|Stephen Borsody: The Hungarians: A Divided Nation|
The "Forras Studio" Affair
Excerpts from an Appeal by Hungarian Writers
The Soviet Ukraine is more intolerant of criticism of its nationality policy than the other Communist countries with Hungarian populations. Thus, it takes greater courage to air grievances in the Soviet Ukraine than elsewhere. One of the few known public protests is an appeal by Forras Studio, a group of young poets and writers founded in 1967. In 1971, the appeal excerpted below was prompted by an attack in the Hungarian-language daily, Karpati Igaz Szo, denouncing the Forras Studio group as "alienated" from society.
In addition to the editorial committee of Karpati Igaz Szo, the appeal was sent to the Secretary of the Transcarpathian Territorial Committee of the Ukrainian Communist party and to the secretary in charge of the Transcarpathian Organization of the Ukrainian Union of Writers. The appeal has never been made public in the Soviet Ukraine, but the official response was quick. Forras Studio was disbanded.
The excerpts that follow are from the introductory passages; the rest of the appeal deals with grievances discussed in Chapter 10, above, which is partly based on this document. The critical view, as expressed in this excerpt, is no less valid of general conditions today than it was in 1971.
The full text of the Forras Studio appeal appeared in Nemzetor (Munich), September-November 1983.
An article entitled "Alienation" was published in Karpati Igaz Szo on August 20, 1971. . . . The anonymous author of this article [it was Laszlo Balla] indulged in insults, libel, falsification of facts, and political accusations.
We, members of the Forras Studio - against whom these accusations were directed - could be content with the moral satisfaction of
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seeing the widespread indignation elicited by this article and the undivided support shown toward us by Hungarian public opinion [in the Carpatho-Ukraine], contrary to the intentions of the author.
However, since this anonymous article is part of a brutal campaign whose purpose is not spelled out but whose consequences have now affected even people beyond our group, and since we have no other means of public expression, we are forced to state our views in this appeal. . . .
The pretext for this campaign [against us] was a literary essay, written by Vilmos Kovacs and Andras Benedek [at the time on the staff of Karpati Igaz Szo] under the title, "Hungarian Literature in the Carpatho-Ukraine," published in the October and December 1970 issues of the periodical Tiszataj of Szeged [Hungary].
We would like to make it crystal clear that, in our opinion, this essay is the first serious attempt to give a realistic picture of our [Hungarian] literature [in the Carpatho-Ukraine] from its beginnings to the present day. In line with the facts, the essay tries to explain our achievements and our problems, through an analysis of historical facts and of cultural policies. In doing so, it shows deep understanding and a sense of responsibility.
We cannot understand, therefore, the reasons for the official hostile reactions to this essay here in the Carpatho-Ukraine. The very people who should have taken note of our problems [set out in this essay], indeed, whose official duty it should have been to deal with them, instead of acknowledging the existence of these problems and trying to do something about them, have started a campaign of persecution against the authors and, when they protested, have taken reprisals against them. Their right to publish was revoked, disciplinary proceedings were started against them, they were demoted in their jobs and were officially slandered. Furthermore, an unofficial smear campaign was started at meetings and other forums throughout the territory [of the Carpatho-Ukraine]. This poisoned atmosphere left no other choice to the two authors [of the essay] but to leave the editorial office of the Karpati Igaz Szo.
This, however, was far from being the end of the "affair." The next step was an attack against those who had been named in the essay: members of Forras Studio, and the Studio itself, which had to be destroyed as an organization. This task-like many other character-assassinations-was performed by Laszlo Balla [editor of Karpati Igaz Szo].
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It was with this intention that he brought into being under the auspices of the Karpati Igaz Szo, the Jozsef Atilla Stfidio. Some members of the Forras Studio were actually invited to join. His purpose was clear: to destroy us through the principle of "divide and conquer." When his plans did not succeed, the anonymous article [referred to above by Laszlo Balla] appeared. It was directed against those whom Laszlo Balla tried to transplant - unsuccessfully - to the Jozsef Attila Studio.
The motives and purposes of this article are self-evident. Its followup has been the constant harassment of the "stigmatized ones" mostly university students.
In order to clear away any misunderstanding, we must declare that we are not against the principles of the Jozsef Attila Studio, nor against those of socialist literature. We simply reject Laszlo Balla's underhanded maneuvers and the hopeless dilettantism he tries to create around himself, pretending that it is literature. He not only pretends, he also protects it under the slogan of "socialist realism." . . .
Closely linked to this "affair" is an article by Laszlo Balla that appeared in the April 28, 1971, issue of the Karpati Igaz Szo under the title, "The Small Hungarian Community in the Great Soviet Family."
What does this article say? It lists our social and cultural achievements, our bemedalled shock workers. Then comes the reproach: ". . . there are still some phenomena, some scattered manifestations amidst our fellow Hungarians . . . that may, among others, imperil the development and prosperity of our small national community." . . . Then comes the promise that "the few remaining problems we are still confronted with today" will gradually find their solutions. And then the warning: ". . . we must not forget, however, that the primary precondition and guarantee of this success is the careful cultivation, protection, and continued development of our links with the Ukrainian people, and the other peoples of the Soviet Union."
The whole article betrays a despicable inferiority complex.... In order to prove our insignificance, it tries to befoul and to degrade the little we have, to slander and to shunt the few people of stature we have, so that we should feel even smaller than we actually are, and thus to reduce our requests and demands to zero. . . .
We are firmly convinced that the greatest offender against the genuine
The Hungarians of the Carpatho-Ukraine 225
friendship of peoples is the person who tries to disguise existing problems by flaunting real or imaginary achievements and thereby lets them [the problems] fester under the surface.
It is also our conviction that some of our problems exist simply because our higher authorities are unaware of them, thanks to those who are doing their best to sweep them under the rug.
"Reunion" with the Ukraine
Excerpts from an Official History of
Transcarpathia, "Toward Happiness"
The official history of Transcarpathia was written by a committee of Russian and Ukrainian scholars, chaired by Sergei Aleksevich Mishchenko. The original text was published in 1973. It was translated into Hungarian and published in 1975 under the title A boldogsag fele (Toward Happiness). In 1974, the book had won first prize in a national "scientific information competition" of the Soviet Information Society in Moscow. The few excerpts that follow are an illustration of the "scientific information" the book is disseminating among the Hungarians of the Carpatho-Ukraine.
Excerpts from A boldogsag fele. Karpatontul vazlatos tortenete
(Uzhgorod, 1975), 3-4, 180-82.
For many centuries Transcarpathia had been forcibly separated from its [Ukrainian] motherland, and its working people were suffering under the relentless social, economic, political, and national oppression of Hungarian aristocrats, Austrian barons, Czech capitalists, and their "own" exploiters. Notwithstanding all this, however, the toilers have preserved their language and culture, as well as their feelings of unity with the Ukrainian people and their historical traditions. Through many centuries they have sustained in themselves the desire of reunification. This desire was intensified with every successive historical epoch, until it became an essential component of their very existence. . . . [Transcarpathia] had been inhabited from the first half of the first millenium by the ancestors of the East Slavs,
226 STEVEN BELA VARDY
the so-called White Croats, who were part of the proto-Russian Kievan Rus' state in the tenth and eleventh centuries. . . . [The White Croats in fact never lived in the Transcarpathian region; they moved to the Dalmatian coastline in the early seventh century. Cf. Francis Dvornik, The Slavs: Their History and Civilization (Boston, 1956), 26-28; and George Vernadsky, The Origins of Russia (Oxford, 1959), 82-84.] During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the region's economic and cultural ties with Russia and the Ukraine have multiplied. As an example, numerous books from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, and L'vov have found their way into Transcarpathia, and many local people went to study in Russia and the Ukraine.
These developments have all contributed to the revival of those progressive Transcarpathian forces that were drawn to the Ukraine and to Russia.
The workers of Transcarpathia have contributed many glorious pages to the history of the struggle that was waged by the Ukrainian people against social and national oppression. This struggle became particularly conscious and purposeful after the Great October Socialist Revolution which opened a new chapter in the history of humanity. Under the leadership of the Communist party, the workers and the peasants were now fighting for the overthrow of the capitalist system and for their reunification with the Soviet Ukraine. This struggle ended in victory, for in October of 1944 the Red Army liberated Transcarpathia from under centuries of domination by its conquerors, and thereby this region returned permanently into the fold of the mother country.
The reunification of the Transcarpathian Ukraine with the Soviet Ukraine signified the triumph of historical justice. It was a turning point in the history of our region, which brilliantly exemplified the success of the Communist party's and the Soviet government's wise Leninist nationality policy.
Within the ranks of the family of Soviet peoples, and with their fraternal help, the economy and culture of this most recently gained area of the Soviet Ukraine began to prosper, while the toilers of Transcarpathia became the full-fledged proprietors of their land. . . .
The liberation of Transcarpathia by the Red Army and the great and selfless help of the fraternal peoples of the Soviet Union were both examples of the care extended by the Communist party and the Soviet government to the workers of Transcarpathia. The latter, in
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turn, were increasingly imbued with the knowledge that only within the confines of the Soviet Ukraine could the people of the region hope to achieve their national rebirth and their economic development.
In compliance with the wishes of the region's workers, the Soviet government undertook to negotiate with the Czechoslovak Republic the reunification of Transcarpathia with the Soviet Ukraine. On July 29, 1945, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Czechoslovak Republic concluded an agreement on the fate of the Transcarpathian Ukraine. This agreement pointed out that the "Transcarpathian Ukraine (known in the Czechoslovak Constitution as Podkarpatska Rus), which had become an autonomous part of the Czechoslovak Republic with the Treaty of Saint Germain of September 10, 1919, would now reunify with its ancient homeland, the Ukraine, and would become part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, in accordance with the expressed wishes of its people and on the basis of the friendly consensus of the high signatories."
The signing of the agreement of reunification with the Soviet Ukraine was greeted with enthusiasm by the Transcarpathian people at numerous meetings and mass gatherings. This was also emphasized in a letter by the citizens of Uzhgorod, dated June 30, 1945, which was drawn up at one of their mass meetings: "We are extremely happy that henceforth we will march within the Soviet Ukraine, hand in hand with the people of the Soviet Union, toward the shining peaks of a happy and joy-filled life, and thus achieve the fulfillment of our economic, national, and cultural goals." . . .
The reunification of the Transcarpathian Ukraine with Soviet Ukraine was the final act in the reunification process that gathered all Ukrainian lands into a unified Ukrainian Soviet state. Historical justice had triumphed. In consequence of the Soviet Communist party's Leninist nationality policy, and as a result of the increased power of the Soviet Union, the Transcarpathian workers, centuries-long heroic struggle thus ended with the region's liberation and its reunification with its motherland, the Soviet Union.
|Stephen Borsody: The Hungarians: A Divided Nation|