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.

pdfVolume 2 Issue 2 CONTENTS

Book Reviews

A kalocsai érseki tartomány kialakulása [The Formation of the Archiepiscopal Province of Kalocsa].

By László Koszta. Thesaurus Historiae Ecclesiasticae in Universitate Quinqueecclesiensi 3 (Pécs: Pécsi Történettudományért Kulturális Egyesület, 2013). 534 pp.

Hungarian medieval research has always had its share of recurring topics that have preoccupied almost every generation since the emergence of modern historical research. The history of the formation of the Archbishopric of Kalocsa is undoubtedly just such a subject, having occupied the attention of Hungarian researchers since the nineteenth century. Three aspects of the Kalocsa question have always held interest for scholars. One of these involves the very location of the foundation, that is, why did Saint Stephen choose precisely Kalocsa to found an ecclesiastical center? Another is a closely related problem, itself embracing two major subtopics: when was the Bishopric of Kalocsa organized into an archbishopric, and why were two archbishoprics established in the Hungarian ecclesiastical province already in the earliest times? And in this connection the following question remains valid to this day: why was the ecclesiastical center relocated to Bács?

Answers to all these are given in the monograph to be reviewed here, which László Koszta, associate professor at the University of Szeged and a noted authority on early Hungarian church history, has produced. The author has been engaged in research on the emergence of the Archbishopric of Kalocsa since the beginning of the 1990s,1 and in the present work one can read in fact a summary of his work on the question elaborated over the past two decades and more. Koszta’s position on Kalocsa may be briefly summarized as follows: in his view, Kalocsa was organized as an archbishopric from the outset, though it did not possess an autonomous province but was rather only a titular archbishopric right up until the mid-twelfth century, when the jurisdictions of Esztergom and Kalocsa were demarcated.

A debate over this theory of Koszta has been ongoing for a long time in Hungarian medieval research. Among the representatives of the dissenting opinions, it is worth singling out first and foremost Gábor Thoroczkay, who in numerous studies has expressed an opinion contrary to that of the author on a number of questions.2 There is no need to present these in the present article, a decision which, beyond the fact that the present author does not feel qualified to weigh the various positions held by researchers in connection with the “Kalocsa question,” is justified on practical grounds as well: by reading László Koszta’s work everyone can gain a detailed overview of the earlier literature on the question, and through the footnotes can also obtain precise information on the various positions held on each subtopic.

Apart from the introduction the book itself contains the following major parts: a detailed description of all previous conceptions relating to the establishment of the archbishopric, covering the issue of Kalocsa’s central role; a separate chapter discussing the subject of the archbishopric without a province, that is, the conception advocated by the author himself; then a presentation of the establishment of the archiepiscopal province; and finally a broader overview of the decades of the jurisdictional dispute.

The author has approached the discussion of each subtopic using two basic processes. Having taken into account all the results achieved in Hungarian historiography, he consequently examined these in a very broad European comparison. The latter—in our view—was indeed indispensable. It requires no particular explanation to state that church history is not only a Hungarian historical phenomenon, and therefore the development of the medieval church organization as well as the question of its direction and transformation are inseparable from the general tendencies of ecclesiastical development in the West. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that our ability to examine early Hungarian and East Central European history is quite seriously limited by the quantity and quality of the available sources, which virtually obliges us to examine every disputed question by placing it in a wider context, following European analogies. The consistent application of the comparative method is especially important with respect to the main issues treated in Koszta’s monograph, for example, in assessing whether two archbishoprics could have been established in Hungary at the start of ecclesiastical organization. Concerning this it must be pointed out that our knowledge of Kalocsa becoming an archbishopric derives in the first place from the Life of Saint Stephen, dating from the late eleventh century, which was authored by Bishop Hartvic and commissioned by the king of Hungary, Coloman the Learned (Könyves Kálmán, 1095–1116). It was already established previously that those parts of Hartvic’s work that do not follow the text of the two earlier Stephen legends reflect first and foremost the political interests of Coloman the Learned, thus their interpretation, too, is possible only within the framework of politics during his reign. This in itself justifies including other sources originating from beyond the bounds of Hungarian dynastic historiography and hagiography in examining the question. In addition to all this, the importance of the comparative method is also illustrated by the example of Hungary’s neighbor, the Polish monarchy: the first historian of the Piast dynasty recorded in the early twelfth century that during the reign of Bolesław I the Brave (992–1025) Poland had consisted of two archbishoprics.

In summary it may be stated that László Koszta’s work represents an important milestone both in the debate surrounding the formation of the archbishopric of Kalocsa and in the investigation of the earliest phases of Hungarian ecclesiastical organization. The book’s main strength is that it familiarizes the reader with the entire specialist literature on the topic: in addition to advancing the author’s own conception, it also presents all the scholarly opinions relating to Kalocsa, both authoritative and less authoritative. Because it contains a detailed bibliography, which incorporates the international specialist literature produced on the topic, it also provides the inquiring audience a kind of overview of older and newer scholarly results achieved in connection with the problems discussed in the book. We can therefore only hope that the work will serve as a starting point for further debates among historians and have a fruitful effect on the work of subsequent generations.

Translated by Matthew Caples


Dániel Bagi

Vásárok és lerakatok a középkori Magyar Királyságban [Markets and Staples in the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary].

By Boglárka Weisz. Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2012. 222 pp.


One of the important subjects of research on the Hungarian Middle Ages is economic history. The recently published volume by Boglárka Weisz, entitled Vásárok és lerakatok a középkori Magyar Királyságban (Markets and Staples in the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary), analyzes two important chapters in the history of trade as indicated by the title. The volume was published by the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy’s Research Center for the Humanities in Budapest in 2012, as part of the series Magyar Történelmi Emlékek – Értekezések. The series editor is Pál Fodor, and the volume was proofread by Katalin Szende. The series offers the Institute’s researchers an opportunity to publish their scholarship in larger-scale volumes. The book fits organically into the works that have appeared thus far, presenting biographies of historical figures (Judge royal István Báthori of Ecsed,3 King Charles I of Anjou4) and cultural history (the Catholicization of the Transylvanian Armenians,5 the private life of aristocrats in the seventeenth century6). The professional biography found on the back cover briefly presents the author’s work thus far. As her research interests as a historian have continually broadened, she has dealt with the legal history of the medieval Hungarian Jewish community, the system of royal toll collection (eleventh–thirteenth centuries), the operation of the royal chamber, royal revenues obtained from the mining of precious ores (thirteenth–fourteenth centuries) and market privileges bestowed upon settlements during the eleventh–fourteenth centuries.

The present volume has two major topics. The first part deals with the medieval markets, while the second part analyzes the most important privilege connected to long-distance trade, the staple right and its use. The word “market” (Hungarian: vásár) in fact has a number of meanings, and could signify a market held in settlements one day a week, a multi-day fair held annually with royal permission and at times the urban staple right itself. In Hungarian historical scholarship basic research on the formation of markets and fairs and their legal dimensions was completed some time ago, but until now few have dealt with the problem of the staple right that evolved in the wake of long-distance trade, and with the functioning of the so-called “daily market.” In the first part of the book the author clarifies the concept of market, the rights of the market’s “holder,” the relationship of the markets to one another and their internal workings. The second part of the book analyzes in detail the theory and practice of the staple right. The staple operated according to international trade and on the basis of royal favor; it was one of the main sustaining forces of Hungarian towns, which evolved between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries and enjoyed their golden age in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The latter is the book’s most important and at the same time most elaborated part, which dissects the subject in exacting detail. Its significance lies in the fact that no one in Hungary has yet dealt with this subject in such depth since the first half of the twentieth century. The author avowedly does not deal with either the merchants themselves, or the kinds of goods, nor does she provide an outline for a more complete history of trade.

Boglárka Weisz’s book consists of a detailed elucidation of two subjects (markets and staples) and an appendix section. In the medieval Kingdom of Hungary the right to hold markets was bestowed upon the settlement by the king himself. The bestowal could be retroactive as well, since in many cases an already existing market received approval. The markets evolved either in larger settlements (ecclesiastical or lay administrative centers), or at busy crossroads and ferry crossings (though in these cases, too, in the vicinity of a settlement). The royal authorizations mentioned the day on which the market was held (e.g., Saturday), its liberties (e.g., protection of those attending the market, prohibition on collecting tolls) and the name of its holder. The earliest to evolve, the weekly market (forum sollempne, forum generale, Markt), referred to local trading, which was held on a specified day of the week. The annual fair (forum annuale, feria, Jahrmarkt) was generally tied to a specified day of the year, in general a church feast day (of the church’s patron saint) and was held around the feast day for a period of four to fourteen days. The daily market (forum quotidianum) presumably meant not the market in the classic sense, but rather a staple, which would later become a “distinct concept.” In fact in the charters they are mentioned generally in connection with long-distance trade. The expression forum liberum, that is, free market, in part meant that those hastening to the market were under royal protection, and in part meant that they were exempted from paying the market toll owed to the king. Apart from this, during the time of the market criminals could not be detained, though the market judge imposed punishments for crimes occurring while the market was in progress. In the earliest times (tenth–eleventh centuries) the markets were held on Sundays. The very meaning of the Hungarian word is the same (vasárnap, literally ’the day of the market’). Because of the frequent failure to attend obligatory Sunday mass, however, over the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the markets were held—varying from settlement to settlement—from Monday to Saturday. This applied naturally to the weekly market days.

The annual fairs in most cases were held on the feast of the church’s patron saint, or else on the day of the church’s consecration (e.g., Pentecost, St. Nicholas’s Day, feasts of St. Mary). At such times during the week before and after the feast day the merchants and buyers heading to the fair were under royal protection. The “right of the mile,” Bannmeilrecht, meant that no other market could be held within a one-mile radius of the given settlement. The market’s toll originally belonged to the king. If he made a grant of it, the person or institution so favored (landowner, church community, governing body of a town) was entitled to collect the toll. In early times the toll was a flat fee that was levied on the loaded wagon. It was later transformed into a tariff, which was collected on the transported units (barrel, quintal, bale), but often not in money but in pieces. By the late Middle Ages the ad valorem duty (poundage) had become general, when in every case a pre-determined sum of money now had to be paid on the volume of goods delivered to the market. At such times the quality and place of origin of the merchandise were also taken into account. The toll was collected at the gates in the towns, and at the sales stalls in settlements without walls. Weighing was allowed only with scales authenticated at the markets, or else the punishment was confiscation of goods or a monetary fine. The market’s secondary, though no less important, role was that it was the venue for community life as well. Certain legal judgments had to be announced by the so-called “three-market proclamation” (trineforensis proclamatio, háromvásáros kikiáltás), meaning they had to be made public at three nearby marketplaces. At times the punishment itself was carried out on the pillory set up in the market.

An especially valuable part of the book is the presentation of the staple right (depositio mercium, Niederlage, Gret) of Hungarian towns. It was likewise out of royal or princely favor that certain towns received the right to stop the wagons of long-distance merchants and purchase their goods. The staple right was paired with additional regulations, such as the mandated use of legal roads and exemption from tolls. There were towns that obtained the staple right for the goods of foreign and/or domestic merchants that was valid for the entire territory of the country, but there were also those with a staple extending to only certain products (salt, wine). We find versions differing almost from town to town based on the charters. The rules could apply to both foreign and domestic merchants, or separately to each. Divergences can also be detected with regard to whether or not the merchant was allowed to move on with his leftover wares after the unloading and buying up of goods, as well as whether or not the number of days he was required to remain there was prescribed for him.

Within the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary the first town of this kind was Esztergom. Merchants already according to the laws of the first kings (Ladislaus I, Coloman I) were obligated to stop here and pay the toll on the shipment to the royal toll collectors. The right to collect tolls by the thirteenth century had gradually passed into ecclesiastical hands. The town of Buda, founded after the Mongol invasion (1241), in 1244 received the right to require the “ships and ferries navigating up and down as well as the carts” to stop in the town and hold a market. In addition, over the course of the Middle Ages Győr, Zagreb, Lőcse (Levoča, Slovakia), Bártfa (Bardejov, Slovakia), Pressburg, Sopron, Kassa (Košice, Slovakia), Brassó (Braşov, Romania), Nagyszeben (Sibiu, Romania) and Nagyszombat (Trnava, Slovakia) all obtained staple rights. Because of the ever increasing number of towns in the country possessing the staple right, and the conflicts arising therefrom, occasionally the rights had to be confirmed or amended by the kings. It was mostly the prohibition on merchants’ onward travel that was affected, since naturally they did not want to take their remaining goods directly out of the country but only to the next town with the staple right. At times “trade wars” would break out among the towns: because the towns availed themselves of their preemptive right, they bought up the better quality goods ahead of one another. Lőcse, Késmárk (Kežmarok, Slovakia) and Igló (Spišska Nova Ves, Slovakia), as well as Buda and Pest became embroiled in disputes with one another lasting centuries. At time merchants tried to travel through towns with the staple right without stopping, or perhaps even bypassing them, which brought with it the protest of the town concerned. In other cases merchants who had an exemption from the staple were compelled to unload their goods. In disputed questions the towns in several instances turned to the king for a solution to the problem.

The goods of the merchant arriving at the warehouse were unpacked by local workers, weighed and put on display for inspection by the local wholesalers. In Buda the transaction between the wholesaler (who possessed citizen’s rights) and the long-distance merchant or hauler took place in the presence and with the assistance of the intermediaries working in the warehouse. The warehouse itself was generally a large-size hall building, into which wagons could also be driven. The work taking place in the warehouse was coordinated and recorded by a manager with the help of his clerks. In the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary (according to the extant written sources) such halls stood in Buda, Lőcse and Kassa, though their existence can probably be assumed in the other towns (Pozsony, Sopron, Bártfa and Nagyszombat) as well.

There were privileges that went hand in hand with the life of towns exercising the staple right, though they could be obtained independently of the staple as well. Mandated legal roads (recta via, iusta via) obliged long-distance merchants to use certain designated “lawful roads.” Those using the road were “protected” by royal authority, that is, if they were attacked on the road, they were permitted to seek legal remedy. Those travelling on a “false road” (falsa via), on the other hand, could be punished by confiscation of goods. Naturally it was along the designated roads that the royal toll posts collecting the thirtieth tax also were set up. In the hope of less cost and avoiding payment of the toll it often happened that merchants took circuitous roads. The authorities “protected” against this by setting up branch thirtieth posts. The requirement to reload goods meant that some geographical hindrance forced the merchants to change the means of conveyance. The hindrance might be the meeting of a river and overland road, a royal free town or perhaps a country border. At such times generally it was the people of the settlement that received the transporting privilege who performed the hauling in the given territory. After arrival at the unloading site the weighing of the goods was permitted only with authenticated town scales. The scales (Stadtwag, Fronwag) were located either in a separate weighing house, or in one of the ground-floor rooms of the town hall, or at the warehouse.

The volume is supplemented by an Appendix, the first chapter of which is the Gazetteer. This lists the market places of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary—preserved in written sources—with a breakdown by county. After the name of the settlement can be found the type of market (weekly market, fair), the day it was held (e.g., Friday, or September 29) and the archival reference number for the first written mention of it, or the source of the published charter. This database will greatly facilitate the work of researchers dealing with the subject. However, the gazetteer is not complete–as the author herself emphasizes—as it does not contain the mentions in sources after 1526 (the defeat at Mohács), as well as the data collections and analyses previously published by other authors (Jenő Major and Ferenc G. Szabó). The second chapter of the Appendix is a list of the sources and specialist literature consulted, from which researchers interested in the subject will be able to profit. The third chapter is an (unfortunately) very brief English summary of the book. In the fourth chapter she has collected the personal and geographical names cropping up in the study, indicating the page numbers (where they occur).

Both the overall series and the volume reviewed here are characterized by an uncluttered style. The structure of the table of contents allows one to follow the author’s train of thought. The book is supplemented by a map insert. The title of the large-size sheet map is: “Markets in the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary” (Vásárok a középkori Magyar Királyságban). The place names of the weekly markets and annual fairs listed in the volume are marked on the map and inserted into the county borders of the late fifteenth century. The map was designed by Béla Nagy based on Boglárka Weisz’s scholarly research. The volume maintains the uniform appearance of the series, with only the small-size illustrations in the three cartouches changed. It is an easy-to-read, medium-sized handbook, with a matte-finished cover and glued boards. The cover design is the work of Gergely Böhm. The internal lack of ornamentation (Palatino font, size B/5 pages, 10- and 8-point font sizes) almost “delight” the eyes, allowing the reader to concentrate on the content.

It may be stated in summary that Boglárka Weisz’s study makes useful and at the same time enjoyable reading, both for experts dealing with medieval trade history and non-professional readers. Her narrative is clear and easy to follow, relating, for example, the history of the lawsuits the towns brought against one another, in a readable style. Having analyzed most available sources, she has striven to draw the scholarly conclusions and attempted to provide a contemporary answer to problems already raised in earlier times. It is a fitting addition to the specialist literature published both in Hungary and abroad.

Translated by Matthew Caples


Judit Benda

A Szapolyai család Oklevéltára/Documenta Szapolyaiana I. Levelek és oklevelek/Epistulae et litterae (1458–1526) [The Archives of the Szapolyai Family I. Letters and Diplomas (1458–1526)].

Edited by Tibor Neumann. Monumenta Hungariae Historica, Diplomataria. Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2012.7 592 pp.

Research into late medieval Hungarian history was enriched late last year by an imposing source publication. Tibor Neumann, a researcher at the Institute of History in the Hungarian Academy’s Research Center for the Humanities, has edited the first volume of documents from one of the era’s influential families, the Szapolyais, making it available to medieval studies and the inquiring general public. The publication fits organically into Hungarian research that has gathered strength in recent decades and is associated first and foremost with the name of András Kubinyi (†2007).8 In the forefront of this research stand the ages of Matthias Corvinus (1458–1490) and, especially, the Jagellonian kings (1490–1526).9 For years Tibor Neumann has been systematically examining the history of the Jagellonian era, as a result of which numerous authoritative studies have appeared.10 In recent years his interest has focused on the history of the Szapolyai family, and he has already published several of his partial findings thus far.11 The family, which provided the country with two palatines (Imre 1486–1487, István 1492–1499) and a Transylvanian voevode (János 1510–1526), was elevated to the highest level of power with the election of János as king (1526). All this sufficiently explains why a number of scholars have dealt with certain segments of the family’s history previously.12 Nothing illustrates the topicality of the subject better than the fact that a Szapolyai conference was organized in the Institute of History not long ago.13

The present collection makes available 636 sources from the period between 1458 and 1526. The published material does not offer a reconstruction of the Szapolyais’ former archives, but instead contains nearly one third of the diplomas and letters issued by the family members. The editor – in a very practical manner – has not published the complete diploma corpus, which number over two thousand, since a significant portion of these sources is made up of legal papers related to the family members’ status as high dignitaries of the kingdom, largely irrelevant from the point of view of the family’s history and the country’s political history. The documents of cases heard before the court of both the palatine and the Transylvanian voevode have therefore been omitted from the volume, as have been the documents relating to ecclesiastical government issued by Miklós as bishop of Transylvania (1462–1467). The volume contains the material of five major types of sources: 1) letters (missiles); 2) charters issued to towns and settlements in the family’s possession (especially Késmárk [Kežmarok, Slovakia] and Debrecen); 3) economic documents concerning the family’s domains (primarily the estate centers); 4) charters (primarily those concerning appointments) connected to the right of patronage (ius patronatus); 5) sources of a civil law nature (donations made to familiares and ecclesiastical institutions). Nevertheless the collection of materials may be called complete only with respect to the Medieval Database of the Hungarian National Archives.14 At the same time, because of the careers and international connections of the family members, it is indisputable that in the future the unearthing of the Szapolyai charters and letters likely located in foreign archives must also be carried out, which the editor likewise considers an important task.

The preface (in Hungarian and English, pp.7–28) is followed by the abbreviations (pp.29–37), and then the sources (pp.39–532). The source texts, which the editor—not including, obviously, those known only from mention of their content elsewhere and three copies (transsumptum)—has published in extenso, observe the following structure: 1) document number; 2) date (in Hungarian); 3) a brief extract of the contents with the most important information; 4) the apparatus related to publication (material, type of seal, comments on the condition, original archival reference number, information on publication); 5) the text itself; 6) the critical apparatus below the text. Use of the edition is made significantly easier by the fact that the critical apparatus is not located in the notes but rather correspond to the numbered lines running alongside the main body of the text. The standardizations effected in the body of the Latin text (e.g., sewseu, gwerraguerra, wlgarivulgari) likewise assist the user. In addition to the collection’s overwhelmingly Latin-language sources, due to the family’s wide-ranging connections, the location of their estates and the family members’ status as high dignitaries, a few Czech- (e.g., nos. 166, 282, 340, 371) and German-language (e.g., nos. 189, 194, 197) sources are also to be found.

Undoubtedly one of the most important parts of source material publications is the suitably structured index, since it is this that determines the utility of such publications. In the case of the present volume the editor’s painstaking work may be assessed in the compilation of the indices (index locorum et personarum, pp.535–70; index rerum, pp.571–87; index vocum vulgarium, pp.588–89) as well. The Latin-language index of names is quite detailed, as it displays the most important data concerning the individual persons and settlements, and the origin and meaning of Hungarian words cropping up in the texts. Thus, for example, we learn that Benedictus de Görgő was tricesimator, i.e., collector of the thirtieth tax, of Kassa (Košice, Slovakia) (1491), castellan of Tokaj (1493) and canon of Szepes (1496) (p.545), and that the weapon called hoffyncza can be traced back to the Czech houfnice and the German Haubitze (p.588). The tastefully produced volume is completed by sixteen color plates, on which high-quality color reproductions can be seen of charters and letters issued by family members, the seals used by them, and their manu propria.

With respect to their content the sources are exceptionally variegated, and consequently they also offer a wide range of possible uses. Because the Szapolyais occupied high offices of the kingdom during these seven decades, the published sources offer important information about the general history of the period as well. In addition to all this, their bearing on economic and social history and the history of mentalités is not negligible either. By its very nature a review can undertake only to direct the readers’ attention to the new work; consequently I shall highlight below only two areas researchable on the basis of the sources – indicative mostly of the present reviewer’s interests.

The collection offers an extremely rich resource for research into military history. Numerous sources report about the battles of the 1460s in northeastern Hungary (e.g., nos. 12, 19–26, 38, 45, 54), which were fought mostly against the foreign mercenary troops ravaging the territory. This goes without saying, since both Imre (1460–1463) and István (1460–1465) as supreme captains of the Upper Parts (partes superiores, Felső Részek) directed military operations there.15 In connection with the preparations for the sieges of fortresses (Sáros [Šarišky hrad, Slovakia], Rihnó [Richnava, Slovakia], Újvár [Hanigovce, Slovakia] – nos. 14–16, 20–24) our sources inform us of the mobilization, the types of troops, weapons and ammunition alike. In July 1461 the people of Bártfa (Bardejov, Slovakia) had to hasten to the siege of Sáros cum curribus ac gentibus et bombardis vulgo ’felsepathanthee’ (no. 20). To the chief gunner (pixidarius) in Késmárk Imre Szapolyai promised to send brass, which was needed for pouring the cannons (pixides fundere) (no. 124). István Szapolyai made a promise to free the foot soldiers (pedites) raised by the town of Eperjes (Prešov, Slovakia), who had fallen into captivity (no. 84). A number of sources (nos. 320–22, 325–26) inform us about the Hungarian–Austrian War of 1506 as well, providing information for interpreting this less studied event. The published sources also report on the various military operations of the peasant rebellion led by György Dózsa in 1514 (nos. 391–97, 404–06, 406–08, 410). The anti-Ottoman campaigns, mobilizations and reports of the period also crop up in numerous charters and letters. Stephen Szapolyai informed the town of Bártfa of the successful Bosnian campaign of his brother Imre, governor of Bosnia, and King Matthias (1464, no. 65). Parallel to the Ottoman threat, growing from the 1510s on, reports and warrants dealing with battles along the southern border (1515–1516: e.g., nos. 417, 421, 431–32; 1521–1522: e.g., nos. 538–40, 543, 558; 1526: nos. 615, 617–18, 623–24, 626, 628, 631, 634) multiply.

The volume offers abundant data concerning the family’s devotion, which is inevitable during any complex examination of late medieval aristocratic religiosity.16 Among the monastic orders the Szapolyais supported in particular the Paulines and the Carthusians. The donations for the redemption of the soul (pro salute et refrigerio animarum nostrarum) made to the Hungarian-founded Paulines are in keeping with the practice of the period’s Hungarian aristocrats, nobles and burghers (nos. 93, 105, 134, 136, 287, 346, 354, 441, 503).17 It is noteworthy that of the six medieval Hungarian Carthusian monasteries three (Menedékszirt [Klaštorisko, Slovakia], Lehnic [Lechnica, Slovakia], Lövöld) were supported by the Szapolyais (nos. 332, 342, 517). In addition to the close geographical proximity of the family estates and the monasteries endowed, naturally personal devotion also played an important role when it came to making pious donations. István Szapolyai’s widow, Duchess Hedvig of Teschen, was one of the most important patrons of the Monastery of Saint John in Menedékszirt (no. 342).18 Based on Beáta Vida’s presently ongoing research, it also appears likely that several of the family members were members of the order.19 Among the manifestations of religiosity we may list the donations made to charitable institutions. The family aided the hospital established in Késmárk,20 as Imre Szapolyai explained in connection with his pious donation, ut pauperes in eodem hospitalem degentes comodius in eorum necessitatibus supportentur (no. 96). In addition to their patronage of ecclesiastical institutions, the family, in keeping with the customs of the age, also funded private masses, with which they attempted above all to promote the salvation of the deceased forbears.21 Among these the instructions composed for the clerics of the Corpus Christi Chapel, founded in the family’s burial place at Szepes (1510), stands out. According to this a solemn requiem mass was to be sung for Imre and István Szapolyai every day; and on every day of the week Holy Mass was to be offered for the following intentions: on Sunday in honor of the Holy Trinity; on Monday a requiem mass; on Tuesday for the sainted Prince Emeric; on Wednesday for sinners; on Thursday in honor of Corpus Christi; on Friday in remembrance of Christ’s ordeal; and on Saturday for the Virgin Mary (no. 347).

In summary it may be stated that the charter collection published by Tibor Neumann represents a great boon to medieval studies, which researchers dealing with the history of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary (Hungarians and experts from the neighboring countries alike) will certainly consult with profit. I recommend this publication to the attention of interested readers in the hope that the next entry in this large-scale undertaking will appear as soon as possible.

Translated by Matthew Caples


Tamás Fedeles

The Parish and Pilgrimage Church of St Elizabeth in Košice. Town, Court, and Architecture in Late Medieval Hungary. (Architectura Medii Aevi 6.).

By Tim Juckes. Turnhout: Brepols, 2011. XII + 292 pp., 224 figs.

In recent years, western scholars have shown a much welcome interest in the art of medieval Hungary. In the past the vast majority of studies were published by Hungarian scholars in Hungarian only, thus having little influence beyond the Hungarian-speaking world. Recognizing the problem, art museums in Hungary some time ago began publishing works in at least one other language besides Hungarian – a relevant case in point is the catalogue of the 2006 Sigismund-exhibition, published in German and French versions as well. Recently, more and more monographic works have been published in English or German – primarily by Hungarian, Slovak and Romanian scholars, but also in increasing number by people for whom this is not native territory. The most recent sign of this is the monograph of Tim Juckes on the church of St Elizabeth in Kassa (Košice, Slovakia), which is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation defended at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. He has already published a number of studies about the subject, but now the results of his research are published by a major publisher in the form of a monograph of 292 pages.22 Hopefully, this publishing activity—including the future work of Tim Juckes as well—will eventually lead to a point where this part of Europe will no longer be a terra incognita on the map of medieval Europe.

One of the challenges in Hungarian medieval art history is the fragmentariness of the evidence. To get a clear picture a considerable amount of reconstruction is needed. The term “reconstruction” applies in every sense of the word, as much of medieval Hungary and its built heritage were obliterated by the occupation of a large part of Hungary by the Ottoman Turks in 1541. Even greater destruction took place at the time of the sieges of re-conquest in the seventeenth century and during the rebuilding and modernization that took place thereafter. Although the Church of St Elizabeth in Kassa escaped the destruction of the Ottoman wars, the original monument was profoundly transformed during the late nineteenth century purist renovation. Thus even here, the first task of the art historian is to virtually reconstruct the original building – this time back to its true medieval stage, which was quite different from that constructed in 1877.

There is no question that the church of St. Elizabeth, the second building of the parish church of Kassa, is one of the most important surviving medieval churches in the Kingdom of Hungary. The importance of the church has been long recognized: it was the subject of the first book ever written on Hungarian medieval art: Imre Henszlmann’s 1846 study on the medieval churches of Kassa.23 When Henszlmann first wrote about the building, the late Gothic style of its construction period was seen as an aberration from the classical Gothic standards or, at best, as a preparatory phase for the Renaissance. This led to two mistakes: an early dating of the building which had very little to do with historical reality, and also a drastic rebuilding at the end of the nineteenth century, according to “true principles of Gothic architecture” (1877–1896). This view of late Gothic art changed only in the early twentieth century with the recognition of the autonomous development in Northern art and with the emergence of the concept of the Sondergotik in German–Austrian scholarship. At this time Kassa, which in 1920 ended up outside the borders of modern Hungary, also received more and more attention, as one of the better preserved medieval urban centres, by both Hungarian and Slovak scholars.

However, the period of King Sigismund (1387–1437) did not enter the focus of research until 1937, when Henrik Horváth completed the first extensive intellectual and artistic history of the age of Sigismund.24 After World War II, large-scale excavations and reconstruction work carried out in medieval towns such as Sopron and Buda demonstrated the cross-border connections that existed between various Central European centres. Examples include the role of members of the Prague Parler workshop on the church of Our Lady and the royal castle at Buda, or the influence of Viennese ateliers in towns in north-western Hungary like Pressburg and Sopron. It was only in the 1970s and 1980s that the importance of the Sigismund period was truly recognized. At that time, more and more attention was paid to Kassa’s international connections as well. Although the church and its history has been the subject of a lot of research, the medieval building of the church has never been treated in a monograph until the present work by Juckes. Closest to a monograph is the series of studies by Ernő Marosi, which, however, never appeared in a book form.25 The selection of this topic by Juckes—likely suggested by the advisor of his dissertation, Paul Crossley—is thus much welcome.

In this new monograph, Tim Juckes first surveys the documentary evidence and the historiography of the church of St Elizabeth, before embarking on a new analysis of the building and its history. The structure of the book is clear and logical: it helps us to understand the medieval building, virtually restoring it from beneath the layers of nineteenth-century transformations. The first chapter provides an overview of the nineteenth-century rebuilding of the church as well as a brief survey of previous scholarly literature and opinions on the structure. After this the time machine is turned on, and we travel back to the fourteenth century, to study the history of the town and its parish church, based on a careful analysis of written sources, urban topography, patronage and building lodge. We then start to move forward, following the chronology of construction.

The monograph analyses the phases of construction in chronological order, spanning the century from the beginning of the work during the last decades of the fourteenth century until the completion of the main altar and the sacrament house in the 1470s. Most attention is given to the early phases of construction: the time when the key decisions, determining the entire building, were made. Juckes—as most authors before him—identifies three major phases of construction. In the first phase construction of the new church commenced with building the outer walls around the old church, starting with the southern aisle walls, and on the northern side. Although work on the new sanctuary had not started yet, the outline of the ground plan—including the western towers, the transept and the diagonal chapels at the end of the aisles—was established in this first phase. This construction must have started around 1390. In the second phase, which commenced at the very beginning of the fifteenth century (coinciding with the papal bulls issued in support of the construction in 1402), the old church was demolished and the interior plan of the church—including all the inner supports of the new structure—were established and built. This second phase was crucial for the appearance of the entire church: decisions about the vaults and the configuration of the portals date from this period. One of the most significant parts of the church, the south transept ensemble—including the porch and the portal, as well as the southern gallery and the double spiral staircase leading up to it—was built in this phase. The completion of this phase can be dated on the basis of a painted inscription inside the church, which indicates that the rebuilding must have been completed by around 1440. Juckes also identifies a third phase, which saw the completion of the large new sanctuary of the church, as well as the building of the western towers.

As far as the sanctuary is concerned, while there is a marked stylistic difference with regard to the rest of church, there is also evidence of continuity with the second phase. Ultimately, it is not certain whether the eastern end of the church was also completed by around 1440, or only some time later, by the early 1450s. As Sándor Tóth emphasised in an earlier study, there is no need to suppose a much extended construction period on this part of the church.26 This is a very significant shift compared to earlier theories, when the eastern end of the church was dated much later, on the basis of the assembly of the main altar (1474–1477). On the other hand, work continued well into the 1470s on the western façade and the towers (the entrance of the south tower is dated to 1462, while on the northern tower the post-1469 arms of King Matthias can be seen), which were never completed to their intended height. Finally, in this third phase a series of private chapels were built and the church was furnished.

In every chapter, Juckes also surveys the documentary evidence for each phase in question, and conveniently includes the most important documents at the end of the book. In each chapter, he analyzes the stylistic connections of each phase and attempts to identify the key figures of construction. On the basis of available sources, the author examines the key players: the Kirchenvater responsible for moving construction along and the master masons in charge of the actual works, including Master Nicholas, who was mentioned in a royal source in 1411 and in the early 1420s was active in Vienna, and Master Stephan, documented in Kassa and Bártfa [Bardejov, Slovakia] in the late 1460s and 1470s. The central European connections of the workshop responsible for each phase—including the south-German orientation in the first phase, connections with the Prague Parler workshop as well as with the Vienna lodge in the second phase—are all analyzed in great detail. The author dedicates considerable attention to the Vienna lodge and the most important construction activities in Vienna contemporary with those at Kassa. However, quite inexplicably, one name is not mentioned at all: Michael Chnab, an important master of the Vienna lodge, documented at Maria am Gestade. His influence was often emphasized in previous literature – it is hard to see why he is not mentioned here at all.

Juckes makes considerable effort to emphasize the central role of the Kassa workshop and discusses its influence on the art of Central Europe: the spread of masters from the workshop to Northern Hungary and Transylvania (Segesvár [Sighişoara, Romania], Kolozsvár [Cluj-Napoca, Romania] and Brassó [Braşov, Romania]) as well as to Lesser Poland (Krakow-Kazimeerz) are all examined. The book thus takes the first step towards a wider study of late gothic architecture of medieval Hungary.

Throughout his analysis, the author presents a number of new theories concerning the building, including the suggestion that the Last Judgment relief of the northern portal was perhaps originally intended for the western portal. Its reuse here would explain its more conventional style (p.121). A very interesting section is dedicated to the original function of certain parts of the building (p.149–54). The southern transept was most likely where the famous relic of the Holy Blood was displayed, while a small space inside the southern tower, embellished with a wall niche, may have provided a secure storage place for the same relic. In this section the motivations of the patrons, the burghers of Kassa, also emerge, and certain choices made during the construction of the church (such as the insertion of a double spiral staircase) become more understandable. At this point the author perhaps should have stepped outside the boundaries of the topic a little bit, to include a more detailed analysis of the wall paintings, altars and liturgical furnishings of the church (liturgical manuscripts, chasubles, goldsmith works).27 Such elements (for example the monumental Calvary group of the south transept) are only mentioned and discussed as chronological markers (p.149). A more complex analysis might further our understanding of the function and significance of the medieval church. However, the thematic focus of the book is clear: it deals with the architecture and questions of chronology, style, function, patronage, representation and the connections of the workshop and masters. Less attention is given to iconography, which could have been explored in connection with the portal sculpture. The author probably felt that a discussion of the iconography or of the liturgical furnishing of the church would have distracted from the clear focus of his monograph.

As I mentioned, throughout the book, Juckes analyses the original form of the building as it stood before the late nineteenth-century rebuilding directed by Imre Steindl. As much as possible, the illustrations were also selected from the material available before 1877. Luckily, the author included a series of plans showing the building at three different levels, as well as a number of sections of the structure showing it before the rebuilding. Similarly, the book contains a rich and useful series of photographs showing the original configuration of the structure (some dating before 1858, and thus representing the earliest phase of Hungarian architectural photography). Juckes also uses a large number of new photographs (most of them taken by the author himself) of the original, late-medieval forms surviving in the building and of comparative material. Overall, the 224 black and white figures in the book illustrate every part of the building and all aspects of the content of the monograph.

Commendably, the author relies not only on English and German language publications on Kassa, which are few and far between anyway, but also on a large number of publications in both Hungarian and Slovak. The choice for treating the place names is also acceptable—the current form is used throughout, and historical variants—including the historic Hungarian names preferred by Hungarian authors—are given the first time a place is discussed. An index of places (including other historical forms, in particular the German names) is also provided. The ample documentation—the illustrations, including the plans, elevations and sections of the building, the compilation of original sources, the bibliography and the very useful indexes—make the book an indispensible reference on the subject.

Finally, a few minor remarks should be made. To the network of towns in north-eastern Hungary, one more settlement needs to be added: the town of Nagybánya [Baia Mare, Romania]. As recently demonstrated by Szilárd Papp, the former parish church of Nagybánya (now largely demolished) was an important building erected during the third quarter of the fourteenth century, and, based on its carvings, had close connections with Prague.28 Nagybánya may have played a role in transferring architectural ideas from Kassa further to the east, to the Transylvanian towns. But given the chronological situation, Nagybánya may have even provided the inspiration and the source for certain architectural solutions not only for Kolozsvár and Brassó, but perhaps even for Kassa. The Parler connections of Nagybánya (especially with Cologne) also need to be studied, particularly in relation to the two magnificent relief fragments surviving from the church. In fact, these carvings may be more relevant for the evaluation of the Kassa portal reliefs than another fragmentary sculpture discussed by Juckes: the Körmöcbánya [Kremnica, Slovakia] relief fragments. Here I would like to point out that the high level of realism of the Körmöcbánya figures might indicate a later date, probably the period of King Matthias.29 The comparison made by Juckes is with the west portal carving of God the Father at Kassa – a relief which is today badly worn. However, if we compare the Körmöcbánya fragment with the head of Christ on the upper relief (Veronica) of the west portal, the difference becomes quite pronounced.

One further monument should be brought into the analysis of the Kassa portals: the damaged portal of the Garai chapel inside the church of Our Lady at Buda. Remains of this chapel came to light (and were dismantled) when Frigyes Schulek rebuilt the entire church at the end of the nineteenth century. The structure of the chapel’s two-sided portal—which opened from the north side of the sanctuary into the chapel—followed a model established by late works of the Parler workshop. The decoration consisted of superimposed niches of various sizes, with sculpted figures inside them. What little remains of these figures indicates that their style was comparable to contemporary works at Buda, commissioned by King Sigismund. Dating from between 1412 and 1433, this portal represents a very important stage in the development of the complex portal structures with figural decoration, although it is probably not directly related to Kassa. In any case, its inclusion would have provided a fuller picture of the local (Hungarian) context of the Kassa portals.

Despite such minor details—the likes of which will be debated by art historians for a long time—the book achieves its stated goals admirably. The monograph is the most important new addition to the growing literature on the art of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary published in a major western language. It treats a monument of central importance, sketches its local and regional context and thus puts late medieval Hungary in the focus. The language of the book guarantees that it will be used by Hungarian and Slovak scholars alike, as well as any western researchers interested in Late Gothic art of Central Europe.

Zsombor Jékely


Notes on Contributors


Bagi, Dániel (University of Pécs), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Benda, Judit (Budapest History Museum), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Csikós, Veronika (Landesstelle für die nichtstaatlichen Museen in Bayern, Munich), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fedeles, Tamás (University of Pécs), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jékely, Zsombor (Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Klaniczay, Gábor (Central European University, Budapest), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lucherini, Vinni (Frederick II University, Naples), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rácz, György (Hungarian National Archives), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Skorka, Renáta (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.

Weisz, Boglárka (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.

Zsoldos, Attila (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.


1 László Koszta, “Az esztergomi és kalocsai érsekség viszonya a 13. század elején” [The Relationship between the Archbishoprics of Esztergom and Kalocsa in the Early Thirteenth Century], Magyar Egyháztörténeti Vázlatok 3 (1991): 7388.

2 E.g. Gábor Thoroczkay, “Szent István egyházmegyéi – Szent István püspökei” [Saint Stephen’s Dioceses – Saint Stephen’s Bishops], in idem, Írások az Árpád-korról [Writings on the Árpád Era] (Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2009), 6787.

3 Richárd Horváth and Tibor Neumann, Ecsedi Bátori István. Egy katonabáró életpályája 1458–1493 [István Bátori of Ecsed. The Life and Career of a Soldier-Baron 14581493] (Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2012).

4 Enikő Csukovits, Az Anjouk Magyarországon I. I. Károly és uralkodása (1301–1342) [The Angevins in Hungary I. Charles I and his Reign (1301–1342)] (Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2012).

5 Kornél Nagy, Az erdélyi örmények katolizációja (1685–1715) [The Catholization of the Armenians in Transylvania (1685–1715)] (Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2012).

6 Katalin Péter, Magánélet a régi Magyarországon [Private Life in Pre-modern Hungary] (Budapest: MTA BTK Történettudományi Intézet, 2012).

7 This research was supported by the European Union and the State of Hungary, co-financed by the European Social Fund in the framework of TÁMOP 4.2.4. A/2-11-1-2012-0001 ‘National Excellence Program’.

8 E.g., András Kubinyi, Matthias Rex (Budapest: Balassi, 2008); idem., “A királyi udvar a késő középkori Magyarországon” [The Royal Court in Late Medieval Hungary], in Idővel paloták… Magyar udvari kultúra a 16–17. században [Over Time Palaces... Hungarian Court Culture in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries], eds. Nóra G. Etényi and Ildikó Horn (Budapest: Balassi, 2005), 13–32; idem “Két sorsdöntő esztendő (1490–1491)” [Two Fateful Years (1490–1491)], Történelmi Szemle 33 (1991): 3–54.

9 To mention just a few works: István Tringli, Az Újkor hajnala. Magyarország története 1440–1540 [The Dawn of the Modern Era. The History of Hungary, 1440–1540] (Budapest: Vince Kiadó, 2003); Tamás Pálosfalvi, “Bajnai Both András és a szlavón bánság. Szlavónia, Európa és a törökök, 1504–1513” [András Both of Bajna and the Slavonian Banate. Slavonia, Europe and the Turks, 1504–1513], in Honoris Causa. Tanulmányok Engel Pál tiszteletére [Studies in Honor of Pál Engel], eds. Tibor Neumann and György Rácz. Társadalom és Művelődéstörténeti Tanulmányok 40 (Budapest–Piliscsaba: MTA Történettudományi Intézete – PPKE Bölcsészettudományi Kara, 2009), 251–300; Norbert C. Tóth, “Bátori (III.) István politikai pályafutásának kezdete (1503–1511)” [The Beginnings of the Political Career of István Bátori III (1503–1511)], in Az Ecsedi Báthoriak a XV–XVII. században [The Báthoris of Ecsed, Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries], eds. Sarolta Szabó and Norbert C. Tóth (Nyírbátor: Báthori István Múzeum, 2012), 121–38; Tamás Fedeles, A király és a lázadó herceg. Az Újlaki Lőrinc és szövetségesei elleni királyi hadjárat (1494–1495) [The King and the Rebel Prince. The Royal Campaign against Lőrinc Újlaki and His Allies (1494–1495)] (Szeged: Szegedi Középkorász Műhely, 2012).

10 E.g., Tibor Neumann, “Békekötés Pozsonyban – Országgyűlés Budán. A Jagelló–Habsburg kapcsolatok egy fejezete (1490–1492)” [Peace in Pozsony – Diet in Buda. A Chapter in the History of Jagellon-Habsburg Relations (1490–1492)], Part I, Századok 144 (2010): 335–72; Part II, Századok 145 (2011): 299–348.

11 Tibor Neumann, “Péter püspök és rokonsága. Az első Szapolyaiak” [Bishop Peter and His Relations. The First Szapolyais], Acta Universitatis Szegediensis, Acta Historica 127 (2007): 59–69; idem., “A Szapolyai család legrégebbi címere” [The Szapolyai Family’s Oldest Coat of Arms], Turul 85 (2011): 123–28; idem., “Régi legendák nyomában. Szapolyai István nádor házasságai, leányai és leánytestvérei” [On the Trail of Old Legends. Palatine István Szapolyai’s Marriages, Daughters and Sisters], in Tiszteletkör. Történeti tanulmányok Draskóczy István egyetemi tanár 60. születésnapjára [Lap of Honor. Historical Studies in Honor of István Draskóczy’s Sixtieth Birthday], eds. Gábor Mikó, Bence Péterfi, and András Vadas (Budapest: ELTE Eötvös Kiadó, 2012), 431–38.

12 E.g., Richárd Horváth, “Adalékok a Szapolyaiak északkelet-magyarországi felemelkedéséhez” [Contributions to the Rise of the Szapolyai Family in Northeastern Hungary], in Analecta Mediaevalia I. Tanulmányok a középkorról [Medieval Studies], ed. Tibor Neumann (Budapest: Argumentum, 2001), 99–112; Tanulmányok Szapolyai Jánosról és a kora újkori Erdélyről [Studies on János Szapolyai and Early Modern Transylvania], Publicationis universitatis Miskolciensis, Sectio Philosophica Tom. XIII. Fasc. 3, 2nd edition (Miskolc: n.p., 2008).

13 The conference was entitled “Az átmenet kora. Szapolyai (I.) János országa” [The Age of Transition. The Country of János I Szapolyai].

14 Accessible at: http://mol.arcanum.hu/dldf.

15 On this see Richárd Horváth “A Felső Részek kapitánysága a Mátyás korban” [The Captaincy of the Upper Parts in the Age of Matthias Corvinus], Századok 137 (2003): 929–54.

16 On the topic see Tamás Fedeles, “Egy középkori főúri család vallásossága. Az Újlakiak példája” [The Religiosity of a Medieval Aristocratic Family. The Example of the Újlakis], Századok 145 (2011): 377–418.

17 On this see Beatrix Romhányi, A lelkiek a földiek nélkül nem tarthatók fenn. Pálos gazdálkodás a középkorban [The Spiritual Cannot Be Maintained without the Earthly. Pauline Estate Management in the Middle Ages] (Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó, 2010).

18 On this, see Stanisław Sroka, Jadwiga Zapolya (Krakow: Societas Vistulana, 2005), 63–70; Beáta Vida, “Fejezetek a karthauzi rend kutatástörténetéből” [Chapters from the History of Research into the Carthusian Order], in Középkortörténeti Tanulmányok 7, eds. Attila P. Kiss, Ferenc Piti and György Szabados (Szeged: Szegedi Középkorász Műhely, 2012), 106.

19 Beáta Vida (personal communication).

20 On medieval Hungarian hospitals and their social connections, see Judit Majorossy and Katalin Szende, “Hospitals in Medieval and Early Modern Hungary,” in Europäisches Spitalwesen. Institutionelle Fürsorge in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, eds. Martin Scheutz, Andrea Sommerlechner, Hervig Weigl and Alfred S. Weiß (Vienna–Munich: Oldenbourg, 2008), 409–54.

21 Arnold Angenendt, “Missa specialis. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Entstehung der Privatmessen,” Frühmittelalterliche Studien 17 (1983): 153–221; Lajos Pásztor, A magyarság vallásos élete a Jagellók korában [The Religious Life of the Hungarian People in the Jagellonian Era] (Budapest: METEM, 2000).

22 See: Tim Juckes, “Plan and Plan-Change at the Church of St. Elizabeth in Košice: Masons, Patrons and Liturgy,” Hallische Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte, 7 (2006): 73–89; idem “Prague–Vienna–Košice: The Church of St. Elizabeth in Košice and Vault Design in the Generation after Peter Parler,” in Art and Architecture of Medieval Prague and Bohemia. Proceedings of the BAA Annual Conference, Prague 2006, ed. Zoë Opačić (Leeds: Maney Publishing, 2009), 110–25; idem “Sigismund and Košice: Architecture and Patronage in Hungary around 1400,” in Kunst als Herrschaftsinstrument. Böhmen und das Heilige Römische Reich unter dem Luxemburgern im europäischen Kontext, eds. Jiři Fajt and Andrea Langer (Berlin–Munich: Deutsche Kunstverlag, 2009), 409–21.

23 Imre Henszlmann, Kassa városának ó német stylű templomai [Old Germanic Style Churches of the Town of Kassa] (Pest: n. p., 1846). Reprint edition with accompanying study: Ernő Marosi, Henszlmann Imre és Kassa városának ó német stylű templomai [Imre Henszlmann and the Old Germanic Churches of Kassa] (Budapest: Argumentum, 1996).

24 Henrik Horváth, Zsigmond király és kora [King Sigismund and his Era] (Budapest: Budapest Székesfőváros, 1937). See also Stephen Béla Vardy, Modern Hungarian Historiography (Boulder: East European Quarterly, 1976), esp. 62–101.

25 The extensive series of studies by Marosi, published in the late 1960s and early 1970s are cited throughout by Juckes. Here I would only like to call attention to Marosi’s important German-language study: Ernő Marosi, “Die zentralle Rolle der Bauhütte von Kaschau. Studium zur Baugeschichte der Pfarrkirche St. Elisabeth um 1400,” Acta Historiae Artium 15 (1969): 25–75.

26 See Sándor Tóth, “Kaschau, Pfarrkirche Sankt Elisabeth,” in Sigismundus Rex et Imperator. Kunst und Kultur zur Zeit Sigismunds von Luxemburg 1387–1437. Exh. cat. Budapest–Luxemburg, 2006, ed. Imre Takács. (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2006), 652–56, cat. no. 7.98.

27 The analysis of the liturgical textiles of Kassa is also important for artistic connections with Prague. It would have been useful to include a few references to the studies of Evelin Wetter, for example Evelin Wetter, “Kirchliche Schatzkünste im Ungarn Sigismunds von Luxemburg,” in Sigismundus Rex et Imperator. Kunst und Kultur zur Zeit Sigismunds von Luxemburg 1387–1437. Exh. cat. Budapest–Luxemburg, 2006, ed. Imre Takács. (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2006), 551–57 and cat. no. 7.73. See also: Mária Ginelliová, “Liturgické textilie,” in Gotické umenie z košických zbierok, ed. Anton C. Glatz (Košice: n.p., 1995), 181–85.

28 See Szilárd Papp, „A történeti Észak-Szatmár egyházi építészete – Helyzetkép széljegyzetekkel. Nagybánya középkori plébániatemplomának építéstörténetéhez” [Architecture in historic North-Szatmár County. The construction history of the medieval church of Nagybánya], in Középkori egyházi építészet Szatmárban [Medieval architecture in Szatmár County], ed. Tibor Kollár (Nyíregyháza: Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg Megyei Önkormányzat, 2011), 181–207.

29 On the reliefs, see catalogue entry 2.1.7 by Milena Bartlova, in Gotika – Dejiny Slovenského výtravného umenia, ed. Dušan Buran (Bratislava: Slovart, 2003), 660–61.

pdfVolume 2 Issue 3 CONTENTS


The Unfinished Revolution. Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe. By James Mark. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. xxviii + 312 pp.


James Mark’s interest focuses on the criminalization of the communist past and its representation from the position of victims, phenomena manifested in the interaction of public-institutional and individual memory practices.1 The seven chapters of the book are divided into two parts: the first reconstructs post-1989 memory culture and the second is concerned with personal histories. A total of the 118 interviews were carried out, two thirds in Hungary and one third in Poland and the former Czechoslovakia. Although the chapters are written as case studies from several different previous research subjects, and some have already been published, the commonality of questions definitely gives the book the form of a monograph.

Memory politics have gradually risen to prominence in the region since the mid-1990s, and their purpose, according to Mark, is not to confirm or express power over the past, but to show that it lives on in the present and to confront it. Action is directed at putting a final closure on the past. What has emerged is a “powerful new discourse which asserted that difficult pasts were collective experiences that needed to be addressed and overcome in order for a society to be truly democratic” (p.xv). The result is a right-wing political current focusing on historical memory, whose rhetoric recreates the pre-1989 anti-Communist struggle. It claims that the presence of (former) Communists in political and economic life is evidence that the system has not been overthrown. It secondly reshapes the memory of resistance prior to the political transition so as to present itself as the sole true heir of the former anti-Communist opposition. This is accompanied by the exclusion from the pre-1989 opposition to Communism (or anti-Stalinism in the case of the successor parties) of left-wing groups, which it identifies with the enemy, the former repressors of opposition and their collaborators. The political program is clear: the revolution must be completed, which means finally excluding Communists from public life.

Mark examines the value-set of the new memory culture through the Romanian presidential history commission and the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, which latter caused an international stir. He sees these institutions, which present the “transition” from the series of crimes constituting Communism to liberal democracy and the securing of human rights, as having the primary ideological role of declaring the break with the party-state system and strengthening identification with the new system. “Here finishing the revolution meant the establishment of official bodies that could assist the dismantling of Communist mentalities through the state-sponsored propagation of new, liberal interpretations of the past.” (p.31).

One chapter discusses museum sites concerned with the Communist past: the former political prison in Sighetu Marmaşiei in Romania, the House of Terror in Budapest, the Statue Park in Hungary, Grūtas Park in Lithuania, and the few national museum exhibitions (in Bucharest, Riga and Budapest) devoted to the representation of the Communist past. This chapter seems to have been structured according to museum typology, whereas the next chapter, also concerned with museums, is structured by geography. Here, Mark analyses institutions in the Baltic states, one in a former Soviet political prison, and the other two “occupation museums” which did not fit neatly into the typology of the previous chapter. Mark claims that the exhibitions, whose program proclaim the completion of the revolution, compensate the victims of Communism by criminalizing the past: if the “perpetrators” have not been judicially brought to account or excluded from public life, then they should at least be judged in the cultural sphere. Siting exhibitions presenting “Communism” in former places of political terror makes the political condemnation of Communism and both the individual and national construction of the “victim of Communism” more plausible.2 The author focuses his analyses on the “forgotten history” of the sites, in attempting to archaeologically uncover the truth about Communism, the institutions fail to find absolutely conclusive evidence. Mark does not consider how or to what extent the scene of victimization and the memory-site function guarantees historical credibility in museum representation.3

The strength of the chapter on Baltic-state institutions is the inclusion of international memory and the geopolitical environment in an analysis of local representation strategies. It examines how the institutions of the new anti-Communist discourse face up to the double international expectation by addressing the Fascist past. In the European integration process, Western organizations set proper commemoration of the Holocaust as an absolute condition of “becoming European”, and in this respect indicated that anti-Communists who supported the Fascists could not be lauded as heroes. Considerable international pressure has also come from Putin-era Russia, where commemoration of the Red Army’s heroic role in liberating Europe from Fascism is increasingly becoming a point of national-imperial pride. In the former Soviet republics, where (except Lithuania) a large Russian-speaking population which settled during the Communist era live, this looks like evidence of a present threat of Russian imperialist aspirations. Mark comes to the conclusion that the Holocaust is included in the Baltic memory culture in a way that does not challenge but rather supports the idea of the nation’s victimization during the era of Communist dictatorship.

The new, reconstructed memory culture, partly via the institutions analyzed in the book, encourages individuals to rewrite their personal past in the categories of “victim” and “resister” on one side and “perpetrator” and “collaborator” on the other. Mark’s interview subjects are from the generation born between 1918 and 1940, whose lives have been shaped by confrontation with the Communist, politicized autobiography, the requirement to weave the right ideological elements into their life story. At major stages of their lives, they have been required, in a public and proper way, to present their past as evidence of their loyalty. Since 1989, this generation has again been confronted with politicized autobiographical norms, and so autobiographical narratives have been rewritten according to the values and norms of the new, post-Communist memory culture.

The author does not stop here, but puts the question of how, as a subject of the hegemonic and homogenizing memory discourse, the individual is capable of rejecting stigmatizing identifications and developing an alternative position. The three chapters based on the interviews discuss conflict situations in which the autobiographical narrative cannot be delivered in the previous way. Only some of the interview respondents, however, react to the dictates of the new discourse.

The life accounts of former party members, for example, could clearly have been analyzed in terms of how they react to being identified as “perpetrators/accomplices in Communist crimes” as has become prevalent since 1989, and their strategies for demonstrating their democratic commitment. Instead, the analysis focuses on anti-Fascism, which party members up to 1956 had to make part of their public autobiographies as proof of loyalty. The author might have acquired a sharper picture of how criminalizing the Communist past has forced the rewriting of autobiographies if he had focused his analysis of how the subjects coped with their past, not specifically on the anti-Fascist element, which was subsequently compromised by the Communist regimes, but on bonding to the party state and previous ideological commitment (including anti-Fascism).

Mark presents what is at stake in adopting the “victim of Communism” position through analysis of interviews where the former system caused personal suffering for the respondents. One of his important claims is that heroic opposition is absent from the narrative elements of the “anti-Communist autobiography”: refusal of the system meant retreating into the private sphere and refusing all kinds of commitment. In this schema, what provides the political character of the autobiographical narrative is the pairing of retreat into the private sphere with a sense of historic mission through the preservation, in family history, of national values. Becoming a victim appears as the consequence of refusing to cooperate. Mark points out that despite the assertion of being non-political, this autobiographical narrative is formed by the kind of political self-presentation which was prescribed in the Communist system, raising the story of the family past into the century-old history of anti-Communist struggle. At the same time, autobiographical narratives that avoid self-presentation as victim are motivated by the rejection and uncovering of the prevailing anti-Communist discourse. Being a former victim of Communism may bring benefits, but the story of being a victim of Communism for subjects of the “anti-anti-Communist autobiography” is not a matter of relating true experiences so much as adopting a retrospective identity whose black-and-white features cover up complex and varying relationships with the Communist system. For the maneuver of refusing the victim position, there are no ready models, as is revealed by the interview subjects’ constant attention to the possible implications of their narrative and word use. They are concerned not with the justice of the past but with the injustice of the currently-prevailing perspective and the lack of a position permitting true speech. The struggle is no longer between rival experiences of the past.

The boundaries to speaking out are also addressed in the analysis of interviews with Hungarian victims and witnesses of rape by the Red Army. Mark’s conclusion is that the subjects could only speak up in terms of the prevailing anti-Communist discourse, presenting themselves as part of a nation that became a victim of Communism, and their story as an example of national victimization. Thus the repression suffered during several decades of taboo is put in parallel with the themes of repression of the nation by a foreign power, and the coming out in public about the trauma after 1989 is put in parallel with the liberation of the nation. The opportunities to speak out were of course basically for women, because according to the prevailing discourse, Hungarian women embodying the nation were raped by barbarian men, and thus the position of Hungarian men was also undermined. In this case, too, the author examines the options for opposing the demands of the prevailing narrative. Since the generation involved has no non-political narrative scheme at its disposal for verbalizing the atrocities of the Red Army, the only way of refusing the constraints of the prevailing discourse is to deny or marginalize the rape in the past.

Unfortunately, the interview analyses go no further than illustrating each statement with quotations. There are relatively few extracts from the interviews: in the final chapter, for example, based on 31 interviews, the author quotes one brief detail from each of 15 interviews, and only makes sporadic mentions of the structural specifics of the narrative. This would have been useful for determining the biographical significance of each theme and past event. Mark frequently links this significance to the interview subjects’ political or ideological affinities or their origins, which could be problematic in some cases. In extreme cases, it could lead to tautologies of the kind that somebody exercises the options of an anti-Communist discourse which is defined as right wing because he or she comes from an anti-Communist, right-wing/Catholic environment.

Mark’s premise is therefore that political dissatisfaction in post-Communism is concentrated on the lack of a revolutionary break between systems, the presence of former Communists in public life being identified as evidence of the survival of Communism. The only substantial criticism is the one-sidedness of the chosen conceptual framework, which defines the idea of completing the revolution as purely a right-wing discourse. The discussion might have accommodated, for example, the modernizing current citing Western examples, most of all the “German model”, which blames the surviving Communist mentality for the democratic deficit. In other words: is there another program for completion of the revolution? The “left-wing program” might have been considered, offsetting the impression that the struggle against the persistence of the Communist past is a right-wing privilege. A better procedure would be to first identify the discourses which set as their objective the termination of the persistence of the Communist past and only then examine whether they have become resources for one political side or the other.

Since the book did not set out to historically examine how post-Communist discourses have shaped relations with the past, it should not be taken to task for not doing so. Nonetheless, how the political current known as “new anti-Communism” rose to prevalence in the region, how completion of the revolution has become a right-wing program, and what political forces were competing in the post-1989 period are important questions. Although Mark does take into account the contest between the continental memory traditions of East and West, he does not deal with their interactions or with the complex effect by which the Holocaust memory has become the model for the representation of Communism. I think this may give us an answer to why historical catastrophes, cultural trauma,4 victim rivalry5 and personal witness6 have become the primary factors of European memory politics,7 or in other words, why the “post-Communist totalitarian language of ‘victim’, ‘collaborator’ and ‘resister’” (p.xxviii) have risen to prevalence.

Translated by Alan Campbell

Máté Zombory


The Politics of “National Character”: A Study in Interwar East European Thought. (Routledge Studies in Comparative Political Thought). By Balázs Trencsényi. London–New York: Routledge, 2012. 227 pp.


In his most recent study on the history of national characterology in Eastern Europe, Balázs Trencsényi provides the reader with an in-depth and comparative analysis of intellectual discourses on national specificity in Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria respectively. This highly erudite study is published in Routledge’s series of “Studies in Comparative Political Thought,” which aims to “change the landscape of political theory by encouraging deeper comparative reflection on the structure and character of the discipline and to arrive at a richer understanding of the nature of the political” (p.II). It is in this ambitious spirit that the book is written, and it is the author’s background in philosophy that lends the study an impressive level of creative intellectual interdisciplinarity. Trencsényi, Associate Professor of history at the Central European University, has written extensively on the topic of modernity and identity discourses in East European political thought and belongs to a very exclusive category of scholars intellectually equipped to undertake a comparative study of three countries, modulating virtuously between the national case studies and covering an exhaustive range of intellectual activity in all of them.

The author’s main objective is to demonstrate the development of discourses of national specificity and national character in the interwar period, in relation to the advent of radical nationalism and transforming notions of historicity and temporality. Seemingly antagonistic concepts such as modernism and anti-modernism, autochthonism and Westernisation, constitute the conceptual framework for the analysis of the divergent discourses on national specificity in the three countries. In his approach to the complex subject of national characterology, Trencsényi is inspired by Carl Schmitt’s concept of ‘political romanticism’ and Armin Mohler’s idea of ‘conservative revolution’, originally referring to the cultural and political currents in post-World War I Germany. Both of these concepts accommodate the portrayal of the long-term evolution of identity discourses, and connect them to intellectual developments preceding the interwar period. Taking into account the influence of older currents, like Romanticism´s role in the disconnection of national institutions and national identity, or Nietzschean justifications of collective egotism, the character of the interwar discourse is determined by the unprecedented association of national character with the problem of political modernity. Traditional linear conceptions of history were in many cases replaced with a new cyclicity, linking the realization of the primordial national to modernism as much as to anti-modernism, and complicating historicism’s traditional call to restore some glorious past. The dehistoricization of national character and changing attitudes towards time itself are recurring themes in the book and are discussed with considerable profundity.

After having introduced these general themes in the introductory chapter, Trencsényi points out that, even though they may all have played an important part in the countries under scrutiny, the three local discourses are not in the least identical. Initially, the author had planned to include only two case studies in his comparative analysis, but he decided to include Bulgaria as well in order to accentuate the differences and similarities between national discourses in Eastern Europe. Although the book focuses primarily on developments in the interwar period, the case studies are embedded in their historical contexts, and each chapter introduces the reader to the early modern and (especially) nineteenth-century debates on national characterology as well. This is important, since many of the interwar debates on the topic of national identity refer back to these earlier discourses.

The first case study is Romania, which consisted of the Old Kingdom of Romania and Transylvania prior to 1918. In his investigation of the historical roots of Romanian characterology, Trencsényi points out that the advent of political journalism, a lively pamphlet culture, and a new public sphere in the 1830s and 40s revolutionized the debate on Romanian identity, divided between revolutionary and evolutionary thinkers. Especially in the wake of the national-liberal revolutions of 1848, the question of whether the Romanians should follow foreign examples (as proposed by Mihail Kogălniceanu) or, instead, focus on their own autochthonous culture became a pressing one. A new phase in the debate occurred in 1860, when the Junimist movement, championed by Titu Maiorescu and inspired by German philosophy and Romanticism, challenged the dominant narrative of Romania´s undefiled Roman origins. The Junimists propagated an unprecedented new version of Romanian history, in which they accentuated the evolution and organicity of the people, while at the same time criticizing modernity and its detrimental effect on the national character. This organic conception of national identity radicalized towards the end of the nineteenth century and gave shape to A. D. Xenopol’s Romanian adaptation of Völkerpsychologie and the idea that a people without a history was necessarily a people without character (D. D. Drăghicescu). Through the authochtonists, who sought to reconcile political modernism with traditional and rural culture, the Romanian self-image had become a very ethnically orientated one by the early twentieth century. This trend radicalized in the interwar period, especially in the works of those considered part of the politically divergent young generation. Trencsényi traces the intellectual career of influential thinkers like Emil Cioran and Mircea Eliade and highlights their contributions to what he refers to as the ‘a-historical turn’ in Romanian national thought. To Eliade, myth and symbol, not history, became the primary denominators of national identity. A nation had to transcend its own history and aspire to universality. It was this paradoxical blend of nationalism and universalism, characteristic of the interwar period, that contributed to the emergence of a Romanian brand of Fascism.

In the next chapter, Hungary is subjected to a similar discourse analysis. After having traced the concept of Hungary back to a multi-ethnic, pre-modern nobility, Trencsényi outlines the relationship between these earlier ideas and nineteenth-century debates on national character. The Hungarian intelligentsia, more influenced by Herderian philosophy than the Romanians, developed (especially from the 1860s onwards) a strongly ethno-cultural sense of identity, which is interesting in a country that eventually consisted of over fifty percent non-Hungarians. Attempts to Magyarize an ethnically mixed population and create a national school of philosophy based on national characteristics balanced between reason and sentiment (Gusztáv Szontagh) are scrutinized and presented in their relation to opposing intellectual camps. Many of the main themes resemble those from the previous chapter on Romania, e.g. the discussions on the importation of foreign culture (which those connected to the periodical Szép Szó applauded), and the ambivalent relationship between political progress and cultural specificity. Interestingly, the Hungarian discourse of the interwar period resembled the Romanian one in that the nation became a spiritual category (Bálint Hóman), rather than a character based on national history, and that the political ideas of the new generation were so amorphous and ambivalent that they formed the intellectual breeding ground for later generations of fascists and communists alike. A typically Hungarian feature is the Asian, nomadic component of the interwar debate. The Hungarians differed from the rest of Europe, since they regarded themselves as descendants of a wandering steppe people which embodied the ‘soul of Asia’, rather than that of the West. Consequently, Sándor Karácsony could argue that national characteristics typically considered vices in a European context were actually virtues from the oriental perspective and fundamental constituents of the Hungarian soul. Amidst this myriad of competing and overlapping models of identification and ‘alternative histories’, it is remarkable that the author hardly mentions the Habsburg legacy at all. Did the Austro-Hungarian past leave no traces in post-1918 Hungarian characterology? Furthermore, the Finno-Ugric connection, which at times was rather unpopular in Hungary but which had a major effect on ideas about the origins of the Hungarians, is entirely discarded.

The last case study, Bulgaria, is the only Slavic nation in Trencsényi’s comparative study. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, the protochronistic idea that Slavs were the original progenitors of European civilisation played a significant part in the Bulgarian identity-discourse, arguably in part to compensate for the very narrow historical and institutional foundation of modern Bulgarian identity. One of the primary markers of this discourse was a sense of ‘inbetweenness’ and belatedness, of being caught between ‘not anymore’ and ‘not yet’. By tying the Bulgarian nation to the former greatness of the Slavs and even to that of the Indo-Europeans, the ancient cultures responsible for the cultural and political oppression of Bulgaria (Byzantine Greece and the Turks), as well as Western civilisation (e.g. ancient Gaul), could be presented as being indebted to and having originated from the Bulgarians’ mythical ancestors. These images of prehistoric greatness notwithstanding, many Bulgarian intellectuals came to the agonizing conclusion that modern Bulgarians were barbarians, and that the Turks, who functioned as the ‘significant others’ with which the Bulgarians contrasted themselves, were to blame for this. In order to achieve national emancipation, Bulgarians have looked to foreign examples like Germany and even Japan, and to a more authentic pagan past, before Byzantine Christianity had defiled the free and sensitive national spirit. Inspired by Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Bulgarian intellectuals like Pencho P. Slaveykov envisioned a pagan resurrection, a messianic return to primordial Bulgarianness. After 1918, in the wake of the traumatic Second Balkan War, the Bulgarian brand of national psychology, narodnopsihologia, became an important factor in the formulation of Bulgarian identity. Throughout the interwar period, the lack of historical continuity posed a serious problem for Bulgarian intellectuals, who sought their refuge in narodnopsihologia (Naydew Sheytanov) and glorifications of the medieval past (Peter Mutafchiev).

In the final chapter, the author offers an outline of the “common features and factors of divergence” in his comparative study, and concludes that, although the developments in all three countries are in many respects similar, the regional character of the three discourses should not be downplayed; they all had to “cook with local ingredients”. In all three cases, Trencsényi identifies nineteenth-century Romanticism as the starting point of the modern identity discourse, and crucial years like 1918, 1933 and 1940 as turning and breaking points in their intellectual development. In the conclusion he also provides the reader with a concise overview of the legacy of these interwar identity discourses after 1945, when some of their anti-Western tendencies found themselves strangely in line with Soviet ideology. The trauma of being considered peripheral and not fully Europeanized, at a time when Europe itself was entering a period of ideological crisis, has in many ways determined the ambivalent and antagonistic position of Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria towards the West, and has left a mark on their national self-images. The herculean task of describing, analysing, and comparing these complicated developments in three equally complex case studies makes the work necessarily a densely argued intellectual tour de force in which little space remains for the proper introduction and contextualisation of its many protagonists. Arguably, the book may, with its 227 pages, simply be too thin to do justice to the immense complexity of Trencsényi’s endeavour. However, to those properly introduced to the intellectual history of all three countries and Eastern Europe in general, this study constitutes an innovative and fascinating contribution to the field.


Simon Halink



Horvátország a 7. századtól napjainkig [Croatia from the Seventh Century up to the Present Day]. By Dénes Sokcsevits. Budapest: Mundus, 2011. 846 pp.


Once upon a time there was an 800 year-old Hungaro–Croatian confederation. Croatia was the only single ’foreign’ state that permanently stood under the reign of the Holy Crown of Hungary. An occupation army from Hungary was never stationed on Croatian territory—it simply was not necessary. The coexistence of these states was based on a general agreement and was secured by several internal and external interests. This peaceful coexistence made this confederation unique in Eastern Europe. In general Croatia had had no secessionist ambitions, even when the existence of the Hungarian kingdom was thrown into question by the Mongol invasion of 1241 and the interregna of 1301–1308 and 1526. The first considerable differences appeared in the seventeenth century, when the Croatian ambitions for autonomy gained strength. An armed conflict between the two states broke out only once during the 800 year period of coexistence (in 1848–1849). But even that war was far from being a real obstacle in the later political negotiations between Hungary and Croatia. Despite these facts, both national historiographies turn a blind eye to the history of this coexistence.

The book by Dénes Sokcsevits is the first monograph about Croatia published in Hungary.8 The author based his work primarily on Hungarian and Croatian archival and secondary sources. The book is very informative with regard to historical events and it has a clear train of thought. The different periods are presented through political, economic, social and church history. The author sometimes focuses his investigation on a region like Dalmatia or Slavonia, sometimes on a town like Trogir/Trau and Dubrovnik/Ragusa, sometimes on a family like the Šubić family, or sometimes on a politician like Martinuzzi Fráter György/Juraj Martinušević. His main aim is to demonstrate that the history of country and nation cannot be regarded as a straight line of historical events. In contrast with traditional Croatian historiography, which constructs a simplified history of Croatia with the nation in its center, Sokcsevits intends to present the history of the state as a whole made up of several different mosaic tiles. It is a particular virtue of the author’s approach that he interprets and analyzes each and every disputed question and opinion with regard to Croatian history. One should also note that Sokcsevits does not fail to deal with problems to which Hungarian historiography has turned a blind eye (e.g. why the Croatian nobles refused to join the uprising led by Rákóczi).

From a structural point of view the book can be divided into three major parts. The first part deals with the history of Croatia until 1918, focusing on Hungarian–Croatian coexistence and later the process of succession. The differences of opinion and interests between the political elites of the two states appeared in the second half of the fifteenth century, when the Hungarian king proved unable to protect the Croatian counties from Ottoman attacks. That is the very beginning of the relationship between Croatia and the Habsburg dynasty. Two important phenomena of the seventeenth century influenced the Hungarian–Croatian relationship profoundly in the long run. On the one hand a difference in the interpretation of constitutional law emerged between the two states. While the Croatian estates began to emphasize that the state connections were based on equal rights, so Croatia had to be regarded as a joint and not as a subordinate state, the Hungarians insisted on their concept of Croatia as a conquered state (i.e. in their perception Croatia had been conquered by the Hungarian kingdom in the eleventh century). On the other hand, the aristocratic conspiracy against the Habsburg dynasty in 1671 proved an especially tragic turning-point in the relationship between the two states. The conspiracy was organized by families that were the main representatives of Hungarian–Croatian coexistence. After exposing the plans for an uprising, the Habsburgs practically ruined the families of Zrínyi/Zrinski and Frangepan.

The period of 1790–1848 can best be characterized by the fact that the national idea gained primacy both in Hungary and in Croatia. Due to the perception of Hungarian nationalism as a threat, Croatian politicians began to build up closer connections with Vienna, and the Habsburgs refused to take the Hungarian opinions into consideration in their Croatian policy. According to Sokcsevits, however, even in that period both nations shared a common feature: their nation-building process and language reforms were modeled on the same patterns. It was Lajos Kossuth who in 1848 questioned the autonomy of Croatia on the basis of constitutional law, and it was also Kossuth who adamantly rejected any proposal regarding the federative transformation of Hungary. Furthermore, he intended to make the Hungarian language compulsory south of the Sava. It was therefore hardly surprising that the Croats could be easily instrumentalized by Vienna during the 1848–1849 Hungarian War of Independence. It was the first time that these countries had gone to war with each other. It is worth noting, however, that the troops of Banus Jelačić were regarded as enemies by the Croats of the Transdanubian counties. And as a “reward” for having sided with the Habsburgs, Croatia lost its autonomy and sank to the level of a crown-land.

Both political elites turned a blind eye to the consequences of the 1848–1849 events. They proved unable to reach an acceptable compromise during the negotiations of 1866–1868. One the one hand, the Habsburg Empire was transformed into a Dual Monarchy, which was obviously unacceptable to the majority of the nations of the empire. On the other hand, the Croatian–Hungarian Settlement in 1868 was judged by the Croatian politicians as a bad compromise. It had the potential, however, to bring about positive change. It was Ferenc Deák who suggested a real union and broad autonomy for Croatia, but his suggestions were ignored by the other members of the Hungarian delegation (Gyula Andrássy and Menyhért Lónyay). It is also an unknown detail of the 1868 negotiations between Pest-Buda and Zagreb that Deák warned his Croatian colleagues against South-Slav unity. According to Deák, South-Slav unification would be led by Belgrad and not Zagreb. On the whole, Croatia could attained autonomy than it had set out to win, but it is important to mention that the autonomy it did obtain was unique in Europe at the time. The Home Rule Bill, elaborated by William E. Gladstone in 1880, was modeled on the Croatian–Hungarian Settlement. (The British parliament refused to accept the bill, because the members wanted to save imperial integrity.9)

After the Settlement of 1868 was accepted, the quality of the relationship between Pest-Buda and Zagreb went from bad to worse; trust was gradually lost. Both sides began to pursue a policy based on emotions. One illustrative example suffices to demonstrate the regrettable aftermath: Croatia had a bad economic structure and taxation moral in the second half of the nineteenth century, and it was one of the most underdeveloped countries within Austria–Hungary (pp.400–1). The Hungarian authorities tried to transform the economic structure and develop a taxpayer culture on an administrative basis. (The construction of an effective bourgeois state can be characterized by authoritative methods in the whole of Eastern Europe – even in Hungary.) The structural reforms were regarded by the Croats, however, as new forms of oppression. At this point, citing the Czech example, Sokcsevits refutes the popular thesis of Croatian historiography according to which independence was the most important condition of economic development. By 1918 the dual system of Austria–Hungary had fallen. The political forces of Croatia anticipated the total defeat and the reorganization of the empire; but it remained an illusion.

The second part of the book deals with the position of Croatia within Yugoslavia. The creation of the new state was due first and foremost to the policies of Great Britain and France. The concept of the new federal state was laid on uncertain foundations from the outset. On the one hand, the idea of a united South-Slav nation was a simple utopia. On the other hand, the most crucial assurance of internal state cohesion was the violence practiced by the government on administrative and military grounds. The responsibility of the different Croatian political groups must also be emphasized. In the very moment of the collapse of Austria–Hungary it was only Stjepan Radić who consistently protested against giving up all Croatian national ambitions during the negotiations with Belgrad. In the end Croatia became part of a South-Slav state that was ruled by the Serbs. The Croats, who were accustomed to living in a constitutional state, found themselves in a Balkan country where democracy and state administration stood at a lower level than before 1918. The federal government adopted a violent policy towards Croatia and solved the main political problems with the use of security forces. The Serb politicians were simply unwilling to make any compromises until 1939. The sabor was not convoked for 20 years. The new situation provoked new social ruptures in the twentieth century. The transformed party structure of Croatia was characterized by more or less radical attitudes towards autonomy, federation and independence. The political ambitions restricted and hindered by violence and the disappointment in the federal states resulted in a complex set of armed conflicts in World War II. There was a war between Croats and Serbs on the one hand but also between Croats and Germans and Italians. The warriors of the Ustaša movement and civil organizations fought against the communist partisan divisions. The last scene of genocides can be regarded as particularly tragic, because it was supported by the British and Soviet armies. The allied forces handed thousands of Croat prisoners of war over to the partisan troops of Tito, who let them be butchered. The denial and memory of this event have remained one of the heaviest burdens in the relationships between the South Slav nations.

The second Yugoslav federal state was born in blood and could only have been governed by a dictator. Although the system of Tito brought some novelties, such as federalism and the intention of assuring equal rights to all nationalities, it was characterized by state violence, the inability of the political leadership to reach compromises, dictatorship, and collective amnesia forced upon the population. The Yugoslav states in the interwar and post-war periods shared another common feature: the most essential external cohesive force of the federal state was primarily the interests of the great powers. The fake propaganda image of Tito’s Yugoslavia, according to which the Croats could be regarded as fascists and the Serbs as victims of the war, also proved a grave burden. According to one of the extreme but tenacious assessments of Tito’s state, the 1960s and 1970s were a period of economic development and material growth. Since the archival materials are far from completely processed, Sokcsevits’ aim is to approach the history of the second Yugoslavia from many points of view. The conclusion of the second part of the book is that Yugoslavia was on the verge of collapse in the late 1980s from all points of view and its existence was maintained only by the Western great powers.

Although there are numerous monographs and articles dealing with the period between 1991 and 1995, because many of the archival sources remain closed, the history of the war of independence has to be interpreted extremely cautiously. Sokcsevits has done so. The interpretation of the events is laconic and analytical. He outlines the psychological path that led to the bloody showdowns, lists the acts of violence committed by both sides, and criticizes European policy, which was unable to handle the armed conflict. The very last chapter of the book summarizes the post-war history of Croatia.

The author often reflects on the assertions of Croatian historiography. According to Sokcsevits, the majority of historians more or less submit to the national discourse. They are inclined to neglect Hungarian–Croatian coexistence and search instead for separatist movements in the past. (Sokcsevits often compares and exemplifies the differences between the conclusions drawn by Hungarian historians and the conclusions reached by Croatian historians; see the maps on pp.270–71). The author criticizes the East European view of the British historiography as well. According to Sokcsevits, even today the majority of British historians approach the history of this region from the point of view of the (imperial) British state, and they are therefore unable to understand local problems and realities (see the assessment of fascism and communism).

As far as the weaknesses of the book are concerned, the presentation of the Hungarian–Croatian relationships is sometimes too dominant. In order to demonstrate the main problems of Croatian history better, Sokcsevits would have to provide a wider historical background and give more reference points (about the Orthodox commonwealth of the Balkans, the overseas empire of Venice, the imperial ambitions of the Habsburg dynasty and the nation building processes in Italy). It is not clear how the different territories (like Dalmatia or Slavonia) and social groups (like the Italian speaking Dalmatians) and strata became “Croatian” in the nineteenth century.10 The author often refers to how the Serbian Orthodox Church made “Serbs” out of the different Orthodox groups of Vlachs and Balkan Slavs. This statement, however, is also true in the case of the Croatian Catholic Church: it was not just the Orthodox population that had escaped from the Middle and South Balkans. Dalmatia, Szerémség/Srem and Határőrvidék/Vojna krajina (Military Frontier) were the last station for Catholic Albanians as well. E.g. Arbanas (in Hungarian Orbonás, ital. Borgo Erizzo) near Zara and the Catholic villages of the regiment of Pétervárad / Petrovaradin were established by Albanians, and it was the Croatian national church that made them Croatian in the nineteenth century. (Not to mention the origins of several villages in Slavonia that were established by Hungarians from Transdanubia.)

According to Sokcsevits, Croatian history only began to share close affinities with Serbian history in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (pp.200–2). Considering that the abovementioned nations lived next to each other and spoke closely related languages, this claim needs to be challenged, too. The Christianization of the Serb territories was organized in Rome, and not until the thirteenth century was it decided that the Serb state would be Orthodox. The Serbs were part of the Catholic world for centuries.11 Furthermore, South Dalmatia had connections to the Serb zhupas that were similar to the connections between Croatia and Middle-Dalmatia.12

In the chapters dealing with the history and the collapse of the second Yugoslavia, Sokcsevits does not touch upon one essential factor: the Tito system tolerated and contributed to organized crime. Furthermore, Tito instrumentalized crime to promote his political aims: several intellectuals and politicians of the opposition were killed by criminals in the service of the Communist Party. Organized crime became an independent factor after 1989–1991 and played a significant role in the South-Slav wars. The clarification of this role calls for complex and refined research.

The writing of the history of a nation or a country can never be finished. As time passes, new sources and approaches emerge that raise new questions and offer new answers. Sokcsevits’s book, however, will remain a valuable part of this ongoing conversation in the long run.


Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics

A szlovák nemzet születése: Ľudovít Štúr és a szlovák társadalom a 19. századi Magyarországon [The Birth of the Slovak Nation: Ľudovít Štúr and Slovak Society in Hungary in the Nineteenth Century]. By József Demmel. Pozsony: Kalligram, 2011. 373 pp.


After publishing an innovative collection of papers under the title The Whole of Slovakia Fit on a Raft: Studies on the Slovak History of Nineteenth Century Hungary,13 the young historian József Demmel wrote an important monograph about Ľudovít Štúr (1815–1856), the most important figure of modern Slovak nationalism. Demmel, a research fellow at the Research Institute of the National Self-Government of Slovaks in Hungary in Békéscsaba, is held by many to be the emerging star of historical Slovak studies in Hungary. By writing on Štúr, Demmel chooses a hot topic, as the interpretation of the mid-nineteenth-century Slovak linguist-politician radically differs in Hungarian and Slovak historiographies. Hungarian historians generally neglected him; Demmel’s book, which is based on his PhD thesis at the University of Budapest, is the first monograph about Štúr in Hungarian ever. If Hungarian authors commented on his activities, they mostly treated him as a Russia-based traitor and troublemaker without any genuine popular support.14 At the same time, Štúr became the indisputable core hero of the national fight in the Slovak national canon.15 Since the 1880s thousands of works of academic and popular literature were devoted to Štúr, which anachronistically canonized his figure and thus prevented any critical approach. It goes without saying that these parallel running narratives were made for “inner use” (for the respective national communities), so they never met. The goal of Demmel was to undermine both interpretations in order to provide an understanding of Štúr that can be valid both in Slovakia and Hungary. Demmel’s ambition is without doubt challenging, as he could hardly rely on the secondary literature of the canon, but rather had to explore a vast number of primary sources and find an appropriate method to avoid falling in the trap of reproducing politically biased ideas.

To solve the problem of parallel national master narratives, Demmel distances himself from the classical, chronological and not thematically based style of biographies of “great men”. Instead, he suggests a thick description à la Geertz of the social contexts and individual choices as a method (pp.23–24). Only thus can the canonized, stable and anachronistic image of Štúr be deconstructed and replaced with a living and dynamic figure, who made his decisions in a complex social environment the members of which cannot simply be divided into good and bad individuals (pp.19–24). However, this method implies a certain fragmentation, as it does not permit the construction of a linear life story. Yet Demmel consciously undertakes this risk, which results in a book resembling more a loose collection of essays then a coherent monograph.

The book is divided into two main parts. The first part is dominated by the perspective of the individual. In the first chapter Demmel carefully analyzes the social strategy of the Štúr family, which led through several generations of weavers in the Northwestern Hungarian town of Trencsén (in Slovakian Trenčin) to Ľudovít’s father Samuel, who became a teacher in the Lutheran elementary school in Zayugróc (in Slovakian Uhrovec). The other main topic of the chapter is the Lutheran environment in which Štúr began his career. The second chapter examines a well-known topos of the Štúr hagiography regarding the origins of his national identity; here Demmel proves the deficiency of the Slovak national canon by combining a critical reading of the sources and some Hungarian secondary literature which has been largely neglected by the canon-making historians. Here the sources enable Demmel to discredit the Slovak national interpretation, but they do not permit him to offer an alternative understanding; the specific reason why Štúr subscribed to the Slovak national idea remains unclear, much as it remains unclear when he made this decision. The third and fourth chapters are devoted to an issue crucial in any individual life story but fitting into the hagiographic picture of the national hero only with some difficulty: the financial background of Štúr. Coming from a family with a modest income, Štúr had to face financial difficulties throughout his life. He worked as private tutor for several families, however, the wide range of his employers can be explained only by the fact that he was motivated by varying considerations at different times of his life, such as his Slovak national vision and his membership in the Lutheran Church. The latter was the case when he worked for the Prónay family, the head of which, János, was well-known for his support for Lajos Kossuth, Štúr’s greatest rival. From a Slovak nationalist angle, this job can hardly be understood, but a thick description of the Lutheran society of Upper Hungary provides a more plausible interpretation. The fifth and sixth chapters examine Štúr’s controversial relation to the nobility. The Slovak national canon is dominated by the view that Štúr’s main opponents were nationalist Magyar gentrymen, with the exception of one particular, pro-Slovak family, the Osztroluczkys. Replacing this black-and-white picture, Demmel positions Štúr’s relation to the nobility into the patron-client pattern, still an important motif in late feudal Hungary. The last chapter of this section investigates Štúr from a gender perspective and deals also with his alleged homosexuality.

While the first part of the book examines Štúr’s life story from his individual perspective, the second part is devoted to an analysis of the social environment and political conditions in which he worked. Demmel analyzes first Štúr’s unquestionably most relevant deed, the making of the Slovak literary language. Demmel seeks the motivations and possible options for the creation of the standard Slovak language. He points out the important yet incidental role of the Slovak speaking nobility of the Tatra region and then puts it into the Slovak speaking public space of contemporary Hungary. By investigating the subscription data of literary yearbooks and newspapers and the Tatrín association, Demmel is able to provide a detailed composition of the potential supporters of the Slovak national movement, mostly Lutheran provincial intellectuals, teachers, ministers and some members of the petty nobility of the Tatra Mountains. One of the most interesting parts of the book deals with Štúr’s activity as a member of the last feudal Diet of Hungary in 1847–1848. Traditionally, the Slovak national canon cast Štúr’s role in the parliament as that of an advocate of Slovak national ideology, indeed, as a friend of and spokesman for the people among the oligarchic Magyar gentrymen. First, Demmel examines the city of Zólyom (in Slovakian Zvolen), which delegated Štúr to the Diet, and finds that a mere two dozen local aldermen voted for him, indeed, to represent the interests of the city only; the sources make no mention of any Slovak national issue. While a member of the Diet, Štúr delivered a speech about a particular Slovak case only once. Instead he mostly dealt with questions of the cities and some general issues. The “urban question” was a key issue in the politics of the 1840s, as the reform-minded liberal gentry aimed to modernize the conservative political system of the cities and introduce democratic reforms in their administration. Therefore Štúr’s activity in the Diet can be understood far better as the work of a politician in the transition from feudal to liberal society than it can as the efforts of a Slovak nationalist. Another chapter of the book is devoted to a topic slightly different from the abovementioned. While the questions Demmel raised before were central to the Slovak national canon but rather marginal in Hungarian historiography, the chapter on the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 touches upon one of the most important points in both national narratives. Demmel points out some incoherent parts of the Slovak national canon, yet avoids passing judgment on Štúr and the civil war he provoked in North Hungary. The final chapters examine Štúr’s last years, in particular the position of Modor (in Slovakian Modra), the town to which he moved in 1851, and the legend of his suicide in 1856. Based on a close reading of the sources, Demmel refutes the view that Štúr lived in isolation in Modor, persecuted by the police, nor does he find any evidence of his suicide.

This relatively long description of the book’s content offers an understanding of the novelty Demmel brings to the discussion. Dissociating himself from the conceptual framework of national master narratives, Demmel provides a much more lively, colorful and plausible picture, not only of Štúr but of mid-nineteenth-century society in Hungary and thus the wider context of Slovak nationalism. Microhistory, the history of mentalities, thick description, and network analysis are Demmel’s keywords, and even though the application of these methods is not novel in the social history in the region, the investigation of a national hero using these approaches is definitely new.

The multiplicity of the applied methodology precludes the construction of a classic linear life story, yet this fragmentation opens the field for similar studies. Some important chapters of Štúr’s life did not fit into Demmel’s book, even though as subjects of study they would have been at least as challenging and probably would have yielded similarly exciting findings. For instance, Štúr’s studies in Germany completely fall out of the scope, and the evolution of his political ideas is touched upon only incidentally. Indeed Demmel was so preoccupied with the deconstruction of the Slovak and Hungarian master narratives that he did not reflect on the recent “Western” literature on the topic, so one is a bit surprised not to see references to the works on Slovak history by Josette Baer,16 Tomasz Kamuszella17 and Alexander Maxwell.18

Nonetheless, Demmel’s book is unquestionably a key reading for anyone interested in the Slovak and Hungarian history of the nineteenth century. The extent to which Demmel has reached his original goal, to provide an understanding of a Slovak national hero that will be considered valid both in Hungary and Slovakia, remains a question, as neither an English nor a Slovak edition has appeared. What is sure is that Hungarian historical scholarship has overwhelmingly praised Demmel’s contribution, so half of the goal has been completed. As the Kalligram publishing house plans to translate the book into Slovak, soon it will be evident the extent to which Slovak historical scholarship is open to a reinterpretation of a central hero constructed by earlier generations that is radical both in its methodology and its narrative content.


Bálint Varga



Maps of Remembrance. Space, Belonging and Politics of Memory in Eastern Europe. By Máté Zombory. Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2012. 311 pp.


Máté Zombory’s impressive monograph examines maps of remembrance. By using the metaphor of a map of remembrance in the title, Zombory indicates the conceptual and methodological framework of his post-1989 research on Hungarian national identity. The metaphor refers to Appadurai’s concept of ’scape’ or ’ethnoscape’ used for the study of complex cultures, their coexistence, and the characteristic differences of the respective societies.19 However, in identity research the further consideration of the concept of lieu de mémoire introduced by Pierre Nora, which is part of the discussion in this book, has become increasingly unavoidable.20 What does this mean exactly? In this regard, these are maps drawn by the memory, specifically emerging identity maps that are bound to people of Hungarian nationality and Hungarian mother tongue whose national belonging became problematic for some reason in the twentieth century.

The author structures the book around three key concepts: nationality, space and remembrance. The theoretical part of the monograph is an interpretation of these concepts. The topic indicated in the title is introduced by three theoretical and three empirical studies. The main purpose of the book is to focus on the relationship between the individual and the nation, as well as to study the national phenomenon and the role of particular states. The author examines and illustrates the spatial practices based on analyses of memory constructions.

The empirical part is mainly a representation of practices of the identity strategies used by the state and the individual. In the case of the first, the author analyzes political speeches, while in the case of the second he examines life stories using the method of oral history. The key question of the book can be summarized as follows: “The question is: what role does the representation of the space in memory play such that it produces national belonging as a natural factor?” (p.8).

The first chapter of the work, entitled Nationalism and Spatiality, concentrates on the spatial representation of nations in Eastern Europe. In this chapter Zombory observes that the world of nations is pervaded by a sort of spatial dynamism which contributes to the formation of national belonging. Zombory offers a reinterpretation of nationalism and revision of the nation’s raison d’etre. As he notes, “attachment to a place is not self-evident or naturally given, consequently the spatialization of (national) culture—including territorialization—is a historical, political and social process” (pp.29–30). The main aim of this chapter is to highlight, alongside the notion of the immobility of the nations, spatial movements whereby the differing problems of homeland and home arise.

In the second theoretical part of the book the author raises the issue of “spatial practices constructing belonging” connected to remembrance (p.50). At the beginning of the chapter, entitled Between Place and Memory: the Practices of Localization, Zombory claims that the spatial aspects rarely appear in the memory-discourses. In this section he tries to fill a lacuna. He redefines the problem of belonging. “Briefly, it is by reformulating the contexts of sites and memory according to the problematics of spatial practices” (p.52). Alongside the analyses of memory and space, Zombory presents theories related to the topic, theories that help determine the concept of spatial practices of remembrance. The author specifies this at the end of the chapter: “The spatializing practice of remembrance I examine is narration: I analyze national narratives of the past given as a reaction to spatial challenges” (p.84).21

This turn leads into the first empirical chapter of this work, The Return to Europe: State Politics of Memory and Hungarian Belonging. This case study offers an analysis of the Hungarian national localization procedures after 1989. The main issue of the chapter is “how the Hungarian state produced national-spatial belonging after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc” (p.9).

The author dissects the speeches at the commemorations of August 20 between the period of the political change and the accession to the European Union (the period from 1989 to 2004), narratives of the prime ministers and presidents of the Hungarian Republic related to the national history. The first part of the study provides information on the role of East-West differentiation, which is closely connected to the meaning and the significance of Hungary’s ’return to Europe’. In the introductory part of the analysis of the political speeches, Zombory plainly indicates that he is going to present ritual cartographic practices with which “Hungarian state leadership has redrawn the ideological world map that disintegrated with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc” (p.92).

The analysis of the political speeches is important for this reason: “The state localization tracing out the space for national belonging thus produces a map that creates the characteristics of the subject constructed by the commemoration, the nation – in other words, (narration) national identity” (p.93). The succeeding subchapters contain analyses of the speeches held by the official Hungarian state representatives, presidents and prime ministers on state commemorations. Zombory regards these commemorations as political rituals that are localizations, thus they reconstruct national belonging in the bodily-material dimension of past. He refers to these practices of remembrance as the national cartography, illustrating them with examples from the Hungarian state politics of memory after 1989.

The chapter The Nation as Imaginative Laboratory is part of the theoretical framework of the book. The author undertakes to investigate the politics of belonging. In this context, he examines the theoretical aspects of identity. Hereafter the question of the subject and the discursive relation of power comes to the fore. The author tries to explore this: “I deal with on one hand the way individual identity strategies can be examined in the context of state normalization [...]” (p.9). The discussion of the theoretical questions is followed by the remarks on the research methodology.

The next section of the work belongs to the empirical part consisting of the study The Museum of the Self: National-Ethnic Belonging and the Memory of Expulsion. This section analyzes the life story interviews of people who were directly involved in the forced migrations and expulsions in the twentieth century. In particular, Zombory examines the construction of national-ethnic belonging using the life stories of people of German origin who were resettled or deported to the Soviet Union. The identity strategies in this section are constructed in the context of forced relocation. Through a reconstruction of the relationship created with the past, the flashbacks create a certain ’self-musealization’.

As the author describes it: “The borders of homeland constructed by self-musealization are qualitatively equivalent to the borders of the homeland according to the territorial norm of the nation-state, but the strategic marking out of them invalidates the unquestionable unity of state and nation” (p.286).

The chapter entitled Hungarian Homelands: National Belonging “Beyond the Border” analyzes the life stories of Hungarians living in Slovakia. Zombory examines the interviewees’ relationships to the Hungarian state politics of memory with respect to the discourses of existence “beyond the border”. In addition, he raises the question, how is it possible for Hungarians to remain Hungarians outside the borders of Hungary? The author notes in connection with the examination of national belonging that in contrast to the previous chapter he analyzes spatial displacements regarding the Trianon Treaty (1920), which was predicated on the enforcement of the territorial norm of the nation-state and was implemented without any mass movement of the population. The author summarizes the main purpose of this chapter: “The field of my examination is delimited by the conflict between Hungarians living outside the borders and the political practices of the Hungarian state in the discourse addressing them” (p.211).

To lay down the basis of the theoretical part he uses Rogers Brubacker’s theoretical framework. The author concentrates on the spatial displacement that takes place in Hungarian–Hungarian relations,” giving rise to alternative homes. The participants in these relationships are individuals living in the Hungarian state and outside the Hungarian borders. The context of the analyses is given by Hungary’s official diaspora politics between 1989 and 2010. In part of this chapter Zombory writes about the Hungarian state’s political practices regarding the Hungarians living outside the borders, as well as individual identity strategies and the localization of the national home.

The seventh chapter is a kind of summary of the work. The author writes about the objectives and conclusions of the book. The title of this part is State-free Nationalism, Natural National Resistance. The question of national belonging is joined with the spatial dynamics of nationalism. So the object of the investigation is the nation state’s reaction to the spatial displacements that presented a challenge to the concept of national belonging. By maintaining practices of national cartography, the official Hungarian nation-state representatives constructed a natural relationship attached to the inert homeland, portraying the homeland as a permanent, natural entity which must be protected from change.

As the author puts it: “The ’national body’ materializing in this discourse is apparently not a political quality, but a natural one” (p.284). This means, furthermore, that anyone who is fashioned by the nation as a foreigner becomes an outcast.

Another important question raised by Zombory is how the outcast finds voice in the national discourse. The author examines two cases in this respect. In the first case, the displacement caused by the territorial norm of the nation-state is linked to the movement of the individual, but in the second it is not: “The spatial dynamic makes possible the constant construction of national belonging. However the construction of non-nation-state homelands means a cultural form of the national relationship of individual and places that rejects the territorial ideal prescribed as a norm of nationalism, according to which the borders of nation and state must be congruent” (p.286). Thus, localization processes can create ’alternative national homes’. Zombory thus questions the doctrine of nation-state nationalism. However, he also draws attention to the fact that the territorializing localization processes under examination repeat the territorial norm of the nation-state.22

In connection with the natural functioning of national belonging, the examples indicate that national belonging becomes natural through the spatial-material identification of present and past. On the other hand, Zombory implies how the national discourse challenges natural belonging. The author also draws attention to the fact that alongside the “social strength” of the localization practices, one has to face its physical-material nature (pp.288–89).

The most important result of the work is to explore new nationalism, spatial belonging, and the questions of remembrance. Zombory highlights the relationship between these three concepts and presents them as inseparable. Next to the nation’s static nature, he points out its dynamic movement, thereby recasting it according to a new approach. Spatial practices must be made part of the scholarship on nationalism, and in order to further our understanding of these practices, Zombory uses the memory research. He points out that past is reconstructed not only in time, but also in space.

The language of the monograph is the language of the scholar, but the registers and style are exciting and diverse. The great advantage of the monograph is that it approaches the subject from different perspectives. However, Zombory arguably attempts to adopt too many approaches. In my opinion, the processes and examples should be described in more detail and the scope of the examination of national belonging should be also widened. At the same time, in the Hungarian secondary literature Zombory’s book constitutes one of the most nuanced contributions to the new approaches to nationalism and national issues.


Ildikó Bajcsi

What Made the Kádár Era? Two Books on Hungary’s Recent Past
Népuralom ötvenhatban [People’s Rule in ’56]. By Éva Standeisky. Pozsony–Budapest: Kalligram–1956-os Intézet, 2010. 597 pp.
Bevezetés a kádárizmusba [Introduction to Kádárism]. By János Rainer M. Budapest: 1956-os Intézet–L’Harmattan Kiadó, 2011. 352 pp.


Hungary has its own extensive literature on the era of state socialism, with a steady stream of monographs (re)assessing the whole of the period. Previously well-established ideas on the state and society of state socialism have come under review in recent years. The approaches of social and cultural history and the history of mentality are gradually making inroads into the study of recent history in this country. The assessment of the Kádár era has become a question of heightened interest in the last few years. The limits of power, the scope ordinary people had for action (including against the system) and how these shaped the world and everyday life of state socialism are among the fundamental questions of interest on the state socialist system and the Kádár era.

No assessment of the Kádár era can completely dissociate it from 1956 and the period that preceded it, the Stalinist Rákosi era. Books on the events of the 1956 Revolution have proliferated in Hungary since the political transition. Éva Standeisky’s Népuralom ötvenhatban stands out among these. The author examines the aims that motivated the everyday participants in 1956 and the individual and collective actions which shaped the historical events. She takes a history-of-mentality approach to the events of the Revolution, assembling and interpreting data that has already been published, and focusing on individual cases and local events. Although to a large extent building on previous political-history and local-history treatments, the book examines the mentalities in the background of the events from close up. The scale changes several times from chapter to chapter, progressing from the mass to the group and then to the individual, and giving an insight into the Revolution from a micro-history perspective. These changes in viewpoint in themselves set the book apart from the idealized accounts of the Revolution familiar in general history books and from the image of 1956 constructed in the West.

Foreign accounts of the Revolution were heavily influenced by the work of Hannah Arendt. In the second edition of her book on totalitarianism, Arendt wrote about the workers’ councils set up in the Hungarian Revolution. These have been widely interpreted in Western left-wing accounts as repositories of the revolutionary will (the aims of the “working class”). Several, following Arendt,23 described Hungary’s Revolution as a workers’ revolution against a totalitarian regime which called itself a workers’ state. Bill Lomax directly described the Hungarian revolutionary workers’ organizations as a self-administering state of workers’ councils.24

By contrast, Standeisky shows the diversity of organizations which sprang up (revolutionary committees, national committees, national councils, workers’ councils, etc.). She sees the collapse of the dictatorial regime as a state of grace that gave people the chance to produce truly democratic arrangements, setting up new organizations at a local level and at their own initiative. She argues that direct democracy (or more precisely various spontaneous forms of that) can truly work in extraordinary circumstances, because of the special ability of ordinary people to create a meaningful and workable order—at least temporarily. This, in the interpretation given in the book, is what happened in Hungary in 1956. At one point, she says of the achievements of ordinary people: “they put the world that had fallen apart during the Rákosi dictatorship back together: they created real people’s power, and order” (p.272).

Despite being based on a selection of individual events, the account of the Revolution is not overly idealized or one-sided, because it makes the diversity of these events very clear, and presents some less-known features of the Revolution, such as manifestations of anti-Semitism and lynchings. Hannah Arendt claimed in her classic work that there was almost no robbery or looting in 1956, i.e. mob rule did not take hold. Relying on published sources, Standeisky presents some of the more carnival-like moments of the Revolution. She shows that revolutionary and workers’ councils did not form immediately, and all kinds of things happened from day to day. It is not easy to confront or convey the dark side of 1956 in Hungary. As recently as 2006, a play written by András Papp and János Térey for the fiftieth anniversary raised a storm of controversy.25 Kazamaták is the stage “adaptation” of a notorious historical event, the siege of a Communist Party headquarters building in Köztársaság Square. It confronted informed public opinion with a different face of the 1956. The rebels besieged and occupied the building of the Budapest Party Committee on 30 October 1956 and killed 24 people. Among the dead was the Communist leader Imre Mező, a supporter of Imre Nagy. Standeisky distances herself from those who see that event as a “people’s judgement”, and describes such phenomena as “the inflamed mass brutally taking out its anger—a lynching” (p.53). Occasionally, even myth-busting stories turn out not to displace the myths so neatly. Éva Tulipán’s recent book, which treats the events of Köztársaság Square in great detail, tells us that one reason for the siege of the party building may have been that the Communist Party was actually trying to organize security there. The security forces inside had clashed with the rebels several times in the days leading up to the siege, and the defenders of the building used firearms for the first time on 30 October.26 Thus a variety of assessments and judgements are possible for every individual and collective action, not just the larger events.

Retrospective social awareness has conditioned us to see the Revolution as a fight between good and bad, and Papp and Térey’s play was the first since the political transition to confront a wide public with how complex the events of the Revolution actually were. The idea that “goodies” can sometimes behave badly is somewhat jarring. The closing line of the play, “The single story disintegrates/Into one thousand, nine hundred and fifty-six pieces” is a wry pun: the word for “piece” in Hungarian also means “stage play”. Returning to Standeisky’s book, we read that every individual and group action has its own special driving force, behind which we can recognize the general characteristics of human nature. These driving forces, from the evidence of this book, seem to be autonomy and love of freedom. This hardly differs from Hannah Arendt’s insight that the antidote to totalitarianism is spontaneity, the capability of autonomous action, which totalitarian systems try to eliminate, but exists in everybody. But here, individual and community autonomy takes its meaning in democracy, and not within the Marxist ideal of revolution.

Standeisky’s book seems to tell us that in the individual and group actions behind the events of 1956, the force which stood in opposition to dictatorship and everything associated with it was the freedom-seeking spirit inherent in modern society. (The Western treatments quoted assessed the totalitarian system against Marxist ideals, whereas here the moral gauge, or rather the counterpoint, is democracy, which the author claims showed up in 1956 as the alternative to dictatorship). This is definitely true if the research approaches the events of 1956 from the perspective of democratic values. In modern times, according to Hannah Arendt, we can give meaning to our own time by regaining the past. The pearl diver does not dive to the bottom of the sea to discover everything that is there; he is only interested in pearls and coral.27 This applies even if she sets out to present nearly every phenomenon, including those less important for her own interpretation.

According to Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism, terror is a phenomenon that pervades every aspect of social life. In this interpretation, terror is actually the trigger of social resistance and revolution (true also for 1956). The question remains of how to explain how a totalitarian system can survive for a long time, i.e. why it does not prompt members of society to form groups for collective action.28 This, or how the totalitarian system built itself into the everyday world, is really the central question of the historiography of the Kádár era.

The nature and operation of Kádárism, the new order which was set up in Hungary to stifle the democratic initiatives of 1956, is the subject of the book by János Rainer M. The essays making up Bevezetés a kádárizmusba extend their scope to the preceding Rákosi era and the subsequent political transition. Rainer claims that Stalinism and the Rákosi era did not break down every social tradition in Hungary, and the Kádár era made fewer changes to the Stalinist system after 1956 than contemporary discourses might lead us to think. The center of the author’s interest, as implied by the title, is the assessment and interpretation of the Kádár era and Kádárism.

The book reflects on the best-known foreign interpretations of the state socialist system, theories of totalitarianism, various schools of revisionism, and interpretations of Stalinism as a civilization. Rainer notes that “the paradigm of ‘totalitarianism’ was to no small extent reborn in Eastern Europe before and after 1989” (p.125). It is difficult, however, to judge the validity of theory from what are often purely ideological applications of it; the oversimplifying interpretations are usually what the revisionists turn against (p.49). In Hungary, the totalitarianism paradigm is usually taken up together with right-wing, highly ideologized anti-Communist rhetoric. Nowadays, however, we see these systems as being as open to left-wing criticism (indeed in a democracy they can only be approached critically) as Western capitalism, and even some elements of totalitarianism theory fit into this criticism. The author, in the restrained tones of these essays, implies that he finds the best route to interpreting the Kádár era through methodological multiplicity and a combination of approaches, and that is what he tries to do in this book.

For a long time, the “Kádár system” appeared in both Western and Hungarian historiography as a version of state socialism with a special human face, approaching Western welfare states, a system which made Central and Eastern European totalitarianism liveable, and in fact fundamentally changed it (taming the system from arbitrary and totalitarian to merely authoritarian). Rainer claims that Kádárism was not a system in its own right, but only a shift within the system. These internal changes did, however, combine into some kind of organic whole which might be called Kádárism, a liveable system for a large proportion of ordinary people. The author argues that Kádárism was not as different from the previous era as the contemporary discourses legitimating the rule of János Kádár, and hence today’s discourses, would have it. It is striking, for example, that the word “reform”, regarded in both Hungary and abroad as a uniquely applicable to the system, was almost never used in a positive sense by Kádár himself (p.185–86).

In analyzing the essence of Kádárism, Rainer mentions a “Kádárist feeling” (p.146). He claims this derived not only from the sure knowledge that the country was “the best of existing worlds”, but also from the sense that everything could get worse (and only worse) at any time. He uses this as the general explanation for how the new regime managed to consolidate after the bloody reprisals. The author highlights the eponymous leader’s cynicism (p.27), which was perhaps not so much cynicism as the—not necessarily always conscious—recognition of public expectations, the day-to-day bounds of dictatorship and the limitations of rule. The author characterizes Kádár, who openly distanced himself from his predecessors, as not being associated with personal cult (p.200–14). He implies that the party leader’s behavior also contributed to the consolidation of the state system after its violent restoration. The question remains, however, as to how much this consolidation was directed from above and how much it derived from the will and deliberate action of a leader who seemed (and presented himself as) different from the other state-socialist leaders. In the revisionist approach, this could much better be interpreted as a jointly-developed social practice to which the First Secretary adapted than as a compromise between “regime” and “society”.

Individuals do not simply subordinate themselves to state power in a dictatorship, but by their actions they accept, transform and—in their own everyday worlds—even create it. State power to some extent depends on the character and actions of its citizens/subjects. It follows from the work of revisionist historians who adopt Foucault’s concepts of power that we can get close to understanding the system via the collective and individual actions which enable it to operate. Stephen Kotkin claims that “Stalinism was not just a political system, let alone the rule of an individual. It was a set of values, a social identity, a way of life. When it comes to Stalinism, what needs to be explained and subjected to detailed scrutiny are the mechanisms by which the dreams of ordinary people and those of the individuals directing the state found common ground in this Soviet version of the welfare state.”29 The same might be said of totalitarianism in general, and the approach does not actually contradict the essential claims of totalitarianism theories (which link the substance of dictatorship to modern forms of violence) but examines the everyday implementation of totalitarianism and seeks the explanation of the sustained existence of totalitarian systems in the world of everyday life.

What ordinary people actually got from Kádárism, and what compromises or everyday practices confirmed the system’s legitimacy in the Kádár era, are fundamental questions. The discourses of the period hold that the system, starting in the 1960s, created rising standards of living and relative welfare in Hungary (Rainer also mentions the complex relationship between these discourses and everyday realities). Recent research, however (books by Béla Tomka and Sándor Horváth) largely refute this.30 This work no longer looks to the other countries of the Soviet system for a basis of comparison but to Western democratic social policy, whose fundamental aims diverged from those the social system built up in Hungary after 1956. Hungarian social policy was aimed at legitimizing state institutions, the state, and even the social system itself. It was a system which gave no opening for real representation of interests, and especially not public collective representation.

According to Kotkin, what emerged under state socialist regimes was an “uncivil society”. The establishment was the only formation which was a real organized unit (set against unorganized groupings).31 The contemporary elite and bureaucracy, through their organization and their positions within society, thus arranged the systems of distribution to operate according to their interests. The uncivil logic, i.e. the lack of autonomy and solidarity and the imposition of narrow interests ran through not only the old establishment (i.e. top down) but society as a whole (nearly everybody had something to lose). The paternalist policy ultimately proved successful because—until the nineteen eighties—neither the social injustices nor any other cause triggered mass protests.32

Rainer’s book gives us a much more textured account of the Kádár era and the operation of the state socialist system in general than previous approaches, which confined themselves to political history. It challenges the assertions that the Kádár era can be sharply delineated from the Rákosi era and that the system’s internal changes during the period directly led to the political transition. This may encourage us to examine the state socialist system in Hungary as a separate civilization and its operation according to its own rules. If we give up the notion of all-embracing total power, we also have to reject the idea that dictatorship was driven initially purely by violence and later by compromises offered by the regime. Nonetheless, we are left with the question of why the society that was the champion of freedom in 1956 (in its own and the world’s eyes) uniformly accepted—or seemed to accept—the framework and existence of the state socialist system. Viewed from close up, how can we explain the phenomenon Rainer calls the “Kádárist feeling”?

Today, it seems that consolidating state socialism, after the feeling of permanent threat and vulnerability of the period of catastrophe and the Rákosi era, created a kind of peaceful opportunism in Hungary. After 1956, the unalterability of the system (and the need for collaboration/cooperation with the regime) did indeed seem to become a general awareness, or almost a shared attitude to life. A basic question in this regard is whether individual and collective anger against the system existed or could have existed in the Kádár era, and if so, in what form. Another question is how these behaviors relate to the individual and collective behaviors seen in 1956. In my view, two social science concepts could be adapted to interpret the formation and everyday working of Kádárism, and they cannot be understood solely by the theoretical models of totalitarianism.

German historians of everyday life developed a highly influential theory to describe the legitimacy of dictatorships and the effect and significance of individual actions in these regimes. This theory borrows from German literature and philosophy the concept of Eigensinn (“sense of one’s own interests”) to describe the behavior and motivations of the “majority”, i.e. people who were neither enthusiastic disciples nor active opponents of the Nazi or Soviet dictatorships but whose everyday work and passive behavior, by not presenting resistance, helped these systems to build up and endure. The word implies a kind of self-sufficiency and independence; not the free will of free persons, but the will of citizens who can (and do) adapt to various kinds of regime while keeping their own direct interests in view.33 Set against this is the concept of autonomy, the kind of everyday behavior which inhibits the emergence and persistence of totalitarianism and which should, in principle, be typical behavior in a democracy. Whether it is democracy which creates autonomous behavior, and dictatorship which creates Eigensinn and everyday forms of collaboration, or these things happen the other way round, is a complex question, and the perspective of study obviously has a bearing on the answer.

The social sciences, following Nietzsche,34 use the term ressentiment to denote the impotent vengeance and collective passions aroused in ordinary people by unjustly inflicted injuries and expressed in terms of justice or their own sense of “right”. This is violently suppressed resistance, the post-terror condition, the forced renunciation of resistance. At such times, ordinary people—having no defeatable opponent or space for real action—become incapable of resistance. The actions of individuals thus serve purely their own personal interests and act against, and restrict, each other. Today, we do not look back on these individual and collective authoritative behaviors as revealing aspects of the past or points of reference (going back to the pearl-diver metaphor: as pearls or coral), but they may nonetheless have been important driving forces behind the events.

In the Kádár era, the majority were not true disciples of the dictatorship, but neither were they its opponents. As simple citizens, they adapted to it because they were concerned with their own interests. These were the behaviors that may have created “Kádárism” in everyday life. It was in the basic interests of the new regime that the party leadership not be the target of suppressed or repressed resentments, and that people should seek the enemy in invisible forces or external, occupying powers. Nearly every symbolic act of the era’s eponym (who retained a long grip on power) was directed at having the truly suppressed groups of society see him as a man of ressentiment, someone who really was no different from them, the ordinary people, and who represented their interests.35 Totalitarian systems have given rise to innumerable forms of collaboration, and the concepts of terror and resistance in themselves are insufficient to explain them, in Hungary as elsewhere. What made the Kádár era? Very briefly, a social need for it in the prevailing conditions of dictatorship; this is one of the uncomfortable lessons of studying “Kádárism”.


Translated by Alan Campbell

György Majtényi


Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956. By Anne Applebaum. New York: Doubleday, 2012. xxxvi + 566 pp.


In 1983, during the Cold War, Milan Kundera coined a new definition of Central Europe as Un occident kidnappé—“the kidnapped West.”36 To the present day, his essay has remained an important contribution to studies of the mental mapping of Europe. This is due to his partly very emotional appeal to regard his Czech homeland as well as Poland and Hungary as a part of a western cultural sphere that is “under the Russian yoke” but nonetheless still belongs to the West. His article, published in the western press, was meant to draw attention to the lands inside the Iron Curtain and to show that they are not a homogeneous and gray terra incognita, but rather have a rich and variegated history and culture of their own.

Thirty years later, a study has appeared that describes and analyzes the act of “kidnapping” or “crushing” of Eastern Europe: The Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum. The American historian and journalist, who is well known for her Pulitzer Prize winning study of the Gulag,37 spent six years collecting archival materials and personal memories of contemporary witnesses. The result is impressive. The author manages not only to tell in clear words the general history of the region after the war,38 but also to convey this history through the individual stories of ordinary people. Since the postwar generation is passing away, Applebaum’s efforts can hardly be overestimated. She conducted a series of interviews in Hungary, Germany, and Poland, and studied the archives of secret police and government organizations. The book is very well researched and I have been able to discover only one factual error: Ivan Maiskii was never a foreign minister of the Soviet Union (Applebaum claims he was, p.XXVIII).

The author begins with the story of how the new socialist regimes were established in Poland, East Germany and Hungary, where socialism à la Moscow was experienced as foreign, if not downright hostile rule. According to Applebaum, one of the main reasons why the new rule of liberators could be established in these countries was because the postwar suffering and distress of the people there caused them to yearn for “normality.”

The imposition of Soviet priorities and Soviet thinking on all three countries (which had gone through a rather nationalistic period in the 1930’s) presented a considerable challenge to the Soviet rulers.39 The difficulty of this task was in turn responsible for the rather undemocratic, violent methods of its imposition, such as making the “Moscow Communists” Mátyás Rákosi, Bolesław Bierut, and Walter Ulbricht top leaders and carrying out acts of political repression in preparation for “elections.” Although Soviet influence was carefully camouflaged, Applebaum manages to reconstruct the mechanisms of how the Soviet Union went about ruling and exerting political and social control in the satellite countries of Eastern Europe.

Applebaum chose the geographic frame of the study not so much to make comparisons between three countries, but to show the common mechanisms involved in how Soviet power was introduced and how interactions between Moscow and the politicians of Warsaw, Budapest and East Berlin took place. She makes clear, too, that there were other institutions throughout Eastern Europe that followed similar patterns: she describes the “class work” of Soviet-taught secret agents (p.68), the Soviet-style organization of loyal youth from kindergartens (p.151–73), and the total control exerted over mass media, where “soviet equipment, soviet transmitters, soviet advisers, [and the] soviet worldview” (p.181) were employed, as well as the construction of socialist cities such as Sztálinvaros, Stalinstadt and Nowa Huta, which were built in Soviet fashion like the Russian Magnitogorsk had been built in the 1930s. However, Applebaum also describes the differences peculiar to each of the regions. There were opponent players as well, such as the Catholic Church in Poland or the Petőfi Circle in Hungary. In the case of Poland, the ruling party officially tolerated regime opponents. The most moving example is that of Boleslaw Piasecki, who turned from the extreme right to the extreme left. As a former member of the Home Army, he wasn’t punished by the regime, as were most of his comrades, and he was even able to found Pax in 1952 as a paradoxically loyal opposition Catholic Party (p.408). These kinds of “deviations” would have been impossible to imagine in Soviet Russia during the Stalinist era. It is therefore legitimate to ask if we can speak of political and social life in Eastern Europe in terms of totalitarianism, the conceptual approach that Applebaum uses in telling her story.

Applebaum claims to “gain an understanding of real totalitarianism—not totalitarianism in theory, but totalitarianism in practice, and how it shaped lives of millions of Europeans.” (p.XXXVI). This is a crucial feature of Applebaum’s study: for her, the conception of totalitarianism is a “useful and necessary empirical description” (p.XXIV) of postwar Eastern Europe. In her study, the understanding of the totalitarian state is that of a regime that aspires to total control: due to this, she uses the term totalitarian to analyze methods and techniques of total control that were exported from the Soviet Union after the war (p.XXIII–XXIV). According to the classic totalitarian school of the 1950s,40 the totalitarianism model means excluding society and people from the analysis. The main topic of Applebaum’s book is—quite the contrary—precisely the role personality played in the postwar socialist systems: she describes her book as being about “how ordinary people learned to cope with the new regimes, how they collaborated, how and why they joined a party, how they resisted, actively or passively […]” (p.XXXVI). The use of a totalitarian model is problematic even in the case of Soviet Russia,41 and even more so in Central Europe—it should more properly be used to describe ideology. Regarding this period of history in Central Europe, it would be more precise to speak of authoritarian dictatorships rather than totalitarian societies. Apart from this theoretical problem, Anne Applebaum’s study nonetheless remains an intelligently conceived work containing an encyclopedic wealth of details, and it is written with considerable empathy for those who lived through the period in question.

Applebaum levies a harsh verdict regarding the attitude of “ordinary people” towards the Soviet mentality: “human beings don’t acquire ‘totalitarian personalities’ with such ease.” (p.461). Her explanation of why “ordinary people coped with the new regime” is that they depended on the state and their “circumstances were not dramatic.” (p.393). In this way, Applebaum raises a core question for historians and social-anthropologists, but also for those who lived through the period: did ordinary people really live “double lives” and become adjusted to a double way of thinking? Or did they adopt the rules of thinking and speaking, the rules of Foucauldian discourse? The answer is left to the reader.

The author gives us examples of people who consciously adopted the discourse of socialist reality. One women says of the Party Song, “that song, ‘the party, the party,’—we thought it was really the truth, and we behaved that way.” (p.387). Here Applebaum departs from totalitarianism as a theory and seems to share some of the views of revisionists regarding the “rapid social mobility” (p.392) that brought the possibility of social promotion for many young workers.42

One of the recurring themes in Applebaum’s study is the way violence was used to establish loyal societies. Despite the large-scale expulsion of local populations from almost all regions of Eastern Europe (multiple migrations) and politically motivated purges, governments went about establishing Soviet-style camps, often at the sites of former Nazi concentration camps. According to the author, the aim of the Soviet camps was to frighten people and to prevent dissent, and not to punish (p.108). This point must be regarded critically. First, conditions in the Soviet Gulag were much more inhumane than they were in the German postwar camps. Applebaum’s source, Wolfgang Lehman, maintains that the opposite was true (p.105), but as we know, human memory is not reliable. Second, the people in the Speziallager were not necessarily innocent: some of them had taken part in the mass murder programs of the Third Reich as lawyers or doctors, and many of them returned to their civilian professions after imprisonment, which lasted a number of years.43 Denazification is of course not the topic of Applebaum’s study, but this should have been mentioned in order to make her discussion more nuanced.

In the book one rarely finds the stories of convinced Communists, apart from the top leaders of the Communist Party, such as Bierut, Rákosi and Ulbricht. For some of them love and loyalty to Stalin was fatal: Bierut died of a stroke or a heart attack after he heard Khrushchev’s destalinization-speech, while Rákosi was “rescued” by Moscow in the aftermath of the Hungarian Uprising and banned to Kyrgyzstan, from where he never returned to his homeland.

However, Applebaum describes a very striking phenomenon in the circles of the intellectual elite: some of them tried to “transform” themselves into “New Men.” One such example was Max Lingner, the artist and painter of the mural Aufbau der Republik, the man who “wanted to conform [...] and went through a kind of psychological transformation.” (p.342). His story seems to be typical of those who had sympathies for communism but despaired at the permanent feeling that the state had total control over the artist’s work (while working on the mural Lingner was publically criticized by Otto Grotewohl, the prime minister of East Germany).44 Nonetheless, Lingner tried to “transform” himself into the New Man who is a “thinking and acting Bolshevik” by engaging in the practices of self-criticism and self-discipline.45 This point is remarkable because it demonstrates how people outside the borders of Soviet Russia, using the same practices of “soviet subjectivization” as the Russians, learned to “speak Bolshevik.”46

All over Eastern Europe there were well-known, talented artists who praised Stalin: Wisława Szymborska in Poland, Salomea Neris in Lithuania, Konstantin Simonow in Russia and many others. Some of them were later ashamed of this and deleted these poems from their anthologies, some remained proud of it. Just what motivated them to do so remains a fascinating question.

Applebaum’s study also touches on the important topic of the memory of the socialist period. Applebaum’s sources not only demonstrate that people were often uncritical regarding the past, as indicated by the fact that they reproduced the official rules in their recollections, but that they even cherished feelings of nostalgia:

Julia Kollár remembers her stint at the construction site of Sztálinváros as “a happy time.” In addition, the author describes a phenomenon that almost all researchers of communicative memory encounter: that the people who experience injustice and pain at the hands of a system avoid talking about these topics because they were taboo not only in public, but also in the private, family sphere. One such case is that of Elisabeth Brüning, who insisted at first that she didn’t know about the violence perpetrated by Red Army soldiers, but after some time told the author what she had really experienced. This demonstrates clearly how traumatized people attempted to erase traumatic memories by forgetting, a strategy that has been described well by Aleida Assmann and Paul Ricoeur.47

Applebaum’s book is structured around contrasts highlighting the discrepancy between propaganda and reality: the erection of “ideal socialist cities” at the industrial sites of Stalinstadt, Sztálinváros, Nowa Huta and the realities of alcohol abuse, venereal disease, political apathy and catastrophic housing; the drive to exceed quotas by using shock workers and the low quality of the production and the economic harm that ensues (p.319); the propagation of literacy and the massive emigration of many specialists to the West because of their unwillingness to take responsibility for teaching false ideals to their children (p.308).

Applebaum tells the story of socialist rule in Eastern Europe as a story of failure. The resistance to the system, the unwillingness to “live within a lie” (Václav Havel) resulted not only in such more or less harmless forms of opposition as wearing “jampi” [dandy]- shoes48 or telling political jokes, but also in tragic ones, as for example exile for the East Germans or suicide (see, for example, the moving story of the Hungarian psychoanalyst Lili Hajdú Gimesné (Lily Haidu-Gimes in Applebaum’s book) (p.394–96).

The socialist “brave new world” did not collapse until 1989, but the seeds for this collapse had already been planted in the crushing of Eastern Europe—a process that was violent, inhuman and full of failures. Applebaum’s study documents the extent of this failure in a clear and compelling way.


Ekaterina Makhotina

The Workers’ State: Industrial Labor and the Making of Socialist Hungary, 1944–1958. By Mark Pittaway. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012. ix + 386 pp.


Who dares to say that the emperor has no clothes, and if you do, what consequences can you expect? How does a system craft legitimacy, and where are the limits of power? How did the Communist Party in Hungary manage to win, in addition to the support of Soviet tanks, the support of a significant proportion of the Hungarian population, without actually having to use force in every case? How did they manage to convince people of the myth that the Communists were building the best of all possible worlds, the workers’ state, and how did they shatter this very myth? Mark Pittaway, a historian who staked out his place in Hungarian and international historiography as a legal scholar dealing first and foremost with the working class of the socialist era (and who died tragically young), seeks answers to these important questions.

The posthumously published monograph by Mark Pittaway (1971–2010)49 is the result of fifteen years of research. I first met Pittaway in 1995 in the Trade Union Archives in Rózsa Street, Budapest. He was sitting behind a wall of boxes containing documents and studying innumerable piles of dusty papers. After having completed his bachelor’s thesis on Venice at the time of the Renaissance, he entered the doctoral program at the University of Liverpool, where he pursued an interest in the history of the working class in Hungary. For many people working in or around the archives in the Hungarian countryside, this Englishman was something of an exotic rarity. He was one of the few non-Hungarian historians who learned Hungarian to a high degree of proficiency and, after having read the relevant Hungarian secondary literature, did original research in archives very far from the beaten track. His monograph is based on a remarkable wealth of sources and his pioneering manner of approaching the subject does a great deal to compensate for methodological lacunae in the secondary literature. But his contribution is valuable first and foremost because of the model he adopts, which rejects the totalitarian paradigm (which has become so prevalent in contemporary historiography), a model he was among the first to introduce with his narrative of the history of the Hungarian working class in 1944–1958.

The essence of this model lies in the fact that the totalitarian state, which in general is depicted as omnipresent and omnipotent, is merely one of the agents of history, and one the tools of which are in fact surprisingly limited. From the perspective of legitimacy, the attendants of the system (ranging from the secretary general to the average party member) influenced the prevailing attitudes towards the state (whether is wins acceptance or not) no more than the masses who, in the totalitarian paradigm, are depicted—misleadingly—as powerless and oppressed. In Pittaway’s narrative the process of the creation of the socialist state is one of the most important questions, and it is closely intertwined with the question of how the authorities prompted or persuaded Hungarian society to accept the new rules on which the system rested.

The question of the treatment of the working class became one of the most important elements of the legitimacy of the Communist Party after World War II, very much like the use of nationalist rhetoric.50 Pittaway considers it important to note that the socialist system itself never gained legitimacy (p.4). Yet many of the motifs of the creation of the socialist state were accepted, and they gave some legitimacy to a system that used force. Furthermore, the possibility of the use of force became a norm in many cases. In other words while the socialist regime was not necessarily seen as legitimate, neither was it seen as diabolically evil by many, however unpleasant this may be to admit in hindsight.

The monograph cautiously (sometimes overcautiously) guides the reader through the story of the creation by Communist politicians who enjoyed minimal support of a party of the masses that had palpable support among workers, to the detriment of the Social Democratic Party. And later, as a dramatic continuation of the story, the same politicians rapidly lost this support on the national and local levels when they began to create the “workers’ state” (to which Pittaway refers ironically in his title) by introducing “the building of the socialist system,” the “rationalization” of production, and the system of quotas. After 1956, in the new social climate, the regime under the leadership of János Kádár was again compelled to use tools to win legitimacy, since it was not possible to work and wield power in everyday life with minimal support in the shadow of tanks or at “gun point.”51 In contrast, according to the totalitarian paradigm, the state used, first and foremost, force to exert its power over workers in heavy industry. In 1956 Hungarian society (especially the workers) rose up against the regime, and this was met with new repressive measures.52 The totalitarian paradigm suggests, inaccurately, that no one in the large industrial cities voted for the Communists of his or her own volition in 1945 and 1947 and that no one was in fact a party member. It suggests that the Communist idiom was used by members of society only as a response to the orders of the regime and only by people who sought in ever larger numbers to promote their own individual interests.

Pittaway’s approach is refreshing not only because of its novelty in comparison with the totalitarian paradigm, but also because it sheds light (on the national and local level) on the process whereby the Communist Party managed, through the use of populist rhetoric, to gain credibility and then to lose it entirely. The new system after 1956 owed its relative stability not only to the Soviet tanks, but also the “subjects” who as agents of history themselves influenced the rules of the game in everyday life. It is particularly worthwhile to emphasize the interpretation of 1956 according to which, from the perspective of the politicians involved, the Revolution can be seen as an attempt to gain legitimacy, and not simply as an uprising. From this perspective the motives and the roles played by Communist politicians in 1956 are more comprehensible, as are the functions of the workers’ councils as negotiators in the course of the reprisals and the consolidation of the Kádár system. In this story, the workers’ councils were not bastions of a self-organized revolutionary force that was realizing self-government among workers,53 but rather the vehicles of an attempt to further the legitimacy of the Kádár regime, an attempt initiated both from above and below. Thus they offer a perspective from which to discern the consolidation of the Kádár system not simply from below, but also from the viewpoint of the negotiations and compromises that were made at the local level. In Pittaway’s narrative, they have a similar function to the trade union committees of 1945: their stories shed light on how the new system was able to win acceptance on the shop floor. In this interpretation, the trade union committees and the workers’ councils did not represent “union democracy” or “workers’ self-government.” Rather, the Communists used them to promote acceptance of their goals among workers in heavy industry in 1945 and the fall of 1956.

There is a long tradition of historical and sociological scholarship on workers in heavy industry in Hungary.54 Though the subject has not been given much attention among scholars since the change of regimes in 1989, over the course of the last decade more and more historians have begun to study it in part because of the influence of Pittaway’s contribution.55 His was not the first such study to examine the endeavors of the Communists to win legitimacy among workers in the region.56 Pittaway continuously reflects on the theses that can be found in the international secondary literature on the subject, and his monograph reinterprets and enlarges on the conclusions of E. P. Thompson’s fundamental work on the creation of the English working class.57 He is thoroughly familiar with the subject, as evidenced by the fact that he wrote a separate comparative volume on the social history of the socialist bloc that has become obligatory reading at universities throughout the world and one of the best summaries of the postwar history of the region.58 He boldly and confidently transgresses the borders established by political history. For instance, in his assessment in many of the social processes in Eastern Europe World War II did not constitute a caesura, and he traces with similar confidence the threads of continuity and discontinuity in the social history of the working class. According to Pittaway, 1945, 1948, and 1956 constituted pivotal moments only to the extent that they prompted changes in the political views of the workers of Újpest, Tatabánya, or Zala County. Thus, paradoxically his book also examines how the Kádár system came into being, the antecedents to it, and the processes whereby it was able to consolidate its power (and from this perspective 1945 and 1947 were as much antecedents as 1953).

Pittaway does not attempt to establish consensus in the debates regarding the debates on modernization,59 nor does he bother attempting to reconcile the oppositions of the “movements” of “political” and “social history”. He puts these debates in parentheses. He examines simply the fluctuating legitimacy of the Communists and the system and the ways in which actors at various levels of power and in various social spaces influenced one another. The subject at hand (political support, or lack thereof) can be understood as political history, but in the course of his study Pittaway uses all of the methods and sources that a social or cultural historian would use.

The task Pittaway sets for himself is not easy. Even the question of the precise meaning of the term legitimacy can be problematic, not to mention the issue of how one can use sources that for the most part were produced by the regime itself to assess the amount of support it actually had in the factories. For this reason, the study of the limits of power and the various forms of support requires new tools. Anyone who knew Pittaway may well be surprised by the methodological rigor with which he constructs his narrative. He read an enormous amount about the living conditions and everyday lives of the working class in Hungary, but the reader can glimpse this vast knowledge only through the very small, carefully selected stories he provides. A serious task demands a serious scholar. The monograph is not the work of Mark, who loved to recount captivating stories of the working class, but rather Pittaway, the highly disciplined scholar, who writes with none of the irony or humor so distinctive of Mark. It is a dramatic story without catharsis in which every anecdote has an important function.

The form of the narrative, which is told chronologically and is set in three different industrial(izing) settlements (Újpest, Tatabánya and Zala county), enables Pittaway to portray the reactions of the workers as rational. At the beginning of each chapter he describes the political context in Hungary, which presumably is largely unfamiliar to the average non-Hungarian reader, and then goes into the “depths,” the factories and the workshop floors. Újpest, which had a long history as an industrialized settlement, Tatabánya, which had grown administratively to absorb nearby mining colonies and had been elevated to the status of a city, and Zala county (and within Zala county the area around the city of Letenye), which had only begun to serve as a home to the oil industry but was otherwise largely dependent on agriculture, provide in and of themselves an opportunity for comparison. As the narrative progresses, it seems to have a diverse array of implications, and the theses are so logical that at times it is almost disquieting.

The differences between imagined industrial workers (the notion of the worker as used in the idiom crafted by the Communists) and real industrial workers are always present in Pittaway’s analyses. He cites a 1958 report of a party committee to make these differences palpable. At the dawn of the Kádár era, when, given the significant rise in wages and the arrests, hardly anyone in the factories in the city would have considered going on strike, Lajos Kelemen, a party secretary in Kőbánya,60 openly contended—no doubt to the astonishment of many—that the emperor had no clothes, for the workers, the workers’ state was alas not the best of all possible worlds. “Part of the working class simply doesn’t agree with us. They just do not accept this system.” (p.14) His words were recorded, and they were met with replies. But Kelemen was not punished, rather his statement was used to further the consolidation of the new system. For a time the king acknowledged that he had no clothes, which considerably increased his credibility. The legitimacy of the Kádár system rested to a great extent on its efforts to distance itself from the Rákosi regime, which from the perspective of the hardships faced by the industrial working class meant that after 1956 the origins of every problem were traced back to the early 1950s. Indeed it may well have seemed that Kádár himself had risen to power in order to break with the past and see that justice be done.

The first chapter of the book begins in March 1944 with the occupation of the country by the German army and narrates the case studies that took place in the three regions up until November 1945, examining what the workers themselves sought (primarily stability) and what they were given or at least hoped to be given by the Communists (and this differed in each of the three areas). Pittaway’s approach sheds light on methodological problems as well, since the historian is compelled to reply for the most part on the minutes of party meetings, official reports regarding the prevailing mood (hangulatjelentés), and newspaper articles when drawing conclusions —tentatively—on the expectations of workers. In any event Újpest seems to have been the only place—and not because of the Újpest partisans (p.31)—where communism was not perceived simply as an exotic import brought by the Soviet army. In the case of Tatabánya, in contrast, Pittaway traces the first successes of the Communists back to the power vacuum left after the fall of the Arrow Cross. In Zala, a county consisting largely of small villages that had been particularly hard hit by the pillaging of the Soviet soldiers, the Communist Party had little chance of any similar attainments. A picture begins to emerge of the workers as a class that was politically active during the war. Disinterest in politics was rare among workers who, some decades later, would sometimes have to explain to their descendants what the word “strike” meant (though it’s true that in the meantime workers had found other means of holding back production).61 The book offers illuminating comparisons of why the Communist rhetoric, which hammered in the notion that the Communists had arrived as liberators, was received differently in each of the three places in question and how the workers’ strikes in the summer and autumn of 1945, soon before the elections, influenced people’s assessments of the party.

According to Pittaway, the elections that were held in November 1945 shattered the Communists’ illusion that they would rise to power without any kind of transition and with the backing of the Soviets. After the elections, the Communist Party was compelled to make proposals to the working class that would help it win their support. However, whether or not a political party enjoyed support depended not on the promises it made, but rather on its credibility. The results of the 1947 elections were more favorable for the Communists specifically because they found themselves in the opposition in 1945. The voters of Tatabánya or Újpest did not have more faith in the Communists because the Communists had made enticing promises, but rather because the governing parties, which had a penchant for populist pledges, were not able to make good on their promises. On the local level, members of the social democratic party were seen as people who were close to the institutions of power (pp.67–8). This enabled the Communist Party to win considerable support in industrial districts in 1947. Pittaway does not explain this as a consequence of national political developments. He does not characterize the period between 1945 and 1948 as an attempt to create a state founded on the rule of law, but rather as years in which the Communists used populist tools to attempt to win support for their goals among a segment of society. In his assessment, the decisions of viewers were influenced by local experiences and circumstances on the shop floor (rises in wages, a strike, a local demonstration, for instance on May 1, 1946 in Újpest, when the Hungarian Communist Party and the Hungarian Socialist Democratic Party together managed to mobilize 25,000 people). At the same time, there is still room for further research. Pittaway analyzes the election data on smaller settlements, but he does not attempt to explain why the differences were so striking between individual villages (in the case of the county of Zala) and parts of the city (in the case of Tatabánya). As is the case with the results of the 1947 elections, these differences cannot be explained simply as a result of voter fraud.

The third chapter (which examines the period between 1947 and 1949) may well give rise to numerous differences of opinion among Hungarian historians who are debating the significance of 1949, a year often regarded as a turning point. The title of the chapter (Social Roots of Dictatorship) is in itself provocative, since it implies that the dictatorship was not simply an aberrance that was concocted in the witch’s kitchen of the Communist Party and imposed by the Soviets. Pittaway examines the measures that were taken in order to win some social support in the course of the creation of the dictatorship. Through the use of populist rhetoric, the party managed to gain acceptance for the appointment of workers’ directors and the nationalization of factories (which according to the Communists had been ruthless exploited by the capitalists and had finally found trustworthy caregivers in the state) without even having to rely on the State Security, effectively the secret police (pp.86–8). One could mention, for instance, the “potato crisis” in Tatabánya, which involved a strike that broke out in Tatabánya because of the shortage of potatoes (which in the 1950s were one of the primary foodstuffs). In the course of the strike the local organization of the Hungarian Communist Party blamed “speculators” (implicitly “Jewish speculators”) for the shortage. With nationalization and this anti-Semitic rhetoric, the Hungarian Communist Party managed to gain significant support in Tatabánya.

This political popularity disappeared rapidly, however, when the workers found themselves in the world not of visions and promises, but rather of economic measures adopted by a party, the Communist Party, that found itself compelled to increase economic efficiency. On the level of the factory floors, the greatest conflict was caused by the introduction of a system of wages based on the Soviet model, which on the local level meant the end of populist communism (though it did not prevent the reproduction of class hierarchy). A mining accident in Tatabánya on December 30, 1950 that was caused indirectly by measures taken to increase production had a permanent effect on attitudes towards the Rákosi system in the community (p.130). The most interesting and most valuable parts of the book are Pittaway’s analyses of the similarities and differences between the three areas, Újpest, Tatabánya and Zala. He reveals differences in micro-communities that for the most part would remain indistinct, homogenous masses in macro-analyses, for instance the industrial working class itself, the different layers of which have been ascribed with varying significances in the creation of the socialist system.

László Varga and Gyula Belényi have already studied the conflicts between the “new,” “transitional” workers62 (rural, young, often female) and the old, trained workers in Hungary.63 Pittaway’s monograph, however, is the first work of scholarship to examine how, after 1956, the Kádár government was compelled because of these conflicts to establish legitimacy for itself in an entirely new social milieu, as well as the tools it used in the service of this goal. Pittaway touches on sensitive questions. The workers of Újpest who on October 23, 1956 radicalized the demonstration by the youth (p.209) and later took active part in the organization of the workers’ councils were among the first to be given raises in 1957. In 1957 workers’ wages were increased by 18 percent (p.233), although this in and of itself was not adequate to ensure support for the Kádár system among a significant segment of the working class. According to Pittaway, the answer to the question of why the government was not compelled on May 1 to use the workers’ militia to get workers to participate in the parades and why János Kádár himself did not fear an attempt on his life during the celebrations lies in the shrewd mix of the official rhetoric and a politics focused on standards of living.

Mark Pittaway’s monograph occupies a place of distinction not only in the scholarship on the political engagement of the industrial workers in Hungary, but in the research on the history of the industrial workers in Europe. It situates the attempt to create Socialism in Hungary in an international context and thus provides a point of departure for further comparative study. Pittaway’s research, work that spanned a decade and a half, has revitalized scholarship on the subject, which had been increasingly marginalized in the historiography.64 In all likelihood his monograph will influence research on the lives and experiences of industrial workers, who represented the largest social bloc and whose living conditions should therefore be in the forefront of scholarship on the era, for decades.


Sándor Horváth


Notes on Contributors

Apor, 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.

Bajcsi, Ildikó (Eszterházy Károly College, Eger), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bottoni, Stefano (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.

Csaplár-Degovics, Krisztián (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.

Egry, Gábor (Institute of Political History, Budapest), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Halink, Simon (University of Groningen), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hermanik, Klaus-Jürgen (Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Graz),
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Horváth, Sándor (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.

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

Majtényi, György (Eszterházy Károly College, Eger), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Makhotina, Ekaterina (Department of Eastern European History, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich),
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Szarka, László (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.

Varga, Bálint (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.

Waters, Leslie M. (College of William and Mary, European Studies),
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Zombory, Máté (Institute for Sociology, Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


1 A more detailed review in Hungarian is Máté Zombory, “A bűnös és az áldozat, avagy a posztkommunizmus totalitárius nyelve” [The Perpetrator and the Victim, or the Totalitarian Language of Post-Communism], James Mark: The Unfinished Revolution. Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe,” Budapesti Könyvszemle 24, no. 2. (2012): 112–18.

2 See Péter Apor, “Eurocommunism: Commemorating Communism in Contemporary Eastern Europe,” in A European Memory? Contested Histories and Politics of Remembrance, ed. Bo Strath and Gosia Pakier (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008).

3 On this see e.g. the January 2012 edition, no. 29 of Theory, Culture & Society.

4 Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Bernard Giesen, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztompka, eds., Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004).

5 Jean-Michel Chaumont, La concurrence des victimes: Génocide, identité, reconnaissance (Paris: La Découverte, 2010).

6 Annette Wieviorka, The Era of the Witness (Ithaca–London: Cornell University Press, 2006).

7 See Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006); Jeffrey C. Alexander, “On the Social Construction of Moral Universals: The ‘Holocaust’ from War Crime to Trauma Drama,” European Journal of Social Theory 5, no. 1 (2002): 5–85.

8 The most crucial Hungarian historians dealt with the Croatian history: Endre Arató, Kelet-Európa története a 19. században [The History of East-Europe in the Nineteenth Century] (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1971); László Bíró, A jugoszláv állam 1918–1939 [The Jugoslavian State 1918–1939] (Budapest: MTA Történettudományi Intézete, 2010); László Katus, “A nemzetiségi kérdés és Horvátország története a 20. század elején” [The Nationality Question and the History of Croatia in the Early Twentieth Century], in Magyarország története, vol. 2 of 7, ed. Péter Hanák (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1978); Gyula Miskolczy, A horvát kérdés története és irományai a rendi állam korában. [The History of the Croatian Question and Its Writing in the Period of the Estate State], vols. 1–2. (Budapest: MTT, 1927); Emil Niederhauser, A nemzeti megújulási mozgalmak Kelet-Európában [National Renewal Movements in Eastern Europe] (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1977); Imre Ress, Kapcsolatok és keresztutak [Connections and Crossroads] (Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2004).

9 Imre Ress, Kapcsolatok és keresztutak, 120–21.

10 Cf. Konrad Clewing, Staatlichkeit und nationale Identitätsbildung: Dalmatien in Vormärz und Revolution (Munich: Oldenbourg,,2001).

11 Cf. Viktor Novak, “The Slavonic-Latin Symbiosis in Dalmatia during the Middle Ages,” The Slavonic and East European Review 32, no. 78 (1953): 1–28.

12 It follows from the foregoing that according to the writer of this review the pope of Duklja is neither part of Croatian nor Serbian history, he belongs to the history of Duklja.

13 József Demmel, “Egész Szlovákia elfért egy tutajon…” Tanulmányok a 19. századi Magyarország szlovák történelméről [The Whole of Slovakia Fit on a Raft: Studies on the Slovak History of Nineteenth-Century Hungary] (Pozsony: Kalligram, 2009).

14 See László Csorba, A tizenkilencedik század története [The History of the Nineteenth Century] (Budapest: Pannonica, 2000): Štúr is mentioned as the organizer of Slovak cultural life in the 1840s, but his activities during and after the 1848 revolution are not addressed (p.111). In a standard book in Hungarian university education, András Gergely, ed., Magyarország története a 19. században [The History of Hungary in the Nineteenth Century] (Budapest: Osiris, 2003), Gergely interprets Štúr’s activities as unrealistic, lacking popular support, and in fact contributing to Viennese neo-absolutism (p.248).

15 The heyday of the Štúr-hagiography was the 1950s and 1960s, marked by the publication of Štúr’s correspondence, books and pamphlets (the most important: Jozef Ambruš, ed., L’udovít Štúr: Dielo v piatich zväzkoch [The Works of L’udovít Štúr in Five Volumes] (Bratislava: Slovenské vydavateľstvo krásnej literatúry, 1955–57). The Marxist canon was fixed in 1956, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Štúr with a representative conference: L’udovít Štúr: život a dielo 1815–1856: sbornik materiálov z konferencie Historického ústavu Slovenskej akadémie vied [L’udovít Štúr: Life and Works, 1815–1856: Proceedings of a Conference of the Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences] (Bratislava: Vydavatel’stvo Slovenskej Akademie Vied, 1956). An uncritical and hagiographic attitude was present in the Western emigration, too (Jozef Kirschbaum, L’udovít Štúr: and His Place in the Slavic World (Winnipeg: Slovak Institute, 1958). The first critical attempts were published as late as the 2000s (a thematic issue of the journal OS, no. 1 (2007).

16 Josette Baer, Revolution, Modus Vivendi or Sovereignty? The Political Thought of the Slovak National Movement from 1861 to 1914 (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2010).

17 Tomasz Kamusella, The Politics of Language and Nationalism in Modern Central Europe (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009).

18 Alexander Maxwell, Choosing Slovakia: Slavic Hungary, the Czechoslovak Language and Accidental Nationalism (London: Tauris Academic Series, 2009).

19 Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large. Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

20 Pierre Nora, “Entre Mémoire et Histoire. La problématique des lieux,” in La République, ed. Pierre Nora, vol. 1 of Les lieux de mémoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1984), XVI–XLII.

21 The author defines the concept of narration as follows: “Narration is a discursive practice which is not identical to text: the utterance has a bodily-material dimension, and the narration localizes not only in time, but also in space” (p.84).

22 After all, these practices construct ethnic homelands within the nation-state territory and national homelands outside the nation-state, which however, in a manner equivalent to the nation-state ideal, are externally delimited in space, homogenized internally, and rooted in the soil (p.287).

23 Hannah Arendt, “Epilogue: Reflections on the Hungarian Revolution” in idem, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Meridian Books, 1958), 480–510.

24 Bill Lomax, Hungary 1956 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976); Bill Lomax, ed., Hungarian Workers’ Councils in 1956 (Boulder, Colo.: Social Science Monographs, 1990). For the latest criticism of this view, see Mark Pittaway, The Workers’ State: Industrial Labor and the Making of Socialist Hungary, 1944–1958 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), 230–56.

25 András Papp and János Térey, Kazamaták,” Holmi 18, no. 3 (2006): 292–383.

26 Éva Tulipán, Szigorúan ellenőrzött emlékezet. A Köztársaság téri ostrom 1956-ban [Closely Observed Memory. The Köztársaság Square Siege in 1956] (Budapest: Argumentum Kiadó, 2012).

27 “Like a pearl diver who descends to the bottom of the sea, not to excavate the bottom and bring it to light but to pry loose the rich and the strange, the pearls and the coral in the depths, and to carry them to the surface, this thinking delves into the depths of the pastbut not in order to resuscitate it the way it was and to contribute to the renewal of extinct ages.” Hannah Arendt, “Introduction,” in idem, ed., Illuminations, essays by Walter Benjamin (New York: Schocken, 1969), 50–51.

28 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Meridian Books, 1958), 498.

29 Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 23.

30 Béla Tomka, Welfare in East and West: The Hungarian Welfare State in an International Comparison, 1918–1990 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2003). Béla Tomka: Szociálpolitika a 20. századi Magyarországon európai perspektívában [Social Policy in Twentieth-Century Hungary in a European Perspective] (Budapest: Századvég, 2003); Sándor Horváth, Két emelet boldogság. Mindennapi szociálpolitika Budapesten a Kádár-korban [Happiness on Two Storeys. Everyday Social Policy in Budapest in the Kádár Era] (Budapest: Napvilág Kiadó, 2012).

31 Stephen Kotkin (with a contribution by Jan T. Gross), Uncivil Society. 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment (New York: Modern Library, 2009).

32 Horváth, Két emelet boldogság, 242.

33 On the Eigensinn concept, see Alf Lüdtke, “Geschichte und ‘Eigensinn’” in Alltagskultur, Subjektivität und Geschichte. Zur Theorie und Praxis von Alltagsgeschichte, ed. Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt (Münster: Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt, 1994), 139–53.

34 Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1969). The historical adaptations of the concept: Robert C. Solomon explains the English expression resentment as always being directed to people of higher rank, anger to those of the same rank, and contempt to those of lower rank. Robert Solomon, “One Hundred Years of Ressentiment: Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals,” in Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, ed. Richard Schacht (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 95–126. In one of Sheila Fitzpatrick’s essays, following Arno Mayers’ study of revolutionary violence—Arno Mayers, The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001)—she analyzes the role of vengeance and ressentiment in the Russian Revolution, by which she means the four decades of Soviet history following 1917. This ascribes the main driving force of the series of events labelled “the revolution to the resentment of everyday people. The collective anger of the mass was directed at the bourgeois elites at the beginning of the revolution, the Russian intellectuals in the late 1920s, the Communist administrative elite (or bureaucracy) by the late 1930s, and the Jews by the late 1940s and early 1950s. Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Vengeance and Ressentiment in the Russian Revolution,” French Historical Studies 24 (2001): 579–88.

35 An adaptation of the concept of ressentiment to the Kádár era: György Majtényi, Vezércsel. Kádár János mindennapjai [Queen’s Gambit. The Everyday Life of János Kádár] (Budapest: Libri Kiadó–Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár, 2012).

36 Kundera Milan,  “’Un occident kidnappé’ ou la tragédie de l’Europe centrale, Le Débat 27, no. 5 (1983): 3–23.

37 Anne Applebaum, Gulag: a History (New York: Doubleday, 2003).

38 There have been many studies devoted to the particular regions, but no study that takes up the challenge of providing a broader, more general perspective (p.XXXIV).

39 The mental dispositions of the societies had been affected by the nationalist or even fascist values of the postwar societies of Eastern Europe. Applebaum mentions this example by referring to anti-Jewish pogroms in Poland and Hungary (p.138–39).

40 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Meridian Books, 1958); Zbygniew Brzezinski and Carl Joachim Friedrich, Die allgemeinen Merkmale der totalitären Diktatur, in Wege der Totalitarismus-Forschung, ed. Bruno Seidel and Siegfried Jenker (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1974), 600–17.

41 See the discussion by Stefan Plaggenborg, Die wichtigsten Herangehensweisen an Stalinismus in der westlichen Forschung, in Stalinismus. Neue Forschungen und Konzepte, ed. Stefan Plaggenborg (Berlin: Berlin-Verlag Spitz, 1998), 13–33.

42 Cf. in particular, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union 19211934 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); idem, “New Perspectives on Stalinism,Russian Review 45 (1986): 357–83; as well as Moshe Lewin, Russian Peasants and Soviet Power: a study of collectivization (New York: Norton, 1975 [1968]).

43 Cf. Bettina Greiner, Der Preis der Anerkennung. Zur Debatte über den Erinnerungsort der Speziallager, in Instrumentalisierung, Verdrängung, Aufarbeitung. Die sowjetischen Speziallager in der gesellschaftlichen Wahrnehmung 1945 bis heute, ed. Petra Hausstein, Annette Kaminski, Volkharg Knigge, and Bodo Ritscher (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006), 114–32; Petra Haustein, Geschichte im Dissens. Die Auseinandersetzungen um die Gedenkstätte Sachsenhausen nach dem Ende der DDR, in Instrumentalisierung, Verdrängung, Aufarbeitung, ed. Hausstein et. al., 133–48.

44 “The painter had not understood the importance of industry to the development of socialism […]” (p.341).

45 As has been described by researchers of Soviet subjectivity, see Jochen Hellbeck, “Fashioning the Stalinist Soul: The diary of Stefan Podlubny (1931–1939),” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 44, no. 3 (1996): 344–73; Idem, Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006).

46 Cf. Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, Stalinism as Civilization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); Oleg Kharkhordin, Obličat’ I licemerit’. Genealogija rossijskoj ličnosti [Expose and Hypocrisy. Genealogy of Russian Identity] (Saint Petersburg: Evropejskij universitet v Sankt-Peterburge, 2002).

47 Cf. Aleida Assmann, Der lange Schatten der Vergangenheit. Erinnerungskultur und Geschichtspolitik (Munich: Beck, 2006), 218; Paul Ricoeur, La memoire, l’historie, l’oubli (Paris: Seuil, 2000).

48 This form of protest through fashion was used to demonstrate unwillingness to conform to totalitarian reality. In Hungary this meant wearing shoes that resembled American sneakers (jampec shoes), in Poland there were bikiniarze, and the juvenile subculture in East Germany had so-called Halbstarke.

49 The book was already in preparation at the time of Pittaway’s death. The final revisions and editing, without which it could not have been published, were done by Nigel Swain.

50 Cf. Martin Mevius, Agents of Moscow: the Hungarian Communist Party and the Origins of Socialist Patriotism, 1941–1953 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005).

51 See Gyula Kozák and Adrienne Molnár, eds., “Szuronyok hegyén nem lehet dolgozni!”: válogatás 1956-os munkástanács-vezetők visszaemlékezéseiből [“You Can Not Work at Gun-Point!”: A Selection from the Memoires of Leaders of the 1956 Workers’ Councils] (Budapest: Századvég–1956-os Intézet, 1993).

52 Cf. Gyula Belényi, Az állam szorításában: az ipari munkásság társadalmi átalakulása Magyarországon, 1945–1965 [In the Vice of the State: The Social Transformation of the Industrial Working Class in Hungary, 1944–1965] (Szeged: Belvedere Meridionale, 2009).

53 Cf. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Meridian Books, 1958); Bill Lomax, ed., Hungarian Workers’ Councils in 1956 (Boulder, Colo.: Social Science Monographs, 1990); Bill Lomax, Hungary 1956 (London: Allen and Busby, 1976); Tamás Krausz, “Az 1956-os munkástanácsokról” [On the 1956 Workers’ Councils], Eszmélet 18, no. 72 (Winter 2006): 32–38.

54 Miklós Lackó, Ipari munkásságunk összetételének alakulása. 1867–1949 [The Transformation of the Composition of our Industrial Working Class] (Budapest: Kossuth, 1961); György Litván, ed., Magyar munkásszociográfiák [Hungarian Workers’ Sociographies] (Budapest: MTA Történettudományi Intézete, 1974); István Kemény, Velük nevelkedett a gép [The Machine was Reared with Them] (Budapest: Művelődéskutató Intézet, 1990); Gábor Gyáni, Bérkaszárnya és nyomortelep: a budapesti munkáslakás múltja [Tenement Building and Slum: The History of Workers’ Lodgings in Budapest] (Budapest: Magvető, 1992); László Varga, Az elhagyott tömeg: tanulmányok 1950–1956-ról [The Abandoned Crowd: Studies on 1950–1956] (Budapest: Cserépfalvi–Budapest Főváros Levéltára, 1994).

55 Belényi, Az állam szorításában; Sándor Horváth, László Pethő and Eszter Zsófia Tóth, Munkástörténet, munkásantropológia [Labor History, Labor Anthropology] (Budapest: Napvilág, 2003); Eszter Zsófia Tóth, Puszi Kádár Jánosnak”: munkásnők élete a Kádár-korszakban mikrotörténeti megközelítésben [“Kisses for János Kádár”: The Lives of Working Women in the Kádár Era, from the Perspective of a Micro-historical Analysis] (Budapest: Napvilág, 2007); the special issue “Labor of Postwar Central and Eastern Europe” of the journal International Labor and Working-Class History 68, Fall (2005); and among the most recent works: Eszter Bartha, Alienating Labour: Workers on the Road from Socialism to Capitalism in East Germany and Hungary (New York: Berghahn Books, 2013).

56 Two important works that influenced Pittaway in his choice of topics: Alf Lüdtke: Eigen-Sinn. Fabrikalltag, Arbeitserfahrungen und Politik vom Kaiserreich bis in den Faschismus. (Hamburg: Ergebnisse-Verlag, 1993); Padraic Kenney, Rebuilding Poland: Workers and Communists, 1945–1950 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997).

57 Edward Palmer Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London: Gollancz, 1963).

58 Mark Pittaway, Eastern Europe 1939–2000 (London: Arnold, 2004).

59 Michael David-Fox, “Multiple Modernities vs. Neo-Traditionalism. On Recent Debates in Russian and Soviet History,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 54 (2006): 535–55.

60 Kőbánya was a traditionally industrial district of Budapest.

61 Cf. Lajos Héthy and Csaba Makó, Munkásmagatartások és gazdasági szervezet [Worker Behavior and Economic Organization] (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1972).

62 On the “transitional types of workers” see László Pethő, “A vidéki munkásság antropológiája” [An Anthropology of the Rural Working Class], in Paraszti múlt és jelen az ezredfordulón [Peasant Past and Present at the Turn of the Millennium], ed. Miklós Cseri, László Kósa, and Ibolya T. Bereczki (Szentendre: Magyar Néprajzi Társaság–Szentendrei Szabadtéri Néprajzi Múzeum, 2000), 423–42.

63 Belényi, Az állam szorításában; Varga, Az elhagyott tömeg.

64 See the special issue of the International Review of Social History. Marcel van der Linden, ed., The End of Labour History? 38, no. 1 (1993).