Obituary: Professor Gyula Juhasz

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The Independent Online
Gyula Juhasz, historian: born Bia 11 September 1930; married Erzsebet Kovacs (one son, one daughter); died Budapest 13 April 1993.

GYULA JUHASZ played a leading role in the intellectual ferment that led to political change in Hungary in 1989.

The son of peasants, he began his career as an officer in the Hungarian army, which he left in protest against the suppression of the 1956 revolution. He became a historian of Hungarian foreign policy in the 20th century at the Historical Institute of the Academy of Sciences in Budapest. The first historian to carry out systematic research into British-Hungarian diplomatic relations before and during the Second World War, Juhasz visited the Public Record Office in London regularly and gave lectures at conferences. His contact with the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at London University, where he had many friends, was particularly strong.

Juhasz became an inspired university teacher whose lectures students of all subjects flocked to after 1963, when he became Professor at the Economics University, in Budapest. He combined impressive knowledge with insight, and avoided Marxist jargon and euphemism on politically sensitive subjects (he was probably the first in the country to refer in a public lecture to 1956 as a 'revolution'). He left the Historical Institute in 1986 to become head of the National Library and of the Institute for Hungarian Studies. He edited scholarly journals, was on the editorial board of Hungary's leading daily, the Magyar Nemzet, and even found time to become a much- sought-after media pundit.

The vacuum Juhasz leaves is enormous, yet he will primarily be remembered for two books. The first, The Dominant Ideas in Hungary (1983) is an examination of the intellectual and political currents within the Hungarian intelligentsia during the Second World War; the second, The War and Hungary 1938-45 (1986), is a short synthesis of Hungarian policy during the same period. Juhasz, a prominent member of the 'Ranki school' - George Ranki was director of the Historical Institute until his death in 1988 - examined politically sensitive questions like the Hungarian attempt to revise the borders set by the Trianon Treaty in 1920 with the help of Mussolini and Hitler, and middle- class anti-Semitism, without the shibboleths of either Marxism or nationalism. His aim was the re-creation of the past, however painful. It appears that Hungarian foreign policy today is realistic and national aspirations are not nurtured at the expense of the country's neighbours. In the emergence of these new attitudes, Juhasz's works, which reconstructed the past and demonstrated the folly of the revisionist policy in the inter-war years, must have played some part.