A két évtizeddel ezelőtti kelet-közép-európai változások – köztük az elfojtott múlt iránti érdeklődés tömeges felébredése – azt a látszatot keltheti, hogy a több évtizedes kollektív amnéziáért „a múltat végképp eltörölni”-t kívánó kommunista ideológia a felelős. A memory-boom azonban, amely a II. világháború utáni mintegy két-három évtizedes újjáépítési időszakot követte a nyugati típusú társadalmakban, arról tanúskodik, hogy a felejtés, a kényszeres jövőorientáció mélyebbről jön és általánosabb érvényű. Ennek talán legszembetűnőbb jele, hogy a holokauszt nemcsak Európában, de Izraelben is csak évtizedekkel később került a kollektív emlékezet középpontjába. (Az emlékezés elemi fontosságát a holokauszt esetében nem is a közösségi tudat, hanem a bírósági eljárások tették először nyilvánvalóvá; az amnézia a tanúk megbízhatóságát is kikezdte, amint azt az 1980-as években zajló Demjanjuk-ügy megdöbbentő fordulatai tanúsítják.) A felejtést Nyugaton ha nem is a kommunizmus, de szintén a felvilágosodás örökségéül kapott haladáselvű történelmi tudat támogatta. Nem hatalmi erőszakkal, de erős hatalmi-ideológiai támogatással valósult meg az a modell, amelyet Aleida Assmann úgy jellemez alább olvasható előadásában, hogy „a modernség jövőbe és fejlődésbe vetett hite” olyan történelmi töréspontot látott a háború végében, amely „lehetőséget teremt a múlt hátrahagyására”.
The title of my study is double edged. It aims at the power of memory that transforms people, societies and states, but it also looks at the transformations that memory itself undergoes over the years and under external influences. In my study I pursue this double activity in different realms and contexts. I start with a shift of the cultural frameworks that has helped to create a new discourse on memory, then I look at external and internal factors that change memory and finally inspect more closely the shift from old to new policies of remembering which tap the transformative power of memory in situations of political and social change.
Pierre Nora started the Lieux de mémoire-project in 1977 by using the old concept of lieux de mémoire with a new meaning and programmatic significance. However, Nora’s lieux de mémoire were extremely ideological, full of nationalism, loaded with value judgements. Most lieux de mémoire were invented or reworked to serve the present and future of the nation-state. Since the end of the twentieth century the lieux de mémoire projects have become politically highly sensitive and contested. In a certain way it was the consequence of the historiographical research of the lieux de mémoire which often resulted in the deconstruction of the nineteenth century construction of the lieux de mémoire of the new born nation. The sites of national memory are not innocent places but sites of memory-wars and battlefields of retroactive justice. The contested lieux de mémoire constitute vindications of past sufferings and historical claims for present compensation. Since the 1990s projects on national lieux de mémoire have been published in Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and other countries. My paper sums up the results of the latest lieux de mémoire studies, relying primarily upon French, Dutch and Hungarian examples.
The modes of relating to the past move between two poles: first, the Cartesian model of cognition, where subject and object are opposed to each other; and second, „the preliminary understanding of being,” i.e., conceiving of the past as existential experience. Accordingly, the scientific nature of historical knowledge is based on the verifiability of knowledge as such, while the collective function of memory is founded on the actually relevant existential meaning of the past, often originating in claims that go against historical science. Historical research cannot ignore reflecting on its own subject even if it sets out to understand our „being in” the past. At the same time, the self-reflexivity of history as science is limited by the fact that the researcher as a subject is included in the continuity of history, creating his/her reflected knowledge on the basis of testimonies by non-reflective participants. Moreover, this knowledge can only be verbalized by relying upon narrative structures, by using various rhetorical and poetical strategies. On the other hand, collective memory cannot be knowledge based merely on existential experience, because the past that is not personally experienced can only be attained by learning, and this is influenced by historical education based on scientific results. The validity of the memorial knowledge of one’s own community is limited by the countermemory of contact communities. History studies (including mnemohistory) usually claim to have influenced collective memory. However, this ambition can only be justified if it does not start out from its own truths but the need for a relevant and actual interpretation of collective memory.
Memory is gaining ever greater significance in the formation of national consciousness. With academic historiography losing ground, this phenomenon is mainly caused by the coming into the forefront of collective memory. One of the crucial features of the nation is that it is also a memorial community; that is, the members of the nation remember in the same way and forget collectively as well. From the point of view of Hungarian national consciousness as a memorial community the Trianon-syndrome is the dominant point of reference, actually implying various meanings even today. This mainly stems from political faction. The cult of Trianon has revived lately, and it is fed by public history, offering the political utilization of the past. As opposed to this, the other evident example of the traumatic Hungarian past, the Holocaust is still unable to become a real national lieu de mémoire. Thus, two „cold” cultures of collective memory stand fatally opposed to each other, while both claim the position of the sole victim.
The Institute of Hungarian Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Debrecen formed a research group in 2010 in order to launch the research of Hungarian lieux de mémoire. This paper was written within the frameworks of the research group. Its basic hypothesis is that the identification of Hungary as the Bastion of Christendom is an established part of Hungarian collective memory. This paper attempts to demonstrate the changes of this lieux de mémoire, regarding its meaning and function, from its formation up to the present day.
The narrative based on the images of „national grandeur” and „the great graveyard”, recurring in the writings of Batsányi and his contemporaries, is an imperative of inner unity in the face of „dissension,” a notion that used to stand for faction. Also, it is inseparable from memory becoming self-reflective. The concept of „dissension” can be actually dated back a long time ago; for example Mohács was considered a result of „dissension” within this tradition, even though the word itself mainly meant religious division at that time. However, in the public sphere evolving at around the end of the 18th century, these interpretations do not seem to be detectable anymore, at least there are no marked lines of continuity between publicity and the above mentioned interpretations. On the contrary, the elements of this narrative are not yet even solidified, and coexist with various other narratives. Furthermore, the ideologem based on the notion of dissension is in constant change, and thus calls attention to the potential of this historical moment for creating new cultural meanings. On the one hand, the turn of the 1780s and 1790s as an obscure period lead to the birth of this ideologem, while memory and the remembering subject came into the forefront on the other. As a result, the ideologem being formed was able to appear as a tangible cultural construction. This is how the national narrative we know as a timeless and ageless entity today emerged – also as a lieu de mémoire.
Történetek’ Kalendarioma is one of the most exciting recollective texts by Kazinczy. This is, in fact, a diary of anniversaries, constructed from short memos and notes, in which personal, cultural and historical events are mixed. The text’s structure is formalized by the dates, thus personal memories, cultural and community events, feasts and anniversaries are randomly juxtaposed. The construction of these notes into stories can often be observed in Kazinczy’s autobiographical texts, so the separate personal and public notes of Történetek’ Kalendarioma are arranged in one narrative. This is how a piece of personal memory related to Mohács – the memory of a lunch or an itinerary – and the historical thinking related to Mohács become constitutive parts of Kazinczy’s identity. Kalendariom provides a sketch of a rather complex personality, which is built up from elements of national and religious history, family traditions and narratives of personal memories. Történetek Kalendarioma’ is the formalized map of Kazinczy’s own knowledge-network, a collection of identity samples, a catalog of roles. All in all: a version of Kazinczy’s identity.
In most lieux de mémoire volumes published so far the national anthem of the given community appears as a site of memory, just like in the Hungarian research. The modern state is expected to have a national anthem representing the unity of the people, national and state consciousness, and anthems are also crucial from the aspect of national memories. In my paper I give a survey of our national anthem, Himnusz, both of its emblematic text and score from the point of view of lieux de mémoire studies, with special attention to instrumentalization and the manifestations of alternative memory.
In my paper I have selected two cemeteries in order to show through their example how the total blunder of 20th century Hungarian politics of memory is represented, how the lack of any consensual narrative to stand for the minimum identity of a democratic polity becomes manifest. Apart from a few days (October 1956) and some distinguished months (the summer of 1989 and spring of 1990), any consensual first person plural, that is, all-inclusive, political community with respect to Hungarian history throughout the 20th century has been and is still unkown. There is no political doctrine available to create the appearance of consensus. This issue not only concerns cultural memory but also the institutions of democratic politics. The intricate relationships of the monuments and plots in these two cemeteries, located at a considerable distance from one another on the Pest side of the city, reveal what I call the collapse of minimum consensual memory, together with its implications.
The paper examines the reburial of Imre Nagy in 1989 as a potential lieu de mémoire. The event was and is considered as a concentrated and symbolic representation of the change of the regime. Besides, the reburial also articulated one of the primary stakes of the 1989 processes in Hungary: it managed to integrate the muted memory of 1956 into officially acknowledged cultural memory. The paper argues that the reburial operates in a ritual temporality which is used to create and accentuate a sense of continuity between 1956 and 1989. How is this temporality influenced by the medial environment, the television and radio broadcast of the reburial? How does the ritual quality contribute to the event becoming a site of memory? How is the reburial represented in contemporary popular culture? These are the questions the paper seeks to answer.
My paper investigates Péter Bacsó’s film, A tanú (The Witness) as a lieu de mémoire. Shot in 1969, the film was banned shortly after its first screenings by the socialist censorship. One of the main reasons behind this was the way the film violated the politics of memory of the Kádár-era. However, the work became a cult film in Hungary. A decade later, the regime enabled the public screenings and the movie was included in the programmes of international film festivals. My essay attempts to describe how the film’s genre (as a satire), its relation to previous periods of Hungarian history (especially the years of the Rákosi- and the Kádár-era), and the mechanisms of socialist censorship contributed to its status as a lieu de mémoire today.
My essay offers a reading of János Térey’s Jeremiás avagy az Isten hidege that focuses on the play’s embeddedness in the cultural memory of Debrecen, a city of undeniable significance in Hungarian literary history. I investigate the play’s strategies to re-interpret the topoi of other Debrecen-related texts, including seventeenth-century Calvinist sermons, the poems of Endre Ady or contemporary pop songs. Thus, I interpret the ways Térey’s rhetoric undermines the stability of dichotomies that traditionally characterise the literary representations of the city, such as the opposition between nature and urban space or the clash of intellectual openness and provincial isolation. The paper also analyses Biblical and religious allusions in order to reveal the various links between Prophet Jeremiah and Térey’s fictional, hypermodern figure of Jeremiás, a disillusioned politician from Debrecen.
Die Verortung von Gedächtnis, hg. Csáky Moritz, Peter Stachel, Wien, Passagen Verlag, 2001.
Georg Kreis, Schweizer Erinnerungsorte: Aus dem Speicher der Swissness, Zürich, Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2010.
Het geheugen van de Lage Landen, red. Jo Tollenbeek, Henk te Velde, Rekkem, Ons erfdeel, 2009.
I luoghi della memoria, a cura di Mario Isnenghi, Roma – Bari, Laterza, 2010, I–III.