Magyar úti leírások és regényirodalom a gyarmati világról

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Összegyűjtöttem egy kb. 800 könyvnyi adatbázist a (poszt)koloniális világról szóló, magyar szerzőktől származó vagy magyar nyelvre lefordított úti leírásokból és regényirodalomból – kiadási adatokkal (szerző, fordító, évszám, kiadó, oldalszám, sorozat, link) és borítóképekkel. Köztük vannak ponyvák és tudományos munkák is, 19. század közepi írások és egészen a rendszerváltásig (1989) megjelenő szövegek, illetve másodlagos irodalom is erről a témáról. A legtöbbet ebben az antikvarium.hu adatbázisa segített! Ezekből is fogok mazsolázni a Magyar Kritikai Geográfusok Fóruman indított blogsorozatomhoz, amely Magyarország és a gyarmati világ viszonyával foglalkozik!


– ENGLISH VERSION –

HUNGARIAN TRAVEL AND NOVEL WRITING ABOUT THE COLONIAL WORLD

I compiled a database with around 800 books about the (post)colonial world, mostly travelogues and novels written or translated by Hungarians – with book covers and pubication details (author, translator, date, publisher, length, series, link). These books range from pulp fiction and scientific studies, mid-19th century writings up until the system change (1989), and include secondary literature on the topic. My greatest help in this work was the database of antikvarium.hu! I will present some of these books in my blog series shared on the Forum for Hungarian Critical Geographers, which is about how Hungary related to the colonial world!

Reklámok

Gyarmati tudást termelő magyar geográfusok

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1935-ben a neves geográfus, Kádár László jelentetett meg egy tudományos ismeretterjesztő magazinban, a Búvárban cikket Afrika gyarmatosításának a történetéről. Néhány évvel később a magyar gyarmati tudástermelés az olasz és német gyarmati érdekek propagálása felé fordult, és élesszavú geopolitikusok (mint a németbarát Kalmár Gusztáv) kezdték mérlegelni, hogy Magyarország hogyan tudna ezen hatalmak afrikai térnyerésének farvizén érvényesülni. Ugyanabban az évben Kádár egy másik cikket is írt az olasz gyarmatosításról és Abesszíniáról, amit nemsokára lerohant az olasz hadsereg. Még Kádár viszonylag leíró és mértéktartó elbeszélését, amelyben olykor-olykor felbukkan az afrikai népek szabadságával szembeni halovány szimpátia is, lényegében nagy eurocentrikus narratívák uralják. Minden történelmi eseményt pusztán az európai hatalmak racionális és felvilágosult “döntéseire” vezet vissza, miközben az afrikai népek érdekeit, cselekedeteit és ellenállását elhallgatja. Afrika gyarmatiság előtti történelmét félreteszi, és az európaiak késői területi gyarmatosítását (a 19. század végétől) mindössze éghajlati és földrajzi tényezőkkel magyarázza, holott a valóságban az európaiak erős ellenállásba ütköztek a felfegyverzett afrikai államok részéről:

“Ennek az oka elsősorban a kontinens felszíne és éghajlata: partjai majdnem kivétel nélkül meredek, magas partok, amelyekre nehéz felkapaszkodni, a folyók is vízesésekkel zuhognak alá közvetlenül a torkolatuk előtt is, és így víziúton sem lehet a szárazföld belsejét megközelíteni. Északon a Szahara széles sivatagja is megközelíthetetlenné teszi az értékes Szudánt. Délen pedig a gyilkos trópusi klíma is erősen hátráltat. Ez magyarázza meg azt, hogy amikor Amerikában és Indiában már virágzó ültetvények voltak, Afrikát csak munkásembert szolgáltató kontinensnek tekintették és tovább nem érdeklődtek iránta.” (681. o.)



– ENGLISH VERSION –


HUNGARIAN GEOGRAPHERS PRODUCING COLONIAL KNOWLEDGE

In 1935, the noted geographer László Kádár published in a popular scientific magazine, Búvár about the history of colonizing Africa. A few years later Hungarian colonial knowledge production turned towards propagating Italian and German colonial interests, with rabid geopoliticians (such as the pro-German Gusztáv Kalmár) calculating how Hungary could follow up on the their promising trajectories in Africa. In the same year, Kádár also wrote another article about Italian colonies and Abyssinia, a country which was soon occupied by the Italian army. Even in Kádár’s rather descriptive and moderately toned account on African colonization, which was sprinkled with traces of distanced sympathy towards African independence, we can see grand Eurocentric narratives unfold. All historical events are simply based on the rational and enlightened “decisions” of European powers, without any account of the interests, actions and resistance of African people. The precolonial African history is sidelined, and the late territorial acquisitions of colonies in the continent (from the late 19th century) is explained by climatic and geographical factors, while Europeans met with the strong resistance of militarized African states:

“The main reason for this is the continent’s relief and climate: its shores are almost exclusively high and steep, which are hard to climb, and rivers plunge down in waterfalls even near the mouth, thus the internal lands cannot be reached through waterways. In the north, the wide desert of the Sahara makes the valuable Sudan inapproachable. In the south, the devastating tropical climate also forms an impediment. This explains that while in America or India there were already blooming plantations, Africa was seen as a continent offering manpower and remained of no further interest.” (p. 681)

Új blogsorozat: Magyarország és a gyarmati világ / New blog series: Hungary and the colonial world

A bevett olvasat szerint nekünk soha nem voltak gyarmataink, sosem vettünk részt a gyarmatosításban, ezért semmi közünk nincsen a (poszt)gyarmati világhoz. De valóban így lenne? Új blogsorozatom ezt a témát igyekszik körüljárni! Hogyan kapcsolódott Magyarország a gyarmatosításhoz, a gyarmatbirodalmi rendszerhez és a gyarmati diskurzushoz? Milyen módokon fogalmazták meg a gyarmatiság kérdését és problémáját magyar tudósok, írók és politikusok? Hogyan termelték, mutatták be és hogyan fogyasztotta a magyar közönség a kolonializmusról és a gyarmati világról szóló földrajzi tudást? Hányféleképpen értelmezhetjük a gyarmat és a gyarmatosítás fogalmait magyar és kelet(közép-)európai szempontból? Vajon hogyan tekinthetünk a magyar történelemre és társadalomra másképpen a gyarmati viszonyok vizsgálata szempontjából? A bejegyzések a magyar földrajzi tudástermelés (poszt)koloniális viszonyait feltáró kutatásaimat követik kritikai geográfus szemmel, várhatóan magyar és angol nyelvű olvasók számára is!

Kövessed és oszd meg a bejegyzéseket Facebookon a Magyar Kritikai Geográfusok Fórumán!


– ENGLISH VERSION –

According to the dominant narrative, we Hungarians never had colonies, we never participated in colonization, and so we have nothing to do with the (post)colonial world. But is this so? My new blog series aims to cover this topic! How did Hungary relate to colonization, the imperial colonialist system, and colonial discourse? In what ways was the colonial question problematized and discussed by Hungarian scholars, writers and politicians? How was geographical knowledge about colonialism and the colonial world produced, presented and consumed by the Hungarian public? How can we conceptualize the terms colony and colonialism from a Hungarian and Eastern (Central) European perspective? In what multiple ways can we understand Hungarian history and society differently in light of colonial relations? The blog posts will follow my research on the (post)colonial relations of Hungarian geographical knowledge production from a critical geographical view, hopefully coming to both Hungarian and English readers!

Check out and share the posts on Facebook on the Forum for Hungarian Critical Geographers!

Hungarian doctors in the land of the Papuans

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A Papuan village near Kutubu Lake

“Few people know that in the heroic period of discovering Papua New Guinea — apart from Hungarian missionaries — many Hungarian doctors also resided on the island, more concretely on its east side under the governance of Australia. […] During the Second World War, amongst the many fleeing to the West were hundreds of Hungarian doctors. Unfortunately, they could not attain medical jobs, because most countries did not accept their degrees. This was the situation in Australia, where Hungarian doctors could at best work as hospital carers or assistants. But a special situation emerged in the Australian side of Papua New Guinea. During the Pacific war the Japanese occupied the whole area, and the Europeans fled, together with them all doctors. After the war only very few were venturesome enough to return to the dauntingly miserable conditions, therefore on the 462.000 square kilometers area of Papua New Guinea the 2,5 million indigenous inhabitants were left without any reasonable medical care. In the end of the 1940s, Australian authorities decided to permit refugee doctors from Hungary and other foreign countries to professional activities in New Guinea. […] Altogether 15 Hungarian doctors went to New Guinea in the early 1950s. Not all of them could accustom themselves to the harsh conditions, and after a shorter or longer period these returned to Australia. However, 7 of them committed themselves to the sacrificing mission and the majority spent 20–22 years amongst the Papuans.” (Kászoni 1990: 58, 61)

papua-new-guinea-hungarian-doctors.jpgThe working districts of Hungarian doctors: 1. Dr. András Becker; 2. Dr. Károly Haszler; 3. Dr. János Loschdorfer; 4. Dr. Károly Mészáros; 5. Dr. Lajos Róth; 6. Dr. Alajos Szymicsek; 7. Dr. Ferenc Tuza.

Kászoni, Dénes (1990): Magyar orvosok a pápuák földjén. Földrajzi Múzeumi Tanulmányok, 8: 58–61.

The geography of the Nazi deportation of Jews and other ethnicities in Eastern Europe

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Nazi propaganda poster of the Third Reich in 1939 (dark grey) after the conquest of Poland. It depicts pockets of German colonists resettling into Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany from Soviet controlled territories during the “Heim ins Reich” action. The outline of Poland (here superimposed in red) was missing from the original poster. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalplan_Ost

“The further east the Jewish communities were located the shorter was their path to the place of annihilation. Within the Soviet Union where the Jewish communities were hardly organized effectively within a ghetto, the Jewish population was usually summoned by the SS men and executed near the town where they were concentrated. In Poland where the ghettos and Jewish self-government had existed for several years, the Germans took precautions not to annoy the Jews by the executions in the vicinity of the towns but disposed of them in secret and distant extermination camps. In this way the Germans could secure initially the cooperation of the Jewish Councils which readily supplied the requested quotas “for resettlement and work in the East” from the overpopulated, starved, and disease-ridden ghettos.

The Nazis went to greater pains to preserve the appearance of “enlistment for work” in other countries under their occupation and especially in their satellites. In some cases there were regular contracts offered to the semi-independent governments which provided for the delivery of Jews for the “work in the German East” and these even included a clause for eventual return if the governments concerned wanted them back. The “enlisted” Jews were then transported eastward, sometimes as far as Riga and Minsk, but usually to the closer extermination camps in Poland. Sometimes to show off Germany as a “cultured nation,” the Nazis transported the Western Jews in luxurious pullman trains and supplied them with fancy camping equipment (like tents and field-kitchens) which, of course, were taken away at the place of destination.”

Kamenetsky, Ihor (1961): Secret Nazi Plans for Eastern Europe. New York: Bookman Associates. 168–169.

How the Polish gold train got stuck in French Africa during WWII

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I just read about the Polish banker and economist Leon Barański (1895-1982), who worked as an expert and permanent representative of the World Bank in Ghana during 1962-1964. Then through his biography, I bumped into this epic story of how the Polish Bank tried to save its gold during World War Two, a process which Barański organized as the bank director. This was a truly geographical history: the plan was to evacuate the gold from France to the United States of America. In August 1939, the Polish Central Bank had gold resources with a value of 463.6 million zlotys, ca. 87 million USD, weighing 79.5 tonnes. Most of the bank’s treasury got transported to Romania, then from Constanza to Turkey to Syria to Lebanon (then French colony) to France. But the Romanians left 4 tonnes in the National Bank of Romania, where it survived the war. The Communists who ruled Poland had no knowledge of the gold in Romania, which was hid in the Tismana Monastery on Starmina Mountain, and this news only reached Warsaw in October 1945. A complicated lawsuit and negotiation commenced until the gold finally arrived in Warsaw on 18 September 1947.

But in France, as the Germans were occupying the country during 1940, the Polish gold was only sent out from the country on 17 June, and not to the USA or the French Antilles, but to Dakar in West Africa, and further to Fort Kayes (Mali) deep in the French Sahara. After the French surrendered on 22 June, the emigré Polish Bank’s demands to retrieve the gold from the French proved effortless, and de Gaulle’s Vichy Government, which promised to return the gold, failed to take possession of Dakar. Since the French later denied that the gold was still in West Africa, the Polish made the US government sue the Banque de France and seize its assets in New York. In the fall of 1942, after the invasion of North-West Africa by the Allied Forces under operation “Torch”, one of the directors of the Polish Bank, Major Stefan Michalski, was sent on a mission to Algiers on 13 February 1943 to find out if the Polish gold was still in West Africa. Eventually the French admitted it was in Kayes, and after Polish inspection the gold was transported back to Dakar in 1944, so it may head off to the USA. However, the French Committee of National Liberation debated the release of the gold by arguing that if the Polish government-in-exile were not able to return to Poland and a Russian-backed government were established there, then this government would undoubtedly ask for the return of the Polish Bank’s gold. Eventually the gold was taken over by a special committee of the Polish Bank led by director Michalski in February and March 1944.

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The Sahara in Algeria. Photo: National Digital Archive

You can read more about this history here:

https://www.nbp.pl/…/Bankoteka_4_September_2014_internet.pdf
Rojek, W. (2000): Odyseja skarbu Rzeczypospolitej. Wyd. Literackie, Kraków.
https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Bara%C5%84ski_(bankier)

Plotting the semiperipheral empire: Hungarian imperialist imaginaries of Balkan landscapes, 1867–1948

Eastern Europe is the “black sheep” of postcolonial studies: its colonial experiences have been routinely missed out from the relentless focus on (post)colonial centres and peripheries. To be sure, postcolonial literature extended Orientalism as the Western construction of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and reinterpreted postcolonialism in relation to Soviet imperialism, postsocialism, Eastern Europe’s role in decolonization and socialist globalization. However, the imperialist or colonialist ambitions of Eastern or East Central Europe seem to go against the grain, since concerning countries were themselves often colonized and rarely or never held any colonies. In contrast, Hungarian geographical knowledge production from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries related to the Balkans is a demonstrative case study of what I call Eastern European semiperipheral imperialism. Hungarian imperialist ambitions emerged from the economic boom in the late 19th century and Austro-Hungarian geopolitical interests to secure southern areas against Russia, Turkey and Serbia. Although the tragic defeat in WWI led to the Hapsburg Empire’s demise, huge Hungarian territorial losses and a defensive revisionism, this only replenished arguments for Hungarian civilizational superiority in the region. Hungary’s “in-between” position constructed a complex and ambivalent imperialist-nationalist discourse operating on various intertwined scales. The Carpathian Basin was envisioned as the scene of a “civilizing mission” by the superior Hungarian culture towards culturally backward and “half-Europeanized” landscapes, in order to both bring and protect European civilization by upholding a “bridge” role and an essential “healthy mix” of Eastern and Western traits. The ideal nation-bearing landscape of the Alföld basin was geographically co-constructed in relation to the Balkan “Other”, while imperialist visions of cultural expansion and economic modernization in the Balkans were naturalized through the concept of landscape: transforming the “wild” Karst and opening to “the Hungarian sea”.

The shifting hegemonic relations between American and German human geography in light of the quantitative revolution, 1900-1970s

This research project looks at two intertwined processes in the history of North American and German geography from the early 20th century to the 1970s. First, the shifting hegemonic relations between “theory-importer” United States and “theory-exporter” German human geography, in which a formerly peripheral US geography triumphed over its German counterpart and became hegemonic after WWII; second, this shift was connected to the post-WWII quantitative revolution in US and Canadian geography during the 1950s and 1970s, in which the discipline became a mathematical and rigorous Cold War spatial science. This project follows a transnational historical perspective in the historical geographies of scientific knowledge to look at how geographical knowledge circulated and interacted between North America and Germany. It does so by analyzing the influence and circulation of German geographical knowledge and location theories, most notably central place theory in urban and regional planning, which became a paradigmatic theory of Cold War geography internationally, and later re-influenced German geography from the late 1960s from the US. The research project is based on archival research and career path interviews with scholars connected to the quantitative revolution.

The Ghana Job: Opening Socialist Hungary to the “Developing World”

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17 April 5:30 PM

Rutgers_University_with_the_state_university_logo.svgSeminar Room
Department of Sociology
Rutgers University
26 Nichol Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

facebook event

Why was Hungary interested in the decolonized “developing world”? What does this episode of Eastern European history tell us about shared postcolonialities, transnational interconnectivity, and semiperipheral positioning or development strategies? My talk introduces why and how socialist Hungary decided to develop foreign economic relations with decolonized countries, which in turn facilitated a new orientation towards the world and the emergence of Hungarian development expertise towards developing countries.

My study investigates the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (CAAR) founded at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1963 (in 1973 renamed as the Institute for World Economy, IWE) parallel to similar institutions founded internationally at that time. CAAR was established as a government think tank by József Bognár, who was a close friend to Prime Minister János Kádár and a hugely important figure in socialist era Hungarian reform economics and foreign economic policy-making. The associates of CAAR and IWE promoted export-oriented growth and fabricated new geographical development concepts as alternatives to the dichotomous Cold War categories of “capitalist” and “socialist” worlds in order to reposition Hungary in the world economy. The institute evolved out of the “Ghana job”: during his Eastern European round-trip president Kwame Nkrumah asked Bognár and his team of economists to develop the First Seven-Year Plan of Ghana in 1962.

During the Nkrumah period, the pan-Africanist, African socialist and Non-Aligned country of Ghana became a transnational hub of various experts and intellectuals, and a contested site not only of conflicting and intertwined “socialist” and “capitalist” views on development, but also of intensive cooperation and competition between Eastern Bloc countries in asserting their influence in the decolonized world. With Bognár’s assignment, the issue of “poorly developed countries” ignited the comparative reconceptualization of development histories in Hungary and led to exporting the Hungarian development model to the “Third World” based on the discourse of anti-imperialism, socialist solidarity and shared postcolonial histories.

In this context, I interpret the “Ghana job” from a postcolonial and world-systemic perspective as situated in a complex web of transnational relations, and point out Ghana’s decisive role in opening semiperipheral Hungary towards the global periphery during the 1960s by generating a field of development expertise, which enabled entrance into a new market of transnational development consultancy.

Download flyer (.pdf).

This research received support from the “NKFIH K No. 115870” project entitled “Contemporary theories of space and spatiality in the Central Eastern European context” (“Kortárs térelméletek közép-kelet-európai kontextusban”) funded by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NRDIO) in Hungary.