The changing facets of Hungarian nationalism

The changing facets of Hungarian nationalism – Nationalism Reexamined

Gyorgy Csepeli

Historical Perseverance of National Sentiment

The early historical development of the Hungarian people unfortunately cannot be documented accurately: evidence is controversial. Linguistic research has suggested that Hungarian ethnicity can be traced back to about 3500 B.C., when the Ugric branch separated from the mainstream Finno-Ugric peoples. Three thousand years later, the nomadic ethnic Hungarians came into contact with Turk peoples. There are some records which suggest the possibility of a political alliance between Hungarians and the Turks, and this is the reason why at the time the Hungarians were called Turks. The Latin term Hungarus and its other Indo-European versions (Ungar, Venger) originated from the common ethnic name Onogur, which meant “ten tribes” in Bulgarian Turkish. The Hungarians refer to themselves as Magyar, which is the name of their original Ugric tribe. On the basis of this controversial linguistic data, some theorists stress the possibility that there was a merge between early Hungarians and Turks. In 895, Magyar tribes were pushed by mass population movements to the Carpathian Basin where in 1000 they founded the Hungarian Kingdom. The Slavs, Avars, Pechenegs, Cumans, and Jazygians, who were already living in the Carpathian Basin, inextricably mixed with the Hungarians.

At the time of the foundation of the Hungarian state approximately two hundred thousand ethnic Hungarians lived in the Carpathian Basin; this number rose to 4.5 – 5 million people by the end of the fifteenth century. As a result of foreign occupation and constant warfare, this number fell to 2.5 million by the end of the seventeenth century. Ethnic Hungarians constituted a minority, with German, Slovak, Romanian, Serbian, Croatian, Ruthenian, and Gypsy groups rounding out the population because of immigration. In 1920, historical Hungary ceased to exist, and in the new reduced territory of the Hungarian state, ethnic Hungarians made up 90 percent of the population and 3 million Hungarians lived in the neighboring countries. According to the last census, Hungary currently has approximately 10 million inhabitants. There is a tendency toward a decrease in population: the average Hungarian population has fallen by approximately 400,000 between 1980 and 1994.

The Hungarian Kingdom was founded by Stephen I, who was recognized by the Pope. Before going into more detail, three major historical circumstances must be mentioned. First, as we have stated, the ethnic and linguistic composition of Hungarians was sharply different than neighboring Slavic and German people. At that time, however, this difference was of little importance, because medieval feudal society was not built upon ethnic principle. Members of the nobility were considered full members of the ruling class regardless of their mother tongue. On the other hand, serfs were first and foremost subjects of the ruling class, and their mother tongue was not considered to be politically significant.

Second, the choice of Catholicism was a conscious political decision resulting in a separation from Eastern European Byzantine influence and the fixing of Hungary’s position as the border zone of Central Europe. Catholic identification had important consequences because Christian orthodoxy, which prevailed in Eastern Europe, did not allow much room for organic, slow, gradual development of Western structures and values such as individual liberty, dignity, separation of church and state, patterns of social organizations emerging from the lower levels of society. Third, the development of feudalism caught up quickly with Western Europe but was halted by the Turkish occupation between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Throughout the middle ages, the Hungarian Kingdom endured as one of the most stable polities in Europe. This idyllic development was severely interrupted by the invasion of the Ottoman Turks. As a consequence of the constant warfare between Hungarians and Ottoman Turks, population growth was stunted and the network of medieval settlements with their urbanized bourgeois inhabitants perished. The 150 years of Turkish rule fundamentally changed the ethnic composition of Hungary. As a result of demographic losses including deportation, the number of ethnic Hungarians in existence at the end of the Turkish period was substantially diminished. Simultaneously, there was a marked migration of Slovaks from the north, Rumanians from the east, and South-Slavs from the south.

At the end of the seventeenth century, Hungary was liberated from the Turks by the Austrian Empire and became one of the countries ruled by the Hapsburg dynasty. Hungary’s position in the Hapsburg Empire was one of harmony and conflict. The Hungarian nobility were able to maintain their privileges and institutions from the middle ages. Foreign military and financial matters, however, were decided in Vienna, and the authority of the Hungarian Diet was limited. Meanwhile, new settlers arrived primarily from Germany and settled mostly in western Hungary. Due to their skill and expertise, many of the German settlers were later to form the core of the urban bourgeoisie. German immigration was followed by the movement of Jews, Greeks, and Armenians, who became entrepreneurs and merchants, bankers, and also part of the urban society. The Enlightenment and the international political turmoil peaking with the Napoleonic wars affected Hungarian ideological and political life. The emerging idea of nationalism centered around national sovereignty and complete separation from Austria. The defeat of the war of independence of 1848 – 1849, however, proved not to be fatal, and the desire of Independent Hungary finally had to be reconciled in a compromise between Vienna and Budapest in 1867.(1) Consequently, Hungary enjoyed unparalleled freedom in internal affairs but was constrained in the affairs of finance, defense, and foreign policy. Even if the independence of Hungary remained limited, her enhanced political status within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy resulted in rapid modernization and economic development.

This growth, however, ended with the defeat of the Monarchy in the First World War. The empire collapsed, and Hungary became one of the newly established independent national states in Central Europe. According to the terms of the Trianon Peace Treaty, which established the borders of the independent Hungarian state, Hungary, as it existed within the Monarchy, lost two thirds of its territory and one third of the Hungarian ethnic population. Hungarians living in and out of the new Independent state found it more than difficult to cope with the new situation. The treaty of Trianon was a peace accord imposed on Hungary by the will of the victorious powers. The Entente rewarded their allies who gradually developed into mortal enemies of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and Hungary. In the territory that was historical Hungary, there was a substantial number of non-Hungarian minorities; with the peace accord, each of these national minorities found their place in one of the successor states: Slovaks and Ruthens went to Czechoslovakia, Romanians went to Romania, Croats and Serbs became part of Yugoslavia, and Germans on the western border merged with Austria. Because there was no just way to draw borders between Hungary and the successor states, the individual non-Hungarian national groups, having seceded from Austro-Hungary, took territories where many Hungarians (3.3 million) lived and still live today.

In frustration, the Hungarian political elite allied with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in an attempt to revise the consequences of the Trianon Treaty. The alliance was successful in the short run in so far as Hungary managed to regain Southern Slovakia in 1938, Ruthenia in 1939, Northern Transylvania in 1940, and Vojvodina, including a small strip of Slovenia, in 1941. With the defeat of the Axis Powers in 1945, Hungary was forced to give up these territories.

Although the country was controlled by a council set up of the allied powers, free parliamentary elections were held in 1945 and 1947 and there was hope for a true pluralistic political system supplemented by a market economy. In the internationalist spirit of state socialism, imposed on Eastern and Central Europe by the Soviet Union, Hungarian vicissitudes were suppressed, and the issue of Trianon was subjected to official repression. This, of course, did not do away with hostile public attitudes toward the peace treaties (Trianon, 1920; Paris, 19947) or the general feeling of national frustration.

The development of the Hungarian state and its institutions can be characterized by a dualistic division of power between the imperial government in Vienna and local Hungarian interest represented first by the nobility and later by the gentry. This dualism lasted in various forms until 1918. Territorial losses, the slow down of economic progress, and the establishment of the full-fledged system of national public administration strengthened the power of the state over the society. This statist heritage proved to be extremely useful from the point of view of the establishment of state socialist institutions after 1948 which purposefully focused in one center the economic, political, ideological, and cultural decisions.

Hungarian culture generally has followed the patterns of Western European traditions. Due to deficiencies in social, economic, and political development, the politics of culture had an overwhelming impact on the formation of a national identity. The role of culture (including not only the uniqueness of the Hungarian language, but also the folk customs, way of life, character, moral, arts, and so on) generally has played a major role in the formation of national distinctiveness in all Eastern European nations, but most especially in the case of Hungary. This unique cultural character gave rise to feelings of loneliness rather than pride because Hungarians were obsessed with the possibility of extinction and absorption by the surrounding Slavic population.

The linguistic uniqueness of Hungarians was a basis for their feelings of loneliness, despair, anxiety, and guilt. These negative emotions were balanced by sudden explosions of heroism and irrational hope of survival. The Hungarian Anthem characteristically consists of traits of the Hungarian self-image, which can be compared in a way to the self-representation of the Jews tormented by self-criticism and perceived abandonment by God. This romantic self-image has gradually been replaced by an alternative self-portrayal which emphasizes urban, pragmatic, and bourgeois elements. This portrayal has been expressed especially by humor, also considered a part of the Hungarian national character.

The dominance of the politics of national culture resulted in insufficient institutions of democracy and made illusionary political reform aimed at democratization. Until 1920 there was no universal suffrage. Between the two world wars, general elections were not secret, and the authoritarian system, which was disguised by the facade of parliamentary democracy, did not give political representation to the poor peasantry or the urban proletariat. Moreover, anti-Jewish legislation enacted between 1938 and 1944 legally excluded hundreds of thousands of Jews from obtaining Hungarian citizenship, thus transforming them into non-persons. This legislative process led to the persecution, deportation, and mass killing of six hundred thousand Hungarian Jews.

Political repression and totalitarian state-socialist control over the society provoked mass protest and led to a revolution in the fall of lion. One of the major demands of the revolution was the restoration of national sovereignty and the re-evaluation of the significance of national identity. The failure of the 1956 revolution further deepened the national isolation. The state socialist system, however, after 1956 showed much more flexibility and sensitivity to the needs of its citizens, in contrast to other Eastern European countries, resulting in the development of “gulyas communism.” With the collapse of the state socialist system in Eastern Europe, Hungarians felt they would be the first to take the lead among former state communist countries in the transition to market economy and democracy.

In contrast to national development in Western Europe, the desire for national unity in Hungary lacked firm economic, social, political, and institutional foundations. Here, the concept of the nation came before the establishment of the proper political institutions, and the emerging national ideology consequently took the form of cultural politics. The national idea referred to elements of ethnocentric heritage, such as descent, cultural values, and norms. This type of national ideology demonstrated an overwhelming concern for political fictions and imagined national narratives (for example, the myth of the Holy Crown of Saint Stephen, fetishization of the territory of historical Hungary which lacked international recognition; importance of the mother tongue, literature, theater, and national symbols). The politics of cultural nationalism, however, cannot be viewed solely, as a romantic or literary redeeming of nationhood. Especially in the beginning of its development, the concern for the values of modernization served as a powerful catalyst for the patriots, urging them to realize the dream of a full-fledged national state. This urge, however, was in contradiction to a similar motivation to realize the nation state on behalf of neighboring national groups. The result was a permanent conflict which has survived the fall of state socialism.

The Paradoxical Influence of State Socialism on

National Development

One could hardly find more conspicuous proof of the validity of the thesis concerning the inherent conflict between intent and outcome in political action than the emergence of nationalism in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the “second world” which had been established under the banner of “socialist internationalism.” While the founding fathers of socialism could never really cope with the embarrassing facts of empirical reality of the perpetuation of nationalism in society, they were eager to set up ideological defense mechanisms to ignore contradictory evidence, claiming that the subjects of historical reality were not mature enough to catch up with the historical truth of the class struggle and the ongoing progress toward human emancipation. Followers of the founding fathers who succeeded in realizing some of the dreams of the founders were keen on providing powerful techniques of education in the spirit of Internationalism.

Paradoxically, these techniques were based on organizational forms of establishing nations as political units in the international community. The way the “socialist world” created its system of interconnections between the units within its realm copied the pattern of the nation state which historically had evolved as the major means of promoting internal political coherence and creating collective self-presentation in order to be perceived as homogeneous by other states.

The battle against nationalism at first appeared successful in the socialist world. There was the overwhelming power of the socialist state over its subjects, who practically could not resist the economic and political centralization which left no room for any kind of collective organization outside of the official frameworks. Spontaneity was by no means welcome in state socialism, and it is no wonder that not only religious, regional, and ethnic identities, but even generation and gender identifications were discouraged. Subjects were reduced to social roles, permitted to act within the rigid organizational patterns of party hierarchy, political “transmission belts”, such as trade unions, youth organizations, professional guilds, branches of bureaucratic state administration, and commanding posts of various ranks in the economy. Churches were kept under strict control, and religious identity was considered a mild form of mental deviance.

It would be misleading, however, to believe that these overt and covert means of political, ideological, and economic repression by themselves would have been strong enough to crush basic structures of civic society, pervert ideals of political democracy, and annihilate human dignity. The backwardness of the social grounds upon which the infrastructure of state socialism arose promoted the success of “building socialism” and contributed to the impression of complete transformation of identities, values, and social roles compared to those prevailing in the “free world.” Furthermore, over decades it seemed that state socialism could be conceived of as a remedy for the backwardness, and as an ideology it therefore attracted many intellectuals and political entrepreneurs in some countries of the Third World, which had chosen to stop colonization.

The battle for cultural nationalism in Eastern Europe was doomed because it had never developed into a political doctrine enabling communities imagining themselves as nations to establish internationally recognized independent states which had control over their economic resources and made themselves legitimate by granting equality to their citizens. Joseph Rothschild evaluates positively that following the Great War, as a result of the Versailles Treaties, new nation states emerged in Eastern Europe. However, he cannot refute the argument that the existence of newly established nation states between Germany and the Soviet Union was too limited to set it firmly in the social experience, and sooner or later these nascent nation states would fall as the Red Army invaded this area in 1944-45 (Rothschild, 1989). Moreover, the small Eastern European states emerging from the ruins of the Habsburg, Romanov, and Ottoman Empires during their short-lived tenure proved to be too weak to resist the temptation of defining the nation in terms of “Gemeinschaft.” They were more than ready to assume the racial version of the national idiom. The cultural definition of the nation left them ideologically and psychologically defenseless against the Soviet invasion, which was backed not only militarily, but also politically by the Yalta Agreement. Moreover, this invasion was supported morally by the anti-fascist ideological discourse of liberation.

In light of the historical defeat of cultural nationalism, which could not prove its incongruence with fascism, and the repression any spontaneous collective self-identification manifestations, including national identity, it is truly surprising to witness the reemergence of nationalism in Eastern Europe and in the successor states of the Soviet Union (Hockenos, 1993).

The question we must ask is whether we should approach and treat this symptom as a return, a haunting ghost from the pre-socialist past, or, as other interpretations would have it, as the unintended consequence of the practice of “building socialism.” We would certainly like to argue for the second option, at least in the case of Hungary. While there is no doubt that throughout the region from the Elbe to the Volga facts in the historical records are rampant since 1989 demonstrating the reemergence of national hatred and the obsession with ethnic purity. It is also easy to point to political parties and programs which hardly differ from their predecessors who acted sixty years ago and ended up at the gallows as war criminals. We would like to argue that cultural nationalism is in retreat in the post-socialist political landscape. We are witnessing the emergence of political nationalism aimed at building up Gesellschaft-type political communities based on constitution, civil society, market economy, and citizenship. Controversies tormenting the post-socialist nation states stem from the ideological and psychological dilemmas of political nationalism and have nothing to do with tribalism, obsession with ethnic purity, and other devices of the politics of national culture and psychology.

Is this statement congruent with our knowledge of the war in former Yugoslavia? Before answering this question, we would like to remind the reader of the paradoxical relationship between the practice of state socialism and political nationalism. The thesis is that while state socialism was successful in crushing cultural nationalism, it had the opposite effect on the development of political nationalism. Investigations of the relationship between state socialism and nationalism have generally failed to reveal this dual tendency. In some countries, the political elite was permissive toward nationalism, while in other countries there were elites who have resisted and have not deviated from the internationalist route imposed by the Soviet Empire. Romania falls almost naturally in the first category, while Hungary is conceived of as an ideal typical example of the second category. There is ample evidence in the literature dealing with the political and ideological developments in the individual state socialist countries which existed between 1948 and 1989 that the way political elites related to the ideology of nationalism can be represented by a scale ranging from official discouragement to outspoken encouragement. Nationalism, however, had never been a force which could have had serious impact on the fate of the “socialist world,” and it was an effect rather than a cause in the link of internal and external events leading to the collapse of the socialist world.

Why then has it become so apparent in the aftermath of the collapse of state-socialism? Following the disappearance of the Soviet Union and its dominance over the satellite states, nationalism in its political manifestation became seemingly important because all certainties, apart from the boundaries between the Individual national and federal states, disappeared. The basic need for the maintenance or the earlier establishment of these boundaries had by no means been dictated by practical necessities stemming from the administrative tasks of the Empire, which was heavily centralized and bureaucratized. just like the fortuitous colonial empires of Western Europe, it was necessary to divide and name the units within the Soviet Empire in order to administer. The classic colonizers, however, were keen on creating borders which did not correspond to previous views concerning the traditional boundaries between clusters of the colonized subjects. In contrast, Lenin and, to a lesser degree, Stalin were more concerned with the presence of political and cultural vernaculars and drawing internal borders within the Empire, especially in Eastern Europe, which followed the paths of history.

According to Stalin’s enunciation, the peoples of the Empire had to live in administrative units which were socialist in content but national in form. Despite the ideological and political homogenization of the Empire, the realization of this principle had far reaching consequences.

These consequences were most significant in Eastern Europe, where the “national form” of the individual administrative units had to be taken more seriously than in the core of the Empire. While it was a commonplace to blame the Yalta Agreement for the Sovietization of Eastern Europe, in fact, this agreement made it possible for the small Eastern European countries to access the requisites of nationhood in political terms. To be sure; Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia could not achieve this status; nevertheless, their Incorporation in the Soviet Union had never been recognized by the Western powers, and within the Soviet Union they preserved their “national form.”

It took forty years for the Eastern European countries to gain possession of the requisites of national existence, which for the first time in their history was not just imagination or demand, but sociological reality. Any nation can be created in the cultural sense by poets, teachers, linguists, or ethnographers. It is not up to them to care about the government, the army, mail service, railways, currency, the capital city, buildings for bodies. of public administration, embassies representing international recognition, police, foreign service. Any group can be culturally defined as a nation if it owns a repertory of national songs, customs, a belief in national character, and literary and historical narratives promoting the “awakening” of the nation. It would be an exaggeration to say that all nations of the “socialist Commonwealth” had been awakened by men of letters and lacked all political requisites, or many of them, in the pre-socialist past.

Nevertheless, their unhappy coexistence during the decades of the Soviet repression certainly held one novelty of paramount importance. For the first time in history, these states experienced fixed borders(2) which were not only guaranteed by the international community, but had assumed a kind of sanctity. While the founding fathers of socialism, led by idealism, predicted the withering away of the state, their successors had a less utopian demand. They emphasized the significance of state boundaries and understood that the great plan of “building socialism” is more realistic if it starts first in one country and later extends to the entire “socialist camp.” Experience and paranoia equally explain why socialist politicians were so concerned with the border between the “imperialists” and the peace camp. Between 1961 and 1989, the Berlin Wall dramatically illustrated the socialist politicians, anxiety about the frontier of the two worlds. But borders between the brother socialist countries were also much revered; Big Brother himself was extremely obsessed by the impenetrability of the Soviet state borders to which, unusual in an atheist system, the official documents referred as “holy.” The importance attributed to the borders was so great that in 1975 the Soviet Bloc signed the Helsinki Agreement, which renewed the commitment of the international community not to change state borders by force in Europe. Gratification on the Soviet’s part was by no means symbolic because there was no serious threat to change the European borders. The Western countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany, harshly refused the Idea of changing any state borders In Europe. While the Western attitude toward state borders had increasingly reflected less and less importance, the Soviets failed to reflect this development. In exchange for Western recognition, the borders between the European states created in 1945 favored Soviet interests. The Soviet Union and its satellites recognized a set of human rights which were considered by the Western powers to be of paramount importance. The Soviets thought that they had struck a good deal, but in actuality they simply got what they already had. The fruits in the “third basket” of the Agreement contained a lethal dose of ideological poison, causing the death of socialist “rights” and bringing to life ideals and values of liberal democracy which finally won over “socialist democracy.”

The Soviets were misled by their fetishization of the state and state borders (Oschlies, 1992). Western attitudes toward nation states had changed by 1975. The borders between the Western European countries gradually lost their importance, replaced by institutions of the European economic, cultural, and political integration which transgressed the competence of the individual nation-states.

The “holiness” attributed to the state borders survived the collapse of state socialism. Having lost the “socialist content,” the “national form” became the major substance in the countries in transition from state socialism to democracy, which assumed the character of “state-nationalism.” This symptom was due to the logic of European national development. By the turn of the century in Western Europe, political nationalism@ replaced cultural nationalism and resulted in the formation of well-established nation states.

Soviet obsession with state borders reflected a time lag in keeping up with the West. Stalin’s disciples failed to take notice of emerging new tendencies and rigorously followed their master’s teaching on nationalism, which was developed in the age of political nationalism. Communist politicians put their signature on the Helsinki Agreement believing that they had outwitted their Western counterparts by falsely identifying them as representatives of independent nation states. In fact, they were outwitted on two levels.

As we have already mentioned, on the ideological level they failed to understand the significance of human rights. On the political level, their fetishistic concern with the state acted against their intent within their own ranks and engendered fetishization of the inner borders in the Empire. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Empire, a set of full-fledged nation states emerged in Central and Eastern Europe. For the first time in history, each of these nations possessed all the requisites considered essential for national independence by traditional nationalistic thought. National existence of the post-Soviet nations, in the political sense, resulted from the previous Soviet system of bureaucratic administration, which enabled the formation of bureaucratic and cultural elites in the individual units of administration, thus creating corresponding institutions and giving impetus to the fetishization of the national state. By the end of twentieth century, the nations of Eastern Europe had only caught up to late nineteenth-century Western Europe. Yugoslavia, in its former condition, however, lacked fetishization of its inner borders.

Conflicts of Citizenship and Nationality

The issues of peaceful or tense coexistence between minority and majority groups in Eastern European societies and the revival of nationalism, chauvinism, anti-Semitism, and discrimination against Gypsies have returned as a dimension of public affairs. These insidious problems slowly poison public life by affecting the way people relate, cohabitate, and communicate with each other. Little heed was paid to these issues while the euphoria over the death of socialism lasted, but the various symptoms have multiplied since then, on the political scene and among the general public. Nationalist overtones were increasingly audible in the Hungarian assessment of the Romanian national uprising. The Hungarian prime minister ill 1990 stated that he felt he was the spiritual prime minister of all 15 million Hungarians in the region. The Slovak language has been declared the language of the state in Slovakia, which sets limits on the use of the Hungarian and Ukrainian languages. Doubt was cast in the very first days of Lithuanian independence on the future citizenship of the country’s Polish and Russian minorities. The Romanian national assembly declared Romania a uniform nation-state. And the gravest conflict of all: the bloody civil strife in Yugoslavia. The adjective national has become ubiquitous in the post-socialist countries, attaching itself to everything from the future middle classes to medicine and education. Each country’s ruling political groups, and the emerging national ideologies, are assessing the region’s conflicts exclusively from their own national point of view and using that assessment as their guideline for political action.

In the course of the transition from state socialism to market economy and pluralist society much has been learned. The Czech Lands have taken the lead in the transition process and are now being considered as a possible member of the EU. Hungarian voters in 1994 explicitly rejected cultural nationalism and the Ideological crusade which was imposed on them by militant followers of the ruling parties between 1990 and 1994. Lithuanians got rid of their nationalist leaders as well. Moreover, the double victory of leftist political forces in Poland can also be Interpreted as a sign of the peoples’ disappointment with the nationalist and Christian rhetoric represented first and foremost by the defeated president, Lech Walesa. The conflict in the territory of former Yugoslavia will end. However, the peace will more likely depend on external pressure than Indigenous forces stemming from civil society.

Thomas Marshall (1950), in his analysis of the modern status of citizenship, distinguishes three areas which grew along with the development of bourgeois society:

1. The eighteenth century saw the appearance of human and civic rights (freedom of speech, conscience, and worship; equality before the law, respect for the dignity of man and protection of the individual, freedom to acquire and own property).

2. These were followed in the nineteenth century by political rights (universal and equal franchise; secret voting, popular representation; self-government, freedom of assembly and association; the right of participation in political life and the exercise of power).

3. The twentieth century added social rights (from the basic rights that allow the development of a welfare society to the full range of rights guaranteeing social security and including the right to an acceptable life according to a social standard, the rights to a livelihood through work; health and knowledge; the equality of women; and protection of children, the old, the ill and the disabled).

This extension and expansion of the status of citizenship came about by a long process of struggle. The values of social equality and justice were essential to the legitimacy of the modern bourgeois societies of Western Europe and North America. Marx, of course, criticized these societies precisely for their inequalities and injustices, pointing out that the market economy and the property relations deriving from it lead inevitably to social inequalities and an unjust distribution of goods. He saw bourgeois democracy merely as a device used by the ruling class for hoodwinking society, an ideology and practice intended to disguise the true nature of its rule. The truth is, however, that the successive accretions to the status of citizenship allowed the inequalities to steadily even out. far from impeding the operation of the market economy, they positively assisted it, creating a dynamic class organization based on equal opportunity and ensuring continuous reproduction of participatory, pluralist democracy.

The fact that the desire to do something about the inequalities arising out of the market economy, the way of life, and the consumption becomes internalized in the members of societies based on the modern concept of citizenship is far from significant. Much more important is the fact that the modern theory and practice of citizenship produces a universal standard. This standard serves as a yardstick that goes beyond evening out or harmonizing the particularities in the hierarchy of class to tackle the particular inequalities arising out of ethnic, national, religious, and even gender differences.

It follows from the comprehensive interpretation of citizenship that membership in and access to a nation will be assured to each individual comprising the state so long as no constraints are placed on the special Interests of individuals arising out of socio-cultural differences. That is the key to understanding how the heterogeneous groups, denominations, ethnic minorities, blacks and whites in the United States can call themselves first and foremost American citizens. It also explains why in eighteenth-century France, which was shot through with national, ethnic, and religious differences, the criterion for citizenship created by the revolutionary constitution was not to be born French, but to belong to the French republic, with the legal status that conferred. The expansion of citizenship plays a decisive role in lessening the distance between nation-states and effectively Integrating peoples, ethnic groups, and minorities.

The comprehensive interpretation of citizenship provides the principle for the multicultural integration in present-day Western Europe. The intention is not to do away with cultural differences and multiplicity, but to provide a unified, integrated framework for a heterogeneous, world. For any present-day discussion of the future united Western Europe to center on this unity born of multiplicity, rather than on vague generalities, the assumption must be that only a universal approach to citizenship and a demand for such an approach can provide the kind of unity in which linguistic, cultural, historical, ethnic, and religious differences and diversities can live together. Then the frontiers can become spiritual ones, the labor and money markets can combine, and a new European culture can be envisaged. Then the Tower of Babel may not topple after all.

Brian Turner, who expands Marshall’s classic model to include the right to meaningful work and the right of cultural communication in the status of citizenship, arrives at a global criterion which can provide the foundation for political democracy, individual liberty, and civilizing progress in the broadest sense. Being a citizen in this sense no longer amounts simply to a national identity. It offers the chance of forming part of a modern civilization that transcends frontiers and continents. The status of citizenship, in our interpretation, then comes to constitute more than a basic state organization, a complex of rights, duties, and guarantees, and a key to the relationship between nations; it develops into a way of life, providing scope for a modern, civilized life and governing people’s relations and contacts with each other regardless of what language they speak, what religion they believe in, or where they live.

All this may seem worlds apart from the relations between the nation-states of Eastern Europe and the fate of the region’s national minorities, but in our view this is far from the case.

The development of nation-states marked a political climax for nations as factors in the modern history of Europe, culminating in the replacement of a feudal, dynastic concept of the state with one embracing popular sovereignty, independent statehood, territorial integrity, and modern international law. Regardless of whether the nation-state produced by this development process grew out of an earlier feudal state, or whether statehood was artificially constructed and then gave rise to the nation itself as a political entity, the formation of the nation-state framework necessarily entailed, as Csaba Gombar points out, “members of state-forming nations often living also as minorities in other nations, either because they were dispersed historically in the first place, or because international conflicts gave rise to historically impermanent border adjustment” (Gombar, 1980, p. 113). So, the formation of national minorities is a general feature of European development. But it must also be noted that there are regional differences in Europe in the gravity of the political and social problems represented by the destiny of the national minorities and in the degree to which they are politically and socially integrated.

The Western nation-state derives its political legitimacy from the sovereign individual, who is first a member of the political community defined by the constitution of the state, because of that, he becomes a member of other communities defined in psychological, ideological, cultural, or world-view terms, irrespective of whether these other communities coincide with the group of citizens of the state concerned.

The nation-states of Central and Eastern Europe in the post-communist period appear at first sight to have reached the Western condition. The gap between Eastern and Western Europe in terms of political rights seems to be narrowing. But the disquieting symptoms shown here prove that things are not so simple. The layers of citizenship that Marshall describes developed in Western Europe over centuries before maturing into the concept we know today. It would be a mistake, of course, to idealize the final product of this development. The position of national and religious minorities in some Western European countries is disquieting as well.

Although democratic slogans provided an accompaniment to the fall of state socialism in all Central and Eastern European countries, the democratization of political power as such could hardly resolve the problem of the asymmetrical relationship between the state and its citizens. Economic change has been far slower than political change during the post-socialist transition. All post-socialist countries bear the signs of stout resistance by the old redistributive economic system and Its bureaucracy, and this resistance is strongly inclined to draw on nationalism for ideological support.

Another factor at least as Important is the absence of a bourgeois stratum in society. Since a modern class society failed to develop, Eastern Europe never acquired the frames of reference in which citizenship status could be perceived as an integrating force capable of combating social and cultural of the prevalence of racism in Hungary. A representative survey of Hungarian teenagers in 1992 (Csepeli, Keri, and Stumpf, 1994 indicated that while 71 percent of the respondents expressed a willingness to accept refugees of Hungarian origin, the willingness to accept refugees from Asia was much less conspicuous: only 12 percent of the respondents agreed that Asian immigrants should be allowed to enter Hungary. Xenophobia might be the underlying factor which resulted in the general tendency to avoid taking part in demonstrations for minority rights. According to the results of a study among fourteen year old Hungarian students and Hungarian adults, latent patterns of xenophobia and racism were revealed (see Table 1). Respondents of both samples were addressed by a question which targeted their attitudes toward strangers of different ethnic and racial origin. They had to select possible informal partners among members of the following groups, Gypsies, Arabs, Romanians, Chinese, Russians, Jews, ethnic Hungarians coming from Romania, Slovakians, and Germans.

TABLE 1. Negative sociometric preference for members of various ethnic groups among Hungarian adults and children

Adult sample Teenager sample

Post-communism brought Hungary to a cross-road. from the opening of the borders to the liberalization of the state, this country has assumed a different role in Europe. This situation effected refugee and migration policies in particular as well as the whole society in general. During state socialism there was constant emigration process from Hungary to the West (although annually the total number was modest). After 1989 this process has stopped, and instead of sending refugees, Hungarian society has become a target of population movements from the East. Moreover, due to its geographic location, Hungary became a transit country., migrants cross Hungary on their way to the West. As a result, refugee camps had to be established which provoked hostility and xenophobia among the population. Those who decided to stay in the country can be classified into two types: ethnic Hungarians arriving from Transylvania, Trans-Karpatia, and Serbia, and those who have no cultural or linguistic attachment to Hungarian ethnicity. Interestingly enough, public attitudes toward immigrants became increasingly similar and equally negative toward both types of immigrants. Xenophobia is on the rise in the country. The basis of this xenophobic attitude, however, is not embedded in ethnic or national principle of selection, but on citizenship. Xenophobia among Hungarian citizens is motivated by frustration connected with the perception of enhanced competition in the labor market for jobs and the sense of discrimination in the social services. Between 1988 and 1992, 99.2, percent (117,549 of 118,464) of the refugees arrived from three countries.. Yugoslavia, Romania, and the former Soviet Union. In 1992 alone, 16,204 refugees arrived in Hungary, and 36 percent of these refugees claimed they were Hungarians.(3)

Surveys on national auto- and hetero-stereotypes were conducted continuously in the 1980s and 1990. The events of 1989 and 1990 have not influenced the general thought, which can be summarized as follows. (1) respondents have shown much more activity in self-stereotyping as compared to the willingness to produce hetero-stereotypes;(2) national auto-stereotypes refer more frequently to positive trades, such as hospitality, pride of being Hungarian, and uniqueness of national character, (3) hetero-stereotypes concerning the neighboring nations are all negative except toward the Austrians, (4) the historical tendency to evaluate Poles has Considerably declined.

Results of three recent studies should be mentioned in terms of the prevalence of racism in Hungary. A representative survey of Hungarian teenagers in 1992 (Csepeli, Keri, and Stumpf, 1994 indicated that while 71 percent of the respondents expressed a willingness to accept refugees of Hungarian origin, the willingness to accept refugees from Asia was much less conspicuous. only 12 percent of the respondents agreed that Asian immigrants should be allowed to enter Hungary. Xenophobia might be the underlying factor which resulted in the general tendency to avoid taking part in demonstrations for minority rights. According to the results of a study among fourteen year old Hungarian students and Hungarian adults, latent patterns of xenophobia and racism were revealed (see Table 1). Respondents of both samples were addressed by a question which targeted their attitudes toward strangers of different ethnic and racial origin. They had to select possible informal partners among members of the following groups, Gypsies, Arabs, Romanians, Chinese, Russians, Jews, ethnic Hungarians coming from Romania, Slovakians, and Germans.

Avoidance and refusal characterized the negative choices of both groups. Adults, however, expressed more avoidance than the teenagers. As Table 1 demonstrates, 26 percent of the teens showed no negative preference for any ethnic or racial the adults (14 percent). Gypsies were targets of refusal in both groups (Szabo and Orkeny, 1995).

Empirical Studies of National Identity

Since 1969 in Hungary, research on national identity has been conducted with various samples of children, youth, and nationwide groups (Csepeli, 1989; Lazar, 1995). These investigations demonstrate that national sentiment and affective components of national identity are pronounced. In light of the repressive nature of the political and ideological system, these results are hardly surprising because, generally speaking, all aspects of social identity, such as religion, region, class, and even gender, were repressed or channeled according to the official patterns of Identification. Forced identification with Patriotic Front, Proletariat of the World, and Socialist Brotherhood of Nations were not strong enough psychologically to have mass appeal. However, in light of the heavy emphasis by authorities on Internationalism, these results are remarkable.

Investigations among the Hungarian intellectual elite in 1983 and 1989 (Csepeli, 1992) show a twofold pattern of national identity. The Gesellschaft type centers around citizenship and the image of the nation as a political community, while the Gemeinschaft type focuses more on descent and mother tongue, reflecting a more traditional, cultural image of the nation. Following the collapse of the state socialist system in 1989-1990, these patterns have been translated into powerful political slogans attracting different constituencies who increasingly perceive each other with hostility, distrust, and suspicion. The parties in power between 1990-94 were heavily influenced by the Gemeinschaft type of national idiom. They tried to orient popular attention toward the issues of national symbols and Hungarian national minorities abroad; generally, they tended to perceive themselves in terms of tradition and national continuity which they believed had been interrupted by the international ideology of the state-socialist system for forty-five years. The majority of voters, however, followed a different course, and in the second free elections held in May 1994 they voted for those parties which had shown more moderation in their claims of representing all Hungarians in the Carpathian basin and which had shown more concern for economic issues, such as unemployment and taxation, social policy, and International issues such as negotiation with governments of the neighboring nations.

The last domestic research on Hungarian national identity was conducted in the fall of 1994 (Vasarhelyi, 1995). These results showed no significant change from the results of earlier research. Only 5 percent of the national representative sample (n=1000) expressed concern on the issue of national identity. Interest in the definition of a “real patriot” was equally weak (4 percent). Majority opinion (59 percent) favored the statement which stressed that “the public debate over the destiny of Hungarians is aimed at diverting the public’s attention from discussion of more pertinent issues.” People in Hungary, however, were concerned with the possibility of getting involved in local conflicts with at least one of the neighboring countries (Serbia was noted most frequently). Immigrants were perceived as a threat by 5 percent. The presence of Gypsies generated more hostility (31 percent of the respondents considered gypsies to be a threat).

Definitions of being Hungarian did not show a dramatic shift either. As earlier studies demonstrated, people in post-socialist Hungary continue to define Hungarians primarily in terms of self-categorization. Consequently, citizenship, mother tongue, descent, and place of birth matter less. According to the majority view (59 percent), the importance of mother tongue and. citizenship are preceded by self-identification, and no importance was attributed to place of birth or descent (this pattern can be interpreted as a popular version of the Gesellschaft idiom perpetuated by the liberal intellectual elite). A minority (17 percent), however, maintained that descent, mother tongue, and place of birth were of primary concern when defining Hungarian national identity. (This pattern can be interpreted as a derivation of the Gemeischaft idiom perpetuated by the conservative intellectual elite.)

These two profiles are rooted in different sociological backgrounds. Age, education, type of settlement, and socio-economic status affect the tendency to define Hungarian national identity in terms of liberal, Gesellschaft idiom or conservative, Gemeinschaft idiom. The former was supported by those urbanized respondents who were born after 1945, achieved higher socio-economic status, graduated from secondary school at least, and lacked the experience of social frustration as a result of transition. Gemeinschaft orientation was more frequent among elderly and uneducated segments of the rural population (born before 1945 and losers of the transition).

Mute Liberal Elite and Shunned Society

In the fall 1995, Hungary participated in a cross-national investigation which was organized within the framework of the International Social Survey Project (ISSP).(4) Results of this international survey are not available currently, but Hungary can already be analyzed. A national representative sample of 1000 respondents were questioned by interviewers.

For the purpose of this article, five sets of variables seem worthy of analysis. There were seven items concerning the thematic composition of national identity. Respondents were asked to weigh attributes, such as place of birth, citizenship, place of residence, mother tongue, Christianity, approval of democratic institutions, and national self-categorization, as to the importance of being a “true” Hungarian. The basic trend does not contradict that of the previous research which we have discussed above. Although the methods of questioning were different (ranking versus rating), self-categorization and mother tongue emerged in the ISSP research as the most important aspects of being Hungarian. Less important were place of residence, citizenship, and place of birth; least important were democratic institutions and Christianity.

As a result of the cluster analyses, five groups emerged. Table 2 shows the pattern of contribution of the seven constituent variables to the formation of the Individual clusters. The most numerous cluster (32 percent) contains those respondents who were unable to select among the variables which were offered for national identification and instead decided to rate all of them with high values, thus resulting in a “conformist” label. The next group (22 percent) rated all variables high except for Christianity and trusting democratic political institutions; they are labeled “liberal nationalists” because of the high ratings given to cultural, psychological, and political attributes of national identity.

The group labeled “traditional” (11 percent) gave high ratings to mother tongue, Christianity, and self-categorization. The first two rows of the table produce real problems of Interpretation as far as the “liberal” label is concerned. Paradoxically, “conformists” and “liberal nationalists” stressed citizenship in national identification although citizenship is usually lacking from the identification pattern of these two groups. However, the remaining attributes, such as mother tongue, self-categorization, and trust in democratic political institutions, refer to a kind of national identity which is rooted In a linguistic and psychological background. One can argue that this basis is too weak to support a coherent and conscious Gesellschaft type of national identity. In later analyses, however, we shall try to prove that these two groups can be considered “spontaneous liberals” at the least. The low rating of citizenship among respondents of these two groups can probably be attributed to semantic connotations of the term citizenship, which in Hungarian stresses authoritarian subject rather than politically conscious democratic citizen. The high rating attributed to citizenship among conformist and nationalist respondents shows that the notion of citizenship has attained an exclusive character.


National pride was measured by six items which stressed preference and selectivity stemming from being Hungarian. Ninety percent of the respondents expressed pride in hearing about the success of Hungarian athletes in international games. Eighty-seven percent of the respondents had not seen alternative national identification in terms of citizenship. A majority view (62 percent) agreed with the classic nationalist statement, “Right or wrong, it’s my country.” The opposite state of pride is shame which is difficult to admit if one tries to maintain a balanced attitude toward his own nation. According to the results, only a minority (41 percent) were keen on getting rid of the Inconsistency of the national attitude. The majority, however, was split, and only a minority ((32 percent) accepted shame as an element of national Identity. Ethnocentrist statements met definitely less enthusiasm (26 percent and 25 percent).

Table 3 demonstrates a generally moderate tendency to agree with the statements in the sample. On the average, items were selected for agreement.

National pride can be sustained by various sources. Nine possible sources of pride were listed and offered for rating as to how they have seemed to contribute to national pride. Ratings of Hungary’s democratic system, international influence, national economic achievement, social security, and the army showed a high correlation, generally indicating a low level of contribution to national pride. Hungary’s technical and scholarly development, sports achievements, production of literature and fine arts, and history also showed a high correlation; however, in this case, it indicated a high level of contribution to national pride.

The first five items referred to “hard” aspects of national reality, which stressed political, social, and economic components of national existence. These components are resistant to the national image because they can be validated empirically and traditionally from the requisites of the rhetoric of political nationalism. In contrast, the remaining four items reflected on central issues of a culturally conceived national identity, such as history, athletic achievements, literature, arts, and scholarship. These components can be considered “soft” aspects of national identity, leaving much room for social comparison. As Tables 4 and 5 demonstrate, respondents tended to attribute extremely low importance to the “hard” themes, justifying their positive national identity, and they were much more active in their selection of ” soft” themes, rationalizing their pride in being Hungarian.

One can ask how to interpret the contrast between the low rating of themes forming the rhetoric of political nationalism and high rating of themes characterizing the rhetoric of cultural nationalism. The authors argue that the presence of this contrast can be explained by the continuity of the politics of culture in Hungarian nation building. It remains to be seen, however, how strong the resources of this historical-ideological package are, and if there are any indications of a change toward the formulation of national community in terms of politics and liberalism.

Proneness to nationalism was measured by six items which referred to various aspects of economic nationalism, anti-internationalism, cultural nationalism, and uncompromising attitude concerning the selfish pursuit of national interest. One of the most striking aspects of the study carried out in fall of 1995 is that Hungarians expressed an overwhelming endorsement of international agencies which, from a nationalist point of view, easily might be considered as constraints on national sovereignty. Seventy-four percent of the respondents were willing to give up national sovereignty where global problems, such as pollution, were concerned. Even higher is the proportion of those who encourage foreign language instruction in Hungarian schools (90 percent). This sober view can be considered an adequate symptom of adjustment to the unique linguistic isolation of Hungarians. Globalism and internationalism seem to be leading motifs of discourse on national existence in contemporary post-communist Hungary.

Political and cultural nationalism as measured by our items (priority by administrative means given to Hungarian-made cultural products in mass communication, stubborn pursuit of Hungarian Interest in international conflicts) showed a modest increase. Economic nationalism, however, showed a high increase, reflecting strong popular resistance to foreign economic intrusion, especially in trade and buying land (74 percent and 77 percent respectively). A main component analysis was carried out on items measuring economic, political, and cultural nationalism. The analysis resulted in one factor along which the individual items showed a high positive correlation.

The right of ethnic and national minority groups in Hungary was generally approved of by the respondents (77 percent agreed with the state policy to support minorities in defense of their own customs and traditions). This result might reflect a general benign attitude toward minorities which would change immediately as the minority concerned was mentioned. As we have indicated, Gypsies are exempt from the general pro-minority attitude.

Xenophobia was measured by six items which covered issues related to the perceived assets and liabilities of exclusive and inclusive versions of refugee policy.

As Table 6 indicates, the population is quite insensitive toward immigrants. There is a strong tendency to disagree with possible benefits of immigration, such as economic profit and multiculturalism, and respondents tended to unequivocally agree with exclusionist anti-liberal ideas urging harsh administrative procedures (95 percent of the respondents were for stricter regulation against illegal immigrants). On the average, the sample assumed 3.6 out of 6 xenophobic attitudes. The changing content of xenophobia which we have indicated elsewhere was corroborated in the 1995 survey, showing continued readiness to exclude ethnic Hungarians from the benefits of Hungarian citizenship.

In light of these results, immigrants, not surprisingly, provoked intolerance and hostility. The majority endorsed the policy aimed at reducing the number of immigrants coming to Hungary (84 percent). Public opinion, however, was split over the issue of immigrants fleeing political persecution. Thirty-five percent of the respondents expressed a willingness to grant asylum for these people, and 24 percent rejected this proposal (40 percent hesitated).

Cross-tabulation of the national identity clusters and the measures of national consciousness which we have discussed above supports our hypothesis concerning the liberal character of the first cluster. This group shows the lowest values of nationalist, xenophobic, and intolerant attitudes. The fifth cluster can be seen as the opposite of the first one. The remaining three clusters are shifting between liberal and anti-liberal versions of national identification.

Nevertheless, respondents on the whole cannot be characterized by a consistent ideological profile of national identification.

Multiple regression analysis has shown that membership in cluster 1 (intrinsic liberals) significantly correlates with education: the higher the level of education, the greater the likelihood of belonging to this cluster. Clusters 2, 3, and 4, due to their Inconsistencies, did not manifest any significant relationship to age, education, or gender. Cluster 5, however, showed a significant relationship to age and education: elderly and less educated people tended to belong to this anti-liberal group.


The results of the 1995 survey are snapshots which, of course, are rooted in the historical antecedents mentioned in the first parts of this article. A more immediate antecedent IS the transition process from state socialism to democracy. The intellectual elite, which fought for the political and economic change, was united in anti-state socialist programs, but there were marked differences among them concerning the practical means of realization. Liberals and nationalists had conflicting political programs. In the first free election held in the spring of 1990, nationalist rhetoric attracted the majority of the voters, and a conservative nationalist government came into power. Disenchantment soon followed, and it is up to discordant political evaluation whether it can be attributed to social frustration stemming from the vague attempts to introduce market economy or ideological discontent caused by the nationalist ideological crusade against adherents of liberal and socialist parties, who were accused of being aliens in the national community as defined by ethno-nationalist terms.

Empirical sociological investigations of public attitudes between 1990 and 1994 have shown the increase of latent state socialist nostalgia which consequently led to the victory of the Socialist Party in the second free election held in 1994. The defeat of nationalist rhetoric was approved by the liberal elite, which entered into an alliance with the winning Socialist Party. The latter entered the coalition hoping for international recognition and legitimation by an alliance with the former, which had an outstanding reputation stemming from its past opposition to state socialism.

The society, however, was less concerned with the changing fronts of the political and ideological battleground and continued to be inconsistent and hesitant in major issues of nationalism, liberalism, and socialism. A slow modernization of national identity was on the way which has been clearly manifested in the empirical part of our article. This modernization process has its own inconsistencies. On the one hand, strong economic nationalism and xenophobia are the major features of the new transition period, and, on the other hand, a willingness to accept multiculturalism and to adjust to the challenges of globalism emerged. Most paradoxically, citizenship, which in the strict political sense would constitute the center of the nation conceived as political community, has absorbed the ethno-nationalist connotation, which has lost its historically encoded aggressive potential. The new Hungarian national identity is looming on the horizon of self-categorization which continues to be unorganized, controversial, and vague.


(1) The agreement was reached by the Hungarian political ruling elite and the Viennese imperial bureaucracy, resulting in the establishment of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

(2) According to our survey on national identity conducted in the fall of 1995, 54 percent of the respondents of a national representative sample in Hungary held the view that borders between countries of Central and Eastern Europe cannot be subject to change under any circumstances, and 46 percent thought that the borders can be changed provided there is approval of the population concerned.

(3) See Fullerton, Sik, Toth, 1995.

(4) The data which will be demonstrated and interpreted in this article came from a study supported by the Hungarian National Science Foundation.


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