Final Report of the 1956 Institute Foundation on the project Underground Streams from 2012 to 2014

(Project was supported by Open Society Institute Grant No. 20036488)


As we have signed the contract in summer 2012, we had half a year to replan and organize the project in details. During a serial of meetings projec were covered by exact organizational frames. Underground Streams was directed by Janos M. Rainer, president of the Board, while Pál Germuska, member of the Board was appointed to the post of financing manager of it. The Board discussed and approved the redefined schedule of the whole project and set the participants the tasks for 2012.
About 25 researchers from four countries took part in the Understreams, some 40 scholarly case studies were written and published in four volumes in Hungarian, and an English manuscript of a text-book is under edition from the best of four Hungarian ones. We held six workshops and a national conference on the problems of right-wing under the Communist regime in Hungary. An oral history sub-project was initiated and first interviews of the sub-project were recorded in late 2014. We are about to construct a special website for the Understreams (two volumes and the submissions of the national conference are available on site already).

1.1. Preliminary stage (June-September, 2012)

We started with a workshop in June 2012 to define our  framework of concepts and interpretation (Workshop 1). A study by the head of the project written earlier in spring, 2012 was the basis of the discourse (Rainer, Janos: The Hungarian Tradition of the Right-Wing Conservative Thought and the Soviet-type Regime. Approaches and Hypotheses, in Hungarian see By the conclusions of the discussion a serial of studies were completed by September, when in a second workshop (Workshop 2) we discussed them thoroughly. As a result, five lengthier texts including Approaches and Hypotheses were edited into a volume which came out in the last days of 2012 (Rainer, Janos (ed.), Búvópatakok – A feltárás [Underground Streams - Exposition], Budapest, 2012, OSZK – 1956-os Intézet Alapítvány). The whole volume is available on our website in Hungarian, see Most of the studies of this preliminary stage book were based on analyses of relevant interview (life-story) texts in the Oral History Archive.

1.2. First research stage (September 2012 –February 2013 )

On Workshop 2 we decided to organize four research teams for different tasks to fulfil by different methods and exploiting different types of archival evidence.
Team 1 – State Security Targets. Participants researched materials of investigations on different persons and groups in 1945-1989; these data are stored in Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security. By February 2013 seven studies were completed (one general on the state securitiy activities of former right-wing politicians and rank-and-file by the head of the team Krisztián Ungváry, two about former Arrow Cross activists, two about Smallholders [an oppositional party during the interwar era, then coalition partner of Communists after the war], one on former Turul members [a right-wing university students’ movement before 1944], one about former Christian Democrats).
Team 2 – Comparisons. To collate Hungarian right-wing with similar historical phenomena in Eastern Europe, Team 2 was surveying international historiography and creating review essays on different countries’ right-wing traditions and on their fate after 1945. By February 2013 three studies were completed: on Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovakia. By April the case study on Romania was available.
Team 3 – Strategies. This sub-project consisted of micro-historical case studies about the individual and collective strategies and behaviour of the traditional holders of right-wing political thoughts after 1945 – representatives of the so-called Christian or office-holder/civil servant middle class. First results (three studies) came out print in the volume Búvópatakok – A feltárás [Underground Streams - Exposition] (see above). In this team we also intended to make interviews for the Oral History Archive. Thus András Lénárt’s study in Búvópatakok – A feltárás was based on 15 new interviews recorded specially for the project.)
Team 4 – Identities. This teams dealt with one of the most important identity-crating factor of the Hungarian right-wing / nationalist-conservatives after 1989: the construction and conceptualization of the contemporary history of the country. By February, 2013 two case studies were completed: one about József Antall’s (Prime Minister of Hungary 1990-93) views on Miklós Horthy, and the other on the right-wing narratives of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

1.3. Second research stage (February 2013 – December 2013)

In Team 1 (State Security Targets)  seven papers were discussed in two sessions of Workshop 3, in March and April 2013. The second volume of the project (Ungváry, Krisztián (ed.), Búvópatakok. A jobboldal és az állambiztonság 1945-1989 [Underground Streams. Right-wing as Target of State Security Organs 1945-89] Budapest, 2013, Jaffa Kiadó – 1956-os Intézet Alapítvány) came out in late November, 2013 with the cooperation of Jaffa publisher house – and was on the hit list in Budapest bookstores for several weeks before Christmas.) Ungváry’s volume consisted some more texts (nine ones more precisely) than predicted as the workhops decided to expose some questions in a more detailed way. (On the book see:
The first four items created by Team 2 (Comparisons; by April the case study on Romania also became available) were discussed in March 2013 on Workshop 4. In Team 4 – Identities three studies (Plus one case study of documentary films on 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty, was available by the end of March 2013) were discussed in early May on Workshop 5.
All the studies were edited for the third volume of the project (Rainer M., János (ed.) Búvópatakok – széttekintés. Évkönyv XIX. 2013. [Underground Streams – Surveys/Comparisons. Yearbook XIX, 2013] Budapest, 2013, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár – 1956-os Intézet Alapítvány, 280 p.) which was published in early December and was presented at the project conference (see below). (On the book see:
The whole volume is available on our website here:
Three of the four sub-project teams continued research after completing the second and third project volumes (Team 2 was terminated after the first stage). Some team members finished their activities while new members were added in this period. In 11 December, 2013 a public conference was held in the Hungarian National Library (Országos Széchényi Könyvtár) where 12 papers were presented in four panels. The philosophy of the second stage as well as the conference was to intensify our research through micro-historical case studies. (Programme of the conference:
Subsequently panel 1 presented the last results of Team 1 on state security targets, completing it with a paper on János Kádár’s mental map and the place of ’right-wing’ on it. Panel 2 was dedicated to the conceptual problems of the right-wing both in contemporary and the present.  In Panel 3 three new papers were presented about the right-wing constructions of the past and the roots of the identity of the present Hungarian national-conservatives (Team 4). Panel 4 was about the individual and collective strategies and behaviour of the traditional holders of right-wing political thoughts after 1945 – representatives of the so-called Christian or office-holder/civil servant middle class (Team 3). Each panel had a discussant requested among the best experts of the topic. Papers were followed with a lively discussion with the participation of the public of some 80-100 people. All the papers have been available in the 1956 Institute website since the day after the conference.

1.4. Third research stage (January – December, 2014)

Nine of the twelwe presenters of the conference held in December 2013 completed their papers up to February 2014. Workshop 6 in 2 sessions finalized the texts to be published in the fourth project volume. The structure of the book followed the one of the conference so nine studies in three chapters were included ti the volume: Principles and Values, Groups and Persons, The Past as Identity. The book came out in October, 2014 (Rainer M. János (ed.) Búvópatakok – mélyfúrások. Magyar jobboldal – 1945  után. [Understreams – Case Studies. Hungarian Right-wing after 1945. Budapest, 2014, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár – 1956-os Intézet Alapítvány – Gondolat Kiadó.]) On the book see:
Understreams – Case Studies is attached in PDF format to this final report as Attachment 1.
In Workshop 6 we decided to follow three courses of action concerning the sub-project in the second half of 2014.
- Those who were inspired by the sub-project to develop a lengthier individual research project, started to work on their own books (Gábor Tabajdi on Christian Democrats from 1945 to 1989, András Lénárt on the Kádár-period memory of Holocaust and the treating the crimes committed by Arrow Cross activists, János M. Rainer on a special group within the Christian middle class after 1945 and Réka Sárközy on the documentary films with contemporary history topics from 2005 to 2015). Progress of the individual works was monitored by the project board and several discussions were held in the second half of the year on the different problems of developing them.
- Also Workshop 6 decided to organize an international text-book on the right-wing and conservatives in English. Therefore we requested for the participation some new fellows to the project, like Vladimir Tismaneanu (US, University of Maryland), Marek Kornat (Poland) and Bogdan Iacob (Imre Kertesz Kolleg, Jena, then Bucharest, Romania). In September a detailed design of the book was submitted to Central European University Press. When it was accepted, the edition, then translation process started immediately. The distinguished translator, Brian McLean is still working on the last chapters of the book. The editor’s idea was to choose the best studies from the earlier published four Hungarian volumes, and to include studies on the fate of Romanian, Czech, Slovak and Polish right-wing after World War II. Contents of the volume and the texts translated already are attached in a ZIP file to this final report as Attachment 2.
- Preparations for the Understreams Oral History sub-project started earlier in summer, 2014. At Workshop 6 participants discussed on several possible target groups and started to registrate the autobiographical material published/available already. At last we set up two targets: i) the elderly members of the first Hungarian democratic Parliament right-wing factions (Hungarian Democratic Forum, Smallholders Party, Christian Democrats), and ii) leading right wing public intellectuals. As representatives of the first generation establishing the national-conservative political thought and praxis we supposed them to be the real representatives of Understreams life-course, strategies and tactics during the Communist period. In August, 2014 Workshop 7 was held to discuss the two pilot studies of the oral history program, one is on the social background of the target groups, the other on the main lines of their self-construction of their life-course (last pilot study was based on public records, interviews, parliamentary and other data-bases). Progress of the oral history program work is demonstrated in the following table.

Target Group:
MP = Rep. of the 1990 Parlament
PI = public intellectual

Current state of the interview
1. Alexa, Károly PI Planned
2. Andrásfalvy, Bertalan MP, Minister Planned
3. Balczó, Zoltán PI Planned
4. Balsai, István MP, Minister Planned
5. Pataky, Etelka Mrs Barsi MP Planned
6. Bánk, Attila MP Ready
7. Bod Péter, Ákos MP, Minister Ready
8. Bognár, László MP Planned
9. Bollobás, Enikő MP Planned
10. Boros, Imre MP Planned
11. Csapody, Miklós MP Interview is in progress
12. Csúcs László PI Ready
13. Dávid, Ibolya MP Planned
14. Debreczeni, József MP Interview is in progress
15. Demeter, Ervin MP Planned
16. Elek, István MP Planned
17. Fekete, György PI Planned
18. Füzessy, Tibor MP, Minister Planned
19. Gémesi, György MP Interview is in progress
20. Ghiczy, György MP Ready
21. Granasztói, György PI Interview is in progress
22. Harrach, Péter MP Planned
23. Horváth, Béla MP Planned
24. Jankovics, Marcell PI Ready
25. Jeszenszky, Géza MP, Minister Planned
26. Kádár, Béla MP, Minister Interview is in progress
27. Katona, Kálmán MP, Minister Interview is in progress
28. Király B., Izabella MP Planned
29. Kiss Gy., Csaba PI Planned
30. Kodolányi, Gyula PI Planned
31. Kónya, Imre MP, Minister Interview is in progress
32. Kutrucz, Katalin Mrs Kónya MP Planned
33. Kósa, Csaba MP Planned
34. Kulin, Ferenc MP Ready
35. Latorczai, János MP Planned
36. Medgyasszay, László MP Planned
37. Melocco, Miklós PI Planned
38. Nahlik, Gábor PI Planned
39. Pálos, Miklós MP Planned
40. Pokol, Béla PI Interview is in progress
41. Pusztai, Erzsébet MP Ready
42. Raffay, Ernő MP Planned
43. Raskó, György MP Interview is in progress
44. Roszik, Gábor MP Planned
45. Salamon, László MP Planned
46. Schamschula, György MP, Minister Planned
47. Semjén, Zsolt MP Planned
48. Sepsey, Tamás MP Ready
49. Solymosi, Frigyes PI Planned
50. Surján, László MP, Minister Planned
51. Szokolay, Zoltán MP Planned
52. Szörényi, Levente PI Planned
53. Tímár, György MP Planned
54. Zétényi, Zsolt MP Planned

So far eight interviews were recorded, transscripted and registrated in the Oral History Archive of the 1956 Institute and nine ones are in progress.

Budapest, 31 January, 2015

Janos M. Rainer
Head of the Board
1956 Institute Foundation