The international reputation of the revolution needs to be rebuilt

MTI- 22.05.2016.

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  • 2016. May 23.

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution has to be restored to its rightful place in European remembrance. In order to accomplish that, much can be achieved by the three-day-long international conference organised to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the revolution starting on Tuesday at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) – said Réka Földváryné Kiss, Chairperson of the Committee of National Remembrance (NEB).

The 1956 revolution created a significant stir on an international scale at the time, and when archives became available for research at the time of the regime change, it became a focus of attention in Hungarian and international academic life and public opinion. Since then its memory has faded considerably, although its messages are relevant today – said the Chairperson of NEB.

The events of 1956 in Hungary were unique from many respects, for example no similar armed resistance developed against the establishment during the Cold War in any other countries – there were no similar freedom fights in either Berlin or Prague of Warsaw during the four decades – emphasized Réka Földváryné Kiss.

The conference of European Network Remembrance and Solidarity (ENRS) held in Budapest this year has four major topics, the first of which is the events, causes leading up to the revolution. It attempts at depicting the overall effects of totalitarian exercise of power that triggered the revolution and tries to answer the question why it was Budapest in October 1956, where the most powerful and impactful uprising against the Soviet Empire broke out.

The second topic is the reputation of the 1956 Hungarian War of Independence on an international scale: academics are looking at the logics of the Cold War, the bipolar world order and its correlations with the revolution.

The third topic is examining the outcomes of the revolution, e.g. the effect of Hungarian resistance on Soviet crisis management in terms of what tools they chose after the revolution in the vassal countries that yearned for freedom, e.g. in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in Poland in 1981. Another consequence of the Hungarian war of independence is a poignant moral crisis, which was evoked by the Soviet aggression in Western-European left-wing parties, as well as the solidarity displayed by many European and overseas countries towards Hungarian refugees. One of the topics of the symposium is the show trials that were part of the retaliation process as well as administrative measures, which occasionally had ethnical relevance, i.e. were directed towards the Hungarian minorities. The significance of the revolution for the rest of the world was the exposure of the real nature of the Soviet political system, whereas in Hungary the most severe consequence was retaliation.

The fourth major topic of the conference is the impact of the revolution on culture and arts, its role, its symbols and depiction living on in collective remembrance.

Réka Földváryné Kiss stressed that an internationally acknowledged symposium gives Russian, American, German, British, Austrian, Polish, Rumanian, Czech and Hungarian researchers the opportunity to compare different experiences, examine parallels and differences. This helps us understand the history shared and also provides us with the opportunity to emphasize the Hungarian perspective in the European discourse. The 15-20-year-long tendency of the Hungarian revolution losing its significance in European remembrance may change. That is why it is a most significant achievement in terms of cultural diplomacy that this year Hungary is hosting this prestigious event – added the Chairperson of NEB, coordinator of ENRS Steering Committee, Hungary.

The three-day-long event is the fifth symposium of institutes whose field of interest is 20th-century history. It is opened by Zoltán Balogh, Minister of Human Resources, László Lovász, President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and Magdalena Gawin, Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage. Rafal Rogulski, ENRS Secretariat Director, Lukasz Kaminski, President of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance and Réka Földváryné Kiss are speakers of the first day.

Among many acknowledged researchers Sándor M. Kiss, Deputy Director of Research Institute and Archives for the History of the Hungarian Regime Change, Miklós Horváth, professor of Pázmány Péter Catholic University, László Borhi, professor of Indiana University Bloomington and senior research fellow of Research Centre for the Humanities, MTA, János M. Rainer, head of the 1956 Institute of National Széchenyi Library will be giving lectures. The main organiser of the symposium is ENRS, and its Hungarian partners are NEB and Research Centre for the Humanities, MTA.

ENRS was created by ministers of culture of four countries in 2005: Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia; Romania joined the network in 2014 and Albania, Austria, the Czech Republic and Latvia have observer status. One its goals is to promote the academic research of 20th-century European history, especially processes and events linked to dictatorial regimes and wars as well as to ease the traumas of history in shared remembrance and to support a beneficial remembrance policy for tragic events.

Academic institutes focusing on European history, researchers and organisations for disseminating information also participate in the work conducted by ENRS. ENRS organises events on a yearly basis, partly academic forums, partly programmes to enhance common remembrance targeted at young people. One of the highlights of ENRS events is the annual symposium, which was organised in Gdansk for the first time in 2012, and then in Berlin, Prague and Vienna.