In 2022, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives lost a great and unswerving friend. On November 20, Donald Blinken, philanthropist, art collector, businessman, former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, passed away. Russia’s unjustifiable aggression against Ukraine, the most tragic international event of the year, that started on February 24, makes it even more important to remember Donald Blinken’s important and fine diplomatic service. As the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, Donald Blinken played a role in signing the Budapest Memorandum on December 5, 1994 that, in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal, guaranteed the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine.
"Difficult years, in this part of the world, do not pass but multiply. 2021 was the second year of the pandemic, with Hungary having the fourth highest per capita Covid-related mortality in the world. Public institutions, especially public collections, had to remain closed for long periods of the year. Blinken OSA Archivum – while making use of all available safety measures – tried to go on serving the public: during low tides of the pandemic, the archive was open for researchers, who could reserve seats in the research room in advance. There was no summer recess in 2021; the research room remained open during the summer months when the virus retreated for a while, providing a window of opportunity in-between subsequent waves."
"A Dreadful Course of Calamities" befell us at the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives last year. Some of them were foreseen and expected:
following the eviction of CEU from Hungary, the move of the University from Budapest to Vienna; the difficulties of providing access to archival materials to the students and faculty of CEU; the intensification of the government’s war on culture, research, education and civility; the government’s growing impatience with the past, and the efforts to rewrite wholesale the history of both the country and Europe.
Some of the calamities, however, were (for most of us) unexpected: the fast-emerging indifference, both local and global, to historical facts; and obviously the plague, the pandemic that paralyzed the globe.
2019 was a dark year for Hungarian history (-writing), for the historical consciousness and historical self-awareness of the Hungarian public. This was the year when the government effectively abolished the Historical Institute of the 1956 Revolution, one of the most important research centers of recent history. The Institute with its irreplaceable oral history archives was “integrated” into the “Veritas” Institute, one of the centers of official historical revisionism and a source of blatant lies. The research institutes, including the Historical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, were forcibly taken over by the government, which, among a dozen other dubious “research” centers, established the Hungarological (Magyarság) Research Institute with an enormous budget. This so-called Hungarological research center is tasked with reframing and rewriting the history of the nation, the country, Hungarian ethnicity, both the recent and more distant past, starting with the ancient history of the Hungarian tribes, in order to claim – on the basis of non-existent sources – that the Hungarians are the descendants of Attila, the Hun, the Scourge of God. The future and fate of the National Széchényi Library is uncertain; several important archives, essential source-collections, among them the Lukács Archive, have been dispersed or have become unavailable.
The Blinken Open Society Archives has once more become the archive of last resort, as we have tried to provide help, shelter, and refuge for endangered archival collections and documents.