The continuing saga of President Pál Schmitt’s doctoral thesis

Let me start by saying what hasn’t happened since January 12 when I first reported on the alleged plagiarism of Hungary’s president in 1992 when he turned in a doctoral dissertation, a kind of M.A. thesis, which was deemed of such high quality that it merited the designation summa cum laude.

Perhaps it will not surprise anyone that Pál Schmitt said nothing about the matter and the university that granted the degree did not feel compelled to begin an investigation of the case. Today, however, it was promised that the president will say something about the affair on Wednesday.

What will he say? Given the official and semi-official announcements of the last four days I have no doubt that, despite all appearances to the contrary, Schmitt will deny the accusation of plagiarism. A denial despite the growing evidence that seems to suggest that even the translation of the thesis from the French original wasn’t done by Pál Schmitt although, according to his curriculum vitae available on the website of his office, he speaks French. Maybe, but by now who knows?

Official Hungary seems to be closing ranks behind President Schmitt. András Giró-Szász, spokesman for the government, announced that “the president is an institution and the government has only one task: to support the president without conditions and in every instance.” Péter Szijjártó, personal spokesman of the prime minister himself, also made it clear that Viktor Orbán is not planning–at least for the time being–to do anything about this embarrassing affair. On the contrary, he indicated that this “tabloid gossip” is part of an international conspiracy. After all, isn’t it strange that the story showed up in HVG a day after the Hungarian president “very emphatically defended Hungary against foreign attacks” in front of members of the Budapest diplomatic corps. Since in the last few days the pluckiest defender of Hungary’s honor has been Foreign Minister János Martonyi it was almost inevitable that he would also say something in defense of Pál Schmitt. “If the president claims that he didn’t plagiarize, I believe in his words,” said Martonyi. The International Olympic Committee also trusts Schmitt’s integrity and supports him.

On the other hand, the silence of Rózsa Hoffmann, undersecretary in charge of education, is telling. Hoffmann is a moralist and a disciplinarian who only a few months ago maintained that plagiarism is a crime and if her ministry finds out about cases of plagiarism it will immediately report them to the police. HVG tried to find out Hoffmann’s opinion of this particular case but, surprise, surprise, she had nothing to say.

The dean of the graduate school of Semmelweis University that took over the university of sports from which Schmitt got his degree is trying to get out of a sticky situation. He defended the reputation of the university by emphasizing that “the decision [to grant the degree] was well founded and appropriate.” As we will see later, this was not necessarily the case.

One of the readers of the thesis also spoke out. Naturally he still thinks that Schmitt’s thesis was “thorough and illuminating.” He also considers the allegation of plagiarism unfounded and nothing more than “a political attack” on Schmitt. He was flattered “when asked to be one of the readers of a two-time Olympic champion.” And just to give an idea of the academic integrity of the man, he ended the interview with the remark: “If Schmitt were not the president of the country no one would give a damn how he managed to get a doctorate.” Nice!

All in all, for the time being it seems that the Orbán government is not planning to ask President Schmitt to retire but, of course, this attitude may change if the situation becomes untenable.

Schmitt doktori ertekezese

One thing is sure: Pál Schmitt’s thesis is nicely bound


Let me summarize an article that appeared on Galamus by László Pap, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and a professor at the Polytechnic Insitute. In his youth he was actively involved in sports. He is still interested in all sorts of sports and therefore is familiar with the special vocabulary associated with sports. He came to the conclusion that the person who translated Pál Schmitt’s thesis from the French knew the language but knew next to nothing about the language of sports in Hungarian. He gives several examples of mistranslations. Thus, it looks as if Schmitt didn’t even bother to read the rough translation to correct the Hungarian mistranslations of the French sports vocabulary.

Pap also doubts that the two readers were objective critics when it came to judging the “opus” of the former Olympian and the head of the Hungarian National Committee because the text is “clearly no more than a rough translation.” It seems that Schmitt knew that some of the Hungarian words the translator provided were wrong because at one point he added to the text: “In Hungarian we call that “absolute category,” instead of “all category” as it was translated. But it seems that Schmitt was either lazy or so pressed for time that he corrected this particular mistake only once although “all category” appeared at least twenty times in the text.

It seems, Pap continues, that the readers didn’t ask the author of the thesis where he got this very strange category. Moreover, according to Pap every page has several close to incomprehensible sentences and “grave spelling errors.” How could these people give highest honors for such an inferior and suspicious work?

One reason for the readers’ ecstasy over Schmitt’s thesis might have been that both of them were involved with the Hungarian Olympic Committee. In fact, one of them became a member of the Hungarian Olympic Academy’s Council in 1992, the same year that Schmitt received his doctorate and his thesis was found to be of such excellent quality.

And finally, a group of academics, mostly historians, sent a petition to the Ministry of National Resources where Rózsa Hoffmann is in charge of education and asked for an “investigation of the case.” They pointed out that if Pál Schmitt’s plagiarism allegation is not cleared one way or the other, the value of Hungarian degrees will suffer. Among the signers of the document is our “Gábor.”

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Paul
Guest

In the UK, this would have been a straight forward resigning issue – at junior MP or even local councillor level, let alone President.
You simply can’t have a representative of the people who is a proven plagiarist. Especially not the President!
But, I guess this is yet another indication of just how much the national interests have become subsumed into the Orbán/Fidesz’s interests.

An
Guest

I just wonder, if Dr Pal Schmitt appears at any international function from now on… won’t everybody start laughing at him?Especially of he is announced somewhere, using the name and title… Really embarrassing for the whole country. Not that Orban is not an embarrassment… but the President is just outright ridiculous.

Kingfisher
Guest

Does anyone else share my frustration with the Hungarian media’s inability to get to the point? Just think of how many articles are published in Népszabadság (otherwise, not a bad paper) in which the author seems more interested in showing off his knowledge and learning to others in the profession, rather than getting his teeth into the subject for the reader. With the Schmitt affair, the issues are very simple and straight forward. In America or the UK, we would find articles from all political directions, comparing the texts in great detail (HVG has the whole thing, so why hasn’t it done this?) They would ask, if he did collaborate with the Bulgarian, how come he started work on the thesis years before he enrolled to do it? And how did he have time to research when he had a full time job?
I highly commend the first HVG article but I’m disappointed how tame the follow up has been from the press.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

Having been plagiarized (by a supposedly reputable author using a reputable publisher) and having marked (University level work) that had been plagiarized all I can say is; spot on Kingfisher! This is easy as pie to prove. Get the texts and do the comparison. But, if lying about the economy to the electorate was not enough to get a Prime Minister to resign why would plagiarism be enough to get the President to do so?

Member

I think some online news source should get the permission to publish the questionable text from the daughter of Nikolai Georgiev. She has already denied that his father cowrote anything or co-worked with Schmitt on the Analyse du programme olympique (des Jeux d’Olympiade). Post the original text in one column and Schmitt’s corresponding text the second column, so it is easy to copy and paste. Provide a link to google translator, so each individual can translate the text from French to Hungarian or the Hungarian text back to French. It is that simple.
It would also help out the foreign press greatly, as not everyone speak Hungarian.
An other thing, if the charges are true, Nikolai Georgiev should receive the crook’s summa cum laude posthumously.

Petofi
Guest

The blatant disregard of the country’s citizens and the country’s honour by Orban and his regime is no more apparent than in this case. Trying to bluff through the situation, or blaming another (how many is it?) conspiracy is horribly weak. (What can we expect from the inane Szijarto?)
One thing is for sure: any remaining members in the Orban cadre
with a smidgen of honour or self-respect, must be squirming
in his/her skin.

Petofi
Guest

An anecdote:
A few months ago, I tried to get the Phd thesis of Zoltan Kovacs from the department of history at Debrecen university. I actually sent two e-mails: one to the dean and one to the department.
Response?
Can be designated by bringing the index finger to touch the thumb…
Needless to say, no western university would leave such
an inquiry unanswered.

GW
Guest

I’m afraid that the primacy of memorization and recitation and other forms of rote learning in Hungarian schools may have made a large portion of the population largely unfamiliar with the problem of plagiarism. This should provide a learning opportunity for the entire nation, so let’s be absolutely clear: plagiarism, misrepresenting words authored by someone else as your own, is a form of lying. If, as it appears, the President has represented the words of Nikolai Georgiev as his own, he is a liar and everyone who supports the President in the face of the evidence is endorsing lying.

Paul
Guest

Exactly, GW.

Member

The whole thing reminds me of the late Elena Ceaușescu the wife of the Romanian monster Nicolae Ceaușescu. The great researcher with a Phd in polymer chemistry. Summa cum laude of course like our great leader. She actually dropped out of middle school. She was I think an unskilled weaver or something like this.

GDF
Guest

Maybe not that OT: is something like the spectacle below where this whole thing is headed?
http://wimp.com/ceausescuvisit

Member
anecdote
Guest

The main issue here is the integrity (or total lack of it) of the Hungarian President.
However, the issue itself opens up a whole can of worms (and it needs to be emphasized: a really big can).
I’m not going to bore the readers with a whole load of clever-dick anecdotes (okos tojás-izmus), so let’s just consider one thing mentioned in the article:
“If Schmitt were not the president of the country nobody would give a damn how he managed to get a doctorate”.
Oh! Really?
Stone the crows! Whoever said that should also ‘get the hell outa town’ as soon as possible.

Wondercat
Guest

Academic dishonesty, its origins and consequences, are matters for people who care about such things. My bet is that the falusiember says simply, They’re all crooks, here’s another proof.

Dubious
Guest

I think the problem is that in Hungary cheating at exams and university in general is common, over-looked and, for lack of a better term, accepted. Many of my Hungarian friends will freely admit to having someone else write part or all of their theses. The theses of other friends which I’ve had the opportunity to read, seemed to be of much lower quality that those expected at my own (western) university.
It seems that there is no outrage from Hungarians on this point because most of them have done the same things themselves, and it was really the way the country was run (especially back in 1992).
As embarrassing as this must be for the Orbán régime, in my mind there are much higher priority issues.

enuff
Guest

Mutt – funny vid. !
Coming from the far-east, I’m surprised at how inefficient the whole thing is being handled.
The guy should have been yesterday’s news already. Yet, he could still be seen giving away some kind of medals (to sportmen?) on tv yesterday. I felt embarrassed for him..
There are more important issues to deal with than to let this drag on!

Littlelamb
Guest

A short tale…..some years ago, whilst working in Budapest as a photographer, I became good friends with a make up artist who also was on call to the Paliament, for their TV appearances. Going to their offices she was struck by the important looking framed Degrees displayed. A lot were from US collages. Closer inspection revealed that many were from those Inernet based universities who supply a nice looking but absolutely fake degree for a relatively small payment. She took this story to several TV channels, but legal issues (ie she had signed a confidentiality clause) meant no-one would touch it. I believe that these pieces of paper are/were being used in many professions here, and that’s the real reason no one is actively pursuing this story from the mainstream.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

In a land where I believe a very wise Hungarian man asked “How many ‘bunkos’ are there per head of the population”? To which he gave the answer which he said was “Two”. So Professor none of what you have written here surprises me.
A country with a Plagiaristic President, a megalomaniac as Prime Minister and a bunch of ministers none of whom who could run a whelk stall.
All of these coves, the whole boiling lot of them, have broken both the eleventh and twelfth commandments.
The eleventh and twelfth commandments you ask? Yes God gave Moses twelve commandments, but Moses only passed ten on to the Children of Israel and kept two for himself for his troubles.
What are they you ask?
Well the eleventh commandment is quite specific it says “Thou shall not get found out”.
The twelfth commandment prohibits the ‘extraction or removal of urine’.
With that I rest my case

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Living…”But, if lying about the economy to the electorate was not enough to get a Prime Minister to resign why would plagiarism be enough to get the President to do so?”
Just asking: Did you read the speech in its entirety?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Petofi’s case with the University of Debrecen. I’m glad you brought it up. This is what people living outside of Hungary don’t understand. The authorities simply refuse to give out any information.
If you went to Debrecen and asked for a copy of Kovacs’s dissertation most likely they wouldn’t give it to you to take a look.
As is, Schmitt’s thesis isn’t available. Reporters tried to make copies of certain pages, they were refused.
Hordes of reporters showed up yesterday at the Sandor Palace when Schmitt had some kind of function. They were told that they cannot ask any questions. Period.
I’m giving you a tipp: Kovacs apparently has a second Ph.D. from CEU in Budapest. Try there.

GW
Guest

Eva wrote:
“As is, Schmitt’s thesis isn’t available. Reporters tried to make copies of certain pages, they were refused.”
This is a violation of a universal principle: Advanced academic degrees are awarded for work published. This work is literally made public for open scrutiny and for the furthering of research.

Member

Truth to be told, I think many fans of the Fidesz (and to be fair here, some other party fans) are scared our if their booths. If they cannot sweep this under the carpet, if easy access will be granted to dissertations, there will be more then one person who will get burnt. THe buying your way into and through universities are a well know fact.
Here is Deutsch for example. He went to ELTE between 1986 and 1992, but graduated in 1999 (under pressure that no one should become a minister w/o university degree.) Coincidentally he was vice president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee from 1999 to 2001. (Guess who was president of the Committee at the time!) It will not be Deutsch who will call for Scnmitt’s resignation for sure.

Joseph Simon
Guest
A LETTER FROM HUNGARY, THE ONLY PLACE THAT COUNTS, ADDRESSED TO ME BY A FRIEND OF THE ’56 DAYS. Már napok óta akarok irni, de csak most jutottam hozzá. Az ismerősödnek üzenem, hogy 1989. június 16.-án ott voltam a Hősök terén Nagy Imre és társai újratemetésén, s Orbán Viktor szemében semmiféle hatalomvágyat nem láttunk, ellenben nagyfoku bátorságot, mert ott, még a “rendszerváltás ” előtt kimondta titkos vágyainkat: többpártrendszert, szabad választásokat, és a szovjet csapatok kivonulását. Sokezer ember volt ott a téren, és félve néztünk körül, hogy mikor jön a rendőrattak, de szerencsére már nem jött…A Kádár rendszer végnapjait élte. Nála bátrabb beszédet ott, akkor senki sem mondott a szónokok közül. Néhány érdekesség az elmúlt hétről. Kiderült, s ezt nem is tagadták, hogy az amerikai nagykövet tájékoztatást kért az ügyészségtől a “jelentősebb” büntetőügyekről, s arról, hogy azok éppen milyen szakaszban vannak (nyomozati, vádemelési, birói, stb.). Külön érdeklődtek az ú.n. sukorói ügy iránt, amelyben Gyurcsány is érintett, méghozzá gyanusitottként. Másik: Bajnai Gordon Haza és Haladás nevü alapitványát egy (Clinton családhoz közel álló) amerikai társaság támogatja anyagilag. A francia Le Monde ujságirónője a magyar Hir TV riporterének beismerte, hogy fogalma sincs a magyar helyzetről, őt bizonyos magyarok tájékoztatják, úgy irja a (negativ hangvételü)… Read more »
Member

I am not sure if Eva will live the post on from 7:40 AM by Thesis Writing as it is advertising spam. Coincidentally the point just have been made by the post about available services to get a degree more easy.

Paul
Guest
How ironic is this? If you click on the name of the spam post (Thesis writing) you get a site offering to write your PhD thesis for you! Incidentally, I can see how this might work at degree level (I actually wrote a good part of my then girlfriend’s degree dissertation*), but, in the UK at least, you don’t just write a PhD. You spend years working with your ‘tutor’ (I forget to official term), who sees all the preparety work and the drafts of your thesis, and is only too well aware of whether or not you’ve done the necessary original research. You couldn’t just turn up at the end of your work on the PhD with a thesis no one had seen! I don’t know if this is already done generally, but surely a way round a lot of this shenanigans is for the candidate to be interviewed on their thesis before being granted their PhD? It should then be blindingly obvious if they haven’t done the work (or, in Schmitt’s case, even read ‘his’ thesis!). *this is not as dodgy as it sounds – she had done the work and written the early drafts, but her dad… Read more »
Paul
Guest

PS – GDF that is a fantastic video! If that was a fantasy sequence out of a film, the director would be up for an Oscar.
There’s a great bit at the end where the NK bloke is going bananas, but Ceaușescu clearly can’t quite believe what’s going on!

Paul
Guest
Normally I don’t use Google translate with Hungarian as it produces such rubbish, but I put Joseph Simon’s letter through it and I can only assume they’ve upgraded the software, because it came out EXACTLY the same nonsense as it went in! Since some days I want to write, but now I got it. The friend I have a message to the 1989th June 16, on I went to the Heroes’ Square, Imre Nagy and his reburial, and Viktor Orban in the eyes of any power or seen, but a high degree of courage, because there is a “regime change” before held secret desires: a multiparty system, free elections, and the Soviet withdrawal of troops. There were thousands of people in the field and looked around in fear that when the police were coming, but fortunately did not come … last days of the Kádár regime survived. He’s courageous speech there, no one said a word list of possibilities. A few interesting things in the past week. It turned out that he did not deny that the U.S. ambassador to the requested information ügyészségtől a “major” criminal matters, and that they are just what stage (investigation, prosecution, judiciary, etc). Special… Read more »
An
Guest

Paul, thanks for the excellent ideas.. Hungarians have never heard of an oral defense, of course…(sarcastic).
This is not the problem; it is not that mechanisms for a doctoral defense are not in place (in theory), but that the system is corrupt (more precisely, the people operating the system are corrupt). So if your committee consists of people who are willing to pass you even if it is obvious you did not write the dissertation; they are going to pass you, as was in the case of Schmitt. According to news reports, all members of his committee were working for him in the Olympic Committee and some were “rewarded” for passing him by further academic appointments.
Also, Hungarian universities since then started to offer western style PhDs which require extensive course work, with the dissertation process being more supervised and more rigorous than in the old system.

Member
Joseph Simon: Please, post a link to any source regarding your quotes: “The French Le Monde ujságirónője in Hungary Hir TV reporter admitted that he has no idea of ​​the situation in Hungary, he was informed of some Hungarians, he wrote the (negative tone) Articles of Hungary.” I assume the info is coming from Hir TV, the station of the extreme right. “a German woman reporter refused the editor’s instructions to shame Hungary, what could not be aired in the report, it is true, then asked to write a blog, and told a Hungarian TV has this as well.” Can we have a link to this? The letter your friend refers to is the letter provided to us in a very questionable translation a few days ago by “kormos” who is clearly affiliated with the Fidesz. He has kindly released many information to us even before anyone was aware of it. (Example the Hungarian Ambassador in the USA reply to MS Scheppele’s letter.) Talking about misleading information by the Hungarian Government to foreign dignitaries. THe translation provided to foreigners and the original Hungarian were completely different. We used to that… the translation of the new Constitution provided to EU were… Read more »
Mutt Damon
Guest

@Joe Simon My friend from Hungary just wrote me an e-mail. He says Viktor was spotted in a gay porn video.

wpDiscuz