Open letter to Professor László Lovász, President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Dear Professor Lovász,

academyWe the undersigned members and doctors of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences [HAS], representing a variety of world-views and academic interests, hereby wish to express our concern about the antidemocratic processes that have been taking place in Hungary in the last few years, especially the threat to freedom of the press. We consider it highly damaging to amend Hungary’s constitution to diminish the role of checks and balances that is normal in democratic states and to exploit the refugee crisis to arouse xenophobia.

In addition to the deep crisis in education, research and the health system, we are particularly troubled about the nationalization of the public media and their use as government mouthpieces, along with the liquidation of the existing independent press, as in the restructuring of Origo, and, in the last few days, the closure of Népszabadság.

We consider it important that, as a prominent embodiment and forum of our nation’s intellectual sphere, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences should be playing an investigative role as well as implementing substantive debate about these matters of concern for the whole of society. Our concerns are particularly reinforced by the letters that have been sent to the President of the Academy by external and honorary members in the last few days. The significance of the issues raised is underscored by the fact that these respected scholars, concerned for Hungary’s future, have elected to resign as members to protest the inaction on the part of our Academy.

We hence respectfully request that the President see to it as soon as possible that the leadership of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences initiates discussion toward committing itself to launching scholarly investigations as well as conducting debates concerning these urgent issues facing Hungarian society.

As our letter concerns important matters of public interest, we are simultaneously making it public.

Yours sincerely,

Ács Pál, literary historian, HAS Doctor
Bazsa György, physical chemist, HAS Doctor
Csányi Vilmos, ethologist, HAS Member
Erdélyi Ágnes, philosopher, HAS Doctor
Erős Ferenc, psychologist, HAS Doctor
Falus András, biologist, HAS Member
Ferge Zsuzsa, sociologist, HAS Member
Györfi László, mathematician, HAS Member
Jánossy András, physicist, HAS Member
Juhász István, mathematician, HAS Member
Kardos Julianna, chemist, HAS Doctor
Katona Gyula, mathematician, HAS Member
Kertesi Gábor, economist, HAS Doctor
Kertész János, physicist, HAS Member
Kornai András, mathematician, linguist, HAS Doctor
Krausz Tamás, historian, HAS Doctor
Laki Mihály, economist, HAS Doctor
Mellár Tamás, economist, HAS Doctor
Nagy László, biologist, HAS Member
Radnóti Sándor, philosopher of art, HAS Doctor
Sali Attila, mathematician, HAS Doctor
Sarkadi Balázs, biologist, HAS Member
Solymosi Frigyes, chemist, HAS Member
Somlai Péter, sociologist, HAS Doctor
Szalai Erzsébet, sociologist, HAS Doctor
Tóth Bálint, mathematician, HAS Doctor
Váradi András, biochemist, HAS Doctor
Vicsek Tamás, physicist, HAS Member

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Gyula Bognar Jr
October 15, 2016 9:21 pm
THROWING PEAS ON THE WALL. Most of the Hungarian intelligentsia (they may call themselves the intellectuals) had been bought, blackmailed, threatened, intimidated or they just settled in for survival mode. Over the last six years, the viktor is dismantling the checks and balances and rules the country as an iron handed Maffia boss with no laws and rights to protect the citizens and especially not the opposition, yet nobody have the guts to organize any serious resistance, lengthy and general strikes, civil disobedience, withholding major purchases, stopping the collection and paying the payroll taxes, etc. Words mean nothing to a dictator! Drastic and defiant actions and a dramatic and steady reduction of tax collections can and will make any Government to collapse. Eventually, the viktor will be forcefully removed. But the damages will take many, many decades to repair, because the removal is already six years too late now. He should have been immediately removed after his speech in august of 2011, when he stated, among other things, that the public interest is more important then private interest and from now on, everything will be different. In 2011 the protection of private property and the responsibilities of the Government toward… Read more »
October 16, 2016 12:00 am

Completely agree with you Gyula.

Those hundreds of thousands of protestors about the proposed tax on the internet, was the only instance when the masses rose up against Orbán, and the only instance when he did in fact make a u-turn.

But sadly those protestors cared only about one thing – their own interests, with no vision about what was good for the country on a wider scale.

They will get the future they are buying into, through their inaction and lack of concern.

October 16, 2016 1:49 am

Correction: you wrote “the Viktor is dismantling the checks and balances….”
He has already dismantled them, entirely.

October 16, 2016 3:02 am

As I am only since recently, after seeing these big blue billboards in Budapest, more closely following matters in Hungary, I may have missed a lot, so can only recommend:
Anybody who is “blackmailed, threatened, intimidated and bought”, but later on does’t feel comfortable about it, speak out and make every detail open public to the public about such matters.

October 16, 2016 7:31 am

I too think it’s unlikely that the Academy, its President, or its membership will be able to do the investigation and open criticism called for by the 28 signatories.

But please let’s not make pessimism about such things into self-fulfilling prophecies. That is an outlet for our frustrations but not a channel to a solution.

The External Member protest and criticism, however, unconstrained by Orban’s machinations (no doubt poised to spin this as an amicable outcome, proving that all is well in Hungary), will continue. More resignations are on the way.

October 16, 2016 10:52 am

THANKS and recognition to these members on the HAS/ MTA for doing their conscientious bit in the defence of democratic values.
Are you doing your bit? is the question to all good people.
If not, don’t whine and rationalize inaction and cowardly silence, but do it.
We don’t control the results, but we 100% control the effort.

October 16, 2016 11:02 am

The public sentiment against Orban’s regime was demonstrated by the sustained jeering at the inauguration of the MTK soccer stadium:

October 16, 2016 12:21 pm

London Calling!

The publication of the internal letter is to be commended.


It has to be said that the constitution must be a little suspect if the President of the establishment has to be informed by such an open letter.

Sort of a fog-horn dialogue.

I’m expecting an answering fog-horn letter from the President any day now.

Whilst I don’t want to belittle what is a courageous move – surely it would have been better to muster your fire power – and write an open letter to Viktor DiktatOrban after you’ve gone through the democratic (?) processes of your organisation’s constitution?

Maybe this will be the next move.

It will, in any case, be a dialogue of the deaf.

Viktor DiktatOrban wouldn’t listen even if the fog-horn was directly on his pillow.

But his pressure-cooker weights are running out and the pressure threshold of the pot is reaching maximum.

But alas the gas burner is still on low – and pressure cookers are notoriously robust and well built – being used, as they are, for IEDs

October 16, 2016 12:55 pm
Charlie You can be sure that the people who signed that open letter have now been put on a blacklist (if they weren’t on one before). That means that the next time they apply for research funding from anything controlled directly or indirectly by the Hungarian state, their applications will be rejected (this includes most EU funding that goes via Hungarian boards, which always have Fideszniks on them). The reasons for the rejection will appear rational, of course. It never appears personal. If no rational reason can be found, something idiotic will be given as the reason for rejection – never that the person was unacceptable. Others who include blacklisted people in their applications may be told, behind the scenes, that the funding will not be approved if xyz is included in the project, but certainly will be approved if xyz’s name is taken out of it (and there is no need to inform xyz of this, naturally). This sort of message is delivered as a “favour”, and only verbally. The lists, however, must surely be on paper or electronic, and some day they will come out. Maybe not for decades – but some day. This sort of thing always… Read more »
October 16, 2016 1:19 pm

Do we need to know how representative 30 participants are of the organisation – and what the difference in status is – if any – between ‘doctor’ and ‘member’?

The aims of the organisation would be helpful too if people outside (me!) the Academy are to fully understand the ramifications, or significance, of the initiative.

Washing your linen in public should facilitate the inclusion of a wider laundry!

October 16, 2016 1:43 pm
Without going into detail: A Doctor of the Academy is someone with the degree awarded by the Academy (a post-PhD degree). There aren’t many of these. Being a Member of the Academy is the real deal – there are even fewer of these. The Academy is supposedly generally not involved in politics (and here, please criticize what I say everyone), but is solely a “scientific” organization. However, the idea that the Academy is only scientific appears to be a myth since Fidesz effectively took control of a lot of the Academy’s funds, threw Academy institutions out of their old buildings in the Castle District, and has interfered in Academy work and decision-making (with the help of former Acad. Pres. Pálinkás). One of the funniest things is what happened to the Hungarian Accreditation Committee (MAB in Hungarian), whose members were formerly delegated by the Academy. MAB is important, because all Hungarian higher education programmes in state-owned universities must get accreditation from it if they wish to keep runniing. These days, most members of MAB are delegated not by the Academy, but by the Hungarian government (list here: ) Since Fidesz took over this organization and filled it with Fideszniks, MAB’s… Read more »
October 17, 2016 1:30 am

“were formerly delegated by the Academy” Any reference to that?

October 17, 2016 2:59 am

Just look. In the meanwhile, enjoy this – an article in Hungarian about why MAB lost its accreditation (found to be “not independent” – that’s putting it mildly):

October 17, 2016 7:46 am

Yes, look, but where?

October 17, 2016 7:51 am

Start maybe with MAB’s page?

October 17, 2016 8:10 am

Here you go – I got a detail wrong.
“MAB was truly independent. According to a decree from 2006, the 19 members were delegated in the following manner: The Hungarian Rectors’ Conference selected fourteen members from university teachers, MTA selected three, while the National Educational Council, the National Minority Board and the National Student Union sent one delegate each. In addition, two representatives of the chambers interested in higher education took part in the work.”

So, it was the Rectors’ Conference, MTA, and several other organizations.

But in 2012, through the new educational law, MAB was dissolved eleven months before then members’ mandates had come to an end, after which:

“half of the new members are nominated by the Ministry – and they can be withdrawn from the organization at will” (by the Ministry – no justification is required).

In addition, the MMA (Hungarian Artists’ Academy – 100% Fidesz/Jobbik) and religious universities are allowed to delegate members.

So, the majority is automatically Fidesz.

And what is the result? MAB has become so much a tool of Fidesz that it has lost its accreditation. An accreditation board that has no accreditation…. Rather unique in the EU, I believe.

I got the quotes from this story here:

October 17, 2016 2:11 pm

Yes, my recollection was also 3 HAS-delegated members.

October 17, 2016 2:28 am

Thank you.

A strange Academy!

October 17, 2016 3:03 am

Well, a European academy. The British (and American) ones are from a different tradition.

October 17, 2016 3:21 am

I’m familiar with the British Academy and its work…..

“DAVID BOUCHER is Professor of Political Philosophy at Cardiff University and Distinguished visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg. He was the recipient of a British Academy grant to write the book Dylan and Cohen: Poets of Rock and Roll. He is the editor with Garry Browning, of The Political Art of Bob Dylan, and of a number of articles on Bod Dylan, Dylan Thomas and the Bet Generation.”

October 17, 2016 8:44 am

The Hungarian academic system is a very odd amalgamation of German (Habilitation), Soviet, and unique Hungarian factors.
One of the weirdest things in the system is how full Professors are made. They are only nominated by their universities for the rank. The university cannot bestow it. The decision is made by the President of Hungary. It used to be that the rank was given almost automatically if a university had nominated someone, but the current and previous presidents, Áder and Schmitt (both Fidesz), have refused to make a few people professors for political reasons. In one case, Fidesz had no problem with the candidate – it was his father who was an opposition figure. So, the president didn’t make him professor.

October 17, 2016 10:14 am

Well, they have their accreditation back since April 2015 []
The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education reviewed the MAB in 2013 and found it to be only partially compliant with the criteria for Resources (because their budget was cut and completely in limbo), and Independence (because the Ministry reversed some decision about the accreditation of a VET program in 2012/13, and the injection of more government-friendly members). So they had to undergo a new review to check compliance with these criteria, which in January 2015 was concluded with “satisfactory compliant” grades. The report is available here:
(Note the nuances between this story and media coverage or lack of it.)

October 17, 2016 12:08 pm

Are you a Fidesznik, or do you have trouble reading?
I quote from the report you give the link to:

“The review report is to be used by the Board of ENQA for the purpose of reaching a conclusion on
whether HAC” (MAB) “has met the membership criteria/ESG. ” (p. 19)

Got it ? HAC (MAB) has NOT met the membership criteria.

So, what should the press report? Hmm?
That MAB still hasn’t got its accreditation back? The report clearly says MAB is still in probation, and has to meet a number of criteria. Is that news? We knew that.

That report is damning, throughout. I recommend a close reading by anyone interested.

For example: “The Minister, as determined in the Higher Education Act, still has
the right to grant license for a programme or institution even against a negative decision on its quality by
the HAC. However in meetings the panel had with representatives of the Ministry assurances were given
that the Ministry wished to work in cooperation with the Educational Authority and the HAC and did not
wish to grant licences for programmes where the HAC had made a negative decision on quality.”

Shame on Fidesz! Shame on this government! This never happened in the two decades before. Not once.

October 17, 2016 12:31 pm

Thanks webber!

It would appear that even if internal standards are dumbed down – and let’s face it Ader and Kövér aren’t exactly Mr Brainy – then at least international standards are holding their feet to the fire.

Then there’s the shocking level of education in the Universities.

Years of buy-off nepotism which seems to permeate the Universities and Schools even now.

Apparently the joke is: “Professor, I’m worried that my son Istvan won’t pass his degree?” Professor: “I bet you 3 milliard forints that he will!”

(This could be adapted for a recommendation to the ‘Acadamy’!)

October 17, 2016 2:58 pm

Not too much OT:

My wife’s nephew is a science prof in the USA – he told me in clear harsh words that he’s never ever going to go back to work in Hungary (even if they would offer him a lot of money – but of course they can’t give him as much as he earns in the USA), he doesn’t even want to go to conferences there- the situation is so abominable …

October 17, 2016 12:31 pm


” Shame on Fidesz! .. This never happened in the two decades before. ..”

All sorts of things have not happened before, but are happening now, from embezzling 2-3% of GDP to chopping hundreds of trees in central Budapest. And surely more such “first time” outrages will come.
Please everyone note – Hungary has a different political system now – a quasi fascist dictatorship, with all its features and dynamics.
Shame on 2.3 million Hungarians who voted for this brazen mafia. .