The “Prussian Way” versus the “Third Road”

Peasant-History in Hungary in the 1950s and 1960s—the Case of István Szabó


  • Vilmos Erös



rural history, homogenization, Gleichschaltung, Marxist-Socialist historiography, Second serfdom, Prussian way, East-Central European development, third way


The following article analyses the pivotal moments that allowed Marxist-Stalinist his- toriography became the official approach in the Hungarian historical profession in the late 1940s. One of the main targets of Communist/Marxist historians were István Szabó (1898–1969), a professor at the University of Debrecen, and his followers, who were under continuous attack from Marxist historians. It will be argued here that the main motivation behind these attacks was the fact that István Szabó challenged the “master-narrative” of contemporary Hungarian Marxist historiography, namely the concept of “second serfdom,” which was also linked to a conception of the develop- ment of the Hungarian economy and Hungarian society that had “turned away” from the development of Western Europe and followed an Eastern-European path instead. Szabó challenged this account, and instead argued for Hungary’s “transitional” posi- tion between Western and Eastern Europe. His ambition was to offer a “alternative third road” between capitalism and socialism. In this endeavour, he relied heavily on the legacy of the so-called “populist” writers and thinkers of the interwar period (such as László Németh, István Bibó, István Hajnal).