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A political biography of Hungary's first post-Communist President, Árpád Göncz

Kim, Dae Soon (2011) A political biography of Hungary's first post-Communist President, Árpád Göncz. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Hungary's political transformation of 1989 has been generally regarded as a peaceful revolution negotiated between the ruling Communists and the opposition. During the National Roundtable Negotiations, the fundamental framework of governance - including the amendment of the Constitution - was decided by members of Hungary's political elite. Hungary's mode of transition to democracy was an elite-led transformation and this was distinct from Czechoslovakia and Poland where the interests of society had been represented - to a large degree - by the likes of Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa. In view of this, some critics argued that compared to Poland and Czechoslovakia, Hungary had no equivalent high-profile figure who could break with the Communist past and claim the ideas of a new democracy. Hungary, however, had its own figure with democratic credentials. Árpád Göncz, who came to prominence during the inter-war period has been one time or another, a student resistance leader during Nazi occupation in Hungary, a steelworker, an agriculturalist, a literary translator and, he subsequently became the first post-Communist President of Hungary. He experienced the major events of Hungarian history first hand, including the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. During this pivotal time, Göncz undertook a significant role in the resistance that followed the suppression of the Revolution; he was sentenced to life imprisonment as a result. His democratic activities were widely acknowledged by political elites and the general public alike. This, in turn, contributed to his election to the Presidency. Significantly, however, much of the existing literature on Hungary's post-Soviet political development has not attached a high degree of importance to Göncz's role in Hungarian history or his political achievements. At present, there are no biographies of Göncz either in English or Hungarian. Thus this thesis, as the first English language scholarly biography, addresses a gap in the literature through the narration of the story of Göncz's life; an expansive account of Göncz's life is situated within a framework of the wider historical, political and social concerns of his generation. Specifically, the following questions are addressed: how were Göncz's political beliefs developed and how did these beliefs later inform his term as the first post-Communist President of Hungary? Narrative analysis and elite interviewing are employed as the main research methods in order to explore the development of Göncz's political beliefs and their significance for the understanding of Hungarian politics. It is argued that as a whole, Göncz made important contributions to the development of Hungarian democracy. Though not born into a political family and constrained by external forces beyond his control, Göncz attempted to address some of the key social and political problems of the age. It is also argued that the decade of Göncz's Presidency was crucial for the shaping of the basic institutional tenets of governance in post-Soviet Hungary. Despite his lack of experience of governance, Göncz created a template for the role of President and significantly affected the demarcation of powers between president and government in the ever-evolving context of the process of political transformation. While his interpretation of the presidential powers and responsibility was not, and could not be regarded as positive in all respects, Göncz's Presidency was imbuded by his liberal and democratic values.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Göncz, the first post-Communist President
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > Slavonic Studies
Supervisor's Name: Cox, Prof. Terry
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Mr Dae Soon Kim
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2578
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 May 2011
Last Modified: 13 May 2014 13:20
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2578

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