The nationalist, anti-intellectual government of Hungary was granted a two-thirds majority at the spring election, and thus the artificially induced uncertainty of the status of Central European University continued. OSA is not only part of the University, but provides essential sources of research both for students and faculty. Members of the Archive’s staff teach courses at different departments; OSA offers a specialization for the students of CEU. The intention of the government to make the existence of CEU impossible in its home, to force the University to join the hundreds of thousands Hungarians who, having no other alternative, had to emigrate in the past decade, set new tasks for the Archive. We have decided not to leave, but to keep the collections connected to the recent history of Hungary, Central Europe, the Cold War, and grave violations of human rights in Budapest. We are convinced that the need to study the original documents, the primary sources, at the time of official campaigns of misinformation, whole-sale historical revisionism, and single, officially approved school textbooks intended to serve as for political propaganda, is more urgent than ever before. According to the original agreement signed with the government of the United States the former archive of the Research Institute of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the original core of our collections, should stay and remain accessible in Budapest, at least until 2045. We cannot and will not emigrate.
Blinken OSA tried to prepare for the notable events, anniversaries and programs of 2017. Then something unforeseen, unexpected, and inexplicable happened: without warning, the Hungarian government pushed a new higher education law through Parliament in just a few days in order to make the work of Central European University impossible in its hometown, Budapest. The immediate reaction was a huge, spontaneous demonstration in Budapest with tens of thousands of demonstrators, a world-wide reaction of solidarity from hundreds of the best universities of the world, petitions were signed by dozens and dozens of Nobel laureates. The University decided not to give in, and its fight became the global symbol of the defense of academic freedom against populist, demagogic state intervention. The Archives, as part of the University, works and lives in a deliberately maintained state of existential uncertainty, but it is determined to continue its important, high-quality and unorthodox activities in Budapest, whatever new tricks the government may try to invent to make our work impossible.
The focal points of the year 2016 were the 60th anniversary of the 1956 revolution and, obviously, the continuing refugee crisis. The year, however, started in Mexico, far away from these concerns. In cooperation with the International Center of Photography in New York, OSA brought the Mexican Suitcase to Budapest. The legendary Mexican Suitcase containing Robert Capa’s Spanish Civil War negatives, considered lost since 1939, was exhibited in the Galeria Centralis. The Suitcase is in fact three small boxes containing nearly 4,500 negatives, not only by Capa but also by his fellow photojournalists Chim (David Seymour) and Gerda Taro. These negatives span the course of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), through Chim’s in-depth coverage from 1936 and early 1937, Taro’s intrepid documentation until her death in battle in July 1937, and Capa’s incisive reportage until the last months of the conflict. Following the end of the war and amid the chaos of the Germans entry into Paris in 1940, the negatives were passed from hand to hand for safekeeping, and ultimately ended up in Mexico City, where they resurfaced in 2007. As part of the exhibition events, in collaboration with the Spanish Embassy in Budapest and the Cervantes Institute, the Archives presented a film series, “Eye on Spain” with rarely seen films, including home movies on the Spanish Civil War.