Political Time Traveling – Middle Ages Reloaded

In the last session of the Jeno Szucs Lecture Series in the current academic year (2022-2023), our workgroup’s medievalists – Prof. Gabor Klaniczay, Nikita Bogachev, Ferenc Kanyo – and Tatiana Szafonova social anthropologist, research fellow of CEU’s Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) provided an interdisciplinary insight in varied representations of medieval history used in literature, anti-establishment right wing media and even in a cultural festival. In East Central Europe nowadays many political regimes and ultraconservative movements seek their inspiration and occasionally legitimization from the Middle Ages. Professor Klaniczay introduced the rich interdiscuplinary session with an outline of our workgroup’s research project on historical revisionism led by him.

Nikita Bogachev introduced the audience into entertaining as well as eerie elements of post-Soviet fiction with particular attention to scifis on popadantsi, travelers who “get into” historical times and compare their original temporality (post-Soviet Russia) with medieval or early modern temporalities which are usually presented as more moral and more glorious, but for sure more “purely Russian” and hence enviable.

Ferenc Kanyo presented a self-constructed database about pseudo-historical theories on the origins of the Hungarian people and their medieval past. Thereby he documents how pseudo-historical narratives and conspiration theories make their way into populist politics and have real rather than pseudo impact on scientific life, for instance through the defamation of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences which preceded the government’s attack on the Academy.

Tatiana Szafonova analyzed the reinvention of Turanism in post-socialist Hungary through the example of the Great Kurultaj festival – a regular modenized tribal assembly – where for instance representatives of Central Asian peoples thought to be relatives of the “real”and “original” Hungarians” are invited to perform supposedly ancient Hungarian lifestyle and clothing in current national garments. She argued that visitors of the Great Kurultaj Festival are kept in the past by trauma that they try to overcome with identity politics.

New Lecture Series dedicated to Jenő Szűcs

The Democracy Institute’s historians launched a public lecture series–Jenő Szűcs Lecture Series–to bring together international as well as local scholars of history and related fields in Budapest as well as online to exchange their results on the interplay between democracy and histor(iograph)y in a broad sense. The series’ title honors the legacy of Jenő Szűcs historian, an advocate of recognizing Central Europe as a historical region and a major critic of the misuses of national past in his native Hungary. The series was launched on February 21, 2023 by CEU professor Gábor Gyáni who discussed dilemmas of public history and the marginalization of professional history writing in his talk: Telling the truth (or not) about history.