Sándor Hites

Variations on Mother Tongue. Language and Identity in Twentieth-Century Hungarian Literary Exile

This essay attempts to reveal the variety of ways in which exilic or post-exilic consciousness brings about a diversity in lingual identity and the ways in which this identity is maintained, suspended, lost, expanded, regained, rediscovered, or caught in transition. The author considers how adherence to the mother tongue becomes an ideological shelter against the menace of a metaphysical homelessness for Sándor Márai; how multilingualism turns into a defense of locality for Áron Kibédi Varga; how translation comes to serve as a substitute for an unborn offspring both in the literary and the genetic sense for Endre Karátson; how, in the case of Agota Kristof a second language never fully acquired is felt to ruin one’s mother tongue precisely through a literary achievement of the highest standard; how, in the case of Tibor Fischer, the traces of a remote lingual and cultural heritage show up in a text written in a language other than one’s mother’s tongue.

keywords: literary exile, language, identity, multilingualism

Tibor Frank

Approaches to Interwar Hungarian Migrations, 1919–1945

The social upheavals that followed the First World War drove astonishing numbers of people in all directions. Russian and Ukrainian refugees escaped Bolshevism in Belgrade; Poles were relocated into reemerging Poland; Hungarians escaped from Romania and the newly established states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Many people went on substantial and extended study tours to Germany, much as others had done before the war. Migrations were not limited to Jews suffering from the political and educational consequences of the White Terror in Hungary. Yet Jewish migrations were a definitive pattern of the 1920s, when the “Numerus Clausus” act of XXV: 1920 excluded many of them from college. A significant, though smaller, group of non-Jews also left Hungary at the same time. Motivated by anti-liberal politics, poverty, or curiosity, gentiles of mixed convictions and confessions hit the road and tried their luck in Paris, Berlin, or Hollywood.

keywords: intellectual migration, interwar period, Jewish-Hungarian emigrants, prosopography

Balázs Ablonczy

Instead of America. Immigration and Governmental Influence in the Hungarian Émigré Community of France between the Two World Wars*

Using the typology of French sociologist Stéphane Dufoix, this essay attempts to discern the moment at which an emigrant community based on political opposition begins to function according to a dynamic of center and periphery. Following this shift, influential figures of the home country take its institutions and its direction from their political opponents. A physical fight that broke out in August 1929 in Roubaix, an industrial city in northern France, between Hungarian communists and Catholic workers offers a case study that sheds light on the change of strategy of the Hungarian government in its approach to the Hungarian emigrant communities. Before 1914, the liberal politicians of the time made little effort to organize the several hundred-thousand Hungarian speaking emigrants living abroad, for the most part in North America (in part because the national minorities of Hungary were overrepresented among the emigrants). In contrast, after 1918, at a moment of history when the notion of the nation as an organic entity had risen to prominence, Hungarian speakers living outside Hungary were seen self-evidently as subjects of political policy. After 1920, the United States closed its gates to immigrants from Eastern Europe. France consequently became important, in part as a country in which there was a dire need of labor for reconstruction following the war. While the community of Hungarian emigrants was never as large numerically as the Polish, Russian, or Italian communities, by the end of the 1920s and the early 1930s there were some 50,000 Hungarians living in France. This essay is an examination of the political policies adopted with regards to them.

keywords: emigrant community, center and periphery, political opposition, diaspora

Gábor Gyáni

Migration as a Cultural Phenomenon

For a long time conceptual explanations of mass migrations rested on economic and social premises. The notion of chain-migration, for instance, was given considerable reinforcement with the adoption of the economic “cost-benefit” terminology, as was the phenomenon of transplanted networks. In time, however, scholars began to consider structural mechanisms less and aspects of individual selection more. The latter included giving greater attention to cultural factors. However, mass physical relocation, explained with reference to series of individual decisions either accepted or encouraged by the community, goes against the attachment to place necessary for the strengthening of the nation state, which finds form in the institutionalization of citizenship. Growing internal (national) integration and the social disintegration that accompanies mass migrations makes it necessary to devise compulsions that encourage and hasten assimilation. Under its influence, the significance of foreignness and the phenomenon of otherness as a fact of everyday life intensifies. In the case of Hungary, this is illustrated the most clearly by the metaphorical conflation of Budapest’s alleged “foreignness” with its alleged “Jewishness.”

keywords: chain-migration, citizenship, mass migration, assimilation, nation state, networks

In the Web of Political Language. Verbal Warfare and the 1945 Change of Regime in a Residential Building in Budapest


This essay examines a conflict that arose between “Christian” and “Jewish” inhabitants of a tenement near the large ring street (Nagykörút, Grand Boulevard) in Budapest during the Second World War and in its immediate aftermath, when a new political system was beginning to take form. The analysis is based on documents related to a case involving housing matters and a case that came before one of the People’s Courts. I consider the cultural context in which a middle class “Christian gentleman’s” family that was suffering impoverishment and a decline in social mobility interpreted the “Jewish” milieu in which it found itself, a milieu that presented continuous affronts to its norms but from which it was unable to extricate itself because of the housing system, which was under close scrutiny given the circumstances of the war. How did the Jewish inhabitants of the tenement, most of whom had suffered persecution, respond to this family in the wake of the political changes of 1945? My intention is to shed light on the long term social process by which the official and hierarchical social image of the Horthy system and the concomitant system of norms began to lose their substance and relevance in the first half of the 1940s as a consequence of the impoverishment of the middle class and increasingly limited housing mobility. This took place before this system began, in 1945, to be exposed to radical attacks cloaked in the garb of political legitimacy.

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Erika Szívós

Bonds Tried by Hard Times: Jews and Christians on Klauzál tér, Budapest, 1938–1945*


This essay examines local society in Belső-Erzsébetváros, the inner 7th district of Budapest, before the Second World War, and in particular the changes in residential composition brought about by wartime events. Today, Belső-Erzsébetváros is increasingly frequently branded “the old Jewish district” of Budapest. One main goal of the article is to offer a critical reassessment of this historical image, in part by considering the complexity of the inter-ethnic, inter-confessional and interpersonal relations among local residents in the interwar period. The author analyzes the residential mix of denominationally Jewish and Christian individuals in one particular area of the inner 7th district, namely Klauzál Square, on the eve of the Second World War, and the essay offers possible explanations for the high degree of inter-confessional cohabitation. The analysis is based on the census records of 1941, as well as oral history interviews. The second half of the article concentrates on the way in which the social fabric of the neighborhood was frayed by political and historical circumstances between 1941 and 1945. By late 1945, pre-war patterns had been upset in many ways, and, as post-war sources suggest, the residential composition of local society began to undergo profound and irreversible changes.

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Roland Perényi

Urban Places, Criminal Spaces: Police and Crime in Fin de Siècle Budapest


This essay examines the processes by which police oversight came to emerge in Budapest at the turn of the century and expanded to cover ever larger sections of the city. It also considers aspects of public safety from the perspective of the relationship between the capital and the urban communities on its periphery. The patterns of the expansion of police authorities in the urban space suggest that, rather than exercise control over social groups (workers, the poor) perceived as potentially dangerous by representatives of power, the police were called upon to protect private property, and in particular to exercise authority in parts of the city in which members of the elite and middle class lived. In contrast, in the outlying parts of the city one has the impression at first glance that the police increased its presence first and foremost in areas in which members of the working class lived. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals that the expansion of the authority of the municipal police to the outlying parts of the city served not to further the “compelled acculturation” of workers, but rather as a means of removing “undesirable” elements (criminals, vagrants, and beggars who traveled between the inner districts and the outskirts) from the capital.