pdfVolume 6 Issue 2 CONTENTS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rudolf Kučera

Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences

pdfVolume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

András Ribi

Eötvös Loránd University

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bence Péterfi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Szabolcs Varga

Theological College of Pécs

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tamás Pálosfalvi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benjámin Borbás

Eötvös Loránd University

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dóra Bobory

Indepent scholar, Budapest

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Elena Mannová

Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Biondich

Carleton University

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Matthew Rampley

University of Birmingham

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Igor Lukes

Boston University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Balázs Sipos

Eötvös Loránd University

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


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

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

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

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

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

Petra Bakos

Central European University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annina Gagyiova

University of Regensburg/Charles University Prague

Corresponding Authors

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

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

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

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

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

pdfVolume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Linda Margittai

University of Szeged

pdfVolume 7 Issue 1 CONTENTS


A szovjet tényező: Szovjet tanácsadók Magyarországon [The Soviet factor: Soviet advisors in Hungary]. By Magdolna Baráth. Budapest: Gondolat, 2017. 254 pp.

Why did Ernő Gerő mention Gierichev in his March 11, 1953 letter to the Soviet ambassador on the manufacturing of artillery percussion caps? The solution to this mystery (or the lack thereof) exemplifies the difficulties that Magdolna Baráth faced while writing this book, which fills a lacuna in the secondary literature. The literature on Soviet advisors raises novel questions about the fall of communism. Before the change of regimes, very little was accessible apart from the rather stereotypical information on the anecdotal presence of Soviet citizens working in national security and armed bodies (which is the subject of the “Room of Soviet Advisors” in the so-called House of Terror museum in Budapest, which opened its doors to the public in 2002). Since the archives were partially or completely opened after 1989, the examination of this complex phenomenon could begin with the following core questions: what professional connections were made, and how did these connections change over time between the Soviet Union and the countries in its sphere of influence, or, in Baráth’s terminology, the “satellite countries”? The advisors and the experts under scrutiny in this inquiry doubtlessly played key roles in this process.

One of the key virtues of the volume is that it places terminological issues in a wider historical context. It shows that different kinds of experts and advisors arrived between 1945–48, 1948–53, and 1953–56 and then again from 1956 into the 1960s and beyond. The first group of advisors worked for the police forces and the counter-intelligence services. The next groups consisted of Soviet experts active in all walks of life, who as industrial spies, integrated commissars, experts, or intermediaries contributed to the Sovietization of the country in various ways. What kinds of answers emerge from the analysis of this process?

First, these experts were needed in part because the previous elite had been compromised, had emigrated for political reasons, had been sidelined, or, worse, had been imprisoned. A great merit of Baráth’s volume is that it provides the exact number of Soviet citizens active in Hungary, including details concerning who worked where and in what positions, and it thereby dispels the myth that Soviet advisors arrived in throngs to Hungary. In effect, their numbers were in the double-digits only. Though they were miniscule in number, however, their influence was exponentially large. This is why Baráth’s findings will have a stimulating effect on further research concerning Hungarian intellectual collaboration.

For the second problem which prompted the installment of Soviet experts, there is a particular expression in Russian: comchvanstvo, or “communist arrogance,” which derives from the so-called Chekist attitude. At the beginning of the 1920s, the Soviet Union had to face the fact that despite its hopes (or what the Soviets considered an objective historical inevitability), in all likelihood no other countries would choose the true path of communism for several decades, and thus the country would remain solitary in a hostile environment. The response of the party leadership was the construction of a strong and controlling state apparatus, and the total mobilization of all human and material resources in the interest of economic and social development. The Soviet Union could implement this process only by assuming the self-assured commitment of those on the right side of history. This self-assurance, which grew with their victory in World War II, engendered the Bolshevik professional-revolutionary, who had already been acculturated in the atmosphere of political repression, whose theoretical knowledge was grounded in the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, but who also possessed practical, applicable expertise.

This type of “homo sovieticus” appeared in Hungary with stunning salaries. They earned 4,000-7,000 forints per month when the average income was 200-300 forints, and they were given apartments, had access to specialized stores to meet their needs and wants, and received reimbursements and other benefits, such as free fishing licenses. However, these privileges were not guaranteed for everyone, nor were they guaranteed at all times. The process of issuance was a long and tedious bureaucratic ordeal, which, fortunately for the historian, produced a wealth of sources. Baráth’s volume allows the reader to trace clearly how, until 1953 (the year of Stalin’s death), the number of Soviet advisors and experts grew continuously, as did the number of privileges they were accorded.

During the 1956 Revolution, all of these “experts,” with the exception of those working for the state security forces, were evacuated by plane to Soviet army barracks. After this event, less money was spent on the operating costs of Soviet advisors. At the same time, they were commanded to take seriously the instructions they had been given after 1953: not to interfere with the inner affairs of the country or of their workplaces, which led to a direct decrease in their political and professional influence.

During the 1960s, i.e. the glorious era of Soviet technical advancement, when for a short time it seemed that the Soviets would emerge superior from the technological competition with the Americans, scientific and technological exchange flourished. However, by the 1970s, Soviet self-confidence was undermined by more frequent interactions with consumer societies of the West, the actual winner of the technological competition. From this time on, the Soviet Union’s participation in world trade was more or less limited to the selling of raw materials. This is how the concept of the “Soviet professional” changed over time: first, it signified a highly powerful agent backed by the world-leading knowhow of the Soviet secret services; later, it meant a well-paid foreign expert of percussion cap production; and finally, the so-called expert was little more than a door-to-door agent of ridiculously outdated technology, tolerated only for ideological reasons. At the same time, the secret service cooperation, which had begun in 1944 and had continued to develop throughout the period in question remained effective.

The question of whether there was a master plan for the Sovietization of Eastern European countries or whether it took place as a reaction to the Marshall Plan is the subject of long-standing debate in the literature. This book, which offers a study of the similarities and differences between the functions and acts of the Soviet advisors in the various countries of the Eastern Bloc (i.e. within a comparative Eastern European framework), shows that during the advancement of the Red Army into Eastern Europe, the Soviets used the method of obtaining a system of influence, which had already proven effective in Mongolia, – while after 1944 they reacted in an ad hoc manner to the challenges they had to confront. These ad hoc reactions in turn led to chaos and the need for micro-management, as illustrated by Gerő’s personal intervention in percussion cap production.

Another issue that should be analyzed concerning the functions of Soviet advisors and professionals in Hungary concerns the kinds of changes introduced into the Hungarian professional world by the presence of Soviet advisors, who only rarely enjoyed the appreciation of their Hungarian colleagues, for instance in the case of Russian foreign language assistants or in areas of expertise in which Hungarians were less advanced, such as the nuclear industry. It was clear that the Soviets saw their work in Hungary as a well-paid assignment, and they not only tried to mobilize every possible financial resource, but they were also unwilling to return to the Soviet Union. In addition, since Soviet citizens had a direct link to their Embassy, they could remove Hungarian professionals who did not support their work or raised objections to their presence. Furthermore, much as Gerő directly interfered with percussion cap production, the most insignificant affairs, such as the issuance of a fishing license, were also taken care of at the highest levels (to the great delight of the historian). Today, historians are grateful that even these kinds of cases were dealt with at the highest levels, since they produced sources which offer insights into the power relations and intrigues of the era.

As Baráth shows, the presence of Soviet professionals had a significant effect on the workplace. On the one hand, these experts, who were provided generous funding from the Hungarian government budget, represented an external human resource; on the other, by employing Soviets, one could score political points and build a support network. The volume outlines some very interesting strategies deployed by Hungarian leaders to maximize their gains from the presence of Soviet advisors, while they at the same time tried to minimize the damage caused by the Soviets’ lack of expertise, which at times was glaring. For instance, the University of Physical Education requested an expert for the Department of Sport’s History, where the assigned “expert” would be least likely to cause a disturbance; the professors at ELTE (who had already ridden out many political storms) artfully managed to avoid a situation in which Soviets who had just received their degree were at once appointed to serve as university professors in Budapest (these same Hungarian university professors were often willing to host staff to help in Russian language instruction). Both the party apparatus and professionals utilized the Soviet advisors in their power struggles. Rákosi once quite spectacularly expressed his concern for the “ailing health” of Gábor Péter in front of Soviet advisors, thus undermining his rival. Comparable scenes of subtle resistance took place on lower levels too, where the advisors were not provided with the right materials, information was held back from them, or what was done was the exact opposite of what had been advised. The presence of Soviet advisors in Hungary thus had an immense effect on how politics and ideologies intermingled with knowledge, as well as on everyday patterns of behavior.

Baráth has performed an enormous task: she has examined every Hungarian archive and every accessible Russian archive and collection of documents for data on Soviet advisors and professionals. It is laudable that she expresses her gratitude in a collegial manner to all those who helped her in this lengthy process. However, the abundance of sources also represents the greatest unresolved issue of the book. Baráth accurately introduces all the information at her disposal, and she marks with precision incidences in which she could not trace the follow up history of an official document or in which there was no more data in a given archive concerning the issue at hand (for instance, we may never know who Gierichev, the master of percussion cap production, was, why he came to Hungary, what his professional background was, or what happened to him afterwards). Still, the reader at times feels inundated with specific details found in the sources and presented without contextualization. Furthermore, Baráth appears to take the same position regarding the reliability of her sources. Memoirs, such as the memoirs of Béla Király, are to be approached with serious source criticism, because Király, like so many other memoir-authors, tuned his account of his own former stances to real or perceived expectations at the time of writing. Memoirs clearly cannot be used or cited as if they had the same status and value as a consular report, for instance. At the same time, memoirs, along with interviews (for instance), can shed light on issues on which there are no other accessible sources. Furthermore, they offer examples of the wide array of reactions people in contact with the Soviets had.

A central question concerns how to evaluate the role of Soviet advisors and the economic policies they introduced to Hungary. In the 1920s, heavy industry was forcedly developed in the Soviet Union with sources stolen from agriculture, a process which Trotskyist economist Yevgeni Preobrazhenski (1886–1937) described as “primitive socialist accumulation.” In her summary, Baráth approvingly quotes György Gyarmati, who refers to the post-1945 era in Hungary as “the dictatorship of modernization”. Indeed, it was primarily Hungarian agriculture that suffered from the enforcement of Soviet methods alien to the climate and soil of the country, like the growing of cotton and rubber root, or the irrigation systems. The Soviet-style development of heavy industry was against economic rationality and even common sense, and it served as a tool with which the regime built Soviet political control. From the outset, the system was doomed to slow economic growth, and the system of direct administrative control was incapable of spurring growth and at the same time maintaining quality.”; furthermore, the economy was endangered by the country’s large military expenditures. According to Martin Malia, this system was an “ideocracy,” led by ideology instead of rational planning in order to achieve utopian goals. The advisors, experts, and correspondents played their own roles in the attempted realization of this utopia, building, as the documents show, a ”new traditionalism” in Hungary, instead of modernity. The great role played by personal connections (one recalls the relationship between Gerő and Gierichev), the camarilla-style politics, the pervasiveness of reporting, the hierarchical system, and the clientelism all acted against modernization (understood as impersonal, effective, specialized, and functional knowledge) and suited well the neo-baroque world of Horthyism that continued to flourish despite the political cleansings and all the apparent changes.

The development of the Soviet sphere of interest long remained a story focused on a small party of secret service experts. Magdolna Baráth’s research broadens the scope of and adds further nuances to this narrative. This splendidly written volume, which rests on the thorough study of primary sources, together with accurate annotations, shows that the process was indeed part of international history, and that despite all of the difficulties encountered while researching (such as the inaccessibility of Russian archives), it is a human story too. Perhaps someday we may even learn who Gierichev was.


Andrea Pető

Central European University

pdfVolume 7 Issue 1 CONTENTS


“A Pearl of Powerful Learning:” The University of Cracow in the Fifteenth Century. By Paul W. Knoll. (Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 52.) Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2016. 789 pp.

Publications on the history of the University of Kraków, including the medieval period, would fill a library. The topic has been attracting historians’ interest for a long time now. The very first summaries were published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both in Polish and in French. Since then, several works have examined and presented the history of the university, but most of them were written in Polish. Paul W. Knoll, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Southern California, is an expert in Eastern European and, in particular, Polish history, and he has been dealing with the history of the University of Kraków in the Middle Ages for half a century. The present monograph can be regarded as the essence of his oeuvre.

Knoll examines the history of the Jagiellonian University until the fifteenth century. His work is divided into eleven chapters, framed by an Introduction and a Conclusion, two maps at the beginning, and eighteen illustrations (mainly of the university buildings) scattered throughout the text. The Appendix A–D contains the list of the rectors of the university and deans of the faculty of arts between 1400 and 1508 and the number of the matriculated students year by year at the University of Kraków between 1400 and 1509, classifying them into ten geographical groups. The latter are presented in charts, too. The Appendix includes a short summary of the life and work of Copernicus. The Index of people and place names will be very useful for researchers who are in search of precise data.

The Bibliography is impressive and grandiose, and it merits some emphasis. The 129 published sources in Latin with Polish, English, French, and German comments and the 1,151 (!) bibliographical entries in Polish, English, German, French, Italian, Czech, and Slovak were issued between 1665 and 2015 all over Europe, in the United States of America, and in Canada. Naturally, the bibliography primarily contains works on university history and the history of the University of Kraków, but it also includes publications on the history of Poland and Kraków and its buildings, the history of other universities and the academic curricula, and writings on several sciences (the liberal arts, philosophy, literature, theology, astronomy, astrology, humanism, etc.).

The first, second, and third chapters (Instauracio Studii: The Foundation of a Pearl of Powerful Learning, Cracow and Its University, Institutional History and Development) give a portrait of the origins of the University of Kraków and the history of the university in the fifteenth century. The book provides a summary of the history of the university, which includes descriptions of the academic dignitaries, academic everyday life, and the city of Kraków itself. The fourth chapter (The Personnel of the University: A Statistical, Social, and Academic Profile) discusses the students of the university, focusing in particular on their geographical and social origins and the main tendencies in matriculation and graduation. The fifth chapter (The University in the National Life of Poland) examines the uses of the courses of study for the Krakowian clergy and the role of the university in the spread of the vernacular Polish language and the formation of Polish national consciousness.

The subsequent chapters are dedicated to the curriculum at the Jagiellonian University, including the ideas which shaped it, the works which were used during the lessons, and the professors who interpreted these works. Furthermore, it examines the works by Polish thinkers which became part of the curriculum by the end of the fifteenth century. The sixth and seventh chapters (The Arts Faculty I–II) discuss the curriculum of the most important faculty, the seven liberal arts, and the eighth chapter is dedicated to the other two faculties (Medicine and Law). However, the faculty of medicine was relatively weak in Kraków in the fifteenth century, but the faculty of law had existed since the foundation of the university, and it was very important as a tool with which Casimir the Great consolidated his power and regulated the system of public administration. Although both cannon and Roman law were supposed to be taught in Kraków, the teaching of the latter started only in the sixteenth century. The ninth chapter (Theology) emphasizes the significance of theology. As the “queen of sciences,” it was especially important in medieval education. In Kraków, the second founder, King Władysław Jagiełło, managed to get papal permission for this faculty.

The tenth chapter (Humanism) describes the spread of Humanism from the middle of the 15th century. However, Humanism did not dominate the era, and in the early period the neighbouring countries inspired its spread. It became a significant phenomenon only at the end of the fifteenth century. The eleventh chapter (Libraries and the Library) emphasizes the importance of books and libraries in academic education. It describes the establishment of the first libraries of the University of Kraków, namely the present-day Biblioteka Jagiellońska and the libraries of the students and professors. This chapter is especially worthy of attention since it interprets in detail the works which were used by the masters of Kraków, and it follows shifts in both public and scientific interests and seeks to restore the personal libraries of more than forty scholars of Kraków, completing them with their biographical data.

Knoll’s publication is an essential work, since no other modern English monographs have been published on the medieval Jagiellonian University (except some publications on the whole history of the university). The English translations of the cited Latin sources add to the value of the monograph, as do the shorter and longer biographies of the relevant representatives of the university in the various chapters.

If one takes the above mentioned aspects into consideration, the monograph is highly recommended to anyone who is interested in university history, the history of the University of Kraków, the city of medieval Kraków, the ideas and works which flourished here, or the Polish scholars who exerted important influences on education in the fifteenth century.


Borbála Kelényi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University,
History of Universities Research Group

Writing History in Medieval Poland: Bishop Vincentius of Cracow and the Chronica Polonorum. Edited by Darius von Güttner-Sporzyński. (Cursor Mundi 28.) Turnhout: Brepols, 2017. 250 pp.

The Chronica Polonorum, written around 1220 but before 1223, is the second historical composition by a single author to be written after the Gesta Principum Polonorum of Gallus Anonymus (written around 1113) about the history of Poland and the Piast dynasty. It is, furthermore, one of the most researched and discussed medieval texts concerning the history of Poland. The narrative’s author, Master Wincent or Vincentius, is the first identified history writer of the Piast dynasty whose career and deeds scholars have studied, and so, since the editio princeps of the text, both the question of the identity of the author and the text itself have been subjects of intensive research.

Master Vincentius, called Kadłubek, studied either in Italy or in France, and he had a wide and deep philosophical, theological, and legal erudition. He was one of the most important and influential ducal officers of Kraków during the second half of the twelfth century, before he was elected Bishop of Kraków in 1207. In 1218, he asked for this dispensation, and he withdrew to the Cistercian monastery of Jędziejów.

His chronicle consists of three general parts. In the first, which is based mostly on legends and classic patterns, he composed the mythical beginnings of Poland. The second is devoted to the deeds of the Piasts in the eleventh century. In this part of his narrative, Vincentius draws strongly on the gesta of Gallus Anonymus, which means that he must have been familiar with at least with one of its manuscripts. Since Vincentius was practically an eyewitness to many of the events which took place during his career, the third part, which contains stories about twelfth-century Poland, is based on his own experiences.

The book which is the subject of this review, which was edited by Darius von Güttner-Sporzyński (one of the Australian Polonica researchers), contains papers contributed by recognized Polish medievalists on Master Vincentius’ chronicle. This collection of studies is the most recent one on this subject, after the basic Latin text edition, published by Marian Plezia, the modern Polish and German translations of the text, and several studies devoted to the author and his work edited by Andrzej Dąbrówka and Witold Wojtowicz some years ago. Due to lack of space, I will refrain from discussing all the contributions in detail. Rather, I offer basic impressions about each individual paper, which I have arranged in thematic groups.

One of the focuses of the volume is the author himself. In addition to Darius von Güttner-Spozynski’s preface, two papers are devoted to this topic, one by Jacek Maciejewski (Bydgoszcz) on Vincentius’ background and family origins and one by Marian Zwiercan (Kraków) on the author’s influence on history writing in Poland. A further contribution by Józef Dobosz of Poznań discusses two general points: the when and the why, presenting all relevant scholarly theories about the time of the writing of the Chronica Polonorum and analyzing the chronicle writer’s causa scribendi.

Since the Chronica Polonorum was composed in a very sophisticated, academic, classical Latin language, using all possible Antique and medieval literary patterns, one of the most significant scholarly questions has always been the issue of the text itself as a literary and grammatical phenomenon and accurate or plausible interpretations of the narrative. Four papers discuss this issue in the book. Two of them were written by Edward Skibiński (Poznań), one of the outstanding experts on medieval Latin philology in Poland. Skibiński presents the problems of the language of the text, and he attempts to interpret the narrative of the chronicle on the basis of philological observations. The third paper of this kind is by Katerzyna Chmielewska of Częstochowa. Chmielewska presents the antique and biblical topoi of the text. The fourth and last contribution in this group is by Zénon Kałuża (Paris). He puts the chronicle and its author into the context of the erudition of the twelfth century, the so called Renaissance of the twelfth century.

Four papers are devoted to questions of social history. In contrast with Gallus Anonymus, who tried to depict the gesta militaria of the Piasts, Master Vincentius, presumably prompted by his erudition, was more interested in social history, and he used terms of Roman law in his work in his attempts to construct and interpret particular social bonds. As one of his terms of social bonds, he refers to Poland as res publica in his work. One finds one paper devoted to this phenomenon by Paweł Zmudzki (Warsaw) on the construction of the nation in the chronicle.

No doubt, the Chronica Polonorum is one of the most ancient sources on the origins and kind of political order in Poland, since Master Vincentius provides us with a tradition about the legitimation of ducal power and the rules of dynastic succession, describing the famous testimony given by Boleslas III the Wrymouth on his deathbed. These particular questions are discussed and presented in Przemysław Wiszewski’s (Wrocław) paper. Marcin R. Pauk (Warsaw) analyzes another aspect of social/political order depicted in the chronicle. Wiszewski’s paper focuses on the transition in society and economy in Poland represented by Master Vincentius, which, we may add, corresponds to the general skills of the European economic and social changes of the late twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth. The last paper in this section, and also the last one in the book, was written by Robert Bubczyk (Lublin). It provides an overview of church life and courtly culture seen though the text of the chronicle.

The book also contains two appendices, both of which are intended to help readers better orient themselves. One is an abbreviated genealogy of the Piasts, representing the main descending line of the dynasty from Mieszko I to Konrad I of Masovia. It is a little jarring that the list of representatives of the Piast dynasty is ordered rather like a catalog and not a proper genealogical chart. The second appendix provides a chronology of Polish history, presenting the most important events from the very beginning of the history of the country up to 1230.

It is not easy to summarize one’s impressions of a book the goal of which is to provide one of the most complicated narrative texts on Medieval Poland. The questions discussed in the book were and still are the subjects of scholarly debates. It suffices to think for example of the question of the time, place, and the intention of the writing of the text. But not only classical issues of research are of significance here. Subjects like the social order and the question of the seniority throne succession system, on which there is a great deal of secondary literature, are issues which remain to be solved by new generations of historians. The publication of this book, which offers a sample in English of all of the relevant scholarly approaches to this important text, is thus an event to be hailed. It will prove of tremendous importance and usefulness for Polish researchers on the text and for Anglophone readers. I hope that this volume will be the point of departure for more research on Master Vincentius’ life and text.

Dániel Bagi
University of Pécs

Kaiser Karl IV. 1316–2016. Ausstellungskatalog Erste Bayerisch-Tschechische Landesausstellung. Edited by Jiří Fajt and Markus Hörsch. Prague–Nuremberg: Nationalgalerie / Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 2016. 703 pp.

The historiography of Emperor Charles IV of Luxemburg (1346–78) is closely tied to his anniversaries. In the nineteenth century, some important works on him were published around the 500th anniversary of his death by Emil Werunsky (Geschichte Kaiser Karls IV. und seiner Zeit. I–III. [1880–92]). Another anniversary in 1978 brought the still indispensable biography by Ferdinand Seibt (Karl IV.: Ein Kaiser in Europa, 1346–1378 [Munich, 1978]) and a number of other volumes. In 1978, commemoration of the emperor was linked to exhibitions, like the one in the Nuremberg imperial castle and the memorable exhibit on the artistic and architectural influence of the fourteenth-century Parler family (Die Parler und der Schöne Stil) in the Schnütgen-Museum in Cologne.

The 700th anniversary of the birth of Charles in 2016 has been celebrated both in Germany and in the Czech Republic with several special events, conferences, public festivities, and exhibitions to mark the jubilee. One of the most spectacular events of the festivities was the exhibition organized by the Czech National Gallery and the House of Bavarian History, which was on display both in Prague and later in the German National Museum in Nuremberg in 2016 and 2017. In the case of this exhibition, entitled Emperor Charles IV, 1316–2016 IV, Jiři Fajt acted as the curator of the exhibition, and he and Markus Hörsch served as the editors of the catalogue volume. Fajt, currently the director general of the National Gallery in Prague, has impressive experience as the organizer of major international art historical exhibitions, like the one on Magister Theodoricus in 1998, Prague; The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437 in 2006; and Europa Jagellonica 1386–1572 in 2012. Fajt and Hörsch are both well-known experts on the late medieval art of Central Europe, and based on the outcome, there is little reason to doubt that the tasks were in the right hands.

The catalogue is an impressive publication from the perspective of its size and its quality. It constitutes an endeavor to meet the interests of both the general public and the scholarly audience. The volume includes many high quality illustrations, maps, ground plans, and chronological tables. The thirty-one scholarly essays and the approximately 350 page-long catalogue section present a multifaceted image of Charles’s personality and the period of his reign. To make a sound judgment on this new overview one could turn to a similar antecedent volume for comparison. In the anniversary year of 1978, Ferdinand Seibt, at that time the leading expert on medieval Bohemian history, published a volume of collected essays on Charles IV as statesman and art patron (Kaiser Karl IV.: Staatsmann und Mäzen [1978]). The differences between the two books shed some light on the findings of the last almost four decades in the study of Charles IV.

It is clear from the comparison that the traditional approach of political history partly has lost its prestige in the recent catalogue. Some chapters, like the one on the coronations of Charles IV by Olaf B. Rader, the one on the Charles IV’s accession to the imperial throne and the Golden Bull by Eva Schlotheuber, and the one on the analysis of marriage policy by Václav Žůrek, represent the field of political history. The 1978 volume offers more studies in this area, e.g. on the church policy of the emperor, the political contacts with other European countries, and individual chapters on the position of various territories under his rule in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Brandenburg, etc.

There are some attributes which have traditionally been connected to Charles IV not only in the historical literature, but also by his contemporaries. The Luxemburg ruler is often characterized as a wise and learned sovereign, and also as pater patriae in medieval Bohemian literature. These aspects are presented both in the 1978 volume of essays by Fidel Rädle and František Kavka and in the current volume. Here, Eva Schlotheuber discusses the impact of Charles as a medieval author who wrote an autobiography, in which he reflects on the first thirty years of his life. Many contemporary chroniclers referred to Solomon as the Biblical model of the wise ruler, and one can find this concept connected to Charles IV. He was well-educated in theology, as some sermon-like chapters of his autobiography demonstrate, and in practical matters as well. Both the autobiography and the Golden Bull emphasize the importance of having command of several languages, and Charles himself spoke Czech, French, Italian, German, and Latin. The foundation of the Prague university in 1348 also constituted an institutional emphasis on the importance of this concept.

Charles has often been referred to as a pious ruler. This was discussed in the 1978 volume in the contribution of Franz Machilek. His formative paper about interactions of private and state religiosity is still a basic work of reference. In the recent catalogue, Martin Bauch’s essay gives many examples of Charles’ personal and public shows of religiosity. There are a number of sources on the emperor’s interest in relics. He was one of the most devoted collectors of relics among his contemporaries, and he used them very efficiently as a tool to strengthen his legitimacy. Pilgrimages, for instance to Aachen, or royal journeys might also have served as occasions to acquire the sought-after relics, which could be put in the service of his political aims. Similarly, architectural projects, such as the construction of the St. Wenceslaus Chapel in the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague or the concept and decoration of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Karlštejn castle, also exemplify his determination to use the cult of saints and their relics in the service of his own idea of state religiosity.

Studies on Charles’ support for the arts have an important place in both volumes, but the 2016 catalogue brought several new insights to this discussion. If offered a multifaceted discussion of the field itself, reflecting on the courtly art of the Luxemburgs, goldsmith objects, textile works, and the music of the period. Art patronage under the reign of Charles is obviously connected to two other characteristics of his influence. On the one hand, he exerted a decisive influence on the two centers of his realms, Nuremberg and Prague, discussed in the chapter by Benno Baumbauer and Jiří Fajt on Nuremberg and the chapter by Jana Gajdošová on Prague. The latter essay refers to Prague as Grossbaustelle and Versuchslabor (a large construction site and experimental laboratory), i.e. as sites for a new kind of Gothic architecture. On the other hand, Charles’ art and architectural projects were closely interconnected with his sophisticated sensibility towards royal representation. Royal representation, including the presentation of his own portraits in various formats, was a unique characteristic of Charles’s personality. The essay by Markus Hörsch examines the representation of Charles in the German imperial towns, and Martin Bauch discusses the entry of the emperor into Rome in 1368/69. František Šmahel, the doyen of Czech medieval studies, returns in his contribution to the theme of his earlier book about the last visit of Charles to Paris in 1377/78 (The Parisian Summit, 1377–1378: Emperor Charles IV and King Charles V of France [2014]), combining it with a reconstruction of the funeral ceremony (Pompa funebris) of the emperor.

The economic aspects of the reign of Charles IV were presented in detail in the 1978 memorial volume in the study by Wolfgang von Stromer entitled “Der kaiserliche Kaufmann” (The imperial businessman). The writings of Stromer and his concept on the economic policy of Charles still belong to the basic reference works on the period. The 2016 catalogue includes three essays on special aspects of economic life, e.g. mining and long distance trade, monetary history, and the role of the royal forests. Environmental and climate history represents a new and fresh field in the 2016 catalogue. Gerrit Jasper Schenk discusses the concept of a “fourteenth-century crisis,” reflecting on various phenomena connected to this crisis, such as the Great Plague, famine, and the flagellant movement.

Both catalogues include essays on the memory of the Luxemburg ruler. In the new volume, Wilfried Franzen follows the effect of Charles’s rule in the period of his two sons, Wenceslaus IV and Sigismund. Jan Royt surveys his position in the early modern and modern period, and René Küpper discusses his image in the historiography and public view.

The catalogue Kaiser Karl IV. 1316–2016 certainly does not displace or replace the earlier publications on Charles IV, but it does add several inspiring new contributions to the reading list of eventual further works on the emperor. It will be used as an indispensable new overview of the various aspects of his rule. A quick glance at the list of the authors of the individual essays will convince the reader that there are numerous younger or already established scholars who have contributed to our understanding of the personality and period of Charles IV by writing significant new inquiries. The volume will serve its editorial concept well, which was to give a well-structured, up-to-date overview of the present state of research on Charles IV and a nicely illustrated catalogue of his period, which will also meet with interest among the general public.

Balázs Nagy
Eötvös Loránd University

The Art of Memory in Late Medieval Central Europe (Czech Lands, Hungary, Poland). By Lucie Doležalová, Farkas Gábor Kiss, and Rafał Wójcik. Budapest–Paris: L’Harmattan, 2016. 352 pp.

With this volume, the authors have begun to fill a gap in the scholarship on Central European medieval cultural history. One could list numerous reasons for this omission, among which perhaps the most important ones are the unfavorable judgement of the art of memory and the difficulty of uncovering new sources. Adopting approaches to the study of the art of memory which have emerged in the German and Italian speaking world (such as that of Johann Christoph Frh. von Aretin, Paolo Rossi, Frances Yates, and Sabine Heimann-Selbach), the authors have tried to collect and present the late medieval Bohemian, Hungarian, and Polish provenience or origin sources connected to the artes memorativae. As they emphasize several times, this research has remained a largely unexplored field in Central Europe, and they have taken only preliminary steps toward subsequent monographs and, above all, text editions.

In the introduction, editor-in-chief Gábor Farkas Kiss outlines the history of the scholarship on this topic. After a short definition of the ars memorativa, he enumerates antecedents from Antiquity (such as the Rhetorica ad Herennium) and then offers possible explanations as to why an unprecedented growth occurred in the popularity of treatises on the art of memory in the late Middle Ages. According to Kiss, the most important factors included the requirements of new and resurgent universities in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the rising significance of preaching (against either the Ottomans or other confessions), and last but not least, monastic devotion. These factors are continually revisited in the succeeding chapters.

The first chapter, “Artes Memoriae and the Memory Culture in Fifteenth-Century Bohemia and Moravia,” is the work of Lucie Doležalová. Taking into account the manuscripts containing treatises on the art of memory, Doležalová presents the most interesting texts in their context. Of course, many of these treatises pertain to the Hussite environment. The texts of Czech origin are mostly translations or compilations (such as Mattheus Beran’s memory treatise); these frequently survived as fragments or parts of larger works.

In the next chapter, Rafał Wojcik, whose dissertation discusses the printed treatise of Jan Szklarek, presents the late medieval mnemonic treatises in Poland. As in the Czech lands, artes memorativae in Poland first appeared in the university environment, particularlyin Kraków, and in the friaries of the Polish Observants. In disseminating the studies on the art of memory at the University of Kraków, foreign professors, the so-called “itinerant humanists” (such as Jacobus Publicius, Conrad Celtis, etc.) played leading roles. It is worth adding, like the Mendicant communities, these figures connected the entire Central European environment to the written culture in Italian and German speaking world. Furthermore, the Polish Observants created and modernized the art of memory, an apparently successful innovation, since traces of it can be identified later, for instance in nineteenth-century pedagogical treatises.

In the third chapter, Farkas Gábor Kiss introduces the reader to “The Art of Memory in Hungary at the Turn of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries.” Kiss notes that, compared to Bohemia and Poland, fewer sources from the Middle Ages in Hungary survived the Ottoman attacks. Still, thanks to the political connections between Hungary and Poland (and principally the Jagiellonian contacts), several treatises or authors mentioned in the Polish environment can be considered Hungarian as well. Of course, the use of the art of memory as a learning method stands out in comparison to its other uses. Students used it to help them memorize grammatical rules, and preachers were able to learn sermons by heart more easily.

The chapters discussed above figure as prefaces to the text editions, which comprise more than half of the volume. Most of these are first editions are of these texts edited on the basis of a single extant source. Every text edition is headed by a short exordium about the source itself and its context. Unfortunately, there are only a few references in these three chapters to the texts in the Appendix, and the exordia sometimes contain references to the more detailed analyses in the chapters. More problematically, the chapters are to be read as articles in a series: for example, the volume overall is inconsistent in the citation and translation of Latin paragraphs and in summaries of the main theses. But aside from these formal inconsistencies, it might have been more useful had the original authors and their works been presented not simply in their regional contexts, but also chronologically and with some discussion of their methods. For example, the treatise of Magister Hainricus is discussed in every chapter because of its considerable influence in East Central Europe, but there are problems concerning the text itself, which is included in the Appendix. If there is only one manuscript and several printings containing inserted notes sometimes in Hungarian and sometimes in Slovak, why did the editor choose a printed version with only Hungarian notes? Conversely, why did the authors of this volume dedicate several subchapters to the itinerant humanist Jacobus Publicius, but not include a text edition of his art of memory in the appendix? These choices seem accidental and unconsidered and, unfortunately, this affects the value of the entire volume.

This editorial unevenness notwithstanding, this publication will certainly attract great interest because of its intent and sources. The well-chosen examples and expressive illustrations at the end of the volume will acquaint the curious reader with the different methodologies of the art of memory. In delineating the East Central European sources on the ars memorativa, the authors have opened the door wider to research on this ancilla of late medieval rhetorical studies.

Emőke Rita Szilágyi
Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Workers and Nationalism: Czech and German Social Democracy in Habsburg Austria, 1890–1918. By Jakub S. Beneš. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. xv + 268 pp.

While the subtitle of this book sums up the object of Jakub S. Beneš’s inspiring study, its main title simplifies what turns out to be a sophisticated argument about a complex relationship. “This book is … about how the workers that made up one of Europe’s largest Social Democratic movements came to embrace nationalism,” Beneš initially declares (p.2), while in his conclusion he highlights how “Social Democracy played a leading role in the democratization process in Austria … Socialism empowered the growing ranks of industrial workers to lay claim to political rights as well as national culture” (p.239). The Introduction’s triad of “Socialism, Nationalism, and Democracy” would thus have made for a more accurate title, as Beneš agrees with the politician and Austro-Marxist thinker Otto Bauer that genuine commitment to the three can at times be inseparable (p.17).

While the former story has been told by Hans Mommsen and other scholars, the more complex narrative is more original and enriching, in particular because Beneš highlights the autonomy of ordinary workers to form their own views on nationhood, class relations, and political means and aspirations. He does so by analyzing a rich collection of sources, ranging from proletarian prose and poetry to speeches, essays, diaries, and memoirs of rank and file workers and party activists. Within Austrian Social Democracy, Beneš has chosen to focus on the party’s interconnected but increasingly separate Czech and German spheres. The inclusion of other national branches would have enriched the argument, but there are good reasons to accept this particular framing. In the 1907 Reichsrat elections, Czechs and Germans accounted for 87 percent of the Social Democratic vote and won 74 of the party’s 87 seats in parliament. Czech-German relations largely defined the character of the party, and mostly Beneš is attentive to the ways in which Czech stood out from the culturally dominant and “universal” German as a marked ethnic category in Habsburg Austria, which could make Czech Social Democrats look more nationalist than their German counterparts.

The book consists of five chapters. The first, “Narrating Socialism in Habsburg Austria,” explains how, beginning in the late 1880s, the Austrian Social Democracy took shape and evolved as a loose, locally autonomous “poetic organization,” centered more around meetings, manifestations, and the dissemination of socialist periodicals than around tight, centralized structures with clearly regulated membership. Beneš shows how emotion and rationality coexisted quite comfortably within the movement. Epic stories of suffering and redemption proved highly successful, and while for example stories about the sexual exploitation of working-class girls by bourgeois men were common, (while the mention of these accounts is a rare example in the book of the issue of gender), national issues were rarely central to Social Democratic narratives. Beneš points to the many at times conscious parallels and references to religious imagery in these stories of martyrdom, baptism by suffering, and ultimate salvation, but he might have given more emphasis to how bourgeois nationalist narratives and rituals had already done the same.

With the rejection by workers of the nationalist chauvinism exploding in the wake of the Badeni language ordinances of 1897 as its starting point, Chapter 2, “Exclusion from the Nation,” examines how socialist workers reacted to accusations of being nationally indifferent or traitors. In reality, Beneš argues, most workers were not indifferent to the idea of national belonging, and they protested angrily about being excluded from the national communities to which they felt they belonged. This feeling was shared by German and Czech workers, albeit with somewhat different modalities due to the different composition of their national bourgeoisies. Czech Social Democratic workers in particular felt forced to address accusations of being anti-national after 1897, which influenced their views and vocabularies on nationhood.

Chapter 3, “Storms of November,” offers a detailed analysis of the campaign for universal suffrage in November 1905, an event that catapulted Social Democracy into the center of Austrian politics. Mass mobilization linked electoral reform and revolution and released an enormous, at times violent energy among ordinary workers that forced the government to give in. For Czech Social Democrats, the campaign became their entry ticket to the national community, and many activists felt that the party was now ready and entitled to lead the nation. The gap between the German Austrian Social Democrats and the bourgeois nationalist parties remained bigger, but German Social Democrats too now felt that they more than other parties represented the national will of the (German) people.

This growing self-confidence bolstered attempts to claim national symbols for the Czech and German working classes, as discussed in Chapter 4, “Socialist Hussites, Marxist Wagnerians.” Czech socialists stylized themselves as the natural heirs to the radical Hussites in ways that would resonate decades later in the speeches of Klement Gottwald, when the Communists seized power in February 1948, while their Austrian German fellows tried to claim Schiller and Wagner for their cause. Beneš points out how this was not a case of smooth integration into a bourgeois national culture, but a deeply combative battle for control of national cultural icons and political leadership. The socialist versions of nationalism abandoned neither the class struggle nor the idea of solidarity among the international working class.

Still, the years leading up to 1914 witnessed an organizational split between German and Czech Social Democrats, a process discussed in Chapter 5, “The Logics of Separatism.” Beneš initially suggests that rising Czech ethnic nationalism was “the chief driving force behind the demise of the internationalist workers’ movement” (p.175), but his account is more nuanced than this assertion might at first suggest. The national splitting of the Austrian party was institutionally overdetermined, we hear, and Beneš points out how Austrian German socialists’ paternalism or indifference to Czech needs accelerated national separatism. It was a political disagreement about tactics in November 1905 that led the more radical Czechs to favor autonomy from Vienna, not nationalism per se. Even within the trade unions, there were many structural factors and practical local concerns that worked against any all-Austrian trade union centralism.

A shorter final chapter, “War and Revolution,” covers the years of the Great War and the dissolution of Habsburg Austria. The account seems sketchier than the rest of the book, and I missed references to Zdeněk Kárník’s seminal 1968/1996 study Socialisté na rozcestí: Habsburk, Masaryk, či Šmeral (Socialists at a Crossroads: Habsburg, Masaryk, or Šmeral). Generally, however, Beneš covers the secondary literature well.

The short conclusion offers a spirited plea for the relevance of working class history. Class is, as Beneš initially argues, a cultural and ideological postulate that is powerful because it speaks to demonstrable social facts (p.8), and his cultural history of the lives and worlds of ordinary workers is innovative and enriching. My only major reservation is the absence of a proper discussion of the term “nationalism.” The author lets the term cover phenomena ranging from simple identification with a given nation to manifestations of radical chauvinism and denigration of other nations. This failure to explain his use of the terminology more precisely is problematic because Social Democrats (party leaders and rank and file) consistently claimed that their commitment to the nation was radically different from that of the bourgeoisie, and free of chauvinism. “[O]nly a genuine patriot can be a real internationalist” (p.200), the carpenter Vojtěch Berger wrote in his diary in 1912, and for all the occasional bickering and mistrust among Czech and German Social Democrats, this was, Beneš convincingly shows, the predominant socialist view. I therefore find that the true message of Beneš’s book lies not in narrating the failures of Austrian socialism as a conventional “workers-into-nationalists” story, but rather in his conclusion (p.244) that the “conviction that wage-earning people possessed the right to determine the character of national politics and culture was … a major achievement.”

Peter Bugge
Aarhus University

Die Habsburgermonarchie und die Slowenen im 1. Weltkrieg. By Walter Lukan. (Austriaca 11.) Vienna: New Academic Press, 2017. 260 pp.

Austro-Hungarian politics in World War I and its role in the eventual demise of the Habsburg Empire are topics which have interested historians and other scholars since 1918. Slovenian historians are no exception, and Slovenian politics during World War I has also been given a great deal of scholarly attention. Walter Lukan, a retired professor at the University of Ljubljana, has been researching Slovenian politics for decades and has published a number of articles in journals and edited volumes on the subject, as well as a book in Slovenian. His current book is a synthesis of his research and also the first book about Slovenian politics in Austria-Hungary during World War I in a language other than Slovenian. This makes it especially valuable.

The book begins with a short chapter on Slovenian politics in the pre-war years and then tracks its development from the outbreak of the war to the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (i.e. Yugoslavia) on December 1, 1918. In six chronologically arranged chapters, Lukan describes and analyzes the evolution of Slovenian high politics from its predominantly ultrapatriotic and loyalist beginnings in the autumn of 1914 to its break with the dynasty four years later. A supplement with seven crucial documents (some of which have been translated into German for the first time), a ten-page English summary, an extensive bibliography, and a name index complete the book.

Building on the existing secondary literature and his own research, Lukan shows how Slovenian politics recovered from the shock of Sarajevo, which shattered the dream of an autonomous Slovenian-Croatian administrative unit, to be established by Francis Ferdinand upon his accession to the throne, and how the political elite slowly started showing some initiative beginning in the summer of 1915. The attempt to use the entrance of Italy into the war as a means of pushing for some semblance of autonomy in the form of an anti-Italian “military border” (Lukan was the first historian to write about this plan, decades ago) was unsuccessful. While parts of the army, including chief of staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, were not unsympathetic to the idea, several generals did their best to nip it in the bud. In the end, they prevailed, and the plan was shelved.

In the second half of 1916, however, the improved political atmosphere in the Empire and a reshuffle within the dominant Slovenian People’s Party resulted in a definitive change of course. The new Emperor slowly dismantled military absolutism, and in the People’s Party and the Croatian-Slovenian caucus in the Reichsrat Anton Korošec and Janez Evangelist Krek pushed the hyper-loyal Ivan Šusteršič to the side. Consequently, as Lukan shows, passivity was replaced with a much more ambitious approach to politics. The People’s Party managed to prevail on the liberals to collaborate with them in the pursuit of their vision, and the pre-war goal of a Slovenian-Croatian state within the Empire was revived. For a while, Korošec and Krek toyed with the so-called subdualist solution, which would have united the so-called Slovenian lands and Croatia within the Hungarian half of the Empire. However, beginning in early 1917, Slovenian politicians and most Croatians from Istria and Dalmatia started talking seriously about trialism, i.e. the establishment of a third, South Slav unit of the Habsburg Empire. While this could not have been achieved without the dismantling of the existing dualist structure, a large majority of Slovenian politicians remained loyal to the Habsburgs and could only envision the new South Slav state within the Habsburg framework.

When the Reichsrat finally reopened in May 1917 and the Slovenian and Croatian MPs presented their program for the reform of the Empire, the so-called Habsburg clause was an inseparable part of the May Declaration; only a few MPs were privately already thinking about alternatives, while most were deeply convinced that the Empire was going to survive and that it could be reformed. As it became clearer, however, that the emperor and his successive governments were unwilling to fulfil the demands put forward in the Declaration, this attitude began to change. For mainstream politicians, Lukan shows, the Habsburg clause increasingly became a tactical instrument which shielded them from accusations of disloyalty and allowed them comparatively unfettered freedom of action. Additionally, the clause was very important in popular propaganda as a large majority of the Slovenian speaking population would only support a South Slav state “under the scepter of the Habsburgs.”

During the last year of the war, Slovenian (and Croatian) politicians gathered in the newly established Yugoslav caucus were, as Lukan persuasively shows, deeply hypocritical in their politics. Publicly they still pursued the goal of a South Slav unit within the Habsburg Empire, but privately they were increasingly working for full independence and, at least in some cases, unification with Serbia and Montenegro. Beginning in early 1918, even public proclamations became more radical, and the Habsburg clause was often missing. As South Slav politicians from the Austrian and the Hungarian half of the Empire gathered in Zagreb in the first days of March 1918, the document they prepared, the so-called Zagreb Resolution, demanded a South Slav nation state without even mentioning the Habsburgs. Anton Korošec, by that time a leading figure in the “Yugoslav movement,” later claimed that they “threw the Habsburg scepter out of the window then and there” (p.147).

These developments were the result of the changed international situation (the survival of Austria-Hungary was by then far from certain) but also of disenchantment with the emperor and the government. As Lukan’s detailed analysis shows, neither Charles nor his ministers were willing or able to support a reform of the empire that would have satisfied Slovenian politicians, who were leading figures of the Yugoslav movement. Korošec and his allies were not really prepared to compromise anymore. While the leaders of the Slovene People’s Party were ready to accept partial autonomy within Cisleithania in the autumn of 1915 (possibly limited to Carniola and the Littoral) and would probably have agreed to the unification of Cisleithanian Croatians and Slovenians in an Illyrian Kingdom in the first half of 1917, they were not prepared to give any ground in 1918. Their greatest fear was an incomplete reform within the dualist framework (unification of Croatia-Slavonia with Dalmatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and, possibly, Serbia, was often talked about in government circles) which would have left the Slovenians isolated. They therefore pushed for a unification of all the Habsburg South Slavs, within or without the Habsburg Empire. Thus, the October 1918 manifesto of Emperor Charles, which was a last-minute attempt to save the Empire, was rejected outright, and on October 29 the new State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs was simultaneously proclaimed in Zagreb and Ljubljana.

Lukan’s well-written and comprehensive synthesis presents wartime events and developments clearly, and his interpretations are balanced. Yet the book has a few flaws. First, his analysis is focused almost exclusively on the politics and politicians of the People’s Party. This is understandable to a point (the party had dominated Slovenian politics for years), yet a more comprehensive examination of liberal and social democratic politics would offer the reader a more complete picture. Similarly, the book would also benefit from a wider focus when it comes to the visions of the future within Slovenian politics. Namely, Lukan writes primarily about the developments which led to the break with the Habsburg Empire, and he only mentions alternative ideas sporadically. Finally, Lukan rarely goes beyond high politics, yet when he does, he shows that this would be a worthwhile endeavor. For instance, when he compares the visions of the future held by large parts of the population with those advocated by politicians, a non-negligible divide emerges. It is therefore a pity that his inquiry is focused so narrowly on elites.

Yet on the whole, Walter Lukan’s book is an important contribution to the historiography on World War I Slovenian politics, and it is a must read for any historian dealing with the political history of the Habsburg Empire during the Great War. It provides a pithy summary of the existing secondary literature and presents many new insights based on original research. In short, it is the new standard work on the subject.

Rok Stergar
University of Ljubljana

Radikálisok, szabadgondolkodók, ateisták: A Galilei Kör története (1908–1919) [Radicals, freethinkers, atheists: The history of the Galileo Circle 1908–1919]. By Péter Csunderlik. Budapest: Napvilág, 2017. 400 pp.

An amazingly well documented first book was published by young historian Péter Csunderlik based on his PhD dissertation (defended in 2016) on a subject known for its extremely polarized and ideologized interpretations in Hungary. After having been monopolized by counterrevolutionary narratives during the Horthy regime in the 1920s, according to which the Galileo Circle was responsible for the rise of the postwar Soviet Republic in Hungary (1919), later the memory of the Galileo Circle became entirely dominated by Communists in power between 1948 and 1990, who sought to cast the members of this circle as forerunners. Nevertheless, the last historical volume on the subject was published in 1960, which might indicate that student radicalism was also seen as a challenge to the Hungarian communist regime, which in many regards was of a conservative mindset. Whatever the case, this diachronic aspect was much better known than the “story” itself, which has remained a something of a lacuna in the historiography until now. By putting aside these diametrically opposed and ideologically biased images, Csunderlik has opted to dig out what was hidden by these posterior interpretations: namely ideas and practices based on empirical documentation (press, publications, minutes, registers, memories, correspondences, etc.) linked to the Galileo Circle itself around the 1910s. To the Circle’s reception during the Horthy era, he dedicated only the last chapter of his book, which remains essentially separate from his comprehensive narrative of the Circle itself.

Originally, the Galileo Circle, launched in Budapest in 1908, was a student branch of the Szabadgondolkodás Magyarországi Egyesülete (Hungarian Freethinking Association), itself part of a larger, international network. According to Csunderlik, this student group, which was composed originally of students in the humanities and medical sciences and never numbered much more than 1,000 men and women, soon turned out to be a literal countercultural institution (including networks of media, associations, schools, aesthetic and scientific activities, happenings, etc.) opposed to liberal-conservative norms and institutions as they had been in force since 1867. If one considers conflicts with the establishment in the arena of higher education, for example, effectively a vivid antagonism can be drawn. By claiming anti-clericalism and articulating a harsh criticism of the conservativism, backed by political power, in the arts and sciences (the choice of Galileo as a name was a gesture to the well-known scientific figure, and it was considered a sort of “battle cry”), the Galileo Circle, thanks to its membership’s radically critical endeavors, effectively challenged in many ways hegemonic practices and institutions. (However, power felt even more challenged by “adult” radical bourgeois thinkers directed by Oszkár Jászi, who was also by the way a mentor of the Galileo Circle, because of their democratic views on the question of ethnic and national minorities in historical Hungary.) According to Csunderlik, this peculiar group was not only a student intellectual milieu but also a breeding ground for new revolutionary attitudes.

The book successfully mixes the history of ideas and social history in order to obtain an image as complex as possible of the peculiar backdrop to the young intellectuals’ revolt against patriarchal society, which began much earlier than 1968. At this point, Csunderlik misses a (not so much diachronic but) horizontal comparison: a transnational perspective both on youth movements and on secondary and higher education would have shed light on similar phenomena in the larger European context (for instance Robert Wohl, The Generation of 1914 [1979]; Mark Roseman, ed., Generations in conflict [1995]; Giovanni Levi and Jean-Claude Schmitt, eds., History of Young People in the West, vol. 2 [1997]; David Fowler: Youth culture in modern Britain, c.1920-c.1970 [2008]). Student precarity, about which the Galileo Circle collected statistics for Budapest in 1909 (statistics which were published in 1912), was a problem all over Europe in the pre-war years, and it was often connected to a growing dissatisfaction. In France, for example, the most representative and influential opinion poll, Les jeunes gens d’aujourd’hui, published by Henri Massis and Alfred de Tarde in 1913 indicated a return to traditional ideals, a change of mood that was going to being exploited by war nationalism, which promoted patriotic redemption and salvation (Koenraad W. Swart, The Sense of Decadence in Nineteenth-Century France [1964], p.196). In this regard, Csunderlik leaves the reader hungry to know more, because he fails to address the cultural context of conscription of a certain part of the Galileo Circle’s membership in World War I by switching too rapidly to their antimilitarism later in the conflict (so an eventual exacerbation of patriotism, as short as it could be among them, was not taken into consideration).

When the topic at hand is more a question of philosophical and ideological currents than practices, Csunderlik effectively turns to transnational comparison: he detects, for example, the European circulation of freethinking, anti-clericalism, atheism, and Marxist ideas, which were widely used by members of the Galileo Circle. The group was in fact marked by internal divisions in terms of these very ideas: one faction, led by the young Károly Polányi (the first president of the Circle and a subsequent polyhistor, economist, sociologist, and philosopher known for his work later written in London entitled The Great Transformation, a model for historical sociology) was stuck in a more apolitical freethinking (based on the theories of Ernst Mach), while many members progressively opted for Marxism and, in the second part of World War I, even for revolutionary Socialism.

Thus, Csunderlik discuses the role of the Galileo Circle not exclusively within the political field or the scientific one, but also within a broader cultural context; he examines many of its social and cultural factors and conditions: its recruitment practices, its locations, its events, its media, its scholarly activities, its receptions, and its audiences. In order to discuss all this, he needed to abandon the linear chronology within the greater, nevertheless chronologically limited parts, i.e. the so-called “great” (1908–14) and the “short” (1914–19) periods of the Galileo Circle, and opted instead for thematic organization. The Galileo Circle was linked to discussions of politics, ideologies, war, science, history, youth, gender, sports etc., in other words a wide array of important discourses of political and cultural currents of the epoch. Csunderlik describes how the Circle’s manifestations were perceived by contemporaries in political and intellectual arenas, but also in society at large. Csunderlik successfully traces the contributions of the Galileo Circle to the shaping of the ideas of cultural and political modernity in early twentieth-century Hungary, and he has assembled a balanced and well-founded historical work on this youth group.

Eszter Balázs
Petőfi Literary Museum – Kassák Museum/Kodolányi University of Applied Arts

Europe’s Balkan Muslims: A New History. By Nathalie Clayer and Xavier Bougarel. Translated by Andrew Kirby. London: Hurst, 2017. 285 pp.

When people refer to “European Muslims” or “Islam in Europe,” they tend to forget the eight million Muslims in Southeastern Europe. Sophisticated studies on Islam and Muslims between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean are rare, and there are almost no comparative studies on the subject, probably due to the obstacle posed by the linguistic diversity of these communities. In Europe’s Balkan Muslims: A New History (first published as Les musulmans de l’Europe du Sud-Est (XIXe-XX siècles) [2013]), Xavier Bougarel and Nathalie Clayer undertake the monumental task of synthesizing their knowledge of this heterogeneous Muslim group and presenting a historical overview of it from the early nineteenth century to 2001.

Clayer and Bougarel are professors at the Center for Turkish, Ottoman, Balkan, and Central Asian Studies in Paris, with complementary research profiles. Bougarel specializes in Slavic-speaking Muslims in Yugoslavia from the Second World War to the violent dissolution of the Yugoslav state, and Clayer’s emphasis is on the Albanian and Turkish side and the Ottoman and post-Ottoman period. They are thus able to compare the situations of diverse Muslim groups in several countries in different political periods, many of which were extremely turbulent.

The process of Islamization in Southeastern Europe during six hundred years of Ottoman rule was by no means uniform, and the authors also emphasize that religious diversity is one of the region’s main characteristics. Although the vast majority of the Muslims in the region are Sunnis of the Hanafi rite, there are significant regional, social, and ethnic differences among them, and there is also a great intra-Islamic variety in terms of religious interpretations, practices, and affiliations. This heterogeneity is made vividly clear throughout the book, as the authors explore the complex character of Muslim identity formation in changing contexts. At the same time, the authors also point out the Muslim population’s exposure to and interaction with a myriad of political and religious impulses from both East and West. Bougarel and Clayer’s approach is based on the premise that Southeastern European Muslims cannot be understood simply in relation to the dismantling of empires and the emergence of nation states, but must be situated in a broader political, social, and cultural perspective.

The chronological structure of the book functions as a framework for presenting the diversity of these communities and the ruptures and continuities of their histories in an orderly manner, and it gives a good understanding of their development from the early nineteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire really started to lose control over its European possessions. The first chapter discusses reforms, bureaucracies, and new elites before the Eastern Crisis in 1876, with emphasis on changing Muslim-Christian relations, intellectual enterprises, different Islamic networks, and national identity discourses. The second chapter covers the five decades between the Eastern Crisis and the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. In this period, Muslims in Europe found themselves in a precarious situation between a crumbling empire and Christian-dominated nation building projects (with the exception of Albania), projects which included population exchanges, migration, and the forced displacement of minorities. While identities were politicized, nationalism developed more slowly among Muslims, who were often influenced by Islamic reformist currents. Chapter three explores the interwar period and World War II, which was marked by important political changes, including new territorial divisions, agrarian reforms, ideological struggles, nationalization programs, and the rise of authoritarianism. Outside Albania, Muslims were in a minority in all the states of the region. Islamic institutions were reorganized and subjected to nationalization, and local forms of Islam became parts of new networks.

Chapter three covers the communist period from the end of World War II to 1989, i.e. the general context of the Cold War, nationalisms, and authoritarianism. At the end of World War II, Albanian-speaking Muslims were massacred and violently expelled from northern Greece, and the 1950s saw the migration of other Muslim groups in the Balkans to Turkey. Modernization and collectivization reduced the influence of Muslim elites, and “Islam” was often portrayed as a reactionary force. From the outset, the communist regimes introduced antireligious policies, and scientific socialism became the cultural norm. Muslim groups developed different national identities, depending on factors such as ethnic distribution. The reorganization of Islamic institutions reflected the states’ attitudes towards their Muslims groups and towards religion in general. Bosnia was the only place in the region where pan-Islamic and Islamist currents maintained a continuous presence after 1940.

The last chapter discusses the dramatic years between 1989 and 2001, when the communist regimes collapsed, Yugoslavia disintegrated, and the countries of the region generally reoriented themselves towards the European Union and NATO. In this period, religious freedom was restored and institutions were revived and reintegrated into global religious networks. At the same time, the 1990s was traumatic for many of the Muslims in the region. Bulgaria had forced 300,000 of its Muslims to flee to Turkey, and warfare in Bosnia and Kosovo included massacres and ethnic cleansing of Muslims. Religious symbols were destroyed. The Muslims in the Balkans emerged as victims, but also as a political actor. In Bosnia, Muslim identities have to a certain extent become re-Islamized after the war. In the other countries, political Islam has been marginal or nonexistent. While religious life in public was revitalized after communism, liberalization and globalization have led to the diversification of religious practice and the fragmentation of religious authority. Muslim identities in Central and Southeastern Europe are also related to questions of economic, social, and political status.

One important observation is nevertheless that the post-Ottoman history of this region is characterized by the violent expulsion of Muslims from new Balkan states with Christian majorities. The last “ethnic cleansing” of Bosnian Muslims and Albanians from Kosovo in the 1990s was part of a recurrent pattern which began in the early nineteenth century with the expulsion of “Turks” from Montenegro, Serbia, and Greece. At the same time, the authors draw attention to the demographic changes which took place in Southeastern Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in part as a consequence of Muslim emigration, particularly to the remaining parts of the Ottoman Empire and later to Turkey, but also to the West. Furthermore, large Muslim communities have remained in the region and grown, and today three Balkans states have Muslim majorities (Bosnia, Kosovo, and Albania).

The authors admit that the end of communism inevitably led to a certain desecularization and in many cases a strengthening of the link between religion and nation, but they do not agree that this necessarily means that religious practice is on the rise or that there has been a general de-secularization of society. While a minority of Muslims have become very pious, most notably neo-Salafis (who insist that religious precepts must regulate every detail of daily life), the vast majority are non-practicing. Southeastern European Muslims’ religious development basically has followed same pattern as religious development in the rest of Europe, with the pluralization and individualization of religious life, and most of the Muslims in the region do not practice their religion.

Bougarel and Clayer emphasize the need to consider “the diversity of national and provincial historical trajectories, the complex interactions between local, national and supranational actors, and moments of rupture and uncertainty” (p.209). The nation state has not been the only actor in Southeastern Europe, and the Balkan states must be understood in a wider political context, including from the perspective of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Great Powers’ interest in the region, the logic of the Cold War, Yugoslavia’s copy of the Soviet model, international factors in the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, the United Nations, and Euro-Atlantic integration. Another observation is that one cannot really talk about one Balkan Islam or treat the Muslims in this region as an “Islamic curiosity,” cut off from the rest of the Muslim world. They are part of the wider Muslim world and connected to many of the same religious, cultural, and political developments. Their Muslim networks are not simply Ottoman or Middle Eastern, but have points of contact with global Salafism and with Sufi networks in Asian and African countries.

Against this backdrop, it is almost impossible to generalize about Southeastern European Muslims, and the overview provided by Clayer and Bougarel of this complex topic is impressive. The 13-page glossary, nine maps, and various demographic tables are useful. Europe’s Balkan Muslims fills a hole in the academic literature and is accessible and relevant to non-academics. It contains food for thought for anyone interested in processes of religious change, secularization, globalization, nationalism, religion and politics, the privatization of religion, religion and nationalism, Islam and pluralism, Islamic diversity, Islam in Europe, and Islam and Muslims in general. Moreover, it can be recommended to various policymakers, security analysts, and others with a practical interest in Muslims. Hopefully, Bougarel and Clayer are already preparing a book covering developments after 2001, which have been as complex as the processes and changes in the period covered in this book.

Cecilie Endresen
University of Oslo

A magyarországi németek története. [The history of the Germans of Hungary]. By Gerhard Seewann. Translated by Zsolt Vitári. Budapest: Argumentum Kiadó, 2015.

There are few works of scholarship in Hungarian which examine the histories of the religious, linguistic, and national minorities in parallel with the other processes of the region, the country, or the majority society. Gerhard Seewann has undertaken to address this shortcoming (or at least to address one of the lacuna in the secondary literature) by presenting the history of the German community of Hungary as part of European and regional processes and the prevailing interethnic relations of these communities with the Hungarians, as well as in comparison with the circumstances of other minority groups. Published originally as Geschichte der Deutschen in Ungarn in 2012, in his synthesis, which spans historical eras, Seewann considers the German minority not simply as a kind of passive object of the events of history, but rather as a subject or agent in these events. Thus, his work can serve as a basis for modern textbooks on the history of this community. The monograph will be of interest and relevance to scholars of the subject, members of the community, and readers who take an interest in history.

In order for Seewann to be able to achieve his admittedly complex aim, he needed not simply to draw on and rethink the existing secondary literature, but also to break with the nation-centered mode of historical narrative which is so prevalent in the scholarship on (Central) Europe. Of course, at the same time, in connection with the individual eras in the history of the region, he had to present the relevant political, economic, and social processes in Hungary in order to be able to analyze the various events which took place on different levels (transnational, regional, and significant from the perspective of the German minority) in their complex interaction with one another. In his presentation of the connections and interconnections, for the most part he demonstrates a good sense of proportions.

The first volume of the two-volume work, which with the appendices is more than 1,000 pages long, concludes with the year 1860. The second begins with the negotiations between the Hungarians and the Habsburg court which preceded the Compromise of 1867 and presents the history of the German minority in Hungary until 2006. Seewann divides his narrative into periods on the basis not of individual events, but rather according to the points at which historical processes began and came to an end, an approach which is praiseworthy. However, while the chapters on the period beginning with the early Modern Era and concluding in 1860 are based exclusively on the events of Hungarian history, the structure of the second volume also seems to take into account pivotal points which influenced the fate of the German community, for instance their situation at the end of World War II and the expulsion of many members of this community from the country.

The structure of any major work of historical scholarship which covers several centuries of history is inevitably a bit uneven at times, since there are different quantities and qualities of source materials for each individual period, and in many cases the research methods also differ. Although the structural disproportionalities of Seewann’s work are due for the most part to this, some scholars on medieval Hungarian history and the period of Ottoman occupation, notably Márta Fata and Tobias Weger, have made a few concrete remarks concerning the chapters on these periods. Their fundamental objection is that Seewann does not offer an adequately deep comparison of the German-speaking communities in Hungary with other linguistic or national minorities, nor does he address the German aspects of the occupied territories in his discussion of these periods.

He also does not make adequate use of the most recent findings in the historical scholarship on Eastern and Central Europe, so the chapters in question must be regarded more as outlines or sketches. Reviewers of the monograph have also criticized the Seewann for having failed in some cases to clarify the precise meanings of the terms he uses. The section on the socialist era is similarly schematic, as indeed its relative brevity makes clear, and it is difficult to understand why Seewann did not devote a separate chapter to the period after 1989. Since there is almost no basic research in the secondary literature on the decades of socialism, Seewann might have done better simply to include this section at the end of the second volume as a kind of overview, thereby indicating that it is not yet possible to offer a thorough narrative summary of the period. In my view, he should have taken this into consideration when deciding when to bring his narrative to an end. He also should have included a chapter summarizing the main tendencies in the history of the German minority in Hungary.

The narrative is nicely complemented by the source materials which are included in the monograph (36 in the first volume and 23 in the second), and these materials strengthen the work as a kind of “handbook.” Almost all of these source materials have been published before, and it would perhaps have been preferable to have selected source materials which have not yet been published and include them with the appropriate annotations. The first volume includes four maps, two of which (one of the Habsburg Empire, 1699–1795, the other of Hungary, 1867–1914) have no information concerning the ways in which the lands in question were divided by nationality. The second of the two, furthermore, should have been included in the second volume, which in fact does not contain a single map. In general, given the tremendous breadth of the material and the span of history covered, Seewann would have done well to have included more maps, diagrams, tables, and illustrations, as these kinds of additions would have made the book more useful in an educational setting. Indices of names and places at the end of both volumes and the register of concordance are integral parts of the work and so is the list of primary and secondary sources containing several hundreds of items. Since Seewann completed the original German manuscript in 2011 and six years passed before the work was published in Hungarian, it would have been worthwhile to have added the most recent works of secondary literature to the list of sources on the subject.

Quite understandably, Seewann examines the main questions of his work, which as already noted covers a millennium of history, in chronological order. Accordingly, the titles of the main chapters refer in general to the defining trends of a given era and thus also the main reference points of the analysis. The main chapters, however, are divided into thematic subchapters. The only exception is the short introduction, in which Seewann compares the main tendencies of German settlement in Hungary in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era.

Since in a brief review, one could not possible give a summary of such an ambitious work, I will limit myself to a few observations and explanations offered by Seewann which I consider important contributions to the existing scholarship, both in content and approach.

The most important part of the chapter on the period between 1526 and 1699 is the discussion of the demographic legacy of the Ottoman occupation and the political and economic general conditions of the settlement and resettlement of the country. Seewann persuasively refutes a cliché which has become a commonplace in Hungarian historiography, according to which the territories which were occupied by the Turks were almost completely deserted. Interpretations resting on this contention tend to ignore the fact that a large proportion of the population simply moved to larger settlements in the hopes of surviving. Seewann also offers a detailed analysis of the South-North migration of hundreds of thousands of people and refutes a “romantic” German interpretation which was vigorously instrumentalized in the 1930s according to which the settlers created the villages (which later blossomed) out of little more than blood and sweat (i.e. out of nothing, creatio ex nihilo). He convincingly shows that the period between 1688 and 1711 did indeed bear witness to a kind of dress rehearsal for the later large-scale importation of settlers, the primary purpose of which was to ensure a workforce for the owners of large estates and food for the soldiery and the cities. The arrival of settlers was also important for the development of agriculture, the improvement of the work ethic, and from the perspective of reliable taxation incomes.

The most extensive and also most thoroughly developed section of the first volume is the chapter dealing with the period between 1711 and 1790, which Seewann refers to as the century of new settlers. He approaches this very complex process from the perspective of the actors, taking into consideration the motives of the settlers, the landowners, and the state, as well as the various steps they took, the results they achieved, and the consequences of the influx of new inhabitants. Seewann presents the efforts that the landowners and the state had to make to lure members of the workforce in German-speaking territories to Hungary, efforts they were compelled to make in part because they were in competition with Prussia and Russia for this workforce. This competition ultimately determined the concessions and allowances that were offered to the settlers. Seewann also refutes the notion that the settlers were impoverished. Most of them came to Hungary as peasants, smallholders, artisans, or day-laborers with at least modest financial means. In Hungary at the time, however, this capital was not insignificant, and it was often complemented by bequests paid by family members who had remained in the settlers’ ancestral homelands. The German settlers were also motivated by the opportunity to achieve a better social status than before. Having acquired the right to move freely, they could accept the best or at least better offers of land and plots and the most advantageous conditions offered to incoming settlers, which included the freedom of religion for Protestants, which Joseph II’s Edict of Tolerance guaranteed. In his presentation of the perceptions and perspectives of the people who were affected by this process, Seewann makes excellent use of various ego documents (memoirs, correspondence, last wills and testaments), thus offering his reader a wealth of knowledge relevant to the social history and the history of the mentality of these communities.

Of the chapters on the history of the Germans in Hungary in the Early Modern Era, “The Period of Political Mobilization, 1914–1945” merits particular mention as perhaps the best section of the monograph. In this chapter, which fundamentally addresses political history, Seewann puts emphasis on the questions of political mobilization, ethnic identity, and the construction of identity. He goes into considerable detail and offers a persuasive portrayal of the process which began with the efforts of the Ungarländischer Deutscher Volksbildungsverein (led by Jakob Bleyer, the Verein initially sought only to secure rights concerning cultural affairs and education) and ended with the rise of the Ungarisches Volksbund der Deutschen, which was led by Franz Basch and which served the great power interests of the Third Reich. Seewann shows the interconnections among the events in the coordinate system of the efforts and actual measures taken by the German minority and the German and Hungarian states. Fundamentally, he seeks an answer to the question of how, by the second half of the 1930s, for a significant segment of the German minority, which at the beginning of the era was for the most part apolitical, the notion of the indivisible Hungarian nation had been replaced as the principal orientation point by attachment to its own ethnic group, the community of the German folk, and the “mother country,” i.e. Germany.

My critical remarks notwithstanding, I consider Gerhard Seewann’s groundbreaking work an important contribution to the secondary literature. His monograph provides a summary of the scholarship on and knowledge of the history of the Germans of Hungary which is critical and in many respects innovative in its approach, and which also goes beyond simple descriptions and analyzes subtle interconnections. The unevennesses in his synthesis call attention first and foremost to the dearth of research on the subject, thus also suggesting new avenues of inquiry.

 Ágnes Tóth
Hungarian Academy of Sciences ­­– University of Pécs

Export Empire: German Soft Power in Southeastern Europe, 1890–1945. By Stephan Gross. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 398 pp.

Export Empire engages with an often neglected aspect of German relations with Southeastern Europe before World War II: German attraction and influence, projected through peaceful, voluntary commercial and cultural exchange. It discusses soft power as one of two alternative views on empire, which were advanced by different elite circles and administrative departments in a polyarchic Nazi state and by different non-state organizations. It studies the ideas of hard power, formal empire, and informal empire or sphere of influence based on soft power from their conception in the imagination of German elites in the late nineteenth century to their application in policy, and it makes a definitive assessment of their efficiency and effects.

Gross convincingly argues that it was precisely soft power, based on the export of goods and cultural products and advanced primarily by non-state institutions, that delivered to Germany valuable economic resources and political influence in the Balkans and helped sideline the traditionally leading power, France. Soft power is the answer to how Germany regained economic positions which had been lost after World War I and how it managed to shift its foreign trade away from its Western European creditors. Soft power also paved the way for Nazi economic exploitation during World War II. But this book demonstrates that economic exploitation was not the result of carefully designed, planned entrapment. Rather, it was the result of a power shift within the German state, whereby the proponents of soft power and informal empire lost influence over the region or switched sides and adopted the Nazi approach of hard power colonial imperialism. The hardline Nazi vision of Lebensraum took over the private institutions’ liberal view of Mitteleuropa and Grossraumwirtschaft or greater economic space. As Gross shows, 1941 was the turning point of the soft power decline, when, after the unsuccessful German operations in the Soviet Union, the war effort meant greater demands for food, labor, and raw materials. The “economic miracle” achieved through soft power in the 1920s and 1930s, which no doubt was in line with German interests, was destroyed completely by the brutal force of occupation and resource extraction, which left behind devastated economies and war ridden societies. However, the principles at work which won Germany its status as a desired and legitimate partner (and even a modernizing mentor and “natural” ally), may also be observed in other informal empires in the past and today.

Competing concepts of German power in Europe and competing imperial visions ran almost in parallel among German elites from the Wilhelmine Empire to the Weimar Republic. The traditional understanding of empire as colonial rule or hard Weltpolitik was shared by nationalist-minded elites after 1880 (Admiral Tirpitz and Chancellor Bismarck, for instance) and intellectuals including Max Weber, Gustav Freytag, Heinrich Class, and others who believed Germany “had a historical mission to either uplift or rule over the Slavic peoples of the Russian Empire” (p.15). These ideas informed the perception of Russia shared by the highest military officials, such as Moltke and Kaiser Wilhelm: “after 1910 they believed any future war would be a ‘struggle for existence between Teutons and Slavs’” (p.16). The concept of Lebensraum, which motivated Nazi atrocities in Poland and Russia during World War II, derive genealogically, even if indirectly, from such a vision.

The liberal vision of an economic federation in Central Europe, the Mitteleuropa project, was advanced most notably by Gustav Stresemann, for whom the economy, rather than the nation, was to transcend state borders and win Germany its reputation and prestige. This view grounds German power on the quality of German exports, the reliability and adaptability of German traders, the precision of German technology, and the knowledge and prosperity that Germany spreads through its economic relations. Germany as a “developmental mentor” within an economic and cultural hierarchy was viewed here as a sustainable source of power and prosperity.

Trade and cultural diplomacy are the two pillars of soft power. Yugoslavia and Romania represent the region as a whole, because they were of the highest economic importance for Germany, Yugoslavia due to its minerals and Romania due to its oil. They are also compared to each other in the book to highlight nuances of soft and hard power. The central focus of the new contribution is on non-governmental organizations. The Leipzig Trade Fair, the Mitteleuropaeischer Wirtschaftstag, the German-Romanian Chamber of Commerce, and others such forums provided crucial points of contact for traders from different countries; they supplied information on the markets where Germany had lost its positions and investments after World War I; they served the small and medium-sized businesses looking to export and import under the confusing conditions of bilateral clearing; and they were the social platform where trade actually happened. The remarkable increase in trade between Germany and the Balkans is attributed to a great extent to the effective operation of these organizations.

Cultural diplomacy in the form of academic exchange programs made Germany the most desired destination for people interested in pursuing the study of economic, technical, and medical subjects, and graduates from these kinds of programs in Germany often took high government positions back home. Not only were they pro-German by conviction and loyalty, they also had access to certain material rewards, and they had a vested interest in fostering and perpetuating the subordinated relations with the Reich. Development work was also high on the agenda. Although less industrially and infrastructurally developed, the nations of the Balkans were seen as capable of advancement. Furthermore, they were seen as suitable for “Germanization,” meaning advancement under German mentoring. Aryanization (the ethnic cleansing of the territory and its repopulation with non-Jewish people) was not the main message of these programs. In contrast to Poland, southeastern Europe was not seen as a space to be populated with Germans as part of their Lebensraum, but rather as a place where the Reich should play its “civilizing mission.”

None of these policies of trade and cultural diplomacy in the Balkans were controlled by Nazis belonging to Hitler’s inner circle. It was other groups, consisting primarily of businessmen and academics, which shaped the vision of an economic space. And no doubt these groups worked to secure the empire Germany sought to create by providing reliable deliveries of food and raw materials and maintaining a hierarchical division of labor in which the agrarian states developed, but still remained agrarian. In response to some of the earlier debates on this issue, Gross argues that hindering the development of the Balkan states was not a German objective, but increasing their purchasing power was.

The end of World War II struck a final blow to the hard imperial ambitions of German foreign policy, along with the racism and unilateralism of National Socialism. The soft power of German exports and cultural diplomacy are palpable elements of German international influence today. As a study of the mechanisms of soft power, this book is relevant to our understanding of other imperial systems of the same period and also to a more nuanced grasp of the role of soft power in other spheres of influence.

The main contribution of the book is its disaggregation of the Nazi state into a battlefield of worldviews and its presentation of the ways in which private actors were able to achieve various results under certain conditions of autonomy: soft power was indeed effective. Furthermore, soft power wins a worthier victory than nationalism. More generally, the book addresses fundamental problems concerning economy and society and the formation and competition of elites. It raises questions about the role of society in bringing to power one worldview over another, and it warns indirectly of the brutal human costs paid for the rise and fall of some ideas. Export Empire offers a safe way of learning a valuable historical and theoretical lesson. Comprehensive, balanced, and well-argued, it is a must read.

Vera Asenova
Independent researcher

A terror hétköznapjai: A kádári megtorlás, 1956–1963 [The everyday weekdays of terror: The reprisals of the Kádár Regime, 1956–1963]. By Zsuzsanna Mikó. Budapest: Libri, 2016. 286 pp.

Around the time of the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a vast array of writings was published on the events of the momentous year, including scholarly essays, commemorative volumes, and memoirs. With this outpouring of publications came new opportunities for the presentation of the findings of profound scholarly research as well. The monograph by Zsuzsanna Mikó, which is the result of ten years of dedicated research, was one such work. It offers a complex analysis of the reprisals and repressive measures implemented by the Kádár regime and memories of these reprisals.

The study of the reprisals which were implemented between 1956 and 1963 alone would merit a thorough historiographic overview. The first analyses, which were essentially political in nature, had an important role in ensuring that the “Hungarian case” remain a prominent agenda item among Hungarians in the émigré communities and that the memory of 1956 remain vivid. The early historical essays, some of which were samizdat publications, shaped the historical and scholarly discourses on the period during the change of regime. After archives were opened, numerous research initiatives were launched to study the newly accessible files. In addition to the various monographs on the revolution, beginning in the 1990s CD-ROMs and online databases were also produced. Mikó’s book constitutes a continuation of this scholarly discourse. She presents and analyzes the findings of the various projects which strove to foster and spread historical knowledge of the events and their legacy, as well as the fragmentary nature of some of the projects and the various ways in which they might be continued. Her book, which she published as the head of the Hungarian National Archive, can also be read as a kind of platform of an institutional leader.

The essential focus of the book concerns justice and compensation (in addition to questions concerning history and, more narrowly, the history of law). The tension between the various approaches to the study of historical events shapes the entire text. The cases presented and analyzed by Mikó offer a vivid illustration of how juristic solutions are unsuitable as approaches to historical questions or attempts to understand the recent past, whether we are speaking of the 1989 rehabilitation proceedings launched by the last government in power before the change of regime or the 2011 “lex-Biszku” bill (which was intended to allow the prosecution of people suspected of having committed crimes in the suppression of the revolution). In the course of her analysis, Mikó emphatically notes that “the historian raises questions (…) and searches not for juridically sound answers, but rather for answers which are appropriate from historical, professional, and moral perspectives, and she does not judge” (p.29).

Unquestionably, in the best-case scenario, the study and narration of the past should remain the task of the professional historian. In this spirit, Mikó’s analysis seeks to restore the “logical order” to the process of the repressions and reprisals. She presents the various measures that were taken, from the decisions of the political actors to the composition of the laws and the procedures adopted by the prosecutors and the courts. The cases which she has examined earlier and the systematically structured series of data shed light on the functions and the dynamics of the retaliation in the wake of the revolution. Her presentation of the internal statistical data and the political debates which took place in 1957 concerning the process of launching the mechanisms of reprisal reveal the dilemmas and ambitions of the leaders of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party and the reorganized party state. The statistics concerning the summary rulings are evidence of a raw desire to take revenge and deter any and all shows of opposition, while the later data shed light on the tactics of the practice of power. One of the most interesting parts of Mikó’s analysis—and an aspect of her findings to which she gives considerable emphasis—is her presentation of the way in which people in power were confronted with the falseness of the official ideology and propaganda: as the initial reports on the reprisals made clear, the active participants in the revolution had come from the working classes, and they could hardly have been considered class enemies or “reactionary” elements known from previous epochs. The statistical and linguistic conjuring in which the party machinery engaged after having received these reports gave rise to one of the most fundamental propaganda texts.

After having presented the “constituent elements” of the mechanism of repression and reprisal, Mikó examines some of the problems that arose in the functioning of this mechanism. She examines the question of the responsibility of the judges and prosecutors, shedding light on the reestablishment of the so-called People’s Tribunals, which had served as an instrument of the communist takeover between 1945 and 1949.

In recent years, the study of the roles of collaborators and people in power has become a subject of increasingly pressing interest in public life in Hungary. This may be due in part to a kind of craving for justice, which has also become increasingly palpable in recent years, and it may similarly be due to growing recognition of the interrelationships between the databases and the various datasets which are available, as well as the lacunae in these datasets. At various points in Mikó’s narrative, she discusses persons who were active participants and collaborators in the measures that were adopted and the policies that were implemented. In the accounts of the period of reprisals and any study addressing the issue of responsibility, an assessment of their part in the events is one of the most exciting questions. Within the framework of her narrative, Mikó addresses the resistance and hesitancy of the judges and the collision of legal procedure and political expediency. The directions that were given by the Board of the Supreme Court reveal perhaps better than any other source that the trials held after the 1956 Revolution were indeed political in nature.

One essential precondition of Mikó’s analysis – and in fact of any analysis of the legal and ideological language that was used – is a clarification of the terminology and a kind of linguistic deconstruction. One of the strengths of her work is her examination of the terms (and the contexts of the terms) used in the written documents produced by the organs of power and also used in the secondary literature. She sheds light on the meanings and usefulness of the terms used to designate someone’s background. Similar key terms include conceptual, constructed, and show trials; because Mikó offers precise definitions of these terms, they prove useful tools in her analysis. True, in her assessment some of the terms should simply be rejected, as they have no meaning. For instance, the term “socialist legality,” she claims, is beyond definition. A more nuanced approach would admit the adjective ‘socialist’ in this context may simply mean ‘the lack thereof’, but could also refer to a decisive emphasis on social origins or to a formal respect for procedure.

In the wake of the conferences that were held as part of the anniversary of the revolution and the publication of almost innumerable documents on the events, both within academic circles and in public life, debates concerning the source documents on the reprisals have again flared up. According to Attila Szakolczai’s 2017 publication Koholt perek (Invented Trials), the “1957 narratives” (the narratives that were constructed by the machinery of repression) tell us nothing of 1956. Even though the book includes a photograph of Ilona Tóth, whose life and execution during the repressions is in the center of the debates among historians and people involved in the politics of memory, Mikó’s analysis does not deal with this question. And yet the study of our knowledge of the events of 1956 and the revolution could become even more complex if we were to apply similar perspectives to the individual requests and amnesty documents.

The individual cases, histories, and sources presented in the book do indeed shed light on the less familiar consequences of the reprisals. The excerpts found in the second half of the book give a strong sense of the social psychological effects of the measures that were implemented and the existential crises in people’s everyday lives (first and foremost the absence of a father or child who supported the family). The documents which constitute the main source base (files found in the Pest County Archive and the Military History Archive) provide an overview of processes which lasted decades. Interestingly, the illustrations in the book demonstrate the difficulty of presenting the local histories. The pictures present the prominent events (the trial of Imre Nagy and his alleged co-conspirators, for instance), but not the procedures which affected the masses, which perhaps cannot be presented in pictures at all. When it comes to the closed-door negotiations and the proceedings which took place far from the public eye, at most we have mug shots.

Mikó’s contentions concerning the historical research on the present also constitute a clear stance in the discourse among her contemporaries. Indeed, in many cases her suggestions seem inspiring, for instance regarding the pre-planned process and pace of Sovietizing the administration of justice. Some of her ascertainments, however, may well meet with a critical response, for instance her summary assessment that the 1963 amnesty is depicted as a watershed in mainstream historiography and her comments on the alleged failure, for the moment, of the community of historians to confront and deal with the past.

Another point of (temporal) reference in this book, which was published for the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution, is 1989 and the process of regime change. At the beginning of her discussion, Mikó, drawing on the familiar essay by János Kornai, raises the following question: “is seeing justice done a necessary precondition […] of proclaiming the change of regime complete” (p.12). By raising this question, she addresses a topic that again has come into the foreground of the discussions in public life and professional circles. At the book launch of on October 20, 2016, Hungarian historian János M. Rainer, who authored the preface to the book, drew on the writings of Timothy Garton Ash and called attention to the ambivalent results of attempts to confront, study, and narrate Hungary’s past. In Hungary, measures adopted involving injured parties, victims, agents, and questions of responsibility proved both productive and unproductive in various spheres. Fundamental research is indispensable if we hope to untangle these intertwined questions (questions of justice, compensation, open files, the writing of history, and public discourses).

Zsuzsanna Mikó’s book, a monograph on the repressive measures and reprisals implemented by the Kádár regime, is an example of such a research. It is, moreover, a work of scholarship that will inspire further research in part because of Mikó’s use of sources to present the fates of individuals and in part because of the questions she raises in the individual chapters. From the perspective of the structure and organization of scholarly and scientific life, she has also provided an example of the directorial platform of a major institution. Finally, Mikó’s book can be read as a kind of progress report on the state of the historical research and scholarship on the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution.

Gábor Tabajdi
1956 Institute – Oral History Archive

Gender in 20th Century Eastern Europe and the USSR. Edited by Catherine Baker. London–New York: Palgrave, 2017. 259 pp.

This volume, edited by Catherine Baker, lecturer at the University of Hull, on the everyday lives of and activism among women in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the twentieth century is the seventeenth publication in the series Gender and History. The fifteen contributors range from PhD students to the most acknowledged experts of gender studies and women’s history, all of whom teach at universities in England and the United States. In addition to the general introduction, written by the editor, the book consists of 14 chapters. They are organized into four thematic sections which follow a chronological order. Drawing inspiration to write this book partly from social media, users of which have been preoccupied for years by certain issues related to socialist ideology (e.g. sex, fashion, traditions, etc. in the Eastern bloc), the authors seek answers to the following questions: what was the socialist woman and man supposed to be? How was the power to intervene in the structure of gender relations contested under state socialism? How did women experience the positive and negative effects of the democratic transition until the end of the 2000s?

Altogether four chapters focus on gender (in)equalities in the Soviet Union. Additionally, one study discusses the Sovietization of Armenian women, and three chapters analyze gender relations in Yugoslavia (and the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia). Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland are each represented by two chapters, occasionally in comparison with other countries of the Eastern Bloc. In contrast with these geographic units, one chapter examines the effects of the Cold War on the region’s gender history and LGBT politics from a transnational perspective. The last chapter of the book, written by Baker, is based primarily on methodologies from sociology and political science. It offers a short overview of LGBT rights after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The first part of the book provides a detailed discussion of the fin-de-siècle and interwar periods in Bohemia, the South Slavic area, and Armenia in the 1920s. The chapter on the artistic depiction of the “Czech National Mother” suggests that women’s lives were not at all separated from Bohemian nationalist politics within the framework of the Austro–Hungarian Empire. Cynthia Paces suggests that maternal symbols like the Jan Hus Memorial in Prague (which features a mother breastfeeding at the feet of Jan Hus) and the images of Anna Fischer-Dückelmann’s Die Frau als Hausärztin (The Woman as Family Doctor) demonstrated women’s fundamental roles in processes of nation building and public health and also embodied the strict expectations placed on women. The second chapter describes the characteristic features of the lesbian relationship of Nasta Rojc, the Croatian/Yugoslavian painter, and Vera Holme, the British suffragette and ambulance driver during the First World War in the territory which became Yugoslavia. Using archival sources (above all, correspondence), Baker and Dimitrijevic have developed a methodology for researching lesbian networks. In the third chapter, Jo Laycock and Jeremy Johnson compare and contrast traditional and modernized features of Armenian women’s lives (customs concerning dress and the wearing of veils, education, and paid work). According to the study, the complete Sovietization of these women did not occur in the 1920s, and the women preserved certain characteristics of their local (rural) lives. Together with the effects of the genocide against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, this created a peculiar mixture of traditionalism and modernity within Armenian society.

The second part analyzes the impact of revolution and war on the lives of ordinary people and soldiers. Erica L. Fraser concludes that revolutions follow different social and geographical trajectories. She studies the Russian Revolution (1917) within the theoretical framework of the French and the Latin American revolutionary models. Kerstin Bischl outlines the wartime conditions of the 800,000 women who fought in the Red Army between 1941 and 1945 as medical orderlies, radio operators, snipers, and pilots. This chapter is distinguished by its reliance on oral history interviews. The study by Katherine R. Jolluck also focuses on the Second World War. She examines the opposition of various groups in Poland to mass arrests, executions, acts of sexual violence, and the deportation of civilians committed by Nazi and Soviet troops. Jenny Kaminer argues that, as a consequence of Stalinization and the brutal intervention into family life in Russia after the October Revolution, the burden of childrearing was shouldered by the collective and also led to the crisis of fatherhood that persisted in the post-Soviet period.

The third thematic unit examines gender politics of state socialist regimes in the satellite states. Judit Takács presents historical evidence about the “lists of homosexuals” compiled for official state use in Hungary beginning in the 1920s. Takács provides an evaluation of the statistical data, and she emphasizes that regimes of different stripes made use of these lists. The chapter by Ivan Simic analyzes how the Yugoslav Communist Party directed its gender policies towards the youth in the second half of the 1940s. He offers a case study related to a large governmental project (“Youth Work Action”), which tried to mediate ideas about desirable gender roles. Maria Bucur applies the methodology of Alltagsgeschichte as developed by Alf Lüdtke to reconstruct the difficulties a woman living in an urban environment had to face during the Ceauşescu regime, such as lack of running water, no central heating, the scarcity of food in the shops.

The last section of the book focuses on gender during and after the democratic transition. Maria Adamson and Erika Kispeter draw interesting conclusions by comparing the labor market of the Soviet Union and Hungary. Even though several legal acts in principle established equal rights for working women, women nonetheless continued to work in positions of low prestige until the 1990s. Anna Muller analyzes gendered representations in the letters of Polish male political activists (some of whom belonged to the Solidarity movement) which were addressed to their wives. She also studies the types of relationships among political prisoners and criminal prisoners. The study by Adriana Zaharijevic delineates the place of women in the violence of war, which erupted during the transition process in Yugoslavia. She argues that feminist activism was highly determined by this war, as it continued to oppose party politics until the turn of the millennium, when feminists started to handle the state as a partner in their efforts to enforce European democratic values.

The volume builds on the growing scholarship on gender in the formerly state socialist parts of Europe, epitomized, perhaps above all, by the pioneering volume Gender and War in Eastern Europe, edited by Nancy M. Wingfield and Maria Bucur. It extends the themes and methodologies of gender studies to the post-Communist countries, in which old and new prejudices make LGBT lives the subject not only of scholarly debates, but also of political contestation. Apart from the first chapter on Czech visual culture, the volume is not rich in visual materials. The authors aim to address fellow scholars and call their attention to the importance of reconstructing local gender histories. The accurate historiographical overviews in each chapter and the selected bibliography at the end of the book serve as excellent points of departure for this.

Dóra Czeferner
University of Pécs

A Contemporary History of Exclusion: The Roma Issue in Hungary from 1945 to 2015. By Balázs Majtényi and György Majtényi. Budapest–New York: Central European University Press, 2016. 242 pp.

A researcher in legal studies and a professor of history, both tending to use the tools of the social sciences and be sensitive about the ethical and methodological aspects of their own work, this is an excellent combination to raise the questions which are raised in the book under review (henceforth The Roma Issue). The book examines the public discourses and the policies regarding the Hungarian Gypsies/Roma from the end of World War II until the present. Despite the seeming simplicity of this formulation, the mere naming and definition of the protagonist group are far from simple matters. In the international literature, writers frequently opine that the term Roma ought to be regarded as the single correct name (analogous to the contemporary use of African American) because the more conventional cigány (Gypsy) is considered pejorative. This is not “just” a moral or political issue, but a methodological one as well, because in Hungary many more people are regarded as “Gypsy” by their non-Gypsy environment than identify themselves as Gypsy or Roma. The reasons are, on the one hand, the apparently negative associations of the word and, on the other, the fact that in most cases the mother tongue of person who is identified as “Gypsy” by the people in his or her surroundings but who does not identify as “Gypsy” him or herself is Hungarian. However, the situation is more complicated, because there are people in Hungary, including some young intellectuals and students, who, instead of the term Roma, prefer the term cigány as their self-label. The Majtényi brothers (the authors of the book under review are siblings) reflect on this problem and take neither self-evidence of the terms nor consensus concerning the definitions for granted. Instead of ignoring this question by opting for a single term, they use both as synonyms, they use both terms, in each individual case preferring one over the other for a specific contextual reason, and in some cases using the terms together: “Roma/Gypsy.” This solution is perhaps adequate inside the book, where there is room for explanation, but the term “Cigánykérdés,” or “Gypsy question,” in the original Hungarian title has been changed to “Roma Issue” in the English. This may have been a prudent choice on the part of the translator, but it does somewhat sidestep the problematic nature of the terminology.

Cigánykérdés in Hungarian, because of the secondary meaning of the word question as “problem,” is less adequate as an analytical term than the Roma/Gypsy issue in English, but it is a useful term to deal with the (social) policies and the (public) discourses regarding the Roma with the same theoretical tools. The use of this term is often met with the criticism that this kind of history cannot be equated with the history of the Roma. This is eminently true, but any attempt to narrate Roma history from inside raises other, similarly grave moral/epistemological issues, the most relevant of which is the inherent risk of ending up depicting the Roma communities in an ahistorical, essentialist manner. The perspective of The Roma Issue, to formulate it in a slightly provocative way, theoretically integrates the Roma/Gypsies into Hungarian society, even if it does so through an analysis of the social mechanisms that were and are used to discriminate, exclude, and disintegrate communities.

The book presents an exciting narrative. Between the theoretical Introduction and Summary, The Roma Issue consists of four chapters divided according to historical sub-periods. In the first of these chapters (“Comrade, If You Have a Heart…” The History of the Gypsy Issue, 1945–1961, pp.31–62) we encounter a paradox. After 1945, the communist regimes initiated and implemented radical (although not always planned) changes in every sector of society. The life of Roma, however, changed probably less than the lives of any other group, even if discrimination against them may have become less harsh and the neglect of the Roma in public discourses became less definitive in this first sub-period than it had been in the interwar era. The paradigmatic types of sources in that period were produced by the authorities, very often by the police, at a time when these institutions were “overburdened” by endeavors to discipline the whole of society. For those familiar with the history of the socialist system, the most surprising findings might be that high inherited unemployment rates among the Roma did not decline, at least not until the early 1960s, because later and for some years there was indeed almost full employment among the male Roma/Gypsies.

The Roma underwent radical social changes from the early 1960s to the end of the socialist system, as discussed in the next chapter (“Life Goes On…” The Hungarian Party-State and Assimilation, pp.63–118). The prevailing discourses of the period tried to present this development as the product of the social policy initiated due to the benevolence of the leadership and of “society” (in that order). Meanwhile, the real driving force of the process was the soft budget constraint (a concept introduced by János Kornai), in other words the insensitivity of the socialist economic units to the costs of and insatiable demand for any and all kinds of sources, including the manpower of unskilled industrial workers. This key tendency ultimately led to the fall of state socialism, but it had a favorable side-effect: the positive change of the Roma/Gypsy population’s social situation from around 1960 to the system-change in 1989/90.

During this same period, there was an (admittedly slow and limited, but in the context of the Soviet bloc, nonetheless highly relevant) process often referred to as the “softening” of the political dictatorship. Paradoxically, the authorities’ disciplinary measures taken against the Roma became harder or, more precisely, more systematic in this period. Meanwhile, the Roma and the non-Roma populations’ housing conditions, working status, lifestyle, etc. began to resemble the housing conditions, working status, and lifestyles of the non-Roma population more than even before, but the everyday expression of prejudicial attitudes and sentiments in everyday life also became more common than ever. A redefinition of the relationship between the Roma/Gypsies and the non-Roma majority would have required profound and sustained change in social discourses. But the proposals and attempts to promote this kind of discourse in the Kádár era were labeled an “oppositional political activity” (which was just a little “softer” than calling these acts “the political activity of the enemy” would have been).

It is a cruel irony of history that the system change which ushered in the freedom of political organization and the freedom of the press, while in theory it brought new opportunities for the Roma too, in fact combined the old and the new disadvantages without the advantages of any of the two previous periods (see the chapter Roma Policy after the Regime Change, pp.119–86). To cite two examples, first, the most important development of the Kádár era—full employment among the Roma—faded with the regime change. Second, although a new and more extensive discourse has emerged regarding the Roma/Gypsies in the twenty-first century, this discourse has not been defined by representatives of Roma movements or civil right activists. Furthermore, the “civil rights activism” on behalf of the Roma is again viewed as an illegitimate form of political activity in present-day Hungary (Panopticon: Roma Policy, 2010–2015, pp.187–203).

The Majtényi duo strove throughout their inquiry to remain scholarly and analytical. The thoroughness with which they approached the issues and questions made it inevitable that they would highlight moral and political aspects. Theirs is a dangerous, but respectable enterprise.

Csaba Dupcsik
Hungarian Academy of Sciences

pdfVolume 3 Issue 1 CONTENTS



Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. By Timothy Snyder. New York: Basic Books, 2010. xix + 524 pp.

Soviet style Communism may not have lost all of its appeal. Stockholm “boasts” a bar aptly named KGB after the dreaded Soviet political police and dedicated to the Soviet Union. The walls are adorned with tasteless communist memorabilia. Would a public place commemorating the Gestapo, complete with swastikas and Nazi memorabilia, be conceivable? In a brilliant analysis, Timothy Snyder explains two of the worst genocides in modern history as products in part of interaction between the two most repressive and tyrannical regimes. The nature of this interaction is exemplified by the fact that “Stalinism had displaced east European Jews from their historical position as victims of the Germans, and embedded them instead in an account of an imperialist conspiracy against communism. From there, it was but a small step to present them as part of a conspiracy of their own. And thus the communists’ hesitation to distinguish and define Hitler’s major crime tended, as the decades passed, to confirm an aspect of Hitler’s worldview” (p.376).

Timothy Snyder’s now almost iconic Bloodlands has debunked Stalin and the communist leadership of the Soviet Union as the perpetrators of one of the most massive crimes against humanity in history and the rulers of a terroristic state rivaled in Europe only by Hitler’s regime —after 1939. The novelty is not the comparison of the two states and tyrannical systems, but the analysis of the two regimes without the usual bias towards the Soviet Union and the focus on the role of the dynamics of Soviet and German policies in the escalation of mass killings, which yields the revelation that the ideologically motivated quest for (absurdly conceived) security led them both to mass murder. The implication of Snyder’s work is that in the competitive quest between the Stalinist Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany for the creation of an ideologically grounded empire and the attainment of world domination, the Soviet Union was in no way a morally superior system. Both were equally monstrous, tyrannical, oppressive, disdainful of human dignity and murderous. Stalin had no desire to oppose Hitler. Had he had a choice, he would have chosen cooperation with the Nazis. Hence Hitler’s attack does not make the Soviet system more virtuous than the National Socialist, which does not diminish the merit of the efforts mounted by Soviet citizens in fighting the German invaders for their home and sheer survival. Stalin’s war against Hitler was not a crusade against tyranny, but a life and death struggle for the survival of his regime. The defeat of Hitlerism was a result of this struggle for self-preservation; the liberation of Europe from the Nazi yoke was not the motivating factor in Stalin’s war. After all, in 1937 Stalin toasted “the complete destruction of all enemies, themselves and their kin” (p.72) and declared that “people belonging to national minorities should be… shot like mad dogs.” By then he and his entourage had murdered millions. The question was why. One of the main merits of Snyder’s work is to show that Stalinist genocides targeted both class enemies and ethnic minorities to an equal extent.1

However, some of the arguments in the book are problematic. Snyder asserts that Stalin was “abandoning” the kind of Marxism according to which people “opposed the revolution because of their class background.” According to Snyder, “with Stalinism something was changing; normal state security concerns had infused the Marxist language and changed it unalterably.” In the show trials the accused were charged with having betrayed the Soviet Union to foreign powers: “Theirs was a class struggle, according to the accusation, only in the most indirect and attenuated sense: they supposedly had aided states that represented the imperialist states that encircled the homeland of Communism” (p.85). In fact Snyder concludes that existence “no longer preceded essence,” “politics was no longer comprehensible in terms of class struggle,” (p.109) and most emphatically, “the Soviet Union was no longer an ideological state” (p.116). Of course if one reduces Marxist/Stalinist ideology to the dimension of internal (but not external) security, Snyder’s argument could be plausible. Even then it would be good to see a sociological analysis of the national victims of Stalin’s killings. Yet “ideology” and “class struggle” were not uni-dimensional. For anyone who was educated in a communist state, the proposition that state security is part and parcel of class struggle does not sound like the antithesis of class struggle at all. On the contrary, the extension of the enemy status to ethnic groups allegedly in the service of foreign powers plotting to undermine communism was the logical conclusion of the struggle against class enemies, resistance to which, according to Stalinist logic, intensified even though the relentless struggle against them allegedly diminished their numbers. The script of the Rajk trial in Hungary demonstrated this link. Leninism and Stalinism extended class struggle to the international scene, and in fact the “theory” of communism encompassed an international struggle between the progressive forces of history and retrograde imperialism. The Novikov telegram (Novikov was the Soviet ambassador in Washington at the time, but the ideas put forth in the document are usually attributed to Vyacheslav Molotov), which was penned in 1946 in order to underpin ideologically the Bolshevization of Eastern Europe and the schism with the West, attests to this logic. Communism was more than a struggle with domestic enemies: it was conceived as a global struggle. In addition, communist ideology was more than a fight against enemies.

Stalin’s absurd security concerns stemmed from the fact that he looked at the world through the lens of a communist ideology that he himself formulated. Moreover, communism encompassed more than just class struggle. It was a belief in progress towards “communism,” which meant the withering away of the state, the ability of economic planning to overcome economic cycles, unemployment and exploitation. One would have to overlook the mountains of evidence and the history of the Soviet export of communism to Eastern Europe to claim that the Soviet Union was not an ideological state. Societies in Stalin’s USSR and in Eastern Europe, where the Stalinist system was transplanted, were permeated with communist ideology, and plenty of people cherished a belief in communist ideology. As the historian Peter Kenez, who grew up in Stalinist Hungary, put it, “Many were careerists… but… genuine hypocrisy is difficult… It is better and easier to convince ourselves that what we say is true. There was a group of people who had become Communists long ago and had spent their lives remaining faithful to their original commitments.” Kenez also noted that in the Soviet Union “the people who consciously and completely repudiated the lies that are at the foundation of every repressive society were in a tiny minority.”2 Economic history also underscores the fact that the Soviet Union adhered to Marxist notions to the end of its existence, although it should be noted that economic development did have a security dimension. Let it suffice to say that when in 1946 Eugene (Jenő) Varga revised a basic tenet of Marxist economic thought, he was forced to revoke his thesis.

Bloodlands attributes the two greatest genocides in modern history, Stalinist and Nazi killings, to Stalin and Hitler’s attempts to construct a self-sufficient empire. They both targeted agriculture, albeit for different reasons. Stalin murdered kulaks to promote collectivization in order to support Soviet industrialization; Hitler turned east to provide a lasting source of food for Germans through colonization and the murder of the indigenous population. In Poland both Hitlerites and Stalinists first targeted the same group for extinction: the Polish intelligentsia. In the Ukraine, Belorussia and the Baltics, German liquidation squads committed mass murders in the very places where the NKVD had done so before them, sometimes killing the sole family member to have survived Soviet slaughters. Nazi and Soviet systems interacted to produce the mass killings. Mayhem descended into an irrational vortex in the murderous German occupation of the Soviet Union, in which the initial support enjoyed by the occupiers was fueled by the locals’ hatred of the system to which many of their friends and family members had fallen victim before the Germans came. “Germans killed Jews as partisans, and many Jews became partisans. The Jews who became partisans were serving the Soviet regime, and were taking part in a Soviet policy to bring retributions upon civilians.” The partisan war in Belarus was “a perversely interactive effort of Hitler and Stalin” (p.250).

Snyder is at his best in his interpretation of the dynamics of the events; the escalation of Stalinist murder, the interactions that brought about the brutalization of the war in the east to levels unmatched in Europe’s not terribly peaceful history. However his explanation of Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union and the related German decision to annihilate European Jewry is weakened by contradictions within his argument.

How could so many lives be brought to a violent end? Snyder seems to say that the killings were products of failed policies. In his assessment, the failure of collectivization in the USSR and the failure of Operation Barbarossa brought about the Holocaust. Thus genocide appears to have happened almost by default as a result of Hitler’s and Stalin’s botched utopic visions: “they brought about catastrophes, blamed the enemy of their choice, and then used the death of millions to make the case that their policies were necessary or desirable. Each of them had a transformative Utopia, a group to be blamed when its realisation proved impossible, and then a policy of mass murder that could be proclaimed as a kind of ersatz victory” (pp.387–88). Yet the death of millions may not have been ersatz victory for the two dictators, but their primary purpose. Furthermore, they did not act alone, but required the collaboration and cooperation of countless people from many walks of life in order to carry out the mass murders, and these murders were often committed with great enthusiasm or opportunism. The broad array of motives (greed, ideological zeal, racial, national and ethnic hatred) remain largely unexplored, so the killings are not sufficiently explained.3 Is it convincing to argue that the failure of collectivization caused Stalin’s policy of starvation, or that Hitler shifted to mass murder and presented it as an end in itself after the defeat in Moscow and the United States’ entry into the war?

The narrative leading up to Snyder’s explanation of the Final Solution starts with the road to war. The author takes it for granted that Hitler’s aim was to colonize the East, meaning Poland and parts of the Soviet Union, in order to satisfy his vision of German colonization there. Yet if this was the case, why did Hitler first wish to destroy not Poland but Czechoslovakia, and preferably by way of war? At first glance, this might seem irrelevant to Snyder’s narrative, but if these were indeed Hitler’s long-term goals, he was taking a risk regarding their attainment. If colonization in the East was what he sought, why risk defeat in Czechoslovakia? One should remember that on paper at least Czechoslovakia was guaranteed by France and the Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia had absolutely no importance in a future campaign against Poland or the Soviet Union. Thus it was an odd choice to take on one of Central Europe’s strongest military powers when the Wehrmacht was not yet ready. Furthermore, what would have happened if Poland had decided to accept the German demands for Danzig and an extraterritorial passage to East Prussia? Some historians believe, moreover, that Great Britain was Hitler’s main prize, and knocking out the USSR, Hitler hoped, would force the British to come to terms.4 Contemplating Hitler’s goals in the war sheds light on the ultimate aims of Nazi policies. Yet the British option is not discussed at all, and Snyder makes no attempt to offer an explanation as to why Hitler attacked Britain. In fact there is evidence to suggest that the Germans may have been amenable to the idea of prolonging the truce with Stalin. Molotov went to Berlin in November 1940 to negotiate a modus vivendi in Europe. It was only after the talks failed due to Molotov’s refusal to cede Bulgaria to Germany that Hitler gave the final order for Operation Barbarossa. Yet Snyder does not mention the Berlin talks. More recently a debate emerged on the notion of preemptive attack, more precisely the contention was made that Hitler invaded the Soviet Union because he learned that Stalin was preparing for war against Germany. This position is incompatible with Snyder’s position. Perhaps one does not want to buy into this assumption, but the pros and cons of this argument brought new facts to light and gave rise to new interpretations regarding Hitler’s and Stalin’s motives.5 As Snyder’s arguments revolve around the two dictators’ concepts of security, it would have been useful to have presented the main ideas of this debate.6 I would tend to agree that given Hitler’s worldview, the destruction of Bolshevism may have been his main war aim, but I feel that the reader should be made aware of the dilemmas and controversies, as well as the lacunae in our knowledge.

Snyder’s explanation of the war against the Soviet Union is also problematic. He argues that “Hitler’s economic vision could be realized only after actual military conflict” (p.159). According to Snyder, “the Soviet Union was the only realistic source of calories for Germany and its Western European Empire” (p.161). Colonization was motivated by access to agricultural space, which in turn was allegedly needed to grow enough food to supply a growing number of Germans. Potentially there was ample food available for Hitler’s Germans without the resort to war as a result of exploitative bilateral clearing agreements. Through this ingenious arrangement, Germany received essential items, including foodstuffs, from the Soviet Union, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. In fact the latter three sold much of their surplus to Germany, the market of which helped them emerge from recession. Eventually Germany was not paying for the shipments it received (the mechanism of the clearing agreements made this possible with impunity). The fact that exports from Southeast Europe declined after 1939 can be partly attributed to the war.7 Mark Mazower’s conclusion that Nazi racial goals were the raison d’être of the war in the East seems more convincing.8

Snyder’s explanation of the evolution of the Final Solution flows from his presentation of the war against the Soviet Union as having been ineluctable. Originally, or so Snyder argues, Hitler sought a peaceful solution, the emigration of European Jews to distant lands. Only when this turned out to be impossible did killing come to the forefront. Again this idea is presented without any attempt at a dialogue with other positions on this complicated issue. Snyder claims that deportation to Madagascar was the original “plan.” Snyder claims that, “In late 1940 and early 1941, the Royal Navy prevented Hitler’s Oceanic version of the Final Solution,” as the British still controlled the sea lanes (p.160). Madagascar definitely floated around as a “solution” to the “Jewish Question.” For instance, the Hungarian Nazis openly talked about it in the early 1940s and even after extermination became official policy in Germany. Was this a plan in a technical sense? On page 159 Snyder asserts that the Germans lacked the ships necessary to invade Britain. If the Germans lacked the capacity to carry a few hundred thousand troops across the channel, how would the deportation of millions of people to an island in the Indian Ocean have been possible? Ground transportation was also a problem: German planners understood that the deportation of 160, 000 Jews from the Lodz ghetto to the Generalgouvernement would require 200 days.9 As Saul Friedländer put it, Hitler may have used “the Madagascar idea as a metaphor for the expulsion of the Jews from the continent.”10 Hitler was aware of the logistical problem. When Martin Bormann asked how they were to be shipped there, he answered ironically, “A Strength through Joy Fleet?”11

Bloodlands runs into a similar difficulty with the claim that the Nazis hoped to use the Soviet Union as a dumping ground for Jews. Snyder notes that “[t]he allied Soviet Union had rejected Germany’s proposal to import two million European Jews” (pp.160–61). How serious this proposal was we do not actually learn, but Snyder contends that “if Germany conquered the Soviet Union, it could use Soviet territories as it pleased” (p.161). Later in the book he argues that, “Russia is vast: the Germans never even aimed to colonize more than its western fifth” (p.336). It is hard to see how they could have dumped millions of unwanted people there if the full stretch of the country was not to be a German colony.

In Snyder’s view Hitler and his leaders did not originally intend to kill all the Jews. The Final Solution, rather, was the result of a lack of other options and the German failure in the war against the Soviet Union. “Six months after Operation Barbarossa was launched, Hitler had reformulated the war aims such that the physical extermination of the Jews became the priority” (p.187). “When the war was lost, Hitler called the mass murder of the Jews his victory” (p.388). The question is whether Hitler knew in early December that he had lost the war. And could he ever openly call the killing of the Jews his victory and hence substitute it for victory in the war to the German people? We know that everything about the killings was kept secret as far as possible. Snyder contends that the physical liquidation of European Jews was not a foregone conclusion. Rather, according to him it was a resolution that evolved during the first phase of the war.

Snyder’s argument may be problematic on several important points. In the fall of 1941 Hitler did not know that the invasion of the Soviet Union would fail, and neither did anyone else, including people with a far more astute perception of the situation than Hitler. Snyder himself claims on page 211 that “Even after the failures of Operations Barbarossa and Typhoon, Hitler… seemed to believe that he could conquer the USSR in early 1942.” It is more reasonable to assume that even in 1942, “victory was assumed to lie only a few months away” (p.379). It is therefore difficult to believe that the Holocaust was a substitute for a victory that Hitler thought he could still obtain. However, Snyder’s argument rests on this claim if we are to believe that Hitler adopted the Final Solution in response to a dramatic constellation of events. One factor was the alleged realization that Germany could not win the war; the other was the formation of the grand alliance: “Jews as such would be killed as retribution for the U.S.–U.K.–USSR alliance” (p.217). Hitler announced on December 12 that “the world war is here. The annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence.” As Snyder asserts, Hitler became convinced that a worldwide Jewish conspiracy had brought Germany into war with all three powers. This would make sense only if the United States had declared war on Germany, which was not the case. Snyder admits that the United States reciprocated the German declaration of war. Even Hitler’s warped mind could not have missed that point. Thus the question should be why Hitler actually brought about the Grand Alliance by declaring war on the United States.

In addition, Snyder’s own chronology throws into question the argument that Hitler made up his mind to kill the Jews only in December. Himmler, as Snyder asserts, “endorsed the killing of women and children in July 1941” (p.197) and “the total extermination of Jewish communities in August 1941” (p.206). The “death factory” of Bełżec was established in “late October 1941” (pp.255–56), and the Chełmno facility was gassing Jews “as of December 1941” (p.258). This was hardly a result of a new policy initiative after the coalition came into existence later that month. Goebbels stated on November 16 that the fate of the Jews would be annihilation. Finally, one would need to demonstrate that there was a change of paradigm in Jewish policy before and after December 1941. In fact, mass killings to exterminate Jews were already taking place in 1941. Even though it was the preferred option, exterminating the Jews may not have become automatic, even after 1941. The policy of exterminating Hungarian Jews was an evolutionary policy in 1944, and immediate, total liquidation was the desired outcome, although it conflicted with a pressing need for forced labor in the Jägerstab program.12 Snyder constructed a timeline of events that would support his argument that the extermination of the Jews became the only Nazi option when Hitler no longer believed in victory. In doing so, he may have underestimated the murderous propensity of Hitlerism. Victory was not yet beyond reach for the Germans in 1941 or even 1942, although it was delayed. My intention is not so much to address the question of whether German extermination policies were predetermined or escalated (radicalized), but rather to observe that by introducing the formation of the Grand Alliance as the trigger for the implementation of the policy to kill all Jews, in my reading Snyder has rationalized a policy the real foundation of which, in my assessment, was irrational hate.

Snyder argues that Hitler could still have reversed his policies in December 1941, much as Antonescu did. This statement obscures the difference between the two leaders. Antonescu may have been a murderous anti-Semite who presided over the annihilation of 300,000 people in territories attached to Romania after the Soviets were pushed back by the Wehrmacht. Yet he was a Romanian nationalist first and acted in (his perception of) Romania’s national interest. The Jews in Romania proper were his Jews, not the Germans’ Jews, and their fate would be decided according to the perceived national interests of Romania. Unlike Hitler, Antonescu did not construct an ideology around mortal struggle for the survival of his race.13 Ferenc Szálasi, the leader of the Hungarian National Socialists, understood that Hitler’s mission was to “struggle against international Jewry.” Szálasi was a self-professed Jew hater. He called the Jews “executioners of the peoples,” and he sought to expel all Jews from Hungary and the continent, but he did not share other aspects of Hitler’s racist ideology. He too was first and foremost a nationalist. This explains why Szálasi refused to hand over Hungary’s remaining several hundred thousand Jews to the Germans after they installed him in power in October 1944. Eichmann had to content himself with 60,000 forced laborers who were “lent” to him by the Hungarian Nazi leader, but whom Szálasi expected to get back after the war.14

Robert Jervis has remarked that in order to kill Jews the Germans sacrificed security.15 This would be true if German politics had been anything close to rational. In fact, for Hitler and many of his followers killing Jews was a prerequisite of security, indeed of the very survival of the German race. Snyder actually cites sources to support this claim, but he fails to go as far as his sources potentially could have taken him. He understates the essence of Nazism and presents the drive to kill all members of a group of people as a product of rational politics. An Austrian policeman wrote to his wife of his emotions while killing Jews: “I aimed calmly and shot surely at the men, women and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hordes would treat the same, if not ten times worse.” General Gustav von Becholsteim advocated the mass murder of Jews as a preventive measure, arguing that had the Soviets invaded Europe, the Jews, who were “no longer humans,” would have exterminated Germans (pp.205–6). As Goebbels put it, Jews were “suffering a gradual process of annihilation” that they had “intended for us.” In a recent book Wendy Lower has reconstructed the genocidal mindset of the many thousands of German women who went on a torture and killing spree against the Jews in the East. Lower cites a wartime letter penned by a woman who “took dictation” from Hitler: “Our people immigrating here [to the Ukraine] do not have an easy task, but there are many possibilities to achieve great things […] One comes to the conclusion that the foreign people are not suitable for various reasons […] an admixture of blood between the controlling strata, the German element and the foreign people would occur. That would be a cardinal breach […] of the need to preserve our Nordic racial inheritance and our future would then take a similar course to that of… the Roman Empire.” Killing may not have been “a substitute for triumph” (p.215).16 In Snyder’s portrayal, economics (the “foundation” in Marxist thought) underlay Stalin’s and Hitler’s killing sprees. But Hitler did not need to kill in order to get all the food he needed and more from the East. The bilateral clearing agreements that Hitler had signed with his clients (Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary and the Soviet Union) worked well, and Germany was receiving goods even when it was no longer paying for them. Even when one considers the food needs of a “thousand-year” Reich, more traditional colonial practices would have sufficed, assuming that food shortage was a primary factor in Nazi politics at all.

The thesis that the killings of 1932–1945 were an interaction between the two tyrannical powers is persuasive for many of the areas under discussion. It breaks down for Hungary and even Yugoslavia and Slovakia, where the Holocaust had nothing to do with Stalin or the Soviet Union. The statement that Hungarian Jews (or most but not all of them I should say) were murdered in the “Bloodlands” does not help explain why this last chapter (one of the most rapid and devastating episodes) of the Final Solution took place. For a clearer understanding of the motivations of the many participants in the politics of genocide it would have been interesting to compare the motivations of leaders like Antonescu, Szálasi, Tiso and Ante Pavelić, as well as to contrast the peculiarities of the Romanian Holocaust, which created its own “bloodlands,” with the Holocaust in Hungary, which used its own territory as a killing ground to a much smaller extent. In one sentence, for a more universal explanation of Nazi genocide, the geographical scope ought to have been slightly extended.17 After all, the title of the book does claim to discuss “Europe.” This is not to say that I fault the author for not providing a more systematic, country-by-country account of Nazi or Communist rule in Europe. Yet the vast number of victims of the Holocaust in the Yugoslav territories and in territories under Romanian and Hungarian jurisdiction would have justified a comparison with “bloodlands,” all the more so since a comparison of the methods that were used would have provided further insights into the mindsets and motives of the perpetrators.

In Snyder’s account, as in many recent accounts of the genocides that occurred in twentieth-century Europe, the comfortable notion of a leader-centric world (Stalin and Hitler and their close knit group) is shattered. No longer can we comfort ourselves with the thought that the tyrants’ maniacal visions were shared by only a few. Mass murder was not just part of Hitler’s and Stalin’s agendas, but rather was part of an agenda shared by many of their compatriots of every rank and file. Mass murder, dehumanization, and the persecution of tens of millions on racial and social grounds was a product of a quest for state/racial security that is not security understood in the normal sense. The Stalinist and National Socialist security dilemma arose through the lens of two ideologies of hatred and prescribed the annihilation or at least the incarceration of millions as a sine qua non of state/national survival. Snyder underestimates the scope of communist genocide perpetrated against foreign nationals after the war. On page 318 he asserts that the Soviets took 287,000 people as laborers from East European countries, but he makes no mention of the tremendous death toll. From Hungary alone almost 230,000 civilians were taken in so-called cleansing actions, and together with POWs some 600,000 Hungarians languished in labor camps, where roughly a third of them may have perished.18 And this is just the Hungarian figure. Snyder is also mistaken that Noel Field was not tried in the Rajk trial (p. 318). He was, and he was held in prison until his release after Stalin’s death. Moreover, Rajk’s main crime was not that he was allegedly an agent of Field, although this may have been the first script of the trial. Rather, he was convicted primarily for his purported service to Tito’s Yugoslavia, revealing a new, ominous turn in Stalin’s lethal paranoia.

These qualifications notwithstanding, Bloodlands is a brilliant analysis and a deeply emphatic and humanistic approach to suffering and its causes in an all but forgotten part of Europe. It is likely to be read and debated for a long time to come.

László Borhi

1 In an important book on Hitler’s rule in Europe, Mark Mazower contrasted national socialist killing to Stalinist killing by claiming that the purpose of Soviet policy was “social revolution and not national purification.” Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), 98.

2 Peter Kenez, “Dealing with Discredited Beliefs,” Kritika: Exploration in Russian and Eurasian History 4, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 369–77, 376.

3 For the strength of microhistory in explaining the complex web of motivations in both participation in and resistance to persecution, see Omer Bartov, “Communal Genocide: Personal Accounts of the Destruction of Buczacz, Eastern Galicia, 1941–1944,” in Shatterzone of Empires – Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian and Ottoman Borderlands, ed. Omer Bartov and Eric Weitz (Bloomington, In.: Indiana University Press, 2013), 399–422. Alexander Prusin, “A ’Zone of Violence’: The Anti-Jewish Pogroms in Eastern Galicia in 1914–1915 and 1941,” ibid. 362–77.

4 Mazower, Hitler’s Empire, 137. See also John Lukacs, The Duel: 10 May – 31 July 1940: the Eighty-Day Struggle between Churchill and Hitler (New Haven, Ct.: Yale University Press, 2001). We know that Hitler and the German military leadership were still interested in a landing in Britain shortly before they launched the attack on the Soviet Union. See Andreas Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie. Politik und Kriegführung 1940–1941 (Frankfurt: Bernard & Graefe, 1965).

5 Several authors have argued that the doctrine of “interimperialistic contradictions” shaped Stalin’s policy. This again proves the ideological nature of Soviet thinking.

6 For good overviews see e.g. Chris Bellamy, Absolute War – Soviet Russia in the Second World War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007); Gerhard Wettig, Stalin and the Cold War in Europe: The Emergence and Development of East–West Conflict, 1939–1953 (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

7 György Ránki, The Economics of the Second World War (Vienna: Böhlau, 1993).

8 Mazower, Hitler’s Empire, 104.

9 See on this and more details on the “Madagascar Plan” Götz Aly, ‘Final Solution’ Nazi Population Policy and the Murder of the European Jews (London: Arnold, 1990).

10 Saul Friedländer, The Years of Extermination – Nazi Germany and the Jews (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 81.

11 Mazower, Hitler’s Empire, 120.

12 Gábor Kádár, Zoltán Vági, A végső döntés: Berlin, Budapest, Birkenau 1944 [The Final Decision: Berlin, Budapest, Birkenau 1944] (Budapest: Jaffa Kiadó, 2013). For a similar argument see also Tim Cole, Holocaust City – The Making of a Jewish Ghetto (New York–London: Routledge, 2003). For a view that the Germans had a “master plan” when they invaded Hungary, see Randolph Braham, The Politics of Genocide – The Holocaust in Hungary, vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).

13 For an outstanding biography of Antonescu see Dennis Deletant, Hitler’s Forgotten Ally: Ion Antonescu and his Regime, Romania 1940–1944 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006).

14 Rudolf Paksa, Szálasi Ferenc és a hungarizmus [Ferenc Szálasi and the Hungarist Movement] (Budapest: Jaffa Kiadó–MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont, 2013), on his views regarding Jews and Hitler’s struggle: 66–67. See also László Karsai, Reflektor a sötétbe. Szálasi Ferenc naplója 1943. szeptember 15–1944. július 18. 1–-2. [Reflector in the Dark. The Diary of Ferenc Szálasi] Beszélő 13, no. 3. (2008) 54–76; Beszélő 13, no. 4. (2008), 60–79.

15 Robert Jervis, American Foreign Policy in a New Era (New York–London: Routledge, 2005).

16 Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013), 215.

17 For a geographically broader approach to violence in twentieth-century Europe see Keith Lowe, Savage Continent – Europe in the Aftermath of World War II (New York: Saint Martin’s Press, 2012).

18 Stark Tamás, Magyar foglyok a Szovjetunióban [Hungarian Prisoners in the Soviet Union] (Budapest: Lucidus, 2006).


Régi könyvek, új csillagok [Old Books, New Stars]. By Gábor Farkas. (Humanizmus és Reformáció, 32. kötet.) Budapest: Balassi Kiadó, 2011. 282 pp.

Few people would think that a supernova in the Early Modern Era would be of much interest to anyone apart from a few small circles of historians of the science of astronomy. Yet the “new star” that appeared in the skies in 1572, the glow of which was visible for a time even in daylight, has become a central character in numerous works of scholarly literature, including studies written on the history of philosophy and accounts of the emergence of the modern concept of the world. How can an exploding star have attracted interest from such an array of fields of inquiry? The answer to this question lies in the role it played in a paradigm shift, for interpretations of its appearance in the sky prompted a shift in visions of the world. In the Middle Ages it represented a sudden and unexpected assault on (or at least challenge to) the ruling Aristotelian-Ptolemaic conception of the universe. According to this conception of the world, change, creation, and destruction could only take place in the sphere beneath the moon, in other words on the planet earth, which was at the center of the universe. The celestial bodies beyond the moon were in a realm of perfection in which only the most perfect form of motion, the circle, was possible, and stars were neither created nor destroyed. It was not possible for a celestial body to move in an ellipse in the sphere of perfection, and naturally comets could not orbit among them, since they were regarded as atmospheric phenomena, similar to falling stars, rain, clouds, fog, wind, and lightening. This conception of the universe, which gradually began to lose its plausibility over the course of the seventeenth century and today is regarded as elegant but utterly inadequate and inaccurate, was accepted for over a millennium. It constituted an entirely satisfactory framework for interpretation of celestial phenomena. Its unraveling was a long and gradual process one of the most important milestones of which was the publication of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, or On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, in 1543. From the perspective of the impact it had on thinking at the time, however, the new star that flared up in 1572 in the sphere of the fixed stars (in other words in the part of the universe where such things were not supposed to happen) but then vanished some 18 months later (in fact it was a supernova in the constellation Cassiopeia) was even more momentous than Copernicus’ work, which only later acquired the revolutionary significance we attribute to it today.

Drawing on a rich array of sources, Gábor Farkas’ new book documents the effects of this momentous occurrence. He examines the impact of the event on cultural circles in Hungary and the broader European context in the Early Modern Era. Since the celestial phenomenon represented something of a shock to the scholars at the time and could hardly be accommodated to their understanding of the universe, observations and reflections on the significance of the supernova appeared in great numbers and numerous debates were held on its meaning (in all likelihood the star mentioned by Barnardo in act 1, scene 1 of Hamlet is a reference to this). Farkas demonstrates clearly that the responses to the event cannot be divided simply into an acceptance or a rejection of the Ptolemaic understanding of the cosmos. Many other possibilities were raised. For instance, some people understood it as a unique divine miracle, a celestial sign that did not contradict the medieval vision of the universe. Others insisted that it was an atmospheric phenomenon, merely a comet that somehow had lost its tail. It was also understood simply as the light released by the celestial bodies, concentrated in a given point in the skies.

The methodology on which the book rests is a close reading of the many responses given to the event and a thorough examination of the dissemination of the ideas on the basis of the history of books and readings (this is hardly surprising, since the author is a student and colleague of István Monok, a distinguished and prolific scholar of the field, as one reads in the acknowledgements). Farkas uses materials in libraries currently in use and data regarding the collections of libraries that once existed to examine which books were owned by whom in the Carpathian Basin, whether or not we can presume that the owners of these books actually read them, and what marginal notes they contain. This philological inquiry develops into a kind of history of mentalities. Farkas’ comparison of the various sources, the reactions to the real and imagined celestial events, and the astronomical, theological, and astrological interpretations casts light on the scientific theories, superstitions, and religious and political ideas that preoccupied scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The study of responses to the supernova offers insights into the mentality of the intelligentsia of the era, which was influenced by the celestial event, but also (and perhaps more fundamentally) by its classical education.

The appearance of comets and the celestial phenomena that accompany comets have traditionally been associated with natural disasters, plagues, and the commencement of severe cold fronts. One of the interesting aspects of the book is the contrasts it brings to light between the observations we would have expected people to make and the observations they actually made. People of the time often made no mention whatsoever of celestial phenomenon that took place in their lifetimes and that we consider significant today, while other occurrences that according to contemporaries were in some way related to natural disasters or important political events are given considerable attention in the sources, including occurrences that today we think may well not actually have taken place. For instance, as noted in the micro-historical discussion of the 1595 military campaign of Zsigmond Báthory in Wallachia, the allegedly inauspicious appearance of an eagle was linked to the appearance of a new star, but the existence of this new star is not confirmed by other sources. Thorough and methodical study of the textual sources and the depictions that have survived in old prints reveals how the prince’s court and the Jesuits used a topos familiar from the works of classical authors, tying a political shift to a celestial event in order to legitimize the acts of the prince. At times this was the foundation for an observation concerning the movements of celestial bodies.

One of the most interesting chapters of the book concerns the reception of the ideas of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler (in other words the reception of the new understanding of the heavens) in Hungary. Farkas first discusses the extent to which these works were disseminated across Western Europe (surprisingly Copernicus’ De revolutionibus was read in far wider circles than traditionally thought or than Arthur Koestler contends in his famous book, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe). He then examines which editions of these works can be found in Hungary today (or were ever in Hungary) and how the ideas they contained were received. As Farkas notes in his summary, this reception did not go beyond a very narrow layer of the intelligentsia, and some of these intellectuals purchased the books of the three “world-shattering” astronomers second-hand. Boldizsár Battyhány, András Dudith, Ferenc Krasznai and János Zsámboky were perhaps the only people in Hungary to purchase the books soon after their publication. As this inquiry into this aspect of the history of reading in Hungary demonstrates, while the reception of works of modern physics in Hungary was not entirely negligible, until the end of the seventeenth century Aristotle continued to be regarded as the primary authority in the natural sciences.

The book is a pleasure to read, its rich, lengthy list of sources notwithstanding, and its publication constitutes an important contribution to the study of the history of science in Hungary. If I were to venture one critical remark, I would have been curious to have read a bit more about the extent to which the author, given his knowledge of the sources, regards physics and astronomy in Hungary as peripheral or able to catch up. While he does give a brief answer to this question at the end of the book, Farkas could have devoted a bit more attention to the impressions he gathered in the course of his study of the sources. The book concludes with a detailed appendix in which the reader finds data concerning editions of the works of the three great astronomers in Hungary, a list of observations of comets in the sixteenth century, and a considerably longer list of observations of alleged celestial phenomena that scholars have been otherwise unable to confirm.

Translated by Thomas Cooper

Benedek Láng


Köleséri Sámuel tudományos levelezése 1709–1732 [The Scientific Correspondence of Sámuel Köleséri]. By Zsigmond Jakó. (Kölesériana 1.) Edited by Zsuzsa Font. Latin text edited and summaries written by László András Magyar. Cluj: Erdélyi Múzeum Egyesület, 2012. 256 pp.

In 1969, Zsigmond Jakó, one of the most prominent medievalists in international scholarship, wrote a captivating article in German on the early period of Enlightenment thought in East Central Europe and, within this, one of the most important figures of the Enlightenment in Transylvania in the early eighteenth century, Sámuel Köleséri. Although the article was published also in Romanian and Hungarian, to this day only the members of a small circle have a grasp of the importance of the array of sources on which it rests. In the 1950s and 1960s, Jakó pursued research in libraries and archives in the cities of Sibiu, Braşov, and Cluj, where he compiled an indispensable collection of documents from Köleséri’s correspondence with other scientists and scholars. However, he did not publish the documents he had assembled, but rather, in the interests of facilitating further research, passed them on to Bálint Keserű, with whom he had been continuously exchanging ideas on the unsolved questions of Transylvanian cultural history, and the Department of Hungarian Literature at the University of Szeged. Thanks to Keserű’s efforts, a team was organized under the leadership of Zsuzsa Font, and the 112 letters that had been collected by Jakó were published, along with 14 additional letters collected by the group in Szeged.

This book is particularly significant in part simply because of the remarkable personality of Köleséri, who was born in 1663 and died in 1732. As we learn about the various twists and turns in his life, we get an impression of the exceptional breadth and span of his career. He was the child of a Hungarian Calvinist family. His parents had intended for him to adhere to family tradition and become a pastor, but he decided not to complete a doctorate in theology, but rather to pursue studies in the medical sciences and mine-engineering and then to immerse himself in the world of the natural sciences, which was beginning to gain increasing importance. This decision was soon followed by a political event that was to have a shaping effect on his life, namely the incorporation of Transylvania into the Habsburg Empire. As his family was Calvinist, one would assume that he would not have welcomed this change and would have showed signs of at least passive resistance, along with many other Transylvanian protestants. Köleséri did not do this, but he also did not simply bide time and wait to see what would come. Rather he sought out fields in which he could make useful contributions while also satisfying his curiosities and interests as a scientist. Various signs suggest that he attempted to do this in part by regarding his homeland as part of a larger Southeast European region and working to promote cultural growth and development in the interests of cultivating a “civilized” society. (His recommendations concerning methods of containing plague epidemics, which were repeatedly breaking out, and his suggestions regarding hygienic measures and important tasks in the economic sphere offer concrete examples of his commitment to his vision, which derived from his profound sense of mission as a doctor.)

Naturally not every aspect of the career of a scientist, even a scientist who is acting out of motives such as these, is so clearly oriented towards the practical. Keeping pace with the scientific tendencies of Europe in the early eighteenth century, he authored works that deal with the geology and history of the region (of these, one of the most important is Auraria Romano-Dacica, which was published in 1717), as well as notions regarding the history of Earth as a whole, notions that made the fossils found in the cliffs both in the Alps and in the Carpathian mountains exciting findings for him. This is an additional reason why he deserves a place of distinction in the history of science, for he was one of the first people to accept the “diluvial doctrine” (in other words the belief that world history was drastically affected by a great flood or floods) in the study of rock deposits, and alongside Johann Jacob Scheuchzer he played an important role in enriching the source materials on which this doctrine was based. Miklós Kázmér, a Hungarian natural scientist, recently identified eight findings sent by Köleséri in the Cambridge Woodwardian Collection (which is named after John Woodward, the inventor of the doctrine). While neither Scheuchzer nor Köleséri was timid, they were clearly accepted as members of the Royal Society because of the importance of their findings (Scheuchzer’s son was also made a member of the Society).

I have already mentioned one of the principal topics of the correspondence, but as is perhaps not surprising given that we are speaking of the exchange of ideas between two natural polymaths in the eighteenth century, the correspondence addresses an array of other subjects pertaining to the sciences. Köleséri was intensely interested in the questions of linguistic relationships, and in his writings he touches for instance on the practical problems of compiling a Finno-Ugric glossary and also on the possible relationship between Romanian and Welsh. Influenced by one of the prominent traditions of Central European humanism, he was preoccupied with the antiquities, understood in the broadest sense, of the Roman province of Dacia. He also deals with questions that were being raised at the time in philosophical inquiries, though to a smaller extent. As his exchange of letters with Michael Gottlieb Hansch reveals, he was remarkably versed in these question as well, and Christin Wolff, whose privations in Germany he seems to have looked on with great compassion, had a significant influence on his thinking. Some of the references indicate that for a time at least he exchanged letters with Wolff himself, although these letters have not survived. His other letters not only give a clear impression of his insatiable thirst for knowledge, but also reveal the difficulties with which he had to contend in order to maintain his erudition and his knowledge of many fields of inquiry, both of which were virtually unparalleled in East Central Europe.

What Köleséri wrote on the religion of the pagan Dacians is interesting in part simply because, perhaps surprisingly, neither theological nor denominational questions figure among the topics. But it is also interesting because it is the only document in which it becomes clear that Köleséri’s letter to András Huszti begins to gesture in the same direction. Like many of his contemporaries, Köleséri showed an interest in a kind of ancient religio naturalis. The strength of his interest in the creation of a religion that would be above denominational differences is illustrated clearly by many of his other statements and gestures, first and foremost his republication of the texts of two significant theologians and philosophers (Pierre Poiret and Jacobus Gardenius) with his own commentaries on them. (The publication, as part of a continuation of the series that has begun with this volume, of these and similar introductory commentaries will constitute a major step forward in the research on the religious Enlightenment in Transylvania.) If one applies to Transylvania the approach developed by Johannes van den Berg and David Sorkin (among others), the century that preceded mature Enlightenment thought, sometimes treated as something of a stepchild of Hungarian cultural history, appears in an entirely different light, and the works of many interesting authors, predominantly Protestants, emerge from obscurity as writings worthy of our attention. This volume is indispensable, however, not simply because of the importance of Köleséri and the topics with which he was preoccupied, but also because of the exemplary thoroughness with which the team following in Zsigmond Jakó’s footsteps prepared the material for publication. The preface and the afterward provide a concise and objective description of the situation with respect to the sources. For instance, we learn which letters belong to which period of Köleséri’s life, and which letters came from which collection. There is also a separate summary of where these documents can be found today. As collections that serve as sources for the inquiry have been moved many times in recent decades, the task of locating them cannot have been simple, even if the editors were able to count on the assistance of young Transylvanian scholars. Naturally at the beginning of the book there is a precise list of the letters that are included, and of course there is also an index of names and places and a summary in German and Romanian.

The admirably detailed index of subjects, which betokens discriminating philological precision, will make the book remarkably easy to use. The thoroughness of this breakdown was made possible by the erudition of András László Magyar, a scholar of the history of medicine and the history of the sciences who worked together with the editor in the preparation of the source materials for publication. Thanks to the work of this precise scholar, who compared the Latin texts with the originals, there are, alongside Jakó’s succinct but sometimes sparing summations (which indicate the subjects of the letters), comprehensive summaries that touch on the relevant details at the beginning of each letter. Given the wide array of topics, the composition of these summaries must have required meticulousness and unusual breadth of knowledge, since in the majority of cases we are speaking of an exchange of ideas between people who made casual and frequent use of the technical terms and jargon of their fields of inquiry.

The notes, which have been done with the proper degree of attentiveness to the sources, make the historical background (including the history of science) comprehensible and the material engaging and useful to a wide readership. Zsigmond Jakó’s precision and legendary erudition as a historian combine with Zsuzsa Font’s knowledge of the institutional, philosophical, and scientific history of the Early Modern Era. The secondary literature on the individual figures offers the reader an image of the network of relationships among scientists and scholars within which Sámuel Köleséri, a man who by no means sought isolation, but who nonetheless was in many respects a lonely figure, pursued his work.

This book, which is indispensable to anyone who is interested in the cultural history of Central Eastern Europe, is the product of a rare, harmonious encounter between generations of scholars, ateliers, and individuals capable of cooperating in the interests of furthering the sciences. The Transylvanian Museum Society was responsible for the last stages of publication. Hopefully and presumably it will become a part of the collections in the most important libraries and research institutions where scholarship is pursued on the Early Modern Era.

Translated by Thomas Cooper


Mihály Balázs

Unfinished Utopia. Nowa Huta, Stalinism, and Polish Society, 1949–56. By Katherine Lebow. Ithaca–London: Cornell University Press, 2013. xiv + 233 pp.

Unfinished Utopia is more than what it claims to be in its title. It draws a narrative framework that encompasses the entire socialist period, and this narrative also seeks links between elements of the experiences of the Stalinist years and longer structures of modern Polish history. Choosing a well-defined locality as the focal point also allows Lebow to challenge aspects of the chronology of the Socialist era. Both Stalinism and the thaw of the years of Gomułka after 1956 appear more heterogeneous than the periodization itself suggests.

The six chapters address two major themes. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 are about features of Modernity and modernization as embodied by postwar reconstruction and industrialization in Poland. Chapters 3, 5 and 6 address the problem of resistance against the regime. Lebow argues that the paradox of Nowa Huta serving as one of the major centers of Solidarity in 1970 and in 1980 can be explained by the continuity of the tradition of collective action that was kept alive in the city by local identity and class-conscious worker solidarity. Lebow makes these themes a good read by maintaining a focus in each chapter on individual experiences.

Postwar reconstruction lends itself as a topic for global history. Local elites published plans from 1943 onwards in such distant parts of the globe as India and Italy. Reconstruction as a term was applied to a number of situations throughout the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Europe had to be reconstructed after 1814, the USA after the Civil War, and the world after 1920 and again after the economic crisis. In 1943 the Fabian Society published a booklet that contained essays on various aspects of postwar reconstruction, such as medicine, diet, agriculture and international migration. John Marrock, one of the authors, advised that since planning would be based on science, it must start before the end of the war: “When the fighting ends they will be hungry and exhausted, in no mood for experiments.”1 Postwar reconstruction was not about reinstating the pre-war world. The Fabian Society, the ministries of India led by the Indian National Congress, and the communist parties of Italy or Belgium and the newly formed Eastern Bloc wished to create a different world. Lebow takes issue with the assumption that the craving for normalcy in the postwar world created an atmosphere in which things went back to an earlier stage: “[...] wartime exposure to a wider world had often been compulsory and far from pleasant, this did not necessarily make it easier to settle down again at home with the return to ‘normalcy’” (p.44). She demonstrates that Poland was uprooted, with migrants all over the country, so restoration was not an option.

In this context, the construction of a large steel plant in the vicinity of Krakow in the early 1950s had multiple meanings. It was not only about countering and controlling a stubbornly “bourgeois” city. The plan for such a venture itself carried the long-term dream of Polish Enlightenment about modernization and industry, the strategic need to relocate industrial centers away from the border areas of Silesia, and the zeal of postwar reconstruction. The plans for Nowa Huta were drawn up in the Stalinist period, but this does not automatically mean that they were shaped entirely by monolithic ideas without links or roots. Lebow also asserts that there was no linearity between plan and practice in the course of the construction of Nowa Huta as the first socialist city of Poland. Many planned features remained only on paper and were postponed to later decades, while many unplanned edifices were built. The plan followed the octagonal shape of many Soviet cities, but it integrated the garden city ideal that was an Anglo-Saxon concept and was ideologically ambivalent in the eyes of the communists. In fact, prefab houses erected in the 1970s and 1980s diverge from the initial design, for which Socialist Realism meant neo-renaissance buildings for administrative centers, theatres, central squares and greenness.

Taking Nowa Huta as an archetypal example, postwar architectural reconstruction in the Soviet Bloc differed from the Western experience in that the former took housing as a secondary goal after industrialization. A recent volume shows that governments in Western Europe had ambitious plans to improve the living conditions of the working classes, but they implemented public projects on a smaller scale than planned and supplemented them with compensation and cheap loans that facilitated private initiatives. In the case of Belgian cities, the choice of architects reflected ideological preferences and professional recognition, but the houses that were built were often unremarkable parts of the postwar cityscape.2 Moreover, housing schemes were not necessarily integrated with industrial projects. Lebow stresses that Nowa Huta’s housing problems were serious throughout the Stalinist period, but the construction project entirely altered the landscape. The gap between insufficient housing and increasing industrial output was extreme in the Soviet Union in the period between 1946 and 1948. David Filtzer has demonstrated that the space available for workers, which was already scarce during the war due to the extensive damage done to industrial cities, actually decreased during postwar reconstruction on average.

Chapters 2 and 4 address two aspects that have dominated much of the social sciences for a decade, but hardly surface in discussions of Eastern Bloc Modernity: migration and emancipation. In his examination of the experience of moving to Nowa Huta, Lebow focuses on non-official documents, primarily the published memoir of a worker, Edmund Chmielinski. A close look at important junctures in the life of this youth leads Lebow to develop a model of identity formation and change between village and urban life (pp.45–50). However harsh housing conditions may have been at the site, the decision to become a member of a youth brigade could signify an immediate rise in standards of living for many simply because they were given new clothes and a clear goal in life. The visibility of the new sense of belonging brought about conflicts with family members who had been left behind and also with local farmers, in other words, with the world that had once been familiar (pp.59–60). Coexistence with local villages could potentially be symbiotic as long as the urban site did not threaten the existence of lifestyles: workers needed meat and liquor that was produced by locals. However, the city more frequently appeared as the disgraceful “other” in the imaginations of inhabitants of nearby villages. Yet it remained attractive as a destination to large sections of Polish society who had lost their standing in their own localities due to clashes with state, imprisonment and large-scale displacements. It was relatively easy to begin a new life at a muddy, chaotic and enormous construction site like Nowa Huta in the early 1950s.

For Lebow, emancipation is yet another theme from the perspective of which the political history of Stalinist years and their relationship to what followed were more ambiguous than textbooks usually suggest. The recent historiography of Stalinist Hungary emphasizes that images of female roles hardly changed in the postwar years and women essentially continued to be associated with domesticity. Mark Pittaway argues that this feature is a key to understanding the emergence of the double economy in the 1950s: income generated in the villages from agricultural produce was at least as important for the household budget as salaries earned at industrial centers. Women hardly entered heavy industry, and they were almost always poorly paid however vital their contributions may have been to this second economy.3 This picture also holds also for Poland. The rhetorical model, in which “the new woman extended her traditionally nurturing role beyond the sphere of the nuclear family to embrace not only the nation, but also the wider family of international progress and peace,” effectively meant that the workplace did not destabilize traditional roles (p.100). Lebow also shows that Nowa Huta women played an important role in Stalinist society, since “no other Polish women have ever penetrated so deeply into the sanctum sanctorum of national industry” (p.97). Journalists’ descriptions emphasized that women did not wear makeup, but they wore the distinctive rubber boots, just as male workers did, and thus could easily be distinguished from the bourgeois of Krakow on Sundays in the city. The female metal caster brigade was the only such brigade in the country, and it performed well. Plastering brigades also produced Stakhanovite women. Yet while Nowa Huta female workers had a high standing in the official propaganda, their prospects were limited. Although 11.5 percent of the physical labor force was female, they had little chance of entering vocational schools unless they were well connected. Clerical jobs that required minimal qualifications and fit traditional roles were the most easily available throughout the 1950s (pp.102–5). Lebow points out that late Stalinist and post-Stalinist years bore witness to a setback from this perspective. The casting brigade was dispersed on the grounds that the work that they did was a threat to a woman’s health. While families were under heavy pressure due to lack of housing, inadequate childcare and imbalanced division of labor, after 1956 public opinion blamed Stalinism for these problems instead of addressing them through policies. In this period moral panic regarding sexual life and sexual freedom in the city was on the rise. Lebow shows that changes in policies regarding the “Gypsy problem” were influenced by this sense of moral panic. In Nowa Huta official voices believed in integration through work and guardianship, especially as far as hygiene was concerned, and the official stance acknowledged differences among Roma groups. In the 1960s the new policy focused on policing, force and surveillance. Lebow does not construct an image of Stalinist golden years of social mobility. She emphasizes that many of the instances in which the presence of a Roma population in Nowa Huta was a factor before 1956 involved prejudice and conflict, and she also highlights the ambiguity regarding gender that was present throughout the socialist era. Yet she manages to convince the reader that a simple juxtaposition of ‘bad Stalinist years and policies’ and ‘better post-1956 times’ is misleading for the analysis of gender roles.

Lebow’s vision of resistance against the regime and its successes focuses on continuity rather than miracles (pp.152–77). She shows that Nowa Huta played a vital role in building up the tradition of resistance, even if this may seem paradoxical at first glance. Despite the long dominance of the totalitarian paradigm, the historiography of the Soviet Union reveals a great deal about the problem of resisting the regime. While there is an array of available sources, historians studying Soviet Society have often found themselves compelled to confront the problems of silence and the comprehensibility of speech. One of the outstanding undertakings of recent years is The Whisperers by Orlando Figes. The volume, which is based on written memoirs, personal documents and the oral histories of hundreds of families, attempts to decipher the logic of the disintegration of society and the reach of Stalinist oppression. Figes focuses on the contrast between the public reality and the reality that existed as a whisper and hardly found expression, even at the family level. From this perspective, actors remain passive throughout, except during the years of the Second World War, when alienated central rule could not silence individuals to the same extent as it had before.4

Sarah Davies, Sheila Fitzpatrick and Lynne Viola have argued that there are a number of voices still to be uncovered. Davies believes that it is possible to some extent to allow these voices to speak for themselves by rearranging police reports. Researchers who believe in the existence of popular protest against the regime accept the content of police reports on the continued presence of a will to uproot it. In this context, the regime fought a successful war for rule over voices, but fear did not triumph over resistance.5 However, one of the strongest arguments against the resistance thesis is that well-documented dissenters revolted against exclusion, but not against the foundations of the regime.6 Figes argues that whispers are cries for help from pioneers who broke down during the period of terror, and these whispers do not constitute a fight for freedom.

Labor history of the Soviet Union often addresses the question of resistance, but does not arrive at definitive answers. In 1994 the landmark volume Making Workers Soviet, edited by Lewis H. Siegelbaum, was hesitant about theoretical frameworks.7 A decade later Jeffrey J. Rossmann openly challenged previous wisdom regarding the Soviet Union as a totalitarian society. On the basis of a close analysis of a textile factory, he describes collective action and resistance as mass phenomena during the 1930s.8 Looking at the postwar years, Donald Filtzer found a diffuse form of resistance in evasion and flight. Importantly, he points at vocational training as one of the major sites of such protest.9 Lebow argues that the potential for resistance stemmed from the faith of part of the population in ideas about a workers’ state throughout the 1950s and 1960s that in turn facilitated collective action and also maintained the memory of such action. On the other hand, the protest regarding the cross clearly demonstrates that the idea of rights, and thus the moral economy of Nowa Huta workers, did not match the ideal type of Homo Sovieticus, who should have thought of religion as ‘opium.’ Lebow also emphasizes the generational aspect of resistance. This feature links Stalinist Poland to global trends of youth culture in the 1950s and creates important cultural bridges among countries of the Eastern Bloc. Although the author pays attention to gestures during moments of conflict and offers a thick description of some of them, she does not list any occasions when youth culture and the moral economy of workers interacted, combined or clashed. She comes closest to this question in Chapter 5 when looking at the “Poem for Adults.” In August 1955 Adam Wazyk, a party hardliner, published a piece that wounded Stalinist sensitivities almost as much as Khruschev’s speech did some months later. The poem asserts that Nowa Huta was a political failure where young males were bored and did nothing apart from desperately seek opportunities to copulate with girls waiting for them in their corrupted ‘convents,’ i.e. hostels (pp.146–7). The critique of Nowa Huta from a dissenting figure rebuked youth culture on the same grounds as the official voices: sexual promiscuity and the number of unwanted children.

Her appreciation of the significance of individual life stories and situations enables Lebow to locate freedom, dreams and struggle in Nowa Huta under Stalinism. She convincingly links many of these to longue durée trends of modern Polish history. She uses a variety of archives, though with more innovative readings she could have overcome two problems that arise in the course of her examination. First, she does not render the dynamics of communities within the city perceptible. She makes mention of groups, such as the voluntary brigades, the theater groups, and informal youth circles, but these groups seem to function only as frameworks without internal lives and forces. By showing individuals, she highlights the importance of individual agency and choices in creating new spaces, but she unintentionally confirms the totalitarian model according to which society is atomized. This is in contradiction to her larger narrative about collective action. One way to overcome this paradox would have been to use photographs as archival sources instead of illustrations of arguments. Second, while the change of landscape was the essence of the story of creating a new city, there is no discussion regarding how the rural landscape was transformed into an urban one. At one point we see peasants in conflict with brigades, and in the second chapter she stresses the role of changes in the hinterland of would-be workers, but no picture emerges of the role that was played by environmental change or how an old landscape changed, merged with, or remained part of the city, nor is there any characterization of the new human ecology that replaced the old one. Lebow often quotes descriptions that stress mud. Contemporaries were so preoccupied with getting stuck in the mud that the author seems to have forgotten to consider how it might have looked from a bird’s-eye view.

The book is a well presented case study that provides the reader with a firm foundation on which to develop ideas regarding some of the most salient historiographical issues of Stalinism, such as Modernity, the role of the Second World War, repression and resistance. Lebow talks about her actors with empathy and skill. She is good at describing events and personal dramas. She does this with warmness, sensitivity and understanding, but without pathos. And she has chosen themes, including housing issues, moral panic, sexuality, youth culture, and women’s emancipation, that make her work useful for those interested in global histories. The book also demonstrates how much an analysis of this period can reveal about the social history of Central Europe. These features make the volume relevant for a large number of students and researchers working on the postwar history of the region.

Róbert Balogh

1 John Marrock, “Food for Starving Europe,” in When Hostilities Cease. Papers on Relief and Reconstruction Prepared for the Fabian Society, ed. Julian Huxley, H.J. Laski et al. (London: Fabian Society, 1943), 79.

2 Fredie Flore, “Housing for War Victims, 1946–1948. A Problematic Building Project by the Belgian Government,” in Living with History. Rebuilding Europe after the First and Second World Wars and the Role of Heritage Preservation 1914–1964, ed. Nicholas Bullock, and Luc Verpoest (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2011), 263–80.

3 Mark Pittaway, “Retreat from collective Protest: Household, Gender, Work and Popular Opposition in Stalinist Hungary,” in Rebellious Families. Household Strategies and Collective Action in the 19th & 20th Centuries, ed. Jan Kok (New York–Oxford: Berghahn Books), 198–228.

4 Orlando Figes, The Whisperers. Private Life in Stalin’s Russia (London: Allen Lane, 2007).

5 Sarah Davies, Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia. Terror, Propaganda and Dissent, 1934–1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

6 Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).

7 Lewis H. Siegelbaum and Ronald Grigor Suny, eds., Making Workers Soviet. Power, Class and Identity (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994).

8 Jeffrey J. Rossmann, Workers Resistance under Stalin. Class and Revolution on the Shop Floor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

9 Donald Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Late Stalinism. Labour and the Restoration of the Stalinist System after World War II (Cambridge, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2007).


Hungary and Romania Beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements. By Anders E.B. Blomqvist, Constantin Iordachi, and Balázs Trencsényi (eds). Bern: Peter Lang, 2013. 855 pp.

This is an ambitious volume whose goal is no less than to rewrite the history of East Central Europe from an integrated transnational perspective, using the entangled histories of Romania and Hungary as a point of departure (p.8). By adopting this approach, the editors hope to overcome the ethno-national based perspectives that have so dominated the historiography on the two countries and the region, opting for a multi-layered framework for transnational research and analysis that can open new lines of inquiry for historians and others (p.34). Chronologically the contributions cover roughly the last 160 years, beginning with the Hungarian and Romanian nation-building projects that grew out of the Revolutions of 1848 and ending with the postmillennial bid to reach a political and historiographical modus vivendi. Many of the volume’s articles emerged out of the “Shared/Entangled Histories” international conference held in Cluj in 2008, which brought together an array of historians from around the world, including some of the leading experts in their respective fields. The volume itself marries a number of these well-established scholars with an invigorated new generation of historians.

In the auspicious introduction, which should be required reading for any student working on the transnational history of East Central Europe, the editors have drawn on the history of transfers and especially histoire croisée,1 citing Franco–German historical reconciliation as a model for writing a common history of Hungary and Romania.2 Using these frameworks, they hope to refocus the attention of scholars on the two countries’ shared patterns of experience. As the introduction also makes clear—and as anyone who has lived in Hungarian–Romanian borderlands knows well—there is indeed a long if also overlooked tradition of fertile intercourse between Hungarians and Romanians, intellectually, culturally, and otherwise.

With over 20 chapters spanning 855 pages (and weighing in at 1.2 kg), there is certainly much to like in this volume and, doubtless for some readers, enough to dislike. With such a mélange of topics, the volume could benefit from segmentation into different parts, though perhaps that would defy the logic of “entanglement.” The sheer size and scope of the volume make reviewing it all the more difficult, especially as some contributions tally 50, 60, and even 70 pages. Consequently, the chapters highlighted in this review reflect some of the reviewer’s own interests.

One of the major themes tackled in this volume is the representation and perception of the “Other,” in other words, Hungarian views of Romanians and vice versa. In the opening chapter Sorin Mitu takes a theoretical stab at the heart of the “story of Romanian–Hungarian hostility” that has seemingly existed for a millennium. Whether the negative images of one another are “imagined realities” or “real images” is beside the point, argues Mitu, as these images often have tangible effects on the relations between the two communities and on the everyday lives of individuals (pp.37–38). Mitu locates the genesis of Hungarian–Romanian negative imagology and stereotypes in the overlapping Hungarian and Romanian national projects, which began in the first half of the nineteenth century and converged in Transylvania. Mitu describes how the modern Hungarian self-image was constructed against a Byzantine Romanian one so as to circumscribe Catholic/Protestant Hungary within the enlightened Western Europe. Turn about was fair play, as the Romanian self-image as Latinate inheritors of the Roman legacy was constructed against an image of the equestrian Finno-Ugric from the steppe, which depicted the Hungarians as cultural and geographical interlopers in Europe’s hapless eastern periphery. The postcolonialist paradigm of Orientalism and its various adaptations have become axiomatic in explanations of self-imagining and Othering in the European East.3 However, it does not always explain the countervailing trends in both countries that led to positive conceptions of identity using explicitly Eastern-oriented, mystical, and indigenous notions of spatiality, temporality, and being.4 In some respects these self-imaginings had greater identity-building ramifications than the nesting discourses from the West.

Judit Pál offers a fascinating look at the use of flags as symbols of cohesion and mass mobilization in Transylvania during the Revolution of 1848. Pál shows how “the struggle of colors” symbolized the political disunity that plagued the Hungarians, Romanians, and Saxons in Transylvania. Flags expressed newly formed national and ethnic identities and corresponded to specific political discourses about national belonging (p.122).

Keith Hitchins provides a typically masterful account of the aspirations and apprehensions of majority and minority elites in dualist Hungary and interwar Romania. Examining periods of intransigence, reconciliation, and separation between the competing nationalities, Hitchins argues that their point of divergence was ultimately not political but rather fundamentally cultural and spiritual, giving rise to a Kulturkampf of sorts that, for generations, impacted the status and treatment of minorities in Transylvania (p.126). The idea of ethnically based nation-states as the only legitimate form of social organization prevailed over attempts at accommodation.

Several chapters in this volume deal with the entanglements of economic nationalizing in the contested ethnic borderlands. In his case study of Szatmár/Satu Mare County between 1867 and 1940, Anders Blomqvist depicts the struggle for supremacy on the “internal front,” where local minority and majority elites “cut their political teeth” while Budapest and Bucharest experimented with nationalizing policies (p.170). Blomqvist makes a convincing argument that excluding minorities from the economic life of a town or region can have devastating consequences for majorities alike. He also shows the uncanny ability of some minority elites to adapt amphibious-like to the realities (and sometimes perks) of majority rule, only to co-opt the selfsame strategies of nationalizing whenever their turn to rule. Barna Ábrahám’s chapter compares the modernization and embourgeoisement processes of the Slovaks and Transylvanian Romanians in dualist Hungary, specifically their respective efforts to achieve social and economic progress and ultimately to construct ethnically based national economies independent of “the encompassing context of Hungary” (pp.203–4). Gábor Egry likewise examines through the lens of regionalism the parallel processes of Romanian and Hungarian national building. Egry looks at regionalist programs, organizations, ideologies, and discourses that took place in apposition and frequently in opposition to the nationalizing and statist agendas from Budapest and Bucharest. He challenges taken-for-granted assumptions about what unites people beyond the creed of nationhood.

The history of science and medicine in East Central Europe is a neglected field, which, as Marius Turda shows, has the potential to fulfill the kind of research agenda envisioned by the volume’s editors. Within a broader overview of the history of anthropology in Hungary and Romania, Turda discusses the “entangled epistemologies of race” that anthropologists in both countries worked to disentangle in the first half of the twentieth century (p.306). Turda shows how this research was impressed into national service and used as a weapon in the political war over disputed territories and peoples.

One of the strengths of this volume is the collection of chapters dealing with the politicization of history writing and education, from the rewriting of school textbooks to the reorganization of universities. Zoltán Pálfy gives a prosopographical account of elite formation and the nationalization of higher education in Transylvania before and after 1918, while Lucian Nastasă provides a timely study on the development and vicissitudes of the Hungarian University in Kolozsvár/Cluj since 1875. Nastasă shows how the politics of higher education in this most important Transylvanian town reflected the national and international politics of Hungary and Romania. Eric Beckett Weaver looks at the League of Nations’ initiative to review and improve foreign texts. Hungarian politicians and historians enthusiastically supported the initiative, frustrated as they were by the “false” histories portraying Hungary as oppressive and “inhumane,” and thus deserving of its fate as a defeated and diminished country (pp.422–23). To revisionists in Hungary, such discourses not only enabled the disaster of Trianon but also prevented its revision and justified de-nationalization policies targeting Hungarian minorities in neighboring states. In detailing this historiographical counteroffensive for “re-narrating” Hungarian history abroad, Weaver shows that, even with the best intentions, the efforts to arrive at a common understanding of the past can often lead to greater mutual misunderstanding.

Holly Case paints a reflective portrait of a young historian’s pursuit of a promising line of research, in this instance her own discovery of a personal letter written by a dispirited woman in Northern Transylvania to a friend across the border in Romania. How did such an innocuous letter, which lamented the difficult local conditions under Hungarian rule, spark an international dispute between Hungary and Romania that eventually drew in Axis allies Germany and Italy? Contemplating this question, Case traces her own journey from writing a “micro-social history” as a graduate student to writing a “different sort of big history,” one that was transnational and accounted for the multiplicity of contexts in which individuals, communities, and states interacted with one another (pp.467–68). Case’s contribution is all the more satisfying, as it answers the editors’ call for historians to consider their own involvement in the process of knowledge production (p.7).

In his chapter on “national essentialism” in post-World War II Romania and Hungary, Balázs Trencsényi provides a welcome coda to his book on “national character” in interwar East Central Europe, showing how communist regimes in both countries appropriated the essentialist national discourses of the interwar past to serve the aims of the communist present. Hungarian and Romanian communist regimes incorporated the national(ist) canon into the framework of “socialist patriotism” by selectively appropriating the national bona fides of the populist (népi) tradition in Hungary and the “young generation” in Romania, respectively (pp.516, 520). In the context of de-Stalinization, especially after the 1956 Revolution, and increasingly inadequate class narratives, the “national turn” served as a mediator between the regime and the pre-communist cultural traditions. It helped, moreover, to indigenize a new generation of communist elites eager to distance themselves from the old cadre of “foreigners” and internationalists. In Romania the topoi of national essentialism lent succor to autochthonist and protochronist discourses and the re-emergence of a national metaphysics, while in Hungary it facilitated an emerging “neo-populism,” enabling a diverse group of intellectuals and political actors to speak in familiar terms about the nation and the plight of the Hungarian minority across the border (pp.527–28). Trencsényi also assesses the legacy of the interwar ideological tradition of national essentialism since 1989, suggesting that in both Hungary and Romania ethnic revivalism has lent itself to many of the “therapeutic” projects in an effort to break out of the transition process (p.563).

Martin Mevius takes a fresh look at the controversial 1986 publication of the three-volume history of Transylvania, Erdély története.5 The volumes were assembled and published in large measure as a response to Romanian propaganda and historical writing under Ceauşescu. In this respect, Erdély története was “not only a work of scholarship but also a political weapon,” exemplifying the recurrent theme of history as an open battlefield for international disputes over the symbolic territorial spaces and the treatment of minorities (pp.571–72). Mevius shows how historians and politicians of both regimes instrumentalized history for reasons of national legitimacy, promoting increasingly national(ist) perspectives on history in lieu of increasingly inadequate Marxist ones. One of the assets of this contribution, and of the volume as a whole, is the great range of sources used. Mevius draws on many forms of research available in the historian’s toolkit, including personal interviews with the “hard-line (vonalas) party hack” Béla Köpeczi, the volume’s lead editor and author (p.537).

Several chapters deal with the seemingly intractable issue of rapprochement and reconciliation after 1989, giving a kind of history-of-the present critique of reconciliation processes in Hungary and Romania. In a comparative analysis of history textbooks in Hungary and Romania, Csaba Zahorán revisits the issue of rival national narratives that continue to obsess over ethnogenesis, state foundation, and demographic unity. Zahorán notes, however, that a more accommodating space is beginning to open up, which can allow for multiple perspectives and the de-mythologizing of traditional national heroes and events. Michael Shafir sets out to explore cross-border attitude grouping of Hungarians and Romanians, but for the most part offers a discourse analysis of Cristian Tudor Popescu’s and Horia-Roman Patapievici’s writings on such topics as the Roma (“Gypsies”), anti-Semitism, race, and political correctness. While certainly provocative, the upbraiding of two high-profile Romanian public intellectuals makes an awkward fit for a pioneering volume aiming to forge a common history of Hungary and Romania.

Shafir’s dismal portrait of Hungarian–Romanian reconciliation stands in stark contrast to Constantin Iordachi’s assertion that the ever-closer integration of the two countries through participation in European and global institutions has positively redefined the nature of their interstate relations. Iordachi’s chapter is another fine example of the potential of histoire croisée to yield fruitful results on under-researched topics. His sweeping overview and analysis of the development and evolution of nation-state citizenship in Hungary and Romania show how the citizenship issue has moved from one of “disentanglement” to “interdependence,” having finally overcome the pre-World War II demographic-territorial mixing (p.712). The citizenship issue is an important category of analysis, argues Iordachi, as it has a number of heuristic advantages, one of which is to bridge the institutional (state) and the subjective (nation) dimensions of modern identity construction (p.717).

Despite the editors’ clarion call to break new paths in the historiography on Romania and Hungary, many of the contributions deal with well-trodden issues of national and ethnic identity, the minority question, and elites and their institutions (invariably in Transylvania). This is not so much a criticism as it is an endorsement of the editors’ conviction that a common history of the two countries should go “beyond national narratives.” As the editors readily acknowledge, “[w]riting the history of Romania and Hungary from a unitary perspective is a difficult if not a self-defeating exercise, a genuine test for the uses and abuses of history” (p.4). This makes the contributions on flag colors, textbooks, regionalism, and citizenship all the more outstanding. The book’s great achievement is not so much that it fills a historiographical gap but that it exposes this gap and offers new ways to fill it. One can envision a new generation of scholars working on the entangled traditions of Hungarian and Romanian art, architecture, music, food, and even sex (miscegenation, anyone?). Also, there is certainly more room for the life stories of individuals, small communities, and local cultures, all of which can be made relevant as a sort of connective tissue supporting or uniting larger themes. Employing innovative and transnational frameworks such as the ones proposed in this volume will be necessary if the historian’s craft is to have wider appeal and application across disciplines. For these reasons, the book represents a seminal contribution to the recent historiography not just on Hungary and Romania but also on the wider region.

R. Chris Davis

1 Cf. Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity,” History and Theory 45 (February 2006): 30–50.

2 Notable examples of “entangled history” include Bénédicte Zimmerman, Claude Didry, and Michael Werner, eds., Le Travail et la Nation: Histoire croisée de la France et de l’Allemagne (Paris: Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1999); Michael David-Fox, Peter Holquist, and Alexander M. Martin, eds., Fascination and Enmity: Russia and Germany as Entangled Histories, 1914–1945 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012); Roumen Daskalov, Tchavdar Marinov, and Diana Mishkova, eds., Entangled Histories of the Balkans, vols 1–2 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013).

3 See Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994); Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans (New York–Oxford: OUP, 1997); Milica Bakić-Hayden and Robert M. Hayden, “Orientalist Variations on the Theme ‘Balkans’: Symbolic Geography in Recent Yugoslav Cultural Politics,” Slavic Review 51 no. 1, (Spring, 1992): 1–15; Milica Bakić-Hayden, “Nesting Orientalisms: The Case of Former Yugoslavia,” Slavic Review 54 no 4, (Winter, 1995): 917–31; and Alexander Kiossev, “Notes on Self-Colonizing Cultures,” in Rethinking the Transition, ed. Ivaylo Znepolski et al. (Sofia: St. Kliment Ohridsky University Press, 2002), 361–69.

4 In recent years scholars working on the region have begun to challenge or at any rate counterbalance post-colonialist discourses that depict “Eastern” Europe as a space of passive receptivity and reproduction of “Western” European models of easternness. See especially Wendy Bracewell and Alex Drace-Francis, eds., Under Eastern Eyes: A Comparative Introduction to East European Travel Writing on Europe (Budapest and New York: Central European University Press, 2008); Ezequiel Adamovsky, Euro-Orientalism: Liberal Ideology and the Image of Russia in France (c. 1740–1880) (Oxford–New York: Peter Lang, 2006).

5 Béla Köpeczi, ed., Erdély története, vols 1–3 (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1986).


Notes on Contributors

Balázs, Mihály (University of Szeged), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Balogh, Róbert (Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Borhi, László (Indiana University and Institute of History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Davis, R. Chris (Lone Star College–Kingwood, U.S.), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gruber, Siegfried (Laboratory of Historical Demography, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Holubec, Stanislav (Imre Kertész College, Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kövér, György (Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Láng, Benedek (Department of Philosophy and History of Science, Budapest University of Technology and Economics), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mátay, Mónika (Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Nagy, Sándor  (Budapest City Archives), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pakot, Levente (Hungarian Demographic Research Institute), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Szabó, András Péter (Institute of History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Szołtysek, Mikołaj (Laboratory of Historical Demography, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Volume 2 Issue 1 CONTENTS

pdfBook Reviews

A zászlós bárány nyomában. A magyar kálvinizmus 17. századi világa [Following the Flag-bearing Lamb. Hungarian Calvinism in the Seventeenth Century]. Speculum Historiae Debreceniense 6.

By Dávid Csorba. Debrecen–Budapest: Kálvin János Kiadó, 2011. 230 pp.

The title of this volume of selected essays alludes to the coat of arms of Debrecen, a city with a remarkable culture and history intricately intertwined with the history of Hungarian Calvinism. Indeed, the ‘Calvinist Rome’ has born witness to the efforts of Hungarian Calvinist communities to (re)build and preserve their church, traditions and culture for the last several centuries. These essays not only acknowledge this fact, but overtly tend to impose this as a master narrative of Hungarian Calvinism. Thus the flag-bearing lamb is not simply a complex symbolical image, but a recurrent motif of the articles that gestures to their ultimate message: the early modern history and culture of Debrecen represents the quintessence of Hungarian Calvinism.

Whether this claim can be persuasively sustained or not remains, I believe, an open question. Still, the significance of the book, within the context of Hungarian scholarship on the culture and history of early modern Hungarian Calvinism, cannot be disputed. Furthermore, the particular attention that Csorba devotes to what he refers to as Neo-Calvinism, namely the connection between Calvinist orthodoxy and Puritan devotion, is a notable contribution to the interdisciplinary study of Hungarian Puritanism. Csorba’s sometimes debatable assertions notwithstanding, he has managed to articulate an alternative view of the devotional culture of Hungarian Puritanism that aptly complements interpretive attempts that have attempted to address some of the fixations of the existing scholarship. The so-called classic approach in the scholarship on the emergence and significance of Hungarian Puritanism has offered either a customary and biased narrative of ecclesiastical history1 or a kind of obsolete cultural history.2 There have been very few attempts to take advantage of the innovations of any kind of social history.3

In this context, Csorba’s selection of articles constitutes a refreshing reassessment of our understanding of what early modern Calvinism and Puritanism might have represented. He opted for a multidisciplinary approach, something that comes close to Burke’s concept of cultural history,4 and he combines the interpretive possibilities of literary criticism, ethnography, history and (unavoidably) theology. In addition, he used as sources not only texts, but various artifacts and buildings each of which is related to Debrecen. The major methodological innovation, which was also intended to function as a common denominator for the multidisciplinary approach and sources, was the focus on Debrecen and its confessional existence in early modern times. In the resulting narrative, structured in four major chapters, Csorba attempts to decipher the complexity of the period from 1661 to 1705 in order to exhibit some of the historical, social, cultural-confessional and theological developments within the distinguished Calvinist community of Debrecen.

The first chapter, a surprisingly short one, proposes a survey of the roles assumed by Calvinist priests in seventeenth-century Debrecen. Csorba asserts that the more or less coherent epoch from 1606 to 1711 should be divided into further sections in order to reveal the development of the identity patterns performed by Calvinist priests. Accordingly, he argues that the period from 1606 to 1657 corresponded with the age of legitimation, the difficult times from 1657 to 1664 coincided with the emergence of apocalypticism and the prophet-like preachers, the age of confessional conflicts covered the period of 1664–1681, the times of consolation lasted from 1681 to 1705, and finally, the last section from 1705 to 1711 was marked by the idea of confessional tolerance. Csorba’s classification evidently attracts criticism, as these types of classifications are always problematic. Csorba tends to overestimate the significance of Debrecen as a city and a Calvinist community, and he ignores the fact that the destiny of the Principality of Transylvania had a decisive influence on the life and security of Hungarian Calvinist communities, both in Transylvania and Habsburg Hungary. Thus Csorba’s classification could be adapted to the chain of tragic events in Transylvania of the 1680s and 1690s. Moreover, the death of the last prince of Transylvania, the pious Mihály I Apafi (1660–1690), might have been interpreted by Hungarian Calvinists as the end of a period of welfare and security. This event, for instance, did not influence Csorba’s classification at all. Consequently there is no significant reflection on the function of collective memory over the emergence of these identity patterns, allegedly performed by priests and ultimately by the Calvinist Church as well.

The second chapter entitled, Following the Flag-bearing Lamb: the Symbols of Debrecen, consists of articles dealing with the examination of artifacts, buildings, and most importantly symbols. Csorba’s intention is to recreate narratives and use these unconventional sources to provide a different perspective from which to consider Calvinist devotional and spiritual life. His endeavor, an inventive and truly multidisciplinary one, traces interferences between texts, symbols, and artifacts that offer access to intimate details or new vantage points from which to assess individuals, institutions or historical events. Thus the church buildings, the coat of arms of Debrecen, the famous pipes, and other objects of everyday life stand as historical proof of a distinctive Calvinist way of life in early modern Debrecen. Though this chapter may seem like something of a digression, it has been incorporated well into Csorba’s explanatory discourse, though not convincingly sustained with methodological arguments.

The Cataclysms of Calvinist Identity is the telling title of the fairly consistent third chapter, which echoes some of the assertions expressed in the first chapter. There is a certain ambiguity between the foci of the first and third chapters, as if the latter were revisiting some truth revealed in the opening chapter. Perhaps a different structuring of these writings, a possible rapprochement of the first and third chapters, might also have been an option. Still, one should give credit to the author for finding the best structure for this collection of articles. The writings in this section seem to follow strictly the particular narrative and classification, with its debatable sections exhibited in the first chapter. However, rather surprisingly Csorba hesitates to articulate theoretical arguments; he reduces his approach to textual analysis or the projection of some relevant contexts (Nadere reformatie, Puritanism, Apocalypticism). He simply fails to point out theoretical standpoints concerning identity and the various cultural practices of representing, performing or fashioning a religious self in early modern culture. 5

However, Csorba proposes relevant topics tied to outstanding historical events, for instance, the unfortunate military expedition against Poland (1657) or the persecution of protestant priests, the so-called persecutio decennalis (1670–1680). Consequently, he attempts to depict the prototype of the prophet or the martyr relying mostly on the textual analysis of sermons. Thus, powerful characters like Pál Medgyesi, one of the first Hungarian Puritans, or Jakab Cseh Csúzi are described as relevant cases of Calvinist self-fashioning. Unfortunately, in Csúzi’s case Csorba decided to reconstruct Csúzi’s mentality instead of his mental world, which is confusing and methodologically does not constitute an accurate claim.6 The remaining two articles dealing with the early modern perception of comets or the discourse of Calvinist priests during the ‘kuruc’ rebellion, though they fit in the chronological frame previously set forth, do not bolster the central thesis of this section.

The last chapter, entitled Late Puritan Print Culture, is probably the most coherent and significant one. It offers a good example of Csorba’s remarkable predisposition towards subtle textual analysis and his particular talent for reading and identifying rare sources. In his interpretations of sermons from homiletical and theological perspectives, he does not display such outstanding analytical skills. Here he convincingly investigates spectacular conundrums about a lost calendar from 1596, some unknown attempts to translate the Bible into Hungarian, and a mysterious sermon delivered in the Trinity Church. Furthermore, the case studies dealing with the ego-documents of Pál Ember and the devotional motivation behind Misztótfalusi’s printing activity confirm Csorba’s particular talent for understanding and fairly assessing the literacy of Puritan devotional culture.

Still, without ignoring the undeniably positive aspects of Csorba’s effort in general, it is worth pointing out that some attempt to address the lack of methodological, historiographical and theoretical insights would have strengthened the coherence of this volume. The lack of methodological reflections on the use of sources, the applied scales of analysis, or the particular functions attributed to different interpretive contexts unfortunately somewhat diminishes the relevance of the poignant thematic challenges set forth by the author. However, the volume merits the attention of anyone who feels committed to the study of early modern Calvinist texts or undertakes any kind of research investigating the history, culture and social life of Hungarian Calvinists. No doubt Csorba’s volume will become compulsory secondary literature.

Zsombor Tóth


Magánélet a régi Magyarországon [Private Life in Old Hungary]. Magyar történelmi emlékek: Értekezések 2. By Katalin Péter. Budapest: MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Történettudományi Intézet, 2012. 180 pp.

Katalin Péter’s name is certainly not unfamiliar to members of the international readership who take an interest in the history of the institution of the family in early modern East Central Europe. As a prominent scholar of Hungarian historiography, she has edited and written the introduction to a very important selection of essays addressing the question of childhood in the sixteenth and seventeenth-century Hungary, which was also published in English.7 Her continuing interest in the field was documented by the publication of her book on marriage in early modern Hungary8 and numerous studies, eight of which are republished in this volume. Unlike the previous publications, which were focused on more specific fields, this volume addresses a wide variety of topics related to what the author defines as “private life” in the meaning attributed to it by the five-volume bestselling books edited by Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby: everything that is not connected to public life. Thus the reader finds analyses of female and male roles, attitudes towards childhood, and the specificities of the marriage market. Much as the range of topics is broad, the variety of social strata under scrutiny is also wide: one finds studies focusing on emotional contacts between aristocrats as well as members of peasant families.

The book begins with two studies addressing the question of gender roles in early modern Hungary, both of which include cases that contradict the broadly accepted image according to which early modern families, and especially those of the peasants, were dominated by the male head of the family, who left little scope of action for anyone else. The chapter entitled “The Independence of Women and Men in Society” presents various juridical documents regarding cases in which married women had approached the court, thereby displaying an initiative that was not allegedly their share according to the generally accepted paradigm of early modern family history. Building on the case of István Miskolczi Csulyak (1575–1645), a Calvinist preacher in Northeastern Hungary who taught his wife and later his daughters to read, Péter argues in the next chapter, “The Ideal of the Reading Woman in the Early Seventeenth Century”, that literacy also must have been much more widespread among women than is generally supposed.

The second and longest thematic segment of the book is made up of studies on the world of the aristocracy. In the chapter “What Were Princesses of Transylvania Like?” Péter addresses the question as to whether there was a tradition of fulfilling the social role of being the Transylvanian ruler’s wife. According to her, Zsuzsanna Lorántffy (ca 1600–1660), the wife of György I Rákóczi (1630–1648), was the first to fill this position with actual content and use her influence at court to promote her interest in theology, religious life and schooling, as well as being a strong emotional support for her husband. Whereas earlier princely consorts had not had the opportunity or personal motivation to give a clear form to their social role, the later ones merely attempted to follow in Zsuzsanna Lorántffy’s footsteps. Later, Péter devotes an individual chapter to this remarkable personality, her diverse activities and interests, as well as her feelings for the members of her family. The same biographical approach is used in presenting a “male counterpart”, Tamás Nádasdy (1498–1562), a man who had one of the brightest careers in sixteenth-century Hungary. The political career of this man, who came from the petty nobility but eventually ended up as the palatine of Hungary (and was thus the second most important man after the king), remains in the background in Péter’s account. She is more interested in Nádasdy’s ways of making himself liked, his manners and attitude towards the court and the Respublica Litteraria of his age, and also his marriage, which was extraordinarily successful, both from the perspective of his career and on the emotional level.9

The third segment of the book is dedicated to the history of the family as a social unit and the history of childhood. In the chapter entitled “On the Children of Serfs in Early Modern Hungary” Péter searches the rather scarce documentation illustrating early modern rural everyday life for traces of the serfs’ feelings for their own children and the value they attached to them, even during the period of a pregnancy. Citing a number of cases from juridical records each of which suggests that the children’s lives were generally highly valued even by members of the lower strata of society, she openly criticizes theories often found in international literature according to which the high level of infant mortality created a level of indifference towards children. The next chapter, “Love and Marriage East of the Hajnal Border,” extends the inquiry to the feelings of members of married couples for each other, with a witty critique of the same functionalist interpretation of family life, according to which the early modern Eastern European family was merely a production unit the members of which expected little in the way of emotional investment or return. The most important exponents of this historiography, as well as its theoretical implications for an imagined geography of Eastern and Western Europe, are summarized in the last chapter, “On Family,” thereby making clear the importance of the micro-level of family history to discussions of the macro-level of historical regions.

The last chapter makes perfectly clear that in spite of the long list of works that Péter regards as predecessors to her own research on private life, her approach to the topic is entirely different from that of earlier Hungarian historiography. These nineteenth and early twentieth-century historians hoped to put together a history of everyday life, using primarily the relatively rich documentation of aristocratic families, according to a method that could be labeled commonsensical: they were looking for phenomena with which they were familiar from their own experience. Péter’s point of departure, especially in the case of the studies dedicated to peasants, is the theses presented in the classics of family history from the last fifty years, from the historical demography of John Hajnal to the syntheses of Jack Goody, Steven E. Ozment, Jean-Louis Flandrin or (closest in their field to the region of the author’s interest) Michael Mitterauer and Reinhard Sieder.

These authors and their (in most cases) purely theoretical knowledge of the situation in the Eastern part of Europe, however, constitute only the source of questions, not the source of the knowledge itself. With a pinch (and in some cases considerably more) of irony, Péter contrasts the accounts of a family in which emotions allegedly play only a minor role and the frequent death of children leads to the sullen indifference of parents towards them with ‘small facts’ that she uncovered in the sources of the period. She is especially critical of the modernization theories built on these accounts, according to which the differences between the eastern and western parts of Europe (the borders of which are running, according to John Hajnal, between Saint Petersburg and Trieste) can be explained by demographic facts and differences in basic family structures. Her dilemma is aptly demonstrated by the beginning of the chapter entitled “On the Children of Serfs”: in a court register we read that a certain peasant in Hungary in 1671 rocked his child’s cradle. This source (which must have escaped or simply not caught the attention of the earlier, “commonsensical” historiography) is rich with relevance in light of the fact that Simon Schama, writing about a similar contemporary finding in the Netherlands, interprets it as clear testimony to early Dutch modernity, a sign that due to the wealth of the region, a new model of parenting was emerging. Under the much poorer circumstances in Hungary, such a phenomenon should, according to the theory, be entirely out of place.

The studies presenting such ‘small facts’ repeatedly address the question of their relevance. Péter admits that the cases are few (and, due to a structural drawback of such edited volumes, some are repeated in various chapters), but she suggests that it would be statistically impossible that there would have been so few cases but at the same time they would have been the only ones to have survived the massive loss of sources that any scholar of early modern Hungary has to face. Furthermore, the (primarily) court documents from which these excerpts were taken offer very little indication that the details that Péter has selected are in any way unusual. In other words, the matter-of-fact style with which the details are narrated suggests that the people who recorded them did not consider them worthy of much comment, in contrast with, for instance, cases of child murder, which are clearly condemned and punished and thus (one can conclude) are considered a transgression of norms and outside common expectations regarding family life.

It is always these ‘small facts’ to which Péter gives priority, in contrast with the conclusions drawn on the basis of macro-historical facts. This can be demonstrated by her debate with the Swiss historical demographer, Arthur E. Imhof, whose monograph The Worlds We Have Lost, with its strong criticism of modernity, is also available in Hungarian translation and thus is relatively well-known among her primary audience. Imhof attempted to answer the question as to how society was able to deal with the high rate of infant mortality by adducing an interpretation based on theology: he suggested that early modern common people did not see the world simply within the framework of life on earth, but also considered the afterlife an integral part of it, thus death in this world actually had considerably less significance than it does nowadays. Péter convincingly shows the fragility of this interpretation, built on logical deduction, in light of sources that provide her with a great deal of data on husbands mourning their wives, parents going out of their way to find cures for their children, or even theologically educated noble women scolding their servants for having endangered the life of a peasant boy out of negligence.

Throughout the book, one finds outstanding examples of the author’s creativity in her use of sources. Diaries, autobiographies and other ego-documents, which in a Western European context constitute the most widespread source for the history of private life, are scarce in Hungary and only available in relation to the social elite, i.e. aristocrats and members of various churches. Ironically enough, Péter uses an ego-document (the autobiographical account of István Miskolczi Csulyak in his omniarium) only once in the volume, to address not the career of the preacher himself, but rather the question of female literacy, which plays an insignificant role in the original narrative. Péter even attempts to provide a pool of statistical data on the basis of which the basic demographic facts of early modern Hungary could be established. Since in this period the classic source of demographic studies, the registers of births, marriages and deaths, were not yet in use (and the very few examples are so fragmentary that they yield no reliable data), the author set out to use data from court registers instead. A database was compiled, including 100 women, 307 men and 66 married couples, on the basis of which Péter addressed some of the generally accepted stereotypes regarding family structures east of the Hajnal border.

The pool admittedly remains too small to support any strong thesis, but it does raise the relevant question as to whether this situation could be changed if a large research group were to dedicate time and energy to the extraction of further data from similar court documentation preserved in local archives all over historical Hungary. In any case, Péter’s database does yield some intriguing preliminary results (which are nevertheless also accepted only hypothetically by the author), such as the significantly lower ratio of the age group above fifty years among women than men, which may point to their lower life expectancy and thus their privileged position on the marriage market. While this remains a hypothesis, there are convincing results in other fields, such as the author’s skepticism regarding the thesis according to which in the eastern part of Europe couples married at a very young age, almost as children. Even if she is unable to refute this statement on a quantitative basis (the pool of data on persons under eighteen is very small, given the nature of juridical records), some qualitative elements, such as the terminology used by the sources, make her argument convincing. She lists several examples indicating that in early modern Hungary men sixteen years of age were still referred to as children, and she also found no example of the use of the term “unmarried” for boys under eighteen, which suggests that they were not generally expected to marry under this age.

All in all, this collection of studies by Katalin Péter offers intriguing insights into the private lives of the inhabitants of early modern Hungary, as well as the discussions regarding them. The author’s creativity in her use of sources and her critical assessment of the grand narratives of modernization theories through the prism of ‘small facts’ render Private Life in Old Hungary a thought-provoking read that masterfully meets the expectation placed on a historian: to bring his or her audience closer to a bygone reality.

Gábor Kármán


Identitás és kultúra a török hódoltság korában [Identity and Culture in the Age of Ottoman Rule in Hungary].

Edited by Pál Ács and Júlia Székely. Budapest: Balassi, 2012. 568 pp.

The meeting of the Renaissance-Baroque Research Group of the Institute for Literary Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences held in Esztergom in 2008 addressed the subject of “Identity and culture in the age of the Turkish occupation.” The topic of the conference could hardly be more current. Over the course of the past several decades an array of sources has become available in Hungarian (one thinks for instance of the autobiographic account of Georgius de Hungaria or the narrative of the life of Osman Aga of Temesvár),10 both of which greatly enriched our understanding of the perceptions of Christian communities among Muslims and Muslim communities among Christians, and also provided further impetus for a more nuanced grasp of the motivations of the Other.

Several of the essays point out the contradictions in parallel historical narratives, noting also that the one-sided and monolingual (or in some cases bilingual) narrative traditions (first and foremost Latin and Hungarian) of the period of Ottoman and Hungarian coexistence offer only a limited grasp of the cultural and social events of the era. The legendries of literary history always note Bálint Balassi’s (1554–1594) extensive knowledge of languages, and as this volume of essays also makes clear, six or seven languages were spoken in Buda at the time, where there was a constant dialogue at different levels between the various interpretive communities. This multilingualism is a feature of sixteenth and seventeenth-century Hungary that could be considered unique on a wider scale. It would be difficult to think of a European literary tradition in the seventeenth century in which an author would have been able to fashion a topical parallel of Lucan’s famous aphorism (Coelo tegitur qui non habet urnam) in Turkish without simply aiming to create the impression of something exotic among his readership, but in his prose treatise, the Virtuous Captain (Vitéz Hadnagy) the Hungarian author Miklós Zrínyi (1620–1664) does this: „Ja deulet basuma, ia güzgün desüme”. The contemporary reader of his famous epic poem, the Siege of Sziget (Szigeti veszedelem, 1651) not only would have known the meaning of “hamalia” (amulet) or “csingia” (Turkish stringed instrument), but also would have had enough knowledge of Islamic legends to understand why the confession of prophet Ali was so important and why “zöldfikár” (Zulfiqar, the never-dulling sword of Muhammad) was turned to dust by the mercy of God (Szigeti veszedelem 14, 66). And when Miklós Bethlen contemplates the existence of nothingness in his autobiography, which is an entirely apolitical, theoretical-linguistic problem, he considers the question, “what is the essence of nothing,” not only in Latin, German and Hungarian, but also in Turkish. This broad acceptance of Ottoman culture, an acceptance illustrated by the ability to append a relevant citation in Turkish to an idea expressed in Latin or Italian (whether scholastic or epical), created a unique opportunity for mutual influences to develop between the languages and the cultures.

The most important new aspect of the book is related to this: in this polyglot, culturally complex world one finds an array of collective and individual identities more diverse than anything Hungarian or even international scholarship has dealt with before. Among the essays that present collective identities, the contribution by Pál Fodor on changes in Ottoman-Turkish identities from the fourteenth century to the seventeenth is particularly worth mention. Relying primarily on historical sources, Fodor examines how the Osmanli identity came into being (and in how many languages), how it drew on eastern and western (“rumi,” Roman) sources, and how a historical past was fashioned, including the genealogy of the elite and a distinctive notion of historical mission. Historiographical sources are perhaps more suitable than all other kinds of sources in the study of processes of identity formation and self-definition because the historiography itself constitutes a deliberate reflection. Writers of history know that they are writing the past for posterity, and so they deliberately strive to recreate the tradition. In the Christian world one finds an example of this deliberate formation of tradition in the writings of the Humanists. The only essay in the volume to address this context is the contribution by Gergely Tóth, who examines the role played by the humanist Mátyás Bél in the formation of the piarist Humanist image of the patria in opposition to the Turks, who were seen as barbaric and perfidious, but also rich with exoticisms. This parallel between the Christian and Ottoman historiographical narratives (specifically, the intention to create a tradition) and the similarities in the tools that were employed in the service of this goal (fictive genealogies, religious sense of mission) indicate the importance of adopting a comparative perspective in the study of the formation of the image of the Turk in Hungarian humanist historiography in the period from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth.

A history of the formation of the collective identity of people or nations is a highly important field of research, of course, but so is the study of smaller regional communities in cases when narrative sources offer little insight into the meaning of collective identity. Éva Sz. Simon’s essay offers an excellent example of this. Simon examines the demographical history of the villages of Zala on the basis of Turkish and Christian assessments of taxes, comparing them with personal renderings of accounts, which yield glimpses of individual fates. Of course in these cases one cannot avoid the methodological question: to what extent can one venture generalizations about a community on the basis of an individual identity that can be relatively clearly reconstructed or a clearly discernible personal motive. The concurrence of the conclusions based on statistics and the accounts of individual fates, however, quells this doubt.

From the perspective of questions involving collective identity, the migrants that Zsombor Tóth has made the focus of his inquiry constitute an unusual case. Drawing on anthropological descriptions, Tóth characterizes these migrants as members of a community with “liminal group consciousness.” This liminality is characteristic of a common identity temporarily sustained by common interest, a common past, and common faith, an identity for which the acceptance of martyrdom was an important element among the exiles of Nicomedia. One of the important insights of the essay is that, alongside the acceptance of martyrdom, the maintenance of the community is only legitimized if the political and social status quo of the last minute before the moment of exile is preserved.

At the same time, one cannot neglect the fact that individual identity is always far more malleable than group identity and influenced by far more dynamic motivations than the identity consciousness of an entire ethnic group. This is indicated by the diversity of the essays on individual identities in the volume. Gabriella Erdélyi persuasively shows that marriage constituted the most important fixed point (particularly for women) in the personal system of values during the sixteenth-century anti-Turkish wars, even more important than religious identity. Pál Ács analyzes the formation of poet Pál Esterházy’s identity (a process that spanned his entire life) from his early poem, the Egy csudálatos ének (“A miraculous song”) and to his equestrian statue and stuffed crocodile that were put up at the end of his life. The case of Pál Esterházy was also unusual because (as one learns from Ács’ essay) his self-representation, which was defined and even dictated by political circumstances, was as restrained at the end of his career (when the theater, as it were, of his gesture of identity formation, the erection of an equestrian statue inside his castle, remained an internal space) as it was at the beginning, when he wrote a collection of poems intended only for a private reading. Zsuzsanna J. Újváry puts Miklós Esterházy’s 1641 gesture of political self-representation in context using new archival sources. The very fact that the sources on which she draws are still in manuscript form aptly demonstrates that the border between public and private construction of identity in seventeenth-century Hungary is not at all self-evident.

The existence of two such divergent political and ideological systems in the Ottoman (Muslim) and Hungarian (Christian) worlds, worlds that coexisted and at the same time were in constant battle with each other, created a need for mediators. Gábor Kármán’s essay introduces the reader to Jakab Harsányi Nagy, a translator for the Sublime Porte and the author of a Latin-Turkish language book. Péter Méhes writes about András Gálffy, Ádám Batthyány’s spy in the town of Kiskomárom. Klára Jakó examines the role that the provinces of Moldova and Wallachia played as mediators between Transylvania and the Porte. She has assembled remarkably interesting data regarding the ways in which Latin and Hungarian were used as languages of diplomacy in fundamentally Orthodox regions where the Cyrillic alphabet prevailed. Coexistence also created opportunities for relationships to develop between the languages and the literary traditions. Imola Küllős and Ágnes Drosztmér examine common features among folk ballads from various literary traditions. Vilmos Voigt articulates again the fundamental principles of the study of related Hungarian and Turkish melodies. It is particularly interesting when, in the course of cross-cultural mediation, one community appropriates a symbol seen by the members of the other community as peculiar to their culture. István Csörsz Rumen offers an example of this in the case of a musical instrument, the Turkish pipe. In the nineteenth century the Turkish pipe, which during the period of occupation had been considered foreign, became an element of the national-romantic self-representation of the Hungarian nation.

One of the important insights one can glean from the essays is that alongside the intellectual community, physical distance can also play a significant role in the formation of individual identity, and from this perspective the state borders that are formed by our historical consciousness are easily relativized. As Klára Jakó demonstrates, the envoy’s journey from Munkács (today Mukacheve in the Ukraine) to Alvinc (today Vinţu de Jos in Romania) lasted six days, and the trip from Gyulafehérvár (now Alba Iulia in Romania) to Constantinople lasted seven, in no small part because of the conditions of the roads in Hungary (in one source one finds the complaint that from Máramaros “the road is truly mean”). We can better understand why Gyulafehérvár was sometimes “closer” to Constantinople than Vienna or even Kassa (today Košice in Slovakia) if we take this question of distance (in space and time) into consideration.

The essay by Antal Molnár also addresses the definition of “space,” and Dániel Siptár writes on the actual physical reconquering in the eighteenth century of spaces intimately intertwined with intellectual and spiritual life, examining how the Franciscan and Jesuit orders reoccupied churches that in the period of Turkish occupation had been transformed into mosques. His analysis and the detailed description of the process of mental and sacral reoccupation are complemented by the insights offered by Balázs Sudár, who examines the earlier station in this history, i.e. the process of the transformation of Christian churches into Islamic places of prayer. Szabolcs Varga offers perhaps the best example of the historical mutability of the mental map. He makes insightful observations concerning the spread of Bosnian heroic epics. The cities of Eszék (today Osijek in Croatia), Kanizsa, and Mohács all figure unambiguously as parts of Bosnia in these texts. Indeed Mohács is depicted as the geographical and historical center of the Bosnian heroic epics, a genuine lieu de mémoire.

Sándor Bene presents the history of a communal concept of space that is both anachronistic and, given its mutability, could even be considered fictive. The definition of Illyria became an important question, particularly following the Christian reconquering of the region. In this context, Bene compares the image of Illyria of Luigi Fernando Marsigli (who was committed to the neo-stoic, absolutist-rationalist concept of the state, but showed a lifelong patriotism only for his native city of Bologna) with the illusionary mappings composed on the basis of a legendary past of Pavao Vitezović Ritter and György Ráttkay’s expansive notion of the territory of Dalmatia, Croatia, and Slavonia.

The other essays in the volume all address questions of identity formation and self-definition and the world of public representation, whether self-representation or representations of the enemy or the Other (Árpád Mikó, Erika Kiss, Ibolya Gerelyes, Emese Pásztor). An essay by three younger contributors to the volume examines representations of the Other, the enemy. Each of the three essays draws on sources that have been heretofore unfamiliar to Hungarian scholarship. Borbála Gulyás, for instance, presents the images of the Turks used in celebrations and ceremonies in the Habsburg court, adding important observations regarding how these depictions figure in the all’antica rendering in these games (which are essentially chivalric and medieval in their origins) and how the plots begin to acquire allegorical significance after 1570.

Steven J. Mock recently published a book11 on how defeats were used by communities for their power in the formation of national identities. While the examples to which he refers are taken from the twentieth century (Israel, Serbia, Ghana), the observations he makes are relevant to the study of identity formation in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Hungary. If one seeks to offer a persuasive answer to the question as to why defeats are so important in the formation of national identity (one thinks of Mohács, Sziget, or even the Battle of Vezekény (today Vozokany in Slovakia), this is because historical consciousness, unlike other forms of commemorating the past (such as mythology), demands authenticity. Trauma, whether individual or communal, is always authentic. Trauma offers an unquestionably solid source for the formation of identity. It would be worth examining thoroughly what these defeats meant for Hungarian historical consciousness of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, how they can be narrated, and what theological, poetic, and political ideologies must be constructed to create a context in which their significance can be grasped. The volume also makes clear (in particular the extensive research work of Pál Fodor and Balázs Sudár) that we still know very little of the Ottoman-Turkish literature that was written in Hungary. Fodor’s essay provides a point of departure for the study of what the Ottomans knew of the Christian faith, but it would be nice to learn a bit more about what they knew of the denominational conflicts of the Reformation and the extent to which they deliberately used the fault lines among people of the Christian faith for political gain. Péter Méhes offers an excellent example of how the Muslims at least took an interest in Hungarian history: the Sanjak-bey of Mohács went with eighteen of his mounted retinue to the home of Benedek Víg and asked him to translate the “Hungarian Bonfinius.”

In recent decades international scholarly literature has devoted considerable attention to the study of the origins and elements of images of the enemy in humanistic and later national historiography throughout Europe. This volume constitutes an important contribution to our understanding of how the image of the other was formed and transformed in Hungary.

Translated by Thomas Cooper

Gábor Kiss Farkas

A művelt arisztokrata: A magyarországi főnemesség olvasmányai a XVI-XVII. században [The Erudite Aristocrat: The Reading Materials of the Hungarian Aristocracy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries].

By István Monok. Budapest–Eger: Kossuth Kiadó–Eszterházy Károly Főiskola, 2012. 470 pp.

What kinds of books did an aristocrat read or at least browse through in Hungary in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? This book offers an answer to this question, providing, after a few short introductory chapters, 23 analyses of the books known to have been kept by 23 different aristocratic families.

The aristocracy has always been one of the focal points of interest among historians of Europe and in particular Central Europe in the early modern era, as is clearly illustrated by a plethora of comprehensive works and detailed monographs published in recent decades. I would mention the works of Lawrence Stone, Jonathan Dewald, and Petr Maťa, which analyze the educational, cultural, economic, and political strategies of the aristocracy of individual countries or the entire continent.12 In the case of Hungary, in spite of the fact that the role of the aristocracy was by no means less significant than in other European countries, similar comprehensive works have not yet been published, although in recent years significant research has been underway, for instance in the field of the cultural world of the aristocracy.13

István Monok also approaches the subject from this perspective, the perspective of the history of reading. This interdisciplinary approach (which in German has come to be referred to as “Historische Leseforschung”) began to emerge in the 1970s. One of the intentions was to begin to go beyond traditional literary history by considering the book supply and book erudition of various ages from the perspective of the reader (see the works mentioned on pp.30-31). István Monok is one of the most prominent representatives of this approach in Hungary. As a librarian, college and university professor, and director of the National Széchenyi Library he has played an active role now for some 30 years in the collection, editing, and publication of sources relevant to the study of the history of reading in Hungary. He has also authored numerous articles on book erudition in Hungary in the early modern era. In 2010 he collected those articles that pertain to the reading habits of the aristocracy, to which he added some new chapters to make a monograph. This monograph, which Monok defended in 2011 as his academic doctoral dissertation, has now been published as a book. The preface to the book, which constitutes one of several introductory chapters, offers a discussion of how the terms in the title are to be understood in the case of “Hungary” (it refers to the Hungarian Kingdom, including Slavonia, but not the territories under Ottoman rule or the Transylvanian Principality and who can be considered an “aristocrat”. Monok does not give a detailed answer to the latter question, but rather refers to the conclusions of the research group headed by Katalin Péter.14 It would have been preferable, in order to prevent misunderstandings, to have given a bit more attention to the precise meanings of this term or perhaps even to have included a short social-historical introduction, since in subsequent chapters the terms “noble” (“nemes”) and “aristocrat” (“főnemes”) are often used apparently interchangeably. One of the members of the committee that assessed the book as a doctoral dissertation made a similar mistake, contending (inaccurately) that the distinction between the aristocracy and the lesser nobility was foreign to society at the time and is insignificant from the perspective of cultural history. While a precise specification of what is meant by the term “aristocracy” (as the most prominent part of the nobility) no doubt is only possible on the basis of some consensus among historians,15 in Hungary a clear legal distinction was drawn between the common nobility and the aristocracy as of the fifteenth century, and there is widespread consensus in Hungarian historiography that this legal difference was a reflection of an actual social difference.16 (An aristocrat was not a nobleman. As of 1553 every charter elevating someone to the status of baron included the text, “e coetu et numero nobilium eximendum, … in numerum, coetumque baronum … recepimus”). Furthermore it is unquestionably the case that the greater financial means enjoyed by the owners of castles and adjacent major estates, together with the broad networks and consequent social capital of national officials created cultural opportunities that were far more difficult to attain for other members of society and indeed were sometimes only within reach through ties to members of the aristocracy (on the mutual use of court libraries see pp.29–30). Thus aristocrats also played a key role in the field of culture.

The second part of the introduction addresses questions of interpretation. It touches, for instance, on geographical differences within the country (the disadvantageous condition of Transylvania), the lack of a prospering book trade (as a consequence of which even wealthy aristocrats were somewhat at the mercy of foreign book salesmen), and, simply, a widespread lack of practical usage of books. Knowledge of economics was not gleaned, in general, from books, nor for that matter was knowledge of schooling and education. Of the rich literature on education, for instance, only works of moral philosophy and principum specula (books containing instructions for rulers on various aspects of rule) made it to Hungary.

The next chapter examines the types of sources on reading and book history, first and foremost the various book lists, but also other kinds of data (such as letters, book recommendations, comments and marks of ownership in surviving books). The section on catalogues is particularly interesting (pp.38–41). These finding aids were clear signs of deliberate and systematic use of libraries and indeed themselves constitute important sources.

Regrettably only a few have survived. Only two collections of the era survive that comprise (complete with a contemporary catalogue) the library of a Hungarian aristocrat (or aristocratic family) in its entirety as of the seventeenth century (the books of Miklós Zrínyi in the Library of the University of Zagreb and the Esterházy library in Kismarton [Eisenstadt, Austria] and Moscow).

The last chapter of the introductory section addresses the influence of the book culture of the Hungarian royal court and the court of the Transylvanian Principality. The author captures the first only in the afterlife of Bibliotheca Corviniana (the fifteenth-century Renaissance library of King Matthias Corvinus in Buda). The (unsuccessful) attempts to reunite the dispersed collection (pp.48–51) became a symbol of the reunification of the country itself. Monok gives a brief summary of the history of the Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Romania) library of Transylvanian princes Gábor Bethlen and György I Rákóczi (pp.51–54), although this may have had little influence on the Hungarian aristocracy, since very few members of the aristocracy actually saw it. It might have been preferable to have examined the influence of the book culture of the existing (but not independent) Hungarian royal court of the Habsburgs in Vienna and Prague. However, according to the author, “Hungarian scholarship on cultural history has failed as of yet to provide a detailed study of … the influence of the Royal Hungarian court of Prague and Vienna … on the culture and cultural habits (and within this the habits pertaining to book collection and the support of books) of … the aristocracy” (p.55). This is precisely why I had hoped for an overview at least as detailed as the one given of the Gyulafehérvár library. Furthermore, over the course of the past decade serious studies have been published on the cultural and social influence of the Habsburg court on Hungary, for instance with respect to music and the arts (Géza Galavics,17 Petr Fidler,18 Péter Király,19 Géza Pálffy,20 István Fazekas21 and others).

This is followed by the bulk of the book, which consists of a presentation of the collections of individual aristocrats (to the extent that the sources permit, of course). The analysis of the collections of 24 Hungarian families offers a profile of the reading culture of the contemporary Hungarian aristocracy. Most of them were educated and erudite, so a basic part of their collections was comprised of school books (classics of Antiquity) and the books that they had acquired during their travels abroad. (Protestants like Mihály Forgách, János Ostrosith and Imre Thurzó traveled to Wittenberg, while Catholics traveled to Italy and Bavaria.) The collections differed considerably in their size and content, but almost all of them contained books on religious question and religious debates, as well as works on Hungarian history (authors such as Bonfini and Istvánffy). Several aristocrats were quite deliberate in their acquisition of works pertaining to Hungarian history and culture (p.151, p.205). Miklós Zrínyi even made a separate group out of such works (which he named Historici Pannoni et orientalium). Surviving exemplars permit us to venture the conclusion that they do not seem to have concerned themselves much with the exteriors of the books, but some used ex libris that were printed and pasted into the book and even supralibros that were impressed into the binding. The court libraries were almost always open collections, so in addition to close family members, friends and noble servants (familiares) also made use of them. In some cases, the practice of collecting books as additions to libraries was guided by a clear desire to promote culture and erudition, such as in the case of Boldizsár Batthyány, who collected books for the school in Németújvár (Güssing, Austria), or Zsigmond Rákóczi, who enriched the library of the college in Sárospatak. Almost every Hungarian aristocrat supported Church institutions, to which they also donated books. Imre Forgách, for instance, provided books for the Protestant school in Trencsén (Trenčín, Slovakia), Pál Pálffy and László Rákóczi for the Franciscans in Malacka (Malacky, Slovakia) and in Sebes (Nižná Šebastová, Slovakia), and György Illésházy for the Jesuits of Trencsén. Almost every Hungarian aristocrat had books dedicated to him by clerical or lay authors. A few of them even had printing presses in operation on their estates, and not only protestants, such as Zsigmond Rákóczi in Vizsoly in northeast Hungary, but also Catholics, such as Ferenc Nádasdy in Lorettom on the Lajta river, today in Burgenland, Austria.

Although the genre of the sources (most of which are inventories, catalogues, and lists) may tempt one to offer little more than dry philological musings, the book is enjoyable from start to finish, and sometimes even amusing. Monok is not afraid of making subjective (but well-founded) statements of opinion. For instance, regarding the book list of István Csáky (1699) he comments, “I expected to find a more lavish assortment of historical works, but a significant collection had been assembled in Szepesvár nonetheless” (p.257). He is really in his element when he begins to identify the books and sketch their cultural-historical backgrounds. He is careful to keep in mind that the book lists are just that, lists. They do not necessarily mean that the books themselves were read or even seen by the (alleged) owners. In many cases Monok persuasively demonstrates that the book lists did not actually belong to a layman aristocrat, but rather were the property of a church or a relative who was bishop (p.190, p.195).

Perhaps because of the conversational style of the text, the author uses some historical terms, such as “court,” incorrectly. The term court refers to a group of people who are in a direct relationship with the aristocrat, in other words his family, understood broadly. Thus one aristocrat can have only one “court.” (The Habsburg rulers also had only one court, whatever the number of kingdoms in which they may have ruled at a given time.) The mention of “the courts of Ádám Batthyány (Németújvár, Szalónak [Stadtschlaining, Austria])” is therefore misleading, as are such statements as “began to favor the court in Kismarton” (p.142) and “the court in Biccse [Bytča, Slovakia] in the Thurzó era” (p.163). Nor was it the case that “the first element of the court system as an institution was the organization of courtly education” (p.21). The court had many functions, and while in some cases education was unquestionably among them, in Hungary in the early modern era this was by no means the first priority. The most important task of the courts in Hungary was military service.

Nonetheless, István Monok’s book is not simply a valuable and even exemplary overview of the scholarship (launched largely by him) on the history of books and reading culture, but also constitutes an important contribution to a monograph still waiting to be written on the social history of the Hungarian aristocracy in the early modern era.

Translated by Thomas Cooper

András Koltai


Egyház és közösség a kora újkorban: A küküllői református egyházmegye 17–18. századi iratainak tükrében. [Church and Community in the Early Modern Era: the Calvinist Diocese of Küküllő as Reflected in its Records from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries] Néprajzi Tanulmányok.

By Réka Kiss. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2011. 300 pp.

It is not easy to offer clear answers to questions pertaining to disciplinary measures and punishments meted out by the Church in early modern Transylvania. These questions offer insights into some of the contradictory aspects of everyday religious life, since the cases that were dealt with by the Church and/or secular tribunals exemplify (as a kind of photonegative image of everyday piety) people’s expectations concerning legal practice and the means of asserting community norms. The rulings and verdicts that Réka Kiss has made the subject of her inquiry offer vivid depictions of the motives behind civil legal cases in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Transylvania and the explanations of their religious underpinnings, not to mention the criminology of pastoral transgressions or explanations of “liberals” who sought to escape the punishment of the Church. Kiss’ study strengthens the viewpoint according to which one can glean an understanding of the era not simply from the religious disputes or the correspondence of a few famous writers. Rather, as her study aptly illustrates, a confession, a ruling noted in a record of evidence, or even an Urbarium can offer new interpretive perspectives. In this case the historian is not assessing one principle or secular or religious maxim in comparison with another, but rather measuring the extent to which political or religious expectations are realized in everyday life. In this case, she assesses a Church law, which is in principle founded on ideals, in the context of its actual enforcement.

The book is divided into eight chapters. The first three chapters, which comprise roughly a third of the volume, are historical in nature and provide the necessary demographic, sociological, and ethnographical background information. The style is precise and energetic. Kiss offers a pithy summary of historical, ethnographical, and theological approaches adopted thus far. The sources for the three longest chapters (the fifth, sixth, and seventh, which together make up half of the book) are the diocesan documents of Küküllő that were preserved and published in part by Imola Küllős and in part by Dezső Buzogány, Sándor Ősz and Levente Tóth (records of partial synods and visitation records, accounts, correspondence, etc.).22 The titles of the chapters are taken from the various problems of Church discipline in question, as well as issues relating to marriages, ethical affairs concerning preachers, and the norms of the community. The last chapter examines the question as to how excommunication, as the last disciplinary measure in Church law, was actually implemented in practice.

The first chapter offers an overview of the history of the scholarship on the subject. The second presents the economic, legal, and religious history of the Kis-Küküllő region and the estates of the Apafi and Bethlen families. The question of discipline within the church has rarely been made the subject of study in Hungary, in contrast with scholarship in Western Europe. While English, French, German, and Swiss scholars of Protestantism have long debated the topics, methodologies, and wide spectrum of diverse conclusions, Kiss can rely on no similar sources or analyses concerning the situation in Hungary. In its assessments of sources from Transylvanian (and within Transylvania, the city of Kolozsvár, today Cluj in Romania) church archives that have been published over the course of the past fifteen years, recent scholarship has had to build largely on interpretations from the turn of the century or the interwar period. In part as a consequence of this, Kiss has accepted the role of mediator, beginning each individual chapter with an introduction of the history of scholarship on the subject, the use of terminology, and information regarding the sources, and then drawing comparisons with international trends. Only then does she begin her analyses of the questions she raises regarding church discipline. The reader finds stimulating micro-analyses of the early modern model of weddings and marriage (which differs considerably from that of today), the history of church and secular legal structures in Hungary (which often intersected), and legal and practical changes in profanity and divorce, which can be discerned in the period dating from the time of Peter Melius (who served as Bishop of Debrecen from 1558 to 1572) to the eighteenth century. Specifically because she has adopted this approach, which shows due consideration for her readership, Kiss’ book is something of a milestone for specialists in the field. As she raises questions, she acquaints her reader with the fundamental aspects of the history of the Reformation, both in Hungary and Transylvania, by providing information about the history of scholarship on the subject, and she always keeps pace with the international historical, ethnographical, and theological secondary literature.

The third chapter presents the history of church discipline in the Reformed Church from the Reformation to the eighteenth century. The fourth chapter complements this presentation with comparative statistical data. It touches on the history of the differences and divisions between the church tribunals and secular courts regarding matters of discipline and punishment, changes that took place in the interpretation of the principle of Presbyterianism, and the linguistic schematism and potential uses and limitations of the sources. At the end of the fourth chapter the author notes that in the case of Transylvanian Protestantism differences in the sheer numbers of sources are very significant in comparison with data on dioceses in Western Europe. While in the west one finds a rich array of sources dating from the sixteenth century, in the case of Transylvania one must wait until the eighteenth century to find anything comparable. Furthermore, not only does one sometimes find ten times as many sources in the west as in Hungary or Transylvania, these sources are also far more detailed and consistently organized. As administrative documents, the sources in the case of Hungary and Transylvania seem far more contingent and haphazard. The thematic difference is also interesting, as Kiss has illustrated with a table. In the cities of Nîmes or Geneva, for instance, questions regarding church discipline were raised (and committed to paper) more times in a single year than in the city of Ebesfalva (today Dumbrăveni, before 1930 Ibaşfalău in Romania) over the course of the entire period in question. They also were given a different order of importance in Emden (for instance) than they were in Sövényfalva (today Corneşti in Romania). An analysis of the Transylvanian data from the eighteenth century reveals that affairs related to marriage, scandals involving church officials, and transgressions of communal norms were considered the greatest offences, though of these, affairs related to marriage were the most common, even among the cases addressed by the church tribunal.

I would add a few notes regarding the topics of the three longer chapters, the fifth, sixth, and seventh. The majority of matrimonial cases in the seventeenth century consist of issues pertaining to the making and breaking of marriages, that is engagement and divorce. These documents pertain to the broadest social layer, and the goal of the church authorities in general was arbitration. They had a variety of tools at their disposal, ranging from reprimands through refusals to dissolve the marital bond in question to fines. Perhaps not surprisingly, the language of complaints and accusations reflects the language of a kind of subculture and is rife with profanity, insinuation, and aspersion. Reasons for ending an engagement or dissolving a marriage included estrangement, differing physical or spiritual desires, and licentiousness (or allegations of licentiousness leveled against a woman accused of reveling in taverns, in other words a stereotype), though Church records from seventeenth-century Debrecen (for instance) are swarming with mention of indications of the use of magic or witchcraft (including possession by the devil, meddling by Gypsy sorcerers, slaves bought from the Turks, secret baptisms, etc.).23 In other words, in comparison with the mild stories of village marriage and divorce that Kiss has uncovered through her study of the Küküllő sources, one finds, in the same period, a shockingly medieval urban world. In Gógánváralja (today Gogan Varolea in Romania) and Debrecen one discerns signs of folk piety, Protestant trends notwithstanding, and even references to the use of white and black magic. Thus a reader who finds Kiss’ book an engaging inquiry will want to continue study by examining additional sources.

The affairs of preachers constitute 12 percent of the Küküllő sources, and other religious cases make up another 15 percent. Kiss has given due attention to the social status of the people who played significant roles in the church, their financial circumstances and incomes, and their rights and obligations as appointed representatives of the Church. She also provides a precise assessment of the motives behind the various decisions. She concludes (quite astutely) that often the archdeacons and visiting church officials ruled prudently and with restraint, endeavoring through sentences of public penance, for instance, to bring the lost lamb (as it were) back into the fold. Kiss has shrewdly discerned possible interpretive tendencies in the seemingly schematic language of the ascertainments and the rulings, citing the opinions and assertions of both sides of a case and finding, in the dense Church records, explanations for the events.

One notes that in the eighteenth-century Küküllő sources one finds little trace of cases that had frequently surfaced in the Church records a century earlier, such as the question of devotional inclination (the opposition of Orthodox and Puritan, or over-zealous pietist). Given the historical and social context, other problems arose, such as debates regarding the scope of authority of given representatives of the church (between preacher and cantor) and the lure of local customs (the tension between economic practices and religious proscriptions, such as the proscription against working on Sundays). Most of the time the cases involved recidivists whose opposition to the administration of justice by the Church must have been difficult to subdue. For instance, the authorities struggled for some thirty years to discipline a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kocsis from Balsavár apparently with little success, and the case of Mihály Kendi, who because of the lack of qualified people continued to serve as a member of the clergy in spite of the fact that he had been the cause of numerous scandals, also indicates the difficulties the Church had with the effective administration of discipline.

Kiss has made thorough use of the sources and established quite persuasively that even within the region there were varying models of discipline within the Church. As historians we have systematic records at our disposal from the seventeenth century (sources from the region west of the Tisza river and manuscripts from Debrecen) and the eighteenth century (for instance sources from the region west of the Tisza River, which were published by Dénes Dienes), and also sources from Transylvania (which were published by an active group of historians and theologians from Kolozsvár).24 One can find ample confirmation of Kiss’ contention according to which in the early modern period a model evolved in Hungarian Calvinist regions that differed significantly from the West European Calvinist models. This is true of other aspects of church institutions and the practice of law in Transylvania and Royal Hungary, as English historians have already noted (such as Robert J. W. Evans and Graeme Murdock). In other words one arrives at entirely different conclusions if one studies the other sources according to the same approach, since the context in the case of the city of Debrecen, for instance, is entirely different in its social background and ethnology, and therefore in its unwritten laws and religious customs (in particular in a Presbyterian region west of the Tisza River). And one could also mention individual aspects and differences, since in some cases the emergence of the new model of the era of personalities is plainly evident in the notary’s choice of subjects, the comments on particular cases, or the deliberations themselves (one thinks for instance of Bishop János Dadai or the administrative attitude of György Simon Bonyhai, a reformed bishop of Transylvania).

One can only fully grasp the significance of these church inquests and rulings if one considers them in comparison with the secular administration of justice. Let me offer an example of one such comparison. In Debrecen in the middle of the seventeenth century a thief who had also been convicted of murder was sentenced to have his hands cut off, his body flayed and broken on the wheel, and finally burnt at the stake on the main square of the city. This was all performed according to a theatrical ritual held where the crime had been committed and in the presence of the family members of the victim and accompanied by the sacred text of a public confession and repentance. In comparison, an unmarried woman who was pregnant was denounced by the preacher. Following this public denouncement, she had to sit on the stone of shame and was forbidden to take the place that she would have had in the Church in accordance with her social position for three weeks. She then had to perform public penance, which in the culture in which she lived may well have been comparable with spiritual torture. But by the eighteenth century the secular tribunals did not use the same medieval deterrents, and in tandem the Transylvanian Calvinist church order, which was facing increasing pressure from the Catholic Church and the Habsburg government, was unable to be as severe in its measures as it had been a century earlier. In other words, in the new historical context questions pertaining to disciplinary measures within the Church had to be dealt with differently, and this demanded wisdom and minimal use of the principle of subsidiarity. There were individuals who took advantage of the legal lacunae in this seemingly weak discipline and simply ignored the admonitions of the Church.

Réka Kiss’ monograph offers a persuasive picture of the prevailing circumstances of Calvinist life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the gradual shifts in these circumstances from the evolving process of confessionalization until the Enlightenment. Using the records of diocesan synods and visitation records, she has conjured an image of a bygone world as seen from the perspective of church discipline, a frontier in scholarship on church history, legal history, and ethnographical history in Hungary in Transylvania.

Translated by Thomas Cooper

Dávid Csorba


Notes on Contributors

Ács, Pál (Institute for Literary Studies, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Balázs, Mihály (University of Szeged), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Csepregi, Zoltán (Evangelical-Lutheran Theological University), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Csorba, Dávid (College of Nyíregyháza), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Erdélyi, Gabriella (Institute of History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kiss, Farkas Gábor (Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Koltai, András (Central Archives of the Hungarian Province of the Piarist Order), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kiss, Réka (Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tóth, Zsombor (Institute for Literary Studies, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tüskés, Gábor (Institute for Literary Studies, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1 Jenő Zoványi, Puritánus mozgalmak a magyar református egyházban [Puritan Movements in the Hungarian Reformed Church] (Budapest: Magyar Protestáns Irodalmi Társaság, 1911); László Makkai, A magyar puritánusok harca a feudalizmus ellen [The Struggle of the Hungarian Puritans against Feudalism] (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1952); József Bodonhelyi, Az angol puritanizmus lelki élete és magyar hatásai [The Spiritual Life of English Puritanism and its Influences on Hungary] (Debrecen: Pannonia Ny., 1942); István Ágoston, A magyarországi puritanizmus gyökerei [The Roots of Hungarian Puritanism] (Budapest: Kálvin Kiadó, 1997).

2 Pál Berg, Angol hatások tizenhetedik századi irodalmunkban [English Influences on our Seventeenth-Century Literature] (Budapest: MNM Országos Széchényi Könyvtára, 1946).

3 Attila Molnár, A “protestáns etika” Magyarországon [The “Protestant Ethic” in Hungary] (Debrecen: Ethnica, 1994). For a survey of the secondary literature on Hungarian Puritanism see: Katalin Luffy, “Medgyesi Pál és a magyar puritanizmus. Historiográfiai áttekintés a kezdetektől az 1980-as évekig” [Pál Medgyesi and Hungarian Puritanism. Historiographical Survey from the Beginnings up to the End of the 1980s] in Medgyesi Pál redivivus. Tanulmányok a 17. századi prédikátor életművéről, ed. Gergely Tamás Fazakas and János Győri, (Debrecen: Debreceni Egyetem, Egyetemi és Nemzeti Könyvtár, 2008), 15–31.

4 Peter Burke, What is Cultural History? (Oxford: Polity Press, 2004).

5 Greenblatt’s seminal book not only influenced the international scholarship on early modern Puritanism, but also had a lively reception in Hungary. Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-fashioning from More to Shakespeare (Chicago-London: The University of Chicago Press, 1980). Greenblatt’s concept was often applied to describe the process of shaping a religious identity in early modern Puritanism. See: Muriel McClendon, Joseph Ward, and Michael MacDonald (eds), Protestant Identities. Religion, Society, Self-Fashioning in Post-Reformation England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); Margo Todd, “Puritan Self-Fashioning: The Diary of Samuel Ward,” Journal of British Studies 31 (1992): 236–64; John Martin, “Inventing Sincerity, Refashioning Prudence: The Discovery of the Individual in Renaissance Europe,” American Historical Review 102, no. 5. (1997): 1309–42. For the Hungarian reception and applications of the self-fashioning concept see: Zoltán Csehy, “Humanista énformálási technikák a Quattrocento tájékán és napjainkban” [Humanist Self-Fashioning Techniques in the Quattrocento and Today], Jelenkor 3 (2002): 321-28; Gergely Tamás Fazakas, “Az „árvaság” reprezentációja a kora újkorban: egy kulturális szerepminta értelmezési lehetőségei (Előtanulmány)” [The Representation of “Orphanhood” in the Early Modern Era: Interpretive Possibilities of a Cultural Role Model (preliminary study)], in Cselekvő irodalom. Írások a hatvanéves Görömbei András tiszteletére [The Agency of Literature. Studies Honoring the 60-year-old András Görömbei], ed. Zoltán Bertha and Andrea Ekler (Budapest: Magánkiadás, 2005), 99–114; Endre György Szőnyi, “Az én-formálás petrarkista technikái Balassi Bálint és Philip Sidney költészetében” [Petrarchan Techniques of Self-Fashioning in the Poetry of Bálint Balassi and Philip Sidney], Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények 103 (1999): 251–72; Zsombor Tóth, A koronatanú: Bethlen Miklós [Witness for the State: Miklós Bethlen] (Debrecen: Kossuth Egyetemi Kiadó, 2011), 147–92.

6 Csorba seems to confuse the term mentality with the term mental world. The reconstruction of a mentality relying on a single case is hardly possible. I believe he wanted to recreate the mental world of a Calvinist preacher. Amongst the many books dealing with this issue there are two classics worth mentioning: Alan Macfarlane, The Family Life of Ralph Josselin: an Essay in Historical Anthropology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970); Paul S. Seaver, Wallington’s World. A Puritan Artisan in Seventeenth-Century London (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1985).

7 Katalin Péter, ed., Beloved Children: History of Aristocratic Childhood in Hungary in the Early Modern Age (Budapest–New York: CEU Press, 2001).

8 Katalin Péter, Házasság a régi Magyarországon: 16–17. század [Marriage in Old Hungary: the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries] (Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2008).

9 This is the only study from the volume that is also available in English: “Imitatio Rei Publicae Litterariae: Count Tamás Nádasdy (1498–1562),” in Republic of Letters, Humanism, Humanities, ed. Marcell Sebők, Collegium Budapest Workshop Series 15 (Budapest: Collegium Budapest, 2005), 150–69.

10 Kimondhatatlan nyomorúság. Két emlékirat a 15–16. századi oszmán fogságról [Unspeakable Misery. Two Memoires on Ottoman Captivity in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries], trans. by Erik Fügedi (Budapest: Európa, 1976); Oszmán aga, A gyaurok rabságában – pasák és generálisok között [In the Captivity of the Giaours – Between Pashas and Generals], trans. by László Jólesz (Budapest: Balassi, 1996).

11 Steven J. Mock, Symbols of Defeat in the Construction of National Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

12 Lawrence Stone–Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone, An Open Elite? England 1540–1880 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984); Jonathan Dewald, The European Nobility 1400–1800, New Approaches to European History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Petr Maťa, Svět české aristokracie 1500–1700 (Prague: Nakl. Lidové noviny, 2004).

13 Recent Hungarian research is best represented by the following volumes: Katalin Péter, ed., Beloved Children. History of Childhood in Hungary in the Early Modern Age (Budapest: CEU, 2000); Nóra G. Etényi and Ildikó Horn, eds., Idővel paloták… Magyar udvari kultúra a 16–17. században [Palaces in Time… Hungarian Court Culture in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries] (Budapest: Balassi Kiadó, 2005); Klára Papp–Levente Püski, eds, Arisztokrata életpályák és életviszonyok [Aristocratic Careers and Lifestyles], Speculum Historiae Debreceniense, 4 (Debrecen: Debreceni Egyetem Történelmi Intézete, 2009); Anna Fundarkova–István Fazekas, eds, Die ungarische Aristokratie und der Wiener Hof in der Frühen Neuzeit (Forthcoming, Vienna: Ungarischen Geschichtswissenschaft, 2013).

14 “A magyar arisztokrácia családi kapcsolatrendszere a 16–17. században” [The System of Family Networks of the Hungarian Aristocracy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries], 2006–2008, accessed May 29, 2013, http://archivum.piarista.hu/arisztokrata. – Here three aspects of public law were taken into consideration: highest office-bearers of the kingdom, aristocratic titles granted by the king, and personal invitations to the diet.

15 Petr Maťa, Svět české aristokracie, 12–15.

16 Cf. the entry “nemes” [noble] by János Kalmár in Magyar mûvelõdéstörténeti lexicon [Encyclopedia of Hungarian Cultural History], ed. Péter Kőszeghy, vol. 8 (Budapest: Balassi Kiadó, 2008), 159–62.

17 Géza Galavics, “The Hungarian Royal Court and Late Renaissance Art,” Hungarian Studies 10 no. 2 (1995): 307–32. Géza Galavics, “Niederländer in Wien – Auftraggeber aus Ungarn. Ein unbekanntes Modello für ein Altarbild des Rubens-Schülers Jan Thomas (1669),” Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 51 (2007): 209–23.

18 Petr Fidler, “Die Bautätigkeit der Pálffys im 17. Jahrhundert und der Umbau des Schlosses Bibersburg-Cervený Kamen,” Ars 27 (1994): 3, 213–36.

19 Péter Király, “Wolfgang Ebner levelei Batthyány Ádámnak (1643–1650)” [Ebner Wolfgang’s Correspondence with Ádám Batthyány (1643–1650)], Magyar Zene 39, no. 1 (2001): 85–99. Péter Király, “Wolfgang Ebner és Wendelin Hueber levele Esterházy Lászlónak” [Ebner Wolfgang’s and Hueber Wendelin’s Letter to László Esterházy], Magyar Zene 39, no. 4 (2001): 375–81.

20 Géza Pálffy, “Der Wiener Hof und die ungarischen Stände im 16. Jahrhundert”, Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 109, no. 3–4 (2001): 346–81. Géza Pálffy, “Hofwechsel und Einflussverlust. Der ungarische Adel am Hof der Jagiellonen und am Hof Ferdinands I,” in Maria von Ungarn (1505–1558). Eine Renaissancefürstin, eds. Martina Fuchs and Orsolya Réthelyi, Geschichte in der Epoche Karls V., 8 (Münster: Aschendorff, 2007), 245–60.

21 István Fazekas, “A Melith-fiúk bécsi tanulmányai 1630–1631-ben” [The Melith Boys’ Studies in Vienna in 1630–1631], in Tanulmányok Szakály Ferenc emlékére [Essays in Memory of Ferenc Szakály], eds. Pál Fodor, Géza Pálffy, István György Tóth (Budapest: Históriaantik, 2002), 139–58; István Fazekas, “Adalékok az ifjú Bocskai István bécsi udvarban eltöltött éveihez” [Additional Material on the Years Spent in the Vienna Court by István Bocskai], Studia Caroliensia 7, no. 1 (2006): 73–85.

22 Gyülekezeti élet és vallási szokások a Küküllői Református Egyházmegyében [Congregational Life and Religious Customs in the Reformed Diocese of Küküllő], ed. Imola Küllős, Vallási néprajz 7 (Budapest: Református Egyház Teológiai Doktorok Kollégiumának Egyházi Néprajzi Szekciója, 1995); A történelmi Küküllői Református Egyházmegye egyházközségeinek történeti katasztere [The Historical Cadaster of the Parishes of the Reform Diocese of Historical Küküllő], 1648–1800, vols 4, ed. Dezső Buzogány, Sándor Előd Ősz, and Levente Tóth, Erdélyi Református Egyháztörténeti Adatok 1 (Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Református Egyházkerület, 2008–11); A hunyad-zarándi református egyházközségek történeti katasztere [The Historical Cadaster of the Reform Parishes of Hunyad-Zaránd], 1608–1807, vols 3, ed. Dezső Buzogány and Sándor Előd Ősz, Erdélyi Református Egyháztörténeti Adatok 2 (Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Református Egyházkerület, 2003–2007); A Hunyad-zarándi Református Egyházmegye parciális zsinatainak végzései, 1686–1718, 1815–1820 [The Decrees of the Partial Synods of the Reform Parish of Hunyad-Zaránd, 1686–1718, 1815–1820], ed. Dezső Buzogány, Sándor Előd Ősz, and Levente Tóth, Erdélyi Református Egyháztörténeti Adatok 4 (Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Református Egyházkerület, 2007); A Küküllői Református Egyházmegye parciális zsinatainak végzései, 1638–1720 [The Decrees of the Partial Synods of the Reform Parish of Küküllő, 1638–1720], ed. Dezső Buzogány, Sándor Előd Ősz, and Levente Tóth, Erdélyi Református Egyháztörténeti Adatok 6 (Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Református Egyházkerület, 2008).

23 Debreceni Református Egyházmegye közgyűlési jegyzőkönyvei [Assembly Records of the Reformed Diocese of Debrecen], see: A Tiszántúli Református Egyházkerület Levéltára [The Archive of the Reformed Diocese of the Trans-Tisza Region] (Debrecen), I. 31. a) 2. k. (16551737); Debreceni magisztrátusi jegyzőkönyvek [Magisterial Records of Debrecen], see: Hajdú-Bihar Megyei Levéltár [Hajdú-Bihar County Archive] (Debrecen), IV. A. 1011/a, 1417. k. (16561670).

24 On the assembly records of the Reformed Diocese of Debrecen see the second footnote. Dénes Dienes, ed., Református egyházlátogatási jegyzőkönyvek, 16–17. század [Records of the Visitations of the Reformed Church, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries] (Budapest: Osiris, 2001). For the publications from Cluj see the first footnote.