One History – Multiple Explanations. Interpretations of Hungarian History

One History – Multiple Explanations. Interpretations of Hungarian History

 At the request of the Blinken OSA Archivum, historian Krisztián Ungváry will give twelve lectures on controversial issues of 19th and 20th-century Hungarian history. The lecture series will outline different interpretative frameworks and patterns on controversial pivotal points in Hungary's recent history. 

The topics of the lectures will cover historical issues that are still hotly debated today, and which are the most vulnerable to historical falsification, manipulation, deliberate or ignorant misinterpretation in historical discourse, debate, state propaganda, and social media targeting the wider public. The aim of the lectures is to reveal the inner logic of discourses that distort and falsify reality rather than only present historical reality. 

The lecture series will be held in Hungarian at CEU in Budapest, between February 7 and May 2. Registration is free but required, RSVP and more info (only in Hungarian) here!

The venue will be the Central European University (CEU), Auditorium B, 15 Nádor Street, 1051 Budapest. 

The topics of the lecture series

1. The historian as "judge". Judgement and historical concepts
The lecture aims to address questions such as whether it is true that the facts 'speak for themselves', and what are the frames for the historian works in.

2. The Compromise and its interpretations 1867-2022
The Compromise is the birth date of modern, bourgeois Hungary, and the memory of the event has undergone peculiar metamorphoses over the last 150 years. Why was the memory of the Compromise negative at most of the times?

3. Hungary and "kinship with the East" in (memory) politics
This topic is somewhat related to the previous lecture. I would like to show how Hungarian "Turanism" influenced Hungarian political thinking.

4. Trianon and its revision
The Trianon Peace Treaty is still a divisive issue in public discourse, while the reasons for the Treaty and the possibilities of its revision are still not sufficiently understood.

5. The Horthy era and its modernization potential
The Horthy era has long been associated with the trope of dead-end Hungarian development. In my lecture, I will seek to answer the question of why the opportunities that could have taken the politics of the era in other directions could not be realized.

6. Anti-Jewish and anti-German sentiments in Hungary
The juxtaposition of the two concepts may seem blasphemy to some, but Hungarian history is a good example of how ethnic and economic hostility can be orchestrated and how these sentiments can take a radical turn.

7. József Mindszenty and the paths of Hungarian Christian socialism
The state cult of József Mindszenty and Hungarian Christian socialism did not always cross paths. An important question is why it was he who became one of the most important points of reference for Catholicism, and indeed for the state, after the change of regime.

8. Hungary's entry into the war – maneuvering without room
In the context of the catastrophes of the Second World War, György Ránki described the country's situation in terms of the paradigm of "room for maneuver" and "forced orbit". My lecture will take a closer look at these possibilities and constraints.

9. The "agent affair" as a deficit of Hungarian democracy
Dealing with the past of state security has caused problems in all countries of Eastern Europe, and in Hungary, it has long been an open wound to democracy. The Hungarian specificity concerning this issue can be understood in a broader context and also helps us to understand the system we live in today.

10. Interpretations of the 1956 Revolution and Freedom Fight
It is often said that it is the past that changes the most. This saying befits few things in Hungary more than the events of 1956, the interpretations of which are a fascinating bouquet of flowers on the historian's desk.

11. Myths and reality about Ukraine
My lecture aims to provide some insights into the Ukrainian political elections of 1920-2023 in order to make the Hungarian news coverage on Ukraine more understandable.

12. "On the vineyards of Tokaj..." - The birth and survival of a modern legend and the persistent Hungarian crisis behind it
Of all national anthems, the Hungarian is the only one in which an alcoholic beverage appears. This alone is reason enough to look at the place of Tokaji wine in the Hungarian public consciousness. My presentation aims to provide interpretative insights into the images of Tokaji and its worldwide fame in Hungary.


At the end of the lecture series, students in higher education will have the opportunity to participate in an essay competition. Submissions should be related to the topics of the lectures and the issues raised. The top ten essayists will receive a cash prize of HUF 150 000.  


• Essays should be related to the topics of the lectures
• For higher education students
• Deadline: 31 May 2023
• Length: 5 000 - 8 000 words
• Use of primary sources recommended
• Submissions will be assessed by Krisztián Ungváry
• The evaluation will be based on the factual creativity of the essay writer
• Language of the essays