János Vargha

János Vargha (Hungary)

Independent Researcher
Visegrad Scholarship at OSA
Attendance Period: 
Jan/2024 - Feb/2024
Research Title: 
The Danube Circle and the Global Civil Society in the Last Years of the Cold War
Research Description: 

This research, entitled The Danube Circle and the Global Civil Society in the Last Years of the Cold War, focuses on the following questions: Did the Danube Circle—a fundamentally anti-political civil society group—play a role in the political changes in Hungary in the 1980s, in the last period of the Cold War, to the extent or in the manner that many academic publications and press coverages imply? How did the Danube Circle’s experience of the Cold War facilitate the growth of the global civil society? How did the Danube Circle navigate the constraints of the Cold War to forge transnational collaborations of intellectuals and activists? What role did the Danube Circle play in impacting the discussion on human rights and democratization during the Cold War?

János Vargha is an environmentalist and photographer. A graduate from the József Attila University, Szeged, with Master’s degree in biology. Since 1981, he has been writing articles and delivering lectures about the environmental issues of water management. He is a founder of the Danube Circle, the first independent environmental protest group in the former Communist Bloc, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, the alternative Nobel-prize in 1985. By 1989, the movement started by the Danube Circle had achieved the stopping of the construction of the Nagymaros hydroelectric power plant, and the free-flowing river was restored. In 1990, Vargha was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. He is editor of a book, published in 1997, about the decision of the International Court of Justice in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros hydropower project’s case, and author of its chapter about hydropolitics. From 1998, he was the chief environmental advisor of the Hungarian government. In 2000, he resigned from this position, and worked as photographer andweb developer. As an independent researcher, he focuses on one of the fundamental issues of the global environmental crisis: the relationship between humanity and rivers.