In the Pull of the West: Resistance, Concessions and Showing off from the Stalinist Practice in Hungarian culture after 19561
Institute of Political History, Budapest
The article explores the representation of Western culture in Hungarian journalism, print media, and public life in the months following the 1956 revolution, when the party lost its strict control over Hungarian society and only gradually was able to reassert its dominance in all spheres of life. Did representations of Western culture really constitute a kind of resistance, or should they perhaps be understood as concessions to prevalent public opinion? Or did they in fact harmonize in some way with the actual intentions of the people who crafted cultural policy? How did the content of newspapers begin to change in November 1956, clashing with the earlier “socialist cultural canon” by presenting formerly censured or anathematized Western cultural products and actors? How was the supply of movies adjusted to public opinion and then slowly readjusted to correspond to former norms? How did theater programs and plans for book publishing reflect the uncertainty of the period, resulting in the publication of works and performance of productions later criticized for bringing values to the stage that were contrary to the spirit of socialism? In this paper, I analyze a provisional period in which earlier norms of journalism, print media, and cultural life were partially suspended and the party made little or no real attempts to reassert Stalinist norms. Moreover, in this period the party did not deny or bring a stop to the de-Stalinization of cultural life, although it did repress open forms of cultural resistance to the Kádár-government.