Religious sociological collection of István Kamarás
This interview collection provides fascinating insights into the barely known everyday culture of grassroots Catholic communities under late socialism. Sociologist István Kamarás’ research collection represents an alternative lifestyle which never suited the official communist ideology.
Budapest Arany János utca 32, Hungary 1051
Show on map
Name of collection
- Collection of István Kamarás
Provenance and cultural activities
The origins of the interview collection, which documents the activities that rejuvenated traditions of Catholic religious life, were collecting, research, and doing recorded interviews. István Kamarás was the first scholar in Hungary who was permitted to conduct sociological research on religion as a member of the Cultural Research Centre (a state-run institute, which also enjoyed significant intellectual autonomy) between 1985 and 1990.
István Kamarás’ interview collection documents primarily the modes of survival of religious life and groups and the forms of persecution which they had to endure. The research on Church communities sheds light on the status of religious life, the patterns of religious education, the modes of community building, the activities of youth organizations, charity activities, efforts made to protect Church heritage, and the sociology of clerics and laymen.
Kamarás István focused on the grassroots religious movements of the period. These movements, simply through their existence, represented a challenge to both the political authorities and the conservative and often collaborating Catholic Church leaders. Alongside the two domestic movements (the Bokor movement of György Bulányi and Regnum Marianum, which was led by László Emődi), others emerged, such as the Catholic charismatic movement, Focolare, and the Faith and Light movements.
Kamarás’ first research project on these kinds of grassroots communities concerned an underground religious group (in an area on the outskirts of Budapest, led by György Rozgonyi). This group was forced underground in 1949 because they continued their previous activities in boy scouting and youth education. Nonetheless, because of the changing political context, their organizational modes were also transformed: laymen and persecuted clerics replaced formal vicars and communities replaced institutions.The Kamarás interview collection confirms sociologist Miklós Tomka’s insight that “even the political centre made efforts to limit their activities. Church communities constituted the only form of social organization in which there was some degree of voluntary participation and autonomous organization.” Churches remained the fortresses of counterculture and counter-society, even in late socialism. Church communities as local social networks and the bearers of Christian morals and traditions remained relatively independent of Church hierarchies.
Larger studies of grassroots religious communities began in 1986 in the Institute for Research on Public Education (Művelődéskutató Intézet). These studies were based on the idea that researchers would observe fifty communities for ten years. This research was linked to similar research underway at the Department of Philosophy of Janus Pannonius University (Pécs), which was led by István Kerékgyártó in 1987. Parallel to this, Kamarás did research on the Catholic youth meetings (1976–1988), mainly those which were held in the Danube Bend town of Nagymaros. In 2013, Kamarás’ research material was donated as a deposit to the Voices of the Twentieth Century Archive and Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Centre for Social Sciences, Institute of Sociology, which processes the documents. Physically, will the collection is located in the Open Society Archives.
Description of content
The research material preserved by the Voices of the Twentieth Century Archive and Research Group preserves is only indirectly and adventitiously concerns cultural opposition. Although, in the manifest atheist dictatorship ecclesiastical or religious organizations or communities represented a subculture, which the socialist governments tried to suppress. Officially Communist state declared religious freedom, in spite of this active ecclesiastical life and, particularly, youth education were prohibited. The documents of István Kamarás (interviews with priests, materials of youth meetings etc.) demonstrate that activities of several local clergy-houses (participation in cultural life, charity, pastoral activity for the youth, evangelism etc.) can be described as ‘cultural opposition’ in this framework.
The Voices of the Twentieth Century Archive and Research Group keeps only qualitative research material (case-works, interviews, monitoring reports). The Voices of the Twentieth Century processes and arranges the material, which is held in the OSA-Blinken. Interviews with priests are kept in 15 folders arranged alphabetically. The documents about the small communities (the outcome of a research project begun in 1986) are held in 21 folders, and the material includes interviews, questionnaires, etc.
There are many documents in five folders about illegal and semi-legal Catholic youth festivals (held in Kismaros, Nagymaros, Eger, Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Hajós, Andocs, Máriagyüd, and Máriapócs). The material concerning the youth festivals of Nagymaros offers insights into the culture and the alternative lifestyles, developed in a countercultural space, of the generation of the 1970s. This research reconstructs the history of the meetings on the basis of interviews with former participants and other tape recordings, shedding light on four festivals between 1986-1988.A particularly interesting section documents a new wave of religious youth culture: the material on the so-called “Beat Masses” is held in seven folders, which mainly include sources about a few musicians (Jenő Sillye, Imre Szilas, etc.) who were important personalities in ecclesiastical popular music. The collection concerns the language of the music of these new movements, and in particular, the beat mass composed by Szilas. István Kamarás and Ferenc Körmendy’s scholarship on the sociology of this religious beat music is based on the material in these seven folders.
- other: 100-499
Date of founding
Place of founding
Budapest Úri utca 49, Hungary
Show on map
Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
- Tari, Örs Lehel. "Kamarás István gyűjteményének bemutatása" [István Kamarás's Collection]. Socio.hu | Az MTA Társadalomtudományi Kutatóközpont Szociológiai Intézet Online Folyóirata. Accessed August 4, 2017. http://socio.hu/uploads/files/2017_1/tari_gyujtemeny.pdf
Author(s) of this page
- Apor, Péter
- Kamarás, István
- Pál, Zoltán
Kamarás, István , interview by Tibori, Tímea, April 04, 2013, April 16, 2013, May 27, 2013. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection