Legenda vetus, Acta processus canonizationis et Miracula sanctae Margaritae de Hungaria: The Oldest legend, Acts of canonization process, and miracles of Saint Margaret of Hungary. Edited by Ildikó Csepregi, Gábor Klaniczay, and Bence Péterfi. Translated by Ildikó Csepregi, Clifford Flanigan, and Louis Perraud. Central European Medieval Texts 8. Budapest – New York: Central European University Press, 2018.
Another volume in the Central European Medieval Texts series is the second presenting hagiography. Bilingual editions of the narrative sources from Central Europe and modern translations into widespread academic languages are undoubtedly necessary. The hagiographical corpus of Saint Margaret (1242–1270), daughter of King Béla IV, and Dominican nun, is one of the most important ones. Holy princesses following St. Elizabeth of Hungary present the transition towards new models of sanctity, but also represent the prestige of the ruling dynasties, and reflect their cooperation with the mendicant orders. The book offers the first translation of hagiography related to Margaret into English and any modern language (except for Hungarian translations, and fragmentary translations into Czech and Slovak, and excerpts in various studies). The history of the translation goes back to the 1980s, with delays and several editors and translators involved over time, and luckily reached a happy ending much faster than the centuries-long quest for the canonization of Margaret, with success in 1943.
The volume contains the oldest legend (between 1272–75), the acts of the second canonization investigation (1276)—both on the basis of existing editions, a series of recently discovered documents on the fifteenth-century miracles, edited for the first time, and a few more documents related to medieval canonization attempts (both newly discovered and those edited earlier).
G. Klaniczay’s introduction not only summarizes the state of research on the saint (overview of hagiography and canonization efforts), but adds observations on the phenomenon of royal and female sanctity, especially in the thirteenth century. The introductions to particular parts explain the vicissitudes of the sources from the dossier and their relation to canonization attempts.
The edition and translation of two oldest texts, the legend and the acts, which further served as bases for later lives of the saint, form the core of the volume. The editors accept Marcellus as the author of the oldest legend, for which they adopt the designation Legenda vetus. The basis for the translation is the most recent edition by Szovák (1999), which introduced emendations to the first edition by its discoverer Bőle (1937). The explanation of the base text is somewhat hidden in the introduction by Csepregi (p.38); it would perhaps merit a separate section, including applied conventions, etc. The editors accept Szovák’s corrections, and profit occasionally, as signaled in the apparatus, from further variants proposed by Ilona Nagy working on the Hungarian vernacular legend, or note variants by Bőle. Corrected readings are introduced in the apparatus only; it is a question whether they would be better placed in the main text itself. Biblical citations are identified at places. New critical editions are not the objectives of the series; in this case as well the editors take the old source edition as the basis and add some critical insights. We often have to admit that a new critical edition of the source in question would be desirable. Part III, Acts of the Canonization Process, is the most voluminous one (570 pages!), based on Fraknói’s edition (1896), adding minimum apparatus to the Latin text. The translation of depositions of witnesses, answering the puncta interrogatoria in detail, is a great achievement. Footnotes bring in a lot of useful information: identification of persons, dates, and places, explanation of local realia, but also issues concerning female sanctity and alike.
The volume summarizes recent important findings concerning Margaret’s hagiography and canonization attempts (Deák, Krafft, Nagy, Péterfi) for a broader audience as well. The history of the St. Margaret dossier abounds in discoveries. The basic sources from the period shortly after Margaret’s death are supplemented with the edition and translation of the documents found by Péterfi in the Archivio Orsini (Archivio Storico Capitolino, Rome), described in 2011. The introductions to Parts IV–V provide the first description of the hitherto unknown 6 charters (one of them with transcription of 7 others), including miracle depositions, for non-Hungarian readers. Their edited material is of utmost interest to the Hungarian audience as well.
The editor argues that the set of documents was related to the renewed attempt at canonization during the reign of Matthias Corvinus, which was known about for a long time (thanks to two undated petition letters from ca. 1462–64), but precise information had been missing. The hypothesis that the charters got into the Orsini family archives (where they remained unknown for centuries even to those who renewed the attempts at her canonization in the following centuries) via Latino Orsini, who acted as cardinal protector of the Kingdom of Hungary and was probably entrusted with submitting the issue, is convincing.
The documents include depositions of miracles that happened at the tomb of Margaret in 1446–67, edited and translated in Part V (V/1–11), with necessary corrections in the Latin text and notes in the English translation (mainly identification of persons and places, specification of dates, etc.). They have a noteworthy format of charters issued by the Buda chapter and authenticated by public notaries. They provide information about the local cult on the Island of Hares in the Danube, about which we did not know much previously.
Part IV contains Correspondence relating to Margaret’s medieval canonization attempts, altogether 9 mandates and letters: besides two hitherto unknown documents—the copy of the first papal mandate for starting the investigation (1272) and the petition of Emeric, bishop of Várad/Oradea (1306)—discovered in the Orsini dossier by Péterfi, the editors included other documents related to the Angevin and Corvinus attempts at canonization (edited previously by Krafft and Fraknói).
The last part, a useful tool, offers a list of hagiographic sources—there is much more in the Margaret dossier than the sources translated here — their first and best editions and modern translations. A Slovak translation in Legendy stredovekého Slovenska (ed. Marsina, transl. Vaneková, 1997) could be added to the list of translations of the Legenda maior by Garinus (for long referred to as the Legenda Neapolitana, BHL 5331). It should be noted that the listed Czech translation of the Legenda vetus by Pražák contains only its part (around a third). The summary of the life and miracles of Margaret in a chapter of the Epithoma rerum Hungararum by Ransanus (ed. Kulcsár, pp.123–31, BHL 5333) could have been included in the discussion and catalogue of the sources, especially as it falls within the reign of Corvinus, a couple of decades after the new depositions and petition.
The volume will be of interest not only to scholars of medieval hagiography, but also those interested in the insights into everyday life in the cloister, in towns and villages, and in general life in thirteenth-century Hungary. Besides translating the known important sources, the editing and translating of hitherto unknown documents gives the volume an added value.
Comenius University in Bratislava
Mulieres suadentes – Persuasive Women. Female Royal Saints in Medieval East Central Europe and Eastern Europe. By Martin Homza. Translated by Martina Fedorová et al. East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages 42. Leiden: Brill, 2017. 260 pp.
Undoubtedly, the topics of female sanctity and the role of women in ruling dynasties, pertaining also to conversion to Christianity in medieval Europe, have been extensively researched during recent decades. Most studies however focus on Western Europe, while the analogous phenomenon in East Central and Eastern Europe is usually overlooked or appears only marginally. This gap has partially been filled by the publications of medievalists from the region, including Martin Homza’s monograph published in Slovakian in 2002. Their reception was, however, limited due to the language barrier. For this reason the English, expanded version of the book is more than welcome.
The book opens with a short but important chapter explaining the methodological approach of the author, the presence of which is a definite improvement upon the original edition. The next two chapters describe the phenomenon of the religious role of women in ruling dynasties in Central and Eastern Europe, especially persuasive women, that is, those who influenced their pagan husbands, sons, or grandsons. The comparative character of this analysis is praiseworthy.
The following three chapters are case studies of the images of three such women. The cult of Ludmila of Bohemia and its influence is discussed with a special focus on her image in the homily Factum est. Homza shows its similarity to that of Olga of Rus’, observed in various sources in the following chapter. Finally, in analyzing the figure of Adelaide—according to the thirteenth-century Hungarian-Polish Chronicle, the mother of St. Stephen of Hungary, who converted her husband Géza (Yesse)—the author poses the question of her real existence on the one hand and of the ideological basis of her presence in the chronicle on the other. The book ends with a short conclusion.
The material gathered in the book without a doubt is not only very interesting but also important for further research. However, the material is presented in ways that might be questioned, as the use of some of the analytical categories is problematic.
I would like to focus on only one, namely, the way the author understands the category of sanctity, which seems to be rather fluid. I do this, of course, not in order to claim that sanctity, especially in the Middle Ages, is a sort of either/or category; however, some distinctions should be observed more carefully. In fact, contrary to the title of the book (Female Royal Saints), of the group of Central and Eastern European women the author focuses on, only Ludmila and Olga were really venerated as saints, while Dubravka of Poland and Jelena of Croatia were never treated as such; the latter can hardly even be called a persuasive woman, as she did not participate in the conversion of anybody. Of course the author himself is conscious of this and informs us of the cult of particular figures or its lack, but one must ask if sanctity is in fact the category which could be effectively used in the analysis of all of their images. I would rather suggest that the book is much more about the patterns of female royal religiosity than about sanctity or female royal saints.
This problem might be related with a misunderstanding that appears in the very beginning. Discussing the question of royal sanctity in his methodological chapter, Homza calls Bloch’s Les rois thaumaturges and Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies “a fundamental change in hagiographic studies” (p.4). Yet, in my opinion, neither of those can be treated as a part of such studies, as both are rather focused on the phenomenon of sacralization of royal power—strictly connected, but distinct from royal sainthood. As Janet Nelson aptly noted in her 1973 Royal Saints and Early Medieval Kingship, “the concept of sanctity itself could be not only sharply differentiated from sacrality but turned against it” (p.43).
Sometimes even in the case of figures that are to be found in Folz’s Les saintes reines du Moyen Âge, we should be very careful in asking about their real cult and its influence. We should also distinguish different patterns of sanctity. For instance, Homza uses the example of Ottonian saint queens and empresses, Matilda of Saxony and Adelaide of Burgundy, and shows them as “the most immediate inspiration for a creation of the image of St. Ludmila” (p.86), as well as “the most important models to legitimize a new dynasty in a broader context of East Central and East Europe” (p.87). However it should not be overlooked that although both women were believed to be saints, in fact it was only in very limited circles. In the case of the former we do not know of any cult at all, while the cult of the latter remained very local. From this point of view, their status as commonly accepted saints might be questioned, but even more so, it is doubtful that their images could be so influential in Central Europe. The other problem is that although Ludmila was presented in her hagiography as a pious widow, she was at the same time—a fact undoubtedly crucial for her cult—a martyr. So we may wonder to what extent the above-mentioned examples of queens/confessor saints might be seen as models for her image. For the same reason one could also ask whether St. Ludmila’s and St. Olga’s model of sanctity were really as close as the author claims.
Paradoxically, even the case of the sanctity of Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, is much more complicated than the author suggests (“Who has ever questioned the sainthood of Helena?”—he rhetorically asks [pp.181–82]). It is exactly her status in Latin Christianity that was for a long time unclear, as was that of her son (and remaining so in the medieval West). She was undoubtedly treated as a model for royal women (as Constantine was for rulers), but not necessary treated as a venerated saint in the strict sense. Not even mentioning the lack of churches or altars dedicated to her from the Early Middle Ages, let us just note that she is omitted in all but one (the ninth-century Usuard) of the most important martyrologies, her name did not appear in calendars until the eighth century, and during the following centuries is not commonly present. This is, for example, the case of most of the oldest Bohemian calendars. So of course the author is right that the example of Helena and Constantine must have been known to the authors of Ludmila’s and Wenceslaus’s hagiographies, but it is not clear whether they really thought of her as a saint figure and if her influence was obvious enough to allow for the claim that in Ludmila’s life “the name of St. Helena was deliberately avoided” (p.49). Of the group of Central and Eastern European woman the book covers, it is only Olga who is openly compared to Constantine’s mother.
This is not to oppose the general idea that Helena was a very important model for medieval female rulers, including the realm of female royal sanctity. Both royal female sanctity and female religiosity had, however, as the author aptly shows himself, many different sources. The idea that the conversion of a country is related with a male-female couple can also be explained in many ways. It is therefore not clear why Homza, who shows this very interestingly, in many cases decides, in the end, to reduce this phenomenon only to an imitatio Helene et Constantini.
Concluding, I must repeat that we have received an important book, which gathers overlooked material from Central and Eastern Europe and analyzes it with a broad, comparative approach. However, the analysis itself sometimes disappoints due to its lack of precision, especially in the application of analytical categories.
University of Warsaw
Late Medieval Papal Legation: Between the Councils and the Reformation. By Antonín Kalous. Viella History, Art and Humanities Collection 3. Rome: Viella, 2017. 255 pp.
Antonín Kalous, the well-known young Czech medievalist, published his book on late medieval papal legation in 2017. The author, as the subtitle of his excellent work shows, focused his research mostly on the period beginning with what can be characterized as the success of the popes against the conciliar movement and other institutions of the Church. The spread of the German Reformation, by contrast, marked the outset of a whole new era, also because it resulted in reforms in the Curia, which changed the system of papal representation, including the role of the office of full legation, the legati de latere. Therefore, Kalous excluded the conciliar and the Reformation periods, so that the system of papal representation could be described and analyzed as a separate period in between.
The research was based on the examination of canon law, papal plenitude of power, and the ways of distribution of that power in the second half of the fifteenth century. The author investigated how the office of the so-called de latere legates fit into the system of papal administration and i.e. how they were handled within the church. It was not a stable institute, yet the legates shared the power, the plenitudo potestas of the pontiffs, like the curial offices did. According to Kalous, the engagement of legates in the selected period was an answer to the challenges of a new era, as they could have been applied in cases of various types. One of the most important tasks of the legates was to distribute dispensations and licenses according to their faculties (facultates). Naturally, legates were also political and diplomatic envoys; they were active in the international diplomacy and used their spiritual authority in order to act as peacemakers in European conflicts.
The book in question is divided into four larger chapters. Apart from a summary of previous research, they all serve one main goal, namely, to show the complexity of the system of late medieval papal legation. The first chapter deals with the questions of terminology and the typology of late medieval legates and nuncios from the time of the reforms of the papacy in the late eleventh century, accompanied by a detailed analysis of the sources. It was crucial to handle this topic delicately, since the term legate was indeed in active use in the Middle Ages, and despite the fact that contemporary canonists dealt with the question theoretically, several legal issues remained being attached to it. Furthermore, Kalous dedicated his attention to the possible distinction between legates and nuncios, to the difference between the generic and specific usage of terms (legati laterales, constituti [missi], nati), and he also examined the question of the papal judges-delegate and the practice of subdelegation. The author did not aim to cover the entirety of Western Christendom, but focused primarily on East Central Europe and the states of this region: the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland. This approach is justified not only from the viewpoint of historical research, but the contemporary situation also vindicates this perspective since the mentioned territories appeared together frequently in the authorizations of legates.
The second main section of the book discusses the question of authority and powers of the late medieval legates, which derived from the papal plenitude of power, and so from the popes themselves who created and shared their powers with them in form of a transfer. The other fundamental source was the Roman law from which the essential terms like iurisdictio, imperium, etc. derived. De latere legates had the highest possible authority, yet they needed special mandates for certain measures. Their faculties (facultates) were exceptional rights and privileges, a concession of papal reserved powers. Legates represented the pope as the highest judge too; however, this was not the sole aspect of their operations. Their presence meant “celestial gifts,” a blessing for the region they entered; they could mean the way to salvation for the people there.
The third chapter of the book focuses on the modus operandi, and the condition of the legates and their own journeys and activities. Kalous answers questions like what the practice of the legatine missions was like, what rules they followed, if there were any regulations at all, and how they managed to get to their provinces. The author dedicated a subsection to the financial aspects of the legations, the procuratio canonica until the fourteenth century, and the new way of central payments that the legates gained after that century. It is crucial to emphasize that in the investigated era legates did received a regular salary whilst on their missions. Kalous, just like in his whole book, collected a series of examples to support the general statements.
The last chapter deals with the diplomatic and political features of legations as well as, in the words of the author, how we come “from the how to why.” The fundamental questions according to the author are the following: Why did the legates leave Rome, and why did the popes send them? Kalous cites the words of Pope Innocent III, who gave the explanation for the necessity of the authorization of legates as, “a man could not be simultaneously in diverse places.” Nevertheless, the factual reasons behind sending out papal representatives could have been extremely diverse, although crusades represented the most crucial problem of the given period. Therefore, the questions of the fifteenth-century crusades against the Ottomans, the heretics of Bohemia, and the theory of just war were analyzed and presented by Kalous with a handful of fascinating and telling examples.
In summary, the book of Antonín Kalous is an essential contribution to the history of a special medieval institution, the papal legation. The author incorporated the sources and secondary literature from the very beginnings of the practice of authorizing de latere legates to the end of the Middle Ages. However, his main effort was to complete an analysis on the fifteenth-century situation. This choice is especially worth noticing, since previous research has focused mostly on the eras prior to the fifteenth century, or after it. From a Hungarian point of view, it has to be highlighted as well that Kalous chose his examples mostly from the circle of legations that were related to East Central Europe, among them a series of Hungarian affairs. The author shows an extraordinary knowledge not only regarding the Czech sources and literature, but the German, Polish, and Hungarian too. This valuable contribution can be recommended to everyone who is interested generally in the history of papal legation as well as a special segment of the fifteenth-century history of East Central Europe.
University of Pécs
Water, Towns and People: Polish Lands against a European Background until the Mid-16th Century. By Urszula Sowina. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2016. 529 pp.
This work contributes immensely to urban and environmental history in general, and Polish medieval studies in particular. The book comes as the obvious culmination of Urszula Sowina’s years of archival research and careful sifting of both published and unpublished sources. The author employs a diverse set of sources, including charters, town statutes, notary books, lay and ecclesiastical court records, as well as letters, chronicles, and learned treatises on medicine and the natural world. Yet she does not confine herself merely to textual evidence but combines it with the latest archeological findings, including the data and images related to cistern, well, and water-pipe construction. The work further succeeds in its aim to contextualize the Polish case within a wider European frame. Each section opens with reference to areas outside Poland and careful comparisons are made throughout. Unsurprisingly, given the subject, Italy appears prominently as a counter-example, but special prominence is also given to cases in France, the author’s other area of expertise. Given the time period covered, it is important to note that the author defines Poland within the boundaries it currently occupies, thus including both Silesia and Pomerania. The work benefits greatly from this choice as it allows for the inclusion of more densely sourced areas formerly occupied by the Teutonic Knights, including Gdańsk, Toruń, and Elbląg, and the large body of research related to Wrocław. She does not focus her interests further into the lands of former Poland–Lithuania, which means detailed explorations of Lviv or Vilnius that might have proved interesting are absent, but the line had to be drawn somewhere. Krakow, due to the abundance of its surviving sources and its prominence as the former medieval capital, receives the most attention. While the work is obvious in its focus on towns and their relationship to water, the hinterland is not completely absent, and the section on the roles of suburban gardens and fishponds is enlightening for its blurring of the urban rural divide.
As to the content, the introduction proves useful reading to anyone interested in the historiography of water and environmental studies in Europe over the last thirty years and particularly the often less well-known work done in Central Eastern Europe. The book is further divided into three main parts with the final section comprising more than half of the total volume. Part one captures in twenty pages historical opinions on the nature and quality of water as discussed by learned individuals in Poland, starting with Vitruvius and ending with Sebastian Petrycy of Pilzno, a doctor and philosopher writing in the early seventeenth century. This part frames for the reader the medieval understanding of water, humans’ relationship to it, and how this dynamic impacted the course of urban development over the centuries. Part two moves from the realm of ideas to the physical relationship between urban sites and rivers; categorizing urban sites as low-land and up-land by their relationship to water courses. It covers briefly the various types of mills in use, highlights the importance of water-related rights, transport, fishing, and water’s impact on a sites’ topographical, social, and economic development. Part three is really the bulk of the work, and here the author’s deep knowledge of the field and primary source material shines. She covers the broad range of cisterns, wells, fountains, and storage reservoirs employed in Poland, discussing their development and design but more remarkedly places them in their social context. Here, she uses Krakow as a specific example, discussing tax policies and costs while convincingly demonstrating how the building out of the city’s public water system was heavily promoted by, and closely linked to, the interests of its burgher elites. In other sections, she gives some attention to the lives, remuneration, and working habits of Poland’s “master fountain builders,” and compares the use of ceramic vis-à-vis wooden piped water supply systems and the water-raising methods used to supply them across Central Eastern Europe. The author’s exploration of the topic as a whole is impressively broad in scope and deep in particulars. While her research is specific enough to give the cost of iron fittings for a new well bucket in Krakow in 1414 (p.220), she simultaneously casts a wide comparative gaze, tracing European water supply systems from Roman aqueducts to the Noria of Arab Spain, and German Wasserkunste, before offering a meticulous tracking of Polish water-works from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. This list provides only a sampling of the topics covered in detail in part three.
Indeed, throughout the book, the author lays out a veritable cornucopia of information; seemingly every smidgeon of interesting data related to water she has pulled from archival cupboards over the last twenty years. Its very diversity and expansiveness however, make the work somewhat indigestible. The lack of a strong narrative thread and the many interesting but tangential asides leave the reader feeling somewhat lost at the banquet. This problem is further compounded by the rather skimpy index which makes hunting for specific nibbles difficult. Part of the difficulty may come from the fact that the book is a translation from the Polish original, which although generally superb, includes a few minor errors and leaves something stylistically to be desired. Taken together, it is not an easy work to read, but the depth of research and broad range of topics covered make it well worth the effort. Anyone wishing to know more about water and its uses in Poland, and indeed the rest of Europe during the middle ages, would profit highly from cracking its cover.
Central European University
L’Europe des Lumières/Europa der Aufklärung. Oeuvres choisies de Éva H. Balázs/ Ausgewählte Schriften von Éva H. Balázs. Edited by Lilla Krász and Tibor Frank. Budapest: Académie Hongroise des Sciences – Corvina, 2015. 424 pp.
The publication of the articles and manuscripts in French and German of Éva H. Balázs, organized on the occasion of her 100th birthday, offers profound insights for international scholarship on the Enlightenment into her creative research. These texts, which were written between 1969 and 1990, laid the foundations for her ambitious monograph Hungary and the Habsburgs 1765–1800: An Experiment in Enlightened Absolutism, published in English translation in 1997. They are, however, also self-standing examples of her scholarship on the Enlightenment in Hungary.
The studies, which are cautious in their argumentation and build on one another, present the characteristic features of the Enlightenment in Hungary, which began to emerge in the latter half of the eighteenth century. These features included religious and confessional plurality, the distinct social strata which served as vehicles and mediaries of Enlightenment thought (which included segments of the upper and middle nobility and the intelligentsia, but not the economically weak municipal “bourgeoisie”), and the fundamental importance of freemasonry for the theoretical, political, and cultural orientation of Hungarian representatives of Enlightenment thought and their political engagement, which ranged from cooperation with the traditional Habsburg elites to open political opposition.
Balázs’s analyses are significant in part because of the very precise perspective they offer on the distinctive features and the interwoven social conditions of the Enlightenment in Hungary. They systematically reveal the meanings of Habsburg Enlightened Absolutism and its transformation in Hungary, as well as the threats it faced. They also offer a cautious presentation of the socioeconomic constellations in which the Enlightenment unfolded in Hungary, including the varied economic-geographical spaces and their distinctive (primarily) agricultural production methods, the strong influence of Habsburg economic policy, the complex and varied connections to economic life in Europe at the time, etc. Last but not least, they also draw attention to the sociocultural conditions of the Enlightenment in Hungary, for instance the gradual waning of confessional tensions and oppositions, the growth of interest in improving education through visits to schools and universities (first and foremost in Central Europe—the Göttingen University played a prominent role in this), Enlightenment forms of sociability (such as lodges and reading circles), and the emergence of a literary marketplace.
Through the nuanced reconstruction of the conditions and motivations which underlay the emergence of the Enlightenment in Hungary, Balázs creates opportunities for analyses of the scope for action of the Enlightenment thinkers, both from the perspective of subjective perceptions and from the perspective of actual institutional frameworks. She makes very clear that their cooperation with the power elites of the Habsburg realm offered them chances to exert an influence on both culture and politics, but she also shows persuasively that there were relatively rigid borders which limited this cooperation and influence. The Freemasonry Patent, for instance, which made freemasonry illegal, and the results of the state parliament of 1790 pushed the representatives of Enlightenment thought out of the political sphere step by step, compelling them increasingly to limit their efforts to the field of culture.
Balázs is able to offer these insights in no small part simply because she shows an intimate and thorough knowledge of the relevant sources. She has examined an extensive array of material on the Hungarian Enlightenment of which precious little use had been made, and she has also looked at familiar sources from new perspectives. She shows tremendous sensitivity to important questions of theory and offers not simply a mechanical registry of the various utterances of the historical actors, but also reflects of what they actually sought to express. In her interpretations, she draws not simply on a precise and broad knowledge of history, but also on her familiarity with the complex theories of historical knowledge itself.
Balázs’ works are distinctive in their field in part because they exemplify a creative change of research approaches. Alongside biographical studies, she includes synthesizing interpretations. From the outset, her reflective form of biographical writing contextualized the historical actor in his or her distinct social, cultural, and political constellation. This focus on context is considered indispensable to the biographical genre today. And because they draw on biographical case studies, the syntheses she offers are both more colorful and more historically informed.
Balázs abandoned the long-standing research perspective of national Enlightenments earlier than other researchers on the Enlightenment. Fully aware of the diversity of the representatives of Enlightenment thought in Hungary, she consistently frames her arguments as discussions of the Enlightenment in Hungary and not of the Hungarian Enlightenment. Her research emphatically emphasizes the European orientations of Hungarian Enlightenment thinkers, and it integrates them persuasively into the larger European context. She does not start from the premise of a European Enlightenment, but rather adopts a theoretically consistent approach and emphasizes the different manifestations of Enlightenment thought in Europe. Her interpretations suggest that Enlightenment thinkers in Europe raised the same questions, but they arrived at different answers depending on the different cultural contexts. Unlike some contemporary scholars of the Enlightenment, she argues in favor of the thesis of the unity of diverse Enlightenments in Europe as a precondition of reciprocal exchange.
The collected works of Éva H. Balázs, which are now available thanks to the efforts of Lilla Krász and Tibor Frank, represent research on the Enlightenment which meets the highest international standards. The element of chance which happened to draw her attention towards the scholarship in the intellectual history of the eighteenth century turns out to have been quite fortuitous for research on the Enlightenment as a broadly international movement and, more narrowly, the Enlightenment in Hungary. Her writings strike one as representative of an innovative approach to the interpretation of the Enlightenment as a cultural practice in its European dimensions.
Hans Erich Bödeker
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Russia and Courtly Europe: Ritual and Diplomatic Culture, 1648–1725. By Jan Hennings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 297 pp.
Diplomatic history has fallen out of favor in recent decades, paling before trendier approaches and topics. Jan Hennings leaps into the fray with this daring book, making no apologies for his pursuit of what could be a dusty subject. The resulting book demonstrates that there is yet much of interest and importance to be done in this area. Taking the formal ceremonial aspects of diplomacy as seriously as its substantive political goals, he situates Muscovite diplomatic practices within the accepted framework of early modern European understandings. He reorients the field by moving beyond debates over the degree of Russian backwardness, to show, instead, that Russia functioned well within the parameters of early modern European norms. Russian rulers and ambassadors fully understood the defining principles of diplomatic exchange and operated flexibly within them. He illustrates that the tendency of modern historians to scoff at Russia’s rigid ritualism, its tendency to sacrifice substance for form, was already evident in the writings of Europeans at the time, but both then and now, these derisive assessments miss the point. Form and substance were of a piece: a monarch could not wrest major diplomatic concessions without maintaining his or her ritual standing among European rulers.
Hennings’ richly researched comparative approach and impressive linguistic range allows him to establish that Russia was neither more nor less hide-bound and ritualistic than its interlocutors. Representatives of the English, French, Venetian, and Austro-Hungarian courts all insisted on the niceties of precedent just as much as the Russians did, and, moreover, Russians were just as deft at compromising and reworking according to the needs of the moment as any of their contemporaries. Hennings supplies some entertaining examples of each end of the spectrum, hidebound to flexible. He treats the reader to occasional laughs. My favorite, I think, was the discussion of the careful timing of the dismount by receiving and visiting diplomats, to whom the question of which one touched the ground first was of utmost importance. The sixteenth-century Habsburg envoy Herberstein, we learn, slyly kicked his foot free of the stirrup, thereby tricking his Russian host into jumping off his horse, while Herberstein himself took his time.
Exploring the fraught question of whether Russia was in or out of Europe, Hennings leans toward inclusion. Although tropes of barbarism and exoticism not infrequently colored European writers’ impressions of Russia, when it came to diplomatic theater, Russia was assigned a role distinctly within the European, Christian orbit. Non-Christians, by contrast, were greeted with more distancing rituals. For instance, where the ambassadors from Russia or other European countries would kiss the hand of their royal European hosts, non-Christians were denied that intimacy. Still, the author concludes, the key questions were not about membership in Europe but rather about participation in “transcultural political space” characterized by “gradually standardized codes of behaviour and communication” (p.247). Rather than static, isolated “scenarios of power,” court receptions were interactive, constantly subject to reworking as needed, though within accepted parameters of ceremonial language. By the time Peter I entered that field, Russia was no longer struggling to catch up with those norms of conduct but was actively contributing to shaping them.
A clear introduction sets the historiographic framework for the book and makes a compelling case for the significance of this reexamination of early modern diplomacy. The early chapters work through Muscovite interactions with foreign courts, mainly European but also with some attention paid to its eastern and southern neighbors. The first chapter explores early modern perceptions of Russia and more generally, ways of categorizing cultures and polities. Chapter Two explains the peculiarities of Muscovite diplomatic practices. Narrow channels of communication, sharply prescribed forms and genres of reporting, and restrictive rules about what diplomats could and could not do in particular situations all lent Muscovite interactions a distinctive flavor, but did not set it far apart from its contemporaries. Hennings manages not only to present this information with verve and clarity, but also to inflect it consistently with his important argument about Russia’s participation in a shared field of court ceremony and the high stakes involved in succeeding in that arena. Chapter Three turns to Anglo-Russian encounters, providing close readings of diplomatic exchanges in the second half of the seventeenth century.
The book gains momentum as it moves into the era of Peter the Great in the final two chapters, where it decodes some of the most mystifying moments in that imposing ruler’s reign. Why, for instance, did the unmistakable Peter—two meters tall and easily recognizable—pretend to travel incognito as part of an embassy to Europe in 1698? Through the lens of diplomacy, Hennings reveals the practical advantages of this transparent ruse, which allowed Peter to bypass many of the constraints of formal diplomatic protocol and to get business done. Or, what did it mean when Peter accepted the title of imperator in 1721, when his forbearers had already been imperial rulers by their own lights with the title of tsar’ for close to two centuries? The closing chapters tackle these and other important questions of the Petrine era.
Based on research in archives in Russia, Austria, France, and Britain, using both visual and textual sources, and built on wide-ranging erudition, Russia and Courtly Europe sheds truly new light on a much-studied era.
University of Michigan
Die literarische Zensur in Österreich von 1751 bis 1848. By Norbert Bachleitner, with contributions by Daniel Syrovy, Petr Píša, and Michael Wögerbauer. Literaturgeschichte in Studien und Quellen, Bd. 28. Vienna, Cologne, and Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 2017. 528 pp.
The modern social sciences have extended the uses of the term “censorship” far beyond its original interpretive framework. In the introduction to his most recent book, Norbert Bachleitner, a professor of literary history at the University of Vienna, offers a detailed account of the different interpretations of this term, but his study takes a narrow, traditional understanding of the word as its point of departure. He examines a specific realm of the state use of power with which the state seeks to exert supervision and control over communication in print between its subjects or citizens with the intention of protecting and preserving the social and political establishment.
There are almost innumerable studies on censorship and the history of censorship in German. They tend for the most part to focus on the practices of censorship under the Enlightened Absolutism of the eighteenth century and during the Vormärz period in the Habsburg Empire and the German states. Bachleitner’s book nonetheless constitutes a new contribution to the field, first and foremost simply because it offers a comprehensive history of roughly 100 years of censorship between the mid-eighteenth century and the 1848 revolutions. He draws on the registries of censored books which were regularly compiled in Vienna, censorship documents of the Viennese and Prague committees and police bodies, and works of imaginative literature, which is hardly surprising, since he himself characterizes the inquiry as “literary-sociological” in its inspiration (p.13). For he is interested, first and foremost, not in the history of the institutions through which censorship was practiced or their work processes and the people who collaborated with them (though he provides a detailed presentation of all this), but rather in the decisive influence of censorship on literature and literary life. He calls attention to the fact, however, that censorship (and the practices of self-censorship to which it gave rise), while it may have had repressive and limiting effects on authors and works, also had some positive effects. For instance, censorship compelled authors to develop “Aesopian” methods or writing, i.e. “strategies of writing that were suitable for symbolic language” (p.28), and restrictive measures taken by the authorities often drew the attention of potential readerships to the works censored.
As a kind of preparatory phase in the project, a database was created under Bachleitner’s leadership entitled “Verdrängt, verpönt – vergessen? Eine Datenbank zur Erfassung der in Österreich zwischen 1750 und 1848 verbotenen Bücher” (“Suppressed, Frowned Upon – Forgotten? A Database for a Survey of Books Forbidden in Austria between 1750 and 1848;” http://univie.ac.at/zensur). The database is itself based on the lists of censored publications regularly compiled in the imperial center. Perhaps the most important contribution of Bachleitner’s book is the clear discussion and analysis it offers of this database. The focus is on the works censored. In other words, Bachleitner addresses questions such as how these works can be grouped according to theme, language, publication date, and place of publication, what kinds of works were censored most frequently and according to what justifications, were there any significant shifts in the period under discussion, who were the most frequently censored authors and publishers, and in which time periods was the censor’s power to impose limitations the most unbridled. The processes become almost palpably clear on the basis of the statistics, for instance: religious considerations were pushed somewhat to the background; after the French Revolution political motifs were of primary concern; works of imaginative literature (first and foremost works by French novelists) began to figure in ever greater numbers among the forbidden books in the first half of the nineteenth century; greater tolerance was shown for publications which were intended for an educated, refined, wealthy readership; and a stricter attitude was adopted towards works which were written for broader social layers, in particular the younger generation.
In the first two chapters after the introduction, Bachleitner examines the “Enlightened-paternalistic” censorship of Maria Theresa and Joseph II, as well as the period between 1792 and 1848. The latter roughly half-century was, after three transitional years at the beginning, a period of a “sternly restrictive,” “paternalistic-authoritarian” system of censorship. However, one could not describe the history of censorship over the course of the hundred years in question as a straight line tending in the same direction. Rather, the analyses of the data suggest ebbs and flows from the perspective of the strictness of the censors as consequences of important political events. The history of the institutional frameworks shows considerable continuity, but as far as the functioning of the censors is concerned, a process of professionalization was underway. Beginning in 1781, the call for imperial centralization as a move away from (and in opposition to) the degree of administrative autonomy which the provinces had earlier enjoyed from some perspectives gradually was implemented, even if this process was not entirely completed by the mid-nineteenth century. The fourth chapter, entitled “Ein Blick in die Länder” (“A Look into the Lands”), examines this process. The chapter includes two essays by three authors on the history of censorship in the Kingdom of Bohemia (by Petr Píša und Michael Wögerbauer) and the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia (by Daniel Syrovy) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The inclusion of studies by other authors is a bit unusual in a monograph, but the essays in question offer an important supplement and counterpoint to Bachleitner’s summary, which adopts a central-imperial perspective. It might have been worthwhile to have included a discussion of censorship in Hungary and Transylvania, since, with the exception of the chapter on the history of the theater, both Hungary and Transylvania seem to have escaped Bachleitner’s notice.
In the fifth chapter, Bachleitner offers a summary of the questions of censorship in the life of the theater. In keeping with the tradition of works on the history of censorship, this is followed by engaging case histories, which cast light on the history of literary publications, two forbidden “motifs” (the devil and suicide), and clashes between censors on the one hand and writers and poets on the other (this is the most substantial section of this part of the book). A short conclusion offers a sketch of avenues for further research. More thorough study of the practices and regulation of censorship in the states of Europe (the German states, France) and the other provinces of the Habsburg Empire (for instance, Hungary) could offer a subtler and more nuanced understanding of the subject, as could more discussion of the personalities of the censors. Systematic analyses of the period between 1849 and 1918, based on similar questions and perspectives, might reveal larger-scale historical processes. The appendix includes a few documents concerning state regulation of censorship and a few censorial reports. It might have been fruitful to have included more of these reports, since they provide glimpses into the minds and reasoning of the people who worked as part of the censorship apparatus.
University of Szeged
Das global vernetzte Dorf: Eine Migrationsgeschichte. By Matthias Kaltenbrunner. Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 2017. 598 pp.
In his impressive and inspiring study, Matthias Kaltenbrunner tells the remarkable story of the migration history of six villages in the Sniatyn district of western Ukraine from the end of the nineteenth century until today. Until World War I this region was located at the southeastern border of Austrian Galicia, and in the interwar period it was part of Poland.
Beginning in 1898 and more intensely after 1905, these villages were involved in transatlantic migration to Canada. From the second half of the 1890s, Ukrainians from Galicia went in increasing numbers to North America for work or settlement. Between 1899 and 1914, 261,000 Ukrainians migrated to the United States and about 171,000 to Canada (p.130).
A well-known pattern of migration processes is that family and local networks largely determine directions of migration. Usually, migrants go to places where members of their family or larger local community already live. After the first families from Rusiv (the book’s central case study) and neighboring villages left for the Canadian prairies in 1898, Canada became the prime destination of migration from this area. While the first migrants left with the aim of permanent settlement and building new farms in Canada, from 1902 and more strongly 1905, a non-permanent pattern of migration emerged. Now most of the migrants did not intend to settle in Canada, but to earn money for supporting their families and for buying additional land for their farms at home after their return.
Kaltenbrunner’s core interest are the networks among migrants and between them and their villages. His study clearly confirms that such networks were extremely important to the process of migration, but he also demonstrates that they lasted for several decades after World War II, when western Ukraine became a part of the Soviet Union.
While transatlantic migration is the book’s most important subject, it also analyses forced and voluntary migration during World War II and during the period of Soviet rule. Here Kaltenbrunner discusses Soviet arrests and deportations between 1939 and 1941 as well as in the early postwar period, the deportation of forced laborers under German occupation, and labor migration within the Soviet Union.
The author was able to use a very wide range of sources, among them archival material from the Austrian, Polish, and Soviet periods, but also from Canadian and US archives. Most important for his analysis of village networks are letters that were exchanged between migrants and their families. In addition, he used a large number of memoirs and, for the postwar period, interviews that he conducted with villagers between 2013 and 2015.
The author gained access to a surprisingly large number of personal documents, especially letters. A fact that contributed to the rich source base for these villages is that the writer Vasyl’ Stefanyk (1871–1936) was born in Rusiv and spent most of his life there. His short novel The Stone Cross, first published in 1901 and set, as most of his writings, in his native village, became a classic work of Ukrainian literature on migration and is part of school curricula until today. Stefanyk’s own family—one of his sons migrated to Canada—and the families who served as inspiration for Stefanyk for some of his literary characters, appear also in Kaltenbrunner’s book. Stefanyk’s literary fame clearly contributed to the fact that archives and individuals kept more personal documents than usual or even published some of them.
The strength of the study consists of three points in particular. First, the author very skillfully uses these personal documents in order to analyze networks of migrants and villagers and their economic and emotional ties. His well-written account brings personal fates and motives very close to the reader and they are tied very effectively to the analysis of economic, cultural, and political circumstances. Second, the long-time frame of the study from the end of the nineteenth century until the beginning of the twenty-first century makes strikingly clear that migration (in a voluntary or a forced form) was a central feature of the villages’ and region’s history for the entire period. Furthermore, the author strongly and convincingly situates migration in the context of the social and political conditions of the villages. Thereby, in a way the book is also a history of western Ukraine in the twentieth century from the perspective of villagers’ experiences. Above all, the chapter on transatlantic networks in the Soviet period has a pioneering character (pp.403–544). It shows a remarkable amount of contacts and exchange of letters, goods, and visits from the beginning of the 1960s onward that connected these western Ukrainian villages with former inhabitants in North America.
Furthermore, the study powerfully rejects any image of remote, isolated, backward villages, but demonstrates their “global interconnectedness,” despite the economic poverty that prevails here until today.
Even excellent studies, as Kaltenbrunner’s book clearly is, oblige a reviewer to look for critical points or desiderata. Two should be mentioned here. The first one is that the study does not really attempt to give an answer to a central question of migration history, i.e., what effect return migration had on the villages as a whole in economic, cultural, or political terms, or if returning migrants introduced innovation and change into villages. The second point refers to the fact that local case studies inevitably provoke the question of the extent to which their results can be generalized. For Kaltenbrunner’s book this question could be asked primarily in regard to its section on the Soviet period. In contrast to most other parts of rural eastern Galicia, in the Sniatyn area the basic political mobilization of the rural population during the last two to three decades before World War I took place primarily within the framework of the left-wing Radical Party. That party remained strong here also in the interwar period. Many migrants left already with some leftist political loyalties that further strengthened or radicalized when they became laborers in Canada. Many of them worked in the harsh conditions of mines. A rather large portion of migrants in Canada from these villages seem to have maintained pro-communist or at least strongly leftist attitudes also after World War II. This may raise the question of the extent to which this rather unusual feature among the post-war Ukrainian diaspora contributed to the number and intensity of contacts in the Soviet period.
In any case, these points are rather suggestions for further research than a critique of this excellent, rich book that is important for Ukrainian history in twentieth century, for Soviet history, and for the history of migration more generally.
Martin Luther University Halle–Wittenberg
“Europa ist zu eng geworden:” Kolonialpropaganda in Österreich-Ungarn 1885 bis 1918. By Simon Loidl. Vienna: Promedia, 2017. 232 pp.
In the 2000s, a handful of Austrian historians started to engage with the imperial and colonial past of the Habsburg Monarchy (Walter Sauer, ed., K.u.K. kolonial: Habsburgermonarchie und europäische Herrschaft in Afrika ; Evelyn Kolm, Die Ambitionen Österreich-Ungarns im Zeitalter des Hochimperialismus ). In investigating the history of the Austro-Hungarian Colonial Society (Österreichisch-Ungarische Kolonialgesellschaft or AHCS), Simon Loidl joined this approach. Loidl questions the trend which excludes the postcolonial approach from historical investigation of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Chapter 1). He argues that the Dual Monarchy regarded itself as a great power, hence it devoted significant effort to the colonial issue. To prove this statement, the author investigates expansion projects which targeted territories beyond Europe. Although Austria-Hungary participated in no concrete overseas colonial projects out of political and economic reasons, a number of colonial pressure groups were organized in Vienna alongside the Ballhausplatz which elaborated concrete colonial plans. Of these colonial pressure groups, the most important was the Austro-Hungarian Colonial Society which tried to harmonize the theoretical questions and practice of colonialism with the needs of the empire.
The monograph focuses on investigating the Austro-Hungarian colonial attitudes vis-à-vis the Austro-Hungarian Colonial Society’s propaganda activity and colonial practice. The author describes the political, social, and economic background of the Austro-Hungarian colonial debate at the turn of the century (Chapter 2). Loidl proves convincingly that having its own protocolonial period, the Habsburg Empire had reached the threshold of potential colonialism at the turn of the century. Chapter 3 describes how the society was established, the main points of its program, and the reason why a faction radicalized during World War I. The author tries to reconstruct the biographies of the most important society founders as well.
Using discourse analysis methods, the author scrutinizes books, travelogues, reports, articles, and memoranda written by society members (Chapter 4). Loidl focuses his attention first of all on terms of Austro-Hungarian colonialism and particularities and changes in the course of the colonial debate. Despite the lack of proper sources, the author tries to reveal the social and political background of the most important propagandists of the society.
Chapter 5 catalogues the main tendencies and topics of the AHCS propaganda: the place of Habsburg colonialism in the European and global context, the questions of overpopulation and emigration, their analysis from the perspective of society, and the nationalism and treatment of the everyday problems of the emigrated population. The author briefly discusses the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina and certain military aspects that became dominant in World War I and which facilitated the way for some propagandists into the national-social movement of the interwar period.
The most important actions of the AHCS were reconstructed based on archival sources (Chapter 6). The archival corpus enabled the author to carry out a refined research of emigration and the Brazilian action of the society, two of the key issues of the Austro-Hungarian colonial propaganda and activity. It follows from the foregoing that Loidl uses an empirical approach to his topic as he reconstructs the contact points between the colonial theory and praxis of the society. In this chapter, the author draws parallels between the Austrian and the German social reasons and phenomena of colonialism. The most interesting case is how a group of AHCS publicists adjusted their colonial views to the German world domination plans during World War I.
Through the life story of three persons, the book examines the legacy of the Austro-Hungarian colonial discourse and of the society’s propagandists in the interwar period (Chapter 7). After the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the AHCS ceased its activity and its members had to find their place in interwar Austria. Investigating the biographies of Adolf Mahr, Robert Stigler, and Richard Seyfert, Loidl demonstrates clearly that the former members of the AHCS became supporters of Nazism and themselves actors in the racist and colonial ambitions of the Third Reich.
In the conclusion (Chapter 8), Loidl shares the views of Evelyn Kolm. Accordingly, the Habsburg Empire did not participate in the collective colonialism of the great powers and it did not have its own colonial project in the long-run. Yet, having no overseas colonies, Southeast Europe was regarded as a kind of compensation which could be culturally colonized to a certain degree. All in all, the monograph treats the propaganda activities of the AHCS beyond Europe well and provides useful data on the structure and membership of the society.
Although the book’s title promises a general overview on the colonial propaganda of Austria-Hungary, the author in fact fails to investigate Hungary. In some cases Loidl hints that the Hungarians hindered and impeded the Austrian colonial initiations, but the author offers no in-depth explanation of the alleged Hungarian refusal. Furthermore, the author did not put the AHCS in a wider, European context either, and the handful of references to parallel German colonial phenomena do not compensate for this.
Despite these shortcomings, Loidl has produced a dense book that enriches the still embryonic research into the colonial past of Austria. The book demonstrates well the attractivity and potential for further research in this field.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Der Poststalinismus: Ideologie und Utopie einer Epoche. By Pavel Kolář. Cologne: Böhlau, 2016. 370 pp.
In the course of contemporary historiography devoted to state socialist regimes in Central East Europe, the most attention has been paid to the question of how these regimes were established and according to what measures the process followed. At the same time many scholars have been coping with the question of how and why the state socialist system fell apart. The reviewed monograph represents a study which is devoted to neither of the above mentioned themes, but to a relatively recent historiographical phenomenon focusing on post-Stalinism. Pavel Kolář defines the era as an epoch situated in the time period between Stalinism and late socialism. It is exactly this “between” position that leads the author to interpret post-Stalinism as a phase (Zwischenphase) based on a dilemma between the burden of the past and a radiant future. In this sense post-Stalinism is determined by three decisive features. It was the era when class as a category lost its dominance in favor of nation. Simultaneously, the linearity of time started to be replaced by fragmented narration as well as by a certain level of cyclicality. The third aspect was based on the leading role of the Communist party which was now supposed to be renewed as a true Leninist organization. Compared to Stalinism it was rather the era of instability, when the social and political praxis oscillated between utopian zeal and actual questions of the day. This ambiguity leads the author to define post-Stalinism as a form of processual utopia which was different to the previous fanaticism as well as to the pragmatism of late socialism.
The book is structured into five chapters in which the author seeks to reveal different aspects of post-Stalinist processual utopia based on the examples of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and East Germany. The first one (“After Stalin’s Death: Factual Revolution”) focuses on the role history and historical writing played within the process of the creation of a new communist party identity following the de-Stalinization of 1956. The rediscovery of facticity in the writing of the history of the communist party, especially on the local level, led to a relativization of party identity in comparison to the previous master narrative. In the second chapter (“Party Makes History”), Kolář manifests how in struggling against the cult of personality, the party became a self-confident subject of history (Demiurge). At the same time, he presents here how the discussions about dictatorship and violence changed the shape of the post-Stalinist party line. The third chapter (“Nation: With or Against Party”) is devoted to the antinomy of the communist movement in general, based on the conflicting character of both communist and national emancipation. The author shows how the national discourse overlapped with the communist one, and vice versa. Despite the fact that the national rhetoric was widely present in party agenda, it never became, argues Kolář, a dominant part of the post-Stalinist processual utopia. In the following chapter (“Enemies of the Party”), new images of post-Stalinist enemies are described. As in previous cases, one of the most characteristic features of enemy discourses (e.g., revisionism, social democratism, Zionism) was their unstable and permanently developing and changing character. Post-Stalinist coping with enemies was not based on their annihilation but on persuading strategies. Thus revisionists for example were seen as enemies endangering the official party line, nevertheless they were rather perceived as partners in discussion than former saboteurs set for physical liquidation. In the last chapter (“Longing for the Golden Age”), Kolář pays attention to the post-Stalinist perception of time. In his eyes this era was typical for its return to a pre-Stalinist revolutionary period, which was now perceived to a certain extent with nostalgia. It is this cyclical dimension newly appearing during the post-1956 years that brings the reader to the initial definition of the post-Stalinist epoch, understood as a period trapped between the past and the future.
Without a doubt, the reviewed monograph is a seminal work on the analyzed time period, moreover it represents its first serious conceptualization. Some of the author’s findings are fresh and convincing, especially his interpretation of the Khrushchev speech, his remarks on the problematic relationship between national and communist discourses, and his conceptualization of the perception of time during revolutionary and post-revolutionary periods. His arguments are strong especially when they are derived from an analysis of historical writings of the time and from debates on the Stalinist past. Although Kolář’s book represents a nicely written and inspiring read, it is provocative and in some aspects problematic at the same time. I fully agree with the author’s understanding of post-Stalinism as a relatively unstable era differing from the very universality of the previous period, nevertheless in order to save his comprehensive conception of post-Stalinism as Zwischenphase, Kolář tends to describe both Stalinism and late socialism in a very traditional way (radical fulfillment of future; pragmatic era lacking any utopian visions) which contrasts with his analytical approach. While defining post-Stalinism as indecisive time period, he characterizes it as an epoch based on the analysis of the above-mentioned aspects. It is not the aspects by themselves but the way in which they are understood that is most characteristic and mutually intertwined. Such a comprehension unintentionally portrays post-Stalinism rather as a closed than a vivid and relatively dynamic system. Thus the post-Stalinist internal plurality based on many social, theoretical, and political approaches of the era remains overshadowed by a given set of analyzed features as factuality, past, nation, class, and time. By the same token, it seems to me that the author overestimates some and overlooks other characteristic aspects of the time. Undoubtedly, factuality belonged to key features of post-Stalinist historical writings, regardless of however many Marxist theoreticians of the time criticized absolutization of ‘rare facts’ at the expense of grasping the reality in its very complexity. Similarly, the past, regardless if Stalinist or pre-Stalinist, played an important symbolic role in the post-Stalinist environment, and the return of Marxists intellectuals to Marx’s original texts and to pre-Stalinist theory is a good example of this notion; however, Kolář’s conceptual framework does not allow him to recognize post-Stalinist thought as part of the socialist modernity project which was definitely more oriented towards the future than to a nostalgic longing for the golden age being lost somewhere along the way. Taking the future into account as an important part of post-Stalinist thought could then depict the era in a slightly different tone, as a complex of autonomous and original conceptions of the future based on a dialectical overcoming of the past, as the world of miscellaneous socialist visions. In spite of above mentioned polemical comments, I am convinced that the book will attract a broad readership of historians who are taking the state socialist experiment seriously and not merely as a manifestation of totalitarian rule that deserves our condemnation.
Czech Academy of Sciences
The Invisible Shining: The Cult of Mátyás Rákosi in Stalinist Hungary, 1945–1956. By Balázs Apor. Budapest–New York: Central European University Press, 2017. 415 pp.
Leader cults in modern European history had strikingly common elements. They emerged and existed in democratic, authoritarian, and totalitarian regimes alike, as well as in right-wing and left-wing political systems. Accordingly, the types of these political cults differed from each other. Monographs on this phenomenon have already been published, discussing cultic practices around the persons of Hitler, Hindenburg, Mussolini, Metaxas, Stalin, and Horthy. The authors of these books, such as Ian Kershaw, Anna von der Goltz, Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi, Marina Petrakis, Ian Pampler, and the author of this review, have investigated the different aspects of leader cults, including the Stalinist type.
The Invisible Shining is a long-awaited work because no detailed and systematic analysis has been published on the Hungarian type of Stalinist leader cult so far. The aim of the book is to analyze the Hungarian Stalinist political system’s “attempt to implement the Stalinist leader cult in postwar Hungary” (p.1). The emergence of the Rákosi cult and the cults of other “mini Stalins” were the symbolic consequences of the Sovietization of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945. This occurred because the cult of Stalin, “the adaptation of leader worship to local Party secretaries” (p.15), the international hierarchy of cults, and the Stalinist pantheon with its rituals, myths, and symbols were imported from the USSR at that time. Apor emphasizes convincingly that the cults of satellite leaders were partly based on the Soviet model but, on the other hand, were rooted partly in local and national traditions. In addition, the author underlines that the leader cult of Rákosi seems to be “an example of […] self-Sovietization” because Moscow’s “direct influence,” the role of “explicit Soviet orders” in its construction, “remains unclear” (pp.336–37). The careful analysis of the Rákosi cult provided by Apor highlights this complexity.
This book is divided into three parts: the first is about the construction of the cult, the second is about the societal responses to the cult’s expansion, and the third is about the dismantling of the cult. Its structure is based primarily on a thematic, not a chronological, order. The thematic order highlights the agents, institutions, and the techniques of the leader cult. A 45-page chapter (I/1) is devoted to the history and the evolution (chronology) of the analyzed cult, which, with the third chapter, adds a chronological outline to the dominant thematic discussion.
A systematic overview of the construction of the cult is preceded by the short analysis of modern Hungarian leader cults. Apor emphasizes that “although the Stalinist leader cult originated in the Soviet Union, the language employed to deify the leaders of the Hungarian Communist Party did not originate there.” The reason for this was the striking similarity “to the verbal repository of interwar cultic representations” (p.45). It means that the leader cults during the Horthy era can also be considered to be the antecedents of the Rákosi cult. This is a very important contribution to the analysis of the Hungarian symbolic politics of the twentieth century.
Apor summarizes the most important aspects of the leader cult of Mátyás Rákosi from its origins and roots, to its phases between 1945 and 1949, and to its fully developed form (1949–1953). The first main chapter analyzes the role and function of this cult, the evolution of the leader’s image, and the techniques, occasions, agents, and increasingly centralized institutions of cult-building. Between 1945 and 1948/1949 his leader cult existed primarily within the framework of the Hungarian Communist Party. Rákosi became a Hungarian party leader, “father figure,” wise, all-knowing “teacher of the nation,” “man of the people,” “caring leader,” and so on. Between 1949 and 1953 the cult existed in a full-blown form: cult-making was institutionalized and centralized, a wide range of institutions and individuals participated in the complex process of constructing it. Apor systematically refers to the occasions (i.e., the meticulously planned public appearances, anniversaries) and the techniques (speeches, articles, letters, telegrams, biographies, visual representation, and so on) of cult-building when he analyzes the evolution of this leader cult.
In the last three chapters of the first part, the author focuses on three important methods of cult-making: the role of biographies, nationalism and the leader, as well as visual representation. First, the biographies were “heavily exploited” to justify the leadership of Rákosi, “to project the mythical images of the Party secretary” (p.25). They presented an oversimplified, constructed, and depersonalized image of the leader who was the embodiment of the Party and whose life was dedicated to the cause. Second, national traditions, myths, especially the Hungarian revolutionary traditions, were used to justify his elevated position. Rákosi was often portrayed as the heir to the Hungarian freedom fighters. As a result, he was presented “as the embodiment of the entire (national) political community” (p.142). Third, besides language, techniques of visual representation (portraits, busts, posters, newsreels, and so on) were also heavily deployed to describe him as an omnipresent leader.
In the second main chapter, Apor deals with the impact of the Rákosi cult on Hungarian society and with the efficiency of the party-state propaganda. This analysis is based on mood reports, surveys of public opinion, letters written to Rákosi, and telegrams. The author emphasizes that due to the lack of reliable representative sources it is difficult to estimate the extent to which the Hungarian population identified itself with this phenomenon. Apor analyzes positive (“communicative practices” [p. 188]) and negative (“spontaneous manifestations of dissatisfaction” [p.211]) responses to this leader cult. Another chapter about popular indifference and the ineffectiveness of propaganda provides further important details regarding how the propaganda machine worked. Apor concludes that “the Rákosi cult […] found little fertile ground” (p.259), but, on the other hand, this cult “had a remarkable impact on communicative practices, verbal and non-verbal alike;” the population internalized the cultic vocabulary, “even if it generally failed to turn Hungarian society into a community of believers” (p.188).
The third part focuses on the dismantling of the Rákosi cult. The careful analysis is closely connected to the events and trends of political history, first and foremost to the de-Stalinization. The author divides the period into two phases: the decay of the cult (1953–1956), when its significance was slowly decreasing, and its collapse after the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956, when it disappeared relatively rapidly from public spacesand public discourse.
This monograph, which provides a detailed, valid, and systematic analysis of every important aspect of the Hungarian Stalinist leader cult, is a significant contribution to the better understanding of this political phenomenon. The context of the Rákosi cult was the Soviet symbolic politics, its international system of satellite cults, myths, and symbols, and the Hungarian—especially interwar—cultic traditions, including, the leader cult around Miklós Horthy. The analysis convincingly highlights this complexity. Though the book deals primarily with the Hungarian Stalinist leader cult, it also reflects on important aspects of other parallel phenomena. It provides a theoretically and methodologically valid analysis: the author reflects on, for example, the term ‘charisma’ and ‘the personality cult.’ In all these respects, Apor’s monograph, based on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, is an indispensable work for those interested in leader cults and in the complexities of East and Central European history.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Hungarian Women’s Activism in the Wake of the First World War: From Rights to Revanche. By Judith Szapor. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. 224 pp.
Judith Szapor’s book is an important and novel contribution to early twentieth-century Hungarian women’s history, in particular the kind that not only presents substantial knowledge about the history of women but also helps place “mainstream” history in a different light. The time frame covers the period from 1913 to 1922, focusing on the multiple turns between 1917 and 1920, the densest years in terms of women’s politics too.
The author discusses the trends and development of women’s movements in a wide and detailed historical context, focusing on the system of relations in which they were embedded and interacted. Its aim is to “write women into the aftermath of the First World War” (p.1), covering two revolutions and a counter-revolution, the three major branches of Hungarian women’s movement with their (changing) bases, scope of action, slogans, aims, interests, and ideologies, as well as their relationship with the actual political system. In its analyses it considers the complex interconnections and transitions between private and public, formal and informal relations. The scholarly background of the book includes the historiography of European women’s movements and the history of interwar Hungary, for both fields using macro- and microhistorical lenses.
Structurally, the book has a general direction and arc from the broad historical-political context to the organizational level, and then to the individual figures, but it also fluctuates among these levels in the narration. The author often refers to later parts of the book, giving it a kind of a “teleological” character.
In the introduction, the author draws our attention to two symbolic events that constitute the frame of the book, representing the poles of the period in question: the 7th Congress of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance in June 1913, hosted by the mayor of Budapest, and the greeting of governor Miklós Horthy by MANSZ (National Alliance of Hungarian Women) in November 1919. The highlighting and close-reading of particular events is a returning method of the book and it proves to be not only a good way to narrate but is also illuminative in understanding the essential differences between the two (maybe three) eras of (women’s) politics.
The first chapter presents the progressive prewar women’s movements as being able to cooperate not just with one another but also with the governmental authorities. It tells the history and the major causes, leaders, forums, allies, and rivals of the three main branches of women’s politics: the liberal Feminist Association, the Christian, and the socialist women’s movement. (Talking about their foundations, Szapor uses the term “origin myths,” which looks a bit misleading as the roots she reveals are basically factual.)
One of the main common causes of women’s movements was the struggle for equal suffrage, but they were largely differing in their strategies and priorities. A determinative difference is that while the Catholic and socialist women’s movements were attached to and found allies in male-led institutions (the church and the workers’ movement), the Feminist Association was connected primarily to the international liberal women’s rights movement. The divergences especially sharpened in the political circumstances of the postwar era when general suffrage served as a tool for legitimizing the authoritarian system.
In the second chapter Szapor explores a special semi-private meeting place, the Hungarian Women’s Debating Club (initiated by Countess Mihály Károlyi and Rózsika Schwimmer in February 1918), as a “case study.” As she reveals, behind the seemingly apolitical purpose of “social intercourse,” the Club was founded with the purpose of circulating the idea of suffrage among aristocratic women. Thus it was a melting pot of women from different social classes organizing debates on a wide range of issues with many speakers. Behind the cooperation on basic issues, there was much strained disagreement, encapsulating larger and later developments, and after the revolution it became a nest of counter-revolutionary mobilization.
The next chapter explores the two (1918 and 1919) revolutions from the viewpoint of women’s politics after the loss of the war. The announcement of universal suffrage happened immediately in November 1918, but it was not put into practice until the beginning of 1920, and under completely different political circumstances. Szapor also reconstructs the names of the women participants in the National Council. The Republic of Councils between March and August 1919 had ambitious and egalitarian projects but also hasty and anti-democratic actions, including the way they prepared and carried out the elections. As the author underlines, it resulted in alienating and radicalizing the conservative middle class, and strengthened their social anxieties and thus their prejudice-led intolerance. It is remarkable that many women were involved in the Commissariats and in other decision-making positions, but the leadership was dominated by men. After the fall of the Republic of Councils, the majority of its participants went into exile, which resulted in disrupted individual careers and social networks and destroyed prewar unions.
Szapor points out the gendered nature of the reception of Horthy in November 1919. This was manifested in women’s (namely MANSZ’s) emphatic presence and also in the way Horthy’s speech narrated the city and the nation through female symbols. But the author extends the gendered view to the whole era, stressing that women had an active role in restoring prewar social system and values (together with the old borders of the Monarchy); they contributed to creating, realizing, and legitimizing the basic values and slogans of the regime. MANSZ and its rhetoric repressed other women’s movements and women’s representations, occupying the political space in prewar Hungary. The marginalization of liberal feminists was part (and in anticipation) of the general anti-modernist, illiberal, nationalist, and anti-Semitic trend with actually anti-feminist views. The question—“Who is supposed to represent Hungarian women?”—became a wider question of social norms and national ideologies too.
A separate chapter explores the career and semi-literary writings of the two dominant leaders of the right-wing women’s movement, both of them influential figures of contemporary culture too: Emma Ritoók and Cécile Tormay. They both contradicted their own image of the ideal woman (being public figures, unmarried, and in Tormay’s case also lesbian), which caused inner conflicts especially in the case of Ritoók.
At the January 1920 elections the message of MANSZ indicated an important shift in women’s politics, suggesting that there are no separate women’s interests, only national ones. The Christian parties won the elections with the help of women’s votes—paradoxically (or just disappointingly), women supported parties with a very restrictive image of gender roles.
The 1920s period of István Bethlen’s consolidation mitigated post-revolutionary political and racial aggression but brought ethnic homogenization/exclusion and limitations of political and educational rights for women. Szapor does not mention that the numerus clausus law was also created originally for restricting the number of female students (who were to a large extent Jewish). As Szapor emphasizes, the content of citizenship was not determined only by electoral rights.
In the concluding chapter, the author presents an important outlook regarding the long-term impacts and models of the era until today—including its basic values and also the ways of (ab)using democratic tools for anti-democratic purposes. After the 1989 regime change, conservative and sexist views on gender roles and family returned as a part of the revival of the interwar nationalistic-conservative ideologies. The renaissance in Tormay studies has been also an emblem of the wider revival of the Horthy regime and its ideologies (together with spatial restorations and eliminations).
The book relies on and applies a diverse and up-to-date literature as well as partly unknown archival and press sources involving memoirs, correspondences, and organizational papers. (Hungarian names that I missed from the bibliography doing notable research especially on women’s organizations in the countryside are Katalin Kéri and Zsolt Mészáros.) The insightful and well-structured text is also an exciting and enjoyable read in its entirety due to its clear, elegant, and witty style and the good construction of the chapters. The only slightly annoying element is the sometimes redundant narration with returning phrases (especially in the characterization of trends and periods), even if it may have a didactic function. As for the factual part, I found only one mistake on page 42: Lajos Hatvany’s (first) wife, Christa Winsloe was not British but a German (sculptor and playwright).
New explorations and smart interpretations are well-suited in the book. The author confidently navigates the tangle of periods, layers, interests, and conflicts, as well as their roots and changes. She sensitively notices the significant details which constitute and represent larger historical processes and make them more understandable. One of the main conclusions of the book is that the history of women as a group cannot be separated from history as a whole—not just in the sense that it was an organic part of it and influenced by it, but also because in certain (not necessarily the most glorious) moments, women (on individual and organizational levels) fundamentally influenced politics by making alliances based on social and ideological bases. It also leads us to see the significance of intersectional relations and the social and political heterogeneity of women and their key causes. One of the greatest merits of Szapor’s work is that it reveals and nuances these very intersections and the conflicting interests among the different subgroups of women according to their respective social and political connections.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences