Violence in the reflection of one hundred years - 1914-2014

Photoes: by Károly Balázsy
One hundred years ago Europe became engulfed in war following the shot of a pistol in Sarajevo.

No one believed that the war would last for years, certainly no Hungarian could imagine that a later peace treaty concluded at the palace of Trianon would tear Hungary to pieces. There are those who debate whether or not there was a direct correlation between the carnage which was to last for four years and what is known in Hungarian as the peace dictate. No one questions the fact, however, that Hungary's loss of the war contributed to her tragic peace. Consider now:

Violence in the reflection of one hundred years: 1914-2014.

On the opening event held in Budapest on May the 28th with the Community Association for Culture, the Rákóczi Association and the Aspektus club, Géza Gecse, Aspektus project director remarked that he and his colleagues of the editing staff of the “Without borders” program of Hungarian National Radio noticed that secondary school students arriving home from excursions to neighboring countries were uploading video clips as reports on the excursions onto the website of the Apáczai Foundation (which has been organizing such excursions for the past few years within its own Határtalanul  or “Without Borders” program). The majority of these, however, were more moving pictures, generally with accompanying music. Characteristic of most were that, as with family photos, these were naturally primarily of interest to those who are in the photos, whereas they are uninteresting to the average viewer.

             Géza Gecse                                        István Majoros             Gábor Dombóvári

The Aspektus project director also remarked that he discovered a short, high quality instructional video clip on the Austro Hungarian Monarchy created by Americans, so-often looked down upon in Hungary. The promotion of a competition of instructional video clips therefore seemed an obvious choice in the interest of raising the level of quality in history teaching, particularly as the cross border excursions supported by the Rákóczi Association are now also generously funded by the Hungarian government. Géza Gecse added that he hoped that in the wake of this initiative not only university and secondary school students will ponder on the role of violence on the occasion of the first all encompassing war in world history (violence which significantly decreased in the second half of the 20th century).

The competition targets university and secondary school students ranging in ages from 13-26, for which the organizers will provide assistance in the coming weeks. Géza Gecse informed those present that an international conference of historians, with the cooperation of the neighboring and Baltic countries, is to be held in Budapest on the 100th anniversary of the Sarajevo assassination. Everyone is invited to the opening debate at 4 p.m. on June the 28th at the Dean’s meeting room at Eötvös Loránt University (ELTE). A supplementary objective of the roundtable will be to provide new perspectives and intellectual support to the clip competition.

The present plan is to wind up the competition in the fall, the project director continued, and he added that the teachers and organizers involved will be available for consultation on the website. All ideas are welcome on improving the website, which will be modified in the coming days. István Majoros, university professor at ELTE, was then asked to give a brief overview for secondary school students on any possible lessons to be learned from the conference on World War I organized by ELTE on May 8-9.

Professor Majoros noted that the title of the conference was a paradox, for as we now know the title: “The war to end all wars” came to defy itself. As it was, just the opposite came to pass, as the first world war was followed by a second world war, even more devastating than the first. Turk, Czech, French and Russian scholars were amongst the seventy three speakers who participated in the event.

Gábor Dombóvári, director of the Community Association for Culture of the town of Nyiregyhaza, remarked that the apex of the events which began on May the 28th will be the round table discussion to be held on June the 28th. The Aspektus initiative is particularly important as no serious technical background is required for video clip production of this type. Also the medium is trendy, and therefore perhaps capable of inspiring secondary school students, which is not an easy task. Perhaps there remains still a possibility by the students to record people with a living connection to the “great” war.

Miklós Száray, head history teacher of the ELTE Apáczai Csere János Secondary School said it had been agreed that those interested should include some kind of personal connection to the First World War in the content of their video. Desirable would be if the applicants were able to portray the great war through personal, such as family ties, for example through oral history, a research method with great potential. Száray emphasized that it would be beneficial if such persons were portrayed who were themselves part of the unparalleled wave of violence which will be remembered in the coming four years.

Miklós Száray                                                                  Éva Róth Hutvágnerné

Naturally, knowing that actual survivors of the war are ever few, Száray noted that a possibility would be for oral histories by such members of the family whose parents had stories to tell. The resulting clip could be illustrated with photos, postcards or letters.

Éva Róth Hutvágnerné from the István Széchenyi Secondary School in the town of Dunaújváros felt important primarily the use of visual relics in evaluating the clips. She pointed to the often abundant remaining photos and hidden family memoirs, as well as to postcards, possible letters yet to be discovered. Also mentioned were other artifacts from the period which could easily turn up in a number of families, and which could be used in the creation of a clip. She noted that related materials from various museums or military technological devices could also be freely used and presented.

                  István Bukodi and Balázs Lados

István Bukodi from the János Karácsonyi Catholic Secondary School in Gyula concentrated on the formal requirements. They expect 4, maximum 5 minute clips, focusing on the First World War, and other than the manifestation of violence between nations, could concentrate on violence amongst individuals, also a consequence of the war. He emphasized that his colleagues agreed that the focus should be on the First World War and its direct consequences, i.e. the period between 1914 and 1920. Naturally, however, one can outline an arc of events in effect still today and there is potential in violence as a primary theme in the presentation of political, economic or military history subthemes. Particularly interesting, he continued, would be clips compiled from the viewpoints of Finnish, Estonian, Polish, Czech, Slovakian or Romanian students for contrasting perspectives.

Balázs Lados from the Budapest Saint Margaret Secondary School stressed two viewpoints. As a history and geography teacher he felt particularly important the use of maps. They are movable and excellent sources to be used to portray political and ethnic changes. In addition he suggested that the applicants seek out original venues and to video. They could try editing the materials together with original photographs, or possibly film footage of the same venue. Also mentioned was the possibility of involving the Institute of Military History and including archive materials.

Géza Gecse remarked that the present plans include contracting the first three participants to place in the competition for use of their productions in a thirty minute summary to be produced in September.

He also stated that the competition is open to all nationalities, not only to Hungarian students living within and outside the borders of Hungary. The organizers count on work to be submitted by Polish, Slovak, Czech, Estonian, Finnish, Romanian and Serb students as well. It order to facilitate their involvement primary documents will be translated into English.

A suggestion was made to include songs and music related to the period in the clips, a possibility potentially quite popular. In this event the clip producers should be aware of possible authors rights issues.

The Aspektus organizers plan to present two 13 minute films by June 27, 2014 on the relationship between Trianon and World War I. With this they hope to draw attention to the roundtable discussion which is to take place with the participation of Czech, Slovak, Estonian, Finnish, Romanian and Hungarian historians.