Friday, June 1, 2012

Hungary: Past to Present

Szia! My name is Hannah and I’m a rising senior BSBA major. I had always been interested in social enterprise, but until recently, didn’t realize the concept had a name! I decided to join the Budapest program to learn more and to experience Hungary. Since I arrived, we have visited the House of Terror museum, the Rural Workshop Foundation in Etyek, and have heard lectures about the European Union and about Hungarian history. 

EU Lecture, Eszter Simon

Eszter’s lecture provided a lot of the necessary background for understanding the framework of Hungary's SE and non-profit community. Eszter introduced the EU’s founding goals as well as the basic conditions for EU membership, which are: a working democracy, rule of law, a market economy, and respect for human and minority rights. We learned about the different treaties allowing the EU to become a legal personality, the bureaucratic process to be internationally fair and accessible, and structural changes such that additional countries could join. There is also a punishment system for non-compliance with EU policies, although there is a limit its enforcement. One thing I found interesting was the standardization of products across the EU, for example, specifying what makes something chocolate or a cucumber. This was done to protect the markets for such goods by preventing entry of international alternatives. Finally, Eszter talked about the media and the problems faced by organizations trying to express multiple sides of an issue. The current government is facing heavy criticism from the EU community for its restrictions on free speech and free press, which is one of the focuses of my internship.

Hungarian History, Andras Joo

A brief summary of US territorial history: we were mostly British, then we weren’t. A brief summary of Hungarian territorial history: no such thing. Andras very succinctly explained the incredibly rich history of the Hungarian land, people, and politics over the last two thousand years. They were originally a small but resilient nomadic people with origins and influences from most of the neighboring regions. The origin of the Magyar language is as complex as their anthropology. Politically, Hungary underwent several very dramatic periods of change in occupation and government style. The political timeline goes roughly as follows: early monarchies, Mongol and Ottoman invasion, Austria-Hungary and Habsburg rule, WWI, separation from Austria and revolution, early communism, WWII, German Nazi then Soviet communist invasion, 1956 revolution, Kadar and reforms, new market economy, end of communism and Soviet retreat, and modern Hungary. 

House of Terror Museum

The House of Terror is located in the former secret police headquarters from the communist rule. The top floors served as the bureaucratic nexus, while the basement was reserved for interrogation and execution of suspected dissidents. Upon entering, visitors are faced with a dauntingly large wall covered with the faces of the regime's victims. Some were killed for rallying the opposition to the one-party system, others for expressing discontent with the way things were. The museum showed the oppression of the Hungarian people by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and through the various reconstructed rooms of the former headquarters, gave us a sense of the intense fear and hardship the Hungarians faced throughout these periods.

Rural Workshop Foundation, Marta Marczis

Today we traveled to Etyek, a rural white wine region, to hear from Marta Marczis about the foundation she runs with her husband. Her organization serves not only to find solutions to problems faced by the rural poor (and particularly the Roma community), but also to connect the local level on which a development issue is experienced and the regional/EU level on which the problem is addressed. She talked a lot about the problems with the overwhelming bureaucracy that organizations in seeking development funds, requiring “kilos of paper” each time a grant proposal is created. One interesting project she told us about was a football (soccer) organization that a local community organized. The football team they formed gave members a sense of pride and provided a springboard for learning how to organize themselves and involve their community. From a single team, they grew to an after-school program, then to a regional tournament organizer, and now to a foundation for “football and development” with information centers for satisfying basic social integration needs like internet access and obtaining legal documents… and a lot of football, of course. 

A lovely restaurant in Etyek for lunch

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