A few new facts about Pál Schmitt’s dissertation

The second act of the drama ended around 7:00 p.m. today when it was announced that the Senate of Semmelweis University had revoked President Pál Schmitt’s doctoral degree. There were 37 people present; 33 voted for the resolution and four opposed it.

Of course, this is only act two. Now comes the decision whether Schmitt should be able to remain in his post. Pál Schmitt indicated that he has every intention of staying. Apparently, he came to like the position and all its privileges. His office certainly acts as if nothing has happened. On its website the president’s schedule for the next few days is duly noted. On the other hand, Schmitt’s Facebook page had to be taken down because of the rather impolite comments and demands for his resignation. According to Népszabadság Orbán is undecided about Schmitt’s fate.

It is always interesting to go back and read earlier analyses and discover some points that during the first reading didn’t seem terribly important but in hindsight are significant. This is what happened to me today when I remembered a lengthy portrait of Pál Schmitt by József Nagy in the May 2005 issue of Mozgó Világ. Among other things, it challenges Schmitt’s veracity at several turns, in effect describing him as a habitual liar.

Then there was the interesting but unexplained fact that Index reported back on March 20. The diligent reporters who have been spending countless hours on Schmitt’s past discovered an item in a monthly entitled Labdarúgás (Football) published by the Állami Ifjúsági és Sporthivatal (State Office of Youth and Sports) that was headed by Schmitt with the title of undersecretary. It was noted in the September 1988 issue that Schmitt already had a dissertation ready. This original thesis had a different title: “The Analysis of the Olympic Program.” The one Schmitt submitted in 1992 was entitled “The Analysis of the Program of the Modern Olympic Games.” Note that the 1988 version of the dissertation bore exactly the same title as Nikolai Georgiev’s work on the same subject written in 1987. What happened to this earlier dissertation? Index was hoping that the Semmelweis Committee investigating Schmitt’s plagiarism case would look into the question of this earlier dissertation. I’m sure they didn’t.

There can be at least two possible explanations for why this 1988 dissertation wasn’t submitted at the time. One is that his since deceased dissertation adviser considered this first effort of such inferior quality that he advised Schmitt to rework it. In this case the first dissertation was actually Pál Schmitt’s handiwork. The other possibility is that it was such a blatant copy of Georgiev’s work, including its title, that someone warned him about the dangers of submitting it, especially so close to the publication date of the Bulgarian researcher’s book. In either case, I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that the dissertation that was submitted by Schmitt was compiled by someone else. I purposely use the verb “compiled” because it was put together from different sources (some written after 1988) and translated more or less verbatim.

Yesterday Index asked its readers to get to work and find out where the few pages that were still unaccounted for in Schmitt’s dissertation came from. The tally as of yesterday was that of the 225 pages we know the source of 212. So, a mere 13 pages were still in question. Less than 24 hours later the diligent researchers found the sources. Because there were two. What took a committee two solid months was achieved within a few hours by the Googlers.

Google detective

The missing 13 pages concerned women’s sport. It was a whole chapter with the title “The Role of Women in Sports.” As one of the volunteer detectives discovered, part of this chapter was the exact translation of Anita L. Defrantz’s “Progress Made, Pitfalls and Conditions for Further Advancement of Women in the Olympic Movement.” This article appeared in the same book from which whoever wrote the dissertation lifted Klaus Heinemann’s article–Sport, the Third Millennium (Vancouver, 1991). Clinching the case is that Schmitt’s thesis mentions Olympic games held in 1924 when there was no such thing. Defrantz makes the same mistake.

Another “researcher” found a possible connection to Nadia Lekarska’s article “The Entry Marathon of the Second Sex” that appeared in The Olympic Review (September 1990).

All in all, it is likely that not a line in the dissertation is original, and there is a good likelihood that even the translated compilation is the work of somebody else.

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I wonder if Orbán really is undecided. For things to have reached this point, I would guess there will be a new president before long. It’s either that, or Fidesz and its two thirds will pass an outrageous Schmitt-only law, as someone mentioned. It would be ridiculous, but I wouldn’t put it past them.


Eva: “I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that the dissertation that was submitted by Schmitt was compiled by someone else. ” I very much agree. Knowing the quality of any work that comes directly from Schmitt, I question if he would be able pull off something significant. If someone would look into the whole dealings and doings of sport/Olympic committees in Hungary, they would find a very “inbreed” organizations. Those who supposed to “judge” Schmitt’s work should be called as witnesses to their own doings regarding this mess.


We have come to a very interesting impasse.
Victor (Iron Will) Orban either has to give in,
or, more his style, he’ll fly in the face of convention and everyone’s expectations…and back Schmitt to stay on. His past performance firmly comes down on the latter possibility.
However, this will further inflame students who apparently sat a vigil outside of Semmelweiss the other night. Let us remember that the last uprising in 1956 was led by an angry student


“Less than 24 hours later the diligent researchers found the sources. Because there were two. What took a committee two solid months was achieved within a few hours by the Googlers.”
There is a brilliant TED talk that is relevant titled Massive-scale online collaboration: Luis von Ahn on TED.com. http://blog.ted.com/2011/12/06/massive-scale-online-collaboration-luis-von-ahn-on-ted-com/
You’d think these days that people would start having a clue as to what is possible when you’re able to incent millions on the web…


The current goal is not the Bem szobor.
Let us send our students to the Deak szobor.
Via the Deak Peace, finally.


Since the source of the stolen material is in foreign languages, would anyone know if Schmitt has sufficient mastery of them? If not, which I suspect is the case, that would be another element indicating that somebody else did the work. It is a very time consuming task, especially for someone who is not an expert translator, so I think Schmitt did not do even the translation.


Rien ne sera plus facile qu’éprouver les dons linguistiques de M le Président… plusieurs mots en français devront suffir pour le démasquer comme absolument nul!


According to MTV: “Az MTI Hírcentrum tudósítója interjút kért a köztársasági elnöktől, de ő nem nyilatkozott. Hivatalának képviselői azt mondták: előbb szeretnék megismerni az egyetem döntésének indoklását. Utána tájékoztatják majd a sajtót.”
The correspondent of the MTI requested an interview from the President, but he had no comment. Representatives from his office commented: first we want to know the university’s reason for the decisions THen the press will be informed.”
I am not kidding! THey want to know the reason for why they stripped off Schmitt from his small doctorate. It is either that all of the people on Schmitt’s staff are having some form of cognitive impairment or Schmitt is even more stupid than I ever thought.

cheshire cat

observerM – I watched a short video of Schmitt meeting Martin Schultz (German President of the EU Parliament) in Brussels. In the film, you can hear him speak in good English, asking Schultz to switch to German because that is his better language. It was only a few sentences, of course, but he didn’t seem too bad.
However. I guess making spelling mistakes in Britain is not that significant: inelegant perhaps, but not the signs of being incompetently stupid. But Hungarian is a phonic language (you write what you say), so the type of mistakes he makes (“alamelnok”) reflect the intelligence level of someone who left school at the age of 10.
I simply don’t think he is literate enough to spell words correctly in a doctorate thesis.
Or he is dyslexic, but then I think he should say it.


Meanwhile, Fidesz barbarians removed today the impressive Varga monument for Mihály Károlyi. A man that had his faults, but was still one of the few modern heads of state in Hungary with some dignity.
I always felt that the two parts of the broken arch behind the figure of Károly represented the two halves of Hungarian society that are unable to communicate. Now more than ever. It is a sad day.
A picture: http://www.szoborlap.hu/71_karolyi_mihaly_szobor_budapest_varga_imre_1975.html?f=photo&id=37641

Francois Borginon

At this very moment, journalists publish thousands of articles about this case in newspapers, on websites and blogs. It’s breaking news for TV channels all over the world. To have a president who plagiarized 95% (or probably even 100%) of his thesis, and keeps on lying about it, is another heavy blow for the integrity of the current government.


Leo: I completely agree with you about the broken arch, symbolising what Károlyi was unable to bring together.
The two halves seem as far apart as ever now.
That statue will be missed.


@observerM ” that would be another element indicating that somebody else did the work”
Very likely that’s the case. He didn’t even do the translation. A couple of articles found examples when sport specific expressions were translated from French into Hungarian the wrong way. No way that a sports expert, like him could have written that. One example was the French “ju-jutsu” that was also “ju-jutsu” in the translated text (it is Ju Jitsu in Hungarian). I remember other articles quoted similar things, I think something with hokey, I just can’t recall what was it. Bottom line: the dude payed someone two translate the whole thing.
On the other hand the opus had a bunch of grammatical errors, like Sofia and Seoul with lower case and Monaco with “k”. These actually suggests that Schmitt had something to do with it …


Karolyi and Schmitt together on a cartoon from the nol.hu FB page:
(I hope you can see it)

Kim Lane Scheppele
My prediction is that Orban will wait as long as he can before he calls for Schmitt’s resignation, which will then look like a good thing . . . . . . until you realize the constitutional implications. The Parliament will then elect a new president for a five-year term. And THAT president can then stay in office through 2017. (Schmitt would have to leave office in 2015.) We can guess that the Fidesz parliament will elect someone else close to their party. If so, this would give Fidesz another two years to control the presidency and to have in place someone who could block initiatives of any government elected in 2014 through almost the entire next parliamentary cycle. Under the constitution, the president can propose national referenda, propose laws, send laws back to the parliament for revision, send laws to the constitutional court and dissolve the parliament (if, for example, the parliament fails to approve a budget by 31 March of each year – which it might well do if the Fidesz-dominated budget council vetoes the budget at the last minute). In short, the President has substantial powers which could be used to block initiatives of a future government,… Read more »

I doubt OV is thinking that he’s going to lose the next election. After all, there is no opposition to speak of and just look at all the great things he’s done for the country. How could the electorate not vote for him?
I would love to hear ideas from you about how Hungary under governments with less than 2/3 majority could work themselves out of this monstrous constitution including any historical presidencies that may offer guidance? Could any party get a proper mandate to rewrite/fix the constitution or is this country doomed to insanity for the next 100 years?
I ask, what is the way forward?

Lutra lutra

What does this also say about Schmitt’s commitment to the Olympic ideals? “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
On this basis, you can argue that he should be stripped of his medal-winners pension too.


Actually, I’m not at all surprised at the actions of Semmelweis University. After all, they form one part of the Hungarian higher education system that really has to avoid bad international publicity – their English-language medical degree track brings in a sizeable income, and even attracts US students frightened by six-figure debts (in a hard currency of course…). Semmelweis even advertises its English-langauge programs in the New York Times, and banks on its higher prestige than the medical colleges of the Anglophone Caribbean. Once again, a sector of Hungarian society that does depend on international repute ends up doing the right thing by a much stronger motivation than principle alone.


@Kim Scheppele, I’m half expecting Papcsák Ferenc to submit a private amendment to some current bill that magically enables Orbán to take over the role himself (perhaps a “temporary” merger. Orbán himself had every intention of moving the cabinet into the Károly Palota had he won the 2002 elections and one of the most pathetic things I can recall in Hungary was when he held a rally OUTSIDE the building after that loss.
As for Schmitt and the Olympics, before the Athens Olympics he declared that if any Hungarian failed a drugs test, he’d resign. As it was, 25% of athletes of failed tests at the Olympics (including the ghastly Fazekas and Annus who both stripped of gold) were sent by Hungary. And yup, he stayed.

Odin's Lost Eye
Professor Scheppele, what you have written about Fidesz and the Viktator using this to stretch their control of the Presidency from 2015 to 2017 (or further into the future). This begins to explain a great deal. I was rather puzzled as to why such a lightweight nonentity was appointed President. Ok he was an Olympic champion but otherwise a nobody. Another thought I have had is why has this whole thing boiled up now at the end of the second year of a parliament? Professor you wrote ** “And THAT president can then stay in office through 2017.” **. No! This problem is planned to go on until 2013 which would extend the tenure of the ‘next president until 2018 which is an election year. What interests me is who tipped of HVG about Schmitt’s dissertation ? It would seem to me that OV knew of the plagiarism (and the vanity) of Schmitt. He probably knows who wrote the original paper, how much it cost etc. Well Fidesz does have its own ‘Secret Service’. The private security company who spied on the leader of MDF and when their naughtiness was exposed wanted to pressed charges against their victim. Schmitt’s replacement… Read more »
peter litvanyi
Dear Eva, I am soo effing sick of this Schmitt stuff. There is a difference between “should” and “must”. I don’t know what the job requirements are for a “president of a republic”. Hey, I never applied. Now if there was one that required a valid Ph.D. or a clean moral record: by any means Mr. Whatshisname MUST resign. I am not quite sure which requirements apply here: our antiquated siberian communist one or the new testament? Somehow I think there was not a single word about moral integrity in either one of those texts. Ph.D? How about looking at an average athletic department in our country? The picture is bleak, no? Now about the question: SHOULD he resign? Yes, of course. Unless he wants to be indicted with the rest in the end. I think Mr. Schmitt should immediately resign and this has very little to do with his Ph.D /or not/. He is a disgrace. I think our problem with him has little to do with his degree. I am more worried about Sir Karolyi Mihaly. I wore a medalion with his face around my neck for ten years. It got lost somewhere in Alaska on a glacier.… Read more »

Odin, there have been quite a number of examples of Fidesz “plots” to get rid of people or create new situations, for example the way that Torgyán was disposed of, or indeed, the way the Öszödi Beszéd was handled. And I don’t detect anything comparable in the way that Schmitt thing has erupted. It would not surprise me that they were planning on disposing of him (but don’t forget, they are going to struggle to find anyone who is automatically going to vote yes to everything.) but the diploma affair does not have the hallmarks of a Fidesz plot. And Gavra at HGV made it clear that this is something that they considered and dismissed.


Isn’t the President going to sign in/authorise the hundred or so new judges on April 1st?
After that, I guess it’s job done for Schmitt, and he can resign, sit back, and enjoy his generous pension.


Bowen, a very good point! (Although would he work on a Sunday?) Having said that, I think resignation is a longer formal process, meaning he can probably sign laws for the next fourteen days even if (when?) he announced his resignation today.


He’s canceled his schedule for the day.. meanwhile the games with the HUF are ramping up. Suggests that the new trading range is 294-298 with stop losses around the 300 mark.


I can’t believe for two seconds that Schmitt’s situation has any financial or market implications.

Dr Pál

It’s made the BBC UK news – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17561105http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17561105
Hungary looking like a third world country – yet again.

Eva S. Balogh

Kim Scheppele: “And THAT president can then stay in office through 2017. (Schmitt would have to leave office in 2015.”
In yesterday’s Galamus Zoltán Ripp, the very much respected historian, actually wrote a piece entitled “Plági bácsi maradjon!” (Uncle Plági should stay).
However, I have the feeling that he will resign soon. Apparently he will make an appearance on MTV tonight when he will “explain everything.”


@kingfisher, it hasn’t.. speaking to financial friends and we’re just trying to sort out who’s playing the HUF… maybe figure out a good time to short it 😉


It has been announced the Schmitt is going to be on television following the Hiradó on M1 this evening. Which when I heard was what I had expected: that he would announce his resignation. But no, he is going to be INTERVEIWED on M1! So clearly he is not going to hand in his resignation during the course of a television interview. So unless he announces he is going before then, there are some indications that these business may yet drag on. Who knows, perhaps he is going to blame Gyurcsány and tough it out.
Curiously, I don’t think Schmitt can actually be sacked under the current rules. Which means he could stay in his post and obstruct Orbán’s law making machine! I don’t expect this but in terms of pure brute force, he is actually in a strong bargaining position should Orbán ask him to step down.