Cultural Heritage Building in Hungary: Models and Approaches
Gábor Sonkoly

Our latest example from the chronology of the history of heritage in Hungary shall illustrate again the permanence of the term 'heritage' in political discourse despite the changes of governments. One of the main problems of Hungarian history from the early twentieth century is whether (and in what sense) the Hungarian minorities, living outside of Hungary, on the territories separated from the nation state by the peace treaty of Trianon in 1920, constitute a community with the actual citizens of the Hungarian state. How did the heritage discourse contribute to this problem? The conservative government tried to extend the festivities of the Millennium to the minorities, for example, it financed the restoration of some monuments, such as the cathedral in Alba Iulia, today in Romania, built during the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, which is of special interest because Alba Iulia was the seat of the principality of Transylvania, and once it was treated as a "national pantheon," since many of the princes of Hungarian origin had been buried there. While this case and similar ones may show that "Hungarian heritage" can sometimes be expanded to the culture of these Hungarian minorities in symbolic terms and even in the material sense, the state never claimed officially a right to incorporate those heritages into its own national heritage. The strategy of the conservative government was to create a special status for native Hungarians living outside the borders, which could have granted them several benefits when they traveled to Hungary or stayed there. As a result of this strategy a law was made in 2001, which, according to its preamble, was meant to guarantee the belonging of these people to "the unity of the Hungarian nation," to foster "their well-doing in their homeland," and to strengthen "their national identity." The new government modified the law in 2003. In the preamble, the reference to the "unity of the nation" was now replaced by the formula "preservation of their relationship with Hungary," and "the possibility to express their adherence to Hungarian cultural heritage as a sign of their belonging to the Hungarian nation." To sum up: in 2003, the vague concept of national unity (though it was never interpreted as territorial or legal unification) seemed already too straightforward, and feasible to hurt the sensibility of the neighboring states, so it was left out and replaced by a reference to the common cultural heritage of Hungarians living inside and outside Hungary. However, ?cultural heritage? was just as imprecise as ?unity,? which is not very surprising, if one looks back at the short history of missing definitions.

The restructuring of governmental institutions usually follows the legislative elections and the changes of the government in Hungary since 1990. In 2002, the Socialist-Liberal Coalition returned to power and kept the Ministry of Hungarian Cultural Heritage, in 2006, however, in the name of budgetary cut-offs, this Ministry has been integrated to the Ministry of Education and the State Secretary responsible for cultural affaires lost the nomination of  ?cultural heritage? and has become simply ?cultural,? but so many institutions have the term ?cultural heritage? so far that this institutional modification does not seem to check the spread of the term in the future.

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