Special Editor of the Thematic Issue
The Reliability of “Files” and Collaboration with the Security Service (SB) in Poland: An Attempt at a Methodological Analysis
AbstractOver the course of the last decade, the disclosure in Poland of information regarding the secret collaboration of public figures with the Security Services (SB) has triggered emotional discussions on the reliability of the archival records stored in the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN). Analysis of these discussions enables one to draw a distinction between two opposing views. According to the first, documents stored in the archives of the IPN are incomplete and devoid of accurate information. According to the second, documents produced by the repressive apparatus of the communist state constitute a new type of historical source and contain reliable information.
However, these discussions concerning the reliability of “files” lack methodological rigor and precision. I consider the reliability of the “files” in the light of Gerard Labuda and Jerzy Topolski’s concepts of historical sources. According to this analysis, the “files” do not constitute a new type of historical source requiring a radical rethinking of existing classifications and new interpretive methods. However, one precondition of an adequate interpretation is the acknowledgment of the purpose for which they were created and the functions they played in the communist state. The repressive apparatus collected, selected and stored information on society if they considered this information useful in the maintenance of political control over society. Ignorance of or failure to acknowledge this specific social praxis (and its different forms: manipulation, disintegration, misinformation, etc.) performed by the secret political police is one of the reasons for methodical and heuristic errors committed by historians: the uncritical application of the vision of social life and processes presented in these sources for the construction of the historical narrative.
Fabricating Identity from Ancient Shards: Memory Construction and Cultural Appropriation in the New Macedonian Question
AbstractIn the Republic of Macedonia, the use of archaeology to support the construction of national identity is a relatively new phenomenon, but it has been steadily growing since the declaration of independence in 1991. In sharp contrast to the nationbuilding process of the Greeks, Serbians, and Bulgarians, whose main ideological components were drawn from a “glorious past,” Macedonian nationalism in the mid-twentieth century looked to an equally “glorious future.” This paper analyzes the construction of popular archaeology in the Republic of Macedonia, and particularly the creative mechanisms driving it, its relation with the national and international academic world, its spread to a public of non-specialists through new media, its reception by society and its political utilization in constructing the national identity.
Zsolt K. Horváth
The Metapolitics of Reality: Documentary Film, Social Science Research and Cognitive Realism in Twentieth-Century Hungary
AbstractThe article explores how, given the absence of a proper public sphere, twentieth-century Hungarian social research began to use the notion of “reality” in populist socio-reports, the documentary films of the 1970s, and sociological debates. These discussions all shared the assumption that contemporary political elites ignored the “real” conditions of society. Thus it was the duty of social research (socio-reports or sociology proper) to reveal these facts in a manner that was free of ideology. Whereas in North America and Western Europe during the 1960s and 1970s the notion of a directly accessible “reality” had been thrown into question, in Hungary scholarship insisted on this kind of cognitive realism because of social and political reasons. As they argued, “reality” was to be interpreted not as a universal epistemological category, but according to particular terms of the sociology of knowledge. This article explores how the detection of “reality” and “facts” became an ethical vocation within these interrogatory frameworks.
Spectacular History: Photography, Film and Exhibitions in Representations of the Hungarian Soviet Republic after 1956
AbstractThe article explores the implications of communist representations of history as it relates to representation and evidence in historical theory. It investigates the attempts of the party historians to establish a historical connection between the “counterrevolutions” of 1919 and 1956: as they argued, the counterrevolution that had been born in 1919 and ruled the country until 1945 and, subsequently, been forced “underground” by the Soviet Red Army and the new communist power, was able to “resurrect itself” once again in 1956. It examines how they attempted to authenticate this historical abstraction through various historical, mostly visual, records: photography, film and exhibitions. The article argues that an unusual attitude towards evidence prevailed in these historical works. Although communist historians boasted of referring to an abundance of original source material, their narrative frames of representation proved to be fictitious: sources were selected not in order to draw conclusions regarding historical processes, but instead to illustrate various pre-figured abstract constructions of history. The aim of this method was to maintain the separation of the empirical source base and the philosophical-theological imagination surrounding the meanings of history in order to unbind the latter from evidence and tie it to political ideologies and commitments.
Revolution in the Darkroom: Nineteenth-Century Portrait Photography as a Visual Discourse of Authenticity in Historiography
AbstractHistorical photography has always played a crucial role in historiography, in the creation of collective memory, and in the perpetuation of historical traditions. Of all the photographic genres, portrait photography is the most prevalent genre and remains the “vera icon” of illustrated histories. The significance of portrait photography in historiography is amply illustrated by its use in the creation of so-called “Bulgarian national heroes,” historical figures that acquired an almost mythic significance largely through their depictions in photographic portraits. In this article I examine the specific use of this particular photographic genre in Bulgarian illustrated histories and provide analyses of the motifs and symbols of the portraits themselves, both as historical primary sources and as epistemological instruments that have had a decisive and continuous influence on the historical process of the creation of “true” national heroes. My aim is to outline the genesis of these photographic portraits in order to shed light on the process of their framing within the historical imagination as authentic representations.
Historical Linguistics Applied: Finno-Ugric Narratives in Finland and Estonia
AbstractFinno-Ugricity is one of the linguistic concepts whose meaning and usage have been extended beyond the boundaries of linguistics and applied in identity-building projects. The geographically and historically related cases of Finland and Estonia provide a good illustration of the uses of linguistic scholarship in the service of nationalism. More elusive than ties of “Slavic kinship” and not as easily translatable into a pan-ethnic ideology, the concept of Finno-Ugric kinship has nevertheless had a steady presence in the development of Finnish and Estonian identities throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, entangling the two countries’ linguistic traditions in a web of national engagements. In both cases, the original idea of linguistic kinship was subject to non-linguistic interpretations so as to highlight and contextualize various aspects of the Finnish and Estonian self-images, notions of collective past, and cultural heritage. In both cases, the concept proved highly flexible.
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Abolish the Past Once and for All. A kommunista aszketizmus esztétikája [The Aesthetic of Communist Asceticism].
By Dávid Szolláth. Reviewed by Tamás Kisantal
Tudomány és ideológia között. Tanulmányok az 1945 utáni történetírás történetéről [Between Scholarship and Ideology. Essays on the History of the post-1945 Historiography]. By Vilmos Erős and Ádám Takács.
Reviewed by Anna Birkás
The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide. By Zoltán Vági, László Csősz, and Gábor Kádár.
Reviewed by Ferenc Laczó
Gendered Artistic Positions and Social Voices: Politics, Cinema and the Visual Arts in State-Socialist and Post-Socialist Hungary.
By Beata Hock. Reviewed by Péter Apor
Vezércsel. Kádár János mindennapjai [King’s Gambit. The Everyday Life of János Kádár].
By György Majtényi. Reviewed by Tibor Takács
Politikai rendőrség a Rákosi-korszakban [Political Police in the Rákosi Era].
By Rolf Müller. Reviewed by Éva Tulipán
Trianon Again and Again. Rozpad Uhorska a Trianonská mierová zmluva. K politikám pamäti na Slovensku a v Maďarsku. [The Disintegration of Historical Hungary
and the Trianon Peace Treaty. Politics of Memory in Slovakia and Hungary.]
Edited by Miroslav Michela and László Vörös. Bratislava: Reviewed by Csaba Zahorán
Rozpad Uhorska a Trianonská mierová zmluva. K politikám pamäti na Slovensku a v Maďarsku. [The Disintegration of Historical Hungary and the Trianon Peace Treaty. Politics of Memory in Slovakia and Hungary.]
Edited by Miroslav Michela and László Vörös. Bratislava: Reviewed by Adam Hudek
Notes on Contributors