An attempt at character assassination but to what end?

On the surface, today’s topic is history or to be more precise a historical debate, the kind that normally interests only historians who are experts in a given period or subject. Debates usually take place in seminar rooms or at conferences. They are actually peer reviews. And, of course, before the publication of a book, the author as well as the publisher will ask people who are familiar with the topic to read the manuscript and critique it. Even book reviews that appear in scientific journals are read only by the initiated few.

In Hungary, however, these so-called scientific debates often end up in the popular press because some professional historians are also public figures who appear on TV or write in newspapers. For example, a highly public debate took place in 2012 when András Gerő accused his fellow historian, the respected Ignác Romsics, of anti-Semitic discourse. The “debate,” in which more than two dozen people participated, lasted over six months.

That debate was on balance a civilized discussion, but what I’m writing about today is more like “character assassination.” At least, that’s what the normally pro-government Válasz called it. And that’s something, considering that the target of the character assassination is Krisztián Ungváry, who called Mária Schmidt, adviser to Viktor Orbán on matters of history, the “keretlegény” of the Hungarian historical profession. “Keretlegény” was an armed soldier who guarded and supervised Jews called up to serve in the labor battalions during World War II.

short piece by Ungváry, “The Living Horror” (Az élő borzalom), appeared on this blog.  It was about the memorial the Hungarian government insisted on erecting despite very strong opposition by historians, the Jewish community, and all those who would like Hungarians to face historical facts instead of hiding behind a falsified history of the Hungarian Holocaust.

Ungváry made a name for himself with a book which has since been translated into both English and German, The Siege of Budapest. In 2013 he came out with another large work, A Horthy-rendszer mérlege: Diszkrimináció, szociálpolitika és antiszemitizmus (The balance sheet of the Horthy regime: Discrimination, social policy and anti-Semitism in Hungary).  The book received the Academy Prize and is now under consideration for Ungváry’s award of an academic doctorate, which in Hungary is considered to be higher than a Ph.D.

The man who decided to attack Krisztián Ungváry is Dániel Bolgár, a young teaching assistant who hasn’t yet finished his Ph.D. dissertation. He has been described as “a talented man with a bright future,” but the general consensus is that this time he went too far for his own good. One thing is sure: it takes guts for a TA to take on an established, respected scholar.

What makes the story especially interesting is that Bolgár’s TA job is in András Gerő’s department at ELTE. Gerő a few years ago established a Habsburg Institute which is heavily subsidized by the government through the XXI Century Institute, headed by the aforementioned Mária Schmidt. In general, Gerő tries to court right-wing historians favored by the government. For example, Sándor Szakály, who was named director of the newly established Veritas Historical Institute, is on the board of Gerő’s Habsburg Institute. Gerő is deeply indebted to Schmidt and comes to her defense every time she is criticized. And she has a lot of critics: practically all Hungarian Holocaust scholars.

People suspect that the present debate is not so much about Ungváry’s book, which I think is an important contribution to the topic of anti-Semitism between the two world wars, but about the irreconcilable differences between the historical views of the right and the left when it comes to the evaluation of the Horthy regime. The clever twist in this game is that the accusations against Ungváry come in the guise of anti-Semitism, of which he is certainly not guilty.

These professional historical debates are far too esoteric for outsiders to judge. For example, Bolgár’s initial criticism, which he first published in Magyar Narancs, concentrated on statistical data from the 1930s about the economic status of Hungarian Jewry. At this time he did not accuse Ungváry of plagiarism, I suspect because otherwise Magyar Narancs wouldn’t have published his article. The title, however, was telling: “Tale about Jewish prosperity.” Ungváry, following virtually every Hungarian historian who has ever dealt with the topic, shows through statistical analyses and indirect evidence that the Jewish population was better off than Hungary’s non-Jewish inhabitants. There are many well-founded reasons for that claim: Hungarian Jews were better educated than the average, a great number of them belonged to the middle or the professional classes, and their representation in the peasantry was minuscule. (Almost 60% of the total population belonged to that economic group.) There is nothing revolutionary about the thesis. It’s practically self-evident, but Ungváry devotes about 80 pages to proving his point by approaching the question from different angles.

Bolgár accuses Ungváry of using the statistics of anti-Semitic authors, like Alajos Kovács who was at the time the head of the Central Statistical Office. Bolgár concludes that there are no reliable statistics whatsoever on this question, and he in fact suspects that the Jewish population on the whole was poorer than non-Jews which is, of course, total nonsense. Ungváry answered, a rebuttal that couldn’t be left unanswered by Bolgár, and then Ungváry wrote a final piece entitled “Insinuation.” In order to understand the argument of both sides a little better, I recommend reading these articles.

Dániel Bolgár and Krisztián Ungváry during the "debate"

Dániel Bolgár and Krisztián Ungváry during the “debate”

But this was only a warm-up for Dániel Bolgár. Ungváry decided to invite Bolgár for a discussion, which took place a few days ago and which is available on the Internet. Bolgár delivered a speech that lasted two hours, in which he accused Ungváry of outright plagiarism. He compared him unfavorably to a “village elementary school teacher who writes the history of his village.” According to Válasz, it was clear from the very first minute that Bolgár not only wanted to criticize Ungváry but to “totally destroy him.” The reporter simply didn’t understand why Ungváry didn’t get up and leave. Instead, he sat next to Bolgár, quietly taking occasional notes.

I admired Ungváry’s behavior. I certainly couldn’t have withstood such an attack without raising my voice. It’s a long haul, but if you have some time, please watch this video.

The other official participant in the discussion was Viktor Karády, the well-known expert on the social history of Hungarian Jewry in the Horthy-period who lives in France. Unfortuntely, he is also the quiet type. Occasionally he was cut off before he could finish his sentence. Bolgár must have invited some people who had problems with Ungváry’s book, who also shouted Karády and Ungváry down for another half an hour if not longer. One of them announced that the book “is about nothing.” I suspect that the man is an apologist for the Horthy regime and finds Ungváry’s thesis unacceptable. What is the thesis? That behind the anti-Jewish government measures was the desire for a distribution of wealth from Jewish to non-Jewish hands. The book is about “intellectual antecedents of depredation of the Jewry.” It seems that a lot of people find this thesis unacceptable.

Ungváry may have remained quiet during the debate, but he struck back in print. He wrote a piece for the conservative Mandiner from which we learn that Bolgár tried to publish his findings in a serious historical journal but the quality of his work was found wanting.

74 comments

  1. Today’s speech by OV was, in a way, more of the same.

    Naturally, the PM honoring the WW1 soldiers and saying that Hungarian Jews were part of the nation is commendable.

    However, blaming ‘Hungarians’ (even ‘many, many’) and saying the path to the Holocaust was ‘incomprehensible’ (!) – while at the same time taking a (however justified) swing at the post-war regime is pure Fidesz ideology. I guess we’ll wait forever for Mr. Orbán to acknowledge the responsibility of the Horthy State, i.e. the interwar regime, administration and political class.

    Furthermore, I suggest reading this inclusive speech in the light of the PM’s recent comments on immigration: Orbán’s Hungary has it’s ‘own’ minorities, which the state protects and occasionally celebrates – but certainly won’t accept new ones.

    Back to the future.

  2. RTL Klub is caving in as was predicted. It is only 2015 and Orban will control the entire media (of which the TV is the most important in Hungary as Hungarians watch it 6-7 hours a day) and will do so until 2018.

    There is nobody who can resist Orban and Lazar. They are way too smart for these Westerners who are weak and prone to “compromise” and appeasement.

    Ironically, Hungarian people will also learn that everything is for sale, and that foreigners couldn’t care less about Hungarians, they are here just for their profits. People always suspected that, but RTL’s “compromise” will actually play in favor of Orban’s policies.

    The West either wants to exploit Hungary or – even when it preaches about democracy, rule of law – the West just doesn’t care.

    http://444.hu/2015/01/26/a-magyarokat-megkerulve-allitolag-berlinben-egyezne-ki-az-rtl-lel-lazar/

  3. A right-wing provocation by a third-rate Hungarian flunky on a well-regarded, internationally respected historian? Another day, another dollar. Welcome to modern Hungary.

    Bolgar will certainly be fast-tracked for a professorship and given a raise if not suddenly becoming a official governmental turn-to on such historical matters. Mark my words.

  4. There is one iron rule in politics. The West always without fail compromises, always gives in, always appeases.

    Too bad people like Putin, Orban, Erdogan etc. long time ago realized this not too secret rule and have been using it to their advantage. Not surprisingly they outlasted already any and all Western people of power or influence, and they are just getting warmed up.

  5. @Caprice

    You are spot on. Bolgar will be rewarded. This will be a lesson to those who oppose Orban’s historical projects and Maria Schmidt’s approach. There can be no resistance. If those remaining non-fideszniks themselves don’t realize that, well they have to learn it the hard way.

    And the best, let’s not forget that because this is the fundamental issue here, is that Gerő – a great pal/client of Maria Schmidt and sponsor of Bolgar – is considered jewish. Just like the corrupt former head of Mazsihisz Gusztav Zoltai who was hired by Janos Lazar.

    In this case a nobody charges a respected non-jewish historian with anti-semitism, when Bolgar’s sponsors are the ones (like Maria Schmidt) who have been doing everything to “reevaluate” the Hungarian Holocaust.

    The greatest irony is that jews like Gerő are actively helping the government killing any remnants of perceived jewish influence. In this case Ungvary, a non-jew (and thus a great target for anti-semitism) is actually seen by fideszniks as too successful (having Western connections and respect), a liberal, a representative of the “jewish interests” and thus using the weapon of anti-semitism is more than just irony.

    Orban preaches unity and discipline and shows that endlessly infighting people will fail. While Orban does not tolerate betrayal, within the jews there is no solidarity whatsoever, Orban shows that they are just as corrupt (like Gerő, Zoltai etc.) as to their identity as an average MSZPnik. As such they must fail. Oh my god, Lazar and Orban are having such a sustained lough and fun at those pathetic jews, who sell their soul for buck. In Orban’s view they deserve to be destroyed. They had the opportunity to unite and remain strong (as jews), but they let themselves divided and as such they must now disappear.

  6. Dear Éva, I hate to say it, but this time you got it totally wrong. Bolgár’s vehement criticism of Ungváry’s book has hardly anything to do with politics, let alone Gerő or Schmidt it is a never publicly resolved debate between two currents (or paradigms?) of historiography. Ungváry’s book received very negative reviews ) see his deate with Zsombor Bódy in the Korall or with Károly Ignácz in Múltunk) and Bolgár, who is actually a prolific author and very talented, just adds to this current of criticism- at least when he is not trying to prove plagiarism which is a long shot by Hungarian standards. Not suprisingly, because he represents social history in a broad sense, which was introduced to Hungary by the late Kálmán Benda, Domokos Kosáry, later Gyula Benda, and now partcied by György Kövér or Gábor Gyáni. (Furthermore, as far as I know, Bolgár is a third generation Holocaust survivor, so he could hardly be suspected to have any problem with exposing anti-semitism of the Horthy regime, it was actually a professional debate at the beginning.) As for Szakály, it is unnecessary to bring him here, Ungvráy’s mentor and friend is Ignéc Romsics, who is actually quite close to Sakély, they are on quite freindly terms, so, one could even state that Ungváry is a minon of Szakálys.

    I don’t know actually why this debate went astray, and probably I will never know, because the developments of the last months (including awarding the Academy Prize to a book that was porbably the most controversial in the last decade or so and which received serious non-political criticism) suggest such a Byzantine manouevreing that I do not want to get involved in it in any way.

  7. @Gabor

    The trick is exactly what you are referring to. Use jews or people with some remnants of jewish identity (i.e. Bolgar) to attack the historian who has been *opposing* the relativization -reimagination of the Hungarian Holocaust.

    In other words, let’s use jews (or those who cannot be attacked with anti-Semitism as Ms. Schmidt, or Szakaly being now-jews could potentially be attacked) to defend Maria Schmidt’s projects. Thereby Ms. Schmidt projects become much more acceptable and slowly become the new normal, the baseline. Whether Schmidt reaches her goal by denouncing his opponents or by enlisting jews who come out to support her projects, it doesn’t matter to her. If, however, the two can be had in one case as in this one, all the better.

    Ungvary not only did not plagiarize (that’s an idiotic joke), but he is not a an anti-Semite either.

    But since he is a non-jew, who does not support Orban and Schmidt (and he is successful also, let’s not forget that his books sell) he is the ultimate target for attack.

    His greatest sin – I contend – is that Ungvary is non-Jewish. I explain.

    When jewish intellectuals complain that the German memorial falsifies history or that if Szakaly thinks that the Hungarian contribution to the Kamenec-Podolsk massacre was only a border control measure such complaints can be denounced quickly by everybody that oh, it’s the usual jewish (liberal) opposition and complaining and anyway they (ie. the jewish historians, intellectuals) are “biased”.

    When Ungvary have those complaints then he is much harder to denounce and this is a huge problem for the new right-wing historians assisted by people like Gero and Bolgar.

    Now Gero and Bolgar found an important book and thus they are trying to character assassinate Ungvary in order to assist Maria Schmidt and the historical “approach” spearheaded by her.

    Mind you, Ms. Schmidt does need, in order to look legit, openly jewish historians (if possible with strong jewish identities) supporting her (directly or indirectly). She knows that she cannot just employ non-Jewish right wingers. But she requires her kind of jews and apparently Gero and Bolgar are willing to play that part in her show.

    As a least remark: Ungvary’s most important contribution of course is not the debated part (ie. how influential jewish Hungarians, however defined, actually were or not were). This focus moves the debate from the important part, which is not a surprising strategy.

    The real contribution of Ungvary was the – ultimately extremely grim – picture he painted about the Horthy system which was deeply, pervasively, to the present mind unimaginably and much more so than previously thought, anti-Semitic and extreme-right wing. These were not just any features of the political realm of those days, but were perhaps the most fundamental ones. Not surprising that Orban and his helpers want to kill this narrative.

    Just as Trebitsch alluded to this (above), in Orban’s system no pockets of real opposition, resistance, dissent may remain. One may be a token opposition, a token dissenter, our kind of jew like Zoltai or Gero, but cannot be seen to have a real, substantial influence. These people are targets for destruction who also serve as example for the rest. Oppose us and you’ll end up like Ungvary (or RTL Klub or TESCO, for that matter). So this is more than just the usual historical debates, this is a power struggle representative of the present-day Hungary where Orban’s will must ultimately control each and every domain of everyday life.

  8. Remembering the Holocaust on TV2, a national TV station owned by Strohmen linked to Lajos Simicska and which station is decidedly not in the business of showing critical news items. (TV2 was actually shown to be more pro-Fidesz than State-tv, which is almost like North-Korean tv, was.)

    The caption from yesterday says “They remembered murdered people”.

    On Holocaust Remembrance Day, only the words Holocaust, or jewish or mass murder, extermination camp or Hungarian state assistance were left unmentioned.

    Or in other words, business as usual in Hungary.

    http://lastdaysoftenyek.tumblr.com/post/109284690590/nemzetkozi-holokauszt-emleknap-tenyek-edition

  9. @The real Trebitsch – (GREAT moniker!): You suggested that Ungváry is or will be represented as liberal.
    Regardless of how he is represented, he isn’t liberal. He is a conservative,by his own account, who was deeply opposed to the Hungarian left and to Hungarian liberals long before Fidesz came to power. He has been extremely critical of Fidesz, but his critique comes from the (moderate) right.
    It is neither here nor there, but Ungváry seems to be a faithful Catholic – certainly the crucifix on the wall of his office suggests as much.

  10. @Gábor – Éva got it entirely right.
    It’s my impression that you haven’t been following developments over the past year – and I don’t blame you for that (there are better things to do). But Éva has.
    The “Byzantine maneuvering” (as you correctly call it) is inextricably bound up with politics – in this case with Ungváry’s very heavy criticism of Szakály’s Veritas Institute, of Schmidt’s work and of the monument to German occupation. Ungváry may have had good relations with Schmidt and Gerő in the past – that has long ended.
    You claim that Ungváry and Szakály are on friendly terms – well, they may once have been, but Ungváry attacked Szakály so heavily and repeatedly that it is hard for me to believe that their friendship survived.
    Your claim that Ungváry is Szakály’s “minion” is anentirely unjustified attack on Ungváry (who is nobody’s minion).
    Here are some samples (I assume you read Hungarian):
    http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1026665-ungvary-krisztian-szerint-szakaly-sandor-semmit-nem-tanult
    and
    http://magyarnarancs.hu/belpol/xyz-92114

  11. I was surprised to learn in this debate that Ungvary is an author who published articles on kuruc.info . I think that fact alone speaks volumes about his person.

    And then Ungváry admits that he used data partly from rabid anti-semites and then data partly that never existed in the table intended to portray all of the Jews as super rich stereotypes as if poor Jews never existed. Clearly on average they were probably better off (this is admitted by Dániel Bolgár), but not to the degree that Ungváry claims.

    All of Bolgár’s claims are very well researched including the one where he points out that Ungváry copied from other works without attribution sometimes in a way that even changed the original (correct) meaning of the sentence by leaving out words while he copied.

    If you look at all the debate from a honest perspective is it possible that Ungváry was not completely in the right? I think so. Some of the points raised by Bolgár are very valid if you listen to all of his lecture (the one seen on the picture). It is very hard hitting criticism of Ungváry and he did not refute it at all.

  12. Webber,

    The real Trebitsch is actually right. Nobody cares about the underlying ideologies. “Liberal” -among others – means something like ‘critical of Hungary/Fidesz from a Western-leaning standpoint’. You can be the most conservative neocon or be a hard-core leftist, you still be a “liberal” in Hungary if this means you oppose Fidesz in any way.

    Ungvary is often critical of Fidesz and this alone makes him a “liberal”. Period.

    (He is hated even more by Fideszniks because he is not your usual suspects when it comes to criticism of Fidesz).

  13. @Zsolt – Bolgár claimed that Ungváry had plagiarized from works by Péter Bihari and Mária Kovács. Both Bihari and Kovács have now spoken. Both have said Ungváry did not plagiarize from them. Kovács said, furthermore, that “Plagiarism is a very serious accusation, and in making it Bolgár has gone too far.” (In Hun., exactly “A plágium nagyon súlyos vád, ezzel Bolgár túllépett egy határt.”)
    As to using data from anti-semites: One of them, Alajos Kovács, was head of the Central Statistical Office, and he edited the volumes of the Hungarian census data from those decades. Sadly, no other even remotely accurate statistical data is available for that period. All historians have to deal with this. But yes, all data should be double checked and treated critically – there’s no doubt about that.
    So, as to the charge that Ungváry has made mistakes with is his data and should have treated work from the Horthy period with more circumspection and care – okay. That, however, does not make him or anybody else who has used the data (virtually all historians of the period) an anti-Semite. That charge, too, is disgusting and unfair based solely on Bolgár’s argument in print

    But as to your charge that Ungváry has published on Kuruc.info – I am speechless. If that is true, please give us links.

  14. @Miki – That is exactly why I wrote “regardless of how he is represented,Ungváry isn’t a liberal.”
    I think that wants mentioning.

  15. @Szabolcs – OF COURSE Putin and other autocrats have outlasted Western leaders! So what? Democracy means voters throw leaders out of office periodically. In some country, term limits ensure that leaders can’t stay in power very long at all (8 years is the max for an American president, for example). The ability to seamlessly regularly change leadership is a strength, not a weakness.
    As to compromise – have you taken a look at the latest data on the Russian economy? If I were you, I wouldn’t bet too much money on the long-term power of autocratic regimes.

  16. Let’s repeat this.

    Ungvary showed in his book – perhaps more than any contemporary historian – the all-encompassing anti-Semitism of the Horthy system.

    (Even Marxist historians before 1990 concentrated on fascisms and not on anti-Semitism).

    That’s his main thesis.

    And now Ungvary is accused of anti-Semitism?

    By Bolgar (Gero) and some of the “commenters” here (like Gabor, Zsolt)?

    This is craziness.

    Ungvary did not plagiarize and this is a fact. This entire case is made up.

    There can be an honest debate about his sources. The interpretation of the data/sources in his book is his interpretation. That there could be a debate about the interpretation is not a surprise, that’s pretty normal in controversial subject matters. Some people have dissenting views. Bolgar can have his views in that regard. But such sources which may be debatable according to Bolgar have no bearing on Ungvary’ real thesis, which remains intact.

    (Just to declare: I don’t know Ungvary personally.)

  17. @Zsolt – I have found Ungváry on Kuruc.info, and what is there is not what you insinuate. As everyone can see for themselves (link below) Ungváry took a position in response to a revolting article denying that the Holocaust had taken place. Ungváry wrote that “the Holocaust is one of the most well-documented genocides,” and step by step demolished Holocaust deniers’ positions. Article here:
    https://kuruc.info/r/6/81093/
    In addition to the response from Ungváry, an article by the Holocaust historian László Karsai was also published on Kuruc.info. You can see that here:
    https://kuruc.info/r/6/56347/
    To claim that Ungváry is an anti-semite merely because something he wrote appeared on Kuruc.info is misleading – indeed, given the content of Ungváry’s piece there, it is foul slander.

  18. “But as to your charge that Ungváry has published on Kuruc.info – I am speechless. If that is true, please give us links.”

    It is true and I was very surprised to learn of this myself. This information can be found in Bolgár’s lecture about Ungváry’s book. Bolgár even quotes a passage that Ungváry published on kuruc.info. You can watch the whole video at this link skip forward to the part where Dániel Bolgár speaks:

    http://archive.org/details/AHorthyrendszermerlege

  19. And no matter the content publishing at kuruc.info legitimizes that site provides content for the site and increases readership for the site. At the very least it is a serious mistake. And if Ungváry is prone to committing mistakes like this then all the other criticisms also don’t seem so far fetched (that he would “borrow” the work of others without attribution – even if these others say it was OK because he cited them at the bibliography at the end – it is still not OK because quotation marks were not used and there was no attribution at that page where the copied sentences appeared).

  20. @Zsolt – LOOK at the links I provided above – to Kuruc.info! In that particular instance, both Ungváry and László Karsai had something published on Kuruc.info. Read both their articles! Ungváry and Karsai are impeccable. Both of them wrote to refute Holocaust deniers’ claims. Accusing them of anti-semitism for those articles is more than unacceptable – it is revolting.
    You, yourself, have fallen into the error of not double-checking the sources. See for yourself!
    Bolgár’s accusation on this point is entirely unfounded, as anyone can see who bothers to look at what Ungváry wrote on Kuruc.info.

  21. zsolt, I have to say that you are out of your mind. Ungvary never “published” anything on kuruc.info.

    Along with Laszlo Karsai Ungvary tried to criticize the anti-Semitic narrative of kuruc.info and thus wrote essentially op-eds in a – perhaps futile – attempt to persuade kuruc.info readers.

    But to say that Ungvary “published” there anything (as if Ungvary in any way condoned kuruc.info) is a lie.

    This is a kabátlopás case if ever there was one.

    Click to access EPA02334_fundamentum_13_4_07.pdf

  22. @Zsolt – Context matters.
    By implying Ungváry is an anti-semite for refuting Holocaust denial on Kuruc.info, you are also implying that Karsai is an anti-semite. He did the same on Kuruc.info.
    If you want to accuse both of them, without examining what they actually said and why, that’s your problem. It’s not proper investigative work. It’s not what a proper historian would do.
    (n.b. I do not know Ungváry personally. The one time I met him, very briefly, was unpleasant. We argued.)

  23. @Zsolt – AS to plagiarism – I find it very odd that you think the opinion of those whose words were allegedly stolen should be ignored. You imply that words were taken verbatim without quotation marks. As far as I recall (and I MIGHT be wrong) Bolgár did not make that accusation – if he had, he could have shown that very easily. Instead, Bolgár said sentences were changed somewhat, but the argument was taken from this and that source. If that is the case the opinions of Bihari and Kovács, those whose works were allegedly plagiarized, is actually vital. Both of them say there was no plagiarism.
    Zsolt, if you go on presenting insinuations not supported by facts, I’m going to sadly conclude that you, too, are taking part in a smear campaign. For now, I prefer to think you’ve been misguided by Bolgár’s argument – about which, we can agree on one thing: He is a skillful writer. I wish he’d use his talent for publishing his own alternative historical narratives, instead of trying to personally demolish a fellow historian.

  24. One thing is sure – Bolgár is going to get a LOT of “independent quotes” (független hivatkozások) to his articles in this sorry affair. Sadly for him, the periodicals he published his accusations in (Magyar Narancs, Népsazbadság) do not count as academic in the Hungarian system. Apparently he doesn’t know that, because he has put them on his Hun. Acad. MTMT webpage, in which people in higher ed must list their academic work.
    Still, I will agree with Zsolt on one point: Bolgár is a serious historian. I say that based on other things Bolgár has published. Why any historian would waste his time attacking a fellow historian, instead of publishing his own work, is beyond me (unless, as some have suggested, it’s to advance his career by pleasing people offended in the past by Ungváry – in which case, shame on Bolgár!).

  25. @Webber,

    that’s a nonsene what you claim, that I’m not following develpoments in the Hungarian historians’ profession. If it would not be utterly ridiculous I would take it an insult. But, fortunately, it is nothing else than the demonstration of your complete negligence and lack of knowledge.

    My real life personality is no secret, I have even figured in some of Éva’s posts.

    @Péter,

    your premise is completely wrong and probaly because you have fallen for a bait – i.e. the idea that Bolgár would act on orders or requests from Gerő or Schmidt Mária! (You should seriously consider that it was actually disinformation or a guess sold to a journalist who obviously knows nothing of Bolgár, who is only familiar with Ungváry because of his public stature and therefore who accpeted it without further scrutiny.) That’s just as absurd as it would be to claim the Ungváry is Szakály’s minion just because Romsics keeps a friendly relationship with Szakály and Ungváry and Romsics are friends an even more, thay have a close master and student relationship. Not only exist no proof of Bolgár’s complicity with any of the above named “villains” (who otherwise disagree publicly on issues like the Szabadság tér monument, so what should poor Bolgár think of it, if he is serving both of them?) but it is an absurd claim – if you know something about his person. If you look after him, for example study a bit his professional credentials, read some of his studies accessible at the internet, you will find a serious personaility who is actually familiar with the most recent trends of historiography and aplies a thorough, theoretically sound and well-founded methodology – which is hardly the case with Schmidt and which is also not entirely how I would charaterize Gerő’s work. If he wanted to have a well-paid job it would have been much easier to switch to Veritas last year when they were literally hunting for anyone who was ready to join them and hired a lot of people with much worse credentials then Bolgár, among them, quite funnily, well known leftist.

    The problem is that the professional debates in Hungarian historiogrpahy in the last two decades went unnoticed for the public (which is not a complaint, these are rarely entertaining discussions for the publci) and therefore only a few people undertsands the historiographic significance of the discussion. As I mentioned the echo of Ungváry’s book was suprirsingly critical and he was not able to credibly fend off this criticism – at least not for those, who undertood the positions in terms of historiographic currents, methodology etc. (The texts are easily available, I suggest googling ‘Bódy Zsombor, Ungváry Korall’ and ‘Ignácz Károly, Ungváry, Múltunk’.)

    No, I do not understand why Bolgár has chosen to use the plagiarism accusation and I’m not privy to him, neither to Ungváry. But once again: a, the discussion has a real historiographic stake; b, Bolgár’s criticism only adds to what was already said about Ungrváry’s book in this sense, he only elaborated it further; c, it is a legitimate professional discussion; so, it is very problematic to call itt “character asassination”.

  26. @Webber:

    Your claim that Ungváry is Szakály’s “minion” is anentirely unjustified attack on Ungváry (who is nobody’s minion).

    I did not make such a claim. I just used an analogy. If – based on the fact that Gerő is Bolgár’s boss (although a TA or a junior assistant professor hardly has a choice concerning his boss’ person) – Bolgár can be aligned with Gerő and based on Gerő’s relationship with Schmidt it is even possible to allude to complicity between Bolgár and Schmidt, then one could even claim that Ungváry, whose friend and mentor is a friend of Szakálys, is actually Szakály’s minion. Which – as you rightly pointed out, based on Ungvráy’s texts – is absurd. But – if you do the same scrutiny with Bolgár – you will be compelled to admit, that the claim concerning his person is equally aburd unless you are applying a double measure.

  27. OT: Rtl klub.

    The pro-Fidesz spin doctors are geniuses. The new headlines are “RTL Klub vs. Fidesz: will Fidesz give in?” “Is Fidesz becoming a csicska” more or less “pu**y”?

    Of course, Fidsz only would like to sell this instance as a give-in (so as to make the hopelessly naïve Germans believe that they have won, that they were good negotiators), but it is in fact Fidesz which has won.

    The money from the media tax doesn’t matter, but RTL is the single most influential actor causing problems for Orban in Hungary.

    If RTL Klub goes back to showing singing tarantulas and five-legged cats all of Orban’s problems will go away. Let those Germans feel they were smart. And the message is clear: nobody, not even supposedly deep-pocketed foreigners mess with Orban.

    By the way my suspicion is that ÚjKurir is a Russian financed (pro-Fidesz, anti-Western) blog. It has some items about which in Hungary nobody cares, but about which the Russians are sensitive. (It’s also important to see about which they don’t write).

    http://ujkurir.blog.hu/2015/01/27/rtl_vs_orbanek_becsicskult_a_fidesz

  28. @Gábor – Why should I know who you are? We are all anonymous here. If Éva has mentioned you in posts, how am I to know which Gábor you are or aren’t? It’s not exactly an uncommon name. Frankly, I don’t read EVERYTHING on this blog – just items that interest me. I certainly don’t generally follow comments.
    Apparently I offended you by saying I think you’re wrong. I still think you are wrong. You haven’t yet given a shred of evidence to back up what you say. You are, apparently, a historian or involved in some way in the field. Please act like one and give us evidence.
    I strongly disagree with your comment that, regarding Bolgár’s attack, it is “problematic to call it ‘character assassination.'”
    What else would you call unfounded and unjust accusations of plagiarism and anti-semitism?
    Where are these criticisms you mention that are similar to Bolgár’s? Given the very loose and free use of terms by Miklós, I want links. I’m not going to take your or anybody else’s word for this without evidence. The accusation of anti-semitism is far too serious to take lightly.
    The last review I read, by Ferenc Laczó, was quite even handed. Laczó made some good critical comments (all decent reviewers do of ALL books), but didn’t give so much as a hint that plagiarism of anti-semitism. Here’s a link to that, fyi:
    https://www.academia.edu/4168230/Review_of_Kriszti%C3%A1n_Ungv%C3%A1ry_A_Horthy-rendszer_m%C3%A9rlege._Diszkrimin%C3%A1ci%C3%B3_szoci%C3%A1lpolitika_%C3%A9s_antiszemitizmus_Magyarorsz%C3%A1gon

  29. @Webber One thing is sure – Bolgár is going to get a LOT of “independent quotes” (független hivatkozások) to his articles in this sorry affair. Sadly for him, the periodicals he published his accusations in (Magyar Narancs, Népsazbadság) do not count as academic in the Hungarian system. Apparently he doesn’t know that, because he has put them on his Hun. Acad. MTMT webpage, in which people in higher ed must list their academic work.

    I really do not want to seem pricky with you, but it is not just a custom, but a legitimate possibility. Actually Ungváry is doing the same (check the Általános table there at the bottom you will find the number of such publications and the number is itself a link which will list them separately) and he also listed the citations he received with this works. As long as you correctly signal that these works are not published ina scientific journal thet’s quite OK and the system won even count them as scientific publications. Here Bolgár qualified his Magyar Narancs essays as professional essays (essays in the Hungarian meaning), and he did it clearly deliberately. His recent article published in Népszabadság on the Brazilian footbal is listed as popularizing. Whether it is the right choice or not, it is a tricky question. There are no clear guidlines what to do with texts which were written with the intention to be scientific ones but were published in a weekly. See for example the ÉS, which publishes a lot of studies with footnotes from authors like Gyáni Gábor. Is it a scientific publication or not? Practice varies…

    Otherwise it doesn’t really important, better reviewers (and the aim of mtmt is to help reviewers mainly) used to check the bibliography more thoroghly, so they will certainly notice the problem. In case Bolgár will submit a dissertation for an MTA doctorate (and it won’t happen in the next few years) an expert from the academy will check all of the items and making correction before deciding whether he matches the formal criteria or not.

  30. @Gábor I really don’t want to seem PICKY with you (the word with the “r” is rather rude) – but you just confirmed everything I wrote, in a briefer form than you did, so as not to bore others- but pour l’edification des filles, such as Bolgár. What is your point, other than proving that you (too) know a thing or two about academic practice in Hungary?

  31. @Webber: @Gábor – Why should I know who you are? We are all anonymous here. If Éva has mentioned you in posts, how am I to know which Gábor you are or aren’t? It’s not exactly an uncommon name. Frankly, I don’t read EVERYTHING on this blog – just items that interest me. I certainly don’t generally follow comments

    So, let’s make it clear, you have just admitted being negligent – and that’s exactly what I claimed. 🙂

    ‘Apparently I offended you by saying I think you’re wrong. I still think you are wrong. You haven’t yet given a shred of evidence to back up what you say. You are, apparently, a historian or involved in some way in the field. Please act like one and give us evidence.’

    No, I would not say you offended me, it was an apparently unfounded statement which was – after a few moments – rather funny.

    ‘What else would you call unfounded and unjust accusations of plagiarism and anti-semitism?’

    As far as I recall Bolgár has never claimed that Ungváry is an anti-semite. He pointed out methodological problems with the way he had used the statistical sources and obviously it was a topic which in a different form surfaced in the Gerő-Romsics debate – so far some analogy is justifed and given how Gerő made his argument, I admit, for the untrained eye Bolgár is supsicious to make the same claim. However, Bolgár doesn’t wan’t to whitewash the Horthy-era from anti-semitism – it would be completely incpompatible with what he says. You can’t claim simulatneously that such thing as anti-semitic statistics existed at the highest official level (anyhow, Alajos Kovács was head of the Statistical Office) and that the Horthy-era was free form anti-semitism. Quite the contrary. But Ungáry – and it was never ever doubted by Bolgár – harshly denounces interwar Hungary’s anti-semitism in his book= this is the whole point, alongside offering a totalitarianist interpretation of the entire 20th century Hungarian history), so if it would be true that Bolgár denounces Ungváry as an anti-semite than he would denounce an anti-semite-anti-semite, but he would do it as a minion of anti-semites, who try to hide their anti-semitism. I woild rather propose to keep with Occam’s razor than to complicate things so far: neither Bolgár, nor Ungváry is an anti-semite and none of them claimed the opposite of his opponent. Soemone, somewhere insinuated it, but we don’t know whom, because it was an unnamed source of Index.
    The stake of the debate is not the anti-semitic nature of the Horthy-era, but how the modern socitey of Hungary is seen. But that’s much less entertaining for the public than the deathmatch of two anti-semites. 🙂

    As for links:

    Click to access EPA0414_korall_53_160-171.pdf


    Click to access EPA0414_korall_53_172-178.pdf


    Click to access EPA0414_korall_54_174-179.pdf


    Click to access EPA0414_korall_54_180-185.pdf

    http://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCgQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.multunk.hu%2Findex.php%3Foption%3Dcom_docman%26task%3Ddoc_download%26gid%3D423%26Itemid%3D18&ei=9JPHVOGFHMLzUp2hhOAF&usg=AFQjCNHaiYkEp-CCNERej6fJLLlwOcv_-A&sig2=E2PKbDj7t7ep-v7Y71jJQQ&bvm=bv.84349003,d.d24
    http://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCkQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.multunk.hu%2Findex.php%3Foption%3Dcom_docman%26task%3Ddoc_download%26gid%3D424%26Itemid%3D18&ei=75bHVOX8EsWqUemlgsAG&usg=AFQjCNGFEpvJ4eVCq2cvd60OdFnRwVJqYQ&sig2=Z-f9abNfCRkq4myjnl-Xew&bvm=bv.84349003,d.d24&cad=rja
    (Sorry, but these are only available in this long google format…)

  32. @Weber @Gábor I really don’t want to seem PICKY with you (the word with the “r” is rather rude) – but you just confirmed everything I wrote, in a briefer form than you did, so as not to bore others- but pour l’edification des filles, such as Bolgár. What is your point, other than proving that you (too) know a thing or two about academic practice in Hungary?

    Thanks for the corrections, I’m very mch aware of the importance of thorough proofredaers.

    However, if you read your original carefully, you implied misbehavior (if I may phrase it so) from Bolgár. Which is not necessarily the case and that was what I tried to point out. Not to speak of the fact that he has never published his accusation against Ungváry in Népszabadság (that article was on the Brazilian football), moreover, he has not even listed it as academic publication which you again claimed. So, once again we are here: your negligence, in this case neglecting informations which you have even consulted. I really can’t correct all of your mistakes, I don’t have time to be the editor of my proofreader. 🙂

  33. @Webber: Sorry, I need to rephrase this part sentence: ” so if it would be true that Bolgár denounces Ungváry as an anti-semite than he would denounce an anti-semite-anti-semite, but he would do it as a minion of anti-semites, who try to hide their anti-semitism. ”

    So, if it would be that Bolgár denounces Ungváry as an anti.semite tha he would denounce an anti-anti-semite-anti-semite, but he would do it as the minion of anti-semites who wan’t to hide their anti-seimitism.

  34. Paul Lendvai got something right in his overview of Hungarian history. Historiography in Hungary is embedded in myth making. Because greater Hungary doesn’t exist and there is no chance it will exist again we are reduced to deep debates of the past. I got my fill of that as a child in hungarian language and culture school in Chicago and even in summer camps. As I have pointed out before some of our instructors were former fascists and among the oldest ones there were many nostalgists for the dual monarchy. All were ferocious anti-communists.

    The simple truth of the matter is Hungarian Jews outside of Budapest were slaughtered in mass as part of the German purification process that Hungarians were complicit with at the highest levels. Hungarian Jews were put in front lines in WWII as slave laborers in violation of the Geneva Convention with the full support of the Hungarian government. The massive volume published by the U.S. Holocaust Museum in 2013 that this blog reported on provides massive support for Ugvary’s basic position, the actual accumulated wealth of Hungarian Jews in reality is of little importance because there is no question that a myth of fantastic accumulated wealth supposedly collectively used by Jews has been around for hundreds of years.

    How it was explained to me as a child was rather simple, because good Hungarian Cathloics were prohibited by religous law for hundreds of years from loaning money based on interest and the Jews had no such prohibition they became collectively rich and played a disproportionate role in Hungary. This debate is just one more example of how Hungarians live both in the past and present simutanously, it’s a curse I guess.

  35. I definitely get the impression that Gabor and Zsolt in this discussion are Fidesz trolls. It is interesting that this subject has more than many other discussions on this blog.

  36. Though we have been debating one another, I don’t get the impression that Gábor is a Fidesz troll in this discussion. I got the impression that Zsolt (who did imply Ungváry is anti-semitic) is just trying to defend Bolgár, for whatever reason, and I wouldn’t like to speculate on that.

  37. @Gabor:

    Let’s go back to the basics. It’s important not to get lost.

    According to Bolgar, Krisztain Ungvary (i) plagiarized and secondly (ii) it is implied by Bolgar that Ungvary is an anit-semite (because he used data assembled by known anti-semites).

    None of the two charges are true for various reasons. And we have not seen evidence supporting any of the two contentions.

    However, I would also note that – unfortunately for Ungvary – there are two camps opposing Ungvary.

    The first which does not like Ungvary (for whatever reasons) and can use the charge anti-Semitism “legitimately” (as they are jewish in one way or another) such as Bolgar or Gerő. They may even agree with Ungvary’s main thesis, but just don’t like Ungvary’s influence and stature.

    To the second group belong others who just don’t like the *theses* that (A) Hungary was so thoroughly anti-Semite (and/or in todays terminology extreme right-wing) and -perhaps more importantly – I am afraid can’t come to terms with the implication that (B) the jewish Hungarians were so influential and conversely that the gentile Hungarians were so poor, backward, uneducated and mean.

    Contention (B) is essentially the (scientific) repeat of the offensive remark made by rabbi György Landeszmann more than two decades ago (who left Hungary and disappeared after his statement became very controversial). Only this time, the statement comes from a gentile who cannot be simply denounced as Landeszman could be (“a rootless jew with no Hungarian feelings”).

    I think Schmidt Maria and the Korall circle etc. historian have the main problems with the thesis (B) (though with (A) too). It just hurts them. Bolgar only comes in handy because he is more aggressive, so the conservative/right-wing historians don’t have to do the dirty work.

  38. @Gábor – now we’re back on track!
    We’ll have to agree to disagree.
    The way I read his remarks, Bolgár said that Ungváry’s argument is anti-semitic.
    But back to another point – apparently you don’t feel it relevant that Bolgár’s PhD supervisor is Gerő (n.b. surely Bolgár is just a TA), or that it is relevant that Ungváry has had debates with Gerő, Szakály, and Schmidt. To me that seems more than a coincidence.
    As I recall, nobody was particularly surprised that (former) students of Romsics’s drafted the statement (signed by many others) saying that when Gerő had accused Romsics of anti-semitism he had gone too far. Nobody thought “hmmm – well, that’s just a coincidence!”

  39. @Gábor – since we’re into nitpicking, you and I, the two articles Bolgár has listed on MTMT from Magyar Narancs are about Ungváry’s work.
    You’re right, the Népszabadság one is about Brazilian football. That, however, actually strengthens my point, which is that the guy is putting non-academic articles up on MTMT, which is ridiculous (and I don’t give a damn that some other people do the same, regardless of who they are – they are being silly, too).

  40. And Gábor, there are a few more nits to pick: ” neither Bolgár, nor Ungváry is an anti-semite and none of them claimed the opposite of his opponent.”
    NOBODY has even implied that Bolgár is an anti-Semite. That accusation has been made, however, by him, implicitly and (in my view) explicitly about Ungváry.
    If you don’t see it, I throw my hands up in despair. It’s there, and most of us do see it (incl. surprisingly a fellow writing for Heti Válasz)

  41. Finally, Gábor – NONE of the reviews you suggested we search for on google accuse Ungváry of plagiarism or anti-semitism. They are critical of Ungváry’s work (which is absolutely fine), but don’t make those charges.
    Bolgár stands alone in making these accusations.
    It might be nice if Gerő were to wade in – either to rein his student in, or to back him up.

  42. Bolgár might be the greatest Hungarian historian ever but I strenuously object to his way of conducting historical debates. I have never, never in my life heard American-Canadian historians talking to each other or about each other this way. The “bunkó stílus” not surprisingly has been spilling over to academe.

    One can disagree with Ungváry or anyone else but not this way. The same applies also to Gyáni. The debate at the end deteriorated to the point that as a counterpoint someone who was trying to discredit the statistics brought up the possibility of poor Jewish peasant girls being hired out as domestics. Or joining brothels.

    I don’t think that it is worth spending that much time and energy on questioning the validity of the statistics in order to prove that the Jewish population was actually poorer than the non-Jewish one because most historians would consider this idea to be utter nonsense.

  43. Clubber: “The West either wants to exploit Hungary or – even when it preaches about democracy, rule of law – the West just doesn’t care.”

    What is “The West”? If you are referring to companies, then yes, you are right, they only care about their profits, that is their duty to their shareholders. On the other hand governments, non-profit organizations and people in general do care about democracy, freedom and such things.

    Does this mean that for profit organizations are evil? Not in my opinion.

  44. @Éva – it doesn’t matter who Gábor is. Let the facts speak – and let’s not have them silenced by the gods.
    I quote from Bolgár:
    Ungváry uses “an anti-semitic conceptual framework” (“antiszemita értelmezési keretet”) and “concepts of anti-semitic literature flow unhindered throughout” Ungváry’s work (“antiszemita irodalom koncepciói akadálytalanul folynak át”)
    Is that, or is that not an insinuation of anti-semitism? If it’s not, it’s damned close to one.
    This insinuation, and the accusation of plagiarism, is the problem I and others have been pointing out.
    The QUALITY of Ungváry’s work is another issue altogether. The reviews Gábor suggested we look at had problems with that. None Of them came near to claiming Ungváry was an anti-semite or that he engaged in plagiarism.
    Gábor said this:
    “Bolgár’s criticism only adds to what was already said about Ungrváry’s book in this sense, he only elaborated it further; c, it is a legitimate professional discussion; so, it is very problematic to call itt “character asassination”.”
    That is incorrect. Bolgár’s criticism does not just “add to what was already said”, Bolgár did not just “elaborate it further.” He made accusations nobody else made.
    No, it is most certainly not “a legitimate professional discussion” to unjustly accuse someone of plagiarism or insinuate he is an anti-semite. It is apparently “legitimate” in the eyes of one Hungarian historian. Why, I do not know.
    And no, it is not “very problematic” to call it “character assassination.”
    Were the two charges to stick – plagiarism and anti-semitism – Ungváry’s career would be over (certainly in the West it would). This is a strong attempt at character assassination.
    I don’t give a damn who is making the arguments that it isn’t character assassination, or that others have said similar things.
    Bolgár has crossed a line.
    Why Gábor is trying to defend him is beyond my comprehension.

  45. @Webber, I agree with you. There is nothing wrong with those book reviews. Bolgár’s attack is something else. When I have a little time I will try to get hold of some articles by Bolgár. I’m curious what he can do beside what I have read and heard from him until now.

  46. The Swiss gave in, RTL Klub is about to give in, so how long will Norway watch its loved ones being tormented?

    The Hungarian recipients will want to have a nice summer vacation, so I guess a “compromise” is on its way, a few months and they will beg the Norwegians to deal with Fidesz, those fideszniks aren’t so bad after all, there are even some nice people around Lazar…

    Nobody can resist Orban and Lazar.

    Especially not people from the West.

    http://index.hu/belfold/2015/01/27/vizsgalatok_soraval_szallt_ra_az_allam_a_norvegos_civilekre/

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