Still going, five years later…
In the wake of my reappointment to another 5-year term as Director of the VERITAS Research Institute for History, I believe we shall continue down the road we have taken. In accordance to the guidelines of the profession, with no fear of vigorous debate and backed by historical sources – in other words, speaking with credibility – we formulate our opinion on Hungary’s past for the years between 1867 and 1994, about that sesquicentennial which brought both good and bad for the Hungarian nation. As is historiographic tradition among other peoples, we interpret and inform.
The question is, do we acknowledge the entire past, the fair presentation thereof, or do we look at it selectively, writing and speaking about “our illustrious and glorious past” only? I believe that it would be wrong to bury certain matters, to avoid pointing out falsifications, whether submitted erroneously or intentionally, by our professional forbears and sometimes our contemporaries.
Whenever history is presented, many perspectives must be taken into consideration by history experts. Moreover, there is one perspective that must never be ignored, and that of course is the factual one.
Points of view may differ, causes and results may be explained by numerous factors, but the consequences cannot be altered.
Taking one example from each research team of the VERITAS Institute:
We cannot contend that the Austro-Hungarian Compromise occurred in any other year except 1867. But we can and must debate what impact the Compromise had on the Hungarian people, what events led up to it and whether our ancestors acted properly when they agreed to enter into the compact.
No one can claim that Hungary was on the winning side in WWII, so it is necessary to outline and expound on the reasons why the country ended up on the side of the so-called “Axis Powers”, what the circumstances were when Hungary attempted to break out / get out of the war, the timing of the breakout and if there was an alternative course that the political leadership could have taken. Furthermore, if there had been a different option, what would have been the consequences of such a decision? There is no “What if?” category or perspective in history, but one may speculate...
No one can deny that in 1956 a small nation, more accurately the majority of that small nation’s citizens, stood up to the reigning totalitarian system and its representatives. Among the people who heard the call to arms were laborers, students, intellectuals, peasants and mostly non-Party members, although there were also some who were. Among the emblematic individuals of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution were people who had played active roles in the emergence of the Rákosi political system, but the revolutionary winds of change pushed them to the other side, where they acted with honor and bravery. Should we judge them solely on what they did in one era, or should we analyze the decisions they made based on the entirety of the events of their lives? So many questions remain unanswered that the research fellows of the VERITAS Research Institute for History have more than enough work to keep them busy in the next several years. There are also other tasks which, over the past few years, have expanded in number, for the VERITAS Research Institute for History – which I hope will soon be known as the VERITAS Research Institute and Archives for History – has become the guardian and administrator of the documentary material of the Office of Restitution and Recompensation, as well as the “responsible party” for incoming requests. The roughly 14 thousand linear meters of raw documentary data must be converted into research-friendly archival material, which is a monumental task. As Director, I hope that we will be successful. Moreover, I believe that all of us at the VERITAS Institute embody the necessary expertise, commitment and determination to see the project through to fruition.
With our chosen motto (“Thou shalt not lie…”) and the interests of the collective Hungarian nation guiding us, I am confident that the next few years will be as successful and fruitful as the previous five years have been, and our work will be to the benefit of all of us.
As I have said on more than one occasion: One should never lie or falsify, and for the researcher, it is strictly forbidden!
January 20th, 2019
Dr. Sándor Szakály
Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Professor at Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary
Director of the VERITAS Research Institute for History
With these two words, our ancestral scribes would welcome their readers, followed by the reasons why the manuscript had been written and a summary highlighting the most useful information contained in the work. I would like to follow this tradition, by welcoming the visitors of this website to the VERITAS Research Institute for History and to its endeavors. I have written the words “institute” and “endeavors” because in the short lifespan of the Institute, founded on January 2nd, 2014, currently the laying down of a foundation and the formation of goals are most important. We sincerely hope that in two to three years’ time, when I rewrite this greeting, I shall be able to share with the visitors a summary of our many academic accomplishments and history papers.
The government of Hungary created the VERITAS Research Institute for History by passing Government Regulation 373/2013 (X.25.), with the explicit goal of studying and reevaluating the historical research of Hungary’s past one hundred fifty years, especially of those historical events generating much debate but never having reached a consensus understanding. We at VERITAS would like to do this without anger and bias, and based upon new studies of primary sources and basic research.
And what are these themes, events and episodes on which we shall focus?
There are three:
The first is post-reconciliation Hungary’s societal and political evolution and the circumstances leading to the formation of political parties in that era. The question of Hungarian embourgeoisement. The lead-up to World War I and the postbellum impact on Hungary and her people.
Closely related is our second theme: Trianon --- 20th-century Hungary’s greatest tragedy, the wounds of which remain unhealed even today. The Miklos Horthy-associated interwar period. The achievements and events of this nearly twenty-five-year period, which are worthy of study and critique.
Our third theme is the post-war period from 1945, considered the turning point in Hungary’s history, when the country joined a “new world” and became a satellite state of the communist empire, when all of the hoped-for democratic changes took place in name only, leading to the collective disappointment of all those who had no place in Matyas Rakosi’s Hungary. To tell the truth, however, there were places for them, as many were subsequently sent to internment camps, to the Recsk labor camp or to some other correctional facilities. Some of them were relocated, losing their homes and possessions in the process. This brings up the question of whether the Hungarian people passively accepted their plight without a word of protest or was there resistance? These are questions to which we must give authentic answers, just as we should not neglect to remember the events of 1956, which, beginning as a popular uprising, over the course of thirteen days (in some parts of the country lasting even longer), matured into a full-fledged fight for freedom and became one of the most outstanding events of 20th-century Hungary. Perhaps that was the moment when a fractured citizenry reunited, under the bannered slogan, “Russians, go home!”
Alas, it took another thirty-five years for the Russians to do so, when in June 1991, the last occupying Soviet troops --- to whom from 1957 the Janos Kadar-led Revolutionary Worker/Peasant Government referred as “Temporarily Domestically Stationed Soviet Troops” --- pulled out of Hungary. For this to happen, though, the formation of an opposition movement in the 1980’s was necessary, as well as the 1989-1990 changes and the undertakings and coherence of the Jozsef Antall-led government. The history of those four years has been “adequately shrouded”, and there are many who wish it to remain so.
We the leadership and staff of the VERITAS Research Institute for History believe that no part of Hungarian history should remain “shrouded”. In light of this commitment, we endeavor to do our work to the best of our ability, both today and in the future. It is possible we will err, which will attract both fair and unfair criticism alike, but one thing that we will always keep in mind is what “Our Nation’s Wiseman”, Ferenc Deak, said in 1848, --- also the reason why we have chosen his words as our slogan --- “Thou shalt not lie”. In my opinion, not only should one never lie or falsify, but for a researcher, it is strictly forbidden!
In light of these thoughts and in this spirit, I welcome you, Distinguished Readers, with the hope that our findings will serve the spiritual reunification of our nation, strengthen the Hungarian identity and become part of our educational system.
Prof. Dr. habil. Sandor Szakaly, DSc, University Professor
(Please note that all English-language pages on the website are written in American English.)