Bokor Religious Base Community Collection
The base community named Bokor was established by Roman Catholic people and was very active in the 1970s and 1980s, functioning according to the guidelines given by Pious monk György Bulányi. Bokor members were considered a dangerous by the communist regime, which regarded them as a suspicious group because they sought to live their religion as part of their everyday lives.
Budapest Szentkirályi utca 49, Hungary 1088
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Name of collection
Bokor Religious Base Community Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
The aim of the members of the Bokor-movement was to maintain their Catholic religion as part of everyday life and to act and live in accordance with their beliefs within the framework of the base communities organized from below. In the Kádár-era, the movement led by the base community constituted an alternative to the official practices of worship offered by the Catholic Church, and this community was therefore kept under observation and was suppressed by the Communist party. Bokor had already appeared at the end of 1945, but in the 1970s it began to evolve. The Bokor members who could be churchmen and laymen were engaged in a prohibited activity from the perspective of the dictatorship. The regime interpreted acts like the refusal to perform compulsory military service as open resistance.
The Bokor base-community was organized by a Piarist monk, György Bulányi (1919-2010), in Debrecen in the autumn of 1945. His aim was to create an opportunity for religious life to continue within the framework of the small communities in the territory occupied by the Soviet Army.
The members of Bokor shared their thoughts with other members of the group at meetings and in written publications. The texts that were written and shared by the members constituted an important part of the inner life of the community. These materials could only be distributed as illegal samizdat before 1898/1990. The archive of the Bokor base community includes the samizdat literature which was collected and saved.
The first period of this illegal activity was between 1948 and 1952. It came to an end with György Bulányi’s arrest. Bulányi, together with his 10 associates, was arrested and accused of “leading organizations to damage the People’s Democracy.” He was released in 1960 in accordance with an amnesty, but he was not permitted to serve as a priest. Seven years after his release, in 1967 he began to reorganize the communities. A network with 1,500 members was created, and meetings and summer camps were organized in illegal form. The Catholic Churches labelled Bokor a sect which has to be closed and banned. The theological background of the activity was summarized in a publication by Bulányi entitled Seek the Country of the Lord! /Keressétek az Isten Országát! – KIO, which was written between 1968 and 1970. In this work, he summarized the ideals which needed to be followed as the New Testament Gospel: the values of poverty, nonviolence, and love.
The life of the community was characterized by reading and following theological principles in everyday life and a strong tendency towards self-reflexion and the discussion of varying views. In their opinion, through owing to this activity, the community could develop. In the most intensive years between 1971 and 89, a publication entitled ’Christmas Present’ Karácsonyi Ajándék (KARAJ) was written. In Budapest, 171 volumes of this central version were created, 50-100 pages per issue.
The published issues entitled ’Christmas Present’ were forwarded by the members of the community to one another. The works that were shared by members of the community included theological texts, literary texts, papers on environmental protection and family life, lectures on the spiritual practices, letters, and translations of articles from foreign languages. Bokor made reports entitled ’Our common affairs’ (’Közös dolgaink’). These accounts were discussed by the members.
They engaged in a forbidden pastoral activities and broke laws concerning the right of assembly and the press, and their refusal to do compulsory military service was illegal. Retaliation for this kind of defiance could begin with something comparatively trivial, such as discrimination at the workplace, but could become as serious as a prison sentence of several years. However, this threat did not deter the members from standing for their principles. In the 1980s, Bokor tried to connect with the groups of the democratic opposition. In 1988, a demonstration was organized by members of the Bokor group in support of the introduction of an alternative to military service.
Bokor remains an active community today. Its archive was founded by the group leadership in 2000. The collection is held in the Bokor’s common flat in Budapest, the so-called ’Bokorporta’. The aim of this act was to save the documents for future generations and to keep the papers for further optional publications.The young members of the group edited third generation issues of KARAJ in the 1990s, in which they republished earlier texts, for example from a volume published made in 1980 in only 10 copies. So this activity contributed to the content of the samizdats. We can read in the foreword to the 1992 Karaj that the community needed longer issues with a more introspective tone in the age of legal book publishing. These writings were not for the wider audience. Nevertheless, books were published after 1990, as well, for instance György Bulányi’s notes and diary.
Description of content
The base community named Bokor has an archive, which includes almost the whole collection of samizdat books from 1971. Furthermore, some of the Bokor-members saved copies. The archive was founded by the leadership of Bokor in 2000.Bokor made reports entitled “Our Common Affairs” (“Közös dolgaink”) every year. These reports summarized achievements in the realization of Bokor principles. The summaries were written and discussed by the members. They includes reflections on the question of how to act and live according to the principles of Christ in everyday life. We can find texts about the Bible, personal stories, letters, and prayers. The chapters bore titles like “In the Family,” “Between Each Other,” “Holy Writ- Our Book,” “In Private with Jesus,” “About Books and Articles.” Furthermore, the actual letters and statements were published in the 14 volumes of Bokor documents, which were being compiled and published until 1990.
A catalogue was not made, but the papers were digitalized in 2017. Further issues were scanned and saved by other members, so the digitalized files constituted the larger collection. This includes issues of “Christmas’s Presents” (“Karácsonyi ajándék,” “KARAJ”) between 1971 and 1994. These issues were published as typewritten samizdat and shared among the members of the group from hand to hand before 1989/90. The issues of “KARAJ” primarily contain texts by members of the group, along with, in smaller quantities, copies of articles and translations. These are fairly long. The Christmas 1972 issue is 200 pages long, but one can find longer issues, too.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 100-499
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Budapest Szentkirályi utca 49, Hungary
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Huhák, Heléna
- Huhák, Heléna
Csapody, Tamás. "Kis Bokor-politológia." In Civil forgatókönyvek. Válogatott tanulmányok és publicisztikai írások. (1983-2002). Budapest: Századvég Kiadó, 2002. http://mek.oszk.hu/11200/11230/11230.htm.
Csapody, Tamás. "Az egyház reménységei." Kapu 3, no. 2 (1990), 50-51.
Csapody, Tamás. Elmélet és gyakorlat. Keresztény katonai szolgálatmegtagadók Magyarországon 1979 és 1989 között, különös tekintettel a Bokor római katolikus bázisközösségre. Budapest,1993. http://mek.oszk.hu/15600/15636.
Kovács, László. "Bulányi, az eszmeharcos." Koinonia, no. 1 (2016), 3014-3016. http://www.epa.oszk.hu/02500/02501/00086/pdf/EPA02501_koinonia_2016_1_3014-
Benyhe, Bernát. "BOKOR – ÁLLAM – EGYHÁZ. A BULÁNYI-FÉLE BÁZISKÖZÖSSÉGI MOZGALOM VISZONYA A PÁRTÁLLAMHOZ ÉS A HIERARCHIÁHOZ (TÖRTÉNETI SZINOPSZIS)." Paper presented at Pázmány Péter Katolikus Egyetem Hittudományi Kara, MTA PPKE „Lendület” Egyháztörténeti Kutatócsoport: Katolicizmus Magyarországon a II. vatikáni zsinat korában, Budapest, December 9, 2013.
Zsumbera, Árpád. "A Bokor Kisközösségi Mozgalom és a Pártállam: “Kváziellenzéki” Mozgalom a Kádár-Rendszerben." Valóság 41, no. 8 (1998), 52-63. https://www.szepi.hu/piarista/bokor.html.
Csapody, Tamás. "A Bokor-szamizdat." Élet és Irodalom 48, no. 25 (June 2004). http://files.faragoferenc.webnode.hu/200002443-dc641de577/Csapody%20T.%20A%20Bokor%20szamizdat....pdf.
Csapody, Tamás. "Utak és útvesztők - a sorkötelezettség története." Valóság 48, no. 11 (2005), 77-86. http://www.valosagonline.hu/index.php?oldal=cikk&cazon=656&lap=0.
Csapody, Tamás. Az Alba Kör emberi jogi jelentése a lelkiismereti okból történő katonai szolgálatmegtagadás magyarországi helyzetéről. Budapest, 1995. http://mek.oszk.hu/16200/16235/16235.pdf.
Csapody, Tamás, and Vit, László. Ámokfutás a NATO-ba: cikkek, tanulmányok, interjúk. Budapest: Cartafilus, 1997.
Csapody, Tamás, interview by Huhák, Heléna, October 17, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection