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CURPH Interview with an Economist

Columbia University School of International Affairs1957-10-01

Open Society Archives

Open Society Archives

CURPH Interview 528 with a 1956 Hungarian Refugee: a 52-year-old male, economist at the Hungarian National Bank. Interviewee talks about his employment at the Bank, from 1932 to 1957, the politically-motivated changes of personnel at the bank throughout this period, and the impact of agricultural collectivization and the command economy of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

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  • Title: CURPH Interview with an Economist
  • Long Description: On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, OSA copied, digitized and put online the complete series of the English transcripts of those Hungarian refugee interviews that were conducted in 1957 and 1958 within the framework of the Columbia Research Project Hungary (CURPH). On 4 November, 1956 Soviet forces launched their second attack against Budapest in order to replace the legitimate Hungarian government. OSA opened the online collection of its holdings relating to 1956 on 4 November, 2006, commemorating this tragic event of 20th century Hungarian history. After the suppression of the revolution almost two hundred thousand Hungarian citizens opted to escape and find a new home abroad. They were not only the primary eye-witnesses to the revolution itself but also to life under Communism. The Soviet bloc, during and after the Stalin era, was a hermetically closed orbit. The self-image projected by these regimes seemed both enigmatic and threatening to outside observers. Therefore, like other Eastern European refugees who managed to flee to the West throughout the 1950s taking with them their experiences and knowledge, the Hungarian refugees were a vital source of information on everyday reality under Communist rule. What made the Hungarians particularly important was not only their arrival in one great wave but also the fact that they had witnessed something inconceivable at the time: the people had brought down at one blow a regime that had been deemed unshakable. Western observers hoped that the eye-witness accounts of the Hungarians would reveal the concealed mechanism of the Stalinist state and also the mystery of its collapse. Prominent scholars Henry L. Roberts and Paul E. Zinner, the forerunners of Kremlinology, worked on setting up the project and evaluating the results alongside Siegfried Kracauer and Paul Lazarsfeld, philosophers and sociologists from the former 'Frankfurt school'. The researchers did not limit their inquiry to the events of the revolution. Hundreds of questions aimed at uncovering the details of everyday life, the living standards, working conditions, social changes, cultural developments, changes in public mentality and morality, ideological indoctrination, religious matters and the survival of traditional values. All in all, the survey targeted the elusive totality of the human condition under totalitarian rule.
  • Creator: Columbia University School of International Affairs
  • Date: 1957-10-01
  • Location: London
  • OSA website: CURPH Interview 528 with a 1956 Hungarian Refugee: 52 Years Old, Male, Economist, Hungarian National Bank
  • OSA Holdings: HU OSA 414-0-2-322 Donald and Vera Blinken Collection on Hungarian Refugees of 1956: Transcripts of Refugee Interviews Suggested citation: "CURPH Interview 528 with a 1956 Hungarian Refugee: 52 Years Old, Male, Economist, Hungarian National Bank", 1957. HU OSA 414-0-2-322; Donald and Vera Blinken Collection on Hungarian Refugees of 1956: Transcripts of Refugee Interviews; Open Society Archives at Central European University, Budapest.

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