October 27: World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

HU OSA 344-0-1 Documentary and Propaganda Films of the Workers’ Militia

The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (WDAH) was launched by UNESCO to call attention to the historical significance and the pressing vulnerability of audiovisual records, be it sound recordings or moving images. The holdings of the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives contain more than 14,000 hours of audiovisual records related to the post-WWII histories of Eastern Bloc countries and the Soviet Union, and to human rights violations worldwide. We consider the digitization, long-term digital preservation, and accessibility of these archival documents one of the fundamental tasks of the Archives, serving the purposes of understanding the past, delivering justice, or allowing healing.

As noted by Csaba Szilágyi (Chief Archivist at Blinken OSA), moving images have recently gained special significance and “gradually solidify their position as evidences in processes investigating and prosecuting human rights violations, crimes against humanity, or war crimes. . . . At the same time, an increasing number of archives collect and process such evidence, and prepare them for criminal cases.” As part of this global effort, this year we have completed the digitization of the Records of the International Monitor Institute, an organization established in 1993 with the aim of preserving the visual traces of human rights violations around the world.

To celebrate the WDAH, we are happy to announce that two fully digitized audiovisual collections have been updated with new, enhanced findings aids, now also available in English! The latter development is of high importance, as the series Documentary and Propaganda Films of the Workers’ Militia and the Oral History Interviews with Political Actors of the Regime Change in Hungary provide insight into crucial periods of the 20th-century history of Hungary.

HU OSA 344-0-1 Hungarian Workers’ Militia Films, Documentary and Propaganda Films of the Workers Militia
Formed in 1957 in the Hungarian People’s Republic, the Workers’ Militia existed till the 1989 regime change. An instrument of repression introduced after crushing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the paramilitary organization’s primary nominal task was the protection of state property. While it was a voluntary service, the regime awarded armed members—remembered mostly by their slate-grey uniforms—with promoting their professional career. This collection contains over 170 documentary and propaganda films, as well as raw footage, related to the activity of the Militia. Highlights include visits to Cuba, Burma, or Ireland, the organization’s anniversary celebrations recounting their official history, or domestic and international military drills and parades. The videos, digitized in 2021, are now complemented by enhanced item-level content summaries both in Hungarian and English.

HU OSA 445-1-1 András Bozóki Collection, Oral History Interviews with Political Actors of the Regime Change in Hungary
András Bozóki (Professor at the Department of Political Science at CEU) donated a collection of semi-structured interviews, results of a research project he had led between 1996 and 1997, on 122 audio cassettes to Blinken OSA. Digitized here in 2021, the sound recordings offer a unique approach to the regime change in Hungary, capturing the memories of its actors and revealing their personal experiences and opinions. While the interviews are in Hungarian, their detailed item-level content summaries provide a rich source also for English-speaking researchers, especially when consulted together with those of HU OSA 305-0-5 Recordings of the Opposition Roundtable Negotiations. Examining the role of intellectuals in the transition process, András Bozóki’s monograph Rolling Transition and the Role of Intellectuals. The Case of Hungary, recently published by CEU Press in English, relies on the same interviews.

Both series are available at the Blinken OSA Research Room, as well as online. For online access, please contact our Reference Team! The descriptions were produced by Assistant Audiovisual Archivist Judit Krausz
and translated into English by Reference Archivist Judit Hegedüs.