Today I will cover two topics. First, the industry that has developed to write essays and research papers, without which a Hungarian student cannot receive his diploma. Using other people’s work and passing it off as your own is plagiarism. In legal terms, it is a fraud, which is a punishable act. Second, a historical fraud: the history of the pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó/Şumuleu Ciuc.
Researchers for hire
The other day I found a fascinating article in Magyar Nemzet about a service for those who, after four years of higher education, are still unable to write a senior essay, as it is known here. In Hungary it is called “szakdolgozat.” In both cases the student is supposed to demonstrate that he/she is capable of independent and original research. It seems that many Hungarian students are either too lazy or are actually incapable of producing a research paper of about 40-50 pages. These are the people who turn to professional “manufacturers” of senior papers.
After reading the article, I managed to locate an internet site that offers a wide range of help for university students. Students can purchase not only “outlines” of topics but also complete essays to fulfill part of their course requirements. As the site explains, “during the course of college or university studies a student may have to write dozens of essays. In case you don’t have time or have difficulties with some of them, get in touch with us and we will help.” The enterprising businessmen of szakdolgozatiras.hu described the final research paper as “the greatest obstacle to receiving one’s diploma.” They claim to have supplied more than 1,600 senior papers over a ten-year period, and the testimonials coming from satisfied customers are super.
In addition to the professional senior paper factories there are those Magyar Nemzet calls the lone wolves. One freelancer admitted that he has been writing papers for others for the last eight years and up to now has “helped out about 250 people.” Some of these freelancers come cheap. The journalists found one fellow who charges only 56,000 forints (about $200) for the job, but such a low price is rare. According to Magyar Nemzet, a senior paper (B.A. or B.S.) costs 100,000-120,000 forints and a master’s thesis 112,000-140,000. If the work has to be in English, it will cost at least 200,000 forints.
After doing a little research on the subject and looking at some of the papers, I came to the conclusion that a large percentage of customers are students who attend college at night. There is a good likelihood that they really are at a loss when it comes to producing original work. And their professors don’t seem ready to guide them. So, they turn to “professionals.” Those who need help getting started but don’t want to buy a completed essay can get paper topics, outlines, and bibliographies. Such a service costs only 15,000-20,000 forints.
I may add that there is nothing new under the sun. My father told me that this was common practice at the Budapest University of Technology between the two world wars, especially when it came to writing a “doctoral dissertation.”
A historical falsification
It was all over the papers last weekend that President János Áder and his wife were going to take part in the gathering that has become a celebration of national unity across borders. Thousands of “pilgrims” gather every year in Csíksomlyó, equipped with Szekler and Hungarian flags. The pilgrimage is religious in origin, but by now religion takes a back seat to nationalism.
The story that allegedly justifies the pilgrimage is that in 1567, during Pentecost, János Zsigmond, prince of Transylvania, tried to convert the Catholic Szeklers to his own faith, Unitarianism. While the men of Csíksomlyó fought the prince’s troops, the women prayed in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary, who helped them against the evil prince and his troops. The trouble with the story is that it is not true.
Csíksomlyó was granted the right to hold a pilgrimage every July 2, the Day of Visitation, when the pregnant Virgin Mary visited the also pregnant St. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. It is not clear when the date of the pilgrimage was moved, most likely during the eighteenth century when a Hungarian nobleman in Habsburg service in Vienna came up with the story of János Zsigmond’s attempt to forcibly convert the Catholic Szeklers to Unitarianism. Prior to 1780, when the story was first published, no one had ever heard of the great battle between the Catholic Szeklers and János Zsigmond’s troops. It is true, however, that Unitarianism was spreading rapidly in the Szekler areas of Transylvania at that time as a result of the preaching of Ferenc Dávid, a Hungarian Reformed bishop who had turned Unitarian.
First, a few words about János Zsigmond Zápolya (1540-1571), son of János Zápolya, who after the battle of Mohács in 1526 was elected king of Hungary by the majority of the Hungarian nobles. János Zsigmond’s mother was Izabella, daughter of the Polish king Sigismund I.
János Zsigmond was both handsome and extremely well educated. He spoke eight languages fluently and was a great lover and supporter of music and the arts. He himself played the flute and the organ. He was known as a man of religious tolerance whose greatest achievement was the discontinuation of state religion and the declaration of freedom for all religious denominations in the territory of Transylvania. János Zsigmond made this declaration in 1568, a year after he had allegedly waged war against the Catholics at Csíksomlyó. At the Diet at Torda/Turda he issued the Edict of Torda or the Patent of Toleration:
His majesty, our Lord, in what manner he–together with his realm–legislated in the matter of religion at the previous Diets, in the same matter now, in this Diet, reaffirms that in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall abuse the preachers, no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, according to the previous statutes, and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment or by removal from his post for his teaching. For faith is the gift of God and this comes from hearing, which hearings is by the word of God.
Unitarians of Transylvania—and there are 75,000 of them—have repeatedly asked György Jakubinyi, archbishop of Gyulafehérvár/Alba Iulia, to debunk the story as sheer fiction. The archbishop expressed his regret that the occasion is used to foment religious discord, but there has been no correction of the erroneous historical facts. In fact, according to those who attended the pilgrimage, the speakers told the gathering crowds the same untrue story about the intolerant Unitarian king of Hungary and later Prince of Transylvania.
Hungarians should be proud that Unitarianism as a distinct religion was born in Hungary and that the first Patent of Toleration was declared there, even as elsewhere in Europe religious wars were being fought. By the way, a good short biography of János Zsigmond is available in English online. He is a historical figure who shouldn’t be forgotten–or besmirched.