on the Screen
The Buna-gate Scandal in and beyond the Hungarian Media1
The visual record of Hungary's transition to democracy is marked with comfortably familiar (if not canonical) images of key events and personalities. No visual representation of the Hungarian transition which takes its topic and itself seriously is complete without the black-and-white film of Imre Nagy, the prime minister of the 1956 revolt, listening to his death sentence, followed by the images of the immense crowd at his reburial ceremony before the catafalque on Heroes' Square. The story of the Roundtable Talks cannot be presented properly without the requisite images of the Opposition Roundtable meeting in the building of the Law faculty at Eötvös Loránd University.2 Whether the participants (re)presented will include János Kis, László Sólyom, Viktor Orbán or Péter Tölgyessy much depends on the editors' discretion.
1 The idea of this paper emerged while I was teaching a course with Oksana Sarkisova at
CEU, Budapest on the representations of the transition to democracy in documentary
films. A research paper written by Fruzsina Orosz (LEGS class 2005/06) for this course
enabled me to articulate some of my points. While I owe a lot to their insights, I remain
fully responsible for any errors and misunderstandings in this piece. All translations
from the Hungarian are mine.
2 The Hungarian Roundtable Talks were conducted between the Communist Party, the
Opposition Roundtable and the so-called Third Side (Harmadik Oldal). For an informa-
tive introduction to the Hungarian Roundtable Talks see András Sajó, “The Roundtable
Talks in Hungary” in Jon Elster (ed.), The Roundtable Talks and the Breakdown of
Communism (Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1996). On the question of the reor-
ganization of the secret police at the Roundtable Talks see the record on the appearance
of Ferenc Pallagi, the deputy minister in the Ministry of the Interior, responsible for
state security services (head of Division III in the Ministry of the Interior) on September
6, 1989 before the Roundtable's experts' subcommittee no. 1/6 (the negotiating forum
entrusted with developing measures to prevent aggressive solutions) in András Bozóki
(ed.), A rendszerváltás forgatókönyve. Kerekasztal-tárgyalások 1989-ben [The script of
transition. Roundtable talks in 1989] (Budapest: új Mandátum Könyvkiadó, 2000), vol.
6, 659,663-4. For an exchange at a mid-level political coordination meeting, see also A
rendszerváltás forgatókönyve, vol. 4, 302, 323.