Documents of the Danube Circle's Association
The collection includes the documents of the Danube Circle Association, which was a non-governmental organization in opposition to the government’s project to construct a River Barrage Dam near Nagymaros (Hungary) in the 1980s. The Danube Circle movement tried to prevent the construction of the dam with samizdats, public debates, and protests. The Circle was one of the new types of alternative movements, which expanded the base of the “traditional” intellectual opposition.
Budapest, Teve str. 3-5.
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Name of collection
- Documents of the Danube Circle's Association (1988-2006)
Provenance and cultural activities
On 1 August 1984, the Danube Circle (Duna Kör), a non-governmental organization, was founded with biologist János Vargha as president. The organization was founded in opposition to the government’s project to construct a River Barrage Dam near Nagymaros. On 16 September 1977, Hungary and Czechoslovakia signed an agreement to cooperate in the construction of the Bős-Nagymaros River Barrage System (officially the Gabčíkovo–nagymarosi River Barrage System) as a means of using the Danube River to produce energy. The agreement was also intended to ensure the navigability of the river and further flood control and regional development. In December 1983, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences came to a decision in opposition to this big state investment because of the foreseeable environmental and economic damage it would cause. Despite this, construction began in 1984. The members of the Danube Circle argued that the dam would create an environmental disaster and would displace thousands of Hungarians from their ancestor’s homes in both countries. The Danube Circle movement tried to prevent the construction of the dam with samizdats, public debates, and protests. In 1985, the Hungarian government abandoned the construction project as a consequence of the initiatives of the Danube Circle and the economic problems which had come up in the meantime, but soon the idea of resuming the project was raised. The Circle was awarded the alternative Nobel Prize in 1985. This prompted the Hungarian opposition to support environmentalist candidates in the parliamentary elections in 1985.
There were other groups which tried to protect the Danube. People who did not want to join to the Danube Circle were active in the Danube Movement. Along with other environmentalist organizations, the Danube Circle escalated its initiatives because on 15 August 1985 the Hungarian government decided to continue with the project. In January 1986, the Circle wrote a petition to the Presidential Council requesting public discussion of the project and a referendum on the envisioned dam system. Because the Hungarian government had been given a loan of 8 billion Austrian Schillings, the Circle organized an international press conference with Austrian and West German green parties on 16 January 1986 to inform the Austrian public about the foreseeable negative consequences of the construction of the dam. The environmentalists wanted to organize a demonstration on Margaret Island, but they gave up under pressure from the authorities. On 24 April 1988, the Circle organized a march between Visegrád and Esztergom. On 2–4 September 1988, the Danube Conference (initiated by the Circle) authored a scientific assessment that was critical of the river barrage system, and on 12 September crowds of people protested against the dam in front of the Hungarian Parliament. In October 1988, the Parliament voted to continue the project. After additional protests and referendums had been organized, the government finally brought construction in Nagymaros to a halt on 13 May 1989, and later the construction work in Dunakiliti was also brought to a stop. In May 1992, Hungary invalidated the agreement which had been reached with Czechoslovakia.
György Droppa, caretaker of the Danube Circle, consciously collected documents, both because it was one of his administrative duties and to help future researches. There were many documents in the home of János Vargha at Bocskai Street 31 (Budapest), but they were burned as a result of negligence and misunderstanding after the change of regimes. The Budapest City Archives received the Droppa collection in 2010 with the help of archivist András Horváth. Part of the collection was donated by György Droppa, another part was bought by the Archive. The collection is still being organized and digitalized, and the process probably will only be completed in 2019. There is no public inventory, and the documents aren’t accessible to researchers.
Description of content
The material illustrates the importance of ecological thinking in the development of critical thinking in opposition to the socialist system. It also reveals the potential of environmental movements to mobilize broader civic opposition against the government in the last decade of socialism in Eastern Europe. The material includes comprehensive and thematic studies of the Carpathian Basin and the probable negative environmental consequences of the planned barrage system. It also documents the organization of the association and its operations with document registers in approximately 4 boxes. There is press material in one box, as well as audiovisual sources (documentary movies, for example “Duna Circle,” “Requiem for the Blue Danube, ““Weeping for the Tisza,” etc. – on 42 VHS and 37 CDs).
- film: 10-99
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Date of founding
Place of founding
Budapest, Teve str. 3-5.
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Pál, Zoltán
Droppa, György , interview by Pál, Zoltán, August 31, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection