Call for academic solidarity

On 2018, during January and early February, I had joined a group of Hungarian researchers to apply for research funds from the National Research, Development and Innovation Office with a 3-year research project at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Center of the Humanities. Our application won ca. 25 million Forints (ca. 70.600 Euros) and started on 1 October, 2018. The English title of the project is “Knowledge, Landscape, Nation and Empire: Practices of knowing and transforming landscape in Hungary and the Balkans, 1850-1945” (there is no English version on the institution’s website).

Currently, I am represented by the Helsinki Committee in a Labor Court trial against the institution, because according to the project application the institute was supposed to hire me as an affiliated Assistant Researcher (which is a public servant position), but after registering me at the National Tax Office and signing me in as member of the institution, the director and employer, historian Pál Fodor denied to sign my contract after 1 month delay and agreed-upon work, and then the Principal Investigator kicked me out of the project. Prior to this, I was not in conflict with any of the project members and there was no evidence that I had hampered the project in any way. The Principal Investigator, Gábor Demeter admitted in public court on 23 January 2020 that he had supplied informal “references” on my “bad” scholarship – without my knowledge – to the director and that someone had “phoned in” to ask that I not be employed at the institution. Behind this informal reason – which was affirmed in public press (,, read the Kettős Mérce article in English)  – was that the institution received a non-public Facebook comment of mine leaked to the institution by an individual from our personal debate in which I expressed my despise for the person’s neoliberal social-Darwinist statement “homelessness is due to the lack of money instincts” (for details, read my blog post in Hungarian).

Below you can read the basic text of our research application (see .pdf); it also had other attachments and was uploaded in different parts via an official form. I was not responsible for making the final editing and uploading of the text, the latter was the responsibility of the Principal Investigator. My contribution to the research project was the application of postcolonial theory and world-systems analysis to the case study of Hungarian Balkanism in order to understand it as part of a semiperipheral trajectory within global colonialism. My empirical input was to look at geographers and geographical knowledge production in Hungarian imperialism and colonialism in the Balkans. I’ve highlighted in the text all unedited parts that have been written only by me, and represent my own academic research and intellectual property. I never allowed my intellectual contribution to be used without my permission solely for others’ financial gain at the expense of my basic rights and material interests.

Since the incident, I’ve presented (or will present) my thesis and concept at:

Central European University on the occasion of Diana Mishkova’s book launch of Beyond Balkanism in 2018;

– the 43rd PEWS conference in Freiburg in 2019;

– the Dialoguing Between the Posts 2.0 conference in Belgrade in 2019

– at a forthcoming workshop Studying the Balkans Globally in Belgrade during 2020.

– in a forthcoming book chapter entitled “Global Colonialism and Hungarian Semiperipheral Imperialism in the Balkans” for a Routledge volume edited by Manuela Boatca;

– in another manuscript to be submitted to a Q1 journal (title not indicated here due to double-blind peer review);

My application for an ethical procedure was denied by the Academy on the grounds that there is already an ongoing court trial, and my letters to the institution and the president of the Academy asking to resolve this incident in 2018 were simply left unanswered. Despite that I was working as a researcher in the 1989 After 1989 and the Socialism Goes Global international research projects, and the Academy’s research institution was their project partner, the institution denied to provide me with a permission for archival research (only Hungarian institutions are allowed to provide such). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court trial has been delayed, and justice has not yet been done.

I hereby turn to the international academic community to ask for solidarity statements indicating that such unethical acts violate basic scientific norms and should not be tolerated in academia. If you agree with the above, please express your concerns and share this post widely.

Hungary, (Anti)Colonialism, and the Global Cold War

52nd Annual ASEEES Convention, Washington, D.C., November 5–8

Convenor: Árpád von Klimó (The Catholic University of America, DC, USA)

Discussant: Steve Jobbitt (Lakehead University, Canada)

Chair: Judith Szapor (McGill University, Canada)

Decolonization became a major debate since the 1960s, complicating Cold War Culture and challenging the West’s claim for moral superiority and human rights policies. Communist countries like Hungary began to engage in diplomatic campaigns with the double aim at convincing new states in Africa and Asia to support the Soviet sphere instead of the West and to undermine the image of many Western states by focusing criticism on their colonial past or involvement in colonial wars or support of anticommunist authoritarian regimes. After the Algerian War, it was the Vietnam War and the support of the fight of “liberation” movements which became one of the most important ideological and practical battle fields for the new version of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist propaganda, aimed at domestic as well as international (UNO, UNESCO, IOC, other world sports organizations) and transnational audiences (Africa, Asia, Western Europe, USA). During this time, and increasingly since the Second Vatican Council, colonialism and post-colonial critique became an intensifying debate also among Catholics all over the world, not only in relation to Latin America and Liberation Theology. In the world of sports, Hungarian functionaries and athletes also participated. Similar new ideological debates erupted in the international networks of academia and the sciences, as the example of the Hungarian noble laureate (Chemistry), Albert Szent-Györgyi, demonstrates.

We are still at the beginning to study the questions related to these complex problems. Our panel will attempt to clarify some of the assumptions and research problems related to the connection between Cold War politics, decolonization, Hungarian and Vatican diplomacy. The papers of this panel show that the outcome and results of the anti-colonialist activities and debates were often contradictory.

The Soviet Union, the United States and Nuclear Fear: Albert Szent-Györgyi’s Political Life, 1945–1973

Ádám Farkas (Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary)

Albert Szent-Györgyi was a popular public figure after the WWII and he was expected to become the President of Hungary. He was saved by the Soviets, spent two months in the Soviet Union and was one of the founders of the Hungarian- Soviet Cultural Association. The non-communist Nobel laureate scientist worked together actively with the Soviets to rebuild the Hungarian cultural life. As he became dissatisfied with the political changes, he emigrated to the United States in 1947. Since the mid-1960s he turned to the politics again, he spoke out against the Vietnam War. He criticized the US government and urged to cooperate with the Soviet Union for peace. But for Szent-Györgyi it was never the criticism of the imperialistic intentions. Like many of his scientific colleagues, he was deeply concerned about the destructive uses of scientific knowledge. Szent-Györgyi turned to civil and political rights, peace and antiwar movements. His writings (The Crazy Ape, What next?, Science, ethics and politics, Lost in the 20th century) became standard works in the antinuclear movement. His perception of the superpowers changed once again, and in his eyes the Soviet Union somehow appeared as a following example for the United States. His image was rehabilitated in Hungary and visited the country in 1973. The paper investigates Szent-Györgyi’s involvement in politics, his changing attitudes to the superpowers and the social movements related to Eastern Bloc and the West. Drawing on oral history, memoirs and archival materials, the study reflects on ideology, rebellion and political belief.

Connecting the Local to the Global in the Cold War: Hungary’s Contribution to Western Colonialist Sport Practices in the International Olympic Committee, 1960s–1989

Johanna Mellis (Ursinus College, USA)

For part of my book manuscript, I am exploring socialist Hungary’s work with the International Olympic Committee (which was and is a colonialist organization). Sport leaders from Hungary and the other Eastern Bloc countries helped to ‘decolonize’ the IOC in some regards, by bringing in and working more with sport leaders from African and Asian countries. But they also worked hard to uphold the IOC’s discriminatory ‘Amateur Rule,’ which forbade athletes from receiving commercial sponsorships for their sport endeavors. Eastern Bloc sport leaders did this in order to protect the state-supported sport systems back home from scrutiny (to continue giving athletes prized material privileges and prevent them from defecting to the West). But their efforts also severely restricted athletes in non-authoritarian countries from getting the money they needed to train, compete, etc., and thus contributed – even if inadvertently – to the discriminatory policies of the sport body.

Anticommunism, Decolonization and the Vatican: Cardinal Mindszenty in Portugal (1972)

Árpád von Klimó (The Catholic University of America, DC, USA)

On October 11, 1972, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church in exile, Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, arrived in Portugal, for a one week-long visit. On the next day, Mindszenty was at the center of an extensive program of prayer, rosaries and masses at the Shrine of Fatima. He celebrated High Mass in front of approx. 250,000 people. The Hungarian Cardinal in his short speech emphasized that the Fatima secrets” were also addressed at him, who suffered from “Russia … spreading error over the world”, that is: a Communist system which oppressed the church. Mindszenty had been a symbol of anticommunist resistance since his incarceration in 1949, and his 15-year long stay at the US Embassy in Budapest (1956-71). With Portugal, he visited a country with an authoritarian regime that was increasingly justifying its existence with anticommunism. The colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea (1961–75) had ruined the finances of Portugal and the high number of victims and the suffering of Portuguese troops, similar to Vietnam, had contributed to the undermining of the regime that claimed to adhere to Catholic teaching, while the Vatican and progressive Catholics increasingly challenged its ideology. My paper studies the visit of Mindszenty in relation to the wider political context, the changing understanding of colonialism among the Vatican and Portuguese Catholics, the Cold War conflict related to Communist Hungary and the West, based on documents from Mindszenty’s private archive in Budapest (Mindszenty Foundation), from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, as well from a variety of other primary sources.

The Clash of Colonialisms: The Race Between Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Anti-Colonialism in the Third World

Zoltán Ginelli (Independent Scholar, Hungary)

This paper explores how Hungarians on both sides of the Iron Curtain opened up to Afro-Asian decolonisation through competing constructions of Eastern European semiperipheral postcoloniality to be shared with the Third World. State-socialist Hungary struggled to open up via socialist globalisation against Western protectionism, and developed anti-colonialism against Western Empire and solidarity towards emerging postcolonies. The stakes were high, because Hungarian anti-communist political refugees in the West were already racing to first develop anti-colonial solidarity towards postcolonial countries and persuade them against “Soviet colonialism”. Backed by the USA, Hungarian ex-premier Ferenc Nagy successfully popularised this critique in the International Peasant Union and the Assembly of Captive European Nations, and during his Asian trip (1954) managed to manipulate the first Third World conference in Bandung (1955). In the race for recognition, the communist leadership in Hungary was losing initiative. After the 1956 revolution, Hungarian communists struggled to persuade Third World countries in the United Nations to vote against the Western condemnation of the Soviet invasion, and post-Stalinist Khrushchevian opening up policy allowed them to seek recognition by exporting the “Hungarian development model” to the Third World. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah looked to the socialist world to relieve Western dependency and in 1962 requested the Hungarian economist József Bognár to develop the newly decolonised African country’s First Seven-Year Plan. While Hungarian refugee experts like Imre Kovács were working as anti-communist reform advisors in Latin America and Asia, Bognár’s Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963) promoted export-oriented growth to reposition and integrate state-socialist Hungary in the global economy.

Postcolonial Hungary: Eastern European Semiperipheral Positioning in Global Colonialism

Is there a postcolonial Hungary? This project focuses on situating Hungary’s historical development in the global histories of colonialism and anti-colonialism. It interrogates the revival of colonial discourse in the region and explores how it displaced a politics of Western transition and convergence by reconstructing the histories of Hungarian colonial discourse and self-positioning in the world economic system.

Postcolonial studies have been preoccupied with the global economic centre and periphery, but the complex historical relations, experiences and epistemologies of Eastern European and Hungarian colonialism and imperialism have been remarkably silenced (Mayblin et al. 2016; Mark and Slobodian 2018; Grzechnik 2019). Meanwhile, new research has shown that Cold War epistemological heritage rendered connections between postsocialism and postcolonialism problematic (Chari and Verdery 2008; Gille 2010; Mayblin et al. 2016), and East-West convergence discourse has marginalised historical relations between Eastern Europe and the Global South (Mark and Apor 2015; Mark and Slobodian 2018; Muehlenbeck and Telepneva 2018; Mark et al. 2020; Stanek 2020). Following a global historical and world-systemic perspective, this research introduces the concept of semiperipheral post/coloniality to unpack Hungarian coloniality in the long-term historical context of integrating into the world economy, thereby offering a structuralist critique of constructivist approaches to postcolonialism (e.g. Wolff 1994; Bakić-Hayden 1995; Todorova 1997). The Hungarian semiperipheral integration to the hierarchical system of the global division of labour has generated structural path-dependencies (uneven exchange, indebtedness, financing technology) (Márk et al. 2014), which resulted in global manoeuvring to gain comparative advantages between the (former) colonising centre and the (former) colonised periphery. This led to an uneasy and often antagonistic in-betweeness in the context of global hierarchies: being superior coloniser but oppressed colonised; catching up to and benefiting from but contesting the colonial centre; bridging or allying to but demarcating from the periphery. This project seeks to reconstruct the history of such a semiperipheral Eastern European country in order to understand the new political stakes in the revival of colonial discourse in current Hungarian politics.

Before WWII, Hungarian colonialist-imperialist ambitions followed nationalist and global racial-civilisational aspirations, but pragmatically developed East-West in-betweenness and uneasy criticism towards the imperialist West. Local experiences of peripheralisation, underdevelopment and out-migration forged sympathy with those in a similarly subservient position within the colonial system, but there also evolved alternative colonialisms of semiperipheral expansion and racial supremacy (e.g. Balkanism, Orientalism, Turanism). After WWII, state-socialist anti-colonial solidarity contested geopolitical fault-lines and Western European protectionism (1957), but Hungarian trajectories were driven by pragmatic, state-led foreign policy aims to lever Soviet and Western “dual dependency” (Böröcz 1992) by opening to Afro-Asian decolonisation. Amidst fears of international isolation (Péteri 2012), the post-1956 Hungarian alliance-building and global positioning encouraged to encounter coloniality through socialist internationalism (Mark and Apor 2015; Mark et al. 2020). Hungary re-opened to the decolonised periphery with “civilisational” desires to export the “Hungarian model” and develop markets to counter the global centre, whilst the periphery contributed to Hungarian “third way” state-centred and semi-capitalist export-oriented growth as a new integration strategy during the 1960s New Economic Mechanism (Ginelli 2017, 2018). On the other hand, rivalling narratives clashed between state-socialist anti-Western anti-colonialism and émigré “Soviet colonialism” in the Non-Aligned postcolonial world about how to incorporate Hungary and Eastern Europe into global colonialism.

After 1989, Hungary as part of the former Second World lost its global ideological privileges and Afro-Asian connections, and experienced third-worldification by becoming the core’s “undeveloped” region. The postsocialist “return to Europe” and self-colonising neoliberal “transition” silenced anti-colonial critique against the West (or the EU) (Böröcz 2009), and resulted in “postsocialist amnesia” on former relations with the global postcolonial world and in racial realignment with whiteness (Böröcz and Sarkar 2017; Mark et al. 2019). After the 2008 crisis, Viktor Orbán’s increasingly authoritarian “illiberal” turn from 2010 on sought to globally reposition Hungary against the “failed liberalism” of Western transition. Apart from various political regionalisms (“classical Europe”, “Central Europe”, “Eurasia”) (Balogh 2015; 2017), this geopolitical manoeuvring produced a new colonial discourse which positioned Hungary against the liberal, Atlantic-Western colonial-imperial centre (“Brussels is the new Moscow”, “we never had colonies”, “we will not become colonies”), while constructing selective racial-civilisational demarcation from the periphery in anti-migration discourse, and appropriating global colonial history exclusively for Eastern European nationalist victimisation. This Hungarian semiperipheral postcolonial identity politics not only exploits the country’s silenced historical experiences of coloniality (Ottoman: 1526, Habsburg: 1848, Trianon: 1920, Soviet: 1949, 1956), but also functions in the semiperipheral re-adaptation to current hegemonic shifts in the world economy. Hungary’s “Eastern turn” to the New Silk Road exploits Turanist Orientalism towards Central Asia, “illiberalism” and “Christian democracy” functions in developing new global alliance networks in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, while the reaffirmation of European whiteness and appropriation of colonial history aims to exclude Afro-Asian postcolonial competition for benefits in the European Union.

This research is part of my Leibniz ScienceCampus “Eastern Europe – Global Area” reseearch project at Universität Leipzig.


Bakić-Hayden, M. (1995): Nesting Orientalism: the Case of Former Yugoslavia. Slavic Review, 54(4): 917–931.

Balogh, P. (2015): Returning to Eurasia from the heart of Europe? Geographical metanarratives in Hungary and beyond. In: Törnquist-Plewa, B., Bernsand, N., Narvselius, E. (eds.) Beyond Transition? Memory and Identity Narratives in Eastern and Central Europe. Lund University. 191–208.

––––. (2017): The revival of ‘Central Europe’ among Hungarian political elites: its meaning and geopolitical implications. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin, 66(3): 191–202.

Böröcz, J. (1992): Dual Dependency and the Informalization of External Linkages: The Case of Hungary. Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, 14: 189–209.

Böröcz, J. (2009): The European Union and Global Social Change: A Critical Geopolitical-Economic Analysis. Routledge.

Böröcz, J., Sarkar, M. (2017): The Unbearable Whiteness of the Polish Plumber and the Hungarian Peackock Dance around “Race”. Slavic Review, 76(2): 307–314.

Chari, S., Verdery, K. (2009): Thinking between the Posts: Postcolonialism, Postsocialism, and Ethnography after the Cold War. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51(1): 6–34.

Gille, Z. (2010): Is There a Global Postsocialist Condition? Global Society, 24(1): 9–30.

Ginelli, Z. (2017): Opening the Semi-Periphery: Hungary and Decolonisation. OSA Visegrad Fund Scholarship Research Report.

Ginelli, Z. (2018): Hungarian Experts in Nkrumah’s Ghana: Decolonization and Semiperipheral Postcoloniality in Socialist Hungary. Mezosfera, 5.

Grzechnik, M. (2019): The Missing Second World: On Poland and Postcolonial Studies. Interventions, 21(7): 998–1014.

Mark, J., Apor, P. (2015): Socialism Goes Global: Decolonization and the Making of a New Culture of Internationalism in Socialist Hungary, 1956–1989. The Journal of Modern History, 87(4): 852–891.

Mark, J., Slobodian, Q. (2018): Eastern Europe in the Global History of Decolonization. In: Thomas, M., Thompson, A. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire. Oxford University Press. 351–372.

Mark, J., Iacob, B. C., Rupprecht, T., Spaskocska, L. (2019): 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Mark, J., Kalinovsky, A., Marung, S. (eds.)(2020): Alternative Globalizations: Encounters Between the Eastern Bloc and the Postcolonial World. Indiana University Press.

Márk, É., Gagyi, Á., Gerőcs, T., Jelinek, C., Pinkasz A. (2014): 1989: Szempontok a rendszerváltás globális politikai gazdaságtanához. [1989: Considerations for the global political economy of the system change.] Fordulat, 21(1): 11–61.

Mayblin, L., Piekut, A., Valentine, G. (2016): ’Other’ Posts in ’Other’ Places: Poland through a Postcolonial Lens? Sociology, 50(1): 60–76.

Muehlenbeck, P. E., Telepneva, N. (eds.)(2018): Warsaw Pact Intervention in the Third World: Aid and Influence in the Cold War. I. B. Taurus

Péteri, G. (2012): Transsystemic Fantasies: Counterrevolutionary Hungary at Brussels’ Expo ’58. Journal of Contemporary History, 47(1): 137–160.

Stanek, Ł. (2020): Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War. Princeton University Press. Todorova, M. (1997): Imagining the Balkans. Oxford University Press.

See chapters of this project on this blog:

Ginelli, Z. (2019): Hungarian Indians: Racial and Anti-Colonial Solidarity in Post-Trianon Hungary. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.03.18. Link:

Ginelli Z. (2019): The Semiperipheral Colonial Alternative: Visions of Hungarian Catholic Postcoloniality in Latin America. Critical Geographies Blog. 2019.07.11. Link:

Ginelli, Z. (2019): Plotting the Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism and Global Colonialism in Geographical Knowledge, 1867–1948. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.03.18. Link:

Ginelli, Z. (2019): Posztkoloniális Magyarország: A magyar globális nyitás és illiberális autoriter fordulat újraértelmezése a félperifériás gyarmatiság szempontjából. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.08.11.

Ginelli Z. (2019): The Clash of Colonialisms: Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Decolonialism in the Third World. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.12.23. Link:

Ginelli Z. (2020): Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism in Global Colonialism. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.02.29. Link:

Ginelli Z. (2020): Opening Hungary to Global Colonialism: János Xántus and Hungarian Orientalism in East and Southeast Asia. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.03.07. Link:

Opening Hungary to Global Colonialism: János Xántus and Hungarian Orientalism in East and Southeast Asia

Josef Püttner: SMS Novara in Venice, after 1862. Xántus sailed on this Austrian ship to Asia. Source: Hungarian Museum of Ethnography.

Why is Eastern Europe still on the margins of colonial history? This historical silence is partly due to Western knowledge hegemony, but partly because Eastern Europeans have routinely positioned themselves as “always colonised” but “never having colonies”, thereby victimising themselves and denying their historical participation in global colonialism. Under “colonial rule” since Ottoman occupation (1526), but later as part of the Habsburg Empire, from the mid-19th century on, Hungarians increasingly sought in their contested, in-between semiperipheral position to open up to global colonialism.[1] This process may be demonstrated by the Asian expeditions of János Xántus (1825–1894), one of the most famed Hungarian natural scientists of the 19th century.

Zoologist and ethnographer, Xántus was founding contributor to the Hungarian National Museum, corresponding fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1859), founder and first director of the first Hungarian zoo (1866) and the Ethnographic Museum (1872), and founding member of the Hungarian Geographical Society (1872). He became a political refugee due to serving as officer in the failed 1848–49 Hungarian war of independence from the Habsburg Empire, in the 1850s and early 1860s he was drawn into North American expeditions, wrote about the culture and colonial subjugation of Indians, and developed a vast network to transfer specimens regularly back to Hungary. Upon his final return to Hungary, he was given the opportunity after the Austro-Hungarian compromise (1867) to participate in a series of imperial expeditions to East and Southeast Asia during 1868–71, which included Ceylon, Siam, Singapore, Java, China, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Borneo. Austrians had planned to open up to the East since 1860, but expeditions were delayed due to internal conflicts, the Prussian-Austrian war in 1866, and the execution of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian in Mexico in 1967. The Austro-Hungarian expedition was to develop foreign trade relations and secure colonial positions in Southeast and East Asia with the opening of the Suez Canal (1869). However, the expedition did not fulfil its promise, and was torn by internal political tensions between Austrian and Hungarian counterparts: as a “1848er” independence fighter, Xántus struggled to have the expedition serve Hungarian national interests against Austrian suppression.

Description: ántus utazásai
Map of the the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’s East Asian expedition – straight: joint route of the Donau frigate and the Erzherzog Friedrich corvette; dashed: route of the Donau frigate through South America; dotted: route of the Erzherzog Friedrich through Suez. Source: Gyarmati János (2019): Xántus kontra Scherzer – Az osztrák-magyar kelet-ázsiai expedíció és Xántus János. A Földgömb.

This paper gives a postcolonialist, critical geographical, and global historical re-interpretation of this expedition based on the travel writing of Xántus published during 1877–1886.[2] Against the dominantly biographical and documentary accounts on Xántus, which follow institutional or nationalist legitimation logics in presenting his “heroic” figure (focusing on his collections, personality and merits), this study instead engages with his activities in colonial networks, his descriptions of local industry and European export ambitions, and his global comparative ideas about colonialism and race, including comparisons between his local Hungarian, Eastern European, and Asian experiences. Whilst Xántus was known for his humanist critique of colonialism and solidarity with the colonially suppressed (especially in the case of North American Indians), his Asian travelogues shed light on his staunch support for the European colonial system, and how his activities relied on and contributed to national and imperial power networks and interests. In Borneo, he praised British colonialism against the Dutch, who “achieved success by resorting to the iron rod, absolute tyranny, and treaded ruthlessly upon all human rights (…), while England introduced to all its colonies English self-government, and shared its own freedoms with the conquered”.[3] As a prolific writer, he constructed his reporting credibility through various modalities, references, and practices, and contributed to a positive geographical imagination of the “fresh” and “juvenile” tropics ripe for exploration and exposed to masculine colonial practices of overcoming nature.[4] Swaying between imperialist Eurocentrism and anti-Eurocentric criticism, his depictions of the East fitted into the wider colonial discourse of European Orientalism, but through an Eastern European eye. His travelogues detailed the global political economy of the Hungarian diaspora, such as plantation workers, officers, traders, or the global remittance network of Gypsy and Sekler (székely) entertainers from Transylvania.[5]

The Great Channel of Singapore (expedition’s photo).
Source: Hungarian Museum of Ethnography.
Singaporean streets (expedition’s photo)
Source: Hungarian Museum of Ethnography.
Chinese sampans (engraving based on expedition’s photo).
Source: Khinai sámpánok. (Xántus leveléhez) Hazánk s a Külföld, 6(10): 149.

In a wider historical context, the expedition of Xántus not only tells us much about how Hungarian geographical knowledge production was embedded in global colonialism, but also demonstrates the shift from reproducing dominantly Western geographic images of Asia towards developing an expansionist Hungarian Orientalism and Eurasian geopolitical vision between the late 19th and the mid-20th centuries. The newer generation of expeditions, such as by Benedek Baráthosi Balogh, Béla Széchenyi, Lajos Lóczy, Jenő Cholnoky, János Kovrig, or Viktor Keöpe, increasingly imagined Asia within a Turanist vision, an overarching geographical-cultural ideology of Hungarian-Asian racial brotherhood, which served as a semiperipheral imperialist globalisation strategy to counter or bypass Habsburg dependency and Western imperialism.

Xántus, through his popular figure as a prolific field-working scientist and a “national hero” who fought against the Habsburgs in 1848, was among the few “bourgeois” explorers to be early rehabilitated in the Communist era, since Habsburg rule was interpreted as a form of colonialism, and this history facilitated relations with decolonising Afro-Asian countries after WWII. But even today, discussion of Hungarian explorers’ colonialist and racist attitudes are absent from national collective memory, and as recent Chinese expansion with the New Silk Road and One Belt One Road macroprojects has reignited the Hungarian Orientalist heritage in culture and foreign policy, perhaps it is timely to re-evaluate the colonial history of Hungarian relations to Asia.

The shack of János Xántus in Borneo (his own drawing).
Source: Gyarmati, J. (2019): Xántus János, a gyűjtő. Honismeret, 47(6): 8–15.
The East Asian collection at the exhibition of the National Museum. Source: Hazánk s a Külföld, 1871, 225.

[1] Ginelli, Z. (forthcoming): Global Colonialism and Hungarian Semiperipheral Imperialism in the Balkans. Manuscript.

[2] This paper also builds on the Xántus collection organized by the research project of János Gyarmati, “The Austro-Hungarian East Asia Expedition and the Collection of János Xántus”.

[3] Xántus, J. (1880): Borneo szigetén 1870-ben tett utazásomról. Földrajzi Közlemények, 8: 153–219. p. 156.

[4] Xántus, J. (1879): Uti emlékeim Singapoore és vidékéről. Győr: Özv. Bauervein Gézáné. p. 35–36.

[5] Ibid, p. 86–92.

Read a previous description of this project here.

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Ginelli Z. (2020): Opening Hungary to Global Colonialism: János Xántus and Hungarian Orientalism in East and Southeast Asia. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.03.07. Link:

Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism in Global Colonialism

Alexander Ritter von Bensa the Younger/Adolf Obermüller: North Camp at Mostar during the Bosnian campaign, 1878
Heeresgeschichtliches MuseumMuseum of Military History

In postcolonial studies, Eastern Europe’s colonial experiences and ambitions have been routinely silenced in the literature’s focus on (post)colonial centres and peripheries. The region remains largely absent from mainstream textbooks, which is indicative not only of Western academics’ ignorance and knowledge imperialism, but also of Eastern European authors’ relative neglect or inability to contribute. In Hungarian history, the country has been routinely positioned as colonized victim without any significant colonizer role in global history. Recently, this argument has been forcefully taken up by the (far) right-wing government’s political discourse, which has mobilized decolonial arguments to critique “Western imperialists”, while nationalism has sparked nostalgia towards Hungarian imperial “high times” and reignited racism towards the global periphery.

In postcolonial literature on Eastern Europe, the relationship between the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Balkans is a relatively well-developed context. Nevertheless, Austria’s participation in global colonialism has been recurrently denied by expanding on the country’s neutral role during and after WWII, which was opportunistically used to develop good relations with the Non-Aligned Movement. In addition, the recent focus on Austrian colonialism has left Hungarian colonial activities and ambitions as part of the Empire unexplored. During the socialist era, the narrative of Habsburg colonialism – following anti-German sentiment – was used to position Hungary as part of the colonized world during Afro-Asian decolonization, but Hungarian historical participation in colonialist and imperialist projects, such as towards the Balkans, have been simultaneously de-emphasized. These silences still produce huge biases in current Hungarian attitudes, politics, and historical memory. In recent years, Hungarian scholars have been producing detailed accounts of the imperialist ambitions of the Hungarian Kingdom towards the Balkans, but only in Hungarian (or perhaps German), and these remained rather descriptive and unreflective of postcolonial epistemology or global structural analysis.

This paper interprets Hungarian Balkanism in a global historical and world-systemic perspective as part of global colonialism. It argues that the literature’s uneasiness of applying postcolonialism to the region relies on a false fixation on the hegemonic Western-Atlantic concept of global colonial history, which may be resolved by acknowledging the transnational nature of colonialism and examining Eastern Europe’s in-between semiperipheral position in the capitalist world-system and in global colonial history. The paper aims to critique the constructivist and relational postcolonial epistemology of Balkanism (varieties of Orientalism), and the various Eastern European typologies (“continental”, “internal”, “semi-“, “small” imperialism/colonialism) and geographical biases in postcolonial studies, to look at how Hungarian colonialism towards the Balkans from the mid-19th century served in world-systemic linking-delinking strategies, and in relieving structural dependencies. Finally, it looks at the discursive continuities of Balkanism as a form of semiperipheral imperialism: how the government’s nationalist identity politics and global maneuvering (“Eastern Opening”) affected Hungarian Balkanists’ public nostalgia for the imperial “boom era” and their contested relations to Islam.

Turkish President Reccep Erdoğan praying at the Tomb of Gül Baba in Budapest during his visit in 2018. Source: Turkish Presidency / Murat Cetin/Anadolu Agency /
Studying the Balkans Globally Workshop 
Department of Politics Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK) Belgrade – Belgrade, 3 April 2020

See a previous version of this project here.

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Ginelli Z. (2020): Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism in Global Colonialism. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.02.29. Link:

Posztkoloniális kritika

Társadalomelméleti Kollégium, Corvinus Egyetem, 2019/20, 2. (tavaszi)félév

Melegh Attila, Ginelli Zoltán, Soltész Béla, Mendly Dorottya, Vancsó Anna


A kör során bevezetést adunk a posztkoloniális kritika alapvető irányzataiba, és problémaköreibe. Feltárjuk a globális kapitalizmus történeti folyamatainak és intézményi rendjeinek szerepét a koloniális viszonyokban, és külön hangsúlyt helyezünk a politikai gazdaságtani összefüggésekre a rasszizmus és a koloniális politikai erőszak megjelenésében és megerősödésében. A kör során nagyon fontos szempont, hogy szemben a posztkoloniális kritika sok irányzatával, állandóan törekszünk a konkrét történeti kontextus feltárására, és közel hozzuk a kelet-európai kurzus tagokhoz és történeti tapasztalataikhoz a posztkoloniális kritika legfontosabb tematikáit. A kurzus során a tagok vizuális és textuális elemzést is végeznek, illetve ilyen formában is készítenek beszámolókat.

1. Melegh Attila: Posztkoloniális kritika – Bevezetés: a koloniális kapitalizmus születésének néhány problémája – febr. 17.

Melegh, Attila (2006): On the East/West Slope. Globalization, nationalism, racism and discourses on Eastern and Central Europe. CEU Press Chapter 1.

Böröcz, József (2009): The European Union and Global Social Change: A Critical Geopolitical Economic Analysis. Routledge, London. Magyar változat: Böröcz József (2018): Az EU és a világ: Kritikai elemzés. Budapest: Kalligram. 2. fejezet

Melegh, Attila (2003): Kelet-Nyugat lejtő (East/West Slope). Élet és Irodalom. April 28. on the internet:

2. Melegh Attila: Koloniális politikai erőszak és ellenállás: Kenya példája – febr. 24.

Melegh Attila: Globális ötvenes évek. Eszmélet, 2015. Tavasz

Melegh Attila (2016): Gyarmatiság, rasszizmus és erőszak az 1950-es években Megjegyzések és dokumentumok 1956 globális összefüggéseiről. Eszmélet 111. Eszmélet folyóirat, 2016. október 17.

3. Melegh Attila: Az algíri csata – film és beszélgetés – márc. 2.

4. Soltész Béla: Történeti áttekintés: Kolonizáció, dekolonizáció és a posztkoloniális

Elméletek – márc. 9.

McLeod, John (2010): Beginning Postcolonialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 12–36.

5. Soltész Béla: Orientalizmus, bináris oppozíciók, posztkoloniális kultúra- és nemzetfogalmak – márc. 16.

McLeod, John (2010): Beginning postcolonialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 37–55.

Fanon, Frantz (1952): The Fact of Blackness (excerpt). In: Ashcroft, Bill – Griffiths, Gareth – Tiffin, Helen (eds.) (2003): The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. London: Routledge, pp. 323–326.

Fanon, Frantz (1961): National Culture (excerpt). In: Ashcroft, Bill – Griffiths, Gareth – Tiffin, Helen (eds.) (2003): The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. London: Routledge, pp. 153–157.

6. Mendly Dorottya: Biopolitika – márc. 23.

Black Venus Film és beszélgetés

Stoler, Ann Laura (2000): Sexual Affronts and Racial Frontiers. European Identities and the Cultural Politics of Exclusion in Colonial Southeast Asia. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 34 (3): 514–551.

7. Ginelli Zoltán: Nem leszünk gyarmat? Neokolonializmus a magyar politikában – márc. 30.

A feladat válaszolni a kérdésekre a kiadott szövegek alapján.

8. Ginelli Zoltán: Sose voltak gyarmataink: Kelet-Európa a globális gyarmattörténelemben – ápr. 6.

Mark, J., Slobodian, Q. (2018): Eastern Europe. In: Martin, T., Thompson, A. (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire. Oxford University Press.


Ginelli, Z. (forthcoming): Global Colonialism and Hungarian Semiperipheral Imperialism in the Balkans. In: Boatca, M. (ed.): De-Linking: Critical Thought and Radical Politics. (Political Economy of the World-System Annuals.) London: Routledge.

Grzechnik, M. (2019): The Missing Second World: On Poland and Postcolonial Studies. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 21(7): 998–1014.

Sauer, W. (2012): Habsburg Colonial: Austria-Hungary’s Role in European Overseas Expansion Reconsidered. Austrian Studies, 20: 5–23. 


9. Ginelli Zoltán: Posztszocializmus és posztkolonializmus – ápr. 20.

Moore, D. C. (2008): Vajon a poszt- a posztkoloniálisban ugyanaz, mint a posztszovjetben?: egy egész világra kiterjedő posztkoloniális kritika felé. 2000: irodalmi és társadalmi havilap, 9: 3–22. [Moore, David C. “Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique.” PMLA, 116(1): 111–128.]

Scheibner, T. (2008): Posztkoloniális korszak vagy posztkoloniális Kelet- és Közép-Európa? 2000: irodalmi és társadalmi havilap, 9: 23–28.

10. Ginelli Zoltán: Kelet-Európa dekolonizálása – ápr. 27.

Manolova, P., Kusic, K., Lottholz, P. (2019): Introduction: From Dialogue to Practice: Pathways towards Decoloniality in Southeast Europe. d’Versia Special Issue: Decolonial Theory and Practice in Southeast Europe, (March): 7–30.

11. Vancsó Anna: Vallás és posztkolonializmus – máj. 4.

Goulet, N. (2011). Postcolonialism and the Study of Religion: Dissecting Orientalism, Nationalism, and Gender Using Postcolonial Theory. Religion Compass, 5(10), 631–637.

12. Ginelli Zoltán, Szakács Eszter: Transzperiféria Mozgalom: Globális Kelet-Európa és Globális Dél – máj. 11.

Ajánlott irodalom

Ashcroft, Bill – Griffiths, Gareth – Tiffin, Helen (eds.) (2003): The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. London: Routledge.

Boatca, M. (2008): Define and Rule: The Role of Orientalism in Recolonizing Eastern Europe. In: Samman, K., Mazhar, A-Z. (eds.): Islam and the Modern Orientalist World-System. Boulder, London: Paradigm. 187–201.

Farkas, A. M. (2011): Szittya nacionalizmus vs. birodalmi progresszivizmus: Az öngyarmatosítás két formája Magyarországon. Replika, 75(2): 169–199. []

Kjosszev, A. (2000): Megjegyzések az önmagunkat kolonizáló kultúrákról. Magyar Lettre Internationale, 37. []

Mayblin, L., Piekut, A., Valentine, G. (2016): ’Other’ Posts in ’Other’ Places: Poland through a Postcolonial Lens? Sociology, 50(1): 60–76.

Pomeranz, Ken (2000): The Great Divergence. China, Europe and the Making of the Modern World Economy. Princeton, Princeton University Press. Chapter 1.

Hogyan kommunikálnak a földrajzosok? A magyar geográfia tudománykommunikációja és a posztkoloniális kritika

Magyar Atacama-expedíció. Forrás:

Mire gondolunk, amikor valaki azt mondja, „geográfus”? Sokak előtt hegyek és völgyek, folyók és tengerek, állatok és növények tanulmányozása, illetve egzotikus tájakat felfedező expedíciók jelennek meg. De vajon milyen értékeket és ideológiákat közvetít a földrajztudománynak ez a társadalmi képe? Míg az egykori gyarmattartó centrumországok szakirodalmában és tankönyveiben egyaránt elemzik a földrajzi ismeretterjesztés posztkoloniális kritikáját, addig a „gyarmati múlttal nem rendelkező” Magyarországon ez a kritika nem létezik. Ám a magyar földrajzban a természettudományos arculat mellett a koloniális, nacionalista és antikommunista ideológiák máig meghatározóak. Az előadás ennek történeti okait tárja fel, és a hazai földrajz különböző médiumainak – pl. a Magyar Földrajzi Múzeum, a Felfedezők Napja fesztivál, a Földgömb magazin, amatőr földrajzos blogok – „gyarmati tekintetét”, „fehér”, maszkulin és eurocentrikus szemléletét vizsgálja a posztkolonialista kritikai földrajz eszközeivel. E kritika szerint a földrajztudomány reprezentációi hatalmi eszközök, amiket bizonyos szakértők posztkoloniális érdek- és tőkeviszonyok alapján monopolizálnak, ezek ideológiáit privilegizálják: a turizmus tőkelogikáit, a kultúrák esszencializálását, a gazdasági viszonyok leplezését, az expedíciók koloniális szubjektumát, a nem fehér „másik” egzotizálását és ágenciájának elhallgatását. Mit jelenthet a „nem gyarmati múltú” Magyarországon a földrajzi oktatás és -ismeretterjesztés „dekolonizálása”?

Tudománykommunikáció 2.0 konferencia
2020. május 8. – Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem, C épület, X. előadó
1093 Budapest, Közraktár u. 4-6.

The forgotten Polish link in the global history of the “quantitative revolution”

In textbook chronicles, the “quantitative revolution” marked a historical moment when geography became a true Cold War science. As a result of the Second World War, a new generation of geographers left their parochial disciplinary chambers and idiographic methods to turn towards an interdisciplinary approach by adopting the universal “scientific method”, and pursue rigorous, testable mathematical methods in spatial analysis and a positivistic urge to apply deductive theories in spatial planning, modernization and development. An inevitable element of this change was the (re)discovery of German location theories (von Thünen 1826, Weber 1909), including the central place theory of Walter Christaller (1933) and August Lösch (1940), which revolutionized the field of urban geography and regional planning.

The hexagonic model of central places (settlements) by Walter Christaller, 1933

However, anti-positivist critique in the West since the late 1960s has greatly simplified these historical contexts, and the knowledge geographies, wider geographical conditions and knowledge networks of the “quantitative revolution” have remained unexplored. The “revolution” was actually an emerging hegemonic narrative of academics in the global center of North America and Britain, who appropriated interwar era German location theories for their own local pursuits with the help of their postwar academic alliance with Swedish geographers.

Polish regional plans of central places by the National Office of Spatial Planning (Główny Urząd Planowania Przestrzennego) in Warsaw, 1948

But missing from this transnational history is the early postwar school of Polish geography and spatial planning, which became an important precursor in the wider history of the centralized state being involved in the regional planning of settlements. This article shows how the various contexts of European state-led applications of central place theory – disregarded by liberal capitalists in the West – connected across statist regimes, by focusing on how Walter Christaller’s central place theory was applied in the German colonization of Poland by the Nazis during the Generalplan Ost (1940–43) and then in postwar Polish spatial planning under the nation-wide reconstruction orchestrated by the National Office of Spatial Planning (1946–48), which relied on this same German planning knowledge. The remarkable continuity between the Nazi German and postwar Polish contexts gave Polish geographers an advantage to be later included in the American-led Western knowledge networks of the “quantitative revolution” from the late 1950s on, despite the Iron Curtain.

The Nazi settlement system plan of the Eastern annexed territories, including Poland, for the Generalplan Ost by Walter Christaller, 1941

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Ginelli Z. (2020): The forgotten Polish link in the global history of the “quantitative revolution”. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.01.01. Link:

The Clash of Colonialisms: Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Decolonialism in the Third World

This research explores how Hungarians on both sides of the Iron Curtain opened up to Afro-Asian decolonisation through competing constructions of Eastern European semiperipheral postcoloniality. Eastern Europe has been excluded from global colonial history, which only accounts for the relationship between the global center and periphery, the colonisers and colonised. But the remarkable neglect of the region’s colonial history stems from its semiperipheral position. For Eastern Europe, the contradictory position of being part of the global center but also contesting it by allying with the periphery, being a colonial collaborant of White Empire but also critiquing or fearing Western colonialism resulted in an contradictory, in-between semiperipheral manoeuvring within the global world system. While recent studies in global history have dealt more and more with the relationship between the Second and Third Worlds during the Cold War, none of these analyses looked at the parallels and interactions between communist and anti-communist trajectories of colonial discourse and anti-colonialism in light of this Eastern European semiperipheral dynamic.

State-socialist Hungary struggled to open up via socialist globalisation against Western protectionism, and developed anti-colonialism against Western Empire and solidarity towards emerging postcolonies. The stakes were high, because Hungarian anti-communist political refugees in the West were already racing to first develop anti-colonial solidarity towards postcolonial countries and persuade them against “Soviet colonialism”. Backed by the USA, Hungarian ex-premier and Smallholders’ Party leader Ferenc Nagy successfully popularised this line of critique in the International Peasant Union and the Assembly of Captive European Nations. Between 1954 and 1955, Nagy toured parts of Asia, including India, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Thailand, Burma, and Ceylon, and spoke with the ambassadors of various other non-European countries, in order to manipulate the outcome of the first conference of postcolonial countries in Bandung (1955). Eventually, he was successful. During his Asian trip, he emphasised the need for enlightening propaganda on Soviet communism and gave various speeches on “Russian colonialism in Europe”, which was met positively by local politicians and was extensively covered by local newspapers. Many Asian postcolonial countries – with a majority of religious, mainly Muslim populations – feared Soviet and Chinese communist expansion, and the Hungarian intervention convinced them to put forward the critique against “Soviet colonialism” – causing great surprise and panic in the socialist bloc. As Nagy argued,

“I used the anti-colonialist sentiment to present the Soviet Union as the most brutal colonial power, which colonised ten countries at a time when the Western powers freed more than ten countries from colonialism. In all meetings and press conferences I claimed that India should also include the liberation of Eastern European countries in the fight against colonialism. (…)

The people’s right to sovereignty means the disintegration of colonialism and imperialism. The Asian and African nations would make a serious mistake, if they only demanded the liberation of the old colonies, but not the new communist colonialism. The old colonialism is currently being disposed. After the war, decolonisation liberated 600 million people.

But why did decolonisation stop? Because on the other hand the Soviet colonized 100 million European people. The most important requirement of the annihilation of old colonies is the disintegration of Soviet colonies. This view must clearly come out from the Bandung resolution, because otherwise the resolution against colonialism would become unreal.”

American newspaper propaganda on the Bandung conference.

In the race for postcolonial recognition, the communist leadership in Hungary was losing initiative. The country could not pursue effective foreign policy due to internal crisis: war reparations, Stalinist takeover, Rákosi’s dictatorship, strained industrialisation, and finally pressures from state bankruptcy in 1952 and political chaos after Stalin’s death led to the Imre Nagy reform government (1953–55) and ultimately ignited the 1956 uprising. After the 1956 revolution, Hungarian communists struggled to persuade Third World countries to vote against the “Hungarian question” in the United Nations due to the Western condemnation of the Soviet invasion. The Khrushchevian opening up policy finally allowed Hungary to seek both international recognition and internal political legitimation by exporting its own model of development to the Third World, and relieve dependency from both Western economic and Soviet political influence.

Under similar pressures, Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah looked to the socialist world to relieve Western dependency and indebtedness. After his Eastern European trip (1961), he requested the Hungarian economist József Bognár to develop the newly decolonised African country’s First Seven-Year Plan in 1962. Although having known little about African contexts, Hungarian planners could obtain a good position in offering their development and planning expertise, since they had important precedents of interwar era state-directed planning. As a result of the Ghana job, Bognár advised various other postcolonial governments in Africa and Asia, and founded the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963) in Budapest, which promoted export-oriented growth in order to reposition and integrate state-socialist Hungary in the global economy. Bognár introduced the concept of “poorly developed countries” to gain middle ground for experimenting with “third way” alternative development concepts between Cold War “capitalist” and “socialist” worlds, which offered the globally comparative reconceptualization of Hungarian development history and opened vistas for Hungarian development planning in the “Third World”. Bognár became a leading figure in foreign policy and the semi-capitalist reformist movement of the New Economic Mechanism (1968), into which he channeled his planning experiences from the “development laboratory” of postcolonial countries to support a mix of neoclassical economics and state-directed export-oriented growth.

Kwame Nkrumah meets Hungarian premier János Kádár at his summer resort in Balatonaliga in 1961.
Hungarian development economists arriving in Ghana in 1962. From left to right: Tamás Bácskai (Bognár’s assistant, associate professor), Péter Kós (first ambassador), Kwame Nkrumah (President of the Republic of Ghana), József Bognár (chief advisor), Gábor Székely (Bognár’s assistant, economic engineer).

Meanwhile, Hungarian refugee experts also worked as reform advisors in Latin America, Asia and Africa in order to counter global communism with the support of the U.S. government. Nagy continued with fellow Hungarians to lobby in the International Peasant Union and use his authenticity as a symbolic leader of the Hungarian peasant movement to advise non-European postcolonial governments and share the Hungarian experience of both colonial subjugation and agrarian reform. The famous folk writer and peasant movement politician Imre Kovács was also driven by similar motives in taking an Asian trip to Jakarta, Singapore, Colombo, India, Bali, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Beirut, and then to South America, the personal and professional experiences of which he summarised in his “village research” travel diary. Kovács then used his position to covince U.S. officials to establish the International Center for Social Research in 1962, which focused on Latin American agrarian and land reform with the plan to prevent the Cuban example to spread. As he recalled,

“I argued that the perspective of Eastern European experts works better in the peculiar relations of Latin America, compared to the North Americans, and their employment would also cost less. Let us recruit refugee Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian agronomists, economists, cultural engineers, who could after short training program acclimatize to the local context and with cooperative governments and begin agrarian reforms.”

In his diaries he drew parallels between the South American and Hungarian agrarian landscapes, rural society and interwar era socio-economic problems:

“I travelled around the continent, and everywhere I saw thirties Hungary: half-feudal society, half-dictatorial governments, large estate system, weak intelligentsia (…). The double-sidedness of politics was also the same: do reforms in a way that the old guard can stay intact.”

The colonial discourse and anti-colonial trajectories of Hungarian refugees were also taken up by the Hungarian anti-communist diaspora in Latin American, which was to strengthen after the new wave of refugees fleeing there as a result of the 1956 revolution.

Imre Kovács and László Varga in Latin America representing the Hungarian Committee and arguing for “Soviet colonialism”.

The context of post-WWII global rearrangement, the crumbling of Western empires and ongoing Afro-Asian decolonisation resulted in new forms of globalising Eastern Europe. Eastern Europeans from both side of the Iron Curtain were pressured by Cold War superpowers to use their peripheral positions to gain new allies among emerging non-European postcolonies. This led to competing constructions of Hungarian postcolonial identities and positions that may be shared with the Third World. Although in ultimate conflict, both communist and anti-communist projects shared the trajectory of gathering Eastern European colonial experiences to establish common ground with the non-European postcolonial periphery, thereby trying to include Eastern Europe into the global history of colonialism. Hungarian historical experiences of peripherality and colonial subjugation, such as during the Ottomans, the Habsburgs, or the Nazis – and for anti-communists, the Soviets or Russians – were taken as exemplary cases in the global colonial ecumene, and Hungarian communists demonstrated remarkable continuities in their anti-Western rhetoric reaching back to pre-1945 era critiques regarding these matters.

The process of Afro-Asian decolonisation and the simultaneous colonisation of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union (as proposed by many) also allowed for the globalisation of Hungarian knowledge and expertise. Hungarian refugees were forced to globalise their formerly nationalist frameworks of agricultural reforms, peasant communities and rural-garden social utopias on countering the urban/rural divide, and put these ideas into the service of solving the “peasant question” in the Third World. On the other side, communists promoted the Hungarian model of industrialisation, while experiences of interwar era agrarian underdevelopment and expertise in state-directed planning became important arguments to demonstrate that they were facing familiar problems in postcolonial countries. Both communists and anti-communists mobilised Hungary’s semiperipheral position in the global world system as a resource to gain currency in the global market of state-directed development planning. By drawing parallels between development histories of Hungary and other non-European contexts, including issues of relieving dependency and peripherality, communists and anti-communists both argued for their authentic position and unique competence in having an “Eastern European eye” to solving the great problems of the postcolonial Third World.


This research is part of my project entitled “Postcolonial Hungary” and was funded by the Socialism Goes Global project at the University of Exeter (2015–19). See: My project is based on empirical research in the archives of Ferenc Nagy and Imre Kovács held at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Special thanks goes to Professor James Mark for his outstanding help and support.

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Ginelli Z. (2019): The Clash of Colonialisms: Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Decolonialism in the Third World. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.12.23. Link:

Posztkoloniális Magyarország: A magyar „globális nyitás” és illiberális autoriter fordulat újraértelmezése a félperifériás gyarmatiság szempontjából


Orbán Viktor Bécsben tárgyal az EU-Afrika Fórumon – Forrás:

Kutatási koncepció

Jelen kutatás célja globális történeti, posztkoloniális és világrendszer-elemző megközelítésben újraértelmezni az 1989-as magyarországi neoliberális rendszerváltással szemben megfogalmazódó, 2010 utáni „illiberális” autoriter rezsimváltást, elsősorban Magyarország és a globális posztgyarmati periféria kulturális, politikai és gazdasági viszonyainak vizsgálatán keresztül. A jelenlegi magyar politikai rendszer értelmezésében különböző politikai hívószavak (pl. „kereszténydemokrácia”, „illiberális állam”) mellett a „nyugati demokrácia” értékelvei alapján tipizáló (pl. „félautoriter”, „hibrid rezsim”) politikaelméleti és institucionalista, vagy szintén nyugati episztemológián alapuló politikai gazdaságtani megközelítések érvényesültek (pl. „munkaalapú állam”, „neoliberális államközpontú rezsim”), de ritkán helyezték el globális történeti és komparatív keretben, rasszpolitikai aspektusait alig, gyarmati diskurzusát pedig egyáltalán nem kutatták. A rendszerváltó „posztszocialista amnézia” elfedte a félperiféria-periféria kapcsolatokat, míg a 2010 utáni „globális nyitás” ezeket új kontextusban éleszti újra, de a hazai eurocentrikus kelet–nyugat diszkurzív rögzítettség elfedi a globális külpolitikai manőverezés félperifériás mozgatórugóit és politikai diskurzusainak funkcióit.

A kutatás alapkoncepciója, hogy a magyar félperifériás világgazdasági integrációra a dependens strukturális kényszerek (pl. hitelfüggőség, egyenlőtlen csere, technológiafinanszírozási kényszer) közötti fejlődés relatív útfüggősége jellemző a globális kapitalista munkamegosztás hierarchikus rendszerében. E strukturális viszony következményeként Magyarország „közbeeső” pozícióban manőverezve igyekezett komparatív előnyöket szerezni a(z egykori) gyarmattartó centrum és a (poszt)gyarmati periféria között. Ebből adódóan ellentmondásos viszony feszült a centrumhoz való öngyarmatosító felzárkózás (globális civilizációs/faji felsőbbrendűséghez tartozás) és a centrummal szembeni perifériaközi gyarmati szolidaritás vagy ellenállás dinamikái között („mi is gyarmatok voltunk”). A történelmileg egyszerre gyarmatosító (centrum) és gyarmatosított (periféria) pozíciókat megtestesítő Magyarország számára a (poszt)gyarmati globális periféria a nyugati dependencia enyhítését szolgáló potenciális külpolitikai szövetségesként, külgazdasági erőforrásként vagy kompenzációs hegemóniatérként jelent meg. Ez a kettősségen alapuló félperifériás gyarmati ellentmondás figyelhető meg az Osztrák–Magyar Monarchiában, a magyar balkanizmusban, a poszt-trianoni „keleti nyitásban” (turanizmus mint kulturális imperializmus), az afro-ázsiai dekolonizáció alatti anti-imperialista útkeresésben és a mai „keleti” vagy „déli nyitásban” is.

silkAz Új Selyemút és az Egy Öv Egy Út projekt – Forrás:


Orbán Viktor miniszterelnök részvétele a Türk Tanácsban Csolpon-Atában (2018) – Forrás:

A rendszerváltás után a szocialista „Második világ” egykori részeként Magyarország elvesztette globális ideológiai kiváltságait, afro-ázsiai külkapcsolatainak jelentős része felszámolódott, egyszerre „harmadikvilágosodott” és „visszatért Európába”. Azonban a 2008-as válság egyértelművé tette a rendszerváltozás ígéreteként megjelenő neoliberális felzárkózási illúzió ellentmondásait és kudarcait, amelynek hátterében az Európai Unió belső perifériájának függőségi viszonyai (német tőke) és az euroatlanti globális hegemónia strukturális válsága is állt. Ebben a kontextusban a 2010 utáni kormánypolitikai diskurzus erre a globális kapitalizmusban elfoglalt félperifériás strukturális pozícióra adott reintegrációs reakció, amely helyi történelmi hivatkozásokra épít. Egyrészt antikommunista revansizmusban megfogalmazott nacionalista viktimizációval gyarmati viszonyként tematizálja a nyugati (neo)liberalizmus kritikáját („Brüsszel az új Moszkva”); másfelől az imperialista múlt pozitív felértékelése, a „civilizációk harcának” diskurzusa, és az eurocentrikus, fehér, keresztény identitáspolitika affirmálja a centrumhoz tartozást a perifériával szemben („Közép-Európa”, „klasszikus Európa”); harmadrészt félperifériás „köztes” geopolitikai pozícióját félázsiai különutassággal és Eurázsiához tartozással erősítette meg (orosz befolyás, kínai Új Selyemút, török kapcsolatok).


“Állítsuk meg Brüsszelt”, Nemzeti Konzultáció, 2017.
Migrants stand in front of a barrier at the border with Hungary near the village of HorgosA röszkei határzár – Forrás: JogÁsz

Ugyanakkor a kelet-európai országokban tapasztalható új gyarmati diskurzus kisajátította a gyarmatiságot és kizárta a globális gyarmattörténelmi összehasonlíthatóságot – holott egyébként a posztszocialista rendszerváltással az afro-ázsiai dekolonizációhoz hasonló politikai kihívások jelentkeztek (viktimizáció, nacionalizmus, nativizmus). A demarkáció egyik oka, hogy Kelet-Európa az afro-ázsiai posztgyarmati térség riválisává vált a globális szinten válságot átélő Európai Unióban; ez a centrumországokbeli „posztkoloniális” kiváltságokért, politikai elismerésekért és jóléti víziókért folytatott verseny különösen élesen tetten érhető a migrációs diskurzusban és a (Magyarországon újszerű) iszlámellenes politikában és szelektív xenofóbiában. Mindeközben az „illiberális kereszténydemokrácia” funkciója nemcsak Európai Uniós léptékű politikai stratégia, hanem egy új globális szövetségi, kereskedelmi és beruházási hálózat létrehozása is, főleg a keresztény szubszaharai afrikai és a közel-keleti térségben. A kutatás ezeket a folyamatokat elemzi történeti adatok és a jelenlegi külpolitikai terjeszkedés („déli” és „keleti nyitás”), valamint a 2010 utáni kormánypolitika által szubvencionált és propagált geopolitikai és gyarmati diskurzuson keresztül.

download-7-1024x576Nigériai püspökkel tárgyalt Orbán – Forrás:

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Hivatkozási forma:

Ginelli, Z. (2019): Posztkoloniális Magyarország: A magyar „globális nyitás” és illiberális autoriter fordulat újraértelmezése a félperifériás gyarmatiság szempontjából. Kritikai Földrajzok blog, augusztus 11. Link: