From: “Lex Heerma van Voss” <>
To: “Labnet List” <>
Subject: Labnet: Politically motivated funding cuts to Hungarian History I
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 17:19:52 +0100
Organization: I.I.S.G. Amsterdam
Message-ID: <>

Politically motivated funding cuts to Hungarian History I

By Mark Pittaway, 22 December 1998

It has come to my attention that the current Hungarian coalition government has drawn up plans for funding historical research into the history of the Communist period in the country that are both damaging and profoundly anti-democratic. As an historian who has worked on the labour history of the country during the early part of this period I must make public my outrage at these proposals and urge that fellow labour historians join in the protest.

The centre-right coalition government proposes to axe public funding completely for the Politikatorteneti Intezet (Institute for the History of Politics) and to cut public funding for the 1956 Institute by as much as 90%. These two institutes have between them served as the focus for serious historical research into the history (social and political) of the Communist era. New funding is to be administered directly by the officials of the Ministry of Culture endowed by a new fund for “research into the history of Communism”. The proponents of this fund have barely tried to conceal the fact that the motivation for its creation is that of direct ideological control of new historical work produced. Alongside the gigantic cuts in funding for the two research institutes cultural bodies such as the Magyarok Vilagszovetsege attached to the conservative and neo-fascist right will be endowed with extra funds.

If bodies such as these two institutes are lost it will be a severe blow to historical research on Communism in Hungary. The 1956 Institute is an innovative and sucessful institution dealing with the history of the post-1945 era. The Politikatorteneti Intezet has been responsible for high quality publication of valuable source material on the post-1945 era including the memoir of the Stalinist dictator Rakosi. Furthermore it has an archive which holds among other things the records of the Hungarian Social Democratic, Communist parties and trade unions in the pre-1948 period. All this has been placed in danger by the new policy of the government in Budapest.

What should be more worrying for historians than the loss of source materials and institutes is that these are politically motivated attacks on institutions which do not share the government's increasingly right-wing ideological preferences. These ammount to an attack on historical research which is vindictive, politically motivated and that demonstrates the contempt of the government for the conventions of democratic debate. The Politikatorteneti Intezet is being targeted because of its closeness to the opposition Socialist Party. The institute has become formally independent of the party however and produces high quality research. The 1956 Institute is targeted because of its links to figures in the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats.The adoption of this policy is a dangerous sign of the lack of tolerance the government of Viktor Orban has of alternative views of Hungary's recent history.

The present coalition in power in Budapest attempts to legitimise its rule through emphasising the victimisation of the country and its culture at the hands of what many of its supporters privately (and some publically) describe as the “internationalist”, “cosmopolitan”, “foreign” ideology of Communism (the sinsiter overtones of this kind of vocabulary should not be lost on readers of this list). As a result the coalition has a vested interest in allowing only those forms of research into Hungary's Communist past that boulster its political legitimacy.This certainly motivates those parts of their cultural policy that relate to historical research. This kind of policy is bad for both historical research and democracy and I believe heralds the beginning of an attempt by the Orban government to launch an attack on academic freedom more reminiscent of Milosevic's Serbia than of an aspirant member of the European Union.

For these two reasons I would urge subcribers to this list to protest to the Hungarian government in the strongest terms by e-mailing the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban directly at ( and sending their message with a cc. to the 1956 Institute at (,

Mark Pittaway
Lecturer in History
Edge Hill University College
Ormskirk, England