András Kovács (1947-) is a sociologist and one of the most significant researchers on the Hungarian Jewish community and Antisemitism in Hungary. He was a member of the democratic opposition and an active participant in the anti-communist movements and the dissemination of samizdat publications. He joined the project launched by Ferenc Erős and András Stark on second-generation Holocaust survivors and played a decisive role in the creation of this interview collection.
Kovács studied philosophy and history and completed his PhD in sociology at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. With his colleagues, he intended to renew the organizations of the Communist Youth League in the Faculty of Humanities in the early 1970s. Kovács was one of the intellectuals who was initially Marxist, but who became disillusioned in 1968, when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded Prague to halt reforms. These young undergraduates no longer believed that the communist system could be reformed, and they gave voice to this opinion. The authorities launched proceedings against Kovács, charging him anti-state incendiarism because of his participation in the reform movement at the university.
After completing his degree, he worked in the editorial office of the Kossuth Publishing House. He continued his activity as a member of the intellectual opposition movement, and he attended numerous seminars held in private apartments. In 1977, the first significant samizdat-book, entitled Marx a negyedik évtizedben (“Marx in the fourth decade”) was published at his initiative. In this manuscript collection, 21 intellectuals gave voice to their (mainly negative) opinion of the relevance of Marx and Marxist philosophy. As a consequence, he was fired. Beginning in the late 1970s, he earned a livelihood by doing ad hoc translation and editing work. He was one of the figures of the important anti-regime movements, so among the authors of the so-called “Bibó Memory Book” and signatories to the Charta 77 statement, which was a protest against the suppression of and reprisals taken against the opposition in Prague.
Because of his Jewish family origins, he was interested in the issue of the Jewish community after World War II, the suppression of the memory of the Holocaust, and the ways in which the traumas of the Holocaust was passed on from one generation to the next within families. He was also motivated in his career as a scholar by fellowships and a research trip abroad. Kovács had opportunities to pursue research and teaching in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the USA. In the mid-1980s, he began to study Jewish communities and Antisemitism. He joined the project launched by Ferenc Erős and András Stark, and he became a key figure of the interview project on second-generation Holocaust survivors. Kovács has been active in this work since 1984. The interviews which were done on this officially taboo topic had an effect on the interviewers and the interviewees, but also on the larger aim to bring taboos to the foreground and foster discussion among professional audiences and the wider public on issues which were suppressed by the regime.Erős and Kovács came up with the idea of doing interviews independently. They hoped that both the psychological problems which were of interest to Erős and the sociological issues which were of interest to Kovács could be examined from the perspectives of the stories of individual families. Because the topic of Jewish identity could not be discussed within the framework of official events, it was only discussed in oppositional forums. In December 1984, Kovács and Erős sattended a lecture on the issues faced by the Jewish Community. The lecture was held by the so-called Hétfői Repülő Egyetem (“Monday Flying University”), which was organized by the democratic opposition group. An agent report was written about this event, which took place in János Kenedi’s apartment. The “Flying University” was organized beginning in 1978. It had an audience of between 100 and 200 undergraduates and young intellectuals. Kovács was also invited to a series of debates organized by Csaba Könczöl, a literary historian in the “Fiatal Művészek Klubja” (Young Artists’ Club). Lecturers were asked who could speak about four sensitive topics, topics which according to the regime did not exist: the situation of the Roma, the Jewry and Antisemitism, the Hungarian minorities in the neighbouring countries, and the question of national identity. As Kovács said, this plan harmonized with the oppositional strategy to take advantage of every opportunity and extend the borders of the public sphere. The debate, however, was soon banned. Kovács decided that because he had not been permitted to speak, he would write the text as a samizdat. His paper was published in Zsidóság az 1945 utáni Magyarországon (“Jewry in Hungary after 1945,” a book edited by Péter Kende and printed by Magyar Füzetek or “Hungarian Brochures” in Paris). The publication of this study in the Hungarian periodical Medvetánc constituted big breakthrough (its title was: “Hogyan tudtam meg, hogy zsidó vagyok?” – “How did I find out that I am a Jew?”). The article met with considerable interest, and more and more people joined the project as interviewers or interviewees.
Author(s) of this page
- Huhák, Heléna
Kovács, András. "TIZENÖT ÉV MARXSZAL." Beszélő 3, no. 9 (1977). http://beszelo.c3.hu/cikkek/tizenot-ev-marxszal.
Zádori, Zsolt. "Interjú Kovács András szociológussal." hvg.hu, February 8, 2006. http://hvg.hu/hetilap.interju/200606HVGFriss124.
Csizmadia, Ervin. "A szamizdat szubkultúrája." Budapesti Negyed 1998, no. 4 (Winter 1998). http://epa.oszk.hu/00000/00003/00005/129-172.html.
Lénárt, András. "Zsidó indentitáskutatások a holokauszt után született generáció körében." Socio.hu | Az MTA Társadalomtudományi Kutatóközpont Szociológiai Intézet Online Folyóirata. Last modified March 2016. http://socio.hu/uploads/files/2016_3/zsido_gyujt.pdf
Szántó T., Gábor. "Kovács András Széchenyi-díjas." Szombat Online. Last modified March 15, 2013. http://www.szombat.org/kultura-muveszetek/kovacs-andras-szechenyi-dijas.
Erős, Ferenc. "KOVÁCS ANDRÁS, AZ ANTISZEMITIZMUS KUTATÓJA 70 ÉVES." Szombat, June 1, 2017. http://www.szombat.org/politika/kovacs-andras-az-antiszemitizmus-kutatoja-70-eves.