Cultural Heritage Building in Hungary: Models and Approaches
Gábor Sonkoly

It is difficult to find out whether and in what sense the millenary festivities met the official intention to strengthen identity in the individual communities, and how people will remember them on the long run. Moreover, the Millennium, which could be relevant for identity politics and cultural diplomacy, did not make easier the theoretic or legal definition of heritage either. Perhaps the moment was too exceptional for that: the Millennium connected heritage protection with commemorations. Although anniversary gave a very special occasion for exhibitions, monument restoration and the like, it could also divert attention from working out a serious concept of cultural heritage in Hungary.

The political heritage project of the Millennium ended, the term and the new structures remained-what come next? Did the local initiatives gain enough energy from this particular event to persist even in an ?average? period?  In the meantime, tourism already left its mark on the production of local heritages: the city of Győr rediscovered its baroque potential, Gödöllő has its story to tell about the Habsburg dynasty, materialized by its palace, in which Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph used to stay; there's a long list of similar examples. New sites were added to the UNESCO world heritage list.. The fabrication of new heritages does not mean that many of these local traditions had been neglected before heritage became trendy. But then, one should ask which features of national culture and identity are due to the concept of heritage.

In fact, are there such features at all? It is true that from the legal and institutional point of view, heritage is well defined now in Hungary. But, during the preparations of the 2002 law, a detailed and careful consultation with a wider circle of experts (archeologists, art historians etc.) was missing. The law avoided the definition of intangible heritage (in a period when UNESCO was trying to find criteria exactly for the same).  Heritage did not bring about a new consensus on the national canon of literature and the arts. In intellectual debates of the past few years, the term did not play a remarkable role. A group of heritage experts has already appeared, recruited mainly from the field of monument protection, archeology and diplomacy, and there were academic projects, either on the process how heritage was being shaped by the humanities through the centuries, or how it works in contemporary Hungary. As early as in 1996, the European Folklore Institute tried to cover the area of the safeguarding, revitalization and diffusion of traditional culture and folklore heritage in Europe and publishes a review on Hungarian traditional culture and folklore revival. Neither of these research projects and representations, nor a more general public discussion (which is missing) have compensated yet for the inverted chronological order: that political decisions preceded the intellectual analysis of the problem.

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