On 22 March 2023, the exhibition PETŐFI FOR ALL SEASONS: Political Changes in the Petőfi Cult between 1942 and 1956, organized to mark the 200th anniversary of Petőfi's birth, will open at the Blinken OSA Archivum, with a discussion entitled Petőfi's Political Memory from Dualism to the Present Day, the first event in a series of PETŐFI DÉLIBÁBOK (PETŐFI DÉLIBÁBOK) programs related to the exhibition.
PETŐFI FOR ALL SEASONS: Political Changes in the Petőfi Cult between 1942 and 1956
March 22 - May 28, 2023
Historical myths and the evocation of historical heroes were and are usually needed by political regimes that cannot justify their existence and power by their own right on the basis of public legitimacy and their own performance. The period between 1942 and 1956 was the most turbulent period of the already turbulent 20th century in Hungarian history. Defeat in war, genocide, waves of political persecution, five successive regime changes, the fall of political regimes, the Arrow Cross coup, the communist coup, the revolution, and then, as the last event of this period, the counter-revolution, the restoration of the dictatorship.
Yet there is a common thread running through the period: each successive and opposing political body needed Petőfi to support its political ambitions and power ambitions. The war propaganda of the Horthy regime referred to him, as did the Arrow Cross militants who overthrew Horthy’s regime. Petőfi's banner was raised by various groups of various resistance groups against the war, the German occupation, and the Arrow Cross coup. In the spring of 1948, the Communists timed their most essential steps of the takeover, nationalization, party unification, and the liquidation of political opposition, to the centenary of 1848, while putting the 'holy trinity' of Petőfi, Kossuth, and Táncsics on a pedestal. The Rákosi regime disguised itself as the fulfillment of Petőfi's revolutionary dreams, but Petőfi became the symbol of social resistance to the Hungarian version of the Stalinist dictatorship, and then of the revolution itself (1956), only to find its historical archetype in Petőfi again under the Kádár regime, which crushed the revolution (1956) with Soviet help.
Petőfi, all the time. The exhibition uses contemporary films, photographs, and documents to show Petőfi's political transformations and attempts to expropriate his memory in this narrow but all the more traumatic decade and a half.
March 22, Wednesday, 6:00 p.m. - Petőfi's political memory from dualism to the present day. Discussion and reading.
Would Petőfi have said hurrah to Franz Joseph after the Reunification, as Mór Jókai imagined? Was he a socialist or a nationalist and Christian? Was Petőfi a communist? The discussion, interspersed with readings, traces the ways in which successive political courses tried to mold Petőfi in their own image.
Participants: István Margócsy, literary historian, and Péter Csunderlik, historian
Moderator: András Mink
Gergely Váradi and Janka Veszelovszki will read the selected excerpts