The Race for Revision and Recognition: Interwar Hungarian Cultural Diplomacy in Context





Document Type



anxieties, Cold War, competition, culture, diplomacy, foreign policy, international relations, nation states, power, propaganda, public opinion, World War I


DOI: 10.1017/S0960777321000011


In the wake of the First World War there was an explosion of cultural diplomatic activity and Hungary was no exception. However, as this study shows, Hungary was very much unlike its regional and Western European counterparts. Unlike the Germans, Italians, British and French, Hungarians were not trying to spread Hungarian culture per se. Hungarians employed cultural diplomacy to alter the post-war order. Considering the weakness of its economy, the frailty of its nearly non-existent military and the lack of weight that the country carried on the international political stage, the Hungarian government saw cultural diplomacy as a promising and viable alternative for changing the post-war status quo. Demonstrating the country's contribution to European and indeed to universal culture and civilisation was the fundamental message of Hungarian cultural diplomacy. However, other regional powers also aimed to portray their contributions in the very same way. In the resulting competitive climate, the Hungarian political leadership not only believed that the international community needed to be enlightened about the historical and cultural deeds of the Hungarian nation but also aimed to prove Hungary's supposed cultural supremacy over its regional counterparts. This article traces these efforts and their main themes through domestic and international festivals and gatherings, amongst them the 1930 St. Emeric's Year, the Fourth World Scout Jamboree in 1933 and the 1937 Paris World's Fair. In the end, the essay examines the real and perceived utility and limitations of small power cultural diplomacy in the age of great power politics.

Published in

Contemporary European History

Citation/Other Information

Nagy, Zsolt. "The Race for Revision and Recognition: Interwar Hungarian Cultural Diplomacy in Context." Contemporary European History 30, no. 2 (2021): 231-47. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0960777321000011.