Literatur heute. Ein erster Beitrag zur Positionsbestimmung,” in ibid., 32.
14 Cf. Heidi Ritter, “Schritte im Prozeß literarischer Selbstverständigung. Bemerkungen zu einer ungarndeutschen Anthologie,” in ibid., 52.
15 Cf. János Szabó, “Die ungarndeutsche Gegenwartsliteratur vor historischem Hintergrund,” in ibid., 266.
16 Cf. Georg Wittmann, “In eigener, gemeinsamer literarischer Angelegenheit,” in ibid., 56.
18 Angela Korb in an interview conducted in April 2010.
19 The order corresponds with the frequency of occurrence.
20 Angela Korb in an interview conducted in April 2010.
21 Cf. János Szabó, “Über den Gedichtband von Valeria Koch,” in ibid., 61. The title of Szabó’s paper refers to the bilingual, German–Hungarian volume of poetry titled “Zuversicht – Bizalom” (= Confidence), Valeria Koch’ s first volume published in 1982.
22 Cf. András Balogh, “Deutschsprachige Literatur in Ungarn,” in Deutsche in Ungarn, Ungarn und Deutsche: Interdisziplinäre Zugänge, ed. Frank Almai and Ulrich Fröschle (Budapest: Thelem, 2004), 178–79.
24 Julia Ucsnay, “Das mitschlagende Herz – Valeria Koch und die ungarndeutsche Literatur. Interview with Rita Pável,” Neue Zeitung, June 3, 2005, 4.
25 Cf. Rita Pável, “Entwicklungsgeschichtliche Erwägungen zur ungarndeutschen Literatur. Mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die zweite Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts” (PhD Diss., ELTE University of Budapest, 2006), 257.
26 Cf. ibid., 259.
27 Cf. ibid., 209.
29 Cf. Signale, 25, no. 1 (2008): 4.
30 Cf. Signale, 25, no. 1 (2009): 16.
31 Cf. Pável, “Entwicklungsgeschichtliche Erwägungen zur ungarndeutschen Literatur,” 266.
32 Angela Korb in an interview conducted in April 2010.
33 Cf. Michael Markel, “’Ich wohne in Europa/Ecke Nummer vier’: Identitätsprobleme einer Minderheitenliteratur im Spiegel der siebenbürgisch-deutschen Literaturgeschichte,” in Die deutsche Literaturgeschichte Ostmittel- und Südosteuropas von der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts bis heute. Forschungsschwerpunkte und Defizite, ed. Anton Schwob (Munich: Südostdeutsches Kulturwerk, 1992), 165.
34 Angela Korb in an interview conducted in April 2010.
35 Eszter Propszt, Zur interdiskursiven Konstruktion ungarndeutscher Identität in der ungarndeutschen Gegenwartsliteratur (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2007), 209.
37 Ádám Bodor, “Előszó,” in A határon túli irodalom kislexikona 1920-tól napjainkig, ed. Erzsébet Erdélyi and Iván Nobel, vol. 6. (Budapest: Fiesta és Saxum 2000). The present lexikon contains eight volumes and keeps a record of about 100 interviews with authors who write in Hungarian and live outside of Hungary.
41 Noémi László in an interview conducted in November 2011.
42 Imre József Balázs in an interview conducted in November 2011.
43 János Dénes Orbán in an interview conducted in November 2011.
44 Angela Korb in an interview conducted in April 2010.
46 On the displacement of the Germans from Hungary after WWII see Ágnes Tóth, Migrationen in Ungarn 1945–1948: Vertreibungen der Ungarndeutschen, Binnenwanderungen und Slowakisch–Ungarischer Bevölkerungsaustausch (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2001), 125–76.
47 The sculptures are pictured on köztérkép, accessed February 23, 2011, www.kozterkep.hu;
48 See the memorial on the homepage of Elek, accessed February 25, 2011,
49 Translated from edda, “Würdige und erhabene Gedenkstätte,” Neue Zeitung 35 (2001): 5.
50 See the personal homepage of Sándor Kli(e)gl, accessed August 31, 2013,
53 Edda, “Würdige und erhabene Gedenkstätte,” 5.
54 Endre Penovac, “A festészet napja” [The Day of Painting], Magyar Szó, November 6, 2011, accessed August 31, 2013, http://www.magyarszo.com/hu/2011_11_06/kultura_irodalom/46833/.
55 Miklós Jakobovits in an interview conducted in November 2011. One example of famous Hungarian Transylvanian sculptors is the Homoród-born Viktor Román (1937–1995), who left for Paris, where a couple of his statues had been erected.
57 Júlia Németh in an interview in November 2011.
59 N.N. (The author’s pseudonym), “‘Ein wichtiger Pfeiler der kulturellen Autonomie’ . Deutsche Bühne Ungarn feierte ihr 25jähriges Bestehen,” Neue Zeitung, June 5, 2009, accessed August 30, 2013, http://www.neue-zeitung.hu/54-19456.php.
60 Ildikó Frank in an interview conducted in February 2008.
62 The Hungarian National Theatre in Kolozsvár is member of the Union of Theatres of Europe UTE, which guarantees an exchange of productions.
63 András Visky in an interview conducted in November 2011.
65 Levente Imecs in an interview conducted in November 2011.