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Schriftenreihe des Europa Institutes Budapest, Band 19:99–110.


Politics and History in Kádár’s Hungary


Studying any aspect of contemporary history is a most difficult field of historical research – the lack of a proper chronological perspective, the abundance and at the same time also often lack of important sources, the sensitivity of the eye-witnesses who are still with us make these projects most risky ventures. A student of the history of historical writing and historical thought who makes an attempt in this field meets these difficulties in a concentrated form, as the subjects of his research are to a great extent his colleagues themselves. The reason why I have still dared to chose this topic for this paper* is that in my view discussing a few aspects of the history of Hungarian historical scholarship from the early 1960s to the 1980s might contribute to the clarification of two basic problems:

a) continuity or discontinuity between the Rákosi and the Kádár regimes

b) the roots, the antecedents of the 1989-90 changes, of the transition from a monolithic to a pluralistic political system in Hungary.

This short sketch only aims at giving a short survey and certainly cannot come up with a systematic analysis of Hungarian historiography in Kádár’s Hungary.



If we look at the development of Hungarian historical scholarship from the time of the beginnings of professionalization in the second half of the 19th century on, it is not difficult to prove that it has always kept pace with the international standards of the “guild”. Numerous Hungarian historians of the first professional generations were trained at important centres of scholarship, as the École des Chartes in Paris, the Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung in Vienna or Ranke and Wittenbach seminars in Berlin. The formation of the institutional framework of research (university chairs, source-publication series, the founding of the National Archives, the launching of scholarly reviews, etc.) has also been in line with international standards and was at the same time well embedded into the national discourse. Historical issues and historians played a very important role in politics both before and after World War One. Be it the problems related to the country’s multinational, multi-ethnic population or the peculiarities of its social and economic development and many other issues, historiography in a most sensitive way reflected the tensions of society. Instead of narrowing down the horizon, however, this concern over burning issues of the society resulted in opening up impressive new avenues of scholarship. The catastrophe of World War One just as much as that of World War Two certainly called upon historians to take account of deeper lying causes of these tragic turns.1 Even after the Communist take-over when a peculiar mixture of dogmatic Marxism and romantic nationalism became the “official” ideological basis of a highly centralised institutional framework of research, the continuity of high quality and internationally widely acknowledged scholarship could not be broken and from the early 1960s on – not independent of the coming of a detente in international politics – Hungarian historiography was gradually reintegrated into the international scholarly community. It was especially economic and social historical investigations on mediaeval, early modern and modern Hungary that have brought about important new scholarly results. In addition to the works of “great old men” in political, social and intellectual history, who started their careers before World War II (as for example Kálmán Benda, Éva H. Balázs, Domokos Kosáry, László Makkai, Elemér Mályusz, Imre Wellman, Péter Váczy etc.), there emerged younger generations who entered the profession after the war and they also substantially contributed to the international prestige Hungarian historical scholarship gained in the 1960s and especially the 1970s. There were especially two research fields where these generations were most active. First, from the mid1950s on, the comparative investigations on the “deviation”, “special path”, peculiarities of Hungarian and East European agrarian development, then the origins of Hungarian manufacturing industry and other aspects of the making of Hungarian capitalism. (Works of Iván T. Berend, László Katus, Tibor Kolossa, Zsigmond Pál Pach, Julianna Puskás, György Ránki, Pál Sándor etc.) Some of the in the long run most important achievements of Hungarian historical scholarship during the post-1956 period (up to the late 60s) relate to these research interests, however, they are part and parcel of a most complex conflict -loaded cultural, intellectual life. My hypothesis is that this trend in Hungarian historical scholarship contributed to the liberalization, to an opening up process in other fields of Hungarian historical scholarship and in Hungarian cultural life in general.2


The “Molnár” debate

The general framework of the beginning of this process is the so-called “Erik Molnár” debate that from the late 1950s on inspired a great number of Hungarian scholars to take sides about key issues of Hungarian – and East Central European – history. Erik Molnár (1894-1966) was a lawyer who has supported the underground Hungarian communist movement during the interwar period but at the same time has also written historical and philosophical works in the Marxist spirit of the time.3 He had held a number of high positions in post-World War II Hungarian political life (including various ministerial positions and the presidency of the Supreme Court) – after 1956 he is (as director of the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences since 1949) a key figure of ideological controversies. In a few articles published in 1959-61 he challenged the dominating so called “revolutionary progressive” interpretation of history, i.e. the view that presented Hungarian past since the collapse of the mediaeval great power as a series of failed revolutionary struggles for independence. The failures were said to have been due to external (Turkish, Habsburg, Czarist, German) interventions. According to the “classic” of this view, Aladár Mód (whose standard work with the apt title “Four Hundred Years Struggle for Independent Hungary” was published in numerous editions in the late 1940s and early 1950s) the conflicts between the foreign and Hungarian economic interests became the basis of a struggle that gave cohesion to the Hungarian society. In this sense “social progress” and “national sovereignty” were correlating aspirations. Modern Hungarian history – according to this interpretation – was determined by the intervention of reactionary Austria in 1849 in Hungary that prolonged the country’s long-standing backwardness, the “Compromise of 1867” was a sell-out by the Hungarian ruling class and the interwar ”fascist” Horthy-system was imposed on Hungary by anti-Communist Western imperialism. Molnár and his followers accused this approach to Hungarian history of being “unhistorical”, “naive” and first of all non-scholarly, feeding the nation with illusions instead of increasing its knowledge about itself. In a March 1963 report prepared for the Department of Scholarly and Cultural Affairs of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party4 Molnár pointed out that during the last three years (i.e. 1960-1963), as part of a broader anti-nationalism campaign, historical scholarship focused on clarifying the role of the ideas of patria and nation in class struggles. The history of the Hungarian people was presented as a class struggle and the campaign started against the nationalist idealization of national past that attached to independence a special value separated from that of class struggles. The new approach (i.e. the one initiated by Molnár )unveiled the “class-contents” of these fights for independence and this way – as Molnár believed – contributed to overcoming the “provincialism” of Hungarian historical scholarship. The first research results of this new “anti-provincialist” method – as Molnár argued – were to be found in two fields: the comparison of 16th to 18th century Eastern and Western European agrarian development and the integration(“embedding” as he puts it) of 19th century Hungarian development into the social structure of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

In the following first I should like to discuss some general views on Hungarian history in the two camps (i.e. those of Aladár Mód and Erik Molnár), then I will deal with a few peculiarities of Hungarian social and economic history writing of the post-1956 period on the basis of the above mentioned examples: the literature on the “deviation” or “Abbiegung” of 16th century Hungarian and East Central European agrarian development from the West-European pattern and Hungary’s place, role in the Dual Austro-Hungarian Monarchy after 1867.


Interpretations of nationalism and patriotism

The actual starting point of the discussion was the evaluation of the anti-Habsburg movements in the 17th and early 18th centuries.5 Erik Molnár kept arguing that they were much more class-conflicts (between the Hungarian nobility, the Hungarian estates and the centralising Habsburg-aspirations) than struggles for “national independence” mobilizing all layers of Hungarian society. Contrary to the – according to his view – ahistorical Mód-argumentation, the nobility’s nationalism and a kind of “popular patriotism” in the 17th and early 18th centuries were not direct antecedents of modern 19th century Hungarian nationalism. Those problems were in the foreground of the political-ideological discussions of the day in the aftermath of the 1956 national revolution. Namely a bit more than a year after the execution of Imre Nagy, in the fall of 1959, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party issued a statement on “bourgeois nationalism and socialist patriotism”6 and in March 1960 a conference at the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy discussed the historical roots of nationalism.7 Molnár and a number of his followers argued that most Hungarian Marxist historians – greatly inspired by the ideological guidelines of Rákosi, Révai and other leading communist politicians – divorced the concept of the Hungarian nation from social class and historical age, natio and patria had not reflected the objective interests of all classes, only those of the exploiting ruling class. Molnár applied the concept of “false consciousness” i.e. that any ideological reflection of the common interests of exploited serfs and landlords in a feudal society veils the irreconcilable class interests.8 These were, of course, most orthodox Marxist views and could easily be interpreted as a historians’ contribution to the struggle against “reactionary nationalism” which had an important role among the officially listed causes of the 1956 “counter-revolution”. Still, the historical-political function of these views was quite different. They initiated a number of most productive research-projects on how concepts like “people”, “nation”, “patria”, “independence” were interpreted in 16-17th century Hungary. They helped rethink the relationship between “class struggle” and “national struggle”: gave incentives to investigations into the making of the Hungarian nation. At the same time they also initiated debates on other key issues of Hungarian history in which the representatives of what is sometimes labelled as the “sociological-realistic-denationalizer” and “romantic revolutionary-dogmatic nationalist” interpretations of modern Hungarian history confronted each other.9

The “sociological” interpretation was trying – on the basis of plenty of new basic research – to examine the objective economic-social foundations of political and ideological developments, whereas the “romantic camp” (under the informal leadership of Aladár Mód), moving the centre of the debate from early modern to more recent periods, was much more preoccupied with the “subjective” factors, the correct or faulty policies of leading personalities at major turning- points of Hungarian history. They were interested in “progressive political struggles”, whereas the “sociological” school believed – as one of its representatives, Péter Hanák put it at a later point, in 1969 – ”in the primacy of the objective factors and [were] interested in the interactions between the objective and the subjective. According to Aladár Mód’s conception Rákóczi-1848-Károlyi- 1919 represent the mainstream of Hungarian history, in our view – to retain these symbols – Rákóczi together with Nagymajtény, 1848 together with 1867, Károlyi and 1919 together with the counter-revolution and Horthy form ”the main line” of Hungarian history. We explore questions to which Mód does not offer coherent and convincing scholarly answers: (such as) why did Nagymajtény follow Ónod, why did Világos come after Debrecen, and why Horthy after Károlyi and Béla Kun?”10

Another aspect of the differences was aptly summarized by György Ránki in the same debate in 1969 when he was responding to Aladár Mód. Mód demanded that research into “the objective conditions and laws of history” “should be combined with exploring the right policy that would serve the interests of a people and international progress”. Ránki, one of the most prominent members of the younger generation of economic and social historians, in the course of the debate on the characteristics of the Horthy regime, argued that historical analysis should not set up some abstract moral and political standards as the basis of historical evaluation: “...public life was more influenced by Nagyatádi’s land reform than by any of the most beautiful writings on the tragic fate of peasantry; the foreign policy and thus the life of Hungarians were more determined by Gömbös’ secret agreements than by Bajcsy-Zsilinszky’s combative parliamentary protests; Hungary’s fate during World War II in the final analysis was decided by Bárdossy’s and Horthy’s declaration of war and not by the Hungarian Communists Party’s views concerning the war against the Soviet Union; living conditions of people were first of all determined by the Great Depression and not by the fact that some people were working on well-intentioned utopias for developing the handicraft instead of the manufacturing industry; the fate of Hungarian Jewry was determined by the deportations of 400.000 of them as a result of German pressure, under German leadership by the officials of the Sztójay-government and by the gendarmerie and not by the fact – important still as it might have been – that some thousands of them have been saved by antifascists or simple people...”11

No doubt, Mód’s views show much continuity with the national ideology of the Rákosi-regime, though he frequently distanced himself from the scholarly and political practices of that period. Mód focused on the need of “socialist nation-building”, on the ways and means of constructing “socialist patriotism.” He feared that any questioning of the continuity of a collective national interest manifested in the struggles for independence would endanger this process. This view led him to argue that even if the majority of the peasantry did not participate in the anti-Habsburg struggles, this behaviour did not express its real interests.12 This way he created a clear formula in which the socialist system was the true heir to all combined struggles for national and social liberation. Historical research was to support this view. The Molnár school emphasized the need to remove nationalist mythologies from popular thinking, the necessity of a careful analysis of conflicting and overlapping interests of various social groups in the course of struggles for independence. At the same time this class centred approach was inclined towards underestimating the significance of national collective memories. Still, raising the issue of rethinking the relationship between struggles for national independence and social progress could be the incentive to an extensive discussion addressing a most basic issue of Hungarian history: the process of nation building. This way, although Molnár himself died as early as 1966, his contribution to the shaping of a demythologized, more open Hungarian historical scholarship was substantial.13


From economic determinism to modern economic and social history

Traditions of writing economic history in Hungary, the roots of this scholarship, go back to the beginnings of modern Hungarian historical scholarship. The extremely productive economic history writing of the 1960s (and after) is fed by numerous historiographical sources. They include the pre-World War I and interwar traditions of mainly agricultural history (understandably a major interest in a dominantly agrarian country) and also the history of the earlier periods of mining and industry. (Ignác Acsády, Sándor Domanovszky, Elemér Mályusz, Oszkár Paulinyi, István Szabó, Károly Tagányi etc.)14 A great number of post-World War II young historians being of peasant origin, interest in the history of agricultural production and that of rural society remained vital issues of the burgeoning Marxist historiography. This point takes us to the second – most obvious – source of modern Hungarian economic and to some extent social history: Marxist social analysis that is starting out from the economic determination of social processes. The application of economic determinism, the constant search for economic interests behind all historical phenomena could – on the one hand – lead to voluntarism, to ridiculous oversimplifications but on the other it helped the growth of economic history as a full-fledged branch of Hungarian historiography. The third factor, which became of decisive significance only in the 1970s, was the French Annales School. Let me refer here to two cases where important economic historical investigations could be interpreted in a political context as well and the respective discussions then encouraged and helped serious scholarly debate. One is a major monograph on the comparison of eastern and western European agricultural development of the 16th and 17th centuries and the other some aspects of the genesis of Hungarian capitalism.


Hungarian “Sonderweg”?

Earlier research into 16-17th century Hungarian agrarian history had already shown that whereas by the second half of the 15th century Hungary had quite fully caught up with the West European social, economic, political and cultural development, as a result of the collapse of the centralized state system in 1490, the suppression of the 1514 peasant war together with the ensuing retaliation and the Ottoman conquest, the Hungarian social-economic development diverged or “deviated” from the Western pattern of the time. This falling behind in the 16th-17th centuries was generally attributed to Ottoman rule and Habsburg “exploitation”.15 New research in the 1960s shed more light on the impact of the transformation of the world economy, the impact of the 16th century price revolution on the internal features of agrarian development: the expansion of the landlords’ manorial land at the cost of free peasants’ plots, the strengthening of feudal bonds (serfs’ services in kind and labour), the decline of free peasants’ market activity, the gaining ground of the “second serfdom” etc. The most important work along this line, giving a synthetic explanation of the origins of East European backwardness, was published by Pál Zsigmond Pach in 1963.16 Pach has supplied lots of historiographical and archival evidence to prove that the belatedness of Hungarian capitalist transformation originated in the divergence of agrarian developments East of the Elba-Saale line from the West-European development from about the turn of the 15-16th centuries. Pach’s Sonderweg thesis was not questioned for decades but was widely referred to. However, at the time of the vanishing of the former Soviet Bloc, some younger colleagues suggested that the presentation of the East European peculiarities of Hungarian social-economic development, the analysis proving the emergence of an ever widening gap between Eastern and Western Europe from the 16th century also served daily political interests in the 1960s. The criticism was based on lots of recent research results and argued that Pach’s research findings could also be politically interpreted as historical evidence in favour of the post-World War II division of Europe. In the course of the discussion Pach brought up lots of arguments proving that since long before Yalta the – in comparison with the West – diverging pattern of Hungarian and East Central European economic and social development has been a key-issue in economic history writing inside and outside Hungary. It is, however, understandable that in a political climate when Hungary seemed to be so much integrated into the Eastern half of a divided Europe (and world), research into the various historical aspects of European regionalism and the origins of East European backwardness was also politically motivated.17 The same holds true also of another research-field which – not like the above-mentioned one – inspired heated debates already in the 1960s: the most important period in the genesis of Hungarian capitalism; Hungary during the period of the Dual Monarchy.


The genesis of Hungarian capitalism

Abrupt as the break between the “bourgeois” historiography before and the Marxist one after World War II might have been, there was a striking continuity between one major pre-World War I “independentist” political tendency (generally associated with the name of Kálmán Thaly) and the “400 Years of Struggle for Independent Hungary” type (to quote the title of Aladár Mód’s standard book) of Marxist approach.18 Both of them presented the history of the Dual Monarchy as seen through the eyes of the parliamentary opposition of the period i.e. all social, economic and political problems, the backwardness of the country were attributed to Vienna’s wicked policies. However, the availability of archival resources for the study of the history of Hungarian industrialization in the post-1867 period made it possible to open up a new field of research.19 In the aftermath of 1956, a cruelly suppressed national revolution, a number of historians, thinking about the possibilities of small peoples in the region, started appreciating more the framework that the Habsburg Monarchy offered for the coexistence of the peoples of the region. A major international conference held on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the 1867 Habsburg-Hungarian compromise in Bloomington in the United States was an important milestone along the road of the re-evaluation of Hungary’s place in the Habsburg Monarchy.20 Economic historical investigations, utilizing modern “Western” theories of economic growth arrived at the conclusion that Hungary’s rate of economic growth was somewhat faster than that of the other parts of the Monarchy. Still, in spite of the accelerating industrialization it was mostly agriculture that enjoyed a period of boom and the “embourgeoisment” of the society was very slow, indeed. It was an extremely great merit of this approach that it pointed out the respective peculiarities of political, economic and social development: a conservative, authoritarian, antidemocratic regime may rule a state where for important social groups the economic advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Going far beyond the traditional explanations for the disintegration of the Habsburg Monarchy (where either the machinations of the Entente and some leaders of the national minorities or the “oppression” of minorities by Vienna and/or Budapest were blamed) deeper-lying economic-social factors (as e.g. the emergence of the bourgeoisies of the national minorities) were examined. Critics of this view spoke of “whitewashing” the “reactionary” Habsburgs. According to their argumentation historians in general and also in this particular case should concentrate on elucidating the conflicts between “reactionary” and “revolutionary-progressive” forces, assuming that it is always possible to divide actors of history into these two groups.21


Politics and historiography in Kádár’s Hungary

Let me now conclude by trying to answer the two key-questions mentioned in the introduction:

a.) from the late 50s on some new winds were blowing in Hungarian historical scholarship and in spite of the frequent and sometimes stormy counterblasts, old-fashioned dogmatic stereotypes frequently had to give way to serious, source-based research. Though generally in a quite narrow circle of specialists and on the pages of not very widely accessible reviews the open exchange of views was increasingly possible, fewer attempts were made to impose the “right views” on disagreeing colleagues. The interest in economic history, I think, to some extent reflects the political atmosphere of the 1960s: there is a certain scope for action in the economy, in this field reforms, experiments different from the Soviet example can be tested, whereas the political structure is much, much more rigid. If we also take into account some other topics of historical discussions in the 1960s (as e.g. the questioning of the fascist character of the Horthy-regime, the attempts at a re-evaluation of the political, social, cultural role of social democracy and non-communist leftist personalities)22 it might be even more convincing to state that though there is a substantial continuity in the institutional framework of historical scholarship created in the late 1940s, from about the mid-1960s the Kádár-regime offered a more favourable setting for historians than Rákosi’s Hungary. The published minutes of two important workshops organised in connection with the preparations of a Hungarian history to be published in 10 volumes give a good insight into the atmosphere of Hungarian historiography in the 1960s. In 1966 specialists of the “feudal”, in 1969 experts of the “capitalist” period got together and the respective discussions reflected the search for re-establishing the proper national function of historiography.23 Domokos Kosáry has on several occasions evaluated the achievements of the 1960s in Hungarian historical scholarship. According to his convincing argumentation at the time of the “Marxist take-over” in 1948-49 dogmatic Marxism was blended with a romantic-nationalist pre-World War One view of history. The debates initiated by Erik Molnár, the economic history writing of the 1960s and 70s played a decisive role in starting to discredit this approach which dominated the profession for more than a decade.24 These developments had a major share in preparing what a lot of contemporary and later observers inside and outside Hungary and inside and outside the “guild” perceived as a shift or transformation in the historical profession during the 1970s.25 A new chapter in this process will start with the launching of the popular historical review “História” in 1979.

b.) If I now finally turn to the second, most ambitious question about the roots, antecedents of the 1989-90 changes in Hungary, I can only suggest that in a complex analysis of the factors that have made these changes possible, some attention should be paid to the exploration of the role of historians and historical scholarship from about the early 1960s on. This will most likely cover numerous mainstream historians (whose group next to most open minded, internationally widely acknowledged professionals also included orthodox Marxist hard-liners) just as much as outstanding scholarship outside the established institutional framework of the profession. Parallel efforts do not necessarily mean joint efforts but it can perhaps be assumed that the historiography discussed in this paper did contribute to the “opening up” of a closed society. Not as if after reading a huge economic historical monograph, average Hungarians would have immediately arrived at some topical political conclusion, but numerous historical works also expressed a slowly spreading, realistic, non-ideological, pragmatic approach to social and economic problems which is a precondition of reasonable political action.




For these trends in Hungarian historical scholarship cf. Deák, István: “Historiographies of the Countries of Eastern Europe: Hungary”. American Historical Review 97 (1992) 1041-1063.,G1atz, Ferenc: Nemzeti kultúra – kulturált nemzet. Budapest, 1988. 13-55, 82-178, 242-303, 329-383. Gunst, Péter: A magyar történetírás története, Debrecen, 1995. 148-187, Várdy, Steven Béla: Modern Hungarian Historiography. East European Monographs, No. XVIL East European Quarterly, Boulder, 1976.


For a general survey of developments in Hungarian cultural life during the 1960s and 1970s cf. Révész, Sándor: Aczél és korunk. Sík, Budapest, 1997 and for a broader context Rudolf L. Tőkés: Hungary’s Negotiated Revolution. Economic reform, social change, and political succession, 1957-1990. Cambridge University Press, 1996. Part I.


Cf.: Pamlényi, Ervin: Molnár Erik történetírásáról. In: Pamlényi, Ervin: Pályák és irányok. Historiográfiai és művelődéstörténeti tanulmányok. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1989. 158-170. Also György Ránki‘s introduction to Molnár, Erik: Válogatott tanulmányok. Budapest, 1969. 7-42.


Hungarian National Archives M–KS 288 f. 33/1963/33.


The most important articles of the first wave of the debate were published in: Vita a magyarországi osztályküzdelmekről és függetlenségi harcokról. Az elő- és utószót írta: Pach, Zsigmond Pál. Kossuth, Budapest, 1965. (Furtheron: Vita 1965)


A burzsoá nacionalizmusról és a szocialista hazafiságról. Társadalmi Szemle, 1959/9.


Történelmi Szemle 3 (1960), 310-360.


Vita 1965, 44.


The most important contribution to the debate was the book by the outstanding mediaevalist, Szûcs, Jenõ: A nemzet historikuma és a történetszemlélet nemzeti látószöge. Hozzászólás egy vitához. Értekezések a történeti tudományok köréből. Új sor. 51. sz. Budapest, 1970.


In: Vita Magyarország kapitalizmuskori fejlődéséről. Értekezések a történeti tudományok köréből. Új sorozat, 55. Budapest, 1971. 214. The names and events referred to identify conflicting tendencies: The aims of the anti-Habsburg war led by Rákóczi, directly connected to those of the revolutions of 1848, 1918 und 1919 are contrasted with the outcome und consequences. The revolution of 1848 versus the compromise of 1867, Habsburg dethronements (1707 Ónod, 1849 Debrecen) versus Habsburg military victories against Hungarians (Nagymajtény 1711, Világos 1849), the 1918 democratic revolution and Soviet republic versus the interwar Horthy regime


Idem, 231.


Vita 1965. 283.


Cf. Benczédi, László: A haza- és nemzetfogalom alakulása a késői feudalizmus korszakában. Századok 1967. 5. 1357-1364. R.Várkonyi, Ágnes: A nemzet fogalma a XVI-XVIII század társadalmi és politikai harcaiban. In: A nemzeti ideológia múltja és jelene. ELTE Évkönyv, Budapest, 1966. A meeting of the Agitation and Propaganda Commission of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party on September 10, 1968 discussed a document prepared by the Philosophical-Historical Section of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences about the state of affairs in Hungarian historical scholarship. Written two years after the death of Erik Molnár, it is an interesting “official” evaluation of the Molnár debate. On the one hand it gives a very positive appraisal of Molnár’s work, because his interest in the social basis of anti-Habsburg struggles initiated social historical investigations and in general helped to clarify that an understanding of 16-18th century Hungarian history calls just as much for a national as a class centred approach. At the same time, in a critical tone, it argues that some non-historian participants of the debate openly questioned the potential of Marxism to create patriotism and came up with attempts at “rehabilitating irrational aspirations” and nationalist ideas. The whole text reflects a rather old fashioned party rhetoric: the party appears as the guardian of “historical truth” and compares older and more recent views on key issues of Hungarian history to this standard. Molnár’s class centred approach seems to be closer to this norm than the “independentist” view, e.g. when evaluating the 1867 Compromise between the Habsburgs and the Hungarians. Here it is quite rigidly argued that although this agreement reflected a true and reasonable compromise, a class analysis does not allow for overemphasizing its positive aspects. Hungarian National Archives M–KS 288f.41/100.


On the origins of the Hungarian economic history school in the context of the history of Hungarian und European historical scholarship cf. Ferenc Glatz: “Historiography, Cultural Policy, und the Organization of Scholarship in Hungary in the 1920s”. Acta Historica XVI. (1970), 273-293. See also: Steven Béla Várdy: “The Hungarian Economic History School: Its Birth und Development: In: Steven Béla Várdy: Clio’s Art in Hungary und in Hungarian-America. East European Monographs Distributed by Columbia University Press, 1985. 55-74. For Sándor Domanovszky in a broad context: G1atz, Ferenc: Domanovszky Sándor helye a magyar történettudományban. Századok, 1978. 2. 211-234.


For a short summary of these views cf. Berend, T. Iván: Magyarország helye Európában. In: Ring, Éva(ed.): Helyünk Európában. Budapest, 1986. I. 25-28.


Pach, Zsigmond Pál: Nyugat-európai és magyarországi agrárfejlődés a XV-XVII. században. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1963. See also a collection of Pach’s other writings on these problems: Hungary and the European Economy in Early Modern Times. Variorum, 1994.


The most important contributions to the debate: Gyáni, Gábor: Történészviták hazánk Európán belüli hovatartozásáról. Valóság, 1988/4. Pach, Zsigmond Pál: A középkelet-európai régió az újkor kezdetén, BUKSZ, 1991 Õsz. 351-361. Gyáni, Gábor: Érvek az elkanyarodás ellen BUKSZ, 1991 tél. 406-409. It is remarkable that when at the end of the 1970s Jenõ Szûcs developed his theory about Europe’s three historical regions, i.e. an alternative interpretation of the origins of Hungarian backwardness, this did not lead to a confrontation of these two approaches. Szûcs’ essay was first published in 1981: “Vázlat Európa három történeti régiójáról”. Történelmi Szemle 1981/3. 313-359. English version: “The Three Histrical Regions of Europe” Acta Historica Academiae Scientarium Hungaricae 29 (1983) 2-4./ 131-184.


Cf. Kosáry, Domokos: “A magyar történetírás a két világháború között”. In: Kosáry, Domokos: A történelem veszedelmei. Írások Európáról és Magyarországról. Magvető, Budapest, 1987. 321-355. Especially. 324-325., 345-346.


For a summary of these research results cf. Berend ,T. Iván-Ránki, György: A magyar gazdaság száz éve. Budapest, 1972. László Katus: Economic Growth in Hungary during the Age of Dualism (1867-1913). A Quantitative Analysis. In: Pamlényi, Ervin (ed.): Social-Economic Researches on the History of East Central Europe. Studia Historica Academiae Scientarium Hungariae. 62. Budapest, 1970.A historiographical evaluation in G1atz, Ferenc: The New Hungarian Historiography. (Unpublished manuscript from 1986 at the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) 9-12.


The papers of this conference were published in volume III (1967) of the Austrian History Yearbook Pt. I-III. A major study summarizing the new approaches: Hanák, Péter: Magyarország az Osztrák-Magyar Monarchiában. Túlsúly vagy függőség? Századok, 1971. 5. Original English version: “Hungary in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy: Preponderance or Dependency?” Austrian History Yearbook III (1967) 260-302.


For the major points of the debate cf. Hanák, Péter: “Historizálás és történetiség a kiegyezés vitájában”. In: Hanák, Péter: Magyarország a Monarchiában. Budapest, 1975. 157-221. and Hanák, Péter: “1867 európai térben és időben” In: Hanák, Péter: “1867 európai térben és időben”. Budapest, 2001. 183-196.


Cf. Gunst, Péter: A magyar történetírás története. Debrecen, 1995. 199-206.


Vita a feudális kori magyar történelem periodizációjáról. Értekezések a történeti tudományok körébõl. Új sorozat 45. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1968. Vita a kapitalizmus kori magyar történelem periodizációjáról. Értekezések a történettudományok köréből. Új sorozat 55. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1974.


Cf. Kosáry, Domokos: Viták a történeti tudományok területén az 1970-es években. Az MTA Filozófiai és Történettudományok Osztályának Közleményei XXIX. (1980) 1-2. 119-136. and Kosáry, Domokos: A történelem veszedelmei In: Kosáry, Domokos: A történelem veszedelmei. Írások Európáról és Magyarországról. Magvető, Budapest, 1987. 484-512. István Deák evaluates the significance of Molnár ‘s incentive as follows: “The questioning of Aladár Mód’s romantic cum orthodox interpretation of the last four hundred years in Hungarian history represented an important step in the gradual liberalization of Hungarian cultural life.” Deák, István: op. cit. (in note 1), 1055-1056.


For controversies about continuities and discontinuities in Hungarian historical scholarship in a broad context cf. Bence, György: Átmenet és átmentés a humán tudományban. BUKSZ, 1992. õsz. 348-356., Benda, Gyula: A társadalomtörténetírás helyzete és perspektívái. Századvég, 1997 tavasz, Glatz, Ferenc: Rendszerváltás, oktatáspolitika, történelemtanítás. História, 1993. 10. 61. The most recent survey: Gyáni, Gábor: Történetírásunk az évezred fordulóján. Századvég, 2000. õsz. 117-140.


* The first draft of this paper was presented at the 5th International Congress on Hungarian Studies in Jyväskylä (Finland) on 7 August, 2001.


The author is professor at the Europa Institut Budapest.