Spectacular History: Photography, Film and Exhibitions in Representations of the Hungarian Soviet Republic after 1956
The article explores the implications of communist representations of history as it relates to representation and evidence in historical theory. It investigates the attempts of the party historians to establish a historical connection between the “counterrevolutions” of 1919 and 1956: as they argued, the counterrevolution that had been born in 1919 and ruled the country until 1945 and, subsequently, been forced “underground” by the Soviet Red Army and the new communist power, was able to “resurrect itself” once again in 1956. It examines how they attempted to authenticate this historical abstraction through various historical, mostly visual, records: photography, film and exhibitions. The article argues that an unusual attitude towards evidence prevailed in these historical works. Although communist historians boasted of referring to an abundance of original source material, their narrative frames of representation proved to be fictitious: sources were selected not in order to draw conclusions regarding historical processes, but instead to illustrate various pre-figured abstract constructions of history. The aim of this method was to maintain the separation of the empirical source base and the philosophical-theological imagination surrounding the meanings of history in order to unbind the latter from evidence and tie it to political ideologies and commitments.