Katalin Baráth

Historiography and Novelization

On the fiftieth anniversary of Hayden White's Metahistory, Katalin Baráth revisits the similarities and differences between writing history and creating fiction. The author focuses on these issues in particular because she is both a historian and a fiction writer, and as such has experience creating both types of texts. The author recalls the former effects of Metahistory on historians and concludes that the narratives of the historian and the writer still cannot be safely separated solely on the basis of the examination of their texts. Moreover, there are many common features in the actions that precede the writing phase: for example, a fiction writer does research too, and also works from various versions of the so-called reality before shaping his story into a text. Baráth warns that historians should not have been concerned about the claims of Metahistory, but about the political use of history without professional control, and, more recently, about the continued undermining of trust in experts and expertise.

Gábor Gyáni

Referential Reality and Narrativity, White and Ricoeur

In the theory of historical narrativity, two outstanding rival concepts exists side by side, the one elaborated by Hayden White and the other worked out by Paul Ricoeur. The theory of tropology advanced by White assumes that there is a difference and a huge gap between the research and writing phases in the work of a historian. According to him, before the historian would focus on the data of the historical field with the aim of representing and explaining them, he has to prefigure the field, „that is to say, constitute it as an object of mental perception”. Accordingly, it is the historian who creates the notion of history by ascribing meaning to the past by relying upon the data accessible to him. This has usually been done by telling the story of it in order to charge those events with the symbolic significance of a comprehensible plot structure.

Paul Ricoeur does not deny the importance of White’s pioneering theoretical undertaking, but still insists on not missing the referential moment that distinguishes history from fiction. According to him, one also has to count with the various modes of representation, also taking narrative form, of those of explanation and/or understanding, coming from the testimony of the historical actors, who declare to have been present where past things happened. It is through these in the documentary moment of historian’s recognition that the presumed truth of the past may be reached. Beyond all of this, I am going to demonstrate how the two eminent narrativist theoreticians reacted to each other in assessing both the merits and the faults of the theories advanced by the one and the other.

Tamás Kisantal

The Burden of the Theory of History, or Could Historiography and Literature Be Friends, and If They Could, Why They Could Not?

The essay aims to examine some connections between the writing styles of literature and history. It starts with claims of narrative philosophy of historical writing, which emphasizes that historiography needs to use some narrative and rhetorical tools of modernist and postmodern fiction. The article tends to be unconventional in terms of its style with the personal tone and viewpoint of the author because one of its presumptions is that the rules of academic writing basically exclude using literary devices. In the author’s opinion, the main problem with this claim is that it presupposes ideal types of modes of writing called literature and history without considering the social and cultural dimensions (and historicity) of working these. Thus, the author argues for using a new, more dynamic model of connections between literature and history focused on social and cultural expectations and presumptions of readers.

Anna Natkó

"I started barefoot and I'm still barefoot today"

A 20th century pathfinder: vitéz Lajos Szabó

The article discusses the walk of life of lawyer Lajos Szabó. His name can be linked to several initiatives and groups operating in Hungary between the two world wars. His life is also remarkable because it was affected by almost all the fateful events of the discussed period. While before and during the Second World War he worked for the cause of the Hungarian people – according to his own definition in the fields of the government's policy towards lawyers –, public and secret social organizations and culture, while after the war he was faced with a new emerging system: the court convicted him as the perpetrator of crimes against the people. Szabó can be considered a pathfinder of the 20th century, who sought his prosperity within the framework of various political and social systems, but never really found it: and with his attempts, aspirations and undeniable mistakes, we can see him as a representative of the wider strata of his time.

Péter Poór

The Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence of 1956 in Spanish anarchist press publications

The causes, events and significance of the Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence of 1956 have been analysed and written about from many different perspectives, but the anarchist reading of the events is still essentially unknown in Hungary. This is why this study seeks to fill this gap by examining the contemporary articles of the two most important press organs of the Spanish Libertarian Movement in Exile in France (Solidaridad Obrera, CNT) and to present alternative interpretations to the bipolar approaches typical of the Cold War era. At the same time, it draws specific parallels between Soviet-occupied Hungary and the Francoist dictatorship in Spain, pointing to contradictory and disingenuous positions that were not alien to many political parties and organisations, states and leaders of the period.

Gábor Szilágyi

Tokay Assault

The collection of sources focuses on the Writers’ Camp in Tokaj in the summer of 1986, a gathering where writers and literary historians exchanged their views about the tasks of literature and its definition. The editors provide a thorough and detailed background analysis, focusing on the debate’s key figures and delivering a detailed chronology of the events happening in 1986. However, in some cases it seems that their point of view could have been more impartial. Their notes on the documents meet high scholarly standards. Their main statement, however, i.e. this gathering played an important role in preparing the transition of 1989, remains arguable.

István Bandi

Confronting the past – the first steps in exploring the legacy of state security in Moldova

In his book, the author defined the chronological starting point as March 1944, when the Red Army troops invaded the territory of Bessarabia and the party and the Soviet security services penetrated the state apparatus, signaling the restoration of the Soviet regime. The second half of 1946 marks the end of the time frame. During this period, the intensive reform of state institutions took place in the Soviet Union, which included the transformation of the People’s Committee for State Security (NKGB) to the Ministry of State Security (MGB). This did not only mean the renaming of the institution, but also a profound reorganization, the transition from war to the period of peace, that is, the adaptation of the Soviet state to the post-war reality. In his research, the author examined these processes, focusing on the territory of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Malacenco sought to clarify the role of the NKGB-MGB in Sovietization and the institutionalization of Soviet power in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Eszter Gyóni Cúth

Forced into illegality

This review seeks to introduce the recently published collection of essays entitled The Secret Police and the Religious Underground in Communist and Post-Communist Eastern Europe.

The essays in the collection discuss the role of religious minorities in the societies of Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th century. The researchers emphasize the importance of the comparative approach, while outlining the diverse range of methodological approaches, theoretical issues, dilemmas, and practical examples. The studies shed light on the similarities and different practices employed by the state security agencies of dictatorships during their anti-religious and anti-church actions. We can also learn about the survival strategies of religious communities, including many of their responses to official actions.

The authors present their research from the Bolshevik takeover in Russia until the late 1980s, covering the Soviet Union, its republics including Ukraine, Moldova, and Lithuania, and the Soviet bloc countries of Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia. The epistemological material and the case studies published by the authors are diverse and informative. This work is expected to encourage further dialogue and research on the subject.