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A black and white photo of a monument, presumably in a Hungarian city.



Weaponizing Memory Politics in Hungary
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Please join the East Central European Center and the Harriman Institute for a discussion with Tamás Stark, senior research fellow at the Institute of History, Research Center for the Humanities in Budapest. Moderated by Christopher Harwood.

The current Hungarian regime’s policy is vociferously anti-Western and anti-American, while pursuing friendly policies towards authoritarian regimes such as Russia, Turkey and China. This policy has won the support of a large part of the population. This supportive public attitude is a strange phenomenon in a country that is a member of NATO and the EU, a county traditionally oriented towards the West, whose struggles for independence and for democracy were crushed by Russia/the Soviet Union. In this presentation, Stark would like to show how the current regime has used the memory politics to slowly persuade the public to abandon values that were generally accepted 10-15 years ago, for which generations fought.

The memory politics of the current regime is rooted in old theories and concepts. These are built on myths and real or presumed grievances of the Hungarian nation. These old and renewed theories always portray Hungarians as victims, who always have to struggle with foreign enemies and foreign ideologies for survival. This view that Hungarians have always been victims throughout their more than a thousand years of history exempts the nation from facing its past, and exempts it from its responsibility in the defeats and traumas it went through.

As Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently said, “No nation in the world could have survived the traumas and sufferings that the Hungarian nation has gone through in the last hundred years.”  In his presentation, Stark will explain how the period between 1918 and 1989 is represented in the memory politics, how the West in general and liberalism in particular have been made the cause of all the troubles of the nation in the period from 1918 to the present.

Tamás Stark is senior research fellow at the Institute of History, Research Center for the Humanities in Budapest. His research interests include the Holocaust, forced population movements during the Second World War and the early post-war period, and the history of Hungarian prisoners of war and civilian internees in Soviet captivity. He is author of „Akkor azt mondták kicsi robot” civilek elhurcolása a Szovjetunioba (2017), Magyar foglyok a Szovjetunioban (2006), Hungarian Jews During the Holocaust and After the Second World War, 1939-1949. A Statistical Review (2000), Magyarország második világháborús embervesztesége (1989), Hadak Útján. A Magyar Királyi honvédség a második világháborúban (1991), Zsidóság a vészkorszakban és a vészkorszakban és a felszabadulás után (1939–1955) (1995), among other publications.