The online annual international conference of the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada entitled Hungary: Northern Relations took place on May 29-31, 2021. The Research Centre for the Humanities was represented at the event by three researchers: Miklós Mitrovits: Polish ‒ Hungarian Relations in Opposition (1976‒1989), Tamás Scheibner: Hungarian Refugee Programs and Cold War International Exchange: The Impact of Philanthropic Foundations, and Gusztáv Kecskés D.: An invisible actor: NATO's role in resolving the Hungarian refugee crisis

Miklós Mitrovits: Polish-Hungarian Relations in Opposition (1976-1989)

letoltesThe aim of the presentation is to describe the different political and social conditions of opposition activity in Hungary and Poland between 1956 and 1989, and to map the relations between the various Hungarian and Polish opposition groups. The presenter starts from the premise that after 1956 radically different political, economic and social conditions developed in the two countries. While in Poland the situation was relatively favourable for opposition activity, in Hungary the possibilities were limited and only in the late 1970s, and especially after the birth of the Polish Solidarity movement, did the scope for action increase.

On the other hand, the author argues that activity in opposition was not sufficient for the development of Hungarian-Polish relations, but that the political, ideological and generational differences of Hungarian opposition groups had a decisive influence on the relations. Thus, for the Hungarians, the worldview and political strategy of the opposition in Poland were more important than the only opposition's behaviour.

Tamás Scheibner: Hungarian Refugee Programs and Cold War International Exchange: The Impact of Philanthropic Foundations

tamas scheibnerThe repression of the 1956 Hungarian revolution by the Soviet Union resulted in a massive influx of refugees to Western Europe and the United States. It is well known that such major actors as the United Nations, the NATO or the government of the United States invested a great deal in solving the crisis, and the Swiss or Austrian aid has also been well-documented. It is less recognized, though, that philanthropic organizations in the United States were also key actors in integrating refugees to Western societies. The Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, launched large-scale programs of support without which no state intervention would have been successful.

Based on archival research in the Rockefeller Archive Center, this paper argues that the Hungarian refugee programs were not simply temporary aids in a critical historical situation but had further consequences for international relations. It not only increased attention to and knowledge of Hungary and the entire region, but also created networks between the various agents offering aid within the United States and in Western Europe, facilitated contacts between former émigré groups and new refugees, and contributed to developing protocols for dealing with refugees on a mass scale within the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. All this benefited the foundations in their future dealings with Eastern Europe when the political climate changed in the 1960s, and, again, after the 1968 crisis.

Gusztáv D. Kecskés: An invisible actor: NATO's role in resolving the 1956 Hungarian refugee crisis

letoltes 2To investigate the reaction of NATO to the 1956 Hungarian refugee crisis the paper presents a synthesis based on source material from the NATO Archives, as well as from the archives of the French foreign ministry, the National Archives at College Park, Maryland and the Archives of the UN Secretariat, the European Office of the UN. First, the author evokes the challenges NATO faced in the middle of the 1950s. Then he points out its attitude concerning the refugee situation in Europe before the 1956 Hungarian exodus. The paper argues that the reception of the 200.000 Hungarians in the Western World was an exceptionally successful international humanitarian action.

The paper also demonstrates that the most important component of this outcome was the political will of the NATO governments, which – in part as a result of the ideological confrontation with the Soviets – ensured continued attention and support for the problem of the Hungarian refugees even once the waves of popular sympathy had receded in the host societies. Importantly, this crucial role of NATO was intentionally not revealed to the public at the time.

Program of the conference.

This article in Hungarian.