Hungarian president’s alleged plagiarism: Quite a piece of detective work

I will start in the middle of the story that has rocked Budapest–Pál Schmitt’s alleged plagiarism. It seems that all the “conspiracy-theory” speculation about who is behind the discovery is most likely without foundation.

Here is the background in brief. Yesterday afternoon HVG published the bombshell. The current president of Hungary, Pál Schmitt, most likely plagiarized about 180 pages of a 215-page doctoral dissertation in 1992. The title bestowed on him is not a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) although he is trying to pass it off as such; it is more the equivalent of an M.A. Since then, with the introduction of the Bologna system, this type of degree no longer exists.

It turned out–and the supporting evidence seems very solid–that Pál Schmitt, Olympic fencer, chairman of the Hungarian Olympic Committee and member of the International Olympic Committee, used Nikolai Georgiev’s study Analyse du programme olympique (des Jeux d’Olympiade), originally written in 1987, without acknowledging his deep indebtedness. Georgiev’s work was a two-volume typewritten study of the Olympic games later published in book form (1996) with the title Analyse du programme des Jeux Olympiques 1896-1996. In addition to the approximately 180 pages Schmitt translated from Georgiev’s 1987 study and passed off as his own, he also copied out about a page word for word from another book written in English by Georgiev with Hristo Meranzov in 1985.

After the article outlining the details of the alleged plagiarism, conspiracy theories proliferated. The timing seemed awfully suspicious to the Hungarian public. For some time there has been speculation that Viktor Orbán has a long cherished plan: if his political fortunes as prime minister turn sour he would move on to the position of president. Admittedly, Orbán craves power and currently the Hungarian president has mighty little of that, but because of the two-thirds majority that problem could always be remedied. This speculation got some extra fuel when it was discovered that the new law on the status of the president passed by the Fidesz majority included the provision that after a minimum of two years in office a retiring president would be entitled to all the privileges hitherto given only after five years on the job. I might add here that Schmitt became president of the republic on August 5, 2010. So, the two years aren’t up yet.

Given this background and the long-standing rumors about the alleged plans of Viktor Orbán, it is not at all surprising that rumors flared up again about Viktor Orbán’s secret plans. A lot of people suspected that Fidesz itself leaked the story of plagiarism, thus providing an opportunity for the removal of Schmitt. Others, myself included, consider this a rather embarrassing and painful solution to the task of readying the presidency for Viktor Orbán.

This afternoon we learned a lot about the background of the HVG article that described the discovery. Gábor Gavra, editor-in-chief of the weekly, gave an interview on György Bolgár’s radio program “Let’s Talk It Over.”

Although Gavra didn’t say much about the person who did the detective work, from the few things he did say I got the impression that the person must be some kind of an academic. He might even be a linguist or a literary historian because after reading Schmitt’s dissertation he got the impression that the Hungarian text showed signs of being a translation from another language. Whether he suspected French as the original language I don’t know.

The second indication that our detective is an academic is that he knows something about the curriculum of the College of Sports. When he read in an interview volume with Pál Schmitt that he “wrote his dissertation on the history of philosophy” he became mighty suspicious. Not exactly a normal dissertation topic in a college training mostly gym teachers.

Then came the Google research part of the detective work. Not surprisingly, our detective found only that Georgiev had published the book that appeared in 1996. The connection between the two works was striking but there was the problem of dates. Georgiev’s book was published four years after the Schmitt wrote his thesis.

A little more research and our detective found the original typewritten 465-page study in two volumes stored in the Olympics Museum’s library in Lausanne, Switzerland. It took our detective nine months to definitively establish the connection between Gregoriev’s typewritten study and Schmitt’s thesis.

Here are a couple of pages from the table of contents side by side. On the left Gregoriev’s French text and Schmitt’s Hungarian on the right:

Schmitt Pal book 1
Schmitt book 2

After taking a look at the table of contents, it hard to argue with the conclusion that Pál Schmitt practically copied his whole thesis from Georgiev’s work. However, the president’s office (Köztársasági Elnöki Hivatal) tried, although not too convincingly. The fairly lengthy press release (579 words) is mostly a summary of the HVG article. The little it says about the alleged plagiarism is feeble:  “Two history professors reviewed the work and found it excellent (summa cum laude).” Reading the text, I got the impression that Schmitt is trying to offload responsibility to the readers of his thesis. As for Georgiev, yes, Schmitt knew him and “during their research they collaborated.” The source for both works was the minutes of the International Olympic Committee. Since then, HVG talked to the daughter of the late Nikolai Georgiev who denied any such collaboration.

Schmitt, plagium, le sem tudom irni

Plagiarism? I can’t even spell the word!

What Viktor Orbán will do–because it will be his decision–about Pál Schmitt is difficult to say. In any case, a chart of the legislative roles of the four Hungarian presidents became a great deal shorter than it was a few days ago.

Schmitt torvenyalkotas1

Before

Schmitt torvenyalkotas2

After

It seems that someone didn’t want to make it too obvious that only Schmitt’s name was being removed, so all Fidesz-supported presidents’ names were erased. Árpád Göncz alone remained.

György Bazsa, the president of the Hungarian Accreditation Committee, announced that “most likely there will be a need to investigate the case.” I might add that Bazsa was an MSZP member of parliament between 1998 and 2002.

On the other hand, Károly Rácz, dean of Semmelweis University’s doctoral program, wasn’t that brave. He kept emphasizing that in 1992 when Schmitt received his degree, the College of Sports wasn’t affiliated with Semmelweis and therefore he and his department have nothing to do with the whole affair. I beg to differ. I think once Semmelweis took over the College of Sports it took over its past dirt as well.

I checked out the two professors who had such an excellent opinion of Schmitt’s thesis. Put it this way, after reading their curriculum vitae one is not terribly surprised about the state of higher education in Hungary.

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Paul
Guest

If Orbán wanted to move out of the hot seat and be President for a few years, I’m absolutely sure he would find an easier way to do it than this!
For instance – quick word with Schmitt, quick change of the law re President’s power, etc, Schmitt resigns for ‘health reasons’ (or similar), Orbán stands down as PM to spend more time with his family, or for health reasons, or to let a younger man take over, or anything else that he can invent, a grateful Fidesz votes him into the Presidency.
Easy, peasy. No need for all this nonsense.

Paul
Guest

PS – and it’s blindingly obvious that someone of Schmitt’s huge intellect can’t possibly have done the original work to earn a PhD.
Sooner or later, someone was bound to realise this.

Paul
Guest

PPS – and OT – do we know what Fellegi said yet?
I can’t find anything about it in English

An
Guest

No news on Fellegi’s press conference yet… but the IMF chief put out a written statement after the meeting.
“I indicated that, before the Fund can determine when and whether to start negotiations for a Stand-By Arrangement, it will need to see tangible steps that show the authorities’ strong commitment to engage on all the policy issues that are relevant to macroeconomic stability. Support of the European authorities and institutions would also be critical for successful discussions of a new program.”
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2012/pr1207.htm

An
Guest

So they won’t even start negotiations without tangible steps on the Hungarian part… the ball is in OV’s court.

Paul
Guest

Many thanks, An. I never thought to check imf.org!
A very strong statement indeed. The key bit is “Support of the European authorities and institutions would also be critical for successful discussions of a new program”.
In other words, it isn’t just about the economy. No gain without considerable pain for OV.
Will he go along with this? It’s right against his nature to let outsiders tell him what to do. No wonder he’s looking old these days!

An
Guest

Paul, it is definitely going to be interesting. Fellegi is going to meet EU leaders sometime next week.
(BTW, Origo reported on the IMF statement; that’s why I went to the IMF website for the English version.)

Paul
Guest

I don’t think he’ll have any more success with the EU. His trip to Washington has been a complete waste of time.
Must be quite a shock to OV and Fidesz to discover that the rest of the world isn’t full of gullable voters!

Member

Paul: ” His trip to Washington has been a complete waste of time.” And complete waste of money. I am not sure what Fidesz expected to achieve. It was always supposed to be informal discussions. I think IMF has been clear all along the expectations. Were they hoping for some miracle?

Member

Eva, maybe you are right that it is a total coincidence that someone came across with Schmitt’s work, and had the suspicion and then came across with the book and so forth.. I think there are to many coincidences. I am also sure that if Schmitt’s work was viewed in some sort of library (as this kind of things just do not hang around in waiting rooms), there must be a trace about who borrowed the material. I doubt that there is a long list of readers from the last ten years.
It reminds me the scene from Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, when they try to figure out who received the phone call (if there was any phone call) on a certain day.
(By the way the movie is fantastic to those who like slower spaced movies and not looking for Bourne Identity kind of action flick, but a real spy film. A minute into the movie there are some great shots from Budapest and from the Parizsi Udvar.)

anecdote
Guest

Given Schmitt’s position and his attempts to shower the people with such nobly-worded speeches…yes…this is quite a bombshell. But this is not such a surprise when viewing the “big picture” over a longer period of time. The last words of today’s article sum it up most concisely:”…one is not terribly surprised about the state of higher education in Hungary”.
I was told many years ago that there was a “price list” for getting somebody to write theses and dissertations. I did not believe this until a colleague offered me money to do this.
(But let’s put this in perspective: the corruptions that occur in Hungary also occur in almost any other country we care to name — the difference is, are there mechanisms for at least trying to limit the extent of these corruptions and, more importantly, do they have teeth that bite?)
Anecdote: The intrepid Éva Balogh will probably be able to find the photograph for other readers allegedly showing Gyula Horn (Prime Minister, 1994-1998) using “puska” (crib-notes/cheat notes) during the defence of his Candidate’s (now approx. Ph.D.) thesis.
Any ex-pats here not familiar with “puska”? Another incredibly “quasi-legal” illegality.

GDF
Guest

anecdote:”Any ex-pats here not familiar with “puska”? Another incredibly “quasi-legal” illegality.”
When I went to high school, if someone was caught, suspension followed. In engineering school it was unheard of. This was in Transylvania, long time ago.

Aurélie Pierre
Guest

From what I can verify (verification from French to the Hungarian parts I can check with a translation program), it is indeed pure plagiarism.
What strikes me personally is that Schmitt’s cabinet states “the work was honoured with a summa cum laude, which speaks for itself”.
It does NOT speak for itself – and the Hungarian education institutes should further investigate the fraud.
My personal belief is that Schmitt should resign, just as Guttenberg did – not because of the plagiarism (that happened before he was in function) but because of his lies. How do you want to be taken seriously as a country, if your head of state is a cheat?

I love Hungary
Guest

Schmitt can’t type a sentence without a typo and talks like a farm-worker.
Not sure this is news.
Eva, I’m looking forward to your summary of Bajnai’s essay.

Wondercat
Guest

Martonyi assures the KURIER that everything will work out — in case you had your doubts: http://kurier.at/wirtschaft/4480839-aussenminister-staatsbankrott-ist-ausgeschlossen.php

Paul
Guest

OT yet again – but my wife has just told me that her brother is going on a demonstration in Budapest to show support for the government.
We were talking as I was coming in and she was going out, so I didn’t get any more details, nor can I find anything on the net about this.
Anyone know anything more?
It will be interesting to see how many they get out. I imagine they wouldn’t do it if they weren’t sure they could get a good few thousand on the streets. But I also imagine that Fidesz HQ must be working flat out arranging for people to be bussed into Budapest.
But, however big it is, people will know it for what it is – a sham, organised by a desperate government.
Reminds me of all those green flag waving crowds in Tripoli before it fell. Where are they now?

Guest

In Germany we have had a lot of these plagiarism scandals – it’s quite obvious that Guttenberg used a ghost writer, although he of course denies it. My friend the university professor tells me that even the prices for this type of work are well known – via the internet you can find offers mainly from Eastern Europe, where academics would be glad to make some money – much more than they can earn there at a university!
Re the IMF:
Today the German Spiegel online has a very strongly-worded piece on Fellegi’s talks in Washington:http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/0,1518,808900,00.html
There will be no real talks unless the Hungarian government does something regarding the economy, the National Bank’s independence etc …
The IMF and the EU are willing to wait …

Bowen
Guest

Paul, I suspect the demonstration may be the ‘Peace March for Hungary! (Békemenet Magyarországért) which is on 21st Jan. I’m not sure if there will be speeches, but luminaries such as Zsolt Bayer will be there to share their peaceful sentiments. You can see the Facebook page here:
http://www.facebook.com/events/232684553474464/
Last time I looked, there were about 1,300 who said they would be attending.

Bowen
Guest

Wolfi – I know it’s not polite to say, but in the photo in the Der Spiegel article (and elsewhere), Fellegi looks like he’s trying to sell Christine Lagard a used car.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

anecdote: “Any ex-pats here not familiar with “puska”? Another incredibly “quasi-legal” illegality.”
Years ago a very intelligent Hungarian woman on my political discussion list quit the group in total disgust and refused to talk to me because I dared to say that the wide acceptance of the use of “puska” shows that something is seriously wrong with the moral fiber of the nation. I also drew connection between the use of “puska” and corruption of adults. And naturally, about taking unfair advantage, getting ahead without hard work.
I read last night–after I finished with the blog–that one of the readers of the thesis still thinks that it was a good dissertation and no one would give a damn how Schmitt got his doctorate if he were not the president. That tells a lot about outlook of certain academics.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “her brother is going on a demonstration in Budapest to show support for the government.”
A group of newspapermen is organizing the demonstration. These are Fidesz supporters but if you read their writings or hear them on TV they are close to Jobbik than Fidesz. Fidesz doesn’t support them, by the way.
Another right-wing group is organizing a demonstration in Szeged. The key-note speaker is István Csurka, MIÉP, antisemite. Again, the far right.
Kósa announced that their massive pro-government demonstration will take place on March 15. Who knows what will happen until now!!

Guest

Someplace I read that the demonstration was going to be silent, with candles. A walk from Hosok ter to the Parlament. So sorry I can’t cite the source.

Ron
Guest

According to Hungarian ambiance.com:
On January 14, at 2:00 pm.,at the European Commission Budapest Office, Jobbik starts a series of rallies to regain the street and send a powerful message to Brussels concluded his statement MEP Csanád Szegedi.

Member

About the January 21st. demonstration in Hungary.. Although Fidesz said that in no way Fidesz will support or participate in the demonstrations, they cannot stop anyone to participate as an individual. (Fair enough.) News has surfaced that actually buses will be transporting Fidesz members and their families to Budapest from Pecs.
http://hvg.hu/itthon/20120112_fidesz_bekemenet_buszok
I hope that the speeches from Bayer and from others will be translated and made available for the world to read very fast. I am sure it will be enlightening.
It is beyond me that how anyone with any moral aptitude can still defend Schmitt’s work when it is proven that he copied 85% of the work. His thesis only consist of 15% original work.

Member
Ron: “On January 14, at 2:00 pm.,at the European Commission Budapest Office, Jobbik starts a series of rallies to regain the street and send a powerful message to Brussels concluded his statement MEP Csanád Szegedi.” I do not get it. I wish somebody would explain this to me: – Nobody forces Hungary to stay in the European Union. – When someone is a member of an organization they have to abide the organizations “by-laws”. – Hungary became a member of the European Union on its own, no force was applied. – Membership in the EU means that the respective countries will play fair and obey the laws and decisions made by the EU. – All the laws, by-laws, entries that govern the EU are voted in by the member Countries in a fully democratic process that never been questioned. So, here is the question: WHo exactly forces Hungary to remain in the Europen Union if following the rules of the EU is not for the likes of Orban or Csurka or Hungarians? I believe, nobody. So what are this people are demonstrating for? ARe they saying the EU laws is not for Hungary’s liking? Are they saying that Orban should… Read more »
Member
Sorry, but as many of you who are on this board for a while knows that I am crazy for movies, bad or good. So, this whole Hungary running after the IMF for money and running after the Union to tell them to accept what they are doing reminds me of a scene from the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding. THis girl Julianne (played by Julia Roberts) figures out that she is in love with his long time best friend, MIchael who is about to get married Kimmy (played by Cameron Diaz). At some point Julianne manages to kiss the husband to be Michael, and the bride Kimmy just happens to witness the scene and runs away. Kimmy (bride) runs away and Michael runs after her to explain, while Julianne chases Michael, as she is in love with him. As they run, Julianne’s phone rings and her other great friend George is on the phone, who is asking how things are going. Julianne: [on phone] It is not going well! This is what comes of telling the truth! Or even part of it. You know, getting what you deserve isn’t fair! George: [on phone] Where are you? Julianne: [on phone]… Read more »
kormos
Guest
This is what they saying; in both languages, so if Ms. Balogh wants to publish it in Galamus, she does not have to labor. “El a kezekkel Magyarországtól! Felhívás a világ közvéleményéhez és Magyarország polgáraihoz Az elmúlt hetekben totális pénzügyi és politikai támadás indult Magyarország szuverenitása ellen. A Nyugatról indított támadás nyilvánvaló célja egy politikai átrendeződés elérése akár egy mesterségesen előidézett államcsőd, vagy puccs által annak érdekében, hogy Magyarország adja fel gazdasági szuverenitása helyreállítására és az adósságcsapdából való kiszabadulásra irányuló törekvéseit, vegye fel az IMF készenléti hitelét, állítsa vissza a jegybank állítólag veszélyeztetett függetlenségét, és ezzel foglalja el újra helyét a gyarmatok sorában. Az ebben érdekelt hazai és külföldi körök állítása szerint Magyarországon a demokrácia veszélybe került, a szabad választáson kétharmados többséget szerzett kormányt diktatúrával, sőt nácizmussal vádolják. A páratlan nemzetközi rágalomhadjárat és politikai zsarolás célja az ország elszigetelése és térdre kényszerítése. Nyilatkozataikban egyesek odáig mennek, hogy nyíltan kijelentik: e cél érdekében bármilyen eszköz megengedett. 2011. karácsonyán a magyar Parlament magát antiglobalistának valló ellenzéki zöld pártja által indított tüntetés nyomán megindult a nemzetközi médiagépezet, mely megadta az alaphangot a világpolitika és a bankvilág szereplőinek jól időzített támadássorozatához. Az első lépést a Standard & Poor’s Magyarországot leminősítő döntése jelentette, melynek hatására… Read more »
Vilmos
Guest
In my experience of higher education in Hungary, I’ve found cheating of all kinds widespread and (literally) shameless. Some of the worst were adult teachers in continuing education/retraining programmes. Over the years it has become more technologically advanced (notes stored on mobile phones etc.) Plagiarism was/is also quite common in its various forms – failure to provide citations, proper citations but sentences lifted word for word, whole pages or chapters lifted and so on. The Internet made all of this much easier for the students, but also made it much easier to detect and prove. Part of the problem was that the students were required to submit a 30-some page research paper (szakdolgozat) as a graduation requirement, but for many this would be the first and only research paper they ever wrote, and so they had no idea of how to go about it. Another part of the problem were supervisors who, aside from giving an initial topic, provided little or no guidance, and so made no effort to stop plagiarism. Quite simply, crime paid as instructors and students took the easiest route to the end product – 30+ pages of bound typescript and a diploma. Those who tried to… Read more »
kormos
Guest
Press Conference on Excessive Deficit Procedures Vice-President Olli Rehn – januar 2012 Spokesperson: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the Press Conference by Vice-president Olli Rehn, which will be focused on Excessive Deficit Procedures and more particularly in five countries: Belgium, Cyprus, Malta, Hungary and Poland. We will proceed as usual, Commissioner Rehn will do some introductory remarks and then we will move to your questions. We don’t have much time, since the Commissioners have to fly to Copenhagen for meetings with the Danish Presidency very soon. Vice-president, the floor is yours. Commissioner: Thank you. Thank you, Amadeo. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me first wish you a Happy New Year. I hope it will be a more stable and less eventful year than last year and thus perhaps less news-worthy, as good news never come, only the bad news. So, let’s have a more stable and a more prosperous year for Europe in 2012. This year will be marking a profound transformation of the way the euro area is governed in terms of a very substantial reinforcement of the economic governance. Today’s press point is in fact about this, about the concrete implementation, the concrete application of… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Thanks kormos, but it’s just the usual ‘patriotic’ drivel.
Incidentally, why is the Hungarian version twice as long as the English translation?

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