Kemény István's collection
Budapest Arany János utca 32, Hungary 1051
Show on map
Name of collection
- Kemény István's collection
Provenance and cultural activities
István Kemény, a sociologist who was always on the periphery under state socialism, was asked by the government Office of Councils to do a survey on the lifestyles and circumstances of Hungarian Roma. He did the research within the framework of the Sociological Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which was his working place at the time. The survey was done in 1971. Kemény recruited participants for the project himself. He chose primarly sociologists belonging to the younger generation who were just beginning their careers.
The researchers formed their questionnaires in selected counties. They did interviews with Roma and non-Roma people (who worked in local councils, schools, or for the police). The researchers typed the recorded interviews in some copies, using indigo. They gave one to István Kemény and one to the Sociological Institute. As part of the project, Kemény held “seminars” in the Institute every Tuesday to give the participants a chance to improve their knowledge of the subject. However, he soon lost his job because he held a lecture at the end of 1970 in which he presented his other project, a research project on the people living in poverty in Hungary. He insisted that there were people living in poverty in Hungary, and this assertion ran against the official ideology of the regime. Kemény thus violated a taboo, so he gradually lost all opportunities to continue his research. Kálmán Kulcsár, director of the Sociological Institute, prohibited him from holding “seminars” in the Institute, so Kemény continued these efforts using private residences. Kemény began new research endeavours, but he did them using a penname. At the beginning of 1977, he emigrated.
The interviews, which are the backbone of the collection, were collected by sociologist Gábor Havas, who also participated in the project. In the middle of the 1980s, Havas was informed that the Sociological Institute wanted to eliminate the research materials from 1971, so he took the documents into his residence, and he realized that many of the interviews were missing. At the end of the 1990s, the Hungarian Roma communities asserted their claim to the research material, because they wanted to use it for a Roma civil rights self-assembly. Colleagues at the Roma Press Centre took efforts to gather the texts of the interviews and create a collection out of them. Workers at the Centre copied the documents, and they found another text too. Although they got money by submitting a tender to digitalize the documents, this was never done. After the liquidation of the Press Centre, the documents ended up in a bicycle storage facility in a housing project. In the end, the Open Society Archives (OSA) was given the collection at the suggestion of colleagues of the Voices of the 20th Century Archive. They then asked Gábor Havas and Anna Szász to look for relevant documents in other institutions, an effort which was successful in part: they found some interview by Zsolt Csalog in the National Archive of Hungary. The material has since been fully digitalized thanks to the Voices of the 20th Century Archive.The research that was done in 1971 addressed some 2 percent of Hungarian Roma population, but only a small fraction of the findings were published in an internally issued book by the Sociological Institute in 1976 entitled “Report on the Research Done in 1971 on the Hungarian Roma.” Only one study was published in its entirety in this work. The writing of Gábor Havas also published in 1982 in the book Research on the Roma. The plight of the Roma was a taboo in Hungary, but István Kemény and his followers shed light on the major problems and challenges faced by this group. The research that was done on the Roma and the surveys that were completed by people living in poverty caught the attention of some members of the democratic opposition (including many former students of Kemény) and prompted them to establish in 1979 the Szegényeket Támogató Alap (SZETA), or the Foundation for the Provision of Support for the Poor, an illegal charitable organization.
Description of content
The collection, which consists of 283 documents, is about the research that was done on the Roma communities in 1971. Most of the documents are transcriptions of interviews, but the collection includes some studies too. The interviews are based on discussions which were recorded on tape and later transcribed. When the participants in the project typed the material, their aim was to remain as faithful as possible to the original interviews, so the texts give one the impression of hearing the people speak in their own voices. Because the interviews were not broadly representative of the entire Roma population of Hungary, there are many interviews from some counties but fewer from others. Unfortunately, only a few interview were done in counties with large Roma populations (Borsod, Heves, and Szabolcs counties), but there are many interviews from Vas County (22), where there weren’t many Roma families. Most of the interviews (40) were recorded in Komárom County and Pest County (39). All of them make mention of the differences between the various employments that Roma held, and thus they shed light on the inner stratification of the Hungarian Roma communities.Although we do not actually know (because no precise record was kept) how many interviews were done (nor do we know exactly how many interviews were done by each individual participant in the project), it is quite clear that some of the interviews are missing. The collection does not contain the interviews that were done by Zsolt Csalog and Ottilia Solt. Gábor Havas, who collected the material, discovered in 2013 that Csalog’s last partner had given the remains of the materials in his possession to the Manuscript Collection of the National Széchényi Library. Havas reviewed the material and found many documents from the 1971 project, for example studies by Csalog on the Roma population of Békés, Csongrád, and Szolnok Counties and 7 interviews by Magda Matolay with the Roma in Heves County. Havas copied them and gave them to the Voices of the 20th Century Archive and Research Group in 2015.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 100-499
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Budapest Úri utca 49, Hungary
Show on map
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
- Havas Gábor: A Kemény István vezette 1971-es országos reprezentatív cigányvizsgálat keretében készült interjúk [Interviews created by the national representativie Gypsy research led by István Kemény from 1971.] socio.hu, 2016/2.
Author(s) of this page
- Pál, Zoltán
Havas Gábor: A Kemény István vezette 1971-es országos reprezentatív cigányvizsgálat keretében készült interjúk [Interviews created by the national representativie Gypsy research led by István Kemény from 1971.] socio.hu, 2016/2.
Beszámoló a magyarországi cigányok helyzetével foglalkozó, 1971-ben végzett kutatásról [Report of the research made in 1971 about the Hungarian Gypsies]. Szerkesztette [edited by] Palkovics Mária. Budapest, MTA Szociológiai Kutatóintézet, 1976.
Cigányvizsgálatok [Research of Gypsies]. Szerkesztette [edited by] Andor Mihály, Hidy Péter. Budapest, Művelődéskutató Intézet, 1982.
Kovai Cecília: Kemény István munkáinak hatása a magyarországi szociológiai cigánykutatásokra egy antropológus nézőpontjából [The effect of István Kemény's works to the Hungarian sociological Gyspy researches in the virw of an anthropologist]. Replika, 2017/4. 23-30.
Szabari Vera: A módszertani individualizmus mint a keményi megismerés sajátos formája [The methodological individualism as a special form of cognition of Kemény]. Replika, 2017/4. 31-43.
Mink András: A tudósi szerepből kilépve. Kemény István jegyzetei a Szabad Európa Rádióban [Emerging from the role of scholar. István Kemény's notes in the Radio Free Europe]. Replika, 2017/4. 63-80.
Tari Örs Lehel: Kemény István gyűjteménye és a kapcsolódó iratok a Blinken OSA Archívumban [The collection of István Kemény and the related documents in the Blinken OSA Archive]. Replika, 2017/4. 111-117.
Csizmadia Ervin: A magyar demokratikus ellenzék (1968-1988.) I. Monográfia [The Hungarian Democratic Opposition, 1968-1988. I. Monograph] Budapest, T-Twins Kiadó, 1995.
Havas, Gábor, interview by Pál, Zoltán, February 15, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection