1 / 2021

Gergő Bendegúz Cseh

Civilian on the Field

A birthday greeting

The current Director General of the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security greets his predecessor, György Gyarmati, on his 70th birthday. The title of the article suggests that he led the institute in a special way not as an “officer in a uniform”, as an archivist, but rather as a historian, a researcher, a conference organizer. When circumstances required, then he chaired a meeting, directed as a true “elbow-patched official”. He was able to remain a civilian.

During the twenty years of working under the leadership of the Professor, in addition to the personal development of the staff, the team spirit itself was significantly strengthened. As a leader, he was appointed twice for seven years in a field where not everyone rooted for him. Nevertheless, he was able to cope with the challenges successfully, his work matured, and he left behind an efficient team that can work together very well.

70 years! On this round anniversary, the present head of the institute praises and greets his predecessor.

János Pál

Elek Kiss

This paper researches the question whether Unitarian bishop Elek Kiss was a resistant and adaptive or a loyal and unprincipled server of the Communist regime in Romania. Although a part of the ecclesiastical public opinion perceived the twenty-seventh bishop of the Unitarian Church as a traitor, this accusation does not appear to be substantiated in any way in the light of his observation materials. In our reading, the bishop’s church leadership strategy was based on a peaceful agreement with the power. Although his prudent policy in many cases gave the illusion that he obeyed the state power without any moral restrain, the overall picture shows that he used criticism and resistance where he saw it would make a difference when bargaining with the authorities, of course within the limits of his possibilities.

The material gathered by the political police regarding Elek Kiss provides a picture of a Unitarian church leader who, in his quarter-century-long leadership, recognizing the balance of power, sought to establish a “friendly” relationship with the system that could provide assurance for his church to function without major shocks. To this end, as we have seen, he was also willing to make compromises that affected negatively the moral judgement of his image.

Szilvia Köbel

“They Did Not Use to Lie As Much in a Thousand Years than Today in Five Minutes”

Hungarian Reformed Church pastors in exile in the Netherlands in the decades of state socialism - Part Two

In the second part of our study – together with the related attachments – we explore the lives of three Hungarian pastors – István Tüski, József Végh and Lajos Jakos – in the shadow of the Hungarian state security agencies. The sources differ somewhat in their attributes, which is reflected in their analyses, but nevertheless I wished to convey for each scenario how the anticlerical socialist state, the relationship between the leadership of the Reformed Church with the government, and the global church policy during the Cold War influenced the pastors in their service, a common thread being their emigration to the Netherlands. The pastors differed in their personalities and their life situations, but despite that, all three of them helped Hungarian families and congregations, and all three were under surveillance by the Hungarian state security agencies. What connected them was their pastoral work in the Netherlands among the Hungarian refugees.

Péter Nagy

Establishment of the West-German Trade Office in Budapest

In the autumn of 1963, Hungary and the frg agreed on establishing mutual trade offices to stabilize their economic relations and improve the relations between the two countries and their citizens in the long term. This study examines the difficulties and the consequences related to the establishment of the offices from both commercial and political aspects. The paper points out that the concepts of the two countries regarding the implementation in practice stood in contradiction. Hungary tried to capitalize as much as possible on the commercial aspects of the agreement but refused to make political or cultural concessions to the frg to the detriment of the gdr. However, Bonn’s objective was to obtain political concessions in Budapest as soon as possible, by strengthening the economic relations. As a result, the West German representatives in Budapest were confronted on many issues with the Hungarian bureaucracy.

The establishment of the trade offices was not plain sailing. Nevertheless, itguaranteed stable trade until 1967 as well as a perspective to settle political relations between the two countries.

Éva Petrás

“From Peaceful Coexistence to Peaceful Cooperation”

The so-called “Somogy Project” of Jenő Kerkai SJ in 1964

Jenő Kerkai, an outstanding social thinker and organizer of the Catholic agrarian youth before World War II and a persecuted Jesuit in the 1950s, elaborated a detailed project on a possible cooperation of the Hungarian Catholic Church and the communist state in 1964. The project was not a submission to the anti-religious aims of the atheist regime by any means. However, experiencing the new waves of Christian-Marxist dialogue as a consequence of Vatican Council ii and resulting from his pre-war experiences, Kerkai outlined a pro-active cooperation of church and state in certain social issues like agriculture and healthcare, which he intended to model in one county of Hungary, in Somogy. He sent his plan to János Kádár, the first secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, but did not receive a reply.

Our source publication contains two relevant documents: Kerkai’s description of the Somogy project and a detail from his diary reflecting the outcome of his plans.

Géza Hajnal

We Can’t Find the Words

Tamás Szőnyei has written a review about Péter Molnár Gál’s memoirs. He refers to Péter Esterházy’s novel Javított kiadás (Revised Edition) as an acceptable method of facing someone’s past as an agent. In my response I challenge Szőnyei’s statement. I regard Esterházy’s book as a work of literature, and therefore I only consider it to be relevant in the domain of literature. The reader cannot learn the content of the agent’s reports or the conditions of the agent’s recruitment in their entirety. Moreover, Javított kiadás is a work of literature that cannot be interpreted in itself but only as an annex to Harmonia Cælestis, which had been written earlier; as a sequel of a family novel and an artistic depiction of a complicated father-son relationship.

Péter Molnár Gál’s reports are already available to readers, and his diary has been published posthumously. As the author revoked his permission of publication, it is not appropriate to pass a moral verdict based on the text.

Tamás Szőnyei

Esterházy’s Glasses

A Reply to Géza Hajnal’s article

“Coming out,” the memoirs of Péter Molnár Gál was published in 2020. In his review, Tamás Szőnyei suggested that the renowned Hungarian theatre critic might have chosen a wrong method of dealing with the reports he had submitted to the political police between 1963 and 1978. According to Szőnyei, Péter Esterházy’s method proved more fruitful in his book “Javított kiadás” (Revised Edition) about the reports written by his father who had also been an informer of the secret service. Reflecting on the book review, Géza Hajnal criticised Esterházy’s method because the writer cited only parts of the reports instead of disclosing them in their entirety. In his reply to this criticism Tamás Szőnyei argues that Esterházy’s method was exactly suitable to express his feelings towards his father and the system that had forced his father into a humiliating role.

István Papp

“What is Hidden Behind the Façade?”

A bookrwview on László Rajk: A tér tágassága. Életútinterjú. [The Spaciousness of Space. An Autobiographical Interview.] (Tények és Tanúk) Budapest, Magvető, 2019. p. 550

László Rajk Jr. was an architect, editor and printer of samizdat-literature, an important personality of the so-called democratic opposition. He was a founding member of the Alliance of Free Democrats and a member of the Hungarian parliament between 1990 and 1996. After the end of his professional political career, he worked as a scenic designer. He conceived the Hungarian exhibition in Auschwitz, and he designed characteristic sites in Budapest, for example the Lehel Market Hall and the internal design of the Corvin Cinema. He died in 2019. Two long oral history interviews were conducted with him, the first one in 2009, and the second one in 2019. The latter was completed some days before his death, so it was the final summary of his political and artistic ideas. He spoke about his parents, who were important characters of the Hungarian communist movement, and he depicted the neo-avantgarde artistic movements and the actions, conflicts and ideas of the democratic opposition.

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