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Ethnography and Folklore Studies at the Hungarian Universities until 1960
Published January 14, 2020

Ethnography and Folklore Studies at the Hungarian Universities until 1960. At the University of Budapest at the end of the 18th century it was Dániel Cornides (1732–1787) who dealt with issues of Hungarian ancient religion, while András Dugonics (1740–1818) paid attention to various  aspects of Hungarian folk ...poetry (tales, idiomatic phrases, proverbs) and folk customs in his lectures. Descriptive statistics, reports of the state of affairs in various regions and ethnic groups within the country documented the ethnographic character of these areas and groups in the first half of the 19th century.  In the second half of the century professors of Hungarian literature and language investigated and discussed these topics with a comparative European perspective at universities. Ethnographic and folklore-related knowledge was disseminated by excellent professors of classical philology and oriental studies. Professors of geography (János Hunfalvy, Lajos Lóczy) played a crucial role in providing information about faraway peoples and continents at the University of Budapest.

The first associate professor (Privatdozent) in ethnography was Antal Herrmann at the University of Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca, now Romania) in 1898. He delivered his lectures until 1918 in Kolozsvár, and between 1921 and 1926 in Szeged where the University of Cluj was relocated to. The first university department for ethnographic and folklore studies was established at the University of Szeged, where Sándor Solymossy, a scholar of comparative folkloristics, became professor.  At the University of Budapest the first department for ethnography and folklore studies was founded for professor István Györffy, who primarily studied material culture and the people of the Great Hungarian Plain.  His successors were Károly Viski (1942), then folklorist Gyula Ortutay (1946). In 1951 at the University of Budapest another department came into being for István Tálasi who was a scholar of  material culture studies and historical ethnography.

The head of the ethnography and folklore department of the Hungarian University of Kolozsvár (Klausenburg, Cluj) was Károly Viski in 1940–1941, and Béla Gunda between 1943 and 1948.  At the University of Debrecen established in 1912  a number of associate professors held ethnographic and folklore lectures between 1925 and 1949 (István Ecsedi, Károly Bartha N., Tibor Mendöl, Gábor Lükő), but an autonomous department was established only in 1949, led by Béla Gunda until 1979. At the University of Szeged Sándor Bálint was appointed professor of ethnography and folklore studies in 1949, but only after 1990 became it possible to provide M. A. degrees in ethnography and folkloristics. M.A. degrees in ethnography and folkloristics have been provided at the University of Budapest since 1950, while at the University of Debrecen since 1959.

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