Tuesday, January 29, 2019

ASEEES Expresses Concern Regarding the Institute of Political History in Hungary

Published January 29, 2019

The Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) has been following with great concern the fate of the Institute of Political History (Politikatörténeti Intézet, or PTI) in Hungary. This widely respected scholarly organization is one of the few academic institutions in Hungary not funded by the state, and as such it plays a central role in maintaining academic freedom and intellectual diversity. Affiliated with the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party, the PTI is dedicated to “the renewal and popularization of critical social thinking in its broadest sense,” and to the pursuit of research into modern Hungarian political history. The archives of the PTI are of extraordinary value to scholars in a variety of disciplines, and the 150,000 volumes in the Institute’s library provide a vital resource for local researchers and students. The PTI has won multiple European grants, most recently a European Research Council award to fund a major project studying the local experience of the profound political and social transformations of 1918. The PTI journal, Múltunk (Our Past) publishes cutting-edge scholarship by leading historians.

All of this is at risk because of an attempt by the Hungarian government to force the PTI to evacuate the building where it has resided for over twenty years, with only 30 days’ notice. The ownership of the building has been the subject of lawsuits between the PTI and the current government, but the leadership of the Institute has expressed a willingness to relocate if provided with adequate compensation for the improvements they have made to the building over the years, and enough time to ensure the safe and orderly transfer of their archives, library, and offices. This eviction, however, leaves them with neither the time nor the financial resources needed for a proper move, and it poses a grave threat to the PTI’s future.

ASEEES calls upon the Hungarian government to provide the PTI with just compensation and, most importantly, with the time needed for a smooth transfer to a new location. The PTI’s very existence embodies the principles of intellectual autonomy and diversity that are crucial for a scholarly community to thrive.

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