Hungarian Spectrum

Happy New Year to all the readers of Hungarian Spectrum

happy new year 2015

It was seven and a half years ago that I wrote my first post for Hungarian Spectrum. Since then I have recorded momentous, horrific, uplifting, and occasionally amusing events on these pages. The 2,600 posts that have appeared read like a timeline of recent Hungarian history.

From its modest beginnings the readership of Hungarian Spectrum had been increasing slowly but steadily until this past year when, with Hungary frequently in the headlines, it experienced a growth spurt. A year ago about 1,000 people subscribed. Today we have almost 3,000 subscribers and about the same number of daily non-subscriber visitors.

I want to thank all those people who with their valuable and learned comments have contributed to the reputation of Hungarian Spectrum as a reliable, civilized blog where serious political discussions take place.

And finally, I thank all of you who in recent days expressed your appreciation of my work. Your kind words mean a lot to me.

Budapest Beacon’s Interview with Eva S. Balogh, Part II

On November 7 I put up the first part of Benjamin Novak’s interview with me. It was one of several interviews that Novak, senior editor of Budapest Beacon, did with Hungarians living and/or working in the United States. We decided that the conversation would be conducted in Hungarian, to which English subtitles would subsequently be added. Now that the subtitling of the second part of the interview is finished, here it is for everybody to see.

The Hungarian constitution: Interview with Kim Lane Scheppele

Budapest Beacon, a bilingual online newspaper that reports on current events in Hungary, conducted a number of interviews with leading Hungarian analysts living or temporarily working in the United States. Readers of Hungarian Spectrum were already able to see three of these interviews. The first featured Charles Gati, a political scientist and senior research professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The second was conducted with Miklós Haraszti, a writer, human rights advocate, and fomer OSCE representative on Freedom of the Media. The third video was with me.

Now I’m happy to present the fourth interview, this time with Kim Lane Scheppele, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values as well as Director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University. I don’t have to introduce Kim Scheppele to most readers of Hungarian Spectrum.  She has been a regular contributor to, reader of, and commenter on this site. She is an expert on Hungarian constitutional law who has performed invaluable service to democratic Hungary. Many of her studies were republished on Hungarian Spectrum and can be found in the website’s archives.

The interviewer is Benjamin Novak, an American Hungarian who currently lives in Hungary and is senior correspondent of Budapest Beacon. 


Hungarian Spectrum 2007-2013: 2,156 days and 2,000 posts

Readers of this blog didn’t, couldn’t, realize that yesterday was a special day in the history of Hungarian Spectrum. Yesterday I posted the two-thousandth (yes, #2,000) article. My first post appeared on June 27, 2007, almost six years ago. In case anyone is interested in a more precise calculation, there were 2,156 days between June 27 and yesterday. So, there were very few days that Spectrum offered its readers nothing new.

Perhaps I should explain why I started the blog in the first place. I became interested in current Hungarian politics in early 1994 when the Internet was in its infancy. There was no possibility of reading newspapers, listening to radio stations, or watching television online. There were no social sites, although people gathered in small groups, mostly centered around Yahoo, to discuss politics or other topics of common interest. Those using AOL had to be very careful how much time they spent online because the basic AOL service was only ten hours a month.

As soon as I had Internet access I signed up for the two or three discussion groups that dealt with Hungary, and eventually I started a group of my own. But it was almost inevitable that the members of these groups would either become tired of one other or bored with the topics members brought up and that eventually these discussion groups would fall apart. Mine didn’t for a very long time, but finally the discussions became less interesting and less instructive and I became increasingly frustrated. I began to feel that I was wasting my time. As a group leader of sorts I felt that I was responsible for keeping the conversation going, and I spent hours combing the Hungarian media to come up with timely topics. Eventually I had to admit that no amount of effort on my part would keep the group discussion vibrant.

It was at this point that a friend of mine said to me: “Why don’t you start a blog? You are wasting your considerable knowledge of Hungarian politics here. You’re reaching very few people who are not even interested in what you have to say.” I knew very little about blogs and had no experience with the kind of writing that one expects from a blogger. My first draft attempt met with scorn: “You’re not writing a historical treatise in a periodical. Loosen up!” Finally, on June 27, 2007 I was ready to go live.

Well, I might have been ready to write a blog but people were not quite ready to read itI don’t remember how long it took before there were even 100 readers a day. I do know that the first days were agonizing. One day there were only nine hits, as it turned out all my own. But eventually there were even comments. I started getting letters telling me that expats and foreign newspapermen in Budapest had become avid readers of Hungarian Spectrum.

Lately there has been some discussion about the purpose of Hungarian Spectrum. I think that first and foremost it should inform people, especially those who don’t know Hungarian, about day to day Hungarian politics. No American, Canadian, British, German, or French paper will ever cover Hungarian affairs in any depth, if at all. Yet, judging from the size of the readership of Hungarian Spectrum today, there are a lot of people out there who are eager to know more about the country.

Second, I think that Hungarian Spectrum as an English-language blog opens the door to a country where information directed at the outside world is scarce, be it official government publications or the messages of the opposition. That’s why I spend a great deal of time translating material. Just lately the decision to translate the Tarlós-Orbán conversation made a difference. Even Portuguese newspapers picked up the story from Hungarian Spectrum. My decision to translate Viktor Orbán’s unfortunate remarks about the German cavalry in the form of tanks was picked up by the German press.

Third, I wouldn’t do all this work if I didn’t enjoy it. I do, and I enjoy the lively discussions that follow the postings.

Hungarian Spectrum is often described as a “liberal blog.” Indeed, it is if by liberal we mean “not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.” I try to present the facts unvarnished, but the opinions expressed are my own. It cannot be otherwise.

Yes, I’m proud of the road we’ve traveled in the last six years: Hungarian Spectrum has become an important source of information on Hungary. It is more than I ever expected. Thank you, dear readers, for your support and your comments.