Activity Report 2019
2019 was a dark year for Hungarian history (-writing), for the historical consciousness and historical self-awareness of the Hungarian public. This was the year when the government effectively abolished the Historical Institute of the 1956 Revolution, one of the most important research centers of recent history. The Institute with its irreplaceable oral history archives was “integrated” into the “Veritas” Institute, one of the centers of official historical revisionism and a source of blatant lies. The research institutes, including the Historical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, were forcibly taken over by the government, which, among a dozen other dubious “research” centers, established the Hungarological (Magyarság) Research Institute with an enormous budget. This so-called Hungarological research center is tasked with reframing and rewriting the history of the nation, the country, Hungarian ethnicity, both the recent and more distant past, starting with the ancient history of the Hungarian tribes, in order to claim – on the basis of non-existent sources – that the Hungarians are the descendants of Attila, the Hun, the Scourge of God. The future and fate of the National Széchényi Library is uncertain; several important archives, essential source-collections, among them the Lukács Archive, have been dispersed or have become unavailable.
The Blinken Open Society Archives has once more become the archive of last resort, as we have tried to provide help, shelter, and refuge for endangered archival collections and documents.
Obviously, it is not only historical research that is being intimidated, but the human and social sciences, together with the rest of the academic world, and reasoned, critical, serious deliberation as well.
In 2019, the Hungarian government forced CEU to make a final decision, to move out of its home, transferring all of its core teaching programs to Vienna. The Archive decided to stay and continue its work under the grave new circumstances, without the presence of its home institution, without the possibility of cooperation with other local historical institutions, without any remaining guarantee of academic freedom. We provided space for the incoming endangered material, continued and speeded up our digitization program, and began working out new research, teaching, and public program strategy in the changed context and circumstances.
In “Respect and Mercilessness: 1956-1989-2019”, we staged an all-day screening of archival video footage from 1989 on three screens to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the reburial of the executed Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, and his closest political allies.
By attending this event visitors could express their solidarity with the historians fighting against historical revisionism and with the liquidated Institute of the 1956 Revolution. As part of our efforts to maintain, defend, and restore historical credibility, we offered visitors primary historical facts as opposed to distorted, politically motivated narratives.
One of the most significant changes has been our extended and intensified engagement with high-school students. Last year saw a continuous education outreach program, with hundreds of students debating fundamental historical questions with present relevance to the values and vulnerability of the Republic, the documentary evidence of the 1956 revolution, the hundredth anniversary of the Bauhaus (and connected to our Bauhaus-inspired exhibition, “Collective Dreams and Bourgeois Villas”) and the right to shelter.
We welcomed several groups of university students both to the archive, doing archival research, and also to our exhibitions and our public programs. Besides students from the humanities and social science departments of Budapest universities, we had visiting groups from the Fine Arts Academy and also from the University of Film and Theater. Several university seminars and guided tours took place at Blinken OSA, related, among other programs, to our Bauhaus exhibition; to the “Left Turn, Right Turn” exhibition on underground art in the 1970s and 1980s; and to the ‘Illusion of a Republic” program series.
In the Fall of 2019, our close friend László Rajk, a frequent collaborator in our public programs, set designer of our theater production, designer of several of our exhibition installations, died prematurely. We organized the launch of his collected interviews, edited by András Mink, our historian colleague in the Archive, and staged “The Rajk Vision”, an exhibition focusing on his extraordinary life and work. The exhibition became a magnet for visitors from the world of film and theater, and groups of visitors from the University of Film and Theater, where he was the founder of the set design program. Blinken OSA has been working with the first cohort of the “Computer Art Game Design” program of the University of Film and Theater, who have been designing computer game programs based on the holdings of our Archive.
Last year’s Verzio, our annual international human rights festival, was the most successful ever, with more than ten thousand visitors during the week-long event. Besides screening over eighty films from forty countries, the festival organized a documentary film lab., a workshop, a special student program, debates, lectures on human rights, and the first-ever augmented reality document film program in the history of Verzio. The acclaimed film director Sergei Loznitsa was a guest in the Archive, leading a discussion related to his pseudo-documentary film “The Trial”.
The fourth annual “No Time to Wait” symposium on open media, open standards, and digital audiovisual preservation was organized with more than 120 participants from all over the world in the Archive.
The Archive, which has an extraordinary Yugoslav collection, including one of the richest archives on the Balkan war in the world, has been working on a new, experimental, visualized portal to provide a new type of research material and teaching aid for both scholars and teachers working on the post-World War II history of Yugoslavia and its successor states.
Ten years ago, in 2009, Blinken OSA created an online knowledge base on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the political transitions of 1989. Ten years ago, the title of the collaborative project, in which almost all our colleagues took part, was “Was there 1989”, dealing with the disillusionment and distorted memory of the transition in the face of the unfulfilled hopes. The year-long project, making films, photographs, official, secret police, opposition, Eastern, Western documents public, won the Joseph Pulitzer Memorial Prize. In 2019, we decided to continue the project, this time with the title “Will there be 1989”, focusing on the dis- and misinformation related to the transition, the new populist narratives, by making available new, so far unknown, overlooked or discarded documents. The portal is one of the richest online repositories of sources about 1989 available anywhere in East and Central Europe.
By now, Blinken Open Society Archives at CEU is almost the only remaining independent complex institution of history and historical memory that can still operate in Hungary. Our lonely existence does not dishearten us but makes responsible work probably more important than it has even been. We know that our work is crucial in guarding historical and archival credibility, in maintaining trust in sources.
On January 1, 2019, it became clear that the ill-intended law allegedly on higher education institutions with dual accreditation in Hungary had dealt a lethal blow to its single real target. Despite all its efforts to comply with the prescriptions of the law, Central European University (CEU), thanks to the government’s sheer political hostility to its founder and to critical thinking in general, was no longer allowed to continue its US programs. After 28 years of continuous presence in Budapest, the university was forced to open a new campus in Vienna from AY 2019/20. As Blinken OSA was bound by its custodial obligations and other circumstances to remain in Budapest, the physical separation from one of its most important constituencies, the CEU community, fundamentally changed life in the Archives.
In this transitional year, on-site research became more difficult, teaching was split and students migrated between two campuses, and we sadly witnessed the last graduation process in Budapest and attended the first academic year-opening ceremony in Vienna with mixed feelings. As an immediate reaction by a responsible, activist Archives, we have preserved the print and online media coverage of the unprecedented attack against CEU and higher education at large from the end of March 2017. Thousands of press cuttings, reports and interviews, and posts from social media platforms await the skillful examination of future historians, media scholars and social scientists, who are interested in the anatomy of autocratic regimes, especially vis-à-vis academic freedom, rule of law and human rights, and in the resilience and methods of survival of those subjugated.
One of the teaching areas that also suffered from the tightening grip of the government on academia was the discipline of gender studies, which, taught at only two Budapest based universities, Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem and CEU, was altogether banned in Hungary in the fall of 2018. It was therefore not by chance that 2019 started with a roundtable on Gendered Dissent hosted by Blinken OSA, where participants discussed oppositional practices in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe through a gendered perspective in two distinct historical moments: in the wider political protest turned academic unrest of current times and thirty years earlier, during the street demonstrations around the regime change of 1989.
Regarding 1989, the annus mirabilis, an ever-recurring, neuralgic point in the battle for historical representation, Blinken OSA promoted the primacy of historical facts over distorted historical narratives. Based on our previous online project Was There 1989? and in order to preserve events and protagonists that the official rewriters of history attempted to erase from the chronicles, we launched a new online platform, which, under the twisted name of Will There Be 1989? gives access to thousands of archival materials on two levels. Visitors can sift through photographs, TV and radio broadcasts, news agency items, transcriptions of radio programs, press reviews, and object photos on a daily basis, while they can also approach the primary sources in various collections. A new donation of over thirty thousand photographs from Éva Kapitány’s Pol-Arch Archive, documenting the transitional years of 1988-1990, will be added to the platform soon.
In conjunction with this thematic website, a number of events were organized by and in the Archives, including an all-day premiere of the uncut footage of the 1989 exhumation and reburial of Imre Nagy, Hungary’s martyred Prime Minister during the 1956 uprising by the independent video group Black Box Foundation, a guided walking tour to places of remembrance pertinent to Imre Nagy’s personality and life in Budapest, and a community event on encountering personal memories and primary archival sources on 1989 with the participation of teachers and students from 12 Eastern European countries.
1989 was also a theme that connected us to a long-term friend of the Archives, the former dissident and samizdat publisher, architect and artist László Rajk who, sadly, passed away in 2019. Rajk, who designed and opened many of Blinken OSA’s past exhibitions, was the Hungarian Ambassador to Europeana 1989, a six-country project on collecting personal memories and memorabilia of 1989 conducted in 2012-2014. We remembered his free spirit and uncompromising, honest personality by organizing the book launch of his life interview taken by our colleague, the historian András Mink, and a deeply personal, extraordinary exhibition entitled The Rajk Vision, displaying documents from his family archives, theater and film set designs, blueprints, maquettes and photographs of unrealized and executed building projects and public memorials.
Moving along architectural lines, 2019 marked the 100th birthday of the Bauhaus, originally the German art school combining crafts and fine arts. Blinken OSA’s exhibition on the topic, entitled Collective Dreams, Bourgeois Villas, followed the architectural achievements and activities of the group of Hungarian architects led by Farkas Molnár and József Fischer, who were affiliated with the Neues Bauen [new building] movement, an offspring of the Bauhaus, and focused, among others, on the social housing crisis of the 1920-30s and its complex political implications. The opening ceremony coincided with the inauguration of the 9th edition of Budapest100, an urban feast of open buildings initiated in Blinken OSA in 2011, whose title was In the Footsteps of Bauhaus.
Another exhibition, focusing on the political and social circumstances in which two artistic groups took different turns in their criticism of the then-existing Hungarian socialist system, Left Turn, Right Turn, brought significant new collections to Blinken OSA. Emerging in the wake of the global movements of 1968 and especially from the underground artistic trends of the 1970s, both the Orfeo and Inconnu groups turned towards the politics of dissident formations in the 1980s. Their activities and performances are richly documented in the predominantly audiovisual materials that former members of the groups and theater and art historians researching the history of the groups donated to the Archives.
Independent institutions and civil society organizations have found themselves, ever again subjected to tightening control and harassment by the government. Several social memory and historical research institutes, such as the Lukács Archive and the 1956 Institute Oral History Archive underway were forcibly dismantled, while NGOs like the Hungarian Roma Parliament Association were left with no permanent home. In such circumstances, and in line with its mandate and international undertaking, Blinken OSA offered safe haven to some of these organizations’ archives and to the individual collections of their former employees. In different circumstances, the records of the Autonómia Foundation, an organization promoting local civil society development, and the personal papers of its founding director, the 1995 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) winner András Bíró, were also donated to Blinken OSA.
With the approach of AY 2019/20, our timeliest task beyond providing storage and permanent preservation for the aforementioned collections was to prepare the Archives for increased remote requests and to create a secure environment for online research. Thus, in addition to our already available, rights-free content in our Digital Repository and thematic Curated Collections, we launched the Research Cloud (RC), the repository of Blinken OSA’s limited access (mostly copyrighted), digitized archival collections for registered CEU users. Luckily, our long-term project of digitizing all our audiovisual collections was well underway, so uploading new materials to the RC has been seamless ever since. This Blinken OSA devised, massive digitization project, based on obsolete hardware and open-source software, was also presented by our audiovisual team at the 4th edition of the international No Time to Wait conference, to the acclaim of numerous participating professionals from the field of open media and standards, and digital audiovisual preservation.
Our extensive documentary film library collection was the source of a visual geographic catalog of recent films on the global refugee experience in the 20th-21st century. Refugee DocsMap combines descriptive metadata with geo-coded information, film trailers, and archival catalog entries to allow researchers to find several hundred films that relate directly to the global experience of forcibly displaced people, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants alike, depicted at various stages of their journeys. The films have been submitted over the past fifteen years to our Verzio International Documentary Film Festival, which opened in 2019 with the Romanian documentary Colectiv, an immersive and brave journey into government corruption, public health, and the price of truth.
Following its long-standing interest in the archival sources and in the formative role of archivization in preserving and managing the heritage of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Blinken OSA continued its Yugoslavia Archive Project (YAP) with the reprocessing of additional collections to be added to it. At the same time, we began the development of a dedicated YAP website, as well as the writing of a related, comprehensive research paper on the role of archival intervention and the political nature of metadata in the archives of violent past(s). By inviting all the ambassadors from countries of the former Yugoslavia to the Archives, we took the first step towards establishing a Balkan Research Fellowship program sponsored by these countries for research conducted in the vast collections of YAP. We hosted a guest-curated blitz exhibit on memories of the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, Memory Screens, as recalled by the generation born in the early 1990s.
In an effort to return records to where they belong and can make a lasting social impact, Blinken OSA transferred a set of original English language letters written by children from Sarajevo to their American peers and collected by the Open Society Fund in 1993 to the War Childhood Museum. The Museum incorporated the letters in its permanent collection, with the promise to try to locate their authors and interview them about their war experiences and memories of the siege.
Blinken OSA continued to offer professional expertise and support to local archival initiatives in the region: it established working relations with the Prijedor Foundation for the Building of a Culture of Remembrance to set up a documentation center on war crimes committed in the Prijedor area in 1992-1993. Since December 2019, Blinken OSA serves as a pro bono archives consultant for the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery to design and establish an archive and research center for the study of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide.
I started working in Blinken OSA at the end of 2017 while I was studying Information and Librarian Science at Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem. It was my love for this field why I decided to join the OSA.
I am working as an Assistant Archivist in the Audio-Visual Department. My main duty is processing, and currently, I am working on Blinken OSA Film Library. Blinken OSA has thousands of interesting films from the last 100 years that exist only on a hard drive; by the end of this project, they will be accessible online.
I love this aspect of processing because Blinken OSA has various books, journals, radio broadcasts, films, and all kinds of audiovisual materials that the public does not know about yet, and I can help to show the world these riches.
I joined the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives – an archive in name, but much more in actual fact – as Education Outreach Officer in October 2018. There are many reasons why I thought it a good idea to board this (doughnut-shaped space)ship throbbing with a charming mix of creativity, kindness, and intimidating intellect. Essentially, however, I just wanted to do good things with good people and Blinken OSA seemed to be the place for it.
My position comes with two main tasks: coordinating Blinken OSA’s teacher training program and managing the student programs. In the former endeavor, I have the opportunity to meet about twenty teachers from all over the country every year, who have remained able and willing – frankly, against all odds – to strive to be better at what they do. They dedicate half their Saturdays (or maybe all of it, if they travel from afar) to come to Blinken OSA on eight occasions a year and deepen their knowledge about 20th-century Hungarian history. Their drive and enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring beyond imagination.
The other main task I have is to manage our student programs. This role allows me to organize and design programs that both embody and promote values that lie at Blinken OSA’s core. It is a unique luxury to have the freedom to initiate or engage in projects that I find meaningful while meeting, working with, and learning from dedicated, talented, and creative people along the way – teachers, students, program partners, and colleagues alike.
Although our teacher and student programs are relatively short, I believe that even a small experience may turn out to be a formative one. A good question, a revealing example, or an unexpected approach to a seemingly well-known phenomenon could all become the proverbial flap of a butterfly’s wing. So if we hear from teachers and students that our programs cast a new light on whatever the subject at hand may have been, that they felt empowered by the discussion we had, or that they left with new questions on their minds, then I think we can be proud and hopeful.
2019 was marked with exceptional richness for the Library: receiving donations from institutions and private individuals, the Library acted both as a hub and a channel to others, partly saving, partly redistributing these donations.
A major source was some 7.5 tons of publications that OSI-Budapest left behind after their move to Berlin in September 2018. After selecting and making inventories of the valuable documents we managed to donate two-thirds of these books, journals, and DVDs to CEU students, to people attending our public programs and training sessions, to the audiences at Verzio Film Festival, and to participants in other public and cultural events. Many Roma-related publications were transferred to the Roma Library in Újpest, while the reference collection of the Education Support Program enriches the newly established library of the National Hungarian Educational Center (Országos Magyar Továbbképző Központ) in Oradea. Books issued by the publisher IDebate, or excellent sociological monographs supported by OSF (such as the book series “At Home in Europe”, “Working Class in Europe” or “Somalis in Europe”) unavailable in European libraries were widely distributed. As for the remaining 2.5 tons of publications, no distribution was necessary: they were transported to Martinová, a small village in Slovakia, and were recycled by the villagers into fuel briquettes for the winter.
The Library received further book donations from the legacy of the historian András B. Hegedűs, the sociologist Zsuzsa Horváth, and French 1968 posters from Ferenc Bojti, to name only a few. New acquisitions are being processed, while some rare publications were highlighted in the “What We Read” blogposts of the Archives.
2019 was an extraordinary year in terms of collection development at Blinken OSA. A remarkable quantity of archival sources was donated or deposited by private individuals and organizations. The growth has many reasons, including the changing legal environment for NGOs, which resulted in the closing of organizations that were financially supported from other countries. This put researchers and activists in a position in which the only way for them to ensure the safety of their research and operation related materials was to entrust them to Blinken OSA. Apart from these, many other collections were acquired, among them different kinds of materials for the preparation of exhibitions organized at Galeria Centralis. Furthermore, Blinken OSA's collections grew through donations from persons whose personal or professional activities were in line with the archive’s mission.
A significant part of the acquisitions came from individuals and organizations who were active members of the Hungarian opposition and counter-cultural movements of the decades before the regime change, and also from notable non-governmental organizations operating in the recent past. Most of these organizations were helping disadvantaged people with their various problems. Many documents of research projects on the recent history of Hungary came from the staff of the disbanded 1956 Institute after it lost its independence and was incorporated into the Veritas Historical Research Institute by a government decision on June 15, 2019. Similarly, a significant portion of the private research materials that had been stored at the Institute was transferred to the Archives.
The thematic range covered by the newly received materials is remarkably wide: from civil society development and Roma media education to alternative theater and social scientific research. The many different sources existing in a variety of forms from textual materials to video and a number of works of art, provide a unique insight into recent political and social events, art life, and the situation of deprived social groups.
After being processed, most of these sources will be available to the public in the Research Room of Blinken OSA.
Since they were raised in the milieu of opposition activism in Budapest, it was natural for the donors to come across different counter-cultural products that could easily arouse the attention of the authorities as being illegal to produce and distribute. Judit and Tamás Hegedüs collected and preserved these products. In 2019 two boxes of samizdat journals and ephemera were given to the Archives, but the donation also contains works of art by members of Inconnu Group and other counter-cultural products.
András Bíró, founding director of Autonomia Foundation (AF) , journalist, environmentalist, and human rights activist, was a member of the resistance movement during World War II. Bíró emigrated in 1956, and from 1967 he worked on UN agricultural projects in Kenya and Mexico. After returning home in 1990, he established HFSR, which is best known for its economic activities aimed at supporting the self-organization of different Roma groups. For his work, he received the "The Right Livelihood Award," known as the alternative Nobel Prize. He published the most interesting episodes of his adventurous life in his book Hazajöttem [I Came Home]. The collection incorporates correspondence and office memos, studies, and articles by András Bíró, as well as state security documents.
Autonomia Foundation (AF) was established in 1990 to promote civil society development. Its mandate was to help civil initiatives attempting to mobilize the available local resources to reach their goals by giving grants to marginalized people. Besides the grants, they also organized training and research projects to enhance the efficiency of government and European programs targeting the improvement of labor market conditions for the Roma and the poor. In 2017 HFSR announced that they refuse to meet the requirements of the new Civil Code of Hungary and would not register as a “foreign-supported” NGO. The collection contains grant files, including applications, project descriptions, reviews, and correspondence related to self-management projects of Hungarian Roma. In addition, the Archives also acquired an oral history interview with András Bíró, the founding director of Autonómia Foundation.
Materials of Péter Fábry, graphic artist, photographer, and film director, were acquired during the preparations for the “Left Turn, Right Turn” exhibition. His poster designs and photo series have won several national and international awards since 1979. From 1974 to 1978, Fábry worked as a lighting designer for the alternative Orfeo Group. In 2019 during the organization of the exhibition, several different documents were added to the collection; these are mostly related to the history of the artists’ group. The donation contains various electronic video and audio recordings, photos, as well as textual records, flyers, and brochures.
The recently processed collection of Tibor Philipp was further expanded in 2019. The accrual mainly included samizdat periodicals, books, and video recordings on art group Inconnu, as well as press cuttings, primarily about the poet György Faludy. The latest addition has already been made available to the public.
Black Box Foundation and Blinken OSA have been in contact since the beginning of the history of OSA. After depositing thousands of hours of raw video footage on the history of the Hungarian transition, the collection was further expanded in 2019. One part of the newly acquired materials is closely related to the István Kemény collection, as it contains biographical video materials of the Hungarian sociologist.
The accrual also includes video recordings of the Roma Media School, and the educational project of the foundation, which provided professional assistance to young members of the Roma community who were interested in journalism and television program-making. The main goal of the training was to enable as many young people as possible to work in the media. During the one-year course students were trained in cinematography, video editing, and dramaturgy, as well as learnt some social science. The leader of the course was Márta Elbert.
The latest addition also contains video materials related to the work of the Hungarian Soros Foundation and raw video footage on the Miskolc ghetto in 1988.
Hungarian sociologist Mihály Csákó was one of the most prominent figures of Hungarian educational research. His main research areas were sociology of education and youth, political socialization, social mobility, and the sociological aspects of informatics. Between 1971 and 1980 Csákó worked at the Institute of Social Sciences of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist People's Party. In 1980, an unofficial employment research agency (MUKI) was set up by him, together with some of his colleagues, to help intellectuals who had been banned from jobs. The center of the organization was located in Csákó's apartment, until the fall of 1981 when the police confiscated the documents generated during the course of their work. After retiring from the Faculty of Social Sciences at Eötvös Loránd University, he became an associate professor at János Wesley Pastoral Training College in 2009, teaching sociology of education until his death. Mihály Csákó’s documents include teaching notes, academic presentations, sociological research and conference materials, correspondence, and personal documents.
Zsuzsa Horváth was a researcher of one of the least studied social groups, the Hungarian free churches and religious base communities. The documents created during her unfortunately short research career include mainly interviews and research documentation. What makes the collection special is her research taking place much earlier than other similar projects in Hungary. In the late seventies, Zsuzsa Horváth already conducted several interviews, in which she studied primarily the moral and religious convictions of the interviewees. The collection incorporates research documentation, interviews, reports, notes, and publications in the field of sociology of religion. In 2019 an accrual of card files, books, small prints, and publications was transferred to the archives from the Dénes Némedi Library of the Faculty of Social Sciences of Eötvös Loránd University.
In 1988, sociologist Gyula Kozák was one of the founders of the Committee for Historical Justice which sought to provide justice for the victims of the retaliation after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and their families. As a member of this group, in 1989 Gyula Kozák was one of the main organizers of the funeral of Imre Nagy, the former prime minister executed in 1958. He was also one of the founders of the 1956 Institute, founded on the basis of the OHA, the Oral History Archívum, in 1990. He took part in the activities of the Democratic Opposition in the 1980s, partially by being a regular author of AB Hírmondó samizdat journal. He was the author and editor of several volumes and studies dealing with the 1956 Revolution and the Kádár era.
When the 1956 Institute was incorporated into the Veritas Historical Research Institute, the personal collection of Gyula Kozák was transferred to Blinken OSA. The collection contains research documentation, published, and preparatory materials written and accumulated by Gyula Kozák throughout his career.
Éva Standeisky is a former research fellow of the Hungarian Institute of Political History and the 1956 Institute. After the institute was disbanded, her personal collection was also transferred to Blinken OSA. Éva Standeisky’s major research topics are the Communist Hungary's policy on literature, the writers' relation to power, antisemitism, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The collection contains research documentation, published and preparatory materials written and accumulated by Éva Standeisky.
Voices of the 20th Century Archive and Research Group started its activities in 2009. Their objective is to preserve the audio and written heritage of Hungarian sociology with a special emphasis on research based on qualitative methods conducted over the past fifty years. With the assistance of Blinken OSA, the sources are digitized on an on-going basis to make collections better accessible. After a decade of successful collaboration, the collection continued to expand in 2019 as newly deposited materials were transferred to our repository. The latest accrual contains documentation of various research projects led by Ágnes Losonczi, Ágnes Utasi, Judit H. Sas, Júlia Szalai, Mihály Laki, János Köllő and József Rácz.
The Archives is committed to ensuring safe storage for materials produced by researchers in any scientific field that meets the Archives' mission to draw attention to endangered and peripheral cultures and social groups. An extraordinary addition, the sound and video files recorded by Eszter Spät, was deposited at the Archives in 2019. The collection contains recordings of Zanskari oral tradition, including traditional songs, oral history interviews, as well as video recordings of Talantaaly Bakchiev performing an episode from the Manas Epos on three separate occasions.
András Szekfü, a fellow worker of the Hungarian Mass Communication Research Institute, a former member of the Danube Circle and Nyilvánosság Klub [Publicity Club], one of the founders of the Hungarian Society of Communication Science, deposited materials at the Archives. The accrual contains meeting notes and studies related to the film Cséplő Gyuri and questionnaires and research materials, as well as publications of the Hungarian Mass Communication Research Institute.
The Hungarian Roma Parliament was founded in 1990 as the first non-governmental organization of the Hungarian Roma community. According to its self-definition, it inspired, informed, and coordinated the Roma social civic self-organization. The Roma Parliament founded the Amaro Drom - People for People - Roma Foundation in 1991 with the aim of contributing to the creation and protection of the human, political, and minority rights of the Roma through its professional programs and the publication of the Amaro Drom Roma newspaper. The transferred collection contains correspondence, photographs, and publications of the Association and the Amaro periodical.
The Hungarian-Soviet Cultural Society was founded in Hungary in January 1945 with the aim of deepening Hungarian-Soviet friendship. Its founding president was Albert Szent-Györgyi, Nobel Prize-winner physicist. The organization's mandate was to propagate the Soviet-type communist system. It took the name of Hungarian-Soviet Society in 1948, and subsequently became a communist mass organization reaching 1.3 million members and 8,000 local organizations by 1953. It disintegrated during the 1956 Revolution, and was reorganized as Hungarian-Soviet Friendship Society (MSZBT) in the summer of 1957. The collection includes propaganda films and documentaries accumulated by the Society.
Economist and translator Gertrúd Bortstieber (1882-1963) was one of the first Hungarian female mathematicians and the second wife of philosopher György Lukács. The Archives acquired 18 boxes of her correspondence and manuscripts.
As the organizer of a protest movement against the tightening of abortion regulations in 1973, Suzanne Körösi was one of the few activists in Hungary to be associated with feminism before the regime change. As a final year student, Körösi was put before a disciplinary committee for organizing and circulating a petition and banned from all universities in Hungary; at the same time several of the signatories of the petition were threatened individually. After leaving Hungary in 1975, Körösi studied at Sorbonne in Paris and Columbia University and became a journalist, translator, and film director.
In 2015 in preparation of a paper on the 1973 petition on abortion , Körösi not only researched archival material but conducted about twenty in-depth interviews with the participants and signatories. The acquired collection contains the video and audio files as well as the transcriptions of the interviews.
The Chance for Children Foundation (CFCF), founded in 2004, fights for equal rights in education for Roma and marginalized children, focusing on school desegregation. To fulfill its mission, CFCF used various means including legal action to guarantee the rights of Roma and poor children in education as well initiating various community actions to further the goal of desegregation in schools. The donation contains materials from recently closed school discrimination trials against the Hungarian state.
Éva Kapitány was a member of the Hungarian Democratic Opposition movement and the Foundation for Supporting the Poor (SZETA) which was organized to offer help to marginalized Hungarian social groups during the last decade of State Socialism. From 1987, she was present at almost all major alternative political events, taking the role of a photo-documentarist. As she participated in most of the mass gatherings and demonstrations as well as at the exhumation and reburial of former prime minister Imre Nagy and associates, by the end of the decade Éva Kapitány had become one of the most prominent photographers of the events of the Hungarian regime change. Her collection, containing thousands of reels of negatives made during the transition, was transferred to the archives.
As the secretary of the Petőfi Circle in 1956, András B. Hegedűs was one of the organizers of the Circle's famous debates. After the 1956 Hungarian revolution, he collected documents related to the events and recollections of the participants. He worked to ensure that the revolution and subsequent retaliation did not fall into oblivion. As a milestone of these efforts, together with Gyula Kozák he founded the Oral History Archivum in 1985. In 1988, former 56ers and relatives of executed participants formed the Committee for Historical Justice in the apartment of Hegedűs. He was among the main organizers of the reburial of Imre Nagy on June 16, 1989. When the 1956 Institute - of which Hegedűs was one of the founders - was incorporated into the Veritas Historical Research Institute, the personal collection of András B. Hegedűs was transferred to the Blinken OSA.
The transferred collection contains documents on the 1956 Hungarian uprising, the Petőfi Circle, samizdat, and the Committee for Historical Justice.
László Rajk Jr. was a Hungarian architect, designer, and political activist. As an architect, he was a member of the Hungarian avant-garde movement. In 1975 he joined the Democratic Opposition, the underground political movement in Hungary, therefore from 1980 he was blacklisted, and was not allowed to work under his own name.
In 1981 with Gábor Demszky (samizdat publisher and Mayor of Budapest from 1990 to 2010) Rajk founded the independent, underground AB Publishing House, and ran an illegal bookstore in his apartment known as "the Samizdat Boutique".
In 1988 he was among the founders of the Network of Free Initiatives and the liberal party Alliance of Free Democrats and was a member of the Hungarian Parliament after the first free elections in 1990. Over the several past decades, he has worked as an architect and a production designer for films and taught film architecture at the Hungarian Film Academy in Budapest.
With the acquisition, a film on László Rajk made by Tamás Szirtes was added to the repository of the Archives.
György Durst, a founder of the Duna Műhely [Danube Workshop], worked at the Balázs Béla Stúdió between 1974 and 1996. In 2019 some of his early works were deposited at the Archives, including video recordings on the 1988 Szárszó meeting, and interviews with György Petri, the staff of Magyar Narancs, and members of the Orfeo artist group.
The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives’ (Blinken OSA) Records and Information Management Services (RIM) were established to preserve the institutional memory and history of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) network and to provide recordkeeping consultancy services to the Foundations’ institutions. The Blinken OSA RIM team thus serves OSF hub offices throughout Europe, including the national foundations, while also providing archival and records management services to the Central European University's (CEU) offices and departments. Of the OSF hub offices, Blinken OSA’s RIM team focused primarily on managing the Open Society Institute–Budapest office’s (OSI-Budapest) records until that the office was forced out of Hungary.
For years our strategy consisted of trying to become involved in the creation phase of the records’ life cycle. However, especially in the case of the national foundations, scattered across several countries, we gradually shifted to rescue operations, risk management, and the performance of preservation activities. The reason for this is that Blinken OSA’s RIM team is understaffed. In addition, the global network with its geographically dispersed foundations and offices constitutes a real challenge for the team.
In 2019, the RIM team maintained three on-site records centers and one off-site storage facility. During the year, 613 containers (boxes/binders) of paper-based records were transferred from OSF and CEU programs/departments/offices to the three on-site records centers, and 99 containers were retrieved by OSI and CEU staff members. As a regular RIM procedure, 547 containers of records were destroyed after their retention period expired and dozens of containers of permanent paper records and several hundred files of electronic records were transferred to Blinken OSA for long-term preservation. Blinken OSA's RIM team assists the OSF network and CEU in recordkeeping and in the preservation of electronic records as well. In addition, 1435 containers were transferred from affiliated institutions to Blinken OSA’s RIM team for selection and long-term preservation.
In 2019, the RIM team conducted records inventory and interview sessions in several CEU units in order to identify and describe the characteristics of records created, received, and maintained by different administrative and academic units of the university. This exercise helps to evaluate, appraise, and organize information and helps in updating the university’s records retention schedule.
Blinken OSA’s archivists and RIM team members work closely together with the Campus Redevelopment Office (CREO) staff on planning new storage areas and giving advice on special archival and record storage requirements, such as temperature, humidity, safety, and fire protection requirements. In order to protect archived materials from various hazards, Blinken OSA staff aims to ensure a suitable environment for the coming decades. As a result, in 2019 Blinken OSA moved into a specially equipped records center and also to two storage areas in which its growing archival collections can be stored. In addition, the RIM team had several meetings with the CREO team and is continuously working with them to establish a records center area on the new Vienna campus.
Besides supervising interns and assistant archivists in the processing of records, the RIM team also contributes to the second and third part of the Archives and Evidentiary Practices Specialization course, the Archival Practice and the Advanced Coursework, which are offered to CEU students.
Blinken OSA's RIM Services is also increasingly involved in the afterlife of the records it takes care of. The long-term preservation of documents of historical value produced by the OSF network and CEU is an integral part of the work of the RIM Services. Though not considered strictly records management tasks, the archival processing and digitization of CEU and OSF records of historical value are now performed by those who know these documents best: the members of the RIM Services.
While statistical data in terms of the number of visitors and visits and length of individual visits had indicated a slightly declining trend in the past few years, in 2019 this trend became more visible and dramatic. While we have fewer visits and fewer new researchers, especially from CEU, the number of faculty and staff from abroad and from within Hungary increased. The number of Hungarian students increased from 20 in 2018 to 29 in 2019. There are several possible explanations for these figures. Firstly, the amount of digital content available on Blinken OSA’s web site has been increasing year by year. Secondly, the number of CEU students fell because of CEU’s move to Vienna last October.
Concerning new archival requests, the year 2018 showed the second-best figures in 5 years, which is in slight discrepancy with the number of requested documents. While the number of individual archival requests fell from 1071 in 2018 to 924 in 2019, the number of documents prepared and handed out to researchers increased.
With regard to researcher strategies, it seems that Visegrad scholarship holders tend to process materials while in the research room and are less inclined to take digital images for later processing. We could conclude that the lower number of short visits to BLINKEN OSA resulted in a reduced number of requests but at the same time in a larger quantity of digital images.
Table 1. General data on days open, number of new and total researchers, and visits, 2014-2019
As illustrated in Table 1, from 2015 up to 2018 Blinken OSA experienced a slight rise in the number of new researchers but this trend changed in 2019. The majority of CEU students who visited Blinken OSA during the pre-session week at the beginning of September 2019 did not return in such large numbers as in previous years due to their move to Vienna. Only a few returned for short visits. The average 5-year rate of 6.4 visitors per day (period 2014- 2018) dropped to 5.7 in 2019 or 85 fewer visits compared with the previous year. Although the 85 fewer new researchers in 2019 seem to constitute a considerable reduction, this did not affect the total number of visits as one might expect. The slight decline in the number of total visitors since 2014 has continued and reached its lowest point last year with a total of 1161 visits. This trend could be explained by several factors, such as the abundance of digital content available online, a change in discourse in academia, most notably at CEU, and finally the most obvious – the move of CEU teaching activities to Vienna.
Table 2. The Breakdown of Blinken OSA Visitors by Institutional and non-Institutional, Domestic and Foreign Affiliation, 2014-2019
Table 2 shows that unlike CEU faculty, whose number remains fairly low, the number of foreign and Hungarian faculty rose slightly. This only evidences that external faculty acknowledge the importance and the value of Blinken OSA’s collections.
Blinken OSA is particularly concerned with the drastic fall in the number of visits by CEU students, whose numbers fell from 77 in 2018 to 46 in 2019, representing a significant decline caused by external factors. More striking is the constant fall in the number of foreign faculty over a period of 5 years, as well as the somewhat slighter decrease in the number of foreign students. One possible explanation is the scarcity of funds and research grants for research abroad. The “Hungarian professionals” category also saw a significant fall from relatively “good years” in 2016 and 2017 (around 45 professionals) to only 23 in 2019.
As mentioned in previous years, Visegrad grantees play an important part in our statistics, as well as other students from partner Institutions and Universities (George Mason University, West Point Military Academy, Corvinus University, etc.). They all are included in the category “Students from Abroad".
Table 3. Total and Per Day Number of Requests, Documents Requested and Digital Images, 2014-2019
The number of average daily requests fell from 5.3 in 2017 to 5.0 in 2018 and to 4.5 in 2019. Despite this, in 2019 Reference Services prepared and handed out a total of 2937 documents, which was an increase of 626 documents compared with 2311 documents in 2018 (see Table 3).
Traditionally, the most frequently requested collections are those relating to the Cold War and RFE/RL in particular. About 70 percent of all requested archival boxes belonged to this research area. They were followed by Human Rights collections (c. 20 percent) such as audiovisual tapes from the International Monitor Institute, Records of the International Human Rights Law Institute Relating to the Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia and Records of the Physicians for Human Rights’ Bosnian Project. The third research area involves collections of the Central European University or/and history of the Open Society Foundation in the region, but not to such extent as in previous years.
To sum up, the unfavorable external events concerning the future of CEU presence in Hungary that started 2 years ago had an impact on the daily visits of researchers to the Research Room. Visits by foreign students and faculty depend on the “non-political” issue of financing, as already. However, what could be a matter for concern in the near future is the clearly visible decrease in the number of Hungarian students, professionals, and university staff. We still do not know the real reasons for this but Blinken OSA should carefully observe this trend to find out whether the falling numbers represent only an isolated anomaly or a steady trend due to other and more complex problems. If the trend continues, Blinken OSA should initiate deliberate and complex outreach campaigns in the near future. Thus, there is space for improvement, such as preparing Blinken OSA’s Reference Services to respond to the new situation caused by the partial move of CEU to Vienna. The creation of a modern integrated Reference and Researcher Data System that would unite Blinken OSA finding aids and online catalog with improved patterns of our current Researchers database into a new web-based platform is essential.
The issue of the continuation of the Visegrad scholarships has not always been Blinken OSA’s immediate responsibility or competence, but we believe that the program will continue to exist and to make a considerable contribution to cultural and intellectual diversity. Currently, the Reference Services are also undertaking an initiative to set up a similar scheme with southeast European countries to counterbalance the possible loss of students from CEU. For this reason, 2020/21 will be even more challenging than the previous year.
We kicked off 2019 by piloting six student programs that welcomed 233 high school students from ten schools early in the year. The workshops offered an opportunity for participants to practice their skills in research, presentation, critical thinking, analysis, and debate while familiarizing themselves with topics related to our exhibition at the time ’The Illusion of the Republic’, to our holdings, or to the Archive itself. For more information about the programs, please visit our dedicated website here.
In April 2019, our third accredited teacher training program led b Blinken OSA’s historian András Mink and historian Krisztián Ungváry, drew to a happy end, with yet another full house and an overall rating of 4.8/5. Of the twenty participants, twelve completed the training with a certificate and the overall attendance rate of this bi-weekly weekend course was 73%.
With the end of the academic year and summer approaching, we embarked on three projects. First, we designed and held interactive film clubs with Verzió at the Bánkitó Festival, together with invited experts. Secondly, we continued work on the website dedicated to Blinken OSA’s educational program, which went online in September. The website is available here. Thirdly, we began drafting a grant application to a call issued by the United States Embassy in Budapest. The proposed project was designed to reach out to 15-19-year-old students studying outside Budapest and invite them for a two-day study trip including a variety of programs centered on the regime change of 1989. In September, the project was awarded the requested funding and preparations began to host the five groups - altogether about 150 students - from Pécs, Dunaújváros, Berettyóújfalu, Szolnok, and Szeged. The first event was planned for March 2020.
In the autumn, the education programs resumed, and among others, we hosted a group of international students participating in a World Learning project, the closing meeting of the UN-founded Demolab, coupled with a guided tour in our exhibition ’Left Turn, Right Turn’, and law students from Debrecen, participating in a one-day seminar on the regime change held by András Mink. Finally, November saw once again a fresh class of teachers embarking on our 2019/2020 course on 20th century Hungarian history.
In 2019 Blinken OSA’s core budget, about 2 % of the total budget of the Central European University, comfortably covered Blinken OSA’s basic professional operations. For the past 15 years, this budget has been supplemented by an annual grant of $237,000 from the Open Society Institute (FOSI), against appropriate application and on condition of regular reporting. These two financial pillars make it possible for Blinken OSA to implement all its records management and archival activities relating to both the Open Society Foundation network and the Central European University, its extensive processing and digitization operations, and its mission-related public programs for students and researchers as well as for the general public, and its internationally acclaimed multi-year audio-visual preservation project aiming to save about 14,000 hours of endangered VHS recordings mostly relating to the early years of the Central European University and the Soros Foundations Network.
The Visegrad Scholarship at Blinken OSA grant scheme started in 2010, bringing in EUR 34,500 for Blinken OSA annually, out of which 15 full grants of 2,000 EUR each are awarded each year. Grants for shorter periods are pro-rated.
In the years between 2010 and 2019, one hundred sixty-nine grants were awarded, with applications arriving from at least 50 countries across all the five continents. The list of the most researched topics and the publications based on the Visegrad Scholarship at Blinken OSA Fellows based on their research in the Blinken OSA collections is available at
In 2019 Blinken OSA was awarded a one year grant to carry out an educational project for non-Budapest based secondary school students focusing on the anniversary of the regime change in 1989, from the Embassy of the United States of America.
In 2019, putting all its financial resources to good use, Blinken OSA managed to cover not only its archival and records management tasks but its extensive public program activities as well; meanwhile, it maintained its overall financial balance throughout the year.
After several rounds of interviews, Blinken OSA still had its Chief Archivist position vacant at the end of 2019, with hopes to fill it in 2020, the same as the other vacant position, that of the web editor.
2019 was marked with uncertainties concerning the future of the Central European University, which put an additional strain, both emotional and practical, on the community of Blinken OSA. The 2019/20 academic year starting in September took many of Blinken OSA’s short term CEU student collaborators away from the country.
At the end of 2019, the staff of Blinken OSA numbered 38, although this figure fluctuated over the months, as some new colleagues were only contracted for a definite term. Six of the 38 colleagues had short term contracts, 1 colleague was on IT payroll. SA’s core staff counted 31, 27 of whom worked on a full-time basis. The Blinken OSA staff came from 6 countries.
Tasks that the core staff of Blinken OSA could not pick up, and which could not be handled by the technological developments, were covered by externally contracted service providers, interns and CEU students on fixed-term employment contracts. In 2019 a total of 15 interns coming from 8 different countries were working in Blinken OSA. Out of these 7 students came from CEU and were employed by Blinken OSA on a fixed-term contract basis, the others, among them one Erasmus exchange student and 2 exchange students from George Mason University in the US, worked for Blinken OSA pro bono.
In order to make all of Blinken OSA’s operations transparent and easy to follow Blinken OSA circulates the Blinken OSA Weekly, a list of events of the week, the monthly Management Meeting Brief, a summary of the Management Meeting, and, after the monthly Staff Meetings, the Staff Meeting Minutes. The bi-annual Financial Reports, which are followed by the Open Finance Days, where reports and operational invoices are open for inspection by the staff, also serve the purpose of transparency and open communication.
Blinken OSA has a long history of offering different types of fellowships, be these research grants for current Masters and Ph.D. students, or for individual researchers, exchange students, artists, journalists, or even groups of researchers dedicated to certain research agenda. To date, OSA has awarded over 1,200 grants.
Currently, Blinken OSA offers only two support schemes, out of which the Visegrad Scholarship at Blinken OSA, awarded jointly with the International Visegrad Fund, supports 15 researchers a year and the Aaron Swartz Fellowship supports one successful candidate a year. In 2019 the Aaron Swartz Fellowship was not awarded. The Hoover Archives Research Assistance Scholarship, offered jointly with the Freedom Broadcasting Foundation (formerly the RFE/RL Fund) and supporting distant research in the Hoover Archives, was dormant in 2019 due to reconstruction works being underway in the Hoover Archive.
The Visegrad Scholarship at Blinken OSA scheme offered jointly with the International Visegrad Fund, saw 23 Visegrad scholars in Blinken OSA, all of whom gave their respective university-wide presentations within the framework of the Visegrad Scholarship at Blinken OSA Lecture Series. The list of successful candidates and their research reports can be accessed under http://www.osaarchivum.org/work-with-us/fellowship/visegrad-scholarship/winnners-and-reserves
In 2019 we had to come to terms with the loss of CEU in Budapest, a significant change in terms of audience and partner, that forced us to rethink our programs and seek new audiences while coming up with new methods, programs, follow-up, and ideas to reach the lost ones. It also evoked powerful identity issues within the institution, raising more questions than answers in the short run. This context was a compelling background for planning and realizing our public programs.
If we look at the programs and events that OSA organized in 2019 we have to note that the proportion between exhibitions and film-screening programs, usually combined with a follow-up discussion, was well-balanced. We managed to run the regular program structure that had marked previous years, providing a colorful and professional program variety.
The year took off with a screening and round table discussion organized in cooperation with the NEP4DISSENT COST Action. Our cooperation with the Visual Studies Program (VSP) grew steadily closer over the year, resulting in a series of public screenings and talks. The Re-Verzió series, offering audiences the best selection of films from the film festival of the previous year, is regarded as a popular event by our audiences and by now this regular program element has a very strong and constant viewer base.
Year 2019 gave us a chance to present five exhibitions. The first one started in November 2018 and continued until the spring. Titled the Illusion of the Republic, the exhibition focused on the rootless nature and the fall of the three Hungarian republics that were established in 1918, 1946, and in 1989–1990.
The year’s film programs were powerful elements of the annual public program framework, including the all-day film marathon Respect and Mercilessness: 1956-1989-2019. The all-day screening of archival video footage on three screens from 1989 was presented to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the reburial of the executed Prime Minister Imre Nagy and his closest political allies. The aim of the film marathon was twofold: on the one hand, it was a commemoration and a chance for visitors to express their solidarity with the 1956 Institute; on the other hand, it was intended to support the primacy of historical facts over a distorted historical narrative that has become prevalent lately.
In May a hugely anticipated exhibition opened: Collective Dreams and Bourgeois Villas – Site Plan of the Hungarian CIRPAC Group. By presenting the history of the Hungarian CIRPAC group, the exhibition joined the discourse of recent years, looking for relevant patterns in 20th-century history which we can learn from today. Comparable to international tendencies, the group's activity is especially notable because as architects they took a stand on social issues beyond architecture.
The exhibition was organized as a partner event of the 2019 edition of Budapest100, In the Footsteps of Bauhaus. Besides teaming up with a notable partner, many complementing events were organized for the exhibition throughout the summer. Guided tours, workshops, talks, and screenings attracted audiences.
The summer began with the popular Night of the Museums program, which not only provides an excellent opportunity for the general public to discover unknown layers of the Archives by visiting the building, the gallery, and the repository but it is also a popular form of participation for OSA Staff itself.
As in previous years, in 2019 the Archives did not hesitate to host versatile programs. Two successful ones were presented: one marked the beginning of a new curatorial visitor program: Dot.To.Dot with a public lecture by Farid Rakun as the first international guest. The second interesting program, another hosted Blood Mountain project brought back familiar faces to the screening and talk by Dani Gal.
Galeria Centralis presented its third exhibition of the year: Left Turn, Right Turn. This exhibition examined the social and political context of groups which, because of their artistic and political programs, were drawn either towards the left or towards the right in their criticism of existing socialism. Orfeo group emerged in the wake of the global movements of 1968, while Inconnu group’s career was profoundly shaped by the underground artistic trends of the 1970s, later turning towards the politics of the dissident groups of the 1980s. The young and aspiring curators of the exhibition were actively involved in shaping the accompanying programs of the main event, which resulted in various successful tours, presentations, screenings, and talks.
The Fall was also marked by the highly expected VERZIÓ film festival, also accompanied by various programs. (see Verzio chapter)
As a clear sign of flourishing partnerships, we also hosted a small exhibition on the first floor of the Archives in partnership with other institutions. The Velvet Revolution of 1989 exhibition was organized by the National Museum, Prague, Czech Centrum, Budapest, The Slovak Institute, Budapest, the Slovak National Museum, and Blinken OSA. As an accompanying program, the Czech Institute also organized a book launch hosted by OSA on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall: The Wall by the famous author Petr Sís was published in Hungarian.
A sudden tragic event changed the program flow of the year: the passing away of László Rajk, a prominent artist, democratic opposition figure, famed architect, and film set designer. It shocked and saddened our community, and since he had been a significant partner in many previous programs, the Archives dedicated a Book Launch and an exhibition to honor his memory. The book launch attracted a large audience, unprecedented for such an event. It was moderated by András Mink, historian, and editor of his book, while the panel discussion included philosopher János Kis, historian János M. Rainer , art historian Edit Sasvári, and film director Béla Tarr .
A crucial conference took place in the Archives on the 4th and 5th of December. No Time to Wait! – Initializing Initiatives was hosted by OSA and MediaAre.net. The two-day symposium focused on open media, open standards, and digital audiovisual preservation. These are all relevant and important issues that archival professionals need to be aware of and follow in a progressive manner.
The last exhibition of 2019 was opened on the 13th of December in memory of László Rajk with the title The Rajk Vision. One of the voices to honor the Rajk was Miklós Haraszti. “Tall men go upward; free men go outward, from the innate to what can be learned. They face three demons of inertia: what is down below, what is inside, and what is in chaos. László Rajk the man votes (ça va, ça va); László Rajk the artist makes a choice. Always against the demons of inertia, and always for freedom.”
Verzió, a joint project of Blinken OSA Archives and the nonprofit Verzió Film Foundation, has continued its year-round program for high-schools and film clubs, called School Verzió. Four new titles were added to the list of available films accompanied by educational toolkits developed by Janka Barkóczi and Szabolcs Szirony. The films cover a variety of topics and help to develop students’ visual literacy skills and human rights awareness. The toolkits for teachers and moderators provide additional context, questions for film analysis, related activities, readings, and other tips for further discussion.
Re:Verzió, the annual encore screening series of Verzió, was organized between February 7 – March 21 at Blinken OSA. Six award winners of the 15th Verzió Film Festival were screened and followed by discussions with filmmakers, experts, and the members of the audience. At the event series, we welcomed over 600 visitors.
In July 2019 Verzió screened four documentaries at Bánkitó Festival and organized workshops with expert guests to deepen the dialogue on sensitive human rights issues raised in the presented works, such as right-wing nationalism, political propaganda in Hungary, LGBTQ marriages and the remembrance of the Holocaust in the Austrian and Hungarian societies.
The 16th Verzió International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival once again brought an exciting selection of documentaries from recent years to audiences, screening an outstanding number of 75 films from 46 countries and 9 VR films. Between November 12-17, 2019 Toldi Cinema, Művész Cinema, Kino Café Cinema, Trafó House of Contemporary Art, CEU and Blinken OSA in Budapest hosted 124 Verzió screenings and 63 international guests from 24 countries, participating in 30 Q&A sessions and 25-panel discussions. Satellite Verzió - a selection of films and follow up discussions - was organized in 6 Hungarian towns: Pécs, Szeged, Kecskemét, Debrecen, Szombathely, and Kaposvár. The total number of visitors reached 11,000, making Verzió the most frequented film festival in Budapest in 2019. The number of viewers doubled in the countryside thanks to a new cooperation with Szabad terek network, and the free morning screenings for high-school students have been very popular as well.
Along with a wide range of films in the Human Rights Competition, the Student/Debut Competition, and the Hungarian Panorama, the program spotlighted media and the role(s) they play in shaping the image of the world (Media, the 4th Estate), the impact of environmental changes on human rights (Anthropocene), and the experiences and perspectives of today’s youth, who prepare to take this planet into their hands (Growing Up). For the first time, the program included 9 VR projects in the Vektor VR section. The Hommage section paid tribute to the life achievements of film authors Agnès Varda and Jonas Mekas; Lithuanian poetic documentaries were presented in a selection of ten films, and the recently restored montage film by documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov was screened for the very first time in Hungary.
Following tradition, Verzió 16 hosted several industry discussions, focusing this time on music in documentary films, documentary film impact strategies, and alternative distribution, but we also discussed financial challenges in documentary production and the possibilities for international co-production. The Doc-Pro panel discussions at the Central European University aimed to cover the hottest topics in documentary filmmaking, inviting acknowledged professionals in the industry to share their experience. Contemporary trends and developments in documentary film were discussed, and at the same time the events offered an opportunity to industry guests from different countries to meet and exchange ideas.
The Festival program also included a masterclass by Russia-based filmmaker Askold Kurov with a special focus on the social conflicts of Russian society and the questions of human rights, and discussion panels on investigative journalism and new economic models for sustainable media—organized in cooperation with the Center for Media, Data, and Society at CEU.
The 16th Verzió gave the Hungarian Audience Award to The Euphoria of Being., which tells the story of Éva Fahidi, who returned, alone, from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Hungary at the age of 20. Now, aged 90, she was asked to participate in a dance performance about her life and she immediately agreed.
The International Audience Award went to the Romanian Alexander Nanau’s Colectív. In 2015, 27 people perished in a tragic fire at the Romanian music club, Colectiv, and a shocking 37 more died in hospitals due to inadequate facilities and rampant infections. Following the tragedy, Romanians took to the streets to protest and a team of investigative journalists started to uncover a vast network of corruption in the health care system.
The Best Human Rights Award went to Rachel Leah Jones’ and Philippe Bellaiche’s Advocate. Lea Tsemel, a Jewish Israeli lawyer, is renowned for defending the cases of Palestinians, from non-violent demonstrators to armed militants alike. The film revisits her landmark cases and reflects on the political significance of her work, as well as the personal price she pays for taking on the role of “devil’s advocate”.
The Student and Debut Films were evaluated by the three members of the International Jury. Dutch director Leo de Boer, festival director Christine Dollhofer and director Dorottya Zurbó gave Máté Bartha’s Downstream the Best Student/Debut Film Award. The protagonist of the story is Vivien, who was taken away from her mother as a child and spent most of her life drifting from one adoptive family to another. Vivien finds her only solace in a military youth community. As she turns 18, she decides to stand on her own two feet and change her life for the better.
This year marked the second Teen Jury, supported by UNICEF Hungary. The three members, Szandi Balogh, Niki Botos, and Niki Sarang, chose the festival’s best kid’s documentary from the five films of Student Verzió. They chose Steve Loveridge’s Matangi / Maya / M.I.A as the Teen Jury’s favorite documentary. The film, rich in music, also received an award at the Sundance Festival. It includes personal footage that spans decades and portrays the rise of a Sri Lankan pop icon who continues to shatter conventions and has no fear of standing up for important and divisive causes.
Moreover, Crime + Punishment and Zoryana Horobraya received Special Mention Awards.
The 16th Verzió Film Festival awards were presented in Toldi cinema, in Budapest, on November 16, 2019.
Education and teaching have always constituted an integral part of the core activities of Blinken OSA.
In the spring semester, the fourth group of students started their work in the Archives and Evidentiary Practices Specialization developed and provided by Blinken OSA. The three parts of this specialization include the Archives, Evidence and Human Rights (AEHR) course itself during which students learn how to use the archives from the researchers’ point of view; the Archival Practice, in the course of which students get acquainted with the professional tasks of the archivists who serve researchers; and the Advanced Coursework during which they get a deeper knowledge in certain problems of archivistics. In the second and third phases, several colleagues from Blinken OSA staff participated as teaching fellows, under the leadership of Csaba Szilágyi. All the four students who took this specialization successfully completed their studies and prepared their written exams by June.
In the fall semester of the academic year 2019/2020, it was the 18th time the multidisciplinary course Archives, Evidence and Human Rights (AEHR) was taught by three staff members of Blinken OSA, Iván Székely, Csaba Szilágyi, and András Mink. The three-credit course has been traditionally offered to students of the Departments of Law and History, but usually, students from other departments – this time from the Cultural Heritage Program and the Medieval Studies – also enroll and participate in the course. This year, however, the extraordinary circumstances (the moving of CEU and the opening of the Vienna campus) resulted in a situation in which the two main groups of students, lawyers, and historians, pursued their studies in opposite phase in the two cities. Therefore we had to divide the course into two parts: an intensive introductory phase in September was followed by a long research period, after which the course continued in January 2020.
Professors Ioana Macrea-Toma and István Rév taught the course Makers of the Past, Manufacturing Stories (facts, evidence, proofs) offered by the Department of History in the fall semester 2019/2020. The seminar was based on the case study of the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Power Plant in April 1986 to address issues related to the relationship between a historical event and its archival traces, between traces and current representations in histories, fictional works, and public imagination. The course provided insights into economic and intellectual history, history of Cold War science and technology, epistemology and methodologies of history writing.
In November 2019, Csaba Szilágyi participated in the 1-credit course Socio-Legal Research Methods offered to students of the Department of Legal Studies and the SJD doctoral program.
Besides the above efforts, Blinken OSA regularly received groups of university and secondary school students, and professors from other educational institutions delivered their lectures and seminars on the premises of the Archives, using the collections of Blinken OSA. In November 2019, Péter Sólyom, professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Debrecen, brought his students to OSA to discuss the constitutional and legal problems of the 1989 political changes, using OSA’s collections, primarily the documentary films Opposition Roundtable Negotiations - Hungary, 1989 by Márta Elbert of the Black Box Foundation. Students from the University of Debrecen were joined by students from the University of Szeged, and the Faculty of Law of ELTE University, Budapest.
Research constitutes an important pillar of OSA’s activities. On the one hand, the preparation of each exhibition requires serious research, partly in OSA’s own collections, partly in other sources, and the results of this activity are reflected in the realized public programs. On the other hand, several colleagues are doing individual research that materializes in the form of publications and conference presentations.
Ioana Macrea-Toma returned from maternity leave in June 2019 and started working on a book about Cold War Archives, Truth Regimes, and Culture Wars. She presented a chapter from the future book as a conference paper with the title "Second-Order Cybernetics and Cold War Archives in the Post-Truth Era" at both Conventions of the Association for Slavic, East-European and Eurasian Studies: the summer conference in Zagreb in June and the other one in San Francisco in November. She has also initiated in 2019 a project with Tincuta Heinzel about Utopian Cities – Programmed Societies, in the hope of investigating the cybernetic cultures of Cold War, the usages of information for governance purposes and the role of technocracy. She has also published political and literary essays for broader audiences on academic migration and “Romanian Democracy from Abroad and from Within”.
Oksana Sarkisova continued a collaborative research project on Soviet vernacular photography. She worked on a co-authored manuscript “Snapshot Histories” with Dr. Shevchenko and further extended her research on vernacular imagery to a comparative study of repurposed archival footage in documentary cinema and art projects, with special emphasis on amateur film and video materials. Her article “Moving Through the Century: The Far North in Soviet and Contemporary Russian Nonfiction Arctic Cinemas and the Documentary Ethos” came out in Lilya Kaganovsky, Scott MacKenzie, Anna Westerstahl Stenport (eds.), Arctic Cinemas and the Documentary Ethos. In 2019, she was an invited speaker at the international conference "Technologies of Mind and Body in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc" (Nottingham University); After Post-Photography International Conference (Saint Petersburg), and Symposium “Organic Metaphors and the State in Medieval and Modern Europe” at Waseda University (Tokyo). In June and July 2019, Oksana Sarkisova directed a research-intensive CEU Summer University course entitled Fields of Vision: Memory, Identity, and Images of the Past.
András Mink continued his research on the political transition and the security authorities in Hungary. He delivered a presentation titled Reform, Regroup, Survive: the Hungarian State Security Forces during the Years of Regime Change at the conference “Transformation of the system: genesis, mechanisms and effects” organized by the Institute of National Remembrance in Gdynia, Poland in June 2019. His book Boundless Horizons. Biographical interview with László Rajk. The history of the democratic opposition in Hungary and East-Central Europe was published in 2019, on the grievous occasion of Rajk’s passing.
István Rév’s ongoing research is focused on three main themes. His research on conceptual trials (producing evidence, constructing proofs, forced confession, making history) is part of a book project; analyzing the problem of credibility is part of his archival research, and the subject of understanding historical revisionism can be regarded as a multi-platform research activity. In 2019 he published two book chapters, “The Virtue of Not Inventing Anything” in The Long 1989 Decades of Global Revolution (edited by Piotr H. Kosicki and Kyrill Kunakhovich) and “Liberty Square, Budapest: How Hungary Won the Second World War” in The Holocaust/Genocide Template in Eastern Europe (edited by Ljiljana Radonic). He also published an article, “Neither Objective, nor Subjective” in the Special Issue “Technology and Information Propagation in a Propaganda War” he edited in Centaurus, a journal of the history of science and its cultural aspects.
The current research of Csaba Szilágyi explores the archivization of the documentary and material heritage as a means of preserving the memory of the 1992-1995 war(s) in Bosnia and Herzegovina in general, and of the Srebrenica genocide in particular. It addresses the underlying recordkeeping structures, the ongoing processes of archival activism, the creation of new archival models by combining institutional and community practices, the memorialization of mass atrocities in the archival space and the developing of a ‘public language of grief’ through archival means, outside the frames of traditional transitional justice. An integral part of this research, conducted in cooperation with Perica Jovchevski, a member of the Yugoslavia Archive Project team and a doctoral student in Political Theory at CEU, examines the manifestations of epistemic violence in archives of violent past(s) of the former Yugoslavia. It specifically looks at the archivist’s agency and the nature of (counter)archival intervention in addressing asymmetries in power in these archives. More recently, Csaba developed an interest in how historical records and narratives of forced displacement can inform and shape current public debates on asylum-seeking, migration, and exile especially in hostile societies. As part of this research, he and his colleagues created the Refugee DocsMap to shed light on human stories behind the global refugee experience by the means of documentary films. In May 2019 Csaba Szilágyi and Perica Jovchevski participated at the conference “Violence, Space and Archives” at the National University of Ireland, Galway; and Csaba participated in the conference “Accessing Campscapes” at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for the Study of Holocaust in October. His book chapter “Records of Forced Displacement and Refugee Narratives: A Case Study from the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives in Budapest” was published in the volume Archive und Museen des Exils, edited by Sylvia Asmus, Doerte Bischoff, and Burcu Dogramaci.
Ivan Szekely – besides his long-term research on informational rights, privacy-enhancing technologies, post-mortem dignity and privacy, surveillance and resilience, he – co-organized and moderated an annual panel discussion on data protection authorities and the media at the international conference Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) in Brussels in January 2019. In June he participated in an Expert Workshop on Ethical and Legal Challenges of New ICT in Bilbao, Spain. He delivered a presentation titled „TK 3.0 – The Public Archive” at the „TK50 Conference on the Mass Communication Research Centre” organized by the Hungarian Communication Studies Association and the Budapest Metropolitan University in November 2019. His article on the subject will be published in the journal Jel-Kép. Székely is currently working on a chapter „Freedom of Information: A constitutive public good in democratic societies” in the Research Handbook of Information Policy to be published by Edward Elgar Publishing.
Katalin Székely continued her research in the framework of her Ph.D. thesis prepared for the Media and Contemporary Culture Ph.D. Program at ELTE University, in which she investigates the paradigm shift of conceptual art in the local (Hungarian and Central and Eastern European) context. The research project, based on discourse and context analyses, seeks to understand the reception of conceptual art on different levels of art communication: on the level of the artists, the institutions, the international art world, and the general public. In the framework of this research, Katalin Székely relies on collections of Blinken OSA, such as the annotations of intellectual debates that facilitated the formation and the reception of conceptual art in Hungary in the era of Socialism, and the records of the Hungarian Institute for Public Opinion Research, in which the opinions of visitors of “experimental” exhibitions in various cities in Hungary were surveyed, providing excellent resources of the artistic discourse of the general public of the period.
There is a lasting tradition in OSA to organize regular in-house archival and research seminars as a collective professional event where individual research results and various approaches are discussed. In the fall of 2019, under the leadership of Ioana Macrea-Toma, a new concept and a long-term syllabus were with developed around the overarching theme of credibility. The seminar series attempts to analyze the positioning of archives, researchers and archivists responding to the pressure to be regarded as alternative data-banks in the age of post-truth, to digitize and be technologically smart; to respond (or to defend themselves) as public institutions to political environments; to be more self-reflexive in the epoch of the changing norms of collecting and preserving; to save fonds (not only to acquire them); to build relevant descriptions HELYETT: build relevant description models VAGY produce relevant descriptions in times of changing knowledge interests and contestation of Cold War legacies; to build powerful search engines along widespread notions regarding serviceability; to make sense of decontextualized information.