Collecting Stories – Oral History Archives in Hungary
Social sciences in Hungary often rely on oral history as a source for research. Our paper gives a summary of how the bigger, sometimes forgotten collections conducted and used the interviews. Outlining the history of several institutions – the Memory Collecting Group (VEGY) of the one-time Party History Institute, a department of the National Széchényi Library (OSZK), the Repository of Historical Interviews (TIT), the Oral History Archive (OHA) of the Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the Centropa Foundation – it describes the practice of oral source recording and usage in Hungary in the Socialist era and after the collapse of Communism. The analysis highlights that oral history was hold in low esteem in the academic world, that this view changed only slowly, and discusses the emergence of a new way of thinking with Centropa. Beside describing the activity in the institutions founded in the Socialist period or after the Transition, it touches on the circumstances of their foundation, the particular aims of collecting oral sources as well as the publications of these institutions. The founders of the collections have defined for the long run how the collected material can be accessed and made use of. According to the author, in the case of VEGY and TIT only limited access is granted, while the mission of OHA and, especially, Centropa is to make the interviews available to as many interested parties as possible.
The Lifestyles and Life Strategies of Aristocratic Families after 1945
Using interviews, the paper examines the life circumstances of the aristocracy after 1945: how the social changes influenced the picture the members of this community formed about their own world, their lifestyles and their everyday routine?
From the establishment of Communist dictatorship until the first half of the 1960s, the nobility's chances in education and the labor market were limited. Their children, stigmatized as "class aliens", were to experience the differences between the values of the outside world and the family first in primary school, and then had to face difficulties when continuing their studies in higher levels of education. Mostly, they completed their final exams in a church grammar school, while in higher education they had the best chances if they pursued technological studies.
After the War, they were manual workers for some time. Their most useful cultural advantage was their knowledge of a foreign language. Men learnt some trade, while women were working as nurses, secretaries or in other fields of administration. The possibilities for a change came in the second half of the 1960s, but they often needed to rely on influential friends. Their career possibilities were limited.
Some of the interviewees had already given up their aristocratic lifestyle and identity before the war. In the post-war period, those who had not done so met often, maintained lively connections with each other, married each other, but some, due either to fear or the lack of parental pressure, did not join these reorganizing societies. Family background, however, was important when it came to choosing friends and partners, and this preference gradually became a part of their common – religious and conservative – values and views.
"Everyone Went There in the Belief that this was a World Record." The Stories of Women Worker MPs about the Socialist Era.
In the official discourse of the Socialist era workers were regarded as a uniform social class. The women worker MPs of the time represented not only the "ruling class" in the Parliament, but also emancipated women. In the paper, I use two life story interviews conducted with two former women worker MPs, Éva and Paula to analyze how they experienced their life as an MP. It seems that in their life storytelling they attach importance to the period when they were representatives. They described their relations with the politicians embodying the political system as paternalist. They structured their life storytelling so as to present the path to becoming an MP as a career. While Éva saw the decade of her representative status as a successful period, Paula's relation to this phase of her past is much more contradictory. While in the interview situation Éva's secrets and taboos were rather connected to her private life, Paula's suppressions were directly linked to her representative status. Because of that their relations to the past were also different. Paula much rather likes to talk about this phase of her life as a period that is over, while Éva is still proud of it. It seems that as members of the working class, regarded as a uniform social group in the official discourse, they represented themselves in their remarks only. They cannot be regarded as representatives of women interests, but they described this phase of their life as one in which they, as attractive women in the prime of their life, could become part of such events that their fellow women workers had no chance to.
"If I screamed, who would hear me?" The Life Story of Mária Petrás from Diószén to Budapest
I make the life story interview with Mária Petrás, potter and folk singer of csángó origin, available for interpretation within the coordinate system of narrative identity theories. I have taken into consideration from the start that decoding means instant re-encoding and that my analysis cannot be traced back to some lively reality. Because of that I rather looked for the organizing principle of the narrative, that is the "message" instead of investigating the compatibility or the incongruities between the stories experienced and told. I looked at the message as an idea constructing the coherence and the meaning of the life story.
I saw the life story as a life drama, in which the character was an enunciator of the plot and the message embedded in the plot. As a result, the message acquired a cathartic value, while the character acquired a personality determined by the plot. This way the narrative identity could be assessed from the aspect of the plot, the morality as expressed in the action created a new layer for interpretation. That is, my starting point was that the bridge between narrative identity and the story is the same as the one between personality and the plot. I call this bridge the message.
My analysis focuses on the message the character constructs by organizing the events of her life into a story. I managed to understand Mária's life story by seeing it as something more than just a self-exposing storytelling of a person: rather it is a creative effort that constructs the dignity of death in the text.
"I have repented of it, and the Lord God knows that and will forgive me" S.'s Story about a New Religious Movement in a South-Transylvanian Village
Through the story of S's conversion, the paper presents a case study of a denominational conflict within a closed village community. S left his/her Protestant denomination, re-christened and then left his/her new group as well to seek salvation, the true way and a community where he/she can live freely according to his/her belief.
In 1998, after years of bitter denominational strife, the religious conflict in the Transylvanian village led to the local Protestant minister's losing his pulpit gown. Led by the dismissed preacher, a new religious movement, the members of which called themselves Charismatics, began its missionary service in the village. The peculiar religious practices of the Charismatic movement were very different from the traditional Protestant practice the village community was used to. It was the differences in religious practice as well as in the administration of sacred time and place that led to tensions which reemerge from time to time even today whenever the Charismatic group organizes a public event.
The story of S. casts a special light on the interpretation of this conflict. It shows what motivated those who joined the Charismatic movement, it highlights the new possibilities they had, and interprets the conditions of life of those who left the Charismatics but refused to rejoin the Protestant camp in the closed village community.
A Fake Autobiography, or the Delusions of Memory. The Memoirs of Móric Scharf
At the end of his life in Amsterdam, Móric Scharf (1868–1929), who was the chief witness in the trial of the Tiszaeszlár Affair held in Nyíregyháza in 1883, handed over a short autobiography to Lajos Szabolcsi, editor-in-chief of the weekly Egyenlőség [Equality]. The piece told the story of the young Móric's life till May 1882, and in retrospect confessed that he had given false testimony at the trial. Despite the fact that it was the chief witness who made this confession, the source has met with general silence in the literature as historiography is skeptical about its authenticity: it is believed that it was either co-authored or written by someone else. We have examined three questions biographically relevant to the memoirs: the loss of the mother, the relation to the stepmother and the development of the boy's Jewish identity. Putting the register of births, the shorthand records of the trial and the memoirs side by side, we can conclude that in itself neither can guarantee the discovery of the "truth". But they do supplement each other when it comes to filtering out the improbabilities and the discovery of questionable circumstances in terms of narrativity.
Melléklet: Részletek Hidi Antal visszaemlékezéséből
Elmélet és módszer