Research Project: Religion and Politics in Communist Hungary,

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1 Nicolas Bauquet, march 2005 Research Project: Religion and Politics in Communist Hungary, I started my PhD research in September 2002 to elucidate the relationships between religion and politics in Hungary, since the power takeover by the communists in 1948 up to the signing of the agreement between the Hungarian state and the Vatican in This agreement ended the era of the most violent persecutions, but also revealed the success of the regime in controlling and integrating the most important Christian churches (Catholic, Calvinist and Lutheran). The purpose of this research is to understand how the communist State was able to weaken the political, social and ideological resistance that these churches put up at the beginning of the period. On the contrary, while facing the same challenge, the Polish church had survived a similar repression in the first half of the 1950s, and forced the historical compromise of 1956 on the government. To address such a question, it is not only necessary to research currently available Hungarian sources, but also to adopt a wider perspective on how communist regime worked during the Cold War. Having studied for three years the bibliography and sources which I present hereafter, I now wish to participate in the work coordinated by Professor Mark Kramer s Harvard Project on Cold War Studies, which would come in time for me to give my work its indispensable comparative thrust and international dimension. Main directions Three dimensions should be taken into account in properly addressing the issue of the relationships of state and churches in Hungary: politics and organization, ideological and symbolic conflicts, and target groups. 1. Politics and organization. This part deals with the study of the apparatuses involved in the conflict: the Catholic, Calvinist and Lutheran Churches on the one hand, the Communist Party, the security services and the State Church Office, on the other. I study here the social origins of their memberships as well as their value systems and the way they

2 perceive each other, the structure of their interactions, their goals, their strategies, and the results they yielded. 2. Ideological and symbolic conflicts. This part analyzes the shock of two encompassing belief systems. Sermons, speeches, books, pamphlets, brochures reveal two distinct opposites, conflicting in their views on man and society as well as in their approaches to Hungarian history and nation. More specifically, I study the struggle for the symbolic control of space and time. I compare Catholic processions and pilgrimages which claim Christianity as the defining feature of the Hungarian nation, and new forms of symbolic domination in public spaces, like the parades on 1 May and 7 November. Equally important in this study is the competition over social rites punctuating the various stages of life: traditional Christian sacraments (baptism, confirmation, marriage, funerals) were challenged by new socialist ceremonies introduced since the beginning of the 1960s. 3. Target groups. Finally, I deal with the social dimensions of the struggle opposing the Communist Party and the churches to maintain or increase their control of the Hungarian society. When focused on a few key sociological categories, our study sheds light on the most striking features of the conflict: youth, a major objective for both camps; women, reputed more attached to the churches, and as such the object of a particularly intense competition. Archival materials Many sources are now available to the historians. As a result of this fact, it is possible to address the various questions of this study on the basis of the Archives of the Party and the State, archives of the churches, and oral archives. 1. Archives of the Party, archives of the State. The various apparatuses built by the Party and the State in order to watch, repress and control the churches produced a large amount of source materials. Since the fall of communism in Hungary, they are available for research for the whole period. The archives of the State Church Office, created in 1951 to rule every aspect of religious life, are well preserved and available in the Hungarian National Archives as well as in local collections. The archives of the Communist Party are also available. I studied first the material produced by the secretarial offices of prominent

3 members of the Party (Mátyás Rákosi, József Révai, Mihály Farkas), which proved very rich in documents relating to ecclesiastical affairs. I now intend to study the archives of the local and national party organizations interested in religious matters. Although personal data are still restricted, most security services are now open and allow the historian to take the full measure of the infiltration of church hierarchies by governmental agents. 2. It is necessary to compare the information provided by the documents produced by the communist power with the archives produced by the religious communities themselves. Paradoxically, theses documents are now much more difficult to obtain. The Hungarian Episcopal Conference strictly abides by the fifty-year rule. Therefore, the Episcopal Archives are only open to research up to 1955, but they can provide us with valuable and comprehensive sources on the beginning of the period. I have free access to the archives of the Central Seminar of Budapest, in which the elite of the Hungarian church has been formed for centuries. During the communist period, the power considered this place a key target in the struggle for the control of the formation of church managers. In collaboration with Professor Viktor Karády, I began a study of the social background and geographical origin of the seminarians from the 1930s to the 1960s, in comparison with Protestant ministers. This could provide a frame for the interpretation of the various attitudes toward the communist power in the Hungarian churches. I have been granted access to various private archives, like those of Arpád Fasang, once an intimate friend of the Lutheran bishop Lajos Ordáss. 3. Oral archives. The sudden collapse of communist regimes offers the historian the invaluable opportunity to work freely on archival materials while still being able to collect oral memories of the period. Although most major figures are dead by now, the generation of those who were 20 years old in 1950 can still be of great help to us. I have started conducting interviews with them, e.g. with leaders of the underground scouting movements. The collection of interviews collected by the Central European University and the Institute of the 1956 revolution should also receive close attention.

4 Bibliography Secondary works already used by me in this doctoral research fall under three broad categories: studies on Hungary itself; studies on countries I whish to study for the purpose of comparison; and studies dedicated to the connections between religion and politics, or providing useful concepts or models for my research. 1. Bibliography dealing with Hungary. I spent most of the first two years of my doctoral studies fathoming my knowledge of historiography on twentieth century Hungary, with a special emphasis on religious matters. Since most writers were involved in the struggle they investigate in their works, it is of utmost importance to take into account the variety of viewpoints in order to lay the groundwork for a scientific study. I also worked with the young generation of historians that has recently pushed through a new approach to State/Church conflict. I am currently organizing a conference which should take place in Budapest in May It will investigate the key religious figure of the period, Cardinal József Mindszenty, for the thirtieth anniversary of his death, and will, I hope, foster debate on the new directions research should take in the field. 2. It seems to me of great importance to emphasize studies on neighboring countries in my research: Poland, East-Germany and Czechoslovakia are central to the comparative dimension. Especially interesting is the case of Romania, considering that millions of Romanian citizens belong to the Hungarian minority. The historical works on the religious policy of the USSR will give us insight in how the models that were to be exported in Central Europe were first invented and for which purposes. Teaching undergraduate classes on religion and politics in East Central Europe at the East Central European Center of Sciences Po has been a stimulating opportunity of studying this bibliography as well as fostering discussions with students coming for the most part from this region. 3. These original stands should not distract us from approaching the Hungarian case as one of the many examples of the complex connections between religion and politics in the twentieth century. Literature on totalitarian regimes, mainly nazi Germany and fascist Italy, among which Emilio Gentile s Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy figures

5 prominently, is a major inspiration for my work as well as David Blackbourn s studies on Marpingen.

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