4 / 2020

Dalma Kékesdi-Boldog

“The soviet comrades do not inform us”

Measures after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the media representation of the accident in Hungary

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 was a complex case with several aspects: it was a health threat, it showed the technical backwardness of the Soviet Union, and it was also a political issue which still arouses the interest of the public. Due to the accident, the nuclear cloud polluted an area of over 30,000 square kilometers and reached Western European territories as well. The Soviet officials first held back all information, and then denied knowing anything about the accident. Two days later, after many official Western diplomatic inquiries, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) issued a short announcement on 28 April, in which they admitted the fact of the disaster. The first insufficient information had a significant impact on the Hungarian information policy, and the communication of the disaster is still a controversial topic in Hungary.

Media representation of the Chernobyl nuclear accident should be analyzed in a complex way considering the local and global political context, the local characteristics of the Soviet communist media system and also regarding the information which was available to the Hungarian political leaders. In this paper I attempt to show how this crisis communication case was managed in Hungary. First, I describe the local characteristics of the media system. Secondly, using official archival sources, I try to reveal what was told by the Soviet officials in the first days and what measures were introduced in Hungary. And finally, I will show when and what was communicated through the state-owned Hungarian media about the disaster

Mária Palasik

"Most of the returnees are deceived people"

The role of Hungarian state security services in repatriating the 1956 refugees who left Hungary

During the 1956 Revolution and its aftermath, 200 thousand people left Hungary. The incoming Kádár regime took immediate steps to rectify the problem. As early as November 1956, a resolution was in place to deal with the return of those who had gone abroad during the revolution and shortly thereafter. The partial amnesty and related propaganda were in place until 1963 along with various legal steps to deal with the issues of repatriation. This study collects and summarizes these steps. It shows how several bodies dealt with those who intended to repatriate on the basis of the various orders and instructions of the Ministry of Interior, and how the repatriation process actually took place. The applications of those who decided to return home were first collected by the Foreign Ministry and forwarded to the Ministry of Interior, where it was checked whether the applicant was in the state security register. Then various law enforcement bodies conducted a so-called environmental study: they checked what they had done before and during the revolution, what their family circumstances were, where they would live and work in Hungary. During the environmental study not only parents, relatives, friends, neighbours, co-workers, but even workplace leaders, and the former factory party secretaries were visited by the state security services. After returning home they were interrogated by the political police: why they left their homeland, what refugee camps they attended, who they met in the West, and their experiences in the chosen country and why they decided to return. The repatriated persons remained in the records of the Ministry of Interior for many years. The number of 1956 refugees returning home is estimated to 40,000.

Nóra Szekér

Physicist under the pressure of the state security

In 1957 the renowned physicist, Péter Farago – from 1949 State Security agent under the alias “Tudós” (“Scholar”) – emigrated to the United Kingdom. The Hungarian state security approached “Tudós” at the University of Edinburgh, his new workplace, with the intention of reactivating him. Péter Szolnok, state security officer and first secretary of the Hungarian Legation in Great Britain, was commissioned with the task.

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 One

My research, based on Hungarian State Security documents, is focused on showing the special aspects of the relationship of the Hungarian and the Dutch Reformed Churches between the 1945/48 and 1989/90 (as the exact beginning and end is hard to pin down). The communist secret service was particularly interested in the Hungarian Reformed Church pastors who emigrated to the Netherlands and the Dutch pastors visiting Hungary. The official Hungarian religious criticism labelled Kuyperian ideas as “reactionary”, which is why the secret service considered the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland as an “enemy” of the state socialist system (greater enemy than the Hervormed Church).

Péter Kis

Law professors in the country through the eyes of the state security in 1948

The paper publishes the texts of short profiles of law professors in three universities in the country (Debrecen, Szeged and Pécs) written by the political police (State Defence Department, ÁVO). The reports (“environmental studies”) were prepared between 29 July and 2 August 1948, in the decisive phase of Sovietization when the communist takeover was implemented in the field of science and higher education too. The communist party wanted to establish a system of legal educational institutions, in addition to the universities which were led by law professors who were regarded as untrustworthy, to provide cadres with proper political and ideological training for the administration, judiciary and jurisdiction, and, at the same time, reduce the number and capacity of traditional legal higher education. An important element of this process was the removal of law professors from higher education. The sources are especially interesting because two-thirds (17 persons) of the 28 law professors mentioned in them were expelled from the universities before 1951, most of them by retirement. The advisory opinion of the political police was probably necessary for the preparations for the removal of the professors.

Tamás Szőnyei

Outcome. Assessing Coming out, the memoirs by Péter Molnár Gál

OA book review on Péter Molnár Gál: Coming out. Magvető, 2020. 442.

Renowned Hungarian theatre critic, Péter Molnár Gál started writing his memoirs in 2005 after it was revealed that he had been an informant of the secret services, providing reports from 1963 to 1978 about the operations of theatres in general and several actors, actresses, directors in particular. As the title Coming out suggests, he was blackmailed to join the secret network with his homosexuality – the most enthralling part of the book describes these events. After finishing the memoirs, he decided not to publish them. He died in 2011 at the age of 75. The holder of his estate has recently decided to let it come out to the light. In his review, Tamás Szőnyei argues that although the book shows a deep understanding of the world of theatre and the way it was treated by politics, it still leaves essential questions unanswered. First of all, it remains unclear how he could bear to live like this for fifteen years if it is true that he hated it so much. The attempt failed. The paper analyzes the officer’s report on the conversation between the two of them. The aim of the analysis is to describe the methods of the state security and reveal how activities and attitudes of the state security embittered the lives of their agents in many cases.

English