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Balazs Trencsenyi: "Politics of History" and Authoritarian Regime-Building in Hungary After 1990

In his latest book chapter Balazs Trencsenyi, lead researcher of our Democracy in History workgroup, focuses on the relationship between historical knowledge production and the memory politics and historical ideology of the ‘System of National Cooperation’ that emerged in Hungary after 2010.

The chapter assesses the re-nationalization of the public sphere and the politicization of history, catalyzed both by governmental policies and, to some extent, by pressure ‘from below’. Trencsenyi argues that the key elements of the official ‘politics of history’ promoted by the Orban government evolved gradually since the early 1990s and then took a radical turn, notably after 2000, when Fidesz, the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, increasingly adopted a radical nationalist stance.

He also points to the promising developments in Hungarian historiography after the regime change, seeking to develop a more nuanced picture of the twentieth century, particularly the communist period. It remains to be seen whether the scholars offering these interpretations will be able to retain a certain level of institutional and intellectual independence or if, eventually, the increasing authoritarianism of the regime will force them to choose between the options of ideological subservience and exit.

The chapter is published in National History and New Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge, 2021), which offers a broad international overview of the rhetoric, contents, and contexts of the rise of renewed national historical narratives, and of how professional historians have reacted to these phenomena. The contributions focus on a wide range of representative nations from around all over the globe.

Learn more about the book here.

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