"A Dreadful Course of Calamities" befell us at the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives last year. Some of them were foreseen and expected:
following the eviction of CEU from Hungary, the move of the University from Budapest to Vienna; the difficulties of providing access to archival materials to the students and faculty of CEU; the intensification of the government’s war on culture, research, education and civility; the government’s growing impatience with the past, and the efforts to rewrite wholesale the history of both the country and Europe.
Some of the calamities, however, were (for most of us) unexpected: the fast-emerging indifference, both local and global, to historical facts; and obviously the plague, the pandemic that paralyzed the globe.
2019 was a dark year for Hungarian history (-writing), for the historical consciousness and historical self-awareness of the Hungarian public. This was the year when the government effectively abolished the Historical Institute of the 1956 Revolution, one of the most important research centers of recent history. The Institute with its irreplaceable oral history archives was “integrated” into the “Veritas” Institute, one of the centers of official historical revisionism and a source of blatant lies. The research institutes, including the Historical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, were forcibly taken over by the government, which, among a dozen other dubious “research” centers, established the Hungarological (Magyarság) Research Institute with an enormous budget. This so-called Hungarological research center is tasked with reframing and rewriting the history of the nation, the country, Hungarian ethnicity, both the recent and more distant past, starting with the ancient history of the Hungarian tribes, in order to claim – on the basis of non-existent sources – that the Hungarians are the descendants of Attila, the Hun, the Scourge of God. The future and fate of the National Széchényi Library is uncertain; several important archives, essential source-collections, among them the Lukács Archive, have been dispersed or have become unavailable.
The Blinken Open Society Archives has once more become the archive of last resort, as we have tried to provide help, shelter, and refuge for endangered archival collections and documents.
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.