Hungarian Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939.
The article describes the lesser-known history of the Hungarian anarchist volunteers who participated in the Spanish Civil War. It is explored who were the Hungarians who joined the anarchists in Spain, where they came from, and how their biographies fit into the diverse history of the international volunteers of the Spanish Civil War. What was the reason for going to Spain and why did they choose the anarchists?
The first part of the study provides an overview of the international background of the Spanish Civil War, the role of foreign volunteers, and the internal political situation of the Spanish Republic. A special focus is given to the dominant anarchist movement in Spain and how the social revolution that occurred in the first year of the Civil War affected the foreign volunteers who gathered from all over the world. The author briefly presents the history of anarchism in Hungary and traces the Hungarian emigrants who were active in the international labour organisations of many countries between the two World Wars. Among them were the volunteers who joined the anarchist movement in Spain in the mid-1930s and created their autonomous political community, “the Hungarian Group” in Barcelona during the Civil War.
Hancsovszky. Reconstruction of a Controversial Story
The article attempts to reconstruct the story of a bombing incident in Tornaľa, southern Slovakia, in 1945, and reveal the fate of Béla Hancsovszky, who was accused of the attack but escaped the death sentence.
The explosion of the Tornaľa district headquarters of the Czechoslovak National Security Corps on 8 August 1945 led to harsh official reprisals against the Hungarian population of the small market town. Some 150 people were deported, and plans were made to deport the entire Hungarian population of the town and the district. It was a 19-year-old young man, Béla Hancsovszky, who claimed responsibility for the explosion, with which, as he stated in his testimony, he wanted to draw attention to the persecution of Hungarians in Slovakia. Hancsovszky was sentenced to death in a summary trial by the People’s Court, but he escaped to Hungary under adventurous circumstances. However, as Czechoslovakia requested his extradition and the Hungarian authorities were looking for him too, he fled further west in 1947. His fate afterwards is uncertain, but it is presumed that he died young. The article tries to clarify the contradictions and white spots in the story and seeks answers to questions such as whether Béla Hancsovszky really committed the bomb attack, whether he had accomplices and what happened to him after his escape.
Ibolya Szamborovszkyné Nagy
“Continue in the faith, stable and steadfast”
The survival chances and possibilities of the Transcarpathian Calvinists after the annexation to the Soviet Union
The article examines the dilemma faced by the Transcarpathian Reformed community in the years 1946–47 following the annexation to the Soviet Union. The basic problem was caused by the fact that among the Protestant denominations, only the Evangelical Christian-Baptists (EKB) had a legal license to operate in the Soviet Union, which had become an empire. The study aims to explore the dialectics of the dilemma arising among the leaders of the Reformed Church, according to which they had to choose between two mutually exclusive options: they either merge into the ECB organization, or they insist on their denominational characteristics and take the risk of termination. The article also shows how the choice of the Reformed Church was influenced by the denominational autonomy it had enjoyed and by national traditions. The state autorities offered an opportunity for a routine solution to the emerging difficulty, which was the entry into the organization of the ECB. However, the reactions of the members of the Reformed Church to this created an unexpected problem in the Soviet bureaucratic system, as their religious affiliation was linked to their nationality. Thus, a new situation and problem appeared at imperial level. The study also highlights to what extent the response of the religious minority was a consequence of religious and/or ethnic affiliation in this case. Finally, it also reveals how the initial idea of the authorities changed during the exploration of the dilemma, and then what conclusions and results it entailed.
Gyula Légrády’s Role in the Trial of Ilona Tóth
During the 1956 revolution and the brief fight for freedom, Ilona Tóth, a medical student, was chief of a unit in Domonkos Street, which was servicing a nearby hospital. After the suppression of the revolution, she, along with two colleagues, was indicted for brutally murdering István Kollár. The verdict of the People’s Tribunal was death sentence for all the accused, which was carried out in 1957. After the change in the political system, the judgment against Ilona Tóth was annulled. However, there was no new trial and thus no clarification of whether Ilona Tóth and her partners had actually committed the crime they were charged with. Researchers tried to uncover the facts. They determined from the body of the deceased that he was not the victim of the alleged murder. Thus, the key evidence of the crime, the body, the so-called corpus delicti, was missing. It was suggested that the body found was not that of István Kollár. Autopsy on the exhumed person proved that he could not have been István Kollár. In case Ilona Tóth and her partners had murdered anybody, it could possibly have been Gyula Légradi(y). Other than what was found in a brief police report about him, nothing else was known; it was a mystery who he really was, which gave rise to various hypotheses. Based on newly uncovered facts, the article describes Gyula Légrady’s life and reconstructs the story of his death and burial.
The Relationship of the Information Office with the Government 1958–1963
The article attempts to describe the operation of a special mass communication institution of the Kádár era, the Information Office, between 1958 and 1963. The Office was under the supervision of the Council of Ministers.
The decisive factor in the choice of the time frame was that after 1958 the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party became politically dominant. The aim was to show how the Information Office worked with different government departments, mainly ministries. The research was mainly based on documents held in the National Archives of Hungary.
The author gives an overview of the role of state party press propaganda in governance. The introduction describes diplomat László Gyáros's brief presidency from 1958 to 1959, the procedures of the editorial meetings chaired by the president of the Office and the concepts behind the choices of topics.
The archival material clearly shows the main themes of the press during this period, which were controlled from the party centre through the Office: finance, heavy industry, agriculture, and culture. Overall, it can be concluded that under the influence of the Agitation and Propaganda Department, the office contributed to the public presentation of the government's work very effectively, trying to improve the negative public perception of the Kádár government.
“A New Country is being built…”
A bookreview on
Földes György: Nemzet és hegemónia. Magyarország 1945‒1989. [Nation and Hegemony. Hungary, 1945‒1989]
Napvilág Kiadó, Budapest, 2021. 291 p.
György Földes’s book analyses how the term ‘nation’ appeared in public thinking and politics in Hungary after 1945. His approach applies Antonio Gramsci’s theory on hegemony, and therefore he argues that János Kádár’s regime did not ignore the concept of the nation but endeavored to try ‘anti-Nationalist nation building’, which appeared to be successful for a brief period in the 1970s. The main problem regarding Földes’s analysis, however, is that when using key terms like ‘Nationalism’ or ‘Left’, it usually remains unclear what they definitely mean. The author sometimes mentions them as Hungarian scholars use them nowadays but he quite often uses them according the Communist party state’s terminology. This and other methodological problems weaken his analysis and raise doubts about his findings.
The documentary film Star witness was screened at the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security on 9th November 2022. After the screening, the directors of the film, Barna Borbás and László Réti talked about the film, which aims to support secondary education, to deepen and complement knowledge.
One of the film's biggest positive aspects is that the costumed episodes make it exciting to watch, help to understand the course of historical events and make the unimaginable more imaginable for young people. The documentary is based on archival footage and contemporary documents, which have been selected to form a complex whole with re-enactments and historical analysis by scholars of the period. This succession of cuts gives the film its dynamism, allowing it to maintain interest and understanding of the plot. A scene in which Russian soldiers shout at the accused in Russian is particularly interesting and authentic. This is typical of the period, with many victims reporting that Russian soldiers conducted the interrogations. In addition, many were handed over to the Soviet authorities. The professional explanations and additions by historians Réka Földváryné Kiss, Nóra Szekér and Írisz Feitl make the film coherent and the events with Bálint Arany understandable.
The audience learned from the discussion after the film that the documentary was based on a biography written by Bálint Arany. The directors used the book as a basis for the film, but they also faced difficulties in condensing the essence of the 33-minute film into a comprehensible form.
It is also worth mentioning the autobiography I am a Witness, which also served as a starting point for the filmmakers. Its author, Pál Kornis, an investigator of the Military Police, looks back on the events from the perspective of state security.
In addition, documents and minutes from the Historical Archives of the State Security Services were used in the making of the film: for example, the interception scene through the wall is from one of the archive documents.
The docudrama is a typically show trial. The familiar elements appear: surveillance, "doorbell scare", interrogation, psychological and physical terror, false accusations, "the secret policeman offering cigarettes". The key scene in the film, the turn of events when Bálint Arany retracts his confession, is both uplifting and heroic. Time stands still, everyone falls silent. In this moment, our hero achieves a moral victory over the new system that is emerging, in which the cogs stop for a moment. Just for a moment, because then everything goes on as planned.
"...you will live too."
The Martyrdom of István Pógyor
On 15th of December 2022, the documentary film entitled "...you will live too." - The martyrdom of István Pógyor was presented to the interested audience at the Historical Archives of the State Security Services. Journalist Bálint Ablonczy, the director of the film, and at the same time the writer of its script, was the Archives’ guest for a discussion following the screening.
The title of the film is a New Testament quotation from John 14,19:
"Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live."
The biblical quotation expresses that Jesus will defeat death and "will then be truly with his brethren in his true, living reality" – as the eminent Reformed Church pastor Sándor Joó emphasized in a sermon. The quote inevitably draws attention to the martyrdom of István Pógyor. The parallel is not coincidental, since the film's protagonist was persecuted for his faith, but in spirit he stood up for his truth to the very end. Though broken physically, his faith remained unbroken, and he suffered a torturous death, because he did not report his companions, neither wanted he to give up what he had fought for all his life.
In terms of its structure, the documentary can be divided into three parts. The film starts with the feature film part, which covers the period after István Pógyor's arrest. In the custody cell we witness his conversation with his cellmate, followed by the interrogation and his confrontation with László Teleki (a distant relative of prime minister, Pál Teleki).
Another touching moment of the documentary comes in the second part of the film, when actor Zsolt Trill, who plays István Pógyor, introduces his home village of Sárosoroszi. The tour starts at the church, where a plaque commemorates István Pógyor. Afterwards, they go to the cemetery, where, at his grave, they remember István Pógyor, his nephew and the whole Pógyor family.
The third part of the documentary features a professional discussion with historian Réka Földváryné Kiss, head of the Committee of National Remembrance, about the historical events, the trial and the documents of the trial. István Pógyor was an Anglophile, who was anti-German during the Second World War, later becoming anti-Soviet. He learned about the political life of the Western world during his longer study trips abroad. In 1951, a group of young workers were arrested. Pógyor's name came up during their interrogations, until finally a testimony was extracted from one of the young men stating that István Pógyor, dressed in a priestly robe, had instigated them to resist the "satanic" regime, even administering Holy Communion to them afterwards. As a proof of the dictatorial nature of the regime, these testimonies were then used as the basis for the subsequent arrest of István Pógyor, who was the subject of a report written by his cellmate, a prison agent and author of hundreds of pages of conversations in their respective cells.